Both Sides of the Coin: A Teaching Assistant’s Reflection


1384448492484Being a teaching assistant, by its very nature, is a very Janusian experience. Throughout this semester, there were two distinct modes of operating, a mode for the instruction of others and one for self-enrichment. The following reflection is aimed to present my thoughts on my bi-directional duties as a teaching assistant, my performance self-evaluation, an evaluation of the Developmental Psychology class progression and course content, as well as a summary of my experience as a teaching assistant this semester.

Some duties serve to develop the prospective teaching assistant and vicariously enrich the learning experience for students. Attending organizational meetings with Dr. Chenneville and her lead teaching assistants, both in-person and through group e-mail, allowed for efficient communication over the course of the semester. Communication is crucial when being a liaison between a professor and her students. Beyond meetings and email with the class facilitators, teaching assistant training was a necessary part of the course. This training informs prospective teaching assistants on the nuances of the instructor/junior instructional designer side of the Canvas online course system. Aside from the technical aspects, the training was focused on the protection of students’ privacy through the Federal Education Records Protection Act. As well, an emphasis was placed on meeting students’ needs, whether this was in crafting more helpful feedback or providing students accommodations requested through Student Disability Services. There were also assigned pedagogical readings throughout the semester. Some readings focused on teaching practices, while others concentrated on the development of a personal teaching philosophy.

The remaining duties focus on the facilitation of student learning through grading and feedback. Students completed one activity and one discussion assignment or live-chat per module. My duties to students begin with grading and providing helpful feedback. For every point taken off a student’s assignment, it was important to offer constructive criticism in a positive way. Every point earned by a student was also a place to consider giving encouragement and praise for signs of good critical thinking or an insightful or thoughtful answer. Attending the live chats moderated by the professor was a duty, insomuch as records of attendance must be kept, but more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to watch the students interact with each other in the context of the course material.

On the topic of self-evaluation, I found that there were many places where I could improve. I found the process of crafting useful feedback for online students most challenging.  When you have no in-person interaction, it can be challenging to determine why a student is not following instructions or seems not to understand your feedback. Learning to put students’ needs first means that grading an assignment is more than pointing out incorrect responses. Timing is one area where I improved over the span of the course; stopping to pause when grading assignments. Fatigue can result in uneven grading, coloring your perception of student responses the further you get into the submissions. Realizing that, I learned to take a break when I felt taxed so that my energy level or exasperation at one submission did not become reflected in another student’s grade. Further, because of the chunking of time spent grading, I found it helpful to write down my responses to common errors found in student submissions and re-use them, albeit slightly tailored to each student, when grading assignments. I also learned to ask my fellow teaching assistants for help, putting students’ needs first when I either needed clarity on a topic or had personal issues to handle that were impeding my ability to be present while grading.

I think that awareness through self-monitoring reminded me that there is always room for personal improvement and that helped in the improvement of my teaching skills. By the end of the semester, I found that I was struggling not to become punitive when feedback went largely ignored by some students. I sometimes had to grade, step back, and grade again to offer the best feedback possible, without hand-holding at one end of the spectrum or being overly punitive on the other. Overall, I think that seeing my own imperfections at learning something new made me more understanding when attempting to facilitate the learning of others.

With regard to the progression of the course, successful students needed little guidance, were able consistently to go above and beyond the rubric requirements, and were effectively able to demonstrate their understanding of the material. Mastering of the material was most evident in their responses to other classmates during discussion assignments. They could evaluate their peers’ arguments on a given topic and respond with clarity why they agreed or disagreed with them, many times offering a unique perspective on the material or insight that their peer had not considered. Other students seemed to spend much less time thinking about their answers or even reading the assignment rubric. For some, this may have been the result of having only limited exposure to psychology coursework. Many of these students improved over the course of the semester by following the guidance offered in their feedback. Overall, more confidence and understanding seemed to be reflected in their later assignments. It is difficult in an online setting to say whether an active interest in psychology, simply hard work and good academic practices, or other mediating variables separated student performance outcomes.

If I were teaching the class in the future, I would most likely implement a couple of small changes. First, I would try to ensure that students without prior research methods experience were given a 1st-week assignment to familiarize themselves with how to find, use, and cite research with an emphasis on using APA style. I would require at least two types of source material be utilized in each assignment. It is important to have them refer to the lecture and textbook, but I would also require at least one source be from an academic journal and that the article chose not be one referenced in the lectures. I would also like to see the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra default course room promoted as a group study session space before exams. I would also suggest that a TA is made available during part of that scheduled time to moderate the room, as online office hours. I feel that this would go further in fostering a sense of intellectual community and a sense by the students that their peers and we are there to support them. Other than that, I would do everything the same. I love how the activities and discussions enrich and offer practical application of the course material, bolster critical thinking, and build the students skills at consuming and evaluating research.

In summary, students’ success must always be the priority of a teaching assistant. Providing for this success requires, among other things, excellent time management skills, self-monitoring skills, and sensitivity to the individual needs of each student. I honestly believe that I got more out of this experience than the students I was supporting. To support students effectively, teaching assistants must be a partner in the learning process, an effective linkage to tools, resources, and techniques of the discipline. This made a big difference in the progress of students who may have lacked effective study habits or a proper foundation in the study of psychology. I would like to believe that I have become a more tolerant, fair, and understanding human being through this experience. I am excited by the prospect of continuing to improve my pedagogical skill set and help those who come after me to go further than myself in psychology, a field dedicated to human understanding.


Social Justice for the Mentally Ill

Social Justice for the Mentally Ill
Hunter P. Drake
University of South Florida, Saint Petersburg
Dr. Elisa Minoff
December 3, 2015

Social Justice for the Mentally Ill

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is purposed with the diagnosis of persons with mental illness (PWMI). The diagnoses embody a diverse pantheon of labels ranging from catatonic to manic. In contemporary society, outside of the medical arena, fear and misunderstanding transform those wildly disparate diagnoses into harsh, pointed, and accusatory labels. Through these labels, the diagnoses have the common effect of making the PWMI population extremely vulnerable.

There are many reasons for this vulnerability. First, mental illness is primarily invisible. It comes with no visible physical symptoms. Physical symptoms are sometimes a secondary function of mental disease. They can be as a result of poor hygiene or maladaptive behavior leading to dire physical consequences. More often the presence of mental illness takes on behavioral traits such as talking to one’s self or having a particular ‘tick’. Because the symptoms of mental illness are behavioral, people tend heap blame rather than compassion on PWMI.

Secondly, blame and fear from the public at large cause the creation of an external social stigma. Media outlets proliferate news stories about the “insane gunman” or the “crazed killer” almost daily. Books, movies, cartoons, and television shows are also culpable in fostering the sense of fear and mistrust that creates stigma. Very few examples, outside of the medical/psychological arena, are available to the public of the real experiences of PWMI. There is the occasional book or movie that might tug the heartstrings to elicit a desire for deeper understanding, but the overwhelming volume of social misinformation serves to undermine any truth that might come from such works. All of this tripe breeds fear and ignorance among the general population of otherwise “normal” people. There are instances of PWMI whose behavior becomes dangerous to themselves or others, but they are exceptions, not the majority. There are more examples of otherwise mentally healthy people who commit heinous acts under the influence of drugs, alcohol, anger, passion, or even religious fervor. Stigmatization of PWMI leads otherwise rational and well-meaning people to ostracize those labeled “crazy”. Ostracization has a myriad of effects. It can result in the loss of one’s family, friends, job, self-esteem, and purpose. It can be the cause of loneliness, poverty, homelessness, and hunger. Studies have shown that factors created by this type of stigmatization, like poverty, can even lead to worsening mental conditions.[1] Likewise, the extreme stress created by external stigma can also lead to further mental illness.[2]

Thirdly, external social stigma often leads to internalized stigma. This type of maladaptive self-evaluation is potentially the most damning. PWMI can start to believe all of the hurtful things that others say about them or can internalize unspoken reasons for other’s treatment of them. Internalized stigma can cause PWMI to feel an acute sense of hopelessness. This sense of feeling alien, less than human can lead to crippling despair. PWMI often experience a sense that they do not deserve to get better or that it is a lost cause. This can lead PWMI not to seek treatment or to a lack of compliance with treatment. Violent outbursts or even suicide can be the tragic outcome for persons wrestling the demon of internalized stigma. When this happens it feeds back into the cycle of fear that produces external stigma, as people begin to blame PWMI for not being proactive or not caring enough to get better.

There are ways to alleviate, or at least mitigate, the vulnerability of PWMI and provide a modicum of social justice to this population. The first issue at hand is to be sure to provide equal access to quality mental healthcare to everyone regardless of socio-economic status. As it stands today, mental health care is a luxury reserved for the wealthy and well-insured. By this, I in no way mean to trivialize the mental health issues of the rich, but to point out a drastic social inequity. And, as the media so tenaciously hammer home, albeit, for the wrong reasons, mental illness is a public health concern that needs to be addressed on all fronts. No one is immune to mental illness. Everyone can become a danger to themselves or others. Therefore, for the overall social benefit, all PWMI, regardless of socio-economic status should have equal access to equal care. By equal access to equal care, I mean to say that there is a divergence in the quality of care as well as access to care and that it is geometrically similar and proportional to the wealth gap. The rich are afforded swanky, private facilities in which to recover. Outpatient facilities for the poor are understaffed and overwhelmed. They offer limited services, often only ten-minute observation and medication management. In some cases, the poor are treated no better than livestock and are often remanded to prisons or prison-like facilities to meet their mental health needs. Inside “the system”, physical violence and rape are not uncommon. And, more often than not, there is little to no recourse for the victims. The disparity of mental health outcomes mirrors the treatment style in most cases. The rich are offered the option of recovery; while the poor are sentenced to management.

There are other pieces of a complete social justice solution. Megan-Jane Johnstone may have put it best, “Until the stigma of mental illness can be overturned, the rights of the mentally ill will continue to be marginalized, invalidated, violated, and ignored.”[3] She advocates, as do I, that education may be the largest piece of the solution. Education changes attitudes and a change in attitudes can change lives. Multi-issue diversity courses need to include the mentally ill as people suffering from systematic oppression alongside the issues of race, immigration, and socio-economic-political disparity. Media outlets need to become more sensitive and report more accurately the news. Not every shooter is “crazy”. Not every person with mental illness is dangerous. Doctors, clinicians, and social workers need to be taught to see PWMI as more than just their diagnosis. Medication, counseling, and comprehensive case management need to work hand in hand to treat the whole person and address all of the causes of mental illness, as it is often the result of multiple causes. Compassion should replace pity and understanding should replace fear.  Michael Walzer addresses how and where to begin this process in Interpretation and social criticism,

We have to start from where we are […] and step forward into the thicket of moral experience […] We do not have to discover the moral world because we have already lived there. We do not have to invent it because it has already been invented […]. Insofar as we can recognize moral progress, it has less to do with the discovery or invention of new principles than with the inclusion under the old principles of previously excluded men and women. And that it is more a matter of (workmanlike) [sic] social criticism and political struggle than of (paradigm shattering) philosophical speculation.[4]

[1] Vijayalakshmi, Poreddi1, et al. “Impact of Socio-Economic Status in Meeting the Needs of People with Mental Illness; Human Rights Perspective.” Community Mental Health Journal 50, no. 3 (April 2014): 245-250. Social Sciences Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed December 5, 2015).
[2] MCNAMARA, DAMIAN. “Hormonal Changes In Chronic Stress Can Rewire Brain. Neuroendocrine factors’ role in depression.” Clinical Endocrinology News, January 01, 2006, 1,3, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost (accessed December 5, 2015).

[3] Johnstone, Megan-Jane. “Stigma, social justice and the rights of the mentally ill: Challenging the status quo.” Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Mental Health Nursing 10, no. 4 (December 2001): 200-209. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 5, 2015).

[4] Walzer, Michael. Interpretation and Social Criticism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987. 20-27.


Cosmopolitanism vs Communitarianism as Expressed in the Contemporary Immigration Debate

Hunter P. Drake

University of South Florida, Saint Petersburg

IDH 4000:601F15

Dr. Elisa Minoff

November 22, 2015

     The current presidential election cycle brings immigration policy to the forefront of the American political landscape. An important question to ask while examining the immigration policies espoused by any given candidate is, “What are the fundamental beliefs or principles behind the specific policy proposals as outlined by the candidate’s public statements?” There are many polarizing topics in the contemporary immigration debate, as can be seen in the presidential campaigns run by Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton; examining their policies through either a moral cosmopolitanism or communitarian lens can be useful to explore their immigration policies.

To begin a discussion on such policies it would be good to describe cosmopolitanism and communitarianism. Seyla Benhabib is a contemporary advocate of cosmopolitan federalism. According to Stanford University scholars Pauline Kleingeld and Eric Brown, cosmopolitan federalists “… favor a federal system with a comprehensive global body of limited coercive power…”[1] She breaks down her beliefs on cosmopolitanism into several aspects. The first is that the world should be seen as a global community. “The world community, I want to suggest, should be viewed as a global civil society, in which peoples organized as states are major players, but by no means the only players.”[2]  Secondly, she draws from Kantian thought that peoples organized in such a way are bound by interdependence, “…’if the actions of one can affect the actions of another,’ then we have an obligation to regulate our actions under a common law of freedom which respects our equality as moral agents.”[3]  Furthering her point on interdependence she notes, “I want to argue for the interdependence of peoples in a world society. Interactions among human communities are perennial and not the exception in human history.”[4] On issues of immigration specifically, Benhabib states,

I argue that a cosmopolitan theory of justice cannot be restricted to schemes of just distribution on a global scale, but must also incorporate a vision of just membership. Such just membership entails: recognizing the moral claim of refugees and asylees to first admittance; a regime of porous borders for immigrants; an injunction against denationalization and the loss of citizenship rights; and the vindication of the right of every human being “to have rights,” that is, to be a legal person, entitled to certain inalienable rights, regardless of the status of their political membership. The status of alienage ought not to denude one of fundamental rights.[5]

In essence, to flesh out her cosmopolitan ideals on immigration, she breaks apart the idea of national citizenship through a methodology she calls “the disaggregation of citizenship.”[6] This concept enables her to transform some of the pieces of “citizenship” into separate, more universal rights and offer them to non-citizens. “We are facing today the ‘disaggregation of citizenship.’ These are institutional developments that unbundle the three constitutive dimensions of citizenship, namely, collective identity, the privileges of political membership, and the entitlements of social rights and benefits.”[7] Benhabib’s cosmopolitan perspective on state borders can be drawn from her critique of Rawlsian theory as presented in A Theory of Justice and The Law of Peoples.

His (Rawls’) own understanding of the person should lead him to view societies as much more interactive, overlapping, and fluid entities, whose boundaries are permeable and porous, whose moral visions travel across borders, are assimilated into other contexts, are then re-exported back into the home country, and so on.[8]

States, peoples, and cultural influences evolve and change through migration. In cosmopolitan thought, borders are permeable to peoples, morals, and cultures via a moral imperative; an extension of Kant’s natural rights.

The communitarian view of what constitutes justice, inclusive of discussions of immigration and distributive justice, is that “… the standards of justice must be found in forms of life and traditions of particular societies and hence can vary from context to context.”[9] Benhabib refers to the communitarian theorists as “the decline of citizenship theorists” and identifies Michael Walzer as “one of the foremost thinkers in this vein.”[10] Daniel Bell, of Stanford University, also points to Walzer as a contemporary communitarian thinker, describing how Walzer’s voice is extending modern communitarian thought. “Michael Walzer developed the additional argument that effective social criticism must derive from and resonate with the habits and traditions of actual people living in specific times and places.”[11] In this, one can derive that, to communitarians, borders are a realistic and natural consequence of territorial boundaries and cultural differences. As defined by Walzer, there is at least one common belief between communitarian and cosmopolitan thinkers. On the topic of borders, Walzer states,

She (Benhabib) says she is in favor of porous but not open borders. If “porous” means “not open,” then it must be the case that, at some level of political organization, there is a right “to control and sometimes restrain the flow of immigrants.” But that is my position, which she quotes in order to illustrate the “civic republican” position she means to dispute.[12]

There are two resounding takeaway ideas in above quote. One is that communitarians do not like to be called “civic republicans.” Walzer describes an example of civic republicanism in his response to Benhabib.

The U.S. also offers a nice illustration of authentic civil republicanism: the Know Nothing party’s proposal in the 1840s that 21 years of residency be required for naturalization. This was supposed to allow for the proper political education of immigrants coming from feudal and monarchic countries. [13]

In fact, Walzer further comments,

I argue in Spheres of Justice that, in democratic nation-states, resident aliens, guest workers, and any other groups that fit into the old Athenian category of the metic should be put as quickly as possible on the road to full citizenship.[14]

The second takeaway idea is that communitarians believe that borders, both political and cultural are intertwined and that states have a right to self-determination. Communitarians also believe that states are not cookie cutter in nature. To demonstrate the variance of the nature of states and the interconnection of the cultural and political aspects of a state Walzer offers,

All the world is not America. In nation-states like Denmark, the cultural nation and the political nation are closely connected, and it seems to me that the first of these has a right to (try to) sustain the connection when and if it is actually threatened. It is that kind of limiting case that establishes the right of closure.[15]

A communitarian would argue that disaggregating the aspects of citizenship, as Benhabib proposes, is not the only way to satisfy the obligation to accommodate universal human rights, as in the case of refugees or asylees. Walzer illustrates and explores the communitarian limits of a collective moral obligation through the parable of the Good Samaritan.

… Positive assistance is required if (1) it is needed or urgently needed by one of the parties; and (2) if the risks and costs of giving it are relatively low for the other party… Groups of people ought to help necessitous strangers whom they somehow discover in their midst or on their path. But the limit on risks and costs on these cases is sharply drawn. I need not take the injured stranger into my home, except briefly, and I certainly need not care for him or even associate with him for the rest of my life.[16]

A Walzerian communitarian could easily replace the “I” in the above quote with “Any nation.” For communitarians, it all seems to fall under the concept of self-determination. A succinct way of stating the communitarian view is that a nation has the right to defend its identity or personality to the extent that its culture and history implore it; this view is directly expressed in communitarian immigration policies. That is not to say that Walzerians disregard the obligation to help strangers if the risks are too high. They simply imagine that there are more ways to be of assistance to those in need than solely focusing on wholesale immigration; perhaps the moral obligation could be satisfied through foreign aid. With those general understandings of cosmopolitanism and communitarianism in hand, one can begin to examine the contemporary immigration debate.

Looking at the contemporary immigration debate in the current presidential election campaigns, you can see that neither of the frontrunner candidates is completely on the side of cosmopolitanism or communitarianism. In fact, Hillary Clinton’s immigration policy statements are a mixed bag of cosmopolitan and communitarian ideas. Donald J. Trump’s policy dictates are decidedly a lot of civic republican ideas with occasional communitarian reasoning. Hillary Clinton’s website lists five primary components of her immigration policy:

  • Fight for comprehensive immigration reform legislation with a path to full and equal citizenship
  • Defend President Obama’s DACA and DAPA executive actions
  • Do everything possible under the law to go further to protect families
  • Conduct humane, targeted immigration enforcement
  • Expand access to affordable health care to all families [17]

The first item, regarding a clear path to citizenship, is clearly espoused by both moral cosmopolitans and communitarians as evidenced by the previous discussion. The second item declares her intent to defend President Obama’s DREAM Act and its’ extension acts that defer deportation action and extend non-U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. temporary legal status.[18] Clearly, this has cosmopolitan leanings and is an excellent example of what Benhabib refers to as the “disaggregation of citizenship.”[19] The next item on her list leans a little closer to communitarianism; it relates to working from inside the law of a state to implement an accessible path to citizenship for DREAMers and their parents should Congress fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The fourth policy goal might find agreement from both Benhabib and Walzer, as it allows a state a reasonable amount of self-defense against elements that might cause the state harm. The fifth policy measure of looking to grant affordable healthcare to immigrants is fundamentally humanitarian, but agreed upon by both cosmopolitan and communitarian thinkers. The website of the Republican opposition frontrunner, Donald J. Trump has a three point plan for immigration reform that is decidedly closest in concept to the communitarian view. His plan for immigration reform is outlined as follows:

  • A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border
  • A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.
  • A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.[20]

Communitarian leanings, and even further, civil republican design, can be the only comparable model for such an immigration policy. Sovereign rights reign supreme in Mr. Trump’s ideal immigration package. His policies severely enforce the deportation laws and attempt to undo any provision for the DREAMers. In communitarian fashion, the policies regarding borders are clothed in a language of protecting American citizens from forces that wish to do the state harm. He cites factors from immigration’s effects on the economy to the possible immigration of terrorists as requiring such strict and harsh immigration policies.

It is unclear from an American perspective whether the world is ready to become more open or more closed concerning immigration. Biased and partisan pundits make strong cases for both sides of the debate. Certainly, there are more schools of thought regarding justice and immigration than cosmopolitanism and communitarianism and neither school of thought claims to have a foolproof solution. However, it is certainly beneficial to use those two schools of thought to analyze the contemporary immigration debate, as it provides at least some compass as to where America stands on immigration. On Election Day, America will prove the veracity of such a compass.

[1] Kleingeld, Pauline and Brown, Eric. “Cosmopolitanism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition).  Edward N. Zalta (Ed.).

[2] Benhabib, Seyla. The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.104.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Benhabib, Seyla. The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 73.

[5] Benhabib, Seyla. The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 3.

[6] Benhabib, Seyla, and Eugene Meyer. 2006. Another Cosmopolitanism. Oxford,New York:Oxford University Press. p 45.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Benhabib, Seyla. The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 87.

[9] Bell, Daniel. “Communitarianism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition). Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

[10] Benhabib, Seyla. The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 73.

[11] Bell, Daniel. “Communitarianism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition). Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

[12] Walzer, Michael. “In Response: Support for Modesty and the Nation State.” The Responsive Community, Spring 2001. Vol 11. Issue 2.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Walzer, Michael. “Membership.” In Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, New York: Basic Books, 1983. 33.

[17] “Hillary for America Starts Right Here | Hillary for America.” Hillary for America Starts Right Here | Hillary for America. 2015. Accessed November 17, 2015.

[18] “DAPA & Expanded DACA.” National Immigration Law Center. March 2, 2015. Accessed November 16, 2015.

[19] Benhabib, Seyla, and Eugene Meyer. 2006. Another Cosmopolitanism. Oxford,New York:Oxford University Press.  45.

[20] “Immigration Reform.” Immigration Reform. 2015. Accessed November 16. 2015.



Hunter P. Drake

University of South Florida, Saint Petersburg

IDH 4000:601F15

Dr. Elisa Minoff

        During the struggle for and against civil rights, fear and mistrust tainted American race relations. It might seem counter-intuitive to assume that the embattled groups held any common ground. However, the precepts of freedom, equality, and the unhindered pursuit of happiness were deeply planted in the American national consciousness and once taken root they would work to bind Americans in a type of collective national identity.  Ultimately, even a staunch segregationist like Governor George Wallace could not resist the persuasive power of what social economist Gunnar Myrdal called the American Creed.

        First, it is necessary to explore the nature of the force that Myrdal observed. The American Creed is a juggernaut idea, an idea that exerts a slow but steady force toward the evolution of a nationalized American identity. Myrdal described this force as a set of core beliefs that fostered homogeneity and stability in our nation’s collective valuations.[1] Specifically he stated, “Americans of all national origins, classes, regions, creeds, and colors, have something in common: a social ethos, a political creed.”[2] Myrdal quoted Ralph Bunche, with whom he collaborated on volume one of The American Dilemma to describe this collective national awareness, “Every man in the street, white, black, red or yellow, know that this is ‘the land of the free,’ the ‘land of opportunity,’ the ‘cradle of liberty,’ the ‘home of democracy,’ that the American flag symbolizes the ‘equality of all men’ and guarantees to us all ‘the protection of life, liberty and property,’ freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and racial tolerance.”[3] The American Creed, as understood in this context has the effect of creating expectancy in the minds it inhabits. Myrdal further explored the mechanism of action exerted by the creed in volume two of The American Dilemma. This expectancy shares the optimism of hope for equality of citizens, but Myrdal does not minimize the struggle involved or the cost of such progress. He describes how American involvement in wars, from the Revolutionary War through World War I, resulted in reasonable advance toward the Negro actualization of the American Creed. However, the progress was not unidirectional. “After the advances on all three occasions there were reactions, but not as much ground was lost as had been won.”[4] This slow but ever-advancing progress by the Negro was evidence of a changing but increasingly unifying national identity. While Negros were making progress toward equality, those consumed by prejudice were fraught with cognitive dissonance. “It is significant that today even the white man who defends discrimination frequently describes his motive as ‘prejudice’ and says that it is ‘irrational.’”[5] This leads us to a discussion of the perspective of one of the most vilified men from the civil rights era, Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama.

Historically, Wallace is most remembered as one of the staunchest supporters of segregation. In his 1963 inaugural address, he proclaimed, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”[6] However, he was not always known as the greatest enemy of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1958 Alabama gubernatorial race, Wallace ran an issue-oriented campaign and had even been supported by the NAACP.[7] His biggest competition, John Patterson, took support from the Ku Klux Klan. With the black vote disenfranchised and white segregationists in charge, the result of the election was not surprising. William Warren Rogers, historian and University of Alabama professor, recounted the race in the following way.

…Patterson made race the central issue of the campaign. In a time of racial polarization, he [Wallace] tried to
emphasize traditional economic issues and lost the initiative on race even though he proclaimed himself a
segregationist. The Klan, which endorsed Patterson, denounced Wallace as ”NAACP loving George Wallace.” Despite
the support of labor, blacks, Jewish organizations, Democratic loyalists, well-educated people, and eight of the eleven
large daily newspapers, Wallace lost to Patterson by a vote of 250,000 to 365,000. Wallace attributed his loss to being
“outsegged” and vowed that it would never happen again.[8]

Prior to his gubernatorial political aspirations, as a circuit judge, Wallace showed an understanding and empathy for the American Creed. “…as a circuit judge Wallace had halted a purge of black voters and had sentenced a white man to death for murdering a black.”[9] After the bitter loss of the 1958 election, it seemed that the American Creed may have taken a back seat to his ambitions, at least temporarily. Race baiting became an all too familiar tactic for Wallace. In the next election, Wallace would not be “outsegged” and won the governorship of Alabama.

Governor Wallace’s 1963 inaugural address was rife with evidence of the philosophical battle that raged inside him. He disguised segregationist propaganda as anti-communist sentiment, drawing on the specter of the Cold War to bolster his supporters, frequently referring to the anti-segregationist element as communist. “The true brotherhood of America, of respecting the separateness of others… and uniting in effort… has been so twisted and distorted from its original concept that there is small wonder that communism is winning the world.”[10] He objected emphatically to desegregation, and vaguely referenced decisions like Brown v Board saying, “…each race, within its own framework has the freedom to teach… to instruct… to ask for and receive deserved help from others of separate racial stations… but if we amalgamate into the one unit as advocated by the communist philosophers… then the enrichment of our lives… the freedom for our development… is gone forever.”[11] Further, he developed the idea of this “communism” as an international conspiracy against the white race. “…so the international racism of the liberals seek to persecute the international white minority to the whim of the international colored majority.”[12] It is obvious that the American Creed had much work yet to do in the heart of the embattled Wallace.

The brunt of his anger in the address was not directed to Negroes, but to the federal government, describing it as “a government that encourages our fears and destroys our faith.”[13] He accused the federal government of playing at being God “without faith in God… and without the wisdom of God.”[14] He chastised President Kennedy for his intervention during the Ole Miss integration. “It is the spirit of power thirst that led that same President to launch a full offensive of twenty-five thousand troops against a university.” He may have been angry about being on the losing side of the battle for desegregation, but he directed his anger toward government, at least in his address. He made the antagonistic, reminiscently confederate warning that “…we warn those of any group, who would follow the false doctrine of amalgamation that we will not surrender our system of government.”[15]

Even in this address, behind his divisive, segregationist tone, the idea of the American Creed seemed to have been working to change his heart, even if slowly. For instance, he did iterate common goals for the Negro and white races. “We want jobs and a good future for BOTH our races. We want to help the physical and mentally sick of BOTH our races…”[16] He ended his vision of the future with perhaps the most telling statement,“…for we are all the handiwork of God.”[17]

Jumping to the end of the career and life of Wallace, it appears that Myrdal might have been on to something. After wrestling with the ideas of justice, equality, and freedom for his entire career, his mea culpa to the American Creed came at the 30th anniversary of the March on Montgomery. He sat in his wheelchair, deaf, while an aide read his speech for him, his words of apology fell on a crowd of mixed opinions.

Those days were filled with passionate convictions and a magnified sense of purpose that imposed a feeling on us all that events of the day were bigger than any one individual. Much has transpired since those days. A great deal has been lost and a great deal has been gained, and here we are. My message to you today is, ‘Welcome to Montgomery.’ May your message be heard. May your lessons never be forgotten. May our history be always remembered.[18]

There are those that have said that his apology was made merely to appease a God he feared that he would soon be meeting. I would like to stand with those that sang out in unity that day in Montgomery in solidarity, in forgiveness with Wallace. I believe in the way of Myrdal, that the American Creed is something we must all struggle to actualize in our lives. I believe that George Wallace is evidence that the American Creed can and will prevail.

[1] Myrdal, Gunnar. An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. Vol. I. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1944. 3.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. 4.

[4] Myrdal, Gunnar. An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. Vol. II. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1962. 476.

[5] Ibid. 481-482.

[6] Wallace, George C. The Inaugural Address of Governor George C. Wallace, January 14, 1963, Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery, Ala.: [publisher Not Identified], 1963. 2.

[7] Rogers, William Warren. 1994. Alabama. [Electronic resource]: the history of a Deep South state. 571.: Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, c1994. 1994. University of South Florida Libraries Catalog, EBSCOhost

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Wallace, George C. The Inaugural Address of Governor George C. Wallace, January 14, 1963, Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery, Ala.: [publisher Not Identified], 1963. 9.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. 6.

[13] Ibid. 4-5.

[14] Ibid. 5.

[15] Ibid. 9.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Bragg, Rick. “30 Years Later, Wallace Apologizes to Marchers.” The Baltimore Sun, March 11, 1995.

Review: Development of Self-Handicapping Tendencies

Review: Development of Self-Handicapping Tendencies

Hunter Drake

University of South Florida, Saint Petersburg
SOP 4004:691 Social Psychology
Dr. Kurt Toler, Ed.D.


 Review: Development of Self-Handicapping Tendencies

In this multi-faceted study, Kimble, Kimble and Croy (1998) examined the phenomenon of self-handicapping by young boys and girls in the United States. As cited by Kimble et al., self-handicapping is the performance of an action to defend one’s self-evaluation when faced with a test or evaluation (Tice, 1991). In behavioral self-handicapping, people create some disadvantage for themselves prior to evaluation (Kimble, Kimble, & Croy, 1998).

Literature Review

Kimble et al. hypothesized that self-handicapping occurs more in children with low self-esteem. In testing the hypothesis, they set up the experiment to examine many variables from the same dataset. They considered: whether most children self-handicap; at what age does self-handicapping begin; the effect of the salience of self-esteem on self-handicapping; and how a child’s level of self-esteem affects self-handicapping (Kimble, Kimble, & Croy, 1998).

The method of the study involved taking 81 children who were in either the third or sixth grades and splitting them into low and high self-esteem groups. Experimenters remained blind to the subjects’ self-esteem scores until the end of the data gathering sessions. The procedure was to tell half of the subjects that they were playing a game. The other half were told that they were taking a test. The gamers were told that their performance was not important, but that they would score higher if they practiced. The test takers were encouraged to practice. To both groups, the same workbook of problems was presented. Experimenters recorded the time taken by each student to complete the workbook as well as the number of problems completed. The students were all also given an evaluation on how they felt about the upcoming game or test. Half of the students took the self-esteem evaluation before their test or game practice and the other half after.

It was found that, in third graders, those with low self-esteem practiced less (self-handicapped) regardless of whether the self-esteem evaluation came before or after the activity. In sixth graders, this was only true if their self-evaluation of low self-esteem was reinforced by taking the self-esteem survey before the activity. High self-esteem third graders did not show to be self-handicapping. However, high-self-esteem sixth graders only avoided self-handicapping when they were given the evaluation prior to the activity. The findings seem to suggest that priming high self-esteem students with positive thoughts limits the use of self-handicapping. The results also suggest that third graders are not as likely to be influenced by the positive priming, but were more influenced by trait self-esteem.


Kimbel et al. discuss, in length, the implications of this research on education. Primarily, the results suggest that using a strategy of priming students who are 11 and older, especially high-esteem males, with reminders of their positive abilities before evaluations minimizes the self-handicapping behavior. Limitations of the study mentioned were that the results primarily apply to cultures like the United States, where competition and winning are high ideals. Perhaps, outside of a competitive climate the results would be different.


I feel that this study does an excellent job of affirming and extending prior studies. I also feel that studies like this are critical to not only the field of education but that they also have great applicability in the areas of psychology, like addiction recovery. More work needs to be done to see if the results are generalizable to non-WEIRD subjects. However, even if just used to generate strategies in countries like the United States, minimizing the self-handicapping phenomenon is a noble goal.


Kimble, C. E., Kimble, E. A., & Croy, N. A. (1998). Development of Self-Handicapping Tendencies. The Journal of Social           Psychology, 138(4), 524-534.

Tice, D. (1991). Esteem protection or enhancement? Self-handicapping motives and attributions differ by trait self-esteem.     Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 711-725.

George, Carnegie, and the Great Divide

Henry George and Andrew Carnegie had disparate views on the usefulness of capitalism. Through examining the works Progress and Poverty by Henry George and “Wealth” by Andrew Carnegie, I will attempt to support the above thesis. I will look closely at what problems they may contend might exist with capitalist development. Subsequently I will examine how they believe any problems with capitalism could come to a resolution and how they might visualize a just society.

First, let us explore how Henry George feels about the three tenets of capitalism: free exchange of goods in a laissez-faire market, limited taxes, and private ownership of land. As for the first two principles of capitalism, I feel that George is moderately supportive. In fact, George comes to the defense of the capitalist. In his tirade over rent levied by private landowners he says, “…it claims the just reward of the capitalist and the fruits of the inventor’s patient effort…”[1] So, he admits that capitalists are due rewards. However, George is incredibly harsh and critical of private land ownership; equating it to a cause of a condition of perpetual slavery for the working classes. “Our boasted freedom will continue to involve slavery, so long as one man can claim exclusive ownership of the land from which other men must live.”[2] The free market does not completely get a pass from George. He identifies the material progress promoted by the open market as a core part of the problem created by capitalism, stating, “Private ownership of land is the nether millstone. Material progress is the upper millstone. Between them, with an increasing pressure, the working classes are being ground.”[3] However, he does a slight capitulation by stating that capitalistic material progress can be a good thing so long as it is something to which everyone has equal access. “…the laws of the universe do not deny the natural aspirations of the human heart; that the progress of society might be, and, if it is to continue, must be, toward equality, not toward inequality…”[4]

In comparison, Andrew Carnegie is an avid proponent capitalism. He sees capitalism as an inevitable evolution of the human socio-economic condition. ”But whether the change be for the good or ill, it is upon us, beyond our power to alter, and there fore to be accepted and made the best of. It is a waste of time to criticize the inevitable.”[5] Carnegie concedes that there is a price to pay for capitalistic progress, stating, “The price we pay for this salutary change is, no doubt, great.”[6]  However, he seems to use a felicific calculus in justifying its existence. “The poor enjoy what the rich could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become the necessaries of life.”[7]  Often he avails himself of the language of Social Darwinism in his defense of capitalism. He warns against a communist-style revolution, in his eyes, a devolution from the evolved state of man. “This is not evolution, but revolution. It necessitates the changing of human nature itself a work of oeons, even if it were good to change it, which we cannot know.”[8]

Both authors are quick to acknowledge that the primary issue for humanity is an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. George contends that this matter is a ferocious problem with exactly one largest distinct cause, the ownership of private property. Historically he accounts, “The ownership of land is the basis of aristocracy.”[9] Further he attests, ”The English landowner of today has essentially all the power over his tenants that his feudal predecessor had.”[10] It seems for George that many of the ills of humanity traces back to the ownership of private property. Carnegie considers the cause of the gap between the haves and the have-nots a disruption of homogeneity. Carnegie views this as less of a terminal quagmire in itself and more a natural state that results from the prospering of a few men with a talent for organization. This differentiation of humanity causes discord. “All intercourse between them is at an end. Rigid Castes are formed, and, as usual, mutual ignorance breeds mutual distrust. “[11] For Carnegie, the discontent is a transitive state of affairs moving toward a state where things will work themselves out naturally. Seeing how George and Carnegie view the gap between the rich and the poor differently, we can move on a discussion of their wildly disparate solutions.

George’s solution is based on the wholesale dissolution of private property. A one generational predecessor of George, John Stuart Mill, had also posited that the problem with the wealth gap might be related to land. Mill’s plan centered on fixing the value of land for the owner and “nationalizing the future ‘unearned increase in the value of land’” [12] However, George is critical of Mill’s plan. George laments,”But it would leave, for all the future,one class in possession of the enormous advantage over others which they now have.”[13] Of Mill’s plan, George says that it can serve best as a discussion starter. “… their discussion is a hopeful sign, as it shows the entrance of the thin end of the wedge of truth.”[14] George’s more radical communal ownership of land where land owners pay rent to the state goes far to promote a capped capitalist sensibility. In Georgist capitalism, the open market and limited taxation find a credible firmament with property ownership common and a man only able to rent from the state the land he could afford by the means of his successful endeavors.

Carnegie’s solution rested on the idea that the wealth gap is something to which humanity would adjust. The dissonance would cease when the wealthy evolved to their true calling. “Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself.”[15] Carnegie’s solution is a call to action for the wealthy to use their elite acumen to administer their wealth, while alive, for the benefit of humanity. This was not a directive for rampant alms giving. Rather, Carnegie states,“…one of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity.”[16] Carnegie’s vision of the most legitimate solution to the class divide is an amelioration of the deserving in the lower classes through works done by the wealthy. “The best means of benefiting the community is to place within its reach the ladders on which the aspiring can rise—parks, and means of recreation, by which men are helped in body and mind; works of art, certain to give pleasure and improve the public taste, and public institutions of various kinds, which will improve the general condition of the people.”[17]

To conclude, it seems quite sure that George and Carnegie agree to some extent on the usefulness of capitalism. George is a proponent of spoils for toil; that one should keep the profits of one’s labor. Quite succinctly he states, “Thus there is to everything produced by human exertion a clear title, perfectly consistent with justice.”[18] However, he constrains this entitlement to the fruits of one’s labor and denounces private entitlement to natural resources. “Nature acknowledges no ownership or control in man save as the result of exertion.”[19] In contrast, Carnegie agrees with all three tenants of capitalism and puts a check on it twofold by the charging the wealthy to “set an example of modest, unostentatious living” [20] and admonishing those that die with great wealth. “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”[21] In reflection, both men seem to have a keen understanding of the problem that the wealth gap creates, but divergent views on how to solve such a morass.


Carnegie, Andrew. 1995. “Carnegie.html.” June 27. Accessed 9 30, 2015.

George, Henry. 1886. Progress and Poverty. New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company.

[1] Henry George, Progress and Poverty, Book VII, Chpt. 3, paragraph 15, available at:

[2] Ibid., Chpt. 2, paragraph 19, available at:

[3] Ibid., Chpt. 2, paragraph 20

[4] Ibid., Book VI, Chpt. 2, paragraph 10, available at:

[5] Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth,” North American Review, June 1889, available at:

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Henry George, Progress and Poverty, Book VII, Chpt. 2, paragraph 11, available at:

[10] Ibid.

[11] Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth,” North American Review, June 1889, available at:

[12] Henry George, Progress and Poverty, Book VII, Chpt. 3, paragraph 11, available at:

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., paragraph 12

[15] Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth,” North American Review, June 1889, available at:

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Henry George, Progress and Poverty, Book VII, Chpt. 1, paragraph 4, available at:

[19] Ibid., paragraph 6

[20] Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth,” North American Review, June 1889, available at:

[21] Ibid.

Late addition of the skydiving adventure….

It has been a long time in coming, but here is a link to the skydive video.

The time of my life

              Having the time of my life!

Click this link to see the skydive!

Summary and Analysis of John Rawls’ and Robert Nozick’s Thoughts on Justice

John Rawls’ liberal philosophy on laws and social institutions describes them as, in their

nature, being justice seeking. He speaks of justice as a principle based on fairness, thus rejecting

the utilitarian idea of the greater good. He goes on to define society as a closed system of persons

with general agreement on a set of rules that are designed to produce a furtherance or betterment

of the society through cooperative interaction. If this cooperation results in a societal

improvement, then the subject of justice must be introduced to handle the fair distribution of or

access to the betterment.

For Rawls, justice is not arbitrary, prejudiced, or preferential. He feels that from the

original position, or natural state of man, all members of society are equal. Justice, in this

framework, finds itself concerned with the relative scarcity of goods and man’s propensity to

prefer self-advantage. In practice, Rawls’ justice ensures that all members share the same

freedoms and that holding advantageous office or position is a prospect open to all.

From the springboard of the original position, he employs a hypothetical tool, the veil of

ignorance. Rawls posits that the only way that persons can formulate laws that are fair is to be

devoid of any knowledge of their individual characteristics. This policy restricts the introduction

of personal advantage. Being blind to one’s situation promotes the generation of laws or

institutions that will not benefit one man over another.

Robert Nozick’s libertarian, entitlement theory of distributive justice presents a radical

departure from the more hypothetical ideas of John Rawls. It is a decidedly historical, practical

approach to defining the role of justice. Nozick was an advocate for the minimal state. He would

think that any state that takes on more than the defense of its people causes injury to personal

freedom. It is the acquisition and transfer of goods that is the concern of his theory of distributive

justice. He argues that if the principles of justice are observed when acquiring holdings, then the

acquisition of the holding is just and entitled. For instance, if an item is unheld, and one acquires

it, then it is a just acquisition. He also states that held items may be the subject of just transfer

between people by means of trade or service. If one follows his inductive argument implicitly,

then it holds that the natural distribution of holdings would be just. Further, he states that the

resulting situation, being just, has no need for manipulation by any state. He also does a

precursory explanation of the rectification of injustice in holdings, should the principles of the

original acquisition of holdings, or the transfer of holdings be violated.

Nozick compares his historical, entitlement distribution of goods against “current time-

slice” principles of distribution. He cites welfare economics as an example, a seeking of a fair

“end-result” distribution. He finds looking at only our current situation to be unjust. Perhaps

disadvantaged persons are getting their just desserts. To preserve justice in Nozick’s eyes, one

must look at the whole historical accounting of things.

Nozick also discusses that there are patterns in distribution that can arise either justly, by

following his principles regarding just holdings, or by the intentional impression of a distributive

matrix by a state. He describes the fall of a hypothetical socialist state that occurs when one

person engages in capitalist acts, earning such money that others would leave the socialist

industry to engage in private enterprise as well. This circumstance would mandate that the

socialist state ban capitalist commerce in the name of self-preservation. It is this engaging of a

role by the state other than the defense of its people that is of paramount concern to Nozick. The

takeaway is that no distribution of holdings other than a natural distribution that occurs by

preserving justice in acquisition and transfer can be just. Also, it follows, that any action by a

state to redistribute holdings to which people have entitlement is an affront to personal liberty.

Euology for my mother

Though my mother and I had a really difficult relationship, writing her euology did allow me to remember what great gifts she gave me. For those of you who would be interested to read it, here it is:

I was going to get up here and serenade you all and my mother one last time. But as I woke up this morning, god said, “No, you shall have bronchitis”.

My mother taught me compassion. She was the unstoppable good samaratin. She sacrificed the very last inch of herself for others; the very last inch. She taught me to BE sunshine. She was the spark that ignited my very cherry disposition. She graciously endowed me with a boundless strength. She showed me to take love, light, compassion, and care to the darkest of places. I watched her example. She showed us all that it was OUR resposibility, ALL of us, to care for one another.

She gave the world her beautiful light, and her music; the lilting light of her voice and the complicated syncopations of the strumming of her Gibson Dove guitar.

I have early memories of singing with my mother. I was John Denver and she was Olivia Newton John, singing “Fly Away” at some “local entertainment venue”. I remember dancing in the kitchen with my mother, singing the entire score of the “Grease” soundtrack as warm sunshine poured in through the kitchen window.

I will carry from here the sensation of the warm sunshine on my face, and the beautiful sound of my mother’s voice.
I am here to thank her for teaching me strength of character, strength of heart, and to have compassion and love for ALL.

A mothers love is a sacred charge. A mother’s love is the example by which we ALL learn to love. A mother’s love is our 1st love. It is how we experience the unconditional and the miraculous.

So finally, I charge you all. Parents, love the blessings of the children you are given. Children, hold jealously the days you have with your parents. When you are young those days may seem endless, but as the sun sets on your parents final days, they are precious few and not ever enough.

Thank you for coming to celebrate my mother. Because she is a part of each and every one of us.

My mother will never be far away. She has always been here inside my heart.

Please vote on my essay to help me win this scholarship

ImagePlease help me win this scholarship. I am going back to school in the fall and have only my disability check to pay for living expenses, tuition, and supplies. This scholarship would be a godsend. Thank you ALL for your support! Please also feel free to share with your friends so they can vote as well. Please click the link below to vote on my essay.




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