Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sociology Essay 2 (almost)

Prepare yourself, this next post is a doozy! This essay originally was 8 pages long. I managed to somehow shorten it to 7 pages before I turned it in. Actually, I believe I turned in both copies.

My score was not satisfactory in my opinion. I can't remember what I got, but is was somewhere around an 80%. Evidently, 8 pages wasn't enough information, cause my professor said I left out some important elements. I think the "important elements" weren't even in the textbooks, because I pretty much summed up the entire chapter.

Anywho, prepare yourself for some rather unexciting, informational reading...

...actually, after reading the essay through before posting, I am less certain that I should post it. Not that it's controversial, or offensive, but it is really boring.

I feel like I should make this blog informative, but not bland. One reason I hated reading my textbooks in school is because the information was incomprehensibly boring.

If anyone objects to my exclusion of the last essay in the College Essay series, post a comment. Otherwise, I will begin posting original material.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sociology Essay 1

This essay did not receive an A. I got an 80 on it, but I forgot to add two concluding sections onto it. So I suppose 80% is pretty good considering. I have also decided to add my own commentary to this one. anything in parentheses (like this) is an added commentary. Actually, I may have added commentary in a select few spots to previous posts, but I am now making it official.

Politics and Sociology

An Essay By Josiah Teal

All information gained through Brym and Lie’s textbook, Sociology; Your Compass for a New World.

Power and Authority

When one is to discuss the aspects of politics one must first address the issues of power and authority. A loose definition of power is when an individual or group of individuals are able to control other individuals, even against their will. It is my opinion that power needs to be controlled when it is used to govern a people; too much power often results in an oppressed population. Authority is defined as legitimate power. Power becomes legitimate when the governed people perceive it as legitimate (or so they say).

Types of Authority

The German sociologist Max Weber separated authority into three categories, the first of which is traditional authority. An example of traditional authority can be found in the English monarchy. The Queen is an example of this kind of authority. The second type of authority is called legal-rational authority and this is found when an individual achieves an authoritative position by following the rules. Although some people would tend to disagree (vote counts and such), George W. Bush is an example of legal- rational authority because he followed the rules to attain the office of the President of the United States. The final example of authority is called charismatic authority. When one is able to lead by rallying a people to a cause he/she is an example of charismatic authority. Martin Luther King Jr. is a perfect example of this type of leadership.

Types of Political System

Like the types of authority, types of political systems are also largely in three categories autocracy, authoritarian, and democracy. In an autocracy, total power is in the hands of a single person or party. In an authoritarian state, the average citizen has limited say in the government and the power is more widespread. In a democracy, the power resides with the people, who have the ability to elect leaders from among themselves (in a roundabout way).

Theories of Democracy

Pluralist Theory

According to Brym and Lie’s textbook on sociology, pluralist theory “holds that power is widely dispersed. As a result, no group enjoys disproportionate influence, and decisions are usually reached through negotiations and compromise.” This theory has drawn some harsh criticism and most sociologists tend to disagree with it, saying that in America, wealthy corporations can often influence politics and legislation.

Elite Theory

Elite theory is the idea that smaller, influential institutions have more say over politics than most of us would be comfortable with. These groups may also ignore public opinion in order to get what they want.

Power Resource Theory

Power resource theory holds that variations in the “distribution of power between major classes partly accounts for the successes and failures of different political parties” according to Brym and Lie. Differences in the views favored by each party account for the differences between the classes who favor them (wait for it...).

State-Centered Theory

This theory states that the state can to some extent control it’s own affairs independent of the way power is distributed among particular classes at any given time.

The Future of Democracy

In 1989, the country of Russia made a dramatic switch from communism to a democracy. This event had much of the western world applauding the change and hoping for a bright future for Russia. Unfortunately, the people of Russia were not accustomed to a democratic lifestyle and the bright future slowly began to fade. The economy soon collapsed and hopes for a new Russia soon fell through. The failure of Russian democracy causes one to wonder, “what social conditions must there be in order for a government to become completely democratic and for democracy to take firm root?”

The Three Waves of Democracy

In the year 1828, half the white men in the United States became eligible to vote, by the year 1926, 33 counties in the world were at least partially democratic. This was the first wave of democracy. After WWII, the second wave of democracy began to take place. The reason was largely on behalf on liberated nations, and even some new nations that were born after fascist and socialist leaders were overthrown. In 1974, the overthrow of dictatorships in Portugal and Greece initiated the third and biggest wave of democracy. Although the third wave of democracy is officially the biggest, the actual impact is rather small in comparison. The reason being is that many of these democracies are what we call formal democracies, meaning that even though citizens may be able to participate in national elections, doing so has little or no effect. They also lack constitutional protections (or the illusion thereof), like those provided in the United States, which is a liberal democracy.

Social Preconditions of Democracy (in a nutshell)

In the words of Brym and Lie, “Liberal democracies emerge and endure when counties enjoy considerable economic growth, industrialization, urbanization, the spread of literacy, and a gradual decrease in economic inequality.” This is a big influence in the spawning and flourishing of the middle and working class. In many cases there was a middle class but limited political freedom, this class of citizens would likely attempt to overthrow the restrictive government and possibly replace it with a democratic one (unless they were too scared). In a nation where the working class is too weak, democracies will be much less likely to emerge.

Electronic Democracy

In 1935, the results of the first nationwide poll was featured in a full page story in the Washington post. George Gallup, the man responsible for the poll, said this, “After one hundred and fifty years we return to the town meeting. This time the whole nation is within the doors.” George Gallup’s idea was that the government now knew what the nation as a whole wanted (I have yet to participate in a poll like this). Although the idea that the government would be forced to do whatever the populace wanted was a bit naive, the Gallup poll did let the people be heard in a way that was never before possible. Some of the naivety expressed at the birth of the Gallup Poll was also expressed at the inception of new wonders such as the internet as people began to assume that voting on certain issues could now be done electronically; however, the possibilities of this are rather slim under current conditions. How could one regulate something such as internet voting? How would voting electronically over the internet be secure? What about people with no internet connection or computer? The questions go on.


Postmaterialism is defined as the shift from class based to value based politics resulting from growing equality and prosperity in industrialized countries. Postmaterialists claim that even so recently as fifty years ago, most citizens were more concerned with their next paycheck and making a living. Today, many people are more concerned with traditional values and morality (interesting...).

Politics by Other Means


Instead of peacefully participating in social movements, many countries turn to war as a means to get what they want. All too common, wars have ravaged the planet for nearly all of recorded history, resulting in many billions of dead through the ages (gross oversimplification).


Terrorists have found a way to get governments to notice them and that is through terrorism. Terrorism is politically motivated violence against non-combatant targets. The official explanation for why a people resort to terrorism is because they have no other way of getting the attention or putting pressure on a particular government or group. I say it’s because they are too cowardly to declare war and rather enjoy making innocent people suffer. Terrorism is low. That’s all I have to say about it.


The political realm of the world can often be a confusing and tumultuous topic. Looking at it now it seems to be becoming clearer than ever as I begin to understand causes and effects of social forces (according to contemporary explanations). Although it doesn’t seem that there is any perfect political system (benevolent dictatorship), I believe that one must always strive to influence the world around them for the better (just how to go about it is a bit harder to figure out).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Psychology Essay 2

The final essay I wrote for my psychology class is below. This is dry reading, as it is mostly just raw info. Also, a lot of this is goofy to me, because scientists like to label and categorize every little thing. It seems to me that they do this to get their name in the textbooks. But perhaps they do it to simplify the way we learn.

Once again, this garnered an A.

The Nature of Memory

Human memory often seems to be one of the strangest things one can think about. What is it exactly that causes us to remember things? Why do we remember some things that happened an entire lifetime ago, but often forget things that happened mere seconds ago? Why do we even need to remember certain things? Where are our memories stored and how? Are there ways to enhance memory? Is there such a thing as repressed memories? I often wonder for myself why I can remember the cheat codes to a video game I have not played in 10 years, but forget what my boss told me to do 30 seconds ago.

Basic Memory Processes

According to the textbook “Essentials of Psychology” by Douglass A. Bernstein and Peggy W. Nash, memory runs off of three basic processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval (209).They explain, “First, information must be put into memory, a step that requires encoding.” Encoding allows our brains to process the information we receive and then put it to use. There are three basic codes that our minds use: acoustic codes, or sounds; visual codes, or pictures and sights; and semantic codes, or things we have learned, such as how to interpret the meaning of words and symbols.

The second step in memory is storage. Storage is when we hold our memories when they are not being used. They might be in our heads, but when we are not using them, they are in storage. We can retrieve them at a later time, which brings us to the final process.

Retrieval is when we locate and use the memories stored in our brain. Retrieval is usually a simple process, such as when I remember my birthday or my favorite kind of ice cream. Retrieval can become more difficult however, when attempting to remember the name of an historical figure on a history test, or when trying to think of your Aunt’s phone number.

Types of Memory

Although nobody knows for sure how many there actually are, memory is usually classified in three different categories. These categories include episodic, semantic, and procedural.

Episodic memory occurs when you remember a specific event in your life; a story that happened, like the time you drove into the fence and put a hole in the radiator of your car.

Semantic memory is knowledge of the world. Simple facts such as 2 + 2 = 4, or knowing that planes fly and boats float on water is semantic memory.

The third category, procedural, is knowledge of how to do things, like tying a shoe or playing chess. This type of memory is also used for writing an essay, or at least knowing how to.

While we are on a roll with the threes, let’s also take a look at sensory memory, short term memory, and long term memory. Sensory memory takes place when we see things. We remember them just long enough to recognize what they are, such as looking at a can of Pepsi and recognizing it as a can of Pepsi.

The next stage of memory is called short term memory. We may read a book and take a quiz at the end of it, but many of the things we remember right after we read it will not stick with us for a long time. For this reason, we call this memory short term memory. I might meet a stunningly beautiful girl tomorrow and remember her name for a week, but if the impression she leaves on me is not long lasting, her name becomes lost to me; short term memory.

Say I meet a stunningly beautiful, smart, sweet, and nice girl and we talk and have fun for a few months. If she makes a lasting impression on me I will remember her name for a long time. This is long term memory. Another example of long term memory is of me learning how to ride a bike and crashing into the garage door. I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast on that morning, because it didn’t matter too much to me. But for reasons unknown I remember crashing into that garage door.

The human mind is a complicated thing, and the full aspect of memory may never be completely understood. (Copout)

Here is the beginning of the essay I was going to write. I never finished it because there was not enough information on the subject.

A large part of many interesting stories and movies in today’s society deal with what is referred to as repressed memories. These are memories that are so traumatic that we push them to the back of our minds in an effort to forget them. Many people claim to be able to retrieve these memories after long periods of time, often with drastic consequences. People claim to remember murders, accidents, and many other traumatic ordeals. However, many psychologists are now beginning to question the validity of some of these claims. Are repressed memories a reality, or a fabrication?

I have no idea why that copied in a different font... size (?).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Psychology Essay 1

What follows (below) is an essay I wrote for my psychology class. This also garnered an A. The writing style is less than stellar, and in some places seems quite abrupt. Remember that the point of this essay was not to showcase my astounding literary abilities, but to provide information.

Interesting Facts on Sleep

by Josiah Teal

While reading through the article titled, “Sleep: Strange Bedfellows” I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the many little known facts on sleep. Sleep has always been a fascination of mine, as I have noticed in myself an ability to recall information hidden deep in my memory banks while sleeping, having been unable to do so while awake. The topics in the article range from the health of your teeth, to insomnia.

According to the article, sleep is an important part of forming long term memories. The brain will often replay the day’s events during sleep, enhancing our reception of them for future reference. I find this rather interesting, because as I stated before, I will sometimes have trouble remembering something while awake. I have found that if I think about the problem intensely right before I go to sleep, I will be able to recover it in my sleep. Not only that, but the information I retrieved in my sleep will still be there when I wake up and I will most likely never forget it again. Sleep is also essential in preparing for a college exam, as it has been discovered that students who sleep less tend to do worse than students who get plenty of sleep.

Also, sleep is good for your heart. Speaking from personal experience here, I can say that when you go for long periods of time without sleep, as I did when I had to plow driveways during one winter, you start to feel aches and pains in your body. I also noticed that my heart was beating different than normal, pounding rather than beating. A lack of sleep puts you at a risk for hypertension, according to researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Strangely enough, sleep may also be good for tooth health. According to the article, researchers studied 219 Japanese factory workers for four years. Those who got 7-8 hours of sleep a night reportedly had less trouble with periodontal diseases than those who slept less. This may have something to do with the body’s immune system being more active with more sleep.

Here’s a new concept; more sleep may help keep kids from becoming obese. Although there is no definitive proof of the link between sleep and obesity, some researchers have suggested that the cause may be how active children feel. A child with little sleep may not feel like playing kickball at school during recess while a kid with sufficient sleep will feel like running around and having fun. Also, kids with less sleep may have a disrupted metabolism.

And now for the inevitable insomniac piece (Fragment, consider revising). Some people, like me, have a very hard time sleeping at night and instead of being sleepy, are nearly wide awake. These people, it turns out, may have a genetic mutation that is the culprit for their irritating plague of insomnia. The gene affects what is called the circadian cycle. The circadian cycle is the “clock that keeps our metabolism, digestion, and sleep patterns in sync.” People who stay in bed longer in the morning (lazy people as some would call them) are almost always compensating for their large amounts of insomnia. Some of these “night owls” also reported feeling less in control of their sleep (like me), which may be a cause of insomnia.

Finally, there are a few people who can get by with very small amounts of sleep. Studies found that those who sleep in what is called slow-wave sleep, the deepest form of sleep, have a harder time getting along while sleep deprived, while other people seem to do just fine.

So far we have learned that sleep enhances memory, improves heart health, may strengthen teeth, and may help keep kids from becoming overweight. There are many mysteries surrounding the phenomenon of sleep. Perhaps some still to be discovered. I will watch with interest as further discoveries are made.

Monday, March 01, 2010

US History Essay 2

This is my final essay (and test) for US History. This article is somewhat one-sided, so keep that in mind when you read through it. I slanted it in a way that I thought my teacher would appreciate. Nowadays, I would have written it differently, but here it is anyway.

Indian Relocation

By Josiah Teal

In the early years of the 19th century, several defining factors played key roles in the making of the American nation as it is today; not the least of which was the treatment of the American Indians. This issue is still discussed among our European neighbors across the Atlantic, as well as by many Americans. Often while discussing current American politics and policies, I have bumped into people, most of whom come from Europe, who insist on using these events as a reason why America is not to be admired. It is because of this that I have chosen to write about the Indian Relocation Act and the events by which it was surrounded.

In the mind of many American settlers in the opening of the 19th century was the idea that the “problem” of the American Indians would soon disappear into thin air and the land that was left behind would be theirs for the taking. When the Indian tribes in the southern portions of the United States instead formed their own system of government that strongly mirrored that of the U.S., many farmers and homesteaders realized that the Indian land they desired would not be opening up for prime real estate, as they had previously thought. It wasn’t long before the settlers and even the state of Georgia became involved in the attempt to remove the Indians from their land.

During the 1820’s, attempts were made by the federal government to convince the tribes in the east to move further west, an offer which many Indians took up. Many others on the other hand, chose to stay and resisted the attempts by whites to get them to move westward. When Indians failed to do as they were expected, Caucasian politicians and businessmen sought to swindle them out of their territories and even began to enact legislature that favored the European motives and cheated Natives. One such case, the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs, was so unbelievably ridiculous that President Adams felt the need to step in and overturn and ratify the treaty, calling for a new one.

If the Indian tribes in the area of the southeast had any support at all from the federal government, it wasn’t nearly enough. The Prairie du Chien treaties were meant to gradually remove northwestern tribes to the west side of the Mississippi; however, settlers lured by rumors of gold began to pour into these lands prematurely, causing Indians to resist the “invasion” with force. In 1827, the Winnebagos, under the direction of Red Bird, raided mining outposts and causing a stir in what was still legally their own territory. Settlers however, were less certain that the territory still belonged to the Indians and urged the government to assist by sending troops to quell the Indian “rebellion,” a request to which President Adams complied, despite the fact that it was still illegal to do so. Red Bird and his people were driven out of their own land.

When Andrew Jackson was elected as the 6th president of the United States in 1828, the native populations were in for some rough roads. In 1817, Jackson had told President Monroe, “I have long viewed treaties with the Indians an absurdity not to be reconciled to the principles of our government.” Jackson’s view of the Indians was clearly not a stellar one, and his future actions would further demonstrate that fact. In 1830, Jackson prompted Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act, a harsh decision that would cost up to 4,000 Native American lives. Indians living in the southeast now had to pack up and move west of the Mississippi, where land had been purchased for the purpose of their resettlement.

At one point, white land grabbers began to infringe upon Indian territory in Missouri and, instead of ruling that the whites were not to do so, Jackson had federal troops forcibly remove the Indians from their land. One Indian was chief known as Black Hawk, led a band of warriors on a crusade back to their “home.” Black Hawk and his warriors clung to their claim until federal troops killed more than three hundred Indians and captured Black Hawk.

At the same time, whites living in the south were beginning to harass the Cherokee tribes. By that time, the Cherokee had drafted their own written constitution, established their own newspapers, and created their own steady economy. All out of selfishness, the white men began to demand the land upon which the Indians were living. Georgia legislature sided with the white men, of course, and the Cherokee constitution was soon annulled by the state. Indians rights began to steadily diminish and despite an attempt to appeal the treatment in higher courts. Despite the efforts of various white men (including Congressman Davy Crockett) to help the cause, the Cherokees lost their appeal and were forced to move.

It was then that the infamous “Trail of Tears,” or more directly “The Trail Where They Cried,” took place. In an article titled “Forced Removal,” authors Christine Graf and Andrew Matthews write, “In May 1838, army troops began rounding up the Cherokees, removing them from their homes and imprisoning them in stockaded forts. In the fall, the Indians began a forced walk of almost 1,200 miles from Georgia to Oklahoma. The sick, the young, and the elderly rode in wagons, while the others trudged on foot through difficult weather. At night, exhausted, they slept on the frozen ground, covered only by thin blankets.” Almost one fourth of the Cherokee that set out from Georgia died along the trail to Oklahoma.

The Trail of Tears is a stain upon the American flag, one that unfortunately we will never be able to cleanse. It is a stain rivaled by only the treatment of African-Americans throughout the 18th,19th, and early 20th century, and the Japanese-American internment of 1942. The decision to remove the Indians from large sections of the Eastern U.S. had drastic implications for America. No longer would there be a nearly separate nation of Cherokee in the southeast, and forever would we be plagued by the tragedy of the Trail of Tears. Those fateful years would do their job at alienating the Indians from us for years to come.

Berkin, Carol; Miller, Christopher L.; Cherny, Robert W.; and James L. Gormly. Making America: A History of the United States. 5th ed. Boston Ma: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998

Graf, Christine, and Andrew Matthews. "Forced removal.(removal of Cherokee Indians from their lands)." Cobblestone 29.1 (Jan 2008): 12(2). General OneFile. Gale. Finger Lakes Com College Library - SUNY. 7 Dec. 2008 .