Monday, February 28, 2011

Violent Video Games Lead To Violent Children

Any parent knows that kids have an aggressive side to them. Often times, it is a playful state that comes with growing up with brothers and sisters. However, some parents will tell you that the violence continues into the teen years and sometimes into early adulthood. For years, parents have been looking for something to blame. Now reasonably, traumatic life experiences like rape, near-death experiences, and abuse/abandonment by parents can invoke a violent personality. What has become more prevalent in the explanations by parents is that their child plays violent video games, and their theory does make sense. Violent video games can lead to violent behavior in children because what is considered “violent” in video games has been relaxed over the years, that violence can lead children to do bad things, and because it is very likely that children will be exposed and influenced by them.            

What is the difference between real violence and virtual violence? Obviously most people associate bullies, murderers, and wrestlers with real violence. Virtual violence is any violence that occurs in mediums such as video games, television, etc, and is not real. In regards to this virtual violence, what is too much, and what is “nothing to worry about?” We shrug off the reality of how violent video games are getting, and all the while, they are getting worse right under our noses. On the ESRB- the video game rating company-website, they give the range of ratings as EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), E 10+ (Everyone 10 and Older), T (Teen), M (Mature), and AO (Adults Only). Ratings E and E10+ “may contain fantasy or mild violence…”, T “may contain violence…minimal blood…”, and M and AO “may contain intense violence, blood and gore…” So all video games have some level of violence. The problem is exactly how much violence is in the game, and how much is considered “too much” or “nothing to worry about”. The ESRB reported in 2003 that of the 68% of games rated “E”, 32% contained a violence descriptor; a 4% increase from the previous year (Violence). It is assured that those numbers have only gone up since then. Things aren’t the way they were in our parents’ day, when Pac-man was the greatest thing known to man. Along with the advancement of video games comes the advancement, and thus the inevitable influence, of violence, from Pac-Man eating ghosts to shooting people.This raises an important question; can it be as something simple as the childish violence in video games at an early age that leads children down a violent path?
Children get so wrapped up in violent video games that often times they forget about real life, to the point that some act out irrationally. Rick Nauert cites a study done by Nicholas Carnagey and Craig Anderson, in which they found that, “the existing video game rating system, the content of much entertainment media, and the marketing of those media combine to produce ‘a powerful desensitization intervention on a global level.’” Violent video games, and even the advertisement of them, can heavily influence children, we simply do not understand how much.
Rewind a few weeks before the Columbine shootings to an incident that didn’t gain national attention, but is just as important. Rod White cites an article by Bill Bartleman of the Paducah Sun, which says, “Carneal shocked his family, friends and the entire community shortly after 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 when he walked into the Heath High School lobby carrying four rifles wrapped in a blanket and a handgun in his backpack.” He goes on to tell that Carneal, “killed three students, paralyzed another and injured four more.” Fourteen-year-old Carneal had never received any formal training in the use of firearms, instead he learned how to shoot by playing the video game Doom (Irvine & Kincaid).
A couple years later, the infamous Columbine shootings occurred. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold rolled into Columbine High School, murdered thirteen people and wounded twenty-three. Later investigation found that the two boys enjoyed playing a video game called Doom, a game licensed by the U.S. military to train the soldiers (Shin). Shin goes on to say that there was a virtual project similar to Doom done by the two boys, around a year before the actual incident, which showed a lot of parallels to what they actually did at Columbine. How coincidental is it that both shootings, being several years apart, were by students who enjoyed playing the same video game. How did these children even get their hands on such a violent game? Unfortunately, the same violence that was exposed to these children and was a helping factor in them becoming killers is the same violence that is exposed to children all over the country.
In 2008, 97% of all teenagers (12-17) played violent video games (Background). Most of these children will be playing T rated games, which begin introducing more realistic violence (compared to E rated games), even as far as using blood. In an article on the International Business Times website, Gabriel Perna cites Cheryl Olsen, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and author of the book, "Childhood:The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do,” that, “Playing video games is a normal kid behavior.” It is almost inevitable that children will play these games, if not at least watch someone else play them.
The NPD is a global video game market, and it reported the following sales; 2007 Top Sale: Halo 3; 2008 Top Sale: Mario Kart Wii; 2009 Top Sale; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Halo 3 sold 4.82 million copies in the US, and Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare 2 sold 8.82 million copies in the US and 11.86 million copies worldwide. What does this say? It says that the most sold video games are those that contain violence. Halo 3 and Call of Duty are both war games; pretty self-explanatory as to where the violence comes from. Mario Kart Wii, which is a racing game that involves the main Nintendo characters, falls under the rating E, which as explained earlier, may “may contain fantasy or mild violence…” One of the attributes of Mario Kart is the ability for the characters to, while racing, throw various things at the other racers to impede them from continuing for a short time. Children have more fun in throwing the objects and hurting the other players than actually racing. It’s time to face the music; video games are getting more violent with every new release, but as long as it has the rating “E”, we don’t think about the influence it could have on our children. It starts with the “harmless” violence presented in the E rated games, and is progressive all the way up. We need to monitor our children’s exposure to these games, or our children will only become more violent.

Works Cited
2008 Video Game Software Sales Across Top Global Markets Experience Double-Digit Growth. NPD Group. 2   February 2009. Web. 2 November 2010.

Background: “Do Violent Video Games Contribute To Youth Violence?” n.d. Web. 17 November 2010.

Bartleman, Bill. More on KY School Shooting. Paducah Sun. 6 October 1998. Web. 4 November 2010

Game Ratings & Descriptor Guide. Entertainment Software Rating Board. Web. 1 November 2010.

Irvine, Reed & Cliff Kincaid. Video Games Can Kill. Accuracy in Media. 10 May 1999. Web. 1 November 2010.

Nauert, Rick. Video Games Desensitize to Real Violence. PsychCentral. Web. 1 November 2010.

Perna, Gabriel. Influence Of Violent Video games Still Up for Debate. International Business Times. 17 September 2010. Web. 1 November 2010

Shin, Grace. Video Games: A Cause of Violence and Aggression. Serendip. 4 January 2008. Web. 2 November 2010.

Violence and the ESRB Ratings.ESRB. 14 August 2003. Web. 2 November 2010.

This I Believe...

I believe in the necessity of intervention throughout one’s life. By intervention, I mean the positive action of someone else on your behalf, the result of which removes you from a potentially dangerous situation. Intervention is what moves people through the different stages of their life. It helps solve their problems, guides them as they grow up, and in some cases, keeps them alive. I can categorize my life in three stages: birth, adoption, and the boys’ home. The movement from one stage to the next came through intervention, and the combination of them all define who I am today.

I believe that intervention occurs every day, in public and in private. From the rich person who lends a few dollars to a homeless guy on the corner to the judge that places a fifteen-year old child in a corrective program after committing a crime, everyone makes choices everyday that change the course of other people’s lives, and therefore serving, either directly or indirectly, as intervention. Had there not been intervention in my life, from birth to adoption, adoption itself, and the boys’ home, I may not be the person I am today, if here at all.

Let’s start with my birth. I was born in Russia, the largest country in the world. It is a massively poor and frozen tundra of a country, and while the big cities may be great, the majority of the nation lives in poverty. To this day, I know nothing about any of my biological family and little about anything related to the time I spent there. What I do know is that my mother was arrested when I was two months old for drunken negligence, and still today, there is no record of my father. My step-mom tells me that I have up to seven other brothers and sisters, all presumably older than me, and so the assumptions are that I probably don’t have the same father as the rest of my siblings, and as far as I am concerned, I will never know. After my biological mother’s arrest, I was placed in a low-budget orphanage that I honestly don’t know enough to tell you about, but it is there that I spent the next twenty months of my life.

For such a gruesome beginning of life, one might ask where the intervention came. Simply put, the authorities-the police in this instance- had intervened on my life by removing my mother. To truly see how this intervention made a positive change in the current course of my life, let’s imagine some of the courses my life may have taken had the authorities not intervened.

First of all, since my mother was constantly drunk and didn’t take care of me, I may have died within the first several years. What if I did live through it? Growing up in a poverty-stricken home with no father and a drunk, negligent mother is a plain recipe for a disastrous child. More than likely school would have been unaffordable, and the only decent way to get food would have been through thievery or harsh child labor. Russia was in one of its poorest states, as it was just finally rebuilding itself after the collapse of Communism. Maybe I would have gotten a job, but odds are not high. It is deathly cold, and unless I had the money to pay for heating, or extra clothing, I would probably only slowly froze to death. There was no hope for me; there was no light at the end of the tunnel for me to run towards.  Life would have been defined by the shreds of warmth and small sums of money that I could hold onto until the sun went down. Had not the police taken away my mother and placed me in an orphanage, where I was at least guaranteed food, a place to sleep, heating, and caregivers, I may not be alive right now.

Now, let’s take a look at the situation that my first life intervention had put me into. I had been placed into a low-budget orphanage, where granted I was safe from the cold, starvation, and potential dangers of a broken family yet, I was still not safe from the life that lay ahead of me. I was lonely in that orphanage; my step-parents told me that I would not play with the other kids; instead I would take a toy and play by myself in the corner. Without another intervention, I would survive until the age that I could leave, and the rest of my future was up in the air. Perhaps schooling would have been available, but more than likely not. Had I stayed in that orphanage, I still would only have failed in life, because I was nowhere near prepared. At twenty-two months old, intervention reared its head again. This time, the intervention came from an American couple, who were foster parents previously.

My adoptive father is a successful, patent attorney; he was once even the Acting Head Chief of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. My adoptive mother is a homemaker. One night as they were watching an episode of “60 minutes” about orphanages in Russia, the horrible things they heard and saw moved them to adopt a Russian orphan, and they began the long paperwork process to do so. At almost two years old, almost halfway across the world, the people that would save me from my drab future were on their way.
When they finally got to the orphanage, I stood out like a sore thumb. I was always alone, playing by myself in the corner. Once, they watched as we ate a meal of some apple slices, some bread and broth. As they watched, they saw me take some of the apple slices from the kid beside me. While it is something to laugh at now, it is a perfect example of how horrible my life was and would have been had I stayed there in Russia. My parents eventually got to visit with me, and they saw no emotion in my eyes. That was another aspect of my life that would have only grown worse with time. Because of the horrible situation I had been placed in, I had no love, no laughter, no joy inside of me, and it broke the hearts of Gary Harkcom and Jane Neis, and so they adopted me.

Steven Joseph Harkcom-Neis. That is the name that was given to me as I began my new life in the United States of America, the “land of opportunity." As who I now call my parents found out, Russia had done more to me than met the eye. Due to the lack of love and care from my family, I was unable to attach emotionally to my new family. Whereas before they saw no emotion in my eyes, after adoption, all they saw was anger and resentment. For six years, I experienced the challenges of growing up, but with a sick and raging twist. The anger and inability to attach to my parents festered, and during those six years, I never made full progress towards attachment. My parents didn’t know what to do with me anymore, and they were slowly losing their ability to keep trying. So, in order to help me, they intervened, and sent me to the Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation.

At eight years old, I didn’t know what to do or think when the car pulled up to my newest home. I didn’t know what was wrong with me; I didn’t know that anything was wrong with me. My parents placed me here to learn how to interact with other people and ultimately with them. I began counseling soon after being admitted and was diagnosed with an Attachment Disorder. There was a long road ahead of me, because I didn’t want to talk to anyone about anything. Strangely, I wasn’t extremely violent at the Home like I had been with my parents, and I actually got along fairly well with my houseparents. Now, granted, I was nowhere near perfect. I still got in plenty of trouble, which is expected for a growing child.
Now, I am seventeen years old, and have been in the Home for over nine-and-a-half years. My Attachment Disorder diagnosis was taken away years ago, and I am doing well. I have plenty of friends, not only kids but adults as well. My parents and I are getting along great although sometimes we’re split on different issues, but then again so is every family. I am now a senior in high school and have plans for after graduation. I am what “experts” would call a “success.”

Had I not been placed in the Home, perhaps I would have improved, but not likely. I probably would have only gotten worse, and the relationship with my parents would have eventually been severed. I would have grown up a very angry and lonely child and entered adulthood bound for disaster. I was lucky to have my parents intervene and place me in the Home. Had they not, again, I would not be who I am today.
Intervention, the positive action of someone else on your behalf, the result of which removes you from a potentially dangerous situation. It has saved me multiple times throughout my life. No one is perfect, and naturally, we lose our way in life sometimes. Due to the extreme circumstances at my birth, I started life out on the wrong track. Through multiple interventions, I have become who I am today; a child with a hope, with dreams, and the ability to reach out to the people around me. I believe, and have experienced firsthand, that in order for one’s life to be successful, there must be intervention.

Indoctrination of the Origin of Man in Public Schools

Where did you come from? Where did the person beside you come from? What if your two ideas differ, who’s right and who’s wrong? Religion and schools have clashed on the origin of man for decades, stretching even farther than the Scopes Monkey Trial. The majority of students in public high schools that take biology come to believe the theory of evolution (Bird). Even in my own biology class, only the theory of evolution, as proposed by Charles Darwin, was taught. While our school is located in what is believed to be the “Bible Belt” of Virginia, and plenty of my classmates and I are Christians, there was practically no discussion about the theory of creation. Indoctrination; it is happening in schools all over the country. While it may sound like a really difficult concept to understand, it’s actually pretty simple. Another similar word that may hit closer to home is “brainwashing.” In this case, it is the concept of basically spoon-feeding certain values-like evolution- to the students. One of the most criticized forms of indoctrination in public schools is the aspect on which the origin of man is taught. In most public schools, students are only exposed, and therefore indoctrinated, on the theory of evolution. The theories of evolution and creation should both be equally represented in public school teachings, because students deserve to at least be given a choice of which theory they believe, and the only thing holding creation out of schools is a legal battle fueled by biased thinkers.

In order to properly discuss why both versions of man’s origins should be discussed, there needs to be a neutral definition given of both theories. Evolutionists say that creation is a religious belief, and therefore, it doesn’t belong in schools. The creationist point-of-view says that evolution is a bizarre scientific lie, partially because abiogenesis-the idea that life can be created where it did not previously exist (Abiogenesis) - isn’t possible. It is difficult to escape bias and create a true argument as to why the other is false. Because of this, my goal is not to prove either idea wrong, but instead prove why both deserve equal representation in teaching the origins of man.

To begin, neutral definitions of creation and evolution need to be given. The theory of creation is that God created the Earth, and all things on it, from the water to human beings, starting with Adam and Eve, in six literal days. There is no need for evolution of man, because man already existed. The theory of evolution, as summed up by Wendell R. Bird, J.D., an attorney from Yale Law School, who has published several articles in the Yale Law Journal on the topic, is: “The evolutionary theory teaches that matter has always existed and that the earth evolved to its present form…”

There is a major problem with the style of argument between creationists and evolutionists. Scientific debates are formed on the backs of the evidence that each side can present (Evolution). An article on All About Creation’s website says “…the burden of evidence should be upon the Evolutionists, since Creation has been the historic and inherent default throughout virtually all cultures and religions until roughly the last 200 years…Evolutionists, who view themselves as the only "scientists" in the debate, insist that the burden of evidence be upon the Creationists.” Both sides look to the other for supporting evidence, the evolutionists talk about the “mind”, and the creationists a “Creator”, however neither side can agree on a set of evidence (Evolution). Ultimately the logic for this argument fails, because as Ken Ham, President of Answers In Genesis, says, “…in reality they are arguing about their interpretations based on their presuppositions.” He goes on to talk about how both evolutionists and creationists share the same evidence; the same earth, the same fossils, the same people, the same animals, etc (Ham). So right out of the gate, it makes no sense that one is excluded over the other, because they are both only interpretations, so students should be able to decide for themselves which interpretation best suits their lifestyle and mindset. The teaching of only evolution in public schools has taken away that privilege.

So, what is the true argument between creationists and evolutionists as to teachings in public school? It isn’t about the other being right or wrong, instead it is merely an interpretation of legality. To take it one step further and, the argument is about the “constitutionality” of teaching creation in schools. The “Establishment Clause” in Amendment 1 of the United States Constitution says that “Congress cannot make laws regarding any establishment of religion.” The question here is whether or not the word “establishment” is interpreted as pertaining to ideological things such as the theory of creation or physical things like church buildings? I believe that since there is no specific limit, and our nation was founded on Christian-like principles, then both sides should be adhered to, meaning that it applies to both, which provides for a more neutral standpoint. With this interpretation that it applies to both ideological and physical aspects, it makes sense to say that Congress cannot make laws regarding creation, which is ideological, being taught in schools, which is a physical attribute.

For example, the National Center for Science Education cites the Supreme Court Case Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District et al., in which a teacher attempted to place the following sticker: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.” The district court ruled to have the stickers removed from the textbooks, but was remanded by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and eventually the School District agreed not to disclaim or denigrate evolution either orally or written. The website goes on to list nine other cases where teachers or school districts are denied the right to teach creation because it violates the First Amendment (Ten Significant).

On the topic of teaching creation in public schools, Ham says that, “There are the usual accusations of trying to get ‘religion’ into schools and that it’s a front for what they label ‘fundamentalist Christianity’.”  This is simply not true. The attempt to have creation taught in public schools is not a move by Christians to turn public schools into seminaries. The attempt to have creation taught in public school branches out to a much wider audience than Christianity. In fact, most religions believe that their interpretation of a god created them, such as Judaism and Islam. Even some polytheistic (more than one god) religions believe that the humans were “created.”

Dr Bergman, a writer for Revolution Against Evolution, cited Bruce Shortt, who said: “Those who are endeavoring to achieve a more balanced presentation of origins…can attest to the fact that the controversy is not over the humanists trying to present a balanced view and the Christians a one-sided view, but more often the humanists wanting to indoctrinate students in their point of view only, and the creationists wanting a fair hearing.” Neither creation nor evolution can be proven more right than the other, and the argument here isn’t about the validity of either. The argument is whether or not students in public schools deserve to be exposed to both theories on the origin of man. Ultimately, it would only be fair if creation is taught alongside evolution in public schools, so that society can just leave all this legal business behind and move on, and let the kids determine for themselves what they believe.
Works Cited
Abiogenesis. International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design. N.d. Web. 18 October 2010.

Bergman, Jerry. Darwinism and Indoctrination by Our Public Schools. Revolution Against Evolution. 26 February 2005. Web. 11 October 2010.

Bird, Wendell R. Evolution in Public Schools and Creation in Student’s Home: What Creationist Can Do (Part 1). Institute for Creation Research. N.d. Web. 11 October 2010

Evolution vs. Creation – A Contentious Debate. All About Creation. N.d. Web. 11 November 2010.

Ham, Ken. Creation in Public Schools?!. Answers In Genesis. 14 December 2002. Web. 11 October 2010.

Ten Significant Court Decisions regarding Evolution/Creationism. National Center for Science Education. N.d. Web. 18 October 2010.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Life-long Adventure....Literally

Greetings Earth Dwellers!!!

Let me establish a few ground rules:

1) When you see something funny on my post, it is okay to laugh. Heaven forbid you try to keep it in and suffer from some odd medical thingy from not being able to laugh.

2) You don't know me yet, hopefully through the wonderful power of a blog such as this you will be able to learn about me (stalkers not encouraged), so please hold your criticisms (about me, I encourage criticisms of my blog posts) until I'm dead, at which time everything I have done is fit to be judged, due to the fact I won't be able to do anything about it (I'll be dead remember?)

3) I have always been told that 3 points make your stance the most solid, that 2 isn't enough and 4 overdoes it, but for now i don't have a 3rd point.

Good, now that we got the serious mess out of the way, let's continue. The title of this blog is "A Crazy Life & The Man That Agreed To It", and while many won't consider me to be entirely a man simply because I only turned 18, coincidentally enough, 18 days before this post. However, I believe that is the point of the title. Based on the past 18 years, which I will divulge in successive posts, the rest of my life is going to be pretty crazy, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I....I.....I'm at a lost for words on where exactly to start on this blogging journey. I had a long weekend, a forensics competition yesterday and a date with the girlfriend today, and back for another week of school tomorrow....only like 13 or 14 of them left before I leave high school behind forever. So, with much apology for the lack of things to say at the moment, before I start rambling uselessly, I will sign off, perhaps to pick this back up tomorrow or the next day.