Beautiful Questions

Turning beautiful questions around and around.

Don’t Tread on Me- Plagiarism Infringes on My Freedom

by matthewjcarlin

In order for us, as members of society, to progress we must focus on issues of morality, ethics and even governance.  For that, I would deplore for the class to dive into Jonathan Lethem’s conversation on plagiarism in his work The Ecstasy of Influence.  Lethem clearly labels the potential threat that plagiarism has on the future of society and the creative processes that follow in the somewhat diminished arts.  Addressing the concerns over the “powerhouse” copyright firms and entertainment agents that sue over royalties, I would agree that the concepts at work need to be reworked and even go as far as amending the current situation that many artists and media outlets are facing as we speak. I, or course, refer to the ongoing scandals that are plaguing websites such as Instagram, Youtube and even Twitter.  Every hour it is estimated that over one hundred thousand media publications (of more commonly referred to as “posts”) are flagged as copy right infringement or plagiarism.  I would reference the LegalZoom document I outline in the previous assignment for those unfamiliar with the somewhat controversy surrounding social media.

I firmly believe that the legalities that have been addressed in the YouTube and Twitter controversies are of extreme importance especially for my generation who is one of the most subscribed users of such social websites and one of the main contributors as well. Currently in an age where simply clicking “google search” will get one over a million results, plagiarism and proper citation has been an issue. Up until recently it would seem that the issue was under control, but now copyrights are becoming more and more skewed and we see people as young as 16 being sued for copyright infringement! A question to ask you is, “What do I post online, really?” “Do I own what I say?” or even “Could I be sued for that ““comment””?”. What can we do? What should we do? Question that anyone who has signed up for Facebook or Twitter should be asking themselves before they find themselves directly involved in this outright attack on our freedom for information. It is with great fervor that I beseech you all to dive into this blatant infringement on our freedom and to pave a way for clearer lines on plagiarism and originality.

Building Character Straight to Success

by crose13

After looking into Paul Tough and his article What if the Secret to Success is Failure?, I believe character building should in terms of education should be the focus of our class this semester. Tough puts forward the idea that being intelligent is not the only measure of success, and I completely agree. He explores the thought of character building in school by exploring how one school used “character reports” much like report card to measure how, or how little character a child has. Tough also talks about the idea of grit and how that may be the best measure of success for a child’s future. Angela Duckworth, the creator of the idea of grit, also discusses this in her work. She looks into West Point, a school where individuals learn military tactics and combat skills. The grit test she came up with was used to predict which of the cadets would leave the school after just one summer of training. These two articles both discuss a real problem in our education system.

Going along with the idea of grit, Angela Duckworth presented a TED talk about her ideas on grit as a measure of success. She goes to say that intellectual studies do not show how well a child will turn out. There are many real world problems that show this problem. As mentioned in the Christina Rose article, Do Test Scores Equal Success?, testing is not the best way to show intelligence anymore. Students today are seen in a different way and I think we, as a class, could benefit highly from exploring the topic. We deal with these things daily, as college students, why not learn as much as we can about it and see what really does work the best?

Quantifying Character

by kmavard

With an American culture and education system focused on success, it is essential to investigate what exactly leads to success and how to better prepare young individuals for a successful future.  There is a common assumption that maintaining a high grade point average and earning high honors in an academic setting is the key to success in not only college, but the career field itself. However, as Paul Tough asserts in “What if the Key to Success Is Failure?”  character plays an integral role in an individual’s success. Character education is a conversation that is necessary to enter because of the possible benefits and implications that the introduction of a character education curriculum could have on not only students, but the overall education system. If character education programs truly produce “ethical citizens” as explained by the Character Education Partnership, or improve the careers and relationships of students as explained by Duckworth, then it is absolutely necessary to investigate the incorporation of character education into the formal education system.

By referencing prominent researchers and psychologists, such as Angela Duckworth, Tough argues that “the ultimate product of good character [is] a happy, meaningful, productive life” and that is it is important to expose students to failure in order to let them develop the character skills necessary to move past a setback. On a similar note, Martin Seligman urges that “failure can occur when talent and desire are present in abundance but optimism is missing”, meaning that a person may have the academic experience necessary to succeed in some arenas, but may not succeed in others without the adequate character skills. This discussion that Tough, Seligman, and the Character Education Partnership directs relates to the controversy over the reform of the education system with the incorporation of character education curriculum in order to make students more successful and the development of a quantitative way to measure character in a school setting. A prominent concern expressed with introducing a character grading system is that it could have a discouraging effect similar to that of the grade point average system. The New York Times article, “Should Character Be Taught? Students Weigh In” expresses various flaws and benefits to character education such as the concern that character traits could simply be faked. With such programs already being introduced into the education system as shown with Riverdale Country School, it is of the utmost importance to discuss these two overarching questions: Should a character education curriculum be standardized and incorporated uniformly across the education system? Will a character grading system hinder the overall benefits to character education by discouraging students?.

Shaping Our Future

by abrown3253

I feel that we should pursue the topic of character building within schools because character is such an important aspect of our lives.  Our character is what defines us, our work ethic, our personalities, how we communicate, and so much more.  Let’s be honest, there has been a serious decline in this country’s character.  As a result, we are losing communication skills, relying on technology too much, and our morals, dedication, perseverance, and compassion have seemed to disappear.  Without the skills character building provides kids, many would not make it through college.  Character allows students to believe in themselves, be successful, and become independent; it helps to shape students to make them well-rounded individuals.  Now with jobs in such high demand, employers are always looking for someone who stands out and is willing to work, those with strong character traits.  According to Tough’s article students who have character traits such as diligence, social skills, and optimism have been more likely to complete college than those who had higher grade point averages, but did not have these character strengths.  This goes to show how important it is for students to obtain and understand how character building shapes their everyday life and how it will benefit their futures. Not only do we rely on character in the working world, but also in our everyday lives to communicate effectively and simply be kind human beings.  An article that everyone should read is “Performance Values: Why They Matter and What Schools Can Do to Foster Their Development” published by the Character Education Partnership.  In this paper the CEP wrote “We are defined by our core ethical values-our integrity, our sense of justice and compassion, and the degree to which we respect the dignity and worth of every member of the human family, especially the most vulnerable among us.” It is through our actions and basic character that define how people perceive us. It is crucial to be respected not only for your abilities, but also your compassion, which is a key part to character building.


Many people feel that character building should not be a part of the education system because it is the “parent’s job”, but isn’t it society’s job to shape the members within it to create a safe and respectable environment?  Another question that has arisen from this topic of character education is what good and bad could come from this? The National Character Education Center believes that values such as honestly and empathy are not a born trait, and that they have to be developed through the education system to shape well-versed citizens within the community. In the article “The Benefits of Character Education” written by Jessica Lahey, an English teacher, stated “Character education is not old-fashioned, and it’s not about bringing religion in to the classroom.  Character is the “X factor” that experts in parenting and education have deemed integral to success.” An informational article I found called “Origins and Questions of Character Education” Khalid Husain wrote that one problem with character education is that “is easy to blur the lines between true morality and social conformity.” Schools have a variety of programs for character education, which is the sole base of argument.  Many programs participate in grading character which has become highly controversial. Matt, a student featured in “Should Character Be Taught? Students Weigh In”, questioned how “zest” could be graded.   Jack wrote “Traits like optimism are easier to fake than getting an A in physics or something.” However Rohan spoke on the behalf of character being graded because he gave him the motivation to improve. He wrote in saying “Pressure is what makes students excel academically, and the same principle can be applied to excelling as a person.” Overall, I feel that the discussion of character education whether it should be taught or not, how it should be evaluated, and if it is even moral to evaluate it can be reviewed extensively, making it a topic that would be great for research. Character is also such an important aspect of everyday life that makes student’s stand out amongst each other.  What is often noticed first about a person? Unfortunately what is noticed first is what seems to be disappearing in our complicated lives, character, which is exactly why we should look deeper into this topic.


Intelligence + Character = Key To Success

by jreyes1856

After analyzing and comparing all the articles we have worked on this semester, I have come to the conclusion that Paul Tough’s article, What If The Secret To Success Is Failure?, should be the theme of discussion moving forward. Tough’s article should be our focus point because it unmasks a flaw within our nation’s educational system that deserves attention. Tough explains and emphasizes the importance of character development and the role it plays on establishing long term success. In his argument, he attacks and criticizes our current educational system for being outdated and lacking in ability to effectively assess students. He explains that they ignore the fact that student’s character is just as, or if not more, essential to a student’s future success, then intelligence levels measured by standardized test alone. If character is as important as intelligence, why does our educational system continue to prioritize standardize testing scores over the idea of implementing character developing programs to develop and assess student’s character? What is preventing our schooling system from being upgraded to accommodate the need of character development? Is it a matter of being too embedded in an irreversible educational culture, or is it a fear of sparking an unethical character-judging era? These are some of the beautiful questions I want to go in depth, with the help of my classmates.

One of the articles published by my peers that caught my attention the most was True Grit, by Angela Lee Duckworth and Lauren Eskreis-Winkler. Angela Duckworth is an assistant psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and dedicates her time on studying individual differences that determine effort and achievement. In the article True Girt, Duckworth explains that grit has been proven to be an essential trait for success. She uses her research to explain the importance of grit and how the understanding of it should not go unrecognized. She encourages people to take into account grit when speaking about achieving a goal. Very much like West Point does when trying to determine which cadets will complete the year or give up. I believe grit is something that is taught from many years of uprising, and therefore it is unjustifiable to lay all the burden and responsibility on our educational systems. I believe the implementation of character in a child must and should start in their household, with the guidance and proper influence of their parents and peers. Parents must also let society do its’ part on their child’s character development process by allowing their children to fail and learn from their experiences. Like Bill Gates would say, “Its fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the importance of failure.”


Should Standardized Tests Make You or Break You?

by emmatrodriguez

I think we should pursue Tough’s article What if the Secret to Success is failure? for this semester. As first-time Westfield State students, we have all experienced what it was like to be in high school, and having to maintain a descent GPA, and do well on standardized test, such as the SAT’s, in order for a college to accept us according to its score. Why did we need to be retested on reading, math, and writing when we had already passed those courses?  This can make an individual feel that the test scores are being taken into account more than their work throughout their four years. I believe a student’s GPA and standardized test scores should not be the only measuring tools used to assess a student’s ability to succeed at a college level. Tough speaks about how character is a strength, and how character is greater than intelligence. Therefore it is clearly stated in Tough’s article that standardized tests that students have to take do not necessarily signify whether or not students will be successful or not.

One article that one of my peers found was Do Test Scores Equal Success?, by Christina Rose. In this article, Rose speaks about the idea of how test scores do not equal to success. According to the article, “In Danbury, of ELL students [who took the Academic Performance Tests] only 24 percent reached performance targets but graduation rates were 62 percent. For Hispanic students 41 percent hit performance targets, yet 69 percent graduated.” This goes back to what Tough was explaining. There is more to life and education then a bunch of test scores. What matters most is ones character. According to Christina’s article, for many students that do not graduate it is because of peer pressure, and, or lack of family support. This signifies students’ lack of character. This is why character is such an essential aspect of success.  

Which form of English is correct?

by amclaughlin5202

A very important problem facing our nation today is the crisis of education standards in public schools. More specifically, in the case of Ashanti Young’s article entitled “Should Writers Use They Own English?”, it can be viewed as a question of what makes the standard form of English “proper” as opposed to other types of “slang” that can be heard in cities across the country. It raises the issue of whether it is discriminatory for schools to not allow students to write in their own form of English, forcing them to learn and use “standard white English” instead. So who decides what is the proper form? And why can’t other colloquialisms be included in some parts of schooling? Mr. Young has a valid argument that should be further discussed by teachers and students, alike.

This issue is relevant to us especially now, as college English students, where every paper we turn in must first be edited and revised multiple times in order to eliminate errors, strengthen arguments, and improve word usage. Stanley Fish argued in his essay “What Should Schools Teach? Part 3”, which Young’s article resulted from in rebuttal, proper English rules should be taught in high school, so that students can arrive at college already knowing how to correctly write sentences. Although there is also the issue of possible discrimination which should be discussed, we as a class should challenge ourselves to come up with some practical way of incorporating students’ own forms of the English language into schools, and if we cannot decide on any, let us challenge ourselves to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why this variation of English would not work in schools. If we gave students the chance to express themselves and use their own “voice”, we can open up their minds to the diversity of their language, but what are the drawbacks? I know that these questions would be thought-provoking enough to keep our interest over the course of the semester. This is a discussion that has so many different parts, all equally important, and now is the time to start talking about it.

A Little Character Can Go a Long Way

by Thomas Madden

Our society now faces a growing problem.  School systems have always seemed to stress the massive importance of intellect in one’s success.  In doing so, they often overlook the large role character plays in achievement.  Students have become accustomed to this notion that intellect is the sole definition of how successful one will be, failing to realize their true potential goes beyond this factor.  Paul Tough, a Canadian-American writer who has written extensively on how to improve student development and education, suggests that they key to success could actually be failure.  In his article, “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?,” Tough claims that today’s children are not developing the character necessary to thrive dependently in life.  He believes that schools must take greater steps toward fostering positive character in students.  While discussing important values, Tough refers to The Character Education Partnership, a national, nonprofit organization devoted to engaging students to develop strong character that will help them succeed in and out of the classroom.  The CEP supports Tough’s ideas from an educational standpoint in “Performance Values: Why They Matter and What Schools Can Do to Foster Their Development,” in which it advocates an academic environment with lessons that challenge students to strive for excellence and develop what it calls “performance character.”  Though the two address this issue from different perspectives, Tough and the Character Education Partnership share a similar goal: to foster success in all students through the development of character.

As a society, we must pay closer attention to the immense impact of character in children’s development and stress this importance in schooling.  However, this is not just the responsibility of teachers, as parents must also encourage positive values in children.  Overindulging parents are one of the root causes of this contemporary challenge, as they have created a generation of children that lack the character necessary to be self-sufficient in life.  Parents must assume this burden as well by allowing their children to experience failure that occurs in the real world.  Only then, Tough states, can they truly develop the characteristics that promote success.  By instilling such traits in our children now, they can possess both the intellect and character that together effectively measure success.  This is an intellectual conversation that our class should appreciate and explore as this idea can have a profound influence on future generations.  Students must understand that their success is not simply tested by their intellect, as they are much more complex, gifted individuals who can all achieve great things.

Selecting sides or sensing sentiments?

by rcofsky9904

As said by Steven Pinker, “In any dispute, each side thinks it’s in the right and the other side is demons.” Very similarly, here we all are expressing our beliefs on which article to pursue in this semesters English 110 course. To save you all the trouble, I can assure you that the conversation we should invest our time and efforts into should most definitely be Steven Pinker’s idea of “The Moral Instinct”. Pinker speaks about the various morals and ethics that have transformed from being unacceptable and seem as failures into quite common lifestyle choices. Things such as marijuana usage, homosexuality, and divorce are all fine examples of morals that have been amoralized over time. While they used to be seen to be horrible things, they are widely accepted as normal by many people now. However, there is always going to be someone who feels differently than you. But that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing! We can expand upon the way we think by engaging in conversations about what we do or don’t believe in.

For me, the most intriguing aspect of this argument is the feeling of, “I don’t know why I feel like this, I just do.” It interests me to look into the morals of people around the world and how they are both alike and different. Is there ever truly a “right” way of thinking, or is it just a matter of opinion? Are there Universal morals that everyone sees to be true, or is there always going to be someone out there who disagrees, for whatever reason? I’d like to pursue the things that we as Americans may consider normality but could be looked down upon in other places. A related and ongoing problem that this ties into very closely to every human is war. War is waged over differences, whether it is morals about freedom, women’s rights, or slavery, there is simply a strong difference in opinion that ignites the fire. Everyone has some sort of opinion on war, and what better way to learn and grow than to compare and contrast your ideas with peers. By pursuing this conversation on morals we as students will have the opportunity to write about things that we feel passionately about and we’ll be able to take a better look at if we’re simply selecting a side or diving in and sensing sentiments.

Getting Gritty for Grit

by etarjick1775

There is no doubt in my mind that our class should pursue Paul Tough’s article, What if the Secret to Success is Failure? as it holds in it the key to a successful future, not only for us, but for everyone. Knowing many people in this class, I am aware that there are a good amount of us who were not accepted into colleges, or even the honors program due to things like SAT scores and other standardized tests. Colleges are underestimating the importance of grit, and are therefore relying heavily on standardized testing that is affecting, and will continue to affect, all of us if we don’t at least look for ways to educate people about its power. Parents are sheltering their children, not understanding that building character and grit involves struggling and failure. I think its crucial that we explore this problem so we can, if anything, spread the word about grit, and maybe even change some things ourselves.

Tough is not the only person in this conversation on character. He incorporates many different established people into his article that I think would be very interesting and worthwhile to read. One of the people Tough enters the conversation with is Angela Duckworth, a Psychology professor, and creator of the grit calculator. In her article, “True Grit”, Duckworth gives examples of how important grit is by explaining experiments she has done, showing how lack of character affects us in school and the workplace. She also makes it clear that character qualities should matter more than they do because of their serious importance and affect. A supplementary article one of my peers found from Latino News first handedly discusses this controversy relating to the idea of grit. It focuses on the idea of test scores and how they are not the only things that should be taken into account when looking at graduation rates. I think looking into character and the controversy that surrounds it will really open our eyes too what is important to succeed, and there is no doubt we will find great amounts of information on this controversy.