Friday, June 21, 2013

Why I want to go to college

Nelson Mandela, a remarkable world figure, once said that “education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world”.  Though Nelson Mandela can seem like a man far removed from me, his words strike true for me because my parents have taught me the same idea in both words and action.  Both of my parents were the first in their families to go to college, and they have impressed upon me the importance of doing so.  They have taught me that the most important skill one can possess is to think.
The are many reasons that young people want to go to college.  Some are simply forced into it by expectation, others go only to find themselves a well paying career for financial security.  Thinking introspectively, I find that there are three main reasons that I would like to go to college.  First of all, I do want to prepare myself for the career path that I have chosen.  Getting a good college education would prepare me to apply to and study in medical school.  I have known from the first grade that I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I have also known that the medical career poses long years of education.  Without college, I would never be able to realize my dream of becoming a doctor and working with children.
Though not generally put into the category of ‘career’, I know that one day I am going to be a parent.  When I am, I would like to have the ability to teach my children the way that my parents have been able to teach me.  I want to be able to answer their questions and encourage them to learn for their entire lives.  College will prepare me not only for the more tangible career of medicine that I have chosen, but also for the possible calling of being a future parent.
I know that I would specifically like to go to a liberal arts college because I agree with the idea that college is not meant to merely teach one job specific skills, but to teach one to think.  I want to be an active and educated citizen of my community, church, and country.  When analyzing political or social issues, I want to be able to truly evaluate the arguments rather than being led by sensationalist media.  Even as a Christian, I know that I want to understand, as much as I can, what I believe.  I want to be able to give an apology of my faith to others, and through that, be a better witness and Christian.

Aside from learning how to think and preparing one for later in life, college is great place for a young adult to grow as a person.  When I go to college, I will be the tender age of seventeen, eager and terrified to go out on my own.  I will learn my strengths, but also my weaknesses.  College will be the first time that I will truly be out on my own, away from my parents, for an extended period of time.  College gives a safe ground for young people to test their wings and, inevitably, fall.  It is a place where all will grow in ways that they may not have completely forseen.
This is the Immaculata Church at the University of San Diego

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Good Advice From a Best Friend

Sports are really big parts of my life.  That might be partially because they take up so much of my life, but also because they mean a lot to me.  Volleyball starts in the summer, goes through the fall, and ends about a week before I start practice for basketball.  This means that, all said an done, over half my year is spent doing a nearly ridiculous amount of sports training and playing.  That being said, it should be obvious that I would not have persevered at something that takes so much time and effort if I did not love it.  From the time I was very small, my parents have pushed me to try things.  Over time, they came to see how much they should push me to continue with something, and also when they should just let it drop.  For instance, when my mom was teaching me how to read when I was four, I adored learning so they kept pushing me forward.  Reading has been one of my absolute favorite things to this day.  On the other hand, when I tried to take karate lessons in second grade, after two classes, my dad was certain that I just didn't want to do it.  He was right, I wasn't having any fun, and I just didn't really want to be there.
As a tall child growing up, especially for a girl, there were always people talking to (or over) me and asking whether or not I played sports.  I had to play sports because I was so tall! Why was I not playing sports?! I don't know about anyone else, but for me, this just made me want to play sports even less.  Sure, I was tall, but I was that awkward gangly tall that comes when a child just never stops growing.  That kid who walking into doors and hit the wall when trying to turn the corner? Yeah, that was definitely me.  Even worse, I was painfully shy and all I ever wanted was to have some quiet time to read.  None of these things made me particularly eager to play sports.  Fortunately for me, my parents saw this as one of those times to push me forward, whether I liked it or not.
In fifth grade, they made me join the basketball team.  I disliked it for the first two years, but kept trying because my parents obviously wanted me to.  Luckily for me, the height that made people push me into sports really did help me.  I would trip on my feet running down the court, but, being a head taller than all the other girls on the court, all I had to do to rebound was stand underneath the basket and hold my hands above my head.  When I was in the seventh grade, they decided that I was going to do another sport - volleyball.
I made it through the awkwardness of middle school, and then through the first three years of high school, gaining not only control over my body, but also confidence and a love of the sport.  Now, going into my senior year, I'm feeling the pressure.  I made up an acronym for the way I feel before sports things - SHEN, which is "scared, happy, excited, nervous".  The old seniors are gone and I am going to have to take up responsibility along with the three other seniors.  I was prepared for all of this, even anticipating it, when I received some bad news about what might happen for the upcoming season.
Way back in middle school I received an injury to my right shoulder that never really went away.  For the longest time, I just categorized it with the rest of my body that is falling apart (both ankles, both hips, both wrists, lower back, upper back, neck), but 'powered through' it.  Last year, I realized that I really couldn't get away with it anymore, because it had gotten progressively worse, and it made hitting and serving in volleyball extremely painful.  I went to a sports medicine doctor who let me push off an MRI until after my season and gave me some physical therapy in the meantime.  Well, just yesterday I had to go back to my doctor (who is actually really cute, so I like seeing him!).
Talking more about how the symptoms and severity were, he told me that he was pretty sure that my problem was one of two things.  The first was a theory that we had been thinking about for a while, which is a labral tear in the cartilage of my shoulder.  This would mean surgery that could put me out for part of or all of my senior season.  The second was something that he had mentioned, but that I hadn't really given much thought to.  Apparently, some volleyball players bodies pinch a nerve when they serve or hit the ball, causing pain and muscle weakness.  My symptoms support both theories, so the only way to know for sure is to get an MR Arthrogram, an MRI with contrast that can look into the cartilage of my shoulder.  If they can't find a structural deficiency, then I have a nerve problem that could mean not playing volleyball anymore.
Needless to say, these are not the best options to have going into my highly anticipated senior year.  I was talking to my best friend about it, and concluded with saying that I don't even know what to pray for because I don't know which option is worse.  She responded by saying "Don't pray for one option then - just pray for God to do what's best".  I thought that was some of the best advice that I could hear at that moment.  I don't need to know which one to pray for, because God already does.  I have absolutely no control over which one of these problems I'll be diagnosed with, but God does have a plan for me.  Maybe that means not playing volleyball my senior year, or maybe not at all again, but he has his reasons.  Permaybehaps it's something that would seem completely crazy, like the tallest girl on the team becoming a setter or libaro, but wherever he leads, I'll follow.  Thanks, best friend. <3

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Animals in Science

Whether used for observation, testing, or dissections, animals are used to help in many fields of science.  In the science of toxicology, the scientists who help determine the limits for safe use of materials experiment on animals so that they can provide better preliminary guidelines in humans.  “In the absence of human data, research with experimental animals is the most reliable means of detecting important toxic properties of chemical substances and for estimating risks to human and environmental health.” (SOT Animals in Research Public Policy Statement).
Many times, finding out how chemicals will affect an organism cannot be done without experimenting on a living thing because there are so many different systems in a body that can be affected.  Testing on animals first ensures that products and drugs are safe for humans when we use or consume them.  When scientists want to see how different doses of drugs affect an organism, they will test them on animals to see thier tolerance to them.  Instead of first testing something on humans, which could potentially cause bad reactions and unforeseen complications, they test them on animals.
Though animals are not humans, they are still a part of God’s creation and should be taken care of respected.  Because of this, laws are in place to regulate how scientists can use animals in testing and observation.  Unfortunately, sometimes animals are properly taken care of.  It is estimated that “About 20 million animals are experimented on and killed annually, three-fourths for medical purposes and the rest to test various products. An estimated eight million are used in painful experiments. Reports show that at least 10 percent of these animals do not receive painkillers.” (a study by Santa Clara university)
Part of our role as caretakers for animals is not to cause them pain.  Though views may differ on whether animals have souls or the same value as humans, we do know that animals are capable of suffering just as humans are.  We should not cause animals pain.  In fact, we should be protect them whenever possible.  Some people argue that because animals do not have the ability to reason, they are less.  This is untrue, unless those same people would also argue that mentally insane people are not worthy of love and respect because they are unable to reason the same way that we do.
In Europe, great apes have not been used in practice for scientific testing for years, though they are quite regularly in the United States.  One reason they are used in America is to develop a vaccine for Hepatitis C, which, in addition to humans, only chimpanzees are affected by.  In Europe, procedures are also classified mild, medium, or severe based on the amount of pain and distress they cause an animal, and only mild procedures can be allowed without the okay from the government.
The Animal Welfare Act is the only law in the United States that covers using animals in science.  It only covers certain animals and the base of minimal standards for housing, feeding, handling, veterinary care, and for some species like chimpanzees, their psychological well-being.  The USDA is charged with enforcing these regulation.
Schools and other institutions should follow all of the guidelines given to them through the government, but they should also make sure that they implement their own guidelines to make sure that they are not hurting the animals.  They should make sure that they anesthetize animals and use the proper procedures when testing.  Even when using just the bodies of animals, such as for dissections, people ought to do all that they can to make sure that they are respecting the animal.
I agree with many of the regulations that are in place to control how animals can be tested, but I also believe that there should be more in place to protect animals.  Animals are a great way to test things before people try them, but they should not be needlessly subjected to pain.  There should be clear goals in mind when experimenting with animals, goals that will benefit people directly, instead of just experimenting to see what will happen, especially if the experiment involves pain.
Not allowing any animals to be used in scientific experimentation would be detrimental to humans and advancements in general, but it should be controlled.  The hard questions come into play when one tries to think about what value animals have when compared to humans.  Humans and animals are both a part of God’s creation, but humans are specifically made in the image of God.  Humans make choices for good and evil and have eternal souls.  I think that humans first have an obligation to care for humans above animals, but not to neglect or harm animals.
For example, if scientists came up with a new treatment to eradicate cancer cells in an organism, but were unsure of the side effects that could happen when introduced into humans, they would first experiment on animals that had cancer.  Though the animals may have to deal with unforeseen complications, it is better for that to happen to the animals than to start experimenting on children with cancer.  In this we see that we inherently place higher value on humans than on animals.  Though, I think that all due research and precautions should be taken to avoid causing harm to any animals.
I agree with using animals in highschool and college education because I think that it does provide an amazing opportunity for kids to gain hands on knowledge of anatomy and biology.  When euthanized and treated humanely, dissecting a cat, frog, or fetal pig does not cause much pain or suffering to the animal being studied.  I think that dissecting animals in biology and anatomy has given me a more complete set of information when it comes to both the anatomy of the animal I was studying, and of the human anatomy.
The hardest thing for me to overcome when dealing with the cats was the fact that it was a cat.  I have a cat myself that I love, and it’s hard to think of an animal that is capable of having a distinct ‘personality’ as the body you are dissecting on the table.  After I got over my initial uneasiness, I forced myself to do so, I found that dissecting was terribly interesting.  One of the things that intrigued me the most was the muscle structure.  When dissecting fetal pigs my freshman year, the muscles were thin and not very defined at all, so it was very hard to identify the different muscles.
In the cat, the muscles were very defined, and it was very interesting to be able to separate and identify each of the different muscles.  Obviously, cats being quadrupeds, the muscles of the cat were differently placed than the muscles in humans.  Earlier in the year, I focused a lot on the human shoulder, making a model and writing a few papers on it.  When we were identifying the shoulder muscles in the cat, I found that I could easily locate things like the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and deltoid, even though they were in slightly different places than on the human body.
I think that dissecting the cat definitely gave me insight on what the human body is actually made of.  It’s easy to look at textbooks and think that the muscles, organs, and tissues of organisms are clean and clearly defined, but they are much more nitty gritty when you really get down to it.  For example, when I cut apart the kidney, I was so surprised that every nephron I had diagramed was invisible to the human eye.  Something that was so small and seemingly uninteresting was also incredibly important to the function of the cat’s body.  I definitely marvelled at the glory of God when I was studying his creation.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Margaret of Anjou

Reading historical novels really has renewed my passion for English history.  I love to read about all of the intrigue that happened, especially when it comes to the women.  The way that women had to act in a time when the world was ruled by men is fascinating to me.  The fact that so many of them were viewed as inferior and still lived to make a lasting mark on the world in incredible.  Margaret of Anjou was a strong woman in a time where a woman had to count on men to be strong.  Unfortunately, her husband was insane, so she had to stand up for herself.  Here is a short paper that I wrote on the life of Margaret of Anjou.  I hope that you enjoy it!

Margaret of Anjou, born on the 23rd of March 1430, was the daughter of Rene of Anjou, Count of Anjou and later the Count of Provence and King of Naples and Sicily.  At age 14, she was betrothed to Henry VI of England and married to him the next year on April 23, 1445.  Shortly after the marriage, she was crowned queen of England at Westminster.  William de la Pole of the Lancastrian line had succeeded in beating the York line in finding a wife for Henry, aligning himself with the monarchy through Margaret.  
The king of France had negotiated that the marriage be part of a peace negotiation that would give control of Anjou back the the French.   While Margaret had grown up in the turmoil of a family feud, King Henry was known for being a very gentle, devout soul and the exact opposite of his wife.  Well educated for a woman of her time, Margaret was an imperious, strong-willed French princess, which made her unpopular with the people of Britain from the start.
Being very assertive, Margaret was responsible for much of the aristocratic matchmaking and the raising of taxes that went on during her husband’s reign.  Though she tried to assert her power strongly with the nobles, she had less power because she did not bear a child until 1453.  She supported her advisor and close friend Edmund Beaufort over the Yorkists, firmly aligning herself further with the Lancastrians.  When she finally did give birth to her son Edward, Henry was struck with a bout of insanity.  Because of this, the Yorkists later accused Margaret of giving birth to an illegitimate child, possibly fathered by Edmund.
Becoming a mother strongly influenced Margaret’s political involvement.  From that point on, she vigorously fought for her husband and son’s rights.  The Yorks were far more popular in London and northern England, but Margaret fought to maintain control.  When Margaret pushed too far, the Lancastrians lost a battle the the Yorkists and she had to acquiesce to their control for a year. “The queen is a great and strong-laboured woman, for she spareth no pain to sue her things to an intent and conclusion to her power" (Paston Letters, i. 378)
She fought for her power in the war of roses until the Duke of York was killed in 1460.  In 1461, Margaret and the Lancastrians were defeated at Towton and she and her son fled to Scotland.  She invaded from her refuge and won the second battle of St. Albans, brutally executing prisoners of war shortly thereafter.  She went to her native France to request help and mustered a force to invade England again, though, in doing so, she fed the fact that Edward of York was immensely popular among the English people.
She bided her time, educating her son around the closest thing she could muster to a court.  "We be all in great poverty, but yet the queen sustaineth us in meat and drink. Her highness may do no more than she doth" (Works, ii. 72, ed. Clermont) wrote one of the people present with her at this time.  While Edward IV of York was on the throne, her husband Henry was kept in the tower but eventually murdered in his sleep.  Her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed in battle trying to reclaim the throne.
She was a great woman on the losing side of a particularly ugly war.  The war of roses, or the cousins’ war, was particularly gruesome in that it truly was a battle between kinsmen.  Margaret came in from France having been raised by a strong-willed mother in the midst of her own family turmoil, but was swept aside by that of her new family.  She was politically active, which was unusual for English noblewomen at her time, but she was not particularly cunning when it came to governing.
She stacked the parliament in her favour and married of the aristocracy according to how she wanted the families to be aligned, but she never truly won the favour of the English people.  Not only was she French, but she was the wife of a man who could not competently rule his kingdom.  She had the backbone to be a ruler, but she could not because of the customs and laws of her time.  Margaret had to rely upon finding other strong men to lead her forces, such as Edmund Beaufort and the Earl of Warwick, but she could not rely on her husband the king.

Though she fought bitterly, bringing viscious Celts and arrogant French mercenaries in to fight her own people, she stood firm for what she believed to be right.  She fought for her family, even though every family that she had ever known had fractured beyond repair.  She fought a world that would not hear the voice of a woman, even as wife of a kind and mother of the Prince of Wales.  Margaret of Anjou stood tall against whatever life brought against her.