All posts by Anna Vraa

Moral Decay

Why Is This Important?

I chose to talk about moral decay, because the American life as we know it is in continuous decline. According to National Review, there are a few specific areas in which we see are able to clearly see this decline.

Decline of Family

The first area of decline mentioned is within family. As of 2013, nearly half of American women have children without being married, and 43% of children grow up without a father in their lives. In addition, as of 2013 about 50% of Americans over the age of 18 are married, compared to 72% in 1960. As you may guess, this has shown to take a tole on the child, as they are never directly exposed to a healthy and well-balanced family dynamic.

Addiction

The second area of decline mentioned stems from addiction. I’m sure many of us have seen how addictions can take hold of someone and rip their lives apart, but when did this all start? How are there so many more options to choose from? How has this become so prevalent? That’s really a whole other talk show, but we can clearly see that there’s a correlation with the decline in our morals.

The End of Right and Wrong

An additional area of decline mentioned is the end of right and wrong. The argument for this, is that the last two generations have been taught that moral categories are nothing more than personal or societal preferences and opinions. In other words, the author states that instead of explicitly understanding the difference between right or wrong, the individual is left to make that determination.

What Can we do?

Well that’s the ultimate question, isn’t it? When we see marriages crumbling, addiction becoming more prevalent, our basic morals in question, and countless other aspects not mentioned that directly effect our morals, is there even an answer? All I know is that we have a responsibility to uphold certain moral standards in an attempt to make society the best it can be. We have a responsibility to help those that are down and discouraged. We can lift those who need a helping hand. We can inspire them to get back up on their feet and try harder. We can do this through kindness and service and encouragement and love. The moral values of the world can and will continue to erode and decline for some. We do not have to sit back and allow these decaying values to continue to destroy the strength of our society. We are not alone in this fight, and we can each make a difference.

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A reminder to uphold certain moral standards.

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Positive Versus Negative Effects of Social Media on Children and Adolescents

Social media has now been around long enough for us to see the effects it can have on not only us, but our children. Are those effects positive? Are they negative? Let’s discuss the two opposing views.

Five aspects of social media use:

  1. Few restrictions on expression
  2. Easily share information
  3. Support one another (“Likes”)
  4. Various forms of expression
  5. Socialize in an alternative setting

Positive Effects

According to Angela Barnes and Christine Laird from an article about the effects of social media on children, there are many ways that social media can be used in both positive and negative ways. Regarding the positive aspects, Barnes and Laird state that social media opens the doors for creativity, interactive learning, and the ability to connect with others who share common interests. They continue this idea by stating that social networking can help students connect, as face-to-face interaction may seem more daunting at a younger age.

Negative Effects

On the opposing side, Barnes and Laird state that social media may also have negative effects on children and adolescence. The first negative effect that is mentioned is its impact on mental health. They state that “the level of effect, according to research, seems to go up as teens’ use goes up. Their level of contentment can decrease, and their likelihood of getting into trouble or being depressed can increase” (Rideout, 2010). Another concerning aspect mentioned is the issue of cyberbullying. With many different forms of social media, come many different ways young adults are allowed to oppress and intimidate those who are perceived as more vulnerable. The difference between bullying and cyberbullying is the fact that children, adolescents and even adults are the victims of not only negative comments from peers face-to-face, but from a whole network of complete strangers online.

The use of social media is a powerful thing. We have found that it holds both positive and negative effects, so the most important thing you can do is to pay attention to your child’s level of usage and keep open communication about what they experience online.

Homelessness in Minnesota

What is the prevalence of homelessness in Minnesota? What are the circumstances that led to those experiencing homelessness? Is there anything we can do?

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Downtown, St. Paul.

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Prevalence

Wilder Research conducted a study in October of 2018 which included 4,279 face-to-face interviews and a head count of people experiencing homelessness. On one single night (October 25, 2018), Wilder Research counted 10,233 people experiencing homelessness. Back in 2015, the head count in a single night was at an estimated 9,312, and has continued to rise at an alarming rate of 10%. Homelessness by age group is also alarming: 43% are between the ages of 25 and 54, 10% are adults over the age of 55, 15% are unaccompanied youth ages 24 and younger, and 32% are children ages 17 and younger with parents. While these numbers remain steady, children and youth are the most dis-proportionally affected by homelessness.

Circumstances

The face-to-face interviews conducted by Wilder Research helps us understand the contributing factors that have led so many people to these living conditions. The most prevalent reason is the availability of affordable housing, so limited resources for affordable housing is the foundation of the change we need to see. Another prevalent reason is the fact that the majority of the homeless population has a chronic mental or physical health condition. This is a direct correlation, because those who lack the capacity to sustain employment ultimately have little to no income. These are only a couple of factors listed, but you can read the rest along with additional statistics at Homelessness in Minnesota.

What can we do?

When it comes to this public issue, there are many things that we can do as individuals to help those who face difficult odds. From giving donations, to handing out food, to volunteering, there are a multitude of ways we can have a positive impact. Simply Google how you can help in an area near you and support those who could use your help.

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Food drive for the homeless in Minneapolis, MN.

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They say GMOs are safe to eat?

The definition of a GMO is a genetically modified organism. It is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

What do the “experts” say?

According to The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, (NAS) research concluded that genetically modified crops are “safe to eat, have the same nutrition and composition as non-genetically modified crops and have no links to new allergies, cancer, celiac or other diseases.”

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Are GMOs safe to eat?

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I’m not convinced

As a certified nutritionist, I’m a bit skeptical when it comes to this whole NON GMO debate.

According to the NON GMO Project, there are no specific tests designed to analyze the long term safety of genetically modified foods and no post-marketing follow-up analysis. In addition, since the safety assessment of GMOs at the FDA are based on “substantial equivalence,” it is regarded as safe to consume. In other words, “if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent in composition and nutritional characteristics to an existing food, it can be regarded as safe as the conventional food.”

Let’s break this down… First of all, they’re saying that genetically modified food is safe to eat solely because it resembles existing food? What do they mean by “substantial equivalence” and how do they prove that it’s actually safe? Second of all, this conclusion is made by the biotech company, not the FDA. We can choose to be naive and say that this doesn’t revolve around money, but let’s be real; everything within our society revolves around money. Why do you think there are so many GMOs? Well, because they are able to produce more of a product for a much cheaper cost. Now tell me again how this doesn’t revolve around money?

Whether or not you believe GMOs are safe to consume, I encourage you to at least question it for yourself. Our personal health should be the top priority, not the cost.

Should you take a “gap year” or start college right after high school?

After four years of high school and the building pressure to plan the next big step in your life, should you start college right away or should you take a year off and explore the world beyond the classroom?

“Gap Year”

Well, according to Go Overseas, it’s perfectly normal to feel hesitant about immediately starting your college career right out of high school. And that’s why so many students choose to take a “gap year,” because they need time to discover their passions, gain experiences and feel confident moving forward.

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Paris, France. (2016)

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In addition to these advantages of taking a gap year, Value Colleges states that there are further benefits of taking a gap year before college. Some of these benefits include better performance once you decide to attend college, making new friends, building your resume and much more. A gap year doesn’t necessarily need to include travel, but taking some time off before starting college will help you find yourself and become a more well-rounded individual.

College

Conversely, as stated by Kate Barrington from the Public School Review, there are also some significant benefits of attending college right out of high school.

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#collegelife

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Firstly, Barrington states that some studies have shown that many students who take a gap year after high school don’t end up going to college at all. Whether you take a job right out of high school or just really want that gap year to explore your options, it’s hard for many people to gain the motivation to go back to that oh so familiar life of a student. A second benefit that Barrington states of starting college right out of high school, is access to resources that you might not have otherwise. Whether there’s an internship opportunity or a possible job placement, as a student you have access to people who only wish to see you succeed.

What did I decide to do?

Making the decision on whether or not to take a gap year after high school was definitely not an easy one. My entire schooling experience up to this point had been pretty relaxed, as I grew up attending “alternative” schools which held an emphasis on the arts and hands-on learning. So, when the idea of attending actual real-life college came into play, I was extremely hesitant (to say the least). Long story short, I decided to attend Saint Paul College right out of high school. My decision in doing so stemmed from my fear of not going at all if I didn’t start right away. Even though I didn’t even remotely like the idea of attending college, I was determined to set myself up for a level of success that is beyond a high school diploma.

Fast forward four years of working and attending college part-time, and I finally received my associates degree. As accomplished as I was feeling at the time, I still didn’t know what I actually wanted to go to school FOR once it was time to transfer and get my bachelor’s degree. So, in an effort to not waste time going to school for something that I didn’t actually want to be doing, I decided to take my “gap year” and travel Europe. I traveled around Europe for about three months, and once I decided to come back I felt more determined than ever to go back to school and finish what I started.

At the end of the day, you have to listen to yourself and what’s best for you. Whether you want to start and finish college right out of high school or take a “time out” along the way, there is no “right way” to do it, just the right way for you.

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My “gap year.”

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1: Health benefits of painting?

This is just a quick painting I did a few weeks ago. I’ve always loved to draw and paint- not to sell or to hang in my house but just because I’ve always thought it was so relaxing and has helped me unwind after a long and stressful week. I also grew up going to schools where the arts was always encouraged, but never really understood or thought about the reasoning behind why it was so valued and such a big part of the curriculum. That is, until now.

According to The Health Fitness Revolution, there are many health benefits of painting. From improving concentration, to boosting creativity, to a simple way to relax, it turns out that we could benefit in a variety of ways by simply picking up a paint brush and letting our creative minds flow.

So how does this relate to the rest of us? Well, for many of us college students, our lives can get pretty hectic. From our day jobs to our night classes to our families at home, we’re bombarded with information and responsibilities on a daily basis. But most of us are pretty used to it at this point, right? Well, even if we are, we’re still human beings who need that time to unwind. Now, my personal version of unwinding includes a paint brush in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, but to each their own. My point is, is that we take on so much as individuals, so it’s important that we find a way to balance the stress.

But why is this so important? Well, according to HCF, too much stress can take a tole on both our physical and mental health. But, if we take care of our bodies, practice relaxation and give ourselves time to recharge, we’ll be able to take care of our responsibilities by taking care of ourselves as well.