College Papers

It feels like an unfinished thought

Gleitman, Gross, & Reisberg define natural selection as “the mechanism that drives biological evolution”. This mechanism is a process that takes place over generations, as organisms who were able to successfully reproduce pass on traits that helped them survive to that point. Structural traits are physical attributes like hair. One of the examples provided was in regards to sticklebacks of Lake Washington. As murky water that had provided them cover from predators began to clear, sticklebacks with heavier armor became more likely to survive predator attacks and were more likely to reproduce. After fifty years of parents passing this trait down to offspring, the more heavily armored fish became dominant in the lake. Behavioral traits are not physical but rather are things that are done by an organism like being protective of your young, such as certain species of bird in which a mother bird flies from the nest and feigns injury to draw a predator from her offspring. This is more than simply a single extremely maternal bird because the behavior is seen in many female birds across many species of bird.

Our biology plays an important role in our behavior because our hormones and nervous system play a significant role in how we react to stimulus, and damage to our brain or nervous system can have a drastic impact on our behavior. Someone with higher than normal levels of testosterone is likely to be more aggressive than other people, and therefore more prone to angry outbursts or violence. It’s important to understand how biology affects our behavior because it means we can research ways to treat behavioral abnormalities through biological means – such as attempting to raise or lower hormone levels or affect the actions of neurotransmitters to alter or control behavior.

Biology is not the end all in understanding behavior, though, as there are other aspects that can influence it such as experience and learning. When confronting a new situation someone will behave a certain way, and if they have a positive experience they are likely to behave that way again but if they have a negative experience then they may attempt a different approach if they confront a similar situation in the future. This is an area where the ability to be flexible can play an important role, because if you are unable or unwilling to alter your behavior in the face of negative results than you are unlikely to find success.

Gleitman, H., Gross, J., & Reisberg, D. (2011). Psychology. (8th ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

College Papers

Childhood Obesity

According to the documentary Tipping the Scales childhood obesity has become a major problem in the United States. In Arizona, the documentary states that 1 out of 4 kids is overweight. The CDC puts that number at 1 in 6 nationwide for both children and adolescents (CDC, 2015).

Personally, I do believe that parenting and parenting style are major factors in the issue of childhood obesity.

Baumrind’s theory and it’s extension by Maccoby & Martin suggest four parenting styles that describes a parent’s disciplinary tendencies and responsiveness to a child and how they affect that child’s development. It basically describes the authoritative parent as the ideal type in it’s balanced approach to parenting, and all other types have issues that can have negative outcomes. The permissive parent is too indulgent while the authoritarian is too strict and the neglectful parent just can’t be bothered at all.

Both ends of the spectrum seem to have the possibility of contributing to obesity as parenting styles with similarities to both the permissive parent and the authoritarian parent have been linked to increased risk of obesity in children (Barnard). Permissive parents tend to allow for a more “indulgent” feeding style while authoritarian’s and their tendency to maintain high levels of control can create a situation where desserts and sweets become more rewarding than healthy foods or by forcing children to finish their meals and creating a situation where children learn to ignore their internal cues of hunger or feeling full (Barnard).

However, parents have been overly strict or indulgent for as long as there have been parents. So while I do believe parenting is contributing factor, I think the larger issue is the cultural shift over the past several decades towards high sugar, processed foods that are cheap and easily accessible. While the number of people on welfare is dropping, poverty is actually on the rise (Shaefer, 2014). The number of dual-income families and working single parents is also on the rise, meaning that many parents have to balance parenting with work. For some parents, this may make processed foods seem like easier, quicker, cheaper options even though they are often more fattening and less healthy.

Besides food choice, activity choices are also an issue that impedes health. Tipping the Scales points to the issue of reduced physical education in schools that help contribute to obesity. At home, kids are more sedentary than ever. Including all types of screens (Television, computers, etc), the average American child has 5-7 hours of screen time a day (Kaneshiro, 2013). This is time that could be spent being active, burning calories and learning to live a fit lifestyle.

There are likely numerous reasons that is not the case. Increasingly we are living in a state of fear. Reports of parents being arrested for allowing their children to play in the neighborhood unsupervised seem to be increasing while constant access to news makes the world seem a very dangerous place to allow children out to play. Parents with work schedules to contend with are not always available to take their children out and may turn to screens as a way to distract their children while they get other work done. Many sports and activities can be out of reach for parents due to cost. Even with scholarships and grants, some parents may make too much to qualify for assistance but still not enough to afford to participate.

As far as helping children with such an issue, I believe addressing the issue would require the involvement of the parents. Without a commitment from parents to attempt to do better then you end up chasing your own tail. Nothing is accomplished, regardless of what you think should be done or what the child wants. When I worked as an in-home specialist and children expressed a desire to be more fit I would let them take charge. I would answer their questions about what is healthy and what is not and let them decide how much change they wanted to make at once. Once child started with a commitment to drink water instead of soda. That was something the child could do on his own, and he liked the feeling of being in control of his health. With another, we would take hikes during our time together, and he joined a neighborhood basketball team. For another, we discovered a local martial arts class that was free to neighborhood youth. Addressing these sorts of health concerns was a personal priority of mine because it gave children a healthy outlet for stress. So there are definitely ways a counselor or provider can address issues without being pushy, stepping on parental toes, or making a child feel insecure. However, it heavily depends on the family, the child and the goals of treatment. Medication also needs to be considered as there are several that cause weight gain.


Barnard, K. (n.d.). Parenting Practices Influence Childhood Obesity. Retrieved from

Blanco, L. (2012, January 27). Tipping the Scales – A Documentary on Childhood Obesity. Retrieved from

CDC. (2015, June 16). Childhood Overweight and Obesity. Retrieved from

Catalyst. (2015, April 16). Working Parents. Retrieved from

Kaneshiro, N. (2013, May 10). Screen time and children: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Shaefer, L., & Edin, K. (2014). The Rise of Extreme Poverty in the United States. Pathways. Retrieved from

Westhaver, B. (2014, April 10) Baumrind’s Theory of Parental Styles. Retrieved from

College Papers

Early America: Beyond the Myth

Behold: A short essay for a historical geography course.

I took it because I needed a credit and most classes were filled – but I ended up loving it more than I expected. Learning about the impacts of people on the land around us over the centuries was fun – it added a depth to history I had never considered.


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College Papers

Rethinking Procrastination, Chu & Choi

Before today, the last time I opened this file was 2014 – so this is at least four years old. Unfortunately, I only listed my University on the title page and not the class so I have no idea what this was for. Such is life.

Some psychology class, I would guess.

Given my tendency to procrastinate, though, I’m willing to bet I chose the topic myself.

Continue reading “Rethinking Procrastination, Chu & Choi”

College Papers

The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

I was wrong last week – I found another essay from my early days of school. High School or my first semester of college. I am not sure. It’s an English essay based on a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

It’s funny to read it now because it’s just such an essay. Do you know what I mean? It really just lays it all out in that first paragraph: I’m going to talk about this, this and this. Very typical and obvious thesis statement, you could use it in a middle school class as an example.

“Okay, class, read this introduction and highlight the thesis statement.”

And they’d all get an “A”.

Still, it makes me want to re-read “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”, so there’s that.

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College Papers

A Personal Tale

This will likely be the last paper I share from my first year of college…but then, who knows what I might dig up in the future.

The following is another speech that I wrote up for a public speaking course and is 100% personal in nature. The point of the exercise was to be vulnerable in public. In front of strangers. So we were tasked to share things we don’t typically share with others right off, as well as a lesson we had learned from it.

It was, not surprisingly, difficult. No one held back. That room, that day, was very raw. It was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had in a classroom in my life – a real reminder that you’re always sitting by a fellow human being that has been through something.

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College Papers

Chasing the Dream

Today I dug up a short paper written for an English class from when I was about 17 or 18. Nothing fancy – just one of those stream of consciousness papers based on a prompt. For this essay, the subject was defining the American Dream. I think in a lot of ways it highlights my idealism, but it’s nice to read that I felt hopeful and happy back then.

I don’t know that I would approach my definition in the same way, and that might be something I revisit later.

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College Papers

Stranger Danger Online

Digging through my archives I managed to stumble across one of my earliest papers. Maybe from the 2010-ish timeframe. It might actually be a speech I gave to an Honor Society in my freshman year of college – our theme for that year was the dissemination of information and we focused on the internet.

This paper is a very general “Be careful out there!” type of PSA, and it sounds a bit like what you’d tell a room of middle schoolers. Cute in its way.

Continue reading “Stranger Danger Online”