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Opposing Viewpoints

Basically, standardized testing is a way to determine the academic achievement and potential of students. But when the skills of American students were ranked against others around the world, America didn’t even rank in the top tier.

When George W. Bush was president, he announced his No Child Left Behind program on his third day in office. With the addition of this program, federally mandated tests increased from six to 17.

Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, emphasized during his campaign the absurdity of heavy testing. But when he assumed office, he introduced his own initiative called the Common Core state standards. While there was nothing wrong with the concepts, the system is very flawed. A lot of the tests given are also very challenging but at the same time, they don’t really reflect a student’s ability.

Standardized testing has been implemented for over a decade, but according to studies, the achievement gap still hasn’t narrowed. In fact, students, parents and even teachers are opting out of the Common Core exams. The numbers are continuing to grow, and just recently, Missouri Legislature banned the test.

But why are legislators still pushing for standardized tests despite the protests? And why are parents, teachers and students not interested in taking them? Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of standardized testing.

Advantages of Standardized Testing

1. A practical solution.
First off, most of the standardized tests are in multiple choice format. In other words, they are not complicated enough to explain and any student – no matter what level – can understand that they have to tick one of the boxes as their answer.

Also, given that tests are easy to implement, they save a lot of time too. Not a lot of time is wasted on giving explanations for why certain sections should be done like this and so. The instructions are fairly simple: choose the answer to the question based on the suggestions below.

2. Results are quantifiable.
When educators are able to quantify the achievement of students, they are able to identify proficiency levels. As such, they can easily identify the students who need remediation or advancement.

However, this is also one of the major complaints about testing: that it truly does not measure the actual skill of a student in a given subject. The outcry over the absurdity of standardized testing warranted it an 18-minute skewering on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. One of the most ludicrous points brought up was the inclusion of a story about a talking pineapple to which children had to answer questions after having gone through the piece.

3. Scoring automation.
With so many students at different grade levels taking the exam, it’s difficult for educators to get through them all. Now, that problem has been simplified through computerized testing – and even scoring.

Then again, computer issues – inability to log on and such – have delayed testing in certain schools across America. In fact, it’s become one of the complaints against standardized testing as well. Also, another complaint about the use of computers is the algorithm for evaluating student performance itself: it is just mysterious.

4. Not biased.
Since a computer handles the grading and all, there is no possible influence of a teacher on the exams. In the past, a teacher can make up their mind about a student’s skills based solely on their biases towards the child. But with computers, those powers are stripped from them and students can now be judged on what they have put on paper – no external factors involved.

5. Allows for comparison.
Educators can compare the results of examinations within the school or even compare it to other schools. Through this, teachers can assess which areas they need to improve on for the students. For example, students from their school may have scored lower in mathematics compared to a rival school. From there, teachers can focus on improving the math curriculum so students will score better next time.

6. Traces student progress.
Standardized tests are taken at certain levels, and over that time, educators can see the progress students have made. They either go into decline or improve tremendously. But whichever the case, teachers now have an idea how best they would respond to a child’s education needs.

Disadvantages of Standardized Testing

1. Questions are general in nature.
The tests do not really assess skill as the questions have to be generalized for the entire population. In short, the test items are not in conjunction with classroom skills and behavior. What standardized tests do is assess the general knowledge and understanding of students rather than their actual ability.

2. Questions are sometimes ridiculous.
Some of the ridiculousness was brought up in John Oliver’s show, and that included questions that were too difficult to comprehend. For instance, a teacher took the exam (not the exact one but something that was close to a legal standardized exam) and the test graded him as a poor reader. What’s worse, the teacher had a Master’s degree.

A fifth-grade teacher in New York also highlighted just how difficult some of the questions are. For example, only six students out of 17 finished an ELA test but the ones who didn’t finish were those the teacher considered avid readers. The teacher declared that “There was just far too much material on the test for them to get through and comprehend.” And also added, “The test isn’t designed for them to pass.”

3. Results doesn’t allow educators to update their instruction methods.
The questions on the test are general in nature, and it’s hard for teachers to know how to improve students’ understanding of a particular topic based on general information alone. What this does though is allowing teachers to “teach to the test” rather than educate students properly based on the needs of the classroom.

4. Scores are influenced by external factors like fatigue.
Students study hard for these exams. They study so hard that there are even instructions on what teachers should do if a student vomits on their test booklets. Students feel pressured taking these exams and sometimes their final scores are reflective not of their ability but of being influenced by other factors instead.

In most cases, each country in the world has its own economic system in power, operating within its own type of economy. One known type is referred to as a command economy. Where an economic system is important to a nation, proper planning and development is an integral part to its overall success to evade from suffering financial difficulties and instability. For a command economy, it is primarily implemented in communist countries, such as the former Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea.

This type of economic structure has suffered a negative reputation due to the control provided to the government. However, this structure can offer a nations citizens some strengths as well. Here is a look at the pros and cons of a command economy.

List of Pros of a Command Economy

1. It does not allow monopolizing.
It is impossible for a monopoly to rule in a command economy because all the forces of the market are regulated by the government. No provider will be given control to set the market and rule aside from the government in power. Monopolizing exists in other economies, but not present in a command economy.

2. It boosts industrial power.
Command economy creates industrial power to complete massive projects while attaining imperative social goals.

3. It adjusts production rates and availability of completed goods.
It is possible to adjust production rates to meet the population’s exact demands. Although there will not be many choices as compared to other economies, a command economy lessens the chances for shortages to occur.

4. It allows for better mobilization of resources.
Due to the unique make-up of command economy, production is done as efficiently and effectively as possible. So, all resources are mobilized on a very large scale, making sure that progress is fast.

5. It streamlines the society and government.
This type of economy is capable of transforming the society to conform to the government’s vision for the country, which means harmony between the two units.

6. It prioritizes social welfare.
In a command economy, social welfare is made a major concern. In fact, one of its overriding goals is making sure that maximum social welfare takes place. Because there is a sense of community bred due to the lack of income inequality, the society as a whole takes on production and benefit, and as a result, less divisions are formed.

7. It offers easy response to emergencies and internal disasters.
The command and central authority in this type of economy can easily increase production in most facilities that are not affected by a disaster or calamity. This is important in maintaining the continued flow of goods on the market. Aside from this, increased production of certain products can be done, which greatly helps communities to overcome disasters.

List of Cons of a Command Economy

1. It restricts freedom.
Due to the fact that this type of economic system is tied to communist countries, it is no surprise that it also takes the freedom away from the people and puts full control in the hands of the government alone. People cannot choose their careers based on their skills and interests; rather, it is based upon what the government forces them to do. All jobs are aligned with needs at a time, and people have little freedom of choice. This major downside to a command economy can lead to discontented citizens.

2. It may ignore societal needs.
Command economy often ignores the needs of the society for its betterment. Workers will not be given the options on where they can work or where they can move.

3. It slows down innovative developments.
Unlike a free market that encourages change and innovation, a command economy does not offer this advantage. Since the government controls the market, it does not make innovation a priority or does not encourage it all in all. This is because it controls all aspects of production and leaves no room for people to make it better, leading to a workforce that is less motivated to create higher-quality products or services.

4. It causes black markets to explode.
Because of restrictions by the government, some products and services are not offered in the command economy, so they would be offered on black markets.

5. It offers no competition.
Competition on the market is one of the main forces of improvement, but in a command economy, there is little competition. The government owns all the industries and does not encourage competition or actually exerts effort to eliminate it. The benefits gained from competition are not seen in this type of market.

6. It causes unbalanced amounts of goods.
Some items will probably be mass produced, while others will not be enough to support economic needs. It is difficult for the government entity controlling the economy to obtain up-to-date information about consumer needs, so most of the time, rationing becomes a way of life.

7. It leads to export problems.
The export of products becomes problematic as it is difficult for the controlling government entity to determine which goods and prices will be most successful within the international market.

8. It makes coordination difficult or even impossible.
Because planners coordinate their economic decisions on production, consumption, investment and trade of producers and consumers in the entire country, coordination is deemed impossible to be done efficiently. Products can even fall on shortages and mismatches occur on supply and demand. Other issues cannot be completely resolved by planners, such as the balance among transportation facilities, food and electronic devices.

9. It misplaces incentives.
Supply and prices are monitored and regulated by the central government, instead of planners and other market forces. Also, the government decides on the goods and services to be produced and distributed. As a result, rewards will not get to the deserving individuals.

Understanding command is a bit complex, but by going through its pros and cons, we can have ideas of how it does for a certain country and, eventually, come up with an informed conclusion.

Probably one of the lengthiest legal struggles that involved prolonged life support would be the Terri Schiavo case. In February 25, 1990, she collapsed in her home due to full cardiac arrest. The lack of oxygen resulted in a massive brain damage that kept her in a coma. After two and a half months, she was declared in a vegetative state. Two years after her diagnosis was changed, Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband, petitioned to the Sixth Circuit Court of Florida (Pinellas County) that her feeding tube be removed. Her parents opposed and a lengthy legal battle ensued.

From 1992 to 2005 there had been numerous appeals, motions and petitions involved, including suits in federal district court, and denials of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States, which totaled 14 in all. A federal legislation, the Palm Sunday Compromise, was even passed so that Terri’s case is moved to a federal court. It was only in March 18, 2005 when the original appeal to remove the feeding tube was finally upheld and carried out. 13 days later Terri died.

Because the appeals, motions and petitions were a battle between the husband and parents, whatever ties that bound them together have likely been severed. Through it all, Terry was in the hospital with no idea of what is going on. Terry’s husband thought that she wouldn’t want to be in a “persistent vegetative state” where the brain is only showing some signs of activity. This is why he decided to withdraw life support. Terry’s parents, however, argued that she was still conscious, and they were likely to be holding on to the hope that she will come out of her unconscious state.

Whichever way you look at it, pain and suffering is a common denominator in a battle regarding life support. Even the patient is likely to be suffering as well. This is why family and relatives of the patient should look into the pros and cons of life support before making a decision to have it carried out.

List of the Pros of Life Support

1. Increase the chances of survival.
When a patient is brain dead or no longer conscious, the decision to initiate life support falls on the hands of the surrogates (family or relatives). Most of the time, the decision to put someone on life support revolves around the idea that a patient is given the chance to live longer or recover fully, which means that, denying them the treatment, would be equivalent to killing them.

The extended time frame that the life-sustaining treatment provides allows the family to have hope, come to terms with the traumatic event, accept the situation, and have more time to grieve. This also gives doctors a chance to continue to evaluate the patient and provide newly discovered treatment if, there is any. There have been cases that a patient fully recovers, after being put on life support, but the percentage of this happening is not that high. Nonetheless, the time given for the family to hope and for the patient to survive is invaluable.

2. Grant a patient’s wishes.
Some people who have written a living will usually specify their express wish to be allowed to fight every minute of their illness, regardless of the pain and suffering that they go through. Even when a similar request is given verbally, it is the surrogate’s duty to carry out a patient’s wish. It is in their best interest, after all. The only downside to this situation is that it will be difficult to determine when enough is enough. When is the right time to pull the plug? Take for instance the case of Elaine Esposito who never woke up from her appendectomy. She was on life support for over 36 years but eventually died. This is a very long time of waiting and fighting for everyone concerned.

The only time that a debate about life support is unnecessary is when a family member has a DNR in place. Even then, the decision to follow a love one’s request would be difficult. In the event that a person fails to verbalize his wishes beforehand, loved ones would have to look into a patient’s overall attitude regarding life support.

3. Allow families to come to terms with death.
Most of the time, it is the hope that a patient will recover that motivates surrogates to initiate life-sustaining treatment. Over time, they will experience different stages of grief, until they can fully accept the fact that a loved one have little to no chance of surviving. They will reach a point when letting go and death becomes the only sensible option for them and for the patient. At this stage, deciding to unplug the machines would not be as difficult. Although they would still grieve over the loss, they would not have any regrets, considering the time they have allowed for a recovery to happen. They would not have to spend their time thinking about the ‘what ifs’.

4. Organ donation.
The case of a 6-month old baby in Florida who is on life support may be horrible and heartbreaking, especially for the parents, but there is a silver lining in the midst of the grief and shock. This is because Owen Skodje’s misfortune could be some other child’s fortune. According to his parents, he will be providing his material shell to help heal others, giving them the gift of life.

Organ donation is probably the most positive aspect of life support. This gives surrogates the opportunity to help others, despite the grief and the loss of a loved one. There are thousands of people just waiting for organ donors, and patients on life-sustaining treatments could be their only chance at a new lease on life. While not everyone on life support will be an organ donor, increasing the amount of organs that will be donated each year is a godsend. A lot of people will surely benefit from patients being kept alive until they are ready to donate their organs.

List of Cons of Life Support

1. Prolonged agony.
It is a common argument that putting patients on life support only prolongs their agony. Life support, as defined in USLegal as a medical treatment that, “when applied to the patient, would only serve to prolong the dying process where the patient has a terminal illness or injury, or would serve only to maintain the patient in a condition of permanent unconsciousness”. However, it does not include administration of medication that will provide comfort to the patient or even alleviate pain.

Based on the definition, it is clear that life support may only cause the patient unnecessary suffering. This explains why some people would have a DNR in place or tell love ones beforehand not to put them on life support. What is the point if a person is diagnosed with persistent vegetative state, anyway?

Unfortunately there are plenty of misconceptions about life support, especially on brain death, according to Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. In the case of Jahi McMath who was brain dead following a surgery to remove her tonsils, he believed that doctors should have been more transparent with regards to the finality of brain death. This is to avoid a situation where the parents don’t really understand what is going on and would resist any removal of machines, or that they have the “impression that dead people can come back to life”.

2. Devastating side effects.
There are different life support treatments to help prolong the life of a patient. There are medical devices to aid breathing, provide food and water, and for administering medications. But they all have benefits and disadvantages. In some cases, they alleviate one condition but exacerbate another. Artificial nutrition and hydration, for instance, use tubes that can damage the esophagus, stomach, intestine, and even erode the lining of nasal passage. When surgery is needed to insert the tubes, the risk of bleeding or infection is high. When fluid leaks out of intravenous lines and on to the skin, it can also lead to inflammation and infection. Overly frail patients are also at risk of fluid overload that may lead to difficulty in breathing, and dangerous infections when TPN enters the blood stream.

Cramps, diarrhea and abdominal bloating may also happen to patients receiving artificial nutrition and hydration through NG or G-Tube. What’s worse, because patients are brain dead and would be unable to report any discomfort or illness, their condition could worsen when they are not given careful attention by health care providers.

Ventilators, on the other hand, are good while a patient is using it. It is only when it is removed that side effects are likely to manifest, especially when there are sedatives used. Discontinued use of a ventilator can result in a drop in blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, weakened muscles, busted ear drums, dental problems, or severe respiratory problems.

3. Drains resources.
One of the reasons that a person is taken out of life support is when the family can no longer afford the monetary costs of the treatments. Good enough if the U.S. has a Life Support Rebate that is being offered in NSW, which can help surrogates pay up their electrical bills. Anyone can just imagine the amount of hospital bills that Elaine Esposito’s family racked up during her 36 years on life support.

The cost is undoubtedly astronomical. Aside from the machines, a patient would also need doctors, nurses and other personnel needed to provide complete hospital care. Between their professional fees and hospital bills, the total amount is often staggering. If, during the course of treatment, there are legal battles that need to be fought, the overall cost will surely take a toll on anyone’s finances.

Because life support does not guarantee that a patient will recover, it is often a lose-lose situation. The family will end up broke and the patient will die. This is because it is almost always a guarantee that someone on life-sustaining treatment will breathe their last once a machine is removed. It is usually just a matter of days or may be minutes when a ventilator or a cardiopulmonary resuscitation is removed that a patient will die.

4. Ethical issues.
When life support first came out, it was perceived as something good, special and a real life-saving procedure. These days, people are divided between different ethical issues, especially with the number of landmark cases that fueled debates to be carried on until today. Some of the concerns being raised include:

– Quality vs. the quantity of life: It may be true that life support can prolong the life of patients, but are they really living without the discomfort or indignity? Are surrogates really thinking about the welfare of their patients or simply holding on to the hope of a full recovery?

– Giving doctors autonomy: If family members answer yes to a doctor’s question of “do you want us to do everything”, they are highly likely to be setting themselves up for unethical practices. Although doctors are bound by their ethical and legal obligations to provide treatments in the context that can best help the patients and their families, some make decisions without consulting surrogates, while others don’t even provide a clear and comprehensive explanation as to what is really involved in the process.

– Withholding and withdrawal of life support: When is enough really enough? The principle behind withholding and withdrawal of life support states that treatment may not be initiated if the patient or surrogate refuses. There have been cases, however, when physicians suggest for treatments to be withdrawn, but the patient’s parents strongly argued against it.

Due to the many advantages and disadvantages of life support, it is vital that the family or relative of a patient evaluate the situation carefully. They should consider the many factors at play, which include:

  • The patients’ quality of life if they do recover from their coma. Will they be brain dead, in pain, etc?
  • The chances of a patient surviving.
  • The available treatment plans other than life support.
  • The length of time and the costs associated with life-sustaining treatments.
  • The wishes of the patient versus the wishes of the surrogates.
  • The possibility of doctors finding a cure while a patient is on life support.
  • The decision to withhold life-support treatments and when.

Wal-Mart has been part of our lives for over half a century now, being a dominant force in the retail sector. However, there are several debates among economists whether the company has a positive or negative influence on our society and economy, where many of them criticize it for its careless approach to becoming the powerhouse it has become today. Although it is good to hear out ideas from these experts, we, as consumers, can also have our own thoughts about this mega-retailer. To come up with an informed and wise decision, let us look at its pros and cons.

List of Pros of Wal-Mart

1. Wal-Mart Economy
According to the economic advisor to President Barack Obama, James Furman, Wal-Mart and the “Wal-Mart economy” has been doing good for the American workers and low-income families who cannot afford to purchase more expensive products made in the US. Also, tax payers pay part of the healthcare costs of the retailer’s employees. In his work titled “Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story”, there is no question that the company’s price reductions have provided benefits to millions of American workers who are employed outside the retail industry.

2. Varied Selection of Products
Whatever product you need at Wal-Mart, there will be a section for you to check out. You can head to the chain and purchase groceries for the week, buy electronic devices, get your car repaired and shop for clothes all in a single trip. It is truly a one-stop shop, unlike any other store of its kind. Moreover, it does not charge a membership fee in order for you to enjoy savings.

3. Low Prices
Wal-Mart is known for selling items at much lower prices than other retailers, which simply means that buying a product here, over a more locally owned store, can save you more money. Other retailers cannot compete with the low prices it offers. Many people even praise this giant retail chain for making it possible for them to afford goods they need most. Low prices are what the company is known for, and this is true for all its products, including electronics, food and everything in between.

4. Huge Employer
This corporation is the biggest private employer in the US and is vital to the country’s economy based on this statistics alone. The jobs that Wal-Mart creates are highly essential, making it one of the most important companies in the world.

5. Additional Business to Areas
When a new Wal-Mart store is built, its location immediately attracts additional businesses. Patrons from surrounding communities would travel into the area to do their shopping and would often stick around, spending their money at various local hubs. If a place does not have such a store of their own, its citizens would think of driving to somewhere that has one.

6. More Diverse Business Model
Wal-Mart investors are exposed to a more diverse business model, due to the fact that the company is growing to other countries, such as Mexico, Brazil and China. Though this attribute could also bring negative issues, such as language barriers, tax and other regulations, it is good for consumers no matter what language they speak. Plus, by having operations in multiple jurisdictions, investors gain exposure to other currencies and middle-class growth in other countries.

List of Cons of Wal-Mart

1. Bad Healthcare Coverage
According to critics, Wal-Mart is a highly regarded household name that has one of the worst health care policies in all of corporate America. To account for low wages, it pushes employees to get on several government-funded programs, such as Medicaid, public assistance and public housing. Since its founder’s death, it has been stated that several of its policies have been changed for the worst. It is not that the company does not offer health insurance to their employees; it just comes at a high price for workers earning minimum wage.

2. Anti-Employee Policies
It is stated that Wal-Mart shows little to no respect to its employees, where they are severely mistreated and their only purpose is to fit into the philosophy that the company looks out for itself. Statistics shows that from 1999 to 2005 alone, the store had been part of several class action lawsuits in different states involving hundreds of thousands of former and current employees who had their work hours and wages tampered with, as well as abused.

3. Illegal Citizens and Racism
In 2003, Wal-Mart was exposed to the public and charged for hiring illegal citizens to do some cleaning after hours. The case, which was led by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, lasted more than 4 years and produced a huge number of arrests of undocumented workers. However, the company managed to evade criminal sanctions by settling to pay millions of dollars and then disputed the claims racial and gender discrimination. More evidence of racism from Wal-Mart stores has been evident in the said cases.

4. Un-Environmentally Friendly Operations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection signed a consent order and agreement with the corporation in 1999 to improve environmental construction throughout the state. The agreement was made due to Wal-Mart violating water quality laws and regulations at one of its construction sites. In 2001, the company was again fined a million dollars for a similar violation.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department reached an agreement with Wal-Mart to solve issues of clean water violations at several locations covering 5 states. This was the first ever federal enforcement against a company for multi-state violations, and the settlement forced the giant retail chain to create an environmental management plan that is worth millions of dollars to improve its compliance with the laws at each site and to minimize the result of building on watersheds and streams.

Now, with the above lists of pros and cons, it is up to us to see Wal-Mart as a positive and negative influence on our society. But, we should be smart in using their services to our advantage and satisfying our needs through them.

When you hear the words “chemical energy”, you most likely think of the chemical reactions that happen inside batteries, light bulbs and dynamite bombs. But chemical energy isn’t just illustrated in these examples; if you closer, you’ll see that it’s present in almost every single thing on earth.

For one thing, it can be seen in plants as they transform the sun’s energy into food and convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. It can also be observed in humans as they digest their food and turn it into sugars, proteins and other types of nutrients that nourish their body. Of course, it’s present in cars, trucks and other types of vehicles, wherein the internal combustion engine uses pistons, crankshafts and spark plugs to release the chemical energy within the gasoline.

But what exactly is chemical energy? By definition, it’s a type of energy that’s stored in the bonds of atoms that connect them with each other. These bonds release energy when they’re broken through exothermic reactions and provide a great source of power for both living and non-living things. The amount of energy that’s released depends on the type of chemical bonds that were present in the first place.

With these benefits in mind, it’s easy to see why chemical energy has garnered numerous proponents over the years. However, this type of power also presents several disadvantages, which is why it has gained many opponents who are against its use in the modern society.

List of Pros of Chemical Energy

1. Sources are largely available.
Basic chemistry teaches us that everything (including organic materials like plants and animals as well as inorganic ones like plastic) is made of atoms. So, if you look at the definition of chemical energy, you’ll realise that it’s present in almost every living and non-living thing. This makes it one of the most abundant fuel sources around the world because virtually any combustible item can be used to provide chemical energy.

Those who live in non-industrialized places, for example, depend on dry leaves, sticks, branches and other organic materials for their fuel. Those who are in urban and industrialized towns and cities, meanwhile, use crude oil, wood and coal to obtain power.

2. Allows energy to be stored.
Unlike other types of energy sources, chemical energy can easily be stored for later use and can also be easily accessed as needed. Just look at the modern lithium-ion batteries. These have made numerous technological innovations possible over the years because they allow people to store energy and access it even when they’re not within range of an electrical outlet. Because of batteries, it has been possible for scientists and other innovators to come up with cellphones, smartphones, laptops, tablets, wearable devices and other gadgets that have changed the world.

The ability of chemical energy to be effectively stored isn’t only present in modern batteries but can also be observed in organic materials. Plants, as mentioned above, create sugars from sunlight through photosynthesis. But plants don’t immediately consume their food; rather, they store some of it in their leaves so they can stay alive even during rainy days when the sun doesn’t come out. The same thing holds true for animals and humans, who store some of the calories they eat and ensure they can survive even during lean times.

3. Can be efficiently harnessed.
Chemical energy can be quickly harnessed as long as the right amount of oxygen is present and combustion is effectively achieved. So, to make the most of chemical energy, it’s important to have a system that supports optimal combustion. Vehicles, for example, need to have a well-designed car engine so the right amount of gasoline and air can mix and produce fuel.

List of Cons of Chemical Energy

1. Can be harmful to the environment.
Just like any other source of power, chemical energy also has its own disadvantages. One of the most well-known and most controversial cons is its negative effect on the environment.

More often than not, the combustion of organic and non-organic materials produces harmful by-products. In vehicle engines, for instance, the “perfect” combustion process produces carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen. However, this doesn’t really happen in the real world. The typical combustion process creates unburned or partially burned hydrocarbons, which reacts with sunlight and nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone and contributes to the presence of smog in urban areas. Smog has affected numerous places (most notably Beijing, Ulan Bator, New Delhi and Cairo) can greatly damage plants like wheat, peanuts, cotton and tomatoes. It has also affected numerous animal species, making it difficult for them to breathe and survive in their toxic environment.

The incomplete combustion process also produces carbon dioxide (also known as a greenhouse gas, which means it accumulates in the atmosphere, prevents heat from escaping the earth and contributes to climate change) as well as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

2. Paves the way to health problems.
Aside from harming the environment, the by-products of combustion can also damage human health. Smog, for example, can trigger asthma attacks even with just the slightest exposure. It can also lead to minor ailments like colds and eye irritation as well as major health issues like pneumonia, chest pains and even certain types of cancer. These effects are evident in Cairo, Egypt (wherein lung cancer and chronic respiratory illnesses are some of the most prevalent illnesses among residents) and in Dhaka, Bangladesh (wherein as many as 15,000 people die every year due to air pollution).

Carbon monoxide, another by-product of combustion, can also lead to a wide range of health problems. Short-term exposure to this gas can cause several symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, while long-term exposure can lead to neurological damage and even death.

Carbon monoxide can also reduce the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, making it extremely harmful to people with heart disease since their body already has a hard time delivering oxygenated blood to their heart. All of these are compounded by the fact that carbon monoxide is tasteless and odorless, making it difficult for people to detect its presence.

The US National Guard is the country’s primary federal and state military reserve force, which is composed of two divisions—the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the Air National Guard (ANG). The service offers incentives and other benefits, and allows individuals to serve the military on a part-time basis. However, the National Guard is not for everyone, considering the possibility of deployment and time commitment, along with the benefits it offers. With this in mind, you should know its pros and cons to come up with the best decision before committing to enlist to it.

List of Pros of Joining the National Guard

1. Education
The National Guard offers you opportunities to pursue higher education. For instance, it gives you 100% federal tuition assistance to pay for your schooling. And if you have taken out a student loan already, you will still be eligible for the service’s student loan repayment program, to help you repay such debt. You can also apply for its Montgomery GI Bill, which provides you a monthly stipend while you study, or the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which covers your tuition and provides an annual stipend for your books. Your eligibility for these programs will vary depending on the amount of time you served and your job.

2. Job Training
One of the best benefits you get from enlisting to the National Guard is its paid job training. To be eligible for this, you must qualify for your desired job with an adequate score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, which is a requirement you should take prior to enlistment.

With this benefit, you can choose from various careers, including military police, aviation, engineering, medical services and even special forces. Take note that your job training can only be received after completing the basic combat training, where you learn tactical, marksmanship and combat skills.

3. Good Opportunity for Personal and Professional Development
Joining the National Guard should be a great decision to make, considering that it can help you develop personally and professionally. You would become a much better person. The service will give you some of the most challenging times to help you achieve this and experience a positive change in morale.

4. Work Hours and Pay
Because the National Guard is a part-time commitment, it allows you to continue or pursue a civilian career. After completing your trainings for basic combat, advanced skills and job, you will work one weekend per month in addition to two full weeks every year for the service. You will be paid based on your position and rank for the days you work. Moreover, the part-time schedule will give you a lot of time for your family and civilian life.

5. Greater Stability
The National Guard can provide you with greater stability while studying business than the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Upon commissioning, you will agree to a military service obligation (MSO) of 8 years, which you can choose to fully or partially complete. If you leave active duty before the 8-year mark, you can just serve the remaining time in the IRR.

By joining the guard or reserves, you will be granted by your unit between one to two years of stabilization, which is state-dependent, meaning that you are guaranteed to not be deployed during that period of time. If the state in which you are studying in offers 2 years of stabilization, you can complete your degree without having to worry about being recalled to deploy midway through. This is certainly a big plus for you as member of the National Guard. Aside from this, you will be given the incentive to join the guard or reserves while still on active duty. Your guard or reserve recruiting counselor can offer an MSO reduction incentive, which will cut your remaining service obligation in half. This means you can feasibly complete your obligation for military service by the time you leave business school.

List of Cons of Joining the National Guard

1. Commitment
One potential disadvantage to enlisting in the National Guard is time commitment. Once you join the service, you cannot simply quit if you do not like it. During your enlistment process, you should commit to serving for 3, 6 or 8 years, so make sure you are prepared and committed to completing several years of service.

2. Deployment
Another disadvantage of the National Guard is the possibility of being deployed in other countries. For example, you might be ordered to help with responding to natural disasters or you may even be deployed to camps where there are international conflicts. These duties might expose you to hostile fire and other dangerous conditions. Aside from this, you will also be away from your family and civilian job for several months at a time. Though you are paid for the time of your deployment, you are compelled to spend time serving under dangerous conditions.

3. Slow Promotion
It is known that promotion in the National Guard is slower than other military services in the US. Because of its structure and size, it needs less people to get promoted every month than the country’s regular army does. If you joined the Army Reserve or went active duty, you would get promoted faster.

4. Low-Quality Equipment and Training
Despite the benefit of training the National Guard offers, its quality of training and equipment is said to be low. This is due to the fact that it is doing so many deployments, and the budgets for equipment and training are sometimes smaller than they would be for the active duty soldiers or the reserve. If you want to go the citizen/soldier route, it is recommended to go into the reserve, instead of the guard, due to the budget factors stated above. However, this does not mean that the National Guard is a low-quality organization at all. Rather, it is a group of high-quality NCOs and officers.

While serving the National Guard might require you much effort and commitment, it would still be manageable like any other career. Just weigh down the pros and cons mentioned above to come up with the best decision.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or what is colloquially known as Obamacare, is a federal statute of the United States that was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama. It is one of the most significant regulatory overhauls of the U.S. healthcare system, together with the Amendment of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, since Medicare and Medicaid was passed in 1965.

ACA was designed for specific reasons:

  • To increase the quality and affordability of health insurance.
  • To reduce the number of people who are uninsured.
  • To ensure that healthcare cost for individuals and the government is reduced.

For all its good intentions, however, ACA is not widely received with open arms. In fact, the number of negative messages conveyed to Americans regarding the act is 15 times more than the positive messages. It is true, however, that Obamacare has its share of pros and cons, which people should know and understand in order to fully make an informed decision about the act.

List of Pros of the Affordable Care Act

1. Access to low-cost insurance.
Those in favor of the health care legislation called ACA a “landmark legislation” and a “historic victory” that reformed the U.S. health care system, by making health care more affordable. Through subsidies that will help cover the costs, people who cannot afford health insurance will now be able to do so. Health insurance companies are also mandated to implement the 80/20 rule where they spend 80% on patient care and quality improvements, while keeping their profits and other costs at 20%. Affordable health insurance is also made possible through Medicaid expansion, the employers, and the health insurance marketplace. What is even better is that limits on coverage are eliminated.

2. Prevention of several diseases.
Under Obamacare, preventive care is free. Health insurance plans must cover a long list of preventive services, including screening for some cancers or diabetes, at no cost to you. Gynecological exams, lab work, and other and well-woman visits are now fully covered. There are also 26 preventive services for children that are covered, such as screening for autism or obesity, immunization and counseling.

Through the preventive services, people will be preemptively tested for possible ailments, especially because insurance policies now need to include the 10 essential health benefits. When an ailment is discovered earlier, expensive treatment can be avoided or reduced.

3. More people will qualify.
Through ACA, all insurance plans are required to cover the 10 essential health insurance benefits, which are emergency room services, lab test, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental and behavioral health treatment, pediatric care, preventive and wellness visits, prescription drugs, outpatient care, and services and devices for people with injuries and other chronic conditions.

Patients that had been denied insurance before because their illness disqualifies them can now be covered. The act further widened the scope because insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny coverage to anyone with pre-existing conditions. They are also forbidden from dropping them or raising the premiums once a policyholder becomes sick.

Those whose do not qualify for Medicaid with an income of less than 400% of the federal poverty level will get tax credits instead.

4. Added coverage for children.
Children up to age 26 can now be added to their parent’s health insurance plans, providing them protection while they still can’t afford to pay for their own insurance. Even if they have preexisting health conditions, they would still be covered because Obamacare prohibits insurance companies from denying them protection. Coverage must also continue long after a policyholder gets sick, even when they were healthy when the policy was in place. In this instance, insurance companies will enjoy an increase in profit, since they receive premiums for children that are considerably healthier, and would stay healthy for a long time.

5. Business benefits.
The makeover on individual health insurance proves beneficial for small business owners. This is because employees now have the option to keep their old policy, even when they switch jobs, have the option to choose the coverage and the provider that best fit their needs, and be generally healthy because insurance plans now cover the 10 health benefits, regardless of pre-existing conditions. What is even better is that employers may be eligible for premium tax credits.

List of Cons of the Affordable Care Act

1. Massive cancellations of existing insurance plans.
An estimated 2.6 million people had their health insurance cancelled because it did not comply with Obamacare standards, according to Health Affairs. Cancellation is mainly because their old policy doesn’t meet the 10 essential health benefits. This made healthcare insurance more expensive to some people, because they now have to transition to other plans, shop for another insurance, and have services added, which were previously not included in their old plans.

Worst case scenario, 3 to 5 million people are at risk of losing their company-sponsored health care insurance, because businesses will find the new policy more expensive, what with all the inclusions. They would rather pay the penalty, than allow their employees to purchase their private insurance.

2. Initial high-cost burden.
During the first few years under Obamacare, the nature of the coverage will have high cost. After all, preventive testing and care is very expensive. Since it is given for free under ACA, many people would opt for it. This would mean high medical spending at the start.

3. Tax burden.
Remember that ACA is able to offer affordable health care insurance because of subsidies that will cover the rest of the cost. Where does the money come? From the new taxes imposed on high-income earners and the health care industry. The new taxes are sure to affect the individual mandate and the employer mandate.

People who do not have insurance or don’t qualify for Medicaid will be assessed a tax of 1% or $95, whichever is higher. This would mean that 1.2% of the population will end up paying the tax. Even more bad news, taxes have already been raised in 2013 on individuals with incomes exceeding $200,000 and couples filing jointly an income of $250,000. They also pay an additional Medicare tax at 3.8%. No wonder opponents of Obamacare called it an “unconstitutional” takeover on the health care system.

Common stocks are securities that give you equity ownership in a corporation. As a common stocks holder, you will have voting rights and a share of the company’s dividends and/or capital appreciation. As a mere investor, however, you are at the bottom of the priority ladder. If the company goes bankrupt, you will only receive your money after debt holders, bondholders and preferred stockholders have been given their share.

This makes common stocks riskier compared to preferred stocks or debt shares. But because it performs better than bonds and preferred shares over time, it provides certain advantages. This only shows that common stocks are associated with pros and cons. How good or bad the situation is for you, depends on which side of the spectrum that you are in — whether you are investing on common stock or issuing it.

List of Advantages of Common Stocks

1. Yield huge gains.
As already mentioned, common stocks often outperform bonds, deposit certificate and other types of investment products. As they are guaranteed, what you stand to gain has a minimum and a maximum. Common stocks, on the other hand, have no limits to the amount of money that you will gain. Although there is always a risk of losing, you are also guaranteed of earning large gains. This is something every investor wants and needs.

A company issuing common stocks in the financial markets use them as an alternative to debts, as it is a less expensive route. Unlike debts, an issuer of common stocks is not obligated to pay interest to investors, only discretionary payments on dividends in the event that the company has extra cash.

2. An ideal investment.
With this type of financial vehicle, you are only allowed to invest with limited liability. That is, whatever amount you invested initially would be the most that you will lose in the event of liquidation. And because you purchase common stocks on cash basis, you can put a cap on the amount of money to invest. Compared to leverage transactions, you are not at risk of losing money that exceeds the total funds you have invested.

3. Legal liabilities are restricted.
Since you are a passive holder of common stocks, your liability to a company is limited. Whatever problems that arise outside a stockholder’s financial investment, you will not be affected. Only the people running the company would have to face the consequences. The only thing you should be worrying about is the company’s health. As long as it is earning and moving on an upward trend, your investment and financial future is safe.

4. Easy buying and selling process.
As this type of investment is liquid, you have the option to sell it any time you want, or buy more if you wish to grow your stocks. What is even better is that common stocks can be purchased at a fair price.

5. There are two ways to gain benefits.
Capital gains and dividends are two ways to earn from stocks. Each stock you own gives you a cut of whatever a company earns since you are a partial owner. If the value of the stock appreciates, so will the capital gains. If the business’s earnings go beyond what it needs to cover maintenance and growth, it has the option to distribute the excess to holders of common stocks, or make dividend payments.

List of Disadvantages of Common Stocks

1. High risk investment.
Risks are always associated with investing, but more of these are linked to common stocks. Their prices are volatile, fluctuating erratically. If you panic every time the price goes down and sells your stocks, you could end up losing more. The value of the stocks can also change without warning, making it difficult to evaluate their performance even if the company is doing well. Worse, if the business goes bankrupt, you can say goodbye to your investment.

2. Lack of control.
Buying stocks from a company is a tricky situation. Your success practically depends on whether or not a business has excellent practices and strategies. Since you have no right to demand a copy of their books or business plans, you would have to do your research in other ways. As a shareholder, you are also subject to the will of stockholders. You cannot join in the decision-making process or suggest a better way of doing things. Therefore, if stockholders don’t do their jobs well, you could go down with them. This is why it is vital that you perform due diligence before you invest.

There is one way to have some control, however. You have to buy a significant amount of shares to gain a majority in the investment. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to afford this. Moreover, companies usually put a cap of the number of common stocks they sell to keep the control of existing shareholders strong.

3. Last one to get paid.
This is probably the biggest downside of common stocks. As previously mentioned, if a company liquidates, you would not get paid until those that rank high on the priority ladder gets their share. Good enough if you get to pull out your stocks just in time. But because stocks don’t always behave as consistently, anticipating its performance would be difficult. You can only hope that you do get paid, after everyone else does, including the creditors, employees, suppliers and taxes.

On the side of an issuing company, selling too many common stocks can have a negative impact on the existing shareholders. It is bad news if the business keeps increasing its outstanding shares. According to the Wall Street Journal, the ownership of shareholders and voting influence will diminish when the stocks enter the market.

When it comes to common stocks, getting the companies right is just as important as getting the price right. The best combination would be to buy stocks at a fair price from a company with a strong and longstanding reputation in the market. Unfortunately, the stock market is not always cooperative. Or make that rarely cooperative. This is why timing and research are very important.

Just recently, popular photoblog Humans of New York (HoNY) featured a picture of a young woman in graduation garb, with the caption “I’m an illegal immigrant”. The photo quickly became viral, with lots of people saying that the young woman has achieved what many natural-born Americans haven’t: that is, going to college and earning a degree.

The HoNY photo is just one of the many examples that show that getting an education is difficult for most (if not all) illegal immigrants and that society doesn’t really expect them to graduate and succeed. Fortunately, this can be amended with the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (aka DREAM) Act. The act grants conditional residential status to young illegal immigrants who:

  • Can prove that they entered the United States before they turned 16 years old and that they’ve been living in the country continuously for at least five years.
  • Have graduated from a U.S. high school or passed the General Educational Development (GED) tests.
  • Have not been involved in any criminal activity and can pass criminal background checks and reviews.
  • Have good moral character.

Once undocumented immigrants obtain conditional residential status and are able to hold it for six years, they can apply for permanent residency as long as they can fulfill the following criteria:

  • They must have graduated from a community college, completed at least two years in college towards a bachelor’s degree, or served at least two years in the U.S. Military.
  • They continue to possess good moral character.
  • They haven’t been involved in any criminal activity and can pass another set of background checks.

Though it’s still a legislative proposal and hasn’t yet been passed (it was introduced in the senate on August 2001 and has been reintroduced several times over the years), the DREAM Act has gained numerous proponents. This comes from the fact that it provides support to young illegal immigrants who strive to finish high school and college and contribute to the betterment of the American society. However, it has also attracted many opponents who believe that the act provides amnesty to illegal immigrants.

List of Pros of the DREAM Act

1. Help undocumented youth achieve their dreams.
According to research, approximately 65,000 undocumented teens who have resided in the U.S. for five years or more graduate from high school annually. Unfortunately, not all of them make it to college because of several factors. For one thing, illegal immigrants don’t have access to Pell Grants and other federal financial programs for students, making it more difficult for them to fund their education. Since they’re excluded from the legal workforce, many also think that earning a bachelor’s degree is useless and therefore get discouraged from obtaining one. As a result, less than 6,500 undocumented teens proceed to college every year.

The DREAM Act aims to change these by encouraging young illegal immigrants to study hard and aim to graduate from college. Since they know their hard work can bring them closer to a successful career and to permanent residency, they have a reason to study well and strive to get their degree.

2. Boost local and national economies.
When undocumented people obtain their graduate degree, they have higher chances of getting good-paying jobs and earning a decent salary. These, in turn, give them a bigger spending power and allow them to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards and even invest in stocks and bonds. As a result, they won’t only make their lives better but they’ll also help in boosting the economy of their town/city and state as well as of the entire United States.

3. Improve the American society as a whole.
Numerous studies have proven that higher educational attainment can lead to lower crime rates. With this in mind, it’s easy to say that encouraging undocumented children to complete their high school and college education can lead to a more peaceful and successful country with higher productivity levels and low poverty and crime rates.

4. Increase military recruitment ratings.
The Department of Defense has been one of the proponents of the DREAM Act mainly because it encourages military recruitment among young people. This, in turn, allows the U.S. military to expand its recruiting pool and have access to undocumented young adults who want to become American soldiers and have the right education, fitness, aptitude and values.

List of Cons of the DREAM Act

1. Shield gang members from deportation.
According to studies done by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 4,370 gangsters were arrested in 2010. Out of this number, more than 1,300 of them were under 30 years old and had not committed serious crimes. These include those who belonged to gangs that were composed mainly of Central and South American immigrants as well as gangs that were associated with Mexican drug cartels. Because of these, ICE officials fear that the DREAM Act will allow gang members to become conditional and ultimately permanent residents, making them harder to arrest and deport.

2. Encourage chain migration as well as unauthorized migration.
Many opponents of the DREAM Act believe that the promise of becoming conditional and permanent residents in the future is too tempting to foreigners, especially those who live in impoverished countries with economic and socio-political strife. As such, it will open the United States’ doors to would-be illegal immigrants and encourage them to sneak into the country.

However, proponents argue that this cannot really happen since the act only applies to those who were brought to the U.S. as children and have lived here for most of their lives. Even if DREAM Act applicants can proceed to becoming permanent residents, they still have to provide numerous documents, fulfill rigorous requirements and wait for years before they can petition for their parents or siblings.

3. Cause discontent among those who don’t support the act.
The DREAM Act might promote feel-good feelings in its proponents, but it can have an opposite effects on those who oppose the legislation. For one thing, it can stir animosity in those who believe that illegal immigrants are “stealing” jobs and educational opportunities from Americans. This, in turn, can cause undocumented young people to become even more discriminated in school, at work and in other places.

While bilingual education seems like a simple topic for a person to choose and stick with, it is actually a more complicated issue than most of us think. What would be thought of by a certain person as a pro may be considered by another as a con. It is worth noting that different people in different parts of the world have different language needs, and since it pros and cons vary from one to another, it is important to evaluate them. To help you assess this issue, here are separate lists of the pros and cons of bilingual education.

List of Pros of Bilingual Education

1. It makes it easier for us to learn more languages.
The part of your brain that is responsible for learning new things and encouraging spatial growth can be stimulated further with bilingual education. Studies reveal that such training leads to increased brain growth and increased ability to handle multiple tasks at once. So, once you have opened your mind enough to learn a second language, it becomes even easier for you to learn another and so on. When you become bilingual, you will increase your ability to focus on learning new tasks, which also triggers increased concentration and makes multitasking much simpler.

The world is getting smaller every day, and children who have the ability to communicate fluently with a variety of people and cultures are the most likely to rise to the top in a world that is becoming more global than anyone could have imagined.

2. It will be a necessary skill in the future.
As the minority-language-speaking populations continue to rise, children who have learned to speak multiple languages will be highly sought out on the job market. In certain states and communities in the US, for example, the Spanish-speaking population is outnumbering those who are speaking English. Also, the Chinese and Hindi populations are rising steadily. This means that children who are prepared to adapt to this change will be better-equipped to face the problems in the future, as opposed to those who only speak one language.

3. It makes a better-rounded child.
While skeptics believe that bilingual education can confuse a young student, studies prove that it enhances the mind and provides child with a much brighter future, making it easier for him to understand and relate to other cultures. A child who is capable of grasping other languages can open up a larger world to himself and is much more likely to be worldly and cultured. He will be able to study abroad and gain more from his experience than those foreign students who are not capable of speaking the predominant language. Moreover, he will have access to a valuable gateway to positive interactions with other races, leading to rapid personal growth and skill development.

4. It offers multiple personality benefits.
There are plenty of personality benefits children can gain from learning to speak multiple languages. Studies show that those who show the ability to handle such learning have increased their ability to process new sounds, particularly those who use separate languages regularly. These children are also far less likely to experience personality disorders, including anxiety. They are typically less lonely than their single-language-speaking counterparts. Generally put, they have higher levels of self-esteem.

List of Cons of Bilingual Education

1. It poses difficulty for foreign language students to assimilate easily.
One of the most frequent criticisms of bilingual education is that it causes foreign language students to avoid total assimilation into their local culture. After all, in order for us to fully adapt to our country’s current culture is making certain sacrifices, and one of these is our dominant language.

It is stated that bilingual education can widen the cultural gap, as opposed to bridging it. Thus, it becomes more difficult for foreign language students to experience success in other school subjects, such as science and math. To solve this issue, those who speak a minority language should be thought to speak English, while also allowing them to hold onto their native tongue and cultural traditions. Learning a second language should never be an either/or proposition.

2. It reduces focus on a career.
When a child is obliged to spend much of his time learning a second language, he will be limited to develop skills he would need in other areas. Specializing in a particular area can stunt his overall development and can actually lead to a lack of well-rounded learning.

Aside from this, teaching a child to learn a second language can consume a great deal of time and can cause frustration for both the teacher and the student alike. And if the child becomes frustrated with learning, he might also act the same way towards other subjects. Remember that some children respond well to bilingual education, while others don’t. So, it is crucial to spot warning signs in them not to burn them out on learning altogether and adversely affect their opportunities to reach their true potential for their desired careers.

3. It causes lack of qualified teachers.
One prominent problem in bilingual education is the severe lack of qualified teachers to handle the subject. Quality bilingual education requires an expert, patient and firm teacher who have the time in his hands to take care of issues that may arise.

Unfortunately, these professionals are in very short supply, and many of them are already busy teaching the usual subjects, ridding them of the time needed to teach a second language. At a point in time when so many of their capabilities are being stretched to the limit and schools are struggling to fill the gap, the idea of taking skilled bilingual instructors and assigning them to teach what they do best will not be something that is universally supported.

4. It is quite expensive.
Schools are struggling to keep foreign language programs funded as is, and facilitating a dominant language program is far cheaper than educating minority language students. So, if a student does not really understand the language he is being taught, the budget allotted to such a program would be a complete waste.

Now, do you support this type of education? Or, do you think that it does more harm than good in most situations? With the pros and cons mentioned above, you should have gained a better understanding of this issue and come up with a more informed decision.