What Makes a Monster and What Makes a Man: The Importance of Fairy Tales in Early Childhood

Bruno Bettelheim’s study, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, offers insight into the reason fairy and folk tales are often used to teach children lessons, using illustrations for topics that would otherwise be difficult for parents to discuss with their children. While many adults only desire to present pleasant images to children, teaching that there is no evil in the world is inefficient; youth are quick to pick up on the notion that there is. Bettelheim argues that through Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, mankind is enabled to accept life’s struggles without allowing themselves to be defeated, but instead strengthened by their experiences and thus given meaning for their existence. Fairy tales are able to deliver these themes to offspring through following a structure similar to that of a daydream, through which they can be taught that while pain and suffering are inevitable, they may overcome their problems with great effort. Therefore, due to the benefits fairy tales pose for child development, Disney’s retelling of Victor Hugo’s classic Notre-Dame de Paris is efficient in teaching children to appreciate and understand other cultures through telling the story in a simplified format. Additionally, although Bruno Bettelheim’s research on fairy tales is shown to lack objectivity, Heike vom Orde proves that fairy tales are essential in child development, due to their efficiency in teaching values while also keeping the attention span of their audience.

Many tales begin with the death of a parent or another traumatic event. In order for young children to understand, the situation is simplified and unimportant details are omitted. The stories have a large focus on battles of good versus evil; a character is either good or bad, teaching children to easily comprehend the difference between the two. Although no one is truly good or evil in reality, Bettelheim argues that presenting such complexity in characters may confuse the young audience. Therefore, the protagonist and antagonist are displayed as distinct opposites, often leading the child to favor the character they can sympathize with the most: the character they believe to be “good.” This is likely because children can relate to the common theme of a character’s desire for a sense of belonging or to overcome one’s fears. The fairy tale then becomes a symbol of hope, reminding them that even the meekest of souls can achieve greatness (Bettelheim).

Psychologist Heike vom Orde further studies this approach in her article, Children Need Fairy Tales, conducting research through surveying young audiences and discussing the reception and criticism of Bettelheim’s claims. In the survey given, it is shown that 56% of German children ranging from the ages of nine to nineteen enjoy fairy tales, while 38% of those surveyed do not. A small margin of 6% only enjoy a few fairy tales (Orde, 1). Additionally, Orde addresses the concerns of the theory’s critics, who often stated that the work fails to reflect on the socializing function of folk tales and differentiates too little between folk tales and modern literature. Furthermore, Orde states that research proves Bettelheim’s claim that children enjoy fairy tales more than other children’s literature to be unsustainable. Additionally, Bettelheim is criticized for not having acknowledged the subjectivity of his interpretations. However, it is agreed that fairy tales are essential in child development, teaching children cultural values and morals.

Several adaptations of fairy tales have come into existence, most notably the works of the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Famous for its adaptations of tales such as The Little Mermaid and The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood (Sleeping Beauty), in 1996 the company released The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a child-friendly version of the classic Victor Hugo novel.

Originally published in 1831, Notre-Dame de Paris begins at the 1482 Festival of Fools, for which the physically and mentally handicapped Quasimodo leaves the bell tower of Notre Dame against the advice of his adoptive father, Archdeacon Claude Frollo. Later, after ordering Quasimodo to leave the festival, he orders him to aide in attacking a gypsy performer named Esmerelda as she walks home. Quasimodo is later arrested and tried for his crime; however, he is shown mercy by the young gypsy when she offers him water to drink during his public punishment. Esmerelda wins the affection of Quasimodo and Frollo, although she does not return the same affection to any of them; instead, she falls in love with one of the King’s soldiers, Phoebus de Chateaupers. This makes Frollo jealous, leading him to become obsessive and filled with lust for her. That night, he finds Phoebus and stabs him, accusing Esmerelda of his supposed death. While she awaits execution, Frollo visits her in her cell and gives her an ultimatum: she can love him or face death. She decides to face execution, and is hanged. At the cathedral, Quasimodo discovers her corpse and becomes furious, sending Frollo to his death by throwing him from the north tower. Upon seeing the cadavers of both the man who raised him and the woman he held dear, Quasimodo cries, “This is everything I ever loved.” After the events of the story, it is revealed that next to Esmerelda’s remains are the bones of a “hunchback,” as a depressed Quasimodo starves himself to death and dies by her side (Hugo).

In the 1996 Walt Disney film adaptation, the story follows a pattern that is much simpler for a child’s cognitive ability and attention span to follow. The film begins with the murder of Quasimodo’s mother, following the typical trope of fairy tales beginning with the loss of a parent. Then, despite the original novel’s diverse personalities in each character which often blur the lines of good and evil, Disney structures the story to fit the format of a fairy tale; there is a specific villain, Claude Frollo, whom is given few redeeming qualities; viewers are rarely shown his paternal side, and instead are conditioned to dislike him as he limits Quasimodo from accomplishing his dreams, attempts the genocide of those of Roma ethnicity, murders Quasimodo’s mother, and sings of his lust for Esmeralda (revised spelling of her original name), praying that “she will be mine or she will burn [in Hell] (Hulce et al.).” Through seeing the effects of Frollo’s oppression of Quasimodo and the gypsies, the audience is unable to sympathize with him, and instead are drawn to Quasimodo. In addition, not only are viewers taught to dislike Frollo, they are repulsed by the symbols for which he stands: corrupt leadership, racism, and sexism. Although children may not fully understand either concept at their age, they are shown the consequences that Frollo and the other characters face for his actions and the turmoil it causes them, leading the audience to understand how his behavior is harmful to society. After Frollo’s defeat, Quasimodo’s wish to be accepted into society is fulfilled, the gypsies are able to live in freedom, and the Parisians appear to be pleased with the outcome.

While Disney’s retelling is not as complex as the original literature, one must understand that the target audience would not have the capacity to truly appreciate the work in its unabridged form. However, the story’s themes of acceptance and freedom are still highly important for children to be taught; therefore, the only way to ensure the message would be instilled in a child’s mind is to follow the format of stories children are used to hearing.

Furthermore, the original novel deals with explicit themes of sex and murder; while the Disney version does touch upon these topics, it does so in a subtle form so that the audience is not distracted from the most important theme: acceptance. Utilizing every single detail from the original tale would only confuse a child, as their brain is not yet fully developed and does not yet understand the complex nature of many of Hugo’s topics. In addition, Hugo’s work is difficult for many adults to comprehend, often leaving the common citizen confused and only able to focus on the tragic ending in which all three principal characters meet a devastating death. Children are especially sensitive to traumatic events, often becoming psychologically damaged and subconsciously fearful due to being exposed to traumatic events at a young age. However, through giving the story a happy ending in which Quasimodo achieves many of his dreams, they are encouraged to believe that they too can leave a positive impact on their society, and that no matter where they come from or what they look like, there will always be something they can contribute. The film concludes with the quote, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?” (Kandel et al.) This final question proves the tale’s main point, which is that one’s character cannot be judged off appearance, but on their integrity. This is a lesson that many children will take with them into adulthood; they may only remember a few details, but they will remember all of the ones that matter.



Works Cited

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. N.p.: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976. Print.

Hugo, Victor. Notre-Dame De Paris. N.p.: Gosselin, 1831. Print.

Hulce, Tom, and Tony Jay. By Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken. Heaven’s Light / Hellfire. 1996. CD.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Dir. Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. Perf. Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay. Walt Disney Company, 1996. Videocassette.

Kandel, Paul. By Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken. The Bells of Notre Dame (Reprise). 1996. CD.

Vom Orde, Heike. “Children Need Fairy Tales.” Televizion (2013): 17. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.








A Liberation from Sexual Stigma

Prior to the late twentieth century, sex and violence were considered taboo among the general public. Although everyone was aware of the subjects, it was often considered too vulgar or unprofessional to speak of such adult behavior in a public setting. Blues music paved the way for many artists to express and embrace their sexuality. Although the men and women of the genre communicate in different ways (men writing about women in boastful and sexist ways, while women often express emotions of sorrow or sing of homosexual relationships), the use of sexual content in the blues shows audiences all of the frustrations of love and lust.

When blues music began to emerge, it was known for speaking of the pain and pleasure of the working class (Humphrey, 153). In fact, many genres with similar history, such as the tango of Argentina, are known for voicing the taboo—sex, alcoholic consumption, and drugs. Such music is known for giving detailed descriptions of lifestyles that, at that time, were considered scandalous. An example of this type of songwriting is “Walking the Street,” originally performed by Mamie Desdoumes (Desdoumes). The lyrics were later remastered in 1937, stating:

Stood on the corner till my feet got soakin’ wet,

Stood on the corner till my feet got soakin’ wet,

These are the words I said to each and every man I met.

“If you ain’t got a dollar, give me a lousy dime,

If you ain’t got a dollar, give me a lousy dime,

I’ve got to beg and steal to please that man of mine.

The original lyrics communicate that the prostitute works on the streets in order to provide for her husband, yet the later recording expresses the woman’s desire to please her lover, as she is willing to “beg and steal,” if only to keep hold of his love. The song’s lyrics combine the harsh realities of prostitution with the violence the lifestyle is often accompanied with, perhaps showing that sex and violence work hand in hand. While similar women’s blues songs dealing with the theme often are told from experience or out of sympathy, male blues musicians often focus on the physical aspects of a woman, such as in Blind Boy Fuller’s “Meat Shakin’ Woman.” The song’s lyrics are quite possessive, using language similar to referring to one’s property:

If when you boys see my woman you can’t keep her long

I say hey, hey, you can’t keep her long

I got a new way to keep her down, you “monkey men”” can’t catch on

Baby, for my dinner, I want ham and eggs

I say hey, hey, I want ham and eggs

And for my supper, mama, I want to feel your legs

While the lyrics may not be easily seen as violent, it can definitely be argued that they are misogynistic. Through saying, “I got a new way to keep her down,” he sounds like a slave master or brothel owner, communicating that she will always return to him, as she will always be his property (Fuller). He compares her to “ham and eggs,” showing that he views her as a meal that satisfies his inner desires, rather than as a partner. Therefore, although the lyrics are not explicitly violent in describing murder or rape, they encourage the very culture that encourages the maltreatment of females. Blind Boy Fuller is not the only one to use possessive lyrics to describe women, however. In Lonnie Johnson’s “You Can’t Buy Love,” he says:

You can give your woman plenty money,

Dress her up in fancy gowns;

She will tell her outside man

She’s got the dumbest, the dumbest man in town!

These lyrics seem slightly possessive as well, especially through saying “you can give your woman plenty money.” The main point of the stanza is that even when the man works hard for his woman and provides her with everything she could ever ask for (“plenty money” and “fancy gowns,” in this case), she still cannot be trusted to remain faithful (Johnson). While the song is likely told from the perspective of someone who has been cheated on, and it is a valid reason to be upset, a man should not be angry at a woman for such because of what he has done for her and what she can give him in return; rather, he should see her as an equal who will stay because she loves him, and not solely because she needs him to survive. Therefore, it is evident that men’s blues is a product of the time in which it was produced—a time when a man was considered the leader of the household and women were taught to be submissive. However, women’s blues defies the era it began in, teaching women to be proud of their sexuality.

Women’s blues also shows a more humorous view of sex. While Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues” is infamous for the line, “You can squeeze my lemon ‘til the juice run down my leg,” (Johnson) such humor is also found in Lucille Bogan’s “Shave ‘Em Dry,” which describes the singer’s sex life. She can be quoted singing:

Now your nuts hang down

Like a damn bell sapper,

And your dick stands up like a steeple.

Your goddamn ass-hole

Stands open like a church door,

And the crabs walks in like people.

Bogan speaks of her partner’s body parts with slang, often using humorous analogies such as comparing his “ass-hole” to a church door. While this can be considered immature, I believe that it teaches listeners that while physical intimacy can be a private matter, there is no shame in celebrating its pleasures. In fact, it can be fun. For example, Lucille Bogan also is known for her song, “B.D. Woman’s Blues,” “B.D.” meaning “Bull Dyke,” which is a term for a masculine lesbian (Bogan). In her day, her music was considered especially taboo. In fact, even in the present her lyrics are still considered vulgar. “B.D. Woman’s Blues” is one of the first blues songs to openly talk about lesbianism, stating that “Comin’ a time, B.D. women ain’t gonna need no men / Oh the way they treat us is a lowdown and dirty sin.” The lyrics describe the harsh reality of being a woman in her time; women were often treated as lesser beings and treated horribly by men. Therefore, a woman might be able to find comfort in having a relationship with another woman instead, as women can understand each other’s experiences. The music of Lucille Bogan shows women as every bit as diverse as men can be, owning their own sexuality and being unafraid to call out the sexist and violent behaviors of men.

While the sexist nature of some blues songs can certainly be considered a flaw of the artist, it is not a reflection on the entire genre. In fact, I believe that singing about sex helps people to understand it better. Growing up in a society where no one would talk about it, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for people in that time to understand their sexual feelings without being ashamed of them. Furthermore, homosexuality was considered a taboo topic, and “coming out” as a gay man or lesbian would mean being removed from the church or even risking losing a job. However, even if society was having trouble embracing new sexual concepts and understanding feminism, the blues gave—and continues to give—a safe haven to those searching for it.

Works Cited

Allen, Fulton. “Meat Shakin’ Woman.” By Fulton Allen. 1938.

Bogan, Lucille. “B.D. Woman’s Blues.” By Lucille Bogan. 1935.

Bogan, Lucille. “Shave ‘Em Dry.” By Lucille Bogan. 1935.

Desdoumes, Mamie. “Walking the Street.” By Mamie Desdoumes. 1937.

Humphrey, Mark. “Urban Blues.” Nothing But the Blues. Ed. Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group, n.d. 153. Print.

Johnson, Lonnie. “You Can’t Buy Love.” 1952.

Johnson, Robert. “Traveling Riverside Blues.” By Robert Johnson. 1937.


My Personal Experiences with Mathematics

In all honesty, I have struggled with mathematics since fifth grade. While arithmetic patterns have come naturally to me, the introduction of pre-algebra concepts greatly confused me as I entered my pre-adolescent years. I am unsure if I found it difficult due to the expectation of increased difficulty (which therefore affected my attitude towards mathematics), or simply due to my lack of familiarity with algebraic concepts, such as linear and inverse equations. However, entering eighth grade pre-algebra classes proved to be the most difficult academic experience in my entire K-12 career.

By the time I entered eighth grade, my mathematical knowledge was hardly at a sixth grade student’s level; I had no prior knowledge of the linear formula y=mx+b, often simply leaving the formula as my answer in lieu of inserting the corresponding terms. Furthermore, taking notes in class felt hopeless; my note-taking methods had worked well in all of my other classes—I was otherwise an A student—however, I was consistently failing my math tests, no matter how hard I tried. One factor that made the situation even more stressful was the requirement to receive a score of 80% or higher on all tests in the course; otherwise, a student would receive a failing score, no matter how high they scored on homework assignments and quizzes. Although we were given the opportunity to revise our exams, it was often difficult for me to revise up to the required percentage.

At the end of the second quarter of the academic year, I had been rather pleased with my performance in the course; I had an 84% average, along with receiving mostly A’s in my other classes. However, when I received my report card in the mail, I was notified that I had received an F due to earning a 75% on an exam. I remember feeling dejected, wondering how I would survive high school coursework if I hadn’t even performed well in my middle school assessments. While my teacher was willing to tutor me into the beginning of the next quarter, and ultimately allowed me to re-take the test (resulting in receiving a revised report card a few weeks later, stating that I received a B in the course), this experience has still stood out to me as one of my most memorable academic failures.

This experience likely stood out to me due to it serving as a wake-up call for my study habits. Previously, I had believed that there was nothing that could be done about my difficulties in math; some people have a natural aptitude for the sciences, and some are more inclined to the arts. However, through the intense study sessions I endured in the effort to improve my test score, I learned that while I may not have a natural talent for scientific studies, it is my work ethic that truly led to achieving success. Therefore, for the final two quarters of the school year, I earned A’s in the course. To this very day, my hardships and triumphs during my eighth grade year serve as a reminder that nothing is impossible through perseverance.

Although my most difficult experience did simultaneously prove to be rewarding, it was not the only positive experience I had. In fact, my greatest experience to date has been teaching my fellow classmates how to create an equation for a sinusoidal function. In my junior year of high school, I participated in Honors Algebra II. I had managed to maintain an A average over the course of the year, although my most memorable experience was when I had been placed in a group of two girls who had a very minimal understanding of the subject. These girls were graduating seniors that year (all of the other students were juniors), one of which often was required to skip class due to prenatal health appointments. Therefore, neither of them fully understood the course material, and we would be taking a test over sinusoidal functions by the end of the following week. While I had gained a sufficient understanding of the course material, there were still small details that I did not feel completely confident about. However, I developed small lesson plans to instruct my group about different aspects of the functions each day, often answering their questions and seeking help from our instructor on the more difficult problems. Through teaching them, I was able to learn more about my study methods, my personality, and how I can better communicate with others in order to reach a common goal. As a result, all three of us passed the test, and I even scored above a 100%.

At the end of the day, these experiences have made me a much more understanding person, which I believe will help me to become an efficient teacher. These lessons have taught me that while every student learns in different ways, each and every one of them will succeed if they are given the chance. Through the encouragement of my peers, teachers, and self-driven persistence, I was able to evolve from earning mediocre grades, to eventually graduating as an officer in our chapter of the National Honor Society, placing approximately 12th in our class of 63. Furthermore, it is not only my improved grades and test scores that reflect the impact the experiences had on me, but the overarching theme that it is not one’s talent that leads them to success, but it is the support of their peers and educators, along with improved work ethic, that drive students to pursue their dreams. That is a skill that will apply long after graduation, and will last for a lifetime.

The Psychological Power of Faith

Since the first humans roamed the Earth, there has always been a quest for the meaning of life. Individuals have often turned to religion as an answer to all of life’s questions, such as what occurs when one dies, if there is a higher power or deity in existence, and for guidance on spiritual and physical healing. While it cannot be scientifically proven whether spiritual legends of healing (such as the miracles of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith) are accurate, it is undeniable that many religions, despite the uncertainty of which religion is “correct,” have brought their followers peace of mind and happiness. Therefore, it may not be surprising that most individuals residing in the United States, whether actively participating in organized religious activities or not, have expressed a belief in a higher power. Over the past 50 years, more than 90% of Americans have consistently expressed a belief in a god; more than 60% of which also pray on a daily basis (Miller). Furthermore, more than two-thirds report having membership to a church, mosque, or synagogue. Many individuals also report that participating in their religious practices has positively impacted their psychological, emotional, and physical health through receiving a sense of purpose in their life, being given hope in times of adversity, and aiding individuals in decision-making processes. Therefore, it can be argued that spirituality and religion are beneficial to one’s health; although it is not any specific religion’s doctrine that can bring healing, but it encourages believers to find purpose in their lives, to be optimistic in adversity, and to follow “signs” which directly impact their decisions. Additionally, while all followers who practice spiritual rituals benefit greatly from the psychological effects of the practices, it is only the most devout who are able to achieve true enlightenment.

Among many of the psychological disorders often helped through meditation and spirituality (not intended to replace medication), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms have been found to be reduced in African-American women through the practice of religion in a study conducted by Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis et al. According to the study, the African-American female demographic was chosen due to their increased risk of experiencing sexual assault. Furthermore, due to persisting sexual stigma and racism in American society, black women are the least likely to seek help from formal agencies, such as law enforcement and psychological counseling. Therefore, the researchers inferred that perhaps the women would be more likely seek help from psychological and philosophical experts when religious and spiritual coping techniques are employed. The study was then conducted for one year, experimenting on 252 sexual assault survivors located in the Chicago metropolitan area. After the first progress check on the victims’ symptoms, it was found that several women had not yet experienced a decrease in PTSD symptoms (Davis). However, at Time 2, it was found that social support and religious coping indeed helped survivors better cope with their symptoms, even if the symptoms were not entirely abolished. Therefore, while the individuals’ religious beliefs may not have caused their symptoms to cease altogether, they were still able to find new methods to cope with their trauma and have the courage to seek help from professionals as well.

Further studying the effects of spirituality’s effects on psychological health, Dr. Jeffrey Greeson et al. studies the effects of a technique known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (hereafter referred to as MBSR) on individuals struggling with clinical depression. MBSR is a meditation program not affiliated with any specific religion that is known to treat major depression symptoms. Prior to the study on the treatment’s effectiveness, there was little known about the participants’ personal spiritual backgrounds. Therefore, the study tested whether individual differences in religion and spiritual maturity affect MBSR’s efficacy (Greeson). Throughout the experimentation process, psychological professionals analyzed 322 adults for a total of eight weeks. In the full study sample, it was discovered that the severity of depressive symptoms significantly decreased across all of the subgroups, which include but are not limited to religion, spiritual growth, sex, and baseline symptom severity. The most significant factor in successful results was discovered to be a result of changes in spirituality and mindfulness; as individuals became more open to embracing new ideas and participating in retrospective activities (most commonly meditation), they became more devoted to engaging in MBSR activities, ultimately achieving optimal results and experiencing a significant decrease in depressive symptoms. Therefore, although the meditation training program is not affiliated with any particular faith, the act of meditation in itself, which is utilized in most contemporary religions (such as the spiritual practice of prayer, which is a significant activity in religions focusing on the presence of a deity, and involves a vast amount of retrospection), is potent enough to not only decrease symptoms of depression, but also to increase one’s mindfulness, overall attitude, and spiritual awareness.

In addition to the psychological impact of faith, studies have also discovered psychosomatic effects as well. Chittaranjan Andrade, Professor of Psychopharmacology for the National Institutes of Health, has further discussed the common belief of healing through prayer through illustrating randomized controlled trials on prayer and healing. Andrade conducted a study on three possible outcomes of prayer: the possibility of prayer improving a situation’s outcome, having no effect on the outcome, and the possibility of worsening outcomes. Although Andrade admits that it is difficult to truly observe the positive effects of spirituality from a scientific perspective, it is evident that stress management techniques utilized in prayer (which, as previously stated, is a form of meditation) are often correlated with improved mental and biological health. Such benefits include reduced ambulatory blood pressure, reduced heart rate, altered levels of melatonin and serotonin, improved immune responses, and enhanced self-esteem. This became evident when the three outcome studies were conducted. When studying improved outcomes, he requested individuals to participate in intercessory prayer on wound healing in a nonhuman species. When the 22 bush babies were divided into randomized prayer and control groups over a 4-week period, it was found that the bush babies who had been placed in a prayer group experienced a greater reduction in wound size compared to the control animals. This discovery is highly important, because due to the species being inhuman, the subjects likely did not experience a placebo effect. In the test of absence of prayer benefits, it was discovered that patients suffering with terminal cardiovascular defects did not benefit from similar intercessory prayer methods, and when studying worsened outcomes associated with prayer, it was discovered that individuals only showed signs of improvement when they were aware they were being prayed for. Therefore, he argues that it is not the prayer in itself that leads to recovery, but the improved mental state it creates in those participating.

In addition to physical benefits, religion can also impact decisiveness in healing. It is important to note Norman Yeung Bik Chung’s “A Faithful Taoist,” which describes the impact Taoism had on his late father (Chung). As his father’s health began to decline as the result of a dying battery in a pace maker inserted into his heart, he found himself faced with two options: undergo surgery to replace the battery and face a long and painful recovery process, or let nature run its course. His father had been considering the latter prior to visiting their local Taoist temple. However, he received a message at the altar which stated, “Go and he will be healed.” Believing it to be a sign from a deity, he received surgery and was able to extend his life for another fifteen years. Years after his death, the Chung explains that he still feels his father’s presence in ways that are difficult to dismiss as coincidence or a work of his own imagination. He then concludes that even if they were written by one of the volunteers at the temple, those few words written on the message his father received at the altar strengthened his father’s will to live, stating, “I will always be grateful to those who gave him the hope none of us in our family could offer.” In the end, he argues that it is not the validity of religion that matters, but instead it is how it affects human life. Chung’s father’s complete trust in the religion led to experiencing fifteen more years of life, assisting him in making the decision that was ultimately the best for his family and personal health.

Therefore, while there are many variables that are difficult to test scientifically due to the various religions and spiritual beliefs present in the world, one can conclude that the meditative practices are helpful in improving one’s mental state, which has a significant effect on other parts of the physical body as well.

Works Cited

Andrade, Chittaranjan, and Rajiv Radhakrishnan. “Prayer and Healing: A Medical and Scientific Perspective on Randomized Controlled Trials.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry 51.4 (2009): 247–253. PMC. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.

Chung, Norman. “A Faithful Taoist.” N.d.

Greeson Jeffrey M., Smoski Moria J., Suarez Edward C., Brantley Jeffrey G., Ekblad Andrew G., Lynch Thomas R., and Wolever Ruth Quillian. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. March 2015, 21(3): 166-174. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0285.

Miller, W. R., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Spirituality, religion, and health: An emerging research field. American Psychologist, 58(1), 24-35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.58.1.24


What I Know Now

This past semester at Baldwin Wallace, I have learned so many things about myself and have become so much more independent than I was in high school. I have grown in many of the ways most people will say: I have learned to manage my own money, manage my time, set my own sleep schedules, and meet new people. However, I have grown the most in learning how to take advantage of every opportunity given.

The first thing I would want a student in the next graduating class to understand is that there is no excuse to not put effort into their dreams. The most significant mistake I ever made when choosing to begin college was allowing my choice of major to be dictated by fear; due to my immense (and bordering on irrational) fear of rejection, I refused to audition for the major I truly wanted to pursue, which was Voice Performance. Instead, I tried to remove the thought from my mind, and trained myself to believe I wanted to study Criminal Justice. However, I went into the major knowing that I did not plan on working in law enforcement, and much to my surprise, I gradually became unhappy working towards a degree I didn’t really want. I ended up in a major that I was not interested in solely because I was afraid of being told “no.” At the end of the day, if I had auditioned, even if I had been rejected, at least I could have known if I had a chance. Therefore, I would tell someone younger than me: you should always strive for the best. Never, ever let fear hinder that goal.

On a similar note, I would also say that there is no shame in changing a major. I have only been here for one semester, yet I have already changed my major to Early Childhood Education. I am unsure if I will continue in the concentration for the rest of my years here (I am also registered for some music classes that could help me transfer into Music Therapy), but I know that I will be much happier in it. The first thing I considered when I thought about changing my major was: what did I dream about as a child? This led me to the idea of becoming a teacher. Ultimately, I believe that this is a good method in determining which major to pursue, as our childhood dreams often reflect our true personalities.

Furthermore, the college years are the best time to truly look within oneself and find their true personality. I am attempting to get involved in most of the school’s departments—BW Singers in the Conservatory, recreational activities in Lou Higgins, perhaps a few foreign language clubs—it is important to understand that as a student here, you are already paying for many of these services. So, why not take advantage of them? I know that if I had never joined BW Singers or had been required to participate in FYE, I likely would have had only two friends.

To further emphasize that point, try not to lock yourself in your dorm room after classes each day. I do that quite frequently, and I am trying to work on getting out more often. Not only does it help socially, but it helps to study in multiple different locations instead of sitting in the same spot for hours at a time.

Most importantly, don’t forget to cherish these next four years of your life. Take pictures, keep journals, stay on top of your studies, study abroad if you can; you’ll never be able to experience life the way it is right now ever again, so be sure that you are making the best decisions possible to ensure that you do not end up with too many regrets. These next four years are what you put into them, so make sure to make them the best they can possibly be.

Lastly, do not be afraid of change. College will change you in ways you didn’t know were possible, and while it may seem scary at first, you will become a better person for it.

The Emergence of Blues Interest in White Americans

Despite its humble beginnings, by the turn of the 20th century, blues music had begun to emerge beyond work hollers and simple guitar chord progressions, flourishing into an art transcending racial boundaries. During this time, the traditionally African-American music began to attract a new audience: white Americans, and even Europeans.

During a time period in which African-Americans were considered to be sub-human by many white folks, it is highly intriguing and rather questionable as to why the white people of the era became fascinated in the music of an ethnicity that many still viewed to be lesser than them. In fact, “white blues” did not emerge in spite of racism, but as I would like to argue, it emerged because of racism.

Many of the most influential white blues performers in the 1920s and 1930s, most notably Jimmie Rodgers and Emmett Miller, began to participate in the art through performing black-face comedy. Jimmie Rodgers, a railroad worker from Mississippi, got his start in music in 1923 when he performed in a tent show (Wolfe, 248). Over the years, he continued to perform in vaudeville groups until eventually meeting the talent scout Ralph Peer, whom had helped release “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith. Peer had been hoping to create a new genre of blues known as “hillbilly.” After many sessions, Rodgers successfully recorded the song “T for Texas.” (Rodgers) Due to being raised in a town with a mostly black population, many of the song’s stanzas sounded much like the works of the black singers who came before him (Wolfe, 249).

I’m gonna buy me a pistol

Just as long as I’m tall

I’m gonna buy me a pistol

Just as long as I’m tall

I’m gonna shoot poor Thelma

Just to see her jump and fall

The lyrics echo the violence of the blues songs that came before, such as Bessie Tucker’s “Key to the Bushes.” (Tucker)

Captain got a big horse-pistol

And he thinks he’s bad

I’m gonna take it this mornin’

If he makes me mad

Violence is a common theme in blues music, serving as a reminder of the difficult times most of its artists endured. Especially considering that most blues musicians were black during that time, many of the violence faced was a direct result of being black. While Rodgers may have been white, living in an environment where he was able to see the African-American struggle from a close distance, he likely began to gain an empathy the led him to truly understand blues music beyond simply performing it to poke fun at blacks. While his initial exposure to performing the blues may have been a direct result of the fierce racism in the Southern states, the music proved that art knows no race or gender; art draws humans together through the emotions it raises in us and the experiences it leads us to remember.

Most importantly, Jimmie Rodgers did not solely rely on quoting the music of the musicians who came before him; he brought something new to the table: his yodel. He often used yodels to connect his stanzas. While it is relatively unknown how he came up with the idea, it is likely a result of his work in black-face shows. Another black face artist, Emmett Miller, later continued to develop his yodeling method (Wolfe, 252).

Born in Georgia, Miller also picked up on the behaviors and dialects of the black citizens living there. By the age of sixteen, he also began performing in black-face shows. He became well-known for his ability to “trick sing,” which is when he would sing in falsetto in the middle of a word (Wolfe, 252). After moving to North Carolina, he met Jimmie Rodgers and taught him how to trick-sing. Miller went on to record many of his own songs and to perform with many talented artists; however, he received little recognition for the new style he introduced to the genre (Wolfe, 253).

As interest in preserving blues recordings increased, white Americans have also been known to help raise awareness of the art. John Lomax and his son Alan Lomax are two of the most well-known and well-respected archivists even to this day. In 1932, John Lomax pitched the idea of publishing a collection of “American ballads and folk songs” to his New York publisher. Once the idea was accepted, he worked closely with the Library of Congress to find past blues and folk recordings. During the time, only music written by those of European descent was considered to be real folk music. John H. Cowley states, “Secular black music, associated with what was seen as the tarnished world of minstrelsy, ragtime, and jazz, was treated as worthless.” (Cowley, 269) However, John Lomax and his then-seventeen-year-old son Alan Lomax soon proved the critics wrong. The two went on “field trips” during which they would travel throughout the country to find some of the long-forgotten music, especially non-commercial blues (Cowley, 266). While on their field trips, they visited the Louisiana State Penitentiary and met Huddie Leadbetter, who would later be known as Leadbelly. After recording many of his songs and successfully completing their Library manuscript, the Lomaxes returned to the prison and helped him record his famous pardon song—his second pardon song, as he had previously been imprisoned for murder (Cowley, 272). While it is disputable whether or not his pardon was the result of the Lomaxes, it is undeniable that they played a large role in his popularity. Ultimately, he was arrested again for yet another violent crime. However, the Lomaxes continued to go on field trips and record new artists, forever preserving the art of the blues.

However, what is it that draws white people to the blues? The 1960s was arguably the most significant era of social change, and it directly impacted blues music. Many people began to see it as an art regardless of racial boundaries. As white folks became interested in the blues (especially young college students), blues magazines, books, albums, and festivals began to prove the blues to be a true art form (O’Neal, 348). Over time, as more white people began listening to the blues, more white blues performers began to emerge. One of my favorite musicians from the time I was a young child is Eric Clapton, as my father would always play his song “Tears in Heaven” on his guitar (Clapton). The song heavily relies on the pentatonic scale, although it is written in the key of A Major. The chord progressions follow a familiar pattern to traditional blues, yet still being creative on his part, as the key changes halfway through the chorus.

I V vi IV I V

Would you know my name if I saw you in Heaven

I V vi IV I V

Would it be the same if I saw you in Heaven

(The key then changes to F#m as Clapton finishes the chorus)

I must be strong and carry on

‘Cause I know I don’t belong here in Heaven

 Although the genre has come a long way from work hollers and being seen as a joke solely due to its performers being black, now an art that was originally mocked by white Americans is also enjoyed by them. Their interest in the blues has also greatly influenced more recent genres, such as Rock ‘n Roll and Country. Therefore, while racism may have been the original influence of white blues performers, something good has almost always eventually come of it. As humanity grows to become more accepting of each other’s differences, we learn that there is no racial divide in music. We all can relate to hardship, even if no one experience is the same. While the African-American community has faced slavery, segregation, and discrimination, everyone has faced pain and can learn from the outpouring of emotion blues allows us to experience. After all, Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” expresses much of the same emotion as many earlier blues works, as he laments the death of his young son. Yes, he is a privileged white male. However, he was still able to take a painful experience of his and turn it into one of the most beautiful songs that I have ever heard, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what music is about? Music is not in itself a demonstration of prejudice or poverty. Music is what we make it. And perhaps someday, music is what will make us; it will make us more empathetic and compassionate beings, if only we let it.

Works Cited

Clapton, Eric. “Tears in Heaven.” By Eric Clapton. 1992.

Cowley, John. “Don’t Leave Me Here: The Field Trips, 1924-60.” Nothing But the Blues. Ed.

Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group. Print.

O’Neal, Jim. “I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found: The Blues Revival of the 1960s.” Nothing

But the Blues. Ed. Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group. Print.

Rodgers, James. “Blue Yodel (T for Texas).” By James Rodgers. 1936.

Tucker, Bessie. “Key to the Bushes.” By Bessie Tucker. N.d.

Wolfe, Charles. “A Lighter Shade of Blue: White Country Blues.” Nothing But the Blues. Ed.

Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group. Print.

Michael Turner: Delegate or Trustee?

In Congress, Representatives are often expected to vote on behalf of the constituents that they represent. For example, a Republican Representative from Texas would likely be expected to vote in support of Conservative values. This is due to the state’s majority population hailing from Christian backgrounds, of which much of the Republican party is made up of Christians and otherwise religious members. This is an example of sociological representation, which is when a Representative comes from a similar racial, religious, or educational background as his or her constituents. When a Congressman is elected to represent their district, they are expected to vote in favor of the opinions and values of those in their district. My home district Representative, Michael “Mike” Turner, is an example of such behavior. Representing in a fairly conservative district, many of the policies and bills he has supported have been in congruence with many of the other Republicans serving in the House. Only a select few times has he ever voted for (or against) a bill that the majority of his party has supported. If he were to vote separately from the wishes of his constituents more often, he would likely lose the support of the residents. This is because he participates in agency representation as well, which is when a Congressman acts as an agent of the views of his constituents. Due to the importance of receiving the district’s support, he must not deviate from the other party members too often. Therefore, many of his votes have been in support of the values of those in his district.

For example, Michael Turner voted to pass HR 1797, which bans abortion after 20 weeks. Overall, I agree with his decision, as women’s access to contraception is fairly convenient in the Dayton area. There are various Planned Parenthood and women’s health care centers in the area where women can be tested for STDs and learn about the best birth control methods, so that they will not require an abortion. Furthermore, while Dayton itself is fairly liberal, its surrounding cities (Huber Heights, Fairborn, Springfield, etc.) are quite conservative. Therefore, his vote to pass the bill increases his approval rating among his constituents.

He voted to elect John Boehner as the Speaker of the House. Although I do not agree with all of Boehner’s political views (his opinion on same-sex marriage, for example), I do believe that he was a good representative of the Republican party. Michael Turner, coming from a conservative-leaning district, made a good decision to support him, as Boehner’s opponent at the time was Nancy Pelosi, a Democratic Congresswoman highly disliked by many Conservatives, especially in the 10th district.

He voted to pass the Farm Bill. Although it helps with farm support programs, ultimately the law pulls federal funding from food stamp aid. I do not agree with this decision, personally. The poverty rate in Ohio is over 10 percent, and over 900,000 families receive some sort of government assistance (https://www.development.ohio.gov/files/research/p7005.pdf). Many families depend on the assistance to survive, including in the 10th district. However, one can also argue that there are many farmers residing in the district, as it includes much of Greene County, which is almost completely rural. Therefore, while I personally do not agree with the decision, it is probably the best for his constituents.

He voted for the budget agreement (HJ RES 59). This would put in place a two-year budget outline for funding the government through the year 2015. This helped the district (as well as the rest of the U.S.) cut down on government spending for the time period. Therefore, it was a good choice for the wellbeing of society.

He voted “no” for the Fiscal Cliff bill, which ended up passing the House. The bill would extend tax relief provisions, allowing many to be exempt from taxes. In a time when the nation is deeply in debt, I believe that it is best for the 10th district and the nation that he voted against this bill.

In every instance listed above, with the exception of the Fiscal Cliff bill, Turner has voted in a similar manner to House members who are also a part of the Republican party. This is likely due to his representation of a conservative-leaning district; while he occasionally votes through his conscience instead of the party’s view (the act of doing such is the performance of a trustee), most of his behaviors represent the ideal of delegation. A delegate votes on behalf of his constituents, often seeming to “follow orders” from them. Turner, coming from similar sociological backgrounds as his constituents as well, is likely voting from his conscience as well. However, due to the demands of the district members and pressure of reelections, ultimately one must vote in support of their district’s values. Therefore, I believe that Michael Turner is a delegate for the 10th district of Ohio.

Nurture Over Nature: How the Environment Affects the Mind

For decades, psychological experts have continued to debate over the significance of one’s traits given at birth—their nature—over the significance of the circumstances the individual is placed in (known as the “nurture” argument) and its effect on their development. Human nature is often defined by the biological traits given through genetics, such as hereditary medical conditions, race, and gender (not to be confused with one’s gender identity, which may not always align with the one assigned at birth). For example, while an individual living far away from the equator may have a greater likelihood of developing Multiple Sclerosis than one living in South America, their likelihood of developing the disorder increases exponentially when there is a genetic link, such as a parent or grandparent. Therefore, one may argue that the individual’s nature has the most significant effect in the scenario. However, supporters of the “nurture” argument believe that socialization, classical and operant conditioning are essential tools in encouraging children to behave in ways similar to others in their society. Additionally, there are also cases of physical and emotional abuse which often lead individuals to develop psychological disorders and various other negative consequences that often manifest during adolescence and carry into adulthood. Therefore, while the traits given to one at birth certainly are a significant factor in psychological and physical development, ultimately individuals shape their personalities and values through the processes of socialization, conditioning, and recovering from traumatic experiences.

Socialization is defined as the act of adapting to the behavior of the individuals around one’s self. (Persell, 98) Beginning in early childhood, one’s primary socialization agents are their families, especially parental figures. An example of socialization is the development of spiritual and political ideologies. For example, a child raised in a household with politically liberal parents are unlikely to develop conservative opinions as they age, due to the environments they are exposed to as a child. Socialization prepares individuals to understand how to conform to society’s norms and values, and in many cases, it refers to the preparation for individuals to become fully functioning members of a specific group of society. An example of such can be found in gender socialization; from a young age, young boys are taught that they must enjoy outdoor activities, violent shows, and competitive sports. However, girls are socialized to use pink-colored toys, enjoy the Disney Princess franchise, and to participate in non-aggressive physical activities, such as the performing arts. As a result, it is often difficult for one to break the norm they have been taught to conform to, often allowing their career path and personality to be dictated by the behaviors their society has socialized them to follow, for fear of being rejected by their peers. The effects of socialization have been experienced by every person living as part of a certain race, religion, or nationality. However, in 1979, critics of the nurture theory’s presence over nature launched a study in order to discover the extent to which human personality is genetic or nurtured.

This study led by Thomas Bouchard, Jr. is known as the catalyst for the Minnesota Twin Study, which continues to study the genetic and sociological similarities of identical and fraternal twins. The initial experiment, conducted among over 1,000 sets of twins living in the United States Midwestern region, shows that even when reared apart, twin siblings still develop similar personalities and interests. Participants are also known to share mental disorders with their twins; if one sibling has been diagnosed with a condition such as Psychopathy, the other sibling’s risk of developing the disorder rises exponentially. Therefore, supporters of the “nature” aspect of the theory might argue that the twins’ similarities are due to their time shared in the womb. However, those supporting the “nurture” argument argue that the study analyzes twins who, although reared separately, have still been raised in similar situations. Most significantly, all of the study’s participants reside in the Midwestern region of the United States; often, many participants live near Minnesota. Readers are also only shown the effects of the study on one’s intelligence quotient (IQ), (Bouchard, 225) and therefore are shown minimal information on the other personality traits the participants have developed. Therefore, it can be inferred that the individuals may have been raised in similar environments, and similar environmental circumstances may have led to the development of similar preferences, ideologies, and personalities.

Classical conditioning refers to the learning process in which two stimuli are paired: an independent stimulus and another which accompanies it repeatedly. John Watson’s experiment on an infant famously known as “Little Albert” is well-known for explaining the process. “Little Albert” is known in the study of psychology for demonstrating the effects of classical conditioning as a participant in Watson’s study, showing how painful or otherwise uncomfortable stimuli can lead to the creation of phobias. (Schwartz) In the experiment, Watson would present a pre-school toy (a “cute” object like a stuffed animal) to the infant while simultaneously providing an unpleasant stimulus, such as a loud noise. This would cause the child to weep, and after multiple cycles of repetitively pairing the two stimuli together, the child would sob simply due to seeing the independent stimulus (the toy). Many critics of the ethics of the study argue that “Little Albert” was permanently traumatized by the events, thus leading him to fear many similar objects. It is highly possible that the events surpassed the territory of conditioning and led to the event of a traumatic experience.

Traumatic experiences also greatly affect one’s mental and emotional well-being. Dr. Gabor Mate further emphasizes the significance of one’s circumstances when explaining the common causes leading to drug use and eventual addiction: he describes it as “the individual’s attempt to escape from the pain.”  (Lavitt) Most drug addicts the doctor has encountered explain the cause of their use to be traumatization, which is often unnoticed until pointed out by a psychological professional. While most addicts initially believed the cause of their use to be a part of their nature (often stating that they simply believed themselves to be “bad people”), there is often a connection between the majority of addicts, and that is that the majority of the time, the underlying cause of the person’s decision to abuse drugs is to avoid emotions of guilt caused by exposure to traumatic experiences. Some might argue that addiction can be hereditary, and therefore nature may still have a dominance over nurture. While this may be true, it does not alter the fact that individuals decide to use illegal drugs in order to escape from their pain, and often turn to substances that they have seen those around them abuse as well. Therefore, it can be inferred that there is a correlation between substance addiction and psychological trauma.

After reviewing all of the information discovered, one can come to the conclusion that one’s surroundings may have an even greater impact on psychological development than the influences given to individuals through their genetic material. Each person is born with a specific number of traits; although some traits are not discovered until later in life, they are always present from the hour of one’s birth to the minute of their death. However, psychological development and personal growth can only be expanded over the course of one’s lifetime; humans are constantly exposed to new environments over the course of their lifetime. With new exposure, individuals are able to learn new cultural norms, new languages, and to meet new individuals who can help inspire them to continue to enhance their world view. While there will always be factors that cannot be changed, there is always the possibility of improvement.


Works Cited

Bouchard, Thomas. “Sources of Human Psychological Differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart.” Pp. 223-228. Print.

Lavitt, John. “Addiction Is a Response to Childhood Suffering: In Depth with Gabor Maté.” The Fix. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

Persell, Caroline Hodges. 1990. Understanding Society: An Introduction to Sociology. 3rd ed. Pp. 98-107. New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.

Schwartz, Steven. Classic Studies in Psychology. Palo Alto: Mayfield Pub., 1986. Print.


One Note in the Symphony

As we learned in class, diversity exists through “the differences we all have that make us the unique individuals that we all are.” Many individuals do not truly experience diversity until they enter college. On the contrary, some experience much diversity in their lifetime, yet never come to appreciate it. Although one might say that Baldwin Wallace University is ethnically diverse, diversity is not limited to race or gender. There are many other factors, such as religious beliefs, political ideologies, national origin, and sexual orientation. In my personal experience, I have encountered varying levels of diversity. Although I have met many people due to my father’s service in the Air Force, much of my childhood was spent in self-inflicted isolation due to the fear of not being accepted. As an African-American raised in predominantly white suburbs with more extraverted peers, being surrounded by individuals from multiple backgrounds (instead of all of my peers having many things in common with each other, but not with me) may have helped me when I was growing up to understand that my differences were meant to be celebrated, not to be ashamed of. My experience living in a community with a lack of diversity in personality and ethnicity has helped me develop into who I am today, however; looking back on the years spent worrying about the opinions of others from a distance, I can realize that most of the judgment we as humans believe we will endure from those different from us is irrational. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that each and every person come to an understanding of what diversity is, and what they can do to ensure that others will be able to feel comfortable expressing themselves without the fear of condemnation.

Here at Baldwin Wallace, I believe that there is an accepting, lively community where anyone can feel like they belong. In my first few weeks here, I already felt like I had become a part of a large, supportive family. I found myself surrounded with friends of many different academic majors, from Music Education to International Studies to Business Administration. My classmates are from several different geographic locations as well, which often contribute to the way individuals view the world. Because of our vast differences, we have been able to enlighten each other on our perspectives on important issues, reminding each other that not one specific perspective is right or wrong; after all, our perspectives are based on just that—perspective.

Some say that the world would be a better place if we ignored each other’s differences and began to function as one singular unit. However, in order to enhance diversity in our communities, we must acknowledge our differences and use them to teach one another to find value in everything. Through the lessons we may learn from each other, we can make our world a kinder, more harmonious place. After all, one man alone cannot create a harmony; it takes two individuals or more. Furthermore, a harmony cannot be created through everyone singing or playing the same note; instead, we each bring a beautiful noise through the varying talents and interests that we have. One person cannot create a chord without the help of others, just as much as humanity cannot thrive without collaboration, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or ideology. Instead, in order to make this world into a more harmonious place, we must understand that as individuals, we only represent one note in the symphony; it is the works of those around us that inspire us to become greater each morning.

How Similar Opinions Shape Poll Results

Public opinion has played an important role in the efficiency of the United States government ever since its inception; as a country founded on the principles of liberty and democracy, the attitudes of citizens on political issues, leaders, and institutions have a lasting impact on the nation’s political processes. Therefore, due to the increasing importance of public opinion in American politics and the approaching presidential election, it is of the utmost importance to measure public opinion through the use of surveys and polls.

In order to achieve a greater understanding of the key components of public opinion, one must understand America’s dominant political ideologies and the socialization factors that cause one to form their political opinions and values. The term “political ideology” refers to the ideas and beliefs through which individuals interpret politics. In the United States, two of the most common ideologies are that of liberalism and conservatism; liberals often advocate for the civil rights of minorities, political reform, and express deep concern for climate change and ecosystem endangerment, while conservatives are known to support the “status quo” when it comes to the nation’s current policies, often opposing efforts for government expansion. These ideologies are often formed through the political socialization of the individual. Individuals are initially socialized by their families, often identifying with similar political ideologies to their caregivers. They are also influenced through their social groups, race, party affiliation (Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, etc.), highest level of education achieved, and their political environment. With a great variety of political ideologies in the United States, it is likely unsurprising that it is difficult to ensure that most citizens feel pleased with the outcome of elections and policy changes. Therefore, in order to gain a better understanding of the concerns and needs of the public, public-opinion polls have become exceedingly common.

In order to discover the true opinions of the citizens of Cuyahoga County, the Baldwin Wallace political science department launched several identical surveys among the convenience samples of each student in the American Politics course. This paper compares the results from nationally representative public opinion polls to the results from a public opinion poll I administered to family and friends from October 13, 2016 to October 27. Although the polls used identical question wording, several differences emerged. In what follows, I describe three main differences between the two sets of data. I argue we see these differences because of the size of the population, differences in time period in which the surveys were distributed, and differences in age of the general population surveyed. I conclude with a discussion about the credibility of polls that draw information from convenience samples, as opposed to information drawn from simple random samples.

The first comparison is the number of individuals reported to be voting for Hillary Clinton in the Bloomberg Politics poll, versus the amount who reported supporting Clinton in the poll I distributed among my peers via the social media platforms Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. According to the results received, 43% of Bloomberg survey recipients expressed support for a Hillary Clinton presidency, while over 56% of the individuals who responded to the survey I distributed expressed support of the candidate.

Figure 1


While this does not seem to be a large difference, there is a majority support for Clinton in the social media poll (noted in Figure 1 as “Qualtrics Survey”), whereas Clinton trails Trump in the Bloomberg poll results. Those responding to the Bloomberg poll were mostly part of an older generation; most of Trump’s supporters are older and more conservative, which may explain why only 43% of the Bloomberg respondents expressed support for Clinton. However, the Qualtrics survey expresses a much greater support for Clinton over her opponent, showing that 56% of respondents would favor a Clinton presidency. This is likely due to most of the respondents being a part of younger generations (most who participated were part of the “Milennial” generation, being under the age of 25), and therefore supporting reform over conservative values. If I had distributed the Qualtrics survey to a larger audience, perhaps the results would have been closer to the Bloomberg results. Only 36 individuals responded to my request to complete the poll, as opposed to the more than 1,000 who participated in Bloomberg’s survey.

This data is further supported when respondents are questioned about their opinion on businessman Donald Trump.

Figure 2


According to the results in Figure 2, 48% of those surveyed in the Bloomberg poll expressed support for Trump, while in the social media poll, only 22% of the respondents expressed support for the businessman (many only supporting him to prevent a Clinton presidency), which I found quite surprising at first. One possible factor is likely the time period in which the Bloomberg poll was distributed versus when the Qualtrics survey was released on the Internet. Bloomberg’s poll was released between the dates of September 9 through to September 12, as opposed to the Qualtrics survey, which was released less than a week after the release of a video in which Trump is heard describing various sexual privileges he is entitled to due to being in a position of power. Many argued that his statements described sexual assault, and thus the candidate lost several of his supporters to his opponent and Libertarian Gary Johnson. Therefore, if the individuals had taken the Qualtrics survey prior to the release of the video, there may have been a closer similarity in results.

Figure 3

VotingUnder25 Results.png

According to Figure 3, only 9% of the Bloomberg respondents were under the age of 25 (those over the age of 65 were the largest age group, counting for 24% of the total number); however, 84% of those responding to the Qualtrics survey were younger than 25. The overwhelming support for a Clinton presidency expressed in the Qualtrics poll is likely due to the fact that most of the respondents were young, liberal students who disagree with most of Trump’s policies and stances on immigration reform and reproductive health. Generally, younger individuals tend to favor more liberal policies than older, more conservative generations. Because the Qualtrics poll was distributed to individuals who were “friends” with me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, many of the individuals had similar opinions. Most of those who participated in the experiment were from Dayton, Ohio or Colorado Springs, Colorado. Most individuals who I am acquainted with are also in a similar age group to me (myself being 17 years old); identify as Christian or Agnostic; are white, African- or Asian-American; and are part of the middle class. Most supporters of more liberal candidates are younger than 30, are a part of a minority, and are in the middle or working class. Therefore, it is likely that due to several of the individuals being under the age of 25 (17 individuals advocating for universal health care and improved unemployment care), their support for Hillary Rodham Clinton over Donald Trump is likely due to the changes they have experienced in their lifetime, leading them to be more accepting of reform.

To further explain the difference of results between the two polls, it is important to note that public-opinion polls are crucial in educating officials on the concerns of their constituents; all recent presidents and politicians have utilized public opinion polls and worked closely with media outlets. Because it is impossible to survey each and every individual in the population, a political survey must provide an accurate representation for the general public through avoiding selection bias and carefully selecting a sample method and size.

First, one creating a public opinion poll must choose between two types of representative samples: a simple random sample or convenience sample. A common example of a simple random sample is the random digit dialing of citizens nationwide to respond to political surveys. This is considered a simple random sample because every person in the population has a probability of being selected. A convenience sample, however, is a type on non-probability sampling, meaning that not everyone in the population has a possibility of being selected. Instead, individuals are chosen from places where they can be conveniently found, such as a public library or shopping center. When sampling, it is important to avoid selection bias, which occurs when the sample used does not represent the entire population accurately, or if too few individuals of certain demographics are surveyed.

Once the poll creator has found a group to collect data from, it is important to ensure that the sample size is large enough to provide results that accurately represent the population. Finally, one must be cautious about a survey’s question wording and design, in order to prevent errors in data. An example of such is the social desirability effect, which occurs when respondents are asked a direct question about a sensitive topic in which certain answers may not be deemed socially appropriate. Therefore, in an attempt to conform to the response that they believe is the most accepted, they respond with an answer that does not accurately represent their true opinion. This can also happen with push polling, in which respondents are asked questions that are meant to influence their opinion. While I believe that the survey I distributed ultimately avoided these fatal mistakes, it is still not considered to be a scientific source, due to the lack of respondents. Because my poll used a convenience sample (individuals chosen from the amount of “friends” on my social media accounts) rather than a simple random sample in which every individual in Cuyahoga County (or the entire United States) would have a chance of being selected, I only received the opinions of those who are similar to each other through geographic location, ideology, and age.

Therefore, due to the extreme similarity in answers in age, location, race, and other demographics, it is likely that the results from the Qualtrics poll are not as credible as the Bloomberg poll due to its use of convenience sampling with a small population size. In the future, if I were to distribute another public opinion poll, I would distribute it in several public locations, such as public libraries, parks, college campuses, and some social media sites as well. Because of all of these factors in ensuring that a public-opinion poll is accurate, it is important to understand that not every poll will be completely accurate. There will always be improvements to be made, and the world of social science will continue to improve.

Works Cited

Bloomberg Politics. (2016). Bloomberg Politics Ohio Poll, September 2016 [United States]. Retrieved from: https://assets.bwbx.io/documents/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/r2.771xfmKOI/v0

Ezell, Hope. (2016). Qualtrics Survey, October 2016 [United States].