"Who should we believe in times of Trump and fake news?"
This article comes from my friend in Germany, Johann. He is the Head Editor for the student newspaper, GO Public, at Gymnasium Othmarschen. I hope it will help you to consider the crucial role the media plays in a democracy from a new perspective.
"'The truth: it's probably somewhere between Tagesschau (a German daily news program) and Russia Today'. When it's getting late and there is nothing else to complain or gossip about, then such sayings can become common. The era when one trusted the major newspapers or even the Tagesschau (literally: Today Show) is now history. A distrust of the press and the main-stream media has established itself in many young adults. This idea is verified by the survey 'Generation What' that was commissioned by the Bavarian and Southwest Broadcasting Corporations. Twenty-four percent of German teens don't trust 'the media' at all, and forty percent are skeptical of the media's reliability. If you look at the numbers for all the people in Europe between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, the lack of trust gets even larger.
In a democracy, critical thinking is imperative. For all intents and purposes, these numbers should be reassuring, because they show that most people won't simply accept what's placed in front of them as always true.
Sometimes people will ask me why the URL for my blog is "justleap." Well it all started off a few years ago when I was creating my old blog/website in preparation for my year abroad in Germany. I knew I wanted a URL that was short, easy to remember, and relevant to the content of my blog.
I happened to be at a local shipping store when I came across the following magnet.
This magnet seemed to encompass what I hoped would become a key aspect of my blog: encouraging others to follow their dreams, even when they seem scary at times, with the knowledge that in the end things will most likely work out, often times just requiring that first step.
However, this summer my friend Nathan Vislosky did intern at the NASA Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.
So what exactly did you do at NASA this summer?
I ran a training feasibility study.
My friend from high school, Alexa, is now attending college at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Charlottesville is the site of the Unite the Right rally that took place about two weeks ago.
The far right groups including Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members were protesting the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The protestors turned violent and attacked the counter protestors in acts of terrorism which even resulted in the death of one woman.
UVA is a state run, liberal arts university, and as such, was very strongly against both the protest’s ideals and the violence.
For the other half of the weekdays we weren't exploring, we worked at the Malapa Fossil Site. This was the site which originally brought Lee Berger to fame, when his son Matthew found a hominid clavicle back in September of 2008.
When we first arrived at the site, we were given a brief tour of the building's architecture. I could try and explain it all here, but I am sure I would not do the building justice. Just know that it includes features ranging from movable legs, to BMW experimentally produced sheet metal which was donated to create the thatched appearance of the roof (BMW wanted to see how the material would hold up under no-maintenance, high environmental stress conditions). For a detailed description of the building, I would recommend the one found on the South African magazine, Visi's write up.
The main tasks at the site were split into three main parts: excavation, sorting, and documenting. A typical work day would last about 5 hours.
1. Excavation consisted of using a small brush and trowel to clear the dirt in the square meter grid sections. This was at times a painstaking process, but also one of the most fun in my opinion. If any of you have done those kits for children with the toys hidden inside, where one has to brush away the sand until something is revealed, you will have a sense for what this was like.
Perhaps the most exciting story from my time in South Africa comes from the Safari Game Drive we took on the weekend.
Our Safari was a self-guided tour through Pilanesberg National Park, one of the largest and most well respected nature reserves in South Africa. Although Kruger National Park is larger, our guide from the University of the Witwatersrand, Mathabella, argued that since Pilanesberg has a larger ratio of animals to land area, it is actually the best nature reserve in the country.
In any case, we were in for a long day of driving around. We saw all the essentials: hippos, giraffe, rhinos, lions, kudu, impala, guinea fowl, warthogs, wildebeest, meerkats and baboons. But right as we decided to make our way to the park’s central visitors center for some lunch, we encountered some elephants. The road was in a U shape, with the bottom of the U being a bridge over a small stream. Immediately after crossing the stream we had to wait in line for the elephants to cross the road. When we joined the line, there were about four or five cars in front of us, but soon, there were fifteen or twenty in total. Out of the blue, a few teenage elephants turned and started sauntering towards the car at the front of the line. Elephants often only fake charge at cars, but you have to back up irregardless, as you wouldn’t know for sure if it was a fake charge until it was too late. So there we were, backing up away from the elephant, at least until our guide backed us into a bush!
Three or four cars passed us as we sat there trying to maneuver our Ford Ranger Truck out of the shrubs and onto the road. Finally, we were on our way again; this time, with only one car in between us and the elephant. Over the course of the whole ordeal most of the elephants were peaceful, with only a few coming at us at different stages.
A week or so ago I got back from South Africa after successfully completing the NESA World Explorers Paleoanthropology Expedition. It was a great experience and I learned more about South African culture and the Rising Star Cave System and Malapa Excavation Site than I ever could have imagined.
Perhaps the most common question I received regarding the expedition was "What was a typical day like?" This post, and a second one to come, will address that by describing a day at each of the excavation sites we visited.
The first part of the expedition involved what the researchers referred to as caving and exploration. This essentially involved driving the buggy into the South African bush, hiking off trail, looking for undiscovered caves or revisiting older caves with outdated GPS information. The day outlined in this post was a bit more exciting than the other two days since an extremely large number of hominid (a primate of a family ( Hominidae ) that includes humans and their fossil ancestors and also (in recent systems) at least some of the great apes) fossils were discovered, and continue to be discovered, in the Rising Star Cave System, but all of the days were jam packed with intellectual stimulation.
So, on to the day: