Archive for the ‘ Letters to the Editor / Opinion ’ Category

Tay.AI: Shocking Failure or Shocking Success?

By Aiden Montgomery

 

On March 23, Microsoft released a new artificial intelligence Chatbot named Tayler or Tay.ai for short. Chatbots are robots that will talk to you with automated messages and are usually used on fake websites or entertainment websites. What makes Tay.ai special is that she’s a Chatbot who uses the Internet, human interaction, and relevant resources to improve her speech and herself. The more people talked to her, the more she learned. People were able to talk to her over social media sites such as Twitter. When Tay was first activated she posted this simple message.

Things seemed to be going good for Tay as she interacted with people by answering questions. Things however quickly turned sour. It only took the Internet about 3-6 hours to destroy her innocence like the Internet does to most things. Tay started to swear viciously, make racial slurs, and hurt people’s reputation. As Tay began to become what she thought was human she became a Nazi; she began to praise Adolf Hitler for his work and express her hate for the Jews. Most of the things she said are so graphic that we can’t post them in this article. Here’s an example of one that we can show. Continue reading

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Is there Any Merit to the AzMERIT?

By Amanda Bertsch

Note: the opinions expressed in this article are not those of Denobis staff, Tri-City College Prep, or any other body except the author.

 

On April fourth to the seventh, more than three quarters of Tri-City’s students will be taking the new AzMERIT. Why? No one seems to know.

Nearly everyone agrees that last year’s limited AzMERIT testing was an unmitigated disaster, paralleled only by Common Core’s PARCC test. Students complained that the test was far too easy but strangely worded, with questions that didn’t make sense and answers that, well, didn’t answer the questions. Teachers fretted about the time adapting to a new test would take away from lessons.

The result? We now have the AzMERIT here to stay, and teachers took time away from their classes in the past week to administer practice tests. Yet the time needed to adjust to an entirely new test would be worthwhile if the test actually improved on the hated AIMS. Different, however, does not equate to better.

The AzMERIT’s high school tests are End-Of-Course (EOC) assessments. This means that instead of taking the test once or twice to test benchmarks, a separate test is taken at the end of each language arts and math course (through 11th grade English and algebra 2). Now, comparing scores from year to year will no longer be a valid way to see if students are improving overall. A high score in geometry, for instance, does not mean the student understands algebra.

A brief pop quiz: What will the EOC exams be used for? A), graduation requirements; B), a way to award funding to schools with high-achieving students; C), students with failing scores will have to repeat the course; or D) absolutely nothing.

Continue reading

Why “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” Should be Added to Reading Lists

By Miranda Todd

Babies being shot (Steinbeck), children committing ritualistic murders (Golding) and apathetic teens with no moral founding (Salinger); all topics touched on in popular books, and all books that have been read in high school classes. Considered ‘classics’, they provide a good conversation in the classroom—which, for some teachers, may very well be the goal. However, for those that realize there are ways outside of emotional trauma to get a group of students talking, they may not have to look far. Tell The Wolves I’m Home, a 2012 novel written by Carol Rifka Brunt, could be the addition to classroom productivity and interest teachers have been looking for.

 

One of the Common Core “Reading Standards for Literature” for students in grades 9-10 mentions that a student should be able to analyze themes of mystery, tension, or surprise. Pertaining to the ‘mystery’ aspect of this requirement, a running theme of the novel Tell The Wolves I’m Home involves a stranger who approaches the main character, June Elbus, and gradually becomes closer to her. The full identity of this character is not explained until further on in the book, allowing interesting discussion pertaining his relation to the main character, and why he approached her in the first place.

 

Another of the Common Core standards involves analyzing a ‘particular cultural experience’. The Wolves’ central theme is AIDS, an epidemic that rocked the world. The book allows us a view into the emotional turmoil involved with the disease, but also the actual individual people who were affected. It helps young adults and teens understand and think about a difficult topic, one that is rarely truly addressed, even by adults. Wrapped up in this serious issue is the character development over the course of the text. Several characters, including June herself, begin as biased individuals, terrified of somehow getting the disease. This accurately reflects the now antiquated and sadly ignorant ideas of the time, managing to shed light on the shortcomings of this ignorance, but also showing the reason behind it.

 

Beside these reasons it is safe to say that, despite the older setting, The Wolves is not your standard classic. While it touches on some of the same struggles—loneliness, fear, struggle—it never becomes too dark, never becomes too slow, too lost in description. It manages to keep a student’s attention in a way that classic novels, such as The Pearl, don’t. Hard subjects are painted with a light, detailed hand, and though it has all the components of a classic novel, it is not bogged down by any of the usual shortcomings. As The New York Time’s writer Jonathan Evison stated, “Brunt writes about family, adolescence, and the human heart with great candor, insight, and pathos.” That makes it relatable to a young audience.

 

However, the book is not for everyone. Certain themes, such as the somewhat romantic relationship between June and her uncle, and the poor role models in general, may not appeal to teachers for classroom study. And while most students in ninth and tenth grade would be mature enough, some might be unhappy or uninterested in some of the themes. Still, overall, the book fits in with Common Core standards and would make a good addition to many classrooms.

 

Works Cited

Brunt, Carol Rifka. Tell The Wolves I’m Home. Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, 2012. Print.

Evison, Johnathan. New York Times. n.d. 2 November 2014.

Golding, William. The Lord of the Flies. Faber and Faber, 1954. Print.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher In The Rye. Bantam Books, 1961. Print.

Steinbeck, John. The Pearl. New York: Viking, 1947. Print.

Juvenile Injustice: Path From Probation

By Miranda Todd

The courtroom was full of quiet relatives while at the defense table a 17-year-old sat shackled, orange-clad and crying. The judge was listing off his crimes—all drug-related felonies that could, combined with his close proximity to adulthood, put him in adult prison. Witnessing his tears reminded the Juvenile Delinquency team of what we wanted to help prevent. Our goal, our Big Question, was simply helping at-risk youth through the power of community-based volunteer work instead of the hardships of prison life or more intensive probation.

 

We believed that volunteer work would be a guiding light to young men and women put on probation or incarcerated. Allowing them the opportunity to immerse themselves in community, to see that their community has not given up on them, would surely be a positive. While punishing teens is in no way giving up on them, a young person in the system might see it that way. In fact, many teens do. Creating a network of volunteer programs open to young teens on probation would both benefit society and the teens, building a sense of connectivity and comfort, of safety and understanding. Enlightenment would be brought to those who view at-risk youth as criminals, and at-risk-youth would see that they still meant something. It would show them that they were a part of something bigger and better instead of something the government was trying to get rid of. While community service is already an integral part of probation, the community service they perform does not bring them closer to the community. It means that they are picking up trash or moving rocks. With the cooperation of better volunteer programs, these kids would be able to grow and learn.

 

There is, of course, other methodology created to help teens. Shows such as Beyond Scared Straight! use scare tactics to realign youth that are on the wrong path. Hardened criminals threaten the kids, regale them with stories of the roughness of prison life, and even push them. Boarding and military schools surely have miles of cases that show a little bit of tough love can take (or shove) someone the right way. “The [adolescents of 2000 and parents of today] have been born into prosperity and leisure”, and rewarding them or their children for bad behavior surely cannot be the way, can it? Is there any path beside one of firm, even frightening correction?

 

While that theory can easily be understood, it is also easily discounted. The scared straight programs’ efficacy has been repeatedly disproven. While “fear is man’s strongest emotion”, appealing to fear in already hardened kids is not the way to go. It can fuel anger at society, at parental figures, and at government authority. Introducing kids to criminals pawned off as “older versions of themselves” can seem, on alternate ends of the spectrum, both infuriating and almost inspiring. These kids may see the comparison as offensive. They are young, they have made mistakes—but they are nowhere near these prisoners.

 

On the other side, Beyond Scared Straight! shows the tougher kids’ reactions. Seeing these big bad men and women behind bars talking about how hard life is can make teens think that they are harder, they are tougher. It is almost a motivation: they are propelled down dark avenues with the mindset that they will never land where these prisoners have. They will never get caught.

 

“Most of the kids [we get today] are from broken families,” Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske said. These kids receive tough “love” at home, which is how they got to the position they are in. Piling more on is pointless.

 

So, presented with these two choices, it becomes increasingly clear that a gentler approach is a more effective one. Although certain children seem to need fiercer efforts that may have thicker skulls, or may have committed worse crimes and although people closer to adulthood (such as the 17-year-old) may seem like they cannot be saved, there is always a better way out. When kids from tough homes are met with tough treatment, it often goes through one ear and out the other. Being given a second chance and shown how good prosperity can feel could be the push in the right direction these kids need to change their ways.

Youtubers: Breaking Into TV or Broadening Internet Horizons?

By Miranda Todd
In 2005 a new website was begun for people to upload and share videos of themselves, their family, or their annoying high-pitched bit characters (looking at you, Fred).  Since then, that website has amassed billions of videos—in fact, according to Jeff Bullas, 4 billion of those videos are watched a day.  More video is uploaded to the site in one month than the 3 major US networks create in 60 years.  This rags-to-riches website, Youtube, has become a creature of its own, with a roster of its own short films, TV shows, and celebrities.

People and channels like JennaMarbles and PewDiePie have gained millions of subscribers.  Mamrie Hart, Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig starred in their own movie.  Youtubers have the capacity to make absurd amounts of money with a job as simple as sitting in front of a camera and making people laugh, learn, or even get better at putting makeup on.  What used to be a market for very few has become a market for essentially everyone—the older crowd can watch videos of dogs and inspiring moms, while screaming teenage girls can watch videos of awkward British boys talking about “cringe attacks”.  Anyone in TV production can see the passionate reactions from people and wonder whether or not a Youtuber entering television could make the kind of money a conventional TV star could make.  And why not approach a potential cash opportunity?

However, they may scrap the idea upon the analysis of Grace Helbig’s recent foray into TV.  The Youtuber’s recent video, involving the Kylie Jenner “Lip Challenge”, brought in a little over a million views.  However, her show hit an all-time low recently with a mere 163,000 views (Castor).  The question I’m sure the person that put her on the air is asking themselves is “why?”. The truth is, there is a different brand of celebrity on Youtube.  There are a different set of archetypes that are more successful on the really, really small screen: awkward is adorable to a degree not seen on TV.  People can talk about pretty much nothing to the joy of millions.  Guys with scruffy beards can play video games in their basement without being branded losers: instead, they are given millions of dollars a year.

And, with increasingly short attention spans (from movies to TV to Youtube and now to things like Vine and Snapchat), 8 minute videos hit the spot.  An 8-minute episode airing on television would be a little absurd.  Plus, there is a different kind of accessibility to Youtube videos.  You can choose to get rid of commercials.  You can watch the short videos anywhere.

And the “funny awkward” shtick would surely get old if someone had to watch it for thirty minutes to an hour, or weekly.  The other thing about Youtube is the watcher’s ability to watch it at any time—you don’t have to record the video.  You don’t have to worry about catching a video at a certain time.  It is on the site pretty much forever, giving viewers flexibility.  There is more interactivity, as well: with the ability to tweet at a Youtuber during a lifestream (and have them reply to you), or the opportunity for your comment to be spoken about in a video, the fans feel more connected.  Youtubers are more likely to change their formats for their fans, to appeal to what they want.  In a nation obsessed with instant gratification, tuned into individuality and their ability to have their voices rise above the rest, Youtube is a platform that provides that.

Maybe Youtubers will never break the mold and escape into TV.  But maybe they will never need to, considering all of the appreciation, support (and money) that can be found through a computer or phone screen.

Works Cited

Bullas, James.  “30 Mind Numbing Youtube Facts, Figures and Statistics.”  jeffbullas.com. N.p., 23 May 2012.  Web.  11 May 2015.
Cantor, Brian.  “Ratings: E!’s “The Grace Helbig Show” Sinks to Viewership Low.” headline.com.  N.p., 11 May 2015. Web. 11 May 2015.

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