Thursday, December 31, 2015


Public holidays, be they religious in origin or national, are meant to bring communities together enabling them to renew their ties. They foster, or are supposed to foster a community spirit and the virtues of charity, love and compassion. Yet looking around at ‘the feeding frenzy’ that has enveloped shopping malls worldwide, it is impossible not to stop and wonder whether the initial aim has been perverted. The Pope warned the world this year to beware of consumerism and it is not hard to see where he was coming from.

There is no corner of our existence that the free market economy has not infiltrated and with it comes the profit motive. In order to flourish and for the wheels to keep turning,  the system demands that the public spends continually, which means that appetites need to be tickled and temptation needs to be irresistible. The modern shopping mall is like a black hole whose pull no consumer can escape: millions are spent on trivia which is beautifully packaged come the day of the festivities but chucked out the next; people gorge on rich food that ends up clogging the arteries and laying the groundwork for heart attacks. People who can ill afford it are bankrupted by the whole system and are privately glad when it is all over for another year. What is more, all this happens while half the world looks on.

The vast differences in standard of living mean that a large portion of the population have to watch while others gorge on food they will never know the taste of or while they unwrap parcels containing all manner of consumer goods bought on a whim: the latest Barbie doll, action man, video game, perfume and the like are enjoyed briefly and then tossed aside to be replaced by newer versions. Despite all this, it seems to occur to no one that spending sprees associated with public holidays are obscene. No one seems to be unduly concerned that half the world is starving while the rest eat an eight course meal. The real purpose of our religious festivals seems to have been completely forgotten.

A more concerted effort needs to be made to return public holidays to their original purpose: helping those who are less fortunate, feeding and clothing them and contributing to their happiness. Charity becomes especially important during so called celebrations because people should be able to celebrate together; together that is with those who are less fortunate. The tents set up during Ramadan where everyone can break their fast together are a case in point. Would it really matter if people gave family members a hug and gave to orphanages or to old people’s homes instead? However, this doesn’t mean that all celebrations should be abolished; far from it.

The essence of religious festivals worldwide has never been about promoting the market economy; it has been about remembering and getting together with family and friends and strengthening bonds of love and friendship. One other fact that needs to be remembered is the fact that the love you feel for a person does not need to be measured with the amount of money spent on a gift. People need to stop and think about the values they are instilling in the next generation and remember that if the profit motive is allowed to dominate every aspect of their lives, we cannot expect them to grow up to be caring and loving individuals. Many more poor people will succumb to hypothermia on the snowy streets of great metropolises, many more will starve in third world countries and many more will drown trying to reach a better life unless we try and moderate the consumerism that we have allowed to infect us.

The free market economy has perverted and corrupted some of our best traditions and it has to stop if the poor, the weak, the sick and the infirm are also to have chance of happiness and fulfillment. A compromise may be reached by changing the focus of our shopping sprees. The urge to do so will not come naturally; parents, educators and world leaders need to be our standard bearers and we should follow in the knowledge that we are making the world a better place.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Standing on the peak of Mount Nemrut near Tatvan looking down on the clear waters of the magnificent crater lake is a unique experience. There is no clearer water anywhere in the world; the surrounding cliffs are mirrored in the water in all their glory and the silence is absolute. There is no sound at all, no chocolate wrapper, no cigarette butts, no weekend revelers, in short, no sign of civilization. It is just the pure majesty of Mount Nemrut and man. Places like this thankfully still exist but they are rapidly being gobbled up by encroaching urban expansion and more is the pity.

The picture painted above may seem idyllic to some but to many others it will seem like purgatory because for one thing, there is no cell reception or Wi-Fi. Anyone who ventures out into nature in all its glory will have to cut the umbilical cord and discard their gadgets; accoutrements that, in the modern age, seem as necessary as the air we breathe. They will not be able to nip to the shops for anything; there are no discotheques, no loud music, nothing; nothing that is except the magnificent silence, the peace, the quiet and the solitude.

To some this is bliss and they will go to the ends of the earth in pursuit of it: the Polar circle and the Northern lights, the Antarctic, the great outback, the Rockies, The Andes and many more places besides. They go in search of places where stimulation of the kind we have grown to “love” in the modern world does not exist. They wish to cut out the sounds, the lights and all urban chatter. They crave the peace and quiet provided by solitude; they delight in turning in on themselves and enjoying their own “stimulation” for there is a rich world in our minds if we only stop to look and listen. By doing so, they build their inner strength and revel in a state of mental serenity which is hard to rival.

Unfortunately, most people in the modern world have lost the ability to zone out of the urban jungle as we know it and enjoy the inner world made possible by the lack of audio and visual distractions. The trouble is that people have grown up with the cacophony of urban stimulation and cannot imagine life without it. Never having learnt to enjoy an atmosphere where there is far less stimulation and never having enjoyed the silence, the accompanying stream of consciousness and reverie , they feel lost. More is the pity because the restorative power of absolute silence and the opportunity for reflection and meditation such an experience offers also evades them.

A lot of us have suffered a great loss without being aware of it and are very much the poorer for it. Nature provides the cure for the stresses and strains of life if only we are able to silence the world and feel it. The many so called “primitive” peoples have it right; the urban zoo we have created for ourselves with all its ugly sounds, flashes of light and endless chatter is destroying our souls and we, knowing no better, are “loving” it.

Monday, December 28, 2015


The modern free market economy dictates that consumerism continues at a certain pace; the constant cycle of buying and selling, discarding and renewing is what greases the wheels of capitalist society. The best examples of the mind boggling speed at which goods are discarded in favor of new ones are mobiles and laptops; although easily repairable, many are added to the ever growing electronic rubbish heap in the world. At what stage, however, did the elderly also come to be included among the heaps of discarded “products”?

An article in the media recently highlights the plight of the elderly population of China who are, apparently confined to “orphanages” by family members who having dumped them in their new “homes”, march off into the sunset never to be seen again. The photographs accompanying this horrific article depict the elderly who are waiting for the day when they will meet their makers. The deep sadness, melancholy and hopelessness etched onto their faces don’t seem to disturb anyone as ever more inmates continue to arrive at these institutions every day. The situation is not unique to China however.

In many parts of the developed and developing world where everything needs to be finished yesterday, the pace of life has become truly punishing. Modern life is a vortex that no one can seem to escape; people are sucked in and continue to whirl around with the other cogs in the system. There is no time, in such a life, to devote to anyone or anything which is not a part of the system like children, and especially the elderly. The former have their lives mapped out for them with every millisecond accounted for and the latter are dumped in care homes or with residential carers. Yet have our grandparents “outgrown their usefulness” whatever that may be, and at what point did they cease to be parents and grandparents and become expendable products?

Anyone who can state, hand on heart, that the elderly have no useful role to play in our lives is either blind or supremely lacking in the upper quarters or more probably both. Age equals experience which in turn means patience and tolerance. Let us be honest; who is more likely to snap at you for a minor mishap; your mother or your grandmother? And where would we all be if all we got was the impatience and perfectionism which was not offset by the more relaxed and tempered approach of the elderly? Who would provide us with wise advice which is a result of a life well spent if the elderly were all isolated from the next generation? Usefulness in the sense described in that famous Japanese dystopia “The song of Norayama” is nothing to be admired or emulated; it is to be abhorred. In the said film, those who reach the age of 65 and are deemed “no longer useful” are carried up a mountain and left to starve to death. We too starve the elderly: we starve them of the love and respect they deserve after a life devoted to guiding us through the ups and downs of our life.

“Thou shall not kill” said the Lord and we may be quite sure that “Thou shall not torment or torture” was taken as a given when Moses delivered this message. We need to respect and support those to whom we owe a debt of gratitude that no amount of care can possibly repay. In a humane and compassionate society, no one deserves to be left behind. Those who showered us with love and attention giving up their dreams and ideals to help us lead better and happier lives deserve our eternal gratitude. Anyone who disagrees is to be abhorred and cannot be considered quite human.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Doctor Sanjay Gupta, the CNN health correspondent, stated in an interview that businessmen  on Wall Street  carry stress like a badge of honor and consider the twenty hour work day as normal. This is the mantra of the free market economy and has become entrenched with the rapid march of capitalism in the twenty first century. Although businesses worldwide are continually pushing for longer working hours and zero free time, the Danes have opted for a four day work week and a working day that ends at four thirty and seem to be doing just fine. There is a lesson to be learnt here: longer working hours and being constantly on call is bad for the workers and corporate business.

Staff in the modern workplace is literally chained to their company with fiberoptic cables thanks to smart technology and are expected to be on call 24/7; turning off the phone or failing to check emails that arrive in the small hours is considered a cardinal sin. Constant vigilance by the powers that be will, it is hoped, increase the company’s share of the market and accordingly, corporate profits. On paper, this seems to make a lot of sense: if the eight hour working day brings in a certain amount of revenue, surely the twenty hour working day should bring in more than twice that but this is a logical fallacy for one important reason: it is assumed that the staff will work with the same level of efficiency at the same pace for the entirety of the working day. Even though some bosses may think this is nonsense and that provided the umbilical cord that connects the worker to the company is not severed, the business will prosper, they couldn’t be more wrong.

The first spanner in the works is the nature of the individuals making up the workforce: they are humans and not cyborgs. Although some would like to tut-tut it as sentimental nonsense, they have feelings and individual needs; not to mention the fact that they get tired and bored. When feelings and needs are ignored, distress is the inevitable result. Unhappiness certainly does not equal full concentration or efficiency; keeping people chained to their desks or on call 24/7 doesn’t mean they will be able to brush aside their feelings and devote their full attention to the job in hand. Exhaustion too is a fact of life; people cannot just be plugged in and recharged like mobile devices; they are recharged in completely different ways, ways that do not involve the workplace. Pretending all this can be ignored is a very short sighted view.

The Danes seem to have cottoned on to this fact well ahead of everyone else and have taken some drastic measures: a shorter work week and a shorter work day this being the most efficient way to deal with those toxic feelings of exhaustion and boredom on the one hand, and the frustration engendered by the feeling that one is frittering one’s life away doing something that is neither stimulating nor pleasurable on the other. By allowing employees to leave work at four thirty, the Danish government is encouraging closer relations between family members and members of close knit social communities; it is enabling working people to devote time to hobbies and interests and to broadening their horizons. In brief, it is pushing them to be happy and satisfied, and where is the harm in that?

CEO’s of big companies may well throw their hands up in despair and claim that profits will go down the drain and the companies will go bankrupt if every whim of employees is thus pandered to but they couldn’t be more wrong. Happy, satisfied and fulfilled people concentrate much better; focus brings efficiency, which in turn impacts output. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, the staff devote their all to the job in hand improving both quality and quantity. This attitude will, not surprisingly, foster devotion to the company and a concern with its future. A little common sense will, in short, boost corporate profits and keep everyone happy. It is no surprise that the Danes have been voted the happiest people in Europe.

To sum up just because the whip or the carrot was considered the most effective way to get the best out of people by so many for such a long time does not mean the system was right as has been proven again and again in the modern world. Putting a ping pong table in the lobby like one company has done is not enough either. Corporate bosses should accept that people work in order to live; they should, therefore, allow their work force to do so for everyone’s sake.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Child rearing practices vary to a certain extent but nowhere do parents have the one track mind and level of focus they have in Turkey. Parents in this part of the world have got hovering and remote control down to a fine art and keep their offspring on a tight leash from the word go. This is all very well in primary school but should certainly not be allowed to continue into university. There comes a time in all parents’ lives when they need to stand back and let their children walk forth on their own; sending kids to university is their last chance to do this. Going to university in another city is an opportunity of a lifetime for young people to finally break free and is a very different experience from staying in one’s familiar surroundings.

Leaving home to go to university is a challenge the student has to deal with on his own. Gone are the days of the school run and the ‘taxi service’ from friends’ homes; the student will have to negotiate the ins and outs of registration, university life and the city he has moved to on his own. He will have to become street wise very fast in his new environment. This is not necessary if he stays home; mum might draw the line at driving the young person to university but the bus will probably be the only difficulty he will have to contend with. The cosseting, protecting and constant interference parents run is familiar and strangely comforting to some and there is no accounting for taste but a new city will give the young person the chance grow and mature much faster.

Leaving home to go to university is also an opportunity to acquire new skills such as shopping, cooking, cleaning and the like. Gone are the days when the young person returns from school to a house which is spick and span and where a hot meal materializes magically in front of him. The young person will have to factor in time and effort to complete these tasks; a real life experience which will evade him should he stay in his hometown. The young person will have to do all his own housework starting with making his own bed, going shopping, planning meals and washing the dishes. He will have to learn to operate a washing machine, which seems like rocket science to some, practice ironing his clothes and leave enough time for work. In short, he will have to master a lot of practical aspects of day to day living; something he will never learn if he stays home under mom’s wings. All of the above activities will also mean he will have to learn to budget as he will not be able to turn to dad for more cash whenever he runs out. In brief, a young person can learn much more about life if he goes to university in another city.

To sum up, kids need to be allowed to grow up and parents need to find themselves a hobby; bringing up children is not a life time’s commitment as children do actually become adults at some point contrary to what some parents may think. One way for kids to finally let go of their mother’s apron strings is to go to another city to attend university. Delaying the inevitable beyond that point could necessitate counseling for all concerned.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


The issue of whether we are born good or evil is one of the fundamental questions that determine the way we judge events or people. What is the answer to this dilemma; are we born good or evil? Do your research and determine your point of view . Then, write an argumentative essay
Familiarize yourself with the issue
·         Are people born good?
Reading material to make notes on
·         Are humans born evil?
·         Ten reasons humans are naturally evil
Videos to watch and make notes on
·                  *         The empathy gene: are we born good or evil?

·         Are you good or evil?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Films are one of the first things that come to mind when one wants to go out with friends, go on a date, chill out on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn or on a lazy weekend. They might transport you to a different time, a different place and show you a different way of life; alternatively, they may give you better insight into current events. In either case, they help provide respite from the stresses and strains of daily life; after all, everyone is entitled to a strategic withdrawal to regroup and what better way to do so than by watching a film? In the modern world, thanks to developments in technology, there is no longer any need to traipse all the way to the cinema to do so; there are other alternatives yet each is a different experience and has its place in our lives.

The actual movie theater is still vastly superior to its rivals in terms of the quality of the experience offered. Nothing can rival the visual experience of a 3D movie at the cinema; if you feel your laptop will provide a comparable experience you are much mistaken; no one can claim that “The force awakens” can be better enjoyed at home on a laptop. Couple this with the sound quality and you have a brilliant sensory experience. It is true that one has to actually get off one’s hands and leave the house to see the film but considering how sedentary people’s lives are in the modern world, is that such a bad thing? Then there is the issue of physical comfort but modern movie theaters address that problem as well. The seats in older cinemas used to be the kind you might see in the hall of a Victorian home: absolutely straight and narrow; now they could theoretically sit two of you and are so comfortable that you could sleep in them. Movie theaters cater to every need and try and provide every possible creature comfort; the holder for you drink for example. The only thing missing is your slippers. Lastly, going to a movie theater to see a film is a more social experience you can share with friends or a date and where is the harm in that in a world where virtual friendships trump real ones? In short, the modern cinema experience can be better fun, more social and more comfortable than its alternatives.

With the very best of intentions and no matter how hard one yearns to be able to do it, it is sometimes just not possible to leave the house to go to a cinema. Returning home from a 12 hour stint at the office for example leaves you with just about enough energy to crawl to the sofa. There are also the elderly, some of whom may be housebound, the parents with young families or the insomniac who is twiddling his thumbs at 2 in the morning; these people also have a right to see films but it goes without saying that for them, the experience is a lesser one compared to that of the cinema goers. Although home cinema systems and giant plasma screens are available to those with the means to purchase them, most will just plonk down in front of their computers and make the best of it. The visual and sound quality of films watched in this way is no match for the cinema; the latter is undoubtedly superior. Then there is the social aspect or rather the lack of it; watching a film on the computer is definitely a solitary experience whichever way you look at it. As for snacks, if you could actually be bothered to get up and make popcorn for yourself, you would probably be at the cinema in the first place. The television in the living room is marginally better as the experience could involve  friends or a partner, a cuddle on the sofa and much needed relaxation. At the end of a busy day, when one doesn’t have the energy for an outing, this second best, the home cinema experience, comes into play but everyone would quickly agree that the cinema has various advantages that are superior to anything you can do at home.

To sum up, films have been and will continue to be one of most people’s top choices of entertainment wherever they choose to watch them. While the home experience is definitely more practical and comfortable, the experience at the movie theater is technically better and often more social. They both have their places in people’s lives. The key point here is that the cinema industry is going strong despite everything. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Read the story of the incredible miscarriage of justice involving Robert Jones and watch the videos. Then write a reaction (response) essay.


Rapid urbanization has meant that most of life as we know it has moved to the cities. As industrialization gathered pace and factories started mushrooming on the periphery of major cities, people followed, going where the jobs were. They were soon caught up in the noise, the pollution and the daily hassles of city life. Many still yearn for the old ways and country living. Yet is country living all it is cracked up to be? In underdeveloped or developing countries it is most certainly not while in developed countries it is. In other words, the differences between country living and city living become more marked as the level of development drops. This fact needs to be kept in mind before uprooting one’s family and moving to the country.

In underdeveloped regions of the world, country living and city living are as different as chalk and cheese. On the plus side, the air is cleaner than in the city as there is no industry and people get to enjoy natural organic produce fresh from the garden and the trees. It is also much quieter as the constant traffic in major cities is completely lacking here. Some even find the silence a little eerie as it can be punctuated by the sounds of nocturnal creatures roaming the countryside. This is where the idyllic picture ends however. In the rural parts of Turkmenistan and in northern Nigeria for instance, the toilettes are outside and it sometimes takes a good walk to get to them; they are public and dirty. The roads are dusty and it is impossible to keep the house clean. As for the facilities and amenities taken for granted in the cities, one can just forget about them. In underdeveloped and developing countries, the best schools, the best hospitals, cultural events, cinemas and theaters, restraunts and cafes are all in the cities; in the country, you just have nature.

The picture is very different in developed countries. The line between country living and city living begins to blur as the level of development increases. In developed countries, rural living includes all that nature has to offer plus the mod cons of city living. Schools are round the corner and so are hospitals; cultural activities are present; there is a vibrant community life; any place you can’t walk to, you can drive to because there are modern highways and motorways and everyone drives.  The houses themselves have all that modern technology has to offer plus gardens, fields, woods and parks. One can enjoy the clean air, the fresh produce, the country walks, bird song and the like but then go home, have a hot bath in your own bathroom and watch satellite television. In short, in developed countries, nature has been tamed and molded into a form people are happy to live with. Nobody but Robinson Crusoe would enjoy wild nature.

To sum up, there are differences between country living and city living and the greater the level of development, the fewer the differences and the greater the level of development, the more pleasant the country life. Wild, untamed nature is good for a safari or a camping trip but for modern man, living there continually day in and day out is no longer possible. The ideal is the compromise that exists in developed countries and this is why those picturesque little villages in rural England or France are so popular; you get the best of both worlds.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Human beings are social creatures and start learning about the physical and social environment which they are born into almost as soon as they are born. The environment in which they live and interact with people expands as they grow ending up by spanning the globe if they end up working for a globetrotting conglomerate for example.  Thanks to globalization, the ease of travel and modern technology everyone now “lives” in the whole world and is expected to be able to function in it. However, learning about this vast physical and social environment has also become much harder. In the modern world, this learning can be direct or indirect and for most it is a combination of both.

The oldest and best way to learn about the world in which we are living is through direct experience. Nothing can beat actually going to Australia and trekking across the outback to learn about the country so that you never forget it. Nothing can compare to going to Norway to watch the northern lights – aurora borealis.  The learning that takes place through hands on experience is more lasting and resistant to forgetting. This is why practice is an important part of teaching and learning in all walks of life. A second advantage of hands on experience is the enthusiasm and joy it produces. This is because direct experience multisensory: a person can smell the air, touch the plants, hear the sounds of nature and the like. In short, direct experience is by far the best way of learning yet it is not always possible.

Unfortunately it is not always possible to travel to Norway or Australia as it can be expensive, time consuming or impractical. When such is the case, a substitute to the direct approach becomes necessary and thanks to modern technology, people can have what is very close to an actual experience in the comfort of their living rooms. Modern 3D televisions bring scenes from all over the world alive. Cable networks provide a wealth of experience broadening everybody’s horizons. There is also the internet, and especially social media, which is destroying boundaries and providing a wealth of information. Daily news on the internet now involves as many videos as articles appealing to all the senses very much like real experience. Indirect learning of this kind is definitely a second best but it is a very close second with the distinctions blurring every day.

In the future, we may be able to put on a headset like gamers wear and actually feel we are in Peru visiting Machu Pichu. Since the technology is already available, it is only a matter of time until we “visit St Petersburg” before supper. This kind of experience will probably make direct learning completely obsolete. For now, however, direct learning and more indirect learning need to go hand in hand.

Monday, December 7, 2015


A good education is a prequisite of getting ahead in the modern world, which makes parents eager to enroll their children in the best educational establishments possible. No stone is left unturned in the search for the school best placed to prepare their kids for life in every sense of the word. This being the case, an ideal school in the modern world needs to excel academically as well as in terms of opportunities for personal growth

First developmental paragraph: the quality of the education provided
·         In terms of teaching staff (well trained, competent)
·         Teaching methods (up to date, modern technology, examples)
·         Syllabus and material

Second developmental paragraph: opportunities for personal growth
·         Team sports and individual sports (the qualities they foster)
·         Active clubs (which clubs, what qualities do they foster)

In conclusion, schools in the modern world are expected to raise young people who have had the opportunity to reach their full potential both academically and personally. They are expected to help young people discover different avenues in life pinpoint what they excel at and what makes them happy. They are also expected furnish young people with the skills that will help them in the modern world. In short, schools are not just about books and teachers.


The popular piece of folk wisdom “All work and no play make Jack a very dull boy” is a very wise piece of advice. Life can be compared to a playground where there is a lot of activity; sometimes people just want to stop playing for a little while and watch from the side lines. A vacation is very much like taking a break from your routine activities to regroup, recuperate or just chill for a while. This being the case, everyone needs a holiday yet people’s expectations of such a break from everyday life can vary: while for some an ideal holiday means an adrenaline rush for others it means peace and quiet.
First developmental paragraph: the adrenaline rush
Who: sports junkies, people who lead sedentary lives through no choice of their own
What kind of holiday: bungee jumping, mountain climbing, trekking, diving, surfing and the like
Purpose: to get their hearts racing
Why: their regular life is routine, dull or dreary
Conclusion: they wish to come alive on holiday
Second developmental paragraph: peace and quiet
Who: anyone who gets seriously tired and works long hours, manual workers, computer techs, businessmen and the like
What kind of holiday: a beach holiday with books and IPods, evening strolls, a comfortable hotel,  and the like
Purpose: to rest physically and mentally
Why: their regular routine is exhausting
Conclusion: they wish to wind down
To sum up, there are all sorts of holiday makers but one thing they have in common is that they all want a change from their daily routines, whatever they are. There is nothing like monotony to destroy the spirit and let’s face it, most of us have dug ourselves into a rut for one reason or another. Denying ourselves the chance of a change would be most unwise on all sorts of levels.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


People come in all shapes and sizes and with radically different personalities. While some are more jovial, others are dour; while some are more happy-go-lucky, others are worriers. Yet weather predominantly nefarious or angelic, some have strong characters and others don’t. There have been some notable “strong characters” in history and there are many in the modern world. There is a certain amount of confusion as to what constitutes a strong character and how such people differ from other people around them.

First of all, there is vast difference between the terms “a truly good person” and a person with a strong character: a strong character may be truly nefarious possessing all the questionable qualities of the dark Machiavellian triad or completely angelic. Whereas Jesus, for example, was good in the strongest sense of the word and had a strong character to boot, Stalin was totally evil and also had a strong character. Whereas there some truly pure hearted individuals who are good people, they may also be meek, or afraid of friction, or easily lead, or simply shy and retiring, which most definitely means they don’t have strong characters. A person with a strong character has immense reserves of inner strength which no amount of opposition will be able to deplete. In short, such a person has the power of his convictions and will not back down if he believes he is on the right path.

Second of all, people with strong characters have been tried and tested by circumstances and have remained upright. No amount of opposition daunted Gandhi, for example; nothing could persuade him to turn away from the philosophy he held so dear: non-violent protest. The most serious weapon in his arsenal was going on hunger strike and it always worked due to the love his people felt for him. Both Martin Luther King and Luther were strong characters who suffered due to what they believed in yet remained steadfast. Hitler, the evil leader of the Nazi’s, also suffered during his childhood and early youth and during his rise to power yet good, he was most certainly not. Stalin and Chairman Mao were both strong characters who came from peasant families and clawed their way to power. They had strong characters but were not good in any sense of the word as the millions whose blood was on their hands would testify.

To sum up, having a strong character should not be confused with being good. People with all kinds of different personalities may have strong, unshakeable characters which have been molded through their experiences. Such people have gone the extra mile and remained standing and that is what makes them strong; not whether they are good or evil.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


The NHS and similar state run health services are often loath to treat terminal patients when valuable resources can be better employed treating patients who have some hope of recovery. Are they right or should money and effort  not be a concern? Determine where you stand and defend your position.
Reading material to make notes on
·         How much would you pay to live an extra year?
·         Funding expensive treatments for some on the NHS means less money for everyone else
·         How much would you pay to live an extra year?
·         Pressure grows on Roche to lower drug price
·         What doctors and patients want at the end of life  Watch the video and read the text


Human beings are highly intelligent, sensitive and social creatures who thrive within a social circle. Their daily activities bring them into contact with a wide variety of people first and foremost of whom are family members. It is true that blood is thicker than water and family is important but there is another group of people who are just as close, if not closer: friends. For most people, their friends are often closer and more important to them than certain family members and rightly so. It is generally agreed that a good friend needs to both have the correct attitude and a certain world view.

The way friends approach each other and the way they react to events and each other are important in strengthening and preserving the bonds of friendship. A good friend should be supportive when necessary, standing by his friend and just being there for him; yet he also has to be ready to bite the bullet and tell his friend the unpleasant truths he may prefer not hear. A good friend is not a yes man; he needs to be honest, frank and sincere and that can involve admonitions as well: if a person is making a fool of himself, he needs to be told and who better to do this than a friend. For all this to work absolute confidence in each other is essential. Without trust and good will, a friendship cannot endure.

Friends also need to share a common world view; in other words, they have to be on the same page concerning major issues. Conflict in areas like attitudes to human rights violations, aggression, charity work, respect for the law, work ethics, love of nature and the like can end a friendship. With a common world view come the activities which friends can take part in together further cementing the relationship: friends could go camping together enjoying the outdoors and nature, they can take part in projects like HABITAT and help build houses for the poor,  they can work together enjoying each other’s company and their work. In short, friends require common ground to be able to grow their relationship.

In conclusion, good friends are worth their weight in gold so they need to be kept close. They are hard to come by so once found, they should be loved and respected. Those who have the love and support of good friends need to realize how very lucky they are and not take their relationships for granted. 


Everybody dreams of a happy and fulfilling life, and commonsense dictates that they leave no stone unturned in their efforts to achieve it. The first step in this endeavor is determining one’s path in life. Having determined it, they pursue it with determination and end up leading happy and satisfying lives. The path in question could be closer to home; alternatively, it could involve work and the business world; it could also involve serving the greater good.

Some people seek happiness in family life, in marriage and children. Their joy comes from a love match and children whose concerns are lovingly dealt with. The close bonds within a family and the love, compassion, empathy and sympathy that is constant in a happy home bring a deeper joy leading to an inner peace that is hard to rival. Watching the children grow up and helping them with any difficulties they encounter provide great happiness. Spouses age together having made their way along their chosen path hand in hand. Looking back come old age, they see what they have achieved during a life well spent.

Not everyone is built for family life; some like to spread their wings and explore. The narrow confines of their hometowns are claustrophobic. Such people often find happiness in a chosen vocation, a job that they devote all their energies and every waking hour to. People who have not just got any old job but have truly found their vocation are to be envied because their single minded pursuit of their goals brings them great joy on many different levels. Like family life and unlike drugs or alcohol, this joy is not temporary; it is permanent and ever changing. There is always something new round the corner; a new challenge that needs to be overcome, which in turn leads to more happiness. Such people find it very difficult to ever let go and retire preferring to end their lives on the job.

There is yet another group of people who turn outwards in their search for happiness. Their fulfillment comes from a mission that they have taken on and pursue single mindedly. Such people as Pope Francis, the secretary general of Amnesty international, Mother Theresa and the like seek happiness in helping others: they seek to alleviate poverty and disease, end human trafficking and slavery and all forms of human rights violations for example. Still others are on a mission to save the planet and protect endangered species; The Sea Shepherds are an example for such groups and their mission is to fight illegal waling. Missions require a single minded focus to the exclusion of all else and bring great joy to the people who have found their “mission” in life.

In conclusion, there seems to be a close correlation between a single minded devotion to a cause, a field of work or a life style and happiness. Those who are lucky enough to determine what exactly they can fully devote themselves to are destined to lead happy lives. Those who waft around from pillar to post are doomed to waste a wonderful opportunity to experience great joy and fulfillment. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Go to the link below, read the text, watch the videos and make notes. When you are ready, compare and contrast the lives of these teenagers. Here is the link:
What does it mean to be a good girl?
Here is a selection of topic sentences with which to start your paragraph; which is more appropriate?
·         The lives of the six teenagers in the study are very different
·         There are vast differences between the lifestyles and the future expectations of the teenagers in the text.
·         People in different parts of the world lead very different lives
      Thanks are due to my dear friend and colleague Semra Esmer for this activity

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


There is still the lingering opinion that animation is for kids but nothing could be further from the truth in the case of manga, and in particular the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Do your research and discuss Miyazaki and his art clearly indicating what makes him special.
Familiarize yourself with the issue
Quotes to read and think about
·         Hayao Miyazaki quotes
Video to watch
·         Hayao Miyazaki and the essence of humanity in animation 
Reading material to make notes on

·                           Miyazaki on Miya    


Homelessness is a lingering problem in both developed and developing countries. The fact that people are living on the streets all the year round without access to basic services is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue in the civilized world. Do your research and discuss both the causes and the solutions.
Familiarize yourself with the problem
·         Homelessness solutions presentation
Watch the following video on the causes of homelessness
·         Causes of homelessness
Watch the following videos on the solutions
Reading material to make notes on
·         Homelessness both occasional and chronic
·         Getting to the root causes of homelessness
·         Colorado coalition for the homeless
Videos to watch and make notes on
The unexpected face of homelessness


The Middle East, and especially Syria and Northern Iraq, has been racked by civil war for the last three years. The rival groups have been involved in street fights and bombing campaigns which have ruined cities. Coupled with that, there is the rise of radical Islam in the shape of ISIS whose militants have been slaughtering and enslaving people. Faced with these problems, many locals have had no option but to leave their homes and belongings and make the long journey to Europe. Their enduring hope is to have a better and safer life. The term “refugee” is very different from the word migrant: the former refers to people escaping for their lives and the latter refers to people seeking better jobs. The current influx involves refugees in every sense of the word, and refusing to help them is not an option. However, settling everyone who arrives in Europe in EU countries is not an option either.

The most obvious reason why Europe cannot be expected to open its doors to everyone is economic. The new arrivals will have to be housed, fed and cared for and this would be fine if there were only a dozen or so people. With thousands lining up along the borders, expecting the social services of EU countries to cope is unrealistic. Each country has a certain capacity and beyond that capacity, accepting refugees is not a viable option. EU countries are already facing serious economic problems which are threatening the future of the union; exacerbating the problem does not make any kind of sense.

The second reason is cultural: the refugees come from the Middle East and have very different lifestyles, sets of beliefs and backgrounds. Migrants and refugees who have settled in Europe in the past have formed their own neighborhoods where they speak their own language and continue living in the way they have been accustomed to. This lack of assimilation or integration is already causing tension and leading to a rise in racist attacks. Adding to this group will only make matters worse; after all, there is no reason to assume that the new arrivals will act any differently. The reaction that is already taking place in society will grow leading to conflict and more intractable problems. In short, accepting large numbers of refugees would be a social and cultural disaster. Yet not helping these people is not an option either.

The solution to the problem need not be “accept them or send them back”; there is a compromise that can be considered: the refugees should be settled in neighboring countries, closer to home, and it should be made clear to them that the situation is temporary. Turkey and Jordan have already accepted refugees; so has Lebanon; these countries could be provided with funds and expert advice to support the refugees. Temporary refugee camps could be set up with all the basic facilities and amenities to enable refugees to live as normal a life as possible and charities and the UN could be involved in running the camps. In the meantime, every effort should be made to find a political solution to the problem and end the conflict. Once this is done, the rebuilding of the devastated cities and shattered lives can begin in earnest.

All in all, the refugees should be helped closer to home to avoid long term social, cultural and economic problems. The first world countries should commit to providing any assistance necessary and should be in it for the long haul. A concerted effort should be made to end the suffering of the refugees without creating additional problems.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Our life on Earth is inextricably linked with that of the Sun, which is a star with a fixed life span. Do your research and tell the story of the Sun and how its demise will affect life on Earth.

Reading material and accompanying videos to make notes on
·         How Will Our Solar System (and our planet) Die?  

·         The sun won't die for 5 billion years, so why do humans have only 1 billion years left on Earth?

·         The Sun Will Eventually Engulf Earth—Maybe
Documentary to watch
·         Death of the Sun 


The current events and reactions to them cannot but remind us of another period of “moral panic” when “a certain race or ethnicity” was held accountable for the crimes committed by the few. The period in question is that between 1942 and 1945 when Japanese Americans were placed in camps for the duration of the war. Do your research and tell the story. While doing so, make sure to highlight the reasons, the immediate effects and the long term consequences.
Familiarize yourself with the issue
·         Japanese internment camps
·         Japanese internment
Photos to look at and study
Reading material to make notes on
·         Japanese American relocation  
·         Internment history
·         The Internment of Japanese Americans as reported by Seattle Area Weekly Newspapers Seattle Ethnic Press Report
Videos to watch and make notes on
·         Japanese American Internment During WWII | 1942 | Internment Camps in the USA | Japanese Relocation
Japanese Internment during WW 2

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Thousands have been making their way from their war torn homelands to Europe where they hope to find a better life. The compassionate and moral response would be to help these people and give them a home yet what is right is not always practical. There are economic and political concerns muddying the waters and the very real danger of undesirables sneaking in. Do your research and decide what the response to the refugee crisis should be. Then write an essay in which you support your view while refuting counter arguments.
Reading material to make notes on
·         Turning Away Refugees Won’t Fight Terrorism, and Might Make It Worse
·         Why my state won't turn refugees away
·         Stop wasting money on aid, and start letting in more refugees  
·         Is the EU turning into “Fortress Europe” for migrants?
Videos to watch and make notes on
·         The long term impacts of the attack on Paris
·         Queen Rania: Refugee crisis is a global problem
·         CARE CEO on Syrian refugee crisis
·         Damon on migrants: we are their only voice


They want fairness
By: Paul Bloom
Level of difficulty: ***
Note to the student: the focus of the following questions is summary skills, paraphrasing and drawing conclusions
Watch the following short video of an experiment which is also described in the text you are going to read and think about it
  • What happen when you give one monkey cucumbers but grapes for another monkey
Now, watch the panel discussion on equality and fairness and make some notes

·         What's wrong with equality?

1.       Read the first three paragraphs and fill in the blanks: People are wrong to think that ………………………….is a source of concern to them. What they are really concerned about is…………...........and…………………………………
2.       What is the topic sentence of paragraph 4? What is the concluding statement? What do they tell you about the organization of argumentative writing?
3.       The case of Louis C.K’S five year old proves that ……………………………
4.       It is implied in the text that Robin Hood is still popular because he tried to restore……
5.       Read the experiment conducted by Shaw and Olson and circle the answers that don’t fit. The children were happy to go along with unequal distribution so long as it was merited/ indefensible /deserved / warranted/ unjustified
6.       The widespread tendency to favor number one both among primates and humans proves that……………………………………………………….
7.       The case of small groups doesn’t contradict what has been stated thus far about inequality because what is really happening in small groups is that………………………………………
8.       The weak are at more of a disadvantage in large groups because in such groups………………………………….This means that they are stuck with a despot for example.
9.       We understand from Ariely and Norton’s study that have preconceived notions / misconceptions / prejudicial views / misguided notions about the current distribution of wealth in American society.
10.   The writer concludes by warning us that we should focus more on ………………………….
Write an essay in which you you discuss which is more important: social equality or fairness?
The questions written for this fascinating text focus on summary skills, paraphrasing and the ability to draw conclusions due largely to the way the text has been written. The students will need to read closely and carefully.
  1. Economic inequality; unjust causes of economic inequality; the potential consequences of economic inequality
  2. The first sentence; the last sentence; argumentative paragraphs or essays have a sort of circular structure where you end up where you started – the point you were trying to prove.
  3. Focus on equality maybe mistaken
  4. Economic equality
  5. Indefensible, unjustified
  6. Humans and other species don’t naturally value equality for its own sake
  7. Everyone is struggling to ensure that nobody gets too much power over him. OR nobody wants to get screwed
  8. Interactions are no longer face to face and the powerful have guns
  9. Misconceptions
  10. Fairness and above all the suffering of the poor