Stifling Knowledge or Creating Shields?

So I wrote a very, very long paper on debating the pros and cons of banning books. Because it is so long, I have put the entire thing below the cut. Forewarning: it is almost 5000 words so you might wanna get comfortable. Continue reading


Immigration: Is it truly all bad?

One of the major problems of this country – and one of the most highly contested – is illegal immigration, specifically from Mexico. It is a truly melancholy object to walk through the rundown shambles that these illegal immigrants live in, the groups of Mexicans gathered in groups, tiny communities within the country they illegally reside in. The place of crossing, the Mexican border, is even worse. Thousands gather, attempting to make it over the fences erected and guards patrolling in order to hopefully start a new life. I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of people is a problem for everyone. Whoever might find a viable solution – one that eliminated the number of illegal immigrants in our country and did not leave families separated – would deserve the veneration of the general public.  

I myself have dwelled on this situation for an extended period of time, attempting to find a solution that would satisfy the general needs of the public. Fortunately, I have landed upon a scheme that, I believe, would meet those needs as well as provide several other advantages.

My solution would not only eliminate illegal immigration, it would also remove all of the disadvantages associated with immigrants. No longer could people cavail about them not paying taxes, or sending their children to our schools without paying, or stealing American jobs. No longer could they remonstrate about immigrants vandalizing, destroying, or stealing from border homes. After all, with the migrants taken care of, they would not be there to steal jobs, school spots, not pay taxes, or destroy property.

The number of Souls in this Country who have entered unjustly, being usually reckoned eleven Million and three, and of these I calculate a little under half hail from Mexico. From Mexico, there are surmised to be approximately one hundred and twenty-five Million and five Souls. And in the great and mighty military of the United States of America, there are thought to be roughly two Million and eighty-three thousand and one hundred people. And, as verified multiple times throughout history – such as the Battle of the Alamo in the eighteen hundreds and thirty-fives where a small group of two hundred to three hundred men withstood over one thousand Mexican men for over a week. As should be evident to the reader, the armies of the United States of America are vast in number and a formidable, indomitable foe.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be lyable to the least Objection.

Given the controversy of the migrants and the urging of our own great President to erect a wall between our countries, I would like to opt for a moste beneficial compromise that would avail both countries. America’s armies outnumber those of the Mexican’s, given our over two Million active-duty, highly-trained personnel as opposed to their two hundred eighty thousand personnel. Therefore, the solution is obvious. We are a country built on the principle of freedom and equality. Mexico is clearly suffering, judging by how many of their people flee to our country. So, in order to preserve our mission, we need to liberate Mexico and add it to the United States as a territory. Given our faithful, tremendous armies, we would most easily be able to free Mexico from oppression. Then, in order to get rid of the illegal immigrants, we then create an army of conquered Mexicans and send them into America to find their families, reuniting them, and bring them back to Mexico, thereby removing all illegal immigrants from the country. We would then divide up our new army and keep half at the Mexican border and send the other half to the Canadian border, whereupon we would then instruct them to construct walls between the two countries as protection is a major issue of the people with these immigrants.

Some people of a vast number are concerned about the issue of payment. The solution is a simple one.

Firstly, the deported immigrants would create an entirely new market. They would open jobs for the American people, and they themselves could be sold to American people as a free workforce.

Secondly, the money for their purchase – as well as the money they would generate through their work – would help to pay for the wall.

Thirdly, taxes would no longer have to cover the illegal immigrants, meaning the difference can go towards protection for our country, in order to keep out any undesirable or uncooperative persons.

While some may complain about those pesky human rights, I assure you the American people would lose none of their promised Constitutional rights. The enslaved would be purely Mexican and, given that they would have work and housing, they would be fulfilling their dream when they snuck into our country. And as the enslaved would not be American, they would not be applicable to Constitutional rights, so the Constitution would remain unbroken. Our country would also have strong border protection due to the increased army and the walls that had been built, helping to secure our country’s future.

I would like to observe that I formulate this remedy solely for the country of the United States of America, and for no other there ever was. Therefore, let no man talk to me of legalizing more immigrants so they would pay taxes and not have to separate families. Of implementing a better job program so they might find work that doesn’t detract from hard-working Americans. Of strengthening border security so we might reduce the flow of immigrants and protect the American people living on the border. Let no one mention improving the work visa program so they might work and improve the economy but also legally make money for their families. I do not wish to hear of how immigration creates more jobs and opportunities, generates more economic revenue, makes the country more productive, the economy more flexible, and offers a multitude of cultural benefits. Therefore I repeat, let no Man talk to me of these and the like Expedients, till he hath at least a Glimpse of Hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into Practice.

I am fortunate in myself that I hath fell upon this proposal, which is so new, radical, and visionary that will pose no danger to our own dear country. After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own Opinion, as to reject any Offer, proposed by wise Men, which shall be found equally as Effectual. I now must profess – and conclude – that I have not the least selfish interest in this plan. I gain nothing from it, being neither a business owner neither struggling immigrant, but rather propose this from no other motive than the general good of my own country.


Our Work

Wow iDiploma is busy! We are doing so many different projects and design briefs right now it’s almost hard to keep up! We started off with a lot of internal design briefs designed to boost the iDiploma image. We had briefs focused on revamping the brand, enlarging our network, serving our community, figuring out how to tell our story, and transition iDiploma from a “start-up” to a design firm. I have been in the branding group, and we so far have come up with tee-shirt designs, business card prototypes, and remodeled – and rebuilt – our website (new website coming soon!). The networking group has created and expanded our social media presence – from Twitter, Instagram, email, and more, iDiploma has become more of a presence. Other groups have begun to blend together as their purposes become aligned. The branding and networking groups, for example, are working closely together. The other groups are exploring ways to inform the Mount Vernon community of the work we do as well as discover ways we can share what we do and inform our peers and the community we reside in of our program. Now, we also have more opportunities. We previously held flashlabs where we did an hour flashlab for the new cohort, Musk, and then another one for the whole 9th grade in the school. This Friday, a group is going down to participate in a design experiment at Georgia Tech, and we also have groups who are beginning to work with Georgia Farmers market and their challenge. All in all we have a lot going on – and thanks to a lot of design briefs, we have a lot more ways to inform the world around us of our wonderful, busy life!

A Sideways Reflection

Reflection. The word conjures up many things to many people. To some, it may mean quiet meditation and inward-focused thoughts, fixating on understanding yourself. To others, reflection is a way of perceiving yourself, whether literally, or in a more abstract way, trying to understand not only who you are, but also understanding past events. The key part of reflection, however it is perceived, is that it is usually a person reflecting on themselves, their own past, or something they did. Reflection isn’t normally used to reflect on someone else’s work. But today, that is exactly what I am doing. Like many posts before this one, this post centers on an iDiploma design brief. Unlike all other posts, this is a reflection

Like many posts before this one, this post centers on an iDiploma design brief. Unlike all other posts, this is a reflection on a design brief that I played no part in; in fact, my knowledge of this design brief comes solely from the description given to us all at the beginning of the year, tidbits of information from surveys and questions they have asked, and more snippets of information from projects and any presentations that group gave that I sat in on to provide feedback on. So I have quite a task ahead of me.

The group I am choosing, the City of Sandy Springs group, was actually my second choice when choosing design briefs. Not only was the group hired by the mayor and liaisons, they would be consulting with the City of Sandy Springs Council as well as other groups, such as the Georgia Commute Options group, to help reduce traffic in Sandy Springs. This was a project that affected everyone in the Sandy Springs area, myself included. Typically, the more an issue affects me, the more invested I am in the project and the better I am able to do, which is one of the reasons why it was my second choice (a selfish desire to decrease traffic being one of them). But, my design brief, however challenging, was an amazing experience and one I really wouldn’t trade.

As stated above, their mission is to reduce traffic in Sandy Springs. Right off the bat, I could see how they had the capability to truly make an impact in our community – it would be something subtle but greatly appreciated and noticed by many. As one of many drivers on the road, I can attest to the fact that sitting in traffic is Not Fun. And unfortunately, traffic is extremely prolific in the Sandy Springs area, especially near the entrances to 285. Which consequently backs up traffic everywhere. However, the group realized almost straight off the bat that improving traffic is not just about improving people’s temperaments – traffic also wastes time, energy, and money. Think about it. If someone gets in their car to go to the store and ends up in traffic, they are wasting time they could have been spending in the store (improving the economy), money they spent on gas because they are burning fuel, and energy because sitting in a car in stop-and-go traffic is tiring. All of which condenses into drivers who are angry at the waste of time or mad that they are late to something, and drivers who are tired at the end of a day and even more tired because of traffic, all of which means that the road is now filled with reckless, angry, exhausted drivers. Does anyone hear “accident waiting to happen?”

So yes, improving traffic is in everyone’s best interests. But how to do it is the question.

The group decided that, in order to come up with a viable solution, they needed a testing ground. The grounds: Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. By using their solution to reduce traffic in the school community by 10%, they can gauge how effective it would be on a larger scale; after all, if their idea failed at Mount Vernon, it would have no hope in the Sandy Springs community.

Like any good group, they started off by collecting data and soon were able to develop visuals of the data they collected, such as goal maps showing the current amount of cars and their goal of how many cars should be on the road after their solution is implemented, or a map of MVPS family locations to show how far families had to travel. Through this data, they then created focus groups in order to reach out to the MVPS community and try and understand Mount Vernon carpool – an integral part of surrounding traffic (believe me, Mount Vernon carpool lines can stretch outside the campus – definitely not productive to reducing traffic). The results of these focus groups? Mount Vernon carpool traffic – and subsequent traffic in the area – is terrible, and finding someone to carpool is equally as difficult as navigating the long lines. Think Disney during the summer with one lane and everyone in cars. Because of the revelation that traffic is a huge thing to take on, the group realized that trying to tackle it head on wasn’t going to work. This is when they partnered with Georgia Commute Options, realizing that every little bit helps, and began to come up with ways to reduce traffic bit by bit. Soon they had options.

They decided to give presentations to parent and student drivers and get them to download GCO’s app, that gives members incentives and help to find carpool partners to take cleaner routes to school. The group also decided to explore ways to promote alternative travel options like carpooling and social media promotion. The Sandy Springs group already has a presence on social media, with the hashtag #reMoVe10 and blog posts on the Innovation Diploma website. They decided to continue to work with the organization to see how – or if – traffic is affected by these changes and raised awarenesses in the MVPS community, based off the Mount Vernon sign-ups on the app.

I touched on it above, but I need to state the importance of this project once again. Reducing traffic in the Sandy Springs area is critical – without an effort to do so, wasted time, energy, and money will continue to increase, drivers’ tempers will continue to be tested, and driving will remain an unpleasant experience for many people – especially during Mount Vernon carpool, as we can back up the street some days. So essentially, they are impacting all drivers in the Sandy Spring area, but in different ways. Teen drivers get to drive in a safer, less crowded environment, which is better for young drivers. And by encouraging carpool, teens have even more incentive to drive with their friends, making the ride more pleasant which improves their mood which positively reflects in their driving. Mount Vernon parents are affected as well because with more people carpooling, the less stressful carpool has to be, meaning they are in a better mood, not having to wait in as much traffic, and putting their kids in a better mood as well. And all drivers aren’t having to waste time, energy, and gas money by sitting in long lines of traffic anymore. Not to mention, less idling cars means less pollution.

Since joining iDiploma my freshman year, I have gone through two crazy, amazing years with iDiploma, and while sometimes I’m unsure what I’m doing, by the end of the year a sort of “ah hah” moment happens where it all clicks. I suppose this is the “personal” reflection piece of my sideways reflection. This was the year that I was able to take a step back and go “oh. That’s what we are working towards in iDiploma.” Maybe it was because I was able to participate in my first design brief, but I think I understand a lot more of what Innovation Diploma is working towards. When we say we are a start-up, it is because we do so much more than a class. When we say we work on – and want future students to work on – real world problems, it’s because not only do we do them, we get so much out of them. My first design brief was really, really hard, and a lot of that was due to the fact that it was my first, but it was also because I had never had an “actual” client before, I had never had to come up with something that didn’t have a rubric and detailed instructions that said “check off these boxes to complete the assignment” and I had certainly never truly gotten into the mindset of “this is a real world problem” before that moment. There had been brief moments, but never one like that. And I think that is why these types of problems are so important. They teach students like me skills like proper communication between us and the client or us and each other (that was one of the major things my team had to learn, actually) or things like testing out solutions, data collecting, formal presentation skills, and thinking outside the box. But really, it enforces this idea of the real world doesn’t have boxes to check; you are given an assignment and expected to complete it on your own, not with a rubric. It introduces this idea of individuality instead of doing for the sake of a grade. With design briefs, we can’t just Google “How to reduce traffic” or “How to increase brand love in teens.” Why? Because the answers aren’t out there. Believe me, I looked hard too. I, in the beginning, wanted an easy answer – and 3, 4, 5, 6 months in it was still hard to believe there wasn’t one.

So, how does this project uphold iDiploma values? Well, how doesn’t it? It gave the group skills in communication, formal presentations, data collection, creative thinking, solution testing, and many other skills, but it also gave them an experience. It gave them a client and a hard to solve, no easy answer problem. It presented them with a challenge that they had to solve not for a grade or a checkmark but to make an impact on the world and to prove to themselves they could. It taught them the importance of never giving up and how to get through those times when they had no idea what to do next. And with each success these design briefs have – like the Sandy Springs group – the more people become more aware of what teens can do. The more they realize that we aren’t just a group of kids fooling around in school, but a cohort of young adults who want to be challenged simply because we want to prove that we can be, that we want to show what we can do outside of standardized tests. We want these problems because we want that feeling of satisfaction, that moment when we stand around after the presentation and think “Wow, look at what I’ve created. Look at the problem I just solved, and the work I just did.” And that is not only why I participate in iDiploma, but why I continue to. Because of work like this and the impact it had. Not only because I can, but because I should.



Reflecting on the Passage of Time

This semester has been, in my opinion, the one in which I have grown the most as an innovator. The main thing I have learned is how to work on a long-term project with no set end goal and few set restrictions. As I am normally someone who likes to adhere to guidelines and know the direction, this project has felt very ambiguous to me at times. I have also had trouble comprehending what we have done and understate the work. In fact, up until our midpoint check-in presentation on December 1st, I was under the impression we had not actually accomplished that much. What changed my mind, however, was seeing the work we have done over the last three months laid out in the timeline below.


Honestly, that was the moment that I realized not only are we doing some very incredible work, but we have also actually accomplished a lot. That presentation, aside from changing my mindset about our work, was actually a point of pride for me. While I have done major presentations before, this one simply felt much more important. Our whole group was worried about how we would do, but in the end, we did fantastically. I am very proud of the fact that I was able to present the information well, improving my public speaking skills, my knowledge of the project, and my ability to communicate in a group setting.

In terms of the design brief as a whole, I have grown in many areas, but I need to work on some as well. I have grown to be a better ideator, my presentation skills have improved, and I have a better grasp of time limits and what they entail. One major thing that I believe is both something I have grown in and something I can work on is communication. Actually, it applies to the whole team. While I have definitely gotten better at communicating my ideas and thoughts, as well as communicating plans to absent team members or upcoming events – this applies to the whole team – we as a team need to work on keeping it up and making sure to communicate any conversations, ideas, research, or interviews that took place without other team members, plan accordingly, and follow through on those plans. Concerning following through on plans, I believe I have gotten better about not only staying after iDiploma time has ended to finish projects to meet certain deadlines, but also doing quality work outside of iD time. I now understand that sacrificing my time to complete this project will be necessary at times, and I have come to terms with that.

Another area I feel I have grown in is conflict resolution. Our team is mostly comprised of type-A personalities, meaning tension is very common. I have taken on the role of keeping the peace, per se, and making sure everyone gets along and is able to do their job without too much conflict ensuing.

Regarding areas I need to work on, I believe the main one is energy. While it has been a long year, I need to focus on keeping myself positive for my team and for myself. I am going to make a concerted effort to keep my motivation levels high, and my complaints about lack of sleep to a minimum, which will also help me continue to stay on task longer.

As Christmas break and exams draw closer, and I find myself with a decreasing amount of free time, I have decided to focus on improving my own personal growth areas, in order to improve not only others lives, but my own as well. In the future, I am excited to continue – and eventually present – our project to our client and have the satisfaction of having completed my first design brief for a client outside of Mount Vernon.