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I was seven years old when I found out Santa Claus did not exist.  Up to that point I had been a very good boy, always treading carefully to make sure that I’d be on the good list at the end of the year –as if getting some dispensable presents was the most important thing in the world.  It was in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve when I lay quietly on the floor behind our living room couch and watched my mother put the presents under a Christmas tree.  And the next day when I opened my gift –it was a remote control car –she proceeded to tell me how much Santa loved me and how he had come in the middle of the night to deliver the toys for my brothers and I.

I was never tricked into believing Santa existed ever again, but since then I have often thought about what a simple toy can do for a child.  Those who have very little to survive on, cannot afford to give their children the simple toys that I scoffed at as a child.  But a toy can brighten a kid’s life in such enormous ways.  Children’s imagination allows them to make something out of nothing –and that is a fact that I can attest to, having spent a good deal of my childhood coming up with creative ways to entertain myself.

I recently saw a news clip where a young boy was talking about a program where he was given the chance to pick any gift to give to his family members.  I thought it was interesting that he’d pick gifts for his loved ones and not himself –I suppose he knows more about Christmas than I ever will.

But with all thoughts about Christmas and toys, a few moments must be spared to think about those who make the toys that mothers fight over at the stores and people line up for.  Most toys are made by low wage workers in under-developed countries and developing countries.  Their cost of living might be lower than ours –and one can even make the argument that at least they have a job –but there is a certain level of demoralization that comes with being a low wage worker.  Low wage workers don’t get the respect or the adoration that high earners get, and one has to imagine it is worst in countries where the focus is on production at all costs.  Worst of all, they don’t get the benefits afforded to others.

Labor laws are not the same in all countries, and we cannot expect others to hold the same standards in terms of the treatment of workers, but when this time of the year comes, it is perhaps a minimal gesture to think about the things we buy, where we buy them from, and the conditions under which they were made.  Whatever our interpretations of what Christmas means, we cannot hide away from the fact that while we drink our eggnog and unwrap our gifts, the majority of people who make those items have a hard time getting through the holidays.

Charles Hedji is pursuing a BA in Communications and Culture.  He is the author of “Fields of Discovery”, and “On the Eve of Departure”.  He is also an avid Arsenal and Real Madrid fan.

Accessibility is a term I’m fond of due to the fact that information is everywhere and you simply have to look for it. However it is a somewhat startling truth that information is being reinterpreted constantly to the point where it is hard to know what the truth is and what amounts to an amateurish collection of supposed facts. With the recent bombardment of the news cycles with stories about Wikileaks, I’ve found myself thinking about where I get my information and how I get my information.

One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever you enter a search term into a search engine, the first thing that comes up for the most part is Wikipedia. There’s nothing wrong with Wikipedia coming up first, you can’t reproach a company for their search engine optimization abilities, but there is a problem with the information that you find there. Most of the content that comes from that source was placed there by the average person who perhaps does not have as much depth of information as a professional who has spent his entire life studying or working on the topic. But while Wikipedia may not have mastered accuracy, there are hardly any sources that have.

Years ago, I might have turned to news sources to find the information I need on something –that is if they covered that specific topic –but now that is out of the equation as more and more news organization are becoming more opinion based and the facts are hidden under an avalanche of biased spin. With everything becoming more dependent on electronic systems –even libraries have gone electronic –the old search through books for your research technique has become a relic of what seems like a distant past. We have more options today –at least it appears that way –but there is no clear cut criterion for figuring out who holds the facts and does not. We all have to find methods that work for us and compare as many sources as possible to get the facts.

On a personal level, I use academic sources to find the information I need. They may not cover all the topics in the world, but I find them to be much more dependable than the sources that pop up in the search engines. A little extra time to sift through multiple databases and journals may seem arduous to begin with but it pays off in the long run when you know that you have found enough information to make a detailed analysis of whatever it is that you are working on. This is not to say that academic sources are not biased, but one has to believe that those in academia care about their research and their reputations a little more than those working for these money obsessed newspapers who’ll do anything to sell, or those filling their spare time with amateurish –though entertaining –fiction on Wikipedia.

Charles is pursuing a BA in Communications and Culture.  He is the author of “Fields of Discovery”, and “On the Eve of Departure”.  He is also an avid Arsenal and Real Madrid fan.

One of the first things that come to mind when I think about what it means to be a student is the need to excel at time management.  There are certainly many aspects to learning, but I have those moments when I’m faced with the difficulties of being a working adult, which is compounded by my desire to learn and to excel in the academic side of life.  With the digital structure that modern society is becoming, I’m able to plan things ahead of time to allow myself enough space in my daily routine to get things done.  Electronic calendars are favorites of mine, because a pop up is all it takes to remember that I have an assignment due and when it is due.  I can also divide my tasks into days, so I know to focus on things at their appropriate time rather than waiting and scrambling to get things done at an inopportune moment.  Computers and PDAs can be of great help when setting schedules, and putting your life in order.

However, I don’t depend on the myriad of electronics I have at my disposal alone, because they’re not as dependable as they appear.  I have had computers crash when I needed them most and I’ve had my blackberry –which I love beyond reason –shut off on me at the wrong time.  I have different mechanisms myself for backing up everything I do and everything I plan to do.  This is where flexibility comes in.  As an SPS student, I know everything is accessible –from professors to classmates, and random librarians with magic fingers.  Aside from the accessibility, there is also the added element of connectivity between students.  In modern day education, we don’t have to be in the same place to work together.  Collaboration is as simple as logging on to a tool such as Pronto, or through Blackboard’s message boards.  Being a student is much more dependent on a personal drive to learn than it is on the ability to relocate oneself to a brick and mortar institution, or physically sitting next to someone you’re assigned to work with.  We’re also given a better platform to be creative, because when you’re not restrained by time or space, you’re more equipped to add your own flavor to what you have learned rather than spewing other people’s thoughts as your own.  SPS students can work together –each one adding to a project on his time –at a fast rate because the issue of time can be minimized.

While flexibility is essential, and creativity even more important, there is no understating the importance of time management.  Whether you succeed or not will depend on how you apply yourself, but a brilliant student who submits assignments late or misses them is only brilliant in his own head.  Academic aptitude cannot be measured by interaction alone, so if you’re great at teamwork but cannot prove your own merits through material proof, then it stands to reason that you are not learning.

Charles is pursuing a BA in Communications and Culture.  He is the author of “Fields of Discovery”, and “On the Eve of Departure”.  He is also an avid Arsenal and Real Madrid fan.