In "Born to Not Get Bullied", Nicholas Kristoff reports on Lady Gaga's visit to Harvard University on February 28 to formally launch her Born This Way Foundation, when he also interviewed "one of the world’s top pop stars and the person with the most Twitter followers in the world" (2012, ¶ 16). Kristoff tells us that her own experience of bullying in high school motivated her to set up the foundation, which was well received at Harvard not only by academics in the field of education, but by leading US government officials such as the secretaries of the departments of health and human services and of education. As Kristoff notes, these people realise that bullying is both an important issue not only in education, where it affects up to one in five students, leading to lower academic performance for the entire schools, but also a health and human rights issue, too often leading to suicide and drug abuse, especially of alcohol. In his conclusion, Kristoff is hopeful that Lady Gaga will overcome likely cynicism to succeed in her aim "to start a bottom-up movement to try to make it cooler for young people to be nice" (¶ 11) rather than using official power to force change for the better.
The title of the article was what first caught me eye (one reason for writing a good title for your blog posts!), as well as the fact that I usually read Kristoff's articles, for the thoughtful and critical opinions he presents. He is a regular writer in the opinion section of The New York Times. When I saw it was about Lady Gaga, I almost left, but that opening sentence is a good attention getter, and when I spotted the words Harvard University, which has a fairly good academic reputation, I wanted the full story. I'm glad I read the full story.
And after reading it all, I am impressed by the approach that Lady Gaga wants her foundation to take. She doesn't want to rely on the government to do anything. And that seems to me a very good start. Too often, the first response that people have to any problem is: "The government should ... ", and this mistake usually leads to disaster, as Thailand's persistent experience of poor farmers shows only too well. Thai governments have been interfering to "help" the farmers for decades, and the result is obviously a total failure: the farmers are still far too poor and abused by those with power and money. Even clearer is the result of government control of education in Thailand, where the idiotic questions in the recent O-Net tests show the incompetence and dishonesty in the Ministry of Education, and where the result of decades of government "help" is again a total disaster for the Thai people - in case you are upset that I used the adjective idiotic to describe the Ministry of Education, it isn't mine, I got it from the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee, who actually used it in the title of his article, "Thailand's idiotic mindset", which is likely a bit more offensive to some people (2012). I hope that some officials and others were offended; they certainly deserve to be. And as the local press, the Bangkok Post, The Nation, and the Thai language dailies constantly remind us, the top-down use of government force to "help" with the problem of drug use and abuse is another disastrous failure for Thai people and Thai society, with the law, police and other officials doing nothing to help and causing a lot of harm to people and society (a later chapter in Quest this term also addresses the issue of the problems of addictive drugs).
I seem to have got a bit off the topic of Lady Gaga, but it's a response writing, and it was fun. To be honest, I've only heard of Lady Gaga and seen a few photos. She certainly makes an impression. I don't think I've ever heard any of her songs, but I guessed that Kristoff's title is also a play on one of her song titles. If Harvard University thinks so highly of her, maybe I should go and listen to a song or two on YouTube.
And what do you think about the grammar "mistake" in Kristoff's title? I thought that was interesting, too, but I'll leave that discussion for another time.
Kristoff, N.D. (2012. February 29). Born to Not Get Bullied. The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/opinion/kristof-born-to-not-get-bullied.html
Rithdee, K. (2012, February 25). Thailand's idiotic mindset. Bangkok Post. Retrieved March 2, 2012 from http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/281473/thailand-idiotic-mindset