Influencing Students and Their Learning Based on Landscapes: An Analysis of Scholl and Gulwadi

In “Recognizing Campus Landscapes and Learning Spaces,” Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Gulwadi recognize that students learn in areas beyond the classroom and colleges need to provide different environments in order for students to create the skills they will need in college and in the workforce. The article emphasizes how while classrooms are necessities for professors to properly lecture and present their lessons, there is still a need for campuses to have areas besides the buildings filled with classrooms. Students are evolving with society. As new learning techniques and technology continue to be at the forefront of education, college students are eager to take advantage of these varying opportunities. However, in many cases, it is not possible for individuals to explore all of these desired opportunities in the classroom alone. Whether it is the library, or simply a campus quad, every location is crucial to improving a student’s knowledge and expanding their learning capabilities, as the article states, “the entire campus, including its open spaces, must be perceived as a holistic learning space.” In other words, every location on campus should be a safe spot for students to learn. Individuals should be able to leave the classroom and know they will have additional areas to improve on their studies and thoughts.

Additionally, the article goes in depth on direct and involuntary attention and how colleges should create and improve their campuses to provide areas to cater to these concepts. The article describes direct attention as the “ability to sustain focus” or to not get distracted and pay attention to your surroundings. Being able to completely focus and forget about any distractions is a crucial skill not only in college, but also in the workforce. Employers will hire individuals who can handle complicated tasks on time and without errors. In contrast to direct attention, it is necessary for environments to encourage involuntary attention. Involuntary attention “employs faculties of concentration not normally used.” It allows students to rest and relax while the parts of their brain that uses direct attention is put to the side. College is stressful and students need to be able to calm down and relax before the entire experience becomes too much for them. Involuntary attention does not occur in classrooms, and happens more often in landscape areas. As a result, if college campuses are established with no greenery or landscapes, it would be very difficult for students to be relaxed when they are surrounded by classrooms.

When colleges are establishing their campuses, they need to think beyond the classrooms, and focus on creating additional locations on campus where their students will be able to further their thinking from their classes and life. Therefore, colleges should create their campuses with involuntary and direct attention in mind. One of the main objectives of college is to assist students in being as prepared for future jobs as possible. Environments varying from classrooms, such as landscapes or greenery, require different types of attention. For this reason, colleges must consider how certain spaces will impact their students’ actions and thoughts.

Commonplace Book #5: Georgia Referendum

Georgia Referendum to Amend State Constitution:

“Shall Property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?”

In its root form, this sentence could be summed up as, “Should the property continue to be exempt from taxation?” By discovering the root, it makes it easier for the audience to understand the main point. With additional words such as utilized, providers, continue, and affordable, the encoder can add more meaning to the sentence. For example, although on its own the word “continue” is simple, in this context, it tells the audience that there is something that is habitually occurring in Georgia. Without the word “continue”, the entire sentence may have a different purpose. In this situation, the encoder would be the people who are running the referendum. The audience would be those who live in Georgia, specifically they might be the ones who are providers of college and university student housing. meaning of this sentence would be how people are wondering if property taxes should remain exempt for the University System of Georgia and other providers of college housing and facilities. The rhetorical situation is that some individuals may believe that property taxes should be paid. The rhetorical situation may also be that taxes should continue to be exempt because it is more important for costs to stay affordable. Since this statement is from a Georgia referendum which is government related, they may be leaning more towards more taxes being paid.

Commonplace Book #4: Gender Inclusive Bathrooms

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The sign states that it is a gender inclusive bathroom with two stalls. A gender inclusive bathroom means that any person can use it, regardless of what gender they identify as, or if they do not identify with a gender at all. This sign is located at American University, which is crucial for a school that prides themselves on establishing an inclusive environment.  American University, or specifically the Housing and Dining Program, authored this sign. Most likely, their purpose was to ensure that all students on campus feel safe and comfortable. In my opinion, American University is taking a step in the right direction in providing gender inclusive bathrooms on campus.

 

Segregation Through Infrastructure and Agriculture

In her article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sarah Schindler claims that infrastructure and architecture are responsible for maintaining discrimination in cities and towns. She provides several examples from Connecticut, such as a fence in New Haven and a concrete barrier in Bridgeport, in addition to areas outside of the United States, to suggest that governments do not need to write laws to separate groups of individuals (27). By putting up physical borders between different income-classes of people, these varying groups are immediately segregated. Although we may have not consciously recognized it, the government or private businesses have been altering infrastructure to sever groups. While it may be normalized to have these segregated areas, some groups have lesser privileges and opportunities as a result. Schindler’s purpose is for more people to recognize their unconscious bias, and to acknowledge the government’s role in segregating people through architecture. Individuals may not even realize or question why the borders are there, they simply accept it as if it is natural, and Schindler’s goal is for others to reject the normalization of discrimination.

Image of the fence in New Haven, CT
Image of the fence in New Haven, CT

Schindler states that the government is partially responsible for developing these locations, and may be unknowingly, or knowingly, manipulating people to segregate those who are already discriminated against to begin with. To begin, according to Schindler, “many planning decisions facilitate exclusion within cities” (14). For example, the government refused to build new housing developments without a dividing wall (The Eight Mile Wall) due to an already existing development for the black community (24). The wall would further separate these two communities, thus making it even more difficult for others to overcome the unconscious and racial bias that may have already been formed. Schindler continues by highlighting the fact that by preventing these different groups from unifying, it will be extremely difficult for individuals of varying races to see each other as equals. More importantly, these divides prevent people from finding employment, and improving their economic and social well-being. When the government establishes buildings or forms of architecture that creates clear separation between different living conditions or areas, it is natural for the divide between groups to widen.

The Eight Mile Wall in Detroit
The Eight Mile Wall in Detroit

Schindler’s argument is that by preventing people from accessing public transportation, they are immediately being isolated, and are provided with less opportunities to succeed than the rest of society. Individuals from lower-income areas have difficulty getting to areas that are not near or accessible to public transportation, and as a result, there is a negative stigma attached to them when they are in these locations. To continue, Schindler states, “many communities actively push their elected decision makers not to bring transit stops to their neighborhoods” (30). Although people of varying socioeconomic statuses often use public transportation, a majority of lower-income and African Americans have no other option and are likely to be forced to use these methods. The less areas these groups can get to, the harder it gets for them to find employment. Without employment, it is nearly impossible for those of lesser economic status to successfully break unemployment and poverty.

Transit stop in Silver Spring
Transit stop in Silver Spring

As Schindler previously stated, it is very difficult for real breakthroughs to happen if the system is not changing. Additionally, it is challenging for there to be true change in the way we see people if individuals are unaware that they are unconsciously separating groups of people. This behavior simply “‘becomes just another part of the landscape’” (11), meaning that racist thoughts and actions are normalized and blend into the culture and structure of society. People may not go out of their way to be hurtful, but little actions and architectural structures contribute to segregation. When the government itself is establishing these bridges and walls, it allows others to excuse their own behavior, especially when the Supreme Court does not make any progress either. Schindler comments on the City of Memphis v. Greene case in which the court decided that the closing of a street connecting an all-white neighborhood to a black one was constitutional (6). It is extremely difficult to make any progress when the government itself is contributing to the racial divide. Overall, Schindler does not blame one individual for the lack of progress on architectural exclusion. She delegates responsibility to the government for creating these boundaries, society for accepting and adapting to them, and the Supreme Court for allowing these physical separations to continue.

The Struggles of Democracy

In the section “The Dilemma” in “City of Rhetoric” by David Fleming, he focuses on the difficulty of achieving the perfect democracy size due to varying sizes and groups of individuals. Fleming acknowledges the problem with our democracy, and how people are always losing one way or another. His goal is to solve “The Dilemma,” by finding the right amount of people where everyone benefits and can provide input. To begin, he analyzes the pros and cons of smaller versus larger democracies because these are the two major group sizes. Both Fleming and I agree that smaller groups lack debate and diversity. In most cases, they will agree quickly due to how little the group is, and there will be no discourse. On the other hand, they are more unified and focused. Together, they understand exactly what the goals of the group are. There are no questions on what they need to accomplish, and they are more committed to the end objective. However, nobody is challenging each other. When people are surrounded by those who are similar to them, individuals are stuck with repetitive ideas. Although smaller groups may be safer and more comfortable, there is often a lack of growth. In contrast, Fleming claims, “Large democracies, have sovereignty, power, and diversity” (50). While it is imperative for large democracies to be diverse and representative of those they are representing, it is difficult for all individuals to feel a sense of belonging. They also may not be able to be as involved with all the decisions made. The struggle is that a strong democracy should have the qualities of both large and small democracies. Fleming states this and mentions Aristotle’s ideal polis population because it is important to know that the ideal democracy is achievable, and this idea has been in place for over “two millennials” (51) but there does not seem to be any progress to attain it.

Fleming elaborates on how one democracy size is not perfect for every group, and the government needs to adapt based on what they have, and the population they are representing. For example, local governments require unity. It is necessary for them to communicate easily together, and to make decisions quickly and efficiently. There is no need for a local government to be extremely powerful since they are not in charge of large groups. It is unrealistic for them to hear out all of those in the democracy. It is ineffective, and no decisions will be made. In addition, Fleming asserts, “we increase the capacity of the political system to handle critical problems” (51). Smaller groups are incapable of handling conflicts that extend to the rest of the world, or even the rest of a state or country. They do not have the resources or people to deal with issues that concern everyone.

Fleming refers to Aristotle over what the perfect democracy looks like, and how it would potentially be catastrophic if this dilemma is not solved soon. He argues that the best polis “is composed of a multitude of dissimilars in which each takes his turn governing and is devoted to making himself and his polis just and noble” (52). Essentially, he believes that governments must be ran by individuals who are different. If every person share the same principles, there won’t be any discussion or discourse. There has to be distinction. Aristotle refers to a “many-voiced harmony” (52). They all sing and work together, but there are still unique and successful voices. As stated previously, there needs to be a combination of both democracies. However, there always must be debate and challenge. The perfect group will be small enough for all to participate, but large enough for there to be varying opinions. Fleming overlooks what I consider to be a crucial point about what would happen if democracies continued to be ran without peaceful discourse and full participation. We have seen it now in modern-day elections, when individuals can not talk to each other despite their differences, there is no progress made. There is simply more arguing, and a divide is created among people when there should be unification for a common purpose. Although the perfect democracy may be difficult to accomplish, there is no better time for the country to band together and work on solving the dilemma.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Suny             

Press. 2003. pp 50-52.

Commonplace Book #1: Sentence Structure and Phrasing

Political disintegration plagues Congress. House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker last year.

  • Political disintegration plagues Congress; House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, and House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, which is why House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, because House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, and therefore House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.

I didn’t see the step; now I have a bandage on my head.

  • I didn’t see the step. I have a bandage on my head now.
  • I didn’t see the step, and I have a bandage on my head now.
  • I didn’t see the step, because I have a bandage on my head.
  • I didn’t see the step, so have a bandage on my head now.

Sentences completely change based on the phrasing and punctuation. Some of these sentences now mean differently due to the context in which the punctuation is in. For example one sentence says the bandage is on their head after the fall, now it says they fell because they had a bandage on their head. Punctuation makes a huge difference.