Week 05 – Lab + Reading Reflection

1a

Are there any modern/more recent archives or resources that cover student activism at the University of Illinois?

How might I go about finding more recent information about student activism?

I would want to look at any sections covering the history of student life, especially as it pertains to “political,” “social,” “activism,” “police,” “anti-Black,” and “civil unrest.” For a topic like mine which covers modern student activism, the terminology of “defund the police” may be more recent, but the idea of discontent with an authority like the police has been around for decades. It just may be more difficult to find records covering it.

1b

Chronology of Campus Protests is useful in understanding the campus and community events from 1948 through 1972 in a wide array of student activism causes such as free speech, political protests, civil rights and anti Vietnam war demonstrations, and community, union, and voting initiatives. 

Looking at a document like this highlights the anti-Black backlash by fellow students on campus in more recent years.

Along with the last example, a Facebook group such as this is targeted against Blacks, Muslims, and Mexicans in an inflammatory way.

Discourse about the university and their values in a progressive and critical manner, as targeted to people of color, showcases the activism and higher philosophy of students in regard to race, class accessibility, and transformation.

Reading Response

In Andrew Yang’s book, The War on Normal People, he illustrates the dichotomy between the privileges of the many well-educated and affluent individuals who may be reading his book and the “normal people,” or statistically-typical person of the United States. He does this to highlight the conclusion that many statistics out there do little to cover the massive effect that automation is and will be bringing to the job economy, and while many Americans will be affected by it, it will especially affect the less-skilled and less-educated masses. 

Throughout the few chapters we read, Yang used data and statistics to back up his arguments concerning the dichotomy between those would likely be reading his book and the actual normal American. He points out that “what feels normal to each of us is based on our context,” and he further illuminates that if you had five best friends, “The odds of them all being college graduates if you took a random sampling of Americans would be about one-third of 1 percent, or 0.0036.” Through a very strong and illuminating statistic such as this, he showcases to his likely college-educated population that going to college and being surrounded by only those who have gone to college is a very atypical experience in the grand scheme of America. However, this data is likely manipulated in that those who have gone to college, which he states is about a third of Americans, are likely to be surrounded mostly be those who have gone to college — thus, choosing a random American and then giving them five random Americans to be their best friends skews in showing how atypical that experience is.

Another thing that Yang does throughout his book is bring up common rhetoric and rebuttals to the idea that automation is negatively affecting jobs. He responds to this one op-ed that highlights alternatives for those who have had their job displaced by saying that the options highlighted — Etsy and Upwork — largely are unsustainable for those who have those jobs and may not cater to the skills of the displaced workers. He points out that for platforms such as Etsy, it on average “contributes only 13 percent to household income and is intended as a supplement to traditional work” (Yang Chapter 4). This statistic is not specifically rigorous in showcasing how many Etsy sellers do it full-time — or would want to do it full-time but can’t due to its low profits — and the income that generates, and instead it disregards the relatively low statistic of 13% to be indicative of its unsustainability as a career. In this case as well, his point is likely valid, but he intentionally skews his data to more strongly favor his idea.

Additionally, Yang is careful to point out flaws in current statistics or common measures of success. For example, he brings up how the unemployment metric “does not consider people who drop out of the workforce for any reason, including disability or simply giving up trying to find a job” (Yang Chapter 8). In doing so, he can showcase how metrics and statistics, such as his own, can be deceiving. There needs to be more rigorous surveying and compartmentalization when it comes to making statistics more useful.

1 thought on “Week 05 – Lab + Reading Reflection”

  1. Hi! I enjoyed your reading response. You put forward a lot of the points that I had found interesting as well while reading the excerpt from Yangs book. I do agree with waht you mentioned about ‘normal’ people. Yang put forward his points using several datasets from places like DHS, which made his arguments even more compelling.

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