Beth O'Brien

Beth O'Brien has written 12 posts for business government society 2

Educating our Future Entrepreneurs

Remember when you were a kid and you thought you could do anything – absolutely anything? When does that stop? When do all of our limitless imaginations and creative capacities disappear and why does that happen? The United States Education System is failing us. It is not only failing us in the present, but it is failing us in preparation for the future. Through a standardized and uniform primary and secondary education agenda, our children are severely limited.

Needing entrepreneurship is nothing new to this country. Our forefathers founded the United States of America and our democratic capitalist system with entrepreneurial values. It is in our history. It is inherent to all of us. Our economy is in need of a revival, and entrepreneurship and innovation have never been as important than at this very moment.The question that remains is who will be our next entrepreneurs? The answer is our children – America’s youth, America’s youngest generation. There is no disputing this answer. Our youth are next in line to join the workforce, to start their own companies, to lead our country, and to change our world. That being said, it would seem that the obvious answer to the need for more entrepreneurs would be to create an environment in our schools that makes the entrepreneurial characteristics that all kids have come to life. However, our public school system does just the opposite of that. Our schools suppress entrepreneurial qualities in students. This is fundamentally contradictory to America’s values and to America’s vision for the future.

It is time to usher in an era of revived entrepreneurship and innovation. The manifesto of Peter Thiel’s venture-capital fund is, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” He is underwhelmed with what technology has given us for the past decade. He is an extreme libertarian who believes the power of the government to create positive change for innovation and entrepreneurship is hopeless. Let’s prove him wrong. Through initiatives driven by the U.S. Department of Education, let’s make preparing students to be entrepreneurs a central part of primary and secondary education. Peter Thiel wants flying cars. Our children will give them to him.


I Know Your Mom Told You Not To…

“Don’t talk to strangers.” It’s one of the oldest lessons in the book. It’s right up there with looking both ways before crossing the street. When you’re a kid, the lesson is valid. But when you’re an adult, I say throw it out the window. Sorry, Mom.

Say hi to strangers. That’s my 60-second idea to improve the world. It may sound creepy, but hear me out. I walk around Bucknell’s campus every day and without fail, when two people who don’t know one another pass each other, they look in opposite directions, they stare blankly ahead, or they whip out their cell phones and pretend to be texting. It’s ridiculous. We’re all part of a community here and we don’t even feel comfortable enough to look at each other, to smile at each other, and god forbid, to say hi to one another? This has got to be fixed. Continue reading

The Architecture of Happiness

It’s a nice book title isn’t it? The Architecture of Happiness is a book written by Alain de Botton. I decided to get a little creative with the blog prompt, and randomly picked a stack in the library to choose a book from. I made a few circles around different parts of the library, and eventually ended up on Lower Level 1 amongst the books on art.

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The Show Must Go On: The Case of Mike Daisey and The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

This American Life, a weekly public radio show, featured a podcast on January 6 from Mike Daisey’s highly acclaimed Off-Broadway show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Ira Glass hosted the podcast. Mike Daisey is a self-proclaimed Apple worshipper. He is obsessed with technology products, and he is particularly obsessed with Apple’s technology products. One of the main questions that Daisey addresses in his show is where do all of these technology products come from? Who actually physically makes them? To answer these questions, Daisey took a trip to Shenzhen, China to talk to factory workers at the Foxconn plant. During his time in China, he also posed as a businessman to receive private tours of the factories. Daisey then came home, wrote his play, and delivers his monologue across the country by giving his audience a dramatic account of what he learned and what he saw. Daisey was positively reviewed not only for the content of his story, but also the way he tells his story. He delivers the monologue in a powerful and dramatic way. Even Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, was reached by email after seeing the show and commented: “I will never be the same after seeing that show” (Carstensen). The excerpt on This American Life received 888,000 downloads, which was the most in the history of the show (Stanglin). After Daisey released the script of his show to public, over 60,000 people downloaded it in just a couple of days (Rao).

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Be Like Mike

I have decided to travel back in time to our first week of class, where we discussed C. Wright Mills’ idea of the sociological imagination. I had read excerpts of this work before while I studied abroad, and after reading it again this semester, decided to apply Mills’ social science ideas to my first BGS paper. Ever since my first reading of it, I was fascinated and captivated by its brilliance. However, I must admit that it took me a while to really grasp onto what Mills’ was communicating. At its most basic level, the sociological imagination is a quality of mind in which the intersection between biography and history is understood. Those who possess the sociological imagination are able to understand the individual in addition to how the individual fits into a larger historical and social context.

I preformed a cited reference search on Google Scholar for C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination and came across an interesting article entitled “Michael Jordan Meet C. Wright Mills: Illustrating the Sociological Imagination with Objects from Everyday Life” written by Peter Kaufman. What caught my attention from this title was twofold: for starters, Michael Jordan is one of the most widely known global symbols for Nike, so I thought this article might have even more connection to our class beyond the sociological imagination connection. Furthermore, I was drawn to the title because it tells the reader that the sociological imagination is going to be explained with relevant and everyday life examples. Seeing as I struggled so much with comprehending Mills’ theory in the first place, I wanted to see what Kaufman’s article had to offer. Continue reading

“Més que un club”

When I studied abroad last spring, I spent part of my spring break in Corfu, Greece and part of it in Barcelona, Spain. I didn’t know much about Barcelona besides the infamous party scene and I wasn’t expecting a very rich cultural or historical experience. My friends and fellow study abroaders had told me about the clubs, but my knowledge stopped there.

The first morning we were there, my friends and I took a free four-hour walking tour of the city and I was absolutely fascinated. All of my pre-conceived notions were proved wrong. I think all the information I acquired on this tour is what prompted me to want to return to Barcelona so badly. I only got to spend two whole days there – which wasn’t nearly enough to really explore the intricacies of the city. I loved the famous landmarks – La Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell to name a few. Continue reading

The Glamorous Jet Age

Pan Am is in the midst of its first season on ABC. The show is named after the famous Pan American World Airways, and the show is about the relationships between the stewardesses, the pilots, their customers, and the places that they fly to.  It takes place in the 1960s at the start of the jet age – where flying, and particularly flying Pan Am, was a classy and glorified experience. Pan Am created an elitist and glamorous culture surrounding the nature of flying.

The show often displays the objectification of Pan Am stewardesses, and how they are utilized as sex objects to “sell” Pan Am to its customers. In the scene below, one of the more outspoken stewardesses defends herself against an aggressive passenger.

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Pass the Chicken Nuggets

My internship in the financial sector was a complete frat house. On the surface, everything was very professional – fancy ties, shined shoes (a man paid by the company actually came around multiple times a week to shine everyone’s shoes. We’ll leave that story for another day). However, under the façade of uptight corporate suits, these middle-aged professionals often acted like they were in college again. Everyone had nicknames, and if they didn’t have one, they were called by their last name. On Mondays, stories would be exchanged about planking taxicabs over the weekend. And important to this story, almost all of these ‘suits’ were men. In the part of the company I was working in, I was 1 of 2 women. We didn’t have nicknames. Continue reading

Just Do – What?

I was a naïve freshman taking a multi-cultural literature class that was a bit over my head at the time. This wasn’t high school anymore. The books weren’t on SparkNotes. We read a book a week and one in particular sparked my interest – Sons and Other Flammable Objects written by Porochista Khakpour. I was absolutely mesmerized by it. Framed around the time of 9/11, the novel is about a cataclysmic fallout between an Iranian father and his Iranian-American son. Porochista herself is an Iranian immigrant who grew up in Los Angeles, and she often writes Op-Eds in the New York Times and short stories that deal with the identity crisis that is often associated with having a hyphenated name. What drew me into this piece wasn’t so much the plot, but more her masterful use of language.

I was pleasantly surprised when my English professor told us to prepare questions we had about the novel because Porochista was going to come to our class and answer them. My surprise heightened to mild obsession after I got to hear a reading by this author and interact with her in the classroom. She was young, edgy, and a mix of dark and hilarious. When I learned that Porochista herself was a visiting professor of creative writing on Bucknell’s campus, I had to get into her class. I did. And after about an hour in her workshop, I decided to minor in creative writing – something I now consider one of my deepest passions.

So there’s my saga. Now you might be wondering – how is Beth going to tie this into what Jordi wants us to talk about? Well here goes nothing. Continue reading

To Code or Not to Code

Right before his senior year of college, my high school friend Zach Sims, decided to jump on the entrepreneurial bandwagon, drop out of Columbia University and co-found a company called Codecademy. The mission of the company is to teach just about anyone how to code through their simple and user-friendly interface. And it’s free. Codecademy launched a program in 2012 called “Code Year” to encourage people to make learning how to code a New Years Resolution. The popularity of the company has grown dramatically over the past few months, and is evidenced by Mayor Bloomberg’s tweet in which he said, “My New Year’s resolution is to learn to code with Codecademy in 2012!” During their first round of funding in October 2011, Codecademy received $2.5 million from investors, including investment from the renowned venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. The founders of Codecademy believe that in the 21st century, coding is going to become almost as essential as reading and writing and will transform to be one of just a few marketable skills.

I personally have pledged to be a part of Code Year, have participated in a few lessons, but am definitely far away from creating the next Facebook. I have found it hard as a busy college student to dedicate time to learning this skill. When I’m 65 years old, is coding literacy going to be equivalent to pressing the power button on a computer today (a skill my grandparents never quite got a grasp of)? I want to remain technologically competent, but is Codecademy the answer?

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Where Siri Comes From

The popularity of off-shoring and outsourcing labor is incredibly relevant to corporate America today, particularly in the aftermath of an economic meltdown when unemployment in our own country has skyrocketed. From the Baseline Scenario blog, I read an eye-opening article by James Kwak entitled “The Price of Apple.” The blog post discusses the Chinese factories and the workers within these factories who produce Apple products. This post triggered my research into the subject, where I found an article in The Huffington Post about employees at the Apple Manufacturer called Foxconn, who were forced to sign a ‘No Suicide’ Agreement. So many suicides occurred at Foxconn that they felt it necessary to hang large nets in an attempt to catch workers who try to kill themselves.

In Kwak’s post, he claims that while he thinks the Apple operating system is far superior to Windows, he “would gladly switch back if I had confidence that my computer’s manufacturer was an appreciably, demonstrably better employer than Foxconn.” While this is an honorable statement, I’m not sure we could find a large percentage of people who would say the same. This is problematic. Continue reading

The Greatest Happiness Principle

There is something known as “The Trolley Problem” that is utilized as a hypothetical situation in the study of ethics and morality. There are multiple scenarios of the trolley problem, but here is just one: you are driving a trolley and on the track ahead of you, there are five men working who will be killed unless you pull a lever to divert the train to the other track. However, on the other track there is one man working who will be killed if you choose to divert the train. What would you do? Most people say that they would divert the train in order to save more lives.

This response aligns with the theory of Utilitarianism, which is a principle influenced heavily by John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Essentially, Utilitarianism, which has been dubbed “The Greatest Happiness Principle,” is a consequentialist belief that actions should be based on maximizing the amount of happiness for the whole of society. John Stuart Mill wrote in Utilitarianism, “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain.” Therefore, the action of diverting the train follows utilitarian beliefs, as diverting the train will kill one person instead of five, which by simple reasoning, minimizes the amount of pain suffered by society as a whole.

Now let’s complicate the situation. Let’s say that the five men on the track are workers and the single person on the track is a pregnant woman or the President of the United States. Does this change anything? For many people, it probably does. I think a problem with Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism is that it frames the world and the decisions that people have to make in too simple of a nature. In a purely quantitative sense, killing the pregnant women or the President would still be killing less people than the five workers. However, Mill asserts in his argument that there are different levels of happiness and pleasure. Does saving the President fall into a higher order of happiness for the whole than the happiness that would result from saving the five workers? Questions such as these suggest that the principle of Utilitarianism is flawed in guiding our actions.

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Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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