Over the course of writing this paper and revising it, I have learned many different things about my self, both as a writer and as a thinker. When writing, I have learned the importance of patience; I should not be in such a rush (as I sometimes am) with settling for my first draft as written. Even before I give it to someone else, I need to make sure that I look over it myself to ensure that I can correct mistakes I easily see. I also learned the importance of research – I was much more aware of how to articulate my points after I did my research than I was before. As a thinker, I believe this project has allowed me to think in a much more organized way. Not only do I think about what I know or believe to be true, I now think about how to convince others of that opinion. Finding a way to structure my arguments helps me understand my perspective much more, and I also find satisfaction in knowing how to articulate it to others.
One of the most important things I have learned from doing peer review on other classmates' essays and the feedback process is the importance of constructive criticism. I have not had many instances of non-constructive feedback in this class, to be fair, but I have also learned how to give it. I sometimes tend to find myself getting slightly aggravated at the occasional spelling or grammar error, but for the most part I have learned to temper my own high-strung nature and provide criticism that addresses the issue without placing a value judgment on them. When receiving criticism, I have also learned to make sure to take it positively, and not just throw my hands up and say to myself "I am a bad writer." Instead, I take these problems as opportunities to learn.
The process of writing is also much clearer to me now that I have worked on this project. One of the most important skills I have learned is prewriting, or drafting – getting your raw thoughts down on paper, then finding a way to organize them in outline. I have learned to understand that I should not be afraid of getting it perfect the first time – I much prefer now to just write down everything that comes to mind, and read over it later to learn what works and what doesn’t. By doing this, I have a greater deal of material that I think works than I did before. Something else that I learned involves solidifying my own voice in my work – instead of just promoting raw information, I wanted to frame it in a way that is relatable and invests the reader in the ‘story’ of why the poor need help. This has helped me immensely to understand the needs of my audience, and how to reach them best.
One of the biggest problems I have had in the quality of my final writing product, in terms of course outcomes, has been with the ability to adapt and control the voice and style of their writing to different purposes, audiences, and genres. I would say I am still having trouble finding my voice; I tend to repeat myself, and my sentences are not as dynamic or interesting as I would like them to be. I feel I am still struggling with this goal somewhat, though I have managed to make a little bit of progress; I often have trouble starting sentences with the same phrases over and over again, and I want to be able to flesh out the breadth of writing techniques I can use. I feel as though I have a similar voice for many different genres and purposes, and I would like to have the ability to adapt it and shift my voice just a bit more.
I think the learning goal that I have made the most progress with is to approach a writing assignment as a series of thinking tasks that includes comprehension, application, analysis and evaluation, among others. In terms of applying a thought process to writing, I have become much more aware of the need to segment work, as well as the process as a whole.
In the future, I believe there are many skills I will take from this course. For one, I will take from this a better sense of organization; I know how to assemble, collect and order my information in a way that is pertinent to my Big Idea, as well as find ways to make that information pop and resonate for a reader. I believe that the use of multimedia in the course will make me much more versatile with the tools I use to persuade and communicate; I now know that I can use PowerPoint, video or audio as well to compose an effective presentation. I am now much more familiar with the process of searching academic journals, so that I can more easily find the relevant and accurate information I require for my arguments.
The larger conversation with the others in the course, as well as my revisions for the blueprint, letter to the editor, and presentation have helped me immensely in learning more about myself and how I can write and compose arguments more effectively. It was very fascinating to listen to the large conversation and engage in a dialogue with others in my course; it was quite helpful to see and hear what others’ perspectives were on their Big Idea and on mine. Seeing your work through someone else’s eyes not only helps you become a better writer on your own, but helps you know what people are thinking about so you can target that thinking and change it. Understanding the motives and concerns of others helps me frame my arguments in a way they can comprehend and agree with. Furthermore, I was very thankful for the feedback from peers; it helped me to find a lot of tics in my own writing that I had not realized. For one, I need to recognize the strength and importance of my introductions and conclusions, as it is important for me to not just slap up information and expect audiences to get it; I have to convince them with a single, cohesive argument as well.
According to the UN, every person has a basic right to a decent standard of living. (Human Rights Education Association, 2013); Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Article 25(1))
Homes are the staging ground for the rest of life; in order to grow and have the resources necessary to pursue one’s calling, basic living is a must. According to The Human Rights Education Association, “Housing fulfills physical needs by providing security It fulfills psychological needs by providing a sense of personal space and privacy” (Human Rights Education Association, 2013). Currently, both in the US and abroad there is not enough housing for the world’s poor. They are forced to live in subpar conditions, which means that government and non-government organizations alike need to do more and work better to fulfill this basic human need.
When there is a shortage of something, it is the poor who pay. Be it iPhones or homes, those with the adequate means will always fulfill their needs and desires, as they can afford them. According to the most recent census, there are 41 million people in the US who rent homes - 35 percent of the country are living in homes they do not own (Badger, 2012). Furthermore, the number of people who rent in America is only going to increase; researchers studying the issue predict that, over the next decade, 3 million new rental units will need to be built to satisfy a growing demand for housing (Badger, 2012).
More than a housing problem though, the US has a poverty issue that sometimes goes unnoticed, and is affected by the shortage of housing for the poor. The government is certainly making substantial changes, and it does have programs in place to address the housing needs of millions of poor people throughout the country. Government unemployment benefits do a lot in giving people enough to be able to pay their rent and stay in homes. In 2011, the aformentioned benefits helped 2.3 million people stay out of poverty (Luhyby, 2011). However, the last census showed that 46.2 million people were below the poverty line. In 201, those in poverty were earning less than $23,021 for a family of four. The government programs also point to the problem, which is primarily economic. Luhby points out in her article that there are two problems: a lack of physical housing structures and a poverty problem that prevents the poor from making an adequate living. (2011). These same government assistance programs have recorded an increasing number of people seeking those benefits; food stamps were also at record highs in 2011, with 46.7 million Americans in the program. Unfortunately, it does not seem any of these government measures are having a sufficiently positive effect, and there is now some backlash against them. There is substantial political pressure from Republicans in Congress to reduce the expenditures on these programs; their reasoning is that these funds could be applied to any other problem, such as the national debt and job creation.
Despite renting prices increasing substantially in the past few years, incomes for the working class have remained quite stagnant. (Badger, 2013). At lower income levels, there were only 3.7 million units available at prices affordable for the 10.3 million households living in extreme poverty: “the poorer you are in America, the more you’re disproportionately funneling your income into the roof over your head” (Badger, 2013). According to the federal government, households spending over 30 percent of their income on rent are classified as having a "moderate housing burden." However, those who are using more than half of their income on housing have a "severe" burden (Badger, 2013).
The problem does have solutions outside the political process. With the world economy sagging, those at the bottom end of society are getting the shorter end of the stick; after all, they had less to lose to begin with and do not have the same safety nets as the wealthy. Even if the government does not expand funding to assistant programs, if the economy on its own turns itself around (something that historically has always happened), then there will be fewer people without the means to supply themselves with adequate housing.
Our government is based on principles of freedom, and the resources necessary for that freedom to be exercised. Houses and their ownership should not be left up to the winds of economic tides. The government must have a system in place that prevents people from losing their houses and becoming homeless or sliding further into poverty.
Improving the Quality of Housing. (n.d.).Community Toolbox - Bringing Solutions to Light. Retrieved September 13, 2013, from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/chapter26_section2_main.aspxLuhby, T. (n.d.). Government assistance keeps millions out of poverty - Sep. 13, 2012 . CNNMoney - Business, financial and personal finance news. Retrieved September 13, 2013, from http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/13/news/economy/poverty-government-assistance/index.htmlRight to housing. (n.d.). HREA - The Global Human Rights Education Network. Retrieved September 13, 2013, from http://www.hrea.org/index.php?doc_id=411The U.S. Simply Doesn't Have Enough Available Rental Housing, Whether You're Rich or Poor - Emily Badger - The Atlantic Cities. (n.d.). The Atlantic Cities. Retrieved September 13, 2013, from http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/02/us-simply-doesnt-have-enough-available-rental-housing-whether-youre-rich-or-poor/4791/