Teletherapy, Robots, India, Freedom, PrincipalsThe Morning Show
- Nov 12, 2014
THE VIRTUAL THERAPIST’S COUCH We’ve become pretty comfortable, as a society, with the notion of carrying on long-distance relationships with friends, family, coworkers –even significant others – thanks to advancements like Skype and FaceTime. But are we ready for “teletherapy?” Why sit on a therapist’s couch for counseling, you sit on your own couch and video conference with a psychologist? BYU assistant clinical psychology professor Ben Salazar says the industry is particularly interested in teletherapy for “people who don’t have access to services currently. Is it better to have some services – even in a lesser, distant form – than to have no services at all?” Privacy is a concern, primarily for therapists, says Salazar. A survey of BYU students (millennials) found privacy not high on their list of concerns regarding teletherapy. “Their entire lives are already out on the internet,” notes Salazar. But, he says therapists do have concerns about how to protect patient confidentiality when communicating over the internet. For example, says Salazar, popular video conferencing service Skype is not compliant with current federal health information privacy regulations. Even so, Salazar says the “teletherapy trend is definitely growing – faster than the research is supporting it.” As a result, Salazar says there are significant guidelines and ethical issues to work through. ROBOTS ON FILM At first blush, the big two films in theaters this week don’t have much in common. One (Interstellar) is a dystopian view of a near-future world in which Matthew McConaughey heads to space to save mankind. The other (Big Hero 6) is an animated romp with an inflated robot resembling the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man. But Rod Gustafson and Kerry Bennett of Parent Previews say there is a common thread: robots. Interstellar’s robot “Tars” is steel, austere and serious-looking. It would just be a machine – or tool – without the personality and human-sounding voice it is given. “Tars’ actions are very human,” says Gustafson. Big Hero 6’s “Baymax” is equally human, but entirely lovable and approachable, says Bennett. Families may enjoy comparing the robots and talking about what kind of robot they would create. “Big Hero 6” is rated PG and gets a B+ grade from Parent Previews. “There are some scarier moments, but it’s very appropriate for ages 8 and up,” says Bennett, adding the animated film is likely to spawn lots of Christmas toys. “Interstellar” is rated PG-13 and gets a B. Gustafson says star Matthew McConaughey plays the same role he always plays and the film has a lot of “plot holes.” The film is not appropriate for younger kids – “there are a lot of characters in peril and some language – though surprisingly little” by Gustafson’s standards. “Visually, this movie is stunning.” INDIA’S NEW POLITICAL LANDSCAPE Six months ago some 500 million voters went to the polls in India – the largest election the world has ever seen. The result was a major shift to the right and toward Hindu Nationalism, says Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security – a nonpartisan organization that focuses on developing strong national security and defense policies. Voters threw out the Congress Party which had governed India for a very long time, notes Fontaine. “This is important because it’s the first time in 30 years that one party (the BJP Party) has gotten an outright majority in the parliament. Usually they have to cobble together a coalition.” “The BJP’s Prime Minister Modi has been swept to power with a strong mandate for change” and the potential for tension with the minority of Indians who are not Hindu, says Fontaine. What does it mean for America? “That depends on what happens in the coming months and years,” says Fontaine. Modi campaigned largely on an economic platform of increasing manufacturing, creating jobs and attracting investment. “If he focuses on that – rather than on marginalizing non-Hindus,” he should be successful in forging ties with the West, adds Fontaine. The U.S. has an interest in a close relationship with a “strong India,” to balance China’s rising power, says Fontaine. India also has a lot of sway with countries in its region, though not as much in the politics of the Middle East. The exception is Iran, where India is a key customer of Iranian oil and has been loath to support sanctions related to nuclear negotiations with Iran, says Fontaine. MY FREEDOM OR YOURS? America, as we often sing, is the “land of the free.” Freedom is part of our national identity and the justification for our national existence. We hold it as self-evident that we possess a natural right to liberty. One of the few things Republicans and Democrats have in common is that they generally frame their arguments in terms of freedom. “Freedom sells,” so to speak. So why, then, do we disagree so much in the political arena, particularly when it comes time for an election? Because, says BYU History professor Grant Madsen, “there are as many definitions of freedom as there are people.” Madsen points to the work of 1950s political philosopher Isaiah Berlin identifying “positive” and “negative” liberty. (Don’t assume negative liberty is bad and positive is good, warns Madsen.) “Negative liberty is the intuitive form we’re most familiar with,” says Madsen. One of the first things children learn to say is, “you’re not the boss of me.” “This notion of being told to do something you don’t want to do is the basis of ‘negative liberty’ as Berlin defined it.” “Negative freedom underpins the first amendment freedom of autonomous individuals to pursue his or her own sense of what is good and right for them,” says Madsen. “It’s sometimes called the right to be left alone.” Positive liberty is a clear response to negative liberty, continues Madsen. “What if we create a world in which there’s nothing but negative liberty and all we end up with is drug addicts and people who play video games all day? Aren’t we creating a rush to the bottom in which all of our basest instincts flourish?” A positive liberty advocate calls for rules and laws to enhance the greater good, says Madsen. Someone or something will have a veto over individual desires – and that someone or something has to believe they know better what’s best for that person. “Like a parent knowing what’s best for a child,” says Madsen. Practically speaking, Prohibition was an example of “positive liberty,” where drunks needed to be protected from their own inclination to drink. The same could be said of laws against heroin, says Madsen. Libertarians are generally very uncomfortable with “positive liberty.” “It smacks of paternalism or judgmentalism we’re very uncomfortable with in this country,” says Madsen. “But usually when we endeavor in some big collective effort, such as education, health care or roads, positive liberty is the justification for that.” “This is part of the reason our politics are both confused or angry,” says Madsen. “We don’t have common definitions for freedom, from which we work.” PRINCIPAL MATTERS A teacher’s role in education is fairly clear: he or she is the one in front of the classroom, guiding the students and shaping their success in school. The principal in the school’s main office has a less obvious – but equally important role – in the education of your child. And that role has changed dramatically in recent years, says Gary Seastrand, director of the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling in BYU’s David O. McKay School of Education. Seastrand was both a principal and a district administrator responsible for training principals before coming to BYU. Fundamentally, a principal sets the culture and climate of a school and looks out for the students’ well-being, says Seastrand. But principals today are also expected to be “learning leaders,” modeling and shaping the way teachers teach in the school. “It used to be that a good principal maintained the status-quo,” says Seastrand. ‘We’re seeing toward principals constantly seeking improvement in their schools. They feel the need to be proactive on what teachers need, what students are learning and what the data show.” Seastrand says parents need to know that the principal’s job is often to facilitate communication, but that initial concerns should generally be addressed with the teacher first. As for how to measure the job a principal has done, Seastrand is “disappointed” in the trend toward issuing letter grades for schools. But he says, the principal should be held accountable for how well the students in his or her school do in their learning. Despite the pressures of the job, Seastrand says, “being a principal was one of the best jobs I ever had. I loved being with the kindergarten through sixth grade ages and really having the opportunity to connect with students.” Show More...