Like usual, I was having a little bit of trouble figuring out what to write about for the week’s blog post.  My first plan was to look up some American Think Tanks and pick out an interesting one to profile.  I found a list of think tanks by country on Wikipedia, and when I scrolled down to the United States of America, it lead me to an entirely separate article solely about American ones.  That list was like 400 items long, so I decided that method wasn’t going to work out so well.  But as soon as I was about to close the tab, I spotted the Pew Research Center.  The Pew Research Center is frequently in the news as a source of non-partisan information.  The center’s info page says it tries to capture “the issues, attitudes, and trends that shape America and the World”.  The center focuses a lot on political issues, but I did a quick search for its name on google and I came up with a wide range or articles from news consumption on tablets to how teens use text messaging as a form of communication.  To speak on a technicality, Pew doesn’t even consider itself a “think tank”.  Instead it bills itself as a “fact tank”.  Pew Research Center is an independently funded organization, mainly backed by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  The fact tank does not have an ties to a specific Country, Government,International Governance, or University.  

If I were to be a part of a think tank, I would most likely be involved with one that is independently funded. I feel as though ones that are independently funded have a more non-biased connotation as compared to ones with some other kind of affiliation.  While I know that it is possible for independent organizations to have some sort of agenda, I think their tends to be less perceived bias by the general public.  

And finally, If I were to start a think tank I would try to advocate for more reconstruction projects that focus on the US.  A lot of times, I hear about kids that go to Africa or some other third world country to do things like build a house or help out at a school.  Now, I am in no way saying that they shouldn’t be doing something like this.  In fact, I find it very admirable that someone would devote the time to help out an area in need.  However, I do think that a lot of times, people over look the need that we have in this country.  People travel half way across the world, when most of the times, there is someone in need of the same things living within 15 minutes of someone who wants to help.  


9 responses »

  1. Connie says:

    Is it weird and/or nerdy that I kind of love the research that Pew Research Center does? I’ve never heard of them, or at least never paid attention to them, before this semester. However, over the course of this year, they’ve come up several times in my Media, Power, and Social change sociology class, and even for my first post on this blog. I find that the research that they do on Internet/social media consumption to be the most fascinating since that’s the area in our lives that seems to be very prominent in our lives, and is also constantly changing. It is always interesting to me to see the relationships between certain demographics and social media consumption to see if I fall under the conclusions that they ultimately draw. I also love that they refer to themselves as a “fact tank,” and are trying to redefine what it means to be a think tank.

  2. scoutberger says:

    I love the idea of your think tank. It is very true that other countries need assistance and I thoroughly admire the people that travel to other countries. However, I also agree that people sometimes forget how much need we have here in the US as well. One particular issue that I feel anyone can help with is education in America. 14% of US adults can’t read. I think this number is absolutely astounding. Helping out at a local day care center, giving a child their first book…these are things that can help tackle the issue of education without traveling half way across the world.

    That being said, a gigantic question arises. If we don’t help people in other countries, who is going to? Many countries where people volunteer don’t have funds or resources for their own citizens to perform reconstruction.

    • Zach says:

      The question you are raising is definitely a tough one. There are a lot of places that are in a really bad situation. I guess, like many things, it all comes down to supply and demand. There is a finite supply (people who want to help), that needs to be allocated to a much larger demand (people who need help). I’m not saying that we should stop foreign aid, but I definitely think that people need to focus more on what is going on around them. There is some sort of glamour attached to helping out in Africa for a summer that simply does not exist for helping out in Harlem. I think that is what needs to change.

  3. Mike says:

    I really like your think tank idea too. I don’t know about everyone else, but when I see a commercial with sad children in other countries and a celebrity asking for donations to feed a child for a month, I don’t get depressed…I get a little annoyed. Yes it is admirable for an organization to support those in need, but there are still so many problems in our own country. There is work that could be done in every category in the United States. Yes, it is much more severe in other countries and they are probably making more of an impact by concentrating on denser, poor areas, but I don’t see why we don’t take care of our own citizens first. I’ve volunteered in poor West Virginian towns and Newark, New Jersey and have witnessed our own problems that are mostly ignored. Soup kitchens and temporary construction do not solve the problem. As I write this, I see how selfish I am sounding, but I rationalize it with patriotism.

    • Alex Lin says:

      I think this is an interesting point that Mike presents. I have always had an interesting view on volunteering and donating. Although it is great to give up some time to help others in need, many of the goals that organizations do have a short-term solution. When I think about how I could make the biggest impact for a certain issue, it usually all stems back to policy. Think Tanks can help generate media which can lead to changes in policy and regulations.

    • Kate says:

      Mike, you bring up a valid point. Before helping to solve other nation’s problems, we first need to address our own problems. The problem is that citizens within our own countries are unaware of these issues, but what is the proper way to publicize these issues to ensure that they get addressed? I think one idea would be to have gap year students take a year off and go around to different parts of the U.S. to volunteer within poor areas. By having our younger generations be exposed to this type of poverty, it would spark greater awareness (hopefully reaching the government level). Again, helping to build a school in Africa is a wonderful deed to help build your resume, but you could probably get the same recognition for helping citizens within your own country.

    • Zach says:

      The word “selfish” is almost always used a negative way, though I don’t think that it always should be thought of in that way. In your last sentence, you had to find some way to justify your own selfishness. The formal definition of the word is “concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit”. I ask the question, what is wrong with that. It doesn’t mean that one does not care about others. People all around the globe look at America as a land of riches. Although there is certainly a lot more wealth here than in other places, that image is certainly not one of reality. The wealth gap in this country is a very real thing, and there are many that live each day without knowing if they will be able to eat dinner. I don’t have exact numbers, but I have a feeling the amount of aid that we give out to other countries is a lot more than the aid that we receive. If we don’t try to help out the people in this country, I seriously doubt others will. So maybe focusing more on the welfare of America is selfish, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

  4. Paul Martin says:

    Zach, I couldnt agree more with you (and Mike and Kate for that matter). Being selfish is by no means a bad thing. I love America, and call me “selfish” but I would prefer to see America succeed at solving its own problems before trying to help out other places. A couple comments that were made so far dealt with the literacy rate or poverty throughout America. Personally, I went with a group of Bucknell students to New Orleans this past summer to rebuild houses (and enjoy Bourbon Street). I was shocked to see how much of New Orleans is still completely destroyed. Although the streets are basically cleaned up, there are still empty lots left and right. America seems to have short-term memory loss when it comes to its own problems, but get up in arms when it comes to other countries. I’ve said it in class and I’ll say it again, America is way too politically correct for its own good. Forget about the sense of “obligation” to help other countries; take care of our own back yard first.

  5. […] Passionate Responses: Zach – The Pew Research Center & Paul – Old enough to […]

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