上級 Will There Always Be Discrimination?


In the 1960s in America, the issue of the day was racial equality.

African-American people in many parts of the U.S. were living in abject poverty. Black babies in America’s cities were living in unsanitary conditions and dying of starvation. Frequent confrontations with the white police forces in black communities everywhere created tense, explosive situations.

This was especially so in the South of the nation, where blacks were forbidden to eat at the same restaurants, drink at the same water fountains or use the same restrooms and other facilities as whites. Though many blacks in the rural South were said to be illiterate, they were nevertheless familiar with their own history: As descendants of slavery in the U.S., they had long known the sheer brutality of white lynch mobs. They had long experienced white people’s efforts to undermine black economic and educational progress and keep the African-American populace in a state of intimidation.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who was famous for the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, had supposedly freed black slaves, yet a hundred years later, African Americans were still struggling with the weight of white people’s discrimination and oppression against them. In the 1960s, a sharper focus of such issues came into being: Transit boycotts were held to oppose segregated busing. Blacks began to organize themselves into powerful voting blocs that would challenge the power structure of white society. A new African-American cultural identity emerged.

Many African Americans have come a long way and made substantial progress since the 1960s.

At the same time, it is also a fact that racial harmony is still an elusive dream in the “land of freedom and democracy.” The troubling question yet remains: Will there always be racial discrimination in the United States of America?

—Brian Covert


中級 The Benefits of Being Bilingual


Bilingual families and educators have long known the value of having their children or pupils grow up learning two languages. The most obvious value would be in a child’s range of understanding. If it is true that “language is the bridge to culture,” then it is easy to see that bilingual children will have a more broadened view of the world they live in.

Researchers at York University in Toronto, Canada have taken the issue one step further, however: In June 2004, these researchers
found in a study that being bilingual may actually be a positive boost not just for a person’s way of thinking but for his or her physical health as well. The researchers tested 104 people between the ages of 30 and 88 on their vocabulary skills, nonverbal reasoning ability and their reaction time.

The bilingual testees were found to have had a faster reaction time than their monolingual counterparts. In general, the researchers found, the elderly bilingual persons showed a sharper mental ability than the monolingual elderly persons. This led the Canadian researchers to conclude that being bilingual may actually help delay the physical effects of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

If this is to be believed, then bilingual children, though they may be too young now to appreciate the value of such scientific mumbo-jumbo, will have much to look forward to in the future: a broadened worldview and a sharpened brain as well.

—Brian Covert


初級 A Hug a Day


There is an old saying in English: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This saying means that eating a fresh fruit or vegetable every day is a good way to keep your body healthy and avoid future trips to the hospital for any medical problems.

There’s another saying that is lesser known but perhaps just as important these days: “A hug a day keeps the blues away.” In other words, receiving a hug from someone — or giving a hug to someone — is a good way to keep your heart warm and avoid problems with people.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great if all our troubles in life could be easily solved with a small show of caring or a tender touch to someone we know? Well, it may sound like a dream, but there are many people around the world who take this “art of hugging” seriously. That includes doctors and other professionals in the health care field, who use “hug therapy” for their patients who need urgent help. Some doctors say that high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, loneliness and stress are among the problems that hugging helps to heal.

So, the next time you are enjoying an apple to “keep the doctor away,” why not consider giving someone you care about a hug to keep the blues away as well?

—Brian Covert