TGI Newsletter Issue #42 Learning CAN be fun. Training SHOULD be fun.
Training Games ARE fun!
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Life; Simply too Short to Stress
Relatively speaking, we don't have all that much time on this big, beautiful, blue planet. So why would we choose to lead such highly hectic and stressful lives? Especially now that we know how physiologically bad stress can be for your health. Dr. Robert Sapolsky is currently professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University. However, Dr. Sapolsky has spent many years studying baboons in the wilds of Africa. Why? Well one reason is that baboons (non-human primates) have a cerebral cortex similar to ours, and with the ability to experience stress in much the same way as we do. All animals have what has been called a "fight or flight" response. This is a state of hyper-arousal, an acute stress response, which serves us well when being chased by lions and tigers. Our hearts start to beat faster, blood pressure soars, and our visual system becomes acutely focused on the oncoming danger. We are in a state of readiness, with our brain acutely focused on the present danger and sending all our energy reserves to our leg muscles to hopefully, help us get away from the approaching large fanged beast. This is a fantastic system for marshalling our attention and our abilities to deal with any 30 second emergency situation. But here's where humans and primates differ from zebras and antelopes. Where zebras experience a fight or flight response for a brief moment, when it over, it's over. They're either back to munching on the high grass in the field, or else being consumed by the tiger. Humans, and other primates, have the unique ability to remember and somehow imprint these horrific experiences, often resulting in what we call long term chronic stress. As a result, we can experience accelerated heart rates, and high blood pressure, for periods of time much longer than our systems were originally designed to endure.

In acutely stressful states our normal bodily functions shut down. We are not digesting, growing and healing like we should be doing on a regular basis. Somehow we've managed to introduce the equivalent of being chased by some huge ferocious beast, into our everyday lives! Therefore, as you can well imagine, long term chronic stress is pretty bad for your health.

Dr. Sapolsky discovered through studying primates that the "number one" attributing factor to long term chronic stress, was none other than the primate's own personality. So who are these folks getting stressed out!

In Wake Forest Medical School (North Carolina) Dr. Jay Kaplan experiments with Macaque monkeys. He places 5 monkeys in close quarter cages, stripping away all room for polite social functioning, and watches as one or two of these animals quickly assert dominance over the cowering others. Dr. Kaplan studies the monkeys for extended periods of time (some over 2 years), feeding them a high fat diet (1/3 of their intake is fat). Well, high fat for monkeys. It is actually the same amount of fat content in the average American's diet. Periodically the cardio vascular systems of these animals are checked for atherosclerosis (Atherosclerosis, ath-er-o-skler-O-sis is a disease in which plaque [plak] builds up on the insides of your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body). Dr. Kaplan was able to discover that maintaining this dominant aggressive behavior for the Macaque monkeys produces long term chronic stress, resulting in clogged arteries. These monkeys have constant surges of high blood pressure and accelerated heart rates which damage blood vessels and eventually provide ideal sites for artery clogging plaque to build up. Now the obvious next question is how many of these monkeys do you know, or more to the point, how similar is their high stress/high fat life style to that of your own?

A 20 year Duke University study looked at negative personality traits (hostility, anger, anxiety and depression) . "The researchers found that each negative personality trait, by itself, was significantly associated with increased risk for heart disease. However, when they analyzed all of the traits in combination, they found statistical evidence that the clustering of traits was the best predictor of a person's risk for heart disease."

It used to be we thought these were just Type A personalities, and this was considered to be a good thing. Corporations would be on the look out to hire these Type A types! (Wikipedia - Type A individuals can be described as impatient, time-conscious, concerned about their status, highly competitive, ambitious, business-like, aggressive, having difficulty relaxing; and are sometimes disliked by individuals with Type B personalities for the way that they're always rushing. They are often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, drive themselves with deadlines, and are unhappy about delays.) But life is too short to kid ourselves any longer. We are indeed able to lead chronically stressful lives, but our bodies were not designed to do so. The consequential evidence is irrefutable, long term chronic stress will damage us, and life is, quite simply, too short.

Some Interesting Brain Facts
1. Key disease genes were identified that underlie several neurodegenerative disorders—including Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

2. Revolutionary imaging techniques, including magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, now reveal brain systems underlying attention, memory and emotions and indicate dynamic changes that occur in schizophrenia.


Condition Total Cases Costs Per Year
Hearing Loss 28 million $ 56 billion
All Depressive Disorders 18.8 million $ 44 billion
Alzheimer's Disease 4 million $ 100 billion
Stroke 4 million $ 30 billion
Schizophrenia 3 million $ 32.5 billion
Parkinson's Disease 1.5 million $ 15 billion
Traumatic Head Injury 1 million $ 48.3 billion
Multiple Sclerosis 350,000 $ 7 billion
Spinal Cord Injury 250,000 $ 10 billion
* Estimates provided by the National Institutes of Health and voluntary organizations

Famous Quotes on Knowledge
Confucius – "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."

Paul Valery – "That which has been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false."

Woody Allen – "Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle.

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Multiracial Identity Model by Sallie Weems
There are many factors that must be considered when designing a meaningful educational activity, including the many adult learning and developmental stage theories. In addition, educators must be mindful of the learners' background and experience. Recently, attention has been directed toward the various cultural and societal groups that learners' identify with. Research has focused on the implications of oppression toward individuals based on race, gender and sexual orientation (Torres, Howard-Hamilton, & Cooper, 2003). Multiracial identity refers to individuals who "identify themselves as belonging to more than one race" (Wood, 2009, p. 2). The multiracial demographic is not well understood because it is a fairly recent phenomenon in U.S. history since interracial marriage was against the law in many states as recently as 50 years ago. Alabama was the last state to lift the ban against interracial marriage in 2000 (Wood, 2009). The election of President Barack Obama is a strong indication of the growing acceptance of multiracial individuals in the United States. According to Wood, the multiracial group is the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. (2009).

Poston's Five Stages

As a Filipino-American, I identify with Poston's five stages of multiracial identity development. Poston describes the five stages as: personal identity, choice of group categorization, enmeshment/denial, appreciation, and integration (cited by Renn, 2008, p. 14). Reflecting upon and relating the key experiences of my life to Poston's stages will help to better understand the multiracial individuals' learning perspective.

Personal Identity

In Poston's personal identity stage, "young children hold a personal identity that is not necessarily linked to a racial reference group" (Renn, 2008, p. 14). I was born in Manila, and spent my young childhood from birth through 5 years of age in the Philippines. My father is Filipino-Chinese and my mother is Caucasian, born in a small town in Missouri. My family lived in Illinois from the time I was six to eleven years old. I was the second eldest of 5 children, and I have no recollection or awareness of my multiracial background during this time. I remember this as a happy time of my life, with my siblings as my playmates. I recall my parents associating with other culturally diverse families, such as my Cuban-American cousins, other Filipino families, Hungarians and Eastern Indians. My father is a physician, so I feel that we were sheltered from racism because of our social status. I remember my father always speaking to us in English, and discouraging us from using the Filipino language in order to eliminate any trace of an accent. We visited my maternal grandmother frequently in the small town of Lake Spring, Missouri, and always felt welcomed and loved by my family and the other people who lived there. When I was eleven years old, my mother died unexpectedly at the age of 34 leaving my father with 5 young children from my newborn sister, to my eldest sister who was twelve.

Choice of Group Categorization

Poston's second stage, choice of group categorization, refers to an individual's choice of a "multicultural existence that includes both parents' heritage groups or a dominant culture from one background" (Renn, 2008, p. 14). In my case, I identified very strongly with my Caucasian background and felt very alienated from my Filipino heritage. After my mother's death, my father sent my older sister and me to live with my paternal grandmother in the Philippines. This was the first time in my life when I felt like I was different. I didn't speak the language, I wasn't familiar with the culture and I looked different. I was taller and I had different features than my friends. Because Americans are well regarded in the Philippines, I never felt discrimination, but I never felt completely at home.


Enmeshment/denial is the third stage of multicultural identity development, and is characterized by feelings of "guilt at not being able to identify with all aspects of his or her heritage" which "may lead to shame, anger, or self-hatred; resolving the guilt and anger is necessary to move beyond this level" (Renn, 2008, p. 14). Because of my father's earlier practice of only conversing with us in English, I lost my ability to converse in Tagalog, our native language. I regularly felt embarrassed and intimidated when Filipinos tried to speak to me in Tagalog. Our family attended social gatherings of the local Filipino club, and I felt excluded when individuals conversed among themselves using the native language.


The fourth stage of multicultural identity development, appreciation, has to do with the individual exploring "all aspects of their backgrounds" (Renn, 2008, p. 14). As an adult, I began to explore my Filipino heritage, seeking out others who shared my background. I learned how to cook some of the common foods, and frequented the Asian markets for ingredients unique to the Filipino cuisine. I joined a professional organization, the Philippine Nurses Association of Arizona, as a founding member and was elected first as an officer, and later as a board member.


The last stage, integration, is defined as a "multicultural existence in which the individual values all of her or his ethnic identities" (Renn, 2008, p. 14). I believe that I am firmly ensconced in this stage, as I am comfortable in both cultures and can interact effectively in either group. According to Miville, Constantine, Baysden and So-Lloyd, multiracial individuals tend to "develop strategies to help them fit in with more than one racial or cultural group" in what they call the "chameleon experience" (2005, p. 512). I now have a family of my own, and I enjoy telling my children stories about my experiences in the Philippines, and try to instill a sense of pride in their heritage. I've recently become reacquainted with many of my Filipino cousins living in the Philippines and in the U.S. through Facebook, and I am preparing to visit the Philippines in early 2010 by practicing my Tagalog with my local friends and colleagues.


According to Torres, Howard-Hamilton and Cooper, "a person must recognize one's own culture before truly understanding another person's culture" (2003, p. 4). This reflective exercise has offered insight into how Poston's stages of multiracial identity development has impacted my growth as an educator and as a student.

Sallie Weems

About the author...

Sallie Weems is the Program Manager for Continuing Medical Education at CHW-East Valley located in Chandler, Arizona. She received her Associate Degree in Nursing from Phoenix College, a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Grand Canyon University, and her MBA in Management from Western International University. She is pursuing her doctoral studies in Higher Education and Adult Learning. Sallie has worked in the health care industry for over 20 years, and has managed undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education since 1999. You can contact this author at [email protected].

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