• Week 5: Fiscal Federalism

    Posted by SELINA JARVIS at 9/25/2016 1:00:00 PM

    money When it comes to money, there are so many cliches that seem apropos to this week's topic that to choose one leaves me in a conundrum! I will start by saying that one of the reasons our Constitution was "born" was over the issue of money (or lack thereof). Today, the federal government has scads of money at its disposal mostly from taxes and borrowing. With all that money, everyone wants their piece...especially the states. Long gone are the days when the federal government just gave their money to the states to spend at their discretion. Today, states are increasingly more dependent on that money to cover their ballooning budgets. This week I want you to read the article below and study the data to answer the following questions:

    1. What geographical or political trends do you see when it comes to federal money flowing into the states?
    2. Should Federal resources be allocated to states according to how much they pay in federal taxes or should some states subsidize others?
    3. What is the fairest way to redistribute federal resources back to the states?


    The last day to post a comment for full credit is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, September 30th.

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  • Week 4: Federalism Today

    Posted by SELINA JARVIS at 9/18/2016 8:00:00 PM
    Chapter 3 looks at the complicated aspect of federalism in our republic.  This principle sets our nation apart from most others.  The states created the national republic, but most of the Framers would be appalled at how few true powers the states have retained.  The 10th Amendment was intended to protect the states by reserving to them any power not delegated to the federal government or specifically denied to them. That was 1791! The line between federal and state authority has continued to be erased by that good ol' 14th Amendment, federal money and the Commerce Clause's interpretation.  Education, marriage, and elections have all traditionally been viewed as "reserved powers" of the states.  This rationale follows the language of the Tenth Amendment...there are no provisions giving the federal government dominion over any of these; nor are the powers denied to the states; so these powers belong to the states, right?  But issues become the federal government's business when, as in the gay marriage debate and the right to vote, they seemingly violate the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.  But the issue of education reform is a bit murkier. Education becomes the federal government's business when it is their money being used by the states. We have seen a litany of federal education reform laws that have been vilified by nearly everyone. From No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the names seem innocuous. Now both the US House and the US Senate have passed new legislation to return the control to the states (or so it would seem). Here is what I would like you to do this week:
    Read the article below and respond to each of the following:
    1. What problems in education do you think this legislation may solve? What problems might it create?
    2. Do you support a 10th or a 14th Amendment view? In other words, who should make decisions about education: local boards, the states or the federal government? Give me some insight about the reasoning of your view.
    3. As a student with over 12 years experience in public education, what do you perceive are the biggest problems and how would you solve them?
    I am really excited to hear your ideas!
    The last day to post a comment for full credit is 11:59 pm on Friday, September 23rd. 
    Comments (31)
  • Week 3: Separation of Powers

    Posted by SELINA JARVIS at 9/11/2016 5:00:00 PM
    The readings this week may seem fairly grueling as we delve into several primary documents. Among those that we will read this week are some of The Federalist papers. In #51, especially, an argument is given about how separation of powers will protect rights and keep the government from being abusive. Checks and balances tie the hands of the branch that over-stretch their authority. This concept of each branch overseeing a specific function is one of the cornerstones of our government.  You all learned in Civics that the legislature MAKES the laws; the executive branch CARRIES OUT the laws; the judicial branch INTERPRETS the laws. What happens, though, if Congress does not act? Can the President go forward anyway? Should he be able to implement policy as "Chief Executive?" President Obama is a lame duck President ineligible for re-election, but there are two people vying to take his job in January, 2017. Since the Senate and the House couldn't pass immigration laws, the President implemented immigration reform through executive action without their help (you read about this case this summer). With the decision deadlocked in the Supreme Court, the lower court's decision voiding the action shakily stands. Both presidential candidates have even more at stake now to win the election.  
    1. Read both articles below to understand both parties views of President Obama's immigration policies and the subsequent court outcome. 
    2. How do you think the Founding Fathers would feel about Obama's actions? Would they see them as a way to break a stalemate or an abuse of his power? Explain your opinion! 
    3. Comment on whether this blurring and blending of branches is a good (necessary) or bad (unconstitutional) idea. Explain your answers thoroughly!

    Clinton Defends Executive Action on Immigration

    Constitutional Implications of U.S. v. Texas

    The last day to post a comment for full credit is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, September 16th.

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  • Week 2: A Struggle for Democracy

    Posted by SELINA JARVIS at 9/4/2016 4:00:00 PM
    This week presents an opportunity to explore the founding of our nation and its struggle for representation in government. Had Britain simply allowed the colonies to have seats in Parliament or a little autonomy in what to tax or how to generate revenue, we may still be flying the Union Jack over our land. Our grievances grew as Britain cracked down on our ability to govern ourselves. Newspapers and town meetings helped spread the word from colony to colony about the egregious actions of oppression by the British. The "Redcoats" patrolled our streets and intimidated our citizenry. Now, fast forward to 2016 and you can imagine how the citizens of Gabon feel. Promised free elections and hopeful of change, the citizens seemingly voted in Jean Ping, but woke up the next day to totalitarianism. Imagine if John Adams had done the same after the election of 1800! Hopefully you will see some parallels in their plight to our plight back in founding period. Here is what I would like you to do this week:
    1. Read the article below. What similarities and differences do you see between the Gabonese citizens and the American democracy at its founding?
    2. What should the Gabonese people fear most: if the world does nothing and the military-backed retains power or if the people rise up in civl war? Explain.
    3. How do you think this situation can or will impact the US? 
    The last day to post a comment for full credit is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, September 9th.
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  • Week 1: Power in America

    Posted by SELINA JARVIS at 8/28/2016 11:55:00 PM
    Welcome back for your senior year! I will post a blog each Sunday on a topic related to our weekly readings, discussions and course objectives.  It will be YOUR responsibility to comment on the article each week BEFORE Friday at midnight.  Each comment will be at least 10 points.  Comments posted after Friday at midnight but before Sunday at 6:00 p.m. will be docked 3 points; comments posted after the Sunday deadline will be docked 5 points.  Completing the post each week is not an option. I expect each and every one of you to comment on each and every topic. To get full credit you also must read the article and react to all questions posed in the blog post.  Failure to do so will take 3 points from your grade. I also insist that you use correct spelling, punctuation, grammar.  I will correct minor oversights, but I will NOT spend my valuable time capitalizing "I" and "texting" slang.
     Whew! Now that I have gotten all of that out of the way, let's jump in. Our first discussions will center on the definitions of power, authority and legitimacy. We will also focus this week on the types of power. One type of power we will discuss on Thursday is pluralist power; whereby many groups compete for power so no one group has complete control. Many Americans like to believe this is the perfect theory when it comes to our country. I think it helps us somehow sleep better at night knowing that power is watered down so there is no one "Big Brother." So, let's test this theory. Who is really calling the shots and wielding power in our country? Read the article below, then come back here and comment on all of the following:
    1. Does this study surprise you? What are your fears if the findings are true?
    2. What will it take, in your opinion, for your generation to fix this problem?
    3. Donald Trump asserts that he is the best choice for President because he "Can't be bought" like the other candidates? Do you agree or disagree with his assessment? Explain.
    This article is based on a study of data. Click here if you want to read this study.
    The last day to post a comment for full credit is 11:59 on Friday, September 2nd.
    Comments (35)
  • Help for Procrastinators

    Posted by SELINA JARVIS at 8/8/2016 11:00:00 AM
    As I sit here contemplating my last week of summer vacation, I am sad that many of you will not be able to complete the mandatory FIVE blogs in the one per week format requirement. I am further distressed that some of you may be contemplating dropping the course consequently. I DO NOT WANT YOU TO DROP THIS COURSE!! Here is what I am willing to do for all of those that may fall in this category or partially in this category:
    1. Complete all 5 blogs in numerical order before middnight on Sunday, August 28th.
    2. Any blogs after the first one you post during a one week period, however, will only count for 5 of 10 points. 
    3. So, since you have 4 weeks left (Sunday-Saturday and the final Sunday) including the current week, you can do 1 blog per week for 10 points and any others for 5 points.
    If you do this on schedule starting before midnight on Saturday, August 13th, you can still earn a 80%! Good luck; get started; and be consistent!
    Comments (0)
  • Summer Week 5: Voting Rights and Elections

    Posted by Selina Jarvis at 7/10/2016 6:00:00 PM
    Please do the blog posts in order! (Start with week 1 and move through them in numerical order.)
    Wow!  This is the last blog for the summer.  Our vacation is flying by quickly. There are so many other topics that we will be exploring this next school year that I was in a conundrum about which topic to pursue. One of the most hotly debated topics is NC's newly passed Voter I.D. law. So, let's tackle it!  Republican legislatures all across the nation have enacted new laws that require voters to show a picture i.d. These laws, they argue, will prevent fraud and maintain the integrity of our electoral system. Democrats, however, are calling "FOUL!" They have, of course, turned to the government's referee, also known as the court system. Democrats liken these laws to poll taxes that disenfranchise the poor, the urban population, and disproportionately minorities (all that tend to vote blue.) North Carolina is still arguing over this issue, as this case has no been appealed to the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Our people are taking sides. So, here is what I would like you to do this week:
    1. Read the article below.
    2. Which side do you most agree with: the Democrats or the Republican? Explain why.
    3. What else could be done to make this law more fair, if anything? Is this law even necessary? Explain! 
    4. Finally, after reading the article, tell me who you think will win this lawsuit on appeal & why.
    Remember, you may not post more than one comment per week (Sunday-Saturday). A 2-point bonus will be awarded to those students that post all five comments before July 31. This post will be available for comments until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 28, 2016.  
    Comments (33)
  • Summer Week 4: The Presidency

    Posted by Selina Jarvis at 7/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
    Please do the blog posts in order! (Start with week 1 and move through them in numerical order.)
    As we start the semester exploring the topic of power, invariably we must look at our own concentrated version of individualized power--the President.  What always strikes me as odd is how my students (as well as the general public) think of the President as an autocrat!  Love him or hate him, our President gets much of the credit and blame for nearly everything.  People call every congressional action by the President's name.  We hear phrases like "the Bush surveillance program" and terms like "Obamacare" in the media. These terms and phrases imply that the President acted alone to implement policies and programs. Nothing could be further from the truth! Americans forget about the months and months of creation, deal-making, and compromising in Congress and just assume that President wrote, passed and implemented the law. Long after President Obama leaves office, he will still exude power. He will command attention by the media, much like former Presidents Clinton and the Bushes do. Now, we have two very different candidates that want his job. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both have image problems, but undoubtedly one of them will be our next President. So, with that introduction, here is what I would like you to do this week:
    1. Read the short articles below and study the charts.
    2. Why do you feel the American public chose these two candidates to be on the ballot in the fall?
    3. Based on the article and charts, explain how you view each of the candidates. What has helped shape your opinions?
    4. Finally, try to predict the electoral outcome in the fall. Who will be our next President & why?
    Remember, you may not post more than one comment per week (Sunday-Saturday). A 2-point bonus will be awarded to those students that post all five comments before July 31. This post will be available for comments until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 28, 2016. 
    Comments (34)
  • Summer Week 3: The US Supreme Court

    Posted by Selina Jarvis at 6/27/2016 3:00:00 PM

    This post is the third of five. Please complete them in order, starting with week 1.


    The judicial branch is probably the most misunderstood of the three branches in our national government.  Americans have a high standard of justice and when we feel justice is not served (perhaps like we may see in the George Zimmerman or Casey Anthony cases) we get angry and rail against the system.  Our country has always had a passionate love-hate relationship with this branch.  Many of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence concerned this branch:

    • He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.  
    • He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. 
    • For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states.  
    • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury: 
    • For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
    In convincing the states to ratify the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton wrote the following about the judicial branch in The Federalist, #78:
     "It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter."
    I am not so sure Hamilton would agree after looking at many of the controversial decisions from this year's session of the US Supreme Court!  Our Court surely handed down some extremely contested rulings this year. With a simple majority of five, the US Supreme Court can strike down any law, halt any action, or refuse to intervene to save a life.  When you couple those powers with the fact that these members serve for life--THAT'S power!  The next President will have an incredible effect on the High Court because of the current opening left by Justice Scalia's death earlier this year. Click on the links below to look over the following case summaries from the session that just ended. Post your comments as to: 
    1. Whether or not you agree with these decisions & why or why not, and;
    2. Whether or not we have concentrated too much power in the hands of too few.  
    Remember, you may not post more than one time per calender week (Sunday-Saturday).  A two-point bonus will be awarded to those that post comments for all 5 blogs by July 31, 2016.  All comments must be approved, thus there will be a delay in seeing your comment posted (I am not on the Internet at all times!)  The last day to post a comment for this blog is Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 11:59 p.m.
    Comments (35)
  • Summer Week 2: Congress

    Posted by Selina Jarvis at 6/19/2016 3:00:00 PM

    This post is the second of five. Please complete them in order, starting with week 1.

    One topic this course emphasizes is that Congress is the "first branch of government." What that exactly means today is often up for interpretation.  The Framers gave the Congress the power to tax, the power to make laws and the power to fund nation's programs-just to name a few.  Most Americans, however, give the President the blame or credit--depending on their ideological point of view.  Although Congress passed the healthcare law, the stimulus packages, TARP, and the deficit budgets that have led to our nearly $19 trillion debt, the American public calls these "Obamacare," the "Obama Recovery," or the "Obama Bailouts."  I am certain James Madison would scratch his head at our misconceptions.  He would not be surprised, though, at the lively two-party system that has emerged.  I am certain he would point to these "factions" (as he called them in the Federalist #10) and be satisfied that there is a balance of power between the two.  In the article below, politics are to blame for the ongoing gun control debate between our divided government.  The Republican-controlled Congress believes that limiting law-abiding citiens from buying or owning guns is dangerous and probably unconstitutional; our Democratic President wants to implement strict limits on automatic weapons and new rules for background checks to prevent more mass shootings, like in Sandy Hook and Orlando. What to do? What kind of compromise will be hammered out, if any?  Here is what I would like you to do this week:

    1. Read the article below, then comment on what you think our course of action should be.  Which side do you most agree with and why?  What should we do about this tense issue of gun violence?
    2. Study the second link to public opinion polls on what a majority of Americans think.  How do your views stack up?  In your post, make it apparent to me that you have read the article and studied the trends.

    Senate Debate on Gun Control

    Polls on Gun Control

    Remember, you may only post one comment per week (Sunday-Saturday).  This post will be available for comments through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 28th.

    Comments (36)
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