We will conclude our chapter on civil liberties this week with a discussion of the rights of the accused and procedural due process. I just love the controversies that arise from these discussions, too. Some people prefer rights; some people prefer security and where you strike that balance is difficult even for the US Supreme Court. The ultimate punishment we give, capital punishment, has been under great scrutiny of late. During the last 2 terms, a hot debate arose over whether or not this punishment is still constitutional. The death penalty withstood these tests, but the main test survived only by the smallest margin-5 to 4. Now that the Supreme Court is sitting at an even 8 and the next President will drive the direction of the Court, rehashing this issue may put the punishment itself on the chopping block. So, here is what I would like you to do this week:
I really enjoyed your comments last week on the dilemmas of immigration that face our country. I also enjoyed our debates over the four immigration options. From that debate, we will begin framing our conversations on civil liberties. We will look at what they are, how they have been defined and interpreted by the courts, and finally, who is entitled to them when rights come into conflict with other rights and American values. That last part is the tricky one. Which civil liberties should prevail when they come into conflict with all the we hold dear: Speech? Religion? Press? or Privacy? That very dilemma is at the crux of this week's blog. So, here is what I would like you to do this week:
1. Read the article below. I am also including a link to the case being discussed in the lesson.
2. Do you think the teacher went too far or is everyone over-reacting?
3. What are the dangers and what are the benefits of curtailing offensive speech and actions?
4. Explain when, if ever, you think offensive speech should be limited.
After our test is over this week on the Foundations unit, we will jump right into Civil Liberties and Civil Rights-My favorite unit! This unit offers no shortage of controversial topics to debate, that is for sure. We will start with a powder keg-IMMIGRATION. Yes, yes, that topic is surely going to get some blood boiling and veins popping out at the temples. Many proposals have been offered as to what should be done about the problem, if anything. You are going to read some controversial options this week and we will culminate the unit with a debate to end the week. The topic is now on the political "front burner" again thanks to Donald Trump (or so he thinks). I'm sure as soon as the election nears and the second debate approaches, the topic will ignite again. Below are links to two very different immigration interest groups. Explore the sites and look over their proposals.
After reading and perusing the sites, tell me your initial thoughts on the subject.
1. What should our nation's immigration policy be?
2. Which group's site is more in line with what your views are? Explain your answer.
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:
What geographical or political trends do you see when it comes to federal money flowing into the states?
Should Federal resources be allocated to states according to how much they pay in federal taxes or should some states subsidize others?
What is the fairest way to redistribute federal resources back to the states?
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?
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.
Read both articles below to understand both parties views of President Obama's immigration policies and the subsequent court outcome.
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!
Comment on whether this blurring and blending of branches is a good (necessary) or bad (unconstitutional) idea. Explain your answers thoroughly!
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?
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:
Does this study surprise you? What are your fears if the findings are true?
What will it take, in your opinion, for your generation to fix this problem?
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.
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:
Complete all 5 blogs in numerical order before middnight on Sunday, August 28th.
Any blogs after the first one you post during a one week period, however, will only count for 5 of 10 points.
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!
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:
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.