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Monday, April 21, 2014

Competition for America's First Ambassador of Education!!

You have been selected as a candidate to become the very TOP person in education!!  If selected you will be given the title of the United States of America's first Ambassador of Education!!  With this new title, comes a TREMENDOUS task and not to mention a TON of responsibility.

Here's the scenario:
Last week it was announced that despite the attempted changes in the American educational system, the US has dropped to 40th place in education throughout the developed world.  Schools are in shambles and progress is at an all time stand-still.  Nothing seems to be working!  So, the United States Congress went on a head-hunting world tour to find someone to head up the nation's educational system and even changed laws so that the newly selected Ambassador of Education would be allowed to implement ANY changes in the American educational system that he/she felt was absolutely necessary to get us back on track (pending Congressional approval).  Congress and even state governors have vowed that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get our schools back to the point of being at least in the top 10 of the world - if not the very top.  This job is going to demand that you "think out of the box" and come up with ideas that you believe are doable.

Your task is to come up with FIVE key starting points / changes that you feel are ABSOLUTELY a must to begin putting America's educational system back on track.  You need to list the FIVE key things that you want Congress to push through and present them before the states.  List the FIVE changes with a brief description of why  you think they are ABSOLUTELY needed. Make sure your descriptions are clear and precise (to the point) and be prepared to answer questions that "members of Congress" (those responding to your proposals) may have for you.  In other words, be able to defend your plan!!

Those of you commenting on each other's post, are considered the "Members of Congress."  Your job is to pick through the various plans being proposed and really look them over.  Be critical!!!  If something isn't done, America's future is in serious jeopardy!!!  As it was once said, "The future of ANY country on this planet earth lies within it's educated mass!  A failure there, spells the doom of the country."

Once this blog is completed we'll be taking a vote in class which plans to adopt!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Are we becoming too sensitive???

This week’s blog topic comes from Maya.  She sent me this great article about this major backlash that a mom of three ended up having simply due to a FaceBook post and image that she posted.  CLICK HERE to read the article.  So, I began looking into this whole idea of just how hypersensitive our society has become.

Here’s a simple example.  According to a recent Rasmussen poll, nearly 35% of Americans believe that it’s “offensive to refer to an illegal immigrant as an ‘ILLEGAL immigrant.”  Seriously??

Has America became a society of hypersensitive babies?

Literally EVERYTHING that EVERYONE does in the media - be it in television, film, radio, print or on the web - is scrutinized, held under a microscope and perpetually monitored by a number of advocacy groups. “Watchdogs” who are sitting idly by, ready to bark for the simple sake of hearing themselves “bark.” Truth be told, I probably am going to have  a number of them find this on the internet and come after me for calling them “watchdogs” and using the derogatory word “bark.” (I’ll let you know if that happens!)

Here’s another good example:  Miley Cyrus recently pulled double duty on the Saturday Night Live show, appearing as both the host and musical guest.  Now, giving the Miley her due, most people that saw the program said that she “killed it.”  Now, in my opinion, Miley is far more self-aware than she gets credit for - meaning that she is purposely doing the shock and awe to self-promote herself; which there is nothing wrong with - again in my opinion.  During the show, she poked fun at all she’s currently vilified for - including how she incessantly, and annoyingly, sticks her tongue out.  Miley joked that she wasn’t actually sticking her tongue out at all, but rather, “kept having mini-strokes.”

Guess what??  Her comments infuriated the Stroke Association, who immediately demanded that Miley issue an apology.  SERIOUSLY!!!!  (and of course, she apologized..."sincerely")

Now, before I continue, let me clarify that I’m not a big Miley Cyrus fan (as a matter of fact, I don’t have a single one of her songs on my iPhone…just for the record); nor am I making light of strokes.  To be honest, that would be asinine (great SAT word, by-the-way).  Anyone with a modicum (yep, that would be another great SAT word!!) of intelligence knows that strokes are no laughing matter.  That being said, I also firmly believe that anyone intelligent enough to write a strongly worded complaint letter SHOULD be smart enough to realize a joke for what it is - even if you considered it in poor taste or not.  I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that even one stroke victim is currently dealing with lasting mental trauma brought on by a Saturday Night Live monologue.

Reality check: Sometimes - nay, actually, ALL the time - people say or do things that you don’t like.  For better or worse, that’s reality.  That’s life.  To be even  clearer, that’s the FIRST AMENDMENT.

One more example: Fez Whatley, co-host of Sirius XM’s popular Ron & Fez Show, recently went on a long, passionate on-air rant about a Chevy commercial that uses the word “crazy” multiple times, claiming that it was “insensitive to the mentally insane.”  Really?  As if “crazy” is a race, gender or nationality.  As if somewhere in the East Village, someone’s currently planning the next Nutjob Pride Parade (ok, that may be a bad analogy - but I think you get the idea).

Now, let me clarify that I DO believe that each one of us have a responsibility within society to be sensitive to others.  In a society it is important that we respect each other and not INTENTIONALLY degrade nor demean others for the pure sake of doing so.  Yet, with that said, it appears that our political correctness and hypersensitivity has gone overboard.  We’ve become too sensitive about things of which are by no ways or means meant to inflict harm on others.  As Maria Kang (the mom in the article that Maya sent) stated: “What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s Yours.  The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your head.  I didn’t create them.  You created them…”  (yet, she did make an apology..."sincerely")

Blog Question:

Do you feel that Maria Kang’s post was inappropriate? Has America become too hypersensitive?  Do “empty” and “forced” apologies only perpetuate a society of hypersensitivity?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Speak Your Mind!!!

What's up with this blog topic??  Ah, inquiring minds want to know!!

Actually, nothing.  There is no trick or fancy goal alternative motive here - it is what it is.

For this week's blog - YOU - the awesome student of APUSH 1 is going to get a chance to "Speak Your Mind."  Plain and Simple.

So, what's on your mind? Is it politics, economics, sports, school, the weather, or maybe social issue.  The trick here is to simply "free write" whatever is on your mind.  What issue do you want to talk about? What's important to you at this point in time.

All too often you, as students, are told what to think, what to say, and to be quite frank, how to say it. Well, here's your chance to go completely "off the reservation" and talk about whatever you want to talk about!!!  So, don't waste this opportunity.  SHOUT IT OUT!!

Ok, since this is "technically" an educational blog, moderated by your's truly, I do have to state that there is a simple rule (yes, we always need "rules," right?) - you must be respectful of each others post.  That doesn't equate to a "holding-hands" and "singing around the campfire" moment - but respect.  You can agree to disagree and no one's post is considered "stupid" or "dumb."  Yet, that doesn't not mean you have to agree.  So, when posting comments on each others thoughtful topics, if you disagree, say it, but with respect.

Let the Dialog Begin!!

Blog Question:
Need I say it???  "WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?"  SPEAK UP - BE HEARD!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Same-Sex Schools: An Answer to Problems in Education?


Single-sex schools are schools that only admit those of one specific gender, believing that the educational environment fostered by a single gender is more conducive to learning than a co-educational school. Studies conducted have shown that boys gain more academically from studying in co-education schools, but that girls find segregated schools more conducive to achievement. However academic results are not the only criterion on which the success of the education system should be judged. In the United States, a long-standing controversy over the Virginia Military Institute resulted in a landmark Supreme Court ruling, in June 1996, that the institute must admit women. Nevertheless the Court left room for private (i.e. not state-run) single-sex institutions and other such schools, where needed, to redress discrimination. Proponents of single-sex schools maintain that, by removing the distractions of the other sex, students learn more effectively and feel better about their education. Opponents maintain that co-educational schools in contrast are important in that they prepare students better for the real world, and do not attempt to segregate students from the realities of adult life. This debate can apply both to secondary school and college level, but single-sex institutions are found more frequently at the former.

Women in particular benefit from a single-sex education; research shows that they participate more in class, develop much higher self-esteem, score higher in aptitude tests, are more likely to choose ‘male’ disciplines such as science in college, and are more successful in their careers. In the USA Who’s Who, graduates of women’s colleges outnumber all other women; there are only approximately 50 women’s colleges left in the States today. Elizabeth Tidball, who conducted the Who’s Who research, also later concluded that women’s colleges produced ‘more than their fair share who went on to medical school or received doctorates in the natural or life sciences’, typically male fields.

Other studies have found that women in fact are not any better off in single-sex institutions. A 1998 survey from the American Association of University Women, a long-time advocate of single-sex education, admitted that girls from such schools did not show any academic improvement. That they are more inclined towards maths and sciences is of questionable importance to society as a whole. As the report noted, "boys and girls both thrive when the elements of good education are there, elements like smaller classes, focused academic curriculum and gender-fair instruction". These can all be present in co-educational schools. It has been argued that Tidball in her research made the mistake of not controlling for other characteristics, namely socio-economic privileges of those at elite women’s colleges.

Without a doubt, American schools are failing.  According to the Global School ranking released in December 2013, the United States dropped to 36th place - America might be considered a Super Power - but it lags dramatically in education.  Clearly there is a problem and some feel that drastic measures need to be made in order to correct the downward trend.  Those that advocate for same-sex schools make the argument, that not only is it beneficial to promoting the educational status of women, but that it also removes the social interaction between the sexes that many educators feel has become a major distraction.  "Students don't come to school for the academic stimulation or challenge, they come for the social interaction with the opposite sex," has been a long believed conception by many educators in this country today.

Blog Question:

Would same-sex schools be a good alternative to traditional co-ed public schools?  Even though it's not the only idea to help eradicate the growing problem in public education in the United States, could it be considered a good step forward?  What ideas do you have that could help alter the current trend downward in America's educational system? 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Abolitionist or Terrorist?

Talk about perfect timing!!!  This week's blog fits directly into what we are currently studying!!

Historian Kenneth Gray once stated that there existed a thin line between what one can call a patriot and terrorists.  He basic argument was that those the advocate a change for what they honestly believe to be fundamentally "right" can indeed be considered a true patriot.  Did not Thomas Jefferson state:

"And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Yet, one could, if one so desired, interpret the call to "...let them take arms" and "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots" to be a form of terrorism.  The Oxford dictionary definition of the word terrorism is, "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims."  Therefore, one can clearly see Gray's point by stating that their exist that "thin line" between the two.

On February 14th of this year, a group of activists in Charleston, SC unveiled what has become a very controversial statue of the black abolitionists, Denmark Vesey.  The "New York Times" recently wrote an opinion piece on the controversy.  Click here to read the article and then fire away on the blog question for this week... should be an interesting one!!!

First, do you agree with historian Kenneth Gray that there really does exist a thin line between what one may call a terrorists or a patriot?  After reading the article, what is your opinion on the statue of Denmark Vesey - should it be celebrated or does it glorify the wrong message?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is Evil, evil?

Ok, let me start by saying that I need to do a little "lead into" for this blog topic - just to make sure that we're all clear on the actual topic - "Is Evil, evil?"  So I ask that each of you do me the courtesy of reading what I have written here prior to posting your comments.

Several years ago I heard a speaker while in college speak about the importance of properly analyzing history.  The reason that I remember the core of his speech was that I found the topic to be interesting and the questions he raised to be thought provoking; and as most of you know, I love thought-provoking conversations.... the deeper, the better!  To my "sick" academic mind, a good evening would be to have a bunch of people sitting around and engaging in a great discussion on "deep" topics.  Anyway, moving on...

The professor was Dr. Demos of Yale University (btw, one of the most interesting history professors I ever had) and he was stressing how it is important for students of history, professors of history, research writers, etc., to learn to analyze history as history.  In other words, not give what they may conceive as clear-cut labels.  According to Dr. Demos, when we do that, we enter into a "wrong way to attempt to understand history."  History, of itself, has no unambiguously good actors or bad.  There are just actors.  In fact, good and evil should not factor in a historical analysis at all.  Properly done, history must be examined and analyzed from a dispassionate, almost other-worldly, perspective. Let me give you an example using the Civil War.

Lincoln fought a war to preserve the Union—a union that had been voluntarily, democratically entered by the various states and subsequent territories.  Take away the repugnant institution of slavery, and the Confederacy had the better democratic claim for what they wished to do, if the critical ideal for a democratic republic is self-determination.  Had Lincoln not been able to wrap his cause of preserving the Union in the flag of ending slavery, the 600,000 dead would have been an atrocious cost to pay in order to keep a voluntarily-entered union from being voluntarily and democratically dissolved.

Stripped of moral judgments, history abounds with irony.   Lincoln had to subvert the democratic will of the Southern state legislatures in order to preserve democracy.  He eventually used the greater evil of slavery as justification for his fight against Southern democracy, but it should never be forgotten that he didn’t issue the Emancipation Proclamation until 1863, well after hostilities had commenced.   He pinned his cause on eliminating slavery only when it appeared his cause of preserving the Union was in jeopardy.  One wonders, what rationale to hold together the Union would be available, if in the future some state democratically determined it wished to leave?  Considering that even client states like Iraq and Afghanistan have no choice about their limited participation in the Union, it would be outlandish to imagine that something would not be contrived if, e.g., Texas figured it would be better off going it alone, again.  Lincoln was lucky.  He had the abolition of slavery to steel the people’s hearts and minds to battle against their own people, and in some measure, against their own ideals.  Artfully leveraging slavery to his purposes was part of Lincoln’s genius.  It would take an even more astute politician to conjure such a compelling purpose today, if one of the several states sought leave to end its association.

Ok, continuing my example using the Civil War (yes, one of my favorite period so history to study), let's take a look at the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee.  Lee is perhaps the most mythologized and romanticized military leader in American history.  His tactical brilliance is routinely praised, though there is precious little evidence supporting the view.  In fact, Lee led tactical disaster after disaster, not least Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, which as any reasonably astute tactician understands, and all Lee’s generals at the time fully well knew, was nothing more or less than Confederate suicide.  In many ways, Lee was the Union’s best general.  History is always written by the victors, perhaps explaining the enduring myth of Lee’s tactical brilliance.  The victors would not wish to imagine that Lee’s defeat was anything other than the product of their own valor and determination against a formidable foe.

So, are we correct to label something as "evil" simply to justify our own desire to elevate our own "goodness" or to justify something we consider (or in history's case - the victor) to be morally good.  Could not one claim that Lincoln was an "evil" man for leading the country into a war that, as stated earlier, actually went against the very principals of the Declaration of Independence? If you don't think so, maybe you should take the time to re-read the Declaration of Independence, for it clearly stated:

"...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Would it not be equally justified to declare that Robert E. Lee was "evil" for leading the Confederate states into one disaster after another; only on the belief that for some reason the South was justified in it's succession?

What about other characters that we find throughout history?  Who is "evil"?  Why are they considered "evil?"  How will history look back at us 100, 500, or a 1000 years from now when they read that we aborted millions of unborn children (NO!!! THIS IS NOT AN ANTI-ABORTION MESSAGE!!!...but what if for some reason later on that it's discovered that a fetus at 1 week old can indeed feel would probably change the interpretations that some have about the "justification" of aborting a fetus...therefore the future may judge us completely different)?  Will we be considered an "evil" people?

Last but not least - the question must also be asked - is an individuals actions "evil" or is it the results of a given action that are evil?

Trust me, the topic is difficult to nail down and granted, the interpretations are just as varied as the events in history itself.  So here's the blog topic for this week.....

Is Evil, "evil"?  Can we effectively and justifiably declare someone or something in history as being "evil" - if so how or why? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Term Game.... #1



Ok, so let me explain to you once again (since I did this in class already).  I will start the game off by giving you a historical term of which you have had since the beginning of this year.  The person responding to me, must give the HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE of that term and then that person names the next term, beginning with the next letter. Here is an example (not related to the subject, just so none of you really smart children decide to try and rip mine off....):

I post the word "APPLE"
John Doe responses with: "A fruit of which fell from a tree and hit Isaac Newton in the head; thus launching the Scientific Revolution"  NEXT WORD: BATS.....

And thus the game would have begun.  Again, remember that my example is NOT one of your historical terms.  You can use ANY of the terms you have from Chapter 1 through 13.  If you get lost, you can always refer to the APUSH 1 Term list on my website - but you should be able to pull them directly from your notebooks.

Dealing with X, Y, and Z words.  True, there aren't many of these in your APUSH historical terms, but to make the game interesting - when you get to any of these three letters, you must use any that does exist.  If there are no more words that begin with X, Y, or Z (x & z will be the hardest), then you can declare a "SKIP" and move to the next letter.  WARNING:  if the person responding to your next letter finds a word that has not be used - then they can declare a FOUL and YOU (the one that declared the "SKIP" will lose point.

When you reach the end of the alphabet - you just start back with the letter "A"

How to win at this game.  Post the most historical significant definitions and new words.  The winner gets a free homework pass on any homework assignment they choose!!!

The game stops at mid-night on Friday!!!


FIRST WORD: Articles of Confederation (AOC)