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Sunday, December 15, 2013

School "Holidays"?

I'm sure that most of you have heard the phrase "Separation of Church and State."  Unfortunately, it is one of the most mistakenly used phrases when attempting to connect it to the United States Constitution.  Trust me, if you were to ask a 100 people what part of the US Constitution would you find "separation of church and state," nearly 90% would claim that it is in the 1st Amendment.  The truth is, it is NO WHERE in the Constitution, for the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the United States Constitution.  The reason that 90% of Americans believe that is is located in the 1st Amendment (or somewhere else within the body of the Constitution) is do to, in large, a major campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to have "God" removed from all public institutions (both federal and state).  As a matter of fact, it is one of their most repeated phrases since their foundation.  This isn't to say that the ACLU is a bad organization.  As a matter of fact, they have done a lot of good helping citizens protect their rights and have been involved in a number of important landmark Supreme Court cases, yet they are known to be more to the "left" than "center" when it comes to a number of  issues and often are in the center of some extremely controversial topics.

Recently, the ACLU has launched a campaign to have any and ALL recognition of ANY type of religion displayed in public schools.  In part, their argument is that if you element all references to all religions in public school, it would prevent anyone from being offended.  In other words, public schools could not display ANY form of religious icons within their schools.  Furthermore, they would not be permitted to close their schools down for religious references if those closings "...occur in collation to a known religious holiday."  Translation: Public schools could not close around Christmas or Easter (as we currently do) because those days off correspond to a known religious holiday.  In addition, public schools would not be permitted to display any symbols that relate to a given religious holiday...regardless of how they attempt to reword it to make it appear as if they were being unbiased (i.e., no "Holiday Trees" - another name for a "Christmas" tree, no Santa Clauses - St. Nick..., nor any Menorah, Kwanzaa, etc.)  Not to mention that public schools would also be prevented from singing any type of religious songs during "Holiday Concerts" or at any other time during the year.  In all likelihood they probably would object strongly to Dr. Bob's playing of holiday music.  The supporters of the ACLU's proposal do agree that students should be permitted to be absent due to their religious beliefs to celebrate their given holiday and that the absence should not be counted against them, but the school, as a whole, should not be closed or recognize any religion.

Those that are fighting the ACLU argue that the Supreme Court has upheld on a number of occasions that school districts are allowed to recognize whichever religion which is dominate in the majority of their given demographics.  So, if the majority of your community is Jewish, the school's are allowed to close for Jewish holidays (i.e., Paramus school district) or if the majority of your population is Christian, then they can close for Christian holidays.  Furthermore, those that oppose this current move by the ACLU state that they are incorrectly inserting something into the Constitution that isn't there ("separation of church and state) and that if the majority of the parents of a given school district do not have a problem with the school's recognition of any given religious holiday, then there isn't a problem.

THIS WEEK'S BLOG TOPIC: Should public schools stop recognizing any and all religions?  Would doing so finally create a "religious free" environment and improve the overall learning atmosphere of public schools?  Or is this just simply "political correctness" going too far?  Furthermore, is this even a "real issue" that needs to be addressed?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stop and Frisk: A Debate

New York City has a new mayor - something you may have heard about.  His name is Bill de Blasio and one of his key campaign promises was that he was going to put a stop to the practice known as "Stop and Frisk" - a program that the NYPD claims has been responsible for NYC seeing a dramatic drop in violent crime.  Opponents to the program, like the city's new mayor, argue that the program is nothing more than "racial profiling."

As with all great debates, there are excellent points on both sides of the argument.  Click the Huffington Post article below and read a great debate on this topic.  Carefully examine both sides of this debate and then, let's debate this topic here, in our blog.  While you form your opinion or "refine" your point-of-view, if you already had one on this topic, keep in mind the basic principals of the United States Constitution.  Before you think that makes it a much easier debate - THINK AGAIN.  The fact is, the Constitution is an interpretative document; therefore, laws can be passed which help protect the citizenry of a state.  It truly is a difficult topic and I'm sure that many of you will have different viewpoints, so make sure that you are respectful of each other's point-of-views.

Again, let me remind you - it is NOT YOUR JOB in these blogs to critic each others writing - in any form. So, don't waste time informing someone that they didn't support their "thesis" or their argument with enough facts....blah, blah, blah...  Debate each others point-of-views, only.


Blog Topic Question:  After reading the above article and of course, using your own opinions, argue for or against the Stop and Frisk policy.  Is the mayor elect, de Blasio making the right move in doing away with the existing policy?

Happy Blogging!!!

SPECIAL NOTE: This week's blog topic was suggested by one of my APUSH 2 students.  If you have a topic you'd like for us to discuss, drop me an email.  If I like it, I'll post it!!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Spy Something....

Pick up your phone and make a phone call…who’s listening?  Text a friend…who’s reading your text? Post a picture on Instagram…who can view your pictures (beyond those of which you allow to “follow” you)?  Post something on FaceBook…who can read your post?  Is “Big Brother” watching?  Should he be watching?
It is an old well-worn phrase when it comes to the state and surveillance that if you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide then there is nothing to worry about. Shortly after the PRISM scandal broke government officials stated, “if you are a law abiding citizen of this country going about your business and your personal life you have nothing to fear, nothing to fear about the government or intelligence agencies listening to the contents of your phone calls or anything like that.” In other words the intelligence agencies were doing good work “to stop your identity being stolen, and to stop a terrorist blowing you up tomorrow. But if you are a would-be terrorist, or the center of a criminal network, or a foreign intelligence agency trying to spy, you should be worried because that is what we work on”.
William Hague was responding to suggestions that GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters – the UKs equivalent of the NSA) might be obtaining information on British citizens through a US program called PRISM. PRISM is a NSA Program which works with the giants of Silicon Valley to extract everything from email to VoIP, photos to video conferencing. This is done from “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” i.e. pretty much anyone who is anyone in the US internet business. Chillingly the Edward Snowdon who leaked the information about PRISM says “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type”.
Only a day before there was another leak about US surveillance activities, this one about cell phones. The leak was a copy of a court order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordering the handing over of “all call detail records or "telephony metadata" created by Verizon… including but not limited to session identifying information (e.g., originating and terminating telephone number, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, International Mobile station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, etc.), trunk identifier, telephone calling card numbers, and time and duration of call”. Such information might seem harmless but can reveal surprising amounts, and from a privacy perspective it is completely indiscriminate as it covers everyone on the network. This is a far cry from obtaining a court order to get information about a few phones that are known to be used by terrorists.
Major opponents to this “collection of innocent data” ask the question, “Who is moderating the people moderating all of us?  What is to prevent these people in these government agencies from using the information they obtain against the citizens of their country?”
Those that support the programs argue that some surveillance is necessary. It is a key part in preventing terrorist attacks from occurring so the question has always been about a balance between security and privacy. Before the leaking of the details of surveillance by the NSA and GCHQ most people in democracies either thought the balance was about right or more should be done to ensure security. In the United States today 47% say that the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties, up 15% since October 2010, against only 35% believing that the security policies have not gone far enough to protect the country.


Blog Topic Question: Is this whole “spying” issue really an “issue” or are people just making something out of nothing?  Is it absolutely necessary, in today’s world, for us to be expected to give up personal liberties in order to be safe?  Thirdly, can we really trust governments to not abuse the information of which they are collecting?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Obesity as a Disease?

The American Medical Association – the largest organization of physicians in the United States – this month formally recognized obesity as a disease. "The purpose of the policy is to advance obesity treatment and prevention," wrote AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven. "It issues a call for a paradigm shift in the way the medical community tackles this complicated issue so that we can reduce the number of Americans suffering from the effects of heart disease, diabetes, disability and other potentially life-changing health conditions."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of American adults are obese. The CDC estimates that obesity also affects 17 percent of children, "triple the rate from just one generation ago." An estimate from the nonprofit RTI International says that about 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030 if obesity trends continue.

Dr. Lou Aronne, an obesity expert, told CBS News that the AMA's move will "have a tremendous impact on legislation in Washington [and] with insurance companies," as insurance policies now "generally exclude obesity treatment." While Medicare removed language saying obesity is not a disease from its coverage manual in 2004, Medicare Part D will still not pay for weight loss drugs.

But not everyone is thrilled with the AMA's move. Linda Bacon, a nutritionist at the University of California at Davis, said, "the AMA just determined that some people are sick based on how they look. What's next? (Click to read this article) Will they pronounce being black as a disease because there are higher rates of cardiovascular disease in black communities?" Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical correspondent for ABC News, meanwhile, downplayed the whole debate: "I think it matters little whether we call obesity a disease, a condition or a disorder. We are already talking about the obesity epidemic. It matters less what we call it than what we do to prevent it."

Blog Topic Question:
Was the American Medical Association right to call obesity a disease or have we simply became obsessed with imagery in the United States so that we believe "oversized" individuals are an embarrassment?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How Revolutionary was the American Revolution?



 Richard Price, a British Unitarian minister, called the American Revolution "...the most important event in the history of the world since the birth of Christ." Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch, to say the least, but the core of his argument is that the American Revolution was a major world changer.  Yet when we look through the pages of history, it seems difficult to argue that the American Revolution was a great social revolution, such as the French Revolution in 1789, the Russian Revolution in 1917 and even the revolution that takes place in China in 1949.  According to most historians, a true social revolution destroys the institutional foundations of the old order and transfers power from a ruling elite to new social groups.

When we look at the American Revolution, we have to ask, was it a true social revolution or was it merely a rebellion? In the context of the American Revolution this is an important question that historians have been arguing about for generations. The question is whether or not the revolution was conservative in tone and tenor—essentially replacing one ruling stucture in Great Britain with another in America—or radical in the sense of changing the class system in society as well as changing the political structure. Carl Becker said it best a century ago: “The war was not about home rule, but about who would rule at home” (Carl Becker, The History of Political Parties in the Province of New York, 1760-1776,” [University of Wisconsin Press, 1909]).

This Week's Topic Question:
Do you believe that the American Revolution was truly "revolutionary" or do you agree with Carl Becker, that the American Revolution was purely a transfer of power from one elite group to another?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Affirmative Action....or not?


Once again, the topic if affirmative action is being debated across the country.  Some claim that it is absolutely necessary, while others claim that it has outlived its time.
Proponents of affirmative action point out that the groups it currently favors are coming out of "negative" backgrounds, which made it nearly impossible for them to succeed; thus, they deserve a positive advantage when competing for jobs or positions against others who experienced no systemic barriers to success. Without a special opportunity to enter into the system, disadvantaged groups might never be able to overcome the handicap which was forced on them by the exclusive priorities of their culture. Eventually, all should be able to compete equally, but discrimination is too recent to expect underprivileged groups to do so now. In the end, the goal is a free and equal society in which nobody gets a head start to success. There are, however, many people who are skeptical about these claims. These critics of affirmative action point out that selecting someone purely based on their ethnicity or origin actually devalues the person's real accomplishments; they also say that this devaluation ends up hurting the wider ethnic or racial group from which a candidate comes.
Another common criticism is that as a form of reverse discrimination, affirmative action keeps societies aware of the barriers that divide it and actually perpetuates alienation and resentment between ethnically diverse groups, thus increasing rather than reducing racial tension. Another concern is that affirmative action may encourage individuals to misrepresent themselves as members of an underprivileged group so that they can get a job or appointment.
Finally, critics claim that racially-based hiring or appointment policies encourage everyone not to perform at their best - the underprivileged, because they may get the position anyway, and the privileged, because they cannot be hired no matter how well they perform. The affirmative action debate is heated; while most Americans favor affirmative action when it is focused on gender and seeks to make sure that enough women are hired, fewer of them claim to support racially-based affirmative action programs.

This week's Blog Topic:
Has affirmative action outlived its time or is it a policy that is still greatly needed?  Make sure you can defend your point-of-view.

Monday, October 7, 2013

To Change or Not to Change, That is the Question!

For this week's blog, you have a small assignment.  Below is a link that you need to go to and read the article from the Washington Post.  The article is 5 pages long, but won't take you that long to read and is important for you to understand the purpose for this week's blog post.

Granted, some of you may not be big sports fans, or even more importantly for some, football fans, but the issue that is raised here goes far beyond that concept.  The real issue here is dealing with an question that is as old as the United States its self (actually, the issue probably can be traced back all the way to the first Europeans arriving in the New World).  But I'll stop here, for I really don't want to influence anyone's opinions on this issue.

Make sure you READ the article before responding to the topic for this week and feel free (highly encouraged) to use information from the reading to support your point of view.

Click here for the Washington Post article

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC QUESTION:
Should Native American themed mascots (for all teams, both professional and even high school) be banned?   Or are we simply becoming too politically correct?  Defend your point-of-view.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Question of Jamestown....

First, let me say that I was pleased with last week's blog post.  They were, for the most part, well thought out and well written (some of you wrote some AWESOME post!!!).  Not to mention that you cut down on the "love fest" responses... thank you.

Ok, this week we're going to look at Jamestown (not physically, but historically).  It has been said that "History is a series of judgments" (which is true and goes in line with my first rule of history).  Jamestown has a deep historical connection to the forming of this great nation, as I'm sure you know.  Yet, there is some controversy about how Jamestown, VA should be remembered.

We know that Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the New World and is the birthplace of our modern form of democracy (the House of Burgesses), yet it also is responsible for introducing a health menace by developing high-quality tobacco to the Old World (and eventually the entire world), introducing slavery in the New World (1619) and the beginning of the act of driving off Native Americans from their land.

Therefore, this week's topic question is:

Should Jamestown be celebrated as the great birthplace of America, or should it be known for the negative impact that it had?  Can both viewpoints co-exist?  Defend your point-of-view.

Monday, September 23, 2013

And The Winner Is?????

First, let me say that your first week blogs weren't too bad.  Some of you need to work on your responses to other's post (a little too much "love feasting" and some responses were a bit too short), but for the first blog of APUSH 1, not bad.

This week, we're going to dig (no pun intended) a bit deeper into the "civilization" question by discussing which of the following civilizations that were found in the New World would clearly have to be crowned the "Greatest American Civilization" of the New World.  Was it the Inca, the Mayan's or Aztecs?  There is a lot to consider when making your decision, so try and give it some thought.  As always, you have to defend your selection and respect the opinions of others (you can disagree with their arguments based on their facts, but not their opinion).  Keep in mind that this topic is NOT about how they got conquered, but about the actual civilization.

I look forward to your input!!  Who will be crowned the winner????

So, to restate, the topic is:

Which American Civilization (pre-European influence) should be considered the Greatest of them all???  Defend your selection!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's all in the interpretation....

Welcome to your first official blog for APUSH 1!!!!  

As you read over the summer about the beginnings of the New World and how the early Europeans viewed the inhabitants they "discovered" living there, there existed one constant theme; a theme that was actually repeated throughout the entire Exploration Period... The interpretation of what constituted as a "civilization" (or in many cases, what constituted as the absence of a civilized people).  This week, we're going to dive right into that very theme.  Below is your first blog topic....keep in mind that you each of you have the right to your own opinion, but also remember... opinions are like noses, unless you back them up!!!  :-)

TOPIC: What constitutes a Civilization and when, if ever, does a "civilized" people have the responsibility to assist those that aren't civilized to become as such?  Is there a benefit in doing so?