Should the Electoral College System be Preserved?

Many forces shape the conduct of presidential elections; few are more significant than the Electoral College. This complex, rather odd institution was another compromise at the Constitutional Convention, a means to moderate the “passions of the public” and to allow smaller states a greater say in the selection of the president.

Today, the Electoral College system shapes the politics of how and where presidential candidates campaign in the general election. And, occasionally, as in the 2000 presidential election, who wins the White House.

Walter Berns, Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute says KEEP IT: “I doubt we could come up with a better system than they (the Founders) did.”

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) says DUMP IT: ” The Electoral College is an antiquated institution that has outlived its purpose… it represents a serious and persistent flaw in our current system.”

What do YOU think about the Electoral College – keep it, alter it, dump it??
(For full credit, offer evidence from your text OR FROM YOUR OWN RESEARCH to bolster your argument!)

Celebrity Candidates – Can Traditional Republicans Beat Them?

gop-debate-candidate-caricatures-38115200b06f4d56

Source: Alabama Media Group

In the wake of last night’s GOP presidential candidates’ debate in Boulder, Colorado, two Senior Fellows in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution have asked an interesting question: Can any Republican beat the celebrity candidates? 

“The question in the Republican presidential nomination race,” according to William Galson and Elaine Kamarck, “is whether a traditional candidate—someone with government experience—will emerge in time to challenge and then defeat the celebrity candidates who have never spent a day in elected office but have been dominating the public’s attention and the polls so far.”

“With evident exasperation,” the Brookings Fellows note, Ohio Governor John Kasich described traditional Republicans’ challenge in his opening statement at the debate: “We’re on the verge of picking someone who can’t do this job.”

Latest data from realclearpolitics.com shows Donald Trump polling nationally at 26.8% and Ben Carson polling at 22%. The leading traditional Republican, Senator Marco Rubio, sits a distant third at 9% followed by Governor Jeb Bush (7%) and Senator Ted Cruz (6.6%).

Galson and Kamarck offer their prediction as the conclusion of their post:

“If the Republican nominating campaign belatedly moves past the celebrity candidates and returns to its traditional pattern, it could end up pitting the leader of movement conservativism against the champion of the establishment, and we could end up with an all Cuban-American final.  Alternatively, the Republicans could offer us someone with gubernatorial experience opposing a senator who lacks such experience.  But if the nominating electorate continues to turn its back on the entire leadership of its party, the 2016 Republican presidential nominee could end up testing the public’s willingness to entrust the Oval Office to an untried and unpredictable candidate.  Unless all the rules of American politics have been abrogated, the odds are against it.”

Rubio versus Cruz? Bush, Kasich, or Christie? Can a traditional Republican candidate beat the celebrity candidates and win the GOP nomination for president?

Dr. O.

Ethical Debate #1: “That which is not just…”

Answering a critic who pleaded with him to follow the new Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, abolitionist author and spokesman William Lloyd Garrison responded by placing his personal morality above the laws of the United States… On the question of slavery, he said, “That which is not just is not law.”

Kim Davis, Kentucky Clerk, Held in Contempt and Ordered to Jail
(NBC NEWS, September 3, 2015)

A Kentucky clerk is heading to jail after a judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses to gay couples.

Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, was found in contempt of court on Thursday morning by Judge David Bunning. Davis has said granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples would “violate God’s definition of marriage” and infringe on her personal beliefs as an Apostolic Christian.

Bunning said Davis would be released only when she agreed to follow his order and issue marriage licenses.

Davis was visibly emotional from the stand during the two-hour hearing… <read more>

RESOLVED: All citizens have the right to do as William Lloyd Garrison and Kim Davis have done—to judge whether to follow American laws based on their personal notions of right and wrong, just and unjust.

AGREE or DISAGREE?? After our discussion, please either: 1) add a new comment below; OR 2) respond * respectfully! * to one of your classmates’ comments; OR 3) clarify / expand on something you said in class.

The Evolving Nature and Style of Representation

Rep. Albert Gore, Jr. of Tennessee was the first to speak when the U.S. House of Representatives first began live, televised debate on the House Floor in 1979. “It is a solution for the lack of confidence in government,” Congressman Gore said, alluding to the public’s post-Watergate demand for a more transparent government. “The marriage of this medium and of our open debate has the potential, Mr. Speaker, to revitalize representative democracy.”

2013-10-27-socialmediaiconsToday, we are in the midst of another media revolution: text, email, websites, wikis, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, Quora, RSS Feeds, Instagram, Vine… today, the Internet is social, interactive, and collaborative. Nonetheless, it’s possible that Representative Gore’s comment from 1979 has implications for us today – as we consider ways that social media shape legislators’ evolving relationships with their constituents. With today’s assignment in mind, please share your opinion on the question below:

What impact should social media have on the way legislators represent their constituents as trustees and delegates today?

Topical Debate Recap – Stop and Frisk

The stop and frisk law in New York City has made people question their views on the effectiveness of this new law. There are many pros and cons to abiding by this law, which were addressed in a debate during class. Both parties demonstrated good points on their sides, putting in a lot of time and research for their efforts.

On the pros side, Ashley and Ellie started off by talking about how stop and frisk was not in violation of the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires a warrant. They brought up the Terry versus Ohio case in 1968, which can be directly linked to the stop and frisk law. A police officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop someone, and it is used for protection of the public. The New York Police Department has only been professional when they do their job. They have found over 7600 weapons, which is a large number of lives they could be saving. There have been around twenty-four million interactions. On average, each police officer has one stop every two weeks, which is not excessive.

Abby and Madeline, against stop and frisk, also had a very strong opening statement. They gave several reasons why it was a bad idea to have this law in effect. They believe that it is against the fourth amendment, because the police officers did not necessarily have reasonable cause. They said it was also against the fourteenth amendment, which is for equal protection of the law. It may damage the relationship between the police and citizens if they are always in fear of being frisked on the street. There is no watch for sexual harassment on women, and the law could be considered sexist or racist. Blacks and Hispanics make up 87% of the victims of stop and frisk.

Ashley and Ellie took into account everything that was said against the law, and came back with some good points. After every stop, a form has to be filled out for the reason why the person was stopped and information on the ethnicity of the accused. Only six percent were stopped without cause and unjustly. The stops mainly happen in areas that need police protection. Eighty-three percent of crimes that are committed are by blacks or hispanics, which means there is no racial profiling.

Madeline and Abby, after carefully planning together their next argument, brought in a real life story. A 17 year old black boy with straight A’s living in Brooklyn was stopped 70 times without ever actually doing anything wrong. This could be considered racial profiling. 90% of the stops do not uncover evidence of a crime, and 97% do not find any sort of contraband. They also challenged something that the other group mentioned; a warrant doesn’t count as justified if it is filled out after the search.

After both teams made their points, a vote was taken in the class. Almost everyone voted for the pro side, but said that both sides made excellent points. They mainly based their votes on opinions they had previously had. Both teams made good use of their numbers, but there were more pros than cons in the situation. The bringing up of race is what makes the law so controversial, and it is very difficult to take a position on this law.

After the voting, both groups were given another chance to say their final points. The pro side pointed out that people were stopped from behavior, and they were only pat down lightly on the outside of their clothing. It wasn’t done in the middle of the street. It wasn’t something that should be taken personally, because it was a part of being a member of the community. It was a minor inconvenience for a safer city. The cons side contradicted some of their statements by saying that it did happen in public and was an embarrassment. The definition of suspicion could be very broad. There are more cons that outweigh the pros. There is no exact protocol for how a stop and frisk should happen. They believe that it causes more problems than it’s worth.

Submitted by Browning S

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(Teacher’s NOTE) General Details – Topical Debates:
* 2 or 3 debaters on each side; up to 8-12 minutes total: pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’), pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’)… and maybe pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’)
* each individual debater will be evaluated on the cogency of his/her arguments, the quality of research, and the clarity of presentation
* debaters will NOT be graded on whether their side “wins” in the class vote
* Goals of Debates: to identify as many arguments and positions as possible with respect to the topic at hand
** option for third member of the team: prepare a blog post with an outline of your argument to extend our discussion online
 
Part 1: DEBATERS SQUARE OFF
1-2 minutes for first speaker on the PRO side
1-2 minutes for first speaker on the CON side
1-2 minutes 2nd speaker –> PRO
1-2 minutes 2nd speaker –> CON
 
       – Class vote –
 
Part 2: WHOLE CLASS DISCUSSION
Class: Why did you vote the way you did?
Debaters: Is there anything you wish you had said… but didn’t? (a rebuttal period –> this is where you’ll address other side’s arguments and classmates’ comments…)
Class: Are there any ideas that you wish you had heard from debaters… but didn’t?
Debaters: Last words – “In conclusion, our strongest argument is… / Vote for the (PRO/CON) because…”
 
    – Class vote #2 –

Welcome!

Welcome to our blog!

This is a class blog authored by student contributors and curated by their teacher, Dave Ostroff.

The posts on this blog are part of an ongoing assignment in our Government classes at All Saints’ Episcopal School (Ft. Worth, TX). The major goal of our course is to prepare students for responsible citizenship in the 21st century. Students post reflection pieces on a rotating basis. We invite you to return often and read what we write!

Please read the specifics of our class blog assignment here.

View our class blogging and commenting guidelines here.

Special thanks to Mike Gwaltney and his AP US Government and Politics students for providing the inspiration for this project!