Monday, December 1, 2008

Athletic Gene Testing: Next Sci-Fi Movie?

It was only a matter of time before we discovered how to tell if young children had the genetic potential to become world class athletes. The article linked below describes a genetic test that supposedly can determine whether a young child has the inborn ability to be good at particular sports or none at all. Some people think it's great, while others think we humans are messing technologically in areas in which we don't understand the consequences to children and to society.
Check it out at

and then consider answering one or more of the following questions:

Do you believe the test really determines a child's potential in sports? Why or why not?

Do you think it's a good or bad idea for parents to have their children tested in this way? Why or why not?

Do you think developments in genetic research like this one have the potential to be more beneficial or more damaging to our society? Explain your answer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Ethics of High School Students

The article linked below describes the results of a major study recently completed regarding lying and cheating by U.S. high school students. Almost 30,000 students from 100 high schools around the country participated in the study by completing surveys. Among other results, the researchers found that 30% of high school students have stolen from a store in the past year, and 64% have cheated on a test.

First, read the article:

Then, respond to one or more of the following questions:

Do you agree or disagree with the explanations provided for why some high school students cheat and/or steal? Explain your position.

Do you think these levels of dishonesty are cause for alarm in our society? Why or why not?

Do you think these levels of dishonesty are higher, lower, or about the same as at other times in our history? Explain your answer.

Terrorist Attacks in India

This past weekend, the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in India was attacked by terrorists who have yet to be identified. Over 160 people, including 6 Americans, were killed. The article I have linked below, entitled "What They Hate About Mumbai" is written by a man who grew up there. He offers an explanation for why the terrorists chose to attack Mumbai. Here's the link:

Questions to ponder:

What reasons does the author give for why terrorists chose to attack Mumbai?

The terrorist group al Qaeda has targeted the United States on a number of occasions. Are the reasons Mumbai was targeted similar to the reasons the U.S. has been a target? Explain your answer.

Do you agree with the author that the best response to these terrorist attacks is for people to keep going to Mumbai? Why or why not?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Global Economic Downturn Making the World a More Dangerous Place?

This is the perfect article for both World History and Government students. The author makes the argument that as the global economy gets worse, security risks for the United States become greater. Historically, this is always true. As economic conditions worsen for some groups, jobs become less available, and people have few means of supporting themselves and their families, people act out on their frustrations and fears, and violence is the result. Consider this pattern as you read the article:

Can you think of any other times in history when economic problems have resulted in more violence? Describe them in your answer.

In light of the perceived increased security threats to the U.S. and around the world, what should be the U.S. response to these circumstances?

The U.S. is currently experiencing our own economic downturn and running a national debt in excess of $10 trillion. Do we have the ability to beef up our security by devoting more money to intelligence and defense capability? Explain your answer.

Is Socialism Becoming as American as Apple Pie?

Time to start blogging again! Here's an article that should ruffle some feathers. Whether you're liberal or conservative, you have to admire the insight and skill with words of columnist George Will. He is well known for his conservative views, but conservatives, or at least Republicans, take a hit in this Washington Post article. Here's the link:

Questions to consider:

What evidence does George Will provide for socialist principles being practiced in the U.S.?

In your opinion, what is the appropriate role of government in the economy? Should we be bailing out companies at taxpayer expense? Why or why not?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympic Controversies

Zach Solomon sent me the links below for two articles on the Olympics. The first is about the controversy over the gold medal awarded to a female Chinese gymnast for her performance on the uneven parallel bars, even though an American gymnast received the same score. The situation is complicated by allegations that the Chinese gymnast does not meet the mimimum age requirement of 16. If you'd like to comment on this article (NO SUMMER PROJECT CREDIT CAN BE EARNED FOR COMMENTING ON THIS ARTICLE), it can be found at

The second article is about the controversy over a photo of the Spanish basketball team showing all the players stretching the skin around their eyes to make them look squinty, presumably mocking the Chinese. If you'd like to comment on this article (SUMMER PROJECT CREDIT CAN BE EARNED FOR COMMENTING ON THIS ARTICLE), it can be found at

Please do not repeat the mistake of the Spanish basketball team by being disrespectful in your comments to any of the individuals or groups named in the articles, lest you incur the angst of the ENTIRE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY (not to mention your teacher)!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Presidential Politics by the Numbers

While the Olympics are winding up, the political season is about to move into full swing with the upcoming party national nominating conventions just around the corner! In the past few months, I'm sure you've all heard news commentators reporting on "the latest polling numbers" with regard to the presidential election. The latest MSNBC/Wall Street Journal poll provides some interesting insight regarding the dynamics of the campaign. Click on the link below to view a video clip highlighting some of most interesting findings of the poll:

Then comment on one or more of the following findings of the poll:

* Reduction of Obama lead over McCain
* Generational differences in support for each candidate
* Implications of allegiance of undecided voters to Hillary Clinton
* Candidate strengths on certain issues
* McCain's "Bush Problem"

Note: This post is not about your preference for one candidate over the other; it's about objective political analysis. Do your best to adhere to the OBJECTIVE part.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

To Drink or Not to Drink...that is the Question for College Presidents

Here's an issue that may affect many of you in the not-so-distant future: the legal drinking age in the U.S. This issue causes a lot of controversy in this country; people feel very strongly about it on both sides. Read the following article about the Amethyst Initiative, an organization of college presidents that is advocating the re-lowering of the drinking age to 18 years of age:

Then think about the pros and cons of this issue. You might even want to do some additional research to help you decide what you think. If you choose to respond to this post, address the following debate proposition:

The legal age for persons to drink alcohol in the United States should remain at 21 years.

In formal debates, the issue to be argued is always stated in terms of the status quo position; that is, how the issue currently stands.

When you write your response, tell us whether you are making a pro or con argument. If you agree with the proposition above, you are making a pro argument. If you disagree with the proposition, you are making a con argument.

The most important part of your response is to SUBSTANTIATE YOUR POSITION!!! Tell us why your position is correct. Using legitimate information you find outside of the article will make your position more persuasive. If you use outside information, tell us where you got it.

Olympic Manners

SUMMER PROJECT: If you have been watching the Olympics as obsessively as I have over the past week and a half, you've probably lost out on a lot of sleep, staying up until all hours of the night just to catch the latest news on Michael Phelps, Shawn Johnson and all the other Olympians.

Prior to the opening ceremony, Chinese citizens living in Beijing received a book telling them how to behave when the throngs of foreign guests arrived for the Olympics. Here's a link to an article about the code of behavior the Chinese were expected to observe:

Questions to ponder:

Why would the city government in Beijing care so much about how its citizens act in front of foreign visitors?

How do you think Americans would react if our government tried to do the same thing? Would we react differently than the Chinese people? If so, why?

Comment on any of the behavior rules discussed in the article.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Could Climate Change Affect Our National Security Negatively?

SUMMER PROJECT: Here's a great topic for AP World History students, but AP Government students might want to tune in to it as a foreign policy issue. The new National Intelligence Assessment that was recently delivered to Congress draws a link between climate change and U.S. national security which could be endangered, according to the study. Instead of an article to read, the link below will take you to a segment that recently aired on National Public Radio to which you can listen:

After listening, consider responding to the following questions:

According to the National Intelligence Assessment, how might climate change threaten our national security?

Can you think of any other times, circumstances or places in history when climate changes caused major problems for human societies and forced them to make significant changes in their lives in order to survive? If so, describe them.

Do you think the National Intelligence Assessment is a realistic portrayal of what may happen in the future? Assuming it is, what would it take to prevent it from occuring?

A Way Out of High Gas Prices? Or Just a New Set of Problems?

SUMMER PROJECT: Recently, President Bush and some Members of Congress have been promoting the idea of opening up areas where it is currently illegal to drill for oil in order to alleviate the high price of gasoline for Americans and our heavy dependence on foreign oil. However, some others are critical of this idea. Click on the link below to read about why they object and what the response of the oil companies is.

Then respond to some of the following questions:

What are some advantages to allowing drilling in some areas that are currently off limits? What about disadvantages? Based on these pros and cons, what is your evaluation of whether we should permit drilling on these sites and why do you think so?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Defending Our Right to Offend

SUMMER PROJECT: This one may spark some spirited debate. The New York Times article linked below examines how much farther the United States has been willing to go to protect free speech -- even offensive hateful speech -- than other developed nations have.

Questions to Ponder:

According to the article, what criteria are necessary in order for our court system to restrict free speech in the United States?

Describe a hypothetical case for us to consider whether it is an example of the type of speech that should be restricted in the U.S.

Do you think the U.S. should become more strict about what types of speech are protected by law? Why or why not?

Could you live to be 100?

SUMMER PROJECT: Life expectancy for Americans has been rising steadily, but it's still lower than that of at least 30 other countries. Read the article at

and then add your thoughts on the following questions:

Why might the life expectancy for Americans be lower than that of 30 other countries?

Are there any down sides to the fact that Americans are generally living longer? If so, what?

What might account for the differences in life expectancy between men and women?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sky-high gas prices: Good news or bad news?

SUMMER PROJECT/Current AP World History: If you have to fill a gas tank right now, you're probably not too happy about the high price of gasoline. But is there a silver lining? Read the article at

and consider the following questions:

What are some potential negative impacts that soaring gas prices have for individuals and societies? Are they long or short term?

What are some potential positive impacts that soaring gas prices have for individuals and societies? Are they long or short term?

What is the appropriate role for government in this situation, and why do you think so?

What is an inappropriate role for government in this situation, and why do you think so?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Free Speech or Terrorist Propaganda?

SUMMER PROJECT/Current AP World History: I'm thinking this might be a good topic for our debate day with Ms. Banks class. Read the article at the link below so you can post and/or be ready to participate in our class debate:

Questions to ponder:

Should Youtube remove the videos from al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations? Some of them? All of them? Why or why not?

And where is YOUR flag lapel pin???!!!

SUMMER PROJECT/Current AP World History: If you've been following recent presidential campaign coverage, you probably know that the media has been buzzing about whether or not it's important for Barack Obama to wear an American flag lapel pin, as so many political figures do. Read the commentary at the link below for one point of view on this topic:

Questions to ponder:

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Martin's assessment of this issue? Why or why not?

Do you think American voters care about this topic as much as the media seems to? If not, why does the media continue to press the issue?

Does the news media respond to what the public cares about, or does the public respond to what the news media cares about? Why do you think so?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Is it time for Hillary to drop out NOW?

OK senior government students (AP World can join in too!), here's one more post for old times sake. After this past Tuesday's primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, there is increasing pressure within the Democratic party for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to concede the party's nomination to Barack Obama.

Questions to ponder:

Should Clinton quit the race now in the best interest of the party? Why or why not?

Are you up for the Obama/Clinton ticket in November? Or should Hillary decline the Vice Presidential slot if asked, and take her chances in 2012?


Resisting Globalization

At the beginning of our study of the Contemporary Period, we noted that while western culture has spread around the globe, there are some areas of the world actively resisting what they perceive to be negative cultural influences from the West. This article on the hard line of the fundamentalist Islamic government in Iran against the iconic "Barbie" doll is an example.

Questions to ponder:

Why might the theocratic government in Iran react so negatively to "Barbie"? From their point of view, what image does "Barbie" project about values in the United States and other western societies?

Do you think they will succeed in keeping "Barbie" and other western cultural influences out of their society? Why or why not?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Deja Vu and the Food Riots

For all current and previous students of World History, here's an article that should remind you of the circumstances of the French Revolution. Due to rapidly increasing prices for grain in the world, and the fact that many poor people around the globe can't afford to buy enough of it to feed themselves and their families, riots are breaking out in many locations. Read the article at the link below:

Then address ne or more of the following questions:

Do you agree that the high demand for corn to make ethanol is creating a corn shortage that's driving up the price of grain generally, or is something else going on to cause such steep price increases? If so, should we stop making ethanol, and in turn, continue to burn fossil fuels (i.e., oil) that may contribute significantly to global warming?

Is it the responsibility of governments around the world, and in particular the United States (the richest nation on earth), to provide money to people who are rioting over high grain prices because their children have no food? (Government students, think of this in terms of our discussion of political realism vs. moral idealism.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Life Expectancy Gap Getting Bigger between Rich and Poor

If you're not inclined to get into the presidential campaign fray in the post below, here's another chance for you to work on your class participation grade for the 4th nine weeks. First, read the New York Times article:

Then consider the following questions:

Is it the responsibility of the government to try to close the life expectancy gap between rich and poor? Why or why not?

What might be some results if this gap continues to widen?

Should Hillary Clinton drop Out?

That question should incite a passionate debate among bloggers to start off the 4th nine week grading period with a bang!

Here's the article:

When commenting, please tell us whether or not Senator Clinton should drop out of the Democratic presidential nomination contest or if she should stay in it, especially since it appears she's about to win a big state, Pennsylvania. Then tell us why you're right.

Remember to be civil and respectful of each other's opinions!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Is China's Business Our Business?

Following up on the extra credit presentation of Katarina Napfel in AP World History today, I'm posting an article on how an American film crew was detained in a hotel so crew members could not film a clash between Chinese police and Tibetan monks:

Questions to discuss:

Should the United States get involved in the internal affairs of the Chinese over the conflict with Tibet over their independence? Why or why not? Should we simply mind our own business and focus on our own problems, or is it our moral obligation as the leader of the free world to intervene when people are fighting for freedom?

Even if you're not in AP World History, feel free to comment! Government students, this fits right in with our study of foreign policy.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

President Bush Vetoes Waterboarding Ban

Questions to discuss:

Do you think the United States should be using waterboarding as an interrogation technique? Why or why not?

The NY Times article indicates that George Bush has consistently demonstrated his belief in the strong use of executive power by the President. Do you think the Bush presidency has gone too far in using the power of the Presidency in areas that aren't appropriate? Or is it desirable for a president to use whatever power is available to him or her to act decisively and forcefully in difficult times?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Militancy will go away with jobs"

That's the quote from one of Pakistan's newest Members of Parliament, 25 year old Kamran Khan. Do you agree with him that lack of economic opportunity drives violent militancy, in Pakistan and in other parts of the world? Why or why not? What about in our own country? Is this a pattern in World History? Read the article at the link below:

See what you think.

President Bush Endorses John McCain

Question to discuss:

Will President Bush's endorsement help or hurt John McCain's bid to become the next President? Why?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The President as Chief Communicator

I've been saying it for months, and now the Washington Post agrees with me! My contention has been that, politics aside, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan are practically the same guy when it comes to their ability to communicate effectively with the American public.

Question to ponder:

Do you agree with the premise of the article that a President's ability to persuade the American public through his or her speeches and other communications can make or break that person as President? Why or why not?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Changes in Religious Faith in America

Question to ponder:

Why do you think so many Americans are discarding the faith tradition of their upbringing and dropping out of organized religious affiliation altogether?

What changes in our society might you expect to see in the future as a result of so manyAmericans discarding their religious traditions?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

Hello everyone!

The purpose of this blog is to supplement my classes and continue our class discussions. It occurred to me that this might be a good idea when we missed a bunch of snow days, resulting in the untimely death of the brain cells of my students. No problem! We'll just have school online! I also think that if we're going to SAY we're going to be 21st Century Learners, then we darn well better find ways to do it, lest we be the worst kind of hypocrites. This blog seems to be one way we can accomplish that.

Finally, for those of you who aren't too keen on verbal participation in our discussions during class, this blog will serve as an opportunity for you to improve your class participation grade without actually speaking out during class. Just visit the most recent posts on the blog, read one or more of the articles, and post your comments. Hopefully, we can get some good debates going right here! It's easy for me to keep track of your online participation here so you can get some credit in your class participation grade.

So bear with me while I figure out what I'm doing here. I will begin by directing you to several news stories that I believe are of interest to my classes in that they provide current applications to ideas, people, places and events that connect with either U. S. Government or World History. But regardless of which class you're in, you can benefit by being aware of what's going on in the world in which you are about to launch yourself. As my dad always says, "It's a great day to joust with the world!"

U. S. Recognition of the New Nation of Kosovo:

Questions to ponder:

Why are the rioters so angry? Why are taking it out on the United States?
Should the U.S. have extended Kosovo diplomatic recognition? Why or why not?


The Presidential Campaign:

Latest polling data:

The Obama Delusion:

Questions to ponder:

What accounts for Obama's surge of momentum? Why is Hillary losing ground?

Do you agree or disagree with the premise of "The Obama Delusion"? Why?


If I can figure out how to allow you to respond to these questions here, I'll be very impressed with myself. Come back soon!