Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Should the U.S. stop subsidizing fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels like coal and oil run the world, but we are slowly running out of them, and they are causing severe damage to the environment. Some people think we need to get more serious about developing and using alternative energy sources and lessening our dependence on fossil fuel energy.

Click here to read an article from the BBC about a proposal to stop fossil fuel subsidies. Then address the following writing prompts:

Do you think the U.S. should stop subsidizing fossil fuels? Explain why or why not.

Do you think the U.S. should stop subsidizing fossil fuels if other countries do not? Explain why you think the way you do.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Troublesome Higher Education Stats

The United States is still the world's superpower in many ways, but not in percentages of people with college degrees anymore. Click here to read an op-ed piece from the New York Times about this issue, and then address one or more of the following prompts:

There are many causes for the statistics on college degrees in this article. Describe the ones you think are the most important.

How might the U.S. having lower percentages of college grads than other developed nations impact our country?

What solutions can you think of to solve this problem and increase our college graduation numbers?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Elena Kagan Confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court

Today the U.S. Senate confirmed Elena Kagan as the 112th U.S. Supreme Court Justice, but only the 4th woman in history to serve on the highest court in the land. Click here to read an article about her confirmation, and then address one or more of the prompts below:

The U.S. Constitution stipulates that all federal judges, including U.S. Supreme Court justices, are appointed for life. Do you agree with this concept? Why or why not?

Does it matter that Elena Kagan is only the 4th woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court? Explain why.

Why do you think the nomination and confirmation of federal judges has become so much more political,partisan and controversial in recent years? Is this good or bad for our political system? Why?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Is it OK to say the F Bomb on TV?

Back in the 70s, comedian George Carlin did a routine called "The 7 Words You Can't Say on Television". (Bet your parents remember it.) A lot has changed since then, but there is still controversy over obscene language on the public airwaves (TV or radio consumers don't pay for). Today, a federal appeals court ruled on a case that challenged the 2004 FCC (Federal Election Commission) Fleeting Expletive policy which established a fine for the use of obscenity on TV or radio. Click here to read an article about how the court ruled. Then address one or more of the following prompts:

Do you agree with the appeals court's ruling? Why or why not? Be sure you understand specifically what the court's decision actually was before you respond.

Do you think obscene language should be allowed over the public airwaves (TV or radio)? Why or why not? Note: This is a DIFFERENT question than the first one.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Democracy?

California voters don't think so. On June 8 of this year, they voted in favor of Proposition 14, a ballot referendum. For this post, you need to first find out what a primary election is and also what a referendum is.

Next, click here to read an article that appeared in the New York Times before the June 8 referendum was held. Afterwards, address one or more of the following prompts:

Why is Proposition 14 called "the latest ballot initiative to act as an electoral protest for California voters"? What might they be protesting?

Californians have made a number of changes in their electoral process in the past decade. Do you think people voting on such issues is helpful or harmful to democracy? Explain why.

What are some possible advantages and disadvantages of the new election process Californians adopted when they voted for Proposition 14?

If you were a California voter, would you have voted for or against Proposition 14? Why?

2010 Summer Project: A New Way to Fight a War

The war in Afghanistan is the longest in American history. Yet even with the 30,000 additional troops sent this year to Afghanistan by President Obama, most experts think we are a long way from achieving success there. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan militarily but eventually had to withdraw after 10 years of frustration. Why is military success so difficult to achieve there, even for world superpowers? With this question in mind, the U.S. military has been forced to develop a different way to fight. Click here to read (or listen to!) an article about what the U.S. military is doing to achieve success in Afghanistan. Then address the following prompts:

Do you think this new strategy will work? Why or why not?

President Obama pledged to begin bringing our troops home from Afghanistan by next summer, but now that commitment is in question due to the unexpectedly strong resistance of Taliban forces. Should the President stick to his original pledge, or do we need to stay until we achieve our goals in Afghanistan? Explain why you think so.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Should the U.S. Mandate Paid Parental Leave?

The goal of a business is to make a profit, right? Or do American businesses have additional obligations to promote the good of our society? The issue of mandatory paid parental leave is an example of this debate. Click here to find out where the U.S. stands among the nations of the world in terms of our status on this issue. Be sure to look at the chart at the end of the article. Then address the following prompts:

State your position on this issue and explain why you feel the way you do. For a challenge, argue the opposite of what you actually believe!

Does it matter to the U.S. what other nations in the world are doing on this issue? Why or why not?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: To Drill or Not to Drill

Shortly after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration declared a moritorium (go look it up!) on deepwater oil drilling. Today, a federal judge struck down that moritorium. Find out why the judge did this and how the Obama administration is reacting by clicking here to read an article about the decision. Then address the following prompts:

Do you agree or disagree with the judge's ruling? Why or why not?

Why do you think the Obama administration imposed the moritorium in the first place?

If you agree with the moritorium, what kind of regulations do you think should be in place before deepwater drilling is allowed again?

According to Gallup polling data, Americans' perception of how President Obama is handling the oil spill is lower than his overall approval rating. Should we hold the President accountable for the spill? Why or why not?

Friday, June 18, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Deliberative Democracy

Hopefully, some of you followed the fierce debate over healthcare reform this past year. Now that the legislation has passed, many Americans are fearful of its impact, at least in part because the issue is so complex that most of us don't have the time or inclination to understand its intricacies (It's over 2000 pages long!). As our society becomes more and more complex, it seems that only the technocrats (look it up by clicking the link)have the ability to understand and make decisions about how to govern. Doesn't sound much like a democracy, does it? Have we outgrown democracy? Or can democracy be adapted enough to survive and thrive in our complex modern world?

Click here to read a recent article on a possible solution, "deliberative democracy", from The Economist magazine. Then address one or more of the following prompts:

Do you think there is currently a problem with our democracy due to the increasingly complex nature of our society? Why or why not?

Do you think deliberative democracy, as described in the article, would be a better system for creating public policy than our current system, which involves the election of representatives who make complex decisions for us? Why or why not?

What obstacles might be faced in trying to implement such changes to our current system of governing?

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Take It Global

"Take it Global". That's the advice First Lady Michelle Obama gave the graduates of the George Washington University Class of 2010 when she gave the commencement address in May. She was suggesting that the graduates continue their community service and expand it to other areas of the world. This is a reflection of the ever increasing globalization with which the United States and all other nations are faced, due economic, environmental, cultural and other interdependence. More than any other generation before you, this is the world you will enter shortly. "...We are no longer isolated from what happens on the other side of the world....it’s in our best interest to look beyond our immediate self-interest, and look out for one another globally....so many of today’s challenges are borderless, from the economy to terrorism to climate change, and that solving those problems demands cooperation with others", Mrs. Obama said.

Clearly, her message applies to all of you, as well as the GW grads. Why should you consider service abroad? Michelle Obama gave several reasons in her speech. "When you serve others abroad, you’re serving our country, too. You’re showing the world the true face of America –- our generosity, our strength, the enduring power of our ideals, the infinite reservoir of our hope. And yes, serving abroad will make you stronger, more competitive, a more valuable asset for a career in the public or private sectors."

This blog post is designed to help you explore one avenue of global community service: the Peace Corps. First, click here to find out what the Peace Corps is. Next, discover where Peace Corps volunteers serve by clicking here. Then, to learn more about what types of things Peace Corps volunteers do, click here. Finally, click here to choose at least one location on the world map to explore in depth the activities of a Peace Corps volunteer. Just move your cursor over the various blue dots to see the different types of work the volunteers are doing, and click on one or more that interest you. Many of the stories have slide shows or videos or audio reports that accompany them and make them more interesting.

Having done all of the above, address at least 2 of the following prompts:

Do you agree with Michelle Obama that global community service makes a difference to U.S. relations with the rest of the world? Why or why not?

Based on the specific volunteer and location you learned about, how is this volunteer impacting the community he or she is serving? Provide specific examples from what you read, watched, etc.

Do you think you would be interested in global community service such as the Peace Corps? If so, where would you want to serve? What type of work would you like to do? Why is this type of service personally important to you?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: Why Immigration Reform Matters Politically

(Note: This post is mostly geared to AP Government, but AP World History students are welcome to respond to it too.)

Immigration reform is a major topic of conversation and concern for Americans these days. Due to the reluctance of Congress and the Obama administration to tackle this difficult issue, Arizona has passed a state law designed to cut down on illegal immigration that has provoked controversy not only in Arizona but across the country as well. Critics argue that it allows law enforcement officials to use racial profiling to identify illegal immigrants, while advocates of the law deny this and stress the need to take action to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S.

A new NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo public opinion poll offers insight into the political implications of this issue.

First, what is a public opinion poll? Find out by clicking here. (You might want to bookmark the political dictionary homepage for future use.)

Then, click here to read an article that analyzes the results of the poll. (On a personal note, one reason I chose this article is because in my former life working in professional politics, I worked closely with Bill McInturff, one of the pollsters interviewed for this article.)

Finally, address one or more of the writing prompts that follow. A word of advice: many of us have strong opinions on the topic of immigration. Please be respectful and appropriate in your comments in order to preserve the spirit of healthy public discourse that is the intent of this blog...and in order to get credit for your posts. In this particular instance, I am more interested in your ability to provide objective political commentary on this topic than in your personal opinion on the immigration issue.

Here are the prompts:

In light of the poll results, what might the "short-term gains" Republicans could make look like, given the upcoming elections for Congress, governors and other offices this fall?

The article provides an example of how information from public opinion polls can be used by political parties and campaigns to make decisions about how to spend their money to elect candidates to office. What do you think it means when the article says, "If he were a GOP political strategist, Hart says, 'I know where I’m putting my mail money and targeting money.'"?

Why do both Hart and McInturff think Republicans may have long-term problems, based on the poll results? What might be the consequences for Republicans?

If you were a Republican political worker, what course of action would you be inclined to take to help your party, based on the short and long-term consequences of the poll results?

2010 SUMMER PROJECT: What in the world is GLOBISH?

Most of you have taken or are taking a foreign language in school, presumably to communicate effectively with people from another country or countries. But what if there were a "language" that was designed to be used to communicate with people from around the world?

It turns out that there is one being developed. It's called Globish.

Click here to read an article from the New York Times about Globish, and then respond to one or more of the following writing prompts:

Why is globish emerging NOW, as opposed to 25 years ago, or 50 years ago, or 100 years ago?

Let's say globish catches on, and many people around the world learn to use it. What might be some positive consequences of this? Are there any possible negative consequences of it? If so, what might they be?

Do you think it might be important for you, as a young American and soon-to-be citizen of the world, to learn globish? Why or why not?

2009 Summer Projects Start Here!

***** If you are looking for posts for the 2010 Summer Project, STOP HERE. The posts that follow are from 2009 and therefore are not eligible for 2010 Summer Project responses. *******