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Author Archives: jackieosg2012

Final Ruminations

Today marks the final day of this blog and the final “official” day of this class. It’s definitely been quite an experience. Like many of the others, this was my first ever online class, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. At first it was pretty stressful. The transition to managing time on my own and keeping track of all of my assignments was a little bumpy. I would try to do things ahead of time but end up forgetting to do a couple assignments until 11:30 pm on the day it was due. Sometimes I did almost all the assignments at 11:30 on the day it was due! We often had a lot of work to do each week, and it could get a little overwhelming. The reading was dense, the discussion questions required deep analysis, and the sheer amount of information to take in made my head spin.

But let me be the first to tell you, it was all worth it.

The time management skills I’ve gotten are invaluable, especially as I prepare to head off to college in the fall. And I feel like I’m pretty prepared for this exam. There was a lot to do because it was a one semester AP class, but we’ve done it.

Wish us luck on our AP test on May 15! Thank you for reading. Mahalo Nui.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in 21st Century Skills, Learning

 

Apparently America isn’t the only Democracy out there…

As it was mentioned in previous posts, our class is currently tasked with the project of designing a new system to elect our Congress members and president. And while many people find it easy to criticize the system we have in status quo, it’s surprisingly difficult to try to think of something that works better. We say we want to get rid of the electoral college to make voting more representative, but then we remember the “tyranny of the majority” and why we have it in the first place. We say we want to eliminate private funds for campaign fundraising, but the alternative is using public funds, and that’s not acceptable. Our country seems to be on a balance.So in trying to think of a system that works better, our group decided to take a peek at the way other countries decide on their rulers. Lo, and behold! A lot of countries do it differently than we do! And there are some methods that are really quite intriguing. I’ll list a few of my personal favorites.

  • Alternative Vote or Instant Run-off Voting

    Optical scan IRV ballot

    Optical scan IRV ballot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    involves ranking candidates in order of preference fromfavorite to least favorite. You can rank all of them, or you can stop ranking when you feel as if you’ve run out of people you might want to vote for. If a candidate receives a majority (not just the most, but a majority) of votes, he wins. If not, the election goes into run-off voting where the last place candidate is eliminated and the remaining candidates go up for the vote again until there is a clear winner.

  • Range Voting is another method that involves numbers. In this case, voters can rank candidates based on a scale. For example, if given a scale from -10 to 10, a voter can assign the candidates a number based on how much they like them. The cumulative total determines the winner.This ballot design, used in cumulative voting,...
  • Cumulative Voting allows every person to act like their own electoral college. With this method, for every candidate for a position, voters get one vote. For example, if there are ten candidates, then the voter gets ten votes for that position. The voter can assign all ten votes to one candidate, or split them up amongst multiple candidates. (Image at right)
These are just a few of the other voting methods out there. Previously, I didn’t know that any of these existed. What I think attracts me to these particular methods is the fact that each allows voters multiple options. A choosing the “lesser of two evils” type of deal. Right now, if a candidate has 50.1% of the votes, he wins over a candidate who has 49.9% of the votes. I think that if people were able to spread their vote out and say “I like this guy, but I’d be okay with this guy too,” the population would be more fairly represented.
 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns

 

Maybe we really do need change

For the next few weeks in AP US Gov, we’re working on a project to develop a more effective electoral system that will ensure higher voter turnout and make the electorate more representative of the real demographics and ideologies of the United States. This comes after discussing and debating about how Super PACs, with their incredibly saturated budgets, may or may not skew the vote away from political agreement and towards flashier advertisements. This got me thinking about the way the elections were supposed to happen.

In the early years of our country (the first century or so), voter turnout was astronomical, hitting a high of 81.2% in the extremely important and disputed election of 1860 between Lincoln and Breckinridge. But that doesn’t mean that only extremely important elections had high voter turnouts. In fact, most of the elections between 1840 and 1900 had voter turnouts of over 70%. (Source)

Jefferson was quite future-conscious

What has happened since then? According to our textbook, some factors that may have contributed to the dramatic change in voter turnout are the fact that younger people tend to vote less, the growing population of minorities, and less effective political parties. But I think it also has to be taken into account that we’re voting to a standard that was set over two hundred years ago. There have been some minor changes over time, but we are basically following the same model that the Founding Fathers set.

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson had the right idea when he said that future generations should not be trapped by the ideas of their ancestors. Maybe a complete Constitution rewrite as he proposed is a little “out there,” but there are probably things about the election process that could be changed to encourage more people to vote. What do you think?

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns

 

America vs. The World – They’re Really Very Similar

ImageThis week, I’m in New York for a Model United Nations (Model UN) conference. If you don’t know what Model UN is, it’s where students take on the role of UN delegates from the various UN member states and debate topics with the end goal of passing resolutions. It actually reminds me a lot of what we’ve been studying in our Government class except on a slightly larger scale.

The unit we just covered talked about how Americans agree on most fundamental ideas such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but differ in thought over the smaller details like how these things will be fulfilled. Similarly, the delegates to the UN generally believe in the same principles – nuclear weapons are bad, all people deserve certain rights, etc., and work towards achieving a world where these things are recognized by all.

The conference starts tomorrow (Wednesday, March 8), and I’m very excited to see how everything plays out and to see if I can draw any more connections between the international scale and the domestic scale (I’m sure I will). My school will be representing Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet country that borders China, so it will be interesting to argue from the point of view of a small, not very powerful country when we’re so used to being American.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Learning

 

AP US Gov: Teaching you more than just government

Everybody at my school knows that after taking AP US History the only social studies course you can take is AP US Government. It makes sense. It’s a natural progression from the history of our country to the way our country functions now. The teacher would be the same, the classroom would be the same, the classmates would be the same. But wait, what’s this? Our school no longer offers an in-house AP US Gov class?

Finding out that this class would only be offered as an Online School for Girls class was definitely a surprise for me. I didn’t know what to expect. I was comfortable just taking normal classes. I knew the other girls in my class, I knew the teachers, and I knew (from upperclassmen) what the classes were going to be like. But this would be something totally new for me. I was a little apprehensive. But so far, it’s been a great experience.

Normally, this class would be a whole year, but for OSG, it’s been condensed down to one semester. This fact scared me at first, but after surviving over a month of AP US Gov with Mr. Gwaltney, I have no doubt that I’ll be ready for the AP exam in May. If anything, I’ll be overprepared. We learn via all sorts of media. We listen to recorded lectures, we read from a textbook, we watch videos, we discuss opinions. It’s like a normal class on steroids.

One other thing that made me a little apprehensive about this course at first was the time management issue. I’ll be honest about it: I’m a chronic procrastinator. I was pretty afraid that I would be doing everything last minute and doing mediocre work on everything because there was no teacher looking down my back and no real class time. But somehow I’ve managed without having to turn everything in at 11:59 on the day it’s due.

I’ve learned many things in the last month or so. Not just about US Government (which I’ve learned a lot about), but also myself. I know now that when I go away to college next year (where I’ll definitely need better time management skills and will be faced with a myriad of new experiences) I’ll be okay.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Learning

 
 
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