When a discussion on the comparative aspects of the new Chinese system of government was interrupted by an impromptu discussion of the situation with Syria, it was clear that my Online AP Comparative Government and Politics would be unlike any other class I had previously experienced. The class began with a debate and interactive dialogue between the students that equipped us to understand the issue and then discuss the relative benefits and flaws to our democratic system of engaging in war. The class was able argue out the issue using the ‘online discussion’ format that allows commentary from students on stated views. This project allowed the class to take an initial deeper glance at the various stipulations of the constitution, in this case particularly those regarding the United State’s ability to wage war on another country.
As reading assignments in the required textbooks were assigned, the class was challenged to understand the breakdown of the Declaration of Independence in a more complex and in-depth way. We were encouraged to see the rights affirmed to us as American citizens in a more modern context. What I enjoy most about the class is Mr. Gwaltney’s continued questioning of our beliefs on the issues we are studying in today’s world. A modern contextual understanding allows a more all-encompassing comprehension of the historical and legislative subjects we are studying in class, especially given the 17-18 year old age range of the students.
What has been most stimulating about the class so far has been discussions in which Mr. Gwaltney prompts us to use our imagination to put our own twist on legislation. For instance, during our unit covering Federalism we were asked to create our own laws and amendments to the constitution. The assignment forced us to look at pivotal issues that are facing society at present. Being able to see what other students across the country thought were of the upmost importance was an intriguing quality of the discussion. The ‘Federalism Case Study’ illustrated the efforts and shortcomings of the federalist system using the disastrous and disorganized response to Hurricane Katrina, as a twenty-first century national example of its failings to incorporate all branches of government in disaster relief. Such contemporary examples were juxtaposed directly with early Federalists and Anti-Federalist debates, in which our forefathers seemed to foreshadow the potential imperfections of a democratic federalist system.
Mr. Gwaltney uses a myriad of court case examples to allow students to understand the issues being discussed. For instance, during our civil rights and liberties unit, students were paired with partners in the class to cover a particular court case that demonstrated the Supreme Court deciding upon modern legislation through constitutional evidence.
I’ve never enrolled in an Online School for Girls course before, and though this class is perhaps the most challenging of all the courses I’m taking this year, I’ve become truly stimulated by the topics discussed as well as the overall structure of the class. The wide geographic range of the students allows for a wealth of perspective I would not have thought possible for just one class. Perhaps an indication of this newfound interest in modern news affairs has been the transition of my ‘home screen’ from Facebook to CNN.com. I find myself really interested in staying on top of what’s going on in the world around me, especially when we are directly discussing an issue that relates to the topic in class. I am sure many of my classmates have become as electrified by the class and have become inspired to stay more on top of the current events around them, as I have. The class has inspired me to look into government, economics, and international relations as a possible major next year at college.