Author Archives: hannahlat

Questioning During Spring Break

I’ve been on spring break for the past two weeks so my thoughts and reflections about my AP Government class have been temporarily placed on the backburner. One of the main benefits of taking an online class is the great amount of flexibility, which allows a student to complete the weekly workload at a convenient time. This flexibility also makes it possible to stay up to date with the class during spring break even while traveling because the Internet is the only necessary resource needed to complete assignments. Amidst a camping trip and daily trips to the beach, I managed to stay up to date on the AP Gov course load and a couple of current events topics during my spring break thanks to technology and social media.

Naturally, I wasn’t checking the New York Times website as often as I normally do during spring break, but I got a high dose of news hype every time I signed into Facebook because of the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. I first learned of the shooting of Trayvon Martin from a meme that was posted on Facebook that showed the different profiles of Trayvon Martin and his shooter, George Zimmerman. I also learned about the strong and spiteful aftermath of the shooting on social media sites like Twitter from a segment of the Daily Show with John Stewart. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old black high school student who was shot by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch security guard, on February 26, 2012. George Zimmerman told the police that he shot Trayvon Martin out of self-defense, so the police did not arrest him. However, Trayvon Martin was found with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of ice tea.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin is tragic, plus I find myself being  interested in the court case and investigation that has resulted from the court case. In a previous unit in AP Government, we learned about the different between state laws and federal laws. State laws are customary and different for each state whereas federal laws are the common laws that every United States citizen must abide by. The state of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is currently facing nationwide scrutiny because of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. This law permits a person to use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat. George Zimmerman is using this state law to legitimize his reasons for killing Trayvon Martin. After researching this case, I found myself questioning the pros and cons of having a “Stand Your Ground” law. Does it provide an excuse for homicide? Does it make America a safer place? In my opinion, this law does provide an excuse for homicide because it does not require a person to retreat before shooting. Also, having a law that justifies killing does not make America safer in the long run, especially with cases like this. My answers to these questions have led me to be against the law because as this case shows, it can do more bad then good.

Our class has also studied the role of media in politics, court cases, and elections, which is very relevant to this situation. By studying the role of media, I’ve also begun to question how fair the court case of George Zimmerman could really be. This is an extremely publicized case and everyone seems to have an opinion, so is it really possible for George Zimmerman to get a case free of media biases? I am curious to hear the opinions of others on these issues, so comments would be much appreciated!

Here is an interactive depiction of the events leading to the shooing of Trayvon Martin.


Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Current Events


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AP Gov. Aftermath

This past week I truly felt the effects of taking this online AP Government class. Personally, I know I’ve learned an extensive amount of information that has provided me with a better understanding of current events in the United States and the world and has prepared me to take the AP test in May, but in my day-to-day life, I hadn’t applied the knowledge attained through this course up until two weeks ago.

One of the perks of going to a small prestigious all-girls school in Hawaii is the endless amount of opportunities that are available for the students, which is similar to my experience at an online school for girls. All-girls’ schools provide an intimate learning environment that isn’t offered at many coed schools. For example, my school in Hawaii has a close connection with the YWCA of Oahu CEO, so the senior class was invited to participate in the YWCA of Oahu’s Women’s History Month Series. The Women’s History Month Series is a new program at the YWCA that aims to celebrate and inform women on significant issues regarding women through informational sessions. The topics of these sessions include currently debated topics women’s such as reproductive rights, women’s voting rights, women in the workplace, and women in the military. Each session also provides information on the history of each topic and an update on the current day status.

The topics of the first two sessions of the Women’s History Month Series were women’s reproductive rights and voting rights, a topic that I am well informed of because it was covered during a previous unit of AP Government, “Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.” In the sessions, I found myself being better informed than my peers and even many of the businesswomen who were also attending because of what I had learned in this class. I was especially interested in the session on reproductive rights because I had done a presentation on the controversial Roe v. Wade court case, so I could be more engaged in the lesson. The speaker covered other court cases that I recognized from class such as Griswold v. Connecticut and Maher v. Roe. Many of my classmates did not understand how important court cases are to government and history, so this section did not enthrall them.

Even though we’ve only completed three units so far in AP Government, I’ve begun to find that it has made me more aware and knowledgeable of current events and history.

Here is a video of the women’s reproductive rights session:

Celebrating Women’s Reproductive Rights 030112 from YWCA Oahu on Vimeo.


Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Learning, Rights and Liberties


What’s Religion Got to Do with it?

Before I took this AP Government class, I’d watched clips of the current Republican debates and speeches periodically, but as we’ve studied more units in class, I began to realize how relevant the information is to this election and events around the world. So far in class, we’ve gotten through two units: foundations of American government, and civil liberties and rights. Just by studying these two units, I’ve been able to understand the news a lot better because I have a greater understanding of the principles and values that the United States is founded upon.

By being more aware of the Republican election, I’ve started to become more critical of the strong emphasis placed on the religion of the candidates. For example:

This past Wednesday, we had an exam on civil liberties and civil rights. In order to prepare for the test, I reread different sections, particularly the section that explained the relationship between church and state because I find it interesting and conflicting to the campaigns of the Republican part candidates. As a newcomer to the Republican primary campaign, the first thing I learned about each candidate was their religion and their opinions on other religions. Rick Santorum is a devout Catholic. Newt Gingrich is a converted Catholic. Mitt Romney is a Mormon. I find it especially troubling that when I think of each of these candidates, the first thought that comes to my head is their religion. I’m not sure when the election became a popularity contest of “my God is better than your God,” but it prompted me to apply the concepts of this unit to the election. This website was very helpful to me for researching this topic: “Preaching Politics or Religion?” (Mint Press News).

Article VI of the Constitution states,

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

In the past unit, our class also studied the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Although the establishment clause is vague in that it bans laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” I learned that the Supreme Court has interpreted this as a separation of church and state or a wall of separation. Over time however, as shown by the current Republican election, I think the wall between church and state continues to get thinner and thinner. In a study from the Public Religion Research Institution, “a majority (56%) of the public says it is very or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs are the same as their own.” After the unit on civil liberties and civil rights, I definitely feel stronger against people voting based on religion. While religion may be a factor of a person’s character, I don’t think that a person’s religion has anything to do with their ability to run the country. Here is another resource I found interesting, from the New York Times: “Religion at the Ballot Box.”


Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns, Religion


Confessions Of An Online AP Government Student

I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t too thrilled to be taking an online AP course during my final semester of high school. My second semester was a time I had saved for repairing my extreme case of senioritis. For this reason, I pledged to do the least possible and “sit in the back of the class” for as long as I could. After three days of being in AP Government I knew my slacker approach to the class would not get me very far. This was made especially clear when the first assignments included making an introductory video to tell the class more about yourself and participating in a post State of the Union Address Skype session. I had my doubts, but each assignment enhanced the information I learned from the readings. I’d love to reflect on the pros and cons of this AP Government class, but I haven’t run into anything that would be considered a con. The class is extremely organized and you can easily review the different subjects we’ve covered because they are all on the website, even after they have been turned in. The course work is dense, but the assignments make the readings relevant and give examples of how the subject has been tested in real life situations. For example, an assignment was to discuss who was to blame for the response to Hurricane Katrina. This class solves the main issues I have with a majority of the classes I am taking at my school this year: lack of time, irregular schedule, and busy work.

My favorite parts of the class would definitely be the discussion posts and (don’t judge me) the Wilson textbook. For discussions, our teacher, Mr. Gwaltney, poses open-ended questions for us to reflect about. Each student posts a personal response and then we are able to respond to everyone’s discussion posts. This method gives the feel of a classroom, minus the excess conversations. Recently, we had a discussion assignment that required us to create an amendment. I posted a proposition to repeal the second amendment and had my mind made up about this decision, but a girl in my class, Amber, responded to my post with a different outlook. This made me reconsider my views on this issue and reexamine the reasons it is so difficult to repeal or add additional amendments to the Constitution.

Another reason I’ve enjoyed this class so far has been the American Government textbook by Wilson. This book is very modern, but extremely factual. It even made me laugh at certain points in the various descriptions of Benjamin Franklin. One of the main questions I encountered while reading was why Madison felt so strongly about having large republics. The textbook explained his position perfectly, “If Madison’s argument seems strange or abstract, ask yourself the following question: if I have an unpopular opinion, an exotic lifestyle, or an unconventional interest, will I find greater security living in a small town or a big city?” (Wilson 34). The class would be different for me if this book were not used because Wilson provides the necessary information and allows the reader to make their own conclusions about the content and the questions the information raises. That being said, I’m looking forward to the new and exciting material we will be learning in this class, even if it means I have to ignore my growing case of senioritis.


Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Learning