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Author Archives: hannahosg

Private Prisons, Perhaps Not So Efficient

In class this week, we learned about Bureaucracies. A bureaucracy is an organization with a clear hierarchy of authority, employees with specific job titles and descriptions, and formal procedures for hiring, promoting, and firing workers. Bureaucracies are often seen as inefficient and are,  therefore, frequently reformed. For example, the state run Department of Motor Vehicles is often considered unresponsive and inefficient for its long lines, compared to McDonalds with many shorter lines and a manual for structured operation. Is this proof that public bureaucracies should look and operate even more like private bureaucracies?

Well, let’s look at the example of prisons. It is a common belief that private prisons are more cost-efficient; however, privatized prisons can prove to have major problems, especially concerning the health of their prisoners. For example, in private prisons, prisoners are often in crowded facilities and their food rations are cut back to reduce costs. These inhumane conditions would certainly be less likely in a state-run correctional facility. The Arizona Department of Corrections revealed research that private prisons house only relatively healthy inmates, which helps them appear less expensive.

Contrary to popular belief, privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons. Russ Van Vleet, a former co-director of the University of Utah Criminal Justice Center stated, “There’s a perception that the private sector is always going to do it more efficiently and less costly, but there really isn’t much our there that says that’s correct.” Nationally, the number of state inmates in private prisons grew by a third over the past decade. While private prisons collect a “daily rate” per inmate, some expenses are disproportionately distributed. In conclusion to all my research, I have found what Steve Owen, spokesman for the largest operator, Corrections Corporation of America, states as “a mixed bag of research…it’s not as black and white and cut and dried as we would like.”

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Law and Policy

 

Our Virtual Classroom, An Invaluable Tool: The Internet

In our online AP Gov class, we learn, share and communicate via the internet. The internet is the newest electronic source of news. In 2000, over half of American households had at least one computer, and today, over half of Americans have a personal computer, playing a big role in our daily lives. The internet plays a big role not only in our class, but also in politics.

In our class, the internet serves as an invaluable tool for sharing our ideas with one another for projects and for researching current events for both internal and public blogging projects. Without the internet, our class would not be possible. Using the internet as a virtual classroom has allowed for this class to be made possible. With classmates in Hawaii, California, Tennessee, Washington, Connecticut and other states, my peers and I are able to share our diverse opinions with each other without boundaries. We abide by a rule of courtesy when we share and respond to one another. The discussions we have online serve as learning experiences on how to communicate with people via the internet. In the future, most of our careers will deal with the internet, and this class prepares us for the increasingly technologically advanced world that continues to grow.

The political news that is found online ranges from summaries of stories from newspapers and magazines to political rumors. The internet is acts as a “free market” in political news where there are few regulations or controls to the facts, opinions and nonsense that are publicly posted. While some people read their newspaper online, others scan blogs for political viewpoints that offer liberal, conservative and libertarian perspectives.

Because the internet has no centralized governance or policies for access and usage, many people express themselves freely. This expression can be both helpful and destructive. Today, every candidate running for an important office has a web site. In 2004, Howard Dean ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and raised most of his money from internet appeals. However, the internet can also prove to be destructive as a major source of criticism. For example, when John Kerry was campaigning, the internet blogs served as a source of discussion and criticism of Kerry by former Vietnam war veterans.

The internet, therefore, is global system of interconnected computer networks that serves billions of people worldwide. The internet can influence people’s opinions, destroy reputations, and deliver invaluable information at incredible speed. The commercialization of the internet resulted in the internet’s incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern life. As of 2011, more than 2.2 billion people use the Internet for the various services that it provides. This global system will hopefully soon expand to include even more online opportunities for learning.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in 21st Century Skills, Technology

 

Learning to Collaborate in an Online World

In the midst of our first multi-person project, our online AP Government class is learning to collaborate with each other from across the country by making use of today’s online tools. Our assignment is quickly turning into a lesson on collaboration as we perfect our communication skills. Because most of us are in our last two years of high school, we have already learned so much about communicating with a group in and outside of a classroom; however, this online course now calls for new skills, taking learning outside of the classroom to a whole new level.

As we embark on a project to design an Electoral System with the objective to improve democracy, we are quickly learning to take advantage of the resources available to us at our finger tips.

Having already completed two Skype sessions with my four-person group, I am impressed by our ability to stay on task, working towards our goal to develop a new Electoral System. Requiring an overwhelming amount of research, we have learned to make use of Google documents, which allows us to constantly update the group on new information. As we contribute our own ideas, we also listen to others’ ideas. In my experience thus far, I have been impressed by my group mates in their focus and creativity. Seeing as how our online course is well underway, we have all developed great skills for using internet tools, such as Google documents, Voicethread, Twitter and Skype, to communicate with our teacher and peers. For our project, we must use these familiar tools to communicate our ideas with each other. My group mates and I are learning to share our ideas and research in a Google document, working as a sharepoint for all our new research.

At first, a multi-person project seems quite complicated. Having group mates from Hawai’i, California and Tennessee, and myself on the East Coast, we are learning to work together to assign research deadlines and schedule Skype meetings, despite the four different time zones. That’s right – four different time zones! Our first Skype session ended with our agreeing on a first deadline for preliminary research on the Electoral Systems of each region. During our second Skype session, we discussed the requirements for voting already in existence and what changes we would like to implement. By incorporating everyone’s ideas, we are excited to see where our collaboration will lead us. Our next step is to create a WikiPage on Haiku, another online tool, to display our newly designed Electoral System.

In designing our new Electoral System, we are given the responsibility to improve democracy. Compared to other industrialized representative democracies, the United States ranks low in terms of voter turnout. In our project, we are addressing concerns, such as, why is turnout so low in American elections? or is it fair to the majority when a candidate with the largest minority of votes becomes the people’s representative? Also important, Is the American system biased in favor of wealthy candidates? My group mates and I are eager to create an overall fairness to all Americans. In our research, we are developing opinions of the Electoral Systems already in place, and we are forming opinions of what changes would benefit Americans in a new Electoral System.

This project allows us to form views and let our ideas come alive. After all, we are 21st century learners!

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in 21st Century Skills, Learning

 

Out of the Classroom, Sledding 13,796 Ft. Above Sea Level

At the peak of the Mauna Kea volcano, I was perched on top of the world! My visit to the volcano was significantly improved by my newfound interests sparked in my AP Gov course. I was interested in how the construction of the observatories atop the volcano had interfered with the habitat of native species and how the state government was protecting inhabitants.

Mauna Kea is 4,205 m (13,795 ft) above sea level and about two million years old. On the drive up Mauna Kea, the paved path soon turned into a dirt road, and my father and I ventured further and further up the volcano. The windy roads took sharp turns, twisting up the volcano. Once at the top of Mauna Kea, my dad and I grabbed our sled and headed for the highest peak. Having gone snorkeling in the morning, we were determined to end the day sledding — all in the spirit of adventure! 

The creation of an access road in 1964 has caused controversy between scientists and natives because the peaks of the island of Hawaii are considered sacred according to Hawaiian mythology. Today, the Mauna Kea Observatories stand atop several surrounding peaks and research across the electromagnetic spectrum from visible light to radio. Because of its high altitudes and stable airflow, Mauna Kea’s summit is one of the best sites for astronomical observation. Studies are currently underway to determine how the construction has affected the ecology of the area. For example, the wekiu bug inhabits Mauna Kea, but their population is being depleted by the loose cinder and spills of chemicals used in maintaining the telescopes. To further investigate, I researched what actions were being taken to protect these insects.

Petitions are a common way for Hawaiian natives and passionate visitors to advocate for the protection of the wekiu bug and many other insects. In October 2011, a petition was filed to list the wekiu bug as an endangered species; however, the U.S. government declined to consider it as endangered. Although petitioners were unsuccessful, they may rest assured that the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is dedicated to managing state parks and other natural resources. As a part of the state government, the DLNR regulates park environments and protects the inhabitants to the best of their ability.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Law and Policy

 

Stuck in boarding school, but liberated by an online education!

As a boarding school student living in the middle-of-nowhere, an online course seems like heaven… A door to the rest of the world! I live among 209 girls from 19 countries and 18 states. Our 145-acre campus can feel rather small, especially in the winter season when we must all huddle together by furnaces to keep warm. For those who have never attended boarding school, it is a shocking and challenging experience. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my school was now offering even more opportunities through an online school, and I decided to further challenge myself with an online AP U.S. Government course.

I was apprehensive at first on how I would meet the challenge of completing all of my assignments with the addition of another AP course, yet I have found our online course to be a great fit for my learning style. In AP Gov with Mr. G., I have learned through tools such as, Google Presentations, VIMEO, Haiku, Voicethread and WordPress -all tools that I had never heard of before. Not only has this online course taught me a lesson on time management and the importance of meeting deadlines, but also how to learn by means of resources available at my disposal that I had never previously used.

AP Gov requires collaboration with partners for various projects, including presentations with more than one online tool. Therefore, this requires patience with each other and oneself. Through the simple task of converting  a Google presentation to Powerpoint and uploading to Voicethread, I have learned to have patience with myself when learning new tricks of the trade. At first, I was nervous about all the ‘steps’ it took to complete one assignment. I admit, I was even nervous that I might disappoint my partner. Luckily, the girls in our class have all been so welcoming, friendly and helpful whenever I have needed assistance.

My interest really peaked during our last Unit regarding Civil Rights, especially regarding education and disabilities. Having attended a large inner-city public high school for my freshman year, I became aware of the struggles of students with disabilities. Our high school adapted their architectural plan in order accommodate the needs of those who required wheel-chairs. In addition to the building accommodations, my high school also hired Personal Aids for those with more serious learning disabilities. These Personal Aids were adult guides who helped the student move from class to class and stay organized. These accommodations were all made possible in my public high school through government funding. I was so proud that these individuals were taken care of by our school system. Therefore, my interest in education stems from my first-hand knowledge of what a school system can do to appropriately accommodate those individuals who need further assistance to have an easier daily routine. This is an example of how the University of Virginia accommodates their students with disabilities. They have a written handbook on the matter: http://www.virginia.edu/vpsa/stdnt-disabilities-accom-hndbk07-08.pdf

As an AP Government student, I find this course has made me a citizen who is more aware, a citizen who puts aside my daily grind in order to learn about larger issues and events that occur in our nation. I have noticed that since the beginning of this course, I have been paying more attention to the events that affect our nation. I am becoming more aware of American politics. It has been a great experience to offer my personal insights into the issues of American government that interest me the most.

My classmates in AP Government have also helped me become a citizen who is more well-rounded. As we share our personal interests and our own opinions on the topics discussed on Haiku, I am learning about each person as an individual, and I am benefiting from their viewpoints on certain topics. Through this course, I have become more open-minded in considering views other than my own. All in all, AP GOV ROCKS!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Learning