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Author Archives: julia528

The Final Days

Overall, AP GOV has been a very positive experience. It was amazing how this online course not only taught me how to communicate over distances, but also work independently. The latter of the subjects has been fairly ignored in my previous blogs because I did not realize just how much AP Gov has taught me in independence until I sat down a couple of weeks ago to begin planning my study tactics for the upcoming exam. I have never been one to excel in time management, but in a school environment where you have class everyday scheduling has really never been necessary for me. However, when I began going to class online through the Online School for Girls, I found that it was time to pull out my planner. These next four weeks will be filled with tests for me ranging from SAT Subject Tests, APs, and Finals. Without the planning skills I have taken from this class, I could easily lose track of what I need to be studying and forget to balance my test preparation with schoolwork.

A Montessori Classroom

From preschool to sixth grade, I attended Montessori Schools, which emphasized the notion of working on your own time. Every week, we were assigned a list of general classwork to complete and were expected to have it done by Friday. This was particularly helpful for me because I could devote one day to one subject. Over the past five years while attending a more traditional school set up I seem to have forgotten how much I prefer working on my own timeframe. I find that while creating my own plan of attack I am actually more productive. Similar to my patterns of study with my elementary school, I have also fallen into a routine that I have found convenient for AP GOV: study/read over the weekdays and complete all the assignments over the weekend. Ultimately, I think that both my elementary school experience and the online school have prepared me for college classes where we cannot expect to have many small assignments due over the course of a week.

One of the things that I have noticed about myself and many of my peers is that adding on more work, if it is within reason, motivates us to be more focused. At first, I thought that taking AP GOV would be a huge mistake because it would take attention away from my in-school classes and extracurriculars. However, as I mentioned previously, this addition in my workload has provided me with many useful lessons, rather than forcing me to compromise my time and memory capacity. Ultimately, I am very grateful that I stayed in this class to not only experience a new style of education, but also discover the study and learning tactics that work best for myself.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in 21st Century Skills, Learning

 

Eleven Weeks of Learning

This past week in AP GOV really hit hard with characteristics of online learning. The project we are currently doing is one of the biggest this term and we had to work with three other partners to design a new electoral system with rules governing the media, financing, and campaigning. Considering the importance of the project and the depth of research, it is no surprise that a lot of Google hangouts and Skype sessions were required to complete the project. Although much of this technology was not new, it was definitely a more interactive process. For the most part, I had only used Goolge Docs to share documents with my teacher for grading. With this project, I got to actually jointly write a script with my group. Besides our class review Skype sessions, I also had not Skyped with more than one person before.

Looking back over the past eleven weeks, I’m not at all surprised at how far we’ve come in collaborating over the Internet. When we began AP GOV I was afraid that my lack of technological skills would impair my learning. On our first group project I spent hours trying to work through different sites like Google Powerpoint and Voicethread. Eleven weeks later, it is clear that our whole class has grown very proficient using these online tools. The directions to this recent project were informative enough to let our group know what was required information wise, but abstract enough to allow us to collaborate through creative means. For example, the page we design must have some narrated portion and instead of assigning the video to one person in the group to make by themselves, we decided to utilized voicethread so we can all contribute.

I know it may seem fairly redundant to be discussing blogging on a blog, but entering the class, this was certainly one of the areas I was most ignorant in. Overall, blogging has also become much easier than it was at the beginning of the term. As I mentioned previously, before I entered the class, I had never written or looked at a blog before and largely underestimated their importance. Besides from this public class blog, we are also expected to keep a current events blog, so needless to say, our class has received a lot of experience blogging, which will undoubtedly be more important for the future. To participate in this class, I also read a great deal of blogs and realize how enlightening it can be to discuss ideas with people who I would never otherwise come in contact with. Also, I now find that when keeping up with current events, it is most efficient to use Google Reader.

Considering all the new tools I have learned that the Internet holds, it is easy to show that Online Classes offer much more than the information one would gain from reading a textbook in a classroom. Looking at modern society, it is clear that more and more things are turning to the Internet and in this changing environment, I am confident that the girls in this online class will be prepared for these changes.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in 21st Century Skills, Learning, Technology

 

Money and Politics

Last week in AP GOV we delved into a topic that has proved to be one of the most interesting for me so far: the landmark case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The Supreme Court decision back in 2010 that allowed unions and corporations to contribute freely to campaign budgets has become a prevalent issue in the current presidential race, specifically in relation to the notorious Super PACs. During the 2010 case these political action committees were deemed acceptable by the Court, which stated that, “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” With the 2012 campaign well on its way, we as observers must now evaluate the path the Super PACs have taken. Is there apparent corruption?

With out a doubt, the money collected through these independent expenditure political action committees is primarily from donors tied closely to the business community that could easily gain advantages through borderline corrupt means if their endorsed candidate were elected. In fact it is estimated that alone wealthy donors and business have made up about 80% of the money collected. One of the major donors, Harold Simmons heads metal and chemical making companies that often clash with environmental and safety restrictions. So far, Simmons has donated large sums of money to Gingrich, Perry, and Romney.

A particular aspect that has bugged me throughout this election is that Super PACs are formed with obvious biases. As “independent expenditures” one would assume that such committees could not favor one party or candidate over another, but with several of the major Super PACs, this is clearly the case. Of the 17 listed in the New York Times article “Who’s Financing the ‘Super PACs’ ” (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/31/us/politics/super-pac-donors.html) 7 are affiliated with a candidate. It is illegal for the candidate to be in position or control of the PAC, but it is perfectly lawful for former aids, former chiefs of staff, or former campaign aides to a specific candidate to found and proceed to run the committee. Another similar issue that has surfaced during this campaign is that it is permissible for the candidate to “talk to his associated PAC via the media. And the super PAC can listen, like everybody else.”

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

Through satirical means, comedians Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have pointed to this curious legality of the campaign financing system. When Stephen Colbert chose to jokingly run for the President of South Carolina in the Republican primaries, he was forced to release control over his Super PAC Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Colbert then turned the PAC over to his good friend and executive producer Jon Stewart. Throughout his short lived campaign is was also legal for Colbert to “volunteer” on behalf of the Super PAC and for him to speak directly to the PAC throughout the campaign. The duo made fun of the obvious coordination that arose from this arrangement when Stewart sarcastically stated, “Stephen and I have in no way have worked out a series of Morse-code blinks to convey information with each other on our respective shows.” To again point out the ease with which PACs can continue to directly support a single candidate, Jon Stewart renamed the PAC “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC.”

Super PAC-Restore Our Future

Another concern that is all too familiar is the relationship between money and opportunity. Many of the Republican opponents have argued that Romney’s lead is due to his obvious financial advantages. Looking at the Super PAC monetary values, the PAC associated with Romney, Restore Our Future, has collected the most money by far ($36.8 million). The Super PAC that has collected the next highest funds ($23.4 million), American Crossroads is listed as having no known candidate ties.

On the other hand, the Super PACs have proved to be an effective way of promoting the “underdogs” in the race. For example, it can easily be argued that money has kept the Gingrich campaign afloat. In fact, Gingrich’s associated Super PAC, Winning Our Future, has raised the third highest money amount and raised the most money in January 2012 alone.

Ad from Winning Our Future

Personally, looking at all these extraordinary lavish campaign budgets is quiet baffling. Earlier in the post when I said that businesses contributed 80% of the funds collected in Super PACs it was extremely difficult to comprehend this as the large sum of $54 million. Of course this is a completely oversimplified view, but it just seems like there are so many better ways to spend this money. I realize that for a candidate, especially one that is relatively unknown, to cut his or her campaign budget can be detrimental, but in the midst of a recession it is fairly sad that such extravagant amounts of money are used for self-promotion.

Thank you for reading!

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns, Law and Policy

 

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The Moving Media

I was incredibly excited when two weeks ago we reached our unit on Civil Rights. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s-1960s has always been one of my favorite sections in US history; however, I was never consciously aware of what exactly ignited my passion. I understood the ideals of the movement  and its landmark place in history as result of hundreds of years of tensions in the struggle for equality. I could not, however, fathom why similar monumental events as the Civil War did not kindle the same reaction.

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their peers, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. -Robert Kennedy

Over the past few years I have accumulated a collection of books and documentaries surrounding this era, enthralled by every demonstration, legislative, and Supreme Court ruling involving the movement. I especially admired the leaders for their unwavering valor and fervor, characteristics that Robert Kennedy would describe as “moral courage.”

As I perused through the pages our Civil Rights chapter, it finally dawned on me what exactly intrigued me about this period. As our book attempted to explain the effectiveness of the movement it mentioned the exaggerated demonstrations that spread to all corners of the nation through televisions. This, of course, had been mentioned in my history class, but it wasn’t until I turned the page to the iconic picture of the African American attacked by a police dog that I realized that all along it was the media coverage that had grabbed my interest. I, like many Americans of the 50’s and 60’s could not help but to be appalled by the scenes of the police pressure hosing a crowd or touched by the footage of the March on Washington. The picture of the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 of the African American athletes still gives me chills.

Mexico City Olympics-1968

In many ways we take media coverage for granted these days. Any American can turn on his or her television set and chose from tens of different news stations, even ones that cater to his or her political interests. In fact, media has become so omnipresent that it has turned into a nuisance in some cases. Just as easy as it is to find coverage of current events, stories of Lindsey Lohan’s arrest or Kim Kardashian’s divorce are even closer at hand. With certain news stations preaching biased accounts and the growing popularity of E-news and reality TV shows, I adapted a negative connotation for “the media.” I began to undervalue the effects television coverage can have in advancing a cause and believed all positive effects were out shadowed  by lack of true news. Overall, I glad I have gained an appreciation for the media through the analysis of this unit. Through the six weeks in this course I have learned that new technology is not only a tool for learning but also an implement for revolutions.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Media, Rights and Liberties

 

A World of Wonder

I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled about participating in online discussions and I felt uncomfortable recording my voice online for voicethread comments and presentations. When the class first started, my schoolwork level was at its height and I began to fall behind on the assignments for this class. When I finally was able to organize my activities and begin catching up on work, I found that I was spending twice the effort and time on tasks just because I was so unfamiliar with working in an online atmosphere (in fact, this is my first-ever blog post). This was evident in the time I spent on the first couple of discussion posts, which took me a grueling two hours to construct. In a face-to-face classroom setting, I am usually one of the most opinionated students and often have no restraints jumping into debates. Suddenly, when I sat down to compose a response I found myself with little to say and contribute. The issue wasn’t so much that I was apathetic to the matters at hand, but rather that I was so fixated on the fact that I was contributing a written piece that after the 30 minute time limit passed, could no longer be edited. I worked meticulously, terrified that if I left mistakes in my post they would not only be easily identified, but also indelible. With each post, however, as I began to warm up to the class, I became less self-conscious about my writing and was able to formulate my opinions much quicker.

The Biggest Challenge-voicethread.com

As our fourth week in AP USGOV begins, I have grown not only to be comfortable in a virtual classroom, but also to appreciate many aspects of online learning. In the past week we were assigned our first group presentation, which was originally one of the things I was most concerned about because I had never used voicethread before and I was uncertain how to communicate with my partner. As it turned out, the group presentation was one of the most engaging projects in our class thus far. Communicating, even while my partner Jennifer and I were in different time zones, was surprisingly simple. Dividing up the work so each person contributed an equal amount was also an easy task because the class is independent in nature. Overall, this group project probably went the smoothest out of all the ones I have done for any class. In some cases, I have even found online learning is even better than learning in a “normal” classroom because everything is adapted to your schedule. On our first exam it was incredibly nice to come home and take the test when I felt prepared, relaxed, and awake. I also prefer watching the lectures as a video because I can take notes at my own pace, rewind parts that I missed, and most importantly chose to do them when I am attentive.

The War on Terror

Learning about government in general has been a fascinating experience. As a subject, social studies was never my passion until I starting taking AP United States History. Through taking APUSGOV I have been able to augment much of the material I am learning concurrently in APUSH. All of the legislation, reforms, administrative policies, and elections that we study in history class have become more meaningful just from reading the first unit. I find that with every new week through the videos we watch, discussions we contribute to, essays we write, and projects we complete, I begin thinking about topics that I never would have considered before (e.g. the war on terrorism and the conflicts it creates with our individual right to privacy).

Overall, these past four weeks have both been an important learning experience and a pleasure. I cannot wait for what lies ahead in APGOV and am even excited for my next blog.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Learning, Technology