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Author Archives: KW

Reflections of Online Learning

We’ve made it! Despite the tests, the challenging homework, the million-and-one terms to know, we have made it to the end of not one, but two, AP classes. This class, as a combination of AP US Government and AP Comparative Politics, has truly challenged me in my senior year. The topics were vast and detailed. Most of the concepts were pretty new as well. Along with my other classes, I had a huge amount of work on my plate. But the real challenge in all of this: this crazy class was entirely online. How well did we learn the topic? How well will we do on the AP test? It all depends on the quality of studying.

What have I learned?
Besides the government and politics, I have learned a few life skills because of this class. I have learned to manage my time better than before. Because this online classwork is at your own pace, it is up to you, the student, to get your work in on time. If you don’t, there is no flesh-and-blood teacher to pester you every class period!  Over this last year, I have learned to balance my priorities. I have, unfortunately for my Government knowledge, mastered the skill of cramming…take it from me: this is not the way to study! I have also learned to communicate better. In an online class setting with very little direct communication, it is important to ask questions when you have them.

If you are considering enrolling in an online course, I have a bit of advice:

  1. Talk to former students. Ask about the class, the type of homework, their average study time. Ask about the teacher and the methods of teacher. Just ask questions. Every class will be different, so ask questions every time!
  2. Meet the teacher face to face. Skype, ichat, even video introductions will help you get started on a good note.
  3. If the class you will take is entirely different from any you’ve taken before, learn a little about the subject before you join. Even a short wikipedia article will give you more knowledge that you had before!
  4. Get to know the website. Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss an assignment or test because you couldn’t find it? Understanding the layout before hand gives you a hand up at the beginning of class (or time to ask questions if you don’t get it)

This class has been a great experience for me. I’ve met people across the country and learned more about our own government and other countries’. This class was fun and educational. Plus, it had the benefits of running on my schedule! If I was too busy one day to do homework, no problem! I had the option to organize my time as needed. If I understood a subject faster than my peers, I could complete those assignments, then watch a movie – there was no need to sit around in a classroom. If you want to find out more benefits of an online class, check out this site!

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Default

 

The Budget and its Archenemy

“[The budget cuts] threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform” (1).

“Does Mr. Obama really want to claim that his administration…is unable to save a penny out of every dollar it spends?” (2).

I have heard many outraged comments about the sequester. Many people weigh in on this topic, placing blame and criticism on many different sources. Yet throughout the facebook rants, radio tirades, and analytical reports, very few people really seem to understand how our economy and the US budget is run. In an effort to improve our general knowledge of the economy and hopefully cool down some tempers, lets look at some key elements of:

THE BUDGET

First of, lets look at the Constitution. The basic powers of Congress are outlined in this all-important document.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…To borrow money on the credit of the United States; To regulate Commerce…To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof.

Basically, US money is placed in the hands of our congressional leaders. In comparison, the President has very little to do with the budget. He may recommend policies – such as the Sequester, which was voted on in 2011 by Congress – but he cannot actually do Congress’s job.

Second: The Economy. Our economy has a lot to do with government spending. Below is a pie chart of the spending budget in 2012.Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (programs that primarily benefit senior citizens) take up 43% of the budget, which is more than double any other piece of the budget. Over the past few years, the elderly population has been increasing, and is expected to double in the next twenty years (3). This means that the federal budget will either have to change dramatically, or we will be going into a major black hole.

As you will notice from the chart, all other government spending (besides defense spending) takes up less than 26% of the budget. This includes money for schools, stimulus programs, highway maintenance, food inspections, and many other things we depend on. Clearly, there is an uneven distribution of priorities, something that will continue to cause issues for years to come.

Besides the actual budget, our main economic problem is the amazingly deep national debt. At the time of this post, the national debt stood at:

According to data from the US Department of Treasury and the US Bureau of the Census’ (4). This is about  $53,355.28 debt per US citizen. See a problem?

And last but not least, lets look at the Sequester, which I dub the archenemy of the economy. Why? A video by the Vlogbrothers sums it up really well; check it out here “Understand the Sequester (Spoiler: It’s Bananas)”. To summarize, the budget cuts included in the Sequester solve the wrong problem! Instead of fixing our long term budgeting issue, which includes skyrocketing costs of medicare and social security (gotta love those baby boomers.) These cuts affect everything else, including every acronym (NASA, USDA, CIA, FBI, TSA, etc), the programs that are used on a daily basis. Basically, it is a short term solution for a long term problem.

I know what you’re thinking; How did this even happen? Well, the Sequester wasn’t even supposed to happen!  This plan was voted on originally as the backup-to-the-backup-to-the-backup-to-the-backup plan to fix the economy. The deadline – set two whole years from its creation – supposed that in that large time frame, Congress and/or its Super Committee could get its act together and make a better plan. The Sequester was designed badly on purpose, as an incentive to get our lawmakers moving.

Unfortunately, it did not work. Our lawmakers did not “get moving,” and instead allowed a known-consequence simply instate itself. Since then, a crazy round of finger-pointing has ensued in Washington. But here is a better solution. Instead of placing the blame on those who created the program, as the GOP has been inclined to do,  blame those who allowed it to happen: Congress. Even better, inform them that this is unacceptable. These are our congresspeople – they are here to represent the people, and take into consideration your opinion.

So write a letter, send an email, go on your tirade. Keep your cool – think about what you are saying.But get your voice out there, and encourage Congress get something done!

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Default

 

What’s Race got to do with it?

Disclaimer: Below is a very controversial topic. I mean no offense whatsoever to anyone; I only wish to talk about a subject that deserves some discussion! Please do not take offense to anything I say. If I am wrong, please do correct me!

We’ve all seen it. That one question on the survey, SAT information, school registration, or political ballot:

“What is your ethnicity/Race? Check all that apply”

Is this really necessary? Do defining questions and the demographics based on these questions help or hinder us as we try to be less discriminatory?

We are now in an age of equality. There is no more slavery in America, women can vote, and skin color is not an acceptable reason for denial. But to every improvement there are exceptions. As we strive to provide equal opportunities for all, are we limiting the opportunities of others?

I have grown up as a minority. As a white girl in America, that is pretty rare! My school has called itself “97% people of Asian descent” for six years now. I’ve learned to appreciate other cultures, and don’t bat an eye when my Asian friends and white friends talk. It’s normal, since for us, race just doesn’t matter! So when I am asked “what is your ethnicity/race?” and my only option is “white,” I get a little confused.

Race is often used to categorize problems. Areas with economic problems often have a correlation with race, so that is what people focus on. They assume that there is a direct correlation between race and the problem, and to solve the problem, you need to eliminate the racial barriers. That is great. Really, it is! There is no reason why someone should face poverty just because they have a different skin color.

But here’s where it gets complicated. Say, to solve the economic problem, we plan to eliminate racial barriers. To do this, we need to have more minority students in a particular college. Because of this, a quota system is set up. A certain number of students of each color are needed to fill these quotas….and we are back to where we started: race is the determining factor in acceptances and denials.

The problem has gone beyond simply skin color. Now, the lack of diversity in a certain location is not just because of discrimination, but also because of family history, different cultures between towns, and personal finances, to name a few. These are not issues directly related to minority races, but issues that everyone faces. Instead of seeing the problem differently for different people, why don’t we look at the entire issue? Everyone has a different opinion on the issue. A California school actual made a short documentary on how race factors into our lives, and how opinions can vary (the trailer is above). As one speaker explained,

“[the problem is above and beyond [race]”.

I agree with this speaker. Things have changed. It is time to change our ways of thinking as well!

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Culture, Current Events, Rights and Liberties

 

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Moderation to the Extreme

Have you ever been asked to pick a side between two friends? Or, even worse, between two people who you don’t like at all? I know I have. And every time I am asked to make such a decision, all I can think is “Here we go again!” These decisions always seem to be between two extremely different opinions, and I always, without fail, fall somewhere in the middle. Instead of being an extreme supporter of one of these sides, I consider myself an extreme moderate. (Want to know more about this? Visit this site.)

I have been raised with a disliking, yes, even a hatred, of extremism. Why? Because in most cases, extremist actions only cause damage. History is full of these cases. World War II is the most notable event full of extremely racist and religious beliefs. The millions who were killed or interned, both in Europe and the United States, often did nothing wrong but be of the “wrong” belief system or race. They were killed because of a few powerful extremists.

Extremism is also found in domestic issues, such as the debates today about gay marriage and abortions (For more information about these debates, click on the links!) In both cases, you have extremists on the side of the Church, and extremists on the more liberal side. Both sides point fingers at the other, and both sides scramble for their own victory. From my middle-ground point of view, I think they are both wrong. Both sides have descended to the level of claiming they are right, because others are wrong. I don’t like this black/white point of view. As the famous line goes,

Two wrongs do not make a right!

I believe in the philosophy that everything (or anything) in moderation is better than any extreme. Chocolate is bad if you eat a lot, but a little bit won’t hurt. In fact, it helps your serotonin levels! The same is true of any belief or party system. When you have a few democrats, and a few republicans, a nice balance of views is created.  So instead of creating this huge gap, why don’t we hang out in the middle?

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Current Events, Elections & Campaigns