Author Archives: saraheshspeaks

Bottoms up.

Hello again, blogosphere! Nice to see you again.

Before I begin the “meat” of this post, I have to preface it with a tiny disclaimer. The topic of this post is one that emerged out of several preceding thoughts that do, in fact, relate to the recent activities within our AP Gov class. Essentially, I apologize if this seems off-topic, but it has a root in relevant studies.

Now time for the meat.

ImageFor the past couple of weeks, our class has split up into groups to work on an assignment where we design a completely new electoral system (it sounds a little grueling but once you get into it, it’s actually really cool). At the beginning of the project, my group decided to delve into researching current electoral systems. After divvying up some different tasks, we all then coalesced our ideas in a google doc and met via skype to discuss our findings (google docs, skype– classic online course, am I right?). Within some of our research, I was interested to see some of the marked differences in age restrictions among states. While at first I saw different laws allowing residents to register to vote at age 17 (though they aren’t allowed to vote until 18), these age restrictions got me thinking. One issue in the vein of age restrictions that is generally in the back of people’s minds is the the drinking age. While I understand that this can potentially be a touchy subject, I decided to do a little research on the drinking age in the United States and the struggle between a legal age of 18 or 21.

My findings included several interesting facts, some of which surprised me. Though the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed in 1984, eight different exceptions to the drinking age exist across a total of 40 US states. What I noticed however, among some of these exceptions (which range from educational purposes, to religious or medical purposes and even to the extent of parental consent in a facility that sells alcohol) was that some states tend to lean either on one extreme spectrum or the other. While I can easily understand the pros and cons of lowering the drinking age, one element of my brief research that I had most difficulty finding was any sort of happy medium. Naturally, some states aren’t entirely against or for exceptions toward the drinking age, but I was very surprised not to find a whole lot of means of compromise with regards to the topic.

ImageAs a high school senior soon off to college, I am constantly reminded of the bleak horrors of binge drinking in college. And while I commit to making smart, educated choices while in college, I can’t help but wonder about the social changes that could potentially be reconstructed with a lower drinking age. It seems that the United States is the one country that struggles the most with a legal drinking age and perhaps a solution would require some “alternative” methods. By the same token, organizations like MADD (mothers Against Drunk Driving) bring several valid and often heart-wrenching points to the table.   Simply thinking about some of the stories these mothers have told are beyond heartbreaking. Ultimately, it seems like the issues we face mostly within the back-and-forth struggle with the drinking age stem largely from social and cultural norms. So, readers, I leave you (as usual) with a question: how do you change these social and cultural norms without endangering American youth? Perhaps it’s just an issue of time– society will change and so will different modes of technology that could potentially aid this situation. Regardless, I urge you to think about it and check out the link I posted below about exceptions to the NMDAA (National Minimum Drinking Age Act).

Thanks again for reading!



Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Law and Policy


Risky Business: Religion in the Primaries

Recently in our AP Gov class, we watched one of the signature “Democracy in America” videos that featured a segment on John F. Kennedy’s campaign in West Virginia during the 1960 primaries. The segment touched on Kennedy’s rather gutsy campaign in West Virginia after a slim victory in the Wisconsin primary– though West Virginia is typically one of the smaller primaries, Kennedy’s Catholicism magnified the significance of the election particularly on account of the large Protestant proportion of West Virginian voters. Though it was brief, the segment resonated with me. With all the current hubbub about religion in politics, a particular quote from JFK in one of his speeches while campaigning in West Virginia provoked some thought in me.

“Now there is nothing in my religious faith that prevents me from executing my oath of office. If I thought that there was I wouldn’t take it. If I thought there was I shouldn’t be not even president– I shouldn’t be Senator, I shouldn’t have been Congressman. To be frank with you I shouldn’t have been taken into the service of the United States. Because on that occasion in 1941 I also swore to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

After having a conversation with my dad about Kennedy’s campaign strategies in the midst of this, we both found it interesting that JFK ultimately aimed to develop close, personal relationships with voters, having individual conversations and sending them personal thank you notes afterward. Additionally, though, Kennedy used these personal relationships to diminish the typically harsh notions of Catholicism. He took both his religion and his allegiance to the Constitution very seriously, as well as the relationship between the two. However, it seems with the primaries today, the regard for that same relationship is different. While I have no doubt that the nominees currently running have any intention of letting their religious beliefs prevent them from executing their oath of office, one could argue that some of their beliefs would violate certain aspects of the Constitution. For example, Mitt Romney was recently quoted saying, “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that” and if elected, he would reduce funding exponentially to the program. While this could have been simply a tactical move to bolster his refuted reputation as a “true conservative” and possibly to appeal more to conservative evangelical voters, his decision to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood would ultimately violate the implied right to privacy in the Constitution– not to mention the general welfare of women’s health. So finally, while I’m not saying there is or isn’t a “right way” to regard that relationship between upholding religious beliefs and belief in the Constitution, the intent underneath the beliefs should always remain clear and visible.


Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Elections & Campaigns, Religion


Diversity in the Polls: You Don’t Have to be Good at Math to Make it Count

Diversity: showing a great deal of variety; (of two or more things) markedly different from one another.

Diversity. If only it were as simple as a few, fleshy-colored paper cut-out dolls.

The above definition is about as broad as the number of polling statistics and figures that indicate many trends within US Government. Upon doing some research for an earlier project this semester, I found some interesting information: voter participation in Presidential elections differed between genders and parties; more women than men voted out of the people voting for Obama in the 2008 election while more men than women voted out of those who chose McCain (according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics). As this may be indicative of how the sexes identify with ideals of certain parties, the gap might also suggest a gap between the political ideals of men and women on the whole. I know, this (like the definition of diversity) is a very broad, sweeping statement. However, when you think about the basic psychological nature of men and women (men thinking in more immediate terms, built for confrontation while women are generally more nurturing and don’t separate personal experience from problems), this might make sense. Now I’m not going to get into a giant debate on psychology, but my question is, is there a right way? Men’s ideals v. women’s ideals? Where do we find the balance between the ever-changing relationship between the ideals of men and women.

Additionally, this year I’ve been taking AP Human Geography (no, I do not study the physical distribution of the human body). While we study trends all around the world, our focus on the United States has opened my naïve peepers to the effects of population distribution on politics. Cycles begin forming as circumstances change. For example, as economic times continue to make just living difficult, people begin moving to more affordable places to live. As seen in the Apportionment map below, Texas, (a notorious “Red” state) has gained four seats in the House of Representatives from population growth alone (and I’m pretty sure that population growth isn’t just from Texans having a whole lot of babies). Similarly, apportionment within states as well as cities and municipalities may skew the representation of minorities in local and large-scale government.

Reapportionment Map (2010 Census)

So readers, this is my first challenge to you: what do you think? Given the current state of diversity in politics (you can find some more facts about women in government here:, where do we go from here? How do we allow for the just, accurate representation of minorities in government? How do we do so and maintain a stable, formidable system? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!


Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Culture


Thomas Jefferson, Twitter and Tinker (v. Des Moines). Oh My!

Well, ladies and gents, may I be the first to say congratulations. Who, you might ask, am I congratulating and why in the world would I do that. To quench the curiosity, I am congratulating the ladies of the AP US Gov class.  Because after hitting the ground running in the foreign territory that is an online class, I have been astonished and vastly impressed by the content of what they have to share and I think the ladies deserve some serious recognition. Starting this course, I will admit I was nervous. And like some of my classmates, I was a little intimidated by the requirements of the online structure. As a technological neanderthal and a second semester senior, I was worried my own ambition and motivation would be hindered (to say the least) and that simply, I wouldn’t have much to say. I’ve noticed, though, that over the past four weeks, discussion spurs more discussion and it seems we inspire more thought in each other. Ultimately, the speed at which these four weeks have passed is a testament to the quality of work and effort put in, as well as a healthy amount of enjoyment we’re getting out of this class.

Naïve Sarah, pre-AP US Gov

Between the independence, the internet– a classroom alternative, the multi-media learning and discussion-based lessons, the class so far has provided an innumerable amount of perspectives and methods of grasping and understanding material. In this day and age (excuse the cliché), with so many history-making events happening in the US as well as the rest of the world, not to mention the complexity and volume of ideas and opinions that litter our internet, newspapers, magazines, TV screens, etc., I find it exceedingly valuable to be able to interpret and analyze multiple forms of information across multiple disciplines. Additionally, since the class began, I’ve started to see and appreciate more and more the ways in which government affects our lives on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s a traffic light on the street or my ability to post whatever I please on this blog without having to worry about being punished for it (don’t worry, I’ll keep things PG) we often forget how much the government really shapes our lives.

Generally speaking, one thing I really value being able to do in my life is planning ahead. Before you jump to any conclusions that may lead you to believe I am a control freak, let me explain. In taking this course, I am planning ahead. By partaking in a multitude of new technologies, learning about government itself, one of the most prominent forces in our lives and doing so at my leisure and in the comfort of my own home (I will admit, the majority of my discussion answers have been written from my bed), I’m getting a leg-up on the ways of the future (excuse the corny somewhat canonical phrases). I feel that I’m not only learning about crucial aspects of government, but I’m learning skills and independent work habits that this course requires– all of which I will most definitely take with me to college and beyond.  

Just as I’ve learned that government builds upon itself and relies upon its separate parts to function well, I’m excited to see how we as a class build upon each other’s ideas and opinions and function together as a unit. Between partner projects (which I am really enjoying, not just the process of going in depth on a subject, but getting to know some of my classmates a little better), discussions, videos, voicethreads, etc., I look forward to all that this course has to offer for the remainder of the year. So once again, congratulations on a sensational start and I wish you all the best of luck!

P.S.– If you ask me, Thomas Jefferson would be proud.



Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Learning