Monday, April 21, 2014

Competition for America's First Ambassador of Education

You have been selected as a candidate to become the very TOP person in education!!  If selected you will be given the title of the United States of America's first Ambassador of Education!!  With this new title, comes a TREMENDOUS task and not to mention a TON of responsibility.

(That's right, we're revisiting the educational issue, once again, in light of our recent discussion in class.)

Here's the scenario:
Last week it was announced that despite the attempted changes in the American educational system, the US has dropped to 40th place in education throughout the developed world.  Schools are in shambles and progress is at an all time stand-still.  Nothing seems to be working!  So, the United States Congress went on a head-hunting world tour to find someone to head up the nation's educational system and even changed laws so that the newly selected Ambassador of Education would be allowed to implement ANY changes in the American educational system that he/she felt was absolutely necessary to get us back on track.  Congress and even state governors have vowed that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get our schools back to the point of being at least in the top 10 of the world - if not the very top.  This job is going to demand that you "think out of the box" and come up with ideas that you believe are doable.

Your task is to come up with FIVE key starting points / changes that you feel are ABSOLUTELY a must to begin putting America's educational system back on track.  You need to list the FIVE key things that you want Congress to push through and present them before the states.  List the FIVE changes with a brief description of why  you think they are ABSOLUTELY needed. Make sure your descriptions are clear and precise (to the point) and be prepared to answer questions that "members of Congress" (those responding to your proposals) may have for you.  In other words, be able to defend your plan!!

Those of you commenting on each other's post, are considered the "Members of Congress."  Your job is to pick through the various plans being proposed and really look them over.  Be critical!!!  If something isn't done, America's future is in serious jeopardy!!!  As it was once said, "The future of ANY country on this planet earth lies within it's educated mass!  A failure there, spells the doom of the country."

Once this blog is completed we'll be taking a vote in class which plans to adopt!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Return of a Superpower?

"The West is blinking in disbelief – Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine. German diplomats, French Eurocrats and American pundits are all stunned. Why has Russia chosen to gamble its trillion-dollar ties with the West?

Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money.

Putin’s henchmen know this personally. Russia’s rulers have been buying up Europe for years. They have mansions and luxury flats from London’s West End to France’s Cote d’Azure. Their children are safe at British boarding and Swiss finishing schools. And their money is squirreled away in Austrian banks and British tax havens.

Putin’s inner circle no longer fear the European establishment. They once imagined them all in MI6. Now they know better. They have seen firsthand how obsequious Western aristocrats and corporate tycoons suddenly turn when their billions come into play. They now view them as hypocrites—the same European elites who help them hide their fortunes.

Once Russia’s powerful listened when European embassies issued statements denouncing the baroque corruption of Russian state companies. But no more. Because they know full well it is European bankers, businessmen and lawyers who do the dirty work for them placing the proceeds of corruption in hideouts from the Dutch Antilles to the British Virgin Islands.

We are not talking big money. But very big money. None other than Putin’s Central Bank has estimated that two thirds of the $56 billion exiting Russia in 2012 might be traceable to illegal activities. Crimes like kickbacks, drug money or tax fraud. This is the money that posh English bankers are rolling out the red carpet for in London.

Behind European corruption, Russia sees American weakness. The Kremlin does not believe European countries – with the exception of Germany – are truly independent of the United States. They see them as client states that Washington could force now, as it once did in the Cold War, not to do such business with the Kremlin.

When Russia sees Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal outbidding each other to be Russia’s best business partner inside the EU (in return for no mention of human rights), they see America’s control over Europe slowly dissolving.

Back in Moscow, Russia hears American weakness out of Embassy Moscow. Once upon a time the Kremlin feared a foreign adventure might trigger Cold War economic sanctions where it hurts: export bans on key parts for its oil industry, even being cut out of its access to the Western banking sector. No more.
Russia sees an America distracted: Putin’s Ukrainian gambit was a shock to the U.S. foreign policy establishment. They prefer talking about China, or participating in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Russia sees an America vulnerable: in Afghanistan, in Syria and on Iran—a United States that desperately needs Russian support to continue shipping its supplies, host any peace conference or enforce its sanctions.
Moscow is not nervous. Russia’s elites have exposed themselves in a gigantic manner – everything they hold dear is now locked up in European properties and bank accounts. Theoretically, this makes them vulnerable. The EU could, with a sudden rush of money-laundering investigations and visa bans, cut them off from their wealth. But, time and time again, they have watched European governments balk at passing anything remotely similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which bars a handful of criminal-officials from entering the United States.

All this has made Putin confident, very confident – confident that European elites are more concerned about making money than standing up to him. The evidence is there. After Russia’s strike force reached the outskirts of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, in 2008, there were statements and bluster, but not a squeak about Russia’s billions. After Russia’s opposition were thrown into show trials, there were concerned letters from the European Union, but again silence about Russia’s billions.

The Kremlin thinks it knows Europe’s dirty secret now. The Kremlin thinks it has the European establishment down to a tee. The grim men who run Putin’s Russia see them like latter-day Soviet politicians. Back in the 1980s, the USSR talked about international Marxism but no longer believed it. Brussels today, Russia believes, talks about human rights but no longer believes in it. Europe is really run by an elite with the morality of the hedge fund: Make money at all costs and move it offshore."

Blog Question:
Has United States lost it's once "feared" and "respected" status in the world today?  Is Russia, as the article suggest, about to make a major move and re-establish itself, economically, politically and militarily as a major super power?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Speak Your Mind!!!

What's up with this blog topic??  Ah, inquiring minds want to know!!

Actually, nothing.  There is no trick or fancy goal alternative motive here - it is what it is.

For this week's blog - YOU - the awesome student of WORLD CIV HONORS is going to get a chance to "Speak Your Mind."  Plain and Simple.

So, what's on your mind? Is it politics, economics, sports, school, the weather, or maybe social issue.  The trick here is to simply "free write" whatever is on your mind.  What issue do you want to talk about? What's important to you at this point in time.

All too often you, as students, are told what to think, what to say, and to be quite frank, how to say it. Well, here's your chance to go completely "off the reservation" and talk about whatever you want to talk about!!!  So, don't waste this opportunity.  SHOUT IT OUT!!

Ok, since this is "technically" an educational blog, moderated by your's truly, I do have to state that there is a simple rule (yes, we always need "rules," right?) - you must be respectful of each others post.  That doesn't equate to a "holding-hands" and "singing around the campfire" moment - but respect.  You can agree to disagree and no one's post is considered "stupid" or "dumb."  Yet, that doesn't not mean you have to agree.  So, when posting comments on each others thoughtful topics, if you disagree, say it, but with respect.

Let the Dialog Begin!!

Blog Question:
Need I say it???  "WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?"  SPEAK UP - BE HEARD!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's Happened to Education in America?

There isn't much argument to the fact that education in the United States is in "serious trouble" and that if the country's future is to be secured then something must happen to reverse the downward trend.

Of course, there is plenty of people that are pointing fingers - laying blame here and there. 

Some argue that the problem is with the teachers - mainly the Teachers Unions that exist across the nation.  Inadequate teachers in the classroom and the difficulty that many schools face in trying to replace "bad teachers."

Others make the argument that even though teachers may be a portion of the problem, it is not the sole issue as to why the United States is scoring so low on the global scale when it comes to math, science and reading.  For those individuals, they point to the decaying standards of the American family - mainly a lack of parental involvement and demands that their children perform at an acceptable level.  Instead, they blame the schools and remove responsibility from themselves and/or their children.

Still, others argue that its the entire educational system that has gone awry.  These individuals argue that the American school system has become more about social acceptance (the "kumbaya effect"); an emphasis on social behavior than on academics.  A large portion of this group also argues that just about everything under the sun has replaced the key emphasis of core subjects that are globally considered the bedrock to a good education for today's world: science, math and language arts.  Schools display their sports trophies within the main lobbies of nearly all schools and its undeniable that in some states across the country - high school and college sports rule!

Again, there is plenty of blame to spread around.  Read the following article that came out in December 2013. CLICK HERE for the article.  After reading the article, jump into the blog and let your voice be heard!

Why are American school's failing?  Is there a way to fix this problem or is the future of the country in serious jeopardy?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Are We Attempting to Play God??

Genetic engineering: some call it "good" science and yet others state that it is nothing more than man trying to play "God."

Many scientist make the argument that with the advancements that are being made in the field of genetics, humankind would be crazy not to pursue the engineering of a more perfect, disease-free human.

Of course, those that strongly oppose this line of science basically state that age old saying, It's not nice to fool Mother Nature! - not to mention that their is such a great potential of abuse and long-term negative ramifications that we may not clearly understand at this time.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is examining a fertility procedure combines the genetic material of three people; all in the hopes of developing a child that would be free of certain defects.  Read the article that came out Tuesday, February 25th in the New York Times Health Section that discusses this issue.  After reading the article, jump right in and let's hear what you think about this week's blog question.

Blog Question:
Do you feel that the time has come for us to begin conducting genetic engineering on humans?  Do you feel that there are any true ethnic and moralistic issues that must be considered?  Just because we CAN do something, does it automatically mean that we SHOULD do something?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is Evil, evil?

Ok, let me start by saying that I need to do a little "lead into" for this blog topic - just to make sure that we're all clear on the actual topic - "Is Evil, evil?"  So I ask that each of you do me the courtesy of reading what I have written here prior to posting your comments.

Several years ago I heard a speaker while in college speak about the importance of properly analyzing history.  The reason that I remember the core of his speech was that I found the topic to be interesting and the questions he raised to be thought provoking; and as most of you know, I love thought-provoking conversations.... the deeper, the better!  To my "sick" academic mind, a good evening would be to have a bunch of people sitting around and engaging in a great discussion on "deep" topics.  Anyway, moving on...

The professor was Dr. Demos of Yale University (btw, one of the most interesting history professors I ever had) and he was stressing how it is important for students of history, professors of history, research writers, etc., to learn to analyze history as history.  In other words, not give what they may conceive as clear-cut labels.  According to Dr. Demos, when we do that, we enter into a "wrong way to attempt to understand history."  History, of itself, has no unambiguously good actors or bad.  There are just actors.  In fact, good and evil should not factor in a historical analysis at all.  Properly done, history must be examined and analyzed from a dispassionate, almost other-worldly, perspective. Let me give you an example using the Civil War.

Lincoln fought a war to preserve the Union—a union that had been voluntarily, democratically entered by the various states and subsequent territories.  Take away the repugnant institution of slavery, and the Confederacy had the better democratic claim for what they wished to do, if the critical ideal for a democratic republic is self-determination.  Had Lincoln not been able to wrap his cause of preserving the Union in the flag of ending slavery, the 600,000 dead would have been an atrocious cost to pay in order to keep a voluntarily-entered union from being voluntarily and democratically dissolved.

Stripped of moral judgments, history abounds with irony.   Lincoln had to subvert the democratic will of the Southern state legislatures in order to preserve democracy.  He eventually used the greater evil of slavery as justification for his fight against Southern democracy, but it should never be forgotten that he didn’t issue the Emancipation Proclamation until 1863, well after hostilities had commenced.   He pinned his cause on eliminating slavery only when it appeared his cause of preserving the Union was in jeopardy.  One wonders, what rationale to hold together the Union would be available, if in the future some state democratically determined it wished to leave?  Considering that even client states like Iraq and Afghanistan have no choice about their limited participation in the Union, it would be outlandish to imagine that something would not be contrived if, e.g., Texas figured it would be better off going it alone, again.  Lincoln was lucky.  He had the abolition of slavery to steel the people’s hearts and minds to battle against their own people, and in some measure, against their own ideals.  Artfully leveraging slavery to his purposes was part of Lincoln’s genius.  It would take an even more astute politician to conjure such a compelling purpose today, if one of the several states sought leave to end its association.

Ok, continuing my example using the Civil War (yes, one of my favorite period so history to study), let's take a look at the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee.  Lee is perhaps the most mythologized and romanticized military leader in American history.  His tactical brilliance is routinely praised, though there is precious little evidence supporting the view.  In fact, Lee led tactical disaster after disaster, not least Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, which as any reasonably astute tactician understands, and all Lee’s generals at the time fully well knew, was nothing more or less than Confederate suicide.  In many ways, Lee was the Union’s best general.  History is always written by the victors, perhaps explaining the enduring myth of Lee’s tactical brilliance.  The victors would not wish to imagine that Lee’s defeat was anything other than the product of their own valor and determination against a formidable foe.

So, are we correct to label something as "evil" simply to justify our own desire to elevate our own "goodness" or to justify something we consider (or in history's case - the victor) to be morally good.  Could not one claim that Lincoln was an "evil" man for leading the country into a war that, as stated earlier, actually went against the very principals of the Declaration of Independence? If you don't think so, maybe you should take the time to re-read the Declaration of Independence, for it clearly stated:

"...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Would it not be equally justified to declare that Robert E. Lee was "evil" for leading the Confederate states into one disaster after another; only on the belief that for some reason the South was justified in it's succession?

What about other characters that we find throughout history?  Who is "evil"?  Why are they considered "evil?"  How will history look back at us 100, 500, or a 1000 years from now when they read that we aborted millions of unborn children (NO!!! THIS IS NOT AN ANTI-ABORTION MESSAGE!!!...but what if for some reason later on that it's discovered that a fetus at 1 week old can indeed feel would probably change the interpretations that some have about the "justification" of aborting a fetus...therefore the future may judge us completely different)?  Will we be considered an "evil" people?

Last but not least - the question must also be asked - is an individuals actions "evil" or is it the results of a given action that are evil?

Trust me, the topic is difficult to nail down and granted, the interpretations are just as varied as the events in history itself.  So here's the blog topic for this week.....

Is Evil, "evil"?  Can we effectively and justifiably declare someone or something in history as being "evil" - if so how or why? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Iran's "Sweet" Nuclear Deal???

As of Monday, the temporary nuclear deal with Iran took effect.  Those that support the deal proclaim that it is long overdue and necessary if there is ever any hope in establishing stability in the Middle East and effectively dealing with Iran.  Of course, those that oppose the deal claim that this deal will only empower Iran and that the Iranian government has a long track record of not being trustworthy or true to their word.  Many people see this deal as mere appeasement - often compared to how the world originally tried to deal with Hitler when he began to rise to power... a mistake that later on had serious consequences.

Read the article that was posted on the New York Times website to gain some background and inside knowledge of this issue.  CLICK HERE to read the article.

What is your opinion on this subject?  Is this a "good" deal or is it merely creating a much larger issue later on.  Should any country be able to tell another country that they can or cannot have nuclear "energy" or even nuclear weapons, for that matter?

NOTE: Please remember to respect each other's opinions.  Your part in this blog is NOT to tell other members of the class that their blog post were "nice," "good argument" "bad grammar" or anything such as that.  This is a discussion.  Just as you would discuss it in class.