What do test scores really mean?

With a graduation rate peaking above 80 percent for the first time in history, the united states seems to be emerging from its educational slump of the past decade. With test scores lagging behind those of our neighboring countries, officials, citizens, and the community alike are still worried for the  future. What many claim as ‘falling behind’, I view as something else. Being on the cutting edge of state development since our founding, I believe that the United States is in the midst of pioneering the next stage of development of first world development.

Continue reading

Exploitation in College Athletics

Ed O'Bannon (via Grantland)

Ed O’Bannon (via Grantland)

In their 2004 article for The Nation, Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier describe athletes speaking out against injustice. Some of the influential professions mentioned include Adonal Foyle and Steve Nash of the NBA, as well as Tiger Woods and Billie Jean King. Candaele and Dreier argue that there is a lack of athlete activism today, and I would agree that this is true. While recent events have inspired protests from athletes, like members of the St. Louis Rams, there are few athletes willing to speak out. College athletes are usually even less apt to speak out, because their futures often rely on scholarships that can be taken away.

(via USA Today)

(via USA Today)

Earlier this year, in April, members of the University of Northwestern football team broke that trend. They made an effort to unionize their team, and take their treatment into their own hands. The effort is still very much ongoing, and is being fought by the NCAA. There has been plenty of controversy in recent years over the NCAA treatment of players. Schools and the Association profit heavily off of the use of player names and likenesses, but the players themselves never see any of this money. We read earlier in the semester about Ed O’Bannon, the former UCLA

A Northwestern player before the union vote (via the Associated Press)

A Northwestern player before the union vote (via the Associated Press)

basketball player suing the NCAA over the continued use of his name and likeness. The Northwestern players represent a different situation, and a change in tone. They are current student-athletes taking aggressive action against what they see to be an injustice. Previously, most athletes to speak out on any institutional issue have been former players like Ed O’Bannon, or the NFL players suing the league over head injuries.

According to the Grantland article we read about Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, athletes are more or less required to help their institutions profit from the use of their images. It is hard to argue that this is not exploitation. In fact, exploitation is defined as “the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.” By this definition, the NCAA is surely exploiting its student-athletes. They make sure that athletes create revenue for them, and they do this by playing their sports. While some have stood against it, there are too many who have not. Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier’s call for more athletes to stand up is as relevant as ever. The more athletes to call for justice, at any level of sport, the better off everyone will be.

A Spark of Resistance Under the Fascist Rule of Adolf Hitler

A group of Jews from Hungary arrive in Auschwitz during the summer of 1944.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. details his definition of civil disobedience in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. Dr. King clarifies that in order to participate in civil disobedience, breaking laws is necessary. This may only occur if the law is unjust. An unjust law is one that does not apply to everyone and is not applied consistently to all, like the segregation laws that Dr. King and others like Rosa Parks fought during the American Civil Rights Movement. Although Dr. King’s non-violent forms of protest greatly influenced the Civil Rights Movement, he was not the first American to resist unjust laws on American soil. The Boston Tea Party is a well-known form of civil disobedience that helped spark the fire that led to the start of the American Revolutionary War. Also, women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in the 1872 U.S. House of Representatives election, considering the 19th Amendment enabling women to vote wasn’t passed until 1920. During the Vietnam War, activists took action against the draft and all the young Americans who were fighting/being killed overseas.

As Americans, we are able to enjoy our constitutional rights that protect our ability to protest and criticize our government. In many countries, however, this is simply not the case. More oppressive regimes in countries like Communist China and the former Soviet Union, freedom of speech and the right to organize was not something those in power allowed to happen. Although those regimes both used violent means to suppress acts they considered treasonous, by far the most extreme when it comes to the consequences of speaking out against those in power, would have to be Fascist Germany.

Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.

Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.

Facing periods of unemployment and hyperinflation, many people suffered tremendously after World War I. With Germany’s Weimar Republic beginning to waver, those power made no effort to hide that it was holding on by a string, unable to cope. In a time when liberalism seemed to have failed in Europe, hope for a brighter future had all but been lost in the eyes of many Germans. It wasn’t until Italy’s Benito Mussolini crafted the definition of fascism, in which the admiring Adolf Hitler used in crafting his vision of a new Germany. Hitler was able to convince the Germans that fascism was the long awaited cure to the period of economic and cultural decline they were experiencing, as it was different from other political traditions.  Continue reading

Third Times a Charm: Third Parties and Third Estate

In lecture for Political Theory 101, the topic of “Changes” was discussed in terms of political institutions. The French Revolution elucidates the radical institutional changes that can occur with the mobilization, determination and pressure of the working-class on the governing elite. During the French Revolution (1787-1799) French citizens redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Inspired by the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, the French Revolution was particularly influenced by the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people and its legacies are omnipresent in our daily lives as a democracy. The French Revolution’s enabled a structural transformation of government that more accurately and justly represented the needs of the people. In the United States, our representative democracy is becoming decreasingly representative and increasingly aristocratic and demographically homogenous; thus, making Congress unrepresentative of the rich diversity of ideals and nationalities of their electorate.

 

Caricature of the Third Estate (peasants and merchants) carrying the Second (nobility) and the Third Estates (clergy)

 

 

vote_third_party

Some of the many third parties in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

Marijuana and Mill’s Harm Principle

Marijuana is a very sensitive and controversial topic nowadays. At the opposite ends of the spectrum, people argue against each other about the legalization of the drug. For the supporters of the legalization, there are people arguing for the job creations and economic opportunities by comparing Marijuana to alcohol and tobacco. On the other hand, people argue against the drug because of its negative effects on the health and the fact that it is usually considered as a “gateway” drug to other more addictive drugs such as cocaine, heroine, etc. In the recent lectures, we learned a very interesting idea about the “Harm Principle” discussed by John Stuart Mill in his “On Liberty” Chapter IV. In this blog post, I will try to use this principle to explain whether or not Marijuana should be legalized.

Medial Marijuana Legalized States (Apr 2014) (link)

Continue reading

Marxism and the Group Project

Marx_and_Engels

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (via WikiMedia)

Communist-manifesto

(via WikiMedia)

In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels outlined their ideas for the communist state. Among these are the abolition of private property, state ownership of the means of production, and the “equal liability of all to labor.” In America, we have always had an aversion to communist ideas, yet they still find their way into certain facets of society. There have always been socialist ideas present in government, and even in our schools. In the case of schools, the group project can be seen as an example of Marxism in action.

In this class, one of the assignment options is the group project. Many of our classes assign group projects as a preview to working in the professional world, where working in groups is essential. In many ways, the group projects we are assigned in classes fit Marx and Engels’ ideals outlined in their Manifesto. When given a group project, students will often divide the tasks between the members of the group, just like the division of labor that is central to Marxism. They all are working together for a common grade, just like laborers under Marxism work for their common sustenance. In Marxism, the means of production are controlled by the government, similar to how a teacher controls the objectives for the project. Group projects also establish a single grade for all members of the group, getting rid of private grades just like private property.

The group project can be seen as a microcosm for the failures of modern Marxism. One of the biggest fears that come with it is that the other members of the group will not carry their weight, causing everyone’s grade to suffer. One of the biggest shortcomings of Marxism in practice is that the separation of labor is not always efficient, just like the group project. Because each member of the group is usually made responsible for their own part of the project, it is essential for everyone to do their part in order to have success.

(via WikiMedia)

(via WikiMedia)

Critics of Marxism often say that it cannot work in practice because there is no incentive for workers to do anything. There is also little incentive for students to do their work in a group project, because those who are less motivated may expect the others to pick up the slack for them. They will still reap the benefits of the group grade, but without doing any actual work.

After the Soviet Union formally collapsed in 1991, Marxism was considered a failure in practice. While we cannot expect the downfall of the group project anytime soon, it highlights many of the same problems that brought down the Communist Bloc.

United Nations and Social Contracts

United Nations (UN) was founded in 1945 after the greatest war in human history. After hundreds or even thousands years of chaos and disputes, mankind finally got together and started to find a way to keep long-term peace and development. The purpose of the United Nations seems to be easy to understand – just like citizens in a country need to have a government, countries need to have “a government of countries” to ensure peace and prevent wars among nations. However, is the role of the UN among countries really the same as that of a government for its citizens? In my opinion, the short answer here is NO. In order to more closely examine this issue, I will use the theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau to compare UN with a common “country” in their different ways to keep “Social Contracts”.

UN General Assembly Hall – The hall that holds the main deliberative assembly of the United Nations (Link)

Continue reading