Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blog 3.5 (Question and Answer)

Discussion Question 2:
How does geography play a role in America's continuous use of the death penalty? How do state and local issues, values, and circumstances affect whether or not a state adopts pro or anti-death penalty legislation?

America is a large nation that has its fair share of both large metropolitan centers as well as tiny towns that serve the widespread unincorporated rural communities around them. This divide between urban and rural communities, as well as the values that each of the two hold, I feel has a major impact on why the death penalty remains in the position that it currently holds in the United States as the ultimate penalty for a crime.

Let's start with the cities and big urban centers. They have huge populations where not knowing someone else nearby is probably the norm and having a strict and uniform value system is almost impossible due to the sheer amount of opinions that exist. This creates a pluralism of people and opinions all around. Maybe it is in this environment that people best develop a feeling of tolerance, or thick skin, towards others that forces them to get along with those around them at a certain level as to not make living in such close quarters too unbearable.

On the other hand, those living in small local communities might be tempted to conform so as to not stand out from the norm. Differences can be magnified in small communities, especially those concerned with the survival of their way of life, so it's better to just go along with the crowd than risk becoming a pariah since everyone probably knows everyone else. With less points of view, it's possible that the consequences can be greater since agreement and conformity are prized heavily and voicing differently may lead to a loss of status or position in the community.

From a percentage point of view think of it like this. It's easier to get a bigger percentage of a small population to agree on something than with a bigger population so, in a small town, it might be easier to convince others of the rightness of a harsh punishment for a crime. The death penalty has existed for a long time and I can probably say that it is more established in the popular mindset than not having the death penalty. In a small town a person would probably not challenge the notion if it ran contrary to the opinions of others out of a sense of harmony, but in a big city with so many view points already it's much easier to change your opinions.

Blog 3 (The Peculiar Institution)

Something that I took away from this book was the racial nature of the death penalty. I really have never thought much about the death penalty, not to the point of having any kind of well reasoned rationale on whether or not to keep it around or not anyway, but when I heard that there was a greater occurrence of blacks facing the death penalty I began to consider what that actually meant as far as the institution of the death penalty was concerned.

Do death sentences somehow favor blacks or are there just more blacks accused of crimes that are punishable by the death penalty? What does the typical appeals process go for someone who is black and on death row? What is the rate of successful appeals by blacks compared to other races accused of similar on death row? Basically I'm wondering if the system is broken or the current climate of the country has just lead to this disparity. In either case, I'd love to see an effort made to correct this situation and hopefully in the process decrease the number of blacks who end up on death row.
 Hopefully this might even reduce the number of people on death row overall.

There are potentially deep social issues that are responsible for much of why the current situation is the way that it is today. As a teacher, I'd love to try my best to motivate students from all backgrounds to make good decisions and hopefully avoid running into the law. Maybe if the students could see the connections between what they do with their life choices and the death penalty they can form an opinion about how and why it continues to be implemented to this day and what should be done about it in the future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blog 2.5 (Directors Cut)

The Question:
4.)        “On July 21, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act…. unquestionably, the biggest change in the regulation of the financial industry since the aftermath of the Great Depression… the federal reserve would get new powers to look broadly across the financial system.  A council of federal regulators led by the Treasury secretary would help ferret out systematic risk.  A new consumer agency was created to help end the lending abuses and keep people from getting loans they could never hope to pay back…. The bill creates a process to liquidate failing companies, so that there is a reasonable alternative to bailouts.” (p 358)
            Are these changes enough to make you agree with President Obama’s assertion that, “because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes?”   Why or why not?

The Answer:
Considering the history of our country, and probably the history of human civilization, just because we say something like "never again" it doesn't necessarily mean that there will never be similar problems that will occur somewhere or sometime further in the future. The laws that are passed in order to try and protect us can only do two things: 1) Try to prevent what happened before from happening again in the exact same way and 2) Try to prevent against whatever possibilities we can imagine might happen later in the future. If you notice, none of these two things is designed to prevent against everything bad that could possibly happen since it's hard to imagine a human being having the foresight to essentially predict the future and prepare for it in advance. Even the best laid plans run into unexpected problems or situations that require new ways of thinking to solve.

Maybe the government holds off on spending money trying to prop up the country when things go wrong for a bit, but who knows if that is really the best thing to do. I doubt this new legislation is so earth-shattering to dramatically change the nature of this country's financial institutions and if things get bad enough who's to say what options are brought to the table to fix them. People would probably do anything to keep this country afloat even if it meant breaking a promise. Of course, I hope it never comes to that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blog 2 (Return of Blog)

All The Devils Are Here by Bethany McLean and Joseph Nocera

I can't really say where in the book I exactly read these things, but the books does a great job of describing the people in charge of the financial institutions that sorta started the ball rolling on this latest financial disaster. Some, like AIG's Hank Greenberg, were extremely hands-on and controlling while others just felt plain incompetent like Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal who ended up marginalizing the very people who would have helped save his company from falling apart. I really felt like they were someone to maybe admire a bit or just kinda feel really upset at. It's easy to view Wall Street as some giant entity that just tries its best to make and accumulate as much wealth as it can, but it's hard to imagine the kind of people who work there. Imagine all of the bright eyed college graduates rolling around in the expensive cars with six-figure pay checks as they go around committing fraud and the company CEO's above them who are just as human as you or me and can clearly make mistakes even with the best of intentions. Men from humble beginnings like Countrywide's Angelo Mozilo, wanting to do something right, instead end up taking the fall for one of the biggest economic downturns the history of the country. Maybe the only difference between them and myself is a giant money making corporation that has too much influence in the welfare of the nation, but that doesn't mean they are any smarter or more intelligent than I am. Which is actually kind of scary.

Hopefully, if anything, students will be able to leave the throngs of egocentrism that apparently abounds during adolescence and understand that people are people. These people, while powerful, were certainly not above mistakes and having faults. There is probably a lesson in all of this about hubris and pride, but even without those things it would be nice to see students trying to understand what it's like for other people in all walks of life. Not that I want them to envy these people in particular. For my own sake anyway.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blog Post 1 (for real this time)

After reading through the readings this week I was particularly drawn to the Kelly reading as it attempted to, essentially, deconstruct the role of the teacher in facilitating classroom discussion. Now, there is plenty of discussion and debate about how a teacher should act or present him or herself during a classroom discussion, but I especially appreciated the critique of the four "positions" that are popular or typically used by teachers. In probably a lot of words and using extremely precise language Kelly really went deep into the thinking and logic of these positions while exposing the flaws that make, what otherwise might sound like a great position to take, almost indefensible.

To be precise I was captivated by the last section where Kelly espouses his "Paradox without Contradiction" and preferred position that he terms committed impartiality. Now, it's easy to see why, at a glance, it's difficult to think about being committed to a position would go against the need to remain impartial, but I think Kelly's argument is extremely sound and well though out. He supposes that teachers, earnest in their belief yet willing to openly discuss different view points, are in fact essentially role modelling good discussion behavior to his or her students. I find this position, not only something I have never really thought about, but actually extremely clever in a way as it allows the teacher to embody everything that a good discussion should be about, openness and free-discussion, to the students while not hiding things from the students just because the teacher might have some overpowering influence over the opinions of his or her students. The teacher acts like a student by bearing their true opinions, though in a way that isn't intended to convince, deceive, or directly attack others.

The paper was a fun read. I've never seen someone take so much issue with the idea of neutrality and how it's probably not really all that neutral.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Testing 1-2-1-2

Also check out my Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez gossip blog coming soon.