America burning

The brutal killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis has led to days of unrest and riots. While most demonstrations are peaceful, some are also out of control and resulting in looting and violent behavior. What is going on in America? What is president Trump doing to deal with the situation? Read up or watch recent news stories to get an update. Look at the following article for a discussion on how this would have been portrayed in the news had it happened somewhere else:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/29/how-western-media-would-cover-minneapolis-if-it-happened-another-country/?fbclid=IwAR010KdADTd_il3yvzPcoDxJKpWKbLdOP5i0PjaLMnTh5WuWCZcWfurZIVc

Langston Hughes was a Black American poet who lived from 1901 to 1967. Read his poem “Let America be America again” from 1936 (in the midst of the Great Depression) and discuss its relevance today.

https://poets.org/poem/let-america-be-america-again

George Floyd 'riots,' 'violence,' 'looting': Words matter, experts say
https://eu.lancastereaglegazette.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/31/george-floyd-riots-violence-looting-words-matter-experts-say/5290908002/

In the news

Bernie Sanders has withdrawn his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, and the Corona virus continues to spread…How did the United States — the richest country in the world — become the worldwide epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with one person dying of COVID-19 every 47 seconds? And how likely is it that Trump will be reelected in November? What implications does it have that Bernie Sanders is out of the presidential race? Can Biden beat Trump? And are female leaders more able to deal with the Corona crisis than their male counterparts?

Study the articles below and be ready to discuss these questions:) And then there’s Obama… maybe the most important supporter Joe Biden has…listen to this:)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/avivahwittenbergcox/2020/04/13/what-do-countries-with-the-best-coronavirus-reponses-have-in-common-women-leaders/?fbclid=IwAR2I7j4yDm7omdvlysnkOhqvOwiJmOOEIsHf7bVEdtABzAfZ2Yy3wjPWCX4#1a077c803dec

And look to New Zealand and PM Jacinda Ardern: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/15/world/jacinda-ardern-pay-cut-coronavirus-intl/index.html

After our group talks today, discuss (in the comment field below) what message Obama is trying to get across here, and how he does it. Point to language features and/or literary devices he uses and explain how they reinforce his message.

13th – A Documentary on the Unjust American Prison System

The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. Think about that. —Former President Barack Obama Our justice system is a human rights catastrophe and one of the biggest moral crises of our time. — News commentator and author Van Jones

Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary film ’13th’ reveals how mass incarceration is an extension of slavery.

The film takes its title from the 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery but left a significant loophole. This clause, which allowed that involuntary servitude could be used as a punishment for crime, was exploited immediately in the aftermath of the civil war and, DuVernay argues, continues to be abused to this day. Source: The Guardian

Discuss in your groups:

  1. History is not just stuff that happens by accident. We are the products of history that our ancestors choose, if we’re white. If we are black, we are the products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose. Yet here we are all together, the products of that set of choices. And we have to understand that in order to escape from it. — Kevin Gannon, 13th What are your thoughts on this quote? Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
  2. President Lyndon B. Johnson ushered in the War on Crime, Nixon began a figurative War on Drugs that became a literal War on Drugs in the Reagan era. Were you surprised to learn about the racial underpinnings of these legislative policies, and the active role of the state in criminalizing and targeting communities of color? Discuss using the quotation below: The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did. John Ehrlichman, Nixon Administration Advisor
  3. Super predator. Criminal. Think about the power of media and the power of words. Discuss media and how words impact the perception and criminalization of people of color, both in the past and the present (animalistic, violent, to be feared, threat to white people, criminals, etc.). Give modern-day examples.
  4. According to the documentary, President Clinton built the infrastructure for mass incarceration: mandatory minimums (taking the discretion away from judges), militarization of police (SWAT teams), three-strikes law, and truth-in-sentencing laws (must serve 85% of sentence). Discuss the role of politics and crime and how you see it impact communities today (both past and current administrations).
  5. Many politicians have apologized for their role in promoting the devasting “tough on crime” legislation. Considering the billions of dollars made off the imprisonment of people and the cases of unjust imprisonment, is an apology enough? Should these communities and families be repaid in a more material, restorative way? Why/why not?https://educationforjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Film-Discussion-Guide-13th.pdf
  6. The film argues that there is a direct link between American slavery and the modern American prison system. What is your take on this argument? Source: Discussion guide.

My takeaways:

List three ways this documentary has impacted you. Write the answers on your blog.

  1. What did you learn?
  2. What insights did it provide?
  3. What questions do you still have?

This is an adaption of Ann Michalesen’s blog post on teaching the 13th documentary: https://annmichaelsen.com/2019/01/12/teaching-the-13th-documentary/

Election Day

Bilderesultat for election day uk 2019

Today is Election Day in the UK. The latest polls show the Tories still slightly ahead, maybe increasing their majority in Parliament… But what will happen with Britain, with Brexit – how united can the United Kingdom be after all this? Read this fascinating story about London Road in different parts of the UK: https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/12/world/divided-kingdom-gbr-ge19-intl/

And while the British are voting, the House of Representatives in the USA have filed their articles of impeachment against President Trump. The first article charges him with abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging Democratic rivals. The second article charges him with obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. The impeachment trial against the President could start as early as next week. Will Trump be impeached, or stand stronger than ever before the election in 2020? Here’s an interesting commentary on similarities between the UK and the USA in the way people are voting: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50717536

Trump promised to “Make America great again”. Are British voters hoping for the same for Britain?

Update after the election:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=2595887153825540

Write a short blog post where you sum up the results of the election and comment on what you think might be some of the consequences.

The Constitution and the Supreme Court

Bilderesultat for picture founding fathers

The US Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified (accepted by all the states) in 1789, making it a 230 years old document…Needless to say, there have been many changes to it after that. In order to change the Constitution, the Congress needs to pass an Amendment. Another way of changing thhe Constitution is if the Supreme Court rules the law unconstitutional.

Look into the process of how the American Constitution was made and the process required to change it. What are the 10 first Amendments called, and why? What other important amendments have been made? Choose 1-2 of these and write a little bit about them.

Look into the role the Supreme Court plays in the American political system. What powers does it have? Find examples of important Supreme Court decisions that have made an impact on how the Constitution is interpreted.

Group Photo of Nime Justices

Reversing Roe (2018)

Reversing Roe (2018) is a Netflix documentary that takes “a deep historical look at one of the most controversial issues of our time, highlighting the abortion debate from various points along the ideological spectrum in a winding story of abortion in America”.

(Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8948614/)

After watching the documentary, make a list of the various arguments the two sides of the abortion debate use. Which group did you find most convincing? Discuss in groups.

Read these to reviews:  

https://humandefense.com/reversing-roe-excludes-pro-life-women/

Write a brief blog post about Reversing Roe where you comment on the reviews: How do they differ? Which review do you agree most with, and why?

Electing a President

Some political campaings are remembered as mud-slinging (negative campaigning). This week, we will learn about the process of electing a president by studying various texts and sources in addition to watching the movie The Ides of March (2011).

Before watching the movie, you should answer these questions:

  1. What is a caucus?
  2. When do the Democrats and the Republicans have their conventions?
  3. What is decided at these conventions?
  4. How is a candidate chosen?
  5. What is the party ticket?
  6. What is a party platform?
  7. What is the Electoral College?
  8. What do you think is the decisive factor in winning a presidential election?
  9. Find out who the Democratic candidates for the 2020 election are. What strikes you as special about the candidates?

In order to understand the US political election system, there are numerous videos you can watch:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRu_JcarCDY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gseOeyS0NQ

After watching the videos, discuss: What are the strenghts/weaknesses of the American election system?

After watching the movie, discuss these questions:

  • What stood out as the main points/highlights in the movie?
  • What themes are explored?
  • What assumptions were embedded in the story?
  • What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
  • What characters in the movie change the most and why do you think?
  • Is politics more than likely to corrupt or ‘wake up’ idealistic wide eyed visionaries and dreamers? 
  • What role does media play in politics?
  • What is the message of the movie, in your opinion?

Source: http://www.pilgrim.org.au/blog_m/?p=123

Written assignment

In the movie, Paul Zara says “there’s only one thing I value in this world . That’s loyalty. Without it, your’re nothing”. Discuss this statement and comment on its relevance when it comes to American politics that you learn about in the movie. In your discussion, you should also comment on the title The Ides of March and its relevance.

Selma

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Amendment 15
United States Constitution
Ratified February 2, 1870

As it is Black History Month, we will be working with the movie Selma (2014) directed by AvaDuVernay. In groups of three or four, you should be working with these tasks after watching the movie. Read about the historical background here. 

Answer the questions from map 1. Look at the Alabama Literacy Test. What do you think of the questions? Sum up your thoughts on the questions in a paragraph or two.

President LB Johnson ensured the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Here you can read more about his presidency. Watch his civil rights speech (parts of it) and read the full transcript here. What American ideas, ideals and values are expressed? Look for literary and/or language devices that are used to enhance the message of the speech. Sum up your ideas in a few paragraphs.