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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.
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”.
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:
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?
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:
- What is a caucus?
- When do the Democrats and the Republicans have their conventions?
- What is decided at these conventions?
- How is a candidate chosen?
- What is the party ticket?
- What is a party platform?
- What is the Electoral College?
- What do you think is the decisive factor in winning a presidential election?
- 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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
Today we are diving into modern US history, and we will be working with this competence aim: “Elaborate and discuss how key historical events and processes have affected the development of US history after WWII”.
Assignment: Find out about an American historical event after WWII and present it. You need to make a thesis question (e.g. Why did the Vietnam War turn out to be disastrous for the US? How successful was Kennedy’s presidency? What was the Watergate scandal? and so on).
In addition, find a song from the period that comments on/highlights or criticizes the event/episode.
You should make a power point presentation, Prezi or similar and it is up to you whether you want to work alone, in pairs, or in groups of three maximum. The length of the presentation should be approximately ten minutes, which is the “ideal” length of a presentation at the oral exam. Remember to list your sources, be critical to the sources you use and check if they are reliable! The presentation is due February 12.
Good luck 🙂
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War, abolished slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Source: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/thirteenth-amendment)
Discuss the power of the media: 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.
Discuss prisoners for profit: Were you aware of the Prison Industrial Complex and how corporations are profiting from incarceration?
Were you surprised to know about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council—a committee of politicians and corporations influencing laws that benefit its corporate founders and pushing forth policies to increase the number of people in prison and increase sentences)?
Talk about CCA (Corrections Corporations of America, leader in private prisons that is required to keep prison beds filled—the leading corporation responsible for the rapid increase in criminalization) and how that impacts our communities. 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?
“Noone in the hood goes to trial.” Discuss your understanding (or what you learned) about bail, plea bargains, and refusing to settle your case. How did the story of Kalief Browder impact you?
“You immediately become numb. That’s what jail does to humans, that immediate dehumanization, and sensory deprivation that nobody can really understand unless they live through it.” Discuss the impact this has on those currently incarcerated and what this could look like upon release.
- What is the 13th amendment loophole?
- What was the Birth of a Nation? How were colored people portrayed?
- Explain what the Jim Crow laws were.
- Which president signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Act? When?
- What was President R. Nixon’s main aim?
- Explain what the Southern Strategy was.
- Who initiated the War on Drugs and what was it?
- Why did the presidential candidate Dukakis lose the presidency, and to whom?
- What bill did President Bill Clinton ensure? And what were its consequences?
- What is Stand your Ground and where does it take place?
- Who was Emmett Till?
- Source: https://schd.ws/hosted_files/nywcmemphis2017/7e/13th%20Film%20Discussion%20Guide_By%20Amy%20Williams.pdf i
Practice vocabulary from the documentary by working on this: https://www.vocabulary.com/lists/2811635
Write a blog post where you list three ways this documentary has impacted you. What did you learn? What insights did it provide? What questions do you still have?
As Congress reconvened after the holiday, you should learn about Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The many women of Congress is another interesting aspect you should learn about. Among them, the 28-year-old representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also worth knowing about. And last, but not least- the government shutdown. The conflict over border wall funding has led the country into a political stalemate. According to the BBC, this is the longest shutdown in US history.
After reading about the above, find out: What is the conflict all about and what are the consequences of it? Try to be as specific as possible. Visit these news sites: NYT, CNN, Washington Post (which has a daily podcast worth listening to) or the BBC. Discuss your finding in groups of three. Then write a blogpost about the political impasse and its consequences. This is homework for January 15, 2019.
On your blog, write a text about one of the following issues:
- Write a brief text about the main differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. What states are red, which ones are blue? Find at least one political issue that the two parties disagree on.
- Explain what Obamacare is, and find out what the status quo regarding this hot potato is. You may have to do some research to find out about the latest news.
- Do some research and find out what the migrant caravan is, which has now reached Mexico. Who are these people, why are the seeking asylum in the US, what are they running away from, and what is the latest news regarding this? What has Trump said about this caravan?
American politics can be fascinating, but to better understand what is going on in the US, we need to understand what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they agreed on the Constitution in 1787. In groups of 3, work with these sources:
Discuss: what are the advantages and disadvantages of the US political system? Do you know of instances when the branches of government have come into conflict with each other? Discuss whether the Supreme Court has too much power in the US or not. Do you think this is an extremely democratic form of government? Why/why not?
In pairs, take turns and explain the system of checks and balances. Then explain the role of the federal government.
Work with this exercise to learn relevant vocabulary to this topic: