Monday, May 14, 2007

Blog Entry # 7 - Free Speech

Reviewing the Morse v Frederick case there seems to be a few key elements in play that must be clarified before the Supreme Court can make a ruling.

I believe that the school does have a right to limit the forms of speech that take place when its students are gathered for the purposes of school assembly as established in the Frazier case. What seems to be at question here was wether the students were in assembly or because they were outside the school on the street, were in fact private citizens. Also, the fact that Joseph Frederick did not show up for school that day, but rather joined his classmates on the street may alude to the fact that he was not under school jurisdiction and not in assembly at the time, and therefore not subject to school guidelines.

It is my interpretation that wether the students are assembled within the 4 walls of the school or outwith the school they are still subject to the same code of conduct. It is also my interpretation that indeed the students were still in assembly even though they had been dismissed from class to spectate the Olympic procession. Furthermore, it is my interpretation that Joseph Frederick, merely by associating with his classmates of his own free will, and then by attending class immediately after the procession, demonstrated his attendance with the assembly and therefore is not protected by being a private citizen. For all intents and purposes, at the time of the incident, he was acting as a student of the school and should be subject to the codes of conduct.

I believe the Supreme Court should rule in this case that Joseph Frederick was in violation of the school's code of conduct and students should not be permitted from displaying banners or symbols contrary to the school's educational charter.

This was a very interesting case as it raised a lot of real life hypotheticals and highlights how subjective views on free speech can be. I believe students should be free to exercise their speech as far as it is not disruptive to the teaching process or disruptive of the standards the school maintains. For example, if the school has a policy against promoting lawlessness, students should be restrained from expressing any such speech whilst under the jurisdiction of the school. Their speech may be allowed if it is indirect, such as in the case of Tinker where students wore black clothing to protest the war in Vietnam.

I believe the value of free speech as guaranteed in the First Amendment is paramount to the establishment, success and prosperity of this nation and her people. The freedoms that we are afforded from political speech, freedom of the press, free exercse and establishment of religion allow us to prosper as human beings. We are completely free to explore the potential of our lives and to actualy realise whatever potential we discover for ourselves. We can participate in the political process without fear of govermental involvement or suppression, and we can fully discuss and debate any issue, anywhere, at any time.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Blog Entry #5 - Congress

I found it interesting in my studies of the roles and powers of Congress that we place such little interest in who we elect to represent us in the Senate and perhaps even less interest in who represents us in the House of Representatives. Perhaps in this day and age when the President achieves near 100% name recognition in every home in the country and his name and face are constantly emblazoned on our TV screens, newspapers, magazines and websites that we feel a greater draw to participate in electing who represents us as President than we do to participating in electing who represents us in Congress.

It is therefore interesting to note the role and extent Congress plays in fashioning the policies that affect us as a nation. The framers of the Constitution had this role in mind. The first article of the Constitution outlines that all legislative power of the nation should be vested in Congress - not in the President.

The video clip we watched highlights an entertaining extreme of what would happen should Congress simply cease to exist, and they guy in the Post Office that couldn't care less about who is elected is perhaps increasingly representative of us as voters. It is only faced with the realization of what Congress actually does that we will ever feel the necessity to participate in voting them into office.

Should Congress reflect perfectly the demographic breakdown of our society? I do believe that on one extreme of having an all male, middle aged, white, protestant Congress is completely undemocratic and an unacceptable situation, I somewhat doubt to which extent we can have a comletely reflected chamber. Sure, we can make efforts to elect 50% of women, we can even make strides to elect representatively the numbers of ethnic minorities, but where does the demographic profiling cease? Do we make strides to elect on religion also, on age, on size of family, on income, on disabilities, on pastimes, on favorite colour? There are so many demographics and combination of demographics that our chamber will never be 100% representative. But I do accept there needs to be efforts to make it more representative than it currently is.

If I could change one aspect of the legislative branch of government I would change the way states are represented in the Senate. It is highly undemocratic to have 2 senators for each state regardless of population. For example, as we read on the Senate, a coalition of 41 senators from the 11 smallest popultion states, representing only 3% of the population can block any bill in the Senate. I believe changes should be made to the Senate to dissuade this form of undemocratic rule from succeeding.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Blog Entry #3 - Elections & Voting

The assertion that the current state of elections and voting in this country reflect a Republican model of government in which the priviliged run for office and the wealthy control who has access to the political system may still be largely accurate, however I think democratic aspirations over recent decades have diminished this to some extent, and perhaps need to continue to diminish it further.

Upon drafting the constitution and defining the political framework that exists in this country the framers undoubtedly had a republican model in mind and made efforts to limit the extent the average citizen had upon changing the political landscape. For example, even though the constitution begins with the renowned words 'We The People...' it is interesting to note that in that day 'the people' who were empowered to participate in the voting practice were white, land owning males. Non-whites, females, and non-land owners were excluded from voting. In essence a vast minority of the population were charged with making choices that would impact all peoples of this nation, regardless of their voting status.

Democratic movements over the decades have removed these obstacles. Non-land owners were first ushered into the voting bloc of citizens followed by women followed by blacks, and in the most recent decades suffrage has been extended still further, to Native Americans and younger voters. This model of voters rights was never intended by the framers of the constitution but has none the less become the model of voting that exists today.

Possibly the greatest controversy that still exists in the need for electoral reform is the continuing survival of the electoral college, a system designed and implemented into the constitution by the framers designed to limit popular consent in the selection of the President of the country. By this model the popular vote for President actually elects state electors to the college who then cast the deciding vote for President. Again, democratic ideals and movements in recent decades have seen the electors largely expressing the will of the popular vote of the people and electing the candidate for President that the people would have elected.

However, the very cumbersome system does not always adequately reflect the will of the people as a whole. The 2000 Presidential race was won by President George W Bush having 500,000 less popular votes than Al Gore. It is therefore arguable that the electoral college needs to be reformed.

I think, largely speaking, we take the right to vote very casually in this country. Voter turnout is very low compared to many other developed countries. Perhaps this is also a reflection of the barriers to participation that also exist in this country, such as the need to be registered before-hand to vote, but the argument may still be valid that we do not view voting as seriously as did our forebears who struggled for such rights. And perhaps further still, we feel a disconnection from the candidates we are asked to vote for for various reasons. There are many factors that contribute to our low voter turnout, but I believe it is important none-the-less to participate.

Whether you believe the system to be flawed, our political candidates to be even more flawed, or feel it too cumbersome a process, I believe we all should participate fully in the selection process. We all have opinions to air, and beliefs to uphold and all are affected, whether we like it or not, about the decisions those we elect to make in our stead, actually make. So, do we have any right to complain, to criticise, to praise when we have not participated in that other right of exercising our suffrage?...I think not!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Political Ideology

Political Ideology - what an interesting conversational topic. I guess we all have an ideology. Do we know what it is? Do we care? Should we?

There is definitely an argument that many of us in life simply do not give our ideologies a passing thought. It's not that we don't care aout the state of the city/nation/world - it's just that such ideological thinking may not be as pressing upon our time and thoughts as say more important and 'loud' thoughts such as career advancement, the kids' soccer league, mountains of laundry. Simply put, ideological thought is something some may see as the sole charge of the philosophical elite such as Plato or Aristotle.

But, nevertheless, we all retain some opinions on almost all matters at the end of the day.

This exercise was beneficial to me in that it gave me cause to reflect upon such matters. I entered the revered company of Plato and Aristotle and I mused awhile upon such things. I guess we could be guilty of assuming our political ideologies may be the same as our parents - they were Republican so that's good enough for me - or we may align ourselves with what seems most popular where we live - all my neighbors vote Democrat and my boss campaigned for our Democratic candidate, that must be a worthy cause.

Simply put, it is not sufficient to allow our ideologies to be guided and shaped in such a way. We need to take and stand, ponder what we believe and align ourselves with one political ideology or another.

Friday, March 9, 2007