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On the Matter of Abortion

08 Aug 17
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On the Matter of Abortion

[Disclaimer: The subject of abortion is one that is filled with passions of moral outrage, animosity, and deep religious division; yet, prior to the continuation of this article let me first state that in no way does this opinion represent that of a specific group nor does it represent that of any religious or spiritual belief. The conclusion of this article will be my opinion and mine alone, and I do take ownership and accountability for all things said upon hereafter.]


Introduction

In the United States, the topic of abortion is one of, if not, the most highly debatable issue in the political arena. Many on the political right (Conservatives) claim that abortion is socially immoral and can, and should, be considered murder. Many on the political left (Liberals) make the argument that abortion was legalized in the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade (1973) and should be a choice for women, especially in the cases of sexual assault and when the mother’s life is at risk. All states have laws that restrict abortions after the third trimester, except for situations where the mother’s life is in danger or other specific circumstances. This article is not about just one’s own opinion on the matter. Instead, it is about: (a) discussing in depth, both sides of the topic; (b) the Constitutionality of abortion; and (c) debunking the myths surrounding abortion and abortion providers (i.e. Planned Parenthood). The conclusion of this article will be discussing my own beliefs and how I view abortion and abortion services. This article is not intended to offend, but instead to give an independent viewpoint which is supported by statistics and facts from non-partisan sources. Only the conclusion section will contain my own personal beliefs and arguments related to the topic at hand. All statistic within this essay is sourced and their sources shall be listed at the end of their use.

Division of the Topic

When discussing the topic of abortion in the public and in the private spheres, it can be considered a divisive topic that shouldn’t be discussed; much like the topics of money, politics, sports, and religion. Abortion, however, is a divisive topic because of the parties involved and their firm moral, sometimes spiritual, beliefs which infer the individual’s judgment and determination on the matter. In a recent Gallup poll, reported on June 9th, 2017, 50 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. In the same study, only 29 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legalized in all situations, while 18 percent say that it should be illegal in every circumstance. This trend has remained stable, according to Lydia Saad, the Senior Editor at Gallup, yet she also states that when pollsters who chose “certain circumstances” were then asked about whether those situations are ‘a few’ or ‘more than a few’ the findings were that 36 percent stated only a few compared to 13 percent who stated, ‘more than a few’. According to Saad, 54 percent of respondents implied that there should be some curtailing of abortion rights, while 42 percent sit more on the left side of the political spectrum.

When determining morality on abortion the results are more closely divided than the question on the legality of abortion. According to the survey, the question asked was, “Regardless of whether you think it should be legal…please tell me whether you personally believe that in general, it is morally acceptable or morally wrong….” In 2015, the findings of the survey were about tied at 45 percent to 45 percent, yet it is now two years later and the results are at a 49 to 43 split, leaning towards a morally wrong stance. However, this question does not count for the labels of “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” When those surveyed were asked to identify themselves as one or the other, 49 percent said they were pro-choice, against 46 percent saying they were pro-life. There is certainly no doubt that the majority of ‘Democrats’ are pro-choice, while the majority of ‘Republicans’ are overwhelmingly pro-life. ‘Independents’ on the other hand lean slightly ‘center-right’ on the spectrum.

(http://www.gallup.com/poll/211901/abortion-attitudes-stable-no-consensus-legality.aspx)

In January of this year, Michael Lipka and John Gramlich of the Pew Research Center reported 5 Facts About Abortion which reports the results of their own survey on the topic of abortion. According to the findings of the Pew Research Center, roughly “six-in-ten” citizens believe that abortion ought to be legalized in “all or most cases.” The opposing side, who states that abortion should and ought to be illegal in all or most situations, currently sits at 37 percent. The difference between these two polls is that the Gallup poll discusses the legality and labels associated with the topic of abortion, while the Pew survey discusses public support or opposition towards abortion rights.

(http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/26/5-facts-about-abortion/)

Constitutionality and the ‘Right of Privacy’

In 1965 the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case Griswold v. Connecticut concerning the “right to privacy” specifically within a couple’s marriage in relation to medical advice about birth control; which at that time was illegal according to a Connecticut statute. The statute banned individuals from providing counseling and other treatment to married couples for the purposes of preventing conception. The court concluded that the state statue was unconstitutional because it violated an implicit right to privacy that the Constitution grants to the nation’s citizens. The First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments all give context to what the right to privacy entails.

The First amendment concerns the freedom of the establishment of religion (where the government cannot favor one faith over the other) and the freedom to practice a religion. The amendment also discusses the freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the petition. In the United States, citizens have a right to believe and practice their beliefs either in a place of worship or in the privacy of their own home, and therefore any level of government cannot impose a belief on its citizens, regardless of whether their concerns are legitimate.

The Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution concerns the individual right against “quartering,” which is defined as lodging or stationed, in a citizen’s home without the consent of the owner. This amendment gives the implicit right of privacy because it is unconstitutional for the government to govern what happens in the confines of a citizen’s home. The Fourth amendment continues this notion by protecting citizens against unlawful, meaning without a warrant, searches, and seizures.

The Ninth Amendment’s text is short but Judicial interpretations suggest that there are certain rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution that can and are considered rights of the people. As for the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically section one, the power of the Constitution applies to all citizens of the United State regardless of which state he/she may be from; as well as providing protections to citizens by trumping State’s powers.

Texas had a statute that a woman could only have an abortion to save the mother’s life and in December of 1971, the Supreme Court would hear the first arguments of what would become one of the most famous Court rulings in the history of the Supreme Court. In January of 1973, after a second argument, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, that the state of Texas violated the Constitution and that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment which was mentioned in case precedent of Griswold v. Connecticut 1965. The decision of Roe has continued to be the precedent used in all cases and laws for the past 30 to 40 years.

(https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18)

[There have been numerous cases on abortion that the Supreme Court of the United States has heard and decided over the decades. I specially chose these two cases due to the magnitude that these cases possess in the arena that our society calls ‘politics.’ I will continue to do research on more cases and ask that my readers also conduct their own research.]

Fact versus Myths

Over the decades of debate, there has been growing myths and falsified statistics that have led to misinformation concerning abortions. For starters, there is a misconception that there are more abortions now than there have been in previous years; yet this is false and according to the CDC there has been a significant decrease abortion since 1996. In 2013, the CDC reported that there were roughly 664,500 abortions performed (please note that not all states reported to the CDC during this statistical analysis and this is a rough estimate).

(https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/ss6512a1.htm)

The second misconception is that abortions are dangerous. According to a TIME magazine article about the myths of abortions, the CDC reported that in the year range of 2003 and 2009 “the national morality rate was 0.67 deaths per 100,000 abortions.” If simplified into a percentage this statistic equals 0.0000067% of abortions and in 2009, only eight women died of abortion complications out of the total of 789,217 abortions reported to the CDC.

The next myth is that women are coerced into having abortions and this could not be further from the truth. According to a 2005 Guttmacher Institute survey of 1,209 women, twenty percent said that they got abortions because of pressure from their significant other (14%) or from their parents (6%). However, according to the TIME article, which references the survey, these percentages are down from 1987 where 24% of women had said it was because of their partners and 8% said it was their parent’s wishes.

(http://time.com/3582434/6-abortion-myths/)

The last misconception that I want to discuss surrounds this notion that Planned Parenthood (PP) is using Federal funds to provide abortion services. FactCheck.org’s, Lori Robertson discusses in her article posted in April of 2011 that under federal law, no funding can be used for abortion services. Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services, yet many politicians and opponents of abortion overestimate the number of abortions that PP does. In 2009, Planned Parenthood reported that only “3% of their services…were abortion,” while “the other 97% of services were contraception, treatment, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and other women’s health services.” It is true that PP receives federal funding but from two primary sources: “Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid.” According to the PP reports, about $70M comes from Title X while the rest ($293M) comes from Medicaid and yet both programs have restrictions about abortion services. Under Medicaid, the Hyde Amendment only allows for abortion in cases of “rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother.” States have the right to use their own Medicaid funds to go past that, which seventeen states have already done.

(http://www.factcheck.org/2011/04/planned-parenthood/)

Conclusion

Knowing the statistics on this topic along with the precedent set by the justices of the Supreme Court, it is my belief that regardless of how immoral an individual may find abortion, each citizen has the inalienable rights of life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. Regarding these natural rights, I fully believe that a woman has a right to live her life as she wishes, without interference from the government nor another citizen without her consent. Regarding the right of property, a woman has a right to take care of herself (individual property) and if the mother is in a situation where there are concerns for her own health and well-being, she has every right to get an abortion (the Hyde Amendment). The right of liberty is connected to the right of privacy, that the Supreme Court has deemed implicit, and it is a violation of a woman’s and her family’s privacy to determine what is best, reproductively, for her. Finally, the woman is allowed a right to happiness and it is immoral and a violation of her natural rights for anyone to determine what should make a woman happy.

I recognize that abortions are considered morally and spiritually wrong in terms of one’s faith/religion; yet one’s connection with God; Adonai; Allah; etc. is their own. I believe that the Constitution bars the government from imposing restrictions based on a religious text or religious principle, due to the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Secondly, each person’s morals are subjective and one’s own principles, that may be rooted in Christianity, for example, may not be the same as someone’s who’s principles are rooted in a different faith, or no faith at all. Therefore, it is my belief that religion/spirituality/faith is sufficient for individuals to have principles (morals, ethics, virtues, etc.) and not necessary.

If a woman and her partner decide to have an abortion, then that is her/their decision and in no way, does the decision affect me. I can say that I will always support a woman’s right to choose what she deems best for herself, especially in terms of reproductivity. Yet, I do believe in regulations and making sure that abortions continue to be safe procedures. I also believe that there should only be abortions within the first and second trimester, unless there is a medical situation where: the life of the mother is at risk, there is a stillbirth, or it has been determined that there is a malformation which will not allow the fetus to survive outside the womb.


[I understand that there will be some backlash over the passages above, yet I do not wish to have an argument with any of my readers. As I mentioned at the start of my essay, this last portion is my opinion and I will respond to comments and questions that are thought-out and respectful. Any comment that does not meet this requirement, shall be discarded. I welcome any questions or comments on topics that I did not answer or perhaps missed in this essay. Thank you.]

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On this Fourth of July: 2017

04 Jul 17
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Two-hundred and forty-one years ago today, the Founding Fathers of this nations signed the Declaration of Independence which outlines the reasons that the thirteen original colonies separated from England. On this anniversary of our nation’s founding, let us remember what makes America great and separates it from the rest of the world.

We must remember that this nation is called the United States of America and although divisiveness and political frustrations tend to boil over at times, we have a responsibility as citizens to stand together as One Nation. Almost two and a half centuries ago, our nation’s founders united for a common purpose: to live in a world independent from tyranny, to self-govern, and to promote and protect the unalienable rights of all peoples.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal: that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” – Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

Let us remember that within 241 years of self-governing, we have always recovered after crises. We are persistent, brave, strong, and determined. Although we may have faltered in some areas, we have the capability to recover. In education, we can enhance access to maximum quality education for all students regardless of the state they live, or the socio-economic class. In health, we can give affordable health care coverage to all Americans by standing united for lower premiums, deductibles, and pragmatic policies that help all American families. We can show the world that it is possible for economic growth by helping families at all levels of socio-economic classes, by rebuilding America as a nation who stands to protect the environment and conserve our national parks. We could show the world that this nation stands for truth, justice, ethical principles, compassion, and empathy but just taking a moment and listening to others. We have these opportunities as Americans to demonstrate our power as citizens by standing united for a common purpose rather than separated because of minute details or partisan loyalty. It is the time that America stands on its own two feet, looks around the world, and learns from not only other nations but also history.

America was founded on a new principle of Democratic-Republic governance, but it is important that we continue to be the beacon of light and live as an example to other nations of what is just. The issues may be tough, but when we become too divisive we can no longer have a practical policy discussion. Instead, we look at “political victories” without taking into consideration or the opinions of others. We can start a new this next year by just reaching across the aisle and listening to people who have different faiths, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations/identities, disabilities, military status, and/or ages. It is the time that America becomes united once more under the leadership of its citizens rather than political leaders who choose their constituents. It is the time that America becomes united based on practical politics rather than party loyalties.

E Pluribus Unum

Jonathan

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On the Fire of Nabra Hassanen Memorial

21 Jun 17
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In the news there is a story (link below) about a fire at a memorial in Washington DC of Nabra Hassanen. The description of the individual is a 24 year old man, from South Carolina, and named Jonathan Solomon. This happened last night and I was just contacted by two individuals who will remain anonymous asking about this story. Last night I was working at the College of Charleston North Campus like I normally do on Monday through Thursday (5:30pm-9:00pm). For the record, I am not this Jonathan Solomon nor have I ever been to Washington DC. I would never act insensitive towards anyone because of faith or ethnicity. What happened was a crime and the correct Jonathan Solomon has, according to NY Daily News, been arrested. I want to apologize for any confusion over this matter. I did not know about this until just this evening when these two individuals contacted me but I thank them in order for me to clear the air and not spread rumors.

Jonathan

http://www.nydailynews.com/…/man-sets-fire-memorial-slain-v…

 

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The Fight Over Control of American Education

31 May 17
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Earlier this year, US News reported their findings for the 2017 State rankings in categories of Health Care, Education, Crime and Corrections, Infrastructure, Opportunity, Economy, and Government. South Carolina fell at number 45 on overall ranking and 50th in education. South Carolina, my birthplace, home, and state that I love; is now the worst state in education across the nation. No words can describe how frustrated and hurt I am, that our state and local government and representatives continue to belittle society and not produce pragmatic solutions. Instead, they shorten their legislative session and lie to the good people of South Carolina.

In the Spring 2016, I wrote an paper for my Education Policy class about the an issue that plagues the nation when dealing with education. Although education policy has many layers, this is the first of a series of posts that discuss the problems and the pragmatic solutions that should be taken in order to provide each and every student, regardless of whether they live in SC or not, with a maximum and sufficient education. I would like to apologize in advanced for the length of this post.


The Fight Over Control of Education Policy

Charleston County School District and Adequate Yearly Progress

The issue of jurisdiction within the realm of educational policy and control of the curriculum has been seen recently by the public as a tangled web. President George W. Bush’s policy of No Child Left Behind, a re-authorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, made it almost impossible for schools and states to succeed in education requirements through the policy’s program of ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’. Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP for short, is a program where the U.S. Department of Education tracks and grades districts in order to observe which schools are doing the best and the worst. The program is mainly linked to Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and states that schools, where 35 percent of their students are from low income families, will be given money by the federal government. If these schools fail to meet AYP requirements than state education agencies are required to determine what the goals of the schools are, forcing local districts to surrender jurisdiction. However the policy’s requirement to pass is 100 percent of students must be proficient according to the state standards.

Adequate Yearly Progress comes with serious consequences when schools fail to meet the necessary requirements. According to the No Child Left Behind policy, enacted in 2002, if a school fails to meet the requirements after two years, than the school must provide the option of transferring students to a better school. After three years of failing, the school must also provide services to enhance education; i.e. tutoring. Corrective action is the next step on the ladder for schools failing to meet NCLB’s policy requirements. Corrective action is when the district is required to implement a change within a school; an example would be replacing school staff, having a new curriculum, or opening the school as a public charter school. The fifth and sixth years of failing, the federal government requires the district to plan on restructuring the school. Restructuring is open to many possibilities of new governance, new staff, and a state government taking over the operations.

Charleston County School District, which consists of 80 schools and roughly 47,000 students, received a B rating by the U. S. Department of Education in the 2014 academic year. Charleston County however is unlike any other school district in the nation due to a bi-furcated governing structure. This two tier governance is split by the main governing body and constituent bodies. The main body, located at 75 Calhoun Street in Downtown Charleston, controls funding and other policy matters across the district. The constituent districts are responsible for everyday operations such as: hiring and firing of administration and faculty, and how policies are enforced. Due to this system of governance Charleston County’s 80 schools are diverse when looking at school ratings provided by the U.S. Department of Education. In the same school district, there are schools that succeed based on a growing community around them, and there are schools that fail because the school is not able to obtain enough resources. According to a report in 2010 about 28 percent of the schools within Charleston County School District, failed to meet the academic requirements of Adequate Yearly Progress. Of those schools that failed were Baptist Hill High School located in Hollywood, Burke High School in Downtown Charleston, and Wando High School located in Mt. Pleasant. Baptist Hill received in 2010 a rating of 92.3 percent of proficiency among its students. Burke failed with 53.8 percent and Wando failed with 71.4 percent. However in the years following, the South Carolina Department of Education has publicized the 2014-2015 academic year statistics which states that Wando has gained almost 20 percent of student proficiency, however their rating of 90.9 percent still fails to meet the requirement of Adequate Yearly Progress. Burke High School has failed even further to a 45.8 percent, while Baptist Hill High School has decreased to 62.3 percent. The Charleston County rating is now at 84.9 percent and exceeds the state’s expectations however does not meet the requirement of the federal policy.

Adequate Yearly Progress is a program in which the No Child Left Behind of 2002, a renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, wants schools and students to be proficient and stable however the policy requires too much of schools and districts without realistically looking at how schools and districts teach. Adequate Yearly Progress can be a useful tool for the United States Department of Education and can be used as an effective way to create a better education in American society. The issue with AYP is the way the federal government fails to actually better districts through constructive means, but instead uses power to force districts, which may not be in terrible condition, to restructure and try to improve. American society is so focused on better education through charter schools and private schools, that it fails to notice the crumbling public school system. If America would observe the schools based on an “A” to “F” grading scale and notice that some schools are doing good but can improve by pragmatic solutions, than students from Burke, Baptist Hill, and Wando High Schools would all be obtaining equitable educations.

SC Supreme Court Case: Abbeville School District v. State of South Carolina (2014)

In November of 2014 the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in a case which dates back 21 years. Abbeville School District v. State of South Carolina was first filled in 1993 when a group of 36 school districts, only eight acted as plaintiffs in trial, came together for what they believed as a failure by the General Assembly of South Carolina in the execution of Article XI §9 of the South Carolina Constitution which states:

“The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools open to all children in the State and shall establish, organize and support such other public institutions of learning, as may be desirable.”

The legal question involved is believed to be what a “minimally adequate education” is and is the General Assembly of South Carolina providing students with that minimal education?

The case of Abbeville School District started when over 30 school districts charged the General Assembly of South Carolina with violations to the education finance system. The violation includes the South Carolina Constitution, the federal constitution, as well as the funding statute. In what is called Abbeville I the court held that the General Assembly is required to provide a “minimally adequate education.” An adequate education is defined according to the 1993 court, by three skills: (1) to read and write in English while also having a knowledge of mathematics and physical science; (2) knowledge of economic, social and political systems; and (3) academic and vocational skills. In December of 2005 the lower court ruled that the state failed its responsibility and “ordered the state to provide preschool and other interventions ‘through at least grade three…’” The court also ruled against the school districts and found claims of inadequate teaching and facilities.

The court ruling in November 2014 was due to the actions of the General Assembly, where the state legislature would not fix nor create a new equitable funding program in order to better public education in rural and predominately African-American towns across the state. In a 3-2 ruling in 2014 the court ordered the legislature of South Carolina to devise a plan by February of 2015 or be subjected to a fine of $100,000. However the opinions of the court’s rulings have been with criticism due to ‘the doctrine of separation of powers.’ These two opposing opinions have always been in question, even in today’s United States Supreme Court and deciding whether the role of the court is judicial restraint, which suggests that a judge is unbiased and interprets the text and/or original meaning; or judicial activism, where judges taken on more of a ‘political’ agenda.

Abbeville School District v. South Carolina (2014) will act as a platform in order to change the educational system within South Carolina and the rest of the nation. There are still many more questions to be asked, but the state and school boards must work together, while legislators must be passionate enough to compromise. Only then can we bring about true advancement in children.

The “War” between the State Legislature and State Supreme Court

Since the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in its historic Abbeville case, there is a “war” between the highest state court and the state legislature over control of public education. After the November 2014 ruling, the South Carolina Legislature has been continually working on education reform however not as fast as the SC Supreme Court would like and also not without refusal against the court mandate. The Supreme Court’s order from November 2014 states that the legislature must work in “a reasonable amount of time” to provide a summary of the state government’s position, goals, and efforts to progress K-12 education in areas which are rural and/or poor. Due to failure to meet the deadlines set by the SC Supreme Court, the General Assembly has asked the court to extend the deadline twice; leaving the legislature a cumulative total of almost 19 months to create an education reform policy.

In September 2015, 10 months after the Abbeville ruling, state leaders stated that they would defy the Supreme Court’s deadline of February 1, 2016. In an open letter to the South Carolina Supreme Court, written by South Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman and South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas, the leaders of the General Assembly state that the court’s decision on the deadline disregards “one of the most fundamental constitutional principles upon which our government is based.” This principle, in which the state leaders mention, is the notion of separation of powers. It is argued that the court overstepped their bounds because it is not the role of the court to be involved in the “legislative-making process” which would legitimize judicial activism instead of judicial restraint. The Court responded to the letter stating the South Carolina Constitution states that the legislature must provide a “minimally adequate education” and it is the court’s role to interpret the text of the State Constitution.

Most recently the South Carolina Supreme Court has waived the February 1, 2016 deadline due to pressure by Governor Nikki Haley and state leaders. In doing so, the court ordered a new deadline of one week after the legislative session of 2016; giving SC politicians, in both the House of Representatives and Senate, until the ninth of June to provide a summary in detailing the state’s efforts to advance K-12 education in areas that are rural and underprivileged. Due to a similar case in Washington, there remains an open threat by the South Carolina Supreme Court, in which the court will fine the South Carolina legislature $100,000 per day in which no summary is provided.

State Legislature’s Response since S.C. Court’s Mandate

The South Carolina legislature’s February 1, 2016 deadline has been extended until mid-June of 2016 to provide an “adequate education” for students. However the legislature has not been productive in their six month session to quickly reform the public education system in order to provide the ‘adequate education’ to South Carolina students. In the Abbeville v. South Carolina (2014) ruling the S.C. Supreme Court’s opinion listed the definition of an ‘adequate education’ as “1. the ability to read, write, and speak the English language, and knowledge of mathematics and physical science; 2. A fundamental knowledge of economic, social, and political systems, and of history and governmental processes; and 3. Academic and vocational skills.” In September of 2015, state leaders expressed disapproval of the state Supreme Court’s mandate and were quoted as saying the legislature would defy the order. However months have passed since the first deadline and the state legislature has still failed to introduce any bills relating to curriculum reform. Instead the bills are primarily for other the everyday operations of schools and districts, non-related to curriculum.

According to the South Carolina Constitution Article XI § 3, the General Assembly of the state is supposed to provide for “the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools open to all children…and shall establish, organize and support such…public institutions of learning…” In Abbeville v. South Carolina (1999) the state Supreme Court defined section three as the General Assembly’s responsibility to provide ‘a minimally adequate education’. The South Carolina legislature has created a task force named, “Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force,” which lists ‘findings’ or goals that the General Assembly ought to reach, such as: “further…effective leadership…that leads to collaboration with the State Department of Education (SDE), institutions of higher education, and other appropriate entities.” Goal one also suggests that the legislature should create a “pipeline” between the teachers, principals, and superintendents. The second ‘finding,’ or goal, suggests that bills ought to be passed that help students reach reading levels “by the end of third grade” In ninth grade, students ought to have graduation plans that focus on career clusters; and high school graduates be ready for college and careers. Next the task force suggests that the General Assembly review current laws and revise outdated codes. This suggestion also states that the legislature “should establish the educational goals and work with the State Department of Education to give a “rigorous and transparent accountability system.””

The report by the task force was released in December of 2015, however it is now 2016 and although legislation has been introduced to meet these goals, it seems that the legislature has not been truly productive in fixing the the South Carolina public education system before the mid-June deadline. None of the “twelve findings” deal directly with curriculum reform however goal two does affect students when dealing with reading, graduating, and entering college and/or the labor force, however there is no explicit suggestion that the curriculum ought to be changed in order to meet ‘finding’ two. The South Carolina legislature has introduced bills to create a better education in public schools, but due to being a part-time legislature and a long legal process, it may not be until 2017 that citizens see some policies passed.

Pragmatic Policy

Under the South Carolina Constitution, the General Assembly is required to provide what is called a “minimally adequate education” however it was not until a 1999 state supreme court opinion was given that defined the phrase. Abbeville v. South Carolina I was a case involving over 30 school districts suing the state legislature on failing to provide sufficient funding for an adequate education. The justice’s opinion defined “minimally adequate education” as students being provided the knowledge and experience of three skills: (1) to read and write in English while also having a knowledge of mathematics and physical science; (2) knowledge of economic, social and political systems; and (3) academic and vocational skills.

Under the current South Carolina high school graduation requirements, a student must earn a passing grade in 24 credits, or classes, in a wide array of subjects. English/language arts and mathematics are both at four credits each, while science classes are three classes; however a student does actually take four ‘science’ classes. Physical science, usually taken in a student’s sophomore year, does not count as a credit towards graduation, even though considered a required class. Other classes include: one class on U.S. History and the Constitution; American government and economics, both of which are considered half a credit and taken during the student’s senior year; another social studies class; one class of gym or JROTC; a class of computer science; a class in foreign language; and seven elective classes. The question then remains whether this curriculum meets the “minimally adequate education” requirements? Yes, however there is still an underlying question of how effective this curriculum is in reality.

According to the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, education is a matter of state governments. Within 48 states, there exist a state specific authority called the ‘State Board of Education.’ It is the role of the Board to set statewide curriculum standards and create student achievement goals for school districts. Other responsibilities of the board and their relation to achievement goals are defined by: establishing high school graduation requirements; establishing standards for accreditation of local districts; and establishing state accountability and assessment programs. The board then gives the executive power to the Chief State School Officer, or sometimes known as the State Superintendent. The power of the superintendent is to administer state education policies that come from the State Board of Education and/or the state legislature.

The South Carolina legislature, or General Assembly, has multiple responsibilities when dealing with public education. There are two education committees, one in the SC House of Representatives and one in the SC Senate. The education committee in the House of Representatives is also in charge of public works, while the committee in the Senate is independent. It is the General Assembly’s obligation to provide and establish state education policies, while also determining major state resource issues, i.e. funding. In South Carolina, the public education expenditure is the largest in the general fund appropriations, with 28 cents of every dollar going to K-12 education. The power the legislature has over education policy is greatly influential such as: raising teacher salaries statewide; equalizing funding among school districts; set up health and retirement plans for state’s lowest income teachers; borrowing money for school financing by floating school bonds, in order to provide construction; determine teacher’s licensing standards; and set curriculum standards as well as graduation requirements.

The Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force, set up by the SC House education committee has released its findings of what ought to be proposed solutions by the General Assembly. The task force’s twelve findings, or suggestions, are relatively broad and deal primarily with the relationship between local school districts and the state government and/or the costs of transportation and other resources. The task-force’s findings are inadequate when dealing with “adequate education” due to not discussing specific curriculum reforms or student achievement.

In Charleston County, the school district currently released its specific policy designed to raise student achievement in low-performing schools. Their plan, Vision-2016, has four main focus areas. The first is literacy-based education, which provides students of all levels more effective tutoring and professional development. The first area also includes the infusion of technology into teaching and learning methods; and to give the “gifted and talented” students a more rigorous instruction. The next focus area deals with educator effectiveness, or investments into effective and talented professionals. The policy the district is putting in place will rate teachers and principals on their effectiveness and also getting rid of faculty and staff which are deemed ineffective. The policy also states that there will be new leadership training and programs to increase diversity. Focus area three is about “innovative schools and systems” or school choice. Charleston County School District is looking to offer families in each zone a wide array of choices for schools that the family believes is best for that student. Choices may include Montessori and charter schools. Other policies within this area include stabilizing school enrollments through a “new system for school capacity reviews and voluntary transfers;” and increasing career and technical education, alternative education, and English language learner offerings. The final are the district is paying attention to is partnerships with parents, communities, volunteers, businesses, and high education institutions. (My opinion on School Choice will be in another post at a later date.)

With everything that has occurred in the recent years since Abbeville was decided and the facts of how education is being operated in South Carolina, there still remains two questions; one of which is whether there is a basic, fundamental curriculum that addresses the achievement gap? The answer: yes, there is an actual curriculum that will allow for students to achieve; however in the case of the current curriculum, does it work? In theory yes however it fails to meet the level of achievement that American exceptionalism would like to believe. Abbeville did help the state of South Carolina by bringing the idea of equity and fairness to the forefront of education reform, and will serve as a pioneer in education policy; however the curriculum in place does not meet the standards of European countries or even other states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut. The curriculum that ought to be in place should be one that advances the student’s mind in language, writing and grammar, mathematics, logic and reasoning, science and the arts, and oratory and vocational skills. Each child deserves the best education that a state and/or federal government can provide.

The second question that is left unanswered, is whether federal and/or state policies should trump over local school districts when dealing with curriculum reform. The school districts ought to be the enforcers of how the curriculum should be taught and provide schools with the resources they need to succeed. The state government’s responsibility is to create an adequate education which: (1) competes with other states and (2) competes with other countries. The state must also provide the school districts with the funding possible to succeed, and not punish schools which are falling behind. To give a school like Wando High School more money because they are succeeding, does not make Baptist Hill or Burke High Schools succeed. Funding schools are the only way to provide the resources to succeed in public education and punishing schools does not help students graduate. Thus the attitude towards public education must change and the legislature ought to pass policies that are in sync with pragmatic solutions. As for the federal government, there is an ongoing debate about what the United States government’s responsibilities ought to be in education policy. In my opinion, the federal government does play a role in education policy due to the state and cities being a part of a national economy. The federal government should have a say in how state educational policies ought to be set and should be to: (1) provide schools with federal funding in order to succeed; (2) provide a rating on how the individual state rates among the rest of the nation; and (3) provide advice to states and school districts in how to better education within different communities.

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On My Experience with Discrimination

23 May 17
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Growing up in Goose Creek, South Carolina I always felt as an outsider due to being of a different faith. Goose Creek is located 17 miles outside of Downtown Charleston and 20 miles away from the synagogue that I attended as a child and teenager. I attended South Carolina public schools and was always the one individual who was not in class on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I was the one child that teachers had to ask for permission in order to have an activity and not hurt my feelings because it had something to do with Christmas. I happened to be the one child that was perfectly fine with being open about who I was as someone of Reform Judaism. I believed, even as a child, that I would rather someone ask me a question in order that they do not assume or think of me differently. It was a learning experience for everyone and how to interact with others regardless of different faiths. In school, many of my friends happen to be minorities: Latino Americans, Black Americans, Muslim Americans, and Asian Americans. I never saw myself as someone of a different ethnicity, only religion yet I respected and still respect everyone’s beliefs and their point of views. As being apart of a minority, where I happen to be the only Jewish kid in the school, I continually saw others through our similarities as human beings, rather than the differences that separated us.

My first experience with discrimination came from high school. In my high school (roughly 2500 students), I was known as being “the Jewish kid” and quickly the term “Jew” was tossed around as though it was a nickname. Even to this day, it strikes a nerve because the term and meaning that calling someone “Jew” carries a negative connotation that the person is: greedy, wealthy, thinks they are superior, and a Zionist. However, I do not fit any of those stereotypes. In my junior year of high school, I was bullied for being the “other” and it got to the point where anti-Semitic statements about the Holocaust, and the 6 million Jews who died, were being thrown at me. As many parents do, they tell their children to just ignore it and that “you only have a short time left,” but the bullying didn’t stop. I came home frequently crying and enraged because of the torment that I got. Rumors quickly filled the halls and people would ask me ridiculous questions that were based on falsehoods. My parents had asked me if I wanted to transfer, only with one year left of my high school experience. I declined, because I knew that it would be giving my tormentors exactly what they wanted, a win. Instead I took my parent’s advice and the next time something happened, I went to the Student Resource Officers, where I reported my complaint. They dealt with the situation seriously and within a week or two, it was a closed case. The officer stopped by my class one day to talk to me and she told me that if anything were to happen again, I was to directly report it to her and that the school would file hate crime charges against the students. I was relieved but at the same time nervous. Rumors again went around the school that I had “snitched” but what could I have done that wouldn’t of gotten my friends or I suspended? So I handled it the way my parents told me to and yet people still called me this awful name, “Jew.”

When I think of, or someone calling me, “Jew” I automatically think of how the German Nazis characterized the Jewish people; a belief that is still prevalent even today. When I hear someone refer to Jews as “powerful”, “greedy”, “super rich”, “stealing money”, these are all what the word “Jew” refers to. It is this stereotype that I want to get rid of in society. So if I am not the typical “Jew” than who am I? The answer is that I am a 23 year old who lives in a city where there are 5-7 families that are recognized as Jewish. I come from two loving parents who are both Reform Jews and are both middle class workers. We are not super rich nor did I get everything I wanted as a child. I have many friends who are Christian as well as many who are minorities within society (due to ethnicity, race, etc.).  I am not super smart, in fact I graduated high school with a C+ GPA and finishing College with a C GPA. I am marrying a wonderful woman who happens to be Christian. I do not keep kosher (my favorite foods are Shrimp and BBQ) nor do I attend synagogue. I do believe in God, but I believe he does not intervene in the world. I do support Israel but as a homeland for Jews, Christians, and Muslims; AND I am an outspoken critic of the Israeli government’s discriminatory treatment towards Palestinians. I am a feminist, a global citizen, and supporter of justice and equality of all people under law and within society.

However to shatter the stigma that surrounds “Jew” and other derogatory statements about others, it is critical to educate our children and society about accepting and being open to people who are different. When I hear someone call me “Jew,” I automatically respond the same way a Muslim would when being called a terrorist; a Latino/Latina being called Mexican; or someone who is black being called the n-word. I may not have been born into poverty, or gone through the struggles that many of my friends have gone through in life; but I want people to know that I understand how being discriminated against feels. I understand the feeling of being powerless and doubting your self-worth. I understand the depression that can set in if you let the bigotry affect you. Believe it or not, I even understand the anger and outrage that you may have towards others. Everyday I see the differences, yet I choose to view each and every person as just that, a person. Regardless of the difference, I shall never say that you are inferior or base a judgement on a bigoted idea about what makes you unique. If we want to stop discrimination, then it is important that we teach our children to love one another and accept people for who they are. We can stomp out bigotry in all forms by opening our hearts, listening to others, and standing in solidarity with one another when times get tough.

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To the College of Charleston Community

07 May 17
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Over the past five years I have had the absolute privilege and honor to meet, be inspired, and work with some of the most hard working, altruistic, individuals. After five years of college, studying and applying my knowledge of politics, analysis, philosophy, law, policy, public administration and management, and economics I can fully attest to the intellect and dedication of every single student and alumni of the College of Charleston. No words can describe my deepest appreciation of the entire community’s acceptance, compassion for others, and the sense of friendship that I have received from students, professors, and administrators.

Six days from now, I will walk at the Spring 2017 Commencement ceremony. I remember the very first day I was at the College. It was a cold day in January 2015 where I went through orientation and stood in the Cistern Yard for President McConnell’s spring convocation address. Walking into the cistern yard, I remember walking through the arches of Porter’s Lodge and under the words “know thyself” written in Greek. Almost everyday I walked under the arch to remind myself of its meaning; that regardless of the hardest of situations, always remain true to who you are. On Saturday I walk out of the Cistern Yard one final time, but I do not receive my Bachelor’s degree until the summer. However, I shall never forget the experiences and the friends that I have made at the College of Charleston nor the incredible work they are and will be doing. I am incredibly proud of all my colleagues and cannot wait to see where their work takes me. On Saturday, we will walk under the gate way in Cougar Mall, which has a phrase in Latin and translates into “Perhaps it will give us pleasure to remember these things someday,” and walk out of the Cistern Yard one final time. Yet the most important lesson that we can take from the day is remembering who we are presently and remaining true to ourselves throughout or careers and lives.

Although I have not been at the College as long as others, I have had the most incredible experiences and time with all of you. From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank all of you for inspiring me to follow my passions for creating a better, safer, equal, and equitable world for everyone through pragmatic policy and politics.

So to the students, alumni, professors, and administrators of the College of Charleston, you all have been my inspiration and a critical piece of shaping my principles.

Thank you,
JMS

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Opinions of Police Treatment

18 Apr 17
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In 2015 I researched attitudes towards police treatment and whether attitudes were related to an individual’s characteristics or just political ideologies and party. The tables described in the essay appear within the link at the bottom of the page which is a pdf version of this essay.


Abstract

Using data collected from 1,501 people, chosen at random across the United States, this study explores the public attitudes towards how police treat ethnic and racial groups and six particular research questions: (1) Does age factor into the attitude towards the police?; (2) Do attitudes toward police officers differ base on gender?; (3) Does an individual’s political party determine how they view police officer’s treatment towards others?; (4) Is political ideology a factor in determining the individual’s opinion?; (5) If someone is an evangelical Christian, do they view differently than someone who is not?; (6) How do different races and ethnicities view police treatment? Using cross-tabulations, chi-squares, and lambdas the study suggests that the majority of people, no matter the differences, have a negative attitude towards the treatment of ethnic and racial groups by police, however, some associations are not strong enough to be used to definitively prove the public’s opinion. The article concludes with a discussion of weaknesses to the data results and in the case of future inquiries.


Introduction

Individuals within the United States must have a clearer understanding of public opinion on the account of the police’s treatment of minorities. Due to recent events, including but not limiting to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO; the case of Eric Garner in Brooklyn, NY; and Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC; has raised concerns of how police officers treat and handle individuals of different ethnicities and races. It has been ingrained in the mindset of American society, due to media, that negative attitudes towards police come usually from individuals who are either lower income, young or belonging to a different racial-ethnic group (Dowler). However, the effect of media is irrelevant to this study and the data analyzed in this study rejects those assumptions and finds the majority of people who have different ages, race or ethnicities, gender, and religions see the treatment by police as unethical. The other two variables, political parties, and ideologies, showed that the right, referring to a political spectrum, is slightly optimistic of police treatment toward civilians of different racial and ethnic backgrounds; however, a large minority believes that there are inequalities happening that must be fixed.


Review of Literature

Due to the recent events of police treatment towards African-American citizens, Gallup poll conducted a study of how confident Caucasians, Hispanic’s, and African-Americans are in their local police (Jones). The company polled 47 U.S. counties that included the country’s largest metropolitan areas. Gallup used race-ethnicity as their independent variable and compared them with the place of residence of either urban or rural (Jones). The cross-tabulation suggests that Caucasians are more confident in police in both urban and rural areas averaging about 61%. Hispanics are second with 59% of the respondents living in rural areas and 54% living in urban areas. African-Americans, however, are below with an average 34% of respondents saying they feel confident in the areas in which they live (Jones). Alongside Gallup is another study that was published in the Journal of Criminal Justice, collected from roughly 5,500 students to determine the viewpoint youths have towards police. The 2001 study conducted by Terrance Taylor, K.B Turner, Finn-Aage Esbensen, and L. Thomas Winfree Jr., asks five specific research questions to understand how the attitudes towards police are affected by a youth’s gender, racial-ethnic groups, city in which individual lives, whether the area of residence is connected to the interaction with race-ethnicity, and if youths hold optimistic opinions of police, similar to adults (Taylor). For the current study however it is only relevant to look at race-ethnicity and gender. The results of this finding of race and ethnicity were that youths are more indifferent in their attitudes towards police; while the results for gender proved that females view more optimism toward police than do men. These results from Gallup poll and the Journal of Criminal Justice give the current study relatable research to borrow from; however, there is still a question of how strong these arguments actually are (Taylor).


Data and Methods 

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in 2010. For this study, however, the six variables looked at to find a relationship between question 24.c, the opinion of how police treat ethnic and racial groups are: (1) Age in order to determine if there is a generational gap between how people view this particular issue. Age had to be re-coded in order to easily sort through the 1,416 respondents who answered the question. Age groups were based on different generations with an ascending order; (2) Gender to understand how men and women either differ or agree on the treatment by police officers; (3) Political partisanship to understand how political views affect the opinion of how police treat minorities; (4) Political ideology in matter of how the nation is split in terms of social issues; (5) Born-Again Christian to see whether a particular religious identity affects how an individual answers; (6) Race-ethnicity of respondent to determine if opinions of police officers are affected by a societal problem concerning minorities. Multiple hypotheses are given for this study: (1) On the matter of age, group one, ages 18-25, would have the highest percentage of people who felt pessimistic or somewhat pessimistic about the treatment by police; (2) Gender would be closely related giving a ten percent leeway; (3) Political parties would be split with more democrats and independent voters viewing a negative reaction; (4) On account of political ideology more individuals whom consider themselves as ultra-liberal, liberal, or moderates would consider the treatment by police as unjust and unethical, rather than conservatives; (5) Born-Again Christians would have a more optimistic attitude towards police rather than non-Evangelicals; (6) More African-Americans, Hispanics, and other race and/or ethnicities would have a negative view of police treatment than those of Caucasians.

In order to determine the significance between each variable and the dependent variable of police treatment, a cross-tabulation with a chi-square was used. On the cross-tabulation, column percentages were given in order to compare different characteristics and groups; however just because a study is statistically significant does not mean that it is a strong relationship. Lambdas were used in order to give whether or not the data was considered to be a strong, moderate, or weak association.


Project Findings

The dependent variable, shown in Table set one, is how good of job police departments around the country are doing when treating racial and ethnic groups equally. The respondent could either answer as poor, only fair, good, or excellent. According to the frequency distribution, 30.7% of respondents agreed that police are doing a poor job when treating minorities equitably. The maximum percentage of people, 33.9%, responded that police are doing an only fair job at treating minorities equitably.

Table set two shows the relationship between the dependent variable and the respondent’s age, which was re-coded according to years within certain generations, the results found that the null hypothesis could be rejected. 74.7% individuals grouped between ages 18-25, which most are college students; felt that police did a poor or only fair job when dealing with different races and ethnic groups. The individuals between ages 26-45 and 46-64, which make up the majority of the labor force, were relatively close with about 69% of people viewing police as doing a poor or only fair job. Retirees or adults 65 and older had the same opinion as the rest of the people, however, only about 56% agreed. According to the chi-square, these results were significantly significant, but the lambda found that there is a weak association between age and police treatment. This is accurate considering more than half of each group considers there being an issue with police.

According to the study in the Journal of Criminal Justice, females are more inclined to be optimistic about police (Taylor). However, the table set three of the current study suggests otherwise with 67.8% of female respondents stating that police do an only fair or a poor job when treating other races and ethnic groups equally; which is 6.3% more than males. The chi-square suggests that the results are significant with an alpha level of .008 and that the null hypothesis is rejected. However, this does not mean that this is a strong relationship between the independent and dependent variables. According to the lambda results, there is actually no relationship between the two variables which ultimately rejects the theory that gender determines public opinion.

Race-ethnicity differences have been one of the biggest topics recently due to the events that have unfolded in the last year. According to the cross-tabulation shown in table-set four, more than half of each ethnic and/or race group believes that police are doing considerably poor or only fair when trying to treat ethnic groups equally. White non-Hispanics were the lowest percentage of people with 58%, while black non-Hispanics were the highest with 91.4%. The chi-square value was 150.947 which give these results the significance to determine that people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds view a problem, however the lambda score was at .08 which gives a weak association between the variables. The hypothesis is accepted due to the chi-square results and along with these results disproves arguments stating that only particular racial-ethnic groups view an issue.

Evangelical Christians is an interesting statistic represented in table set five, with only 989 respondents who answered the dependent variable and if they were Born-Again Christian or not, it was the only group that accepts the null hypothesis. The cross-tab shows that 58.1% of people, either Evangelical or not believes that police treatment towards race-ethnic groups is poor or only fair. The chi-square has an alpha level .071 which requires the statistics to not be significant and the lambda states that there is a weak association between the independent variable and dependent variable.

Political parties and ideologies, table sets six and seven, are two independent variables that are unique not because of the 1,300 respondents, but because these were the only two associations that were moderate in strength. 77.5% of democrats responded with poor or only fair, while republican respondents were at 43% when answering the same. The independent voters were just over 66% when answering with poor or only fair. In terms of ideologies moderates, liberals, or very liberal respondents were over 70% when putting the same answer of poor or only fair. As for the right of the political spectrum, conservative and very conservative respondents answered the question with the police doing a good job. The strength of these relationships was moderate with partisanship being at .111 and ideology being at .145. In conclusion to these results, respondents were more likely to pick based on their political partisanship and ideology, but the null hypothesis was rejected.


Conclusion

In conclusion to the findings, the research suggests that people who do not view a problem with how police treat race and ethnic groups are basing their views on political ideology and partisanship. However the fact that 64.6% of all respondents to question 24.c on the August 2010 Pew Research Center study view the job of police as poor or only fair shows that public opinion speaks clearly. Although there were no findings of strong relationships based on how people responded, the study supports that public opinion is not based on age, racial diversity, gender, or a particular belief, like the 2001 study. The contribution of this study is that it disproves arguments made that race, age, gender, and particular beliefs are what determine what the attitudes are towards police officers (Taylor).

There are multiple weaknesses in this study that can be including with future inquiry. Those weaknesses include the option not to run race-ethnicity and Evangelical Christians together and due to this, there leaves a question of how many African-Americans consider themselves as Born-Again Christians. The study also does not talk about all other religions but only specifically Evangelicals. The study has no intent of discriminating against these certain individuals; it was as hypothesis due to the political right using their religious beliefs to support their political practices. Future inquiries can look at how Jewish and Muslim individuals view this question as well. Another flaw in the study is not seeing how gender and political parties and ideologies correlate. The study could use some more descriptive statistics, such as correlations, gammas, and regressions. The next defect is that of only grouping age using one source. Generations can sometimes have multiple years listed from various sources, so not thoroughly investigating is a shortcoming. The final weakness of the study is that of location. Due to the broadness of the survey, it was intended not to focus on one specific area of the nation; however, the statistics that may come from that correlation may help analyze what makes people pessimistic or optimistic about how police officers treat racial and ethnic groups equitably.


References

Taylor, T., Turner, K., Esbensen, F., & Winfree Jr., L. (2001). Coppin’ an attitude: Attitudinal differences among juveniles toward police. Journal of Criminal Justice, 29(4), 295-305. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047235201000897#

Dowler, K., & Zawilski, V. (2007). Public perceptions of police misconduct and discrimination: Examining the impact of media consumption. Journal of Criminal Justice, 35(2), 193-203. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047235207000207

Jones, J. (2014, December 8). Urban Blacks in U.S. Have Little Confidence in Police. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/179909/urban-blacks-little-confidence-police.aspx?utm_sour ce=CATEGORY_CRIME_AND_PERSONAL_SAFETY&utm_medium=topic&utm_ca mpaign=tiles


Again, to see the tables described in the essay, please click the link below. Tables will be on page 10 through 16.

Opinions of Police Treatment 

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A Responsibility; An Obligation; A Civic Duty

03 Mar 17
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This post was from my LinkedIn page dated November 10th, 2016. It discusses my thoughts on the 2016 election between Hillary R. Clinton and Donald J. Trump.

Election Day has passed in the United States of America and over 100M (million) individuals voted in this year’s general election and cast their ballots for the next President of the United States. This president will replace President Barack Obama and will become the leader of not only the American people but also the most influential nation in the world. In America, we do not have an election that is based solely on the popular vote, instead, we have an election based on the ‘electoral college.’ This ‘college’ represents the total number of points that a candidate receives if they win a state and the total number is the sum of two senators and the number of representatives in the House of Representatives for that individual state (i.e. South Carolina has an electoral number of nine because of two senators and seven representatives). A Presidential candidate who receives the majority of the electoral votes (270 needed to have a majority) wins the Presidency, and that candidate was the ‘Republican’ nominee Donald J. Trump.

Now many people, ~59M-60M (million) to be exact, voted for his opponent Hillary R. Clinton and are dissatisfied and concerned about the future of the United States of America and the nation’s international foreign policy influence as well as the future of domestic policies enacted over the last eight years. Donald Trump used the people’s fears and anxiety in order to gain political momentum; and although he attacked homosexuals, women, Americans who are Jewish and Muslim, the media, incited violence, poked fun at the disabled, and has gained support of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the National Socialist Party (Neo-Nazis), people chose him over Hillary Clinton. Now Trump did not do this alone and before the end of two weeks prior, he was projected to lose with no questions asked. So what happened? When the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Director James Comey announced in a vague letter to Congress that there were emails related to Clinton, on a server that was recovered in a different investigation related to Anthony Weiner, Clinton began to fall in the polls. Director Comey tried to save himself from embarrassment from this summer’s lack of evidence to press charges against Clinton, and his letter to Congress allowed for the assumption and reminder of the lack of transparency that Secretary Clinton has fought for the past couple of years. When Director Comey again said that there is no evidence to press charges against Clinton, it was already too late. The opinions of the people could not be swayed and were finalized on their decision. Last night’s election was historic and it all came down to Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes.

I was not particularly happy with the results of the 2016 Presidential election and I am disappointed in the people’s choice, however for my own reasons that will not be discussed here. As a student of politics, philosophy, and law (PPLW) I have accepted the results of this year’s election and will watch carefully the next four years of domestic and foreign policies that are enacted and/or repealed. It is my responsibility to remain unbiased and to look at all sides of an issue before making my judgment/decision. It is also my responsibility to observe and judge policies through ethical principles rather than political loyalty, which is possible due to having none. I am not a modern day ‘democrat’ nor ‘republican’, instead, I am a pragmatist, or someone who relies on the practical use of policies and uses truths rather than falsehoods in order to make informed, ethical decisions that progress society rather than reverting back to 60 years prior. It is my responsibility, obligation, and civic duty as a PPLW student to be well informed and criticize any side that is (a) not progressing society socially and/or economically; (b) not listening to the people and solely relying on party loyalty for their own political gains; and/or (c) acting in an unethical manner. It is my civic duty as an Eagle Scout and an individual wanting to go into a career of public service to inform the general public of immoral behavior while also listening emphatically to the populous in what they believe necessary. My obligation as a public servant is not only listening to the populous but also to make the decisions that are necessary, which perhaps may not be popular. This ‘obligation’ is in order to create a sustainable and better world for ourselves but also for the future generations to come.

I understand that I might be young but I am not naïve, ignorant, nor arrogant to the real world. Politics and change take dedication, time, and patience; yet I recognize that I will have many triumphs and failures. Theodore Roosevelt once said in his speech Citizenship in a Republic that “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” (Man in the Arena). It is important to take these lessons from the past and apply them towards the future.

Now I understand the disappointment and the pessimism about this election but let us not give up on the progress we have made thus far. America was not built in a day and it continues to grow due to perseverance and hard work. We shall not weep, but instead, unite with one another and stand against bigotry, ignorance, and hatred. It is the time where we, as a society stand on our feet and unite in one purpose: to create a greater America. An America where:

  • our education system is better,
  • our infrastructure is being rebuilt,
  • our alliances with our friends are stronger,
  • our commitment to peace is met with leading-by-example,
  • our trade deals are negotiated for the better, rather than just thrown away,
  • our compassion for human rights and dignity allows for continual peace talks and for the conclusion of peace deals and treaties,
  • our environment is cleaner and more sustainable,
  • our economy is growing at a sustainable rate without massive growths and declines,
  • our health care system is being fixed over time and allows for the inalienable right of health,
  • our political system is filled with people of integrity and ethical principles rather than individuals who focus solely on party loyalty
  • and finally where we as a nation collaborate ideas and have insightful and meaningful debates on issues, rather than just arguing and being polarized.

If we want to change America…if we want to make America great again, then we must act in a moral manner and we must fight the injustice that exists in the world. For if we fail to educate our citizens and create a society based on principles, then we stop being influential. America was founded on religious tolerance, acceptance, and liberties for ALL people. If we say that it is only for a select few or for one group over another then we are no better than the nations where our ancestors came from.

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