Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WtP: Mentor Group — Beginning Work on Our Hearing

Following the "hearing train" activity, each group met separately to begin refining our group statement. Below is our combined statement.

Unit Six, Question Three
Do all citizens have the responsibility to participate in the political life of the nations? Why or why not?
  • If citizens should participate, what forms should that participation take?
  • Is civil disobedience ever a justified form of political participation? Explain your position.

  1. Bonnie: All citizens have the responsibility to participate in the political life of the nation. They have the responsibility to participate in the political life of the nation. They have responsibility to become informed voters and to vote in all elections. They should also be willing to assist their government to the best of their ability. Assistance could be in the form of writing their approval or disapproval to officially be willing to serve in offices or serve on a jury. Government by the people means we need to be involved in whatever way suits our talents and times. The government work best when all are involved.
  2. Susan: Furthermore, citizen's responsibilities are: 1.) vote; 2.) volunteer; 3.) run for office; 4.) serve; and, 5.) stay current and hold offices; 6.) serve on juries and being accountable. These are a few ways the citizens participate in the government.
  3. Tara: Expanding on that idea, to become effective citizens in a constitutional democracy we need to understand our roles and responsibilities in our government as well as their responsibilities to us as citizens. We also need to understand how our system was set-up and organized.
  4. Christy: Therefore, citizens of the U.S. have the opportunity to change laws and policies using many methods. Ideally, citizens would be pleased with the laws and policies in place because they had the opportunity to vote for and elect officials to represent their interests. If voting for specific representatives does not prove to meet the needs of an individual citizen, s/he has the right to petition for change. If the petition still fails to meet the needs of the citizen, the citizen may choose to run for, and possibly be elected to office him/herself. If elected, however, the individuals is still responsible to address the desires of the people s/he serves. If the people disagree with the individual, as a representative or not, Americans have the opportunity to speak to their personal interests and assemble to further discuss the issues. Furthermore, they may take advantage of a free press to address the issue. Should the individual's preference still prove unacceptable to the general population, there are several possibilities. Under the ideal of classical republicanism, the individual may simply accept the law or policy, recognizing it is in the best interest of the entire community, or the individual may challenge the law. To challenge the law, the individual must begin by questioning whether the law or policy aligns with the fundamental law of the land. If it does not, the citizen is encouraged, within the Declaration of Independence and through precedence set via the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, to engage in civil disobedience.
  5. Bill: Civil disobedience is justified as a form of political participation when the government and its laws have been become unjust. The person that wishes to perform civil disobedience should be very careful when they choose to do so. They should only disobey the law that is unjust and not simply break a law for the sake of breaking it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states in his Letter from a Birmingham jail, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all…’ All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.” For example, during the 1960s American civil rights movement, the participants felt very strongly about only breaking the unjust Jim Crow segregation laws. They would violate an unjust state court ruling, but would never violate a ruling from a federal judge because the federal system was the greatest ally for the members of the movement.
  6. Richard: On the other hand, Martin Luther King, Jr. also stated in his letter from Birmingham Jail: "Justice too long delayed is justice denied" helps to answer the question of what [greater] potential negative consequence of civil disobedience in a democratic society. The opportunity may have passed for the right time to act. Other consequences include lack of planning, misunderstanding of the problem, a backlash from the majority that counteracts the initial disobedience. Or on the most simple level the action just does not work.

8 comments:

Christy Keeler, Ph.D. said...

Update from Bill:

Civil disobedience is justified as a form of political participation when the government and its laws have been become unjust. The question then becomes what makes a law truly unjust? As St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Laws are said to be just, both from the end, when, to whit, they are ordained to the common good,- and from their author, that is to say, when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver- and from their form when burdens are laid on their subjects, according to an equality of proportion and with a view to the common good.” The person that wishes to perform civil disobedience should be very careful when they choose to do so. They should only disobey the law that is unjust and not simply break a law for the sake of breaking it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states in his Letter from a Birmingham jail, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all…’ All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. ” For example, during the 1960s American civil rights movement, the participants felt very strongly about only breaking the unjust Jim Crow segregation laws. However, they would not violate any just law because that would violate and destroy their reputation and legitimacy for true civil disobedience in the spirit of Mohandas Gandhi and his idea of Satyagraha or peacemaking. The actual practice of civil disobedience took many forms throughout the American South in the 1960s. These included lunch counter sit-ins, marches, and the freedom rides. Every single one of these instances of civil disobedience only addressed unjust laws and regulations. The other key to civil disobedience is that the individual must be willing to accept his or her penalty and as Dr King illustrated once again in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “An individual that breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” In other words, civil disobedience is in fact the true expression of one’s love and admiration for citizenship than one who blindly follows any law or directive given to him.

Christy Keeler, Ph.D. said...

An Overview:

1. Do they have responsibility to participate in political life of the nation
a. Yes because of the obligations of living within a democratic republic which are based on… [philosophical basis for these obligations and references from primary documents]
2. If they should participate, what forms should participation take?
a. List responsibilities: Vote, serving on a jury, hold our leaders accountable, obeying laws of the land, being educated on politics
3. However, we question if an uninformed populous should participate.
4. How might a person go about changing a law or policy with which he or she disagrees?
5. “There comes a time in the course of human events…” Sometimes we disagree.
a. Our nation is founded on the principles of civil disobedience
6. Is civil disobedience ever a justified form of political participation? Explain your position.

Anonymous said...

To address question #3:

"A generation that acquires knowledge without ever understanding how that knowledge can benefit the community is a generation that is not learning what it means to be citizens in a democracy."
Hollander, Elizabeth L. Author (1817-1885)

Anonymous said...

Rewrite of Question 1
As the great philosohper, Spider Man stated, "With great power, comes great responsibility." It is my belief that all citizens have the responsibility to participate in the political life of our powerful and democratic nation. As classicist, Edith Hamilton,stated, "Responsibility is the price every man must pay for freedom." All citizens have the responsibility to become informed voters and to vote in all elections. They should also be willing to assist their government to the best of their ability. Assistance could be in the form of writing their approval or disapproval to officially be willing to serve in offices or serve on a jury. Government by the people means we need to be involved in whatever way suits our talents and times. The government work best when all are involved.
Susan: Furthermore, citizen's responsibilities are: 1.) vote; 2.) volunteer; 3.) run for office; 4.) serve; and, 5.) stay current and hold offices; 6.) serve on juries and being accountable. These are a few ways the citizens participate in the government.

Christy Keeler, Ph.D. said...

For question 4:

Ideally, U.S. citizens will always be pleased with established laws because they were created by elected representatives. However, citizens sometimes disagree with a law and they have two alternatives for addressing this disagreement. First, they may choose to accept the law, recognizing it is in the best interest of the entire community. This is an example of classical republicanism. A second alternative is for the citizen to challenge the law.

Challenging laws should begin with communication between the citizen and his or her representative. In some cases, representatives will not support recommended changes because the representative feels the majority of the citizens residing in his/her district support the law. In other cases, the representative will be unable to sway the legislative body in favor of changing the law because individuals from a majority of other districts support the law. If methods of representation do not prove to meet the needs of an individual citizen, the citizen may take advantage of the right to speak publicly on the issue and assemble to further discuss the issue. He or she may also take advantage of a free press to address the issue. If, through persuasion, the citizen’s preference still proves unacceptable to the general population, the citizen has the right to petition for change, vote for a new representative, or run for office him- or herself.

If these methods fail to produce the desired result and the citizen feels the law does not align with the fundamental law of the land, civil disobedience may be the only method of recourse.

Anonymous said...

As the great philosohper, Spider Man stated, "With great power, comes great responsibility." It is my belief that all citizens have the responsibility to participate in the political life of our powerful and democratic nation. As classicist, Edith Hamilton,stated, "Responsibility is the price every man must pay for freedom." All citizens have the responsibility to become informed voters and to vote in all elections. They should also be willing to assist their government to the best of their ability. Assistance could be in the form of writing their approval or disapproval to officially be willing to serve in offices or serve on a jury. Government by the people means we need to be involved in whatever way suits our talents and times. The government work best when all are involved.
Susan: Furthermore, citizen's responsibilities are: 1.) vote; 2.) volunteer; 3.) run for office; 4.) serve; and, 5.) stay current and hold offices; 6.) serve on juries and being accountable. These are a few ways the citizens participate in the government.

Ideally, U.S. citizens will always be pleased with established laws because they were created by elected representatives. However, citizens sometimes disagree with a law and they have two alternatives for addressing this disagreement. First, they may choose to accept the law, recognizing it is in the best interest of the entire community. This is an example of classical republicanism. A second alternative is for the citizen to challenge the law.

Challenging laws should begin with communication between the citizen and his or her representative. In some cases, representatives will not support recommended changes because the representative feels the majority of the citizens residing in his/her district support the law. In other cases, the representative will be unable to sway the legislative body in favor of changing the law because individuals from a majority of other districts support the law. If methods of representation do not prove to meet the needs of an individual citizen, the citizen may take advantage of the right to speak publicly on the issue and assemble to further discuss the issue. He or she may also take advantage of a free press to address the issue. If, through persuasion, the citizen’s preference still proves unacceptable to the general population, the citizen has the right to petition for change, vote for a new representative, or run for office him- or herself.

If these methods fail to produce the desired result and the citizen feels the law does not align with the fundamental law of the land, civil disobedience may be the only method of recourse.

Civil disobedience is justified as a form of political participation when the government and its laws have been become unjust. The question then becomes what makes a law truly unjust? As St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Laws are said to be just, both from the end, when, to whit, they are ordained to the common good,- and from their author, that is to say, when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver- and from their form when burdens are laid on their subjects, according to an equality of proportion and with a view to the common good.” The person that wishes to perform civil disobedience should be very careful when they choose to do so. They should only disobey the law that is unjust and not simply break a law for the sake of breaking it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states in his Letter from a Birmingham jail, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all…’ All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. ” For example, during the 1960s American civil rights movement, the participants felt very strongly about only breaking the unjust Jim Crow segregation laws. However, they would not violate any just law because that would violate and destroy their reputation and legitimacy for true civil disobedience in the spirit of Mohandas Gandhi and his idea of Satyagraha or peacemaking. The actual practice of civil disobedience took many forms throughout the American South in the 1960s. These included lunch counter sit-ins, marches, and the freedom rides. Every single one of these instances of civil disobedience only addressed unjust laws and regulations. The other key to civil disobedience is that the individual must be willing to accept his or her penalty and as Dr King illustrated once again in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “An individual that breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” In other words, civil disobedience is in fact the true expression of one’s love and admiration for citizenship than one who blindly follows any law or directive given to him.

Christy Keeler, Ph.D. said...

Unit 3, Question 1:

George Washington warned the nation “against the baneful effects of the spirit of party” in his farewell address of 1796. The problems of political factions had long been argued as the Founders debated the outline of our government. Despite the fear and warnings argued by many, political parties still rose out of fundamental philosophical differences early in our history. Even before the new Constitution became the supreme law of the land federalists and anti-federalists debated whether or not this newly created government would benefit out young nation. During Washington’s administration, two of his cabinet members, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton disagreed about what role the national government under the new Constitution should have. Hamilton believed in a stronger central government in order to solve the nation’s economic problems. Jefferson, however felt “if the government had the ability to define its own laws the liberty of the people would be threaten.” The interpretation of the necessary and proper clause was at the root of this controversy.

These political disputes expanded beyond the constitution to debates over what nation to support when Great Britain and France went to war in 1793. The philosophical difference continued under John Adams’ administration by the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts. This legislation made it illegal for editors, writers, or speakers to attack the government. From these disagreements, two distinct parties immerged; the Federalists under Hamilton and Adams and the Republicans under Jefferson and James Madison. These debates came into conflict with many of the philosophical foundations of our government, specifically that of classical republicanism. Under this philosophy, factions would only destroy the community, not improve it. Despite understanding this philosophy, the disputes did not end. Madison and Jefferson issued the Virginia and Kentucky Resolution stating “in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of powers not granted by the Constitution, the State who are parties thereto, have the right and are in duty bound to interpose for arresting the progress of evil.” In other words state legislators had the power to declare laws made by Congress null and void.

The executive and legislative branches were not the only two branches of the federal government that were experiencing this factional debate. Chief Justice John Marshall, a known federalist, showed his political beliefs when he established Judicial Review while deciding Marbury v. Madison in order to check the new Republican administration under Jefferson.

The establishment of political parties in the United States was solidified with the election of 1800. After the controversial election in which the House of Representatives decided the out come, the transfer of power between Adams and Jefferson was done without violent revolution. Jefferson Administration took over with no shots fired or treasonous words exchanged. This became know as the Revolution of 1800 and was considered by many to be more important than our independence from Britain.

The Federalist reacted to these newly forming political with the fears highlighted within the debates between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists. The federalist saw the Democratic Republicans as the “seditious faction” that would bring about the end of our new Constitutional government. The Sedition Act created under Adam’s administration helped to prevent the Democratic Republicans from corrupting the American Political landscape.

Each day the voices of the political parties saturate the media of the United States, the Framers of the constitution feared the roles that political parties would hold. Have the fears of the Framers of the constitution become a reality or is the role of the political party in the United States a necessary institution to ensure citizen participation? If present day citizen practiced a pure classical republic envisioned by the Framers, then there would be no need for political parties; but unfortunately few do.

In 1824, Thomas Jefferson explained the psychological need for political parties, “Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties - 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. - In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object.”

Present day political parties provide citizens a means to participate in the democratic process through unifying, involving, and educating the citizen. United citizens of similar beliefs, interests, and party platform form the political party. Citizens through political parties work to nominate, finance candidates’ campaigns, and recruit new members. Political parties provide the voter with an opportunity to choose a candidate that would best serve and represents their political beliefs. The support of a political party gives an individual the confidence to scrutinize governmental officials and hold them accountable for their actions.

Federalist 60 warns that “during turbulent and factious times, it is possible to imagine that a victorious, overbearing majority could deny a particular class of people this fundamental right of freedom –suffrage.” Unfortunately, the foreshadowing of this event came to fruition more than once in our history. Political factions have prevented many groups from voting and it took years of struggle to overcome these injustices. The suffrage movement of women and African Americans is not the only objections to political parties that have relevance in our modern society. Many of the warning and fears illustrated by these founding fathers impact our current system of government. Federalist 10 also reveals another fear of factions between those who have property and those who do not. Today, our political parties are divided by socio-economic division.

Despite all of the fears forecasted by our Forefathers, our current political party system has created several advantages to promote a republic form of government such as creation of coalitions to promote compromise, organize to support candidates, help to spread important information to try and increase voter turnout, and serve as an outlet for political passion. They serve as a watch dog against the party in power, and a glue between the different branches of government








Throughout the Federalist papers, the authors provided a magnitude of objections towards political parties. Federalist 10 explains “The important tendency of a well-constructed Union to break and control the violence of faction deserves careful examination. The propensity for this dangerous vice alarms every friend of popular government. Therefore, they will appreciate any plan providing a cure that doesn’t violate the principles of liberty he so values”…..

Anonymous said...

As classicist, Edith Hamilton, states, "Responsibility is the price every man must pay for freedom." All citizens have the responsibility to participate in the political life of our free and democratic nation. Citizen's responsibilities may include being informed of political matters, voting, serving on a jury, volunteering, running for office, serving in the government, holding public officials accountable, and defending the principles of the nation. Government by the people means we need to engage in opportunities that utilize our talents and suit the times. Our government works best when all are involved.
Ideally, citizens will always be pleased with established laws because those laws were created by elected representatives. However, citizens sometimes disagree with a law and they have two alternatives for addressing this disagreement. First, they may choose to accept the law, recognizing it is in the best interest of the entire community. A second alternative is for the citizens to challenge the law.
Challenging laws should begin with communication between citizens and their representative. In some cases, representatives will not support recommended changes because that official feels the majority of the citizens residing in their constituency support the law. If this occurs, the citizens may take advantage of their First Amendment rights to speak publicly, use the press, assemble peaceably, and petition their government for a redress of grievances. If, through these means of persuasion, the citizens’ preference still proves unacceptable to the general population, the citizens have the right to vote for new representation, or run for office themselves.
If these methods fail to produce the desired result and citizens feel the law does not align with the fundamental law of the land, civil disobedience may be an acceptable method of recourse. Civil disobedience is justified as a form of political participation when the government and its laws are unjust. The question then becomes what makes a law truly unjust? As St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Laws are said to be just, when they are ordained to the common good, [and] when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver.” The citizens that perform civil disobedience should be very careful when they choose to do so. They should only disobey the law that is unjust.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Dr King expands on this point when he states “I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all…’ All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. ” During the 1960s American civil rights movement, the participants felt very strongly about only breaking the unjust Jim Crow laws. However, they would not violate any just law because that would destroy their reputation and legitimacy for true civil disobedience in the spirit of Mohandas Gandhi and his idea of Satyagraha or peacemaking.
Throughout American history citizens have demonstrated a tradition of civil disobedience by the Boston Tea Party, Susan B. Anthony unlawfully registering women voters, lunch counter sit-ins, the burning of draft cards, and gay marriage. A critical aspect of engaging in civil disobedience is that the individual must be willing to accept his or her penalty. Dr. King illustrated once again, “An individual that breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” In other words, civil disobedience is in fact the true expression of one’s love and admiration for citizenship than one who blindly follows any law or directive given to him. We are now ready to entertain any questions you may have for us.