Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Republicans and Critical Thinking

In my colleague Veronica’s blog, “Government: Bigger in Texas”, she discusses how the Republican Party is against teaching students critical thinking skills in public schools in the blog she posted on August 10, 2012. I pretty much had the same reaction she did and went “wait, what?” when I read this quote she posted,

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

This was posted by the Republican Party in its 2012 platform.  I actually had to go back and read it again because I thought I had read it wrong. 

I agree with Veronica that it is pretty ridiculous that they tried to claim this was a ‘mistake’. I don’t see how a statement like that could be overlooked and I think they were just trying to save their butts when it became obvious that the general public did not agree with their statement.  Critical thinking is a very important skill for students to possess, especially growing up in a country like the United States where we have so many options once we branch away from our parents and move out into the world as a ‘grown-up’. People need to able to think at a higher level and assess all sides in a situation not only in the work world, but also in day to day activities. They need to be able to form their own opinions and not just think they have to be stuck believing everything their told by others, like their parents. Taking such an important and effective skill away from students is setting them up for failure once they become adults, and with public education being in the shape it is in Texas, the last thing that needs to be done is to make things worse.

In another blog I read called, “Texas GOP rejects ‘critical thinking’ skills. Really.”, Valerie Straus discusses the same issue and goes on to list out other things the Republican Party is also against, such as sex education, early childhood education, and multicultural education. Wow. Like Veronica said in her blog, Texas education is already in bad shape. With the Republicans having views like this towards education, it does not make me think things are going to get any better if they have control.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Texans and Voting

As citizens to a democratic nation, it is our duty to vote. Majority of Texans, as well as many other Americans, choose not to do so without realizing the consequences of their actions. How can we get more Texans to vote? And why is it important that we do?

To get more people to vote, we need to start getting kids more educated about government and the importance of it from an early age. If we continue making cuts to education, especially in Texas where we are already doing horrible statistically when it comes to education, this problem is only going to continually get worse. I only remember taking one government class in high school. I obviously did not learn much about it either because I came into a college government class basically clueless. If we start early on, I think we can get more involvement in the voting process overall. We could also look at ways to make voting less of a hassle, such as implementing a way to vote electronically or being able to mail in votes. More people need to make an effort to inform the public on the importance of government. We need to get some of the celebrities off the television screen and spend more money advertising something important, such as getting more Texans to vote and letting them know why it is important.

Why do we need to vote? Our vote is our voice in government and a way for us to show what we believe in and how we think our government should run. Many are quick to complain or judge the government, but when most don’t make it to the voting polls, we don’t really have a right to make complaints or pass judgement. It is our job as Texans and Americans to vote and we need to start better informing the public of the importance of it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Stricter voting laws are not the answer!

In this blog posted by my colleague, Kyle, on June 27, 2012, he discusses how stricter voting laws, specifically those requiring a valid photo I.D., to vote would be more of a nuisance than an advantage overall. I could not agree more with his post. If we required voters to show a valid form of identification to vote, I think the overall effect would be that less people would show up to vote.

We already have a problem getting people to vote and passing a law like this would only intensify the problem. Like my colleague pointed out, we would have problems getting people to vote who were not able to afford replacing a lost photo I.D and that many people (600,000, as Kyle said) who don’t possess the proper identification to vote would be unable to. I do not think it would cut down on fraud either. It would only cause many eligible Texans to be unable to vote.

What we should be focusing on is how to get more Texans to vote, not ways to restrict them from voting.  In this article posted by Emily Cadik on June 15, 2012, she points out that only 36.4% of eligible voters voted in the 2010 presidential election, which was the lowest turnout in all the states. This is really disappointing and really makes me wonder why we are looking at making voting laws stricter when we can’t even get eligible voters to show up in the first place!  

In my opinion, before we start focusing on how to stop certain groups of people from voting, we need to focus on getting those who are able to vote to do so!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Stricter gun laws?

OK, I’m sure I am posting a blog on an extremely controversial topic, especially considering what happened recently with the shooting in Aurora, CO and I just want to be upfront that I have no intentions of offending anyone by writing this blog.

In this editorial posted on Wednesday July 25, 2012, the author brings up the fact that the shooting that happened in Aurora, CO has called for reform laws related to gun restrictions. Their intended audience is the general public to notify them of the fact that if we had stricter gun laws it would be less likely for shootings like this to happen. They provide evidence of a lot of research and notify us that that the infamous shootings that have taken place like Columbine, Fort Hood, and Virginia Tech might not have happened if we had stricter gun laws. The author goes further, though, mentioning many shootings that the general public isn’t really informed about. I, personally, did not know about these other shootings that had happened and if many people had, I think many views might be different. This author seemed to have the purpose of persuading more people to be accepting of stricter gun laws and his logic makes sense. They bring up how the problem of shootings is not as bad outside of the United States, and I think they can really change opinions with that. They almost changed mine.

Gun reforms might be essential not only to the state of Texas, but also to the United States as a whole. I was really terrified and appalled by the shooting that took place. The tragedy deeply affected me and I can’t imagine what these families are going through, but who is to say that stricter gun laws would really make a difference? Marijuana is illegal in Texas, as well as the United States, but there are many people who still easily have access to it. Other drugs are illegal in most parts of the United States, but many people still can easily obtain them. So, if we enact stricter gun laws, does that mean that we are really safer? Does that mean that the wrong people will not have access to them? Personally, I don’t think so. 

What if someone in that theater in Aurora had had the legal rights to carry a gun on them? Someone could have possibly put a bullet in his head and prevented many of the deaths and injuries that occurred. So, in my opinion, stricter enactment of the rights provided to us as Americans by the Second Amendment might have possibly caused certain situations to end differently.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What is the SEIU really up to?

In the blog, "SEIU should work to stop illegal immigration", posted on July 21, 2012 by Doug Weiskopf, who is a founding member of the Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE), Weiskopf discusses the reasons the Service Employees National Union (SEIU) should work to stop illegal immigration. His intended audience is most likely SEIU supporters and those who are opposed to its actions to inform readers of what he thinks their truly about. 

Weiskopf had been closely following a recent janitors’ strike that was being led by the SEIU. He supported it and was happy the outcome was a in the janitors’ favor. After getting more acquainted with the SEIU, though, he thinks they have been deceptive in expressing what their true intentions are. He says if they were really worried about improving pay for the janitors’ and creating better working conditions for them, they would work harder to decrease illegal immigration. Instead he claims their real intentions are to increase the agenda of the Left wing of the Democratic Party.

I think Weiskopf has some pretty good personal evidence to prove his case. He came to these realizations after sitting down with the SEIU personally to discuss contract negotiations and to write their first constitution with HOPE. He says it was at this time that he saw what they really meant to do. This is just based on his personal opinion, though, so there is reason why I might have to take a deeper look into the SEIU before just basing my opinion off of his blog.

All in all, his logic makes sense to me. He says stopping illegal immigration is a way to make substantial improvements in working conditions for the janitors’ and increase their pay, but that this is a route they have not taken. I would do more research before I form my own opinion about the SEIU, though.

Friday, July 20, 2012

More prevention needed for sexual assaults happening in the military

In this editorial, “No more tolerance for sexual assault” posted in the Austin American Statesman on July 2, 2012, the author is advocating more prevention for the occurrences of sexual assault towards women serving in the military. The author emphasizes their point by discussing the recent sexual assaults cases that took place at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. They believe these events, which are not uncommon, are a clear indicator that the military needs to create new policies to deal with sexual assaults towards women in the military.

The author’s intended audience is the general public to inform readers how often this happens and also how often it goes unreported.  They clearly think there has not been enough done to prevent these occurrences from happening. The recently mentioned events that occurred at the Lackland Air Force Base include at least 31 reported cases of sexual assaults to women by at least 6 male instructors. It is stated in the article that the instructors have a lot of power and can cause the trainees to have to repeat boot camp or even be dismissed from the military. This is most likely why so many cases usually go unreported when they occur. According to a recent survey conducted by the Pentagon mentioned in this editorial, there are only about 13.5% of military sexual assault cases actually reported, making the number of actual assault cases probably around 19,000 nationally (only 3,192 were reported).

I could not agree more with the author that this is a very serious issue and more needs to be done about it. In another article I read about the sexual assault cases in San Antonio, Texas, it states that this sexual assault scandal is one of the worst to happen in the past 10 years in relation to an occurrence in Maryland in 1996 at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The fact that so many sexual assaults are happening in the here and now, and the severity of them, is a clear indication that there is not enough being done to prevent them. There need to be more preventative measures taken to stop them from happening and harsher discipline for those who commit these offenses.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where Tax Dollars are Going

In this article by Mark Lisheron, "El Paso considers making hotel tax highest in state to pay for new baseball stadium" posted on July 16, 2012, Lisheron discusses the proposal by politicians in the El Paso area to increase the tax rate on the local hotels to pay for a new baseball stadium. The increase they are suggesting would make this the highest hotel tax rate in the state of Texas. Judging by the attitude conveyed in the article, I would say that Lisheron seems to be against this. He brings up the fact that there are better ways to put money into the economy and how sports do not usually end up being an economic benefit to local economy.

I, for one, think this is a good example of why people need to get more involved in government affairs. We need to know where our tax dollars are going and we need to have representatives who are going to make sure our money is going to the right places. There have been so many cuts being made to important programs like the public education system, for example. Schools have been closed and teachers have been laid off. This has caused its own problems also, like an increase in the unemployment rate. If they even consider increasing a tax rate so drastically it should be for something important like those I just listed, not a recreational activity. The fact that there is even a proposal being made by politicians in the El Paso politicians to put tax dollars toward something like this is just ridiculous.