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and glad that I will again be teaching government (among other things) come August.

A major part of my approach to teaching government is to connect students with what is happening in the world around them.

It is hard to imagine a week richer than this for material on class discussion.

From the Congress, we have the combination of the Senate passing a sweeping immigration reform bill and the Speaker effectively saying it is DOA.

From the Supreme Court we have a wealth of decisions, not merely the blockbusters on Prop 8, DOMA, and Voting Rights Act, but also on the ability of corporations to force people to binding arbitration and an expanded notion of the takings clause of the 5th Amendment.  And of course, there are the ongoing issues about Snowden, Freedom of the Press, the Espionage Act, and related.

Let me offer some observations of how rich class discussions could be.

I will be teaching in Maryland.  We have traveled an interesting path on marriage equality. Back when the issue first arose, Maryland passed one of the first state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman.    Then as we progressed further into the 21st Century, efforts were made at marriage equality.  At first it passed one house of the legislature but not the other.  Then it passed the legislature but was put on the ballot by initiative, where it passed this past November and is now in effect.  In the interim, Maryland had agreed to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states.    So we can see normal legislative process, application of Full Faith and Credit under the US Constitution, and initiative and referendum.  We can also discuss how attitudes change over time, and why.  

I had taught in a majority black district and school, but in a community that was very liberal including on social issues, with a student organization supporting Lesbians, Gays, Bis, and Transgenders.  I will be teaching in a community that is somewhat more conservative, more heavily white, and working and lower middle class.  My former school had many out gay students.  I do not know what I will encounter, but this is still an important discussion to have.

Given the initiative process, there would be lots of issues to discuss on both DOMA and on Prop 8, including beyond the obvious ones.

-  should a state that has an initiative process have some mechanism to allow defense of initiatives passed by the voters to be defended if the state government does not want to on grounds of the government's belief the action is unconstitutional?  There was no doubt about the lack of standing for the proponents of Prop 8 to be in an Article III Court.  But I note that Anthony Kennedy, whom I believe would have upheld the the 9th Circuit finding the proposition unconstitutional, wanted to hear the Prop 8 case particularly because he wanted to defend the initiative process.   I note the Pundit Roundup mentions a constitutional law professor in favor of marriage equality who thinks similarly, and that would be an interesting discussion - pointing out where sometimes parts of our legal and constitutional structure are incomplete and/or contradictory.

- what is the current status of someone legally same-sex married in Maryland who moves to Alabama or Virginia?  Are they entitled to Federal benefits under marriage?  As Scalia pointed out in his dissent, that is not clear from the opinion of the Court (although I think most would argue they are).  Must a state recognize under state law the rights that pertain?  The case explicitly did not address that, as Kennedy's opinion shows.  But what of someone in the military, or involuntarily transferred by an employer? What about property rights, child custody issues, hospital visitations, the right to make medical decisions?  I can imagine that we are going to quickly have to wrestle with these issues, and the courts might have to do so on an expedited basis.  This allows one to note the history of Roe v Wade, which was heard on an expedited basis, first by a 3-judge District Court panel, and then directly to SCOTUS.  That opens up for students to consider the time usually taken to resolve legal issues, and why in some cases it becomes important for Courts to act more quickly.

-  why did Kennedy not address any further issues?  Here the issue in Windsor was her rights with respect to Federal law, specifically on taxes.  It was possible to resolve her case without ruling more broadly, and in fact the court record does not demonstrate full litigation of other issues, but there is a clear implication.  THere are some parallels that might be looked at, specifically Brown v Board, where Warren made clear the Court was prepared to overturn Plessy, but since it could resolve the current cases without doing so, did not.

-  use of equal protection clause by Kennedy:  in 14th Amendment it applies only to state.  This takes us back to several things
  --  in his opinion for the Court in Lawrence, Kennedy had only relied on due process.  O'Connor had in her concurrence raised equal protection, which one can argue provides a broader basis.  What are implications of Kennedy doing this?
 --  prior to Bolling v Sharpe, the DC schools case paralleling the Brown cases, the Supreme Court had never applied the Equal Protection Clause against Federal action.  How did Warren do this?  Why?  What are the implications?

- in DOMA, what tools are available to the Federal government still to apply against states and localities that are discriminating against groups of voter?  Kennedy in oral arguments had raised questions about both Section 2 and Section3.   Section 2 only allows action AFTER, which can be difficult.  But Section 3 allows courts to opt in jurisdictions that had not previously been covered under Section 4, the same way that jurisdictions could argue that they should be able to be selected out because of the corrections they had made.  How might these work with respect to some of the laws and redistricting now going into effect? If the map of Section 4 has been eliminated, meaning no one is currently covered, is Section 3 still in effect?  This was not litigated per se in the case.

It may sound like this is getting into legal weeds.  Perhaps.  But it also enables students to considere implications of various kinds of governmental and political action.  It points out why one's participation can make a difference.  It can help them understand that battles for equality and fairness are never completely over.  It might even make a difference of where some of them choose to attend college or live, knowing the attitude of that community on certain issues.

And I have not even gotten to Wendy Davis!!!  Now, that might be Texas, but opens the door to consideration of a lot of issues
- federal filibuster
- is there a filibuster in Maryland?  In county or local government?  Why or why not?  Is the filibuster inherently undemocratic?

If nothing else, that my mind works this way, that my immediate reaction is to think of how I can use the current events in the classroom, demonstrates that my having kept my user name was appropriate.

I view so many things as teaching opportunities.

I wish I were in a classroom right now.

I look forward to getting back there in August.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 05:25:22 AM PDT

  •  Making The Case For Year Round School (0+ / 0-)

    A shame that you are not intervening in the lives of children during summer vacation as you discuss these issues.

  •  Some of these are very interesting questions. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West

    But definitely very high legal weeds you're wading in. :) In my classes I tend to start with what we call essential questions (like "what does it mean to be a human being?" or something more closely related to what we're covering), get the students to flesh out the basics of what we're talking about, and then explore the issue/court case/administration f-up.

    Doing it this way helps the students establish an ethical foundation for what we're discussing, and then as we get into the details, the complexity of human political interactions is usually easier for them to navigate.

    But I have to say, in most of my classes barely 5% of students would have heard anything about any of these things. They simply do not watch or read the news, and what they do see doesn't stick, since they lack the necessary background knowledge and interest necessary. By the end of the semester, I'll get that up to almost half, but barely. I so often find myself acting as a part-time newscaster instead of teacher just so I can talk about something current in my classes.

    Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth. - Lucy Parsons

    by cruz on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 06:32:41 AM PDT

    •  Sorry... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upper West

      waking up late, and not enough coffee in me to attempt writing. :)

      Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth. - Lucy Parsons

      by cruz on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 06:34:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I find I can get kids somewhat into weeds (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upper West, cruz, SingleVoter, Chi, awesumtenor

      and for the AP exam (and all my government classes this fall will be AP) they have to be able to get somewhat into the weeds

      of greater importance, when there is something in the news, and I can get them to see how it connects to their own lives, the desire to more fully understand comes naturally, and then it does not seem quite so "weedy"

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 06:42:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What a great week to be a social studies teacher (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West, GoGoGoEverton

    if class were in session. I hear you on that one, for sure.

  •  I had that reaction for a while, Ken (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    after I stopped teaching in 1988.

    I always tried not to reveal my politics in class (to the extent that some kids thought I was a Republican)!  (It makes me wonder -- is social studies teaching just a mirror image of media false equivalence?)

    Now, I'd be sorely tempted, especially on the VRA.  I would be hard-pressed to lay out the "Pros" and "Cons" of the Supreme Court's decision on that, because I think it's an obscenity.  To think that back in the '70s and '80s, we taught that Jim Crow was a thing of the past, that the Civil Rights movement had pushed the country further on MLK's "arc of the moral universe toward justice."

    And now, with the evidence that Jim Crow lives in TX and AL, right in front of their eyes, five robed reactionaries say there's nothing that can be done about it.

    In retrospect, while I was teaching in the '80s, the process of racial campaign appeal was being perfected by Reagan and Lee Atwater, leading to today's racist-base Republican party.

    But Dr. King said the arc of the moral universe is long, and he must have known that with each step forward, forces arise to push back, and the struggle has to continue.

    The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

    by Upper West on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 08:07:08 AM PDT

    •  as you know, I take a different approach (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upper West, Chi

      if for no other reason than I am far too easy to find online

      but I make clear what is important is what they think, and how they think - I will challenge their thinking whether I agree or not.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 08:46:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My last 3 years of teaching... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upper West

      ...I made my politics obvious to my students. I wanted them to know it was good to take a stand for something. I told them to challenge anyone with an opinion, make that person back it up and explain it (me included). I told them they needed to learn how to think for themselves.

      Having the events of those last three years made school fun for me and hopefully my students.

      Only the weak & defeated are called to account for their crimes.

      by rreabold on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 11:54:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  matrimony (0+ / 0-)
    matrimony - From Latin matrimonium, "state of being married," from mater, "mother," and monium, "-mony" (state, condition).
  •  marriage (0+ / 0-)
    mar·riage  (mrj)
    a.  The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife, and in some jurisdictions, between two persons of the same sex, usually entailing legal obligations of each person to the other.

    b.  A similar union of more than two people; a polygamous marriage.

    c.  A union between persons that is recognized by custom or religious tradition as a marriage.

    d.  A common-law marriage.

    e.  The state or relationship of two adults who are married: Their marriage has been a happy one.

    2.  A wedding.

    3.  A close union: "the most successful marriage of beauty and blood in mainstream comics" (Lloyd Rose).

    4.  Games The combination of the king and queen of the same suit, as in pinochle.


    [Middle English mariage, from Old French, from marier, to marry; see  marry1.]
  •  Based on the analysis of language (0+ / 0-)

    Under the Roman and Italian systems, producing a child together bound the mother and father together.

    The French didn't wait until a child was produced. I think consummation of marriage was necessary in France, but I've never looked into the matter.

    The "age" of "marriage" indicates the word is of French origin.

  •  Consummation (0+ / 0-)
    Consummation or consummation of a marriage, in many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, is the first (or first officially credited) act of sexual intercourse between two people, either following their marriage to each other or after a prolonged sexual attraction. Its legal significance arises from theories of marriage as having the purpose of producing legally recognized descendants of the partners, or of providing sanction to their sexual acts together, or both, and amounts to treating a marriage ceremony as falling short of completing the creation of the state of being married. Thus in some Western traditions, a marriage is not considered a binding contract until and unless it has been consummated.

    These formal and literal usages support the informal and less precise usage of the word "consummation" to refer to a sexual landmark in relationships of varying intensity and duration.

    Within the Roman Catholic Church, a marriage that has not yet been consummated, regardless of the reason for non-consummation, can be dissolved by the pope.[1] Additionally, an inability or an intentional refusal to consummate the marriage is probable grounds for an annulment. Catholic canon law defines a marriage as consummated when the "spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh."[2] Thus some theologians, such as Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., state that intercourse with contraception does not consummate a marriage.[3]

    Under section 12 of the English Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a refusal or inability to consummate a marriage can be grounds for the marriage to be voided.[4]

  •  teacherken: make podcasts or YouTubes? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We could all be your students. . .  .

    I think teacherken on YouTube would be great...especially a segment on this week.

    •  I spent 20+ minutes on radio yesterday (0+ / 0-)

      with Coy Barefoot in Charlottesville.  Unfortunately his new station is not yet set up for podcasts.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 10:33:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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