Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's a Free Country...isn't it?

Last week a Cook County judge threw out convictions against 92 Occupy protesters in Chicago, saying the arrests were unconstitutional and that the police denied these citizens their First Amendment rights. The Chicago police had used a "curfew" standard as justification for the arrests, but the judge saw this as a smokescreen since the police routinely choose not to enforce curfew at other public gatherings, such as President Obama's 2008 victory celebration. Mayor Emmanuel called this an "apples to oranges" comparison, but where should the line be drawn, and does every person get an equal voice?   

According to Constitutional law expert Gregory Magarian, the government routinely "retains the power to limit the 'time, place, and manner' of expressive activity in public forums" but, "in practice, these limits [swallow] First Amendment rights whole." Where should the lines be drawn? When might the government reasonably restrict access to public property? What would our society lose without public space to air dissenting opinions?   

“The Occupy protests," according to Magarian, should lead us to take a hard look at how our legal system protects — or fails to protect — meaningful opportunities for political dissent.”

A final thought: the 99% figure in the poster above refers to non-millionnaires. While one percent of Americans are millionaires, an incredible 50% of Congress-men and -women are millionaires. Is this disparity worthy of protest? To what extent do the rules created by the rich favor the rich? For the purposes of this post, I want to limit that response to the First Amendment. Are attempts at limiting the Constitutionally protected rights of speech and assembly really a way of silencing the have-nots? Does everyone in our democracy have equal access to voice their opinions?   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An American Studies: CHICAGO

Beyond the big moments of our day in the city, what were some of the little things you noticed as we took an entire day to explore a different environment than your "normal" daily experiences? Think about the people we saw and heard, the buildings, the use of space, etc., and keep in mind that your own surroundings are just another type of construction...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wednesday's Field Trip

Check back here occasionally to see updates to our schedule and locations on the map below. We are leaving New Trier at 8:00 am and will return before 3:30 pm. Please don't forget to purchase your bus pass! And bring a cell phone and/or a camera (if possible).

View An American Journeys in a larger map

To view the full schedule please click above to access the Google interactive map page. Think about the theme of "place". Where do you live? Why do you live there?

  1. Osaka Garden
  2. Jitney at the Court Theatre:
  3. LUNCH (bring your own or ask us for plenty of suggestions)
  4. "Peripheral Views: States of America" at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

We Need Your Info :)

FYI: all of the information collected below will be shared ONLY with your two teachers.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Just Another Labor Day?

United States or Soviet?Image by Jo Peattie via Flickr
Although for most of us it seems like just another day off or an extended weekend, Labor Day is an excellent time to reflect on those men and women and children who came before us, helped build this country, and whose lives continue to reverberate in this new century.

Think about it in today's context. Even though today's economy is said to be in recovery, "the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent last month, and has been above 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch in the post-World War II era", according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Perhaps now, more than ever, it would be instructive to closely examine the nature of work in the USA. Toward that end, curators at The National Archives have designed some wonderful virtual exhibitions that pay tribute to American laborers and many others. 
From their website:

Imagine working in a coal mine.
Or in a steel mill.
Or at a telephone switchboard.

Work and workplaces have gone through enormous transformations between the mid 19th and late 20th centuries. You can view these changes through photographs held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

My own contribution was to download a video from their site, and make it into something new and (hopefully) more compelling. Although the original video was completely silent, I changed the work by simply adding a soundtrack. This video now features a soundtrack by Boards of Canada, an electronic duo from Scotland.

Hopefully you'll understand this "secret" message: don't hesitate to respond to media that is usually intended to be one-way. The internet and computer technology has made it possible for anyone to become a creator and to "talk back" to media. "Work" such as this can be very fulfilling and meaningful. Hopefully, this small "labor of love" will encourage you to think about today as more than "Just Another Labor Day".

Lastly, since we are emphasizing media literacy as a key component of our curriculum, I wonder what messages you believe are being conveyed by the government that produced this video. Your comments are welcome and encouraged below.