During the first week back at St. Columbkille we started off with a discussion about Women’s Empowerment. The lesson started off with asking the students who they recognized as prominent women’s rights activists. They named women such as Malala Yousafzai, Emma Watson, and Oprah. Our next question was to ask them what their definition of feminism would be and they all mentioned something about equality between the sexes, showing a great understanding of what feminism should be. They did mention the unfortunate connotation the word feminism has taken on and how it is now tied to some views that put women above men rather than as their equals.
Our next part of the lesson was to go over the different waves of feminism, something they had also been learning about in school. We started from the Seneca Falls Convention and moved up through the #metoo movement and discussed the Gillette Ad that had been presented earlier that week.
Something we spent a good amount of time on was the midterm elections and how there were more women in the House and the Senate than ever. This segued into a discussion on whether or not there should be quotas for how many women need to be in positions of power. The students had a range of opinions about this topic, raising concerns that it wouldn’t constitute equality if these quotas would technically exclude others from running based on gender.
We closed out the discussion for the day with how we could improve women’s rights in the United States and across the world. One student brought up the importance of diversity and representation as a foundation for improving these rights.
At our second meeting of 2019 at St. Columbkille, we discussed the recent government shutdown as well as the State of the Union speech. Students debated how they would resolve the shutdown crisis if they were in government. They recognized that border security funding has become a tough issue to tackle, but agreed that Congress should pass a funding bill for the government and put off a decision on border security in order to keep federal employees paid. The students were excited to deliberate other issues in the coming weeks, such as gun control, misinformation campaigns, DACA, and discrimination in law enforcement.
Our third week at St. Columbkille focused on fake news per the request of one of the students the week prior after our government shutdown discussion. The discussion started off with basic background information, introducing the students to the terms of fake media and alternative facts. Next, the discussion moved towards the CNN incident where their white house press pass got revoked and whether that was within the power of the government to do so. The students agreed that it was unfair for the white house to revoke the pass and brought up the idea of censorship in the media. Some of the students felt that there should be some level of censorship when it comes to the media so as not to endanger others. This also led to a debate on how long people needed to wait after tragedies and massive events to report on them. Some felt that anyone could post as soon as it happened to get the word out. Others felt that it should be larger news companies and that they needed to wait to get as much of the facts as they could. They wondered how much proof people needed before they could begin to form opinions on news stories and if video evidence was enough, especially in the case of the Covington High School boys and Nathan Phillips.
The second half of the discussion revolved around the role the internet plays in spreading fake news, mainly focusing on the Mueller investigation. The students debated on whether or not President Trump was responsible for the meddling since so many of those around him had already been found guilty. This also sparked the question of how to stop internet hackers from spreading fake news. The consensus was that with the advancement of technology there was not much laws could do--the people consuming the media are the ones to double check the truth. They finished off with the idea that there needed to be more diversity in newspapers to stop the spread of fake and biased news.
We look forward to exploring new topics in the remaining months of the academic year and we will keep you up to date!
Our first week back at Joyce Kilmer, we discussed democracy and the different types of democratic systems that exist around the world. We looked especially at direct and representative democracies and the differences and pros and cons of each. Many students were able to recognise the advantages and disadvantages of direct and indirect democracy before we had even discussed them as a class. For our activity, we applied what we had learned to our “island society.” The class was split into a number of groups and each group took the positions of different groups in society--teachers, farmers, religious, non-religious, etc. Each group had to discuss amongst one another which form of democracy, representative or direct, would be the most beneficial for their respective group. After a while, we came back as a whole and used a Speakers’ List for each to air their concerns and argue for their preferences. The students argued effectively for both systems and in the end, the class opted for a representative democracy.
For our second week, we continued on with our topic of democracy. This week we discussed four different styles of voting systems and the pros and cons of each. The four we discussed were: Plurality, Majority, Proportional, and Rank-Choice. After discussing the pros and cons of each, the students seemed particularly interested in rank-choice voting, given the advantage of fairness in the system. The following week, we reviewed the different systems and provided examples of interference in elections--Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, U.S. interference in other countries, and the issue of the 2018 election in Venezuela. The three topics discussed over the past three weeks culminated in an activity in which the students were divided into four groups and had to decide on three issues for their “district”: direct or indirect democracy, the type of voting system, and how to secure free and fair elections.
Volunteering this year has been off to a great start. At our partner school, Joyce Kilmer, we have continued to work in their civics class. On the first day, we introduced the students to the UN by showing them an introductory video and powerpoint and having them read an article about the French President Macron speaking at the UN. We then ran a debate on which sports should be in the Olympics, and more specifically whether E-sports should be added or not. They did not reach a conclusion, but it was a great debate.
The second week we talked about the Constitution. We started with a brief review of the American Revolution and its motives and moderated a debate where the students took the role of colonists. They debated whether to declare independence or not and ultimately decided to start a revolution when they realized it would be the most beneficial to the vast majority of the citizens. This set the stage for a discussion on the Articles of Confederation. After explaining why the Articles failed, we moved into the Constitution itself. To keep it high level, we explained the creation of the three branches of government, the Bill of Rights, and some further Amendments since. For our activity, we asked the students if they think any of the current Amendments should be changed, or if any new ones should be added. The one that ended up having the most discussion was the 24th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18. Some figured it should be lowered to 16, while some actually thought it should be raised to 21! It made for some friendly debate, and the students continued to discuss the matter even after class was over.
Continuing on with the topic of independence, we used a modern example of the Catalan independence movement for our third class with them. We introduced the conflict via a video, powerpoint, and article. The students were put into three groups: pro-independence, anti-independence, and neutral. Just like the week before, it was a lively debate that continued on even after it was time for the students to go to their next class.
Blog Post #2
Our leadership team has been working on some great things this summer. Our Content Team has been putting together creative videos and articles on topics such as Nuclear Proliferation, the 1973 Oil Embargo, and Space Treaties. They will be on our website soon so keep an eye out! We are also working on our financial aid application for EagleMUNC VII over the summer and are looking to have it available on the website by the beginning of the new school year. The team is also in the early planning stages of a fall mini-conference or MUN workshop - finding a suitable location for a workshop is at the top of our list. In addition, EGLI has established a growing relationship with the United Nations Association of Greater Boston and we are excited about potential collaborations in the next year - keep an eye out for EGLI at UNAGB's August expo! If you or your school are interested in working with us this year, please reach out! Here at EGLI, we are eagerly looking forward to this coming year.
Blog Post #1
On Thursday, we sent two volunteers to Joyce Kilmer Upper School, one of our partner schools, at which we teach an eighth grade Civics class. We discussed the current political and economic crisis in Venezuela. Although many of the students had not previously heard of the current situation, they quickly caught on to the factors which caused the breakdown of the Venezuelan economy and the crisis of President Nicolás Maduro’s leadership. We talked at length about the economic crisis created by former President Hugo Chávez’s massive social programs, which were funded by Venezuela’s oil revenue but deteriorated once the price of oil plummeted following the 2008 economic crisis. We ended the class with a discussion of the international community’s role in Venezuela. We posed the question of whether the United States or perhaps the United Nations could intervene to keep the peace in the country, and if that would even be possible given political limitations. However, it begs the question of what responsibility the rest of the world bears to step in when the people of a country are no longer rightfully represented by their government. And if we can get students thinking about those big-picture questions, that’s what this is all about.