Persuasive Essay Draft

** Please note that this draft does not contain citations for the sources I used. I will add them in before the final draft is due. Thanks

Mark S. Ryan

CAS 138T

John Minbiole

27 March 2013

True Fairness *DRAFT

            One of the primary purposes of government, above simply protecting it’s citizens, is to fairly reallocate resources among it’s citizens to promote the general welfare of the state. The idea of a welfare state in politics is a relatively new one spawning from Europe in the late 19th century. Before welfare policies, the role of government was to simply ensure the safety of its citizens, but today, the role of government has expanded far beyond that. Today’s governments are charged with many duties, from providing public goods such as roads, to ensuring financially stable retirements through social security programs. At the national level of the United States government, we generally perceive the reallocation of resources in the form of money and taxes. Taxes are taken from American citizens and used to pay for such welfare programs, which usually makes the country as a whole better off. One could not justify the government taking resources, namely wealth, from an individual if it did not promote the general welfare of the entire country.

The key issue our political realm deals with on a day-to-day basis is the concept of “fairness”. Politicians argue over if it is fair to take a certain resources from one party and give it to another. However, many, if not all, politicians would agree that it is not fair to reallocate a resource based on arbitrary factors. The government would not give tax breaks to people who have black hair over blonde, nor would the government tax people who wear dark clothing and not white. These principles hold steadfast when we talk about the resource of money. But we seem to abandon these values when it comes to the resource of education.

Like money, secondary education is a resource in this country that can be defined as scarce. A college education costs money, and some people are denied the opportunity to receive a college education simply because there are more people seeking educations than there are positions at educational institutions. Because of this, colleges and universities across the country have created a process which all high school graduate and college hopeful teenager fears: admissions. Throughout American history, the college admissions process has been largely left to the specific college’s will. A college can admit whomever they wish based on whatever criteria they want. It is common today that a large factor in the admissions process is a students merits and achievements. The government does play a role in college admissions when it comes to the race of applicants. The federal government does not allow schools to racially discriminate in its admissions process, based on the 14th amendment and anti-discrimination acts. However, as upheld in several Supreme Court cases, the federal government does allow schools to allocate their open positions to students while using race as a factor. This is a glaring contradiction in policy dealing with college admissions, and brings up the question of “fairness” once again. But if it is already established that it is not fair to give tax breaks based on hair color, then how is it fair to allocate education based on skin color? Affirmative action is processes that is unconstitutional and perpetuates racial stereotypes rather than eliminate them.

To discuss the constitutionality of affirmative action, we must look at the Supreme Court case that gave universities and colleges the federal stamp of approval to use race as a factor in admissions. Grutter v. Bollinger is the most recent completed Supreme Court case that deals with affirmative action in admissions and was certain to have an influential impact no matter the outcome. The case came about when the law school admissions process at University of Michigan was challenged. The system at the time was like many admissions systems then and now. It gave the most weight to conventional merit-based factors in admissions such as GPA, LSAT scores, leadership achievements, etc. However, it did give some weight to other factors, including race. The admissions use of race as a factor was challenged and upheld by a vote of 5-4 in the Supreme Court.

The case was not at all clear-cut. It is obvious that schools cannot use race as a factor of admissions arbitrarily, for that would be a clear violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. The justification for using race as a factor in admissions, as written by the majority opinion of the Court in this court case, says that a high level of diversity “has the potential to enrich everyone’s education and thus make a law school class stronger than the sum of its parts”. This may seem like a valid and logical argument, but it contains one fatal flaw in its logic. The Court says that diversity in an education environment may make the education stronger, which may be true, but it relies on the fundamental assumption that diversity is directly linked to race. This reasoning assumes that if everyone in a classroom has a different skin color, then the room is more diverse. This may be true in some cases, but it certainly could false in some instances as well. In fact, for the court to reason that skin color equates to ethnic and cultural diversity only perpetuates the racist ideal that people of different skin color should be treated differently. There are two scenarios that exist in our country that counter this logic: First is the case when there are two people of different skin color that have had the same cultural upbringing and therefore do not promote educational diversity when put in the same setting. The other instance is when we have two people of the same skin color that have been raised in different ethnic and cultural environments that would in fact promote diversity when put together in an educational environment.  Both of these situations show that the promotion of racial diversity is found on flawed, and racist logic.

Another aspect of the majority opinion of the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger is the concept of a “critical mass”. The law school stated in their defense of affirmative action:

“racial and ethnic diversity with special reference to the inclusion of students from groups which have been historically discriminated against, like African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, who without this commitment might not be represented in our student body in meaningful numbers.”

The school continued to argue that it is necessary to have a “critical mass” of each racial group enrolled in the school. This is defined as a group of racially similar students that is big enough to ensure that a member of that racial group feels comfortable in expression their opinion without feeling like a miniscule minority, or feel as though their opinion is supposed to represent their race. The Court said that a “critical mass” is constitution because it “ensure[s] their [individual student’s] ability to make unique contributions to the character of the Law School”.

Again, this reasoning by the court lacks in sound logic and is based on fundamental racist assumptions. First, the Court and the school assume that if a race is underrepresented in the educational setting, then individuals within that race with withhold their opinions. This assumption is flawed in that it is based on the reasoning that individuals will segregate into their own racial groups, and thus will only be comfortable expressing their opinion to those of their own race. To generalize the acts of an individual and to argue that an individual needs to have racial affirmation to express his/her own opinion is itself a racist argument. It also brings up another inherent flaw in that the Court implies that members of the same racial group have similar opinions about all issues. This sweeping generalization is the backbone of the “critical mass” argument and is obviously flawed logically and racially.

We need, as a society, to stop focusing on racial groupings and stereotypes, and focus on the individual. When a prospective student applies to a college, he/she is not applying as a group, rather as an individual. Why should we treat students as members of their racial group if they are applying to the college as an individual? This issue goes beyond the manmade rules of the constitution and at its core is a matter of morality and racism. If we look at the defense of affirmative action from a moral scope, we find several faults as well. By assuming that people of different races in an educational have different opinions and will create a “whole” that is more diverse, we only promote the idea that people of different races are inherently different. The current affirmative action policy, while intended to include “students from groups which have been historically discriminated against,” only promotes the same racist thinking found in the same American history the school is trying to “fix”. How can we create a society in which all races are equal if the government and schools make distinctions between races and treat some races differently? In order for our society to reach true racial equality, we must be a society that is blind to skin color.

Proponents of affirmative action in college admissions say that schools need a “critical mass” of each race in order for that race’s opinion to be represented. But doesn’t this just promote segregation? If an individual cannot express an opinion without peers of his/her own race, then wouldn’t all of the educational setting be comprised of strict racial groups? Our ultimate goal of racial equality in the educational setting should not be to have “racial opinions” represented, but to have the opinions of individuals represented regardless of race. A true diverse educational setting would be one that has a singular body comprised of individuals with diverse opinions. The current standard promotes an educational setting comprised of segregated groups with similar opinions. Our goal should be a society that does not make these unethical racial distinctions and treats everyone as an individual, not a skin color. The practice of creating a “critical mass” is based on immoral racist ideals that only perpetuate the problem it is intended to fix.

Perhaps the most prominent argument against the ethics of affirmative action is the argument pertaining to the daunting term, “fairness”. The current policies allow schools to put preferences for their allocation their educational resources to some racial groups over others. More bluntly, schools can lower admissions standards for racial minorities and raise the standards for whites. It is argued that minority races have been disadvantaged in the past and thus deserve a “boost” over whites to get into college. This reasoning is outdated and overtly racist. The question should be raised as to whether or not a lower standard in admissions for minorities is a “boost”. Help to overcome a disadvantage should not come in the form of a lower standard. This policy only harms. If the goal is to put every race on the same level of advantage in the educational setting, then policies should be enacted to help the disadvantaged become advantaged. Instead, the current policy discriminates and lowers standards to minority races at the expense of whites, for the standards of whites must be raised to counter the policy. This fundamentally is creating a disadvantage for one race while giving advances to others, the inherent principle behind all of racism. Affirmative action immorally gives preference for opportunity to students based on the color of their skin, contradicting what our country has established as fair and ethical.

Many people were not satisfied with the ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger just a decade ago and have since challenged its ruling. A new case has been brought to the Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas, which challenges the same unconstitutional and immoral practices allowed by the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger. If the Court were to overturn its decision from a decade ago, our society would make another stride toward creating a racially equal society. Barriers between races could be torn down, people would not be defined in any way by the color of their skin, and true diversity in the educational setting can be achieved.

The practice of affirmative action judges individuals based on the color of their skin and the stereotypes that are associated with racial groups. The overturning of such policies would judge people based on their individual actions, values, morals, achievements, and cultural perspective without assumptions about the person based on the color of their skin. Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This country is ready to take skin color out of the college admissions process and transform racial stereotypes to individual beliefs, discrimination into equality, and dreams into reality.

 

Olympus is Falling….All the way down….

This past week I had the pleasure of seeing the new film, “Olympus has Fallen”. My hope is that after this post, I would have spared you from the pleasure of ever seeing it in your lifetime. It was poor on so many levels, I do not know where to start.

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Pros: The cinematography of the film was actually quite good. The camera angles in the action scenes added suspense to the film, which was complimented by a good score. Other than that, I cannot say much good about the movie.

Cons: The story is so unrealistic, it ruined everything. EVERYTHING. The premise of the movie is that North Koreans attack and eventually take over the White House (aka Olympus). It is up to one former secret service agent to stop them. (Die Hard anyone?) What got me was the North Koreans plan to take over the White house. Step one: Fly a plane over it and distract everyone. Step two. Drive up and shoot everyone. Step three. Walk in. It was so hilariously stupid. ONE. Planes cannot fly even remotely close to the White House. After 9/11 the restricted airspace around D.C. goes for miles. Any plane with a heading toward the white house would be shot down before even getting within a mile of it. TWO. There are so many federal agents in D.C. its scary. I can promise you that if you are at the gates of the White House, you are in the sights of at least two dozen rooftop snipers and many more undercover field agents. Nobody could traverse the White House lawn. THREE. In the event that the White House was compromised, the Pentagon could easily stop anyone from getting into the computer system.

The plot was completely laughable and not even remotely entertaining. This is a movie you should avoid. It can best be described as a crappy Die Hard without Bruce Willis and with a plot that is 200x more unbelievable. Even Morgan Freeman couldn’t resurrect this film.

Grade: D+

Verdict. DO NOT SEE. WATCH ANYTHING ELSE.

Civics Issues 3

I have spoken a lot about the core of the issue of affirmative action in the workplace and the college admissions process. There are a lot of sides to this issue, and a lot of moral and legal questions that surround it. These questions have boiled up to another Supreme Court case today that is awaiting a ruling: Fisher v. University of Texas. This is a tricky case that will certainly have an impact no matter the ruling on all college admissions processes. Here are the details on the case:

Background:

Abigail Fisher, a Texas native, filed a law suit in 2008 against the University of Texas at Austin. She was denied admission to the school and claims to have been denied the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. She claims that because of her race, she was denied admission into the school. This claim is very hard to prove, but Fisher has a good case. At University of Texas, there is a program which requires the automatic acceptance of students who went to high schools in the state of Texas and who graduated in the top ten percent of their graduating class. If Fisher was in the top ten percent of her class, she would have been accepted automatically. However, she was in the top TWELVE percent of her class. Very close, but failing to make this cutoff means she is subjected to many factors of the regular admissions process such as merit, grades, service acts, and of course, race. Fisher had good grades (Barely missing the cutoff for automatic acceptance), had a good resume, and her SAT scores were right in the median range of scores for accepted applicants at the University. It seems like, even though she didn’t make the cutoff, that she should have been admitted for she fit all the criteria for the admissions process. She was denied and has pointed to the only factor in admissions that gave her a disadvantage: her race.

UNIVERSITY ARGUMENT

The University argues that their admissions process is fair based on the previous ruling of Grutter v. Bollinger. This ruling simply states that schools are not allowed to set quotas for each race in admittance, but can admit a “critical mass” of a certain race. This critical mass is defined as a large enough number of a certain racial group in the college that would allow individuals within the racial group to feel as though they are not alienated. In essence, schools can predetermine how many people of each race they want to admit, but can put preference on a certain race in admissions if they feel they have not reached a such critical mass. To many, a critical mass is just another name for a quota, but proponents of the critical mass theory say that with a critical mass, individual achievement still remains a constant factor of admissions throughout the whole process while quotas may simply focus on race.

FISHER ARGUMENT

Fisher’s lawyers are arguing that the critical mass theory is bogus and is just backward logic to define what is actually a race quota. They also argue that by putting preference on someone in admissions based on their race, schools are not affording each person equal protection under the law. It seems as though Fisher’s side is making an argument saying that the current law in not fair and unconstitutional while the University is saying that they are just following the rules set by the previous court’s ruling. In the oral arguments, it was said that the Justices wished to hear more from the University’s side that justify using affirmative action, but found the University’s answers lacking.

Potential Rulings

Full Fisher: The court will overrule the Grutter v. Bollinger case and will make affirmative action unconstitutional in the college admissions process. Schools will have to use other factors to determine how diverse a student can make the University other than race.

Full University of Texas: The court will rule that the current Affirmative Action policies are constitutional and that schools may continue using race as a factor of admission. This would say that Affirmative Action is not against the 14th Amendment.

No Standing ruling: The court may also dismiss the case. Before they can rule on the constitutionality of the issue, they must determine if Fisher has standing in the case. This means that Fisher must prove that she is directly effected by the actions she is accusing the University of. That is, she must prove that race was the only factor that denied her entry into the school. This case has passed through the lower courts without this ruling, but experts say it is still possible, and would essentially be a victory for the University because affirmative action policies would not change.

Please let me know how YOU think the court should rule. The last blog will talk about the potential impacts of the ruling of this case and how affirmative action (or lack thereof) will effect college admissions in the future.

 

HuffingtonPost

NYTimes

Wikipedia

Utexas.edu

 

WIP8

For my essay, I believe that I am going to argue against the use of race as a determining factor in college admissions. Simply put, I don’t think that colleges should even care about the color of your skin and should take the colorblind approach. Instead of a 5 paragraph essay here, it would benefit me more to construct an outline with my thoughts on what I would put on each section. I welcome comments and suggestions. Thanks.

 

Intro: Here I want to start off with a captivating hook. Its important to build ethos right in the beginning of the essay which I plan on doing by talking about my recent experience in the college application process. After the anecdote about my experience, I will state my thesis and introduce the current supreme court case that could change the current policy on this issue.

Body1: I will introduce the facts of this issue by talking about the court case. I can talk about both positions in the case as a means of introducing facts of the issue. This will require extensive research.

Body2: Here I would like to talk about why people should agree with me. Here I can use the Constitution as a tool of ethos and logos to present my point. This would be considered my confirmation.

Body3: I plan to refute the points of the opposing argument. I definitely need to do research, but I think it would be good to start a moral argument. Questioning the morality of admitting a student because of race would be a good idea here.

Body4: I Think It would be smart here to introduce a new side of this issue. It could possibly be another counter argument or a bigger picture kind of thing. “It doesn’t only effect individuals applying to colleges, but it effects the entire labor market as a whole”…

Conclusion: Sum it all up, add some nice pathos and logos, end with a strong closing sentence.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Alright so this week I decided to make a list of the top five movies with Leonardo DiCaprio. He is one of my favorite actors, and I think its sad that he has never received an Oscar for any of his performances. Just from his looks alone he deserves one. (Many people argue that he is past his physical prime and that he is most attractive in his older movies, but I would say he’s still got it.) I would just like to note that this list is not purely based on the quality of the movies, but rather the quality of Leo’s acting in each movie. SPOILER ALERT: Titanic is NOT #1.

 

5.      Inception

Hopefully this is a film we have all seen before. This is one of my favorite movies that Leo is in, however, not my favorite performance by him. Much of the movie is about his struggle to cope with loss of his wife, the exile from his family, and the pressures of his high-stakes job. I think the directing and editing helps exaggerate his story and builds sympathy for his character, but I also think his acting could be a little deeper.

 

4.     The Departed

This is a fantastic movie and you should definitely watch it if you haven’t. In this film, Leo has to act as a character with a dangerous double life and bounce between the law and the Irish mob. He portrays this struggle well and the audience is able to feel the emotions of his character. Add Jack Nicholson as the antagonist and you have a winning movie.

 

3.     Blood Diamond

This is very intense thriller film that keeps you on edge for its entire duration. In this one, Leo plays a diamond trafficker in Africa and works for gangs in the trade of blood diamonds. Leo has the internal struggle between what is right and wrong, or if there even is a right or wrong. Leo is a great actor when it comes to emotions and is very good at letting the reader understand his character’s struggles through his actions. Great film and great performance by DiCaprio.

 

2.     Titanic

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I mean, its Titanic. You really don’t have to say much more about it. I don’t care if you call it a chick flick or not, its just a fantastic movie. The love story is classic and the plot, though tragic, is very emotional. I wouldn’t cast anyone else for the movie besides DiCaprio. Its always a good time to watch this movie.

 

1.      The Aviator

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I’ll start off by saying that this film is VERY long and has many slow and dry parts in the middle of it. If you have a short attention span, this will be a struggle to watch. DiCaprio plays film director and American aviator, Howard Hughes. It is a very interesting, and apparently realistic, account of Hughes’ life including his struggle with OCD. Not only is Hughes’ life filled with emotional struggles from his parents’ death, multiple female partner failures, and constant pressure and stress, he also has to deal with OCD and intense constant physical pain. This is a hard feat for any actor and Leo does it PERFECTLY. Throughout the entire movie, I felt like I actually was a part of Hughes’ life and felt the pain he felt. The only shining star of the movie is Leo’s acting and he certainly deserved Best Actor for this one. Best performance by DiCaprio by far.

 

Honorable mention: Catch me if you Can   Shutter Island    Gangs of New York

Silver Linings Playbook

This week I decided to talk about an underrated movie that came out a little while ago, but seems to be getting more attention now. I just watched the film, Silver Linings Playbook, and I have to say I am impressed. I do not know how this movie slipped under the radar of so many people, but I am glad it is being brought to justice now.

 

 

I’ll start off by saying that, based on the ads I had seen for this movie, I thought I was going to be seeing a chick flick. I was wrong. This movie is one that is hard to put in any one genre of film. To me, it was mostly a drama with elements of both the melodrama and comedy genres as well. I won’t spoil the plotline, but the movie is about a man named Pat (Bradley Cooper) who is struggling with a mental illness and a hard divorce all at the same time. His entire life went down the drain and he has to struggle with the feelings of wanting get his old life back, while knowing he needs to let everything go and start a new life.

 

The performances by both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are fantastic.  Both have to play parts of people who are struggling with a mental illness (which I would imagine is not an easy role to act out) and both do a great job. Their acting draws the audience in and makes the audience really care about both characters. Another hidden gem in this movie is the performance by Robert Di Nero. He has a supporting role, but it is impossible to overlook his acting in this film. If you are like me and love anything Di Nero, you need to see this movie.

 

Overall this was a thought provoking film with a unique and interesting plot line performed by great actors.

 

 

Grade: A-

 

Verdict: They kept it in theaters longer because it took a while to get recognition. Its still in theaters now and you HAVE to see it. Looking for a good new movie to see? This is it.

WIP7

Proposal for persuasive essay:

My civics issues blog has been about Affirmative Action in the workplace and in college admissions. This is an issue I feel pretty strongly about and I am firmly against Affirmative Action, especially in the college admissions area. The whole topic of Affirmative Action is broad and I think it would be good for me to narrow it down to just talking about college admissions. It is my belief that schools should not consider race as a factor of college admissions. Schools rationalize using race in admissions because they believe people with different skin colors come from different cultures and will produce a culturally diverse educational environment. It is my belief that racial diversity does not equate to cultural diversity. I plan on writing a persuasive essay that persuades people that affirmative action is unconstitutional and unethical in college admissions and that the college admissions process need be reformed to not consider race as a factor of admissions. There is a lot of viewpoints on this topic and I feel it is a substantial base to write this paper on.