Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1st post of 2nd semester--Gerrymandering!

Welcome to our very first Silvy's AP Government Blog post of 2nd semester! As we've been talking about in class for the past couple of days, the topic of this discussion will be Congressional Redistricting and, in particular, Gerrymandering. (Sorry again that the online Redistricting Game didn't work out for us, but what I'm giving you to read and watch should still give you a great sense of how IMPORTANT, how CONTROVERSIAL, and yet how UNDERAPPRECIATED this issue is!

First of all, click here to go that New Yorker article by Jeffrey Toobin about "The Great Election Grab" that followed the 2000 census. Many of you were able to read this article in class this week, but if you need to, look over it again and then consider these questions:
  • Why does Toobin describe the Supreme Court decision of Baker v. Carr as well as the Voting Rights Act as "classic demonstration[s] of the law of unintended consequences?" Do you agree with this analysis? Why/why not?
  • According to Toobin, why has gerrymandering led to House members of both parties becoming more extreme and less moderate, less willing to work with members of the other party? Do you agree with this analysis? Why/why not?
  • I realize you may not have all the context and background when it comes to the legal rationale and opinions on this issue, but based at least on this article and what we've talked about in class, do you think that this type of gerrymandering is indeed unconstitutional and should the Supreme Court do something about it? Why/why not?
Next, I have a documentary film for you to watch, called simply "Gerrymandering," which does a great job of explaining the history of gerrymandering, how it's been used to the advantage and disadvantage of both parties, some of the reasons why it's done and some of the unintended consequences. The film is a little over an hour long, so if you're not able to watch the entire thing in one sitting that's fine; you can watch one segment, then come back at another time to watch the next segments, etc.  Click here to watch the film, then consider these questions:
  • What are some things mentioned in the film that connect with concepts or issues we've discussed in class?
  • What were 1-2 things mentioned in the film that struck you as the most surprising, most troubling, or simply stood out to you the most?
  • After watching the film, do you think the situation of gerrymandering in Congressional redistricting can and/or should be changed? If so, do you have any ideas about HOW it could be changed?
  • Please share any other thoughts, comments, or reactions to the film!
Remember, by the end of the day next Friday, March 9th, each of you must post TWO (2) comments to this blog. Your first comment should address the questions I've posed above as well as any other thoughts you may wish to express about the New Yorker article, the documentary film, or gerrymandering in general; the second comment should be your agreement or disagreement with a comment made by one of your classmates.  I encourage you to be as articulate and passionate as you can in expressing your opinions, but I also ask you to be respectful, especially when responding to your classmates--as I said at the start of the semester, I hope we can "disagree without being disagreeable." Have fun, good luck, and I look forward to reading your comments!

-Silvy :)