This week, as the Supreme Court released its rulings on a variety of different issues, supporters of same-sex marriage were particularly anxious to hear an important piece of news: the Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8.
What is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?
The Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law that restricts federal marriage rights to opposite-sex couples. It was enacted on September 21, 1996 under the Clinton administration, though Clinton, among others who were involved in the law’s enactment, has since changed his position and advocated for its repeal.
The law’s exact wording on the issue of marriage is as follows:
“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” (Defense of Marriage Act)
Among others, these are the benefits that have been denied to same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act:
- Insurance benefits for government employees
- Social Security survivors’ benefits
- Immigration benefits
- Joint tax return benefits
What is Prop. 8?
Prop. 8, or California Proposition 8, is a ballot proposition passed in California’s November 2008 elections. Much like DOMA, it declares that only opposite-sex marriages may be recognized by the state of California. The proposition effectively overturns a California Supreme Court ruling released in May of 2008 that found marriage to be a fundamental constitutional right that should be granted to all couples. The timeline of same-sex marriage history in California is shown below:
Some information for students (from a fellow student) to keep you up to date with this complicated current affair.
There’s been a lot of talk going around about Edward Snowden and his disclosure of NSA information, but with the amount of commentary in the media, it’s difficult to figure out even some basic information. The purpose of this post is to answer some of the basic questions revolving around Snowden and the NSA.
Who is Edward Snowden?
Born on June 21, 1983 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Edward Joseph Snowden is soon to be thirty years old. He studied computing at Anne Arundel Community College, but illness left him unable to complete his coursework, leaving him without a high school diploma until the later completion of his GED. In 2011, he participated in an online program, working towards a Masters Degree with the University of Liverpool. Seven years earlier, in 2004, Snowden had enlisted in the US Army as a Special Forces recruit, but according to his own reports, was discharged four months later after breaking both his legs in a training accident.
Snowden’s former positions include (in the order he held them):
· Working for the NSA, he was a security guard for the Center for the Advanced Study of Language, a covert center.
· He worked for the CIA in IT Security.
· According to his own reports, the CIA placed Snowden in Geneva under diplomatic cover in 2007, where he oversaw network security.
· He reports leaving the CIA to work for a private contractor inside a US military base in Japan for the NSA.
· Until recently, Snowden held a position as a system administrator inside the NSA for consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii. He held this position for under three months and was fired on June 10th after his media disclosures.
What did Snowden disclose?
Through the disclosure of documents and an arranged meeting in Hong Kong with reporter Glen Greenwald, of The Guardian, and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, Snowden revealed the following pieces of information:
New Common Core Standards drop classic novels in favor of “informational texts.”
The US school system will undergo some big changes within the next two years, chiefly due to a decision to remove a good deal of classic novels from the curriculum, or so the recent media reports would have you think.
The idea behind discouraging or reducing the teaching of old favorites like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird is to make room for non-fiction “informational texts” in the curriculum. These should be approved by the Common Core Standards of each state. Suggested texts include, “Recommended Levels of Insulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council,” among others.
Mmmm, I just love me a good read on insulation levels while I soak in the tub.
So, the idea behind this is that children who pass through such a school system will be better prepared for the workplace, their brains packed with useful, practical knowledge rather than brimming with literary fluff (my personal summation). It has the backing of the National Governors’ Association, the Council of Chief of State School Officers, and even the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which partially funded the directive.
But is that estimate correct? Will reading more non-fiction in favor of fiction breed better writing, or more informed graduates? The discussion is extremely divided. One Arkansas teacher wrote in this Telegraph article,
In the end, education has to be about more than simply ensuring that kids can get a job. Isn’t it supposed to be about making well-rounded citizens?
Meanwhile, another reader weighed in for the pros of teaching more scientific texts:
I don’t understand how adding non-fiction books to reading lists REDUCES imagination. Hard science is all about imagination–the “what ifs” of nature and the universe… I am sick of English professors acting like English Literature is the only bastion of imagination/critical thinking/culture.
When I first read that article stating that The Catcher in the Rye and other novels specifically would be gone from curriculums nation-wide, I was alarmed and frightened, though I now know it was needlessly so. The reactions of protesters are a tad hyperbolic, given that the two soporific texts I named above are found amongst a long list of alternate suggestions in various subjects, for instance Circumference: Eratosthenes and the Ancient Quest to Measure the Globe by Nicholas Nicastro, and The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston, interesting and well-written books in their own right. English Literature classes will not be barred from teaching certain classic novels, as some of the reports would have you believe, though they may have more limited time to teach them than before. Yes, the school system will be changed and possibly not for the better, but Salinger and Lee aren’t going anywhere.
All in all, the arguments for both sides make overblown assumptions: on the one, that students will miraculously be better prepared for the job market, on the other, that all imagination and creativity will be drained from impressionable young adults. So, which side do you stand on, if either? Is the teaching of informational texts merited, or best left to vocational studies? Tell us in a comment below!