Friday, January 16, 2015

There is Then Creative Reading as well as Creative Writing

"Our age is bewailed as the age of Introversion. Must that needs be evil? We, it seems, are critical; we are embarrassed with second thoughts; we cannot enjoy any thing for hankering to know whereof the pleasure consists; we are lined with eyes; we see with our feet; the time is infected with Hamlet's unhappiness, — 
"Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."
Is it so bad then? Sight is the last thing to be pitied. Would we be blind? Do we fear lest we should outsee nature and God, and drink truth dry? I look upon the discontent of the literary class, as a mere announcement of the fact, that they find themselves not in the state of mind of their fathers, and regret the coming state as untried; as a boy dreads the water before he has learned that he can swim. If there is any period one would desire to be born in, — is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side, and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old, can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."
Emerson, Ralph. "The American Scholar" In Nature; Addresses and Lectures. 1849. Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. (accessed January 11, 2015)

Emerson gave this speech on his Trancendentalistic ideal for America to the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837. American society at the time had been stuck in European ideas even though the country had been independent for a while it was difficult for citizens to figure out what defines America. The country isn't moving forward because everyone is hung up on the great things of the past and tries, instead of using them as inspiration, to recreate something which has already been done. Emerson also recognizes the growing separations between people in the United States, he believes that if each person can focus on their self and find their power they would be able to connect to each other. Everyone is a part of the whole but each piece needs to trust itself in order to work together. 

It's pretty long and complex but it's really worth reading the whole thing The American Scholar

Power (to the People) Point

Andrew Jackson's actions as president of the United States are not looked back on fondly by many people today. Yet he's the face of our most popular dollar bill and praised by Americans today. He may have made some pretty bad decisions and caused a lot of problems in the long run, but his time in office was a time when democracy was still finding its way in American government. The essential question of this lesson was, Is Andrew Jackson's long-standing reputation as "the people's president" deserved? Why? Why not? 

Watching videos from TED Ed and Crash Course provided general information and then we split into groups to focus on one of the main aspects of Jackson's rule. The first group focused on the worst thing Jackson did during his tenure, the Indian Removal. He forced five tribes to move off their own land and go somewhere they knew nothing about. Jackson claimed it was beneficial for them to relocate far away from white settlements so the groups would no longer have conflicts.The natives of course argued that they had a right to live on their land and had fought on America's side before, it wasn't fair to make them move to an unknown area that they had no resources in.  Jackson however keeps going with his plan and tells congress it must be voluntary, acting as though he knows what is best for the natives and those savages don't know what they're talking about. A lot has changed since then, like the definition of "voluntary" apparently, because pretty soon military force was used to put the natives in concentration camps and then on a winter death march known as the "Trail of Tears".

The next group explained his implementation of "The Spoils System", a tactic in which the leader removes government workers and replaces the position with their own supporters as a reward for their loyalty. Jackson fired 919 people and employed his allies, bribing them with positions of power in exchange for their help. This scheme valued loyalty over competence and ability. Jackson claimed the rotation in employment would spark stimulating ideas from these freshly motivated workers. It worked out really well, especially when he put a longtime supporter, Samuel Swartwout in charge of collecting from the Port of New York's, one of the most valuable in the country. Swartwout ended up stealing $1,222,705.09 from the country, unsurprisingly enough seeing how Jackson had ignored his known proclivity towards criminal activities and warnings that he was making a bad decision from other political leaders, such as Van Buren. 

He also worked to destroy the federal banks in America in "The Bank War"

It may have largely contributed to causing the worst financial crisis in US history and left in it's aftermath, a horrible economic depression, but the motivation behind it was, on paper, in the best interest of the average American citizen. Everything Andrew Jackson did was really an appeal to the wishes of a common man in the country. He was for the people, giving them more of a voice through his position of power. Well, he was for the people who could vote, but if you weren't white and male did you really count as a person back then? He planned genocide of the natives as a way to make sure they didn't take resources and land from the white settlements nearby, He gave jobs to the people, (who helped him); is anything more democratic than literally giving the average man a position of power?  He even collapsed the economy in an attempt to return power over monetary relations back to US citizens and give small businesses more control of the market. His actions didn't really accomplish things in a positive way but he did expand democracy and tried to serve the demands of regular people.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Rise of Democracy

Democracy in the early 1800s was different from how we picture the meaning of that word today. We analyzed documents, art, and charts about democracy's growth in America and drew conclusions about what the information told us about American democracy in the early 1800s. Through it we learned that democracy has negative aspects and isn't always as fair as it sounds. We also saw how voting was not anything like we think of it today, there was much less security and a lot more chaos. The qualifications for the right to vote were very different and they've changed through the years.

This is the poster my group made defining Democracy and how it was used in 1800s America.

Democracy : a system of government where the power is vested in the people or through freely elected representatives

Art Source
Art Guide
Voting Chart 1
Voting Chart 2

Quotes on Poster (if hard to see)

Top Right Corner Quote:
"Today a man owns a jackass worth fifty dollars and he is entitled to vote; but 
before the next election the jackass dies.  The man in the meantime has 
become more experienced, his knowledge of the principles of government, 
and his acquaintance with mankind are more extensive, and he is therefore 
better qualified to make a proper selection of rulers – but the jackass is dead 
and the man cannot vote.  Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the 
right of suffrage?  In the man or in the jackass?"

-Benjamin Franklin, The Casket, or Flowers of Literature, Wit and Sentiment (1828)

Above Red Information Box:

"The attempt to govern men without seeking their consent is usurpation and 
tyranny, whether in Ohio or in Austria...I was looking the other day...into Noah 
Webster's Dictionary for the meaning of democracy, and I found as I expected 
that he defines a democrat to be "one who favors universal suffrage."

­ Norton Townshend, Ohio Constitutional Convention, 1850 

(Note:  Ohio became a state in 1803)

The Dorr War