Research Links & Critical-Thinking Questions – October 2017

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: War in Afghanistan

Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Report to Congress

CIA World Factbook on Afghanistan

Brookings Institute Article, “America’s Afghanistan Problem”

Heritage Foundation Commentary, “Trump Lays Out Winning Strategy for Afghanistan”


Issue 2: Surveillance Law

Letter from Attorney Gen. Sessions Urging Congress to Reauthorize FISA Section 702 

Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board 2014 Report on FISA Surveillance Program 

Center for Democracy & Technology, “Section 702: What It Is & How It Works” 

April 28, 2017, Statement from NSA on Stopping of Certain Section 702 Activities

Sen. Rand Paul’s Call for Amendment to End Warrantless Searches of U.S. Citizens 

CQ Online Article, “Congress Braces for Tense Debate on Surveillance Law” 

 

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: War in Afghanistan

  1. Do you support continuing to have a military presence in Afghanistan? Why or why not?
  2. Read President Trump’s remarks on his strategy for Afghanistan (see link above). Why do you think he chose not to give specifics such as how many troops he will send or state an estimated withdrawal date? Do you agree or disagree with this strategy?
  3. Read the Heritage Foundation commentary (see link above). Do you agree with the author’s reasoning? Why or why not?
  4. Compare and contrast the pro/con congressional quotes on p. 3 of the newsletter. Whose opinion do you agree with most on this issue, and why?
  5. Why do you think President Trump changed his mind on sending more troops to Afghanistan, despite earlier criticizing President Obama for doing so when he was in office?

Issue 2: Surveillance Law

  1. Read the NSA’s April 28, 2017, statement announcing it will no longer include “about” communications in its intelligence gathering activities. Does this assuage any concerns you may have? Why or why not?
  2. Does FISA Section 702 need to be amended to strengthen protections of Americans’ constitutional and privacy rights? Or should Congress permanently reauthorize it as is? Justify and defend your position.
  3. Why do you think some legislators are concerned about the potential for abuse of power among employees and/or contractors of the NSA, FBI and/or CIA?
  4. Read Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Sept. 7, 2017, letter to Congress (see link above). Do you agree with his reasoning? Why or why not?
  5. Carefully read the wording of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Are Americans’ constitutional rights being violated under the NSA’s current interpretation of FISA Section 702? Why or why not?

Research Links & Critical-Thinking Questions – September 2017

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Dreamer Immigrants

Dream Act of 2017 Summary

Side by Side Comparison of the 2010 and 2017 Dream Acts, and DACA

New York Times’ Collection of Dreamers’ Stories

“Why I oppose the DREAM Act” Editorial

“The Dream Is Now” Documentary Video by Organizing for Action 


Issue 2: Civil Asset Forfeiture

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Statement (July 19, 2017)

Summary of Report on the DOJ’s Cash Seizure & Forfeiture Activities

FOX News Article, “Sessions opens door for police to seize assets”

Washington Post Column by George Will, “When Government Is the Looter”

“Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” Report

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Civil Asset Abuse

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Dreamer Immigrants

  1. Who are the Dreamers and why are they called Dreamers? If you were in their situation, would you keep your status private at school? Why or why not?
  2. View goo.gl/msmk7t to view a map of state laws on access to higher education for undocumented immigrants. Find your state and read its policies. Do you feel these policies are fair, unfair or just right?
  3. Read the “Why I Oppose the DREAM Act” editorial (see link above). Do you agree or disagree with this stance? List your arguments and defend your positions.
  4. Watch “The Dream Is Now” video (see link above). Compare and contrast your own dreams and the dreams described by the young people in the video. What are the similarities and differences?
  5. Read the Dream Act of 2017 summary (see link above). If you were a member of Congress, would you vote yay or nay on this legislation? Why?

Issue 2: Civil Asset Forfeiture

  1. Civil asset forfeiture is one of the few bipartisan issues on which right-leaning Republicans and left-leaning Democrats agree. Why do you think this is so?
  2. In your opinion, does civil asset forfeiture violate citizens’ constitutional rights? Why or why not?
  3. Read the summary of the DOJ report (see link above). Do the findings challenge or support your position on civil asset forfeiture?
  4. Read Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement on July 19, 2017 (see link above). Do you agree with his reasoning? Why or why not?
  5. According to the Fifth Amendment, “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Why do some people see civil asset forfeiture as a violation of the “due process” clause?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for May 2017 Issues

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience.

Issue 1: Syrian Missile Strikes

Statement by President Trump on Syria

Bernie Sanders’ Opposition to Missile Strikes

Visual Guide to Missile Strikes on Syrian Airbase

Heritage Foundation on Missile Strikes Video

Brookings Institute Pros & Cons to Missile Strikes

Issue 2: Minimum Wage

U.S. Department of Labor – Minimum Wages by State

Raise the Minimum Wage

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Article

National Women’s Law Center on Minimum Wage

CNBC Article on Universal Basic Income

Congressional Budget Office Report

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions.

Issue 1: Syrian Missile Strikes

  1. Please read the pro and con arguments in the Brookings Institute article (link above). Which side do you agree most with, and why?
  2. Will military intervention solve the Syrian conflict? Why or why not?
  3. Does the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians justify the U.S. missile strikes?
  4. What could potentially go wrong as a result of the U.S. missile strikes on the Syrian airbase? What could go right?
  5. Should the U.S. intervene in Middle East controversies such as the Syrian Civil War? Where should we draw the line?

Issue 2: Minimum Wage

  1. Using the U.S. Department of Labor link above, see if your state has a minimum wage law. How does your state compare to other states? Do you think it should be higher or lower than it is?
  2. How does the minimum wage issue relate to income, gender and race inequality?
  3. Please read the CNBC article (link above). Should the U.S. should establish a “universal basic income?” Why or why not?
  4. If you worked at a job that paid the current minimum wage of $7.25, you would work one hour and receive about enough money to pay for a fast food combo meal. Is that fair?
  5. Do you think that if the minimum wage was raised, it would ultimately help or hurt workers?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for April 2017 Issues

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience.

Issue 1: Food Stamps & Junk Food

USDA on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Report (Nov. 2016)

American Enterprise Institute

Cato Institute 

New York Times Article

Issue 2: Travel Ban

President Trump’s Travel Ban Executive Order (3/6/17)

White House Memorandum on Trump’s Executive Order (3/6/17)

Hawaii Judge’s Ruling on Trump’s Revised Travel Ban (3/15/17)

Factcheck.org Facts on Immigration Order

Constitution Center Blog

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions.

Issue 1: Food Stamps

  1. Why do you think “food-insecure” (low-income) Americans spend more on sweetened beverages than people who make enough money?
  2. USDA requires able-bodied adults with no children to work or attend job training for at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps. Is this fair, too strict or not enough? Explain why.
  3. One in six people is food insecure while two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. How do these two trends relate to each other? Is there a cause-and-effect relationship?
  4. Since the “N” in SNAP stands for nutrition, is the food stamps program failing its purpose?
  5. Where should the line be drawn between healthy and non-healthy foods? How do you define “healthy” and “non-healthy?

Issue 2: Travel Ban

  1. Read Trump’s executive order and decide whether it is good public policy. Will it help or hurt the nation’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks?
  2. If Trump’s justification for his executive order was to prevent another 9/11 attack, why wasn’t Saudi Arabia in the list? Can you think of any reasons?
  3. Does the executive order comply with the First Amendment right of religious freedom for Muslims who seek to come to the U.S.?
  4. One of the main purposes of the judicial branch (the courts) is to interpret the Constitution. Why do you think judges keep objecting to Trump’s travel ban executive orders?
  5. While it is true that jihad terrorists are of the Islam faith, does the fight against terrorism justify putting all people of this particular religion under suspicion?

Links & Critical Thinking Questions – March 2017

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience.

Issue 1: Sanctuary Cities
Center for Immigration Studies – Sanctuary Cities Map

President Trump’s Executive Order

Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act (H.R.400)

Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act of 2017 (H.R.748)

Heritage Foundation OpEd

Washington Post Article

Issue 2: Regulations

Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (H.R.26)

President Trump’s Executive Order

U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Regulatory Reform

League of Women Voters Position Statement on REINS Act

Natural Resources Defense Council

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions.

Issue 1: Sanctuary Cities

  1. Before reading about sanctuary cities and discussing the issue in class, did you already have an opinion on the topic? If so, did it change? Summarize your view on the issue.
  2. Using the first link above, view the sanctuary cities map. Why do you think many of the largest U.S. cities choose to provide sanctuary to immigrants? This could be from a practical and/or philosophical perspective.
  3. Should local jurisdictions cooperate with federal immigration officials, or should they be allowed to remain as “sanctuaries?” Explain your position.
  4. Do you think de-funding sanctuary cities will ultimately help or hurt local communities?
  5. Is de-funding sanctuary cities the best solution? Are there other alternatives that might satisfy both sides?

Issue 2: Regulations

  1. If the REINS Act is made into a law, how might that affect the safety of the citizens in places like Flint, Michigan, where the water is unsafe to drink?
  2. What guidelines or values should the government go by when creating regulations?
  3. If businesses were left alone by the government, do you think they would put the interests of American citizens first? Why or why not?
  4. List some examples of regulations that affect you personally (e.g., food safety, clean air and water). Are they necessary or do they go too far?
  5. What are the consequences of creating too many regulations? Of NOT creating such regulations?

Ideas for Teachers (Links & Critical-Thinking Questions) – February 2017

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience.

Issue 1: Charter Schools

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Center for Media and Democracy Findings

National Center for Education Statistics

National Charter School Resource Center

NPR – What Should Parents Know About Charter Schools?

Issue 2: Pipeline

About the Pipeline from Energy Transfer Partners

Protesting the Pipeline (Inside Energy)

Time Magazine Article

5 Things to Know About the Pipeline

NPR – Pipeline Update for 2017

Top 3 Pipeline Pros & Cons (procon.org)

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Can be used for classroom discussion, essay writing, homework, debate, etc.

Issue 1: Charter Schools

  1. Do you think funding charter schools with tax dollars hurts traditional public schools? Why or why not?
  2. Proponents of charter schools believe they encourage school competition and innovation. Do you agree or disagree?
  3. What are the arguments for and against charter schools? Where do you stand on the issue?
  4. Compare the Democrat and Republican congressional quotes for Issue 1 (charter schools). Whose opinion more closely matches your own view?
  5. Please review the “Federal Role of Government in Education” infographic and describe what makes charter schools different than traditional public schools?

Issue 2: Pipeline

  1. Using the “Top 3 Pipeline Pros & Cons” link above, summarize the arguments of those for and against the pipeline. Which side do you agree with?
  2. Did the Army Corps of Engineers make the right decision to halt production of the Pipeline? Why or why not?
  3. What might be a solution to the problem that would satisfy both sides?
  4. Which should come first – our country’s environment or the ability to produce our own energy?
  5. Why do you think the Dakota Access Pipeline protests have drawn national media attention?

Ideas for Teachers (Links & Critical-Thinking Questions) – December 2016

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience.

Issue 1: Mandatory Vaccines

State Vaccination Exemptions for Children 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

PBS – The Vaccine War (Video) 

NBC News – Measles Eliminated in Americas 

MIT – Arguments For & Against Mandatory Vaccines

Issue 2: Soda Taxes

Cato Institute – Ineffectiveness of Soda Taxes 

CNN – Berkeley, CA Soda Tax

H.R.1687 – SWEET Act 

American Beverage Association

New York Times – Do Soda Taxes Work? 

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Can be used for classroom discussion, essay writing, homework, debate, etc.

Issue 1: Mandatory Vaccines

  1. Compare the arguments of those for and against mandatory vaccines. Who is right in your opinion?
  2. Which should come first – individual or collective human rights? Explain your reasoning.
  3. In June 2015, California’s Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that revokes parents’ right to skip mandatory vaccines for their children based on religious or personal objections. In your opinion, does this law go too far or do you see the need for it?
  4. Using the “State Vaccination Exemptions for Children” link (above), determine whether your state allows religious, medical and/or philosophical exceptions to mandatory vaccines laws. Do you agree with your state’s position on mandatory vaccines?
  5. Currently, mandatory vaccine laws are left to the states to decide. Should there be a national law for mandatory vaccines? Why or why not?

Issue 2: Soda Taxes

  1. Do you think soda taxes will help reduce obesity in the U.S.? Why are why not?
  2. Do you think these local (city/county) soda taxes will eventually influence governmental policy at a state and/or national level?
  3. Opponents of soda taxes have said they are “nanny-state laws.” This term refers to governmental policies that are overprotective or that unduly interfere with personal choice. Do you agree?
  4. Proponents of soda taxes believe they should be included in the “sin taxes” already in place for alcohol and tobacco. Do you think sin taxes are effective in shaping people’s behavior?
  5. Read the congressional quotes for Issue 2 (soda taxes). Are there any errors in reasoning or biases that influence their positions?

Ideas for Teachers (Links & Critical-Thinking Questions) – November 2016

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. 

Issue 1: Greater Sage-Grouse

PBS Video, “The Sagebrush Sea”

House Rider Text

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bureau of Land Management’s “In Aid of an Icon” Video

Fox News 

Greater Sage-grouse FAQs

Issue 2: Trans-Pacific Partnership

Office of The United States Trade Representative

Complete Text of TPP Trade Agreement

U.S. International Trade Commission Report 

Joseph Stiglitz – 6 Problems with the TPP

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Brookings Institute – The Case for the TPP

 

CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Can be used for classroom discussion, essay writing, homework, debate, etc.

Issue 1: Greater Sage-Grouse

  1. Compare and contrast the positions of those for and against protecting the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Who is right in your opinion and why?
  2. How does the sage-grouse’s ability to survive and thrive impact the other species that live in the sagebrush ecosystem and ultimately humankind?
  3. Do you believe it’s necessary to list sage-grouse as endangered? What evidence supports your answer?
  4. Read the congressional quotes for Issue 1 (greater sage-grouse). Are there any errors in reasoning or biases that influence their positions?
  5. Have the conservation coalitions done enough to protect the sage-grouse? Why or why not?

Issue 2: Trans-Pacific Partnership

  1. What changes, if any, would you recommend to the provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that was signed on Feb. 4, 2016?
  2. One of the most controversial provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) enforcement system, which allows multinational corporations to sue a country’s government (and its taxpayers) if they believe that country’s regulations are hurting their profits. Why do you think critics are strongly opposed to this provision?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
  4. Do you believe the TPP would ultimately help or hurt American workers in the job market?
  5. Read the congressional quotes for Issue 2 (TPP). Whose opinion do you agree with and why?

Ideas for Teachers/Critical-Thinking Questions – October 2016

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience.

Issue 1: Electoral College

FairVote on How the Electoral College Works

Heritage Foundation

Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 68

270 to Win

League of Women Voters

Issue 2: 2016 Presidential Election
2016 Election Key Dates

PBS Election Connection

ProCon.org – Candidates’ Positions

Letters 2 Next President

RealClear Politics

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Can be used for classroom discussion, essay writing, homework, debate, etc. Students: Answer each question by deciding where you stand and justifying your reasons for your opinion.

Issue 1: Electoral College

  1. Should the Electoral College be eliminated and the U.S. president be elected by popular vote? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think the founders’ reasons for establishing the Electoral College system are still relevant today?
  3. Has the Electoral College system worked out the way Hamilton originally envisioned it?
  4. Read Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 68 (above). Do you agree with his reasoning?
  5. Do you think the outcome of the 2000 presidential election (Bush v. Gore) was fair? Outline your arguments.

Issue 2: 2016 Presidential Election

  1. Who would you vote for in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?
  2. After reading the candidates’ positions on the issues, which issue is most important to you and why?
  3. Watch a few of the presidential election commercials on livingeroomcandidate.org. How have presidential campaign ads changed over time?
  4. In what ways does the 2016 presidential election campaign differ from previous election campaigns?
  5. How have Hillary Clinton’s roles in American politics changed through the years? What conclusions about American culture can you draw from her journey?

Ideas for Teachers/Critical-Thinking Questions – September 2016

LINKS

For further research, here are some good places to start. SGAP makes a concerted effort to provide links to reliable sources, and to include a balance of left- and right-leaning sources. Links have been shortened for your convenience.

Net Neutrality
White House Timeline, Statements, etc.
The New Yorker Article
Inside Story of Netflix v. Comcast
Fox News Article
Washington Post Poll Article

Welfare Reform
Speaker Ryan’s “A Better Way to Fight Poverty” Page
1996 Welfare Reform Act
U.S. Census Bureau Poverty Page
On the Issues Republicans’ View
The Atlantic Article
Two Dollars a Day (New)

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills and defend their positions on legislative issues with these questions. Can be used for classroom discussion, essay writing homework, debate, etc.

Net Neutrality
1. Should everyone have equal access to content online? Why or why not?
2. Should internet service providers (ISPs) be able to speed up access to sites who pay to be prioritized?
3. Should the government have regulatory power over the ISPs? If not, who should?
4. Read the Inside Story of Netflix v. Comcast (above). Which company is in the right? Why?
5. In your opinion, does net neutrality hamper competition and innovation?

Welfare Reform
1. Do you believe the federal government should protect the social “safety nets” in place?
2. Would Speaker Ryan’s plan for fighting poverty (above) help or hurt poverty in the U.S.?
3. Should Congress increase states’ power to choose how federal funding is spent on welfare?
4. Do you favor stronger requirements for welfare such as drug testing, stricter work requirements, etc.?
5. Were the changes implemented with the 1996 Welfare Reform Act (above) ultimately successful in solving the poverty problem? Justify your reasoning.