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Jul. 11th, 2006 10:35 pm 40,000 Deaths Preventable

Resolved: that the 2nd Amendment should not be interpreted to grant the right of private citizens to possess handguns.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. You've heard that thousands of times, perhaps you think it's true. But does that justify the 1,500 children accidentally shot each year, the million violent crimes with guns committed each year, and the 40,000 deaths per year? Whats more is these deaths are preventable.

+Children are often unintentionally harmed by the possession of guns in the home.
An average of 8 American children are killed by firearms every day.(CDC National Center for Health Statistics mortality report online, 2005.) Additionally, about 2/3 of teen suicides are committed using guns. 72% of unintentional firearm deaths in children and teens were carried out by guns found in their home, or their friend or relative's. 48% percent of gun owning households do not even regularly check that the guns are equipped with child safety trigger-locking devices. The United States has the highest rates of childhood homicide, suicide, and firearms-related death among all of the industrialized countries.

*America pays a great economic price for gun violence.
Taxpayers pay 80% of the price for firearm related violence. It costs the nation $100 billion dollars a year. One gun gun crime on average totals up to almost 2 million dollars.**

+School shootings are becoming an increasing disaster in our nation.
On average, 88 children per week nationwide are caught and expelled for bringing a gun in school. 59% of students in grades six through twelve know where to get a gun if they want one, and two thirds of these students say they can acquire a firearm within 24 hours.* 32% of parents fear for their child's physical safety at school. This must come to an end.

+Guns are rarely used for self-defense.
A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used to kill a family member or friend than to kill an intruder.

+The second ammendment only grants the right to bear arms for a well-regulated militia.
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed," not every day citizens. In the case of the United States v. Miller the Supreme Court rules that guns not used for a militia-type purpose were not protected by the Second Amendment. When the Constitution was first written Congress favored using the civilian population (adult males) as the State Militia for national defense rather than trained soldiers. This obviously is not the case today. We must take guns out of the hands of ordinary people, of children, of murderers.

In 2001, firearms were used to murder 6 people in New Zealand, 56 in Japan, 96 in Great Britain, 168 in Canada, 331 in Germany. Firearms were used to murder 11,348 in the United States.** Of these American deaths only 68 were justifiable.

A gun in the home triples the chance of homicide and increases the chance of suicide fivefold.**

In short, guns must remain in the hands of a well-trained militia just as the constitution states. Gun deaths are preventable; it's time to protect our nation.

*http://www.ichv.org/kidsandguns.htm
**http://www.bradycampaign.org/facts/factsheets/pdf/firearm_facts.pdf

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Jul. 10th, 2006 05:14 pm Blind and Toothless

Resolved: that capital punishment is unconstitutional.

"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless."
Mahatma Gandhi

Eye-for-an-eye type justice is a law-enforcement ideal with barbaric roots. This principle was used in ancient Mesopotamia, and in Rome was given the title "lex talionis" meaning retributive or vengeful justice. This form of revenge is often seen as archaic when in fact it is alive and well in our own American society today. We are tought from a young age "two-wrongs don't make a right." Over half the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 60 Americans were sentenced to death last year and were subsequently murdered by means of electrocution or lethal injection, bringing the total deaths up to 1004 lives since the use of the death penalty was resumed in 1977.* It seems that Americans are on their way to a blind and toothless world.

+The death penalty is a not a deterrent to future crimes.
Studies show that capital punishment is not more of a deterrent to murder than a prison sentence. Many criminologists feel as though society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, actually increasing the likelihood of more murder.** As a general trend, states which do not employ the death penalty have lower murder rates than those that do.

+With capital punishment there is always the risk of executing the innocent.
"Since 1973, at least 121 people have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged. Thus, for every eight people executed, our legal system has found one person on death row who never should have been convicted. A recent study by Columbia University Law School found that two thirds of all capital trials contained serious errors.***" Once a man is executed there is no way to undo what has already been done if a mistake is made.

+Capital punishment is by no means financially favorable.
• The California death penalty system costs taxpayers $114 million per year beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life.Taxpayers have paid more than $250 million for each of the state’s executions. (L.A. Times, March 6, 2005)In Kansas, the costs of capital cases are 70% more expensive than comparable non-capital cases, including the costs of incarceration.(Kansas Performance Audit Report, December 2003). The most comprehensive study in the country found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over thecosts of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment. The majority of those costs occur at the trial level. (Duke University, May 1993).*****

+The death penalty has a history of misuse and discrimination
In many cases who is sentenced to deaht row has less to do with guilt and more to do with not being able to afford the best lawyer. In addition to the economic discrimination, historically the sentence is given more frequently when a white man kills a black man than when a black man kills a white man; 202 sentences as compared to 12.A comprehensive study of the death penalty in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving a death sentence rose by 3.5 times among those defendants whose victims were white.(Prof. Jack Boger and Dr. Isaac Unah, University of North Carolina, 2001).

+The death penalty violates the 8th ammendment to the constitution.
In the 1972 case, Furman v. Georgia, the Court concluded that the arbitrary application of the death penalty and the disproportionate number of minorities that were executed (as before stated) made the death penalty "unusual," in concordance with the 8th ammendment.**** The 8th ammendment states: excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Is the murder of another human being not justified as being cruel and unusual, particularly if it is often found that death row inmates can be proven innocent?


With all this substantiating evidence against it, why is the inhumane practice of capital punishment still in place in our country today? One can only hope that Americans become morally advanced enough to move away from the barbaric practice of an eye-for-an-eye...a life for a life.

*http://web.amnesty.org/pages/deathpenalty-facts-eng
**http://deathpenaltyinfo.msu.edu/c/about/arguments/argument1b.htm
***http://deathpenaltyinfo.msu.edu/c/about/arguments/argument3a.htm
****http://www.thisnation.com/question/018.html
*****http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/FactSheet.pdf

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Jul. 10th, 2006 12:10 am Dying With Dignity

Resolved: that the federal government adopt Oregon's "Death with Dignity" Law.

Among our inalienable rights are the rights to life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness. Therein lies another important right, the right to die without financial desperation, without pain, and without excrutiating suffering. Euthanasia has become a controversial issue following the passing of Orgegon's death with dignity law. In our society it is the moral thing to do to let pets die with dignity, why is this standard not the same for humans? It is my highest belief that human beings given a death sentence have the right to a peaceful passing.

+All patients requesting Euthanasia must be fully aware of their actions.
"To request euthanasia according to Oregon's law, one must be 18 years of age or older,capable of making and communicating health care decisions for him/herself, and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months. It is up to the attending physician to determine whether these criteria have been met.*" Arguments have sprung up worried about the fate of the disabled, the mentally ill, and other people unable to control their fate. However, this is clearly not the case, for the patients must be of a legal age and in full understanding.

+To prescribe euthanasia doctors must be qualified.
One objection to this drug is that it would be used improperly to assist angsty teens with suicide, or to end the lives of mentally disabled children. However this is unquestionably false, for patients who meet the aforementioned standards may only request a perscription from a physician who is a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) licensed to practice medicine by the Board of Medical Examiners.*

+Those who morally object to euthanasia would not be required to fill prescriptions.
Oregon's law states that the physician must be willing to participate in physician-assisted suicide. The process would be completely voluntary and health organizations such as a a Catholic hospital or a Veterans Administration would be able to prohibit the practice.

+Although some describe euthansia as "playing God," when dealing with the prolonging or not of ones life, one is always altering the course of the universe.
"Are you "playing God" when you pull the plug...or when you put it in?**"

"The law makes every attempt to ensure that patients who engage in physician-assisted suicide are doing so voluntarily, fully informed, and with the ability to make rational health care decisions for themselves.*"

"The patient must meet certain criteria to be able to request to participate in physician-assisted suicide. Then, the following steps must be fulfilled: 1) the patient must make two oral requests to the attending physician, separated by at least 15 days; 2) the patient must provide a written request to the attending physician, signed in the presence of two witnesses, at least one of whom is not related to the patient; 3) the attending physician and a consulting physician must confirm the patient's diagnosis and prognosis; 4) the attending physician and a consulting physician must determine whether the patient is capable of making and communicating health care decisions for him/herself; 5) if either physician believes the patient's judgment is impaired by a psychiatric or psychological disorder (such as depression), the patient must be referred for a psychological examination; 6) the attending physician must inform the patient of feasible alternatives to assisted suicide including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control; 7) the attending physician must request, but may not require, the patient to notify their next-of-kin of the prescription request. A patient can rescind a request at any time and in any manner. The attending physician will also offer the patient an opportunity to rescind his/her request at the end of the 15-day waiting period following the initial request to participate."



*http://egov.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/faqs.shtml#whocan
**http://www.togopeacefully.com/DEITY.html

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Jul. 8th, 2006 11:04 pm One Nation Under God

Resolved: that "Under God" be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Being Agnostic myself, one hot-button issue of particular interest to me, that has raised a debate in the courts, is that of the Pledge of Allegiance. In particular, one case was brought about claiming that the words 'under God' violated ones Constitutional freedom of religion. This was dismissed, saying that no one would be forced to recite the pledge. However, I feel that this argument falls flat for a number of reasons. Why should non-belivers in God be made to feel like outcasts?

+The words are not in the original pledge.
"...[T]he original Pledge of Allegiance—meant as an expression of patriotism, not religious faith— made no mention of God.*" This addition was not made until 1954. One common argument from proponents of including the words is that it is merely part of the history of our country, and it was always intended as such. However this is blatantly false; all atempts by our founders to include prayer or other non-secualr recitation before governmental meetings were almost unanimously defeated.

+Omitting the two words protects non-theists from feeling like outcasts.
We live in a nation where 85% of Americans define themselves as Christians, many very devout. Since the pledge has become so controversial, not saying these two words could subject some students to relentless teasing.

+This nation promotes a division of Church and State.
Under the laws that church related teachings etc. are to be omitted from governmentally run facilities, having the school be led to pledge their allegience to a nation 'under God' is clearly undermined. Most theists would agree that it is not necessary for them to recite these words in their place of eductation, though they are free to do so at home or at church.The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that:"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This is a clear violation.

+Mentioning God is most certainly a relgious statement.
One of the arguments proponents of the words use is that the words are not meant to be religious but rather ceremonial, historical, or political. Even if this were true, however, to a nine year old being forced to recite thiese words daily it most certainly appears to him that he is pledging allegience not only to his country but to God as well.

+The choice to remain silent is still not a constitutional one.
In 1992 the Supreme Court case Lee v. Weisman the court found nonsectarian prayers at a public school graduation in violation the Constitution because they coerce student participation. In the same way, a school-wide pledge can be seen as the same kind of coersion found unconstitutional.

+The removal of these words is not an anti-God movement.
Contrary to many theists vision, those who oppose the words are not Christ-hating teenagers dressed in black. Where as many Agnostics and Atheists are opposed to the phrase, many theists are as well. The phrase one nation "under God" implies not a oneness with God but rather a distinct separation. Acts 17:28 in the Bible state "It is in God that we live, and move, and have our being." "If the intent of Congress was to declare a close relationship of the People with God, it has done just the opposite.**"



*http://www.slate.com/?id=2067499
**http://www.religioustolerance.org/john_01.htm

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Jul. 8th, 2006 12:38 am Just a Test Score?

Resolved: Reliance on standardized testing has been detrimental.

For years students across America have had their identities as learners stripped from them. It is not their creativity or inventiveness that matters; it is a number. "The complexity of any child cannot be contained within a single score.*" America is defining students, for potential colleges, for gifted programs, for advanced classes, as being only as good as their performance on one day on one test.

+Tests don't always match the curriculum.
Standardized tests that appeal to large testing groups such as an entire state school system are not necessarily targeted to the individual curriculums of the school. By mandating standardized testing each teacher must attempt to teach directly to the test, which takes away critical learning opportunities.

+Standardized testing does not take into account modern reasearch on learning.
For many years now pyschologists have discovered what they call 'multiple intelligences.' EAch student processes information in their own way, some artistically, others visually or auditorily. In other words whereas some students may be able to perform well in fill-in-the-bubble tests, others are more able to verbally discuss information, or diagram it.

+Tests only test performance on one random day.
There are so many factors that play into test-taking day which can often be forgotten. Some students may nto see any reason to perform well, others are dealing with family problems, some suffer from low-grade fevers. The truth is, no matter how 'standardized' a test is there is no way to moderate the emotions, physical states, and motivations of thousands of students. They shouldn't be judged on one or two days' performance.

+ Test don't ask questions that matter.
Questions are generally not asked that show ability to complete problem-solving tasks, do not adequately measure higher level thinking skills and do not take into account the practical applications of knowledge. By memorizing facts, or being able to do long devision, the person/people considering the results gain no knowledge of the students critical reasoning skills, or their ability to apply concepts to real life problems.

+Pressure for schools to raise scores limits diversity in coursework.
Not only is basic curriculum limited with pressure to raise scores, but programs in the arts, recess, and highschool electives. It is a pity to see these programs being cut back on, for studies show that students involved in programs in the arts are more likely to succeed in school then those who do not diversify their learning experience.

+Standardized test scores create friction between districts.
A constant battle has ensued between many neighboring districts- who will have the highest test scores? As the curriculum narrows, another opportunity is being missed- the prospect of learning and feeding off of other districts. Creating a productive community between districts can be vital to the growth of a school and the area.

+Current testing allows much opportunity for corruption.
Beyond student cheating, standardized testing creates a new venue for lies and unethical behavior. Teachers often feel moreso the need for his/her students to perform, and in some cases may actually alter test scores in his/her students' benefit. Another point also brought about is that the authors of such tests, as well as those who grade written sections may have a particular bias, creating an unfairness for students and certain school systems. Additionally students from lower income families tend to recieve lower scores on testing, which adds to the nations current need for affirmative action in college admissions.

So if standardized testing has been detrimental, what are the alternatives?
1. Review teams can be called in to assess the performance of school districts. This can be mandated by the state just as tests are in order to have a human-defined report on the proficiency of a district.
2. Student portfolios, or collections of essays, in-class quizzes, etc. are great indicators of a student's ability, and show the students strengths and weaknesses in a way that cannot be shown in a series of filled-in bubbles.
3. Grades. Most schools already oporate through a system of grades, on that if necessary has the potential to be a standardized tool for assessing students. Through classroom grades students are assessed for their quizzes, their writings, their projects, and their presentations, therefore taking into consideration more than one type of intelligence.
4. Another way to assess students is through communication with the teachers themselves. They can provide important feedback to parents as well as review-teams, and should be the most vital source of determining a student's progress, as they are the the one constantly interacting with the student through his/her learning process.

*http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/13_03/assess.shtml

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