Camille LaBranche Blog Post 7 NJ School Sued over “Under God” in Pledge

“I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

                During every assembly and school gathering we Highland students are asked and given the opportunity to recite this pledge to our country which I personally do not take part in. For that reason I find this article particularly interesting. The article states that an atheist group is suing a New Jersey school district because they believe that saying the words “under God” in the pledge is discriminatory against atheist kids (and any other child who doesn’t believe in God) and it also teaches these kids that a belief in God is tied to our individual patriotism. I also believed this for quite a long time—that because I did not agree with what the pledge states, I am not patriotic. I’ve come to learn (without the help of any school system or group) that that is completely untrue. I have an intense pride in this country, but because God is tied in with the pledge to our country, it was instilled in me that someone who does not believe in God could not be a patriot. So I agree that not only do the words of the pledge allow for discrimination against nonbelievers but it also teaches children something that isn’t true or accurate.

                In the article the author also said that the practice of acknowledging God in the pledge violates the New Jersey constitution by discriminating against atheists. Although no one is forced to recite the pledge, it creates a social norm and allows for ostracism and hostility towards atheists to be accepted. According to the humanist group that sued, the University of Minnesota has compiled a widely cited study that states that atheists are ranked as the most disliked and distrusted minority group in the nation, ranking below recent immigrants, Muslims, and gays. Now, this may not be entirely a result of having children recite a pledge every day that allows for discrimination but it is certainly a big part of it. Children are the future and what they learn at a young age generally sticks with them for their life long. At age 18 a child is highly unlikely to change and political or core beliefs for the rest of their lives, so it is absolutely paramount to instill honest and good values in children while they’re still impressionable. Teaching discrimination is not the answer but neither may be removing God from the pledge.

                In the spirit of Earth Week I’ll propose a new pledge that I think (and hope) everyone can get behind: “I pledge allegiance to the Earth and all the life which it supports. One planet, in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for all.” I did not write this myself and I’m not entirely sure who the source is but I think it’s brilliant and inspiring and perfect for Earth Week.



Marissa Ray, Blog #7



If one was to ask any American, either in the present or the past, what he thought the American dream was, it is very likely that that person would answer with something along the lines of “being financially secure and living in a nice house”. Becoming prosperous is one of the most universal aspirations in America and if someone were to take the opportunity to become prosperous away it is quite possible that there would be chaos. In his article, “Why we need a maximum wage”, Damon Linker argues that the government should pass legislation that imposes a maximum wage. Although Linker suggests that this law would do wonders to decrease the pay gap between the CEO and the average worker and create a foundation for economy equality, one cannot help but think about the potential for creating oppression in the economy. Corrupt politicians or companies that influence politicians might change a maximum wage law so that it has more of an effect on the average worker rather that the multimillionaire CEOs that Linker believes it should affect.


Despite its many drawbacks, a maximum wage law does have good potential. A maximum wage would help to prohibit some of the extreme issues that Linker describes. Linker mentions that “Henrique de Castro collected a $60 million severance package from Yahoo when he was fired as the company’s chief operating officer after slightly more than a year on the job. That was on top of his annual salary of roughly $40 million, bringing his total compensation for 15 months of work into the vicinity of $109 million.” In a way, extremes wages like this are worse than imposing a maximum wage on the average worker because it implies that one can get away with earning millions of dollars for very little work, a very demoralizing concept to most of America. But despite the opportunity to create economy equality that a maximum wage law presents, there is too much of a chance that law could be twisted into something that oppresses the average worker.


Government Post 7

Republicans See Political Wedge in Common Core

Read more:


I’ll admit that, having never attended a public school, I’ve lived most of my life uninformed about the public education system and the policies that affect the majority of American children’s schooling. I recognize this ignorance with embarrassment, knowing that it’s a tremendous shortcoming of mine as a United States citizen. But for anyone who faces the same nescience, I found that the above article from The New York Times is a fantastic starting point for those looking to familiarize themselves with the current controversies regarding American public education. 

The article, written by Jonathan Martin and appearing in the April 19, 2014 edition of 

The New York Times, focuses on the growing opposition to the Common Core State Standards. Martin describes the Common Core as a set of “learning benchmarks” for students in grades K-12 that are “intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English” and increase  students’ preparedness for higher education and careers. While the No Child Left Behind Act passed under the Bush administration required individual states to establish, test, and prove proficiency in students’ basic skill levels in order to receive federal funding, the Common Core Standards seek to set a nation-wide standard of learning that is “based off of third-party, independent “research and evidence” and “informed by other top-performing countries to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society,” while also promising to be no lower than the “strengths and lessons of current state standards” 

( The Common Core was popularly adopted by 44 states “as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness” and was initially met with the “overwhelming support of Republican governors.” 

Martin goes on to describe, however, that since the Obama administration has recently “embraced” of the national educational standards, many right-wing politicians have “reversed field.” While a state’s decision to adopt Common Core Standards remains optional, Arne Duncan’s recent clarification that “the Race to the Top program — which awarded billions in federal grants to the states — made Common Core a high priority for grant eligibility. Non-compliant states had low chances of winning the contest” ( coupled rumors that Common Core compliant states would receive exemption to the No Child Left Behind Act has led Republicans to denounce the new standards as “a backdoor grab for federal control over what is taught in schools.” Republican figureheads such as governors Mike Pence (who withdrew Indiana from the Common Core last month), Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin as well as senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have led the push against Common Core, calling it “an overreach by the federal government” and a “silent erosion of our civil liberties.” They maintain that it would be more beneficial for their states to set “their own educational goals.”

Martin points put that this is a huge shift in Republican’s stance on public education, whose “No. 1 priority” back in 2001 was “a massive expansion of the federal Department of Education.” At the same time, a small ring of Republicans including former Florida governor Jeb Bush, as well as current governors Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Chris Christie of New Jersey continue to support the high national standards outlined by Common Core. They side with former governor of Georgia Sonny Perdue’s statement that this sudden Republican backlash against Common Core is the result of nothing more than “the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”  

Contempt for Common Core continues to be mixed across party lines, most surprisingly bringing about the “unlikely marriage” between state-centric Republicans and those “on the left associated with teachers unions who are trying to sever any connection between test results and teacher evaluation.” Furthermore, while the Obama administration continues to be in strong favor of the program, the generally left-leaning Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was ardently against the testing standards of the No Child Left Behind Act, recently seems to be wavering on the Common Core, having testified before the U.S. House of Representativesearlier in April “that he is in favor of education standards in general,” but not necessarily the “specific tenets of Common Core” ( 

I really enjoyed this article, not only because Martin does an excellent job conveying the various party stances and arguments both for and against Common Core, but also because it forced me to do more extensive research into public education, and specifically what differentiates the Common Core Standards from those learning standards established through No Child Left Behind. While the large Republican backlash against federally-regulated education seems in keeping with the right’s traditionally state-centric stance, I was surprised by Martin’s point that many Republicans argued against Common Core because they were afraid of private sectors influencing the research and establishment of such standards. I certainly think setting some national education standard is key in keeping the United State’s intellectually competitive with the rest of the world, and I don’t believe setting one would be an “overreach of the federal government.” At the same time however, Albert Einstein’s quote “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid” also comes to my mind and reminds me that every individual has unique strengths and styles of learning, in which case an enforced national standard could be detrimental to the holistic education and development of students. I think ultimately there needs to be an established set of educational benchmarks, but ones that are perhaps unconnected with a school’s eligibility for federal funding, since this is the current system that seems to foster “teaching to the test” methods that end up hurting teachers and compromising a student’s ability to truly master material. While education was not a central focus in President Obama’s State of the Union Address this year, I’m hoping it will play a how bigger role in the presidential primaries for the 2016 election, and I look forward to hearing what, if any, alternatives are presented by candidates at that time. 


Ted Dong’s Blog #6

Just a day ago, Alex Hribal, a 16 years old sophomore at Franklin Regional High School, was charged and faces 4 counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault in connection from the attack he did at school from yesterday, which causes 20 teens and 1 adult wounded and 3 of them are under bad condition. However, Hribal has always described as a “really nice kid” by some classmates at the school. The local police chief Tom Seefeld did not seek any sense from the mass stabbing, either. This event is considered as a totally random.


How can we avoid things like this? I think that there are things that we still could do inside o our school and our educational system. We could build a new school office to communicate with the students about their personal feelings and inside thoughts. We should have some new class to teach students about school safety and personal safety. Parents and the school security should watch out for dangerous weapons and mental health issues.


We should pay more attention to event like this because education is the most important part of a county and our future. Without any doubt, student mental health and safety condition is a issue that we should keep working on.

Student’s April Fools prank on professor may be the best ever

A group of Aquinas College students banded together to pull off possibly the greatest April Fools’ Day prank ever.

Dr. Stephen Barrows is an associate professor of economics in his second semester at Aquinas College. The prank was inspired by Barrows’ seemingly harsh cell phone policy.

The video starts with a message:

“Our professor has a policy that if your phone rings in class, you must answer it on speakerphone.”

So the students started brainstorming a way to prank the professor.

“At first we started thinking of just really ridiculous ideas, but then we remembered the cell phone policy: ‘If your cell phone rang in class, you had to answer it on speakerphone,” Bailey Terebinski, a Aquinas College senior, told FOX17.

As shown in the video, Taylor Nefcy answers her phone on speakerphone – and the look on Dr. Barrows face is priceless.

“Hi, this is Kevin from the Pregnancy Resource Center…

View original post 168 more words

Josh Lutz #6

This was an article about Jeb Bush’s very different stand on illegal immigration and his possible candidacy for the upcoming election.  He said that some immigrants come here out of an act of love toward their families.  He said it was okay for them to come because they are doing it out of love.  This is so different especially for a republican.  Both parties generally agree that illegal immigration is bad because they just free load off of our welfare systems and now our new health care system.  I do not think that just because they are doing it out of  love makes it okay. I think this is a way to try and get the votes of the moderates and the liberals.  He also talked about the possibility  of him being a candidate in the election.  he credits most of his recent popularity to the vagueness of his running.  he said he needs to make sure his family is okay with him ruining in 2016. I think it would be very interesting to see what would happen if he ran.  he would have the backing of two former Presidents I will be excited to see if this gives him any advantage.

Eddie Campell #6: Obama Push for Pay Equality Symbolizes Popular New Emphasis on Equal Pay

This coming Tuesday, the 8th of April, President Obama will sign into effect two executive orders regarding Pay Inequality amongst women and minorities in the work force. The first order will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who want to discuss their salary wages. The second and perhaps more important order will require Labor Secretary Tom Perez to create regulations requiring federal contractors to report salary data and breakdowns based on certain factors such as sex and race.This all will culminate in a speech by President Obama calling for the ratification by Congress of the comprehensive Paycheck Fairness Act. All of this exemplary Presidential bustle represents the full scale effort of Democrats to address the blatant disparity between what a women makes and what a man makes.This focal point has proved to be exceedingly successful for the Dems. People all across the country and in virtually every state are responding positively to this call to build up the middle class. Even more so, the Republican opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act (because Obama represents it) has hurt them substantially in the polls, which is especially beneficial for the Democrats in these months leading up to the midterm elections. The counter-point from Republicans is mainly that: one, the bill will not change enough to solve the issue, and two, that the bill is just a distraction from how “harmful” the Affordable Care Act is to women with healthcare.

Just how our government class discussed after our debate what factors determine what citizens vote for in an election, this quarrel over pay inequality has shown that issues that relate directly to the voter are the most powerful. Everyone cares about their wages because most everyone has a job or at least wants a job. Moderates are drawn to the strong pull of a politician guaranteeing them more money, let alone equality in their lives. In addition, the uplifting support of this bill from people across the nation also proves how the citizens are where power is derived from in this democracy. If one can an issue that the people care about and cater to that majority, he will get elected. Regardless of what he believes to be a more pressing issue or a more significant problem , the desires of the community will basically always win out. As the president of the Center for American Progress said, “I don’t really understand the Republican argument; it’s certainly not an argument that seems like it’s resonating with voters.” Thus, Democrats now find themselves in a position to win great admiration from their constituents and Republicans find themselves scrambling to come up with a decent response.

Marissa Ray, Entry #6


In the past few months, especially since the government shut down last year, congressmen have undergone a lot of scrutiny for the perks that they receive and the amount of money that they are paid. However, Stephanie Condon reports that Rep. Jim Moran believes that members of Congress should receive a raise. Moran told the newspaper Roll Call,I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid. I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.” Condon goes on to state that the “rank-and-file” members of Congress make a yearly salary of $174,000. While being a member of Congress is an extremely important job, it doesn’t seem right that they should receive almost triple the median household income in Washington D.C. when the government actually ceased to work because members of Congress could agree on an issue.

     However, later on in Condon’s article Moran does make a fair point. He says “A lot of members can’t even afford to live decently in Washington.” This statement is probably true in the sense that congress members from states that are further from Moran’s Northern Virginia district have to maintain both a residence in their home district and in Washington when Congress is in session. Congressman Moran says that he plans to introduce “an amendment to a spending bill that would give legislators a per diem payment to cover housing costs.” While this amendment might work in theory, those that do not need supplemental payment for housing might take advantage of the money for personal gain. If this amendment is indeed passed it should be put in place so that only the congress members that legitimately need the money to cover costs for residences in their home towns and in D.C. can use it.

Blog Post #6



President Obama will sign two new executive orders on Tuesday on equal pay for women. Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, which falls on the date that “symbolizes how far into 2014 women must work to earn the same amount of money men earned last year”. The two orders are provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The first would prohibit government contractors from retaliating against employees who share their salary information. The second executive order creates new Department of Labor regulations that require federal contractors to report their employees’ salaries to the government. The Paycheck Fairness Act has twice failed to pass in Congress. The Senate will again vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday, though it is predicted that the House will not bring it to the floor. The bill would go beyond impacting women employed by federal contractors to all employed women.

The executive orders are obviously wonderful things that will help the cause of equal pay, but they are not enough. They only impact employees of federal contractors, which is an estimated 17% of the American workforce, according to Professor Light of New York University. That sounds small, but it includes about 40 million people, or one in every six workers. The executive orders are strong steps forward in a battle that should have been won long ago. The fact that an equal pay act cannot be passed in 2014 is astounding and idiotic. Senator  Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) said last week that he opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act because it was a “political move by the Democrats that would only result in ‘more lawsuits’, not equal pay for women”. I find it very hard to believe that that is his reason for opposing the bill.

Angela Langdon, Entry #6

Nearly a month after Malaysia Airlines flight 370 went missing, search teams working to locate the plane have made little progress. Two search teams have detected three separate pulse signals that could help them find the plane’s black box.  The first two pings were detected by a Chinese ship on Friday and Saturday off the west coast of Australia. However, the Chinese ship was unable to confirm the pings are linked to the missing plane. Today, a third ping was detected by an Australian ship using equipment from the U.S. Navy. Every plane’s black box has a battery life of 30 to 45 days, depending on environmental conditions. With the battery life rapidly decreasing, the urgency to locate it is increasing. On its way to help is British navy ship HMS Echo which is equipped with sound-locating equipment. Though the frequency of the ping matches that of a black box, the signal is continuing to be considered unverified.  Coordinating the search is retired Australian Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston who says, “We are working in a very big ocean and within a very large search area, and so far since the aircraft went missing we have had very few leads which allow us to narrow the search area.” With little to go on, it’s impossible to say whether or not these pings are from MH370’s black box, but the investigation will continue.

After the plane disappeared from the radar, it became impossible to determine how far off course it flew. Because of this, the search area is significantly larger than it would be if the planes course was documented until the end. The search team includes 12 military aircrafts and 13 ships combing through 3 vast areas about 1,240 miles northwest of Perth, Australia. I understand that the search area is large which makes it difficult to find things, but I’m surprised it’s been almost a month with no significant discoveries. Clearly this is a recovery not a rescue mission which is very sad. I feel bad for the families who have been waiting a month to find closure they may never get. Obviously the search teams need to investigate the pings, but if nothing significant is discovered they should move on. From a global standpoint, it’s nice to see different countries working together to find the plane. I hope that if necessary, more countries will donate their time and equipment to aid the search. 

Missing-Jet Search Teams Track Pings as Time Runs Out