Tuesday, June 26, 2012

James Madison

Of the four of us sharing the same shower, I was lucky enough to get the latest shower time in the morning, and as a result, I only have to wake up at about 8:45-9 to be on time for class. Starting class at 10 AM is something I could seriously get used to; it is an entirely new feeling to me to go to class in the morning feeling well-rested.
That being said, I wasn’t as well-rested as I could’ve been; our homework took about double the time I thought it would and I was up much later than I thought I would be. It was a reading/note-taking assignment for discussion the next day (earlier today) in class; so basically, you get out of it what you put into it. While I stayed up late, I feel I put quite a bit of effort into my work, and as a result, I was one of the kids most frequently raising my hand during class to speak. I sit in the back row of the class, which I’m not too huge a fan of, but because I worked hard on the homework, participating in our class’ review and analysis of the reading was very easy. In addition to the structure of the class and how it works, I am also really enjoying the class material (A copy of last year’s class syllabus, which is similar but not identical: http://www.columbia.edu/~ktr2102/constitutional%20law%20syllabus%20summer%202011%20revised.pdf ).
View from the spot I was studying at in between my classes.
While I have read the Federalist Papers before, I didn’t interpret it then in the same way I did yesterday/today, and it was striking to me how James Madison’s Federalist Papers, written over 200 years ago, he was absolutely spot on with his analysis of the roles of government and factions in society, and how they are affected by simple human nature. He expresses his concern for the fact that the public good is sometimes disregarded in conflicts of rival parties, which sounds strikingly similar to today’s situation in Congress. In fact, while he may not have been aware of it, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell openly admitted to it, saying “Our TOP political priority over the next two years should be to DENY PRESIDENT OBAMA a second term.” I put those words in capitals to emphasize the parts that matter. Anyway, McConnell is saying that, rather than focusing on what’s best for the public good, the priority he feels, should be for his party to deny the rival party another presidency. The priority isn’t the economy; that doesn’t matter right now (extreme sarcasm). Anyway, this quote is a perfect example of Madison’s concerns becoming true over 200 years later. Another example could be Madison’s concern that smaller government allows factions to have considerably more power, putting minority groups at much more risk of being overrun by the majority. A perfect example of this can be seen in Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which was just yesterday was overturned (most of the law) by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional. Just as Madison had said, too small an electorate allowed a majority faction to try to restrict the freedom of the minority, although thankfully, the Supreme Court swooped in to rule it unconstitutional. Basically, though, I am really enjoying what I am learning and I can easily apply it to situations in society today.

The spot outside the Low Library I was studying at in
between my classes
In our second class, we watched two videos about some of the history of our government and about the role of the Constitution in a changing society, sort of to help our understanding of what we had read about and discussed in the first class. We also had a class discussion about the interpretation of the Constitution, such as, in what way we should interpret it, how our Founding Fathers intended for us to interpret it, or they even wanted us to consider their intentions.

Our cohort meeting after our second classes
After class, our cohort met up again to go over the day, how it went and if there were any problems. While I don’t room near any of them, I see everyone multiple times every day; it’s not so bad. After our meeting, I joined a group of multiple RAs (Resident Assistants? I have no idea what it stands for) and tons of students, and we went to Central Park. I knew only a few kids, but I made many more friends before we got back. Now I’m back, and it’s time for homework. To wrap this up, though, today was another fun day in and out of class, with many new friends.

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