Presentation on theme: "Introduction to GOVT 2306 Texas State and Local Government."— Presentation transcript:
Introduction to GOVT 2306 Texas State and Local Government
This sections topic: What exactly is this class and why do I have to take it?
Course Description: This course introduces you to state and local government, and focuses primarily on the government of Texas and area local governments like Alvin and Houston, as well as Brazoria and Harris County.
In this class we detail the development and content of Texas Constitution and area city charters, as well and the principle institutions they create. We will also study elections, political parties, interest groups and the media, in addition to public opinion.
Special attention will also be given to topical public policy issues.
Here is a list of the basic subjects we will cover: The Texas Constitution Local Governments The Legislature The Executive The Judiciary Federalism Civil Liberties and Rights Political Parties Elections Public Policy Public Opinion The Media Interest Groups
If you took 2305 with me, youll notice that this is basically the same content from that class. The major difference of course is that it focuses on states and local governments, as well as the interaction between these two and the national government.
This set of slides is designed to welcome you to the class and give you basic information that will allow you to proceed fruitfully.
I want to do three basic things before we dig deeply into the subject matter: (1) explain the role education is meant to play in a democratic republic, (2) broadly define the word government, and (3) broadly define the word politics.
This specific set of slides is focused on the first question. Since you are required to take this class, why?
As you know, this is one of two required classes designed to introduce you to the United States and Texas government. We will at the constitutions of each, the basic language of government and politics, and the nature of American political institutions.
In 2305 we discussed why the founders of the US thought that an educated public was necessary especially in a democratic republic where sovereignty rested with the general population.
Id suggest a quick review of the introductory slides for GOVT 2305 to remind you of the argument. In a nutshell:
The founders of the US were concerned that in establishing a republic, they were dooming the nation to an unstable governing system. Why? Because republics had failed repeatedly in the past, most notably when the Roman Republic became an empire under the Augustus Caesar.
But they had committed themselves to a nation based on the consent of the governed in the Declaration of Independence, so they were stuck with a republican government of some sort. The only question was whether such a system could survive.
Here is the question posed: Is self government really possible? That is the American Experiment.
They had no illusions that the process would be difficult. They knew success was not guaranteed: Mrs. Powel: "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" Benjamin Franklin: "A republic if you can keep itA republic if you can keep it
As we know, the nation faced many challenges over its history. The Civil War being the most serious. Notice how Abraham Lincoln addressed this issue:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. … Abraham Lincoln The opening of the Gettysburg AddressGettysburg Address
In 2305 we spent time detailing how the U.S. Constitution was designed to compensate for human nature, especially that of the mass public. We do not like to cooperate.
The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular Governments have everywhere perished - James Madison, Federalist #10.James MadisonFederalist #10
Notice that Madison thinks the general public is unstable, unjust, and confused. Thanks Jimmy
While we on the bottom rungs are deficient, our leaders tend to be ambitious and must be contained somehow:
Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. - Federalist #51Federalist #51
The very existence of government is a consequence of human deficiency.
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
So how can a republic survive? Two ways: (1) the structure of the governing system must compensate for these deficiencies, and (2) the general population must be educated in order to make them more capable to rule themselves.
The structure of the constitution is meant to provide the first method to preserve the republic. Public education is meant to handle the second.
"Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics." - John Adams Public VirtueJohn Adams Public Virtue
A good way to ensure public virtue was to make sure they were educated.
Thomas Jefferson was an early promoter of civic education. He was a driving force behind two pieces of legislation that promoted education. 1- A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge 2 – The Northwest Ordinance
For a good description of the benefits of education, read the Preamble to a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge Here is a link to the entire bill. Preamble to a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledgelink to the entire bill
And here is a key part of the preamble: Whereas it appeareth that however certain forms of government are better calculated than others to protect individuals in the free exercise of their natural rights, and are at the same time themselves better guarded against degeneracy, yet experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes. – From the Preamble.
In a sense, that is what this class is about. An educated republic is supposed to be able to recognize attempts to establish tyranny, and how to adequately respond to it.
For additional information, heres some interesting commentary in that vein: Education for Civitas: The Lessons Americans Must Learn Education for Civitas: The Lessons Americans Must Learn
A Few Lessons from History Remember that the very idea of a liberal education was originally linked with the practice and preparation for free citizenship--in the polis of democratic Athens and in the civitas of republican Rome. Each generation was to acquire the civic knowledge and commitments of "civitas." This was also the view of discerning founders of the American Republic and of their successors who decided that the responsibilities and the rights of American citizenship in a democratic republic should be defined by law and nourished by a common civic education and civic culture rather than by kinship, ethnicity, race, religion, class, or hereditary status.
So the purpose of this class – in addition to other things weve mentioned - is to prepare you to participate in government.
The Northwest Ordinance was an early attempt to guarantee that this would occur as the nation began to move westward.
The Northwest OrdinanceThe Northwest Ordinance (1787) established the rules regarding the development of the territory that would become Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin (click here for background from the Library of Congress). It encouraged the development of schools.click here for background from the Library of Congress
Art. 3. Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.
This is one of the reasons why, coast to coast, there is compulsory K-12 education as well as a comprehensive state sponsored system of colleges and universities.
This leads to an important question: Is the general public up to the task of self government? Do polls demonstrate that the general population has the knowledge necessary to rule competently?
Some links to some disturbing poll results: - PEW Research - How Dumb Are We? - Is voter ignorance killing democracy?PEW ResearchHow Dumb Are We?Is voter ignorance killing democracy?
And here is a link to a variety of blog posts Ive compiled on the subject: Is the American Public Rational? Is the American Public Rational?
The founders had a low opinion of the capabilities of the general population. The ones they referred to as the mob. Click here for an extensive essay on the founders attitude towards democracy.an extensive essay
Here is an extended quote from Alexander Hamilton reflecting his view of the general population and their capacity to govern:
For my part, I am not much attached to the majesty of the multitude, and therefore waive all pretensions (founded on such conduct), to their countenance. I consider them in general as very ill qualified to judge for themselves what government will best suit their peculiar situations; nor is this to be wondered at. The science of government is not easily understood. Cato will admit, I presume, that men of good education and deep reflection, only, are judges of the form of a government - Caesar #2Caesar #2
As with Hamilton, many founders expected that the mass public would be incapable of self-government and purposely limited participation to a ruling class that would have the ability to govern effectively. Cato Institute: Why Policymakers Should Ignore Public Opinion Polls.Why Policymakers Should Ignore Public Opinion Polls
This was one of the reasons why participation was limited to property owners for much of American history. Heres an instructive quote: Those who own America ought to govern it. - John Jay Those who own America ought to govern it.John Jay
So early restrictions on participation were intended to restrict political participation to those with sufficient education to provide a solid foundation for the republic. But circumstances of the time allowed those who were unable to participate in the original state an option.
They could move west, including those who moved to Texas. This is an important observation, those who migrated westward did so in part because they were shut off from opportunities in eastern states due to the property requirements necessary to participate.
This helps explain a point we will expound on throughout this semester, Texas government has far more democratic features than the national government. All major positions are elected to office, for example; terms are short; institutions are split; professionalism discouraged. As a result. the majority is far better able to control the actions of government in the state of Texas than they can nationally.
But the founders of the state of Texas agreed with those of the U.S. that a republican system was the preferred system of government and that education played an important role in the preservation of republics.
The Texas Constitution contained a grievance against the Mexican Government that: It has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources, (the public domain,) and although it is an axiom in political science, that unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.
While the Constitution of the Republic of Texas did not establish an educational system, the 1845 Constitution – which was written after statehood was granted – did: Article Ten. Article Ten
Article VIIArticle VII of the Texas Constitution of 1876 also provides for free public schools: SECTION 1. A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.
As a republic, bills establishing a public education system were passed in 1839 and 1840 under the presidency of Mirabeau Buonoparte Lamar. Heres a well know quote from him:Mirabeau BuonoparteLamarquote
Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of Democracy, and while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge, and the only security which freemen desire.
Lamar is known as the Father of Texas Education. But so was Ezekiel Cullen, and A.M. Aikin.Ezekiel CullenA.M. Aikin
Heres a quote about Lamar which emphasized his role in establishing public education in the state, both K-12 and higher ed.
When a public school was a novelty and the Republics treasury and credit were at their lowest, only a daring mind and a champion of enlightened liberty could have conceived the idea for insuring the education of the future Texas generations.
For what its worth, heres a quote from Sam Houston regarding education: The benefits of education and of useful knowledge, generally diffused through a community, are essential to the preservation of a free government.Sam Houston
Sam Houston also had this to say: I would not be gotten into a schoolhouse until I was eight years old. Nor did I accomplish much after I started. I doubt if I had gone to school six months in all when my father died. I was fourteen at the time.
So its an open question whether education is something best handled by the public or private sector. This battle is commonly fought in the state and has been especially heated in recent years – but more eon that later.
This debate aside, public education – which we will investigate more fully later this semester – is a huge component of government both on the state and local level.
For background on education in the state, click on this site on education in the Texas Almanac, as well as the education page on the website of the Texas State Historical Association. education
Public schools in the state – as you well know – have a curriculum that contains the basic classes that are meant to ensure students have a well rounded education. In Texas, this includes a classes in government, one in high school and two in college.
Not all states have this requirement. lucky you!
A major related controversy is the content of the high school curriculum.
In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education reviews the K-12 curriculum for each required subject every few years. Its recent rewriting of the history and government curriculum was highly controversial and received nation wide media coverage.
Some stories from that time detailing the conflict: - Ignoring Experts' Pleas, Texas Board Approves Controversial Curriculum Standards - Politics of Education: New Texas Social Sciences Curriculum Standards Fraught with Ideology, Critics Say - Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change - SBOE Conservatives Rewrite American History BooksIgnoring Experts' Pleas, Texas Board Approves Controversial Curriculum StandardsPolitics of Education: New Texas Social Sciences Curriculum Standards Fraught with Ideology, Critics SayTexas Conservatives Win Curriculum ChangeSBOE Conservatives Rewrite American History Books
From the Texas Tribune:... beneath such spats lie far deeper ideological tussles, over disputed Biblical underpinnings of the nations founding; the notion of America as uniquely superior, even divinely ordained; and the proper context and credit in exploring the struggles of oppressed minority groups.
Political groups believe that dominating the curriculum helps their cause. Schools are argued to be agents of socialization which help people form political opinions. Actual proof that this matters is lacking, but it is assumed that schools determine how people are likely to be oriented towards political questions, so fights are ongoing attempting to do so.
To look at the current content of social science education in K-12 in Texas click here for the TEKS Social Studies Standards.TEKS Social Studies Standards
An additional controversy: Should there be a national standard or should leach state have its own requirements. If states teach government as they see fit, is there enough in common among the people of the nation to have a national dialogue on public matters?
From the Center for Civic Education: National Standards for Civics and Government. From the Atlantic: Should States Let the Federal Government Set Education Standards for Schools?National Standards for Civics and GovernmentShould States Let the Federal Government Set Education Standards for Schools?
The decision to require you to take two government classes was delegated by the Texas Legislature to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (Wikipedia).Texas Higher Education Coordinating BoardWikipedia
A recent decision was made to ensure that all students take separate classes in the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution. Wonder why? Background: Recommendation: Rationale:Background: Recommendation: Rationale:
Theres a substantive reason: not enough time is spent looking specifically at Texas and local government. Theres also a practical reason: A class on strictly U.S. Government is more likely to transfer in and out of a private or out-of-state institution.
This overview should explain why the Texas legislature wants you to takes this class. If you want to file a grievance about it – thats where you should take it.... Just sayin
This completes my take on why you are made to take this class. Look on the wiki for hints about what kinds of questions you should be prepared to answer on the assessment.
In the next section we will look at terminology useful for us to go forward fruitfully.
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