Semester Assessment: Social and Personal Responsibility
OBJECTIVE: The assignment has two purposes: 1) to develop the student’s sense of social responsibility; 2) to assess the student’s sense of personal responsibility (ethics and consequences). Translation: you are demonstrating your capacity to understand how your actions impact others.
BACKGROUND: One of the most important facets of a representative democracy is—unsurprisingly—REPRESENTATION. This assignment builds on a few key concepts related to the idea of representation—who represents us, how are we represented, and how we should be represented. In particular, we are building on the ideas of descriptive representation and substantive representation. Here’s what these mean:
Descriptive representation is the extent to which a representative resembles constituents. In other words, the focus here is on shared identity traits. A Hispanic person being represented by a Hispanic representative is one example. Or a miner who represents a district whose main industry is mining (and thus whose workers are predominantly miners). The key idea is that common identities are important to representation (occupation, gender, race/ethnicity, age, etc.).
Substantive representation is the actual activity of a representative. This means their view/values and how they actually behave in office (how they vote on legislation, what kind of legislation they author/support, etc.). From the substantive side, it is less important who they are. What matters is what they do.
PROCEDURES: You are about to link these concepts with your house representation (i.e. analyzing their identity traits and voting record). You will conduct this analysis by doing the following:
Go to this web page to find your congressional district: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Next, navigate to your rep’s web page by clicking on the hyper link next to their name. Keep this page handy, you’ll need some of the information here.
Next, do a Google search for your district number (provided on the previous page). Terms like “Texas Congressional District ##” should work. Find the Wikipedia page for your district. Keep this page handy, you will need the demographic into at the top-right part of the page.
Now that you have the required sites up, you can start on the writing portion.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You are largely being graded for how thorough you are in answering each part. This means that every letter (A, B, etc.) should be answered in AT LEAST 150 words and IN YOUR OWN WORDS. If you avoid laziness and plagiarism, you’ll be in good shape!
Writing Section #1 (20 points):
Your first writing task is to compare/contrast your background with that of your congressional district (your community). [SR1]
How would you describe your personal/cultural background? Be sure to note any aspects of your identity that are important to political values (race/ethnicity, parents’ occupation, parents’ education, household income, gender). Has this produced conservative, liberal, or moderate values? (4 pts)
Using the info from Wikipedia, compare/contrast the demographics of your district with your personal background. Be sure to include a comparison/contrast of your personal background (what you said in section 1A) with your district. Also, compare/contrast your ideology with your district. (Note: For ideology you will use the Cook PVI score to make a comparison. “R+” means it leans Republican, “D+” means that it leans Democrat. Anything above a +10 is very liberal/conservative.) (5 pts)
Where do you see the greatest differences between you and your district? How might these differences produce different political views. (If it’s helpful, feel free to use example issues like taxation, immigration, abortion, voter ID laws, etc.)? (5 pts)
Your next task is to compare/contrast your background and values with those of your congressional representative. [SR1]
Compare and contrast your background with that of your representative. In terms of identity traits, where is your common ground? Where are you different? Would you say that this is a strong descriptive representative for you? (6 pts)
Writing Section #2 (20 points)
Next, explore your representative’s substantive representation (i.e. values and voting record). [PR1 and PR2]
Using their official website, find a policy issue that your representative has taken a stand on (this will take some exploring, put a little time into it). Explain the issue briefly. Once you have explained the issue, provide information regarding the stance of your representative on the issue. (4 pts)
Compare/contrast your position with that of your representative. Where do you stand on the issue? Is your stance conservative or liberal? Next, try to articulate the opposing view. What might their objections be and what are the merits of their argument? Finally, respond to these objections while explaining—with logic—why your perspective is correct and theirs is mistaken. (4 pts)
Now that you have officially staked out a policy position, you need to think about how to get it put into action. [SR2]
Who in the government OR community should be involved? What specific actions can you (and others) take? Why is it important to get people involved in this cause and what will be the benefits of this action? (4 pts)
Let’s assume that you are successful in your efforts, and you achieve your policy goal. Now it is time to assess the impact of this potential change. [PR3]
What do you believe will be the consequences of putting this policy into practice? How would this improve your community, state, and country? (4 pts)
What do you think will be the short-term effects (within the next year or two)? How about the long-term impacts (beyond 2 years)? Finally, what are some negative unintended consequences that might result from this course of action? (4 pts)