“Ask Mr. Little”
Student Questions for the Month of March
1. Is it illegal to burn a state flag?
No state can ban flag burning, as such a law would violate the 1st Amendment. Our Supreme Court would likely hear the appeal, then overturn it.
Some states, however, do ban you from burning someone else’s flag, under the law of it being illegal – obviously – to damage another’s property. Sneaky way of getting around the 1st Amendment, eh?!
2. Did Dakota split in half, or was it always North and South?
Like a lot of the western US (western being west of the original 13 colonies), the Dakotas were originally a part of the “Dakota Territories,” just as Illinois was a part of the “Northwest Territories.” We’ll learn more about this next month, but the Dakotas started as a large territory that was later split into the states of N/S Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. It was eventually reduced to just the size of present-day N/S Dakota, and in 1889, was admitted to the Union as 2 separate states. While they were a part of a “territory,” or colony together, they were never the same state. That’s because the population is in dramatically different areas (far north and far south), making it unmanageable as one state. Also, the Republicans (then in power in the west), wanted to have 4 more Senators instead of just 2!
3. What was the most recent filibuster?
In 2005, Democrats had grown tired of Republicans (though President Bush) nominating “conservatives,” and people they didn’t think were fit for the office. Not based on their qualifications or their ability to uphold the Constitution, but because they didn’t like their politics. There is a very fine line dividing the two, and its very difficult to know when one is being “unjust” or just not doing what you’d like them to do.
Anyway, the Democrats filibustered many of the Presidents candidates. As the minority party, they wouldn’t be able to vote the nominee’s down, but they can stall…and stall… and stall… and stall. The idea was to so frustrate the Republicans, that the Democrats would get what they wanted: more liberal, less conservative judges.
Filibusters are confusing, because they create change indirectly. The goal of a filibuster is almost to “prove a point,” or irritate the opposition enough to change their mind. Quite often, it is the only voice the minority (smaller) party has. If there are 55 Republicans, and 45 Democrats, the Democrats are the minority party. Therefore, whenever they vote, Republicans win. The Democrats (sometimes best) choice is to filibuster to stall and “prove a point.” Voting would just result in a loss, so they stall, delay any vote, and get what they want. While they don’t always get what they want, a President sometime backs down because it’s a very strong show of force, and the President must appoint new judges. If the Democrats refuse to break their filibuster, then President has no choice but to change his mind.
We’ll talk a lot more about filibusters in class this week, as well as if they are fair or not.
4. Is cheerios a British company?
No. General Mills, a company based out of the Midwest, I believe, is wholly an American company. They own Cheerios.
5. If America is a Republic, then why do schools teach that it is a democracy?
I can’t speak for all teachers, but our government is taught as a democracy early in school because the idea of that kind of government is easier to understand. Saying that we’re a “democracy” and that “all people have a say” helps you feel good about your government, and learn it a little better.
While not totally accurate, junior high and high school teachers are entrusted with helping you more fully understand what a republic is. Everyone still has a say, but the logistic and practical nightmare of collecting 300 million votes makes a republic a little more reasonable.
6. How long did it take to establish a friendship with Britain after the Revolution?
The Americans and British argued over the northern American border for the much of the 1800’s, but later became valuable trade partners to each other, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Both had become very formidable powers due to their wealth, and I think they needed each other to continue and increase that wealth.
During the 1900’s, two World Wars and common enemies fused us into the “best buddies” we are today.
7. Did the British try to take the colonies back?
Most historians think, no, the Brits did not try to take us back. However, many of those historians still think that the British wanted us in their “sphere of influence,” and wanted some control over us.
We haven’t learned it yet, but many people consider the War of 1812 to be the American Revolution: Part II. That’s where the Americans and Brits fought over lands in northern America and Canada, as well as the perception by Americans that the British weren’t going away and may have wanted the land back. Fortunately for us, the British Empire was fighting all over the world (primarily with Napoleon of France), so their attention was never fully on us. This is the war when the Brits burned much of Washington, DC, including the White House. That’s when Dolly Madison famously saved George Washington’s portrait hanging there.
8. Did they have jails during the 1700’s in the colonies?
Yes, they did. While stocks and pillories were more common punishments for crimes, colonists could still be thrown in jail. Some were even sent back to Britain. However the biggest influence on all life in the colonies was religion. Most people followed the bible to some degree, and believed that punishment would ultimately come from God. This was the biggest deterrent to crime, but jails and other methods were probably used for repeat offenders and more serious crimes. Cub games hadn’t been invented to punish people with, yet. :)
9. What types of entertainment did the 13 colonies have?
Not a lot. Remember, the Colonists are fighting for their lives. Work is done all day, and warring with the Natives (when not robbing them) takes up the left over time. Sadly, I’m sure some colonists were entertained by the treatment of Native Americans.
In Jamestown, the first game of American soccer was believed to have taken place. There’s not a ton of evidence to support this idea, but some historians believe so. Entertainment and games weren’t among the important facets of colonial life, therefore weren’t recorded as well as trade, religion war, and governments.
10. When did the colonies become states?
The colonies declare themselves as “states” for the first time in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. They remained states though the war (though 1783), and during the Articles of Confederation era (1781 – 1787). By calling themselves states, they remained very independent, as we’ve learned, maybe even too independent. Not until they were a “more perfect union” after the Constitution was ratified, did we become states like we are today.