Artificial Intelligence Will Wreck Our World

Over the course of the next decade or so, the use of artificial intelligence is set to grow dramatically. Americans today are fond of many technologies that use this feature, technologies such as Alexa, face recognition, and anything automatic. At first glance, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) seems like an innovative technology that will better our society and make our lives easier. However, A.I. presents itself with a multitude of risks. Some of these very real risks include economic downturn, violations of privacy, superintelligence, and even the potential of ‘killer robots’. Militaries across the world have been working on and developing combat robots. Should these machines be hacked or even misused, the consequences could be detrimental and everlasting to our society. Billionaires such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, as well as Stephen Hawking, have all warned that if we aren’t afraid of A.I., then we certainly should be. The serious dangers of this new technology are underreported in the news media. The American public is largely uninformed about the threats A.I. poses to their jobs, livelihoods, and privacy. Bringing awareness to the topic is the first step towards finding a solution.

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Birth Control: The Ongoing Insurance Debate

For nearly 50 years, family planning has been regarded as a public health matter. From George W. Bush’s term as a Texas representative, to Nixon’s presidency, to our recent Obama administration, the push for birth control coverage has been instituted as ever-present in American politics.

On August 1st, 2011, this debate was put to rest by then-president Barack Obama when he added the contraception mandate to the Affordable Care Act. Under this mandate, insurance companies were required to offer and cover birth control for all consumers. Yet, in today’s political situation, this mandate is under fire yet again.

In October of 2017, President Trump declared his intention to roll back this mandate, allowing employers to decide whether or not their employees will receive birth control as part of their insurance policy. While this was a breath of fresh air for companies such as Hobby Lobby, who had been lobbying against this policy for years due to religious affiliation, the looming repeal caused a panic among many American women.

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The Solution to the Partisan Divide: The Libertarian Party

Has the United States reached the point of no return? Is political polarization the cause of all our problems? Are we stuck in a continuous downward spiral? Americans have pondered these questions practically since the end of the Second World War. Currently, despite factions continuing to emerge in the Republican and Democratic Parties, third parties effectively accomplish little to nothing. The Libertarian Party has been somewhat of a disappointment, especially to Libertarians such as myself, but instead of giving up on the prospect of a viable alternative to our current political climate, why not push forward to show people the hope that it brings? The Libertarian Party promotes the social freedom that liberals desire and the economic freedom that conservatives want. Believing in the Libertarian Party for these principles is believing in freedom, and freedom is innate to Americans.  

The Libertarian Party’s approach to social freedom is evident in liberal philosophy. The belief that you should be able to do as you please without harming another’s right to do as they please was an important belief from French, Scottish, and early American Enlightenment societies. These principles of freedom were originally embraced by Americans after the Revolutionary War and still persist in Americans today. Despite the Founders’ flaws, they laid down the principles that were adopted by later philosophers to include everyone. These principles can be used by Libertarians interchangeably to apply to almost anything. Beliefs in the right to privacy, freedom of speech, marriage, expression, movement, and other aspects of life all pertain to the liberal mindset which the Libertarian Party possesses. Liberal Democrats believe that Libertarians are just “unique” Democrats. This belief is wrong. Libertarians are classical liberals in wanting freedom and do not believe in the harsh restrictions left-leaning people want to put on the economy and private businesses. What makes Libertarians so unique and how they are a solution to the problems America faces is their ability to incorporate all of the different elements of freedom into the party with their philosophy.

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Withdrawing From UNESCO Is a Mistake

Walking into our AP Comparative Politics class on October 12, 2017, we learned that the United States had announced its decision to leave UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. As a country, this is a collective step backward.

Initially, when we learned about this decision from our teacher, Letitia Zwickert, we knew very little about UNESCO, which motivated us to discover why this decision was of such importance, not only to our country, but also to the rest of the world. After researching further, we began to understand how vital UNESCO is to maintaining strong ties between different cultures.

The purpose of UNESCO is to promote diversity and support different cultures. Its mission is to educate constituents worldwide about building peace, preventing poverty, promoting dialogue, and fostering worldwide development. By being a signatory of UNESCO, a nation communicates that it stands in support of cultural diversity. This, in turn, encourages all of its citizens to embrace differences through a cultural and educational lens. Although the goals of UNESCO might not affect people on a day-to-day basis, the values and morals UNESCO promotes help us embrace and celebrate our differences. This is vital to all societies to prevent negative social tension, encourage acceptance of diversity, and educate students in global citizenship.

For the average person, UNESCO has an overwhelmingly symbolic approach. For individuals and countries that are in need of assistance, UNESCO has developed initiatives to help them, prioritizing nations by need and allocating funding and resources accordingly.

Individuals of all ages are affected by UNESCO. By fostering collaboration and global understanding, UNESCO empowers state and local authorities, as well as local and global nonprofit organizations, to take steps toward fostering global understanding by creating strong and interconnected societies. This gives all regions of the world the ability to innovate and change our world for the better and for the future. This cannot be done without a bold global coalition to lead the way and strive to work and collaborate as a single entity.

If you examine UNESCO’s work closely, you can appreciate how difficult it has been to come so far in such a short time. For example, in working with UNESCO, world leaders from low-income countries have joined forces to increase access and availability of high-quality global citizenship education. UNESCO has embraced an innovative approach to help children who have been deprived of a basic education. The intent of these and other UNESCO investments is to stimulate new proposals to effect change in the developing world. By announcing its departure from UNESCO, it will now be incredibly challenging for the United States to reclaim its voice in that conversation.

On the other hand, governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the European Union, have made their stance quite clear on supporting UNESCO. The European Union has pledged to donate 8 percent of its humanitarian aid to countries in need of resources for education, as well as millions of dollars to the Education Cannot Wait Fund. Dubai Cares has also donated $500,000. The United States faces the threat of being left behind as UNESCO and member nations continue their work around the world.

We must continue to look ahead, promote the values of organizations like UNESCO, and advocate for UNESCO’s ideals both locally and globally. The most effective way to do this is by educating people on the accomplishments of UNESCO and providing resources for taking action, such as Promoting Tolerance, the UNESCO Youth Forum, and Democracy and Global Citizenship.

By writing about UNESCO, we hope to foster this important discussion about the value of celebrating diversity and global understanding. We need everyone to participate in this conversation in order to move forward effectively.

By educating ourselves about an organization as pivotal as UNESCO, we’ve developed a greater global perspective and feel better prepared to build strong relationships, especially in this time of racial tension and instability.

~Colin Jensen, Naperville Central High School

Fall State Recap 2017

On December 2nd-3rd, over 300 delegates from the Midwest State of the Junior State of America traveled to Madison, WI to attend Fall State, the first major convention of the year. For several years, Fall State has been hosted at the grandiose Wisconsin Capitol Building as well as the Madison Concourse Hotel. Generally, Fall State draws the largest Midwest delegations of the entire JSA year for any convention.

The convention kicked off in the Assembly Chamber of the Capitol Building, with all delegates hearing from keynote speaker Harry Brighouse, a Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Professor Brighouse dealt out valuable advice for college for all attendees, along with more general pieces of wisdom about party polarization and tolerance of different political views.

Along with announcements from various other Midwest directors, Midwest Governor Colin Jensen and Lieutenant Governor Anmol Parande delivered their opening remarks, imploring delegates to listen carefully to each other when debating throughout the weekend. After the convention was called to order, delegates flooded out of the Assembly Chamber, venturing into various rooms of the Capitol Building to discuss and contribute to different Thought Talks. Debate and moderator workshops were simultaneously held to help novice JSAers prepare for their first speaking and moderating experiences.

With help from navigation volunteers, delegates were directed to their next choices of debate sessions during the following blocks. Various resolutions were brought to the table, such as ¨Resolved, Congressional filibusters be abolished,¨ and ¨Resolved, a five million dollar cap be placed on Congressional campaign spending.¨

The heated debates from the Capitol Building on Saturday were followed by the Activism Fair and three Legislator Roundtables in the Concourse Hotel. At the Activism Fair, delegates had the opportunity to learn about ways to become involved in activist organizations, such as Pro-Life Wisconsin, Indivisible Madison, and Alliance for Animals. The Legislator Roundtable invited Representatives Melissa Sargent, Terese Berceau, Jimmy Anderson, and Senator Latonya Johnson to speak about topics they felt passionate about and that were within their realm of expertise. These discussions revolved around issues such as the media and its influence on politics, early childhood education, and free speech policies on the UW,-Madison campus.

After dinner came the less serious activities such as Chapter Caucus, where every chapter showcased their JSA spirit through a range of performances, including dancing, singing and acting. Chapter Caucus was followed by a block of light hearted debates on topics such as, ¨Resolved, it is better to be loud than logical,¨ and ¨Resolved, the earth is flat.¨ These debates were just as, if not more, intense than the serious resolutions. These debates transitioned into more night activities: the Open Mic, Dance, and Photobooth, where JSAers had the opportunity to pose in front of the camera with patriotic props and thematic posters. Other engagements open for students were the chances to register for JSA Summer Programs, write letters to veterans, and purchase homemade holiday cookies and various JSA merchandise.

On Sunday, the resolutions and thought talks continued. Audience participation was reflected in the numerous thought-provoking questions that were fired at speakers on both sides of the argument.

In addition, there were some special activities held that day: Mock Congress, and a Mock Supreme Court Case (Mock SCOTUS). Mock Congress consisted of a simulation of our nation’s legislative process. At this activity, students acted as legislators trying to pass a new bill that addressed background checks on gun purchasers. They weighed the merits and drawbacks of the bill, and proposed various amendments. The session ended with a vote that passed the bill. At the Mock Supreme Court Case, Carpenter v. United States was argued with Patrick Corrigan from Lake Forest High School as the plaintiff, and Maya Benzinger from District 204 as the defendant. The two of them assessed the various facets of the case in attempt to convince the Court to rule in their favor. Avigail Bailon from Morton East High School led the discussion and encouraged other delegates to voice their opinions on the case. Ultimately, the panel of justices ruled 7-2 in favor of Carpenter.

Fall State came to a close in the Assembly Chamber, where Best Speaker gavels and other awards such as the Summer School scholarship, were handed out. Delegates were reluctant to say goodbye to one another, and many remained in the building after closing session to catch up with both new and old friends. Although this year’s Fall State is over, the Midwest is already looking forward to many successful conventions and conferences during the remainder of this year and in the years to come.

Oconomowoc PartyCon Recap

The frigid cold and the snow of November 18th’s morning were little match for the warmth of conversation at play in Oconomowoc High School in southern Wisconsin. The JSA chapter from Oconomowoc was hosting its first ChapCon ever, and the enthusiasm of the event’s student organizers was palpable upon entering the building. Delegates came from nearly ten different chapters, and numbered about 40 in total. Branded as PartyCON, the chapter convention was themed around the American political parties — primarily the Democratic and Republican establishments. Discourse throughout the day generally considered highly partisan issues, including President Trump’s border wall and the Kaepernick kneeling incident during the National Anthem.

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American Polarization: The Deep Freeze in Political Unity

During the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in United States History, Americans still had hope in their country. To modern-day Americans, this might seem quite surprising, considering the 1930s were a time of trepidation and poverty. However, Americans during the 1930s had faith in each other, and they had faith in their leaders. They heard stories of people pulling themselves up from poverty and believed they could do the same. And many did. As a nation, we pulled ourselves through the troublesome Great Depression, through a brutal second world war, through the frightening Cold War, and through divisive social issues such as the Women’s Rights and the Civil Rights Movements. Now, it seems as though these same issues are whirling back. But this time, I am worried we will not be able to pull ourselves through. Crises bring people together, but today there seem to be so many comparatively smaller crises, such as natural disasters, terrorist shootings, and social divisions, that we are drowning in the chaos. But that is not why we cannot rise up above the issues. Simply put, it is because everyone seems to hate each other. It is no secret: political polarization is threatening the our nation’s ability to progress.

Polarization is far more than party rivalries, debates, or disagreements. I have been involved in countless debates, whether in Junior State of America, Model UN, Congressional debate, or with friends and family, and they are often are a back and forth of “I am right, you are wrong.” In theory, we learn to appreciate both sides despite this mentality. In the real world,  however, many do not appreciate both sides. So many Americans shun, reject, and hate other Americans who do not share their ideology. In fact, a study reported by the Atlantic in 2012 found that 40% of Americans oppose party intermarriage in comparison to only 5% in 1960.  It is no longer a matter of Democrat versus Republican or Republican versus Democrat. It is a matter of Right versus Wrong, Moral versus Immoral, and Virtue versus Evil. People associate opinions which differ from their own on how our country should be run with immorality. So many Americans are “rooting” for their political party without looking at the issues facing our nation through an unbiased lens.

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Fall One Day 2017 Recap

On October 21st, 2017, JSA student delegates from Illinois and Wisconsin traveled to the Union League Club of Chicago for the first Midwest-level convention of the year, Fall One Day. The event was in its third annual iteration, and Midwest Governor Colin Jensen began the convention with a few opening remarks. He was followed by the keynote speaker for the convention, Sarah Brune. As the Executive Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Brune spoke at length about her experiences from both running a nonprofit associated with political activism and her maturation as an advocate and young person in rural Nebraska. During the questioning period that followed her keynote speech, she provided students valuable advice on staying involved in their community.

Soon after, the first debate block began. Three debates and one thought talk were running simultaneously in the Union League Club’s exquisite rooms. Topics ranged from launching cyberattacks on Russia to prohibiting colleges from asking for applicants’ criminal history. After the third block, delegates went out into the city to eat lunch and converse with other delegates. A fun block with debate games such as RISK and Debates Against Humanity closed out the activities — a raucous, warm ending to an excellent convention.

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Op-ed: Women Not Wombs, or the Hypocrisy of the Pro-Life Movement

Clad in her thigh-high politics, writer Lauren Duca said, “When it comes to true financial and social equity, a woman’s right to choose is nonnegotiable.” In conjunction with President Trump’s recent attack against Obamacare, the effort to defund Planned Parenthood and all organizations that offer abortion clinics has again been brought to the forefront of politics. In the White House (and other branches of government), old white men (lacking ovaries) have crowded around an anti-abortion executive order to rule once and for all that the reproductive systems of 157 million women in this country are an entity that should be governed. As this ideology continues to thrive under the Republican reign, it is crucial to recognize the danger posed by coat-hanger methods and the illegal black market system that women resorted to just decades ago to perform abortions. These methods, conjured out of desperation, made opting out of the unhealthy and premature commitment that accompanies an unwanted pregnancy fundamentally dangerous. The stigma and opposition surrounding a woman’s right to have an abortion is blatant proof that we as a society do not trust a woman’s capability of making logical and self-governing decisions. Reproductive health, especially including abortion, should be fully accessible and funded by our government.

Regardless of the circumstance– whether it be rape, faulty birth control, or even immaturity– pregnancy should never be treated as a punishment. An unwanted and poorly-timed pregnancy does not only harm the woman, but it also sets a detrimental path for the child. This path includes neglect, poor financial situations, negative psychological impacts, and numerous other harms to the child. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a pro-life Republican, reasons that, “every human life is a precious gift from God”. Yet it is important to acknowledge that life is treated less of a “gift” if it is given as a punishment and taken unwillingly. Going through with an unwanted pregnancy creates a decades-long financial burden for the woman and will more than likely foster overwhelming emotional and psychological instability (especially in cases of rape/unhealthy relationships). It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the argument for pro-life often excludes the life of the woman.

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Naperville North ChapCon Recap

Naperville North High School hosted the first Midwest JSA Chapter Conference of the year on October 14th. During registration, attendees had the opportunity to donate used art supplies to SCARCE, an environmental organization non-profit based in Glen Ellyn, IL. Various desserts, baked by various NNHS chapter members, were also available for purchase. Roughly 90 students from a variety of different chapters were in attendance.

After the conference was called to a start by Chapter President Max Zhang, students broke off into three different rooms, two of them featuring different debates and one featuring a thought talk. Issues discussed ranged from stock options and company executive pay to governmental funding towards Planned Parenthood. Different styles of debate, such as the 180, where the speakers must argue in favor of the opposite viewpoint at the moderator’s discretion, were featured in each block.

After two blocks of heated discussion, pizza, salad, and drinks were served. JSAers took this time to catch up with one another and discuss their favorite JSA experiences. Appleton’s Cecelia McDermott says that IntroCon featured “ some of [her] new favorite memories of connecting with other JSAers.”

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