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The United States is in a period of political turmoil and polarization. New technologies have matured over the last ten years, which have transformed an individual’s relationship with society and government. The emergence of these technologies has revolutionized access to both information and misinformation. Skills such as bias recognition and critical thinking are more imperative than in any other time to separate truth from false or misleading information. Meanwhile, education has not evolved with these changes. The average individual is more likely to come to uninformed conclusions and less likely to listen to differing perspectives. Moreover, technology is further complicating and compounding other issues in the political process. All of this is manifesting in division among the American people who elect more polarized politicians who increasingly fail to find avenues for compromise.
In an effort to address these trends, we founded a student organization, The Political Literates, to fight political apathy by delivering political news in an easy to understand and unbiased manner. Inspired by our experience with this organization, we combine our insights with research to paint a new perspective on the state of the American political system.
This thesis analyzes various issues identified through our observations and research, with a heavy emphasis on using examples from the 2016 election. Our focus is how new technologies like data analytics, the Internet, smartphones, and social media are changing politics by driving political and social transformation. We identify and analyze five core issues that have been amplified by new technology, hindering the effectiveness of elections and further increasing political polarization:
● Gerrymandering which skews partisan debate by forcing politicians to pander to ideologically skewed districts.
● Consolidation of media companies which affects the diversity of how news is shared.
● Repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which allowed media to become more partisan.
● The Citizens United Ruling which skews power away from average voters in elections.
● A Failing Education System which does not prepare Americans to be civically engaged and to avoid being swayed by biased or untrue media.
Based on our experiment with the Political Literates and our research, we call for improving how critical thinking and civics is taught in the American education system. Critical thought and civics must be developed pervasively. With this, more people would be able to form more sophisticated views by listening to others to learn rather than win, listening less to irrelevant information, and forming a culture with more engagement in politics. Through this re-enlightenment, many of America’s other problems may evaporate or become more actionable.
Following the fall of communism in Romania which took place on December 25, 1989, those living within the country as well as others around the world believed the ushering of a nation towards a brighter future was underway. The limitations imposed by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu were removed and a brighter future was on the horizon. Twenty-seven years have passed since this historical event in Romanian history, yet the country is far removed from that brighter future, as it is now plagued by other symptoms. The transition from communism to a fully functioning democracy has not been as smooth or as quick as many initially expected, and although some problems are no longer prevalent, others are becoming a staple of the nation. The Colectiv nightclub fire exemplifies the current obstacles and drawbacks of present day Romania, which impede the country's further progress to becoming a truly democratic nation, free from corruption and other widespread negative forces. Although the results of the incident which happened on the night of October 30th, 2015 are devastating and painful for those involved, their families, and to the entire country as a whole, the factors which led to this tragedy must be examined and rectified in order to help prevent any such event from reoccurring in the future. Throughout this analysis, I will proceed by first outlining the damaged system within both the Romanian government and society, and then examine how these shortcomings had a direct impact on the disaster which took place on the night of October 30th, 2015.
With a prison population that has grown to 1.4 million, an imprisonment rate of 419 per 100,000 U.S. residents, and a recidivism rate of 52.2% for males and 36.4% for females, the United States is facing a crisis. Currently, no sufficient measures have been taken by the United States to reduce recidivism. Attempts have been made, but they ultimately failed. Recently, however, there has been an increase in experimentation with the concept of teaching inmates basic computer skills to reduce recidivism. As labor becomes increasingly digitized, it becomes more difficult for inmates who spent a certain period away from technology to adapt and find employment. At the bare minimum, anybody entering the workforce must know how to use a computer and other technological appliances, even in the lowest-paid positions. By incorporating basic computer skills and coding educational programs within prisons, this issue can be addressed, since inmates would be better equipped to take on a more technologically advanced labor market.<br/>Additionally, thoroughly preparing inmates for employment is a necessity because it has been proven to reduce recidivism. Prisons typically have some work programs; however, these programs are typically outdated and prepare inmates for fields that may represent a difficult employment market moving forward. On the other hand, preparing inmates for tech-related fields of work is proving to be successful in the early stages of experimentation. A reason for this success is the growing demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11 percent between 2019 and 2029. This is noteworthy considering the national average for growth of all other jobs is only 4 percent. It also warrants the exploration of educating coders because software developers, in particular, have an expected growth rate of 22 percent between 2019 and 2029. <br/>Despite the security risks of giving inmates access to computers, the implementation of basic computer skills and coding in prisons should be explored further. Programs that give inmates access to a computing education already exist. The only issue with these programs is their scarcity. However, this is to no fault of their own, considering the complex nature and costs of running such a program. Accordingly, this leaves the opportunity for public universities to get involved. Public universities serve as perfect hosts because they are fully capable of leveraging the resources already available to them. Arizona State University, in particular, is a more than ideal candidate to spearhead such a program and serve as a model for other public universities to follow. Arizona State University (ASU) is already educating inmates in local Arizona prisons on subjects such as math and English through their PEP (Prison Education Programming) program.<br/>This thesis will focus on Arizona specifically and why this would benefit the state. It will also explain why Arizona State University is the perfect candidate to spearhead this kind of program. Additionally, it will also discuss why recidivism is detrimental and the reasons why formerly incarcerated individuals re-offend. Furthermore, it will also explore the current measures being taken in Arizona and their limitations. Finally, it will provide evidence for why programs like these tend to succeed and serve as a proposal to Arizona State University to create its own program using the provided framework in this thesis.