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By Aisha Subhan
Contributing Writer

*This essay was originally published in The UCSD Guardian and can be viewed here. If you would like to submit a piece to us, then please email us.

Education is a scarce and precious resource — but a vital one. For those in pursuit of a higher education in war-torn areas, the educations of their dreams remain insurmountable. Now, new challenges lie ahead in America.

In light of recent currents events, I first urge the University of California President Janet Napolitano to issue a statement demanding protection for international and refugee students and the repeal of the executive order’s ban on student visas. Further, I urge UC San Diego to establish a scholarship program for promising students who qualify for refugee or political asylum status.

In response to this crisis, UCSD could play a unique, life-saving role. For the university’s benefit, a scholarship program of the like could further UCSD’s mission and future goals.

Within UCSD’s mission lies the following statement: “As a public university, it’s our responsibility to give back to society by educating global citizens, discovering new knowledge, creating new technology, and contributing to our economy.” Providing and assisting for the world’s refugee population, would serve as lasting investments in all of these areas. Such a population would only enrich our society.

UCSD anticipates creating a new environment that will require “critical thinking, emotional intelligence and other key skills that have previously not been emphasized.”

UCSD has a chance, more than ever, to respond, to act and to save lives. These key skills that the university hopes to emphasize can factor into a response to the very crisis mentioned here.

While darkness, destruction and despair currently haunt these nations, one must think critically about the future. The children of these nations, refugees and the internally displaced are the future of this region upon return. Why not assist these children in the building of their foundations? Why not give them an opportunity to prosper and grow? Why not help them so they can help their nations’ heal?

In responding to this crisis, one must also utilize emotional intelligence. Given the certain climate of our world order today, we must sympathize more, open our hearts more widely and imagine being in the shoes of refugees and those seeking asylum. Much of our fellow humanity wishes for escape, hopes to continue to live and aspire just as we do. In displaying who we are, we can choose to respond, to improve lives and to shape a better future for us all.

Because of similar scholarship programs and initiatives like Books not Bombs and the Institute of International Education, several success stories have emerged. Commenting on his experience, Syrian student at University of Evanston and scholarship recipient Walid Hasanato stated, “Life is better when you are genuine, simple, nice and inviting. Life is better when you are human” (Books not Bombs).

Finally, I urge UCSD to absorb this simple sentiment, to make it our own. Life is better when you are human. Life is better when we aid our common humanity. Life is better when we remain committed to all lives. Life is better when we support life.
Because I envision this program to support life itself, I have named the future scholarship program the The LIFE (Learning Initiative for Freedom and Equality) scholarship. It has the power to help us achieve the sentiments stated above: UCSD students and faculty, I urge you to help me in this pursuit.

Photo by United Nations Photo


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By Shahbaz Shaikh
Guest Writer

*Although we are a student-run journal at UCSD, you do not have to be affiliated with UCSD in order to submit a piece to us. If you have written an article that you believe fits the focus of our journal and would like to have it published, we encourage you to send it to us and we’ll publish it if it meets our standards.

 Learning that you are an American, and learning how to be an American, sparsely has the study around it than other archetypal life events humanity is bound to. Though those events are bound to non-Americans as well, it is strictly an American illumination to imbue oneself with the knowledge of being American, and with that belief, to act to secure its emotion in the midst of the vicissitudes and serendipity in fate. To even describe it envelops the speaker in its inextricable link to the true nature of the life experience, and because it only hopes to embolden individuals to grip and harmonize with that feeling, it cannot do anything other than resonate as a major chord in the American community. Far more than acknowledging any of the aspects of one’s own implacable nature as living, is the capacity to be free to search oneself and know them. It is true that the American dream is the silence between the notes of the American working and waking life and the legacy that is left there by the various generations, but with the pluralist understanding of the antagonism to be had in being a practicing American, there is a certain discord that is necessary in arriving at the harmony that we as Americans ought dutifully to fight for and arrive at. Learning that you are an American, today, may be harder to tune into given the levels of chromatic discordance in government. It had been the case for 90% of American children, until the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos to the current president’s cabinet as Secretary of Education, that one of the venues the American social contract mandated that our leaders would maintain for them – public schools, there to assure the education of a student so that they can hone their capacity to learn for themselves, their society, and their capacity to engage in the economic affairs of their community, and those schools’ government interactions and internal structures designed to aid in understanding those schools’ processes and results in order to improve itself – was sure to be fundamental to America’s ongoing communal effort to educate its youth to live well as a nation. Teaching the youth about the fundamentals of living as an American made public schools into a bastion of American culture, and a venue for cementing the legacy of American progress. Today, public schools are less likely to be the venue for that American communal effort. Instead, the American government’s leadership suggests it is more apt to pursue bolstering a family’s capacity to choose where and how to educate their children, also known as school choice. School choice is the name given to the voucher program wherein instead of federal funding given to states to support their public schools in any way, that monies is instead distributed to individual families in states for them to choose to spend on anything having to do with education.

The reason why this transition from the general support of public schools to the support of school choice is being made is because the latter education policy is more aligned with Conservative political ideology of today’s leadership in America. This policy action manifested from adherence to a facet of the conservative ideology that espouses a belief in freedom and free markets being the key to true efficiency and fair outcomes. To conservatives, freedom and free markets are primary after the assurance of acting within the purview of what have historically been said as Judeo-Christian values but which can also be said in secular terms. Conservatism espouses an emphasis on self-reliance. It entails the use of government as a tool to assure an adamant proscription against the obligation of some to others in any manner that intercedes in the individual’s right to the product of their labor, as well as against social legislation that would either support or not deny a systemic right to anything contrary to Conservative moral values. A major structure of an ideal conservative government and society is to use the government purely to assure an incapacity in its people to act in ways that are contrary to what people ought to practice in their private domains and of their own accord by proscribing them whenever possible. All duties Conservatives believe ought to come from government prescription – those having to do with the support of free enterprise, a fair structuring of the court system, and public defense – are some of the few prescriptive actions conservatives deem fit for it to take. From this it should be easy to conclude that prescribing an education policy, thematically aligned with conservative beliefs which when typically applied only normally justify a proscription of action, is difficult without risking contradicting those beliefs. The antithesis of conservatism that is found in wasting money, plausibly abusable government oversight, and the denigration of the individual right to maintain their culture, are implicit in Secretary of Education DeVos’ theory of school choice policy and its previous and current manifestations as policy action in the states and as legislation in Congress.

What I posit is this – it is a bad government practice and immoral to structure school choice similar to any of its previous manifestations. This policy will kill the American dream for many, make the American waking life a strictly austere aural ongoing, and turn being an American into an isolated acknowledgement and not a communal bulwark of the nation’s culture. Subjecting American education to the free market presupposes that the profit motive can and always has aligned itself with the social welfare of the communities schools work in. In reality market conditions can manifest to make schools worse than today. To trust the free market with our children is an abnegation of any responsibility of the federal government to assure equitable treatment of individuals, and especially children, in this country. Given the high correlation between an American’s economic well-being and their education, and further, with their financial well-being and that of their community’s, the highly effective customer segmentation metrics of today can accurately project lower cost schools in lower income neighborhoods, predicting the conscription of students to a low-end school. Despite that outcome being acceptable to the conservative ideology given its emphasis on self-reliance and a subsequent acceptance of consequences, the predictability of that outcome likens the actualization of this policy to an intent to produce that outcome. Far more than growing pains or some equivocation with a frictional unemployment, the years of wasted education due to poorly structured and unregulated charter schools will severely impact the likelihood that these students will be capable adults. Conservative ideologies are undone by active deprecation of young students with government policy. With only proscription as a means to assure the American identity, on issues of the social and moral fabric alone, the support of school choice that historically cannot be said to have been conducted with sufficient measures of accountability lends credence to the claim that this policy is an active bolstering of crime and wastefulness. Conservatism acknowledges an archetypal presence of evil as a fundamental principle in supporting excellent public defense, but this Congress’ school choice policy fails to employ this same frame of mind when it ignores the innate capacity for greed and the possibility of abusive local programs, a common theme noticeable in each of the times this policy was tried by state governments . Another motivation for this policy is that government spending on schools has increased by 117% in the past 40 years with test scores remaining flat, but such a claim echoes the optimistic projections about the schools touted by proponents of this policy while at the same time proffering no capacity to maintain accountability differently than this policy’s prior failed manifestations, the latter criticism being especially true as per rhetoric in Secretary DeVos’ confirmation hearing wherein she declined to assure Congress about the existence and maintenance of accountability standards, stating only that she will measure them by the metric of a policy that has yet to be defined. Any inference to follow from the acknowledgement of the conservative ideals and free market principles that frame this policy might include a belief that accountability in education is best determined by these burgeoning corporate schools and resultantly elicit a further abnegation of responsibility of the American federal government to assure a culture and community by supporting public schools.

It is true that freedom is rung as the primary chord in the American identity, but with an increasing polarization of communities – in leadership, political ideologies, the voting booths and in gerrymandered districts – all paths that America can take that emphasize freedom only for freedom’s sake and not for the good of the nation should be treated with great skepticism. This metric for judging an expansion of freedom is of utmost importance when assessing claims about how to support the children of the nation. They are who bear the burden of bettering the community as time goes on. If the government is only a group of people, and all communities seek to leave behind a legacy for their children as well as their peers’ children, then why is the government not where individuals can make that dream a reality? Why does that circle of obligation not extend to the shared national identity? I acknowledge that it does not have to. People are more than encumbered by their immediate obligations and responsibilities. However, if people cannot aspire to raise the ground floor for everyone, then every fundamental American principle that was supposed to have followed from securing the blessings of liberty unto ourselves will be subverted by this mindless adherence to principle. The union will be less perfect, as schools will be structurally separate and unequal. Justice for people in lower income communities will be further stymied by their lack of access to the wealth necessary to assure an excellent education. Domestic tranquility will be undone by the unregulated scholastic establishments borne out of this policy. And while the common defense will continue to be supported by volunteers to the army like the ones from Michigan, it should be noted that those individuals oftentimes only volunteer because that is their only path to putting themselves in a part of the country with better general welfare than where they are from. Unaccountable, free-market based school choice will condemn many Americans to never living the American dream.



By Larry Silverton*
Staff Writer

This Week in Trump’s America

This is the second installment of a new weekly feature which will provide a brief summary of the week’s most prominent actions by the Trump Administration, as well as discussing some of their implications. The discussion of each topic will be relatively brief by necessity; please contact us if you feel we have neglected a significant action by the Administration or an important aspect of any issue.

  1. Cabinet Confirmations

This week, the Senate confirmed several of Trump’s Cabinet nominations – billionaire and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Georgia Representative Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services; with a few exceptions, voting occurred strictly along party lines. All three have raised widespread concerns and criticism. Many harbor uncertainty about DeVos’ performance of her duties as secretary due to her unsuccessful policies, potential conflicts of interest, and seeming unawareness of important topics in education. Detractors of Sessions cite longtime accusations of racism and his climate change denialism, casting doubt on his presentation as a champion of civil rights during the confirmation hearings. Most criticisms of Tom Price center on possible ties between his legislative agenda and personal financial gain, as well as his longtime opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

  1. Immigration Ban Update

Opponents of Trump’s immigration ban scored a victory this week as the Court of Appeals upheld Judge James Robart’s order blocking enforcement of the ban. In response to the Justice Department’s failed appeal, Trump tweeted that he would “SEE [them] IN COURT”, suggesting an intent to appeal the case to the Supreme Court echoed by Chief of Staff Reince Preibus , though sources conflict on this subject. However, Trump also said that he may issue a “brand new order” early next week, perhaps revising its wording to improve its legality.

  1. Diplomacy – Australia

Trump took part in several notable diplomatic exchanges this week; the first occurred with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Despite early positive signs, relations with Prime Minister Turnbull appeared to sour last Saturday when the latter urged Trump to honor a previous US commitment to take 1,250 refugees currently in an Australian detention center. Senior US officials say that Trump “blasted” Prime Minister Turnbull in response, bragged about the margin by which he won the Electoral College vote; Trump then hung up on Prime Minister Turnbull without warning only 25 minutes into a planned hour-long conversation, claim the sources. In the following days, the two made contradictory statements about the call to the public, with Turnbull claiming that the US would honor the agreement while Trump called it “the worst deal ever”.

  1. Diplomacy – China

Xi Jinping pressured Trump into an important political concession on Thursday, in the first phone call between the two. During the call, Trump agreed to honor the “One China” policy, which acknowledges that only one China exists and that Taiwan, which officially refers to itself as the “Republic of China”, is part of that single entity. Before the call, Trump had raised doubts as to whether he would support the One China policy in taking a call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. President Obama also previously voiced commitment to the One China policy.

  1. Diplomacy – Japan

Relations with Japan appear smooth so far for Trump. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s weekend visit began with a congenial press conference on Friday, in which Prime Minister Abe pledged to support Trump in addressing US unemployment. Trump emphasized the US commitment to defending Japan; this seems to contradict his campaign promise to force Japan to pay more for US military aid. The only notable bump appears to be a particularly awkward handshake between the two, who will spend the weekend with their wives at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

  1. The Russian Connection

Concerns about possible connections between Trump and the government of Vladimir Putin resurfaced this week as US investigators confirmed some details from the “Russia dossier”, a 35-page document gathered by a former MI6 agent. The dossier alleges that Russia possesses compromising information about Trump (specifically a video of Trump taking part in embarrassing sexual acts) and that Trump and his team maintained contact with Russian operatives before and during the 2016 election. As of this writing, the full text of the dossier is available here. On a related note, recent leaks revealed that before Trump took office, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may have warned Russia of pending sanctions by President Obama and discussed potentially lifting those sanctions. These leaks could indicate violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on important policy issues. Overall, recent developments suggest that controversy about the alleged link between Trump and Putin may continue to plague the early days of the new administration.

*Because of the sensitivity of some of the topics discussed here and the reaction of the Trump administration towards the media, some writers have opted to use pen names when writing about the Trump Presidency. Likewise, some of our staff writers at Prospect Journal of International Affairs will be using pen names when discussing the Trump government.

Image by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff