SCC's Democracy Days Forum Will Tackle Election Year Topics

SCC’s annual educational forum will include presentations on health care legislation and the impact of mass media on the November elections

August 27, 2012

The 12th annual forum at St. Charles Community College known as Democracy Days is set to explore timely issues in America, including healthcare legislation and the November elections, as well as critical international subjects like the Arab Spring.

Democracy Days 2012 will take place from Monday, Sept. 17, to Thursday, Sept. 20. The forum is free and open to the public. The forum’s mission is to explore the health and functioning of democracy in America and abroad.

Several lecture and discussion sessions will focus on ideology, discourse and functioning of U.S. politics, including one on mass media and presidential elections by Darren Osburn and Paul Roesler, who are team-teaching a course on the subject at SCC this fall. 

Event organizer Michael Kuelker, SCC professor of English, says the forum has always sought to be timely and relevant.

“It’s intellectually stimulating to study history while it’s unfolding as our students will do in Paul and Darren’s course on politics and mass media. Fortunately, they will give the rest of us a window into the course,” Kuelker said.

SCC Democracy Days will again have a strong international focus, with presentations on the momentous Arab Spring, free speech in China and France, democracy in India, democracy in post-genocide Rwanda, and the vicissitudes of the KONY 2012 campaign.

SCC’s new club, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is spearheading a Democracy Days presentation by Dan Viets, who will discuss the mechanics of grassroots democratic activism on a polarizing issue, marijuana criminalization. Viets is the Missouri coordinator for the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Democracy Days, held annually around Constitution Day (Sept. 17), will include participation from SCC faculty, staff, administrators and students, as well as community members.

For more information on SCC’s Democracy Days, contact Kuelker at mkuelker@stchas.edu. For accommodation information, e-mail accessibilityservice@stchas.edu.

 

Democracy Days 2012 Agenda and Descriptions
Presentations will take place Sept. 17-20.

Monday, Sept. 17

11-11:50 a.m. – Propaganda and the Art of Political Persuasion
Room 205/206 of the Student Center
The U.S., and pretty much all democratically governed countries, rely on a social contract between its citizens and the government. Human beings are thought to have free will and voluntarily consent to certain laws and restrictions to allow society to function. But special interest groups have learned to use the media to manipulate public opinion and to alter people’s behavior.  Bob Gill, SCC instructional media manager, will probe the question, If citizens can be “programmed” to believe whatever the special interest groups want, is democracy even possible?

1-1:50 p.m. – Freedom of Speech as a Prerequisite for Democracy
Room 205/206 of the Student Center
In a presentation on speech and democracy, Steve Randoll, SCC associate professor of history, proceeds from 18th century Manchu China, where criticism of the ruling gentry class came from the only people allowed to exercise freedom of speech, the other members of the educated elite. At the same time in pre-revolutionary France, the rising middle class exercised freedom of speech and sharply criticized the Ancien Regime. Later in the century, the French Revolution embraced the idea of freedom of speech for everyone as a prerequisite for successful self-government, while Manchu China avoided the twin perils of revolution and free speech. Today, the Chinese government denies freedom of speech to both its citizens and to outside institutions seeking to do business in China, confirming the importance of freedom of speech as a means to and a cornerstone of self-government.  

2:30-3:50 p.m. – An Analysis of KONY 2012
Room 205/206 of the Student Center
Civil wars are, by nature, terrible for human rights. All too often, out of the chaos and violence emerge brutal leaders, such as Joseph Kony of the east African nation of Uganda. Something was different about this instance of war and oppression. A human rights campaign known as KONY 2012 yielded unprecedented levels of awareness about a human rights abuser as well as close scrutiny of the rights campaign itself. Michael Kuelker, SCC professor of English, offers an overview and commentary drawn from his years as an activist for Amnesty International USA.

Tuesday, Sept. 18

10-11:20 a.m. – Are the Sith Still With Us?: The “Star Wars” Saga, Human Nature and American Politics
Room 205/206 of the Student Center
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, two forces attempted to shape the Galactic Republic (the democracy of the era) – the Jedi Knights and the Sith Lords. The Jedi were an order dedicated to preserving democracy, virtuousness and peace throughout the galaxy. The Sith, on the other hand, were self-interested, greedy creatures who hoped to use their powers to reorganize the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire (a dictatorship) as did indeed happen. Lisa Davis, adjunct political science faculty member, explores the question, how different are we from the “Star Wars” story?   

11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m. – The Impact of Mass Media on the Presidential Election Process in America
Room 205/206 of the Student Center
Paul Roesler, SCC professor of political science, and Darren Osburn, SCC professor of communications, will share part of a course they are teaching this fall on how mass media – newspapers, radio, television and the Internet – have shaped the campaigns for president. This multimedia presentation will examine how party-owned newspapers, campaign jingles, television commercials, televised debates, political documentaries and Internet fundraising has helped and hindered candidates for the highest office in the land.

1-2:20 p.m. – Democracy in India
Room 205/206 of the Student Center
Since independence in 1948, India has been the largest democracy in the world. In the last parliamentary election, more that 500 million people cast their votes for their political candidate. But casting a ballot in the voting booth in private is only an end product of democracy, not democracy itself.  Vi Rajagopalan, associate professor of psychology, explores the cultural and political dimensions of Indian democracy past and present.

Wednesday, Sept. 19

10-10:50 a.m. – The Reality of “The Hunger Games” 
Auditorium of the Social Sciences Building
In author Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy, the capital of the post-apocalyptic country of Panem maintains tight control over the outlying districts that supply its resources. A violent reality television program reminds the districts who is in control while bans on travel and restricted access to mass media prevent the dissemination of information. Could a country like Panem maintain control this way? Join Darren Osburn to learn about the ways real countries have used – and still do use – Panemesque techniques to suppress democracy and keep a population in check.

Noon-12:50 p.m. – The Supreme Court and the Fate of Health Care Reform
Auditorium of the Social Sciences Building
In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act (often dubbed Obamacare). Paul Roesler will discuss the ruling and what it means for healthcare in America. In explaining the law, including the individual mandate and coverage requirements, Roesler will also focus on how the law will affect ordinary Americans and whether it will really reduce healthcare costs.

1-1:50 p.m. – The Arab Spring: The Role of Media in Spreading Democracy in the Arab World
Auditorium of the Social Sciences Building
Cell phones, satellite TV and the Internet – these media have played an important role in ending decades of totalitarian rule in North Africa and the Middle East. Gary McKiddy, adjunct history faculty member, will analyze the causes and effects and will speculate on the eventual outcome of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East. Will true democracies develop in the region? Will the transitional governments be able to provide institutional and economic stability? Can Islamic countries become democracies? What role did young people play in bringing about change?

3-3:50 p.m. – Competing Futures: The Liberal and Conservative Visions of America
Room 1203 of the Social Sciences Building
As the ideological divide between American liberals and conservatives grows wider, their visions of what the United States should be as a nation correspondingly continues to diverge. Gabe Harper, adjunct political science faculty member, will explore what sort of country America would be if either liberal or conservative policies could be put fully into effect. The possibility for compromise between the two ideologies will also be considered. 

Thursday, Sept. 20

10-11:20 a.m. – A Forum on Marijuana and Democracy
Room 205/206 of the Student Center
In a lecture and discussion co-sponsored by SCC’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy club, Dan Viets will discuss the mechanics of grassroots democratic activism as well as dimensions of marijuana criminalization in America. Viets is the Missouri coordinator for the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), former president of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and host of the weekly radio show, “Sex, Drugs and Civil Liberties.”

1-2:20 p.m. – Rwanda After the Genocide
Auditorium of the Social Sciences Building
Rachel McShane, adjunct biology faculty member, draws from her graduate school field studies in and years of observation of Rwanda in presenting a portrait of the nation since genocide ravaged the nation in 1994.

St. Charles Community College is a public, comprehensive two-year community college with associate degrees and certificate programs in the arts, business, sciences and career-technical fields. SCC provides workforce training and community-based personal and professional development as well as cultural, recreational and entertainment opportunities. For more information, visit www.stchas.edu.

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