In My Opinion by Caroline Porter
Spring break for the older set.
For us kids who are students at Western Illinois University, this week is spring break. Way too many amusing friends have asked me if they might see me on the television show, ÒCoeds Gone Wild.Ó I hate to admit it, but a good thing about being a full time graduate student at this age is that I have none of those awful distractions, like drinking, partying and chasing men. Really, itÕs quite a relief. But even when I was in school fifty years ago, some Knox students had the luxury of heading for warmer climes during ÒEaster break.Ó
I remember standing around with friends while they talked about the exotic places they were going to visit, and eventually someone would turn to me and ask my destination. ÒKewanee?Ó I would ask, as if someone would really tell me that was an exotic spot. It honestly never occurred to me to ask my parents if I could take such a trip. It might have been common in the suburban Chicago crowd, but around here it was considered a luxury few could afford and kind of stupid, anyway.
My young buddies at Western, whom I really enjoy, were planning trips home and away, but many are working on papers and assignments due next week. With only eight weeks of classes to go, things are beginning to get a bit hairy.
So, during my spring break IÕm catching up on housework, shopping, attending a few meetings, and yes, reading assignments and beginning research for three papers. My classes this semester may not be interesting to you, but I am lapping up the knowledge with gusto. One is ÒConstitutional Law: Governmental Power,Ó and our books are so up to date we have studied Supreme Court cases about the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay asking for due process (habeas corpus): the right to have charges filed, representation and hearings on guilt or innocence. WeÕve read Clinton v. Jones, as if I have to explain the circumstances, but it was interesting, because the question President Clinton wanted answered was whether or not the trial about his alleged sexual misconduct with Ms. Jones could be postponed until after his presidency. Unfortunately for him, because the incident supposedly happened before he was president, he wasnÕt protected by executive privilege. (Lord, I hope my professor never reads this.)
WeÕve read the cases U.S v. Nixon, when he wouldnÕt turn over his oval office tapes during the Watergate investigation and New York Times v. U.S. when President Nixon tried to stop the publication of the Pentagon papers, which told the real story about the Viet Nam War. Having lived through these times, it is fascinating stuff, and we have a textbook that explains the issues and opinions as clearly as possible.
WeÕve read landmark cases such as Marbury v. Madison, a case IÕve always heard about but wasnÕt important to me until now. Some Supreme Court decisions are really horrifying, such as Korematsu v. U.S, when our government rounded up all the Japanese-Americans into internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Mr. Korematsu refused to go, for it was, after all, four months after the attack, he was an American citizen and he had done nothing wrong. The court decided against Korematsu, deferring to President RooseveltÕs executive order authorizing military zones and Congress passing legislation approving it and providing criminal penalties. The military said they didnÕt have time to figure out who was a risk and who was not, so everyone of Japanese descent on the West Coast was affected. Talk about racism. It was an awful precedent that has since been corrected, but a sign of the times, and it could become a sign of the times again if we arenÕt careful.
On Wednesday nights I have a two and a half hour class in Public Administration. Because I also have two county board meetings a month on Wednesday nights, my professor is allowing me to have a semi-independent study schedule. I think he figures my county board meetings are a study of public policy and public administration in the real world and the program meshes quite well. All I know is that on Wednesday nights, IÕm busy hassling with problems of governance, either in the Knox County courthouse or in the classroom.
My third class is ÒParties, PACS, and Pressure Groups,Ó a subject where I have a lot of background, but have to keep it to myself and concentrate on what IÕm being taught. IÕm learning political organization on the national level and the history of political parties, which is sometimes wilder than anything going on today. Needless to say, IÕm an expert on local and state politics in the class, but, much as it may surprise my readers, I try to keep quiet.
IÕm grateful to be in good enough health, mentally and physically, to be a student at this stage of my life. I look forward to teaching classes on American Government and our political system.
Caroline Porter is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other columns are online at www.thezephyr.com.