USAs samfund

Her kan du lære alt om, hvordan det amerikanske samfund er indrettet. Alt fra valgsystemer over magtens tredeling til det amerikanske sundhedssystem bliver gennemgået på disse sider.

Siden er under opbygning, og der bliver løbende tilføjet ny materiale.

The U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights

The Constitution of the United States of America is the highest law of the United States. Empowered with the authority of the people by the authors and the consent of the leadership of the states, it is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limits on the government that protect the basic rights of United States citizens.

Why a Constitution?

The need for the Constitution grew out of problems with the Articles of Confederation, which founded a “firm league of friendship” between the states, and based most power in a Congress of the Confederation. This power was, however, extremely limited. The central government conducted international relations and made war, set weights and measures, and was the final judge of disputes between the states. Importantly, the government could not raise any funds itself, and was entirely dependent on the states themselves for the money necessary to operate. Each state sent a representation of between two and seven members to the Congress, and they voted as a group with each state getting one vote. But any decision of importance required every vote, which resulted to a government that was slow and ineffective.
A movement to improve the Articles began, and invitations to attend a convention in Philadelphia to discuss changes to the Articles were sent to the state governments in 1787. In May of that year, representatives from 12 of the 13 states (Rhode Island sent no representatives) assembled in Philadelphia to begin the work of redesigning the government. The representatives to the Constitutional Convention quickly began work on drafting a new Constitution for the United States.

The Constitutional Convention

A chief aim of the Constitution as written by the Convention was to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that basic rights would be at risk. One way that this was completed was to separate the power of government into three branches, and then to include checks and balances on those powers to assure that no one branch of government gained too much power over the others. This concern came largely out of the experience that the representatives had with the King of England and his powerful Parliament. The powers of each branch are written in the Constitution, with powers not assigned to them given to the states.

Much of the debate, which was done in secret to make sure that representatives spoke their minds, was on the form that the new document would take. Two plans competed to become the new government: the Virginia Plan, which gave representation based on the population of each state, and the New Jersey plan, which gave each state an equal vote in Congress. The Virginia Plan was supported by the larger states, and the New Jersey plan preferred by the smaller. In the end, they settled on the Great Compromise (sometimes called the Connecticut Compromise), in which the House of Representatives would represent the people by state population size; the Senate would represent the states equally; and the President would be elected by the popular vote. The plan also called for an independent court system. The founders also made an effort to establish the relationship between states. States are required to give equal respect to the laws, records, contracts, and court decisions of the other states. States are not allowed to from discriminate against citizens of other states in any way, and cannot tax goods from one another. States must also hand over individuals’ accused of crimes to other states for trial.

The founders also allowed a process for the Constitution to be adjusted, and since it was passed, the Constitution has been adjusted 27 times. In order to prevent unnecessary changes, the process for making adjustments is quite difficult. An adjustment, called an amendment, may be recommended by a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress, or, if two-thirds of the states request one. The amendment must then be passed by three-fourths of the state legislatures, or three-fourths of meetings called in each state. In modern times, amendments have traditionally set a timeframe for when this has to be completed, usually a period of several years. Additionally, the Constitution specifies that no amendment can deny a state equal representation in the Senate without that state’s permission.
When all the details where agreed to, the writers got down to the work of actually writing the Constitution on paper. It is written in the hand of a representative from Pennsylvania, Governor Morris. On September 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 representatives signed the new document. Some of the representatives refused to sign because of a lack of a bill of rights.

Approval

The process set out in the Constitution for its approval provided for a lot of debate in the states. The Constitution would take effect once it had been approved by nine of the thirteen state governments. During the debate over the Constitution, two sides emerged: the Federalists, who supported adoption, and the Anti-Federalists, who opposed it. The states proceeded to begin approval, with some debating more intensely than others. Delaware was the first state to approve, on December 7, 1787. After New Hampshire became the ninth state to approve, on June 22, 1788, the Confederation Congress established March 9, 1789, as the date to begin operating under the Constitution. By this time, all the states except North Carolina and Rhode Island had ratified.

The Bill of Rights

One of the main points of argument between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists was the lack of a list of basic civil rights in the Constitution. Many Federalists argued that the people gave up no rights in adopting the Constitution. In several states, however, the approval debate depended on the adoption of a bill of rights. The solution was known as the Massachusetts Compromise, in which four states approved the Constitution but at the same time sent recommendations for amendments to the Congress.

James Madison introduced 12 amendments to the First Congress in 1789. Ten of these would go on to become what we now consider to be the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or leaving out its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms.

The Third Amendment excludes the government from housing troops in private homes, a major grievance during the American Revolution.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unfair search and seizure. The government may not conduct any searches without a good reason, and such reasons must be issued by a judge and based on good faith.

The Fifth Amendment provides that citizens not be subject to criminal trial and punishment without proper procedure. Citizens may not be tried on the same set of facts twice, and are protected from self-incrimination (the right to remain silent).

The Sixth Amendment assures the right to a fair and speedy trial by a jury of ordinary citizens.

The Seventh Amendment provides that civil cases also be tried by jury.

The Eighth Amendment disallows unnecessary bail, unnecessary fines, and cruel and unusual punishments.

The Ninth Amendment states that the list of rights mentioned in the Constitution is not in-depth, and that the people keep all rights not mentioned.

The Tenth Amendment gives all powers not assigned to the United States, or forbidden to the states, to either the states or to the people.

Skole på amerikansk

Selvom USA på mange måder ligner Danmark og man går nogenlunde lige længe i skole i de to lande er der alligevel en del forskelle.

På de her sider kan I læse om nogle af de forskelle og om, hvordan det er at gå i skole i USA.

I de første to afsnit kan I læse en beretning fra Angela, der er fra USA. Hun beskriver hvordan det er at gå i folkeskole og high school i USA.

De efterfølgende afsnit beskriver USAs skolesystem helt fra børnehaveklassen op til universitetet.

God fornøjelse med at blive klogere på det amerikanske uddannelsessystem.

Elementary School

When I look back on elementary school in the US, I have wonderful memories. From Kindergarten to fifth grade, students attended the same school. Each year, I got a new teacher and a new class. During the day, our teacher would teach us math, grammar, reading, and social studies. We all had desks with our names on them, and inside the desks we kept our notebooks and pencils. Often kids in my class gravitated toward those who had really neat pencils or erasers with colors or cartoon characters. In those days, pencils and folders were status symbols.

A few times a day, our class left the classroom for “special” periods, such as music, art, and physical education. Sometimes, these activities were the most exciting parts of my day. Art class was usually pretty fun, but more often than not the art teacher told us what project to do, which I didn’t like. I liked to free-draw, where I could let my creativity alone dictate what I’d make that day. I also enjoyed going to gym class, (what we called physical education), especially when we played my favorite games, like dodgeball or kickball. In music, the teacher would teach us new songs to sing for the concert at the end of the year.

Once I got to fifth grade, my last year in elementary school, we moved classes for some subjects. Instead of staying in the same room for science, we would go next door to Mr. J. and he would teach us. He was a great teacher. I remember for one lesson he gave us a battery, some wires, and a small light bulb and he told us to make it light up. It seemed so hard at first, and I was really frustrated. But once he showed us how, he also taught us to make a whole line of light bulbs illuminate, even if one in the middle didn’t work. I really liked science class! We also went to the other teacher’s room for reading, where we would read a “chapter” book and talk about it in class.

Halfway through fifth grade, a music teacher from the middle school came and gave us a demonstration of musical wind instruments. The teacher, Mr. Samour, told us that we could choose any of these instruments and learn how to play it! I was fascinated with the clarinet, so I signed up to take lessons with him. A bunch of kids would have clarinet-time around lunch period. In the end of the year, we had a concert for our parents. I really loved performing, and I have been playing ever since.

My fondest memory of elementary school was in fifth grade. In the winter, my teacher, Ms. Jones, cut down a small deciduous tree and painted it pink. She then brought it into class, and said that it was the Candy Tree. Our homework was to bring in candy and as an activity we tied the pieces onto the tree with yarn. Each day, we’d look longingly at the tree, waiting for it to be almost Winter Vacation. It was only then we could take four pieces of candy home with us. The other two fifth grade classes would come and take some too. Everyone loved when it was time for the Candy Tree.

High School

My high school in the US had 1,900 students in it. The campus was made up of four buildings, and going to class in the winter was a very cold and windy ordeal. I always wondered why my town had hired a Californian to design a school in Boston, Massachusetts. It was often miserable changing classes in the nasty weather every 50 minutes. During the day, this went on from 7:55 a.m. until 2:25 p.m., with a twenty-minute break for lunch.

During high school, I enjoyed film and history classes the most. I often signed up for honors-level history courses. Students are assigned to levels depending on how advanced or behind they may be in the class. There are four levels: level 1, level 2, honors, and Advanced Placement. I usually took honors in history, but most of my friends did honors in sciences like physics or astronomy. The teachers were very tough graders, and they always preferred to be called “Mrs. Jones,” or “Mr. Smith.” Whenever I got a teacher who let us use his first name, I knew it would be a fun class.

My least favorite part of high school was study halls. When we had a gap in our schedules between classes, we were assigned to a study hall in which we sat and did homework. These hours became very boring very quickly, and often kids tried to make the time pass quickly by going to the bathroom for a long period of time. However, once students get to their third and fourth years of high school, and their grades are acceptable enough, they have “open campus.” Instead of study halls, my friends and I were free to walk to the center of town and sit outside or grab coffee and lunch. There were many such privileges involved with being an upperclassman. These were the good days!

My favorite thing in high school by far was the social life. I made most of my friends in music classes such as wind ensemble and concert choir. These courses counted as four-credit subjects. Classes would meet four times a week, just as often as academic classes. The best part was our Pops concert in May, at the end of the year. All the music classes put together a performance and we would dress up in formal attire and play famous music from movie soundtracks. All the parents would come and sit around tables with cakes and soda. Even though we always ended up sweating in the May heat, I still think back on Pops as one my favorite parts of high school.