21. Cults. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (3d ed.), a cult is a religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false. Its followers are under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader, and are often living communally. Consider the following questions:
- Are cults protected by Freedom of Religion?
- What rights have others (parents, authorities) to try to bring cult members back into the mainstream?
- What methods are used to reclaim these members? Are they legal? Does the end justify the means?
- Are cults dangerous to society? To their members?
22. Cultural Diversity. Not too long ago, immigrants became completely assimilated into American society and attempted to lose their own ethnic identity. Today, people from different ethnic backgrounds feel that it is important to preserve their history. Large ethnic groups living together are a force to be considered. As immigrant populations reach a critical mass, especially in large cities, is the “melting pot” transforming them, or are they transforming U.S. society? What will the impact of these groups be in the future? This is a great topic. Try to put yourself in both situations (as an immigrant and as a native born person) so you can see both sides of this issue. Consider the following:
- Should immigrants be forced to assimilate into U.S. society? If they do not, do they still realize the American dream?
- Is the huge influx of immigrants into U.S. cities causing “white flight?” If so, how will this affect present and the future assimilation of these immigrants into U.S. society?
- In what ways does the influx of poor immigrants strain municipal budgets? What should be done?
- In what ways should people of different nationalities integrate into the community? Should they retain their own cultural differences?
- How should adjustment to a new country be evaluated?
- Does an ethnic neighborhood of the twenty-first century invite prejudice?
- How is the diversity of many peoples a positive force in U.S. society? A negative force?
23. Curfews. Curfews originated in England in the eleventh century. When the church bells rang at 8:00 P.M., all fires were to be extinguished and the people had to go to bed. This rule was established to prevent insurrection and had the added benefit of diminishing the chance of fire, which could destroy a whole village. Nowadays curfews are established to prevent juvenile delinquency. Curfews for all ages are also used to deter crime in areas of civil unrest. They can be instituted after a natural disaster such as a hurricane or a fire.
- Is this a violation of teenagers’ rights or a good solution to a growing problem
- Is it discrimination? Consider the various laws.
- In war-torn countries they might be used to control conspiracy. Is a curfew defensible under these circumstances?
24. Divorce. Under no-fault divorce, which exists in most states, fault on the part of either spouse need not be shown or proved. One or both parties simply claim either “irreconcilable” differences or that the marriage has “irretrievably” broken down.
- Is this too easy to divorce?
- How has no-fault divorce affected the family?
- What role should religious institutions and the government play in divorce?
- What is the history of no-fault divorce?
- What are its advantages and disadvantages?
- What is the law about divorce in your state? How does it compare to other states?
25. Does a College Education Pay? It takes at least four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, four years during which the student is spending money rather than earning it.
- How important is a college education?
- Does one need a college education to be financially successful?
- Does it really make a difference in earnings, or would four years of experience be more advantageous?
- Is education imperative to get and keep a particular job?
- What are the long-term financial rewards?
26. Downtown Renovation and Urban Renewal. Suburban sprawl has taken many better-paid, better-educated families out of the city, leaving behind those who cannot afford to move. Many stores and businesses have followed, leaving city downtowns devastated. Is there any hope for the cities?
- What are the proposals for renovation in your town? Is spending tax dollars for such renovation a wise use of resources?
- Will this renovation bring money into the city? Revitalize downtown?
- How successful have downtown renewals been in other major cities? Compare your city with other urban renewal projects. (Denver and Baltimore are good examples.)
- Compare cities and suburbs.
- Consider the effect of malls and superstores like Wal-Mart™ on downtown businesses.
27. Dress Codes and School Uniforms. Do clothes make the person? Some schools are turning to school uniforms to downplay differences among students. These differences could be cultural, economic, or social. At the same time, businesses that have had dress codes are now more casual. There are many ideas to consider in this topic:
- Do uniforms improve attitudes and behavior in the public schools?
- Do school uniforms infringe on students’ rights to personal expression?
- Can school uniforms decrease violence in schools?
- What is the federal government’s policy toward school uniforms?
- Do uniforms create a sense of unity in the workplace?
- How about pro-facto uniforms, such as everyone wearing a business suit to work?
- Does casual dress in the workplace promote a casual attitude toward the work being done?
Be sure to consider the psychological studies.
28. Drinking on Campus. Drinking alcoholic beverages has become a rite of passage for young adults. College students seem especially to participate in binge drinking.
- What drives students to drink?
- Should alcohol be allowed on campus?
- Is a college responsible for the behavior of its students?
- What responsibilities do the drinking student’s friends have?
- Do fraternities and sororities contribute to the problem?
- Would a “safe place” such as a bar on campus help control or encourage drinking problems?
- Does binge drinking when young predispose one to alcoholism?
29. Drug Testing in the Workplace. Many businesses require pre-employment drug testing, or they may make random checks of employees. Consider some of the implications:
- Is mandatory drug testing an invasion of a worker’s privacy?
- Is drug testing an effective deterrent to illegal drug use?
- Should a worker be reprimanded or punished for something he or she does on private time?
- How accurate are drug tests?
- Should drug tests be given randomly or only when there is indication of abuse?
- Should those with certain critical jobs be subject to tougher scrutiny? Consider doctors, pilots, bus drivers, and air traffic controllers.
30. Drunk Driving. For years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been lobbying to enact tougher drunk driving standards, and their efforts are making inroads. States that don’t comply with federal standards may have federal highway funds withheld.
- What is the current legal definition of drunk driving in your state? Are the current laws too strict or too lenient? Why?
- Should we allow people to drink and drive but punish them more severely when they have an accident?
- Do open container laws help curtail drinking and driving?
- Should drunk drivers, like drug dealers, have their vehicles confiscated?
- What other options might there be to the current laws?
- You might approach this as a state-to-state comparison or as a states’ rights issue.
- You might also look at the laws in other countries.