Sunday, November 25, 2012

Comment: The Global Status of Human Rights

     In his treatise The Free Sea, Hugo Grotius, considered the founder of international law, claimed the idea that the sea is a shared territory that all are free to use.  It provided a general view of political normativity.  Political normativity singularizes contemporary political, economic and moral phenomena within the question of how decisions, actions and development are explained and legitimated with reference to a common good.  It is not parasitic on legislated law by one nation or another.

     Inspired by Hugo Grotius, in his lecture Nobel laureate Amartya Sen makes a similar appeal to the global status of rights, rights that all human beings are supposed to have.  Sen argues that human rights come not from specific national legislation, but from the recognition that these freedoms come from general appreciation of normativity, which means that we are supposed to consider human rights from an ethical perspective connected with our common good, focusing on basic importance of human freedoms.


- Kate Li

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Open Letter to Al Gore

Dear Mr. Gore,

     I am Yueyi Lee (my English name is Kate), a 16-year-old Chinese girl from Qingdao Number Two Middle School (which is the best school in Shandong province, one of the largest provinces in China).  I became concerned about environmental problems at a very young age.  Before the age of five I lived in a tranquil village near Qingdao.  A clear and beautiful stream cut across the village.  The stream was my heaven.  My friend and I loved to float on the stream, lying in the sun on the raft which we made of twigs and tree trunks.  When it was scorching, we enjoyed swimming in the cool and limpid river.  I moved out of that village at five.  Four years later I went back to visit my friends.  What I saw was nothing short of a nightmare.  The majestic stream had dried up and turned into a malodorous and dirty trash pool due to sewage discharge, overuse of water and global warming.  Although I have never gone back to that village, I became determined to do something, to do my part in helping clean the environment.  I save every drop of water by collecting washing face water to flush the toilet.  I dissuaded my mom from buying a second car since her present car consumes less gasoline.  I joined several organizations like YMP, which is an environmental project let by Lunds universitet in Sweden.

     Yesterday I had a chance to watch your movie, An Inconvenient Truth and the TED presentation you gave prior to its release.  I was totally astonished, by our vulnerable atmosphere, by increasing temperatures, by melting glaciers, by horrific hurricanes, by the possibility that my hometown, Qingdao, may be under water.  And we need – I need -- to stop it!

An Inconvenient Truth (2006) from rajiv dixit on Vimeo.

     I truly appreciate CERCLA -- the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.  I consider it the most effective and innovative environment program in the world.  I believe that companies will take action to reduce energy consumption, especially if they are forced to pay for the pollution they created.  I am of the opinion that China should adopt and enforce such laws to reduce carbon emissions as well.

     I want to protect our world, and especially my motherland.  I want to make a difference.  But my strength is meager.  Mr. Vice President, what should I do next?


-- Kate Li

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Several readings for November

During this month we'll be reviewing the following papers:

Dodd-Frank note/paper (think extended essay), brief (think Common App standard essay), slide show and embedded videos example:

The U.N. Security Council to Occupy Wall Street to Dodd-Frank to free speech to environmental law to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  Quite a wide-range of issues ... and just for this month ... and mostly for high school juniors.


-- David Scott Lewis

Our Mission Statement

Welcome to Beyond English Briefs ... and this inaugural post.

This blog will serve as a forum to showcase our "Go Ivy From China" students here at Beyond English, a firm dedicated to helping the brightest high school students in north China attend Tier 1 American undergraduate colleges (including liberal arts colleges), with a focus on those students pursuing studies in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

As noted on this blog's tagline, our "briefs" will be reflections on all things philosophical and legal, although there are no hard rules and our students will be allowed to write a "brief" (as broadly defined) on pretty much whatever fancies them.  Most briefs will be between 250-500 words (think Common App standard essay), although some briefs won't be so brief and might be as long as 4,000 words (think IB Diploma extended essay).  And we'll likely post occasional 150 word activity reports (think Common App extracurricular activity essay).

Most briefs will be based upon a weekly reading assignment or something that we viewed in class.  Our students have weekly reading assignments covering a wide-range of hot legal issues (for developing vocab in context and critical reading/thinking skills) and philosophical issues (e.g., something on ethics from The Stone blog in The New York Times, an article in Philosophy Now or a BMCR/NDPR book review).  However, the fact is that their reading assignments cover the gamut of political and literary magazines: If it's a source covered by Arts & Letters Daily, then it's fair game for a reading assignment.

In-class viewing and listening is from video and audio podcasts.  Key sources:  The Council on Foreign Relations, the Cato Institute, Washington Week in Review, (Harvard) Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Brookings, Meet the Press, Carnegie Council, Commonwealth Club, Global Voices, RAND, the IMF, Philosophy Bites, AmCham China, TPZ (archived episodes), Johns Hopkins SAIS, and numerous law schools (including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Chicago, Cornell).  And their daily at-school viewing assignment:  Good 'ol Brian Williams (and Lester Holt).

Saving the best (and the legal) for last, reading assignments just over the past month have included:

Bottom line:  They're smart students, scary smart kids.  And they like to be pushed, they want to prove themselves.  Having HYS-on-the-brain for focus probably doesn't hurt, either. (Note to Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore & Company: They have WAS-on-the-brain, too.  In fact, I tend to push liberal arts colleges with as much or even more fervor than national universities.)

For administrative reasons, I'll do the actual postings.  (Great Firewall access problems, I use OpenVPN, things like this.)  But the original author will be noted by their closing (with their English name) and label (with their Chinese name).


-- David Scott Lewis