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Debating Reform
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Debating Reform
Conflicting Perspectives on How to Fix the American Political System

Second Edition
Edited by:


March 2013 | 400 pages | CQ Press
Getting students to engage in debate always makes for a lively classroom. Yet when students only parrot partisan lines, an instructor is left to question if there is real pedagogical value in the exercise. Ellis and Nelson offer a fresh take on the traditional debate-style Reader. With pieces written specifically for this volume by top scholars in the field, each pro or con essay considers a concrete proposal for reforming the political system, from making it easier to amend the Constitution to adopting compulsory voting. By focusing on institutions, rather than liberal or conservative public policies, students tend to leave behind ideology and grapple with claims and evidence to draw their own conclusions and build their own arguments. Students will explore how institutions work in their American government text, but this reader helps them to understand how they can be made to work better.
 
Preface
 
Contributors
Sanford Levinson
Pro: Resolved, Article V should be revised to make it easier to amend the Constitution and to call a constitutional convention
David E. Kyvig
Con: Resolved, Article V should be revised to make it easier to amend the Constitution and to call a constitutional convention
John M. McCardell
Pro: Resolved, Congress should restore each state’s freedom to set its drinking age
James C. Fell
Con: Resolved, Congress should restore each state’s freedom to set its drinking age
Jamie Raskin
Pro: Resolved, the Constitution should be amended to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United
John Samples
Con: Resolved, the Constitution should be amended to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United
Erika L. Wood
Pro: Resolved, Congress should pass the Democracy Restoration Act restoring the right to vote in federal elections to people with criminal records
Roger Clegg
Con: Resolved, Congress should pass the Democracy Restoration Act restoring the right to vote in federal elections to people with criminal records
Todd Donovan
Pro: Resolved, the United States should adopt a national initiative and referendum
Richard J. Ellis
Con: Resolved, the United States should adopt a national initiative and referendum
Martin P. Wattenberg
Pro: Resolved, the United States should adopt compulsory voting
Jason Brennan
Con: Resolved, the United States should adopt compulsory voting
Marjorie Randon Hershey
Pro: Resolved, Congress should bring back the fairness doctrine
James Gattuso
Con: Resolved, Congress should bring back the fairness doctrine
Caroline J. Tolbert
Pro: Resolved, political parties should nominate candidates for president in a national primary
David P. Redlawsk
Con: Resolved, political parties should nominate candidates for president in a national primary
Mark A. Siegel
Pro: Resolved, states should require open primaries
Seth E. Masket
Con: Resolved, states should require open primaries
Jeffrey Lazarus
Pro: Resolved, earmarks for special interests should be abolished
Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q Kelly
Con: Resolved, earmarks for special interests should be abolished
Douglas J. Amy
Pro: Resolved, proportional representation should be adopted for U.S. House elections
Brendan J. Doherty
Con: Resolved, proportional representation should be adopted for U.S. House elections
Elaine C. Kamarck
Pro: Resolved, the redistricting process should be nonpartisan
Justin Buchler
Con: Resolved, the redistricting process should be nonpartisan
Bruce I. Oppenheimer
Pro: Resolved, the Senate should represent people, not states
John J. Pitney, Jr.
Con: Resolved, the Senate should represent people, not states
Steven S. Smith
Pro: Resolved, Senate Rule XXII should be amended so that filibusters can be ended by a majority vote
Wendy J. Schiller
Con: Resolved, Senate Rule XXII should be amended so that filibusters can be ended by a majority vote
George C. Edwards III
Pro: Resolved, the electoral college should be abolished
Gary L. Gregg II
Con: Resolved, the electoral college should be abolished
Michael Nelson
Pro: Resolved, the president should be granted a line item veto
Robert J. Spitzer
Con: Resolved, the president should be granted a line item veto
Domonic A. Bearfield
Pro: Resolved, bring back the spoils system
Marissa Martino Golden
Con: Resolved, bring back the spoils system
David Karol
Pro: Resolved, , the terms of Supreme Court justices should be limited to eighteen years
Ward Farnsworth
Con: Resolved, , the terms of Supreme Court justices should be limited to eighteen years
David M. Primo
Pro: Resolved, the United States should adopt a balanced budget amendment
John B. Gilmour
Con: Resolved, the United States should adopt a balanced budget amendment
Nancy Kassop
Pro: Resolved, Congress should pass the War Powers Consultation Act
William G. Howell
Pro: Resolved, Congress should pass the War Powers Consultation Act

The book is the best 'pro-con' type book that I have seen on the market, as it organizes each chapter around a singular and provocative idea, rather than a simple policy topic. It also discusses material at a higher level than most such texts, avoiding falling into stock arguments about why one policy is better than another, to instead argue points that are grounded in the empirical literature. Chapters that address important issues that students may not have thought about or encountered before (especially chapters on the Bureaucracy, Interest Groups, and Political Parties) are especially helpful."

Christopher Ellis
Bucknell University
1e for 2e survey

The book is an excellent addition to the introductory American politics course. It covers a wide range of issues that provide focal points for class discussion, and it facilitates in-depth consideration of how institutional frameworks affect outcomes. In the past, I've usually been unimpressed by readers that take a pro/con approach since they tend to oversimplify complex issues. The selections in the Ellis and Nelson book generally avoid this oversimplification, and the competing perspectives encourage students to think about how both current rules and potential reforms would affect incentives and choices. My students generally have expressed positive views of the book. It has been a productive tool for starting class discussion, for short writing assignments, and as a starting point for a larger research paper that I assign.

Scott Meinke
Bucknell University
1e for 2e Survey

I liked that it wasn't the usual pro/con on the issues of the day. Most of these are new topics for students, and they help to clarify the core concepts of the introductory course.

William Cunion
University of Mount Union
1e for 2e survey

I love the idea of having students connect to a general topic (like federalism) using contemporary policy questions because it gives them something concrete to think about. Students tend to respond fairly favorably. The question about the drinking age and the issue of non-citizens voting in elections tend to be especially popular.

Molly W. Andolina
DePaul University
1e for 2e Survey

Debating Reform is an outstanding text. It triggers debate on some of the most important issues surrounding the structure of our government. I like how it includes a brief explanation of the issue's background and then includes two well written essays offering a compelling arguments on both sides of the issues. The collection of authors is an esteemed cast of scholars well versed in their particular subject. The students have responded very positively to this book. It provides great topics for discussion on a weekly basis.

Brian Frederick
Bridgewater State University
1e for 2e Survey

The book does a good job of introducing students to the idea that institutions are choices and that institutional choices shape political outcomes. I like this as an alternative to the usual debate books, as institutional design is a key focus in my class.

Mack Mariani
Xavier University
1e for 2e Survey

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ISBN: 9781452240022
£37.99