Thursday, July 21, 2011

Looking Back

Now that I have completed my class and experience on the east coast, the time has come to reflect – on the whole ILC experience. The entire process has been a period of growth for me, and I am truly appreciative of the sponsors, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, Don, Mrs. L., Beilul, Milani, Irene, and Will for providing me this opportunity and teaching me along the way.

To me, the ILC is far more than just taking a college class at an Ivy League institution. Had it not been for this program, I would still be a small shy teenager quietly minding my own business. I applied to the program, knowing what I observed about my sister who was part of the ILC for two years. I feel that she has become more confident, and more willing to speak in front of other people besides our family and friends. I think that the same change has happen to me. I remember what Milani told me on our last day at Columbia and I think it sums up the change that has happened to me because of this program. She told me, “When I first talked to you at the dinner I thought you were this shy kid who hiding in a shell. I’m so happy that you came out of your shell.” Going through the interview, writing formal email to Mrs. Kronenberg, Don, and Mr. Ramsey, reaching out to admission officers, talking to alumni, talking to professors, and interacting with top notch students from across the globe has made me a much more confident person. I would say that I am now more willing to initiate a conversation with a stranger and has made me less likely to walk away and just mingle with who I know well.

In addition to exploring the Big Apple and meeting new people, I was sent to Columbia University to take a class called Constitutional Law. Let me begin by saying the class was absolutely amazing. I firmly believe the ILC should offer this course again next year. Why? When I first applied for this class I thought that it was going to be centered on how to be a lawyer, and I was completely wrong. The class focuses on understanding Supreme Court opinions and how the justices develop their opinion. The most important lesson I think I’ve taken away from this class is to make legal, not moral arguments. Now when I watch the news, or read newspapers and come across a case, I ask myself, what would be my argument. I learned so much from by professors about the Constitution in these three weeks than I ever did in all my years of school. This class taught me that the Constitution can be interpreted in radically different ways, because of the origionalist, textualist, and developmentalist. I learned that differences about key topics such as capital punishment stem from these different beliefs. While our professors were very knowledgeable, the part of the class I found to be the most enjoyable were the discussions. A typical class would begin with our professor discussing the facts of the case and explaining the reasoning behind the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions. After that, it was pretty much open discussion about whether or not we agreed with the court. When we had exhausted one case, our professor would talk about another case, which was similar, but had different reasoning or an entirely different decision. We were then asked something along the lines of why do you think the reasoning changed?” I think through these discussions, I’ve learned so much more than just from reading a dull textbook. These discussions allowed me to be exposed to ideas I would have never thought of. For example if someone asked me in the beginning if I supported interpreting the Constitution taking in account social factors or just by following the Constitution word by word, I would have undoubtedly said follow the Constitution word by word. However, as we read and discussed cases such as Schenck v. United States and Abrams v. United States, I realized that I’m more of a person who would interpret the Constitution taking in account social factors. Participating in discussions has brought to my attention the dangers of having truly free speech. If we had an absolute right to free speech then, one could scream “Fire!” in a crowded theatre with no aims but to cause harm and would be protected by the law. It is these controversial issues such as should the government be able to regulate free speech, Supreme Court decisions, and their reasoning that I wish to bring back and share with my peers.

I think it is critical that I share what I’ve learned at Columbia with my peers because it is o the upmost importance that everyone knows about the Constitution that we live under. I believe that everyone needs to know about how the Supreme Court has interpreted the vagueness of certain parts of the law, and how certain parts of the Constitution can be manipulated. I plan to share this information by first telling my friends and teachers at school. Hopefully, they will also find this material interesting and share this with their friends and family and more people will be aware of landmark decisions. Next, I would like to found a club where member would debate matters such as the commerce clause or the right to privacy. As the debates become more and more interesting, then I hope to get more members and soon, there would be many more people from grades 9-12 who are aware of the Constitution and how it has been interpreted.

The ILC has truly provided me with an amazing period of growth. I have become much more confident and have learned so much from my peers as well as my professors at Columbia. I cannot thank the sponsors, Mrs. Kronenberg, Don, Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. L., Beilul, Milani, Irene, and Will enough because it has really been a mind-blowing experience.

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