, week of
Mar. 30, 2015
1. Mandatory Voting?
In dozens of states, efforts are being made to make it harder for Americans to vote, but President Obama is suggesting just the opposite. In order to “counteract” restrictions and the role of money in politics, he said, perhaps voting should be made mandatory. Many Americans do not vote, he observed recently, and those who do tend to be older, wealthier and whiter than the overall population. If everybody were required to vote, he said, “ … it would counteract [the influence of campaign] money … [and] completely change the political map …” Proposals to curtail voting rights, he said, disproportionately affect young people, lower-income adults and racial and ethnic minorities. Twenty-two countries in the world have mandatory voting laws, including Australia, Argentina and Brazil. As a class, discuss reasons people do not vote and what effect that has on who gets elected. Then use the newspaper and Internet to read about U.S. voting patterns in recent elections. Use what you read to write an editorial supporting or opposing a mandatory voting law for the United States.
Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
2. Unacceptable on Facebook
Facebook has released a new version of its community standards, defining what it considers offensive content. The standards are intended to define “what exactly do we mean” with regard to “nudity,” “bullying” and “hate speech,” Facebook officials said. The company said it restricts the display of nudity because some audiences are sensitive to such content, and will remove content that appears intended to “degrad[e] or sham[e]” private individuals. Twitter and Reddit, among other social media sites, have issued similar guidelines. In the newspaper or Internet, read about the new Facebook community standards. Make a list of five key points made in the standards. Write a sentence or paragraph for each, analyzing what the standard seeks to achieve and whether you think the standard goes too far, or not far enough.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
3. ISIS Vandalizes Artifacts
Middle East fighters for the Islamic State (ISIS) have bulldozed and vandalized the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq, as part of what appears to be a systematic campaign to destroy priceless antiquities in an area known as a wellspring of civilization. Nimrud was a key city in the Assyrian Empire, and is considered one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. It is located near the city of Mosul, where the extremists earlier destroyed books, artifacts and statues in a museum. Leaders of the extremist Islamic State assert that the statues and artifacts violate Islamic prohibitions on idol worship, but most Muslim religious authorities call the destruction “barbaric” and anti-Muslim. One archaeology advocate deplored the Islamists’ destruction of artifacts as an “effort to steal not only our future freedom, but also to erase and rewrite the past.” The violent rise of ISIS in the Middle East has drawn worldwide attention. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about ISIS. Use what you read to write a summary of what has happened, how nations have reacted around the world and a prediction of what you think could happen next.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
4. Stricter Mileage Rules?
The nation’s automakers will have to meet stricter guidelines next year in the mileage rates they advertise for the cars they sell, the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled. Car owners have long complained that the actual miles per gallon achieved by a cars often does not match the figures advertised, and federal regulators have been imposing increasingly stuffer penalties. Automakers are under tremendous pressure to improve the fuel economy of cars to a federally mandated 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. That would more than double the average 25 miles per gallon that cars get today. Consumers “expect the mileage to be what it is on the window sticker,” an industry observer notes, but they often “find things off not just a little, but a lot.” Fuel economy is one of many factors consumers consider when buying a car. In the ads in the newspaper, shop for a car you would like to own. Don’t worry about price, and make a list of things you want your car to have or do. When you have picked a car, write a poem, rap or rhyme describing what features it has that make you want it. Your poems don’t need to rhyme, but use strong verbs and adjectives.
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.
5. 100-Year Study of AI
Scientists have launched a century-long study of the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) on society, including how it will affect the economy, war and crime. Artificial intelligence is generally defined as computer systems performing tasks that traditionally have required human intelligence and perception. Hosted by Stanford University, the 100-year project will investigate concerns that AI — unless effectively controlled — could displace human workers, roboticize warfare and create scary surveillance techniques. It will also study how technologies reshape the roles played by humans in a wide range of endeavors. With the newspaper and Internet, read more about the “One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence” or other breakthroughs in the field. Use what you read to brainstorm a plot idea for a short, futuristic movie or TV show. Write an outline for your plot and give your story a title. Then write the first scene. Your story can be realistic or fictional.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.