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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 17, 2021

1. Cyber-Security

The cyber-attack on a major fuel pipeline has brought new attention to the cyber-security of computer systems serving American energy companies — and even the government. The computer hackers who broke into the information systems of the Colonial Pipeline forced the company to shut down operations, causing panic buying and gasoline shortages across the South and along the East Coast of the nation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said the attack had been carried out by an organized crime group based in Eastern Europe in an effort to get Colonial to pay a cash ransom to correct the damage. The company was able to correct the problem on its own using “work-around” technology, but the attack called into question how secure the computer systems of energy companies are and whether they could be attacked again. President Biden wants to upgrade cyber-security for businesses and government agencies, and last week signed an executive order seeking to shore up digital defenses of both the government and businesses that sell computer services to government agencies. Cyber-security is now getting great attention from businesses and government leaders. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ideas being proposed to protect computer systems from hackers. Use what you read to write a political column, discussing protections that are needed and ideas that have been proposed to provide them.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Most Valuable Teams

Forbes magazine is a business journal that keeps track of everything from the world’s richest people to the fastest growing companies. For sports fans, one of its most eagerly awaited features is its yearly ranking of the most valuable professional sports teams. And who are the winners for 2021? For the sixth year in a row, the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League are the top-rated team, with a value of $5.7-billion. In second place are the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, with a value of $5.25-billion, followed by the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association at $5-billion. Other top teams include the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, ranked Number 6 at $4.7-billion; the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA, Number 7 at $4.6-billion; the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, Number 13 at $4-billion; and the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL, Number 15 at $3.8-billion. Rounding out the Top 25 are baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Number 16 at $3.57-billion; baseball’s Boston Red Sox, Number 20 at $3.47-billion; football’s Denver Broncos, tied for Number 25 at $3.2-billion; and basketball’s Boston Celtics, tied for Number 25 at $3.2-billion. The Forbes rankings are based on close analysis of such things as operating income, media deals and arena revenue. Pro sports teams make a lot of money, but they also generate a lot of business for their communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the economic impact of pro sports teams on their communities. Use what you read to write a business column detailing the most important economic effects, and what additional things sports teams could do to improve life in their communities. Focus on a favorite sports team, if you like.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Fight Over Fight Song

The University of Texas fight song “The Eyes of Texas” has stirred and inspired generations of students at sporting events, graduations and other activities on campus. It is as much a part of university tradition as the school’s famous football team or the “hook ‘em horns” hand sign and cheer. Now, more than 100 years after it was first introduced, “The Eyes of Texas” is causing controversy at the prominent, state-run school. At issue is how the song came to be. It was first performed in a minstrel show, probably by white students wearing blackface. Today, in a time when many institutions are re-examining racial attitudes and traditions from the past, a growing number of students and faculty want the university to get rid of the fight song and write a new one. Alumni, legislators and wealthy donors are pushing back, saying they will cut off support for the university if the song is dropped. One of the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement is that it has forced communities, universities and other institutions to re-examine traditions from the past that now would be considered racist, demeaning or discriminatory. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about communities doing this sort of re-examination. Use what you read to write an editorial examining one effort and the arguments for and against it.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. ‘Monster’

One of the most powerful books by African American writer Walter Dean Myers is the novel “Monster,” which chronicles the experience of a teenager falsely accused of murder. In the book, 16-year-old Steve Harmon keeps a diary of his reactions to being put on trial and also tells his story in the form of a movie screenplay. Myers’ book has now become an actual movie with a star-studded cast including Jennifer Hudson, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and John David Washington (son of Denzel). The original book was a Coretta Scott King Award winner and the movie was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. The movie is available for streaming this month and offers a timely look at the fear and frustration African American men feel when facing police and the court system. In the book and movie “Monster,” the protagonist tells part of the story as a movie screenplay. Screenplays use dialog and visual images to move a story along, rather than written descriptions of people or events. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story with a lot of action or interaction among people. Take what you read and turn it into a screenplay in which the story will be told mainly by the dialog between characters. Write the first scene and discuss with family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

5. Oops! My Bad!

The nations of France and Belgium have been neighbors on the continent of Europe for hundreds of years. But the boundary between them got a temporary shift recently when a Belgian landowner wanted to expand his property. Without asking permission, landowner David Lavaux moved an ancient stone marker seven feet to gain more space without realizing it was the marker not just of his property but of the nations of France and Belgium. The change didn’t go undetected for long, because the border between the nations had been precisely marked by geo-location technology. It was discovered by history enthusiasts from the French side of the border. The mayor of the Belgian town of Erquelines said he would meet with Lavaux to restore the border with a new marker or the original, which had been set in place in 1820. The borders between nations, states or communities are often a combination of natural features, waterways, markers and boundaries drawn by people. In the newspaper or online, find and study a map showing a border created by these different things. Use what you find to write a paragraph analyzing which of these features was most important when the border was first established and which is the most important now.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.