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For Grades 9-12 , week of Apr 25, 2022

1. No to Debates

For more than 60 years televised debates between major party candidates have played a prominent role in presidential elections. Since 1988 those debates have been sponsored by the bipartisan, nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates set up by the national Republican and Democratic Parties. That may not happen this year after the Republican National Committee announced it would withdraw from the commission and bar the Republican nominee from participating in debates sponsored by the organization. The national committee said it was withdrawing because the commission had been “biased” against Republicans and refused to enact “simple and common-sense reforms.” Of particular concern for the Republicans is the selection of moderators who control the nationally televised events. In a letter to the commission, the Republican National Committee chairperson asked for “transparent criteria for selecting debate moderators that would disqualify individuals from consideration who have apparent conflicts of interest due to personal, professional or partisan factors.” The Democratic National Committee accused Republicans of trying to hide from voters by withdrawing from the debates and asserted "Voters can count on hearing from President Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris” in campaign debates. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentaries about the Republican decision to pull out of debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Use what you read to write a political column assessing the impact this will have on the election process and the ability of voters to be informed about the candidates.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. Who Will Be Champion?

The playoffs are under way for the National Basketball Association, capping the 75th season in NBA history. Special celebrations have been held throughout the season, but the most exciting will be the crowning of the 75th anniversary champion at the end of June. As the playoffs unfold, all eyes will be on the Milwaukee Bucks and their star Giannis Antetokounmpo to see if they can repeat as NBA champions. Other top contenders will be the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference and the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in the West. The Celtics and the Warriors (who began as the Philadelphia Warriors) are two of just three teams that have played every year in the NBA’s 75-year history (the third is the New York Knicks). The Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers have the most championships with 17 each, followed by the Chicago Bulls and the Golden State/Philadelphia Warriors (six each) and the San Antonio Spurs (five). Fans always look forward to NBA playoff competition. In the newspaper or online, follow stories about outstanding NBA games this week or performances by individual players. Think like a sportswriter and write a column highlighting top performances and predicting what fans can look forward to for the remainder of the playoffs.

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. Political Salary Raffle

When people run for political office, they often make unusual promises to win the support of voters. In his race for Congress in the South American nation of Argentina, Javier Milei made one of the more unusual campaign promises — and now he’s keeping it. As a candidate, Milei said that if elected to Congress he would raffle off his monthly salary of about $3,200 in drawings streamed live on social media. Since taking office in December, he has been doing that, and more than 2.4-million Argentines have registered for a chance to win, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Even more significantly, the attention Milei has gained in the nation of 45-million people has made him the leading candidate in early polls for next year’s presidential election. That is unusual, because the 51-year-old Milei is a radical economist considered outside the mainstream of Argentina politics. He has said he would like to break up the ruling class, slash government to reduce taxes and shut down the central bank, whose monetary policy, he argues, “steals” money from Argentines through inflation. His legislator’s salary, he says is “dirty money,” the state is a “criminal organization” and taxes are funds “taken from people by force.” As in the United States, elections can often bring dramatic change in other countries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a national election in another country. Write a paragraph or short paper assessing which candidate would bring the greatest change to the country — and whether that would be good or bad.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

4. Coral Reef Risk

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is one of the world’s great ocean habitats, supporting 1,500 species of fish, 400 types of hard coral and one-third of the world’s soft coral. The health of the reef has been declining in recent years, however, and now scientists have announced that it is suffering its fourth mass bleaching in six years due to heat stress. Bleaching occurs when the ocean water gets too warm for the corals to live, and scientists say global warming is the main cause. A survey of the reef this spring by Australian scientists has shown widespread bleaching across the reef, with the colorful reef corals turning white when they die off. “More than half of the living coral cover that we can see from the air is severely bleached completely white,” one scientist told CNN News. Global warming is affecting habitats and the environment all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film detailing the impact of warming on the environment and how that affects plant and animal species that live in it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. A Graduate at Last

Millions of Americans earn high school diplomas each year with dreams of going on to college. In 1930s America, the dream for many was just to finish high school before having to go to work to help support their families during the Great Depression. This was especially true for African Americans, whose struggles were made harder by limited opportunities in both work and education. In the state of New Jersey this spring, a 101-year-old man finally achieved his dream of getting a high school diploma after a lifetime of work in which he was a pioneer breaking down barriers for Black workers. Merrill Pittman Cooper had had to leave high school one year short of graduation when growing up in West Virginia, the Washington Post reported. His family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he got a job as one of the first Black trolley-car drivers in the city’s history. He was proud of his trailblazing career, but he always wished he could have gotten his high school diploma. This spring, his family arranged with school officials in West Virginia to award him an honorary high school degree. The officials traveled north to New Jersey where Cooper’s family had set up a surprise ceremony for him at a hotel near where he lives. He beamed when he saw the diploma. “Even though it took me awhile, I’m really happy to finally have it,” he said. For many people, achieving goals takes a very long time. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person who achieved a goal after years of trying. Use what you read to make a list of character traits this person needed to achieve his or her goal. Then check off which of these traits you have. Discuss traits as a class and how to develop them.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.