For Grades 9-12 , week of Oct. 10, 2022

1. Slave Auction

The Black Lives Matter movement has forced communities across America to re-examine how discrimination and racism affected Black Americans in the past. It has also forced communities to examine instances of racism and discrimination that still go on today. The latest example comes from a high school in California, where officials forfeited the football season after members of the team were filmed acting out a “slave auction” of their Black classmates. Calling the mock auction “disgraceful,” officials of the Yuba City Unified School District banned the team members from playing for River Valley High School and said they could face further disciplinary action because the auction appeared planned and organized, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “They may have thought this skit was funny, but it is not,” the superintendent of schools said. “It is unacceptable and requires us to look honestly and deeply at issues of systemic racism.” Issues of race, discrimination, inequality and insensitivity continue to trouble communities across America. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such issues and how communities are dealing with them. Use what you read to write a political column outlining ways you think communities should respond such issues. Share and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Parody

A parody is an imitation of a book, movie, TV show, writer, artist, celebrity or organization that uses intentional exaggeration for humorous effect. In America, the Onion humor magazine has won a wide following using parody to make fun of politicians, celebrities and issues in the news. This month, however, the Onion put aside its comedy instincts to weigh in on a serious topic. The magazine filed a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of an Ohio man who faced criminal charges over a Facebook page parodying his local police department. The brief, called an “amicus brief,” was filed in support of Anthony Novak, an amateur comic from the Ohio city of Parma, who was arrested and briefly jailed after creating a fake social media page in 2016 that was styled after the Parma Police Department’s Facebook page. Novak was charged with a felony under an Ohio law that criminalizes using a computer to “disrupt” police operations. The charges were dismissed in court, but Novak filed a civil suit claiming that his constitutional right to freedom of speech had been violated. That suit was dismissed, but now Novak wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take up his case. In its brief, the Onion supports Novak, arguing “the Onion’s professional parodists were less than enthralled to be confronted with a legal ruling that fails to hold government actors accountable for jailing and prosecuting a would-be humorist simply for making fun of them.” Parody uses humor to make fun or offer commentary about public figures, issues or institutions. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about a figure, issue or institution in the news. Use humor and creativity to rewrite the story as a parody of real events. Share parodies with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Need for Electricians!

When people look for jobs, two of their top concerns have always been good salaries and job security. These days environmental concerns also factor in, as young workers seek “green” positions that don’t pollute or contribute to global warming. More and more of those green positions are powered by electricity generated from renewable sources like sun and wind power instead of fossil fuels. And that has created new career opportunities in an old field. To meet the electrical needs now and in the future, the United States and other nations need more electricians, the Washington Post reports. Electricians have always had good salaries and job security, but now they are in increasing demand, as more businesses switch over to electric operations. Electricians are needed to install everything from solar panels and heat pumps to induction stoves and electric car chargers, the trade organization Rewiring America notes. And the nation already is facing “an electrician shortage,” as older electricians retire. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be around 80,000 new electrician jobs available every year until 2031, with starting salaries comparable to those of college graduates at $50,000 or more (and rising). “These are jobs that are … career pathways,” a spokesman for Rewiring America said. There is a growing need for electricians, according to employment experts. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other jobs that will be in demand now and in the future. Use what you read to write an open letter to younger students advising them on what careers would be good to pursue. Do any of these careers appeal to you?

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.

4. Spooky Sky Noises

Halloween is more than three weeks away, but passengers on some American Airlines flights already are feeling a little spooked. Weird, ghoulish moans and groans have come over the intercom systems on several flights in recent weeks, and airline officials have had trouble figuring out what caused them. The in-flight noises sound vaguely like a human voice and range from groans and grumbles to whoops and at least one “oh yeah,” KTLA TV reported. Passengers on the flights have tried to do amateur sleuthing to determine the source of the groans. Theories range from a passenger pulling a prank to someone hacking into the airplanes’ sound systems. An American Airlines spokesperson said in a prepared statement that intercom systems on the airline’s planes are hardwired without any access from the outside and investigation by American’s maintenance experts had determined “the sounds were caused by a mechanical issue with the PA [intercom] amplifier, which raises the volume of the PA system when the engines are running.” Halloween stories and movies are often based on weird events from real life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a weird, real-life event. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for an animated Halloween movie based on this event. Write an outline for your movie and give it a spooky title. Who would be the main characters in your movie and what would their names be? Draw pictures of your characters to share.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. No More Extinctions

The southern Pacific nation of Australia has some of the most diverse wildlife in the world — but it does a terrible job preventing extinctions. Now, the nation that is home to koalas, kangaroos and cockatoos is taking a dramatic step to protect threatened wildlife. This month Australian officials announced a 10-year plan to prevent any more species from dying out in the country by protecting up to 30 percent of land in the country by the year 2030, CNN News reported. By protecting land in key habitat areas, the plan would save at least 110 threatened or endangered species, officials said. In recent years, Australia’s wildlife has suffered due to natural disasters, land clearing, predators and the effects of climate change. In 2019-2020, bushfires in southern states killed or displaced nearly 3-billion animals, according to estimates from the World Wide Fund for Nature. All over the world, people are trying to help endangered or threatened wildlife species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one of these species. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing why the species is endangered, what is being done about it and how long experts think it will take for it to recover.

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.