For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Oct. 12, 2020

1. Stretch Run

It’s just over three weeks until Election Day on November 3, and the candidates for president are gearing up for the stretch run. Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, have waged a sharp-edged campaign so far, and it is likely to get sharper in the days ahead. With live events limited due to the coronavirus epidemic, the candidates will rely heavily on television and Internet ads to get their messages across, energize their base supporters and call into question the character of their opponent. With the newspaper, television and the Internet, track the ads offered by each candidate, and by groups and Political Action Committees supporting them. Keep a log of the messages the ads of each candidate convey. How many focus on the accomplishments of the candidate running them? How many are negative attacks on the opponent? How many focus on issues? How many on character or fitness to be president? Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the importance of political ads in the campaign and which you think are the most effective. Discuss with family, friends or classmates.

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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. New Look at Monuments

Across the nation this year, communities have been re-examining statues and monuments in light of calls to address injustice or systemic racism in America’s history. Some that have honored people who profited from slavery, held racist views or supported the Confederate states in the U.S. Civil War have been removed amid great debate and controversy. Now the nation’s largest humanities philanthropy has pledged to spend $250-million over the next five years to help the country re-imagine its approach to monuments in a way that would better reflect the nation’s diversity. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has launched a first-of-its-kind Monument Project that will support efforts to create new monuments reflecting diversity, as well as relocating or rethinking existing monuments. “It’s … a way of asking, ‘How do we say who we are?’” foundation president Elizabeth Alexander told the New York Times. “‘How do we teach our history in public places?’” The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is pledging millions of dollars to help communities re-examine or re-imagine monuments or statues erected to honor people from the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one community that is doing this. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining ways a monument in this community could be re-imagined or put in context to reflect the attitudes and diversity of today.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Political Pope

Pope Francis is the leader of the world’s Catholics and not a political figure. But in a new encyclical paper, he sounds like a candidate for office in the United States or another nation. In the encyclical, titled “Brothers All,” the Pope warns against leaders who use a “strategy of ricicule” and criticism to “dominate and gain control.” He laments that debates have become a "permanent state of disagreement and confrontation." And he calls out social media for creating “closed circuits [that] facilitate the spread of fake news and false information, fomenting prejudice and hate.” The book-length encyclical is the Pope’s third, and “surely the most political,” according to one top Catholic leader. His critique of the divisions created by social media were especially sharp. “For all our hyper-connectivity,” he wrote, “we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all.” The Pope’s “Brothers All” encyclical seeks to remedy the divisiveness found in politics and social interactions around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other people or organizations that are seeking to do this. Use what you read to write a political speech outlining ways you think the United States or other nations could address the problem of divisiveness in politics and society. Deliver your speech to family or friends and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Dangerous Meltdown

The ice sheet covering the Arctic region of Greenland is the second largest in the world after the continent of Antarctica. But the Greenland sheet is in trouble due to global warming, and that could have huge effects on oceans and coastal areas around the world. According to new research, the ice in Greenland is on course to melt at four times the fastest rate of the last 12,000 years, and that could raise sea levels of all the world’s oceans. The sea level rise could even affect the ice sheet in Antarctica due to warmer water temperatures, the researchers note. Greenland is already the largest contributor to sea level rise and lost a near-record 600-billion tons of ice last summer. Global warming is affecting habitats and oceans all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the effects. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining how these effects could eventually affect humans.

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.

5. Helping Neighbors

People often make news by doing good deeds or “random acts of kindness” for others. In the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, an electrician stepped up to help an elderly client — and he got dozens of his friends to help him. It all started when electrician John Kinney was called in to fix a kitchen light for 72-year-old Gloria Scott. Kinney fixed the light — it was a relatively easy job — but he noticed Scott’s house had fallen into severe disrepair. “It made me sad to think of her sitting alone in a house that needed so many repairs,” Kinney told the Washington Post. So he asked if he could come back to do more work — at no charge. “She reminded me of my Nana, who passed away 10 years ago,” he explained. He posted on social media and soon had more than two dozen volunteers. Together they fixed Scott’s hot water heater and kitchen sink, patched ceilings that were full of holes, shored up the back porch, installed new rain gutters and put on a new coat of paint in rooms that needed it. They even launched a Facebook page called “Gloria’s Gladiators” to raise funds and encourage people in other communities to help their neighbors. “It’s really lifting people up, so I want to keep the good work going,” Kinney said. The “Gloria’s Gladiators” Facebook page seeks to get people to join together and help neighbors who need it. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read other stories of neighbors helping neighbors. Brainstorm a way that you, your friends or your family could team up to help neighbors. Write an open letter to your community outlining some big and small ways neighbors could help their neighbors.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.