For Grades 9-12 , week of Jan. 17, 2022

1. Vaccination Ruling

In the battle to control the coronavirus, a key issue has been whether the government can set rules mandating that businesses require employees be vaccinated. President Biden, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department, had mandated that large employers require more than 80 million workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or to wear masks and be tested weekly. The U.S. Supreme Court last week said: Not so fast. The High Court struck down the nationwide vaccination mandate for private businesses on the grounds that OSHA did not have the legal authority to issue it without the approval of Congress. The court let stand a companion mandate that requires health care workers at facilities receiving federal money be vaccinated. The vaccination mandates had been issued under a federal law giving OSHA the power to regulate hazards in the workplace. By striking down the Biden administration’s mandate that businesses require vaccinations, the Supreme Court has left it to individual states to set rules and vaccination requirements for businesses and other institutions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about what different states are doing. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the different state efforts, what reaction they have gotten and how successful they have been. Conclude your column with an assessment of what is the most effective approach.

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. College Decline

Since the end of World War II more than 75 years ago, the goal of millions of high school graduates has been to go on to college. The number of students enrolling in four- and two-year colleges has risen steadily in that time — until now. In the last two years student enrollment in undergraduate college programs has dropped, according to nationwide studies of enrollment trends. A new study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center just reported that undergraduate enrollment for the 2021 fall semester declined 3.1 percent compared to the previous year. A similar decline occurred in the fall of 2020, contributing to an overall 6.6 percent decline since the fall of 2019, the Washington Post newspaper reported. College and education experts say the decline can be traced to concerns over the coronavirus epidemic, economic pressures and family obligations that have increased as the virus has spread. Events of the last two years have caused many students to re-think whether they want to go to college or how they want to pursue higher education — if at all. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about student attitudes toward college. Use what you read to write a short editorial offering advice to students as they consider college or career options.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. Gaming for Charity

It’s often said that the way to become successful is to find something you are passionate about and think up a way to turn it into a career. For a 38-year-old man from Northern Virginia, that passion was video games, and he has turned it into a hugely successful fund-raising operation for charity. Mike Uyama went from playing games in his mom’s basement, to hosting speed tournaments for friends, to founding the Games Done Quick operation that has raised more than $35-million for charity organizations. Games Done Quick hosts tournaments in person and online, which people watch to see top gamers working at top speed, the Washington Post newspaper reported. While they watch, they donate, making it a powerful tool for fund raising. How powerful? Since 2011, Games Done Quick has raised $15.7-million for the Doctors Without Borders group and raised $2.9 million in one event alone in 2021 — the group’s “largest fundraising event of the year,” according to a spokesperson. “Every year, we wonder if this is it, did we finally top out,” Uyama said in an interview. “And then it goes even higher.” Like Mike Uyama, a famous professor once noted that the key to success is to “follow your bliss” to find a career you are passionate about. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person who has done this. Then pretend this person is going to write an advice column for the newspaper or an Internet blog. List three or four pieces of advice this person might offer for finding success or satisfaction in a career.

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. ‘Idol’ Candidate

The “American Idol” TV show has launched the careers of some of the most successful talents in the music world. Now a former “Idol” star is hoping his show business experience will help him find success in the world of politics. Clay Aiken, who placed second behind Ruben Studdard in the second season of “American Idol” in 2003, has announced he will seek to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives this year in his native state of North Carolina. Aiken will run in a newly drawn district that has no incumbent on the ballot to represent an area that includes the cities of Durham and Chapel Hill — the homes of Duke University and the University of North Carolina. Aiken, 43, said he is running as a “loud and proud Democrat” to “deliver real results for North Carolina families.” Among the issues he said he will “fight” for are income equality, free access to quality health care and combatting climate change. Aiken previously ran for the U.S. House in 2014, winning the Democratic primary but losing in the general election to the Republican incumbent. All over America, political candidates are lining up to run in the 2022 elections. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a race that is attracting interesting candidates in your state or another state. Prepare a PowerPoint or multi-media presentation on the race, detailing the strengths of the different candidates and the top issues.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. UGeorgia: More Than Football

The college football season is over, and the University of Georgia is this year’s national champion. The Georgia Bulldogs won the title by beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship game 33-18. It was Georgia’s first national championship in 41 years and the first for coach Kirby Smart. Alabama was last year’s champion and had won three of the previous six titles. Football fans know a lot about championship teams but may not know as much about the schools the players represent. The University of Georgia was founded in 1785 and is one of the oldest public universities in the nation. One of its co-founders was a signer of America’s Declaration of Independence and another represented Georgia at the Constitutional Convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution. Based in the city of Athens, the university serves 39,000 students including 30,000 undergraduates. It offers undergraduate degrees in more than 100 fields, and its Odum School of Ecology is the only school in the U.S. solely devoted to ecological and environmental research. In the 1960s the university drew national attention when it was forced by court order to admit Black students for the first time. Every college or university has strengths and history that could appeal to potential students. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a college or university in your state. Use what you read, and additional research, to brainstorm an idea for a short promotional film. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene. Who might be a good person to narrate your film?

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.