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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 19, 2024

1. TRUMP ON NATO

Former President Donald Trump appeared to flare foreign tensions when he made a comment last week that Russia should invade NATO countries who haven’t met spending targets. Allies of the former president have jumped in to say he didn’t mean that he would abandon NATO countries if elected for a second term, that he was speaking off the cuff at a rally and the comment wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. However, the international community fears that it will weaken the power of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Research what NATO is and how it affects the global community. Then, write an article explaining NATO and giving context of why Trump’s comment could be problematic on the world stage.

2. ETHNIC STUDIES SPARKS DEBATE

California is pushing for its high school students to take ethnic studies classes, requiring that by 2025, all of the state’s 1,600-plus public high schools will have to teach classes on the subject and by 2030, it will be a requirement for high school graduation. The classes, which are usually taught on a college level, will teach perspectives on a diverse array of cultures, usually focused on Black Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. However, educators, policymakers, and parents are at odds on how to adapt the curriculum to address the conflict between Israel and Palestine with the inclusion of Jewish Americans as an ethnic group. The question of how to address complicated activist concepts has sparked lawsuits and heated debate in the state. While there is no easy answer, how do you think important political debates should be taught in the classroom? Should these types of discussions be reserved for college classes or should they be included in high school curriculums? Write an opinion article with your take on this topic that references the new requirements in California.

3. SAYING GOODBYE AT ST. PATRICK’S

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York was formerly the site of many protests that symbolized the clash between the gay community and the Catholic Church. Activists chained themselves to the pews and lay down in the aisles of the church to protest the Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexuality and safe sex practices like condom use in the height of the AIDS crisis that swept the gay community in the 1980s and early 1990s. In recent years, the church has become more open to gay people, including Pope Francis’ announcement last year that transgender people can be baptized and serve as godparents and witnesses at church weddings. Last week, more than 1,000 mourners, including several hundred transgender people, arrived to the church last week for the funeral of Cecilia Gentili, a transgender activist, actress, and self-professed atheist. Many in attendance said the church hosting her funeral showed the evolution of tolerance on both sides and that it served as a powerful reminder that the LGBTQ+ community has a place in the church. Write a summary of this story and include context of why this funeral was a momentous occasion between the church and the LGBTQ+ community, using further research as needed to bolster your writing.

4. SANCTIONS UNSUCCESSFUL

While several countries vowed to sever ties with Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, some countries have deepened their relationship with Russia post-war, like China and Turkey. The value of Russia’s exports, which include oil, gas, and raw materials necessary for production of other goods, increased following its invasion in 2022. While the United Kingdom and Sweden are importing 81 and 86 percent less in value, respectively, in the post-war era compared to 2017 to 2021, the United States cut its exports from Russia by only 20 percent and the export value to many countries actually increased up to 400 percent. The takeaway is that despite the extensive sanctions imposed on the country, fining its wealthy citizens and government officials and cutting off the country from the international financial system, its resources are so valuable to the global economy, many simply cannot cut ties with Russia and are inadvertently helping to fund the war they oppose because of their dependency on the country. Examine some of the infographics produced by the New York Times that illustrate how trade has changed with Russia since the start of the war. Then, synthesize these ideas into your own article explaining how Russia’s economy has changed since the war began and whether you think the sanctions have been effective in curtailing the country’s war effort.

5. CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION

Two chiefs for the New York Fire Department had their homes and offices searched as part of an inquiry into corruption in the agency. The FBI is investigating whether the two senior chiefs who oversee safety inspections on building projects had been paid nearly $100,000 each to help expedite or arrange building inspections. Neither of the chiefs has been accused of wrongdoing, but the payments in question came from a recently retired firefighter. At least one was made to a limited liability company, or LLC, registered to one of the chief’s home address. It was unclear what the payments were for, but the investigation intends to uncover whether it was an inappropriate bribe made to the fire department in connection with a building inspection. Many of the individuals involved in this story refused to give comments to the media. Consider the challenges of reporting on a topic like this where it may be difficult to get all sides of the story directly from the source. Write at least a paragraph explaining how you would address this and make sure your story is still fair to all parties if you were the writer.