For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 12, 2019

1. A Look at Guns

The mass shootings in Texas and Ohio have rekindled debate across America about what to do about gun violence. One area getting renewed attention is the number of guns owned privately in the United States. Americans own more guns than the citizens of any other nation on Earth. According to a 2018 update of the Small Arms Survey (SAS) conducted by researchers in Switzerland, Americans privately own 393-million firearms. That easily outdistances second-place India, which has 71.1-million guns (for four times as many people as the U.S.). The number of privately owned guns in the United States accounts for nearly 46 percent of the estimated 857-million owned privately around the world, the SAS reported. According to a report by CNN News, about four in 10 Americans say they either own a gun or live in a home with guns, and a majority of U.S. gun owners (66 percent) own multiple firearms. The nation once again is debating how to address gun violence and mass shootings. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different proposals being discussed. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing the merits of the different proposals and what action should be taken, if any.

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. Relief for a Non-Shooting

Once again the nation is mourning the victims killed in mass shootings. In Lubbock, Texas, however, the community is expressing relief for a shooting that never happened. Days before gunmen killed 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, a would-be gunman was arrested for his plans to “shoot up” a hotel. He was stopped by his grandmother, who talked him into entering a hospital for psychiatric evaluation and treatment for depression. William Patrick Williams, 19, called his grandmother before carrying out his plan, telling her he was homicidal and suicidal, according to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in Texas. The grandmother, who was not identified, convinced Williams to seek treatment. “We avoided another huge crisis,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox told the Washington Post newspaper. Without the grandmother’s help “we wouldn’t have known he was contemplating this. She saved his life, injury to him and probably multiple people’s lives.” Tragedy was averted in Texas when a grandmother took action to stop her grandson from hurting others. It often takes great courage to get involved in a dangerous situation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone getting involved in such a situation. Think like a news reporter and write out five questions you would like to ask the person about their involvement. Explain your choices to family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. No Water Bottles

Plastic pollution is a growing problem around the world, and an airport in the state of California is looking to do something about it. Starting August 20, San Francisco International Airport will ban the sale of plastic water bottles in an effort to reduce plastic waste. The new policy will prohibit shops, restaurants lounges and vending machines from selling or offering water in plastic bottles. Travelers are being encouraged to bring reusable containers on their trips and refill them at stations around the airport. At present, the ban only affects the sale of water in plastic bottles. Sodas, juices and flavored water can still be sold in plastic bottles. Airport officials said they will consider extending the ban to those drinks in the future. Communities around the world are taking steps to reduce the use of plastics. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different things communities are trying. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, calling attention to efforts you think will be the most effective.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Slave History

All over the nation, institutions are taking a new look at their histories with regard to African Americans and the slave trade. In Washington, DC, an elite girls school has learned new information that has turned history on its head. The Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School knew that the nuns who founded the Roman Catholic school owned slaves. But school lore held that the nuns treated the slaves kindly and taught the children to read, according to a report in the Washington Post. New research, however, has shown that when the nuns needed money, they treated the slaves as property and coldly sold them off to pay debts or fund new buildings. “It’s hard history to read, and that’s the reality of it,” a spokesperson told the Post. “But you can’t move forward unless you understand where you’re coming from.” Over its history, Georgetown Visitation nuns owned at least 107 enslaved people, including men, women and children. Institutions in many communities are re-assessing their histories with regard to slavery and African Americans. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one institution doing this. Report to family or friends things that the institution has learned, and what actions it may take. Discuss what would be an effective response.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

5. Rules of Language

When you rise to a top position in politics, you gain a great deal of power. You get the power to call attention to issues and often get to choose what actions will be taken on them. In the European nation of Great Britain, apparently, you also gain power to control language, vocabulary and grammar. Consider the case of the new leader of Britain’s House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg. He has issued a demanding list of language and grammar rules for his staff, including words that he doesn’t want used at all. Words he has ruled out are such overused and vague terms as “hopefully,” “very,” “due to” and “equal.” He also has declared there should be a double space after periods at the end of sentences and that all non-titled males be given the suffix Esq. after their names in correspondence. His goal is clarity. “If you mean something’s wrong, say it’s wrong,” he says. And never use “impacted” — “unless it’s a wisdom tooth.” And you think your English teacher is tough! The way people use language, vocabulary and grammar can affect what others think of them. With friends or classmates, talk about grammar and vocabulary lessons you have been taught and look for examples in the newspaper or online. Brainstorm an idea for an animated video highlighting these rules for younger students. Let the lead characters of your video be Grammar Girl and Vocab Man. Write the text for your video and draw sketches of your two lead characters. You want the video to be entertaining as well as informative.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.