For Grades 9-12 , week of Nov. 27, 2023

1. Gaza War Breakthrough

The announcement last week of a cease-fire agreement in the Mideast war between the nation of Israel and the Palestinian Hamas organization was a major breakthrough in the six-week conflict. Under the agreement, fighting was to be paused for at least four days in the air and ground assault launched by Israel after Hamas attacked targets in Israel on October 7. The deal involved the release of at least 50 hostages held by Hamas in the region known as the Gaza Strip in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians held in prisons in Israel. Both the hostages and prisoners include women and children. In addition, Israel said it would extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages who are released. More than 11,100 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and at least 1,200 people were killed in Israel in Hamas’s October 7 attack. The agreement was reached after weeks of international negotiations involving President Biden and the United States and the Mideast nation of Qatar, which served as a mediator. The Mideast war between Israel and Hamas has caused great debate around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentaries about the conflict. Use what you read to write a political column detailing what you think are the most important steps needed to end the conflict peacefully.

2. The Race for President

The year 2024 is just five weeks away, and that means the race for president is about to heat up. The first primary elections to choose presidential candidates will be held in the states of New Hampshire and South Carolina in January and early February, and there will also be small-gathering caucus voting in the state of Iowa. In addition, the schedule has been set for presidential debates for the general election in November by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The presidential debates are scheduled for September 16 at Texas State University, October 1 at Virginia State University and October 9 at the University of Utah. A vice-presidential debate is scheduled for September 25 at Lafayette College in the state of Pennsylvania. Candidates for the Republican and Democratic Parties traditionally participate in the presidential debates, and independent candidates must have at least 15 percent support in national opinion polls to qualify. Former President Donald Trump is the leading Republican candidate, and President Joe Biden is expected to be the nominee for the Democrats. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the presidential race. Use what you read to draw a series of editorial cartoons about the issues and candidates. Editorial cartoons use art to express opinions, often by exaggerating the features of people involved. Use the Internet and newspapers to see examples. Share and discuss as a class.

3. Opposing Book Bans

Efforts to ban books in school and public libraries have gotten a lot of attention in the last two years in states across the nation. Parents and political groups have pushed to remove books whose content they find objectionable, even if others want students to have the right to choose what to read with their families. At the yearly National Book Awards last month, two prominent people in the book world pushed back against book bans. Oprah Winfrey, whose TV book club encouraged people to read challenging books, and LeVar Burton, who hosted the popular children’s book show “Reading Rainbow,” urged communities not to ban books because reading gives people the freedom to explore new ideas. “It was my mother who taught me at a very young age that if you can read in at least one language, you are, by her definition, free,” Burton said. “Make no mistake,” Winfrey declared. “To ban books is to snuff out the flames of truth, of what it means to be alive, what it means to be aware, what it means to be engaged in the world. To ban books is to cut us off from one another. …” Efforts to ban books are affecting communities across the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial for the newspaper offering your views on how communities should handle efforts to ban books that people feel are objectionable.

4. Absent from School

When asked for advice about life, a famous movie director once said that “80 percent of success is showing up.” What he meant was that you can’t succeed if you don’t participate, learn, gain experience and build relationships with others. That director, who was very successful, would be saddened and disturbed if he looked at American schools today. A new study has found that students are missing school at an alarming rate and missing out on opportunities to learn and achieve success. The trend took off during the coronavirus epidemic, but attendance has not returned to “normal” three years later. The situation is extreme in high poverty schools, with more than one-third of students missing school on a regular basis, the New York Times newspaper reports. Nearly 70 percent of the highest poverty schools experienced such “chronic” repeat absenteeism in the 2021-22 school year, compared with just 25 percent before the coronavirus epidemic, according to the non-profit group Attendance Works. Teachers, schools and parents all know that students benefit when they attend school regularly. Yet some schools have struggled with high absentee rates. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different approaches schools have tried to get students to attend and miss less class time. Use what you read to hold a class discussion about the approaches you think would be the most effective.

5. Philanthropy

Philanthropy — pronounced “fil-AN-throw-pea” — is the effort by individuals or organizations to improve the welfare of others, especially by donating generous sums of money to good causes. Business leaders, sports stars, entertainers and other wealthy people often make large donations during the holiday season when organizations that help others need the most support. Many of these donations are eye-opening, and none more this year than donations from businessman Warren Buffett. The 93-year-old leader of the Berkshire Hathaway organization donated nearly $870-million to four family-run charities, Reuters news reported. In a regulatory filing, the company said Buffett donated 1.5-million shares of Berkshire stock to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which is named for his late first wife and works in reproductive health. Buffett donated another 900,000 shares, divided evenly among charities run by his children: the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Sherwood Foundation and the NoVo Foundation. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation focuses on food security and hunger, conflict mitigation, public safety and combatting slavery and human trafficking. The Sherwood Foundation promotes equal rights for all, reproductive justice, voting rights and rights and opportunities for minorities. The NoVo Foundation works to end violence against women and girls, promote economic empowerment for women, and develop female and male leaders who will advance women’s opportunities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about groups or individuals whose work would benefit from a large philanthropic donation. Pick one and write an analysis of why it would benefit from such a donation and how that would make it more effective helping others.