For Grades 9-12 , week of Oct. 25, 2021

1. ‘Driving While Black’

African Americans have long complained that white police officers profile them and pull them over for minor offenses that make them feel it’s a crime just to be “driving while Black.” Now Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has become the first major U.S. city to make a move to reduce such stops. In a 14-2 vote, the Philadelphia City Council approved groundbreaking legislation that will bar police officers from pulling drivers over for such minor offenses as broken taillights or improperly displayed registration stickers. Such stops have often been used by police as an excuse to search the vehicles to look for evidence of illegal behavior. In Philadelphia, where African Americans make up 43% of the city’s population, Black drivers accounted for 72% of those stopped for vehicle code violations by police officers during a one-year period that ended in September 2019, according to City Councilor Isaiah Thomas, author of the legislation. When those stops result in searches, however, police find illegal drugs or guns less than 1 percent of the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported. Communities across America are taking steps to address practices that reflect discrimination or “systemic racism” affecting African Americans today or in the past. Efforts range from changing police procedures to removing statues to changing the names of schools or public buildings. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about such efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining the kinds of practices that are the most important to address, and why.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; 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. The Queen Is Annoyed

Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II usually doesn’t get involved in national or international politics. But as Britain prepares to host an international meeting on climate change at the end of this week, she let slip that she finds it “really irritating” when world leaders talk about climate change “but they don’t do.” The Queen’s remarks were not intended to be made public, but they were picked up on a microphone during an Internet live-stream when the 95-year-old monarch attended the opening of Parliament in the nation of Wales. “Extraordinary, isn’t it?” the Queen said. “I’ve been hearing all about [the] COP [climate meeting]. Still don’t know who is coming. … We only know about people who are not coming. … It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.” The climate meeting is scheduled to open next Sunday, October 31 and run through November 11. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about the leaders who will be attending and the issues they will address. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor calling attention to the most severe effects climate change is having on habitats, wildlife and people around the world.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Colin Powell

In a long career in politics and the military, Colin Powell achieved an impressive list of “firsts.” He was the nation’s first Black secretary of state, the first Black head of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first African American national security adviser to the president. He also was a four-star general in the U.S. Army, just the second African American to achieve that high rank. Powell, who died at age 84 last week due to complications from the Covid-19 coronavirus, was a confidant and adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents and at one point was considered a possible presidential candidate himself. Perhaps most significantly, he inspired thousands of African American children with his character, intellect and achievements. Being a role model was something Powell took seriously. In his 1995 memoir, “My American Journey,” Powell wrote: “My career should serve as a model to fellow Blacks, in or out of the military, in demonstrating the possibilities of American life. Equally important, I hoped then and now that my rise might cause prejudiced whites to question their prejudices, and help purge the poison of racism from their systems.” Colin Powell was a role model and inspiration to thousands of children and adults. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other people who are role models for children and others today. Use what you read to write a political column addressing “The Importance of Role Models.” Share with family or friends and discuss.

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.

4. Hippo Problem

Drug lord Pablo Escobar was world famous for smuggling massive amounts of cocaine into the United States and other nations around the world. Escobar, who was killed in a shootout in 1993, is less well known for another big smuggling effort — and that effort is now causing serious problems in the South American nation of Colombia. In the 1980s Escobar smuggled several hippos into Colombia in an effort to establish a private zoo at his Hacienda Nápoles estate. When Escobar was killed, officials sold off all the animals except four hippos. The animals liked the environment and started breeding, creating a herd that has swelled to between 80 and 120 hippos in 27 years and becoming an “invasive species” that is damaging the local habitat. To curb the damage, and prevent the population from exploding to as many as 1,400 in the next 20 years, wildlife officials have now organized a sterilization program for the hippos, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Sharpshooters armed with contraceptive darts are hunting down the Escobar hippos and injecting them with chemical contraceptives that will prevent them from reproducing. Invasive species can be large or small. They “invade” a new habitat, and because they have no natural predators they damage native plants and wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about invasive species. Use what you read to create the home page for a website focusing on some of the most damaging in your state or the nation. Pick five to feature on the home page. Find photos of them online and write headlines and copy blocks to go with them.

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.

5. TikTok Man

TikTok has become a hugely popular social media site, because it allows users to tell people about themselves in short videos. Yet the most popular man on TikTok never says a word. He lets his facial expressions do the talking. Khabane “Khaby” Lame, a 21-year-old from the European nation of Italy, posts videos of other people doing simple things in complicated ways and then reacts to them with a shrug, a scowl or a look of disbelief, CNN News reports. Or he does the same task in an uncomplicated way that makes fun of the original post. Lame (pronouced Lah-MAY) started posting while locked down last year due to the coronavirus epidemic. His “silent treatment” humor caught on as an alternative to many how-to videos on the site, and his popularity exploded. He now has more than 114-million followers, a total exceeded only by dancer Charli D’Amelio, a California teen girl who posts playful videos with her older sister Dixie. Best of all, he’s now attracting sponsors and partners, turning his online hobby into a money maker. But that isn’t the point, he insists. “I started making videos because I wanted to make people laugh,” he says. Any topic can be the subject of TikTok videos. In the newspaper or online find and read about a topic you would like to share your views about. Use what you read to brainstorm ideas for several videos giving your views. Write a paragraph for each video, explaining what it would show and say.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.