For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Nov. 09, 2020

1. Election Cliffhanger

The votes have been counted in the presidential race, and Democrat and former Vice President Joe Biden has been declared the winner over Republican President Donald Trump. According to news networks and voting officials in each state, Biden won enough states to achieve more than 270 electoral votes from the Electoral College, the number needed for victory. The election is not over, however. President Trump and his Republican supporters have filed lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the counting of mailed and absentee ballots in several key states, and recounts have been requested in the states of Wisconsin and Georgia, which both went for Biden by a narrow margin, according to the first tally of ballots. The court cases could go on for weeks and eventually could reach the U.S. Supreme Court. This has happened before in U.S. history, most recently in the presidential election in the year 2000. There will be much debate this week whether the legal challenges lodged by President Trump will prevail in the courts. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the challenges and what people are saying about them. Use what you read to write a political column assessing the merit of the challenges, how you think the courts should rule on them and whether there are enough challenges to change the outcome of the election.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Young Blood

The U.S. Constitution requires that a person must be at least 25 years old to serve in the nation’s House of Representatives. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina qualifies, but just barely. He was 25 years, three months and two days old on Election Day, and in January when he is sworn into office he will become the youngest member of the House in modern history. Cawthorn, a conservative Republican, defeated former Air Force colonel Moe Davis to win the House seat in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Davis, 62, is more than twice as old as Cawthorn. Cawthorn is the youngest Republican ever elected to the House and the youngest member of any party in more than 50 years. Young adults are making their marks in many ways in politics, sports, business and entertainment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about young adults in their 20s or early 30s who are successful in their fields. Pick one and pretend you are going to interview him or her for a newspaper profile or documentary on his/her life. Write out five to 10 questions you would ask, and explain why.

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

3. Lifting Forest Protections

The Tongass National Forest in the state of Alaska is one of the world’s largest intact temperate rain forests and the largest national forest in the United States. It is home to salmon fish runs, black and brown bears, wolves and bald eagles and a wide range of rare plants and old forests. Located along the coast, it has been protected from development for the last 20 years, but that will change in the near future. President Trump will open up more than half of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other development and allow logging companies to build roads to remove timber from more than 9.3-million acres of forest lands. The President said the move would boost the Alaskan economy, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. Critics said the lifting of protections would jeopardize trees that are up to 1,000 years old and can’t be replaced. People who want to protect the environment or special land areas often face challenges from individuals, businesses or government agencies that want to develop them or harvest natural resources. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one case that illustrates this kind of conflict. Use what you read to write an editorial assessing the situation and giving your opinion on what should be done. Support your arguments with facts from your reading.

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.

4. Milestone Minister

In the Southern Pacific nation of New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been breaking new ground from the time she took office. With her election at age 37 in 2017, she became the world’s youngest female head of state, and a year later she became just the second head of state ever to give birth while in office. Now Ardern has made history in a new way. She has appointed a M?ori woman to be New Zealand’s first Indigenous female foreign minister. Nanaia Mahuta, who previously was Minister of M?ori Development, is also the first female cabinet member to wear a moko kauae, a traditional M?ori tattoo on her chin. “Moko is a statement of identity, like a passport,” she told the Guardian newspaper in 2016. “I am at a time in my life where I am ready to make a clear statement that this is who I am, and this is my position in New Zealand.” The appointment of Nanaia Mahuta in New Zealand is seen as a triumph for Indigenous peoples around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another Indigenous leader who has broken new ground or achieved new things. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling why paying greater attention to Indigenous achievements, contributions and attitudes is important for wider audiences — and how non-Indigenous people can benefit.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly;.

5. Slave Discovery

The Black Lives Matter movement has brought new attention to racial injustice and America’s involvement with slavery in the past. Statues of Confederate generals have been moved, institutions have re-examined their connections to slave holders, and colleges and universities have renamed buildings that honored people who profited from the slave trade. A discovery in the state of Maryland this fall has shed new light on America’s slave history — and put a spotlight on a university that profited from slavery. Archaeologists working in a state park in southern Maryland have uncovered perfectly preserved remains of slave quarters from a plantation run by Jesuits connected to Georgetown University. Using high tech detection devices, the archaeologists have uncovered the remains of cabins, broken clay tobacco pipes, ceramic cups and other artifacts dating back 300 years, the Smithsonian Magazine reported. The artifacts were buried in farm fields in Newtowne Neck State Park, which is home to an 18th-century brick manor once occupied by Jesuit religious missionaries. Jesuits also ran what is now Georgetown University and earned notoriety by selling off more than 272 slaves it owned to pay the university’s debts in 1838. Many of those slaves lived and worked at the Newtowne plantation, officials said. Georgetown University is just one institution coming to terms with its connections to slavery in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another institution that is doing this. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a TV documentary about this institution and its slave connections. Write an outline for your documentary, including images you would use. Give your documentary a title that would make people your age want to watch it. Write the narrative for the opening scene and list images you would use.

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.