1. Help for Roads & Bridges
After years of discussion by presidents, presidential candidates and other national leaders, the U.S. Senate this month took dramatic action to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, water pipes, shipping ports and Internet connections. In a bipartisan vote Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed to spend $1.2-trillion to repair and upgrade the roads, bridges and other features that make up the nation’s “infrastructure” — and to send the measure on to the U.S. House. The nation’s infrastructure has been deteriorating for years and in some areas desperately needs repair. If passed by the House, the repairs could begin as soon as next year. Though Democrats control the House it is not certain how soon the measure will be approved. Though moderate Democrats would like to see quick approval, progressive members don’t want to pass the bill without approval for a $3.5-trillion budget bill that would expand the Medicare health program, combat climate change and strengthen “safety net” programs that benefit children and low-income families. The budget has already passed the Senate. In the newspaper or online, follow discussions about passage of the infrastructure and budget bills. Use what you read to write an editorial giving your view on whether the U.S. House should pass them separately or link them. Use evidence from your reading to support your arguments.
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.
2. Free Tuition & Books
Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer, but like many other companies it has trouble attracting and retaining employees. Now it is offering an incentive that should appeal to thousands of workers: free college tuition and books. Walmart has announced that it will invest nearly $1-billion over the next five years in its Live Better U education program. The money will pay for courses taken by Walmart’s1.5-million U.S. employees in high-demand fields such as business administration, cybersecurity and supply-chain services. Workers can choose from 10 academic partners, including the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, Purdue University Global and Southern New Hampshire University. Walmart is not the only large employer offering free college courses to attract workers. Home Depot, Best Buy, UPS and Fed Ex all have set up programs offering help paying tuition, and just last week Target announced it will begin paying 100 percent of college tuition and textbook expenses for its 340,000 full- and part-time employees in the United States. Target will spend $200-million over the next four years so that workers can enroll in 250 programs at more than 40 schools and universities across the country. The offers by Walmart, Target and other businesses to help pay college tuition are part of an effort to overcome a shortage of workers in the job market. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about incentives businesses are offering to attract and retain workers. Use what you read to write a business column, analyzing which you think workers will find most attractive.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.
3. Mural Battle
As a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, many communities and institutions have taken action to remove statues, artworks and building names that reflect discrimination, inequality or systemic racism from the past. In the city of San Francisco, California, an effort to do just that has sparked an intense legal battle over the artwork on the walls of a city high school. At issue are murals painted in the 1930s depicting the life of President George Washington and showing him as a slave owner. The murals also portray the United States as an oppressor of Native Americans. Two years ago, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to remove the murals from George Washington High School after parents and others complained that students should not have to see such demeaning portrayals of African Americans and Native Americans. A group of alumni sued to block the removal, and this summer a California Superior Court judge ruled that the murals could not be removed without an environmental and historical review. One of the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement is that communities, universities and other institutions are re-examining statues, artworks and traditions from the past that now would be considered racist, demeaning or discriminatory. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about communities doing this sort of re-examination. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper examining one effort and the arguments for and against it.
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.
4. $15 an Hour
In the effort to reduce poverty in the United States, advocates for workers have argued for years that minimum wages set by states and the federal government are too low to support a family. The effort led to the “Fight for $15” movement, which has promoted that hourly pay level as the minimum that companies should pay. This summer, as businesses try to fill job openings after the coronavirus shutdown, the average minimum has finally hit the $15 milestone. For the first time, average pay in restaurants and supermarkets has climbed above $15 an hour and nearly 80 percent of U.S. workers now earn at least that amount, the Washington Post reports. An average of $15 an hour is not the same as a universal $15 minimum, because many workers still make less than that amount, economists say. But labor experts say it is becoming a measuring stick of what employers must now pay to get workers to accept jobs. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour has had a big effect for many individuals and families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how people have been affected by the $15 an hour minimum wage. Use what you read to write a personal or political column capturing the sentiments of people who have had this experience.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. ‘Date Night’ Phenomenon
Music can have a powerful effect on people. Across America this summer, a popular country music hit is certainly doing that — by getting people to eat at Applebee’s! In his song “Fancy Like,” singer Walker Hayes celebrates taking his sweetheart out on a “date night at Applebee’s” and listeners to the high-energy dance tune are doing the same. Applebee’s restaurants report they had their “best quarterly [same-store] sales performance in over a decade” in the three months that ended on June 30, and they say Hayes’ song is part of the reason. The song, which came out June 4, declares that when the guy and girl want to have fun in a special way “We fancy like Applebee’s on a date night, got that Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake.” Popularity of the song soared on social media when Hayes and his 15-year-old daughter Lela made and posted a video of them dancing in sync to the music, prompting thousands of videos of other couples doing the same on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Hayes and Lela’s original version of “Fancy Like” has had nearly 24-million views. Walker Hayes’ song “Fancy Like” has become a huge summer hit, and not just on the country charts. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other songs that have been big hits this summer (check the Billboard rankings for starters). Then think like a music critic and write a review of a song or album you like — and tell why. Use details from the album to support your views.
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.