For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Sep. 13, 2021

1. A Sad Milestone

People often celebrate milestones, but this month the United States reached one it would rather not have attained. More than 40-million cases of the coronavirus have now been recorded in the nation, according to a New York Times database. The record number of cases has been fueled by the spread of the Delta variant of the Covid 19 virus, and by the reluctance of many Americans to get vaccinated, health officials said. According to the latest statistics, 47 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated and the unvaccinated now account for most of those who are being hospitalized and dying. In recent weeks new virus cases have averaged more than 161,000 a day, deaths have risen to 1,385 a day and hospitalizations are averaging more than 103,000 a day, the Times reported. The coronavirus epidemic continues to take a huge toll in communities across the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the latest developments for infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing where the virus is having greatest impact and what can be done to slow it.

Common Core State Standards: Reading and comprehending literary and informational texts independently and proficiently; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

2. School in Afghanistan

Ever since Afghanistan fell to radical Taliban forces, westerners have been wondering how life would change under extremist Muslim leaders in the Asian nation. One thing is already clear: education will be much different. When students returned to classes at Avicenna University and other colleges in the city of Kabul, male and female students were separated by a curtain in classrooms and women were required to wear hijab head coverings. In addition, under a proposal from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education, female and male students must enter classrooms through separate entrances, mixed classes are only allowed where the number of female students is fewer than 15, new classes at private universities must be separate for boys and girls and all universities must set up a separate area for female students to perform their prayers, CNN News reported. As restrictive as these rules are, they are an improvement over conditions when the Taliban were last in power. From 1996 to 2001, women and girls were banned entirely from education and work. The Taliban is organizing a new government and imposing new restrictions on women, businesses and others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about changes the Taliban is making. Use what you read to write a paper or essay comparing the Taliban society rules with those in place in the United States and other democracies.

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. Unprecedented

As the nations of the world move forward with plans for an international summit on climate change, three of the most influential religious leaders have made an unprecedented joint declaration urging nations to address the issue and its effect on the world’s poor. The heads of the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches are urging world leaders to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor” when they gather for the climate summit in November under the sponsorship of the United Nations, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “Biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the Earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” wrote Pope Francis, head of Roman Catholic Church; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church; and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, leader of the global Anglican Communion. “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it,” they warned. Religious leaders can have great influence when they speak out on issues of importance. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a religious leader speaking out on an issue. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering your views on what the leader has said, and whether is appropriate for him/her to have spoken out on the issue.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Crackdown on Stars

The Asian nation of China now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It also has some of the tightest controls of political expression, social activism, free speech and creativity in the arts and entertainment worlds. This summer, China’s ruling Communist Party has been targeting stars in the entertainment industry whom the government feels are a “bad influence” on young people or negative role models. In recent weeks the websites and fan sites of some of the nation’s biggest stars have been taken off China’s Internet, and more are being targeted every day. For example, one of China’s most prominent actresses, Zhao Wei, saw her website removed, her fan page shut down, her movies and TV shows taken off streaming platforms and her name removed from cast lists, CNN News reported. To some observers, the crackdown harks back to the Cultural Revolution that took place between 1966 and 1976 and restricted the arts, culture and entertainment fields to promoting Communist Party propaganda. Then, as now, Party leaders felt the entertainment industry represented a “toxic” threat to the nation’s youth by “advocating wrong values.” Criticism of the entertainment industry is not just something that takes place in China. It also happens in the United States and other nations that pride themselves on having freedom of speech. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people criticizing entertainers and the values represented by their work. Use what you read to draw an editorial cartoon showing the impact of restricting the work of entertainers. If necessary, use the newspaper or Internet to see how editorial cartoons are drawn.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

5. First Teacher

When college students start classes, there’s always curiosity about what their professors will be like. At Northern Virginia Community College in the city of Alexandria, students in one composition writing class already know more than a little about the professor. The class will be taught by First Lady Jill Biden. Biden has been on the faculty of the community college since 2009 and last semester taught composition via Zoom. She is looking forward to teaching live, even if she and her students will have to wear masks when they meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “A new adventure, messy and magical, is about to begin,” she wrote in an essay for Time magazine. “The anticipation and excitement of this time of year is one of the best parts of being a teacher.” By teaching at Northern Virginia, Biden is making a bit of presidential history. She is the first First Lady to have a job outside the White House while her husband is in office. Jill Biden loves teaching but as First Lady she wants to encourage and support other American teachers. In her Time essay, she encouraged teachers by saying they should “always remember that right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about teachers who are making a difference for students. Use what you read to write a personal column detailing the skills and qualities needed to make someone a great teacher. Include examples from teachers you have or have had in the past.

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.