1. Student Loan Relief
For millions of Americans, one of the greatest challenges about going to college is paying back loans that students take out to pay the bills. Across the United States, 45-million people owe $1.6-trillion for federal loans taken out for college, the New York Times reports, more than they owe on any consumer debt other than home mortgages. To offer relief to students saddled with college debt, President Biden has announced he will order the U.S. Education Department to cancel $10,000 in debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year and $20,000 for those who had received Pell grants for low-income students. The President is also is extending a pause on federal student loan payments, first implemented under former President Trump, through Dec. 31. “All of this means people can start finally to climb out from under that mountain of debt,” Biden said. “To finally think about buying a home or starting a family or starting a business. And by the way, when this happens the whole economy is better off.” Biden’s executive order is likely to be challenged in the courts, and it is uncertain when students will actually get the loan relief it would provide. Opponents say it is a matter that should be dealt with by Congress rather than an executive order from the President. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about reactions to the President’s order on student loans. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing arguments for and against it and whether you think it is a good idea. Share and discuss as a class
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
2. No Gas-Powered Cars
In an effort to reduce air pollution and slow global warming, the state of California is taking a major step to ban new cars that run on gasoline. Last week the state adopted a policy that will prohibit the sale of new cars running only on gasoline by the year 2035 and set a timetable for phasing the cars out. California’s move came right after President Biden signed climate legislation that spends tens of billions of dollars to speed up the transition to electric vehicles. The chair of the state’s Air Resources Board asserted the action would deliver “a more than 50 percent reduction in pollution from cars and light trucks by 2040” and move the state closer to a future where there are no vehicle emissions at all, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Because California has more cars and trucks than any other state, it has great influence getting automakers to make changes to the vehicles they produce. For that reason, California’s move to ban gas-powered cars “is a big deal,” one transportation expert said. Even before California took action to ban gasoline-powered cars, automakers were moving to develop more electric vehicles. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the efforts and plans of different automakers to produce electric vehicles. Use what you read to prepare a PowerPoint or multi-media presentation explaining the efforts by different automakers.
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; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
3. Spankings Are Back
In days gone by, spankings were common in schools as punishment for misbehavior by students. In more recent years, most schools have moved away from spankings, which are formally known as “corporal punishment.” Children’s health organizations oppose the practice, and the international United Nations organization considers it a human rights violation. In the state of Missouri this fall, a school district with 1,900 students has made news by bringing back spanking for grades K-12. The Cassville R-IV School District in the southwest region of the state passed a new policy approving the “use of physical force as a method of correcting student behavior,” and parents were given the option to apply it to their children, NBC News reported. Under the new policy, staff members may employ “reasonable physical force” — without a “chance of bodily injury or harm” — as a last resort when punishments like suspensions or detentions haven’t worked. Corporal punishment — the word “corporal” means “of the body” — is legal in public schools in 19 states and also allowed in private schools. The Cassville School District said some parents asked why schools couldn’t “paddle their children” when they misbehaved. Others oppose the practice on the ground it may create behavior problems rather than correct them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the views of parents and school officials about corporal punishment. Use what you read to write an editorial expressing your opinion on whether your school district should use the practice. Discuss with classmates, family and friends.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
4. Dancing Defense
At age 36, Finland’s Sanna Marin is the world’s youngest prime minister or president of a nation. As such, she gets a lot of scrutiny from older politicians and political opponents. In the latest instance, she was criticized for dancing at a private party in a video that was made public. Opponents said her behavior was “unbecoming” for a prime minister and “inappropriate” at a time when the European nation is facing economic and other problems. Some even suggested she was on drugs and should take a drug test (she did and it was negative). Now women across Finland and around the world are coming to Marin’s defense, posting videos of themselves dancing and having fun, while declaring that political leaders should be allowed to have private lives. Supporters also have said Marin is being unjustifiably criticized because she’s a young woman in a career dominated by older men. “It seems like certain people still today have a hard time comprehending the fact that you can be both a young woman ... and a competent politician at the same time,” declared a women’s magazine in the neighboring nation of Denmark. Marin herself said she hoped that “in the year 2022, it is accepted that even decision-makers get to dance, sing and go to parties.” Supporters of Sanna Marin say she is being judged more harshly than a man would be because she is young and female. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a young woman drawing criticism for her actions. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend discussing whether you think the young woman is being judged by a double standard.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
5. Live from Kilimanjaro!
There’s a joke among Internet users that asks a key question for the digital age: If you do something special and don’t post it to social media, did it really happen? On the continent of Africa, officials in the nation of Tanzania have made sure no one will have to face that dilemma when visiting one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. They have announced that they have installed high-speed Internet service at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Climbers of the 19,000-foot volcanic mountain will now be able to upload footage of their ascents in real time to share with family, friends and followers, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Kilimanjaro, which draws thousands of climbers a year, stands as high as about 13 Empire State Buildings in America and is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is featured in the famous short story by Ernest Hemingway called “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” High-speed Internet on Mount Kilimanjaro will allow climbers to file video reports in live time. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a place you would like to visit, or have visited. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a video about the experience for social media. Write an outline for your video, telling what you would show and in what order. Write out an introduction for your video and give it an eye-catching title. For added fun, use a smart phone to create a video for social media about something you like in your neighborhood or community. Share with friends and family.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.