1. A Great, Great Gift
When students graduate from college, they often get presents from family or friends. When students graduated from Morehouse College this month in Atlanta, Georgia, they got a gift they’ll never forget. A billionaire who was getting an honorary degree from the historically black college announced he was going to pay off the student loans for all 400 students in the Class of 2019. Robert F. Smith, the billionaire CEO of the Vista Equity Partners financial firm, made the decision to pay off the loans at the last minute, and didn’t even inform the college in advance. He was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation when he set aside his prepared speech and announced, “My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans.” The payment program will be administered by the college. Robert F. Smith’s plan to pay off the student loans of Morehouse students is a gesture that will affect the lives of hundreds of families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other people doing things that positively affect the lives of many people. Finish by imagining you were a billionaire. Write a personal column telling something you would like to do to help improve the lives of a large group of people. Share ideas with the class and discuss.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.
2. Setback for President
Ever since the 2018 election, President Trump has been at odds with the U.S. House of Representatives. In that election Democrats took control of the House, and vowed to hold the Trump administration more accountable for its actions. The President has resisted efforts to investigate his behavior on the grounds that House investigations are politically motivated — and has vowed to resist legal subpoenas seeking documents or testimony from advisors and staff members. One of those issues involves the President’s financial records, which the House Oversight Committee has requested as part of an investigation of potential conflicts of interest and Trump’s past business practices. Last week, a federal judge dealt the President a significant setback, ruling that his accounting firm must hand over the President’s financial records. His lawyers said they will appeal the decision. The case is being watched as a test of the system of “checks and balances” set up by the U.S. Constitution regarding the different branches of the U.S. government. President Trump and the U.S. House are locked in conflict over a wide range of issues. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these issues. Use what you read to write an editorial examining one or two important conflicts and detailing why they are important.
Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
3. Talk Time
In recent years, women have made many gains breaking through the “glass ceiling” of opportunity in business and politics. But inequality still exists when it comes to men sharing power — or even a microphone. In the Canadian city of Montreal, Quebec, a woman who serves as borough mayor and city councilor demonstrated that in an usual way — by knitting. Sue Montgomery started knitting a shawl to show how much men dominated the discussion time at executive committee meetings, and the results became an Internet sensation, CNN News reported. Montgomery knitted in red yarn when men spoke, and in green yarn when women spoke, and the results were dramatic. Her shawl showed large sections of red, but only small slivers of green, even though the membership of the council is almost equally divided between men and women. “It’s not that we women don’t talk, it’s that men talk too much and repeat everything several times, thus waste everyone’s time,” she wrote on Twitter. Women still face many challenges when seeking equal opportunity in business or politics. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about challenges women still face and how they are addressing them. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the class, highlighting some of the most significant challenges.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.
4. Earthworms on the Move
All over the world scientists are looking for ways to combat the effects of global warming and climate change. Now they have a new fight on their hands — with earthworms. An invasive species of earthworm has moved into the Earth’s northernmost forests and is threatening to upset the balance of the ecosystem. The activities of the worms in the so-called “boreal” forests near the Arctic Circle could speed up climate change and global warming, scientists fear. The worms are doing this by chewing through the layer of leaves on the forest floor. The leaves are rich in the element carbon and when the worms eat them it releases the gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the air surrounding the Earth. Native earthworms disappeared from most of northern North America 10,000 years ago, during the last ice age. The invasive worms are believed to have been reintroduced accidentally by human activities. Climate change and global warming are having effects all over the Earth. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect in a country other than the United States. Write a paragraph detailing how warming is affecting wildlife or the environment and why that is important.
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. Texting While Walking
In most states it is illegal to text or use social media while driving. In New York State, it could soon become illegal to text while walking across the street. Legislation proposed by a state senator would prohibit pedestrians from using portable electronic devices while crossing the road. If passed, the legislation would impose fines from $25 to $250 for texting, checking emails or browsing the Internet while crossing busy streets or intersections. The sponsor of the legislation, State Senator John Liu of New York City, told CNN News “It’s hard not to notice the number of people texting while walking, and downright alarming to see people continuing their texting while crossing the street.” The city of Honolulu, Hawaii passed a similar “distracted pedestrian” law in 2017. Supporters of Senator Liu’s “texting while walking” legislation say it would make city streets safer. Opponents say it imposes too much government control on people’s lives. Use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read stories about efforts to regulate texting or use of other social media in the interest of public safety. Use what you find to stage a class debate on Senator Liu’s proposal. Vote at the end to determine if you would approve his legislation if you were members of the New York State Senate.
Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.