1. Election Meddling
The two-year investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded with certainty that Russian agents had worked to influence the 2016 presidential election by spreading false information online. But 2016 is not the only concern. In testimony last week before the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Mueller said the interference is still going on and could influence the 2020 presidential election. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign,” Mueller said. “I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.” Mueller’s 448-page report declared that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” In his testimony before the House, Mueller said further meddling could do “long-term damage to the United States that we need to move quickly to address.” The issue of election meddling by Russia or other foreign nations continues to be a concern among U.S. leaders. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the topic of meddling. Use what you read to write a short editorial, outlining ways the United States could, and should, address the problem.
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. School Discipline
School discipline is a big issue in many communities, and a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has renewed debate about how discipline is handed out. The report released this month found that students of color are disciplined more often and more harshly than white students. The report also found that students with disabilities, and students of color who have disabilities, are more harshly disciplined. According to the report, students with disabilities are about twice as likely to be suspended compared with those who do not have disabilities. The Civil Rights Commission recommended that teachers be given resources and training to ensure there is no discrimination in discipline. Ensuring that students are treated equally and fairly is a goal important to school districts around the country. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about schools dealing with issues of equal treatment. With family or friends, discuss some of the most important issues, why they are important, and whether any need to be addressed by your school district.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.
3. Hack of a Nation
Hacking is a huge problem for computer systems, and it is growing everywhere people use computers. With a few strokes on a keyboard, a hacker can put the personal information of millions of people at risk. The latest example of the problem came in the European nation of Bulgaria, where a hacker broke into the computer system of the national tax revenue office and stole the records of more than 5-million Bulgarians. “An entire nation just got hacked!” CNN News declared, since the entire population of Bulgaria is just 7-million people. Just about every working adult was affected. Hacking used to be the work of highly skilled computer wonks, but hacking tools available on the Internet now give amateurs the ability to cause great damage. In Bulgaria the hack was caused by a 20-year-old cybersecurity worker. Computer hacking is a growing problem around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about hacking, the damage it causes and ways that people, businesses and organizations are trying to deal with it. Use what you read to write a consumer column for the newspaper, outlining steps individuals, businesses or organizations should take to protect themselves from hacking.
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. Awful, Awful Music
Dealing with the homeless is a balancing act for many communities. They want to provide help for those without homes, but also want to make sure homeless people don’t take over popular public places and spoil the experience for others. In the city of West Palm Beach, Florida, city officials are trying a new approach to control the number of homeless who gather in the city’s waterfront Lake Pavilion and Great Lawn areas. They are blaring annoying children’s songs through the night to discourage homeless people from sleeping in the areas, the Washington Post reports. Top choices on the playlist are the repetitive ditties “Baby Shark” and “Raining Tacos, which not only have annoying tunes but annoying lyrics. “Baby Shark,” for example, has lyrics like “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo” that change with each verse to name another family member. “Raining Tacos” declares again and again that there’s “No need to ask why / “Just open your mouth and close your eyes.” City officials say the musical approach appears to be reducing the number of homeless sleeping in the areas. Advocates for the homeless say the music fails to treat the homeless “with dignity.” Communities often try unusual approaches to solve problems. With a friend or family member, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about problems facing your community or state. Pick one and brainstorm unusual ways the community could address the problem. Write a proposal outlining your idea and why it would work.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
5. Roadside Assistance
People often go far out of their way to help others. But in the province of Ontario, Canada, three teenagers went way farther than most — five miles farther. That’s the distance they went to help a woman whose car had broken down near the town of Fonthill. Aeron McQuillin, 18, Bailey Campbell, 17, and Billy Tarbett, 15, were on their way to a donut shop when they spotted the woman on the side of the road. Smoke was coming out of her car, and the teens quickly determined it would be too dangerous to drive, CNN News reported. When they learned the woman couldn’t afford a tow truck, they decided to push her car to her home five miles away. It took two and a half hours of pushing, but the teens got the woman home safely. A bystander posted photos of their effort online and they quickly became viral celebrities. “Our phones [were] blowing up with messages,” Aeron wrote on Facebook. “We hope more people can learn from this situation and not be afraid to lend a helping hand.” People often go to great lengths to help others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone helping others in an unusual or extraordinary way. Write a short letter to the editor thanking the person for helping and telling how his/her actions could inspire others.
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.