1. Vaping Reversal
When the risks of vaping made headlines across the nation in late summer, President Trump announced he was directing federal agencies to ban the sale of sweet-flavored e-cigarettes that are popular with young users. The goal was to reduce the number of lung illnesses and deaths that health officials had linked to vaping and e-cigarettes. Two months later, the President has changed his mind on banning the flavored e-cigarettes. Faced with intense lobbying from vapers and vape-store owners, the White House has backed off a ban that was about to go in effect. The stated reason was that the ban would cost jobs, but many close to the White House pointed out that negative reaction to the ban was posing a risk to the President’s re-election prospects. One social media campaign that was pointedly called #IVapeIVote was particularly effective, claiming the ban would shut down thousands of shops. More than 2,000 cases of vaping associated illnesses have now been reported nationally, with more than 40 deaths. The vaping epidemic continues to make news around the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about what communities and government leaders are doing to address the problem. Use what you read to write a short editorial detailing the most important steps you think should be taken in the next six months.
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. CGI Movie Star
CGI technology has revolutionized filmmaking by allowing moviemakers to insert images, items or even characters into real-life scenes that did not include them when they were filmed. CGI — which stands for Computer Generated Imagery — has been widely praised, but a plan to put a long-dead actor in a new movie has generated controversy in the movie world. The actor is James Dean, who died in a car crash at age 24 in 1955 at the height of his popularity. According to the Hollywood Reporter newspaper, Dean will appear in a Vietnam-era action drama called “Finding Jack” through the use of CGI technology. The movie is being produced by a company called Magic City Films, which obtained the rights to use Dean’s image and movie footage from his family. Dean fans are not happy. “This is awful,” tweeted “Captain America” star Chris Evans. Added Elijah Wood of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, “This shouldn't be a thing.” A spokesman for Magic City Films said the company would “take every precaution to ensure that his legacy … is kept firmly intact.” The James Dean controversy has called new attention to how CGI technology is changing filmmaking. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how moviemakers are using CGI in new movies. Think like a movie critic and use what you read to write an opinion column examining positive ways CGI is being used, and possible negative effects.
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.
3. Harvard & Slavery
Harvard Law School is one of the most famous and prestigious law schools in the world. It has produced national and world leaders, Supreme Court justices and leaders in campaigns for social justice and equal rights. Yet the school in Massachusetts has a history that now is being called into question. It got its start from a donation by a slave holder who became wealthy on the Caribbean island of Antigua, and now Antigua leaders feel Harvard should pay reparations. The prime minister of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda has demanded that the university pay damages “for the gains Harvard enjoyed at the expense” of Antiguan slaves, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Prime Minister Gaston Browne wrote Harvard president Lawrence Bacow that the success of Harvard Law today can be traced directly to the oppression of Antiguan slaves by a plantation owner named Isaac Royall Jr., who endowed Harvard Law’s first law professorship in 1815. Royall’s name is still attached to Harvard’s distinguished Royall Professor of Law position today. Browne suggested reparations might include financial assistance to the University of the West Indies campus in Antigua and Barbuda. Institutions in many communities are re-assessing their histories with regard to slavery and African Americans. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one institution doing this. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing things that the institution has learned, and what actions it may take. Share with the class and discuss what would be an effective response.
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.
4. Threat to Oranges
For millions of Americans, orange juice has always been an essential part of breakfast. But a disease sweeping orange groves in the state of Florida may turn the popular juice into a distant memory. Ninety percent of the state’s groves are now infected by a bacterium that prevents green fruit from ripening and kills the trees they grow on. Unless scientists find a way to stop the disease, or develop trees that can resist it, Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry could die. That would have huge impact on the rest of the country, since Florida produces more than 80 percent of the country’s orange juice. “We’re in a race right now to save the Florida citrus industry,” the director of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center told the Washington Post newspaper. Agriculture operations like orange groves and farms face many challenges to succeed. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a farm or agriculture operation facing a challenge. Use what you read to write a business column, analyzing the problem and what can be done about it.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
5. A Grad at Last
Ninety-five-year-old Lewie Shaw never graduated from high school when he was growing up in the state of Oklahoma. He dropped out to enlist in the Marines to fight in World War II. He was wounded in the brutal battle of Saipan and never got around to getting his diploma when he returned from the war. Until this month. At a special Veterans Day ceremony, Corporal Shaw was awarded the high school diploma he never got a chance to earn 74 years ago. Shaw was granted his diploma by Claremore High School under a state law passed in 2001 that gives districts the authority to award diplomas to World War II and Korean War veterans who had not earned them. “It’s a thrill,” Shaw said after the ceremony. And what would he tell today’s students? “My advice to them is to keep clawing, continue digging, get that education.” Senior adults often reach milestones or achieve success at an advanced age. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a senior who has done this. Use what you read to write a personal letter to the senior, telling him/her how the achievement or milestone can be an inspiration to 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.