1. Reparations Approved
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought renewed attention to the legacy of slavery and the systemic racism that grew out of it. One of the thornier issues getting new attention is the question of whether African Americans should receive reparations for the injustices, indignities and discrimination they have experienced since the first slaves were brought to America in 1619. In the state of North Carolina, a city has taken a bold move to address past injustices by approving reparations for black residents. In a unanimous vote, the Asheville City Council approved a reparations initiative designed to increase home ownership and advance business and career opportunities for African American residents. The measure stopped short of authorizing direct cash payments, which are often at the center of discussions over reparations. Asheville also apologized for its sanctioning of slavery in the past, as well as other historical injustices against black people. Those injustices were not all back in the 1800s. Black residents note that they included Asheville’s urban renewal program in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, which demolished black neighborhoods and took away home ownership opportunities for African Americans. The new measure seeks to address that. The question of reparations for African Americans has caused debate across the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the different opinions community and political leaders hold on the issue. Use what you read to write a short editorial, giving your view on whether African Americans should be given reparations, and if so, what kind.
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. A Win for Dreadlocks
In the nation of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea, dreadlocks are a common and traditional hairstyle for both girls and boys. They have symbolic significance for the Rastafarian religion, and are viewed by other black residents as an expression of black culture and pride. This summer, in a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court of Jamaica declared that schools may limit the expression of culture through dreadlocks and require a student to cut them to attend classes. And then there was another surprise: A few days after the ruling involving a 7-year-old girl, the suburban primary school that said she could not attend unless she cut her dreadlocks said she could attend after all. The decision seemed to end a two-year court battle that had started when the girl was 5 and caused debate all over Jamaica. The parents of the girl said they would appeal the ruling, even though the school had reversed its position. They were supported by a group called Jamaicans for Justice, which declared “Many children and families across Jamaica have been negatively impacted by this.” Cultural traditions ranging from hair to clothing often run into conflict with school or business dress codes. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about these conflicts. Use what you read to draft a dress code policy for schools that you think would be fair to all students. Discuss with family and friends.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
3. Language Matters
All across America, communities are reassessing practices that reflect “systemic racism” rooted in the past. That even includes the language we use. In the state of Massachusetts, for example, a Massachusetts Appeals Court has said it will no longer use the term “grandfathering” because it had racist origins. In many legal documents something is considered “grandfathered” if it was allowed before laws or rules prohibited it. In some states after the Civil War it was used to exempt white voters from rules used to disenfranchise African-American voters. The white voters were “grandfathered” and allowed to vote if they were descendants of men who were eligible to vote before 1867, the New York Times reported. Other words and terms also have been affected: “master” bedrooms because that was where slave masters slept on plantations; “the peanut gallery” for cheap seats because they were the only ones sold to African Americans; “blacklisting” for excluding people from groups the way black Americans once were. Language changes over time and words used widely today may once have had biased or racial overtones. With the newspaper or Internet, research words that have come under new scrutiny because of their origins. Share them with family or friends and discuss whether they should still be used. Are there words used today that might be considered biased or offensive in the future?
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. Star in the Army
In the Middle East nation of Israel, everyone is required to serve in the military as part of the Israel Defense Forces. Even if they are one of Israel’s biggest music stars. Meet Noa Kirel, who has been famous in Israel since she was 14 and just signed a multimillion-dollar music deal with Atlantic Records. She’s in the army now. Kirel, who is known as “Noa” by her fans, was drafted into the army six months ago under Israel’s mandatory military conscription law. Instead of being mobbed by fans, she now must live by strict army rules,. She went through basic training just like every other recruit; she was ordered around like every other recruit; and she even had to do chores such cleaning toilets. Still, talent will shine. The 19-year-old singer has been assigned to the army’s “talent track” and now performs for other troops. She never doubted she would fulfill her two-year military obligation. “I felt that because I was famous I had to serve to set an example to others,” she said in an interview. “… It was clear to me that I had to do this.” In business, the military and other organizations people often have to fulfill obligations. This helps the organization and sets an example for others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone fulfilling an obligation of some kind. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining how this benefits and organization and how it benefits the person fulfilling the obligation. Write a second paragraph analyzing what would be the effect if people did not fulfill obligations.
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.
5. Bear Politics
The 2020 race for president is heating up, and supporters of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden are looking for every advantage they can get. In the city of Asheville in the state of North Carolina, political supporters have turned wildlife into billboards. And animal activists are not happy. A group called “Help Asheville Bears” is offering a $5,000 reward to find out who put a “Trump 2020” sticker on the tracking collar of a wild black bear. Black bears are being spotted more often in Asheville, a city in the western part of the state, but it’s unlikely many people would see the bear sticker unless they got pretty close. Still, Help Asheville Bears said it’s wrong to involve wildlife in political campaigns. “Bears are NOT billboards,” the group declared on its Facebook page. Trump carried North Carolina in the 2016 election but Asheville voted Democratic. Supporters of Joe Biden and Donald Trump are doing some unusual things to call attention to the candidates and voice their support. In the newspaper or online, find photos and stories of some unusual efforts. Use what you read to draw a pair of editorial cartoons offering your view on two efforts — one for each candidate.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.