For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Feb. 08, 2021

1. Executive Orders

Executive orders give presidents a way to use the power of the Executive Branch of government to take action on issues independently of the U.S. House and Senate. They carry the force of law, but can be overturned by Congress or the Supreme Court if either feels they exceed the President’s authority. Like President Trump before him, President Biden has issued many executive orders in his first weeks in office. He has used the orders to make climate change the center of U.S. foreign policy, to pause oil and gas drilling on public lands and to rejoin the international Paris climate accord to limit global warming. Other orders eliminate privately run federal prisons, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, require federal agencies to enact policies to ensure racial equity, and require mask-wearing in airports and on trains, airplanes and intercity buses to curb the spread of the coronavirus. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about executive orders signed by President Biden this week. Use what you read to write a political column assessing which are the most important, and why.

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. Peace Prize Recognition

The Black Lives Matter movement changed the conversation about race and inequality across America and around the world. It raised awareness about systemic racism and prompted communities, colleges and other institutions to make changes in their traditions and operations. For all those efforts, Black Lives Matter has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — one of the world’s leading honors for social change. The nomination came from a member of parliament in the European nation of Norway. In his nomination letter Petter Eide said “BLM’s calls for systemic change have spread [from the United States] around the world, forcing other countries to grapple with racism within their own societies,” CNN News reported. Peace Prize nominations can come from any politician serving at a national level. The Black Lives Matter movement continues to have impact in the United States and around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of its effects and achievements. Use what you read to write a short editorial assessing whether these and earlier efforts are worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. To learn more about earlier Peace Prize winners click here.

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.

3. Happiness

At world famous Yale University, the most popular online course ever is not about history, or politics, or literature. It is about how to be happy. The course, called “The Science of Well-Being,” has had more than 3 million online enrollments, after setting records as the most popular in-person course at the Ivy League university. Now the course developed by psychology professor Laurie Santos is being offered to low-income high school students across the country. More than 40 schools from 17 cities will take part in the program, including those serving students in Atlanta, New York City and Los Angeles. “Our goal is to equip students with scientifically validated strategies for living a more satisfying life, while also creating opportunities for high-striving low-income students and students of color to demonstrate college-readiness,” Santos told the Yale News Service. The course offers students insights from psychology and neuroscience about what drives happiness, plus exercises designed to change behavior in a positive way. Happiness and personal well-being are important factors in achieving success and a balanced life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people who have achieved happiness or balance in their lives. Use what you read and personal experience to write an advice column offering tips for teenagers on achieving happiness and success.

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.

4. Happy Valentine's Day

Next Sunday is Valentine's Day, a day on which many people celebrate friendship and caring, as well as romantic love. With family, friends or classmates, read an article in the newspaper or online about a person or group of people who have done something kind and caring, or who have extended friendship to another person or group. Write a paragraph or short paper comparing the events and the characters in the story to events and characters you have read about in books and short stories you have studied in class. Discuss your views with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; 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.

5. Big Change at Amazon

As founder of the Amazon Shopping Network, Jeff Bezos became one of the richest men in the world. With a net worth of $188-billion, Bezos can do anything he wants, and now he’s taking on a new role at the company that made online shopping a revolutionary force in the economy. He is stepping down as Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer and will transition to a role as Executive Chair of the company. He will still be active at Amazon, but the day-to-day operations will now be handled by Andy Jassy, who developed Amazon’s hugely successful cloud-computing business. Bezos will concentrate on innovation and new ventures. Amazon began operations selling books online in 1994 but evolved to sell everything from groceries to car parts to streaming services for movies and music. In the process, it transformed the way people shop and led to wide closings of physical “bricks and mortar” stores and shopping malls. Amazon was a revolutionary company because it transformed the way people shop. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another company that has changed the behavior of consumers, or could in the future. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation detailing the history and impact of this company. Present to family, friends or classmates.

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.