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for Grades 9-12

Dec. 17, 2018
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For Grades 9-12 , week of Sep. 18, 2017

1. Boost for Middle Class

America’s middle class gets a lot of attention from politicians and economic leaders. How well the middle class is doing with regard to jobs and income indicates how well the nation as a whole is doing. The year 2016 was a very good one for the middle class. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. middle class had its highest-earning year in history last year. Median household income in 2016 was $59,039, topping the previous record of $58,655 set in 1999, the Census Bureau said. Inequality still exists across America, however, with big income gaps tied to both race and class. The Census Bureau reported that median income for African-American households last year was only $39,490, compared to $65,041 for whites and $81,431 for Asian Americans. The nation’s poorest families, who earn $24,000 or less a year, remain worse off than they were in 1999. Still, America's overall poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, the lowest since 2007. Politicians often talk about different ways to help the middle class. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different proposals or programs. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your opinion on several ideas and which you think would be the most effective.

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. Where’s the Water?

Hurricane Irma was such a powerful storm that it literally sucked water out of harbors, bays and beaches as it built up strength offshore. The rare phenomenon, known as “reverse surge,” was caused by a combination of high winds blowing the water and extremely low pressure in the eye of the storm that served as a pump pulling water toward it. The buildup created what is known as a hurricane “bulge” out at sea. The reverse surge was first noticed on a beach in the Bahamas islands and later in Tampa Bay before the eye of Irma reached the city on Florida’s western coast. The water later returned after the wind shifted or died down. Many shoreline areas were heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about damage sustained in shore areas. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper, detailing the damage that was sustained and the biggest challenges faced by communities and property owners as they rebuild.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; closely reading written or visual text to make logical inferences from it.

3. Bikini Baristas

Is serving coffee in a bikini a constitutional right? In the city of Everett, Washington, barista coffee servers think so. And they have filed a lawsuit against the city saying an ordinance banning bikini servers violates their constitutional right to express themselves freely through their clothing. The servers, and one coffee shop, also say the new laws discriminate against women. The city ordinance requires that employees wear at least shorts and a tank top at work. The baristas respond that the bikinis are part of the shops’ brands, and encourage interaction with customers. In their bikinis, “the baristas express messages of freedom, empowerment, openness, acceptance, approachability, vulnerability, and individuality,” the lawsuit states. “Wearing a bikini at work allows the baristas to open conversations with customers” that would not occur otherwise. The right to express yourself by what you wear is a form of freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of speech does not just involve speaking. It can involve the clothing you wear, Internet communication, art, music, movies, TV shows and more. As a class, discuss the different ways people can exercise their right to freedom of speech. Then find five examples in the newspaper or online. Use what you read to make a short presentation on how each example is a kind of free speech.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Meet Miss America

For the first time ever, a contestant from the state of North Dakota has been chosen Miss America. Cara Mund, 23, topped a field of 51 contestants to win the crown at the yearly Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mund is an Ivy League graduate of Brown University who says she would someday like to be the first female governor of North Dakota. She also is a national dance champion who impressed judges with a jazz routine set to Michael Jackson’s song “The Way You Make Me Feel.” She also wasn’t shy answering a political question on stage, telling judges she thought President Trump’s move to pull the U.S. out of the international Paris Climate Agreement on global warming was “a bad decision.” She said she wants to see more women elected to all levels of government because “it’s important to have a woman’s perspective” in politics. More and more women are getting involved in politics at all levels of government. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about women who are successful in politics. Use what you read to write a political column giving your opinion on what perspective, approaches or experiences women bring to politics that men do not.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it.

5. Korean Crackdown

The Asian nation of North Korea has drawn a lot of attention from the world for its testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Now the international United Nations organization has passed its toughest sanctions ever against North Korea. In an effort to deprive North Korea of income needed for its weapons program, the sanctions limit imports of oil and ban exports of textiles and clothing. The measures seek to pressure North Korea to negotiate limits on its weapons program. The United States supports the sanctions, and even had pushed for harsher ones. “Today, we are attempting to take the future of the North Korean nuclear program out of the hands of its outlaw regime,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The new sanctions come on top of previous ones that cut North Korea exports of coal, iron ore and seafood. North Korea’s ability to produce nuclear weapons makes it a threat to other nations, including the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the response of other nations to North Korea’s activities and threats. Use what you read to write a letter to President Trump, outlining what steps you think the United States should take to deal with North Korea. Make sure your letter is in the form of a business letter. 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.