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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 29, 2023

1. Inaugural Poem Banned

When 22-year-old Amanda Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Biden, she won praise across the country and around the world. Now she has been caught up in efforts to ban books, after a Florida elementary school restricted elementary students from reading the work. The poem, which has been published as a short book, will now be accessible only to middle school students at the pre-K through eighth grade Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, Florida, USA Today reported. The book was pulled after one parent complained, stating the poem “is not educational” and contains indirect “hate messages.” The complaining parent said the poem could “cause confusion and indoctrinate students,” but did not detail why. While Gorman’s poem is no longer available for elementary students, school officials said it is still in the school library’s middle school section. Gorman quickly spoke out against the ban. “I wrote ‘The Hill We Climb’ so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment,” Gorman said. “ … Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.” Amanda Gorman said she hoped young readers would “see themselves” in a historical moment when reading her poem “The Hill We Climb.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an event that may be considered a “historical moment” in its field in the future. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme sharing emotions, views and opinions about this event. Read poems aloud and discuss the emotions you are feeling as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

2. Changing Names

In American sports, many teams once drew their names and mascots from Native American tribes and cultures. In recent years teams have dropped or changed those names in the face of criticism that they were demeaning to Native Americans and Native American heritage. The most prominent changes came from the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball (which became the Guardians) and the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (which became the Commanders). While the pro teams got great attention for changing their names, many high schools and colleges still retain Native American names and images. And state education leaders are asking schools to retire them. Proposals have been introduced in at least 21 states to do away with Native American names and mascots, NPR Radio reports. Now New York State has declared that school districts must retire Native American names by 2025 or risk losing state funds. In New York, 55 school districts and 12 high schools on Long Island have Native American themed names, logos and mascots. New state Education Department rules on names declare that mascots, logos and team names that include “any connection” to Native Americans are prohibited, including symbols such as feathers, spears, tomahawks and Native American clothing. Traditions, names and symbols used by sports teams and other institutions often reflect attitudes from earlier times that are at odds with present attitudes. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to re-examine such traditions. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor examining one such effort, changes that are being considered and whether you think the changes are appropriate.

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.

3. Help from Spike Lee

Spike Lee is one of the great directors of American movies and a leading storyteller of Black lives and culture. He has produced more than 35 films in his career, including milestone movies like “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “4 Little Girls” and “BlacKkKlansman.” Now the 66-year-old Lee is hoping to create a “legacy” program to promote Black filmmaking through fellowships for students at historically Black colleges and universities. The first fellowships have just been announced with the goal of encouraging Black students to pursue jobs “behind the camera” rather than as actors. The first winners were chosen from historically Black Morehouse and Spellman Colleges in the Atlanta, Georgia region and from Clark Atlanta University. Lee himself is a graduate of Morehouse. Under an agreement with the Gersh Talent Agency, the Spike Lee Fellows will hold paid summer positions in the Gersh Agency’s New York or Los Angeles offices and be given $25,000 for student debt relief, the Washington Post reported. At the end of the summer, each fellow will decide which office and department they would like to be placed in for the next year, when their fellowship becomes a full-time job. “We want this thing to be a legacy” pipeline for Black filmmakers to get a start in Hollywood’s movie industry, Lee said. Many programs help students get a start in careers ranging from science and technology to moviemaking. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one program doing this. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper telling what the program seeks to achieve, whom it will benefit and why that is important for the career field.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

4. Kiss, Kiss

In the world of romance, kissing has long been a gesture showing love and affection. But scientists have recently learned that it’s been going on a lot longer than previously believed. For years, researchers believed that social and romantic lip kissing got its start 3,500 years ago in South Asia and the nation of India. Now, however, new research has found that kissing began at least 1,000 years earlier in the Middle East region of Mesopotamia. A husband and wife team from the European nation of Denmark have found evidence in ancient writings that kissing was part of social and romantic life at least 4,500 years ago, the Washington Post reports. Cuneiform writings on clay tablets repeatedly describe acts of kissing in early Mesopotamia, and some show depictions of kissing as well, the researchers wrote in a new study. Mesopotamia, which is often called the “cradle of civilization” because early societies developed there, includes the areas of the present-day nations of Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey. Many of the greatest human achievements got their start there, including writing, mathematics, astronomy, agriculture and the development of the wheel. And now kissing can be added to the list. Studies of the past often reveal new information about how people lived and worked in ancient times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a study or discovery that has done this. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend telling what new information has been learned and why that is important to scientists who study the past.

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.

5. Education Opportunity

It’s often said that it’s never too late to get an education. A school custodian in the state of Georgia demonstrated that recently, and he’s on track for a work promotion as a result. As a teenager, Elmo Desilva lived in an unstable family and had to leave high school to support his younger brothers and sisters when his parents weren’t around. “Had to make money to put food on the table and clothes on their backs as a young teenager,” he told the Atlanta News First TV station. “It just pulled me out of school.” As an adult, he worked a variety of jobs, eventually landing as a school custodian at Indian Creek Elementary School in Georgia’s DeKalb County. He didn’t think about his education much until a job for head custodian came up. He needed a high school diploma to qualify for the promotion. With the help of his school principal, he enrolled in the DeKalb County Adult Education Program, attending classes twice a week for nearly six months. At age 45, he got his high school diploma this spring and is now up for the promotion. His principal says she has “already recommended him” for the job, and Desilva says he is “very proud” to have gotten a degree that will give him the opportunity. “I hate to fail at something,” he said in a TV interview. “I didn’t want to start and not finish. I didn’t want to disappoint my boss.” Many people achieve success in careers after going back to school to get a high school or college diploma. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a person who has done this. Use what you read to create a series of public service TV or newspaper ads encouraging people who have left school to go back and get their degree or diploma. Give your ads a theme and write the text for at least three installments of an ad series. Share with the class and with family members.

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; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.