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For Grades 5-8 , week of July 10, 2023

1. PLAY TIME

Following book bans and concerns over how history is taught, school theater productions have become the latest battleground for political and cultural division in the US. The recent increase in scrutiny seems to focus on the presence of LGBTQ+ characters and students playing other gendered roles from the political right and issues with depictions of race and gender from the political left. Many teachers are now self-censoring and choosing shows that won’t draw controversy, all while still trying to keep them relevant to young performers and audiences. Choose an aspect of theater productions that’s being scrutinized—students playing parts that don’t match their gender, incorporating adult themes, shows that include old-fashioned portrayals of race or gender, the presence of LGBTQ+ characters—and write an opinion piece on why you feel they should or shouldn’t be allowed in school theater shows.

2. PRIMARY PROBLEMS

The debate over the presidential-primary calendar continues as the 2024 election draws nearer. New Hampshire has been the longstanding first primary state, following the Iowa caucus, but following the 2020 election season, President Biden pressed the Democratic National Committee to change its calendar to position South Carolina as the first primary. South Carolina has a higher percentage of Black voters, whom President Biden called the “backbone” of the party in a letter to the DNC on the topic. However, New Hampshire has declared that it won’t follow the party’s calendar and will still host its primary before South Carolina’s, creating division among Democrats as to how to proceed. The President has said that if New Hampshire does go first, he would skip the state’s primary and leave his name off the ballot there. Consider some of the other benefits to a state to going early in the primary cycle, like the economic benefits from having politicians in town to campaign. Write a list of reasons why a state may want to be early in the primary calendar.

3. BREAKTHROUGH TREATMENT

A new medication received FDA approval to treat Alzheimer’s, the disease that affects memory and cognition. Leqembi, an IV infusion therapy, was given accelerated approval in January, but Medicare—which provides health insurance for Americans age 65 and older—wouldn’t cover the drug under the conditional approval. Now that the drug is fully approved, Medicare will cover 80 percent of the cost for the $26,500 drug that has been shown to slow cognitive decline in patients by about five months. In your newspaper or online, read more about Leqembi and its FDA approval. Then, write an article that covers the key facts about the drug for readers.

4. CHEMICAL CONUNDRUM

Drinking water from around 45 percent of faucets in the US contains “forever chemicals,” also known as PFAS. These chemicals, of which there are more than 12,000 different types, have been linked to health problems in recent years, but have been widely used in manufacturing for decades. At least 95 percent of Americans have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood, but this is the first study showing that water from nearly half of household taps tested across the US contain at least one type of PFAS. Research PFAS, including what they’re found in and what impact they can have on human health. Then, write a piece that explains the dangers of them to the public.

5. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

The Supreme Court recently reversed its previous decisions on Affirmative Action, declaring that racially conscious admissions programs did not allow for equal protection under the law. Previously, the court had upheld that race should be used as a factor, among many, to promote diversity in schools, but the current court sided against the admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that used race as a factor in their decision-making. In your newspaper or online, read more about the history of affirmative action in the country and how people reacted to the Supreme Court decision. Then, write an article summarizing your findings.