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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 05, 2024

1. SENATORS BARRED

Ten Republicans in Oregon’s state senate won’t be allowed to run for reelection, according to the Oregon Supreme Court. The senators staged a walkout last year in order to stop bills on abortion, gender-affirming health care, and gun rights from being voted on. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the secretary of state, who disqualified the senators from running based on an amendment to the state constitution that was voted in by Oregon residents in 2022. It says that lawmakers who have more than ten unexcused absences can’t run for reelection; last year’s boycott lasted six weeks. Boycotts and walkouts can allow a few people to stand up to the majority in a group—its even happened in Congress. Consider whether you think this rule should be upheld, especially since voters in Oregon put it in place. Should all states have a rule like this? What about at the national level for Congress? Write at least two paragraphs explaining your opinion, using specific examples.

2. THE PRICE OF INFLATION

President Biden has started accusing grocery store chains of overcharging for food during the recent period of high inflation. (As a reminder: Inflation is the increase in prices for everyday goods, meaning the same dollar amount won’t buy as much today as it would last year.) He’s encouraged the chains to lower their food prices, saying they’ve been ripping off shoppers to increase their profits while the American people are struggling to pay for groceries. Prices for items like eggs and milk went up 11 percent in 2022 and 5 percent in 2023, the fastest price increase in about forty years. Prices for big-ticket items like furniture and the price of gasoline, which are other indicators of inflation, have come down to less than they were pre-Covid, but grocery prices have stayed high and continue to rise, even though the increase has slowed. How does inflation affect people in a country on a daily basis? What can the president do to change inflation? Write some of your thoughts, then research these topics and write how your initial ideas were right or wrong.

3. BREATHING TROUBLES

Phillips, a Dutch company that makes medical equipment, has recalled some of its breathing devices because it can harm users. A foam part that is used to reduce noise of the company’s sleep apnea machines and ventilators can degrade and become toxic as the wearer breathes it in, potentially leading to cancer. The recall affects up to 4 million machines. The company plans to repair or replace all of the affected units before serving new customers, but the process could take at least a year. Most of the affected machines were CPAP machines, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines, which are used to treat sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where a person stops and restarts breathing in their sleep. Write an article that summarizes the facts of this story and who might be affected by the recall.

4. SOCCER STAR’S SASS

The captain of the US Women’s National Team, Lindsey Horan, raised eyebrows with comments about American soccer fans published in an interview with The Athletic. The 29-year-old was quoted saying “American soccer fans, most of them aren’t smart. They don’t know the game. They don’t understand. (But) it’s getting better and better.” She was referring to the way people in the US take the word of commentators and sports analysts to form their opinions of players and their performance, rather than having the knowledge and understanding to form their own opinions. The players are under intense scrutiny, with everything they do and say analyzed by television commentators. What do you think of Horan’s comments? Do you think Americans are uneducated about soccer compared to the rest of the world? Using research online, write a paragraph comparing soccer culture in the United States with another country that has a major team. (Remember: it’s called football everywhere else!) Then, write a paragraph about whether you think Horan’s comments are fair to American fans.

5. DITCHING THE SMARTPHONE

For people struggling with dependence to their smartphone, some have turned back time and made the switch back to a flip phone to simplify their lives. Of those who have made the switch, many have said its improved their relationships, mental health, and productivity. Yogurt company Siggi’s even rolled out a contest for people to ditch their smartphones for the month, offering $10,000 to ten winners at the end of February—more than 322,000 people signed up. There are some challenges, as our world is increasingly dependent on smartphones even outside of connectivity and social interaction, like using QR codes for restaurant menus, digital tickets for airlines and events, and more. There are ways to reach a middle-ground in making smartphones less addictive, like turning off notifications, deleting social media apps, and changing display settings from color to grayscale. Do you think you’re addicted to your smartphone? Would you be willing to go smartphone-free, or at least try tips to scale back usage? How do you think it would change your daily life? Write a paragraph on your opinions on the topic and discuss with your classmates.