1. Unprecedented Politics
Four years to the day after launching his 2020 race for president, President Biden announced last week that he will seek re-election for a second four-year term. With his announcement, the President set up a possible rematch with the man he defeated for the nation’s highest office — former Republican President Donald Trump, who is also seeking a return to the White House. A Biden-Trump rematch would be unprecedented in many ways. At age 80, the Democrat Biden is already the oldest person to ever serve as president, and next year he would be the oldest to seek re-election. Trump is not much younger. He turned 76 last June and would be 78 when taking office if he were to win. He also would be just the second president to win non-consecutive terms and one of the most unpredictable candidates ever. Trump’s unpredictability and divisiveness will be major issues in Biden’s campaign. “When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America,” Biden said in a video announcing his candidacy. “We still are. … Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they’ve had to defend democracy, stand up for our personal freedoms, and stand up for our right to vote and our civil rights. This is ours. Let’s finish the job.” President Biden’s announcement that he will seek re-election will bring new scrutiny to his actions as President, and to the actions of former President Donald Trump. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read commentaries about the prospects of the two men in the 2024 presidential race. Use what you read to write a commentary of your own about the assets and liabilities of each candidate.
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. Hero and Pioneer
At a time when Black entertainers were given limited opportunities in show business, Harry Belafonte became a huge star in both music and movies. With good looks, polished vocabulary and an expressive singing voice, he became the highest paid Black entertainer in history in the 1950s and 1960s. Even more significantly, he used his fame, popularity — and money — to play a significant role in the civil rights movement seeking justice and equal treatment of African Americans. Early in his career, he befriended the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., supported civil rights protests and organizations and repeatedly paid the bail to get Black leaders out of jail when they were arrested for protesting. Belafonte, who died last week at the age of 96, spent a lifetime speaking out for inclusion and fair treatment of Black Americans. His final film role was in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” in 2018, in which he told the story of a Black teenager murdered by a racist mob in Texas 100 years ago. The story was based on true events, and still had great meaning for the civil rights pioneer. In an interview with the Deadline.com news site, Belafonte declared: “It is my firm belief that the issues of race are a blight on American history, and need to be told as often as possible. The truth of the matter is, all this racial stuff is not a thing of the past. It is very much a thing of the present.” Harry Belafonte used his fame and stature as an entertainer to call attention to issues the nation needed to address. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an entertainment celebrity calling attention to social and political issues today. Use what you read to write a one-person monologue in which this entertainer addresses one or more of these issues for an audience. Perform your monologues in the character of your entertainer.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
3. Lifesaving Nurse
Every day in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices, nurses go out of their way to help patients recover, grow and get their lives back on track. In the state of Indiana, an intensive care nurse went further than most when she met a teenage mother who had just given birth to premature triplets. Katrina Mullen, a neonatal nurse at a hospital in the city of Indianapolis, adopted the teen girl when she discovered she had no support from family members. The mother, Shariya Small, was a 14-year-old eighth-grader when she delivered premature triplets, the Washington Post newspaper reported, and she always seemed alone when she visited them in the hospital. Mullen reached out to her, and shared that she too had given birth to a child as a teenager, giving a son up for adoption when she was just 16. After that Small bonded with Mullen, a 45-year-old single mother who now has five children. They kept in constant touch, and when state officials threatened to put Small and her babies in foster care, Mullen let them move in with her and three of her sons. This spring, Mullen formally adopted Small, making her and her babies part of Mullen’s family. “I just did what I felt was the right thing to do, and I don’t regret it one bit,” Mullen said. Or as Small said later, “If you open your heart and you don’t judge anybody based off one thing, then we’d all be good in the world.” People often do extraordinary things for others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one person who has done this. Use what you read to write an open letter to the community, calling attention to this person’s actions, how they helped others and how they could inspire other people to do extraordinary things.
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. New Gold Rush?
In the Great California Gold Rush of the 1850s, water played a huge role in the discovery and recovery of gold nuggets. The first prospectors scoured natural rivers where rushing water may have exposed gold, and later ones used high pressure hoses to wash away dirt covering deposits of the precious mineral. More than 170 years later, California may be about to experience a new Gold Rush, thanks to heavy rains that pounded the state this winter. The rains, and the heavy runoff from melting snow, have been operating like the pressure hoses of the past, the New York Times newspaper reports. The rains washed away soil that was covering gold deposits, and the runoff is causing rivers and streams to do the same thing. Fortune hunters are heading to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains to see if they can cash in the way prospectors did more than a century-and-a-half ago. Gold is a natural resource highly valued by collectors and manufacturers of jewelry and other goods. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another valuable natural resource. Use what you read to write a consumer column discussing the value of the natural resource, how it is collected or harvested and what challenges businesses face when gathering it.
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. ‘Candy Meal’
When it comes to sweet treats, chocolate is one of the favorites for kids in the United States and other nations. It’s also become a favorite for cows. Yes, in Pennsylvania and other states, leftover chocolate is being added to the feed of dairy cows — and by all accounts they like it. The feed is being produced through a partnership between the Cargill food company and the Hershey company that makes chocolate treats like Kit Kats, Milk Duds and Hershey’s Kisses. At Hershey plants in Pennsylvania, there is always leftover chocolate in the manufacturing process, or products that don’t meet standards for shipping. Rather than sending the waste chocolate to landfills, Hershey sends it to Cargill, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reports. The chocolate is then broken down into powder and mixed with animal feed that Cargill produces for cows, pigs and other livestock. Cargill calls the mix “candy meal,” and it’s kind of a “circle of life” product. That’s because cows on many of the farms served by Cargill produce milk used to make Hershey’s chocolate. When the company can’t use the chocolate, it gets turned into feed that is fed back to the cows. The cows in turn produce more milk that can be used to make chocolate. And no, the milk doesn’t look or taste like chocolate. Businesses are always looking for ways to re-use waste materials so that they don’t end up going to landfills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one business that is doing this. Use what you read to write a short editorial detailing how this effort helps the environment, helps the business and helps the community and future generations.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.