For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Sep. 06, 2021

1. No More ‘Nation Building’

When President Biden ended the 20-year war in Afghanistan this month, he did more than bring American soldiers home. He changed an approach to foreign policy with other nations that both Republican and Democratic presidents had supported. He said the United States would be getting out of the business of “nation building” to establish governments that follow the American model or values. “This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan,” he said in a speech to the nation about the U.S. withdrawal. “It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.” From Vietnam to Afghanistan, the problem with American efforts at nation building is that they have drawn the U.S. into long and costly commitments without knowledge of local customs or history. That is now changing, the President asserted. “As we turn the page on the foreign policy that has guided our nation over the last two decades, we’ve got to learn from our mistakes,” Biden said. “First, we must set missions with clear achievable goals, not ones we’ll never reach. And second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interests of America.” President Biden is getting a lot of attention for the way he is handling foreign policy involving Afghanistan and other nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the President’s actions and plans regarding other nations. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the biggest foreign policy challenges facing the President in the next six months to a year.

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

2. Billions in Damage

Hurricane Ida was the fifth largest hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States, and in the coming months it could also prove to be one of the most expensive. The storm that packed 150-mile-per-hour winds at its peak will cost individuals, businesses and insurance companies billions of dollars in damage, and even more in economic losses. The total damage and economic loss from Ida could reach more than $95-billion, according to an estimate from AccuWeather, and that may just be the beginning. The estimate includes damage and loss from the initial impact in the state of Louisiana, but also damage from flooding, tornadoes and heavy rain all the way to the Mid-Atlantic states on the nation’s East Coast. It includes both insured and uninsured damage, CBS News reported. The tally for insured losses for homes, vehicles and commercial and industrial properties is expected to be less than that but still significant — more than $18-billion according to the risk-assessment firm Karen Clark & Co. Individual states and the nation are still adding up the costs of rebuilding and recovering from the damage caused by Ida as a hurricane and tropical storm. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about the latest estimates. Use what you read to create a series of graphs, charts or graphic organizers to show the costs facing cities, states and taxpayers.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.

3. Lifeline Lost

For the last year and a half, workers who lost their jobs or were laid off due to the coronavirus epidemic were kept afloat by emergency unemployment benefits provided by the federal government. Now an estimated 7.5 million people will be losing those benefits as the federal programs that provide them end. The cutoff will mean the loss of billions of dollars a week at a time the virus epidemic is making a comeback and economic recovery is slowing, the New York Times newspaper reports. The U.S. Congress is unlikely to extend the benefits, as many Republican lawmakers feel they discourage people from seeking work or returning to jobs. Governors in roughly half the nation’s 50 states have already cut off unemployment benefits for that reason. The latest cuts, which take effect this week, will make a difficult situation worse for many workers. “I have no idea what I’m going to do once these benefits stop,” one told the Times. The end of emergency unemployment benefits will have wide impact on a great many people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about what people are saying about how they will be affected. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video or film telling the stories of people losing benefits. Write an outline for your film and then write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. ‘Big John’

Do you know someone to whom you’d like to give a big gift? How about a REALLY big gift, as in the world’s biggest Triceratops fossil? The skeleton of a 66-million-year-old giant Triceratops is coming up for sale next month, and the buyer could turn out to be a private individual. Of course, that individual would have to be pretty wealthy, since the bidding at the auction sale is expected to start at about $1.4-million. The fossil, nicknamed “Big John,” was discovered in 2014 in the Hell Creek land formation in the state of South Dakota, and restored in the European nation of Italy. With a length of 26 feet 3 inches, Big John is the biggest Triceratops specimen ever found, according to the auction house. And that’s not the only thing that’s big about him, CNN News reports. Big John has a skull 8 feet 7 inches long and 6 feet 7 inches wide with horns 3 feet 7 inches long and more than 11.8 inches wide at their base. The auction of the Triceratops Big John is causing debate among people who study dinosaurs, because it could remove an important specimen from the scientific community if acquired by a private buyer. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the importance of scientists having access to fossils for study. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering suggestions on how access could be assured if important fossils are sold to private buyers.

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

5. Warming and Minorities

Everyone knows global warming is affecting people in the United States and around the world. But if the Earth keeps warming, some groups in the United States will be affected far worse than others. According to a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, racial minorities will be harder hit than other Americans. They will experience more deaths and health problems from extreme heat, the EPA said, and suffer greater property loss from flooding and the rise of ocean levels. With a rise in temperatures of just 2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the nation’s minorities could feel dramatic negative effects, the EPA said. American Indians and Alaska Natives would be 48 percent more likely to live in areas that will be flooded, Latinos would be 43 percent more likely to live in communities that would lose work hours due to intense heat and Black people would suffer significantly higher mortality rates. The world temperatures already have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. Global warming is affecting people in many different ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these effects. Use what you read to prepare a short oral report on some important effects and present it to friends or classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what written and visual texts say and making logical inferences from them; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.