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For Grades 9-12 , week of Oct. 09, 2017

1. Gun Control Debate

The mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada has re-ignited America’s long-standing debate over gun control. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 wounded at a country music concert when a shooter opened fire with a wide range of high-powered guns. Police officials said at least one of the guns was an assault type weapon altered to fire rapidly like a machine gun — the first time an automatic weapon has been involved in a U.S. mass shooting. Shooter Stephen Paddock had taken 23 weapons and suitcases full of ammunition to his 32nd floor hotel room overlooking the concert site, officials said — enough to arm a military commando team. Officials said they had not determined why the 64-year-old Paddock chose to attack the concert-goers. In recent years, the gun control debate has focused on military style assault weapons like AK-47s, and whether private citizens should be allowed to own them, since they are not hunting weapons. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentary about ownership of assault weapons by individuals. Use what you read to write a short editorial, giving your view on whether individuals should be allowed to own assault weapons.

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. Supreme Court

Every year, the U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term on the first Monday in October. And this year, it will be taking up cases involving some significant — and controversial — issues. Religious rights, cell phone privacy, voting rights and gerrymandering all could come before the nation’s highest court, as could President Trump’s controversial travel ban targeting Muslim countries. With Justice Neil Gorsuch starting his first full term, the court will have five conservatives and four liberals on the bench, with Justice Anthony Kennedy considered a “swing” vote who could vote with either side. The religious rights case involves a bakery whose owners wouldn’t bake a wedding cake for a gay couple due to religious objections. The cell phone case involves whether the government can track individuals with cell phone data. The political rights/gerrymandering case examines whether legislators can draw political boundaries to benefit their party. The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation, with the authority to overturn rulings of lower courts. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a case or issue coming before the Supreme Court this term. Use what you read to write a summary of the legal arguments made by each side, and why the case is important for the nation.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

3. Juvenile Crime Shift

When teens and pre-teens broke the law in the past, they often were sent to jail in juvenile justice facilities. That has changed over the past generation, however, and the incarceration rate for juveniles has fallen to the lowest level since tracking efforts were begun by the federal government in 1997. There has been a 60 percent drop in the incarceration rate for juveniles, and an increase in them being enrolled in supervised rehabilitation programs. That is a good thing, according to juvenile justice advocates, because it prevents teens convicted of lesser crimes from being exposed to juveniles who committed serious offenses. In the view of advocates such as Jake Horowitz of the Pew Charitable Trusts, that reduces the risks that such teens become hardened criminals as they grow up. When juveniles are convicted of less serious crimes, they are likely to be sentenced to a rehabilitation program rather than jail. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such programs. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor explaining why such programs are a better choice for young offenders of non-violent crimes.

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.

4. Altering Images

Anyone who has used a smart phone or iPhoto has probably used Photoshop once or twice to touch up photos. Fashion, movie and celebrity magazines do even more, removing extra pounds or adding curves to models, especially women. In the European nation of France, a new law is now cracking down on photographers and magazines that alter models’ bodies in photos. The law says commercial photos of models made to look thinner or thicker by digital editing must now be labeled “photo retouched” or risk a fine of more than $44,000. The law is an effort to reduce the problem of “body shaming” that results from “exposing young people to … unrealistic images of bodies,” French Health Minister Marisol Touraine told the BBC news network. “[This] leads to a sense of … poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behavior.” American photographers and magazines still can alter photos, but the Getty Images photo service says it will no longer offer such photos. In photos, ads, movies and television, popular culture presents an idealized image physical beauty that does not reflect how most people look. When teens or young adults see these images, experts say, they often feel inadequate or ashamed of how they look. As a class, discuss how popular culture presents idealized images of beauty, and how that can have negative effects on young people. Then pair off and brainstorm an idea for a public service TV ad that would help teens or young adults feel better about how they look. Write an outline for your ad, including images you would use.

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Breast Cancer Progress

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among U.S. women and the second-leading cause of death after lung cancer. But great gains have been made in the battle against breast cancer due to improvements in treatments and early detection. The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer death rates declined almost 40 percent between 1989 and 2015, saving approximately 322,600 lives. Death rates decreased for all racial and ethnic groups tracked between 2006 and 2015, the Cancer Society said, though there were variations in the rate from group to group. According to latest statistics, 81 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed among women ages 50 years and older, and 89 percent of breast-cancer deaths occur in that age group. Medical studies are often in the news because they affect so many people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a medical study. Take notes about what are the most important results of the study. Then design a chart or graphic organizer to present the most important information clearly and effectively. Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.