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for Grades 5-8

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 11, 2024

1. THE STATE OF THE UNION

Last week, President Biden gave the annual State of the Union address. As written in the Constitution, the president is required to give Congress an update on the “state of the union” and recommend “such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” It’s usually a time for the president to share their goals and agenda for their presidency; the way it’s been delivered has changed throughout history. Between George Washington, the first to give such a speech, in 1790 and Woodrow Wilson in 1913, the state of the union address was printed and sent to Congress instead of delivered as a speech; it was then printed in newspapers for the American public. Calvin Coolidge’s speech was broadcast on the radio for the first time and Harry Truman was the first president to have his broadcast on television. Now, more than 32.2 million people watched Biden’s State of the Union address on TV, up from 27.3 million just last year. What do you think the value is for the American people watching the president’s State of the Union address? Do you think the increase in viewership is because of current events, because it’s an election year in which Biden is running again, or another reason? Write at least a paragraph on your thoughts about the State of the Union speech and how it affects the American public.

2. S.C.O.T.U.S.’ LAST ELECTION INVOLVEMENT

This year, the Supreme Court has been heavily involved in hearing cases that have a direct impact on the 2024 election. Recently, the court delivered a decision that Colorado couldn’t bar former President Donald Trump from being on the ballot in the state based on the Fourteenth Amendment, as they had claimed. They will soon hear a case about whether Trump has presidential immunity from prosecution for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Before this cycle, the last time that the court was so involved in a presidential election was in the 2000 showdown between former President George W. Bush and Al Gore. Read more about that case and how the Supreme Court’s decision affected the election. Then, write a short summary article that explains how the court could shape the 2024 election going forward.

3. REAL SITES FOR FAKE NEWS

Several fake US news sites have appeared recently, created by Russia to spread propaganda about their politics and culture, as well as the war in Ukraine. The sites include the D.C. Weekly, the New York News Daily, the Chicago Chronicle, and the Miami Chronicle. Experts point to the sites as a potential source of misinformation ahead of the 2024 election, an evolution of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The sites include some true stories with fake news intermixed, sometimes augmented with AI-generated media. Most of the news sites were created this year, using WordPress software to create realistic websites that mimic American news outlets. (The Chicago Chronicle, for example, was a real newspaper that operated from 1895 to 1907 before shuttering.) At first glance, they’re easy to mistake for a legitimate source, with breaking news updates and articles on topical issues. However, a closer look shows dummy text that hasn’t been filled in and non-existent contact information. Their purpose, though, is to look credible at first glance if someone were to click on a news story from one of these sites that was shared on social media. How can you discern a fake news site from a real one? How are these realistic-looking fake sites a problem for the Untied States, particularly ahead of a presidential election? What would you tell people to do or look out for when sharing and reading content on social media? Write an article that summarizes the issue and your response to these questions.

4. SANTOS RETURNS

Expelled House of Representatives member George Santos was able to attend the president’s State of the Union address thanks to the lifetime floor privileges granted to former members of the House, regardless of how they left office. After their tenure, House members are always entitled to admissions to he floor of the House, as long as they don’t have a direct personal connection to matters being decided, meaning they can’t come in to lobby for or against a particular piece of legislation. As a response to Santos’ presence at speech, Representative Ritchie Torres of New York is introducing a bill that would revoke floor privileges for expelled members, calling it the GEORGE (Getting Expelled Officially Revokes Guaranteed Entry) Rule. Torres previously co-authored the SANTOS (Stopping Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker) Act that would amend election campaign laws to require congressional candidates to provide additional information about their background. Do you think expelled members of the House should still be entitled to floor privileges? Write an opinion article about the issue.

5. SPRING SLEEP ISSUES

Most of America—with the exception of Arizona and Hawaii—had to “spring forward” for daylight savings time this weekend, losing an extra hour of sleep in favor of more light in the evenings for the summer. The time change can actually disrupt your sleep schedule for weeks because of the darker mornings and lighter evenings, which can have a negative impact on your health; some studies have even found an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and fatal car crashes in March right after the time change occurs, which could be linked to sleep depravation. Your body’s circadian rhythm determines when you go to sleep and when you’re more alert, usually based on light and darkness—when it stays light out later, your body doesn’t release melatonin to make you tired until later in the evening, which can keep you from falling asleep until later. Read more about how the time change can affect your health, then write an article that explains the dangers to people and what they can do to correct it.