Current Event June 24, 2019
About 250 million years ago, there was a widespread extinction on earth. Scientific investigations into the climate conditions leading to this prehistoric “Great Dying” can shed light on how climate change in the modern world might impact life on the planet. The “Deep Time” exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History explores the state of the earth and its inhabitants in that era. Listen to hear about how the “Great Dying” happened and why it is relevant today.
Current Event September 25, 2018
Interest in the upcoming midterm elections is higher than it has been in a long time, yet many Americans who are eligible to vote do not do so. More people tend to vote when there is a presidential race on the ballot. However, elections between those races (called midterms), which include important Congressional races, also have a significant impact on the lives of Americans. Listen to hear why some Americans who are able to vote have chosen not to cast a ballot and what that may mean for the election outcomes.
Current Event November 16, 2018
Many teachers use food to reward students, but often these foods are unhealthy. Since childhood obesity is a growing problem nationally, there is concern that celebrating with junk food at school may be contributing to students’ poor health. Listen to hear why one California school district is discouraging the use of edible prizes in school and debate: Should teachers reward students with junk food?
Current Event June 19, 2019
According to a new study, talking about other people who are not present, commonly known as gossip, may not be all bad. Researchers studied gossip by recording and listening in on participants’ conversations. Listen to hear what these eavesdropping scientists discovered and learn about some potential benefits of gossip.
ELA High School
Jane Austen wrote a new type of female character. Emma Woodhouse of "Emma" and Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice" are two memorable characters. They were charming but normal, flawed but winning. The legend of Austen is that she wrote her novels exactly as they were published, but the release of her original manuscripts suggests she had an active editor. Does it matter that an editor helped clean up Austen’s prose or is it her genius that shines through?
ELA Middle School
Anne Frank’s diary of her family’s life in hiding from the Nazis is one of the most famous accounts of World War II. Less known is how her father, Otto Frank made many attempts to get his wife and two daughters, Margot and Anne, out of Nazi Germany to safety. In 2005, several letters and documents written by Otto Frank were discovered. Despite the support of several wealthy and powerful friends in the United States, he was unable to acquire the necessary visas. The U.S. was making it more and more difficult for immigrants to enter the country and, after Germany declared war on the U.S., Cuba rescinded the visas it had originally offered. Listen to learn more about the powers that kept the Frank family in Europe, where they were eventually discovered, arrested and almost all murdered by the Nazis.
Current Event June 17, 2019
While giving her valedictorian speech at her graduation, a Texas high school student was cut off before finishing. School administrators had asked the student to remove what they believed were controversial elements in her speech, but she chose not to do that. Listen to hear more about what the student felt was important to include in her speech, despite the school’s objections, and why.
Current Event June 12, 2019
Students around the world have been skipping school to protest their governments’ lack of action on climate change. Now, this movement has come to the United States. American students are gathering together to demand that Congress take action to protect them from the effects of climate change. Listen to find out more about what students are asking of their government leaders and why.
Current Event June 14, 2019
The National Park Service has proposed new rules for protests on park property. The proposed rules would limit the amount of available protest space and require protesters to pay fees to hold a protest. Many people have expressed opposition to these rules, arguing that they would limit the freedom of speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Listen to hear more about why the rules were proposed and why people are concerned about them, and then debate: Should public protests be restricted?
Current Event June 13, 2019
Being able to communicate with someone using only mind power is the stuff of science fiction, but it might not be so far off in the future. At the University of Washington, scientists have developed a system that supports a very basic form of computer-assisted telepathy, or thought-based communication. While this technology has many potential positive uses, there are some serious possible risks to consider. Listen to hear how the technology works and what it might mean for the future.
ELA Middle School
Whether or not to use the “Oxford comma” is a big debate among grammar lovers, journalists, and English teachers. The punctuation mark appears at the end of a series, right before “and” or “or.” Recently, the Oxford comma came into the spotlight during a lawsuit about overtime pay. A close look at the law revealed that its punctuation, or lack thereof, made possible two entirely different interpretations. Listen to hear more about how one missing comma could cost a dairy company millions of dollars.
Current Event June 11, 2019
The middle school winners of this year’s NPR Podcast Challenge chose a topic that few of their classmates or teachers felt comfortable discussing. This group of girls from a school in the Bronx,New York chose to focus their podcast on menstruation and periods. They investigated the stigma of talking about periods and associated feminine hygiene products and discussed changes they would like to see. Listen to hear more about the team’s winning podcast and why they decided to take on the taboo topic of periods.
ELA High School
George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” was published in 1945. Its message was explicitly political as a statement and a satire against Stalinism and the dictatorial socialism of the Soviet Union. Understanding this allegory gives deeper meaning to the talking animals who take control of their farm. Seventy years later, does this message of failed revolution resonate in a communist nation with a similar revolution and trajectory? Listen to learn how a later theatrical adaptation of the book is being understood in modern day China.
Current Event June 10, 2019
Midwestern states are experiencing extreme flooding caused by excessive rain, which is interfering with planting seasons for farmers. In addition, the ongoing trade war with China has caused agricultural exports to fall. The government has offered a financial relief package for farmers affected by the trade war, but recent news about a possible trade dispute with Mexico is adding to farmers’ worries. Listen to hear about how the recent flooding and trade wars are affecting midwestern farmers.
Current Event April 4, 2019
Dr. Seuss is well known for his popular children’s books full of fanciful rhymes and whimsical illustrations. His earlier cartoons, however, include many racist and anti-Semitic images, which the artist later regretted. Listen to this commentary by another children’s book author and illustrator who reflects on the importance of explaining Dr. Seuss’s evolution as an artist and a person in an exhibit of his work at the Dr. Seuss Museum.
Current Event February 22, 2019
A recent lawsuit against Harvard University alleged that the university discriminates unfairly against Asian-Americans in its admissions process. The trial led to an internal investigation at Harvard and the public release of admissions data indicating that Asian-Americans made up a much lower percentage of the class than they would have if admissions were based only on academic achievement. Some are concerned that the lawsuit may dismantle affirmative action practices that have ensured diversity at selective colleges. Listen to hear commentary from an Asian- American who attended an elite college and then debate: Should race be considered in college admissions?
Current Event February 14, 2019
Some people who are deaf use assistive technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants to help them hear. Others feel that using assistive technology impacts a deaf person’s identity. One teenager who was born deaf has had cochlear implants since she was a year old, enabling her to hear and speak. As a result, she has felt excluded by members of both the hearing and the Deaf communities. Listen to her reflections on her experience navigating both worlds as someone who is “hearing but deaf.”
Current Event June 7, 2019
Researchers from the United Kingdom now have scientific evidence that using e-cigarettes is significantly more effective for quitting smoking than other methods. However, U.S. public health officials worry that promoting e-cigarettes could increase nicotine addiction. Listen to this story to hear about the research study findings and debate: Is reducing smoking worth increasing nicotine addiction?
Current Event May 6, 2019
The murder of rap artist and community activist Nipsey Hussle has brought renewed attention to the current state of gangs in the U.S. While gang membership totals have stayed relatively constant, gang members are getting younger, and they are still involved in serious crimes and violence. Listen to hear from a former gang member and a reporter about how and why gangs currently operate in the U.S.
Current Event May 3, 2019
A recent criminal justice reform bill that recently passed Congress has inspired hope in many people in the U.S. who are in prison. The bill ends automatic life sentences under the three-strikes penalty system, which led to significant growth in the prison population. Some are proposing that life sentences should be abolished altogether, particularly for juvenile defendants. Their arguments against life sentences include high costs, racial disparities in sentencing, and doubt about their effectiveness in deterring crime. Listen to hear more about life sentences in the U.S. and debate: Should life sentences be abolished?