Current Event October 19, 2017
Even though Mark Twain died more than 100 years ago, a new book was recently published based on his writing. Taking 16 pages of handwritten notes by Mark Twain, two authors collaborated to write a children’s book based on the bedtime stories Twain told his children. They discuss decisions they made throughout the process, including the main character’s race, and the goal they set as they wrote the story. Listen to hear more about this collaboration and the challenges of writing this book.
Current Event October 18, 2017
The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA in August brought hundreds of people carrying shields, guns, and torches who marched while shouting racist chants. Many people shared photos of these marchers to publicly identify them as racists. But there was at least one person misidentified. A university professor was flooded with people threatening him online because he looked like someone who attended the rally. This event highlights the fact that most people are not experts at identification. Listen to this story to hear the consequences of being mistaken for someone else in the era of social media.
Current Event October 13, 2017
The football field has become a field for demonstrations. American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest against racial injustice consisted of kneeling during the national anthem at the start of NFL games. After President Donald Trump attacked NFL players who have knelt during the anthem, other athletes were inspired to kneel as well, while others locked arms and stood during the anthem. One point of view is that those who kneel are disrespecting the flag, veterans, and America and another is that politics should be removed from football games, and another is that Kaepernick is not showing disrespect and he has the right to protest injustice. Listen to this story and then debate: What do the national anthem protests mean?
Current Event September 29, 2017
Teens who vandalized an historic black schoolhouse in Virginia got an unusual sentence. The teens pled guilty to spray-painting swastikas and lewd symbols on the building. Instead of jail time, the judge ordered them to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum and read books written by black, Jewish and Afghan authors and write essays about them. Listen to this story and then debate: Can consequences change the way students think?
Current Event September 25, 2017
In 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri, a police officer shot and killed a 24-year-old black man following a car chase. The officer, Jason Stockley, claimed it was self-defense, but he was heard saying on an in-car video camera that he was going to kill the driver Anthony Lamar Smith. Recently the case went to court and Officer Stockley was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Smith. People in St. Louis have been protesting this verdict over the course of many days. Listen to an alderman in St. Louis discuss his frustration and disappointment in the verdict.
ELA Middle School
Many of the characters in books written for children don’t reflect everyone’s background. One girl became frustrated when she couldn’t connect to the characters. In response, she began to gather books about black girls and then give these books to schools. Now that she has exceeded her original goal and collected almost 4,000 books, the girl has started to consider how to impact schools in an even larger way. Listen to hear what actions this girl decided to take to promote diverse books in schools.
Current Event September 8, 2017
Colin Kaepernick has been an elite quarterback in the National Football League. But he’s also one of the most controversial athletes in the NFL. Kaepernick has faced a backlash for refusing to stand during the national anthem. Instead he kneels in silent protest against social injustices such as police brutality. Some people saw this as disrespect for America, and some people supported his protest. Now he is a player without a team as no football franchise has selected him for the 2017/18 season. Listen to hear about Kaepernick’s situation and the NFL’s reaction and then debate: Should a social protest affect football?
ELA Middle School
Phillis Wheatley was the first black poet in the United States. Born in Senegal, Wheatley was taken to Boston, Massachusetts, as a slave. Since she was too weak for manual labor, Wheatley was taught to read and write instead. She published her first poem in 1767. A two-page letter by Wheatley, previously unpublished, was recently auctioned. Listen to learn more about Phillis Wheatley, the contents of this letter, and why it is so significant to scholars, historians, and collectors.
Current Event August 24, 2017
Recently violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia after a rally held by white nationalists became violent when they clashed with counter demonstrators. One woman was killed. The white nationalists were in Charlottesville to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. The clash has raised tensions around the country about what to do with monuments honoring Confederate figures. One city, Richmond, Virginia has a rich history when it comes to the early development the United States. It had a massive slave marketplace and a strong Confederate Army during the Civil War. Listen to hear a discussion of the history and fate of Confederate statues.
Current Event August 18, 2017
As more police departments around the country are using body cameras, a new debate is arising about who should have control over the images that they capture. As of now, the police themselves control the video images, which some believe may lead to a potential conflict of interest. This story explores both sides of the issue, and how police departments can work to improve their relationship with the public. Listen to this story and then debate: Who should have access to police body camera footage?
ELA High School
James Baldwin’s legacy and words are still very much alive and relevant today. A 2017 Oscar-nominated documentary was inspired by Baldwin’s writing on race, class, and the Civil Rights era in America. The documentary, called "I Am Not Your Negro," examines the lives and work of three Civil Rights leaders: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. At the same time, it urges audiences to consider how racial tensions and attitudes continue to influence our culture today. Listen to hear more about how James Baldwin and this documentary challenge us to work toward positive change in our communities.
Current Event June 2, 2017
The mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana removed four Confederate statues from the city to ease controversy of how the city remembers the Civil War. He made a speech at the fourth and final removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Some saw these statues as symbols of white supremacy and of the systemic oppression of human beings, and some saw them as tributes to Confederate heroes. Listen to learn more about the statue removal in New Orleans and its place in the nationwide debate about the removal of symbols of the Civil War and then debate: Should Confederate statues from the past be removed?
Current Event May 18, 2017
There is a push in the comics industry to introduce characters that are diverse in race, gender, and sexual orientation. A large motivator for this change is the belief that children from diverse backgrounds deserve to see people in heroic roles that look like them and/or share their gender or sexual orientation. As a result, major comic publishers, such as Marvel, are introducing more characters that are people of color, female, and LGBTQ. Listen to learn more about the growing diversity in comic book characters and the controversies surrounding it.
Current Event May 10, 2017
It has been 25 years since riots in Los Angeles left more than 50 people dead and lead to around 6,000 arrests and roughly $1 billion in property damage. Despite a massive campaign to invest in rebuilding the city, L.A. has still not been completely repaired to where it was before the riots. In the aftermath of the destruction, many hoped that the “Rebuild L.A.” campaign would lead to stronger communities with more black-owned businesses. However, Rebuild L.A. is seen by many as a failure. Listen to learn more about the legacy of the L.A. riots and how these communities are still dealing with the aftermath.
ELA High School
Throughout his life in South Africa, playwright Athol Fugard witnessed firsthand the cruelty and injustice of apartheid. Not only did racism fracture the country he loved so dearly, but it also created profound strain in his relationship with his father, whom he calls “a huge bigot.” Many elements of that difficult and complex relationship resonate throughout Athol’s play “‘Master Harold‘. . . and the Boys,” which became a Broadway hit at the peak of the anti-apartheid movement. Lisa Fugard, Athol’s daughter, also grew up in South Africa but left the country to pursue an acting career and later became a writer. Listen to hear about how both father and daughter explored their personal and the political struggles brought about by apartheid.
Current Event April 19, 2017
African-American artist Kerry James Marshall has made it his life goal to make black culture “indispensable” and “undeniable” to the art world. Marshall has dedicated his career to painting black subjects and depicting African-American experience through art. He hopes that in showing his work in major museums, he is combatting the historical underrepresentation of black culture in history. Listen to learn more about the artist Kerry James Marshall and his views on black culture in the art world.
Current Event March 6, 2017
In recent weeks, Jewish schools and community centers in at least a dozen states have received bomb threats. In addition, Jewish cemeteries in Pennsylvania and Missouri have been vandalized. Although it is unclear if these threats and attacks are the work of a few isolated individuals, the Jewish community believes they indicate a growing anti-Jewish sentiment. President Donald Trump has condemned the threats and vandalism, but so far there has been no direct government response. Listen to hear more about what the Jewish community is facing and the response they are hoping to see from law enforcement.
Current Event March 3, 2017
The reality television series the Bachelor/Bachelorette has been frequently criticized for the lack of diversity in its contestants and lead characters. Recently, the show has announced its first black Bachelorette. By including more people of color in the pool of contestants, the show’s executives hope to foster more diversity both in who wins the competition, and who is selected to be the lead in future seasons. Both scripted TV shows and reality TV shows have been criticized for not being diverse. Listen to this story and then debate the best way to increase diversity on TV.