Current Event August 12, 2020
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to protect the right of every citizen to vote. It ensured that unfair tests for voters could be challenged in court and gave the federal government oversight over states with a history of voter suppression. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court decided that a key part of the Voting Rights Act could no longer be enforced. Listen to learn about this change in federal voter protections and why one expert believes it puts the legacy of voting rights activist John Lewis at risk.
Current Event August 3, 2020
John Lewis, a celebrated civil rights leader and long-time member of Congress, has died. As a young man, Lewis fought courageously for racial justice alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. Among other acts of nonviolent resistance, he led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights, where he was severely beaten and arrested. Lewis continued to champion issues of justice as a legislator, earning him the nickname, “the conscience of Congress.” Listen to learn more about the life of John Lewis and how his passion and commitment to racial equality has inspired lawmakers and citizens for generations.
Current Event July 15, 2020
With the presidential election months away and the coronavirus pandemic raging, some people are concerned about the health risks of in-person voting. Now, athletes are helping to address that problem. Several NBA teams have volunteered their sports arenas as polling places. The large spaces provide plenty of room for social distancing, which election officials hope will encourage voter turnout. Listen to learn how sports arenas could solve a range of voting challenges and why black athletes are speaking out about political causes more than ever before.
Current Event July 13, 2020
The Mississippi legislature voted to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag. Designed in 1894, Mississippi’s flag incorporated an image of the Confederate battle flag, a symbol that is offensive to many citizens. The decision to remove the emblem was made amidst protests over police killings of black people and a national reckoning with racism in America, past and present. Listen to hear a Mississippi politician recount the experiences that shaped his understanding of the Confederate symbol and why he thinks the long-overdue change is finally happening.
Current Event July 8, 2020
The Supreme Court announced that DACA recipients, sometimes called Dreamers, can stay in the U.S. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program enacted in 2012 to protect children brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age from being deported. President Trump canceled the program, but the Supreme Court rejected his action and kept protections for Dreamers in place. Listen to hear how DACA recipients are responding to the high court’s decision and why their battle to stay in the U.S. is not yet over.
Current Event July 6, 2020
Leaders throughout the world are working to control the spread of COVID-19 in their nations. Some have managed to keep their country’s illness rates very low or to quickly limit outbreaks. This story examines the qualities and strategies of these successful leaders and the commonalities in their responses to the pandemic that have so effectively addressed the health crisis. Listen to learn what the New Zealand prime minister said to calm her nation, how leaders of several Asian countries mobilized their governments, and what the German Chancellor did for the first time ever to rally her citizens to work together to reduce the threat of the virus.
Current Event May 28, 2020
A former U.S. military commander likens the coronavirus pandemic to a war and believes that strong leadership is needed to win it. In this interview, General Stanley McChrystal outlines the leadership qualities he considers essential for instilling confidence in people during a time of crisis and fortifying them for the long battle against COVID-19. Listen to hear a 4-star general explain why fighting the virus reminds him of the war against al-Qaida, and why he thinks leaders should share information honestly and openly, even when it may be frightening.
Current Event May 7, 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a United Nations agency that oversees public health worldwide. It offers advice and support to its member countries and coordinates scientific research and public health projects across borders. President Trump recently announced that the U.S. will stop funding the WHO, severely reducing the agency’s budget. Listen to learn more about the role of the WHO in protecting global health and how a withdrawal of funding could cripple its efforts.
Current Event May 1, 2020
States, political parties, and the federal government are considering how to hold safe elections this November during a pandemic. Many states have postponed their presidential primary elections or are allowing citizens to vote by mail. In the Wisconsin primary, there were long lines at the polls and fears about increasing the spread of COVID-19. Voters had to choose between maintaining social distance by staying home or risking their health while exercising their right to vote. Listen to this story about rules related to voting by mail and then debate: Should voting procedures change during a pandemic?
Current Event April 24, 2020
A survey conducted by the University of Virginia School of Law early in the COVID-19 outbreak asked people about their willingness to give up civil liberties for public safety during a pandemic. Results indicated that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum favored restrictions on citizens’ freedom, including some unconstitutional ones, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Recently, however, some people have been arguing that they should be free to gather in public, for example, despite public health risks. Listen to hear more about the survey results and then debate: Is public safety more important than civil liberties?
Current Event April 20, 2020
Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States in the 2020 election. Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the presidential primary race, but his candidacy has had a lasting impact on the Democratic party. Sanders has a loyal following of young people and progressives, whose support has helped push his ideas into the political mainstream. Listen to learn more about the rise and fall of Sanders’ presidential bid and how he plans to continue to influence the Democratic party.
Current Event March 19, 2020
What is the best way to persuade others to support your views? A stump speech contest in New Hampshire invited teens to explore that question. Students from across the country wrote and delivered compelling political campaign speeches focused on issues that matter to them, including climate change, immigration, and equal pay for women. Listen to hear students read parts of their winning speeches and learn what one judge believes makes speeches especially strong.
Current Event March 9, 2020
The House of Representatives voted to require the President to get permission from Congress for any further military action against Iran. The move is a response to the Trump administration’s recent killing of a top Iranian general and other aggressive acts. Lawmakers who support the resolution say the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war against a foreign power. The President, however, believes that laws passed after 9/11 give him the authority to act alone when the U.S. is threatened. Listen to learn more about the struggle between Congress and the President over war powers.
Note: After the publication of this story, the Senate approved a measure to block President Trump from further attacks on Iran without consulting Congress.
Current Event March 6, 2020
Caucuses and primaries are two different ways of allowing voters to choose their party’s presidential nominee. The caucus system requires citizens to gather together for discussion and debate before casting their vote. Some prize the highly democratic nature of caucuses, where people meet face-to-face to discuss political issues. But others say caucuses discourage participation since they demand so much time and energy. Most states have opted for primaries, a simpler system of voting at a ballot box. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of each method of voting and then debate: Are caucuses or primaries more democratic?
Current Event February 18, 2020
The United Kingdom (UK), which includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has officially left the European Union (EU), a partnership of 28 countries promoting peace and economic cooperation. Since the vote to exit the EU in 2016, known as “Brexit,” British leaders and citizens have struggled to determine what the move will mean for their economy and way of life, including the freedom to work and travel easily throughout Europe. Listen to hear what Prime Minister Boris Johnson says about Brexit now that it has finally happened, and why Brits across the country are reacting with glee, dismay, and calls for action.
Current Event February 10, 2020
The Senate voted to acquit President Trump of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House of Representatives had impeached the president on these violations in December, but the Senate’s decision means he will not be removed from office. Senators cast votes along party lines, with the exception of Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who was the first senator to vote to convict a president in his own party. Listen to hear how Romney came to his decision and how Congress plans to move forward after an exhausting and divisive impeachment trial.
Current Event February 7, 2020
Students around the country may learn different versions of U.S. history depending on where they live. Textbook publishers often customize textbooks for different states in response to political pressure, covering specific topics differently. Some say that this is important because different regions have different populations and different priorities. Others believe that all students in the country should have access to the same information and that variations in textbook content contributes to deepening the political divide. Listen to hear more about how textbooks differ from state to state and then debate: Should everyone use the same textbooks?
Current Event January 27, 2020
The impeachment of President Donald J. Trump has focused the nation’s attention on a short section of the U.S. Constitution. Along with treason and bribery, the Constitution says presidents may be removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but what exactly the phrase means is open for discussion. Listen to hear an expert explain where the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” came from, why the framers decided to include it, and how it has sparked exactly the kind of debate the framers anticipated.
Current Event January 21, 2020
Iranians took to the streets in angry protest after government leaders admitted to accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing everyone aboard. The protest came just days after Iranian citizens had gathered on the streets to condemn the killing of their beloved general, Soleimani, by the Americans. Listen to hear why protesters are angry with their supreme leader and how the government is responding to the unrest.
Current Event December 26, 2019
President Donald J. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2019 for high crimes and misdemeanors. The first article of impeachment charges the president with abuse of power, and the second with obstruction of Congress. Trump is the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached. In a deeply divided Congress, the voting was split along party lines, with almost all Democrats voting to impeach and all Republicans voting against impeachment. The articles of impeachment now go to the Senate, where a trial will be held to determine whether or not to remove President Trump from office. Listen to learn about the historic impeachment.