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.
Current Event December 9, 2019
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Judiciary Committee will write articles of impeachment against President Trump. The announcement follows weeks of hearings where witnesses testified about the president’s actions in Ukraine, which Pelosi says showed that the president abused his power. If the House of Representatives votes to approve the articles, President Trump will be impeached, and then the Senate will hold a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear Speaker Pelosi explain why she believes impeachment is necessary and learn what charges may be included in the articles of impeachment.
Current Event November 22, 2019
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook disagree on what to do with political ads. Twitter recently banned all political advertising, saying it could not fact-check the claims made by politicians and did not want to spread misinformation. But defining what counts as a political ad is tricky. Facebook continues to run political ads without fact-checking them, citing free speech. Critics claim that political ads on social media can be particularly misleading. Listen to hear an expert discuss these issues and then debate: Should political ads be allowed on social media?
Current Event November 19, 2019
Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1942, President Roosevelt ordered the relocation of thousands of Japanese Americans to detention centers. The order grew out of fear that these innocent citizens could become spies. Around 117,000 Japanese Americans were sent to incarceration camps, many losing their jobs, homes, and property. The internment of Americans of Japanese descent is now viewed as one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. Listen to hear a Japanese American woman recall the experience of being uprooted from her home and how a neighbor helped her family.
Current Event November 18, 2019
Congress has launched an impeachment inquiry. Impeachment involves an investigation by the House of Representatives into potential wrongdoing by the president and, if they find it, a vote on whether to impeach. If a majority of House members vote yes, the president is impeached. His case then goes before the Senate for a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear a reporter clarify the steps in the impeachment process and explain what to expect as the impeachment of President Trump proceeds.
Current Event November 12, 2019
“Quid pro quo” refers to someone doing a favor for another person and expecting something in return. Exchanging favors is common, but off-limits to politicians who could abuse their power. Congress is investigating whether President Trump sought a quid pro quo from the president of Ukraine by asking him to investigate a political rival in exchange for releasing U.S. aid funds. Listen to learn how the meaning of the Latin term quid pro quo has evolved over centuries and why asking for a favor can be complicated, even embarrassing.
Current Event November 4, 2019
For many years, Americans have questioned whether our election system is secure. After Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, officials have been trying to replace old voting machines and add other safeguards to ensure secure elections in 2020. In spite of their efforts, however, experts predict that millions of people will still vote on outdated machines in the next presidential election. Listen to hear about the risks to voting security posed by digital technology, how old-fashioned technology can help, and why more election interference is expected in the future.
Current Event October 18, 2019
College athletes have been banned from earning money from their sports, but a new law in California will change that. Starting in 2023, college players in California will be allowed to endorse products and sign sponsorship deals. Supporters say that the law will finally give skilled college athletes who bring in millions of dollars for their universities an opportunity to profit themselves. Opponents argue the new law will ruin college athletics by making them more like professional sports. Listen to hear from people on both sides of the issue and then debate: Should college athletes profit from playing sports?