Current Event March 1, 2018
The movie about the superhero Black Panther is a phenomenon. The stars of the movie are black actors and it takes place in a fictitious African country that was never colonized by Europeans. The Black Panther has characters who are rulers of kingdoms, inventors, creators of advanced technology, and fierce women warriors who protect the king. Crowdfunders across the U.S. are raising money to take entire groups of kids to see this movie. Listen to this story to hear the reaction of fifth grade students after they saw the Black Panther.
Current Event February 28, 2018
A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center finds that most high school seniors don’t fully understand many facts about slavery. The study also finds that educators aren’t provided with good materials, training, or standards for teaching students about slavery in the U.S. It’s an uncomfortable subject and most curriculum guides teachers to highlight heroes, such as Harriet Tubman, before teaching about slavery. Listen to this story to hear about the problems and possible solutions to understanding the history and reality of slavery.
Current Event November 20, 2017
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled from their homes in Myanmar, also known as Burma, into Bangladesh since the end of August to escape the violence from the Burmese military. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in a majority Buddhist country, and the violence has been called “ethnic cleansing” by some. The Burmese government’s stance is that their actions are in response to the attacks by an armed group of Rohingya against the Burmese police. Listen to hear about this crisis and what the Burmese government and United States government are doing to help the Rohingya.
ELA High School
Author Richard Wright is well known for his novel "Native Son" and autobiography “Black Boy." These books explore what it was like to grow up black and poor in America during the 1930s and 40s. Although Wright became famous for his writing, some Americans, including his own daughter, are still discovering who Richard Wright is and why his writing is significant. Listen to learn more about the impact Richard's Wright’s experiences and writing had on his daughter, his readers, and aspiring writers.
ELA High School
Published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” changed the way Americans viewed slavery and was a driving force that steered the political direction of the country during the 1850s as well. For many Americans, the characters in the novel are familiar, although their names have taken on new and unexpected meanings, and the novel’s theme still resonates today. Listen to learn more about the cultural impact of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in America and discover Harriet Beecher Stowe’s inspirations for writing the novel as well as how the novel still reminds us of what “freedom” means today.
Science High School
American doctors rely on clinical trials to determine which drugs to use in treatment. Researchers have found that clinical trials have not been effective in creating drugs for America’s diverse population. When clinical trials are too homogeneous, they can leave important discoveries undiscovered. Patients who are diverse ethnically and racially can respond differently to medications, leading to dire consequences. Listen to learn how a lack of diversity in clinical trials affects patients and how researchers are trying to fix it.
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?
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.
ELA Middle School
Phillis Wheatley was the first black poet in the United States. Wheatley was born in Senegal but brought to Boston, Massachusetts, as a slave. However, she was too weak for manual labor and was taught to read and write instead. She published her first poem in 1767. A two-page letter written by Wheatley, previously unpublished, was recently auctioned. Listen to learn more about Phillis Wheatley, the contents of this letter, and the reasons why it is so significant to scholars, historians, and collectors.
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?