Current Event November 20, 2020
The U.S. Constitution, written over 200 years ago, established the structure of the new government, the basic laws of the land, and the rights of citizens. At the time, the institution of slavery still existed, and only white men had the right to vote. It might be argued that the document needs to be rewritten to better serve and reflect today’s diverse American society. It could also be argued that the Constitution is a living document that can be adapted to changing circumstances through amendments and flexible interpretation. Listen to learn about a play that explores the relevance of the Constitution and then debate: Is the Constitution outdated?
Current Event October 19, 2020
The actions of armed anti-government groups, often calling themselves “militias,” are gaining attention in the U.S. One such group was recently accused of plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Militant groups sometimes claim the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which calls for “a well-regulated militia,” protects their right to exist. But are private militias really legal? Listen to learn whether armed anti-government groups can operate legally in the U.S. and how social media platforms help them thrive.
Current Event August 21, 2020
Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, protests against racial inequities have taken place in cities around the country. Some have turned violent, and recently federal troops were sent into several cities to patrol streets and make arrests. Officials in those cities have not requested this help, however, and many do not welcome it. They claim it is the job of local and state governments, not the federal government, to control unrest. Listen to a mayor explain why she believes the police sent to her city do not belong there and then debate: Should federal troops intervene in protests?
Current Event June 29, 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against workers for being gay or transgender. The court based its decision on the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring discrimination on the basis of sex, saying that law applied to LGBTQ people. The ruling makes discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal everywhere in the country, overriding laws already in place in states and local governments. Listen to hear the man who filed the lawsuit seven years ago react to the decision, and learn how life for LGBTQ people may change as a result of the landmark ruling.
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 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 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 3, 2020
President Trump is taking steps to remind students and teachers of their right to pray in school. Under the Constitution, students have a right to freely practice their religion. However, the Constitution also says that public schools may not promote any religion. Listen to learn which religious expressions are allowed in public schools and how the law aims to prevent discrimination on the basis of religion.
Current Event January 31, 2020
Felons in Mississippi often permanently lose their right to vote, even after serving their sentence. The practice has resulted in the disenfranchisement of 10% of the state’s population. Now, civil rights groups are challenging the law in court, claiming it discriminates against black citizens and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Those in favor of the law say although it was originally passed to suppress the black vote post-Reconstruction, there is no evidence of racial bias today. Listen to learn more about the lawsuit against the state of Mississippi and then debate: Should former felons be allowed to vote?
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 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 16, 2019
The first shipload of enslaved people reached the American colonies four hundred years ago, in 1619. Although the event marked the beginning of a system that profoundly shaped American life, the date is likely unfamiliar to most people. The 1619 Project aims to change that by exploring how the legacy of slavery still impacts our country today. Listen to hear the journalist behind the project reveal truths about slavery that schools often do not teach and why the project has personal meaning for her.
Current Event December 13, 2019
Incidents involving racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic speech are on the rise on college campuses throughout the U.S. But the First Amendment protects free speech, and colleges want to create spaces where students and professors can explore all kinds of ideas, even potentially offensive ones. Listen to learn about the recent rash of hate crimes at one college and a professor’s inflammatory comments at another, and then debate: Should free speech be protected on college campuses?
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 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 October 14, 2019
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach a president considered unfit for office. First, the House of Representatives investigates whether the president has committed a crime and votes on articles of impeachment, and then the Senate holds a trial and votes on whether to remove the president from office. The current impeachment inquiry investigating President Trump is taking place in a strongly divided country. Listen to an expert explain what today’s Congress can learn from the past, and why no president facing impeachment has ever been removed from office.
Current Event August 26, 2019
A man recently shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Just before he committed this terrorist act, he posted a manifesto describing his motivations in an online forum called 8chan. Two other mass shooters also published their intentions on 8chan before their attacks this year. Listen to learn more about the role digital technology can play in extremist violence and the consequences 8chan has faced since the El Paso shooting.
Current Event August 13, 2019
Retired Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens recently died at the age of 99. Appointed in 1975, he served on the Supreme Court for decades. He authored numerous important majority opinions for the court and helped to decide many significant cases, even through difficult times and political changes. Listen to learn more about the judicial legacy of Supreme Court Justice Stevens.