Economics Current Event Assignment

The following are my teaching assignments on critical thinking for California 12th grade students in the semester-long courses, “US Government” and “Economics.” I offer them for non-profit use:

This is the final action: students explore their interests with research, writing, and presentation to the class. At this point of the course, the previous sections from this article and my sharing of current events have opened students’ minds that the world they thought existed in government and economics was a fairy tale believed by the ignorant. This conclusion is justified from the objective and independently verifiable facts, and young-adult confidence that they really do know some things more powerfully than adults (please recall this fact from when we were their ages).

This last project for student research, writing, and class presentation is divided into four parts:

6.1: Basis in academics and state teaching standards

6.2: Revealing economics history 1

6.3: Revealing economics history 2

6.4: Political economy, the assignment, supporting historical voices

This is 6.1:

Critical thinking skills in action: economic analysis of ‘current events,’ past and present

Instructions: In order to understand current economic events, people have to discern among competing statements regarding facts, meaning, and policy opinions. This assignment has you:

  • Read a case study history of famous Americans considering one fundamental economic issue: how to create what we use for money. The purpose of this case study is to see that reporting of current events in the present might exclude powerful and game-changing facts.
  • Read a history of  US government “current events” that are typically omitted from high school US History texts, included in many AP texts, and always included in comprehensive college courses. These accounts are not contested to my knowledge; that is, non-controversial for factual accuracy.
  • Research one important economic issue of interest for you. Compare different sources of reports in good faith effort to receive comprehensive facts.
  • Use critical thinking skills to determine the key facts as you best see them, reflect and communicate what the facts mean for you, and state your best policy response from your current understanding in writing.
  • Use your written information as notes and create a visual to report your findings to the class.

To begin, read the sections below by the due dates. Prepare to discuss the section questions listed below. Each reading section will have the short-response questions due at the start of the next class period (details below). As you read, research the documentation at your interest. Please also feel free to do independent research at your interest. As always, please include your parents and any other parties to contribute valuable research for your consideration.

At the end of all the reading, select an economic topic from the list provided, or propose your own for my approval. If economics means, “The creation and management of money, goods, and services,” then you have a broad range of topics to choose from! And remember: the courses of US Government and Economics are taught together for a reason: money funds government policies, and policies direct how money is created and managed.

Consider the questions and resources for each topic, do your own research, and answer all twelve questions at the end of the assignment. I suggest that you access the electronic version. This activates the numerous Internet links, and allows you to cut and paste the questions for your word processing program.

Print a copy of your answers to help present your findings to the class.

This assignment is 70 points:

  • 22 for written responses to questions: 1 point per question (10 for #3), 2 for grammar and spelling.
  • 22 for your oral brief to the class (3-11 only): 1 point per question (5 for #3), 5 for visual element (Prezi, Animoto, video, etc. (up to five extra for great work), 3 for clarity.
  • 26 for reading comprehension short-responses: 2 points per 13 sections.

Sections:

  1. Purpose of Social Science, challenge to get the facts: pages 6-10
  2. Competent citizenry: three of history’s greatest voices: 11-14
  3. Reviewing California Content Standards and critical thinking skills: 15-20
  4. Introducing economics research: a case study of monetary and credit reform: 21-26
  5. If monetary/credit reform is such a big deal, why won’t corporate media and textbooks cover it? 27-34
  6. Who in American history have argued for monetary/credit reform? To start: Thomas Edison and Thomas Jefferson: 35-39
  7. President Andrew Jackson and leading inventor Peter Cooper: 40-44
  8. New York City Mayor John Hylan and two Chairs of Congress’ Banking Committee: 45-48
  9. Benjamin Franklin and William Jennings Bryan: 49-51
  10. Charles Lindbergh, Senior and US top economists during Great Depression: 52-57
  11. Political economy: connections economics students and citizens should know: 58-64
  12. Critical thinking skills in action: economics policy analysis: 65-70
  13. Great voices in history offer insights for effective citizenry: 71-80

Reading comprehension short-responses instructions: This assignment will help your learning (and grade). “Short-responses” can be brief; they can be bullet points. They must clearly demonstrate your understanding of the ideas. Please note: do not directly copy your responses with classmates: you are welcome to benefit from class discussions to improve your ideas, but plagiarized work results in zero grades for giver and receiver, plus school policy consequences.

1. Purpose of Social Science, challenge to get the facts: pages 6-10:

  • The History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools articulates the context or reason to learn US history, government and economics. Explain briefly what this document says about the focus of these classes. Include the skills we want students to master from them, how to teach controversial topics, and the importance of critical thinking skills.
  • Expert testimony is from someone with academic training and/or professional experience to walk an audience through facts of a complex issue. Explain why clear explanation and independently verifiable comprehensive data are the two ways to evaluate the effectiveness of expert testimony.
  • Explain why a person of reasonable intelligence can determine for him or herself when a basic law is being outrageously violated when the person knows the law; that is, the explanation of an alleged expert or the president of the US is not needed to verify the outrageous violation. Invent or explain an example with a rule or law to show your understanding of this idea.

2. Competent citizenry: three of history’s greatest voices: 11-14:

  • Explain Cicero’s admonition against people who avoid a really big responsibility (Cicero was a leader to defend Rome’s constitutional government from those who would subvert it for dictatorial power unlimited by the rules of a constitution).
  • Gandhi wrote that he wanted to serve the British Constitution and God in communicating to the public the gap between British law and what the British were actually doing with grossly unequal treatment. Explain Gandhi’s strategy to remove this “misunderstanding.”
  • Explain what Dr. King meant that “silence is betrayal.” Explain if this is what J.K. Rowling also meant in her remarks to Harvard graduates in 2008.

3. Reviewing California Content Standards and critical thinking skills: 15-20:

  • Explain the degree you find the Principles of Economics Content Standards important to you for your next 70 or so years as an adult.
  • Explain the three components of critical thinking for economic competence that this section reviews.
  • Explain how Lincoln’s advice of “unimpassioned reason” can overcome cognitive dissonance.

4. Introducing economics research: a case study of monetary and credit reform: 21-26:

  • Explain “monetary and credit reform” as a shift from privately-owned business to public services.
  • Explain the claimed benefits of monetary/credit reform with the US national debt, employment, infrastructure, and price levels. Explain to the extent these claims seem likely. Explain the use of professional economic cost-benefit analysis to best approximate costs and benefits.
  • Explain to what extent political and media leadership communicate accurate economics information to the public. Explain how your competent education can upgrade public consideration of important ideas in economics.

5. If monetary/credit reform is such a big deal, why won’t corporate media and textbooks cover it?: 27-34:

  • Explain your analysis (what you see when you take something apart and study it) of J.P. Morgan’s means, motive, and opportunity to purchase favorable media coverage. Explain to what extent you would conclude Morgan did what Congressman Callaway alleged. If you were an advisor to J.P. Morgan, would you advise him to take that action if costs were significantly less than projected business benefits?
  • Explain what CIA Director Colby testified under oath to the US Senate about CIA infiltration of US corporate media, and then verified by Pulitzer-winning journalist, Carl Bernstein.
  • Explain what the polling data says about Americans’ trust of US corporate media reporting. Given the examples of NY Times coverage of the UN Summit for Children, Occupy Wall Street, and your personal experience of corporate media, explain the degree that you trust US corporate media reporting.

6. Who in American history have argued for monetary/credit reform? To start: Thomas Edison and Thomas Jefferson: 35-39:

  • Explain Thomas Edison’s point regarding the cost difference of funding expensive infrastructure from our government selling debt securities versus government simply creating debt-free money to buy it.
  • Explain your analysis of your favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson among the nine provided on this topic.
  • Explain your analysis of your second-favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson among the nine provided.

7. President Andrew Jackson and leading inventor Peter Cooper: 40-44:

  • Explain what Jackson stated in the two paragraphs from his veto message to end his era’s version of today’s Federal Reserve regarding: 1) how the Second Bank of the United States was unconstitutional, and 2) how giving the power to create money to a private bank was a benefit to its owners but not the general public.
  • Explain what you see as Peter Cooper’s most important point in his 1879 address as presidential candidate for the Greenback party.
  • Explain what Peter Cooper’s second most important point in his 1879 address as presidential candidate for the Greenback party.

8. New York City Mayor John Hylan and two Chairs of Congress’ Banking Committee: 45-48:

  • Explain what you see as Mayor Hylan’s most important point in his March, 1922 speech.
  • Explain what you see as Mayor Hylan’s most important point in his December, 1922 speech.
  • Explain what you see as Congressman McFadden’s most important point in his 1932 speech.
  • Explain what you see as Congressman Patman’s most important point in his 1941 speech

9. Benjamin Franklin and William Jennings Bryan: 49-51:

  • Explain how important Franklin found the study of how money is created by a government, and how Pennsylvania operated its government without taxes.
  • Explain how “free silver” as backing for paper money would be a compromise among “greenbackers” who wanted debt-free money without any commodity backing it, compared to the existing policy of only gold-backed currency.
  • Explain Bryan’s communication in the paragraph from his 1896 presidential nominee acceptance speech.

10. Charles Lindbergh, Senior and US top economists during Great Depression: 52-57:

  • Explain what you see as Congressman Lindbergh’s most important point in his 1917 book.
  • Explain what the Chicago Plan proposed to end the US Great Depression, and the reception among university economists.
  • Explain what you see as the most important message from the quotes following the Chicago Plan rejection in order to continue creating what we use in the US for money as debt created by privately-owned banks.

11. Political economy: connections economics students and citizens should know: 58-64:

  • The US Department of Defense admitted to “losing” $2.3 trillion of taxpayer money. Explain how much money that is, and your conclusion if “lost” is the correct description of what happened with the money.
  • Explain an example of US war history regarding the degree the US told the truth and honored existing treaties.
  • Explain your conclusion of any connection between US war history and US monetary history regarding telling the truth to the US public, and the degree policy supports oligarchs versus policy in support of the US public.

12. Critical thinking skills in action: economics policy analysis: 65-70:

  • Explain what current event you’d like to research from the list or the idea you’re proposing to me, and why this topic is of interest.

13. Great voices in history offer insights for effective citizenry: 71-80:

  • If American leaders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln could talk with you about what it means to be an American, would you give them a few minutes of your time? Well, they can, and did in writing with the intent that you would consider their thoughts in your own expression of American citizenship. Please give them the attention their lives deserve with those few minutes of attention with careful reading. Also please consider that the topic of creating what a nation uses for money is one of the very few policy areas that quickly becomes worth trillions of our dollars.
  • Paraphrase your three most favorite quotes from the list, and why they’re your favorites. Your paraphrasing may be concise if it’s accurate; including the use of bullet points if they’re helpful.

1. Purpose of Social Science, challenge to get the facts

To understand why we study social science in California public schools, we find the answer here: History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, pgs. 2, 7-8

“The study of continuity and change is, as it happens, the main focus of the history–social science curriculum. The knowledge provided by these disciplines enables students to appreciate how ideas, events, and individuals have intersected to produce change over time as well as to recognize the conditions and forces that maintain continuity within human societies.

As educators in the field of history–social science, we want our students to perceive the complexity of social, economic, and political problems. We want them to have the ability to differentiate between what is important and what is unimportant. We want them to know their rights and responsibilities as American citizens. We want them to understand the meaning of the Constitution as a social contract that defines our democratic government and guarantees our individual rights. We want them to respect the right of others to differ with them. We want them to take an active role as citizens and to know how to work for change in a democratic society. We want them to understand the value, the importance, and the fragility of democratic institutions. We want them to realize that only a small fraction of the world’s population (now or in the past) has been fortunate enough to live under a democratic form of government, and we want them to understand the conditions that encourage democracy to prosper. We want them to develop a keen sense of ethics and citizenship. And we want them to care deeply about the quality of life in their community, their nation, and their world.”

This framework encourages teachers to present controversial issues honestly and accurately within their historical or contemporary context. History without controversy is not good history, nor is such history as interesting to students as an account that captures the debates of the times. Students should understand that the events in history provoked controversy as do the events reported in today’s headlines. Students should try to see historical controversies through the different perspectives of participants. These controversies can best be portrayed by using primary sources, such as newspapers, court decisions, and speeches that represent different views. Students should also recognize that historians often disagree about the interpretation of historical events and that today’s textbooks may be altered by future research. Through the study of controversial issues, both in history and in current affairs, students should learn that people in a democratic society have the right to disagree, that different perspectives have to be taken into account, and that judgments should be based on reasonable evidence and not on bias and emotion.

This framework proposes that critical thinking skills be included at every grade level. Students should learn to detect bias in print and visual media; to recognize illogical thinking; to guard against propaganda; to avoid stereotyping of group members; to reach conclusions based on solid evidence; and to think critically, creatively, and rationally. These skills are to be taught within the context of a curriculum that offers numerous opportunities to explore examples of sound reasoning and examples of the opposite.”

The above passages from the California Department of Education explicitly support your learning critical thinking skills and applying them for your analysis of our most important current events. The Framework emphasizes the fragility of democratic forms of government and the need for developing competent citizenry within a constitutional republic.

We shall do so.

The following assignment will take a few hours of your time to read, and further time to verify factual accuracy of the claims. It will then take a few hours to research an economic topic and answer the questions for your analysis. That said, if you’ve spent more than a few hours wondering about how truthful politicians and corporate media are about trillions of dollars worth of power, and you’ve wanted to develop the critical thinking skills to know for yourself the extent that factual claims are true regarding policies that are literally “life or death” to millions, and can uplift or impose tyranny to billions, then this investment of reading is worthwhile.

My challenge in teaching this to you is how to appropriately communicate the facts of historical and current events while bridging gaps of history unknown to you. That statement doesn’t appear to be challenging at all, at first. I mean, that’s what all teaching does, to communicate the facts, yes? But you will discover the challenge of getting to the facts of history that is central to a government’s interests with resources, money, and power in this reading 🙂

Please allow me to explain this deceptively simple challenge.

Part of my professional contribution to you is my experience working with leadership of both political parties and US corporate media for domestic and international economic policies. The insight people gain who do this is similar to the discovery in the movie The Wizard of Oz when our protagonists seeking intelligence, love, courage, and home see the veil of power pulled back. The story shows that the dominating images and sounds of government are contrived distractions to elicit obedience. We see a human hand upon these knobs and levers that prefers dictatorial power (literally the power to say what we do) rather than educate and empower the will of the people in a democracy, just as our above passage from the California teaching Framework states is the tendency. This wisdom allows us to recognize distractions and propaganda from politicians and media for what they are, and address political leadership, our wizards, face-to-face with the power of objective facts, and without fear.

The following paragraph of my background is what I also shared with your parents/guardians in my letter to them:

“For 18 years I helped create and grow the citizens’ lobby, RESULTS  now in over 100 US communities and 7 countries, working with economics and policy to end domestic and global poverty. RESULTS has been a leading voice for US Head Start programs that reach over a million children. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, James Grant, credited RESULTS with saving over one million children’s lives a year from increased funding we won for cost-effective programs that reduce infant mortality. We championed two UN Summits for heads of state: the 1990 World Summit for Children (largest meeting of heads of state in world history) and the 1997 Microcredit Summit (topic of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics). The UN and nations were so impressed with our work that they asked RESULTS to manage nations’ progress toward the Microcredit Summit’s goals. Today, over 100 million of the world’s lowest income families now have access to credit; a total population greater than the United States. This saves millions of lives, tremendously improves quality of life, and in every historical case has reduced population growth rates and promoted wiser environmental management.”

Part of my work was to help frame and document information on 200-300 policy briefs for members of Congress and heads of state. We practiced the highest professional and academic standards for the accuracy and documentation of our information. Moreover, we helped anticipate and counter likely attacks on our information from political opponents. This assignment will contribute that knowledge and skills to you.

Since 1997 I’ve focused my “hobby” on economics research, writing, and lobbying (teaching is my career). The short version: I helped create The Public Banking Institute by initiating lobbying for a California state-owned bank for at-cost credit, and am a leading advocate for reforms in government CAFR data (Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports), and credit and monetary reform (for example, I was one of six international speakers at Claremont Colleges’ conference on monetary reform in April, 2012). Since 2009, California State University at Sonoma and over 20 affiliated universities invited me to publish my articles for Daily Censored; I also publish on Washington’s Blog, and Examiner.com from 2009 to 2014 (1). Other sites republish from there, with a popular article having page views at least seeing the title in the tens of millions.

“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.”  Walter Cronkite, 2004, US news journalist likely the most-respected in all US history

Btw: I had assumed my leadership in the above areas would result in my work for policy development and realization. Because both parties’ leadership has so far declined to commit to any of the above policies, I’ve worked as a teacher since 1984. I take teaching social science with the same passion as I do for its real-world application: I’m a National Board Certified Teacher, and was honored by two Los Angeles mayors and USC for being among the best teachers in the city.

My experience working with state legislators, Congress, three US presidents, two UN Summits, and directly engaged with US corporate media coverage qualifies my “brief” to you (this assignment) as “expert testimony” to compare objective facts of current events with the rhetoric of economic/political leadership and corporate media. Evidence also indicates that I’ve been effective to appropriately create assignments for high school-age students to learn critical thinking skills and apply them to understand current events.

Importantly, expert testimony is never to be believed. That is, since The Enlightenment, authorities are never to be believed on their word but to be used as possible guides to point to objective data.

I will always encourage you to never believe anything I say regarding economics, government, and history. If I’m successful in my teaching you critical thinking skills, you’ll be able to ascertain credibility for factual claims on your own. Indeed, anyone of ethics will never ask for “belief,” but transparently provide evidence for others’ thoughtful consideration. Those of us who are serious to get to the facts in social science are deeply appreciative just how hard it is to do so, and apply professional and academic standards in our communication.

Expert testimony is only any good to the extent it does two things for the reader/audience:

  1. Help understand available facts rather than confuse or obfuscate.
  2. Transparently present facts that are objectively true. That is, the testimony shines light upon data that thereafter anyone can confirm or refute. This removes any need for belief, as the facts will speak for themselves.

Successful expert testimony therefore allows an audience that had been confused by an issue at first to understand it in concept and factual detail. The audience would thereafter be able to look at the data and understand the issue for themselves. 

For example, baseball is confusing to someone new to the game. Imagine you became friends with a foreign exchange student who was familiar with baseball, but never saw a game. You two go to a game. If you explained the rule of when a runner is safe or out at first base, your friend would have a noticeable breakthrough in understanding what was going on. Indeed, your friend might ask your opinion on a close play, but could independently see with full confidence when runners are safe or out at first base.

Importantly, if a runner was out by twenty feet and the umpire called the person safe, and the “official” media at the game also said the runner was safe, your friend could determine with full confidence that the game was rigged with a likely economic motive.

Important rules are meant to be crystal-clear to everyone. Egregious violation is clear to anyone informed on the rules, paying attention, and with the intellectual integrity and moral courage to tell the truth.

Similarly, if you understood basic Constitutional rules, you also might ask someone’s opinion on a “close play,” but when there are egregious violations of the law you wouldn’t need anyone to confirm the obvious. The facts would tell you the whole story.

Regarding our case study, the mechanics of creating what we use for money as a debt (a negative number) will produce increased total debt when we “expand” the economy. This basic application of elementary school mathematics doesn’t require an economist or US President’s confirmation. Increasing negative numbers equals a greater negative total. You can understand this on your own.

So, students and young citizens, in hope that my experience speaks to you, and that important current events mean life or death to millions, opportunity or misery to billions, and the power of trillions of our dollars that will have effects on these conditions, I respectfully request your full attention to this lesson.

I understand that I’m asking for your time to read, research, and write. My respect for your time and attention is balanced by my experience of what seems to be required to achieve your learning of critical thinking skills to understand economics for what it is rather than the noises and flashes of distracting colors that come from politicians’ and corporate media’s mouths.

My intent is to empower you with this skill for the rest of your life: about the next 70 years.

“At first blush, a man is not capable of reporting truth; he must be drenched and saturated with it first.”– Henry David Thoreau, I to myself: an annotated selection from the journal of Henry D. Thoreau, 1837. Thoreau, like Abraham Lincoln in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, recognized claimed “reasons” for a “defensive war” against Mexico were obvious lies when inspected. The economic benefits to acquire what is now the Southwest US would be powerful motivation to say whatever seemed most likely to be believed by the public.

2. Competent citizenry: three of history’s greatest voices

Let’s consider three of history’s greatest voices to understand the fragility of democracy and the demand of your civic competence to defend it. Without democratic freedom, economic freedom is unlikely. History shows that without freedom, economics merges with a parasitic government oligarchy. The American Revolution was sparked by economic issues: taxation, government control of trade, and as you’ll discover in this assignment: who controls money.

These three historic voices were at the heart of having freedom rather than oligarchy.

First: Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rome’s leading political figure who stood for their constitutional republic as would-be dictators and paid-off Senators sought to subvert their government to an oligarchic dictatorship. Cicero rejected an offer of money and power to silence his criticism of Rome’s move toward unconstitutional dictatorship. He felt it was his duty to voice the long-term costs and benefits of the choice between citizen responsibility to stand for their constitutional rights or to submit to dictatorial tyrants.

One of the most important lessons of history is to understand that Cicero and his colleagues failed, as had similar statesmen defending Greece from internal subversion to dictatorship four hundred years earlier.

The American Founding Fathers read and embraced Cicero in consideration of how to create a US Constitution with the best hope to survive tyranny from within our own country. They understood the danger that the United States must have competent citizens in recognizing emerging facts of ongoing “current events,” or else suffer similar self-destruction as Greece and Rome’s democratic republics into dictatorial and war-mongering empires, and then collapse.

Cicero wrote to encourage his fellow citizens to embrace the responsibility of defending their constitutional republic from dictatorial forces, and the fragility of freedom if they chose short-term pleasures:

“We denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.”  – Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Duties: The Extremes of Good and Evil,  44 BCE, translated by H. Rackham (1914).

Rome’s faction that wanted oligarchic power rather than a constitutional republic targeted Cicero, assassinated him, and then displayed his dismembered body as public warning.

Cicero is also famous for a principle still used today regarding money and power, “Cui bono?” that translates to asking, “Who benefits?” Related to today’s phrase, “follow the money,” Cicero applied this principle to discover who receives economic benefits from specific policies.

Second: Mohandas Gandhi was an attorney who acted to realize political and economic freedom in the rhetoric and religion of the British Empire. When the empire refused to recognize those basic rights, Gandhi led the movement for Indian independence from British imperialism. As an attorney, Gandhi had the academic training and professional experience to powerfully voice the hypocrisy of the Empire’s promises of democracy, civil rights, and economic rights versus the reality of denying the public their power of vote, crushing civil rights, and then using the law to loot India of her resources. Gandhi also shone light upon the hypocrisy between the British’ declared religious values of Christianity versus their brutal control. Gandhi asked British Christians to honor the one commandment Jesus gave them: love.

Gandhi asked that the British show their love by granting full political, economic, and civil rights to all, and with equal protection under just laws. The British response was propaganda and force to retain dictatorial and economic control.

Gandhi communicated to the public through speech, media that would accept his voice, and his own newspaper. He found that he had to address that “current events” as propagandized by the British government was very different from the actual facts:

“One thing we have endeavoured to observe most scrupulously, namely, never to depart from the strictest facts and, in dealing with the difficult questions that have arisen during the year, we hope that we have used the utmost moderation possible under the circumstances. Our duty is very simple and plain. We want to serve the community, and in our own humble way to serve the Empire. We believe in the righteousness of the cause, which it is our privilege to espouse. We have an abiding faith in the mercy of the Almighty God, and we have firm faith in the British Constitution. That being so, we should fail in our duty if we wrote anything with a view to hurt. Facts we would always place before our readers, whether they are palatable or not, and it is by placing them constantly before the public in their nakedness that the misunderstanding… can be removed.”  –  Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian Opinion(1 October 1903)

Another quote you’ve probably heard attributed to Gandhi but unsourced, explains the British government’s strategy to stop activists’ work for recognition of their rights:

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. And then you win.”

Regarding your opportunity to earn extra credit, I invite you to watch and then do some kind of review of the 1982 movie, “Gandhi.” It won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. For the HD official trailer, view here.

Need an excuse to ask someone you like in our class on a date? You’re welcome 🙂

Third: Dr. Martin Luther King stood for civil rights, ending poverty, and equal protection under American laws for all. Dr. King learned from Gandhi, and powerfully communicated the 100 years of American hypocrisy between the legal promises of citizenship and rights versus the reality of brutal segregationist oppression by government. For the last year of his life, Dr. King addressed ending poverty and ending the Vietnam War. His plan for the summer of 1968 was to lead a march, and then camp-in at Washington, D.C. until the US government ended the Vietnam War, and directed war resources to end poverty and invest in US hard and soft infrastructure. He was assassinated after his last speech before beginning the march to D.C. in April, 1968.

Dr. King also had to address Americans’ difficulty to look their “Wizard” in the eye; to address their government directly and without fear:

“‘A time comes when silence is betrayal.’ That time has come for us… The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.

… A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. … A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. …  A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. …We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

… These are revolutionary times.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”

An excerpt from Dr. King’s article, The Purpose of Education:

“Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

And one surprise bonus for citizen competence to build a brighter future: Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling at Harvard’s 2008 Commencement:

“Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans to gain or maintain power… What is more, those who choose not to empathize may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it through our own apathy… If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

As these quotes assert, part of responsible citizenry is to hold political leaders accountable for the public good. To do so, citizens must understand the fundamental nature of economics because money, resources and power are the historical corrupting forces. Responsible citizenship recognizes these dangers, and constructively uses the power of our group work funded by our group resources.

To naively trust power and money to the people in government is against the intent and design of the US Constitution. Indeed, without intelligent and courageous citizen leaders, the United States would never have become a nation. The US was created by citizens who drove a political wedge between those who valued political and economic freedom, from British government “leadership” who would take freedom away to increase their own power and monetary profit.

Knowledge of your rights, powerful communication of those rights, and the courage to stand for your rights are much of the California teaching standards for the course on US Economics, as you shall read next.

3. Reviewing California Content Standards and critical thinking skills

Principles of Economics Content Standards: California State Curriculum

12.1: Students understand common economic terms and concepts and economic reasoning.

12.2: Students analyze the elements of America’s market economy in a global setting.

12.3: Students analyze the influence of the federal government on the American economy.

12.4: Students analyze the elements of the U.S. labor market in a global setting.

12.5: Students analyze the aggregate economic behavior of the U.S. economy.

12.6: Students analyze issues of international trade and explain how the U.S. economy affects, and is affected by, economic forces beyond the United States’s borders.

These principles of Economics can only be practiced and realized through participation with the current events of the day, including our most important policy decisions. Rational economic participation, of course, is only possible through mastery of critical thinking skills.

This is a big deal, and the purpose of this assignment.

The California Framework and Content Standards, the admonitions of a few of humanity’s most honored historical figures, and I hope now your own conclusions have prepared you to provide your full attention and care to this assignment. Your success empowers your ability to ongoingly build a brighter economic future for yourself, family, organizations, and communities.

The only missing component is your declaration and promise that you have the will, the intellectual integrity, and moral courage to accept being a competent economic citizen. You may make this declaration and promise to yourself, now, if you so choose.

Do you accept?

Let’s review our last assignment on critical thinking skills with attention to how they apply to analysis of current economic events.

Part of the political and economic climate you enter as young adults is public ambiguity as to what the facts are concerning important economic actions, irrational and vicious argument, and disengagement from public participation in policy decisions. This is why it’s difficult for almost all students your age to tolerate listening to most politicians and media pundits discussing economics. You feel that politicians’ and media’s words are at least lies of omission, and that they definitely do not respect American citizens enough to fully and honestly educate them on the issues, and work as the public’s partners to represent their educated views in policy.

For those paying attention, such politicians and media voices who go after the comprehensive facts, attempt to educate the public, and work for the glaring economic needs of the public are recognized as rare national treasures.

The condition of the American public’s confusion and temptation for apathy call for a breakthrough in critical thinking skills for civic and economic competence. Your critical thinking skills and participation can, and should, be a voice of reason with all you touch. As I presented in your first assignment on critical thinking, I suggest that what’s needed for your next ~70 years of citizenry are your mastery of three specific skills:

  • Discern fact from spin.
  • Participate in civil conversations based on fact.
  • Engage in policy decisions.

We will help each other master the above skills daily in our class discussions.

A note about “controversy:” the etymology of this word is a Latin compound that roughly means talking against each other. To “converse” means to be talking together. In democracy, talking against each other, controversy, is predictable and welcome. As we discussed in the assignment on critical thinking, policy consideration begins with people of intellectual integrity and moral courage helping each other get the facts. Facts are the same for everyone, objective, and independently verifiable. We then welcome multiple points of view as to the meaning of those facts; in other words, controversy. Controversy allows the entire audience depth of discussion and multiple policy options. Therefore, we embrace controversy. With your mastery of critical thinking, you will be a voice of reason for the facts, encourage rational discussion with diverse views as to interpretation and policy proposals, support a democratic vote, and respect the losing policy as a possible future option should the winning policy not perform to expectations.

The etymology of “diverse” is to intentionally separate. Encouraging diversity adds depth, unforeseen perspective, and variety of choice; all good in political discussion when based on factual accuracy.

In our consideration of economics and government, we will embrace controversy and diversity. We will use prima facie evidence and help each other clarify facts. We welcome multiple views based on fact.

We touched on the psychological term, “cognitive dissonance” in the last assignment. Let’s consider it deeper here. When one’s beliefs are challenged by factual evidence, people without intellectual integrity and moral courage reject facts in order to cling to a belief system.

A lie is a story known to be untrue. When someone refuses to consider facts, then whatever is communicated without those facts is at least a lie of omission. Being afraid often means not facing something difficult. Rejecting facts from fear of changing what one believes is both an act of fear and irrationality.

You wouldn’t want to still believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny, would you?

Cognitive dissonance means that when facts collide with beliefs, there are two possible outcomes. One: we have the intellectual integrity and moral courage to embrace factual analysis. The other is to reject the facts, keep one’s falsified belief system, and choose lies and fear.

Which outcome do you prefer?

Do you have intellectual integrity and moral courage to follow the facts, wherever they go?

This is simply the definition of “education,” is it not?

Even though we’re discussing this now, and even though all of you want to commit to the truth, some of you will fail the test of cognitive dissonance at least once. It’s not about your age; my experience of communicating challenging information to adults, even among our most successful and educated, has shown me that adults are also subject to cognitive dissonance.

Remember, “fact,” by definition, is objective, measurable, and independently verifiable. Therefore, when we discuss facts there is no element of belief or political point of view. Anyone can check facts and they’re the same for everyone who checks them.

Moments will occur in your life when people you wish to engage in factual consideration will choose a belief system and reject objective evidence. They will choose fantasy over reality. An aspect of cognitive dissonance is that this choice will appear as slightly sub-conscious; that is, you may notice irrational avoidance tactics to keep the fantastical belief system away from the shining light of the facts.

These moments may feel awkward. However, they are entirely human and necessary to understand and move through because we choose competent economic citizenship to lead our lifetimes of consideration of objective evidence in current events.

You may wish to stand with Lincoln related to this issue:

“Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.–Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws.” –  Abraham Lincoln, Lyceum Address, 1838

The easy resolution is for the person involved in a moment removed from reason to recommit to  the facts. However, what might happen is that the person rejecting facts will become resentful at having this behavior become visible. The person may irrationally argue, withdraw, and/or later campaign to speak badly of those who merely asked to engage with the facts. These are likely to be real-world examples of ad hominem and straw man arguments. I invite you to support these people to recommit to our best documented factual evidence.

Please note again: our class practice will be to cooperate in understanding the objective and comprehensive facts, and then welcome diverse interpretation of the meaning of those facts and any policy position. 

This is academic freedom.

I’m about to present economic and US government history that may evoke cognitive dissonance because they reflect US government policies in apparent direct violation of the public good, and even violation at times of the US Constitution. These documented examples of revealing US history are in my professional experience crucial to understand if we want proper context on current economic events in the present.

As with any ethical good faith prima facie academic argument, I welcome any correction of alleged facts that are in error, inclusion of additional facts for better comprehensive understanding, and analysis that will help bring the facts into a policy perspective. If the evidence presented in the following cases cannot be refuted, we honor the conservative academic practice that these facts will hold as our best available evidence.

Rejecting facts because one doesn’t like them, one is uncomfortable with them, or that one’s beliefs are challenged by them, has no standing and are dismissed in professional academic environments. This includes our class. 

What does that mean?

It means that if the following summaries of economic history and current events cannot be refuted either directly or through a more comprehensive factual understanding, we’ll hold those summaries as our best explanations.

It means that when we see clear lies of omission, we have the intellectual strength and moral courage to say what’s right in front of everyone to see; a kind of “emperor has no clothes” obvious statement of fact.

Two examples:

First, within the lifetime of almost all of your parents, US President Richard Nixon and his administration lied to the American public for two years in the Watergate Scandal. Media had various coverage: from simply repeating White House assurances that the President’s office was completely removed from the scandal, to damning indictments of direct White House involvement in multiple and serious criminal acts.

The American public believed President Nixon for over four months after evidence became public in the media, re-electing him by a landslide in 1972. But eventually, with ongoing commitment to understand the facts, discern who within political leadership and media were reporting on facts and who was not, and eventual disclosure of “smoking gun” evidence (2), the facts of that ongoing “current event” became clear.

But before we move forward, let that sink in: Presidents of the United States lie to the American public (we’ll examine more). And yes, such a scenario begs the question of why at least some in US corporate media would choose to merely repeat White House assurances and fail to communicate powerful facts.

We’ll consider that.

Second:

In the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee (RNC) aired an ad titled, $16,000,000,000,000.00 ($16 Trillion). The ad documents President Obama’s statements on the national debt; complaining when it was $9 trillion and promising as president to cut deficit spending as the debt climbed and climbed. The ad’s punchline: “By his own measurement, President Obama has failed. Talk is cheap. Our debt isn’t.”

The point that Democratic leadership fails to respond with policy to increasing national debt is legitimate. The fact that President Obama doesn’t remind the public of his empty rhetoric while campaigning is legitimate; arguably that he treats you as too stupid to remember his previous promises.

What isn’t legitimate, and are damning lies of omission:

  1. This was also an issue when Republicans were president they did not resolve.
  2. The RNC offers no solution to the problem.
  3. The RNC fails to remind the public that under the US Constitution, funding is a power of Congress, not a power of the president.

“Talk is cheap” becomes an ironic and accurate conclusion for both parties. Are both parties treating you as so stupid that you won’t notice that both complain and neither have any solution? Are both parties treating you as so stupid to pretend they’re “leaders” when all they’ve got to say is blame for the other party? And are both parties so irresponsible to the US Constitution that they think you won’t notice they assign powers to the president non-existent in reality?

This is exactly what Gandhi told you was required, to “never to depart from the strictest facts… Facts we would always place before our readers, whether they are palatable or not, … placing them constantly before the public in their nakedness…”

Endnotes:

1 Examiner.com terminated several authors with reform topics, including me.

2 The “smoking gun” evidence were tape-recordings the President made in order to write books upon retirement. In discussing this scandal, the President ordered the CIA to ask the FBI to end their investigation. Importantly, the reason Nixon gave is that it would “open the whole Bay of Pigs thing.” Nixon’s Chief of Staff wrote this referenced the Kennedy assassination. Transcript here. Related transcripts to put this passage in context here. A 2-minute video from UK History documentary here (The Whole Bay of Pigs Thing). AP US History teacher John Hankey made a powerful documentary on this and other verifiable facts, Dark Legacy. Search online to watch it.

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How can we make sure that students are informed about what’s going on around the world? That they are armed with the tools to be able to distinguish between opinion and fact; between evidence-based statements and empty rhetoric; between sensationalism and solid journalism? Just like most other things in life, the best way to do all that is through practice.

In honor of National News Engagement Day, here are 50 ideas to help teachers bring current events into the classroom, grouped below by category:

Some ideas work best as regular routines, others as one-shot activities. Many might be easier to use together with the new K-12 New York Times school subscription, but all of them could be implemented using the free links to Times articles on The Learning Network — or with any other trusted news source.

In our comments section, we hope you’ll share how you teach current events.


Reading and Writing

1. Read the Paper and Find What Interests You: If we could recommend just one thing teenagers should do with the news, it’s this. Just read and discover what you care about. Every summer we try to promote this with our Summer Reading Contest, and we hope teachers are continuing this student-centered approach now that school has started.

You might invite your students to pick one article each week and write about why they chose it, perhaps using student winners from our summer contest as models. Our Reading Log (PDF) might also help.

Then, set aside time for students to share their picks with a partner, or even with a wider audience through social media.

2. Share Your Opinion: Each school day we publish a new Student Opinion question about an article in The Times. Students can participate in our moderated discussions online, or you can borrow from hundreds of published questions for class discussions or personal writing from 2016, 2015, 2014 and beyond.

3. Read About News-Making Teenagers: Every month we publish a collection of all the recent Times articles and multimedia that feature teenagers. Students can use this list to identify someone they admire, learn how other teenagers are taking action or make connections to issues in their own school and community.

4. Find ‘News You Can Use': Use The Times, or any other news source, to find things like movie or video game reviews, recipes, sports scores, health information, and how-to’s on subjects from social media to personal finance that can help improve your life.

5. Ask and Answer Questions: Each day we choose an important or interesting Times story and pose the basic news questions — Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — in our News Q’s feature. Students can first answer the “right there” questions that test reading comprehension, then move on to the deeper critical thinking questions, then write their own “News Q’s” about articles they select.

6. Write an Editorial: Have your students pick an issue that matters to them, whether climate change, gender roles or police brutality, and then write an evidence-based persuasive essay like the editorials The New York Times publishes every day. They can practice all year, but save their best work to submit in our Student Editorial Contest in February. Each year we select 10 winners along with dozens of runners-up and honorable mentions from nearly 5,000 student editorials.

7. Compare News Sources: Different papers, magazines and websites treat the news differently. You might have students compare lead stories or, via the Newseum’s daily gallery, front pages. Or, you might just pick one article about a divisive topic (politics, war, social issues) and see how different news sources have handled the subject.

8. Be a Journalist Yourself: Perhaps the most powerful way to engage with current events is to document them yourself, as a student journalist. Write articles or opinion pieces for your school or community paper about how a national or global issue is playing out in your community. Contribute comments online or letters to the editor reacting to news stories you’ve read. Use social media to document what you witness when news happens near you. Take video of local events and interview participants. Or, suggest ways that you and others your age can take action on an issue you care about. The National News Engagement Day Pinterest board has ideas like this and many more.


Speaking and Listening

9. Hold a Debate: Want your students to be able to develop arguments and support a point of view on current issues? We offer numerous resources to help, including: ideas for different classroom debate formats; ways to use The Times’ Room for Debate feature in the classroom; and a graphic organizer for gathering evidence on both sides of an argument (PDF).

10. Interview Fellow Students: Ask students to generate a question related to an issue they’re reading about, and then conduct a one-question interview (PDF) with their classmates. The room will be buzzing with students asking and answering questions. For more detailed instructions on this activity, consult our teacher instructions.

11. Brainstorm Solutions to the World’s Problems: Why not put students in the role of policymakers? They can look closely at an issue covered in The Times and brainstorm possible solutions together, using our Problem-Solution handout (PDF) to take notes. Then they can work together to draft a policy proposal, perhaps one that suggests a local solution to the problem, and present it to the class or to the school board or city council.

12. Create a News-Inspired Theatrical Performance: Whether a simple monologue or a full Reader’s Theater event, our series, Drama Strategies to Use With Any Day’s Times, can help you use simple theater exercises to spur discussion and thinking about current events.

13. Hold a Mock Campaign and Election: Looking to teach an upcoming election? Let students take the role of campaign strategists and candidates. Our Election Unit can be adapted for any election to get students researching candidates, studying issues, trying out campaign strategies and holding their own mock election. Or, choose another approach from our 10 ways to teach about Election Day or our list of resources for the 2016 presidential election.

14. Organize a Teach-In, Gallery Walk or Social Action on a Topic: Our country and world face complex issues — war, drug abuse, climate change, poverty — to name a few. Students working in groups can follow a topic in The Times, and then organize a classroom or whole school “teach-in” to inform their peers about topics in the news and decide how to take action. Alternatively, they can create a classroom gallery of photographs, maps, infographics, articles, editorial cartoons, essays, videos and whatever else they can find to immerse others in the topic. Ask yourself and your classmates, what can people our age do to effect change around this issue?


Games and Quizzes

15. See How You Do Compared to Others on Our Weekly News Quiz: Have students test how well they’ve been keeping up with the week’s news with our 10-question current events quiz. The answers provide an explanation along with links to relevant Times articles so students can learn more. Then, in December, students can take our annual year-end news quiz, like this one from 2015.

16. Play Fantasy Geopolitics: Have students draft teams of countries, similar to how they might draft players in a fantasy sports league, and then accumulate points based on how often those countries appear in The New York Times. Classrooms can track point scores and trade countries using the resources on the Fantasy Geopolitics site, a game created by Eric Nelson, a social studies teacher in Minnesota.

17. Battle Others in Bingo: Encourage students to get to know the newspaper — digital or print — by playing one of our many versions of bingo: Page One Bingo, Science, Health and Technology Bingo, World History Bingo or Geography Bingo (PDF).

18. Do a Scavenger Hunt: Send your students searching for answers to our New York Times Scavenger Hunt (PDF) as a way to become more familiar with how a newspaper covers the day’s news.

19. Mix and Match Headlines, Stories and Photos: Cut up articles, headlines and photos into three separate piles and mix them up, then challenge students in groups to see who can correctly match them in the shortest amount of time. When they’re done, they can fill out our related handout (PDF). Our teacher instructions provide more details.

20. Hunt for the Three Branches of Government in the Paper: What articles can you find in a week’s worth of papers about the different branches of the United States government? Record what you find with our Branching Out handout (PDF).


Photographs, Illustrations, Videos and Infographics

21. Analyze Photographs to Build Visual Literacy Skills: On Mondays we ask students to look closely at an image using the three-question facilitation method created by our partners at Visual Thinking Strategies: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find? Students can participate in the activity by commenting in our weekly “What’s Going On In This Picture?” moderated conversation.

Alternatively, you might prefer to select your own news photos. Slideshows, such as the regular “Pictures of the Day” feature, are always a great place to find compelling images related to current events.

22. Interpret Editorial Cartoons and “Op-Art”: Patrick Chappatte publishes editorial cartoons on topics ranging from ISIS to the Ukraine. You can use the Visual Thinking Strategies facilitation method to ask open-ended questions, letting students make meaning out of the cartoons. Or, have students analyze some of the “Op-Art” on the Opinion pages of The Times. How do these images make an argument? Students can also try their hand at drawing their own editorial cartoons, and then enter them into our annual editorial cartoon contest.

23. Decipher an Infographic: Take an infographic or chart in The Times and have students explain what it shows using sentences. Our handout “A Graph Is Worth a Thousand Words, or At Least 50″ (PDF) can serve as a guide.

24. Create an Infographic: Or, do the opposite, and have students take the data provided in a Times article to create their own graph or chart (PDF). The Reader Ideas “From Article to Infographic: Translating Information About ‘Sneakerheads’” and “Telling Stories With Data” suggest ways to approach this task.

25. Illustrate the News: Students can draw an illustration that captures some aspect of an article. Using our handout “The One-Pager” (PDF), students accompany their illustration with a quote from the article as well as a question for the journalist or someone mentioned in the article.

26. Write a Postcard: Or, maybe having students create a mock postcard to or from a subject in a Times article would work better for your class.

27. Say What’s Unsaid: Another option is assigning students to add speech and thought bubbles (PDF) to a Times photograph to communicate something they learned by reading an article.

28. Create Storyboards: Students can break a story into various scenes that they illustrate (PDF), like a storyboard, and then write a caption or choose a quote from the article that captures the essence of each frame. Our teacher instructions can help with this activity, as can a recent lesson plan on using storyboards to inspire close reading.


Creative Writing and Design

29. Write a Rap or Song: Each December, we ask students to compose a rap about important and memorable events from the past year. Get inspired by the winners from our 2015 contest, and start polishing your rhymes for this year.

30. Make a Timeline: Students can design their own timelines, using photographs, captions and selected quotes, to understand and keep track of complex current events topics. Times models can help since the paper regularly publishes timelines on all kinds of topics, whether Mariano Rivera’s career, the evolution of Facebook or the Ferguson protests

31. Create a Twitter Feed: Or, students can create a fake Twitter feed documenting a news story, paying attention to time stamps and author tone, such as we suggested in this lesson about the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

32. Explore a Particular Community: Find reporting on a community of which you’re a member — whether an ethnic, religious, professional, school or artistic group, or any other — and analyze how it has been reported on. Then use these ideas for finding ways you can help express what, in your experience, makes this group unique. What do you think people need to know about this community and how can you communicate that?

33. Write a Found Poem: Every year we invite students to take any Times article or articles published since 1851 and mix and combine the words and phrases in them into a new piece. Take a look at the work of our winners for inspiration, but the exercise can be done with anything from a science essay to an obituary to an archival article reporting on a famous event from history.

34. Make a News Broadcast: Students can turn an article they read in The Times into an evening news broadcast, with an anchor, on-the-ground reporter and interview subjects.

35. Create an Audio Podcast: Listen to some Times models, then get students to create a podcast (PDF) of a news story instead.


Making Connections

36. Connect the Past to Today: Help students tie what they’re studying in history class to what’s going on in the world today. We regularly do this in both our Text to Text feature as well as our social-studies-focused lesson plans. You might also consider following @nytarchives on Twitter and our own “Throwback Thursday” posts to see echoes of the past in today’s headlines — or, visit Times Machine on your own to view by date or through search terms 129 years of Times journalism as it originally appeared.

37. Pair the News With Literature and Poetry: Encourage students to look for connections between literary themes and current events. Our Poetry Pairings and Text to Text lesson plans can provide inspiration, as can our Classic Literature posts.

38. Think Like a Historian: What events make the history books? How and from whose point of view are they told? Have students research a current events topic, and then write a paper arguing whether this topic will make “history” and how it will be remembered.

39. Connect The Times to Your Own Life: Have students make connections between the articles they read in The New York Times and their own life, other texts and the world around them using our Connecting The New York Times to Your World (PDF) handout.

40. Consider Censorship Through Any Day’s Front Page: What if we didn’t have freedom of the press? Ask students to take the front page of any New York Times and put an X over the stories that might be censored if our government controlled the press. You might use our Censoring the Press (PDF) handout to help.

41. Take Informed Action: When students become more informed about the world, they can get inspired to become civically active and engaged in their communities. Have students brainstorm issues that matter to them, either at the local, national or global level, and then design a plan of action for how they can begin to make the change they hope to see in the world.


Building Skills

Students at High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J. made this video about their year reading The Times in class.

42. Determine Reliability of Sources: How do we distinguish good journalism from propaganda or just shoddy reporting? Students can use simple mnemonics, like those developed at the Center for News Literacy, to evaluate the reliability of an article and the sources it relies on. For example, apply the acronym “IMVAIN” (PDF) to an article to surface whether sources (and the information they provide) are Independent, Multiple, Verifiable, Authoritative, Informed and Named. This and many other strategies can be found in our lesson on “fake news vs. real news.

43. Distinguish Fact From Opinion: Even within The Times, students can get confused when navigating between news and opinion. What’s the difference? Use our Skills Practice lesson on distinguishing between the two to help students learn the basics, then go on to our lesson “News and ‘News Analysis’,” to help students learn how to navigate between news reporting and Opinion pieces within news outlets.

44. Start With What Students Already Know: Students are often aware of current events on their own, even before topics come up in school. When delving into a subject, start by asking students what they’ve heard or seen, and what questions they already have. Use our K/W/L Chart (PDF) or a concept map to chart what students say and think. And this post, about reading strategies for informational text, has much more.

45. Identify Cause and Effect: Much of journalism involves tracking the ripple effects of big news events or societal trends. Our handout (PDF) can help students get started, as can this Facing History “iceberg” strategy that helps learners think about what’s “under the surface.” Another resource? This Skills Practice lesson.

46. Compare and Contrast:Venn diagrams and T-charts (PDF) are often useful for comparing two topics or issues in the news, and our Text-to-Text handout can help students compare two or more texts, such as an article and a historical document.

47. Read Closely: By using a double-entry journal (PDF), students can become better readers of informational text by noting comments, questions and observations alongside lines or details they select from a text.

48. Support Opinions With Facts: Whether students are writing their own persuasive arguments, or reading those written by other people, they need to understand how authors support opinions with facts. Students can practice by reading Times Opinion pieces and identifying how authors construct arguments using opinions supported by facts (PDF). Then they can develop their own evidence-based counterpoints.

49. Summarize an Article: Having students pull out the basic information of a news story — the five W’s and an H (PDF) can help them better understand a current events topic. Here is a lesson plan with a summary quiz and many ideas for practice.


And Finally…

50. Learn From Our Mistakes: There are several places in the newspaper where you can see corrections and analysis of where The Times has made a misstep. For a weekly critique of grammar, usage and style in The Times, see the After Deadline series. For a list of each day’s corrections, go to the bottom of the Today’s Paper section and click “corrections.” And for a full discussion of issues readers and the public raise around Times coverage, visit the Public Editor column. What can you learn from the mistakes The Times makes, and from how they are addressed publicly?


Let us know in the comment section below how you teach current events in your class, or which ideas from the above list inspired you.

Current Events

Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.

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