As part of a collaboration with the National Writing Project, this is the first in a series of teacher-created educator guides on key topical issues. Written by two NWP-affiliated high school English and media arts teachers – Kirsten Spall of Natomas Charter High School (Sacramento) and Chris Sloan of Judge Memorial Catholic School (Salt Lake City) – the guide helps teachers explore and navigate the highly-charged political and emotional issues behind the topic of gun control. Based on content featured on The Lowdown, the guide provides ideas for integrating the issues into English language arts and social studies curriculum. It includes Common Core Standards Alignment, a synopsis of key background information, integration tips, and lists of issue pros and cons, creative writing prompts and best classroom practices.
Illustrated statistics, interactive websites and activities.
Compared to other high-income nations in the world, America isn’t unusually violent; we’re just unusually lethal.
That’s according to David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. He argues there is a direct connection between the U.S. being leaps and bounds ahead of any other industrialized country in terms of overall gun death rates and gun homicides — and the fact that we have the highest gun-ownership rates in the world
“We are a nation which does not have more crime or more violence,” Hemenway said during a forum on gun violence held shortly after the Newtown shooting. “We are an average nation in terms of assault, robbery, and (non-firearms) homicides.” What distinguishes the U.S., he notes, is our rate of gun violence: “The United States has a very horrific gun problem … 85 people a day dying from guns from all sorts of injury … Compared to the other developed countries, we are just doing terribly.” Continue reading
There’s been a lot of news recently about the government’s ongoing battle over the deficit and the debt ceiling.
But what does it all really mean?
If you happened to be snoozing through most of your 12th grade economics class, here’s a quick refresher:
The deficit is the gap between what the government spends and what it actually makes in revenue (through taxes).
So, basically, to put it into first-grade math terms: (D)eficit = (S)pending – (R)evenue
Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday centered on the theme of boosting America’s dwindling middle class.
“It’s our generation’s task,” he implored, “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”
Among the more tangible policies mentioned that evening to further that objective, the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage – from $7.25 per hour to $9 by the end of 2015 – and provide for annual cost of living adjustments. (This would apply to most hourly jobs, with some exceptions, including some tip-based work.)
“Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” he said. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.” Continue reading
When Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he neglected to mention a third absolute: our government’s eternal failure to agree on how high those taxes should be and what they should pay for.
As long as our nation continues to spend a lot more than it takes in, the issue will continue to be a saga between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes, fewer public services, and smaller government; the latter pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, more government revenue, and a preservation of the social safety net. It’s like a really boring, annoying version of the NeverEnding Story (without the cool flying animals). Just think about the last few months in Washington: we narrowly averted hurling ourselves over the fiscal cliff only to re-enter into a battle over the debt ceiling. Continue reading
Explore the map below for detailed figures on each state’s firearms-related homicide rates for 2010 and 2011. For every state except Alabama and Florida (which post their own records), data are taken from FBI records. The darker the shade of blue, the greater the number of gun homicides in a state for every 100,000 residents living there.
In 2011, the highest gun homicide rate (per 100,000 residents) in the nation was, ironically, in the city where the nation’s gun control laws are decided: Washington, D.C. The rate there was 12.4 (actually down from 2010). A close second was Louisiana, with a rate of 10, followed by Mississippi, with 7.4. California, the most populous state, has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country as well as the greatest number of overall homicides (1,790) and the most gun-related murders (1,220). In 2011, the state had a gun homicide rate of 3.25 (per 100,000 residents).
Regardless of where you stand on gun control, the fact remains that America is one gun-toting country. There are 89 guns for every 100 civilians, according to the 2011 Small Arms Survey. That amounts to roughly 270 million guns owned nationwide, far and away the highest gun ownership rate in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. is home to anywhere between 35 and 50 percent of all civilian-owned guns on earth.
And while America certainly does not have the highest firearms-related homicide rate in the world (it ranks 28th), our rate is more than four times that of any other industrialized country (including all of Europe, Japan, Australia, Turkey and India): in 2011, there were well over 9,000 gun-related homicides (nearly 70 percent of all homicides committed), or roughly three per 100,000 population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. That’s about 20 times the average rate of all other developed nations, according to the Washington Post.
In contrast, Great Britain has a gun ownership rate of about 6 guns for every 100 civilians. Last year it had 41 gun-related homicides, or .07 per 100,000 population. Meanwhile, Finland, where there are 45 guns per 100 civilians, had only 24 gun homicides in 2011, a rate of .45 per 100,000 population.
The infographic below, produced by Good Magazine and Column Five, further illustrates America’s deep and exceptional love affair with the gun.
Editor’s Note: The U.S. rate of gun ownership was previously stated incorrectly: there are 89 guns for every 100 civilians (NOT: 89 out of 100 civilians own a gun).
Let’s be honest: voting in California can be kind of overwhelming.
Along with having to decide on a president, a senator, state and local officials, and local ballot measures, California voters were also faced with no less than eleven statewide propositions this election. Of these, five passed.
The map below shows which counties supported what (counties in green voted Yes, those in red voted No). The voting patterns emphasize the fairly sharp political divide between more liberal counties in and around the Bay Area, Los Angeles and along the coast, and the far more conservative counties of the Central Valley.
This interactive graphic, produced by the Pew Center on the States sheds light on how voters in each state, and the nation overall, have participated in elections, from 1990 through 2010. Check out voting trends over time across three separate measures of the election process: the number of registered voters, the number of ballots cast, and the number of votes counted. Visit Pew’s site for the full-size version.