Current Event April 23, 2021
A vaccine passport certifies that a person is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and therefore unlikely to have the infection or transmit it to others. Many businesses like the idea of requiring guests to prove their vaccination status. They say that ensuring a safe environment in stores, theaters, and other places would encourage people to enter, and many consumers agree. Others argue that giving privileges to the vaccinated would unfairly divide Americans, and that making people reveal their health status raises privacy concerns. Listen to learn more about the controversy over vaccine certification and then debate: Are vaccine passports a good idea?
Current Event April 22, 2021
Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder for the May 2020 death of George Floyd. During Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis on the suspicion that he was using a fake $20 bill, Chauvin held a knee to Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes while he lay face down and handcuffed. Floyd’s painful death, captured in a video recording taken by a bystander and recounted in the televised trial, drew attention to the problems of systemic racism and police brutality, and triggered protests around the world. Listen to hear how the crowd outside the courthouse reacted to the verdict and what it may signal for the future.
Current Event April 16, 2021
The U.S. has an especially high rate of gun violence, and several recent mass shootings have renewed calls for restrictions on gun purchases. Advocates of tighter gun laws say simple measures like expanding background checks and banning assault weapons would help keep guns away from people who should not have them. Several such bills are being considered by Congress and are widely popular. Opponents say their right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution, and new gun restrictions would interfere with that right. Listen to learn about the latest battle in the long fight over gun laws and then debate: Should Congress restrict gun purchases?
Update: Since this story aired, President Biden announced a series of executive orders restricting “ghost guns,” handmade firearms that do not require background checks.
Current Event March 25, 2021
Half of the world’s population uses feminine hygiene products at some point in their lives. Access to these products is crucial for girls and women to participate fully in school, work, and other daily activities. The cost of menstrual products can be high, though, and some women have trouble accessing them. Advocates for menstrual equity argue the government should do more to ensure that all women can get the products they need. Listen to an advocate explain why menstrual equity is an important public policy issue and which laws could change to promote equitable access.
Current Event March 12, 2021
People caught shoplifting less than $1000 worth of goods generally do not go to prison. But American businesses lose billions of dollars each year to shoplifting, and some are pushing for more serious penalties to help deter the crime. They argue that longer jail sentences would stop people repeatedly caught shoplifting and those involved in schemes to resell the stolen goods. Others say sentencing rules often result in punishments that are overly harsh, and prison time does not help address the root causes of shoplifting. Listen to learn more about the controversy over punishing shoplifters and then debate: Should shoplifters go to prison?
Current Event March 2, 2021
In a landmark 2020 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against gay and transgender workers. Soon after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order that broadened these protections beyond just the workplace. The order says discrimination in housing, healthcare, and other areas is also illegal, and the LGBTQ community is welcoming the news. Critics, though, say Biden’s order represents a misuse of executive power. Listen to hear why one attorney called Biden’s approach “transformational,” and learn about possible next steps to solidify protections.
Current Event February 5, 2021
Lawyers have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) saying its policies discriminate against Black athletes. The NCAA requires college sports teams to reach certain academic benchmarks and punishes teams that fall short. The program was designed to encourage student-athletes to focus on their studies and keep the demands of their sport in check. However, teams from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been disproportionately punished under NCAA rules, leading some to claim the program puts Black athletes at an unfair disadvantage. Listen to learn more about the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program (APP) and then debate: Are academic requirements for college athletes discriminatory?
Plagiarism is a vexing problem for administrators in high schools and colleges. Students caught using someone else’s words or ideas could face serious consequences including possible expulsion. But plagiarism doesn’t just happen with research papers and schoolwork. It happens in the world of crossword puzzles. In this interview with Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times, we learn more about a recent plagiarism scandal affecting crossword puzzles published in many newspapers. Was it inadvertent or intentional plagiarism, and are we likely to see more of it in the future in the crossword community?
Current Event January 14, 2021
Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol could be charged with sedition, or an attempt to “overthrow, put down, or destroy the government by force.” The mob attacked legislators as they were carrying out a fundamental duty of American democracy: certifying the electoral votes confirming the country’s next president. Although sedition is hard to prove in court, some say that holding violent extremists responsible for their actions will help prevent future attacks. Listen to learn more about the meaning of sedition and how it has been used in the past to prosecute terrorism.
Current Event December 18, 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court has declared certain rules restricting religious gatherings unfair. Some states, including California and New York, had strictly limited the number of people allowed to gather in places of worship during the pandemic. The states said the rules were meant to protect public health, since large indoor gatherings can trigger viral outbreaks. But the Supreme Court decided that these limitations were too strict and unfairly limited freedom to assemble and worship, a right protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Listen to learn more about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling and then debate: Are religious freedom and public safety in conflict?
Current Event November 13, 2020
The U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming that the company has abused its power in dominating online searches. The lawsuit accuses the technology giant of striking unfair deals and blocking competitors, leaving consumers with few choices of search engines. Google has denied crushing the competition and says their customers are freely choosing the product they like best. Listen to learn more about the antitrust lawsuit against Google and then debate: Does Google have an unfair monopoly on internet searching?
Current Event November 2, 2020
The Senate voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a justice of the US Supreme Court. Barrett fills the seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. Democrats objected to the timing of the vote, which took place a week before the 2020 election, and senators voted almost entirely along party lines. Barrett’s confirmation gives the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority. Listen to hear Republican and Democratic leaders react to the confirmation process, and learn how the pandemic affected the proceedings.
Current Event October 16, 2020
Americans are currently eligible to vote at age 18, but some say the age should be lowered to 16. Supporters of the change say younger generations have proven they are engaged and informed through their political activism and should have a voice in decisions that will affect their future. Opponents fear that 16-year-olds lack the maturity to vote and may be heavily influenced by parents and teachers. Listen to hear a young activist argue for lowering the voting age and then debate: Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?
Current Event October 5, 2020
Amy Coney Barrett, a judge, former law professor, and mother of seven, is President Trump’s nominee for the next Supreme Court Justice. She is highly accomplished and well-regarded at Notre Dame Law School, where she taught for 15 years. She once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and her conservative judicial record generally follows his approach to interpreting the Constitution. If her nomination is approved by the Senate, some worry that the Court will pursue a conservative agenda that includes overturning the Affordable Care Act. Listen to learn more about Amy Coney Barrett and what her appointment could mean for the future of the Supreme Court.
Current Event September 28, 2020
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. Ginsburg, the second woman ever to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, was a fierce advocate for gender equality. Her groundbreaking work as a lawyer and judge changed how both men and women are treated in the workplace. Ginsburg was a hero to Americans fighting for gender equity and is affectionately known as RBG. Listen to learn more about the life and legacy of RBG and hear about the discrimination she herself faced as a working mom.
Current Event September 24, 2020
Systemic racism, also called structural racism, refers to the way institutions in our society are set up to disadvantage black Americans. Often the racist systems are rooted in the past, such as the “redlining” system banks used in the early 20th century to refuse housing loans to people of color, but they created racial inequities still felt today. George Floyd’s death prompted protesters and others to call attention to systemic racism in policing, education, criminal justice, medicine, and other key societal institutions. Listen to a writer explain how systemic racism works to keep minorities from advancing, and what she believes could lead to meaningful change.
Current Event September 3, 2020
President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The law ensured people with disabilities had full access to jobs, schools, transportation, and public places. Listen to two disability rights activists, one who fought for the passage of the law and the other who grew up protected by it, talk about how each was inspired by the other, and how they believe life has changed for disabled Americans since the passage of the law.