Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 27, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

Poet Makes History at Inauguration

At last week’s inauguration ceremony, a young woman named Amanda Gorman caught the nation’s attention when she recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” Gorman’s poem presented the challenges facing the country and the importance of moving forward together. It was an historic moment because the 22-year-old is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.

Amanda Gorman is from Los Angeles. Raised by a single mother, she attended Harvard University and was the first person ever to be named the National Youth Poet Laureate. As a child, she struggled with a speech impediment like President Biden. She published a book of poetry called The One for Whom Food is Not Enough when she was just a teenager. She has also published two children’s picture books. To write “The Hill We Climb,” Gorman says she drew inspiration from poets such as Richard Blanco (the poet at President Obama’s second inauguration), Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou. Gorman also read great speeches by Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Winston Churchill.

Only three presidents other than Biden have had poems read at their inaugurations: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and John F. Kennedy.

Dig Deeper Use this link to read the text of Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.” Choose one segment of the poem that is especially meaningful to you. How do you think Gorman’s words reflect the current state of the country? How would you describe her message: Hopeful? Determined? Discouraged? Something else? Explain.

A New Direction for the Iran Nuclear Agreement

view of  missile in launch tube
President Biden is working on new ways to manage possible nuclear weapons Iran is trying to develop.

In May 2018, the Trump administration withdrew the United States from a multinational nuclear deal with Iran called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA was an arrangement between the China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, European Union, and the United States. As part of the agreement, the U.S. agreed to lift some economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran scaling back its nuclear program. When Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal and imposed greater economic restrictions on Iran, Iran responded by amping up its nuclear program, bringing Iran closer and closer to the development of nuclear weapons. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran now has about twelve times the amount of low-enriched uranium that it was permitted to have under the JCPOA.

Before taking office, President Biden pledged to rejoin the JCPOA to help bring Iran back into compliance. . How will he do it? The Trump administration imposed many economic sanctions against Iran, so the new president may loosen those as a negotiating tactic. Iranian officials say that it isn’t enough for the U.S. to remove the current sanctions. Their nation also wishes to receive funding to make up for the past two-and-a-half years, when U.S. sanctions weakened the Iranian economy.

What Do You Think? Imagine that you are one of President Biden’s advisers. What steps would you suggest he take to improve the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Iran? Explain.

Locusts Swarm East Africa

Regions of East Africa are facing a problem: huge swarms of locusts. These giant bugs can be devastating to the economy because they destroy crops and the vegetation that livestock need to graze. Nations under threat include Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

These swarms have happened before, but they may be worse this year. Kenyan authorities say that they were able to do an effective job managing the locusts during their last invasion in 2020. They used low-flying planes to spray insecticide over fields. Some of their neighboring countries, however, didn’t have the resources to manage the swarms of bugs. This makes the problem worse for everyone in the region, especially since the locusts can fly more than a hundred miles in a single day. Higher than average rainfall caused new vegetation growth, which helped locusts feed more and breed more. Under these conditions, experts say, a locust population can become twenty times larger in just a three-month period.

This invasion of hungry bugs is even more devastating since it’s happening in an area of the world where many countries–such as Ethiopia, Yemen, and Sudan–are already facing food crises. To try to combat this dangerous plague, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is asking for $40 million to help pay for insecticide-spraying planes. This will decrease the locust population back down to manageable levels.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to learn more about the areas discussed in this story. What crops are grown in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia? What percentage of those nations’ economies is made up of agriculture?

Some SAT Tests Discontinued

Many universities have reduced  their dependence on the ACT and SAT in their admissions requirements, choosing to emphasize other factors instead. This is in part because of growing concerns that the tests give students from wealthy districts an advantage over other students. There is also concern about the racial biases of some of the test questions.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic upended the traditional school experience. To address the changed nature of school, the makers of these exams tried to make adjustments as well. A digital SAT was offered, but it had too many technical difficulties. Eventually, hundreds of colleges made the decision to scrap their SAT requirement entirely. While some schools have indicated that the arrangement is just temporary, others have said that they are doing away with the SAT requirement for good.

The College Board, who makes the SAT, will continue offering the test, but in a more limited way. The optional essay component will be removed. The College Board will also no longer be offering subject tests in U.S. history, languages, math, and other topics. A growing number of universities are now placing higher emphasis on Advanced Placement (AP) scoresto award credit for classes. But some high school educators and guidance counselors have expressed concern that their students will no longer have this opportunity.  EL/ELL/ESL students will no longer be able to use the language subject tests to show college admissions boards their proficiency in a second or third language.

Dig Deeper U.S. News and World Report is one resource for ranking the nation’s top colleges and universities. Click on this link to the U.S. News website to find a list of the 20 top-ranked colleges that don’t require SAT scores. Choose one. What is this school ranked? What is its test submission policy?