Ideas for Teachers

Research Links and Critical Thinking Questions for November 2019 Issues

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: E-Cigarettes
CDC: “Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping”
H.R.4425 “Quell Underage Inhaling of Toxic Substances Act of 2019” or QUITS Act
ProCon.org: “Is Vaping with E-Cigarettes Safe?”
The Hill: “Trump Takes Heat from Right Over Vaping Crackdown”
The Verge: “Everything You Need to Know About the Vaping Health Crisis” 
FTC: “Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2017” 

Issue 2: Vaccines
S.1619 VACCINES Act 
ProCon.org: “State Vaccination Exemptions: Medical, Religious and Philosophical”
CDC: “Global Measles Outbreaks”
Medscape: “Close Call – US Can Still Officially Claim Measles Eliminated”
Reuters: “Alarming Upsurge in Measles Has Devastating Impact, WHO Warns”
Vaccines.gov: “Vaccine Safety”

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: E-Cigarettes

  1. Read the text of H.R.4425 or the “Quell Underage Inhaling of Toxic Substances Act of 2019” (link above). Is this bill the right solution to the problem of underage vaping? What alternative solution(s) might you propose?
  2. Do you agree that banning flavored e-cigarettes is the right thing to do? Why or why not?
  3. Compare and contrast the pro and con arguments in ProCon.org’s “Is Vaping with E-Cigarettes Safe?” article (link above). Where do you stand on vaping and why?
  4. How important is the issue of underage vaping in the U.S.? Do you think this country is doing enough to address the problem? Why or why not?
  5. Some conservative groups are critical of President Trump’s plan to ban flavored e-cigarettes. They say this is an overreach that will violate free-market principles. Do you agree or disagree with this criticism? Why?

Issue 2: Vaccines

  1. Currently, mandatory vaccine laws are left to the states to decide. Should there be a national law for vaccines? Why or why not?
  2. Check ProCon.org’s “State Vaccination Exemptions” page (link above) to see which kind of vaccine exemptions are allowed in your state. Do you agree or disagree with your state’s exemptions? Why?
  3. Which is more important for the issue of vaccines—individual rights or collective rights? Why?
  4. What are the risks associated with vaccines and do those risks outweigh the benefits? Why or why not?
  5. If vaccines are not mandatory, will the public health be endangered? Why or why not?

Research Links and Critical Thinking Questions for October 2019 Issues

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Prescription Prices
S.2387 “We Protect American Investment in Drugs Act”
Vox: “The Bipartisan Senate Bill Aimed at Baking Big Pharma Lower Drug Prices”
Study: “Contribution of NIH Funding to New Drug Approvals 2010–2016
The Hill Op-Ed: “Republicans Face Critical Test of Integrity on Drug Price Controls”
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Endorsement of We PAID Act
FactCheck.org: “Pinning Down Prescription Drug Prices”

Issue 2: Alaska Drilling
H.R.1146 “Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act”
NRDC: “U.S. House Passes Legislation to Protect Arctic Refuge in Historic Vote” 
Courthouse News: “House Approves Ban on Oil Drilling in Arctic Refuge”
Alaska Public Media: “Democrats on U.S. House Committee Move Anti-Drilling Bill” 
Natural Gas Intelligence: “House Passes Bills to Block Trump Offshore Drilling Plans”

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Prescription Prices

  1. Read the text of S.2387 or the “We Protect American Investment in Drugs Act” (link above). Is this bill the right solution to the problem of high prescription prices? What alternative solution(s) might you propose?
  2. Read the AARP endorsement of S.2387 (link above). How important is the issue of high prescription drug prices in the U.S.? Do you think this country is doing enough to address the problem? Why or why not?
  3. Read The Hill Op-Ed (link above), which offers a counter viewpoint to proponents of S.2387. How does the writer’s opinion agree or disagree with your own?
  4. Do you agree that price controls on prescription drugs are ultimately bad for American consumers? Why or why not?
  5. Compare and contrast the pro and con arguments on p. 3 of the newsletter. Where do you stand and why?

Issue 2: Alaksa Drilling
1.    Should the United States suspend oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge? Why or why not?
2.    Read the text of H.R.1146 “Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act” (link above). Is this bill the best solution to the problem of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge? What other solution(s) might you propose?
3.    Does the money that can be made from drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge outweigh the importance of the environment? Why or why not?
4.    What alternatives (such as renewable energy, etc.) might you propose to the need for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge?
5.    Do you think the decision on whether to allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge should be made at the federal or state level? Why?

Research Links and Critical Thinking Questions for September 2019 Issues

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Debt Ceiling
Congress.gov: H.R.3877 “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019”
Congressional Budget Office: “The 2019 Long-Term Budget Outlook”
Peter G. Peterson Foundation: “Debt Ceiling Update: What’s at Stake”
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: “Everything to Know About Debt Ceiling”
Bipartisan Policy Center: “The Debt Limit—What You Need to Know”
Investopedia.com: “Debt Ceiling”

Issue 2: Reparations
Congress.gov: H.R.40 Summary and Text
Constitutional Rights Foundation: “Reparations for Slavery Reading” 
The Atlantic: “The Case for Reparations”
Oxford University Press: “Postconflict Reparations”
Axios: “The World’s Long History of Reparations”
CNN: “People Are Talking About Reparations. But It’s a Complex and Thorny Issue.”

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Debt Ceiling

  1. What do you think about Congress’s decision to suspend the debt ceiling for two more years? What alternative solution(s) would you propose? Explain your reasoning.
  2. Read the Congressional Budget Office’s 2019 budget outlook (see link above). What is the long-term projection for the federal debt? How will this affect your future?
  3. When governments create budgets, they prioritize some programs over others (such as health care or defense). What types of trade-offs should be made, in your opinion, to reduce the national debt?
  4. How important is the issue of the national debt? Do you think this country is doing enough to address the problem? Why or why not?
  5. Looking at the “Buck Stops Here: What It Takes to Fund Our Nation” infographic, do you agree with the 2017 budget allocations? What would you change and why?

Issue 2: Reparations

  1. What are the arguments for and against reparations for slavery in the United States? Where do you stand, and why?
  2. Do you agree that some of the problems faced today by the African American community are the “legacy of slavery?” Why or why not?
  3. How are reparations for black slavery similar to, and different from, the reparations paid by the U.S. government to Japanese Americans interned in prison camps during World War II?
  4. What might a government program of reparations look like? How would you design it?
  5. Morally speaking, do you think a person can owe a debt based on the actions of previous generations? Why or why not?

Research Links and Critical Thinking Questions for May 2019 Issues

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Green New Deal
Congress.gov: H.Res.109 – Green New Deal (Text)
Fox News: “Green New Deal Would Cost Up to $93 Trillion Over 10 Years”
Vox.com: “The Green New Deal, Explained”
Heritage Foundation: “GND Would Barely Change Earth’s Temperature”
FactCheck.org: “The Facts on the ‘Green New Deal’”
NPR: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Releases Green New Deal Outline”

Issue 2: Capitalism vs. Socialism
Christian Science Monitor: “GND: Saving America or Turning It Socialist?”
American Center for Law & Justice: “Truth About Socialism & Green New Deal”
The Balance Small Business: “Differences Between Capitalism and Socialism”
Investopedia.com: “Capitalist vs. Socialist Economies: What’s the Difference?”
Corporate Finance Institute: “What Is Socialism vs. Capitalism?”
Roll Call: “The Capitalism vs. Socialism Debate”

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Green New Deal

  1. Read the text of the Green New Deal resolution (link above). Is the Green New Deal a step in the right direction or an example of government overreach?
  2. Why does the GND resolution include issues like jobs, health care and human rights? How do these issues connect to climate change?
  3. What crisis was Roosevelt’s New Deal responding to in the 1930s? What modern-day crisis is the Green New Deal responding to?
  4. What kind of a congressional proposal is the Green New Deal? If it was approved by Congress, what would happen?
  5. How important is the issue of climate change? Do you think this country is doing enough to address the problem?

Issue 2: Capitalism vs. Socialism

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and socialism? Which economic system is more effective and why?
  2. Should property and the means of production (factories) be owned by businesses and individuals (capitalism) or the government (socialism)? Why?
  3. It is commonly argued that socialism is un-American. What are some arguments for and against this position?
  4. Should the government be involved in the economy? If so, to what extent?
  5. Who is responsible for a person’s well-being, the government or the individual?

Research Links and Critical Thinking Questions for April 2019 Issues

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: National Emergency
White House: “Presidential Proclamation Declaring National Emergency”
Sen. Lamar Alexander Statement on Trump’s Emergency Declaration
Sen. Thom Tillis OpEd: “I Would Vote Against Trump’s National Emergency”
ushistory.org: “The Powers of Congress”
USA Today AGs OpEd: “Trump’s Emergency Declaration Constitutional”

Issue 2: Civil Asset Forfeiture
Supreme Court Decision on Timbs v. Indiana
Institute for Justice: “Policing for Profit – The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture”
Department of Justice Statistics on Equitable Sharing Program Proceeds
Forbes: “Indiana Claims It Can Forfeit Cars For Speeding, Minor Drug Crimes”
Heritage Foundation: “7 Things You Should Know About Civil Asset Forfeiture”
National Conference of State Legislatures: “Evolving Civil Forfeiture Laws”

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: National Emergency

  1. Review President Trump’s national emergency declaration (link above). Do you agree with his decision to declare an emergency? Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think the Constitution’s framers created a system of checks and balances and separation of powers for the government? Is the system working as the framers intended? Why or why not?
  3. What are the powers demonstrated by the legislative branch and the executive branch in this situation?
  4. Which branch of the government do you think has the most power? Why?
  5. Read the statement from Sen. Lamar Alexander on Trump’s emergency declaration (link above). Do you agree with him that Trump’s declaration sets “a dangerous precedent?” Why or why not?

Issue 2: Civil Asset Forfeiture

  1. Should law enforcement agencies be allowed to take money and property from people who haven’t been charged or convicted of a crime? Why or why not?
  2.  In your opinion, does the practice of civil asset forfeiture violate citizens’ constitutional rights? Why or why not?
  3. Read the Supreme Court’s decision on the Timbs v. Indiana case (link above). Do you agree with the court’s conclusion? Why or why not?
  4.  What is your position on civil asset forfeiture laws? Are they in need of reform? Why or why not?
  5. What protections does the Constitution provide for people who are charged with a crime? Should these same protections be guaranteed to people whose property is taken via civil asset forfeiture? Why or why not?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for February 2019 Topics

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Troops in Syria
NYT: “Trump Withdraws U.S. Forces from Syria”  
Reuters: “Trump Starts Withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Syria”  
Forbes OpEd: “U.S. Troops Don’t Belong in Syria” 
The Nation: “Why We Can’t Afford to Send More Troops to the Middle East” 
Resignation Letter of General Mattis, Former Secretary of Defense
The Guardian OpEd: “Donald Trump Has a Point”  

Issue 2: Food Stamps & Work Requirements
USDA’s Proposed New Rule Strengthening SNAP Work Requirements  
USA Today: USDA OpEd by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue 
National Conference of State Legislatures SNAP Fact Sheet   
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “SNAP Requirements Won’t Work”
USDA’s SNAP (Food Stamps) Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool 
Urban Institute: “The Anti-Poverty Effects of SNAP”  

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Troops in Syria

  1. What information would you need to make a decision about whether to keep troops on the ground in Syria?
  2. What are the differences between the opposing viewpoints in the pro/con congressional quotes on p. 3?
  3. Do you think that withdrawing troops from Syria would ultimately be better or worse for the U.S.? Explain your reasoning.
  4. How would you compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of keeping U.S. troops in Syria?
  5. Read Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s resignation letter to President Trump (link above). What are the major points or “big ideas” in the letter?

Issue 2: Food Stamps & Work Requirements

  1. Do you agree that the U.S. should set stricter work requirements for recipients of SNAP food stamps? Why or why not?
  2. Read the USDA OpEd by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (link above). What ideas would you add to his reasoning and how would these ideas change his conclusions?
  3. How do you think a food stamps recipient would react to the proposed USDA rule for stricter work requirements for SNAP?
  4. What solutions could you suggest to the problem of food scarcity in the U.S.? How would they differ from the current SNAP food stamps program?
  5. What information would you need to make a decision about whether to establish stricter work requirements for SNAP food stamps recipients?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for December 2018 Topics

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Birthright Citizenship
Rep. Steve King: “Ending Birthright Citizenship Does Not Require an Amendment” 
The Federalist: Trump Sends Birthright Citizenship Trial Balloon
Politico: “Can Trump Revoke Birthright Citizenship? Nearly All Say No”   
National Review: “Birthright Citizenship – A Nutty Policy We’re Probably Stuck With” 
The News & Observer OpEd: “Executive Order Clarifying the 14th Amendment” 
CNN OpEd: “Revoking Birthright Citizenship Is Un-American”

Issue 2: Balanced Budgdet Amendment
Investopedia: What Is a Balanced Budget?
Peter G. Peterson Foundation: Balanced Budget Amendment Pros and Cons
Motley Fool: Advantages and Disadvantages of a Balanced Budget 
Balanced Politics: Yes/No Arguments on Balanced Budget Amendment 
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Balanced Budget Amendment Poses Risks”   
Center for American rogress: “Reflections on the Congressional Budget Act”

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Birthright Citizenship
What is your interpretation of the 14th Amendment? Does its language grant citizenship to those born in the U.S. whose parents are undocumented? Why or why not?
Do you agree with Rep. Steve King’s interpretation of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Why or why not?
Do you believe the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment ensures citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants? Why or why not?
Do you think that ending birthright citizenship would resolve our immigration challenges? Why or why not?
What qualities do you think should define whether or not someone is a U.S. citizen?

Issue 2: Balanced Budgdet Amendment
1.    Do you think a balanced budget amendment is necessary in order for Congress to not spend more than it receives in revenue? Why or why not?
2.    What impact would a balanced budget amendment have on fiscal policy during a recession?
3.    Are you in favor of a balanced budget amendment? Explain why or why not.
4.    How would a balanced budget amendment affect the balance of power between the President and Congress? Between the federal courts and Congress?
5.    Should entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security be cut in order to reduce the national debt? Why or why not?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for November 2018 Topics

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Smoking Age

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids: States & Localities That Have Raised the MLSA to 21
National Academy of Sciences: “Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco”
American Heart Association: “Tobacco, No Minor Issue” Fact Sheet 
American Lung Association: “Tracking Progress Toward Raising Minimum Sale Age” 
Study: “Raising the Tobacco Sales Age to 21: Surveying the Legal Landscape” (2016) 
Worth It: Tobacco Facts
Tobacco 21: Tobacco 21 Fact Sheet 

Issue 2: Tech Regulations

The Hill OpEd: “Regulate Social Media Just Like Other Media” 
Washington Post OpEd: “Don’t Regulate Facebook”
PBS: “Stopping Foreign Meddling in U.S. Elections Via Social Media Is Enormous Task” 
Senate.gov: Honest Ads Act (S. 1989) Section by Section
Debate.org: Should the Internet Be Regulated by the Government?
The Conversation: “Government Regulation of Social Media Would Be Worse”

 

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1:  Smoking Age

  1. Should the U.S. make it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy tobacco products in all states? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think increasing the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products infringes on young people’s rights? Why or why not?
  3. If cigarettes and other tobacco products were more difficult to obtain in stores, do you think teenagers would be less inclined to want them? Why or why not?
  4. What do you think is the appropriate minimum age for purchasing tobacco products? Why?
  5. What are the arguments for and against raising the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products? Which position do you agree with and why?

Issue 2: Tech Regulations

  1. Do you think the government should regulate tech companies like Facebook and Google? Why or why not?
  2. Read for pro and con congressional quotes on raising the smoking age on p. 3. Whose opinion do you agree most with, and why?
  3. Are social media platforms like Twitter subject to the First Amendment?
  4. Is there a right to free speech on social media owned by private tech companies?
  5. Do you trust social and search companies like Facebook and Google to regulate themselves? Why or why not?

 

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for October 2018 Topics

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Minimum Wage

U.S. Department of Labor: State Minimum Wage Laws
National Conference of State Legislatures: State Minimum Wage Laws
Economic Policy Institute: Minimum Wage Tracker  
The Guardian: “How Much Is an Hour Worth? The War Over Minimum Wage” 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Living Wage Calculator
Forbes: “McDonald’s Says Goodbye Cashiers, Hello Kiosks”
Issue 2: Fuel Efficiency Standards

Federal Register: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from EPA and NHTSA
EPA: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle
InsideClimateNews: “How Pruitt’s EPA Is Weakening Clean Air Rules” 
Reuters: “U.S. States Vow to Fight Trump Rollback on Auto Emissions” 
Washington Post: “Trump Administration Says Weaker Fuel Standards Saves …”
EPA: Estimate Your Carbon Footprint Calculator

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1:  Minimum Wage

  1. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor link above to see if your state has a minimum wage law. How does your state compare to other states? Do you think it should be higher or lower than it is?
  2. How does the minimum wage issue relate to gender and race?
  3. Use the Living Wage Calculator (link above) to calculate your living wage. Should the U.S. should establish a “living wage” standard? Why or why not?
  4. Do you support or oppose raising the minimum wage? If you were speaking to a person who disagreed, what is the strongest argument in support of your position?
  5. Do you think that if the minimum wage was raised, it would ultimately help or hurt workers?

     

Issue 2: Fuel Efficiency Standards

  1. Does the responsibility to slow down or stop climate change belong to humans? Why or why not?
  2. Using the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator (link above), calculate your carbon footprint. What does the term “carbon footprint” mean? Why do people care about their carbon footprint?
  3. On an individual level, what can you do to limit your “carbon contribution” to the environment?
  4. Are greenhouse gases a natural part of the earth’s climate system? Why or why not?
  5. Do you think the U.S. should weaken their fuel-efficiency standards? Why or why not?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for September 2018 Topics

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Supreme Court
supremecourt.gov: About the U.S. Supreme Court   
Georgetown University: Supreme Court Nomination and Confirmation Process
Supreme Court Historical Society: How the Court Works
landmarkcases.org: Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court 
NYT: “10 Supreme Court Cases Every Teen Should Know” 
CNN: “Where Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stands on the Issues”  

Issue 2: Bullying Laws
stopbullying.gov: List of State Laws on Bullying
Text of Pennsylvania State Rep. Frank Burns’ House Bill 2217
Bully Police USA: Watchdog Reporting on State Anti-Bullying Laws 
Huffington Post OpEd: “Why Criminalizing Bullying Is the Wrong Approach” 
Crisis Prevention Institute: 5 School Bullying Misperceptions
Psychology Today OpEd: “Anti-Bullying Laws Punish the Tax Payer” 
cyberbullying.org: Cyberbullying Statistics

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1:  Supreme Court

  1. Do you think Supreme Court justices should take an active role in politics? Why or why not?
  2. What defines a “conservative” or “liberal” Supreme Court justice?
  3. What is a justice’s responsibility when their personal opinions are in conflict with the rule of law in a case?
  4. Should the people be allowed to approve Supreme Court appointments instead of, or in addition to, the U.S. Senate? Why or why not?
  5. Read the “10 Supreme Court Cases Every Teen Should Know” article (link above) and explain how the Supreme Court affects your life personally?

Issue 2: Bullying Laws

  1. Do you think parents should be fined if their child bullies? Why or why not?
  2. What kind of interventions can young people use to prevent or stop bullying? List three things you could do to defuse a bullying situation.
  3. Do you think you’ve ever bullied someone? If so, why? What made you stop or continue to bully?
  4. Do you think bullying is a serious problem in your school? Why or why not?
  5. What can be done to make schools safer and more inclusive?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for May 2018 Topics

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Digital Privacy
The Guardian: 50 Million Facebook Profiles Harvested for Cambridge Analytica”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): Original Text of the Senate CLOUD Act Bill
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA): Press Release on CLOUD Act Passage
Electronic Frontier Foundation: “Responsibility Deflected, the CLOUD Act Passes”
European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Key Changes 
Phys.org Fact Check: Facebook Makes Shaky Privacy Claims

Issue 2: Trade War
Roll Call: “China Trade Tariffs Stir Support, Fears and Retaliation Threat” 
White House: “President’s Actions Responding to China’s Unfair Trade Practices” 
Statement from Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) on President Trump’s Tariffs 
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s Statement on President Trump’s Tariffs 
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report on “Made in China 2025” Plan
New York Times: “If There’s a U.S.-China Trade War, China May Have Weapons”

 

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1:  Digital Privacy

  1. In your opinion, does Facebook respect the privacy rights of its users? What, if anything, should be done to protect FB users’ personal data in the future?
  2. Some states have laws that provide privacy protections for citizens who live there. Do you support the inclusion of privacy protections in your state’s laws? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think Congress should strengthen privacy protections for U.S. citizens? Why or why not?
  4. If a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution was added to specifically protect Americans’ right to privacy, how would you word it?
  5. Do you think that the right to privacy is a fundamental freedom, like freedom of religion? Why or why not?

Issue 2: Trade War

  1. Do you feel President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on China will ultimately help or hurt the U.S.? Justify your position.
  2. Will China surpass the United States as the world’s superpower? Why or why not?
  3. Should the U.S. view China as a threat or an opportunity?
  4. What role should Congress play in easing tensions between the U.S. and China and facilitating greater cooperation?
  5. What is the difference between “absolute advantage” and “comparative advantage?” What “absolute advantage” does China have over the United States and what “comparative ad-vantage” does the U.S. have over China?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for April 2018

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Gun Control Laws

ProCon.org Background on History of Second Amendment & Guns in America
RAND Corp.: Magnitude and Sources of Disagreement Among Gun Policy Experts
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): America’s Gun Culture in 10 Charts 
ProCon.org on Gun Control Pro and Con 
International Civilian Gun Ownership Rates (ProCon.org) 
FBI’s Expanded Homicide Data Table for 2016

Issue 2: Internet Sales Tax

Nolo’s 50 State Guide on Internet Sales Tax Laws 
U.S. Census Bureau’s E-commerce Retail Sales Data 
Reuters: “Trump Administration Backs States Bid to Collect Online Sales Taxes” 
USA Today: “Supreme Court Will Decide if Online Retailers Will Collect Sales Tax” 
Investopedia: Pros and Cons of an Internet Sales Tax 
CNN: “Amazon to Start Collecting Taxes Everywhere” Article (March 2017)

 

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1:  Gun Control Laws

  1. Are you for or against stricter gun-control laws in the U.S.? Why or why not?
  2. Which type of gun-control legislation, if any, do you think would be good for Congress to pass? Examples include banning bump stocks or high-capacity magazines, arming teachers, raising the minimum age, etc.
  3. Do you think the school shooting in Parkland, Florida could have been prevented? If so, how? If not, why?
  4. Are President Trump’s gun-control proposals likely to be effective? Why or why not?
  5. Why is the right to own a gun so important to Americans?

Issue 2: Internet Sales Tax

  1. Do you agree with South Dakota’s position that online sellers who make sales in a state should collect that state’s sales tax? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think it’s fair that someone can visit a local retailer to touch or try on merchandise and get guidance from their staff but then buy the same product at a discount online?
  3. In your opinion, what would be the best solution to putting all retailers on equal footing with regard to internet sales tax?
  4. Why do you think Amazon decided to start collecting sales tax in all states in March 2017?
  5. Compare and contrast the pro/con congressional quotes on p. 3 of the newsletter. Whose opinion do you agree with the most, and why?

Research Links & Critical-Thinking Questions – March 2018

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Offshore Drilling

Heritage Foundation: How Offshore Oil and Gas Production Benefits the Economy 

Oceana Report: Safety Measures Will Not Make Offshore Drilling Safe 

Press Release from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke Announcement 

National Ocean Industries Association Offshore Energy Industry Publications 

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Statistics and Facts 

U.S. Department of Energy Report “Today in Energy” 

Issue 2: Welfare & Drug Testing

H.R.2179 – Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients Act 

Think Progress: States Spend Millions to Drug Test the Poor, Few Positive Results 

National Conference of State Legislatures Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients 

Study: “Assessing the Effects of Substance Abuse Among Applicants for TANF Benefits” 

Snopes on Drug Testing Welfare Recipients 

Chicago Tribune: “Wisconsin’s Walker Proposes Welfare Overhaul Plan”

President Trump’s 2019 Budget Proposal 

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1:  Offshore Drilling

  1. Traditionally, Republican lawmakers have favored offshore drilling in U.S. waters. Why do you think some of them are now voicing opposition to it?
  2. What is your opinion on offshore drilling? Do you think it should be allowed in the U.S.? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think offshore drilling in U.S. waters harm the environment? Explain why or why not.
  4. Compare and contrast the pro/con congressional quotes on p. 3 of the newsletter. Whose opinion do you agree with the most, and why?
  5. Would you want offshore drilling to take place in your own community? Why or why not?

Issue 2: Welfare & Drug Testing

  1. Please read the Think Progress report (see link above). Do you think drug testing welfare recipients is worth the cost? Why or why not?
  2. Does your state require drug testing for recipients of welfare programs like SNAP, TANF, etc.?
  3. Research the answer if you don’t know. Do you agree with your state’s policy?
  4. Do you believe the poor are more likely than other groups (such as seniors) who receive government money to use drugs? Why or why not?
  5. Read President Trump’s proposed changes to the SNAP program in his 2019 Budget Proposal (link above). Do you think these changes are a good idea? Why or why not?

Research Links & Critical-Thinking Questions – December 2017

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Charter Schools National Alliance for Public Charter Schools “About Charter Schools” National Center for Education Statistics on Charter School Enrollment Statistics National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Facts  Center for Education Reform Charter School Facts NPR: Just What Is a Charter School Anyway?  Issue 2: Debt Ceiling U.S. Department of Treasury on Debt Limit  Congressional Budget Office Report: Economic Outlook for 2017-2027  U.S. Social Security Administration Fact Sheet  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go? Politifact: So What Is the Debt Ceiling All About Anyway?

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Charter Schools

  1. Do you think funding charter schools with tax dollars hurts traditional public schools? Why or why not?
  2. Proponents of charter schools believe they encourage school competition and innovation. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  3. What are the arguments for and against charter schools? Where do you stand on the issue?
  4. Compare the Democrat and Republican congressional quotes for Issue 1 (charter schools). Whose opinion more closely matches your own view?
  5. What is your position on “school choice?” Do you agree or disagree with the idea?

Issue 2: Debt Ceiling

  1. Do you think Congress should raise or eliminate the debt ceiling, or refuse to raise it yet again? Why?
  2. Compare and contrast the pro/con congressional quotes on p. 3 of the newsletter. Whose opinion do you agree with the most, and why?
  3. Read the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of where our taxes go (see link above). Do you agree with the current budget allocations? Why or why not?
  4. When governments create budgets, they prioritize some programs over others (such as health care or national defense). What types of trade-offs might need to be made in your opinion?
  5. Read the Congressional Budget Office Report on our country’s economic outlook (see link above). What is the long-term projection for the federal debt? How will this affect your future?

Research Links & Critical-Thinking Questions – October 2017

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: War in Afghanistan Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Report to Congress CIA World Factbook on Afghanistan Brookings Institute Article, “America’s Afghanistan Problem” Heritage Foundation Commentary, “Trump Lays Out Winning Strategy for Afghanistan”

Issue 2: Surveillance Law Letter from Attorney Gen. Sessions Urging Congress to Reauthorize FISA Section 702  Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board 2014 Report on FISA Surveillance Program  Center for Democracy & Technology, “Section 702: What It Is & How It Works”  April 28, 2017, Statement from NSA on Stopping of Certain Section 702 Activities Sen. Rand Paul’s Call for Amendment to End Warrantless Searches of U.S. Citizens  CQ Online Article, “Congress Braces for Tense Debate on Surveillance Law” 

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: War in Afghanistan

  1. Do you support continuing to have a military presence in Afghanistan? Why or why not?
  2. Read President Trump’s remarks on his strategy for Afghanistan (see link above). Why do you think he chose not to give specifics such as how many troops he will send or state an estimated withdrawal date? Do you agree or disagree with this strategy?
  3. Read the Heritage Foundation commentary (see link above). Do you agree with the author’s reasoning? Why or why not?
  4. Compare and contrast the pro/con congressional quotes on p. 3 of the newsletter. Whose opinion do you agree with most on this issue, and why?
  5. Why do you think President Trump changed his mind on sending more troops to Afghanistan, despite earlier criticizing President Obama for doing so when he was in office?

Issue 2: Surveillance Law

  1. Read the NSA’s April 28, 2017, statement announcing it will no longer include “about” communications in its intelligence gathering activities. Does this assuage any concerns you may have? Why or why not?
  2. Does FISA Section 702 need to be amended to strengthen protections of Americans’ constitutional and privacy rights? Or should Congress permanently reauthorize it as is? Justify and defend your position.
  3. Why do you think some legislators are concerned about the potential for abuse of power among employees and/or contractors of the NSA, FBI and/or CIA?
  4. Read Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Sept. 7, 2017, letter to Congress (see link above). Do you agree with his reasoning? Why or why not?
  5. Carefully read the wording of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Are Americans’ constitutional rights being violated under the NSA’s current interpretation of FISA Section 702? Why or why not?

Research Links & Critical-Thinking Questions – September 2017

RESEARCH LINKS

Issue 1: Dreamer Immigrants Dream Act of 2017 Summary Side by Side Comparison of the 2010 and 2017 Dream Acts, and DACA New York Times’ Collection of Dreamers’ Stories “Why I oppose the DREAM Act” Editorial “The Dream Is Now” Documentary Video by Organizing for Action  Issue 2: Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Statement (July 19, 2017) Summary of Report on the DOJ’s Cash Seizure & Forfeiture Activities FOX News Article, “Sessions opens door for police to seize assets” Washington Post Column by George Will, “When Government Is the Looter” “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” Report American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Civil Asset Abuse

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Issue 1: Dreamer Immigrants

  1. Who are the Dreamers and why are they called Dreamers? If you were in their situation, would you keep your status private at school? Why or why not?
  2. View goo.gl/msmk7t to view a map of state laws on access to higher education for undocumented immigrants. Find your state and read its policies. Do you feel these policies are fair, unfair or just right?
  3. Read the “Why I Oppose the DREAM Act” editorial (see link above). Do you agree or disagree with this stance? List your arguments and defend your positions.
  4. Watch “The Dream Is Now” video (see link above). Compare and contrast your own dreams and the dreams described by the young people in the video. What are the similarities and differences?
  5. Read the Dream Act of 2017 summary (see link above). If you were a member of Congress, would you vote yay or nay on this legislation? Why?

Issue 2: Civil Asset Forfeiture

  1. Civil asset forfeiture is one of the few bipartisan issues on which right-leaning Republicans and left-leaning Democrats agree. Why do you think this is so?
  2. In your opinion, does civil asset forfeiture violate citizens’ constitutional rights? Why or why not?
  3. Read the summary of the DOJ report (see link above). Do the findings challenge or support your position on civil asset forfeiture?
  4. Read Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement on July 19, 2017 (see link above). Do you agree with his reasoning? Why or why not?
  5. According to the Fifth Amendment, “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Why do some people see civil asset forfeiture as a violation of the “due process” clause?

Research Links & Critical Thinking Questions for May 2017 Issues

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience. Issue 1: Syrian Missile Strikes Statement by President Trump on Syria Bernie Sanders’ Opposition to Missile Strikes Visual Guide to Missile Strikes on Syrian Airbase Heritage Foundation on Missile Strikes Video Brookings Institute Pros & Cons to Missile Strikes Issue 2: Minimum Wage U.S. Department of Labor – Minimum Wages by State Raise the Minimum Wage U.S. Chamber of Commerce Article National Women’s Law Center on Minimum Wage CNBC Article on Universal Basic Income Congressional Budget Office Report

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Issue 1: Syrian Missile Strikes

  1. Please read the pro and con arguments in the Brookings Institute article (link above). Which side do you agree most with, and why?
  2. Will military intervention solve the Syrian conflict? Why or why not?
  3. Does the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians justify the U.S. missile strikes?
  4. What could potentially go wrong as a result of the U.S. missile strikes on the Syrian airbase? What could go right?
  5. Should the U.S. intervene in Middle East controversies such as the Syrian Civil War? Where should we draw the line?

Issue 2: Minimum Wage

  1. Using the U.S. Department of Labor link above, see if your state has a minimum wage law. How does your state compare to other states? Do you think it should be higher or lower than it is?
  2. How does the minimum wage issue relate to income, gender and race inequality?
  3. Please read the CNBC article (link above). Should the U.S. should establish a “universal basic income?” Why or why not?
  4. If you worked at a job that paid the current minimum wage of $7.25, you would work one hour and receive about enough money to pay for a fast food combo meal. Is that fair?
  5. Do you think that if the minimum wage was raised, it would ultimately help or hurt workers?

Links & Critical Thinking Questions – March 2017

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience. Issue 1: Sanctuary Cities Center for Immigration Studies – Sanctuary Cities Map President Trump’s Executive Order Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act (H.R.400) Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act of 2017 (H.R.748) Heritage Foundation OpEd Washington Post Article Issue 2: Regulations Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (H.R.26) President Trump’s Executive Order U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Regulatory Reform League of Women Voters Position Statement on REINS Act Natural Resources Defense Council

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Issue 1: Sanctuary Cities

  1. Before reading about sanctuary cities and discussing the issue in class, did you already have an opinion on the topic? If so, did it change? Summarize your view on the issue.
  2. Using the first link above, view the sanctuary cities map. Why do you think many of the largest U.S. cities choose to provide sanctuary to immigrants? This could be from a practical and/or philosophical perspective.
  3. Should local jurisdictions cooperate with federal immigration officials, or should they be allowed to remain as “sanctuaries?” Explain your position.
  4. Do you think de-funding sanctuary cities will ultimately help or hurt local communities?
  5. Is de-funding sanctuary cities the best solution? Are there other alternatives that might satisfy both sides?

Issue 2: Regulations

  1. If the REINS Act is made into a law, how might that affect the safety of the citizens in places like Flint, Michigan, where the water is unsafe to drink?
  2. What guidelines or values should the government go by when creating regulations?
  3. If businesses were left alone by the government, do you think they would put the interests of American citizens first? Why or why not?
  4. List some examples of regulations that affect you personally (e.g., food safety, clean air and water). Are they necessary or do they go too far?
  5. What are the consequences of creating too many regulations? Of NOT creating such regulations?

Ideas for Teachers (Links & Critical-Thinking Questions) – February 2017

LINKS

For further research, please see the links below. Links have been shortened for your convenience. Issue 1: Charter Schools National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Center for Media and Democracy Findings National Center for Education Statistics National Charter School Resource Center NPR – What Should Parents Know About Charter Schools? Issue 2: Pipeline About the Pipeline from Energy Transfer Partners Protesting the Pipeline (Inside Energy) Time Magazine Article 5 Things to Know About the Pipeline NPR – Pipeline Update for 2017 Top 3 Pipeline Pros & Cons (procon.org)

CRITICAL-THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Can be used for classroom discussion, essay writing, homework, debate, etc. Issue 1: Charter Schools

  1. Do you think funding charter schools with tax dollars hurts traditional public schools? Why or why not?
  2. Proponents of charter schools believe they encourage school competition and innovation. Do you agree or disagree?
  3. What are the arguments for and against charter schools? Where do you stand on the issue?
  4. Compare the Democrat and Republican congressional quotes for Issue 1 (charter schools). Whose opinion more closely matches your own view?
  5. Please review the “Federal Role of Government in Education” infographic and describe what makes charter schools different than traditional public schools?

Issue 2: Pipeline

  1. Using the “Top 3 Pipeline Pros & Cons” link above, summarize the arguments of those for and against the pipeline. Which side do you agree with?
  2. Did the Army Corps of Engineers make the right decision to halt production of the Pipeline? Why or why not?
  3. What might be a solution to the problem that would satisfy both sides?
  4. Which should come first – our country’s environment or the ability to produce our own energy?
  5. Why do you think the Dakota Access Pipeline protests have drawn national media attention?

Ideas for Teachers (Links & Critical-Thinking Questions) – November 2016

LINKS For further research, please see the links below.  Issue 1: Greater Sage-Grouse PBS Video, “The Sagebrush Sea” House Rider Text U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Bureau of Land Management’s “In Aid of an Icon” Video Fox News  Greater Sage-grouse FAQs Issue 2: Trans-Pacific Partnership Office of The United States Trade Representative Complete Text of TPP Trade Agreement U.S. International Trade Commission Report  Joseph Stiglitz – 6 Problems with the TPP U.S. Chamber of Commerce Brookings Institute – The Case for the TPP

CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS

Help students develop their critical-thinking skills on legislative issues with these essay questions. Can be used for classroom discussion, essay writing, homework, debate, etc. Issue 1: Greater Sage-Grouse

  1. Compare and contrast the positions of those for and against protecting the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Who is right in your opinion and why?
  2. How does the sage-grouse’s ability to survive and thrive impact the other species that live in the sagebrush ecosystem and ultimately humankind?
  3. Do you believe it’s necessary to list sage-grouse as endangered? What evidence supports your answer?
  4. Read the congressional quotes for Issue 1 (greater sage-grouse). Are there any errors in reasoning or biases that influence their positions?
  5. Have the conservation coalitions done enough to protect the sage-grouse? Why or why not?

Issue 2: Trans-Pacific Partnership

  1. What changes, if any, would you recommend to the provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that was signed on Feb. 4, 2016?
  2. One of the most controversial provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) enforcement system, which allows multinational corporations to sue a country’s government (and its taxpayers) if they believe that country’s regulations are hurting their profits. Why do you think critics are strongly opposed to this provision?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
  4. Do you believe the TPP would ultimately help or hurt American workers in the job market?
  5. Read the congressional quotes for Issue 2 (TPP). Whose opinion do you agree with and why?