Wednesday, November 25, 2015


There is still the lingering opinion that animation is for kids but nothing could be further from the truth in the case of manga, and in particular the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Do your research and discuss Miyazaki and his art clearly indicating what makes him special.
Familiarize yourself with the issue
Quotes to read and think about
·         Hayao Miyazaki quotes
Video to watch
·         Hayao Miyazaki and the essence of humanity in animation 
Reading material to make notes on

·                           Miyazaki on Miya    


Homelessness is a lingering problem in both developed and developing countries. The fact that people are living on the streets all the year round without access to basic services is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue in the civilized world. Do your research and discuss both the causes and the solutions.
Familiarize yourself with the problem
·         Homelessness solutions presentation
Watch the following video on the causes of homelessness
·         Causes of homelessness
Watch the following videos on the solutions
Reading material to make notes on
·         Homelessness both occasional and chronic
·         Getting to the root causes of homelessness
·         Colorado coalition for the homeless
Videos to watch and make notes on
The unexpected face of homelessness


The Middle East, and especially Syria and Northern Iraq, has been racked by civil war for the last three years. The rival groups have been involved in street fights and bombing campaigns which have ruined cities. Coupled with that, there is the rise of radical Islam in the shape of ISIS whose militants have been slaughtering and enslaving people. Faced with these problems, many locals have had no option but to leave their homes and belongings and make the long journey to Europe. Their enduring hope is to have a better and safer life. The term “refugee” is very different from the word migrant: the former refers to people escaping for their lives and the latter refers to people seeking better jobs. The current influx involves refugees in every sense of the word, and refusing to help them is not an option. However, settling everyone who arrives in Europe in EU countries is not an option either.

The most obvious reason why Europe cannot be expected to open its doors to everyone is economic. The new arrivals will have to be housed, fed and cared for and this would be fine if there were only a dozen or so people. With thousands lining up along the borders, expecting the social services of EU countries to cope is unrealistic. Each country has a certain capacity and beyond that capacity, accepting refugees is not a viable option. EU countries are already facing serious economic problems which are threatening the future of the union; exacerbating the problem does not make any kind of sense.

The second reason is cultural: the refugees come from the Middle East and have very different lifestyles, sets of beliefs and backgrounds. Migrants and refugees who have settled in Europe in the past have formed their own neighborhoods where they speak their own language and continue living in the way they have been accustomed to. This lack of assimilation or integration is already causing tension and leading to a rise in racist attacks. Adding to this group will only make matters worse; after all, there is no reason to assume that the new arrivals will act any differently. The reaction that is already taking place in society will grow leading to conflict and more intractable problems. In short, accepting large numbers of refugees would be a social and cultural disaster. Yet not helping these people is not an option either.

The solution to the problem need not be “accept them or send them back”; there is a compromise that can be considered: the refugees should be settled in neighboring countries, closer to home, and it should be made clear to them that the situation is temporary. Turkey and Jordan have already accepted refugees; so has Lebanon; these countries could be provided with funds and expert advice to support the refugees. Temporary refugee camps could be set up with all the basic facilities and amenities to enable refugees to live as normal a life as possible and charities and the UN could be involved in running the camps. In the meantime, every effort should be made to find a political solution to the problem and end the conflict. Once this is done, the rebuilding of the devastated cities and shattered lives can begin in earnest.

All in all, the refugees should be helped closer to home to avoid long term social, cultural and economic problems. The first world countries should commit to providing any assistance necessary and should be in it for the long haul. A concerted effort should be made to end the suffering of the refugees without creating additional problems.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Our life on Earth is inextricably linked with that of the Sun, which is a star with a fixed life span. Do your research and tell the story of the Sun and how its demise will affect life on Earth.

Reading material and accompanying videos to make notes on
·         How Will Our Solar System (and our planet) Die?  

·         The sun won't die for 5 billion years, so why do humans have only 1 billion years left on Earth?

·         The Sun Will Eventually Engulf Earth—Maybe
Documentary to watch
·         Death of the Sun 


The current events and reactions to them cannot but remind us of another period of “moral panic” when “a certain race or ethnicity” was held accountable for the crimes committed by the few. The period in question is that between 1942 and 1945 when Japanese Americans were placed in camps for the duration of the war. Do your research and tell the story. While doing so, make sure to highlight the reasons, the immediate effects and the long term consequences.
Familiarize yourself with the issue
·         Japanese internment camps
·         Japanese internment
Photos to look at and study
Reading material to make notes on
·         Japanese American relocation  
·         Internment history
·         The Internment of Japanese Americans as reported by Seattle Area Weekly Newspapers Seattle Ethnic Press Report
Videos to watch and make notes on
·         Japanese American Internment During WWII | 1942 | Internment Camps in the USA | Japanese Relocation
Japanese Internment during WW 2

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Thousands have been making their way from their war torn homelands to Europe where they hope to find a better life. The compassionate and moral response would be to help these people and give them a home yet what is right is not always practical. There are economic and political concerns muddying the waters and the very real danger of undesirables sneaking in. Do your research and decide what the response to the refugee crisis should be. Then write an essay in which you support your view while refuting counter arguments.
Reading material to make notes on
·         Turning Away Refugees Won’t Fight Terrorism, and Might Make It Worse
·         Why my state won't turn refugees away
·         Stop wasting money on aid, and start letting in more refugees  
·         Is the EU turning into “Fortress Europe” for migrants?
Videos to watch and make notes on
·         The long term impacts of the attack on Paris
·         Queen Rania: Refugee crisis is a global problem
·         CARE CEO on Syrian refugee crisis
·         Damon on migrants: we are their only voice


They want fairness
By: Paul Bloom
Level of difficulty: ***
Note to the student: the focus of the following questions is summary skills, paraphrasing and drawing conclusions
Watch the following short video of an experiment which is also described in the text you are going to read and think about it
  • What happen when you give one monkey cucumbers but grapes for another monkey
Now, watch the panel discussion on equality and fairness and make some notes

·         What's wrong with equality?

1.       Read the first three paragraphs and fill in the blanks: People are wrong to think that ………………………….is a source of concern to them. What they are really concerned about is…………...........and…………………………………
2.       What is the topic sentence of paragraph 4? What is the concluding statement? What do they tell you about the organization of argumentative writing?
3.       The case of Louis C.K’S five year old proves that ……………………………
4.       It is implied in the text that Robin Hood is still popular because he tried to restore……
5.       Read the experiment conducted by Shaw and Olson and circle the answers that don’t fit. The children were happy to go along with unequal distribution so long as it was merited/ indefensible /deserved / warranted/ unjustified
6.       The widespread tendency to favor number one both among primates and humans proves that……………………………………………………….
7.       The case of small groups doesn’t contradict what has been stated thus far about inequality because what is really happening in small groups is that………………………………………
8.       The weak are at more of a disadvantage in large groups because in such groups………………………………….This means that they are stuck with a despot for example.
9.       We understand from Ariely and Norton’s study that have preconceived notions / misconceptions / prejudicial views / misguided notions about the current distribution of wealth in American society.
10.   The writer concludes by warning us that we should focus more on ………………………….
Write an essay in which you you discuss which is more important: social equality or fairness?
The questions written for this fascinating text focus on summary skills, paraphrasing and the ability to draw conclusions due largely to the way the text has been written. The students will need to read closely and carefully.
  1. Economic inequality; unjust causes of economic inequality; the potential consequences of economic inequality
  2. The first sentence; the last sentence; argumentative paragraphs or essays have a sort of circular structure where you end up where you started – the point you were trying to prove.
  3. Focus on equality maybe mistaken
  4. Economic equality
  5. Indefensible, unjustified
  6. Humans and other species don’t naturally value equality for its own sake
  7. Everyone is struggling to ensure that nobody gets too much power over him. OR nobody wants to get screwed
  8. Interactions are no longer face to face and the powerful have guns
  9. Misconceptions
  10. Fairness and above all the suffering of the poor

Monday, November 9, 2015


The consumption of alcohol has always been a matter of concern and one country, the USA, decided to take drastic action back in the ‘20’s. Do your research and discover what was done. Then write an essay where you discuss the causes and effects.
Familiarize yourself with the issue
·         The Prohibition Era
Prohibition timeline:
Reading material and accompanying videos
·         Prohibition
·         Prohibition: unintended consequences   
TV Series to watch

·         Boardwalk Empire

Thursday, November 5, 2015


The words “child” and “soldier” or “war” should never come together; the fact that they do is a moral outrage and a humanitarian disaster. Do your research and discuss the reasons why children are recruited, what they suffer and how to deal with the problem.
Familiarize yourself with the issue, watch the videos:
·         Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War -
·         Child Soldier' author shares hard truths with young readers
Some examples:
·         Voices compassion education
·         Child Soldiers
Reading material to make notes on:
·         Child soldiers
·         Children in conflict There are links from this article to others on the site; access and read them
Documentary to watch
·         Invisible Children  

·         Soldier Child  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


“Feeling overwhelmed affects everything from digestion to stroke risk”
By: Olga Khazan
Level of difficulty: **
·         Watch the video from TED Ed, written by the Emory University professor of medicine Sharon Bergquist and make some notes:
1.       Why do people tend to ignore suggestions like “Stop worrying! Stress is bad for you”?
2.       Read the remainder of the text. Which sentence best summarizes what is expressed?
·         The physical effects of stress should not be ignored
·         Chronic stress has terrible consequences for the body
·         Stress affects every organ and system in the body
·         Stress damages every organ and system in the body
This text is an introduction to the major reading task, text2. It focuses on the physical effects of stress.
1.       Because it isn’t immediately clear how it will make them healthier
2.       Stress damages every organ and system in the body
“Some patients are being prescribed bicycles and groceries as doctors attempt to treat the lifestyle consequences of poverty, in addition to its medical consequences”
By: Olga Khazan
Level of Difficulty: **

·         Viewers sound off on the effects of 'toxic stress' from poverty

  1. What unusual remedy does Meyer’s suggest to some of his patients?
  2. It is implied in the text commuting by bike is both practical / problematic / tiring and good for you / physical / sedentary
  3. Poor people are unable to exercise due to: tick those that fit
  • Time concerns
  • Health concerns
  • Lack of amenities
  • Security concerns
  • Financial concerns
  1. What is one possible reason why poorer people are less healthy?
  2. Poor people tend to have higher blood pressure, stress hormones and body mass index because the life they lead ………………………………………….To sum up, poverty changes………………………….
  3. Anxiety disorder and similar problems are closely linked to toxic stress in childhood because….
  4. The research done for Science last year proved that the greater the ……………………the greater the problems with………………………………..
  5. Scan the text as far as a “Patchwork of programs” and list the negative effects of poverty on the physical and psychological makeup of the brain. There are five.
  6. Society has made the serious mistake of not considering poverty ………………………………
  7. Why has Health Leads got the right approach to the problem discussed thus far in the text? Use your own words
  8. As a result of sessions with the biofeedback specialist ……………………….is bolstered, which helps the kids deal with toxic stress
  9. There are two major problems those who try to provide services like those listed above have to tackle and they are………………………………………….
13     Money is a problem because………………………….and doctors are a problem because they don’t……..
14     According to Perrin, if poverty combating legislation is passed, people will be a lot ……………
This simple and beautifully organized text delineates the link between poverty and major mental health issues, mood disorders and cognitive skills. It also provides solutions in the last part. This wealth of information should lead to a wonderful writing task where all students have learnt can be brought together
  1. A year-long membership to Hubway (Boston’s bike sharing program)
  2. Practical, good for you
  3. Time concerns, lack of amenities, security concerns
  4. A healthy diet costs 1.5 dollars more per day than an unhealthy one.
  5. Certain genes to be turned on or off; gene expression
  6. These adverse childhood experiences jab at the brain at critical moments of its development and changing the architecture of key brain structures
  7. Physical scarcity; long term planning
  8. Long term anxiety and mood control issues, problems with long term planning, mental health issues (anxiety and depression), depleted self control, bad habits
  9. A serious medical problem
  10. Possible Answer: it is trying to address the problems that will have long term effects on their psychological and physical health
  11. The prefrontal cortex circuit
  12. Payment and culture obstacles
  13. Medicaid and other insurance don’t cover many of these services; screen for toxic stress and other poverty indicators
  14. Healthier

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


“In the age of the digital hermit, a psychologist explains what it means to avoid other people – and what to do about it”
By: Olga Khazan
Level of difficulty: **

·          Social Anxiety Disorder: A Devastating Look inside the Minds of Social Anxiety Disorder Sufferers

·         Social Anxiety Disorder: How the brain works on anxiety and stress



·         Social anxiety disorder: afraid of people


1.       We can draw the conclusion from paragraph one that people have become more…………

2.       Both the need for acceptance and the…………………………………trigger social anxiety

3.       We understand from the text that a moderate amount of social anxiety is……………….(Your own words)

4.       The three most prevalent anxiety disorders are: ……………………………………

5.       What causes problems in terms diagnosis is the fact that…………………………………..

6.       The key to determining whether your social anxiety is a problem is whether the said anxiety leads ……………………………………………….

7.       Isolation is not the answer in the case of social anxiety because such people………….

8.       Western cultures report higher instances of social anxiety whereas countries like Japan and China report less because while the former is ……………………..,the latter is………………………

9.       Read Hofmann’s description of how people with social anxiety feel and circle the adjective that does not describe the sufferer’s mood: pessimistic, fatalistic, unrealistic, accident prone, out of control.

10.   Why is rumination so detrimental?

11.   The cognitive behavioral therapy that is used to treat social anxiety involves a two step process: ………………………………………..and……………………………………………..

12.   The purpose of both social mishap exercises and inconveniencing people is to encourage sufferers of social anxiety to

·         Face their worst fears

·         Become freaks

·         Alter their mindset

·         Become more engaging

·         Become more shocking


Use all the information you have gathered to write an essay where you discuss social anxiety disorder. Remember to discuss what the disease entails and how to deal with it.

This text focuses on a very common problem: social anxiety. It is very well organized despite being in the form of an interview: the disorder is discussed and then the solutions are presented. This should also guide the students in their writing.
  1. Reclusive
  2. The possibility that we will not be accepted by our peers
  3. Normal
  4. Depression, substance abuse and social anxiety disorder
  5. Almost all anxiety disorders are highly overlapping with each other
  6. You to want to get help OR to significant distress
  7. Would like to be social / are not loners
  8. An individualistic culture; a collectivist culture
  9. Accident prone
  10. Because it establishes a cycle (and the next time…)
  11. Identifying what drives the anxiety and exposure practices (or challenging these …)
  12. Alter their mindset


Monday, November 2, 2015


The country with the largest and fastest growing population, China, implemented a one child policy in the 70’s with the purpose of curbing this growth. Yet China has recently back tracked and shelved this rule. Do your research and write an essay where you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such a policy.
Suggested Plan
* Introduce the one child policy
* Discuss why it was implemented; what was expected
* Discuss what went wrong
* Discuss the current situation
Familiarize yourself with the issue:
Reading material to make notes on
·         Ten biggest pros and cons of the one child policy
·         How China’s one child policy backfired disastrously
·         Judging China’s one child policy
Videos to watch and make notes on
·         One child policy documentary
·         Population: China’s one child policy
Social impact of China’s one child policy