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January 4, 2021

2020 in Review: Stories you might have missed and why they matter

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who comprise Crew-1, walk at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the NASA/SpaceX launch of the first operational commercial crew mission in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Nov. 8, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

Directions: Have students watch the videos and read the summaries. Then ask them which stories and events they remember from 2020 that they thought were important but under-covered by the media. To read the full “Stories you might have missed” article from NewsHour, click here

Summary: It’s been decades since one world event has dominated the news cycle so completely. 2020 will go down in history as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic — the lockdowns, economic pain, overflowing hospitals and the gut-punching death toll. It was also the year for an unusual election season, which saw record voting, and several failed attempts by the sitting president to overturn the results.

The year was also a watershed for race relations after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by the police sparked Black Lives Matter protests that echoed across the globe. But these stories also drew attention away from others that matter as well.

Here’s a list of just some of the other events that shook the world this year, or that offer a glimpse of how our country — and world — might change in the near future.

California wildfires and record hurricane season

The United States demolished several natural disaster records this year, and scientists say climate change was a big factor. By the end of 2020 the U.S. had recorded 20 disasters that cost at least $1 billion each. Unprecedented and unforgiving, 2020 saw the most active hurricane season on record in the Atlantic with 30 named storms.

Focus question: What lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic can be applied to climate change and natural disasters?

Brexit 

Following nine recent months of tense negotiations, Britain and the European unions finally hammered out a post-Brexit trade deal, averting a chaotic and costly breakup just in the nick of time. The split is finalized on December 31. With Brexit, the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, which was established to create a shared system of laws and trade governing more than two dozen European countries.

Focus question: Does some of the debate around Brexit seem similar to political debates within the United States? If so, what seems similar to you? What is different?

Conflict in Ethiopia and between Armenia & Azerbaijan

The bloody conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in northern Ethiopia killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians, unleashing a humanitarian crisis in the already volatile region and threatening its stability.

Focus question: What do you think is the responsibility or best course of action of a country like the United States when major conflict breaks out in other parts of the world?

Hong Kong democracy

China imposed a new, sweeping national security law in Hong Kong in June, and has since begun an aggressive crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous city, which has been roiled with pro-democracy protests since 2019. The crackdown has raised accusations that China is violating their promise for the city to maintain its rights and autonomy after the British ceded control of Hong Kong in 1997. Arrests of protesters and opposition leaders continue, and the pro-democracy opposition party has been edged out.

Focus question: How are the protests in Hong Kong similar to protests in the United States in 2020? How are they different?

Opioid epidemic & Purdue Pharma trial

Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyCotin, pled guilty to three criminal charges for its role in the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the United States in recent years, including impeding efforts to combat the addiction issues. The ongoing drug overdose crisis has killed over 470,000 Americans in the last two decades.

Focus question: What do you think should be the consequence for companies that conduct illegal conduct that results in the deaths of thousands of Americans?

SpaceX

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, working in cooperation with NASA, achieved several firsts in 2020. In May, it became the first private company to launch humans into orbit. In November, SpaceX Dragon brought four more astronauts to the International Space Station, another first for a private company — and a few weeks later, SpaceX sent its biggest ever cargo shipment to the ISS.

Focus question: What do you think are the long-term importance of space travel becoming more privatized, rather than relying on federal direction through NASA?

Additional resource: 

  • Now that you’ve discussed stories you may have forgotten from 2020, use this lesson plan and have students make their own magazine of stories they think are important from 2020.

 


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