Analyzing Current Events: Doing the 2-Step
Each day we are faced with news stories that range from devastating to frightening to uplifting. Gifted youth are interested and aware of news and events that have relevance to their lives, and in our globalized lives, it’s easy to see the worldwide connections among all peoples. Parents can help source articles currently in the news that are of interest to and appropriate for them. Adults should facilitate discussions of news topic through a series of questions and steps in helping students personalize issues that are happening in the rest of the world. The importance of this activity is that these students may have minimal knowledge of current events, geopolitics, and international relations.
An increased understanding of geopolitics will aid students in learning how to see and interpret biases that exist within the news, including various individuals, groups, governments, etc. that are involved with a particular event. Current events education can also help students acquire, use, and master critical thinking skills, as well as become informed, engaged, and inquisitive students. Students should be immersed into an inquiry process in current events in which students ask questions, generate and interpret the meaning of data, and form conclusions about what they read in the news. Here’s a process to help you get started.
1. “How and What Happened?”
The students select an article to read and analyze from the New York Times International section or a local paper. Or, to save time, the adult can select 1-3 articles to have available for the student to choose from.
Students read, analyze, and work in pairs with the article they selected. They begin by collecting basic information from the article they chose. The basic facts that students initially collect include: “who” is involved and “when” and “where‟ did the events covered in the news occur. Students tend to struggle with collecting data on the idea of “who” is involved in the event, because they tend to believe that the “who” in each situation can only be individuals, instead of groups, states, or international organizations. “When” and “where” are easier for students to collect; however, it is important to stress that students organize their “when” events in chronological order.
After collecting the basic data from the article, students then begin work on their comprehension and the application of the data they collected. They use the basic data collected to write out three-sentence summaries of the events in the article. As they write these summaries, students gain an understanding of the roles that various actors played in the described events. They begin to develop relationships between the data collected, such as temporal-causal, spatial, and part-whole relationships.
2. The “Why?” Stage and the Rational Actor Theory
The next step in the news analysis process is to analyze the actions of the various individuals, groups, states, or international organizations involved; this is called the why stage. Through this process, the actors (individuals, groups, states, or international organizations) have goals that are discernible, and therefore these goals can be analyzed. While actions may seem irrational to us as readers, if we view the situation from the goals or perspectives of the actor, actions are rational. A perfect example is North Korea, because to many people, the actions of Kim Jong-un may seem irrational or even evil. However, if you consider that the goal of Mr. Kim is to remain in power and possibly continue the dynasty started by his father Kim Jong-il then using nuclear weapons to blackmail oil and food from other countries is very rational.
Students then use this theory to analyze the actions of all actors in a situation to determine their goals and the purposes of the actions they took. They collaboratively begin their analysis with the aid of the adult and will likely need to research additional resources. Adults may also fill in some gaps in knowledge the students need to conduct their analysis.
After a specified period of time, students can present their analysis to an audience. The audience then discusses the theories the presenters put forth using the rational actor theory. The students consider whether or not the theory was valid, provide additional information from their analysis or prior knowledge, and eventually decide whether to accept or discard the theories presented.
Adults should help students focus on:
- diligent data collection,
- noting important relationships between the facts presented,
- accurate and complete summarization,
- logic of the theories they present to the group, and
- their ability to critically evaluate their own/or others’ opinions.
After, discuss with students if this activity changed the way they will approach or think about news in the future. What did they learn about news analysis? As students get older and potentially become more involved and engaged in issues and problems around the globe, such training in analysis will be essential in helping them determine effective courses of action and will help them understand the world on a global level.
All the best,