The Year in Rap 2011

Teacher's Guide

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Egyptians waiting in line to vote

A young man in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest his treatment by the police. This sparked a year of pro-democracy protests against Middle Eastern dictator rule. By the year's end, citizens in Egypt and Tunisia had cast votes in democratic elections, while the governmental future of Libya and Syria remained unclear. Do you think democratic protests will begin in other countries? Learn more.

Osama bin Laden

After a nearly ten-year-long manhunt, the US military found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Bin Laden was the mastermind behind the al-Qaeda September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. What effects, if any, did bin Laden's death have on the United States? Learn more.

Since killing Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil, the United States' relationship with Pakistan has been on the rocks. And it certainly wasn't helped by a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. President Obama and NATO have called the airstrikes a tragedy, and are engaged in talks with Pakistan's military to improve relations. Why is it important for the US to maintain good relations with Pakistan? Learn more.

The flag of South Sudan

South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan after years of fighting in the north that caused over one million deaths. The United Nations recognized the new nation by welcoming South Sudan as its 193rd member. What challenges do you think new nations face? Learn more.

Abbas meets with Obama in the White House in 2009

UNESCO, a United Nations organization, admitted Palestine as a member. The United States and Israel were concerned that this was a step toward official recognition of Palestinian statehood, something these countries opposed. The issue of Israeli and Palestinian relations will likely factor into the upcoming US Presidential debates. Do you think Palestine should receive recognition as a separate nation? Learn more.

The first News of the World edition from 1843.

This June, the British newspaper News of the World admitted to hacking into the voicemail of a missing girl, who was later found to have been murdered. This revelation caused the newspaper to shut down, and raised ethical questions about reporting. How far should newspapers be allowed to go to find a good story? Learn more.

Police forming a barricade against people protesting the Greek government

Greece's debt has been hurting the entire European economy, with particular economic trouble spreading to its next-door neighbor, Italy. Now the future of the European Union and the Eurozone may be at stake. What are the pros and cons of many nations having a unified currency? Learn more.

Tsunami flooding following the earthquake

A massive earthquake and tsunami off the northern coast of Japan caused extreme damage and loss of life. The disaster was amplified when the tsunami caused nuclear meltdowns at three nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Over 15,000 people died, and millions of Japanese people were affected by the disaster. What effects of the earthquake are still being felt? Learn more.

Rescue workers searching for survivors after an earthquake.

Devastating earthquakes, tornadoes, snowstorms and tsunamis made 2011 the most expensive year for natural disasters on record. Why do you think the magnitude of natural disasters has increased? Learn more.

Hurricane Irene over the Bahamas

Hurricane Irene caused flooding and destruction in 13 states as it charged violently up the East Coast. While some argued that cities and towns overreacted in their storm preparation, over 45 people were killed as a result of the hurricane. Were you affected by Hurricane Irene or any other storms? Learn more.

Prospect Park in Brooklyn during the storm

The weekend before Halloween, an unseasonable storm dumped several inches of heavy snow in the Northeast, forcing a fleet of Batmans and princesses and zombies to cover their costumes in heavy coats. Has it snowed yet in your town? Learn more.

Gabrielle Giffords receives a standing ovation upon her first return to the House of Representatives in August.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January at a Tuscon Arizona community meeting. Six other people were killed at the event. Giffords miraculously survived her head wounds, and has made a strong recovery throughout the year. Do you think that public officials should increase personal security in the wake of this shooting? Learn more.

President Obama signs the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The U.S. military ended its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in September. Before the repeal, gay and lesbian service members could be discharged from the military for revealing their sexual orientation. After years of fighting the discriminatory policy, gay and lesbian troops can now serve openly without fear of losing their jobs. What do you think historians will think of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Learn more.

Gay-rights activists celebrate at the Capital Building in Albany when the Marriage Equality Act passed.

After days of intense debate in the New York State legislature--and years of work by gay-rights activists--New York State legalized gay marriage. Hundreds of same sex couples wed the first day that they were allowed. Do you think New York's new law will affect national marriage laws that currently prevent same-sex couples from marrying? Learn more.

Occupy Wall Street protesters

Occupy Wall Street began at its namesake location in New York during the fall, and over the course of a few months, morphed into a nationwide movement against income inequality. Protesters call themselves the "Other 99 percent," a reference to the fact that 1% of Americans earn 25% of all U.S. income, and in some cases pay lower tax rates. Some of the protests in major cities turned violent; for example, in Oakland riot police fired tear gas at protesters. Time Magazine even named the person of the year, "The Protester." Do you think the "occupy" protests will continue into 2012? Learn more.

President Obama addresses Congress.

President Obama proposed a $447 billion stimulus plan to increase jobs to combat the nation's high unemployment rate. Senate and House Republicans opposed the stimulus plan, and ultimately, Congress blocked the bill. Do you think that the government should spend money to try to create jobs or keep its spending low? Learn more.

In order to force the government to make cuts, Republicans in Congress refused to increase the debt ceiling this summer. This meant that the United States would be unable to pay its bills. During the debt ceiling crisis, Congressional and Presidential approval ratings plummeted. Finally, President Obama and Congress reached a compromise to increase the debt ceiling and create spending cuts. Do you think Republicans and Democrats should stick to their positions or try harder to compromise? Learn more.

Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry

In November 2012, Americans will go to the polls to elect the next President. Candidates have already begun campaigning aggressively for the Republican ticket that will challenge President Obama in the general election. To date, candidates have already participated in 18 debates. That's a lot of debating! Which candidate do you think will win the Republican nomination? Learn more.

Lindsay Lohan originally gained fame for starring in a string of popular films. Recently, though, Lohan's personal life has taken the spotlight. The media has relentlessly covered the actress's various court appearances for theft and driving while intoxicated. Do you think stars are more likely to make bad personal decisions? Learn more.

Soaring no longer

NASA decided to end its Space Shuttle program. This summer, the space shuttle landed safely back on earth after its final visit to the International Space Station. Private companies are now working on sending people into space, but that probably won't be possible for at least a few years. In the meantime, a US astronaut took a ride to space with two Russian cosmonauts. How much would you pay to take a trip into space? Learn more.

Governor Scott Walker

This year saw a major showdown between unionized workers in Wisconsin and the government, who wanted to cut the power of labor unions. Despite the protests, the law that limits collective bargaining rights still stands. Why do you think Governor Walker wanted to reduce the power of the unions? Learn more.

No more of this in New Jersey

New Jersey introduced a new law called the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" to crack down on bullying in schools and online. The law is considered to be the strongest anti-bullying legislation in the country. Do you think schools have a responsibility to fight bullying and cyberbullying that happens off school grounds? Learn more.

Dirk Nowitzki

Beating out the seemingly unstoppable Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks won their first ever NBA championship. All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki finally led the Mavs to victory after losing in the playoffs every year since 2001. Did you watch the NBA championships this summer? Learn more.

The players and owners finally made peace.

When NBA players and team owners were unable to come to an agreement about salaries, the owners locked the players out of the courts for 149 days. After difficult negotiations, which made it seem possible that the season would be canceled, the players and owners reached an agreement that will allow the season to resume on Christmas Day. Will you be watching the games when they resume? Learn more.

An investigation revealed that at least 178 teachers and principals in Atlanta cheated to increase standardized test scores. Some say that this cheating is a result of intense pressure on schools and students to pass standardized tests. Regardless of the cause, investigations of the transgressions will cost taxpayers $3 million. Do you think that the United States should reconsider its approach to standardized testing in light of this scandal? Learn more.

Watson beat Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings

Score one for the robots! The IBM robot named Watson beat out two past champions on Jeopardy in February. Do you think Watson's win is a significant artificial intelligence achievement? Learn more.

Rebecca Black's song "Friday" strangely swept the nation last March. It spread virally on the internet. Some loved it. Some hated it. But everyone wanted to watch it. (We even parodied the song in our April Fools Week in Rap.) Do you think Rebecca Black could have become famous before YouTube existed? Watch the "Friday" video.

Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs died in October after a struggle against liver cancer. The world remembered him for his technological contributions like the Mac or iPod that have changed many people's daily lives. Did Steve Jobs influence your life in some way? Learn more.

This population growth chart from the year 2000 doesn't even go up to 7 billion!

Get cozy: As of this November, there are 7 billion living people on Earth. Try to imagine 7 billion of anything... basketballs, cars, sandwiches... It's nearly impossible to wrap your mind around such a massive figure. But even more astounding than the number of people in the world is the new rate of population growth. In 1800, there were only 1 billion people in the world. And in 1960, there were 3 billion. The world population is growing faster than ever. With 8 billion people predicted around 2027, people in all fields--from government to science--are considering the impact of so many people on the Earth. What about daily life might change as more and more people populate the Earth? Learn more.

Happy Holidays from the whole Flocabulary team. We wish you and your families the best. We'll be back on Friday January 6. Enjoy the break!

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