Back-to-School Quiz: What the World Did Over the Summer

Help students catch up on what’s been happening in the news  -  from the presidential campaign, to Colin Kaepernick's protest, to Brexit  -  with this fun quiz and discussion questions.   

To the teacher:

This quiz aims to get students engaged in issues that have surfaced over the summer.  Discussion questions on selected subjects follow the quiz. You may also want to have further discussion on quiz questions that are of special interest to your class.



Campaign Dramas 

1. Match the following candidates with their running mates:

a) Mike Pence
b) Gary Johnson
c) Jill Stein
d) William Weld
e) Donald Trump
f) Chris Christie
g) Hillary Clinton
h) Tim Kaine
i)  Ajamu Baraka

2. Which of the following has NOT been a problem for Hillary Clinton's campaign?

a) Persistent questions about her use of private email while Secretary of State
b) Evidence of favors done for donors to the Clinton Foundation
c) High unfavorability ratings among voters
d) Lack of donor support

3. Which of the following has NOT been a problem for the Trump campaign?

a) Lack of donor support
b) Off the cuff remarks which are widely seen as offensive to African Americans, women, Latinos, immigrants, people with disabilities and Muslims
c) Lack of news coverage
d) Luke-warm support from the Republican establishment

4. Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. He has founded an organization to harness the energy that his campaign inspired. The name of that organization is...

c) Our Revolution
d) A Luta Continua

5.  True or False:

Widespread voter fraud has forced many states to pass strict voting requirements.


1. Trump and Pence (Republicans), Johnson and Weld (Libertarians), Clinton and Kaine (Democrats), Stein and Baraka (Green)

2. d

3. c

4. c

5. False

About the Two-Party System

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have record high unfavorability ratings (near 60%). According to the Pew Center, 53% of Trump supporters and 46% of Clinton supporters say they are primarily voting against the other candidate. Donald Trump's campaign meanwhile has been in almost constant turmoil, with much staff turnover, a continuing uneasy relationship with the Republican establishment, few campaign offices or "door-knockers," and low fund-raising results. But Trump's obvious efforts to appear more "presidential" have succeeded in raising the number of Republicans  (about 80%) who say they will vote for him.

Despite strong party support, successful fundraising,  and a strong lead following the party conventions, Hillary Clinton has been unable to overcome voter doubts about her honesty and credibility. Some polls in early September show a very close race.

Dissatisfaction with the Democrats and Republicans has led to stronger showings for the third parties. The Libertarians are close to Republicans on some issues and to Democrats on others (see "Who Are the Libertarians?" Teachable Instant for 6/5/2016). They generally oppose government control and interference in our lives. So the Libertarians oppose drug laws and government spying on Americans, wars of choice and sexual discrimination. They also oppose virtually all government regulation of business, environmental laws, and programs to help the poor. Presidential candidate Gary Johnson gets about 10% in some polls.

The Green Party is on the ballot in 41 states. States make it difficult for third parties to be on the ballot and each state has different rules (see this recent TeachableMoment lesson). The Greens are waiting for a ruling on whether they quality in 8 additional states. The Green Party supports:

  • action to halt global climate change
  • renewable energy and mass transportation
  • racial justice, ending mass incarceration and police brutality
  • government action to create jobs on a large scale
  • health, food and housing as human rights
  • ending the U.S. militarist foreign policy

The presidential candidate, Jill Stein polls at about 4%.

About Voting Restrictions

Since the 2012 elections, 17 states have enacted laws to restrict voter access. While the ostensible reason for the new laws has been, in all cases, to prevent voter fraud, there have been virtually zero cases of such fraud to point to. The laws include:

  • requiring multiple forms of identification
  • requiring the voter to have lived in the district for 28 days before being able to vote
  • eliminating same-day registration
  • restricting early voting

All such laws tend to reduce the number of African-American, Latino and Native American voters. Over the summer, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations,  and the U.S. Department of Justice, were successful in challenging some of these laws. Courts in five states struck down voter laws as discriminatory and completely unnecessary. In voiding the North Carolina law, a federal court determined that the state legislature had targeted "African-Americans with almost surgical precision."



1. The Summer Olympics in Brazil had to cope with a number of challenges. Which difficulty was NOT one of those challenges?

a) The Zika virus epidemic
b) A strike by taxi drivers, bus drivers, and train operators
c) Ocean pollution threatening water events
d) Corruption and mismanagement slowed construction for the Olympic Park
e) A political and financial crisis impeded the government's ability to adequately prepare for the event

2. In response the Black Lives Matter movement, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick  did the following:

a) Refused to play in any city which has had an incident of police shooting an unarmed person
b) Quit the team and began working with San Franciscans Against Police Abuse (SFAPA)
c) Refused to stand for the National Anthem and spoke out against police brutality
d) Written a children's book about police violence and appeared on Sesame Street to talk about the issue


1) b

2) c

Since the media has noticed that Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand during the National Anthem that precedes football games, Kaepernick has had numerous opportunities to speak out about racial injustice and unequal treatment by the police.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color," he said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Kaepernick has provoked outrage among some who support the police and object to sports figures taking stands on controversial issues. But he has gotten noticeable support from veterans who support his right to dissent, even when the dissent disturbs some people's idea of patriotism.  A teammate, Eric Reid, has joined Kaepernick in his symbolic protest as has NFL player Jeremy Lane and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe (who is white) objected to the way Kaepernick was being treated, saying:  "It is overtly racist. 'Stay in your place, black man.' Just didn't feel right to me. We need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color are treated."

Climate Change

1. Which of the following statements is true?

a) July 2016 was the warmest July the Earth has seen since the Big Bang.
b) July 2016 was the warmest July since global temperatures have been measured.
c) July 2016 was the warmest July since 2014.
d) Each of the last 15 months has tied or set a record for warmest on record.
e) July 2016 was the warmest month on record.

2. True or False:  The U.S.  is taking steps to control global climate change.


1. b, e and almost d (the statement is true for only 14 of the last 15 months!)

2. True

The scientific community is nearly unanimous major efforts are needed to stop the disastrous effects of climate change. (See other activities on TeachableMoment.)  But politics and short-term economics have tended to trump that scientific consensus. On September 3, 2016, President Obama and Xi Jinping (president of China) announced their ratification of the Paris climate agreement. That agreement, by almost 200 countries in December 2015, established a framework through which countries were to set "ambitious" goals for reducing climate-changing emissions. Since China and the U.S. account for almost 40% of those global emissions, Obama's and Xi's agreement is a big boost for the framework.

Meanwhile, the fight to "keep it in the ground" (that is, to keep fossil fuels from being extracted, transported, processed and burned) continues in communities throughout the U.S. and the world. In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux have challenged a four-state pipeline in court and on the ground. They argue that the pipeline may pollute water sources and will cause destruction at sites that are sacred to their people. Thousands of Native Americans have been joined by climate activists and Black Lives Matter activists in opposing the pipeline.

Meanwhile, all summer, activists in Louisiana have been protesting the federal government sale of oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Over 200,000 people have signed petitions to stop the sale of millions of acres in the Gulf. From August 20-24, 2016, climate protesters, Native Americans, Black Lives Matter and local activists held a "Week of Resistance, Solidarity and Love" to protest the continuing Gulf auctions.  Coincidentally, Louisiana was experiencing historic flooding in mid-August that forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, in a weather event exacerbated by climate change.


1. Brexit is most commonly defined as:

a) A flat biscuit with sesame seeds and salt
b) The UK leaving the European Union
c) A trade agreement between France, the UK and the United States
d) The purposeful fragility of electronic devices

2. In what country was there a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016?

a) United States
b) Freedonia
c) Iraq
d) Iran
e) Turkey

3. True or False

The war in Syria continues.


1. b

2. e

On July 15, elements of Turkey's military attempted a coup against the country's elected Muslimist leader,  Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While the coup failed, the country remains divided between those who support Erdogan's increasing intolerance of dissent and those favoring a more secular society with protection for speech and press. In the aftermath of the attempted coup, tens of thousands of soldiers, bureaucrats, academics, and political opponents were arrested or fired from their jobs.

3. True

One of the consequences of the war in Syria has been a flood of refugees trying to escape the violence. Over 5 million people have been forced to leave Syria. Over the summer, the U.S. admitted its 10,000th Syrian refugee, meeting a target that President Obama had set last fall. Other nations have accepted many more refugees. Germany expects to accept about 300,000 Syrian refugees in 2016; Canada has resettled more than 30,000 since last November.


Class discussion

1. On sports protests

  • Do you think that sitting or kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner or the Pledge of Allegiance is disrespectful? Is it inappropriate?
  • Should sports figures be discouraged from taking political stands?
  • Can you think of times in the past when athletes have engaged in public protests?  What impact did those protests have?

2. On the U.S.’s two-party system

The United States has a tradition of two major parties and election laws which make it difficult for third parties to compete. Should election rules be changed so that third parties have a fair chance at attracting voters?

3.  On climate change

  • Are you worried about climate change?
  • Why hasn't climate change been much of an issue in the presidential campaign?
  • Do you think the actions of the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies can affect the climate change discussions and, ultimately, policies?  Why or why not?

4. On the Syrian conflict

  • What responsibility does the United States have for accepting refugees?
  • What responsibility do other countries have?


Bonus activity:  The Portmanteau

The new word "Brexit "is formed by the combination of the word "British" and the word "exit." This combination of two words to form a third has a name—portmanteau.

Portmanteau has another meaning.  What is it?  Why portmanteau might have been chosen to mean a combination of two words?

Here is a list of other portmanteaus. Guess what words were combined to make these new words:

  • Spork
  • Workaholic
  • Frappuccino
  • Biopic
  • Brunch
  • Sexting
  • Chillax
  • Zedonk
  • Favicon
  • Netiquette
  • Breathalyzer
  • Moped
  • Smog
  • Docudrama
  • Edutainment
  • Infomercial
  • Sitcom
  • Televangelist
  • Mocktail
  • Bromance
  • Carjack
  • Forex
  • Guesstimate