June 25, 2021

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Who Should We Honor on Our Money?

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Who is featured on your country’s currency? Do you think these people represent your country well? Why or why not?

In “Maya Angelou and Sally Ride Will Be Honored on Quarters,” Bryan Pietsch writes about a new series of quarters to be issued by the U.S. Mint as part of the American Women Quarters Program. The first coins, which enter circulation in January 2022, will feature the writer and poet Maya Angelou and the astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space:

Representative Barbara Lee, the California Democrat who introduced legislation in the House of Representatives directing the Treasury Department to create the program, said in a statement that “for too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color.”

The American Women Quarters Program will feature as many as 20 women “from a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts,” the U.S. Mint said in a statement, adding that the women would be from “ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.”

Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat of Nevada, who introduced the legislation in the Senate to create the program, wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today that “as female U.S. senators, our story would not have been possible without these women who came before us.”

“We look forward to being reminded of their legacies every time we see their faces on a new quarter,” they wrote.

The U.S. Mint has asked the public to submit suggestions for women to be honored on future quarters. Each design will celebrate “the accomplishments and contributions” of a prominent American woman. The law says that no living person will be depicted in the coin designs.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — the first woman to hold that position — will select the featured women after consulting with the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, the National Women’s History Museum and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus, the Mint said.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What do you think about the American Women Quarters Program? Do you think American currency needs updating? Is this a sufficient way to honor these notable figures and their contributions?

  • The U.S. Mint has asked the public to submit suggestions for women to be honored on future quarters. They plan to feature women “from a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.” What women would you suggest? Why?

  • Who or what should we honor on our money? Many countries around the world feature prominent figures in their country’s history. Australia features animals on some of its coins. Other nations, like Brazil and Switzerland, feature symbols that represent the nation. What do you think it means to be showcased on currency? What does this gesture symbolize?

  • How should societies determine who is worthy of honoring on money? What can be done to address those who may have been overlooked? Are there any people you think should be removed from your country’s currency?

  • Women have previously been featured on U.S. coins, including Queen Isabella of Spain, Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea. How much do you know about these women and their accomplishments? Do you think they deserved to have their images emblazoned on money? Have you learned about other “unsung” figures in history that deserve recognition?


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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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