Pro-Palestinian protesters take part in a demonstration against the violence in the Gaza strip, in Lyon

The Science Of Protest: How Our Brains Are Wired To Fight For Our Rights

(Credit: Reuters/Robert Pratta/AP/Charlie Riedel)

The recent tragic events surrounding the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the NYPD officers have struck a chord in a us all. However, today’s millennial generation of young people have taken to the streets more so than any other generation in recent history to express their feelings. Motivations, people’s beliefs, identity and emotions are key in generating a person’s willingness to protest. With or without social media, people who are deeply angry about an unjust situation, or who feel strongly connected with a particular issue, will always take to the streets.

Protest is defined as a form of collective action and as participation in a social movement. What is it that drives young people to protest? Why are young people prepared to sacrifice a comfortable and carefree lifestyle, or sometimes even their very lives for a common cause? The research team at NuSkool has found some scientific reasons why we fight for our rights that may have more to do with brain science than we realize. Science can’t always explain what’s in our hearts, but it can help us understand what motivates one of the greatest youth movements in history.
We are the risk takers and the rule breakers
Science has proven that teens and college students are really ‘bout that life. Scientists have used brain scanning methods to study the changes that occur in the teen brain. Recent discoveries have shown that teenagers have well-developed emotions and feelings and are more willing to do dangerous things an adult would avoid, this is due to the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for weighing risk and consequences in the teen brain. When experiencing an emotionally-charged situation like a tragedy in the community like Ferguson, the brain is handicapped in its ability to gauge risk and consider the consequences. In most situations, teens can evaluate risks just like adults. But in emotionally heightened real-life scenarios, this rational part of the brain gets overridden by the reward center. Racism, oppression and injustices in the community are definitely triggers for this kind of reaction. Our brains have a reward center, involving the nucleus accumbens, which lights up with dopamine whenever we find something exciting, interesting or meaningful. In a study comparing the brains of teens to adults, scientists found that teens need extreme situations in order to get excited.
We are natural born followers
News flash: peer pressure is actually a thing. Oxytocin receptors in a young brain makes teens highly responsive to the opinions of their peers. Studies find that the brain’s receptors for oxytocin has a strong influence on social bonding and affects our emotional and behavioral responses to social encouragement or peer pressure. When our peers become angry or emotional over a situation, this activates our own brain’s prefrontal areas in response to emotional and social stimuli. During this time, we also have heightened awareness toward the opinions of our friends, so much so that we imagine that our behavior is the focus of everyone else’s concern and attention.

According to a study, which examined brain scans of teens using fMRI data, the presence of friends activated certain regions of the brain that were not activated when they were alone that increased their willingness to take part in antisocial behavior. Being in the presence of friends also doubled risk-taking among young people in their 20’s, increased it by fifty percent among teens, but had no effect on adults, a pattern that was identical among both males and females. So the moral of the story is…choose your friends wisely.
We are a living, breathing social network
One of the strongest emotions in a teen’s life that pulls someone into joining a gang, a sports team or joining a social cause is the need to be a part of something bigger than oneself…joining a movement.

Chris McGrath—Getty Images

Research suggests that people who experience both personal and group oppression are the most strongly motivated to take to the streets. Being part of something bigger than yourself is very important to today’s generation. Any events that harm that group by definition harm the individual, and they find themselves experiencing emotions on behalf of the group. The more people feel that group’s interests or values are threatened, the angrier they are and the more they are prepared to take part in protests to express their anger. Collective anger moves people to challenge the authorities and subdue other emotions such as shame, despair and obedience. Participating in protests strengthens the collective power of that group, and feelings of unity and support empowers people to stand together against the authorities. However, taking action doesn’t always mean people expect that group-related problems can be solved by their united efforts. Protesters find a way to overcome their defeated hopes to eventually protest again and raise consciousness to create solidarity. Is it science?… eh, maybe not. Is it real?…you bet. Does it change the world?… absolutely.

Before you decide to join a protest and put yourself at risk to fight for a cause, ask yourself the following questions:

Who or what caused the event?
How does the event influence my goals?
Do I have control and power over the consequences of the event?
Who can I call for help if I’m in danger or if I get arrested?

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The Art of Fresh: Retro Hip-Hop Style

“Being fresh is more important than having money. The entire time I grew up, it was like…I only wanted money, so I could be fresh.” ~ Kanye West.

Recently, I had the chance to see the indie film entitled Dope. The movie centers on Malcolm, a straight-A student and musician from a rough neighborhood in present-day Los Angeles. Obsessed with 90s Hip-Hop music and fashion, the movie captures his search for identity while navigating the turbulence of his immediate environment. Embracing a retro style patterned after the 90s, he wears a high top fade haircut, stonewashed denim jeans, Nike Air Jordans, and other brands prevalent during the “Golden Era of Hip-Hop”. Unfortunately, he is inadvertently pulled into criminal life when he comes to posses several kilos of a drug dealer’s molly, and presented with the choice of two potential life paths. This choice between two essential life paths is presented to today’s youth on a daily basis, and the search for personal identity is universally experienced during the adolescent stage of development. So why did Malcolm look to a past aesthetic of fashion to represent his present identity?  His choice possibly was made to visually and distinctively set himself apart from the negative expectations for black males in his community.

Throughout history, all art forms have reflected the cultural elements of communities. As a result, there has been a constant exchange between artists and the communities from which they originate. Essentially, the arts have been impacted and influenced by their communal environments, and inversely, communities have been impacted by the artistic forms emanating from within them. Fashion trends as an art form, especially those prominent in Hip-Hop culture, are exemplary of this mirrored relationship. Furthermore, the art of fashion has been moved forward by the push and pull between forces of innovation and conformity within specific communities. In this vein, Malcolm’s character felt that he did not fit into the stereotypical mold of the young black male in Inglewood, California. In the midst of gangs and drugs that existed within his community, he was considered a “nerd” because he was focused on school, played in a punk band called “Oreo” with his two friends, and he was still a virgin. In his position, I believe that Malcolm and his friends embraced this particular style as a conscious derivative of the past in an attempt to escape the harsh realities of their present. Even though Malcolm and his friends did not actually live through the ‘90s, the concept of their nostalgia as a form of rebellion against the expected norm, paid homage to the idea of “better times”. Consequently, this establishes a direct link between one’s socio-economic environment and their artistic expression of their status within it. According to Dictionary.com, socio-economics is “the study of the interrelation between economics and social behavior.”

On Friday, June 26th, a documentary was released that traces the history of Hip-Hop fashion entitled, Fresh Dressed. According to this film, the term “fresh” refers to “a crisp, new-in-the-box fashion look or tidy appearance.” Not only does this film discuss the impact that fashion has made on Hip-Hop culture, but it also notes fashion’s role to express commentary on social and economic statuses. Again, the mirrored relationship exemplified in fashion is explored. So, what is the connection between socio-economic statuses and artistic forms? In this documentary, Hip-Hop mogul, Damon Dash, makes a profound statement on the matter. He mentions that the whole idea of looking fresh stems from “the insecurity of not having anything.” He continues:

“The only way that you can kind of show that you have anything and feel some kind of status is, you know, what you have on your body. What you have on your body is a reflection of how you’re economically doing. It’s just a status symbol based on insecurity.”

Shirt King Phade, Co-Founder of Shirt Kings adds to Dash’s point, “When times are bad, a lot of people tend to gravitate towards art. Art takes our mind to another place.”

What I personally appreciate about the artistic expression of fashion, especially in Hip-Hop culture, is its ability to be both definitive and flexible. While at times a person can clearly take on a specific “look”, that same person remains able to represent his or her own individuality, ideas, or personal philosophy through their stylistic choices. In a sense, fashion can be a reflection of a person’s search for an identity within a paradigm of a specific culture. In the documentary, Pharrell Williams states, “When you’re young, there’s like a sense of wanting to express yourself…an importance of individuality.” This urge to find and establish individuality is a prominent challenge for the main characters of Dope. While Malcolm is not the only exception to the perceived “black male” typecast, through his character, the film examines a spectrum of stereotypes that are projected both inside and outside of an urban community. As seen in the current events that have spurred recent protest movements, stereotypes of black males are in full swing in today’s cities throughout the world, and our youth are continually placed at the intersection between expression of their own values, cultural histories, and pressures within community environments.

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The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

sleeping

10 Steps to Make Summer School Not Suck

Summer is here, but you still find yourself in school. Maybe you didn’t pass a class that is required for graduation. Or maybe you want to take a class because your schedule during the school year is full. Whatever the reason is for taking a summer school class, sitting in a classroom for two hours every day for a few weeks isn’t your idea of fun. However, it doesn’t have to be so bad. Here are ten steps to make summer school not suck.

1. Have a friend sign up

Having a friend sign up makes summer school more bearable. Your friend is going to be by your side and make things easier. You can also do homework and study for tests together.

2. Ask for breaks

During the normal school day, your classes don’t last much longer than 70-80 minutes. However, summer school classes tend to be longer — most last about two hours. If you’re having trouble sitting for that long, ask the teacher for at least one break. This gives you time to get up and move around, since it’s not good to be sitting down for so long.

3. Ask if the class can go outside

Summer is usually more laid back than during the school year so ask if the teacher will take you outside. What better way to learn Shakespeare or science or whatever the subject than outside under a tree.

4. Engage yourself in the learning

Doing homework and studying for tests is hard enough during the regular school year. Think about how hard it is during the summer. You spend two hours in class, but then have homework to do, a research paper to write, or a test to study for. Do the homework and study every night so you don’t get behind.

5. Be respectful to the teacher

Your summer school teacher may be someone you don’t know, who doesn’t want to be there any more than you do. After all, summer is a time for him or her to be away from school as well. But teachers sometimes work part-time jobs in the summer to help pay bills or to earn extra money. Respecting and getting along with the teacher goes a long way and makes class more fun.

6. Get your sleep

While summer is the time for you to stay up late watching movies or hanging out with friends, you still need your sleep. You can’t sleep in class, or you won’t do well. Going to bed at a decent time will help lead to your success.

7. Take care of yourself

If you got up late and hurried to class or didn’t feel like eating breakfast, ask if bringing a snack or, at least, a bottle of water is allowed. Eating and drinking helps us stay awake when we’re bored. If you get dehydrated, you get sleepy and have trouble paying attention in class.

8. Be on time

During the school year, you are expected to be on time. If you’re late, you get a tardy and too many tardies add up to you not earning your credit for summer school. You certainly don’t want to lose the credit if you have almost made it to the end of summer school.

9. Stay positive

No matter how bad summer school really is, remember to stay positive. Doing some of things suggested above will help with that. Ask your teacher and see what he will allow you to do.

10. Remember why you are there

No matter the reason as to why you are there in summer school, the important things to remember are to do well, respect the teacher and his rules, and earn your credit. You don’t want to waste your summer.

alphacat obama

Political Battle Rap: Breaking Down Obama’s Back to Back Diss Track

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If you don’t know Alphacat by now, get familiar. He’s been killing it on YouTube with his spot on impersonations of old POTUS Barry. But, just this month, he broke the internet with his best-produced and best-choreographed video yet: Back to Back. This video takes Drake’s original diss track and turns it into a response against Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the Commander-in-Chief.

This video hits on the core controversies of Donald Trump’s rise to prominence: his virulent anti-Mexican statements, his advocacy of family values while being questionable in his own personal life, and his opposition to mainstream conservatives.

This video makes a lot of claims about Donald Trump, as a man, as a candidate, and as a public figure. But it’s not always a good idea to trust the “interwebs” to be completely accurate about politics.

When it comes to politics, it’s always a good idea to fact-check it before supporting a candidate. Finding political facts can be hard because there is so much bias out there, especially on the internet. You would think News sites are a good first step, but even then, journalists and the channels they work for can become bias or even make mistakes and editors can insert their own views. Fact-checking organizations are better, but the best option is to go to the source: the politicians themselves.

Alphacat spit straight bars on this track, riddled with references that refer to many issues going on in recent heated campaign battles. Break down the lyrics in this diss track and see what political facts you can uncover.

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Teen Usage: Instagram vs. Facebook

Is Instagram the most popular social media app among 12-17 year-old teens? Or is Facebook still on top? Statistics vary on how many teens use each platform. CBS News stated 76% of teens use the app compared to 45% on Facebook. A Pew Research report said only 52% of teens use Instagram versus the 71% who use Facebook.

The Pew Research shows wealthier teens, or those whose parents make over $75,000, use Instagram 23% more than those teens under $30,000 at 7%. Facebook is the preferred social media among the lower income teens at 49% versus 37% for upper income teens. Girls are on Instagram more than boys, 61% versus 44%.

Instagram is more popular than Facebook among wealthy teens

Instagram began as strictly a photo sharing app, but its popularity with teens has made the app more of a social network. Teens use hashtags along with their photos and videos to gain more followers. Because of Instagram, data usage has tripled among teens. As the app has become more popular, Instagram has begun to spread to younger children. One of Instagram’s rules is that a person must be thirteen to have a profile. However, children younger than thirteen are still creating profiles, showing that younger children are becoming drawn into the social media platform.

Hashtags help with SEO, or search engine optimization. Because many teens think it’s best to have more followers than those they are following, they seek to find new followers by showing off their photos to more people. The use of hashtags makes photos and videos available for everyone to see. The more hashtags posted alongside the photos and videos, the more likely it is that new people will see those photos. Having more followers seems to appeal to teens because it makes them look more popular among their peers.
So is Instagram or Facebook more popular among the 12-17-year old teens? Do teens really use hashtags to gain followers?  How do teens know which is the most popular social media among their age group? They can conduct their own survey and draw their own conclusions.

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The Future is Here Part 3 of 3: Artificial Intelligence – When Will Siri Rise Up Against Us?

In 1950, Alan Turing, came up with a theory about Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). He was one of the most important early computer scientists and a legendary codebreaker during World War II (as shown in the film The Imitation Game). The Turing Test essentially states that if a person has two conversations, one with a computer and one with a human and can not distinguish which conversation is with the computer, then it qualifies as Artificial Intelligence.

Since the release of Turing’s paper introducing the Turing Test, philosophers have been debating if imitating human behavior counts as “intelligence,” or if it is possible to create a computer that can “think” on its own. It’s a simple topic that has raised moral issues, questions about the “human soul” and the dangers of the digital age since Turing’s paper was published in 1950.

Stephen Hawking has stated, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Elon Musk, the developer of Space X, has stated that A.I. is “our biggest existential threat,” and in January of 2015 he donated $10 million to DeepMind, an Artificial Intelligence developing agency “to keep an eye on what’s going on.” Bill Gates the co-founder of Microsoft has also stated he is “in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence.”

With all of these fears about Artificial Intelligence from leading scientists, technologists, and philosophers, should there be a larger concern for the rapid development of computer intelligence? How much can you really trust the latest version of Siri or Google Now? Find out more about Artificial Intelligence in this lesson and reevaluate where you stand on this issue.

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Word Aversion: Do Certain Words Annoy or Disgust You?

Have you ever just found a word to be annoying or disgusting? Whenever you hear it, it makes you cringe? Or perhaps it even evokes some kind of anger or intense frustration? Some people have reacted to the word “moist” or even “slacks” with such emotions.

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Word aversions are when you feel negative emotions regarding a word, even if the word does not directly refer to the feeling you associate with it. They are similar to phobias, says Jason Riggle, a professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Chicago . He says that the words don’t create outrage us as much as they create responses from the body, or visceral reactions. The word brings about a highly specific and somewhat unusual association with imagery or a scenario that people would typically find disgusting—but don’t typically associate with the word.

 

But Why That Word?

So then the question becomes: What is it about certain words that makes certain people want to puke? Riggle thinks the phenomenon may be dependent on social interactions and media coverage. Comedians, for example, have brought up the gross qualities of the word “moist,” and that has therefore put the thought in people’s minds, that it’s a gross word. It could be that disgust is a very social emotion. And in an era of YouTube, Twitter, Vine, BuzzFeed top-20 gross-out lists, and so on, trends, even the most icky ones, spread fast.

moist

Words do have the power to disgust and repulse, though—that, at least, has been demonstrated in scholarly investigations. Natasha Fedotova, a Ph.D. student studying psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, recently told Slate that she conducted research examining the extent to which individuals connect the properties of an especially repellent thing to the word that represents it.

She used an example with the word “rat,” which unfortunately can immediately be thought of as a dirty and disgusting animal to some people. If you serve people who are grossed out by rats Big Macs on plates that have the word rat written on them, some people will be less likely to want to eat the portion of the burger that touched the word. Humans, in these instances, go so far as to treat gross-out words “as though they can transfer negative properties through physical contact,” says Fedotova.

 

The People Have Voted

A New York Times article asked readers to name everyday words that repelled them, and “slacks” was one of the front-runners. But the word for pants couldn’t compete with a term for female underpants. Dozens of readers commented on their dislike of the word “panties.” It was the most commonly cited word in a comments section that drew more than 1,600 responses.

BigTopMoist

Amanda Danielle, of Fairfield, Calif., wrote, “When I hear anyone use this word in any way, I feel so disgusted and violated that I actually become nauseous.

“I have no explanation as to why this happens to me,” she added. “I know it is a perfectly normal word, but I personally prefer the word underwear.”

A great deal of the words mentioned in the comments section were related to body parts and bodily functions. Terms for male and female genitalia appeared multiple times, as did words such as groin, crotch, belly, flesh, flabby, tummy, turd, and pimple.
Words describing various sorts of vocalizations were mentioned so frequently that they could be cataloged in alphabetical order. The G’s alone would include the words gulp, gargle, grunt, groan and gasp.

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Some readers strung together multiple words to form aversive sentences.

“I read this just after stroking my moist slacks to remove phlegm that must have come from a crevice on the luggage in my Ford Probe,” wrote Clyde, from North Carolina, adding “It left me in a lather.”

Ugh, I’m gonna be sick.

What Words Do NuSkool Readers Find Gross?

Now, if you would be so kind, please take this poll so we at NuSkool can form our own sample of survey data.


The Hubris of Hip Hop

In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of hubris by examining its prevalence in hip hop culture. Students will pick a hip hop star and analyze her/his work, style, and public displays of grandiose behavior as a means to understand the term. In a 3-4 page essay, they will then compare their artist’s acts of hubris to a those of a literary character.

Note to teachers: Hubris is originally seen in Greek mythology when a mortal thinks he is better than the gods. This lesson would be particularly applicable when your class is doing a unit on mythology or reading The Odyssey, Mythology, or any books from the Oedipus Trilogy. This does not mean, however, that hubris is limited to mythology. This lesson plan would also be useful in understanding Shakespearean works as he regularly includes hubristic characters in his plays. This theme can also be used to analyze any text in which a character’s extreme pride and arrogance ultimately leads to her/his downfall.