Hip-Hop and Gay Marriage? Social Commentary through Rap

The objective of this lesson is to have students create their own rap that expresses their view on the issue of Gay marriage.
Gay marriage has been a heated topic especially since California’s Proposition 8 was overturned in 2010. There have been attempts to legalize same-sex marriage, however only 6 states, including D.C., have passed laws permitting it. There have been heated debates over this issue, especially in the media and popular culture. There are countless movies, songs, documentaries, and TV shows that all address this topic. Most recently, Seattle rapper, Macklemore, has released a song supporting gay marriage. He has been praised by gay marriage activists for his powerful lyrics, and an even more powerful music video.

Is The Snooze Button Bad For Your Health? Understanding the science of sleep

There are very few things in life that feel better than those 10 extra minutes of sleep after pressing the snooze button on your alarm in morning. Unfortunately, hitting the snooze button to get a few more precious moments of sleep can potentially do more damage than good.

The reason sleep feels so good, and bonus sleep feels even better, has a lot to do with chemicals being released in our bodies. Whoever said sleep is like a drug wasn’t lying. As you fall asleep, your body releases a chemical called serotonin into your bloodstream. (Also, see our post Dubstep on the brain for other examples of serotonin’s effects on the human body). Serotonin is a chemical that tells the brain to soothe the body and creates a calm, peaceful feeling of well-being and happiness. Hitting the snooze button is literally like taking another hit of serotonin to the brain. So why is this bad for us again? Don’t worry I’m getting there…

During a normal 8 hour sleep cycle, your body releases serotonin to send you to dreamland and then slowly brings you back by lowering the levels of serotonin and shooting you with a dose of dopamine, another chemical known for energizing the body, giving you that feeling of alertness and motivation. As your body naturally lowers your serotonin and increases your dopamine levels, every time you hit the snooze button you are re-injecting yourself with serotonin mixed with high levels of dopamine. This chemical high leaves you feeling good in the moment but you eventually crash from the chemical imbalance and may lead to waking up feeling disoriented and drained of energy for the rest of the day.

While I enjoy those extra minutes of sleep just as much as the next guy, there are some studies that show snooze sleep may cause a decline in brain function that lead to loss of memory, slowed reaction time and lack of focus and concentration.

We each have our own unique sleep/wake cycles. If you’re having trouble sleeping and you wake up every morning feeling unrested and drained of energy you can analyze your own sleep cycle by journaling the rhythmic pattern of your sleep schedule throughout the week. Keeping a sleep diary and doing some simple data analysis can help figure out the root of insomnia, and other problems related to mood and fatigue. After a few days of collecting data you will notice a pattern start to emerge from your sleep schedule. You may discover daily habits or changes in mood that affect your sleep. Once you have this data you can make some slight changes to your daily habits and routine or even diet. Visit your doctor and bring your notes with you to come up with a plan together.

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How Street Smart Are You?

We’ve all heard the stories, the kid who couldn’t quite cut it in school but still found a way to beat the odds and become a success. Started from the bottom…well, you know the rest. Being “book smart” and excelling in the classroom is important, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Many successful people like Jay-Z, Mark Zuckerberg and even Katy Perry have reached their goals by making the most of the skills they have learned outside of the classroom, or what we commonly refer to as “street smarts”.

When we think of being “street smart” the assumption is that this pertains to someone who has learned how to adapt and survive in a tough neighborhood or has taken the code of the streets and applied it to the business world. Street smarts is actually a measure of one’s resilience, adaptability, resourcefulness, critical thinking and problem solving skills. All of which are key skills for the 21st century.

There are no rules that say you can only be book smart or street smart and not both. Street smarts also has nothing to do with the crime rate in your city and your ability to avoid danger. It is a measure of your ability to problem solve when presented with an unforeseen obstacle. Many jobs of the future will no longer come with instructions or training, computers will take care of most of the routine work. Jobs of the future will be based on one’s ability to react in the moment, think critically and solve problems that computers can’t. Street smarts have less to do with how well you know the streets, and more to do with adapting to change, overcoming obstacles and solving problems with limited resources.

Take the quiz below to test your street smarts and see if you’re ready to take on the world!

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The Science of Binge Watching

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The Instant Gratification of Binge Watching Television:

You watch an episode of your favorite TV series, it’s a cliffhanger!  You see the credits, and feel the pangs of sadness because you will have to wait another week to find out what happens next.  Ten years ago, this was the normal way to watch a television series.  Today, technology allows you to push a button (or just sit back and wait) and your next episode can be viewed right away.  Its a beautiful advancement in these modern times.

Binge-watching, also called binge-viewing, is the practice of watching television for longer time spans than usual, usually of a single television show. In a survey conducted by Netflix in February 2014, 73% of people define binge-watching as “watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting.”  Binge-watching as an observed cultural phenomenon has become popular with the rise of online media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime where the viewer can watch television shows and movies on-demand.

The idea of assembling several consecutive episodes of a television series in order and watching them in rapid succession originated with the marathon, networks themselves programmed several hours’ worth of reruns of a single series. This practice began in the 1980s and is still popular among subscription television outlets in the 2010s.

 

Your Body and Mind on a TV Binge:

Here are a few ways the science of binge watching affects your mind, body and soul.

1. The Non-Walking Dead

The effects of sitting for long periods of time have been well documented, and it is generally understood that being sedentary for most of the time is harmful to your health.   Since you’re sitting with your spine in a C shape, it can cause cramped muscles, spinal pressure, and bad posture.  This is a sedentary behavior and if not moderated can lead to weight gain – You are simply not burning many calories if you are not moving your body around.

2. Friday Night Lights

The effects of fluorescent light on the brain have been studied and long term TV watching can have the same effect – too much exposure has been linked to headaches, eye strain, seasonal affective disorder, problems sleeping, poor immune function, hormonal disruption, and anxiety among other symptoms.  Getting out into the sunshine more during the morning and daytime has been shown to combat the negative effects of too much fluorescent light exposure.

3. TV is the new Ice Cream: Depression and Loneliness

Some recent findings on binge-watching associated people who binge on television with depression, loneliness and an inability to control their behavior.  This however, was only a correlational study, and not concluded to be a direct cause and effect relationship.  As mentioned above, this can also be a symptom of too much flourescent light exposure, so its possible these issues are connected in some way.

4. Breaks are for Quitters: Persistence and Resiliency

There are positive effects of binge watching as well.  Based on a survey commissioned by Netflix in December, Three-quarters of 1,500 online respondents reported having positive feelings in binge watching and that binging was a welcome refuge from their busy lives. Nearly eight in ten people said binge-watching a TV show made it more enjoyable than watching single episodes. It would seem that people are craving the long narratives that today’s good television can provide. In today’s world of shortened attention spans, binge watchers have shown an ability to be resilient and focus on a task for long periods of time.

5. This Show is Like My Life Story: Cognitive Empathy

We may become glued to complex, emotionally-charged stories, and want to consume a lot of them, because of our ability to recognize the feelings of others.  In addition to identifying others’ discomfort or elation, this branch of “cognitive empathy” examines how humans can also adopt others’ psychological perspectives, including those of fictional characters. Research has pointed to this occurrence more often with reading fictional texts as opposed to watching a fictional film or television series, in that a more profound emotional reaction occurs while reading as opposed to watching.  But perhaps Binge watching creates more of an emotional bond to characters and scenarios than a shorter time duration.

What it Means to “Binge”:

“Binge” is defined as a short period of time in which you do too much of something.  Inherent in the definition, is a judgement that the behavior is excessive, or somehow suggests the binger is “out of control.”  For some activities like eating, or drinking alcohol, there are real, immediate threats to your well being and these are considered harmful activities.  Perhaps “binge” watching television is not the proper term.  Many people prefer to watch television series this way, and are otherwise responsible, balanced individuals who can moderate their entertainment consumption.  So “binge-watching,” although a very appropriate buzzword to describe the activity, creates too negative a connotation. A few hours is not as excessive as all day marathons.  Getting to watch something you desire is a pleasurable activity, and so if a viewer takes some breaks from sitting for long periods of time, or stretches often enough, the pros and cons can balance out.  Moderation, with all things in life, is the key here.

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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.

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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.

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How Does the Black Panther Party Compare to the KKK and ISIS? Students can settle the debate once and for all.

 

Is it fair to compare the Black Panthers to a hate or terrorist movement? Let’s look at how they really compare to the KKK and the world’s most known terrorist group, ISIS.

 

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The public reaction to Beyoncé’s Formation video and Super Bowl performance was, well, maybe it’s best to let Saturday Night Live demonstrate it. Among the controversial images are a child not being shot by police, a police car sinking into a storm surge in New Orleans, and, at the Superbowl, a black power salute while wearing black berets, a nod to the Black Panther Party (BPP).

Support for the Black Panthers has stirred a lot of debate, not all of it measured. Newscaster Tomi Lahren referred to the Black Panthers as similar to the KKK. A city councilor for the city of Toronto has asked the Canadian government to investigate Beyoncé for possible terrorist links.

Pundits and police unions have made similar claims, calling the Black Panthers a hate movement. Is it fair to compare the Black Panthers to a hate or terrorist movement? Let’s look at how they really compare to the KKK and the world’s most known terrorist group, ISIS.

 

Origins

  • The Black Panther Party was founded as an organization in Oakland in 1966 that advocated resisting police brutality with deadly force. They soon embraced revolutionary Black Nationalist, Maoist, and women’s liberation politics, performing activism and providing social programs to uplift African-Americans.
  • The KKK was founded in 1865 by a former Confederate officer to attack freed slaves, Northerners, and federal government employees. Due to a federal crackdown, it remained small until around 1917, when it rapidly grew to include millions, including many politicians.
  • ISIS was founded as a Jordanian terror cell in 1999, dedicated to establishing a single fundamentalist government ruling the entire world. In 2003, it gained prominence through participation in the Iraqi insurgency and later gained real territory as a result of the chaos of the Syrian civil war.

 

Crimes

  • The Black Panther Party committed at least seven homicides, roughly two dozen assaults, and several counts of jury intimidation. Most victims were police or members of the BPP itself.
  • The KKK’s violence is difficult to estimate. About 3,500 African-Americans were lynched during the years of KKK activity. Anywhere between 1000 and 50,000 people were also killed in anti-black riots. However, the KKK may not have committed all of these. Most estimates fall between a minimum of 2,000 homicides and a maximum of 50,000. Tens of thousands more were tortured or had their homes destroyed.
  • The official count of ISIS’ victims is around 10,000 dead, but due to the chaos of the region, this number could be much higher.

 

Size and Representation

  • The Black Panther Party had a peak membership of 2,000 in 1969, thus including roughly 1 in every 11,000 African-Americans.
  • In 1925 the KKK had a peak membership of five million, thus including roughly 1 in every 20 white Protestants in the United States.
  • By the Pentagon’s estimate, ISIS had a peak membership of 50,000 in early 2015, thus including roughly 1 in every 600 Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq.

In this lesson, students will look at different document sets, comparing the three organizations on issues such as community service, violence, ideology, aims, the reactions of society, and the roles of women.