History vs Hollywood: Analyzing Lincoln

In this lesson, students will review two short representations of the life of Abraham Lincoln — one in the recent Hollywood films, the other in a documentary — and will analyze, discuss, and think further about how history and historical figures are re-constructed through fiction, as well as the boundaries between fact and fiction in such portrayals.

From Order to Chaos: Analyze and Create “The Harlem Shake!”

In this lesson, students will analyze examples of the wildly popular Internet meme “The Harlem Shake,” they will think about the elements of order and chaos that comprise these moments of popular culture, and they will create their own “Harlem Shake” by thinking about and re-enacting structures of order and intrusions of disorder in our society.

Imagine and (Responsibly) Plan Your Own Music Festival!

The objective of this lesson is for students to think in an imaginative but also socially and environmentally conscious way about planning and coordinating a music festival such as South by Southwest (which recently ended), Coachella (currently underway), and Summerfest and Lollapalooza (which are just around the corner).

Are Pop Stars the Best Advocates of Political or Social Awareness?

In this lesson, students will use Justin Bieber’s recent gaffe at the Anne Frank House to debate and explore whether or not pop stars can act in a useful way regarding sensitive social and political issues. They will also consider whether or not pop stars can make decent politicians.

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 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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Blueprint to a Mogul: Reaching Goals Like Shonda Rhimes



Shonda Rhimes is one of the most powerful people in television. As the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to get Away with Murder, she is the backbone of ABC. And ABC lets her do whatever she wants. When Rhimes was criticized for refusing to read notes from the executives on Scandal, she simply replied, “What were they going to do, fire me?”

Rhimes wasn’t always a powerhouse. In college, Shonda wanted to write world-changing novels like her hero Toni Morrison. However, she found that there was no point in aspiring to be like Morrison. As she put it, “I couldn’t be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, because Toni Morrison already had that job and she wasn’t interested in giving it up.”

In 2002, she was a B-list screenwriter who had just adopted a child. While looking after the baby, she found herself watching a lot of network TV, including 24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel.

Rhimes got where she is by writing what she wanted to see on TV. This makes her style, and even her genre, hard to pin down. Is Grey’s Anatomy a medical drama or a romantic soap? Is Scandal a romance, a political drama, or a conspiracy thriller? No one knows what to say about her work, other than that it’s something that no one has seen before.


In that spirit, this lesson isn’t about how to become TV mogul Shonda Rhimes, she already has that job. What you can do is put in the kind of work that Rhimes put in, to become a creative mogul on your own terms. This lesson will help you assess what you can offer to the world and figure out what you need in order to build a new creative empire.


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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Suicide Squad is a Modern Day Bohemian Rhapsody


Bohemian Rhapsody is a song composed by Freddy Mercury, and recorded by the rock band, Queen.  It was released in 1975, and has stood the test of time, becoming one of the best selling singles of all time. More recently it has come back into the public’s attention through the new Suicide Squad trailer. So what exactly is the meaning behind the lyrics and its connection to this band of delinquents?

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The word “Bohemian” can either refer to a native or inhabitant of Bohemia or “a person who has informal or unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer.” The second meaning applies here, and has some bearing on the overall message of both the song and film.

This song is a very emotional tale, and tells the story of someone who usually just goes with the flow and has lived a simple life. However, he has done something terribly wrong and owns up to his crime. He faces jail time (or a death sentence).  He struggles with the realities before him in an epic battle between good and evil in his mind, and ultimately accepts his fate and returns to his past way of thinking that he, must again, go with the way the wind blows.


The crime, the confession

The song begins with someone who is disillusioned, confused, and seemingly in shock.  The subject also explains that he’s just a simple boy, and lived life modestly, and usually doesn’t care about life’s ups and downs.  But, now he’s wondering why something so bad has happened to him.

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see.  I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy, because I’m easy come, easy go, a little high, a little low. Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.”

Then, comes the explanation for his feelings.  A confession. Just pure truth.

Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead. Mama, life had just begun, but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.

This can be connected to Deadshot’s dilemma, an assassin by trade but a family man at heart who will do anything to keep his daughter safe. Not sure if she’ll show up in the film but she plays a major role in his life in the DC Comic Universe.

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The boy now explains that he has to go face the music for his crime. Probably a jail cell. Maybe the executioner.

Mama, ooo, didn’t mean to make you cry, if I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters. Too late, my time has come, sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time. Goodbye, everybody I’ve got to go, gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.  Mama, ooo (anyway the wind blows). I don’t want to die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.


It’s not over till the fat lady sings

After a moving guitar solo, that further iterates the despair he is feeling, things get a bit crazy. Facing imminent death can do that to people.  This section depicts the struggle between symbols of good and evil within his mind. The song proceeds with the operatic section.

First, he explains that he feels like a clown, just a fool before his “court” or his mental judgement. A Scaramouch is a clown-like character from classical Italian comedy, often depicted as a coward. I think we can all figure out who the clown is in this bunch.

I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango?

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light? Wait, wrong movie.

Then, he feels fear, and thinks on Gallileo Galilei – the famous scientist who played a major role in the scientific revolution during the Renaissance in the 1600s.  Perhaps he thinks on him because Galileo was deemed a heretic and had to live under house arrest for the a good portion of his life. Wishful thinking?

Do we know any crazy doctors that had to be kept in confinement? Why yes, yes we do.

Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening me. Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo Figaro – magnifico.  But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me. He’s just a poor boy from a poor family. Spare him his life from this monstrosity.  Easy come easy go will you let me go?

Bismillah is Arabic for “In the name of God” or “In the name of Allah,” so in this section it would appear he is having an inner battle, portraying his persecutors and saviors at the same time.

Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. Let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go. Let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go. Let me go. Will not let you go. Let me go (never). Never let you go. Let me go. Never let me go ooo. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go.

Then, this section indicates he is prepared for the worst, and assumes he will be facing the devil for his crime.

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me. For me. For me.

If there is any character dealing with an internal battle of good and evil, it’s the Enchantress. It is believed that the Enchantress is possessed by a separate evil entity controlling her powers and she goes to desperate measures to eliminate the demonic force within her.



After insanity, comes anger, then acceptance

Now, comes the anger.  It would appear that the boy who normally doesn’t seem to care about anything and goes anywhere the wind blows has become angered, perhaps thinking of the emotions that inspired his crime?

So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye? So you think you can love me and leave me to die? Oh baby, can’t do this to me baby, Just gotta get out just gotta get right outta here.

But, after the anger, comes the passivity again, returning to his usual state of mind.  Maybe it’s a way of not letting the pain become too much to bear.

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah. Nothing really matters, anyone can see. Nothing really matters. Nothing really matters to me. Anyway the wind blows

Each member of the crew carries a burden to bear and a deep darkness within them, but they’re not called the Suicide Squad for nothing. Whether by choice or by the orders of Amanda Waller, they all face certain death and none seem to care about what awaits them.



Other interpretations

Mercury himself has refused to explain the composition of this song, other than saying it was about relationships. Could the entire song represent the highs and lows of loving someone and then losing that person?  Maybe a jealous rage caused the fictional crime? Or perhaps, it was about Mercury’s own inner turmoil and confusion since it was written after he understood his own orientation in his life, ending his relationship with women.

Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, supports suggestions that the song contained veiled references to Mercury’s personal traumas. He recalls “Freddie was a very complex person: flippant and funny on the surface, but he concealed insecurities and problems in squaring up his life with his childhood. He never explained the lyrics, but I think he put a lot of himself into that song.” May, though, says the band had agreed that the core of the lyrics was a private issue for the composer.

The song ended up being a huge commercial success, despite it being an unconventional 5 minutes 55 seconds long. It has become one of the best selling singles of all time, all around the world.  It is definitely one of the most memorable songs I’ll ever hear, and will surely add a new layer of meaning to this year’s blockbuster film about a misfit band of lost souls.