Performance Goes Down When People are Separated from Their iPhones


One could argue that people’s smartphones are an extension of themselves—these devices hold so much of ourselves from reminders for important occasions to phone numbers that if we didn’t have them, part of our minds would become inaccessible, like a focused form of amnesia. So, what happens when you take someone’s smartphone away? Erin Blakemore from the Smithsonianwrites on a study that answers just this question.

Researchers from the University of Missouri wanted to know how people performed when their iPhones were taken away from them. So, they found 41 students–quite a small sample–that owned iPhones through a survey on “media usage.” These participants were then put in a cubicle (with their iPhones in tow) to solve a series of word search puzzles. Researcher monitored their anxiety levels, heart rate, and blood pressure during this first part.

The researchers then announced that the participants’ iPhones were causing Bluetooth interference with the blood pressure cuffs, so they had to move their phones. The smartphones were placed nearby, within earshot of the participants. While the participants continued to work on the word search puzzles, the researchers called their phones, during which time they noted the participants’ anxiety levels, heart rates, and blood pressures. There was a “significant increase” in all three and a decline in puzzle performance.

Russell Clayton, a graduate student at the university’s School of Journalism and lead author of the study, said in the paper:

“Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks. Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state.”

This may help explain why we become so distraught when our smartphones become lost or accidentally left behind when we go to work—a part of us feels like it’s missing. Some have been even reported feeling “phantom vibrations” while away from their phones.

Read more at the Smithsonian

How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy


Article Image

Fitness headlines promise staggering physical results: a firmer butt, ripped abs, bulging biceps. Nutritional breakthroughs are similar clickbait, with attention-grabbing, if often inauthentic—what, really, is a “superfood?”—means of achieving better health. Strangely, one topic usually escaping discussion has been shown, time and again, to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic animals: reading

Reading, of course, requires patience, diligence, and determination. Scanning headlines and retweeting quips is not going to make much cognitive difference. If anything, such sweet nothings are dangerous, the literary equivalent of sugar addiction. Information gathering in under 140 characters is lazy. The benefits of contemplation through narrative offer another story.


The benefits are plenty, which is especially important in a distracted, smartphone age in which one-quarter of American children don’t learn to read. This not only endangers them socially and intellectually, but cognitively handicaps them for life. One 2009 study of 72 children ages eight to ten discovered that reading creates new white matter in the brain, which improves system-wide communication. 

White matter carries information between regions of grey matter, where any information is processed. Not only does reading increase white matter, it helps information be processed more efficiently. 

Reading in one language has enormous benefits. Add a foreign language and not only do communication skills improve—you can talk to more people in wider circles—but the regions of your brain involved in spatial navigation and learning new informationincrease in size. Learning a new language also improves your overall memory.

In one of the most fascinating aspects of neuroscience, language affects regions of your brain involving actions you’re reading about. For example, when you read “soap” and “lavender,” the parts of your brain implicated in scent are activated. Those regions remain silent when you read “chair.” What if I wrote “leather chair?” Your sensory cortex just fired. 



Continuing from the opening paragraph, let’s discuss squats in your quest for a firmer butt. Picture the biomechanics required for a squat. Your motor cortex has been activated. Athletes have long envisioned their movements—Serena Williams’s serve; Conor McGregor’s kicks; Usain Bolt’s bursts of speed—to achieve better proficiency while actually moving. That’s because their brains are practicing. That is, they’re practicing through visualization techniques. 

Hard glutes are one thing. Novel reading is a great way to practice being human. Rather than sprints and punches, how about something more primitive and necessary in a society, like empathy? As you dive deeper into Rabbit Angstrom’s follies or Jason Taylor coming of age, you not only feel their pain and joy. You actually experience it. 

In one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

This has profound implications for how we interact with others. When encountering a 13-year-old boy misbehaving, you most likely won’t think, “Well, David Mitchell wrote about such a situation, and so I should behave like this,” but you might have integrated some of the lessons about young boys figuring life out and display a more nuanced understanding in how you react. 


Perhaps you’ll even reconsider trolling someone online regarding their political opinion, remembering that no matter how crass and inhumane a sentiment appears on screen, an actual human is sitting behind the keyboard pecking out their thoughts. I’m not arguing against engaging, but for the love of anything closely resembling humanity, argue intelligently. 

Because reading does in fact make us more intelligent. Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well. You make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you.

All of these benefits require actually reading, which leads to the formation of a philosophy rather than the regurgitation of an agenda, so prevalent in reposts and online trolling. Recognizing the intentions of another human also plays a role in constructing an ideology. Novels are especially well-suited for this task. A 2011 studypublished in the Annual Review of Psychology found overlap in brain regions used to comprehend stories and networks dedicated to interactions with others. 

Novels consume time and attention. While the benefits are worthwhile, even shorter bursts of prose exhibit profound neurological effects. Poetry elicits strong emotional responses in readers and, as one study shows, listeners. Heart rates, facial expressions, and “movement of their skin and arm hairs” were measured while participants listened to poetry. Forty percent ended up displaying visible goose bumps, as they would while listening to music or watching movies. As for their craniums: 

Their neurological responses, however, seemed to be unique to poetry: Scans taken during the study showed that listening to the poems activated parts of participants’ brains that, as other studies have shown, are not activated when listening to music or watching films.

These responses mostly occurred near the conclusion of a stanza and especially near the end of the poem. This fits in well with our inherent need for narrative: in the absence of a conclusion our brain automatically creates one, which, of course, leads to plenty of heartbreak and suffering when our speculations prove to be false. Instead we should turn to more poetry:

There is something fundamental to the poetic form that implies, creates, and instills pleasure.

Whether an Amiri Baraka verse or a Margaret Atwood trilogy, attention matters. Research at Stanford showed a neurological difference between reading for pleasure and focused reading, as if for a test. Blood flows to different neural areas depending on how reading is conducted. The researchers hope this might offer clues1for advancing cognitive training methods. 

I have vivid memories of my relationship with reading: trying to write my first book (Scary Monster Stories) at age five; creating a mock newspaper after the Bernard Goetz subway shooting when I was nine, my mother scolding me for “thinking about such things”; sitting in the basement of my home in the Jersey suburbs one weekend morning, determined to read the entirety of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I did. 

Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly.3 While I never finished (or really much started) Scary Monster Stories, I have written nine books and read thousands more along the way. Though it’s hard to tell if reading has made me smarter or a better person, I like to imagine that it has. 

What I do know is that life would seem a bit less meaningful if we didn’t share stories with one another. While many mediums for transmitting narratives across space and time exist, I’ve found none as pleasurable as cracking open a new book and getting lost in a story. Something profound is always discovered along the way.


Derek is the author of Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

March Fun: Basketball Lesson Plans


Take advantage of student interest in the tournaments by adapting your classroom activities to the activity taking place on the basketball court. Basketball can be incorporated into almost every area of the curriculum — from physics to poetry, from math to music!

Court before the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I Ba...
Court before the 2006 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament National Semifinals. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Basketball Scavenger Hunt

Students build comprehension skills as they learn about basketball history. Printable student work sheet included.

A brief description of each activity appears below. Click any headline for a complete teaching resource. See additional lesson plan resources at the end of this article.

Figure the Winner
Students use math to predict the winners of the NCAA basketball tournaments. (Grade 9-12)

Basketball for Better Verse
Students write poems about basketball. (Grade 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)

The Team at Home
Students locate an NCAA basketball tournament team on a map, research the relationship of the team’s name and mascot to the location of the college, and cheer the team to victory! (Grade 6-8, 9-12)

You’ve Got Game!
Students create new games that conform to specific, pre-set conditions. (Grade 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)

Basketball Notes
Students add the values of musical notes to win a chance to shoot a basketball. (Grade 3-5, 6-8)



NCAA Basketball

The NCAA Basketball site offers articles, schedules, scores, and other resources about both the men’s and women’s teams.


PE Central
This site provides physical education lesson plans, including several basketball-related lessons.

Younger students learn how to mathematically calculate field-goal and free-throw percentages.

Trending Topics for February

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Pew Research Center “Code-Dependent: Pros and cons of the algorithm age”
As businesses and governments leverage algorithms to make use of massive amounts of data, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners, and government leaders to consider what’s next for algorithms – 38% of experts predicted that the positive impacts of algorithms will outweigh negatives for individuals and society in general, while 37% said negatives will outweigh positives; and 25% said the overall impact of algorithms will be about 50-50, positive-negative.

The Verge “New Google Brain research brings the ‘zoom and enhance’ trope to reality”
New research from Google Brain could use a pair of neural networks to process a 8 pixel x 8 pixel image and generate an approximation of the original – the first network is a “conditioning network,” which maps the pixels of the low-resolution picture to a similar high-resolution one that gets used as a rough skeleton of how the face or room should look, while the second is a “prior network” that analyzes the pixelated image and tries to add details based on existing images with similar pixel locations. See also Engadget.  

Books and Publishing

Slate “Is my novel offensive?”
Sensitivity readers may help writers develop more diverse characters in fiction, navigating the complexities of representation and avoiding the prospect of backlash, by leveraging this new part of the editorial process.

KidScreen “Scholastic: Kids are seeking out more diverse stories”
Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report finds that more children and their parents are interested in reading stories about different races, cultures and faiths, though access to these books are still scarce – kids are seeking out stories that portray characters that are “differently-abled” (13%), “culturally or ethnically diverse” (11%), and “who break stereotypes” (11%).

Cities and Government

The New York Times “First amendment support climbing among high school students”
A Knight Foundation survey of nearly 12,000 students finds that support among American high school students for the First Amendment is stronger today than it has been in the last 12 years – 91% of high school students say they believe that individuals should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, but only 45% support that right when the speech in question is offensive to others and made in public.

Governing “Millennials let their grandparents decide local elections”
A Portland State University study tallied voter turnout in the most recent mayoral elections in the 30 largest cities and found that residents 65 years and older were a median of seven times more likely to vote than those ages 18 to 34 – this lowered youth participation in local elections could be due to young people moving more frequently, renting in higher numbers, or viewing local races as less competitive and consequential.

The Economist “Millennials across the rich world are failing to vote”
Voter turnout across the rich world has been declining and has fallen fastest among the young, with the gap in turnout between young and old in many places resembling the racial gap in the American South in the early 1960s, when state governments routinely suppressed the black vote – if voting habits are formed early, this low turnout could have significant consequences, even weakening the perceived legitimacy of elected governments.

The Atlantic “Red state, blue city”
Still more about the growing divide between cities and states, with cities turning to local ordinances as their best hope on issues ranging from gun control to the minimum wage to transgender rights, while state legislatures work to limit cities’ regulation efforts.

The Guardian “Statisticians fear Trump White House will manipulate figures to fit narrative”
In a series of interviews with the Guardian, statisticians who had recently left high-level positions at federal statistical agencies expressed worry that the administration may stop collecting and publishing data on politicized subjects such as abortion, racial inequality, and poverty.

The Daily Dot “Increased ICE raids across the U.S. spark protests in New York, Los Angeles, Texas”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in six states sparked protests – despite the increased reporting of the raids, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told the Washington Post that the confirmed raids were part of “routine” immigration enforcement.

The Conversation “Immigration and crime: What does the research say?”
An interesting compilation of research related to immigration’s effect on crime – generally, immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has found no backing for the immigration-crime connection, with the literature demonstrating that immigrants commit fewer crimes on average than native-born Americans, and cities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence when all other factors are equal. See also The Daily Dot.

Wired “The secret to a happy, healthy city? Places for people to protest”
Recent protests highlight an important element of successful cities – open public spaces and streets where people gather naturally to socialize and, in a politicized time, to protest.


The Daily Dot “23 states have laws that harm or exclude the trans community”
In 2016, there were nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills introduced in more than 20 states and 23 states have laws that actively harm, limit, or exclude the trans community specifically, including limiting access to an ID that matches their gender identity, employment discrimination, denials of service or harassment, housing discrimination, and limits on family.

The Daily Dot “Parents can do one thing to lower trans kids’ depression: Support them”
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that with supportive families – those families that referred to children by the correct pronouns and supported wearing clothing that aligned with their gender identity – trans kids were no more likely to suffer from depression than cisgender kids in their age group.

CityLab “Why did Americans stop moving?”
The mobility of Americans has reached record lows, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census – with just 11.2% of Americans moving between 2015 and 2016, almost half the 20.2% rate in 1948, and just 6.9% of Americans making shorter moves within the same county, down from 13.6% in 1948.

The New York Times “A secret of many urban 20-somethings: Their parents help with the rent”
According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, nearly 40% of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses, with an average amount of $3,000 a year – a stark reminder that social and economic mobility continues even past college and economic advantages continue well into the opening chapters of adulthood.

The New York Times “More women in their 60s and 70s are having ‘way too much fun’ to retire”
According to two new analyses of census, earnings, and retirement data that provide the most comprehensive look yet at women’s career paths, women’s working lives are changing with more women working in their 20s and 30s when they had previously been home with children, delaying family breaks until their late 30s or early 40s, returning to the labor force far more frequently after having children, and becoming significantly more likely to work into their 60s and even 70s, often full time.

Pew Research Center “20 metro areas are home to six-in-ten unauthorized immigrants in U.S.”
New Pew Research Center analysis of government data estimates that most of the United States’ 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants live in just 20 major metropolitan areas, with the largest populations in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. See also CityLab.


ArsTechnica “Amazon tells Super Bowl viewers to look for Prime Air drone delivery “soon””
The last of Amazon’s three Super Bowl commercials featured an Amazon delivery drone, described to viewers as a “Prime Air” delivery – though at the bottom of the screen Amazon offered a fine-print disclaimer: “Prime Air is not available in some states (or any really). Yet.” See also GeekWire.

Vocativ “Drone journalism school takes flight with three-day courses”
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism school, will launch a drone journalism school later this year to help students learn how to fly a DJI drone, navigate state and federal regulations, understand legal and privacy issues, and ethical use of a camera-mounted flying robot – the three day course will be available in four separate locations: University of Georgia, Syracuse University, University of Wisconsin, and University of Oregon.

ReCode “Trump’s freeze on new regulation means that we won’t get drone delivery anytime soon”
U.S. President Trump’s executive order requiring two federal regulations to be rescinded for every new one passed could prove problematic for expanding drone usage – in 2014 the National Transportation Safety Board classified drones as aircraft, which means drones need to abide by FAA regulations in order to fly, and the FAA will have a hard time killing existing rules to make room for new ones.

Scientific American “Robo-bees could aid insects with pollination duties”
Researchers from Japan believe that mini drones sporting horsehair coated in a sticky gel could support declining bee populations by transporting pollen from plant to plant. See also GizmodoNew Scientist, and The Verge


The Guardian “Sex doesn’t sell any more, activism does. And don’t the big brands know it”
Companies are now attempting to outdo each other with major acts of generosity, as long as they can make sure their customers know about it – while these brands are showcasing social responsibility, ultimately they are likely most concerned with customer growth and loyalty.

Wired “The next big blue-collar job is coding”
Programming and coding could be the next blue-collar jobs if the focus could shift from expensive four-year computer science degrees to more coding at the vocational level in high school or community college to create competent programmers that could tackle a wealth of opportunities that will be available in the coming years.


Des Moines Register “‘Sanctuary schools’ could be coming to Des Moines”
Des Moines Public Schools will act as “sanctuaries” for undocumented students, barring staff from asking about their immigration status and funneling federal inquiries through the superintendent’s office and district attorney, but stopping short of blocking the district from working with immigration officials.

The New York Times “Yale will drop John Calhoun’s name from building”
After protests, Yale president Peter Salovey announced that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun to honor Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale – the decision was a reversal of the university’s previous decision to maintain the name.

The Internet

ReCode “Twitter says it’s going to start pushing more abusive tweets out of sight”
Twitter unveiled three new updates to address abusive tweets – new efforts to keep banned users from rejoining the service via new accounts; an optional “safe search” feature that removes tweets with inappropriate words, phrases, or images from search results; and an algorithm-powered feature to hide inappropriate responses to tweets so they don’t appear in user conversations. See also Advertising AgeCNET, and GeekWire.  

Engadget “Facebook says it can’t police all posts for racism”
In the course of a German lawsuit over misuse of photos in fake news, a lawyer for Facebook said it wasn’t possible for Facebook to watch for racist language in every post since there are “billions” of posts every day and it would require a “wonder machine” to catch every possible instance of abuse. See also Advertising Age and Consumerist.

Nieman Lab “As a presidential election looms in France, Google and Facebook team up with news outlets to factcheck”  
In the lead up to elections in France, Google will partner with media outlets including Agence France-Presse, BuzzFeed News, and Le Monde on a countrywide factchecking initiative calling CrossCheck, which will also see Facebook working with news organizations to reduce the amount of misinformation and hoax stories from appearing on its platform. See also TechCrunchThe Verge, and Vocativ.  

CNET “Facebook will help you find food and shelter in emergencies”  
Facebook added a Community Help feature to the Safety Check crisis response tool, referring users to a page where they can find help or provide for those in need following a natural disaster or other catastrophe and allowing them to search posts by location and categories, which include food, water, shelter, transportation, baby supplies, and equipment. See also ConsumeristThe DrumEngadgetGeekWireMashableReCodeTechCrunchThe Verge, and Vocativ.  

The Verge “The Met has released more than 375,000 images that you can use for free”  
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made high-resolution scans of its entire collection of art in the public domain — more than 375,000 images — available to the public under Creative Commons Zero, allowing the public to use the images in any way they see fit. See also CNETMashable, and TechCrunch.  

Journalism and News

The Guardian “Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source”
Wikipedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications, has placed a ban on the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable” with a “reputation for poor fact checking and sensationalism.” See also The Drum and Nieman Lab.

Bloomberg “New York Times offers free Spotify service to boost subscribers”
The New York Times is working with Spotify to give new digital subscribers free access to the music-streaming service, part of the newspaper’s growing strategy to reach younger readers through new partnerships. See also CNETConsumeristEngadgetGeekWireNieman Lab, and TechCrunch.  

Digiday “News publisher Attn is crowdsourcing Facebook Live coverage”
Two-year-old news site Attn: is using Facebook Live to cover protest events, using content recorded by pre-selected protesters already planning to attend events and working with a producer from Attn’s Facebook Live team managing the camera feeds for each live stream remotely.

Nieman Lab “With “Burst Your Bubble,” The Guardian pushes readers beyond their political news boundaries”
The Guardian has launched a Burst Your Bubble column that lists “five conservative articles worth reading to expand your thinking each week.”


Mashable “D.C. police demand Facebook hand over data on Trump protesters”
The D.C. police department subpoenaed Facebook for information about the social data for several protesters arrested while demonstrating against the inauguration of President Donald Trump. See also Engadget.

The Verge “Republicans are reportedly using a self-destructing message app to avoid leaks”
News analysis site Axios reports that Trump administration members and other Republicans are using the encrypted, self-destructing messaging app Confide in the wake of hacks and leaks, including of the Democratic National Committee.

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

Racked “Abercrombie’s new store doesn’t look (or smell) like the Abercrombie you know”
Abercrombie & Fitch’s new concept store features fitting rooms designed as two small rooms within a larger suite so that friends can try on clothing and show each other privately, along with light and music controls, a phone charging station, spaces for seasonal capsule collections, a fragrance “apothecary,” multiple checkout counters, and the option to pick up online orders and place online orders while in the store.

Streaming Media

CNET “YouTube takes on Facebook Live with mobile live streaming”
YouTube will soon introduce a mobile live streaming feature, available first to YouTube channels with more than 10,000 subscribers. See also The Drum.

Advertising Age “A&E networks becomes latest TV brand to create shows for Snapchat”
A&E Networks has struck a deal with Snapchat to develop shows that involve talent and brands from its networks like History, Lifetime, and FYI, including a reality show called Second Chance that will be the first reality series being developed for Snapchat that is not based on an existing TV brand or franchise.

TechCrunch “BBC jumps into Snapchat Shows with Planet Earth II; Snap expands Snapcodes”
Snapchat announced a new deal with the UK’s BBC Worldwide to produce a six-episode Snapchat Show for North America based on the popular Planet Earth II documentary series.

The Verge “Prince’s discography reportedly set to hit more streaming services this weekend”
Part of Prince’s music catalog, which had previously been excluded from streaming services, will become available on services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others – Warner Music, which owns the licensing rights to all of Prince’s recordings released before 1996, has made the content available. See also ArsTechnicaThe Daily DotMashable, and TechCrunch.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Mashable “Google brings virtual reality directly to your web browser”
Google announced that it would use WebVR to make virtual reality more widely available in the Chrome browser, allowing VR experiences to be hosted on websites so that users can use Daydream-ready phones and a Daydream View headset to browse to a VR experience, select the VR option, and put the phone into the headset.

Business Insider “Facebook is closing hundreds of its Oculus VR pop-ups in Best Buys after some stores went days without a single demo”
Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus virtual reality demo stations at Best Buy locations – many Best Buy employees noted that the Oculus pop-ups could go days without giving a single demonstration. See also MIT Technology Review.

Student Sinks Impossible Shot To Secure Entire Class 100s On Organic Chemistry Quiz


SW17FCgkmmzIHbrXAn Ohio State organic chemistry class erupted like a volatile reaction when a student made an impossible toss from the mezzanine, guaranteeing everyone in attendance a perfect score on their first quiz.

The student, Vinny Forte (not Benny, as the tweet above suggests), became a back-to-school hero and possibly (definitely not) the next quarterback of the football team with the amazing throw. Seriously, the odds of sinking this shot are only slightly better than finding two electrons in an atom with the same quantum numbers. It just doesn’t happen.

One student clarified the professor’s deal in a post on Reddit:

“Technically, he didn’t. The actual promise was that there would be no quiz, expecting that the shot would miss. Instead, he decided that we still had to take it, but it was based on participation.

Source: Was in the lower floor of that class. The hype and applause that followed was unreal.”

In all seriousness, good luck in organic chemistry.

New, Reading-Heavy SAT Has Students Worried

(from BOSTON — For thousands of college hopefuls, the stressful college admissions season is about to become even more fraught. The College Board, which makes the SAT, is rolling out a new test — its biggest redesign in a decade, and one of the most substantial ever.

Chief among the changes, experts say: longer and harder reading passages and more words in math problems. The shift is leading some educators and college admissions officers to fear that the revised test will penalize students who have not been exposed to a lot of reading, or who speak a different language at home — like immigrants and the poor.

It has also led to a general sense that the new test is uncharted territory, leaving many students wondering whether they should take the SAT or its rival, the ACT. College admissions officers say they are waiting to see how the scores turn out before deciding how to weight the new test.

The College Board said that the number of words in the reading section had remained the same — about 3,250 on the new test, and 3,300 on the old one — and that the percentage of word problems in the math sections of the old and the new test was roughly the same, about 30 percent.

“We are very mindful of the verbal load on this test,” Cyndie Schmeiser, the chief of assessment at the College Board, said. “We are keeping it down. I think kids are going to find it comfortable and familiar. Everything about the test is publicly available. There are no mysteries.”

But outside analysts say the way the words are presented makes a difference. For instance, short sentence-completion questions, which tested logic and vocabulary, have been eliminated in favor of longer reading passages, from literary sources like “Ethan Frome” and “Moby-Dick,” or political ones, like John Locke’s ideas about consent of the governed. These contain sophisticated words and thoughts in sometimes ornate diction.

The math problems are more wrapped in narrative, as Serena Walker, a college-bound junior at the Match charter school here, found when she fired up her laptop for a practice quiz on the new test.

“An anthropologist studies a woman’s femur that was uncovered in Madagascar,” one question began. She knew a femur was a leg bone, but was not sure about “anthropologist.” She was contemplating “Madagascar” just as she remembered her teacher’s advice to concentrate on the essential, which, she decided, was the algebraic equation that came next, h = 60 + 2.5f, where h stood for height and f stood for the length of the femur.

05satweb3-articleLarge“I feel like they put in a lot of unnecessary words,” she said.

Jed Applerouth, who runs a national tutoring service, estimated that the new math test was 50 percent reading comprehension, adding, in a blog post, that “students will need to learn how to wade through all the language to isolate the math.”

The new SAT is probably less correlated with I.Q. testing than the old one, Dr. Applerouth said in an interview. But given the more difficult reading level of some passages and more demanding curriculum, “it may be the rich get richer,” he said.

Jay Bacrania, the chief executive of Signet Education, a test-prep company based in Cambridge, said he found blocks of text from the new test to average at least a grade level higher than text from the old one. When students open the exam, “I think to some degree the sticker shock — that first impression — is almost even worse,” he said.

College admissions officers say they are just as confused.

“We’re going to need to see how they did, which test is going to be better, how can we weigh it,” said Eric J. Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.

The SAT is rooted in aptitude testing and is known for its “trickiness,” as educators say, like partly correct or plausible but wrong choices on answers. It long dominated college admissions on the East and West Coasts, while the ACTdominated in the Midwest.

The ACT, created by the company of the same name, is based on surveys of curriculum across the country and is over all considered more straightforward. But it gives less time for more questions, and has a science section.

Competition for market share has been growing, and in 2012, the ACT surpassed the SAT.

College Board officials said the new test was devised to satisfy the demands of college admissions officers and high school guidance counselors for an exam that more clearly showed a connection to what students were learning in school. The College Board has also been grappling with complaints that the old SAT, with its arcane vocabulary questions, correlated with advantages like parental income and education, and that whites and Asians performed better on average than blacks and Hispanics.

Dr. Schmeiser said that despite educators’ fears, a preliminary study did not show the new test giving any disadvantage to Asians — who excel in math but do slightly less well than whites in reading. “We did look at how students of color and various races and ethnicities looked,” Dr. Schmeiser said. “It suggested the gap may be narrowing.”

As the March rollout date for the new SAT approaches, many test-prep companies are suggesting that students take one of each practice exam to see which they do better on.

At HighTech Los Angeles, a charter school in Van Nuys with many Hispanic students, more students have enrolled in ACT than SAT prep this spring. Karyn Koven, the director of college counseling, said she had heard other counselors advising students that they might not want to be the “guinea pigs,” in the first administration of a new test.

At Match in Boston, where many students’ first language was Spanish, Mr. Bacrania, who has consulted with the school, advised that it switch from the SAT to the ACT this year.

But the school decided to stick with what it knows. “We say do your best,” the principal, Hannah Larkin, said. “We don’t say good luck to them, because ultimately, we don’t think the test is about luck.”

And, yes, Serena got the wordy math question right.

Afro-Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales Steps Into Official Spider-Shoes In Reboot


  • It wasn’t the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man you might expect who swung into action this week, as Marvel debuted the franchise’s first black and Latino character in the role of New York City’s official webslinger.

    “Our message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else,” creator and writer Brian Michael Bendis told the New York Daily News last summer when news broke that 16-year-old Morales would replace Peter Parker as New York City’s iconic hero.

    Morales was first introduced by Marvel in 2011, as a version of Spider-Man in the offshoot series Ultimate Spider-Man. But the Afro-Latino teen only existed outside the larger Spider-Man universe, where Peter Parker donned the mask, until now. Parker, meanwhile, is off to fight crime globally according to Bendis.

    The teen’s first day as Parker’s replacement in the Big Apple was Wednesday, when the character reboot was officially debuted in “Spider-Man #1.” The new series is drawn by artist Sara Pichelli.

    Bendis sat down with Entertainment Weekly this week to discuss the historic transition and the reception of Morales, the son of an African-American father and a Puerto Rican mother.

    “In general, what Miles represents is anyone can be Spider-Man,”Bendis said. “I’ve heard this so much from people: that they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be in that costume. That was a big reason for us to go down this road and invent Miles in the first place.”

    The new series is drawn by artist Sara Pichelli.

    Bendis himself has two black children, and so he feels a responsibility to create a more inclusive world for them and others.

    “I have children of color and I see what they watch and I see what they read and I see how difficult it is for them to find something that isn’t the sassy best friend on some [Nickelodeon] show or something,” Bendis told EW. “I made a determination to add positively into that part of our culture for little kids and adults and teenagers. There’s stuff that isn’t represented at all. I’m happy to be part of fixing that as much as I can, when the story allows.”

    In the series, he added, Morales will also deal with “both positive and negative” reactions to his race along with the traditional crime fighting and girl woes that come with being a teenage superhero.

    This new Spider-Man is far from alone in the comic book Marvel universe, which has become more diverse in recent years. “Miles is but one face in a diverse landscape of heroes that includesKamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), Sam Wilson (Captain America) andAmadeus Cho (the Hulk), and offers readers of all creeds and colors a chance to see their own reflection,” Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, Axel Alonso, told Vibe Wednesday.

    The comic book’s diversity hasn’t really translated to Marvel’s presence on the silver screen, the franchise announced last summer that Britain’s Tom Holland would portray Spider-Man in the upcoming reboot. Holland will be the third white actor to portray the iconic hero in the film franchise.

    For more on what Spider-Man fans can expect from Morales in the future and how his story will differ from Peter Parker’s, head over to Entertainment Weekly to read the full interview with Bendis.

    And take a look at some excerpts from the new issue below:

    • Marvel
    • Marvel
    • Marvel
    • Marvel

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the character’s creator as Brian Michael Landis. His name is Brian Michael Bendis. Language has also been updated to reflect Morales’ backstory more accurately.


Why I Do Not Want to Grow Up In Donald Trump’s America


At the beginning of this election cycle, I didn’t know a lot about the American Horror Story known as Donald John Trump Sr. I knew that he was a filthy-rich businessman and that he was quite obnoxious, but that’s about it. When he announced his candidacy in June, I wasn’t paying much attention to the race for the nomination. When I got back from summer camp in mid-August, however, I started watching the debates and paying attention in earnest. I was immediately appalled at how ridiculous Trump was.

Like most, I thought he would flame out quickly. I figured that the American people are too smart for him. What I didn’t know was that some of them are not, and that he is a terrifyingly serious candidate. And I also didn’t realize that Americans were fed up enough with various shortcomings of our country to believe a nasty demagogue. Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” implies that America has fallen into the dumps, which many people who have done so themselves are willing to believe. He kept rising in the polls and succeeding in the debates, and as the early Republican nomination contests in Iowa in New Hampshire are around the corner, I fear that he won’t flame out, but will instead catch fire.

I am a young teenager, and so I have a different perspective on many things, ranging from politics to sports. There are still many things that I haven’t figured out. I know that I may not be able to understand what exactly happened in the recent recession, though I loved The Big Short. But one thing I do understand is that Donald Trump should not be allowed to hold any sort of position of power in this great country. I want to live my teen years in an America that has a sane president. The teen years are very important in one’s life. It is when one decides what he wants to be for the future. It is when he matures from a young, inexperienced child to a mature, responsible adult who has beliefs and manages his own finances and has a job of his own. If Trump were to be president, it would scar America forever. Everyone remotely near my age would acquire an image of America as tyrannical and crazy.

I want people who grow up in America to have an image of it as a fair, strong, and thriving country that can still become better and stronger. I passionately disagree with many of Obama’s policies and non-policies, but I am entirely against a change so drastic and ugly as Donald Trump.

His ugliness is so obvious. For example, in May 2013 Trumptweeted: “26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” That is saying that sexual assault in the military is totally expected, which is completely outrageous. A crime is a crime, no matter the scenario in which it occurs. This also shows that Trump is quite anti-feminist, and has a crude view of women.

He has also said about himself that “Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.” This egomania is utterly ridiculous. The two reasons I didn’t burst out laughing when I saw this was because he was actually serious and I was in the middle of History class. This quite clearly shows his disgusting arrogance, which is more deplorable than his hair. (Like most, I have chuckled at it. It is a perfect symbol of his ludicrousness.)

Many of the policies Trump suggests undercut traditional American values. In The America We Deserve, a bestselling book he wrote in 2000, he talks about how we need to make it hard for legalimmigrants to enter the country easily: “But legal immigrants do not and should not enter easily.” This defies American values and traditions. For years, people have come here to live the American Dream. The vast majority of people who come to this country are coming here for good reasons, not for bad ones. They want to work. They want to help America thrive. I see no remotely logical reason why we shouldn’t allow them to join us in building America. These people should be free to choose where they want to live, and Donald Trump has no right to interfere with their personal (and admirable) decisions.

This leads me to Trump’s rhetoric about barring all Muslim immigrants from the United States. Being Jewish, I have learned extensively about the Holocaust and America’s shameful response to it. During the Hitler years, America had a minuscule quota for Jewish immigration into the US. After everything was said and done — or rather, not said and not done — six million people died. I’m not saying that the situation in Syria is this bad yet, but it doesn’t have to be this bad to demand a moral response from us, and it is anyway extremely terrible. People are dying because of evil dictators and terrorists bent on anarchy. Why are we not accepting the people who are fleeing for their lives and their families’ lives? Why do we turn away people who would otherwise live happy and productive lives in the United States? Why politicians nowadays don’t remember the Holocaust’s lesson for America is beyond me. Yes, there is a chance that we will let in some terrorists. But the risk of terrorism is much smaller than the obligation to recognize their distress and their dignity.

I don’t want to have to live down a reputation of America as racist and hostile throughout my late teens and early twenties, and no young adult should have to either. But that is exactly the reputation Trump wants to give America. His political success shames us.

Trump would destroy this country from the inside if he were elected president. He shouldn’t have been allowed to get as far as he has. He should have been stopped by mass disgust. But instead he profits from his racism and his fear-mongering and his appeals to people’s perception of America as a country in decline. He degrades his fellow campaigners (I don’t call them his fellow politicians, because that would imply that Trump is in some way a politician, which is absurd). He spits out insult after insult, against individuals and against groups, and is rewarded for this in the polls. Come on, adult America! We’re better than this. We shouldn’t allow racism, hate, and fear to prosper in this country. That is not the sort of country I, or anyone close to my age, should want to inherit.

As someone once famously said to another purveyor of fear and hatred, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Matthew Wieseltier is a student in middle school at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Bill O’Reilly will flee to Ireland if Sanders is elected. He’s in for a shock.


Bill O’Reilly, the host of Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” is threatening to flee the country if Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — the self-described democratic socialist who is running for the Democratic Party nomination — is elected president. As quoted in the Huffington Post, O’Reilly said:

“If Bernie Sanders gets elected president, I’m fleeing … I’m going to Ireland. And they already know it. … I shouldn’t say it publicly because that will get Sanders more votes,” he said. “But I’m not going to pay 90 percent of my income to that guy. I’m sorry. I’m not doing it.”

O’Reilly is proud of his Irish ancestry (as a recent emigrant from Ireland and current U.S. citizen, I heartily approve of these sentiments). But he probably doesn’t know very much about what Ireland is like these days. From the perspective of its Western European neighbors, Ireland is a small, market-friendly, right-of-center country. But from the perspective of American conservatism, Ireland looks like a hellhole of socialism.

Can O’Reilly easily flee to Ireland?

It may be tougher than he thinks. It would seem that O’Reilly’s nearest Irish ancestor was his great-grandfather. This means that he misses the cut-off for automatic Irish citizenship by one generation. If you have one Irish grandparent, you qualify for Irish citizenship — but unless O’Reilly’s grandparent or parent formally applied, he’s out of luck. He does have a second possibility though — paying to become a citizen. Ireland, like many other countries, provides citizenship to individuals who are willing to invest or donate a large sum of money to the benefit of the Irish economy.

Ireland is not a conservative paradise: Look at the taxes

What would O’Reilly get in return for his money? First off, a tax system that is not all that different from the U.S. tax system for top earners, and arguably a little less favorable. The effective top Irish income tax rate is a little over half of income.

In the rather unlikely event that Sanders was elected president in a landslide of socialist enthusiasm, turning the Senate and the House socialist, and introducing punitive taxes to impoverish rich Fox News opinionators, O’Reilly would still be in trouble. Even if he lived in Ireland, he would have difficulty avoiding U.S. taxes unless he renounced his U.S. citizenship. The United States continues to regard U.S. expatriates as taxpayers, no matter where they reside. Ireland and the United States have a double taxation treaty, to prevent people being taxed twice for the same income — this might provide some loopholes for royalties and the like, but probably not enough to make an enormous difference. O’Reilly would likely find himself paying to support Sanders’s socialist American utopia from overseas.

Ireland has gun control. Serious gun control.

Bill O’Reilly has strong views on his right to own guns to defend himself under the Second Amendment.

I have a right to protect myself, because there are crazed animals like the guy in Oregon. … There are people like that who will come after innocent people for no reason. And you are going to deny me protection? If I live out in a rural Oregon … where the nearest cop is 40 miles away? I can’t have a gun to protect my family?

The Irish attitude to guns is going to be a serious culture shock. First, he’ll be far worse off than he would be in rural Oregon. While there will surely be cops closer than 40 miles away, those cops will almost certainly be unarmed. In Ireland, police only carry arms under special circumstances. Most Irish police officers don’t even have firearms training.

Furthermore, gun ownership is highly restricted in Ireland. People have to apply for a license to own a gun, and are likely to be refused under many circumstances. Furthermore, there are heavy restrictions on kinds of guns that they are allowed to own — roughly speaking, guns for sport and hunting (sports pistols; shotguns; some kinds of rifles) are okay, but handguns of the kind that O’Reilly could use for “self-defense” are not, let alone automatic weapons. Gun rights are not a topic of political debate in Ireland — Ireland’s most conservative party, which is now the majority party in the government, has just introduced new restrictions, without any significant public opposition.

Ireland has socialized medicine

O’Reilly denounces Obamacare as “socialism” because it uses taxpayers’ money to subsidize the poor. The Irish health-care system does the same thing, on a much larger scale, with a hospital system that is directly run by the government. In Ireland, hospital doctors are government employees (although many senior doctors earn substantial incomes on the side from private practice). Everyone in Ireland is entitled to free basic health care in hospitals, and low income people get medical cards entitling them to free doctors’ visits and many other services.

This system is far from perfect, which means that many middle-class and upper-middle-class people supplement it with private health insurance (so that, for example, that they do not have to wait long times for some surgical procedures). Even so, it’s socialized medicine on a scale which would be politically unthinkable in America. Ireland also has welfare benefits for the unemployed that are not notably generous by European standards, but are wildly permissive in comparison to their U.S. equivalents.

There are other ways in which Ireland is more congenial to conservatives like O’Reilly. Most obviously, abortion is far more heavily curtailed in Ireland than the United States (although the conservative party leading government has promised to liberalize Ireland’s abortion laws this year).

Even though Ireland is a conservative country by West European standards, it’s far, far to the left of U.S. conservative preferences on many key issues.

If O’Reilly really thinks that Ireland is a good alternative to a Sanders-led America, it’s probably because he’s unfamiliar with what Ireland is really like as a country. If a putative Sanders administration were somehow able successfully to introduce Irish-style health care, an Irish-style welfare state and Irish-style gun control, it would be viewed by conservatives as a socialist revolution.

Henry Farrell is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. He works on a variety of topics, including trust, the politics of the Internet and international and comparative political economy.

12 Stories From 2015 That Remind You The World Is A Pretty Decent Place

  • Kimberly Yam Associate Good News Editor, The Huffington Post


In 2015, there was no shortage of moments that made us grin from ear-to-ear.

We rounded up some of the year’s most feel-good stories that’ll make you look back fondly on the past 12 months. From a dog who somehow mastered the public transit system, to a mailman who made one young reader’s dreams come true, these stories were so moving, we just couldn’t help but crack a smile.

Check them out below.

When This Little Boy Couldn’t Keep It Together After Meeting His Heroes

Ollie Kroner/Facebook
Ollie Kroner/Facebook

Some things in life are just too good to handle.

Quincy Kroner had that exact feeling on March 13 when he met his heroes — the neighborhood garbage men, Mark Davis and Eddie Washington. The Cincinnati 2-year-old has been fascinated by the garbage truck “since about the age he could walk,” the toddler’s father, Ollie Kroner, told The Huffington Post. But this was the first time he met the garbage men in person, and it was all too much for him — resulting in the adorably priceless photo above.

Read the full story here.

When This Weatherman Made The Internet Cheer With His Perfect Pronunciation Of A 58-Letter Village Name


There’s probably no word too hard for this guy to pronounce.

To everyone’s delight, Liam Dutton, a weatherman for British TV station Channel 4 News casually nailed Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch — the name of a Welsh village, during a report. (No, that’s not a typo. This place actually exists.)

Read the full story here.

When This Mailman Got The Internet To Come Together For A Boy Who Loves To Read

  • Twelve-year-old Mathew Flores loves to read. But until recently, advertisements were the only reading materials available to the boy.

    Flores approached his mailman, Ron Lynch, in a Salt Lake City suburb to ask if he could have any junk mail.

    Instead, Lynch asked his Facebook friends if they could spare some books for Flores.

    People from around the world, including the U.K., Australia and India, sent books to Mathew. Lynch told HuffPost hundreds of books have been delivered to the boy’s door.

    Read the full story here.


  • When ‘The Lion King’ And ‘Aladdin’ Broadway Casts Made Layovers Look Fun


  • Now this is one flight delay we actually wish we were stuck in.

    A video uploaded to YouTube captures every theater geek’s dream-come-true: a sing-off between Broadway cast members of “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” Though it took place during a six-hour weather delay at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, the singing turned what could’ve been a dreary scene into an incredible one.

    Read the full story here.


Ahmed Mohamed, a ninth-grade student in Irving, Texas, was arrested and sent to juvenile detention after bringing a homemade clock to school, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed began trending on Twitter after Ahmed’s arrest was first reported, with thousands chastising the arrest and suspension, and standing in solidarity with the boy.

Read the full story here.

When This Dog Stunned Everyone With Her Bus-Riding Abilities

Seattle’s public transit system has had a ruff go of things lately, and that has riders smiling.

You see, of the 120 million riders who used the system last year, at least one of them is a dog. Seattle’s KOMO-TV reports the 2-year-old black Labrador mix, named Eclipse, has become a regular fixture on the city’s D-Line after she figured out how to ride the bus alone to the dog park.

Read the full story here.

When This Elderly Patient Cheered Her Muslim Doctor Up After Trump’s Islamophobic Comments


Following Donald Trump‘s offensive comments toward Muslims, one elderly patient decided to show her Muslim doctor that she stands in solidarity with him.

Fahim Rahim, a kidney doctor at Idaho Kidney Center, shared a photo on Facebook of himself and his 91-year-old patient, posing with some crocheted stuffed animals earlier this week. The doctor explained in his post that the patient gave him the animals, which she made herself, for a very sweet reason.

Read the full story here.

When This Radio Station Invited A Lonely 95-Year-Old Man Onto Its Show


When 95-year-old Bill Palmer called into a BBC radio show saying he was lonely and missed his wife, the show’s hosts had just the solution: invite him to the studio for a cup of coffee.

The story resonated with thousands of listeners, who phoned in offering support for Bill. The studio even plans to keep in touch with Bill in the future, according to Metro.

Read the full story here.

When This Orphan Kangaroo Stole Hearts Everywhere With His Teddy Bear


We’re just as in love with this little kangaroo as he is with his stuffed teddy bear.

Timothy Beshara, who lives in Tasmania, shared a photo on Twitter this past Tuesday of an orphaned eastern grey kangaroo named “Doodlebug” — yes, DOODLEBUG! — clutching his stuffed teddy bear in New South Wales, Australia.

Read the full story here.

When This Teacher And His Students’ Rendition of “Uptown Funk” Made Us Wanna Boogie

This groovy teacher’s giving us a lesson in funk.

Scott Pankey led his students at A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in Dallas, in an epic dance to Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” proving that educators got style, too.

Read the full story here.

When This Man Tugged At Our Heartstrings With His Train For Rescue Dogs
When This Man Tugged At Our Heartstrings With His Train For Rescue Dogs

This is the coolest guy he rescues stray dogs and every morning he takes them for a train ride by our building, i finally got the courage up to ask if I could take his pic! Love this and had to share!

Posted by Tiffany Johnson on Thursday, September 17, 2015

Everyone deserves a little fun in life, even stray dogs.

Eugene Bostick, an 80-year-old retiree and his brother decided to take abandoned dogs in, giving them shelter and food. He also wanted to take them on trips outside the farm.

So he put together a makeshift train to take the dogs through the streets, to a nearby forest or creek.

“Whenever they hear me hooking the tractor up to it, man, they get so excited,” Bostick told The Dodo. “They all come running and jump in on their own. They’re ready to go.”

Read the full story here.

When This Teen Made All 1,076 Girls At His School Feel Like A Million Bucks

Wanting every girl at his high school to feel loved on Valentine’s Day, one big-hearted Oklahoma teen decided to surprise all of them with cards and candy this year — a total of 1,076 girls.

According to KFOR, Dan Williams, a student at Edmond High School in Edmond, Oklahoma, had to work all summer to raise enough money for the surprise gifts. “To know that someone cares about them, that’s the best feeling in the world I think,” he told the news outlet.

Read the full story here.




I Have a Dream, Too


13-year-old political commentator, activist and writer (

On August 28th,1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic “I have a dream” speech. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, to a crowd of more than 250,000 people, the late civil rights activist laid out his dream for racial equality in America and his vision for our country for the years to come.

On that day, Reverend King boldly articulated his vision for a country in which he says “…my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, …one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” That “…one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

This historic speech ushered in a series of remarkable and groundbreaking advancements towards racial equality in America and has inspired millions of people around the world to look to one’s heart and not one’s complexion.

However, in the 21st century, we are faced with new demons, new struggles, and a new shockingly, horrible reality.

In 2015, women still make 78 cents to the dollar compared to men for doing the same exact work. A statistic that should not only infuriate you but motivate you to fight harder and fight for the pay you deserve.

But the question remains – why should you have to fight for what you deserve?

This fight for equal pay is a shocking reality for millions of women in millions of workplaces across America.

While some on the right may attempt to ignore this proven fact, the facts are clear.Study, after study, after study has confirmed this jaw-dropping injustice affecting millions of workplaces across America.

We must do better.

Currently, those working 40 hours a week are struggling to put food on the table and clothes on their children’s back while the top one percent of wage earners in America are thriving. This is not only egregious but an utter betrayal of the values we hold as a country.

President Obama put it best: “Hard work, personal responsibility – those are values. But looking out for one another. That’s a value. The idea that we’re all in this together. I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper. That’s a value.”

Those are the values we can not forget.

When it comes to those working as hard as they can, as much as they can, and still struggling to make ends meet – we must do better.

The fact of the matter is that the current federal minimum wage is starvation pay and must become a living wage. Regardless of Republican fear tactics, we won’t lose jobs if we raise the wage. Paul Krugman, of Princeton University, even said, “And while there are dissenters, as there always are, the great preponderance of the evidence from these natural experiments points to little if any negative effect of minimum wage increases on employment.”

And so, when it comes to giving the 1.5 million people currently making minimum wage in America the pay they deserve, we must do better.

Gun violence in America has become the norm. Every week, someone somewhere is getting their head blown off due to a lack of common sense policies when it comes to gun control. We’ve learned to accept these senseless tragedies as the new norm.

We’ve become numb.

We’ve become numb to the devastating effects that gun violence has on the families of it’s victims due to the horrible consistency as which it occurs.

I’m thirteen years old and sometimes I fear going to school because I have no clue as to what could happen or what some crazy person could do if they got their hands on a gun and walked into my school.

I shouldn’t have to be scared.

For the 62,000 victims of gun violence in this year alone, we must do better.

I support the Second amendment because I support the Constitution. However, common sense gun policies isn’t “gun grabbing” – it’s public safety.

Last but not least, this piece wouldn’t be complete without discussing the harrowing effects of systemic racism and police brutality in this country. 2015 has been the year of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, and countless others who’ve lost their lives for simply doing nothing.

While this is purely speculative, I’m sure if MLK were to see the police brutality people of color across America are facing today, he’d ask the same question many others, including myself, are currently asking.

“Why are the police killing my people?”

We must do better.

While taking in the struggles we face, it is easy to become saddened, easy to become discouraged, and easy to become angry. However, our anger must become our driving force. Our sadness must become our muse.

Because like Martin Luther King Jr., for the sake of progress, we can not afford to lose this fight. We can only afford to do better.

And we must do better…before it’s too late.



BRING HOPE #into16 for To Write Love on Her Arms

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.  It is one of the best organizations I have had the pleasure of being involved both as a teacher and as a blogger who encounters people on a daily basis coping with these struggles, and who has anxiety/depression myself.

Please won’t you take a moment during this giving season and consider donating here as we BRING HOPE #into16!  We want to put FIND HELP resources into the hands of 10,000 more people. We want to start a conversation about mental health on the Vans Warped Tour and at more than 100 festivals across North America and abroad. We want to help our 70 University Chapters continue to challenge stigma on college campuses.

There are so many things we want to accomplish in the next year, but we can’t do them without your help. Today, on Giving Tuesday, we’re launching our #into16 campaign with a goal of raising $50,000 by December 31.

Big or small, every donation matters. Every dollar helps us connect people to the help they deserve. Bring hope #into16 and make a one-time or monthly donation. And as our way of saying thanks, we’re offering the following donation and fundraiser incentives:

  • $100 donor / raised – Downloadable version of the TWLOHA calendar images.
  • $300 donor / raised  – 1 pack of TWLOHA magnets + downloadable version of the TWLOHA calendar images.
  • $500 donor / raised – 1 signed copy of If You Feel Too Much + 1 pack of TWLOHAmagnets + downloadable version of the TWLOHA calendar images.

If you can’t give this year, you can still help. Let your family, friends, and followers know how they can support TWLOHA in 2016.

Thank you for believing in hope.

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J.J. Abrams Wants Moms To Take Their Daughters To See ‘Star Wars’

Cole DelbyckEntertainment Writer, The Huffington Post

Although his name is now synonymous with jaw-dropping action set pieces and lens flares, J.J. Abrams first made it big on the small screen with the teen drama “Felicity.” Ever since then, strong female characters have been sort of a calling card for Abrams (Sydney Bristow, Kate Austen, Olivia Dunham, etc.) so when it came time to direct “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” he was committed to making the sci-fi epic a bit more friendly to female fans.

Abrams sat down with “Good Morning America” on Monday to discuss the impending release of the most anticipated movie of the year. He shared what “Star Wars” has meant to him and what he hopes it will mean for fans who have already made the film a resounding success.

“It was a mind-blowing thing because this movie, it was the first time a film that was kind of a fantasy movie looked so real and so authentic,” Abrams revealed to “GMA” about watching “Star Wars” as an 11-year-old. “It was funny and romantic and exciting and adventurous, and it had amazing characters … And as a kid, it was literally a mind-blowing, mind-altering experience.”

In the past, “Star Wars” has attracted a heavily male audience, but with this installment, Abrams cast Daisy Ridley as the primary protagonist for the express purpose of attracting more female viewers.

“‘Star Wars’ was always a boys’ thing and a movie that dads could take their sons to, and though that’s still very much the case, I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to, as well,” he said. “I’m looking forward to kids seeing this movie and seeing themselves in it and seeing that they’re capable of doing things that they never imagined possible.”

If there’s anyone to make the impossible possible, it’s Abrams.

And now for a perfect blending of past and present, here’s Keri Russell giving Tom Cruise a run for his money in “Mission Impossible 3.” We are forever grateful, J.J..


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School’s Private Pop-up Shop Lets Underserved Students Buy Basics With Dignity

“We want to strengthen our community, and schooling is just one aspect of that.”

Students require more than just books to succeed in school, and this innovative resource is helping teens in need build confidence both in and out of the classroom.

Administrators and the student government at Washington High School, in Washington, North Carolina, have created an anonymous, in-house shopping experience that provides underprivileged students with basic resources like food, hygienic products, school supplies and clothing. To eliminate stigma or judgment, students are able to discreetly approach a school administrator to privately take what they need from the shelves, where all items are targeted specifically to teenagers.

“If we want academics to improve, we have to make certain we’re meeting our students’ basic needs,” Misty Walker, the school principal, told The Huffington Post. “We want to strengthen our community, and schooling is just one aspect of that.”


The idea for the pantry came about when Walker realized her students’ needs were constantly growing. Though Washington High offers free and reduced meals, some students would not eat their next meal until they were back at school the next day, Walker explained. Students even began coming up to her personally, asking for items like toothpaste and toothbrushes.

As more of these needs began to surface, Walker consulted with Washington High School partner Bright Futures — an organization focused on school and community development. With the group, school administrators and the student leaders first developed a hygiene closet, and when that was successful, local donors helped expand the service into a school supply closet, food pantry and clothing shop.


“It’s a slightly different concept because we focused really on trying to help our high schoolers, versus the experience of preparing a whole box of food for a family,” Walker said.

To gain access to these resources, students simply speak in confidence with a teacher, counselor or administrator about their needs. A member of the school staff will then take them to shop in the pantries, all of which are located inside the school. This system both provides teens in need with basic resources, and strengthens the school community.

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Over the past six weeks the program has been up and running, Walker estimates about 15 percent of the total student body has utilized the resources. With Thanksgiving approaching, the school is making sure they are fully stocked to ensure students don’t have to go without during the long weekend.

“For our students who have a lot of needs, sometimes they’re hesitant to let someone know what their needs are,” Walker explained. “But once they develop a relationship [with a guidance counselor or teacher] and you treat them in a professional, genuine caring manner, it helps build their self esteem”

H/T GoodNews Network


Tavi Gevinson On Why Young Adults Should Be Taken More Seriously

The teenage writer and actress reflects on high school, Rookie and staying optimistic in the face of growing up.

Headshot of Maddie Crum
Books and Culture Writer, The Huffington Post

At the front row of a fashion week show, among the many poised faces, there once sat an ornately dressed preteen whose unabashed self-expression could’ve been described as courageous, naive, or both.

Though her wild, keen sense of fashion launched Tavi Gevinson’s career — which the now 19-year-old writer and actress is still defining — it was clear even then that her ability to express herself boldly and artistically would only continue to grow and change along with her.

Among her many creative endeavors — Tavi is the editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to teen-centric interviews and personal essays, and she recently starred in a Broadway play called “This Is Our Youth” opposite Michael Cera — perhaps the most personal is her annual collage-like collection of articles and photos, Rookie Yearbook. There are four in total, meant to mimic the progression of actual high school yearbooks. The fourth is out today, and hinges on the positive aspects of growing past your teenage years — which is fitting, considering Tavi’s frequent reflections on growing up herself.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09:  Tavi Gevinson attends the Rodarte fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 at CRG Gallery on September 9, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 09: Tavi Gevinson attends the Rodarte fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 at CRG Gallery on September 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)

“Rookie will still be for teenagers even as I continue to get older,” she said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “As I get older, it’s less about, ‘What am I going through and how do I write about it?’ It’s more about how to use my power to highlight other people’s voices and make a good space for them.”

We talked with Tavi about getting older — and how to stay optimistic rather than cynical along the way. We talked, too, about conversation writing, gritty photos, and why adults shouldn’t worry about reading YA, because everyone should read whatever the hell they want.

Nostalgia is a theme that runs throughout the Rookie yearbooks — you spend time with each reflecting on your progress. What is it about nostalgia as a theme that you enjoy?

I don’t know, I have lots of theories as to why I constantly feel like the world is coming to an end, and why I feel like I need to review everything and memorialize it. In a way, I wonder if it’s almost generational in that we’re able to so immediately reflect on things as they’re happening to us. So maybe it’s just that I’ve written about my life every day as it’s been happening, either on my blog or Rookie or in a diary. So maybe I just snap into a set of rose-tinted glasses very quickly or something. I literally talk about this in therapy, I’d love to know why I’m so fixated on it.

The fourth book, I’m excited about because I really feel like it’s not so mournful about growing up as the other ones. It’s more celebratory. It’s a lot more optimistic, and I’m really pleased about that. I think when I was younger I felt, as many of us do, like Holden Caulfield. Like, when you grow up, your heart dies. And the adult world mars you. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I think it was getting out of high school that allowed me to imbue this last book with that sense of optimism.

For sure. I think it’s important for women in particular to not value their youth more than other parts of their life.

Yeah. High school’s hard and I never wanted to romanticize or glaze over just how innately, physiologically, biologically painful it can be to be between the ages of 13 and 18 or whatever. I never wanted to brush over that. So maybe in trying to acknowledge that, a lot of my writing was a little more cynical. I feel that the fourth book acknowledges that part of being a teenager, but it looks outward a lot more, too. There’s a lot about just the world, and life.

Since you started Rookie, have you noticed the tone of conversations about teenage girls changing at all?

Now I pretty consistently see articles about young women who have something to say. It’s like me, Amandla Stenberg, Lorde, and other people. Take that for whatever it’s worth. I don’t know how much weight to give an article like that.

I don’t really care about the adult conversation about teenagers, but I hope teenagers and readers of Rookie feel, if not taken more seriously by adults, then at least a little more comfortable with themselves and connected to each other.

The tone of Rookie articles is often more conversational than most essays or interviews. Was this intentional? And why do you think it’s important?

I knew in the beginning I wanted it to be informal, but that wasn’t, like, a stretch. I didn’t have to very consciously make that choice, I just had to let myself write the way that I write, which was very much the way that I talk. And that does change. I’ve been working on something this year — I don’t know what it will be, but it’s probably not right for Rookie. The tone is a lot more controlled. I like having a place to try that, too. So it’s sort of conscious but it’s also organic.

The photos and essays you promote are informal in another way, too: they’re often gritty or offhand. What it is about this aesthetic that you like?

When someone sends us her work, it’s like, whether it’s more candid or more composed, I just think you can feel when it came from a real place. Even when a teenager has conducted a photo shoot with her friends, and they chose their outfits very specifically and it’s not just a photo diary, even that is very authentic. I just have a huge place in my heart for that, because I was conducting my own versions of that every day when I did my blog.

I guess I’m just drawn to anything where I sense somehow that it’s organic. I mean I don’t know that I’m like, the realness police. I’m not trying to say that. But it’s like how every now and then fashion will be like, “Punk is in!” and there’ll be a fashion shoot that’ll be like, “Studs! But they’re, like, $2,000!” And I just think it’s cool to try and encourage people who are actually just like, 16 years old and covering everything in studs. It’s just cool to give them a space.

Speaking of gritty girlhood: Did you see “Diary of a Teenage Girl”? 

I’ve literally been avoiding that movie because everyone keeps telling me to see it. I know it’ll give me a lot of feelings, and I am scared of that, and I don’t want to have a lot of emotions right now, so I’ve been avoiding it. I will see it when I’m a little more willing to receive that. It has nothing to do with the movie. Like, I avoided watching “Man on Wire” for years because I was like, ahhh, it’ll give me feelings.

Obviously, there’s been backlash against adults reading YA books or sites like Rookie. How do you feel about that?

I’m not aware of this. What have people been saying?

You know, if adults are reading teen stories it represents a sort of juvenilization of our culture. Like, they should be reading adult things.

Who’s saying this?

Oh, there was an article in Slate about a year ago, and it was really divisive. The New York Times did a Room for Debate on it around the same time.

Oh my god, who cares? I just don’t really care. Nothing seems more boring to me than policing what other people are reading, and waving a YA novel in the air and being like, “Intellect is going to rot!” No. Come on. That’s really narrow.

I also think a lot of writing for teenagers is really strong and not juvenile, and that’s really condescending. It shows such a misunderstanding of the creative process. You don’t choose the things that light you up or that you’re fixated by. I would love to know why I feel the need to analyze my own nostalgia, and I would love to have something new to think about, but I’m trying to process things, so this is what I have to work with.

Obviously publishing is an industry — I’m not saying everyone is waking up in the morning and just following their heart or pure artistic desires. But that criticism, to me, is cynical, and it’s talking about something that’s really hard to quantify, and it’s a misunderstanding of who people like to write about. Or like, what kind of character might excite an author.

I know John Green said he likes writing for teenagers because they don’t shroud everything in irony. And I’ve been out of high school and in the “real world” trying to find my people for maybe a year and a half now. I feel like I know people who are adults who roll their eyes if the conversation moves somewhere kind of interesting because they think it’s stoner-y or college-like or something that they covered in philosophy class.

It’s like a knee-jerk reaction to vulnerability.

Exactly! I mean, I’m college-aged, but I feel so much more stimulated by friends who are still thinking about the world, and I hope to never resign myself to not being allowed to turn things over my head and analyze them because it seems juvenile. I’m like, freaking out right now — what will I do when I’m not interested in the world? I hope I never get to an age where I’m like, “Ugh, that’s dumb, we already figured everything out!” That’s not how it works, I would hope. That seems really sad.

It’s not just that I’d rather hang out with other people my age. People I know who are older who are writers, and they’re writers because they love writing, not because they moved to New York because they had an idea about being a writer in New York, and they are just constantly trying to think of the most relevant thing you can say. Last week alone I hung out with four women separately — some of them have kids — and we were having conversations about stuff that might’ve seemed embarrassing or too earnest or faux-deep or juvenile, but I don’t think any of those people are, like, stunted.

I saw one of those women throw out a word — it was so, like, The Secret History to me. The other woman we were having breakfast with looked up the definition and wrote it down. That’s not because there’s this sort of naive interest in the world. It’s because she’s a writer, and if you’re not trying to receive these little clues that are given to you about how to live, then what are you doing?

Have the movies and books that you’re into changed at all since high school?

I read Bluets by Maggie Nelson — that was huge for me. It changed a lot of the ways that I think about writing, as did The Lover by Marguerite Duras. I’ve been reading all of Annie Baker’s plays.

I think in high school I was going back through a lot of stuff mentors or older friends of mine liked when they were younger, and now I think I’m mostly just keeping up with newer music, so like Carly Rae Jepsen and Drake — the same stuff as everyone else. I don’t really watch TV because it’s like, I can either watch all of “The Sopranos” or I can, like, write a book. I don’t know how to sit still. I wish I could, it’s not a waste of time by any means. Watching “Breaking Bad” was probably one of the richest experiences of my life.  I’m just too precious with my time.