Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
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The 2nd Amendment: How the gun control debate went crazy
The gun control debate has been at fever pitch for several years now, and as things fail to change the stats get grimmer. The New York Times reports that there have been 239 school shootings nationwide since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, where 20 first graders and six adults were killed. Six years later, 438 more people have been shot in schools, and for 138 of them it was fatal. Here, journalist and author Kurt Andersen reads the Second Amendment, and explains its history from 1791 all the way to now. "What people need to know is that the Second Amendment only recently became such a salient amendment," says Andersen. It's only in the last 50 years that the gun debate has gone haywire, and it was the moment the NRA went from reasonable to absolutist. So what does the "right to bear arms" really mean? What was a firearm in the 1790s, and what is a firearm now? "Compared to [the] many, many, many rounds-per-second firearms that we have today, it's the same word but virtually a different machine." Kurt Andersen is the author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.
The 5th Amendment: Do not break in case of emergency
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is often talked about but rarely read in full. The reason? Counterterrorism expert Amaryllis Fox explains that it has, these days, simply become shorthand for not saying anything in court to incriminate yourself. But the full text states how important the due process of law is to every American. So perhaps learning the full text, not just the shorthand, is an important step to being an American citizen. You can find out more about Amaryllis Fox here.
The 13th Amendment: The unjust prison to profit pipeline
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery—but it still remains legal under one condition. The amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Today in America, big corporations profit of cheap prison labor in both privatized and state-run prisons. Shaka Senghor knows this second wave of slavery well—he spent 19 years in jail, working for a starting wage of 17 cents per hour, in a prison where a 15-minute phone call costs between $3-$15. In this video, he shares the exploitation that goes on in American prisons, and how the 13th Amendment allows slavery to continue. He also questions the profit incentive to incarcerate in this country: why does America represent less than 5% of the world's population, but almost 25% of the world's prisoners? Shaka Senghor's latest venture is Mind Blown Media.
The 14th Amendment: History's most radical idea?
In 1868, three years after slavery was abolished, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting equal protection under the law to every born and naturalized U.S. citizen. For CNN news commentator Van Jones this amendment is, in his words, the "whole enchilada." It's not the most popular amendment—it doesn't get name-dropped in TV courtroom dramas, or fiercely debated before elections—but to Jones it is a weighty principle that was far ahead of its time. "It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're a lesbian. That's not what it says. It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're African American. That's not what it says. It says if you're in the jurisdiction you get equal protection under the law. That's radical. In 10,000 years of human history, that's radical." Van Jones is the author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.
The 26th Amendment: The act of voting should empower people
Is a 55.7% voter turnout really enough? Bryan Cranston was disappointed with the 2016 presidential election, not for the outcome but for the process. According to Census Bureau figures it was a bumper year for voter engagement with 137.5 million total ballots cast—but is just over half of the eligible voters really that impressive? The Pew Research Center shows that the U.S. still trails behind most developed nations in voter registration and turnout. "I think we've devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we've become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities," says Cranston. The good news? Millennials and Gen Xers are on an upward trend in civic engagement, casting more votes than Boomers and older generations in the 2016 election. Cranston reminds us of how empowering the 26th Amendment is in granting voting rights to Americans over the age of 18. "We can't take that lightly," says Cranston. It's a timely reminder too, as 40 million people are expected to drop off that 55.7% figure for the midterm elections, mostly from the millennial, unmarried women and people of color demographics. Bryan Cranston's new book is the spectacular memoir A Life in Parts.
- Generational differences always pose a challenge for companies.
- How do you integrate the norms and expectations of the new generation with those of the old?
- Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt points out that Gen Z—the cohort born after 1995—differs sharply from the Millennial generation before it and offers some advice for understanding and working with a generation in some ways more sheltered and less independent than any before it.
- There's a crisis in the workplace. According to a 2016 Gallup Poll, 70% of people are disengaged at work. And a whopping 18% are actively repulsed by what they do for a living.
- This is clearly no good for the workers themselves. But it's also no good for the companies they serve.
- What makes us happy is fairly well understood, as is the fact that happy workers work harder, make fewer mistakes, and invest creative energy in making companies successful.
- Moral grandstanding is the use of moral talk for self-promotion. Moral grandstanders have egotistical motives: they may want to signal that they have superhuman insight into a topic, paint themselves as a victim, or show that they care more than others.
- Moral philosophers view moral grandstanding as a net negative. They argue that it contributes to political polarization, increases levels of cynicism about moral talk and its value in public life, and it causes outrage exhaustion.
- Grandstanders are also a kind of social free rider, says Brandon Warmke. They get the benefits of being heard without contributing to any valuable discourse. It's selfish behavior at best, and divisive behavior at worst.
- A study finds that even short breaks help you solidify new learning.
- In a way, learning really only happens during your breaks.
- For the most effective learning sessions, build-in short rest periods.
It's been believed for some time that resting, ideally sleeping, after learning something new helps you lock in your newly acquired knowledge. Now a study finds that even short breaks can be beneficial. It's a fascinating study that suggests that we don't improve as we practice, but rather during the breaks we take.
Type '4-1-3-2-4', coneheads!
In a study from the National Institutes of Health – led by Marlene Bönstrup, a post-doc in the lab of Leonard G. Cohen – the brain waves of 27 healthy volunteers were monitored as they practiced typing 4-1-3-2-4 as fast as they could for 10 seconds using only their left hand, and then resting for 10 seconds. They did this 36 times. Long, cone-shaped, magnetoencephalography brain-scanning caps they wore allowed researchers to record their brain activity.
As you might expect, subjects' speeds improved with practice up through the 11th trial, starting out at about one key per second and topping out at about 3.5 keys per second. No further gain in speed was seen in trials 12-36.
When the researchers looked more closely at the participants' improvements, they noticed something surprising. On average, subjects performed at the same speed throughout each trial. It was only between trials — as they rested — that they got faster. By the time the next trial began, their speed had improved.
"I noticed that participants' brain waves seemed to change much more during the rest periods than during the typing sessions," Bönstrup tells the NIH. "This gave me the idea to look much more closely for when learning was actually happening. Was it during practice or rest?"
The scans suggested that the phenomenon has to do with 16-22Hz beta waves in the frontoparietal area of the brain. These waves are associated with someone planning movement, and, indeed, when subjects rested, the researchers saw changes in the amplitude of these waves that suggest their brains were solidifying memory and getting ready to type faster. It was also apparent that most of this occurred in the right hemisphere of a participant's brain, which is associated with the left hand.
While the study was concerned with the learning of motor skills, the finding may be more broadly applicable, and further research will be required. "Whether these results apply to other forms of learning and memory formation remains an open question," says Cohen.
In any event, the study has intriguing implications for learning in a variety of settings. As Cohen says,"Our results suggest that it may be important to optimize the timing and configuration of rest intervals when implementing rehabilitative treatments in stroke patients or when learning to play the piano in normal volunteers."
Another intriguing offline idea
(Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images)
This is what problem-solving looks like.
Neuroscientists have been looking closely at our mechanisms for learning, and there's been a lot of interest in the interplay between active thinking and learning and what your brain does while — on a conscious level anyway — you're resting or sleeping.
Barbara Oakley, author of Mindshift, refers to your brain as having two distinct circuits for these two states. In her Big Think Edge video, "Breaking Through Learning Obstacles: Activate Your Neural Networks," she explains how they work together as you acquire new knowledge.
- The focus neural network — This is the neural network you employ when you're concentrating on a problem you're deliberately trying to solve.
- The diffuse neural network — This is a neural network that can continue to work on a problem in the background as you're consciously thinking about other things.
The concept of access regardless of land ownership is called 'Allemansrätt' - 'everyman's right'.
The custom dates from mediaeval times, but was only passed as law in parliament in 1974, and enshrined in the Swedish constitution in 1994. Authorities can even force landowners to remove any fence in place which has the sole purpose of obstructing public access to a recreation area.
There are sensible exceptions. You cannot enter private gardens or cultivated land, nor can you camp within 70 metres of a dwelling place, or exploit the countryside for economic purpose, such as hunting and logging.
People are obliged to take care of the nature they enjoy, and respect others they meet. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has popularized the slogan 'don't disturb, don't destroy', a variation on the 'leave no trace' tagline found elsewhere.
Several other countries ensure similar freedoms, including the rest of the Nordic countries (though Denmark has some restrictions on private land), several Baltic states, Scotland and Austria. By contrast, many countries have restrictions on access to public land. In England for example, walkers are generally allowed to cross privately owned moors, heaths and coastal land, but not forests. In the US, property rights allow landowners to exclude others. And Northern Ireland has "draconian" access rights, according to the Chairman of the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs (UFRC).
Access to nature can be key to a population's health, both in terms of encouraging an active lifestyle and for the soothing powers of the great outdoors. Japan has designated "therapy forests" where people are encouraged to go "forest bathing," while doctors in Scotland are prescribing outdoor activities to help tackle a range of conditions. Medical research has linked time spent in nature with everything from reduced depression to improved immune systems.