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.

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  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.

As the coronavirus pandemic enters its fifth month, many questions remain unanswered over how the virus damages the body. Now, a group of researchers are planning a large-scale study that aims to shed light on how COVID-19 affects the brain.

The COVID-19 Brain Study plans to monitor the long-term health of 50,000 participants who have tested positive for COVID-19. The research could help answer questions like: Does COVID-19 cause cognitive impairment? And, if so, how do age, race, and sex factor into the equation?

Considering recent studies that suggest COVID-19 may cause neurological damage, the researchers say it's important to start tracking patients' health as early as possible.

"The problem is a bit like when governments were deciding to enter lockdown – timing is everything," Adrian Owen, a Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, told Western University of Health Sciences News. "We need to start collecting this data now. We can't start looking at this issue in a year's time because if there are cognitive impairments, and we know there will be, it's going to be too late."

COVID-19 effects on the brain.

Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

Paterson et al.

The researchers also want to find out whether there are significant differences between patients who recovered from the disease in intensive care units and those who got better at home. After all, studies have revealed that some patients may suffer a constellation of long-lasting physical, emotional, and mental problems after staying in an ICU, a condition dubbed post-intensive care syndrome.

"A year from now, we will have more than eight million people worldwide recovering from COVID-19," Owen said. "So, we may also have eight million people with short- and long-term cognitive problems."

COVID-19 and the brain

A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a study in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.

Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.

medical staff standing around patient in bedSan Diego-Area Hospitals Treat Coronavirus Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

A separate study published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.

A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.

"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a press release. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."

If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study.


  • Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
  • More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
  • SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.


With COVID-19 ravaging our economy—leaving 40 million workers seeking unemployment benefits and 55% of Americans reporting lost income—the country desperately needs a better set of solutions to help workers reorient in the face of an uncertain future.

Employers have historically provided outplacement services to employees they lay off. Outplacement is a $5 billion industry in normal years that spikes dramatically during recessions. Companies that provide outplacement services typically charge $3,000 to $10,000 per worker.

But the standard offering is paltry. Employees who have been laid off or are about to be laid off receive a bit of coaching, access to job listings, and resume reviews—and that's about it.

Yet we know that a couple of short coaching sessions, job listings and resume reviews don't result in jobs. Research shows that 70% of all jobs aren't posted on job sites, and 80% of jobs are filled through connections, not blind applications.

Nor do these services result in the sort of higher paying jobs that allow individuals to become more productive working members of society on sounder footing, ready to navigate the twists and turns of a future that will see more technological unemployment and a vastly different set of required skill sets to future-proof jobs.

Instead, those who are laid off require something more: reskilling, relationships, and navigation to step it up and make progress in their lives.

Against this backdrop, a new effort, SkillUp, is launching to help workers select and prepare for career paths that align with the economy of the future. SkillUp is a non-profit leading a coalition of technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to support laid off and furloughed workers.

The coalition SkillUp is assembling is ultimately more than a set of solutions around outplacement that should persist past the current pandemic, but the coming promise of a more flexible, affordable, and convenient set of solutions to support individuals' upskilling and reskilling throughout their lives to fulfill their human potential.

SkillUp offers a three-pronged approach:

  1. Career navigation: Technology tools and coaching resources to help workers choose a productive pathway and orient around jobs and careers that will grow in the future of work.
  2. Training programs: The coalition helps workers find educational and training programs matched to their career goals to help them upskill, so that they do not just go back into frontline or entry-level roles, but can make progress in their career and fortunes.
  3. Job opportunities: Using relationships with hiring employers and technology to match workers with open positions, SkillUp pairs workers with available opportunities.

In addition, SkillUp is leveraging the technology of Next Chapter, an offering of Guild Education, where I'm a senior strategist, as well as Guild's partner network of large employers—many of whom are in a position to hire employees—and education providers. These relationships will help SkillUp move quickly to serve workers with a ready-made solution.

SkillUp's solution shows how employers can transition parts of their workforce to more productive pursuits over time. Employers have an incentive to drive this work to refresh their workforces in intentional ways that manage employee churn; to bolster employee morale; to preserve their company brand; to aid in personnel recruitment; and to ultimately help power the country's consumption-driven economy.

The coalition SkillUp is assembling is ultimately more than a set of solutions around outplacement that should persist past the current pandemic, but the coming promise of a more flexible, affordable, and convenient set of solutions to support individuals' upskilling and reskilling throughout their lives to fulfill their human potential. What that necessitates is a much broader shift in postsecondary education and a reshuffling of how higher education works.

Rather than just bank on existing colleges and universities and sources of debt-driven funding to disrupt themselves, the future of higher education will also rely on novel programs and arrangements, like SkillUp.

New funding mechanisms to pay for more education—from leveraging employers' willingness to pay in order to reap a return on investment to income share agreements that align incentives around the success of learners—will emerge to fund the education of learners.

On-ramp and last-mile programs along with hybrid colleges that marry online, competency-based learning with learning model innovations, no-excuses mindsets, and non-academic supports are emerging to alter how we prepare students to enter the workforce. Mobile learning solutions are making learning far more bite-sized and accessible on the job.

Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]

Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.

Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.

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The year 2020 will go down in history as one that shook our inner and outer worlds. In this Big Think Live session, magician, author, and cultural critic Penn Jillette will discuss the giant upheavals of 2020 through the lens of what he knows best: illusions. Which social, personal, and governmental illusions have been shattered this year, and how (and what) should we rebuild? Jillette, one half the world's most famous magic duo with Teller, will also give tips on how to foster long-term business partnerships and sustain creativity, and how he maintains a clear, rational mind in the noisiest era to date.

Moderated by Victoria Montgomery-Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.

Join at 2 pm ET tomorrow, July 10, and ask your questions for Penn Jillette during the audience Q&A!

STREAMING LINKS:
Big Think Edge
| YouTube | Facebook

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  • A study shows that caring for your pets can improve your well-being.
  • The researchers found the act of caring provided more improvements than mere companionship.
  • These results aren't limited to pets. Plenty of studies show caring for others can improve your well-being.

Many pet owners will tell you that tending to their pets is a chore, but one that often brings joy. Psychology noticed this a long time ago, and the "Pet Effect," the tendency of people with pets to be healthier, happier, and live longer, is an increasingly well-documented phenomenon. While these studies suggest that many of the benefits come from pets seeming to attend to our need for companionship, a new study finds that providing for your pet's needs can grant similar benefits.

Admit it, you treat your dog like it's a person and act accordingly. It's kind of okay though, tons of people do.

Researchers with the Interdisciplinary Center of the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology asked 104 dog owners to keep a journal for 21 days. The test subjects rated how much they agreed with statements about their interactions with their pet such as "When I interacted with my dog, I tried to show it that I really care for it" or "When I interacted with my dog, I tried to let it feel free to be its true self." They also responded to questions of how they were feeling, and if they supposed their dogs cared about them.

As predicted, owners who gave their dogs more support reported higher levels of well-being, felt closer to their pets, and noted less psychological distress. The effect was more substantial than the benefits gained from receiving support from pets, suggesting that giving support satisfies a need by itself.

The dogs involved in the study could not be reached for comment but are assumed to have enjoyed the attention.

Self-Determination Theory

The authors interpreted these findings in the light of Self-Determination Theory, or SDT. A theory of human motivation that focuses on innate drives and needs, it centers around the idea that humans function well when our internal motivations are satisfied and less so when they are not. The key motivations are:

  • Autonomy, defined as a need to be a causal agent.
  • Competence, defined as the need to experience mastery.
  • Relatedness, defined as the need to interact and connect with others as well as the need to experience caring.

One possible explanation of the pet effect observed here is that owners are anthropomorphizing their dogs and allowing their owners to perceive tending to a dog's needs as similar to tending to another person's needs. In particular, this is satisfying the need for Relatedness. Whether dogs actually have the same need to connect with others or to be supported so it can "feel free to be its true self" as humans do remains unknown.

In any case, it does appear that you can satisfy your need to care for something by trying to make your pet happy. Exactly how far this effect can be pushed and if it still works if people aren't anthropomorphizing their pets are areas for future study.

But I don’t own pets, so how does this apply to me?

The ideas behind SDT can be applied in many situations, not only ones involving pets. A variety of other studies have shown that providing care for others can improve your well-being, but have focused on what happens when humans tend to other humans.

Science has confirmed what many pet owners always knew, taking care of your fur-covered friend is often more of a joy than a chore. This study points to new ways to improve your well-being by interacting with both humans and animals to make everybody feel a little better.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play with a cat.