Monday, February 27, 2017

I Demand My 1st Amendment Rights!! BTW What are they? Part 1, Freedom of Speech

Your First Amendment Rights include:
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of Assembly
Freedom of Religioin
Freedom of Petition
First let's talk about.....
Freedom of Speech:
  • The obvious is the right of every citizen to speak his or her mind, especially when it comes to politics. In a nutshell, it means if you want to say you disapprove or have negative feelings about the President of the United States or any other representative, you can, and you won't be arrested for doing so.
  • Freedom of Speech is sometimes called Freedom of Expression; they are essentially the same, although 'expression' also means expressing yourself in different ways.
Freedom of Speech means you can:
  • Seek, receive, or give out information
  • This would mean you can look for information without fear of being arrested or penalized. You can seek information in person, through records, through libraries, online, and through the mail.

  • You can also receive information: If you call and ask, or visit and ask, a source to send you information-that is perfectly legal, and your information (particularly mail) can't be censored, it is your personal property.
  • 'Speech' also means the right to carry a sign, to put one in your yard, or on your car, or on clothing you wear, because this is a form of expression.
  • You have the freedom to express yourself in art, as well: Song, painting, sculpture, writing, are all ways to express what you feel. Did you know some books have been "banned" in the US in the past? Read more about that in Triogenius, Jan. 5, 2015. How do you feel about censorship?

  • You can give out information you have found, although it depends on where you want to speak or give out information in the form of flyers, for example. If you want to give a speech to a number of people about your beliefs, you can. You can't, however, do this in a space, even if it's public, if there are restrictions as to number of people, etc. One prime example is at a State Fair. There are people who own the land, specifically the state, who can restrict your speaking there. You may not assemble and make speeches on the grounds of a prison, because it is also usually state-owned. You may or may not be allowed to make speeches in a 'public' park, You are required to ask permission and then abide by the findings.

  • Students do not necessarily have the right to speak on school grounds about their issues.
  • While technically, you have the 'right' to say bad things about someone, whether in public, through the mail, or online, there is the question of ethics and how it damages that person in the process. Having the 'right' to say it doesn't mean you should say it.
  • You do, perhaps unfortunately, have the right to burn the American flag in protest.
  •  You do have the right to take photos of people in public places.
  • You do have the right to form a protest and carry signs; however, you need to find a place where it will be allowed and get the necessary permit from the community. Some communities will not allow the use of signs mounted on sticks, in order to avoid possible violence.

  • When protesting, you do not have the right to incite violence (see below). When this happens or seems imminent, law enforcement is allowed to move in and stop the protest.The protest should not infringe the rights of others (such as blocking traffic)
  • Since the Internet is relatively new, discussions about rights online is a developing topic: how much  and what kind of information should we allow to be shared online? How can we regulate that? Should we? Who would decide?
Things you do NOT have the right to do with your Freedom of Speech:
  • Saying or otherwise expressing things that incite or provoke people to violence
  • Saying things that cause a panic in people (the traditional yelling "FIRE" in a theatre)
  • Saying offensive things (this is open to a broad interpretation: What is offensive, and to whom?)

  • Saying things that promote hate/hate crimes. You cannot speak of your hatred of a particular race, for example, when you make a speech.
  • Saying, or collecting, or sharing obscene things-materials such as pictures or videos, especially involving children and vulnerable others
  • Saying things that slander or defame other people
  • Denying anyone else their freedom of speech
  • Bullying behavior whether in person, online, or through your phone
  • You cannot speak on matters that are classified information, are copyrighted, or that reveal trade secrets.
  • Graffiti (sometimes called "Tagging") is damage to someone else's property; it is not simply freedom of expression. You see it frequently on train cars and buildings. Sometimes people will spray paint 'messages' on someone's house or a church. That is vandalism and possibly a hate crime.

For a legal description of this right:

There are countries in the world where freedom speech is not a given right. In Saudi Arabia, for example, if you speak against the religion of Islam, you can be put to death. Iran, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, China, North Korea, and other countries are very restrictive as to this freedom we take for granted here. Read more about it:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tell This Story

Write a story. For fun. You did read that right, for fun.
How? You ask.

Remember when some teacher at some point tried to suggest that an outline is really important, but you were bored and looking out the window trying to think what to do after school or whether you had enough time between classes to catch up with your buddy, or if you could make to your locker and to the next class in time?

Should have paid attention. Just sayin'. 

An outline is going to be really helpful in any writing project, so instead of thinking of it as a chore, think of it as an interview. Ask yourself:
  • What is the overall story?
  • Who is the 'hero' of the story?
  • Who are the other characters?
  • Where does it take place?
  • When does it take place?
  • What is the problem the character(s) face?
  • How does the main character solve the problem?
  • Does the main character have a mentor or close friend? Who is that?
  • Do you want to write in first-person; that is, as if you are in the story? ("I wanted to write down my thoughts before I forgot. Here's how my story goes.")
You get the idea. Now try making a simple drawing that shows the path of the story. It could look like this:
***Whether writing on paper or on the computer... Save your work!!***

As you tell the story, you'll think of details to add. Most stories have a 'bad guy' character. Do you want to 'analyze' why this person is a negative force, or do you simply want to have a suspicious person lurking around? Do you want to place several suspicious characters in the story, to make the reader guess who the true bad guy is? When you start the story, how will you fill in your reader as to the background of the main character? Do you want to simply describe who he or she is, how the person got to be where he or she is today, etc., or do you want to let that be known a bit at a time?

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Listen to a song that tells a story, and tell that story in richer detail.
  • Use a story one of your parents, grandparents, uncle or aunt has told you. Stick to the straight story or meander off into a fantasy of it.
  • Write about a building you think is interesting but know nothing about.
  • Bring up a memory from when you were younger and start a story with that.
  • One of the traditional writing 'rules' is, write what you know. You'll be surprised how much you know about a favorite subject-an activity, your background, or sport. Use that in your story.
  • Don't forget the value of surprise in your story. You might not even know what that is until you're in the middle of writing it!

Try a prompt:(these could also be the opening line of a story: entice your reader to know more)
  • I'm so bored right now that....
  • When I heard it, I couldn't believe it.
  • It looked bad, really bad.
  • She didn't know her best friend as well as she thought.
  • What was that doing there?
  • I just stepped off the train, not knowing where to go.
  • I never thought this would happen.
  • My little sister or brother is impossible, really impossible.
  • People think I'm crazy, but I actually do hear stuff no one else seems to hear.
  • Everybody else thought he was a good person, but I knew he wasn't.
  • When I first saw it, I didn't realize it was a hand.
  • It was over. Wasn't it?
Or, try one of these pictures for inspiration:

The best thing to do when writing is to just start writing. You will probably toss out some of your starts and that is fine. There will be re-writing, editing, and frustration, but when you're done, you'll have invented something that wasn't there before. How cool is that?

"We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

                                                  -J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Civics 101: What Are the House of Representatives and the Senate? And What is Congress?

Remember, there are three branches to our government:
Legislative--The Senate and the House of Representatives, which discusses the laws of the country and can pass new laws
Judiciary-- The Supreme Court, which decides matters of legality according to the way the law is written in the Constitution
Executive-- The President, Vice President, the Cabinet, and different agencies of our government.

Congress-the combined Senate and House of Representatives- meets in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
The Senate...
  • Is made up of 100 representatives, two per state, and that does not vary. They serve a 6 year term. There are various positions up for re-election every 2 years.
  • Has to approve the people appointed for the Cabinet, Supreme Court judges, the secretaries of various agencies and military officers.
  • Has to work with the House of Representatives when passing legislation
  • Our 2 senators from Minnesota are Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. You can get in touch with them, and find out your district, here:

The Senate. Notice the observers up in the balcony.
The House of Representatives....
  • Has members based on the population of each state. Some states have just 1 representative: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. California, the most populous state, has the most at 53.
  • Minnesota has 8 Representatives: Here are their names alphabetically with their districts:
  • Keith Ellison (D) Website - Minnesota 5th
  • Tom Emmer (R) Website - Minnesota 6th
  • Jason Lewis (R) Website - Minnesota's 2nd
  • Betty McCollum (D) Website - Minnesota 4th
  • Rick Nolan (D) Website - Minnesota 8th
  • Erik Paulsen (R) Website - Minnesota 3rd
  • Collin Peterson (D) Website - Minnesota 7th
  • Tim Walz (D) Website - Minnesota 1st
  • To serve in the House, a person must be 25 years of age, a US citizen for 7 years, and must live in the state he/she represents.
  • Representatives serve a two year term.
  • In the House there are also delegates from American-held territories, including Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, and a Commissioner from Puerto Rico.
  • Any legislation that involves raising taxes starts in the House but must be approved by the Senate as well.
  • The President has the power to pass or veto a bill ONLY when the House and Senate have voted and come to a 2/3 consensus; that is, if 2/3 of the votes were in favor of passing a law, the President can sign it into law. If 2/3 of the votes were to not pass it, then the President can finish it by veto and it will not become law.

More people, bigger space: House of Representatives. This is a State of the Union address by President Obama.
The Senate and House of Representatives, together, form the Congress or just Congress. Think of it as a 'congregation' of people--both combined make one Congress.
Here is a really good and simple explanation:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Black History Month

February marks Black History Month in the United States.

It started out as National African American History Week, the 2nd week in February, in 1926, The reason for this date? Both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in February.

Read about the Emancipation Proclamation, signed in January of 1863, here:

Did you know this about Lincoln and the Proclamation?

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1868 gave former slaves citizenship, but it had its flaws: It did not necessarily guarantee them their Constitutional rights. This was debated for years through Congress and the Supreme Court.

.The 15th Amendment gave men of color the right to vote (but not women, nor could any woman vote until 1919).

Shocking, right????

Note the use of the Roman Numerals XV

For a look at many constitution-related documents, follow this link to the National Archives site:

The celebration of the contribution of African Americans expanded to the month of February in 1976, and became Black History Month. It is about more than slavery, though. Here is just a brief listing of African Americans and their contributions to America:
  • Harriet Tubman was well known for her work with the Underground Railroad, guiding slaves to freedom in the north. She will be the first woman featured on money, the $20 bill.
  • W E B Dubois, Founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organization began in 1909 and is still thriving today.
  • Hirem Revels was the first Black senator
  • Spelman College, in Georgia, was the first college for African American women

  • Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, in Alabama, was the first college for African American men:

  • Jackie Robinson was the first black baseball player. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 because she would not give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Here she is being fingerprinted:

  • Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, an African American, made the decision that interracial marriage is legal. In the past, it was not: You could be arrested for marrying someone of a different race.
  • Shirley Chisholm was the first African American in the House of Representatives, from New York. She served from 1969 to 1983.
  • The first African American in outer space was Guion Bluford, Junior.
  • Read about astronaut Ron McNair, who has a TRIO scholarship program named for him:

  • The McNair Scholarship is unique in that it is for graduate students (those who have finished their Bachelors Degree)
  • Colin Powell was the first Secretary of State of African American background
  • Condoleeza Rice was the first African American and first female to be Secretary of State.
  • Barack Obama was the first African American elected president.
  • We currently have 1 African American in the Senate, and 43 in the House of Representatives.
Young people talk about being mixed-race here:

What is the significance of Black History Month to you? Think about it, talk amongst yourselves, and see what we all have in common.