They Fought For Arts Education (And Won)

Students who take art and music classes score higher on the SAT and have an easier time learning a second language.

Students who take art and music classes score higher on the SAT and have an easier time learning a second language. Performing Shakespeare in a school play can greatly enhance reading comprehension and the ability to engage in complex thinking across all disciplines, including the math and sciences. Students on the verge of dropping out often cite art, music, and theater classes as the reasons they go to class in the first place.

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10 Tips For Taking a Memorable Staycation

Life feels like a vacation when you treat it like a vacation.

You don't have to travel to some expensive, tourist-trap miles away from home to enjoy an adventurous vacation. Consider the staycation, otherwise known as a nearcation, or even a day trip within driving distance from home.
We encourage taking a staycation for a variety of reasons. Less long-distance driving and air travel means you're responsible for fewer carbon emissions. You'll also spend less. Another benefit: staycations encourage exploration and discovery in the places that are closest to us, places we often overlook or take for granted. After all, what can you know about the world if you haven't explored the place you live?
Here are some suggestions for planning a staycation to remember:
1. Swap houses with a friend\n
Travel is awesome because you're putting yourself in unfamiliar territory, seeing different sights and breathing different air. Trading houses with a friend can replicate that welcome feeling of disorientation that's part of the thrill of travel. Plus, you get to escape the confines of home without breaking the bank on overnight lodging.
2. Climb something\n
It's not just a matter of getting to hard-to-reach places to find something new and exciting. Successfully scaling a wall or climbing a tree feels good in and of itself—it's like our brains are wired to feel accomplished when we physically overcome an obstacle in our path.
Of course, don't trespass and don't get yourself trapped in a dangerous situation. But do climb something for the sake of exploration—and for the reckless, exciting feeling that comes with it.
3. Get lost\n
Blindly point to a location on map and just go there and explore. Or ditch the map and drive down a road you've never taken before. Better yet, get lost on public transportation. Or walk. Do what you can do to disorient yourself from the familiar and you'll find something new about the place you thought you knew.
4. Put an umbrella in your drink\n
Life feels like a vacation when you treat it like a vacation. Make a homemade concoction and revel in fact that you didn't have to sit through a long and expensive flight to arrive at your final destination. Cheers!
5. Pretend you're an outsider and ask people what there is to do\n
No one knows every little detail about the place they live, but everyone is bound to know something that someone else doesn't. Tell people in your town that you're a visitor looking for things to do—their suggestions might surprise you.
6. Eat breakfast at a hotel\n
Eating breakfast at a hotel can make you feel like you're on vacation, even though you may only hail from a couple blocks away. Another plus: hotels force you to run into people from different walks of life and locations. Who knows? Maybe you'll save money in the future when your new friends let you crash at their place on that next far-away vacation you take.
7. Visit local attractions\n
Maybe it's the local park or museum. Or maybe it's a farmer's market, a historic diner, a DIY art exhibit or some surreal, one-of-a-kind Alpaca farm that's just within city limits. You're bound to find something exciting and new by visiting the places that people from across the world come to see. And really, the big difference between you and them is that you're spending way less on personal recreation. Not to mention that spending your vacation days visiting local attractions -- rather than hot-spot tourist destinations—bodes well for local businesses.
8. Venture out into nature\n
You don't need to travel to some distant location to find peace and quiet. Nature carries with it physiological and psychological benefits that can induce feelings of calm and ease. Drive out to the nearest hike or scenic view and enjoy the fresh air—and the money you've saved.
9. Plan out your break\n
One of the dangers with vacationing at home is the risk of falling back into the normal routine of things. Here's a good way to prevent this—draft out a schedule of things you want to do and places you want to visit. Prepare a budget of how much you want to spend on your break. It'll help you separate your staycation from everyday life.
10. Relax\n
Stop checking your e-mail. Put your phone away. Don't worry about work. You're on vacation, even though you're still close to home.

Staycation image from Karen Roach on Shutterstock\n

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Take a Staycation. Follow along and join the conversation at and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.

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Five Inspiring 2013 Commencement Speeches You Need to Hear

Here are five brilliant commencement speeches from 2013.

With graduation season wrapping up, here are five people who delivered brilliant and inspiring commencement speeches from 2013.
Ben Bernanke\n
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke kept the format simple and listed 10 lessons he's learned throughout life in his speech to graduates of Princeton University. Bernanke's lessons range from simple suggestions (call your parents) to deeper, more opinionated insights into policy making and political science ("cynicism is a poor substitute for critical thought and substantive action"). Yet the real kicker in Bernanke's speech comes with lesson number three—he begins to channel his inner John Rawls as he deconstructs the notion that a system which uses merit to determine a personal and financial success is a fair system:
A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others.\n
Toni Morrison\n
Note: her speech starts at the 35:00 minute mark.\n
Writer Toni Morrison delivered her commencement speech at Vanderbilt University. Whereas Bernanke basically read a list, Morrison laid out a paced, meticulous narrative of the human experience—a history "soaked" in money ("the not-so-secret mistress of our lives") and greed-inspired violence.
Where does salvation lie in such a chaotic world? Morrison says hope manifests itself in the intuition to do good and create art. She also emphasized the importance of appreciating our dependence on other people:
"We owe everything to others. We owe others our language; our history; our art; our survival; our neighborhood; our relationships with families and colleagues; our abilities to defy our social conventions as well as to support our social conventions."
John Lewis\n
Congressman John Lewis reflected on his formative years and the fight against segregation during his commencement address to The Jewish Theological Seminary. "You must go out and find away to get in good trouble, in necessary trouble," he told graduates. "You must play a role in helping to make our country, of helping to make our world a better place."
A few minutes in, his delivery becomes electrifying.
Neil deGrasse Tyson\n
"In the years since we've landed on the moon America has lost its exploratory compass," lamented astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in his speech to Rice University graduates. Like Morrison, Tyson structured his speech around an overarching narrative; ever the space enthusiast, Tyson outlined the history of American space exploration, its roots in the Cold War and its impact on the environmentalist movement.
Best part of the speech: around the 11:30 mark, Tyson starts talking about the Apollo 8 crew snapping a photograph of Earth, which shows to humanity what the world actually looks like from the outside. And Tyson argues that such a photo conveys a cosmic truth about what matters (nature) and what doesn't matter (borders) with regards to our planet.
"There was earth not with color-coded countries. There was earth with oceans, land, clouds."
The Dalai Lama\n
The 14th Dalai Lama spoke at The Superdome in New Orleans to graduates of Tulane University. There, the Dalai Lama outlined some of the basics of the overarching philosophy he's developed over the years—that happiness is the purpose of all life; that human affection has innate, biological roots; that the pathway towards a meaningful life lies in caring for other people. He also stressed the importance of cooperating in solving "man-made" problems:
"Many of these problems are actually our own creation... therefore, we must have the ability to overcome these problems."
His speech starts at the six-minute mark. Listen to the echo that trails his voice!