screen grab from YouTube

There's a list of movies I sit down to watch nearly every December. Most of the movies are terrible. Any other time of year, I'd be ashamed to admit how much I enjoy such corny classics. That's what makes Christmastime special, for those of us who celebrate it. It's like a free pass to just think happy thoughts. It's a collective suspension of disbelief that lasts for the better part of a month. 

When I sit down to watch my favorite Christmas movies, one thing I'm definitely not expecting to get is a cutting commentary on race and class in America. But that's what you get with the 1983 comedy Trading Places

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Darn it! The New York Times beat me to this story, or, rather, to this book review, but I'm going to go ahead and write it anyway. Because the book Where Is It Coming From? is hilarious. 

courtesy of Karen Wang

Karen Wang calls her house an autism house. She does have a son who is 13 and autistic, but she’s kind of talking about the décor.  "The sofas are in bright mismatched colors," she says. There are two pinball machines in the room, with fitted black fabric covering them right now. "Following the pinball helps with visual tracking," she explains. "Everything has a therapeutic purpose."

Sarah Alvarez

This is part of a special collaboration between Bridge Magazine and Infowire. Read their report here.

Washington Post

Jennifer Guerra and Dustin Dwyer are both working on stories about low income kids and college. 

flickr/cityyear

You may have noticed a paradigm shift lately in the thinking about what kids need to succeed in life. 

The old paradigm was all about reasoning and acquired knowledge. The new paradigm, which burst into the mainstream with Paul Tough's  hugely successful 2013 book, "How Children Succeed," is all about character skills such as perseverance, curiosity and - everyone's new favorite word - grit. 

Tough's book had an impact in part because it was highly readable and compelling. By contrast, a new research paper published today by the National Bureau of Economic Research is daunting, long and full of jargon. 

But this paper could still be very useful.

Andrew Mason / Flickr

To educate our readers and avoid being redundant, we're creating a series of "explainer" posts on the topics we refer to a lot. This is one of them.

The teenage brain is full of opportunity. It's malleable,  almost like plastic, and can be changed. This makes adolescence a chance to really reshape the brain. 

The teenage brain is constantly changing

user Frank Juarez / flickr

We've talked about it before, but it's worth repeating: There is a major gap in the way we discipline children in schools.

This New York Times piece highlights not only the race gap but the gender gap as well, citing federal data that shows "black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls, and more than girls of any other race or ethnicity" from 2011 to 2012.

Oh but it doesn't end there. Keep reading.

We've talked about it before, but it's worth repeating: there is a major gap in the way we discipline children in schools. This New York Times piece highlights not only the race gap but the gender gap as well, citing federal data that shows "black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls, and more than girls of any other race or ethnicity" from 2011 to 2012.

user Jonas John / flickr

This time next week, most college students will be wrapping up their final exams and getting ready for winter break. They’ll pack up their bags and head home for the holidays. 

It’s probably safe to assume that a lot of people don’t start planning for the holidays until November.  But Joi Rencher isn’t like most people. She works at Eastern Michigan University, and she starts talking about the holidays with her students as soon as they arrive on campus in the fall.

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