Study Breaks

Study Breaks are our way of connecting the well known with little known. Introducing an authentic, yet uncommon angle to a person or topic you might be familiar with (and hopefully making you smile along the way).

Limitations of the Articles of Confederation

Read from Common Sense Government: While a league of friendship was undoubtedly better than many of the alternatives, it was by no means sufficient as a governing concept for the United States. The failures of the Articles were felt almost immediately, and most acutely by none other than George Washington. Under the Articles, the states were repeatedly unable to respond … Read More

Constitutional Convention Convenes

On May 25, 1787, with George Washington presiding, the Constitutional Convention formally convened in Philadelphia. Their job? To improve (or replace depending on which delegate you spoke to) the failing Articles of Confederation. Created and adopted during the Revolutionary War, the Articles of Confederation was doomed to fail for a number of reasons, including: The design of the central government ... Read More

At Least Lindbergh Had Leg Room Study Break

Ninety-one years ago on May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh, a 25-year-old aviator, took off at 7:52 a.m. from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, in the Spirit of St. Louis attempting to win a $25,000 prize for the first solo nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. Thirty-three hours later, after a 3,600 mile journey, he landed at Le Bourget, Paris, ... Read More

Who is the Mother of Mother’s Day?

May 13, 2018 is Mother’s Day in the United States. With origins dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, the American version was created by Anna Jarvis in honor of her mother in 1908 and became an official holiday in 1914. Prior to the Civil War, Jarvis’ ... Read More

Star Wars Day

Today is officially Star Wars Day, where fans of the famous franchise greet each other with the iconic greeting originally coined in a galaxy far, far away. Beyond the play on words (May the force vs. May the 4th), how did the day come about, and why is it connected with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher? Star Wars became ... Read More

Nixon Agrees to Release the Watergate Tapes

On April 29, 1974, President Richard Nixon announced that he would release transcripts of 46 taped White House conversations in response to a Watergate trial subpoena issued in July 1973. The House Judiciary committee accepted 1,200 pages of transcripts the next day, but insisted that the tapes be turned over as well. How were these tapes even discovered? People didn’t ... Read More

Oldest Places in the U.S.

Spring semester is halfway through and perhaps you are beginning to dream about summer vacation. While our culture tends to emphasize the here and the now, perhaps a tour of the oldest places in the United States - yes, that means prior to the arrival of Jamestown colonists - might be the adventure you never knew you wanted to take. ... Read More

Friday the 13th Holidays

Does your employer follow the federal holiday schedule when scheduling time off? Many businesses do and are closed for New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Depending on where you work, religious holidays may be handled on a case by case basis. The meaning ... Read More

That’s a Big Twinkie

April 6, 1930 is a special day in culinary history - the Twinkie was invented. The Continental Baking Company in Illinois sold baked snacks under the Hostess brand name. Many of the snacks were seasonal, with fruit filling. Hostess Little Shortbread Fingers were made with strawberries, so for several months of the year the equipment used to make them sat ... Read More

Jeopardy is on the Air!

Answer: This person was the original host of Jeopardy! Question: Who is Art Fleming? Yes, there was a host before Alex Trebek. While the current edition of Jeopardy! has been around since 1984, its predecessor originally aired on NBC on March 30, 1964 with Art Fleming as host. How did the iconic show begin? In the 1950s there were numerous ... Read More

Who Works for Whom?

From Common Sense Government:  Bureaucratic growth was heightened at the outset of the twentieth century. After his 1912 inauguration, President Woodrow Wilson oversaw the most rapid bureaucratic growth in America’s history to that point. In 1913-14, he signed three laws which both created new and powerful federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Reserve, and expanded federal power ... Read More

Spring Traditions

Mar. 20th marks the first day of spring. The arrival of spring means the return of not only mosquitoes and other pests, but also mundane or fun traditions. Spring Cleaning and Yard Sales - The classic “out with the old, in with the new” springtime philosophy takes shape through cleaning and repairing one’s home and organizing yard sales. In most ... Read More

James Madison Birthday

Happy 267th Birthday, James Madison! While you know Madison to be the fourth president and Father of the Constitution, celebrate his March 16 birthday and read about some of his little known facts. Yes, he was that small - Madison was 5 feet 4 inches tall, and tipped the scale at 100 lbs., making him the smallest chief executive in U.S. ... Read More

Monitor vs. Merrimack

On Mar. 9, 1862, the Civil War naval battle between the USS Monitor (Union) and the CSS Merrimack (Confederacy) took place. Known as the Battle of Hampton Roads, this engagement was history’s first duel between ironclad warships. Let’s learn about the “contestants.” The Merrimack was built first. Originally a Union ship, the vessel had been decommissioned for extensive repairs and ... Read More

Mount Rushmore Parents

On Mar. 3, 1925, Federal legislation was passed by Congress authorizing the carving and setting forth the purpose for Mount Rushmore State Park: "the establishment of a memorial commemorative of our national history and progress." Who came up with the idea of carving four big heads in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota? Two brains were behind the idea. The ... Read More

Teenage Candidate

Worried about today’s young people? Think they’re clueless human extensions of earbuds? Here are some stories that might make you change your mind. This year, politics are getting a youth infusion in some surprising ways. While there have been some prank candidates in the past (read about the 2016 presidential campaign of then high school sophomore Brady “Deez Nuts” Olson), ... Read More

Olympic Fever

Have that post-Super Bowl, pre-March Madness empty feeling? At least for this year, it’s the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to the rescue! What’s great about them is that many events look like they were created by someone who said “hold my drink and watch this!” Let’s look at a few events that enjoy their close ups ... Read More

Thomas Edison

Thomas Alva Edison was born on Feb. 11, 1847, died Oct. 18, 1931, and was considered by many to be the greatest inventor. In honor of his 171th birthday, let’s look at some of his 1,000+ inventions. Think about where you will be when you are 22 years old - what will you doing? Graduating from college? Starting your first ... Read More

16th Amendment

For many, Feb. 3, 1913 is a dark day in American history, because this is the day that the 16th Amendment was ratified and income tax became a part of our lives.  How did a nation agree to have their government take their money? The government’s right to tax is found in the Constitution (Article 1, section 2, section 8, ... Read More

Animals in Charge

Congress is circling the drain when it comes to their popularity - perhaps we need to look to others for leadership.  Perhaps….other species. Putting forward four-legged candidates can be a way to protest the political system or to entertain the electorate. Most constituencies require candidates to be of legal age, which eliminates many animals whose life expectancy is too short ... Read More

Jan. 3 – National Popcorn Day

National Popcorn Day Jan. 19 is National Popcorn Day!  Pull out your dental floss because it’s time to celebrate one of world’s oldest snack foods. Popcorn dates back thousands of years.  It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping. Popcorn likely arrived in the American Southwest over 2500 years ago, but was not ... Read More

History of MLK Jr. Day

Jan. 15, 2018 marks the 32nd year that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been observed.  How did the national holiday come about?  Who spearheaded efforts to create this federal holiday and what roadblocks did they face? The efforts began just months after the assassination of the civil rights icon, when Congressman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan introduced the first ... Read More

College Bowl Insanity

As we ease into the new year, let’s focus on the lighter fare - college football! you probably know that Alabama and Georgia will face off in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 8th. This game culminates after weeks of hype and is one of 40 - yes, 40! - college bowl games played throughout December ... Read More

Boston Tea Party

On Dec. 16, 1773, dozens of colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded three ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea overboard. Later known as the Boston Tea Party, this act of political protest has been retold many times, but how much do you really know? The Boston Tea Party protesters were railing about the 1773 Tea Act, ... Read More

There Be Dragons

There Be Dragons  Bigfoot. Abominable Snowman. Loch Ness. Real animals or mythical monsters? Do you believe in the existence of any of these creatures? Do you believe in something that you can’t prove? Learning Mind explores these questions with their “Top 10 Things We Believe in Without Proof” article. stating “empirical evidence gives us a choice of what to believe, ... Read More

Get off our lawn

On Dec. 2, 1823, President James Monroe boldly asserted during his annual message to Congress that the “American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers” and that “we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace ... Read More

Black Friday Madness

There is some irony that the day after we give thanks and feel grateful for what we have, a lot of us, get up early, join hordes of people, and literally fight our way into stores to get the best deals of the year. When did Black Friday become Black Friday? details the first utterance of “Black Friday”: The ... Read More

Jury Nullification

Jury nullification is defined as the acquitting of a defendant by a jury in disregard of the judge's instructions and contrary to the jury's findings of fact.  The American jury draws its power from Article III, section 2, which gives juries the right to render verdict in general criminal cases, and cannot be directed by the courts to decide in ... Read More

Veteran’s Day

Certell Wishes You a Happy Veterans Day Whether you decide to do some community volunteering, donate to a veteran-centric organization, or thank and spend time with a veteran, we hope you take a few moments to honor our veterans today. As recaps (and provides facts and videos), the first Veterans Day - known originally as Armistice Day - took ... Read More

What’s a Cliché Between Friends?

Clichés are a dime a dozen whose original meanings have become lost and boring due to overuse.  Many phrases have been around so long that they are as old as the hills. While clichés can be amusing, they can also make a writer look as dumb as a doornail.  They are also used for darker purposes (“War is Peace” – … Read More

Dedicated to the one we love

On Oct. 28, 1886, workers fitted the last rivet of the Statue of Liberty during a dedication presided over by President Grover Cleveland and attended by numerous French and American dignitaries. As described by The New York Times, “All day yesterday people came to the city in droves to participate in today’s celebration. Extra heavily loaded trains, much behind schedule … Read More

Oct. 23 Johnny Carson and the toilet paper shortage

Before there was Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno and David Letterman, there was Johnny Carson. The comedian and late-night talk show host—born on Oct. 23, 1925—hosted the popular “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” from1962 to 1992. Millions of people watched the “Tonight Show” for those 30 years, and yet it was an innocent comment in December 1973 that … Read More

Wile E. Economics

Wile E. Coyote really was quite the consumer. He kept buying faulty products from the Acme Corporation (a fictional business) to use in his futile pursuit to capture and eat the Road Runner. “Logic” and “cartoon” normally do not mix (i.e., How could Wile E. afford all these goods and services? If he had the cash, why didn’t he just … Read More

Binge-worthy TV for class

Television can be a tremendous, obsessive-inducing time suck machine (think binge-worthy shows like Stranger Things, House of Cards, The Walking Dead) or mindnumbingly stupid (Cavemen anyone?). There is also plenty of content that is worthy of your classroom (PBS’s The Vietnam War is a recent example). Check out some of these examples. Sometimes television shows do parodies on actual events: … Read More

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

The Supreme Court reconvened this week to start another term. So get your black robes on, get into a judicial frame of mind and learn some fun facts about the highest court of the land. Get up to speed on what is on the docket this year, which promises plenty of historic decisions. Cases related to gerrymandering (Gill v. Whitford), … Read More

World Teachers’ Day

Who made you the person you are today? Everyone has a favorite teacher. Was it your kindergarten teacher, who helped you learn to make rabbit ears to tie your shoes? A geography teacher who instilled a love for world travel? Or maybe an economics instructor who showed you how saving pizza money now could lead to a down payment on … Read More

What’s Your Favorite History Movie?

Should movies be used in American history classes? This writer clearly remembers going on a school field trip to see All the President’s Men in 1976. While it summarized the events of Watergate in a succinct 2 hours and 18 minutes, do you think 13-year-old 8th graders would notice any moments of artistic license to make points? Realize that a … Read More

The History of Tailgating

The History of Tailgating Common Sense American HistoryThe temperatures are beginning to cool, the leaves are turning color, and there is a crispness in the air. This means one thing. It’s time to tailgate! The temperatures are beginning to cool, the leaves are turning color, and there is a crispness in the air. This means one thing. It’s time to … Read More

Study Break – This Round’s On Me!

Think Americans drink too much? Think again – early Americans drank THREE times more alcohol than people today. In her article in The Atlantic, Emma Green interviewed National Archives curator Bruce Bustard, who oversaw an exhibit on American alcohol consumption. “Right after the Constitution is ratified, you could see the alcoholic consumption starting to go up,” said Bustard. Over the … Read More

Unusual American Protests

From civil rights, women’s suffrage, and anti-war movements, to the more recent pro-life/choice, LGBTQ, immigration, and women’s rights marches, people have gone to Washington D.C. to exercise their First Amendment right to protest. As reported in USA Today, August 30th saw one of the more unusual protests, when about 100 “dinosaurs” invaded our nation’s capital to protest the president’s proposed … Read More

Peace is Secured! North Korea Gives Up Nukes for Cute Kittens!

Would you click on this headline? In the last few months, the issue of “fake news” has dominated the airwaves. People have argued what fake news is and isn’t, its purpose and whether it’s harmful. What is not discussed is that fake news has been around since the founding of our nation, and has even involved some of the Founders. … Read More

The Midnight Ride of Sybil Ludington

Most every American is familiar with the Longfellow poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride”. Better than a modern-day PR firm, the poem ingrained (and exaggerated) Revere’s role in alerting Americans about advancing British militia. Revere was not alone in exhibiting such bravery during the Revolutionary War. Sybil Ludington was a 16 year old girl who lived in Dutchess County, New York, and … Read More

The Salem….Tomato Trial?

Local legends are interesting, with many tied to an actual historic moment, but whose facts are distorted over time. Some legends are downright sketchy because it could be argued that they were used to bring in tourist revenue. One legend is the Salem “Tomato Trial” of 1820. Long considered to be a mild aphrodisiac (therefore sinful) and even poisonous during … Read More

I Will be Brief: The William Henry Harrison Presidency

The career of former U.S. president William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) was long and varied. He served in the military, was a congressional delegate for the Northwest Territory, Indiana Territorial Governor, a hero of the War of 1812, Ohio state senator, and an Ohio congressman. He lost an Ohio governor election and a 1836 presidential election. Harrison was the ninth president … Read More

The Marquis de Lafayette – Working for You for Free

On this date – July 31 – in 1777, a 19-year-old French aristocrat, Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette, accepted a commission as a major-general in the Continental Army—without pay. (Shown here to the right of George Washington.) This was not a popular idea – according to the History Channel, the Continental … Read More

Wonder Woman: Super Suffragette

As of July 10, 2017, the summer blockbuster movie, Wonder Woman, topped $745 million in box office receipts. Did you know that her character was inspired by American history? The creators of Wonder Woman – William Moulton Marston, Elizabeth Holloway, H.G. Peter, and Olive Byrne – all had ties to the suffragette movement in the 1910s and 1920s. As Jill … Read More

Dr. Strangelove…

Summertime is here and what better way to enjoy the warm evenings than watch some of the best movies about economics! Yes – economics – and you might be surprised what movies are on the top ten list created by (check out the list here), and what inspired the people to make them. I’ll give you a hint about … Read More

You supply the popcorn, we supply the videos!

The upcoming release of the fully updated, FREE Common Sense Government (CSG) course is just a couple of months away. The school year is winding down and you might have some extra class time to fill. You “host” your own Certell End of School Year Film Festival in your classroom. The Certell short videos can be a fun way to … Read More

Study Break – April 2017

Sports and product endorsements have gone hand in hand for decades.  Some athlete/product relationships are so strong, that a single first or last name of a superstar can instantly make you think of the product: Tiger (Woods) – Nike; LeBron (James) – Nike; (Michael) Jordan – Nike; Peyton (Manning) – Papa John’s Pizza, Gatorade, Nationwide, Buick, yes, Nike too, oh … Read More

Study Break – March 2017

When you think of St. Patrick’s Day, what do you think of first? The saint? Parades?  Shamrock shakes? St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) started as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland and has evolved to huge secular celebrations that bring tourists – and their money – to countries around the globe. Using the Reporters’ Questions (the … Read More

Study Break – February 2017

What better way to celebrate Presidents’ Day week than with some fun, free/low-cost online economic tools!  We hope they will help make your February skies less grey and brighter. While you’re using Certell’s Common Sense Economics for Life, be sure to check out: 2017 Economics Calendar – created by Econoday, this calendar lists important U.S. and international economic-related events by … Read More

Study Break -January 2017

United States presidential inaugurations began almost 228 years ago when George Washington took the oath on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. Since then, there have been 57 formal presidential inaugural ceremonies, with the 58th ceremony taking place on Friday, January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Surprisingly, beyond the oath itself, the Constitution provides very little on … Read More

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