11 pieces of evidence that America is finally back on the right track

For a long time, good news for America was all too rare.

A feel-good story in an American newspaper. Photo by Bev Sykes/Flickr.


But slowly but surely, that's changing.

There are many reasons to believe the good ol' U.S. of A. is back on track in 2015.

And they deserve to be celebrated.

The most American way possible: With epic slam dunks.

Boo. Yah. America.

1. 11 years ago, only one state — Massachusetts — had full marriage equality. Now, all 50 do.

Take it to the hole, LeBron. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

2. Since the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") took effect in 2013, the number of Americans without health insurance has plummeted more than 30%.


Griffin, for two. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

3. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, greater use of birth control among sexually active teenagers has contributed to the lowest teen pregnancy rate since 1991.

You know. Just walking on the sky. Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images.

4. Since 1965, the smoking rate in America has been cut by more than half.

Oh hey. Just chillin' up here. Photo by Mark Ralston/Getty Images.

5. Unemployment in the U.S. is down 47% since its peak in 2009.

Yeah. I work out. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

6. The three highest-rated network TV dramas with viewers age 18-49 in the 2014-2015 season are produced by and starring people of color.

Engage thrusters. Photo by Pool/Getty Images.

7. Solar power installations are 17 times more common in the U.S. than it was just seven years ago.

Ball delivery. Sign here, please. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

8. Because of the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, 1.4 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children no longer have to fear deportation.

AND LO, Jordan said "Let there be dunks." And the dunks were good. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

9. The number of unsheltered homeless people in the United States has declined more than 30% since 2007.

Smoothies for everyone!! Photo by Pool/Getty Images.

10. Three American cities — Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco, will all have a $15 minimum wage within six years.

"You have to understand, it's about ethics in dunk journalism." Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

11. Babies born in 2012 are expected to live longer — on average — than any Americans in history.

Classic. Photo by Briah Bahr/Getty Images.

Now THAT'S good news.

Keep on dunking, America.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture