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6 Intelligence Agency Websites Geared Toward Children

The United States spends $80 billion annually on its intelligence community. That’s equal to the combined amount spent on the entire Marine Corps, NASA, and the State Department each year, with enough change left over to buy the Legislative Branch. To keep that kind of cash flowing, success isn’t enough—it’s going to take some good marketing. As the tobacco industry taught us, there’s no demographic more lucrative than the youth market. Here are a few websites used by the intelligence community to win the hearts and minds of K-12.

1. National Security Agency CryptoKids®

Crypto Cat, Decipher Dog, and Rosetta Stone are part of a wacky gang of misfits who make up the CryptoKids, our secret weapon in the War on Terror. Take Decipher Dog: He loves playing online multiplayer games, soccer, and paint ball. And illegally intercepting the emails and phone calls of American citizens. Allegedly.

2. The CIA Kids’ Page

The part of the CIA website geared toward children is exactly like the part for adults, except for the terrifying Picassoesque illustration of a woman using a stiletto heel telephone. The best thing about the site—maybe the best thing on the entire Internet—are the quote marks in this sentence from CIA Kids, from the first paragraph on the first page:

The CIA is an independent US government agency that provides national security “intelligence” to key US leaders so they can make important, informed decisions.

3. Defense Intelligence Agency Kids

The beating heart of military intelligence is the Defense Intelligence Agency. Michael Flynn, its newly appointed director, spearheaded the intelligence revolution at the Joint Special Operations Command. If he plans to similarly reinvent DIA, he'll probably have to start at its kids’ page. At present, the site is like a 1997-era Macromedia commercial as designed in hell. There, a static, dead-eyed soldier stands at parade rest and stares at visitors, enlisting children to choose such missions as Hangman and Word Search. Don’t let the moribund Flash design fool you, however. The site promises “More to Come!!”

4. NCTC Kids Zone

Nothing says “childlike whimsy” like the National Counterterrorism Center, and the NCTC Kids Zone aims to capitalize on it. Together with Beaker the Eagle, Geo the Globe, and Chip the Inexplicably Wheel-Chaired Computer, children are invited to games of Word Find and Memory Match. Unlike the Junior Spies at CryptoKids, however, Beaker & Co. have no backstories—making them the perfect spies.

5. NRO Jr.

It wasn’t until 1995 that the National Reconnaissance Office was officially declassified. It was so declassified, in fact, that someone at headquarters fired up FrontPage and wanted to get the whole family involved. Parents, teachers, and grades K-5 all have a role at NRO Jr., but only children in grades 6-12 are designated TEAM RECON. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to Explore... A Career in the NRO; Enjoy... Recon Ringtones; Play... the new Launcher Command Word Find game. The takeaway is that Word Find is hugely popular in the spy community.

6. The FBI Kids Page

J. Edgar Hoover was a master at public relations, and spent his tenure as director of the FBI courting favorable media and press coverage. He would have approved of the FBI Kids Page, which is one 1985 World Almanac away from being a real-world Carmen Sandiego game. In stark contrast with DIA Kids (which only barely qualifies as a Gopher page, let alone an actual website), FBI Kids has more than just games, including facts about the bureau, breakdowns of actual FBI cases, and a mascot named after William Colby.

Bonus!

You’re probably thinking, “But what about the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency?” As it turns out, the NGA had a site called Image Ace, where children could stare at satellite imagery and help a character named Orbit find his friend Terry Firma. For reasons unclear, Image Ace presently returns a 404 Not Found. This is either a job for Orbit, or an example of the shameful underrepresentation of youth-oriented GEOINT on the Internet.

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The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM
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Fox

FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Yale's Insanely Popular Happiness Course Is Now Open to Everyone Online
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iStock

Yale University's happiest course is giving people yet another reason to smile. After breaking registration records, "Psychology and the Good Life" has been repurposed into a free online course anyone can take, Quartz reports.

Psychology professor Laurie Santos debuted the class in the 2018 spring semester, and it's officially the most popular course in the university's 317-year history. About 1200 students, or a quarter of Yale's undergraduate student body, are currently enrolled. Now that a free version of the course has launched on Coursera, the curriculum is about to reach even more learners.

The online "Science of Well-Being" class is led by Santos from her home. Throughout the course, students will learn about happiness from a psychological perspective, including misconceptions about happiness and activities that have been proven to boost life satisfaction. "The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice," the course description reads.

Each section comes with readings, video lessons, and a quiz, as well as the chance to connect and brainstorm with classmates. After passing the assignments, students come away from the six-week course with a certificate and hopefully a broader understanding of the factors that contribute to a happy life. You can visit the course page over at Coursera to enroll.

[h/t Quartz]

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