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Fear is a powerful motivator. As a basic animal instinct, it can help to protect people from danger, but it can also inspire behavior that is harmful. Fear manifests in many ways, and it can spread quickly and easily. Fear can be used as a tool to abuse power through exclusion, intimidation, or force. The embers of natural anxiety can be fanned into flames of irrational fear, driving people to act in ways that hurt themselves or others. A hint of fear can also be exciting, and many people seek amusement that offers the opportunity to vicariously experience the thrill of danger. This audio story collection includes tales that illustrate the power of fear in a range of circumstances, including its origins and its consequences.
Senator Joseph McCarthy led a crusade against Soviet spies he believed were operating in the United States government. He called Democrats "soft" on the war on communism. This audio story describes why the American public's view of Republican Senator McCarthy’s anti-Communist campaign in the early 1950s continues to be sharply divided.
Today witches are a popular Halloween costume. But in the 16th and 17th centuries, many women were accused of witchcraft, which was a capital offense. The witch trials in Salem led to the execution of 19 people. Why were these women targeted? They often didn’t fit the image you may have of someone with supernatural powers. They were mostly poor and without power or influence, but they instilled fear in the community. Have we learned from the scapegoating and stereotyping hundreds of years ago? Listen to this radio story to hear the social and cultural conditions that led to the Salem witch trials, and the allure of what is dangerous and powerful.
Just one day after President Obama urged citizens of the United States “to reject discrimination against Muslim-Americans,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2015 suggested that all Muslims be blocked from entering the U.S. He later softened his position. But some say that Trump’s idea was no different than when Japanese-Americans were detained by the U.S. government in internment camps during World War II. Xenophobia, a fear or dislike of people from other countries, may be triggered by real events, such as crime or terrorist attacks, but is often shown to be irrational. Listen to hear how the power of fear and anger can lead to hate and discrimination.
When “The Red Badge of Courage” was published in the 1890s, 30 years after the U.S. Civil War, it was one of the first novels to address the psychological effects of combat. The book’s central character is Henry Fleming, a teenager who joins the Union Army with high hopes of glory and adventure. The realities of war soon hit, and Henry must juggle the conflicting emotions of fear, pity, envy, pride, outrage, and eventually, courage. Listen to learn more about a book many consider a coming-of-age novel, while others question whether war is the best way to turn a boy into a man.
This is the story of Jeff White, an aggressive, fearless bully in a small town. White explains his behavior and his feelings about it, as well as why he thinks it works for him. After time in juvenile detention, White explores the possible reasons for his bullying, looks deeper into his personal interests, and discusses what he thinks about his future. Listen to learn more about White’s behavior, his experiences in school and in jail, and his relationships with other people.
Bullying can happen to anyone in any place. One former bully explains how she bullied, the reasons why she bullied, but she also reflects on her experience as the victim of a bully. A professional psychologist also offers her perspective on why kids bully and ways in which we can increase empathy and support both for the bully and the bullied. Listen to learn more about Alice, her experiences and transformation, and the ways in which community building can lessen the incidence of bullying for everyone.
On October 30, 1938, actor and writer Orson Welles staged a radio play titled ‘War of the Worlds,’ which tells the story of a fictional alien invasion of Earth. ‘War of the Worlds’ is the most famous of all the radio plays Welles ever produced because of the frenzy it caused. Some recall the events of the broadcast as a preview to World War II and the very real fear and panic that would be tied to enemy attacks during the war. This audio story recalls the story of ‘War of the Worlds,’ focusing on the events of the broadcast.
For many high school students, stress related to academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and homework affects their mental and physical health. In this audio story, psychologists discuss when stress is helpful and when it is hurtful. Some parents and their teens discuss ways they have tried to lessen school stress, allowing life to be more manageable and enjoyable. Listen to hear more about how high school students and their parents have decided to make changes to lessen stress while still aiming to be high achievers.
In 1741, New York City was shaken by an uprising led by African slaves. New York was a British colony and had a very large slave population. After a series of fires burned homes in Manhattan, including the Governor’s house, many black slaves were imprisoned, hanged, or burned. There was a great fear that slaves were conspiring against their owners. Listen to hear about the history of the revolt and what the revolt of 1741 can tell us about society today.
Fear of terrorism is rising in the United States. Scientists have been studying reactions to terrorist events, and how those reactions shape public policy. Polls show Americans are currently as afraid of terrorism as they were the weeks after the 9/11 attacks. A research study showed people thought they had a one in three chance of being the target of an attack. The emotional responses are out of proportion to the actual risk. Listen to hear more about how emotions trump reality and then debate whether fear of terrorism is rational.
Everyone feels stress, which can have a significant impact on health. A new book explains how and why stress affects the body and describes what people can do to lower the negative effects of stress on their health. Listen to this interview with the authors to learn about the evolutionary value of stress and how to keep it from causing burnout in today’s modern world.
Author Edgar Allan Poe was a master of the creepy and macabre, with a focus on death and grim topics. His famous poem, “The Raven,” concerns a heartbroken man who is visited by a talking raven who begins to drive him mad. Despite the poem’s fame, including its catch phrase “Nevermore,” fans and historians are not sure what inspired Poe or how he wrote the poem.
Storms and cold weather play an important role in Mary Shelley’s famous horror novel “Frankenstein.” Apparently, the bad weather in her story may reflect the weather at that time. When Shelley was writing the novel, the world was enduring a particularly cold and gray few years. Scholars hypothesize that the weather influenced Shelley to write about the weather for the novel. Listen to hear more about how true-life conditions affected this writer, and consider how climate change may influence future works of literature and art.
Lockdown drills to prepare for safety threats have become increasingly common in U.S. schools. Mental health experts worry about the negative effects these drills might be having on vulnerable children. Others believe that lockdown drills in schools make people feel safe and prepared. Listen to this story to hear more about the ways that lockdown drills affect students and debate: Should schools have lockdown drills?
The white supremacist and neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville, VA killed one woman and injured 19 people. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke thanked President Trump for criticizing the counter-protesters and Duke then called Black Lives Matter a “leftist terrorist group.” Black Lives Matter is a national organization working to fight against anti-Black racism, spark dialogue and encourage social action and engagement. The violence of Charlottesville brought urgency and attention to addressing attacks against people of color in the United States. Listen to hear from the leaders of Black Lives Matter and the NAACP and their attention to safety concerns.
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