TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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February 1, 2019
A recent viral video showed a young child asking for help solving a math problem from Alexa, an automated virtual assistant that searches the internet. Some worry that with such ready access to technology, kids will miss out on important learning gained through independent problem solving. Others feel that kids should be able to get assistance from technology in the same ways adults do. Listen to multiple perspectives on the issue represented in this story and then debate: Should students ask Alexa for homework help?
January 31, 2019
It has been six years since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Parents of some of the children killed that day have dedicated themselves to preventing such tragedies from happening again. The “See Something, Say Something” program, which is free to schools, trains students to anonymously report concerns about threatening behavior through a mobile app. Listen to this story to learn more about the program and how it may be impacting school safety.
January 30, 2019
A Memphis photographer famous for capturing iconic moments of the civil rights movement was recently revealed to be an FBI informant who secretly reported information about Martin Luther King, Jr. and other activists to the government. As a recent book recounts, Ernest Withers, whose photography earned him an international reputation, was involved in civil rights activities in ways that even his family was not aware. Listen to this interview with the author of the book about Withers to learn more about his complicated story.
January 29, 2019
Scientists from the Desert Research Institute in California are recruiting some very young researchers to help them better understand snow storms. The researchers have opened up data collection to citizen scientists, as they will need many snowflake pictures to answer their questions. The 4th and 5th grade students participating in the “Stories in the Snow” project are learning how to take very detailed pictures of snowflakes. Listen to this story to hear more about what the scientists hope to learn from their snow research, what students are learning from participating, and who will benefit.
January 28, 2019
For the third year in a row, a Women’s March was recently held on the mall in Washington, DC and in other cities around the world. The first Women’s March was organized in response to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. This year, there was discord preceding the event, with some of the march’s leaders being accused of anti-Semitism. Many people, however, joined the marches in solidarity again, focusing on issues of equity and justice affecting women. Listen to this story to learn more about the event and the issues surrounding it.
January 27, 2019
A new group of Florida voters can now participate in the election process. Former felons in Florida were not allowed to vote for many years, but a recent amendment passed by a majority of Florida voters has reinstated this important right of citizenship. Listen to this story to hear more about what this change means for new voters and for the state of Florida.
January 25, 2019
Many people believe that there is a connection between playing violent video games and acting violently. Research indicates that aggression and violence are complicated and not caused by a single factor. Listen to this interview with a psychology professor and researcher who has studied the impact of media violence on development and then debate: Do violent video games encourage violence?
January 24, 2019
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has been going on for several weeks. While the president and Congress argue about funding for a wall on the southern border, 25% of the government has been closed. Hundreds of thousands of government workers are not getting paid, though many of them are still required to work. As a result, many working families are struggling to pay their bills and making difficult sacrifices during the shutdown. Listen to this interview with one federal worker and mother whose family has been feeling the impact of the shutdown and hear about what the experience has been like for her.
January 23, 2019
Photosynthesis is the process that is foundationational for all life, in which plants use sunlight to change water and carbon dioxide into food and oxygen. Scientists have now genetically modified plants to perform that process more efficiently, thereby increasing agricultural productivity. Listen to this story to learn how researchers “hacked photosynthesis” and why it matters.
January 22, 2019
Since 1994, Americans have observed a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr on the third Monday in January. Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service. One group of volunteers in Dallas, Texas spent the holiday working in a school garden. The garden is part of a school program that involves students’ families in cooking lessons, volunteering, and sharing in the harvest. Listen to this story to learn about how the program serves the community and hear reflections from volunteers about their experience serving on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
January 18, 2019
Three women in their 40s recently entered a famous Hindu temple in India that for centuries has not allowed females between 10 and 50 years old because they are of childbearing age. The temple was targeted by Indian feminists, who have been protesting gender discrimination, and there has been a political backlash among Hindu nationalists. Listen to learn more about how this incident raises issues of both gender equity and religious freedom, and then debate: Should houses of worship decide who may enter?
January 17, 2019
A newly elected New Hampshire state legislator is only 19 years old. Cassandra Levesque entered politics at age 15 through her efforts to change child marriage laws in her state, which allowed 13-year-olds to marry. Working closely on the issue with a state representative led to deciding to run for office herself. Listen to this interview with Levesque to hear about her path to elected office and what she hopes to do now that she has become a state lawmaker.
January 16, 2019
On New Year’s Day, a NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) spacecraft made history by encountering the most distant object ever visited, over 4 billion miles away. The piano-sized spacecraft has already transmitted images of an icy rock known as Ultima Thule, which scientists believe to be a pristine vestige of the early days of our solar system. Listen to this interview with a planetary scientist to learn why this event is so exciting and how the mission may further our understanding of our solar system’s origins.
January 15, 2019
The Costs of War project at Brown University releases an annual report on the financial cost of the ongoing U.S. war on terror globally. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. has been involved in operations related to terrorism all over the world. According to the Costs of War report, these operations, both military and civilian, cost trillions of dollars. This includes both the immediate costs of waging war and also related indirect costs, such as those associated with supporting returning veterans and pursuing secretive counterterrorism efforts. Listen to hear more about how researchers calculate the financial costs of the war on terror and what they hope to achieve by reporting them.
January 14, 2019
The current partial government shutdown is affecting many employees and contractors who are not being paid while the president and Congress are arguing about whether the federal budget should include funds for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. One important area where the shutdown may pose a safety risk is air traffic control. Uncertainty about the future is influencing the day-to-day work of these federal employees as well as the experiences of the flying public. Listen to this story to hear about the various ways that the shutdown is impacting airport travel.
January 11, 2019
The Farm Bill recently passed by the U.S. Congress includes a provision outlawing rooster fighting throughout the nation and its territories. This provision of the law is having a big impact on the island of Puerto Rico, where the rooster fighting industry is important to the economy. Supporters of the law say that rooster fighting is cruel and should have been made illegal years ago. Some Puerto Ricans view the ban on the centuries old tradition as an attack on their culture. Listen to the story to hear both sides of the issue, and then debate: Should rooster fighting be legal in Puerto Rico?
January 10, 2019
The U.S. winners of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship are an increasingly diverse group. In addition to large proportions of women and first generation Americans or immigrants, this year’s Rhodes Scholars include the first recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Listen to this interview with Jin Park, who emigrated to the U.S. with his Korean parents at age 7, to hear what the scholarship award means to him and what he plans to do with the opportunity at to study at Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar.
January 9, 2019
How do you remember a phone number? At a recent neuroscience conference, brain scientists found themselves debating this surprisingly difficult question. Storing a phone number turns out to be a complex working memory task with broader implications for how the brain works. Listen to this story to hear two different theories about how working memory operates and why understanding this basic function matters.
January 8, 2019
Artist Georgia O’Keeffe is famous for her paintings of flowers and southwestern desert landscapes. Few know, however, that her sister Ida O’Keeffe was also an artist. Ida’s work is being exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Art. Listen to this interview with a museum curator to hear Ida O’Keeffe’s story and learn why her name is virtually unknown, while her sister Georgia is one of America’s most recognized 20th century painters.
January 7, 2019
The government has been partially shut down since before the new year, leaving more than 800,000 federal employees without a paycheck. The government is partially closed because Congress has not passed a bill to fully fund its operations, having reached an impasse over funding a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. As a result, roughly a quarter of the government is closed, including all functions that are considered “non-essential.” Listen to this story to learn about the political standoff that is behind the shutdown and prospects for ending it.
January 4, 2019
Technology giant Google is facing pushback from its employees who are accusing the company of collaborating with the Chinese government to develop a search engine that would violate users’ privacy and allow government censorship. Experts say that Chinese residents would be unable to search for information using keywords related to human rights. The search engine would also provide the Chinese government access to the search history of users. Listen to learn more about this issue and debate: Should Google agree to let China censor online searches?
January 3, 2019
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have issued new instructions for how to treat children and teens with concussions. Until recently, the doctor-recommended treatment was complete isolation for at least a week. The rationale was that anything that required physical or mental effort could be dangerous for the child’s recovery, but doctors have found that the isolation could be more harmful. Now doctors believe that children should return to their activities after a few days of rest if the child feels ready. Listen to this story to hear about this new development in the treatment protocol for concussions.
January 2, 2019
The popular video game Fortnite has millions of players, and while the game is free, Fortnite coaches are getting paid up to $25 an hour. Some of these coaches are hired by parents who want to help their children get better at the popular shooter game. Some experts believe that Fortnite is becoming something of a social proving ground for children with a lot of pressure to win. Listen to hear more about the how and why of Fortnite coaching.
December 31, 2018
Jimmy Carter, a soft-spoken peanut farmer from Georgia was the 39th President of the United States and served only one term. His accomplishments included brokering important peace agreements between Middle Eastern adversaries and nuclear superpowers. But Carter, a Democrat, lost reelection in 1980 following a bad economy and a hostage crisis in Iran. Carter has been very influential in his long post-presidential life primarily through the Carter Center, which works in conflict zones, monitoring elections and eradicating disease. Listen to this story to learn about Carter receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work with the Carter Center.
December 28, 2018
Ronald Reagan was an actor, governor of California, and the 40th President of the United States. He served two terms and died in 2004 of Alzheimer's disease, ten years after leaving office. He was a Republican known for his conservative stance on reducing taxes, who instituted supply-side economic policies known as “Reaganomics,” which many credit with helping the economy prosper. Reagan helped to facilitate the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. However, his administration was tied up in the Iran-Contra affair, in which senior officials secretly broke an arms embargo and sold weapons to Iran. As a former actor, Reagan brought glamor to the presidency, and he is ranked as one of the more popular presidents. Listen to this conversation with an historian about how Reagan’s time in office is remembered, including some myths about his presidency.
December 27, 2018
After serving many years as governor of Arkansas, Democrat Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States in 1992. He is remembered for signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), passing welfare reform, and balancing the budget, among other achievements. As he ended his second term, he noted the fast economic growth, low rates of unemployment and poverty, and other indicators of economic prosperity during his presidency. Democrats and Republicans disagree, however, about what led to the economic boom during his presidency. Listen to hear competing theories about causes of economic growth in the Clinton years.
December 26, 2018
President George W. Bush was the governor of Texas before he became the 43rd President of the United States. Bush, who is the son of President George H.W. Bush, was elected in 2000 in a close, controversial race involving a recount in Florida and was reelected in 2004. His presidency was defined by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, eight months into his presidency. Listen to learn how this event shaped Bush’s legacy.
December 24, 2018
President Barack Obama served as an Illinois Senator before he was elected President of the United States in 2008 and again in 2012. Born in Hawaii, he worked as a community organizer, civil rights attorney, and law professor before entering politics. Obama, a Democrat, was the first African American elected president, entering office at the beginning of a global financial crisis. He is widely credited with saving the U.S. economy from the brink of recession, and his other accomplishments include passing a major health care bill known as the Affordable Care Act. Listen to hear an economist discuss his thoughts on Obama’s legacy.
December 21, 2018
For a long time, the handwritten signature was a distinctive mark of individuals. It used to be that credit card transactions, contracts, and other important documents required a handwritten signature to be considered valid. These days, however, electronic signatures are often replacing handwritten ones, but some worry that they are not a secure enough form of identification. Listen to hear an expert discuss the past, present, and future of handwriting and then debate: Are electronic signatures risky?
December 20, 2018
While some migrant children travel to the United States with their families, others arrive on their own to be reunified with family members they have not seen in a long time. Such family reunifications may bring happiness, but they can present challenges as well. Listen to learn about the experience of two girls from El Salvador who came to live with their mother in Virginia after not seeing her for ten years.
December 19, 2018
Selective colleges and universities are using a new strategy to diversify their student bodies; they are recruiting transfer students from community colleges. There are many reasons that high-achieving students may choose to start at community colleges, but now many private four-year colleges are inviting those students to transfer after they have completed an associate’s degree. Listen to this story to hear from one such student about her dreams, her challenges, and her experiences as a transfer student at an elite school.
December 18, 2018
Millions of people travel through airport security each year. When scanning carry-on luggage, TSA agents are usually on the lookout for liquids or wrapped gifts, but recently they have been seeing more guns. Firearms are on the TSA list of prohibited items, meaning that they are never allowed in the cabin of an airplane. Listen to this story to hear more about why this is an issue, how the TSA is managing it, and what happens to those who mistakenly try to carry a gun on an airplane.
December 17, 2018
The East African nations of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which had been at war for many years, have recently reopened their borders after reaching a peace agreement. The war claimed many lives and displaced residents of the two countries, which used to be one. Families that had been separated for a generation are now able to reconnect. Listen to hear from people living on the border about the complex emotions surrounding this major development in their lives.
December 14, 2018
Facebook has been using artificial intelligence (AI) to try to help prevent suicide and self-harm. Facebook’s head of safety says that the AI system, which triggers alerts when Facebook chatter indicates potential risk, was used several times in its first year. While some people support this use of AI, others want the social media giant to be more transparent about its use. Many worry that this development could lead to more AI surveillance. Listen to hear more about how the AI system works and debate: Should AI be allowed to assess suicide risk on Facebook?
December 13, 2018
People who are homeless are often stereotyped as not having a job and living on the street. But many working people do not have a stable home of their own because they cannot afford it. They may live with friends or family temporarily, or sometimes in their cars. This story features a woman with two children who does not want her employer to know that she is homeless for fear of being judged and potentially losing her job. Listen to hear about her experience and learn about what some advocates are doing to try to protect people in her position.
The California Dream series is a statewide media collaboration of CALmatters, KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the James Irvine Foundation.
December 12, 2018
A new NASA probe called InSight recently landed on Mars after traveling 300 million miles from Earth. The success of this mission was a very exciting accomplishment, as it involved a complex process of slowing down the probe very quickly in order to make a smooth landing. Listen to this story to learn about this important engineering achievement and what NASA hopes the probe will do now that it has safely landed on Mars.
December 11, 2018
China’s presence has grown on the world stage in recent years in both business and politics. President Xi Jingping and other Chinese leaders are making efforts to influence the way that the world views their country. They have invested heavily in state-run media, which has also increased its international presence. Experts believe that this outreach is working well in spreading China’s message to the developing world, but that they are having a harder time influencing the West. Listen to hear how China is trying to shape its world image.
December 10, 2018
President George H.W. Bush died recently at the age of 94. Bush served as president of the United States from 1989–1992. The former president is remembered as a Republican moderate who presided over the end of the Cold War, nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, led military interventions in Latin America and Iraq, and signed legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Listen to President Bush’s biographer talk about his legacy as the 41st president of the United States of America.
December 7, 2018
A Chinese scientist claims to have created genetically edited human babies, igniting a major ethical controversy. The scientist says he used a new genetic engineering technique to modify genes in human embryos to resist HIV infection and then created twin girls from those embryos. His claim has yet to be verified. The scientific community has responded with strong ethical concerns about the risks of this type of human experimentation. Listen to this story to learn more and then debate: Should humans be genetically modified?
December 6, 2018
Record numbers of women ran and were elected during the 2018 midterm elections. In particular, more women were elected to the House of Representatives than ever before, including many notable firsts. Listen to this audio story to hear more about why the surge of women in politics is such an important development.