Current Event February 7, 2020
Students around the country may learn different versions of U.S. history depending on where they live. Textbook publishers often customize textbooks for different states in response to political pressure, covering specific topics differently. Some say that this is important because different regions have different populations and different priorities. Others believe that all students in the country should have access to the same information and that variations in textbook content contributes to deepening the political divide. Listen to hear more about how textbooks differ from state to state and then debate: Should everyone use the same textbooks?
Current Event August 26, 2019
A man recently shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Just before he committed this terrorist act, he posted a manifesto describing his motivations in an online forum called 8chan. Two other mass shooters also published their intentions on 8chan before their attacks this year. Listen to learn more about the role digital technology can play in extremist violence and the consequences 8chan has faced since the El Paso shooting.
Current Event August 16, 2019
YouTube has started removing videos containing extremist content promoting white supremacy. Some people and organizations support this policy as a way to make social media platforms safer. Others point out that the system for removing videos is imperfect, and this policy could interfere with video creators’ right to freely express themselves. Listen to learn more about YouTube’s new restrictions and then debate: Should YouTube remove extremist videos?
Current Event June 17, 2019
While giving her valedictorian speech at her graduation, a Texas high school student was cut off before finishing. School administrators had asked the student to remove what they believed were controversial elements in her speech, but she chose not to do that. Listen to hear more about what the student felt was important to include in her speech, despite the school’s objections, and why.
Current Event March 5, 2019
A journalist in the Philippines who has been critical of the government was recently arrested for the sixth time, raising concerns among champions of press freedom around the world. The arrest was based on false charges, and the journalist may be in danger in a country where the press has been regularly targeted by an authoritarian government. Listen to this interview with a representative of Reporters without Borders, an organization that reports on press freedom, about the risks facing journalists worldwide.
Mark Twain was an American author who was born and raised in Missouri. Published in 1884, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn stirred controversy from the start. People felt the subject matter, specifically the portions of the plot that dealt with slavery, and the ethics and hypocrisy surrounding it, was unpleasant and in bad taste. Today, the book is still controversial, primarily because of the narrator’s and characters’ use of the “n” word. Listen to hear different perspectives on whether Huckleberry Finn, or any literature, should be censored.
Current Event September 10, 2018
In an unprecedented move, the president has taken away the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan and suggested that he may do the same with other former intelligence officials who have been publicly critical of him. The clearance gave Brennan the right to access classified information after leaving his job so he could be an advisor to new administrations. Listen to hear about this significant event and why it matters.
Current Event August 13, 2018
Facebook recently deleted pages and accounts it believed were run by Russians attempting to influence the upcoming midterm elections. Unfortunately, this also affected a valuable page American protesters were using to gain grassroots support. This issue raises important, unresolved questions about the relationship between Facebook, free speech, and propaganda. Listen to learn what an expert on civil liberties thinks about censorship on social media.
J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye” has long been a staple of high school reading lists, though it has also frequently been banned from them. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a rebellious 17-year old who has just been expelled from prep school. The novel is considered a classic of American literature, and Holden is thought to be a character every teenager can relate to—but is this still true today? Listen to hear about how this novel earned its status as a classic and the arguments in the debate about whether it should still be required reading for high school students.
The novel The Book Thief is narrated by Death. He tells the story of a young German girl saving books from Nazi bonfires to read to the Jewish man hiding in her home. Listen to this audio story to hear an interview with author Markus Zusak, who explains his choice of Death as the narrator and the message he hopes teenage readers get from the novel.