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In Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella "Heart of Darkness," an English sailor tells the tale of his voyage on the Congo River in Africa. The novel, which is set during the height of British imperialism in Africa, contrasts “civilized” Europeans with “uncivilized” African natives and describes the brutal treatment of Africans by European traders. Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel "Things Fall Apart" provides a contrast to Conrad’s story, describing the British colonization of Africa from the perspective of Africans. In this audio story, Achebe talks about how his understanding of "Heart of Darkness" changed over time.
In this interview, actor Henry Winkler discusses his own learning difference and that of Hank Zipzer, the main character in Winkler’s children’s book series. Hank, who is based on Winkler’s own experience as a child, struggles with learning to read, but works hard to succeed despite his challenges. Listen to learn more about Winkler’s story, how he persevered through his dyslexia and achieved success, and what he considers his greatest accomplishment.
In history, sometimes someone’s ideas are not fully appreciated until long after their death. Ada Lovelace was such a person. Born in 1815 and raised in a life of privilege, Ada had connections to many famous people, including mathematician Charles Babbage, who pioneered the idea of a computer. As a teen, Lovelace was mentored by Babbage. Gifted in math, she wound up expanding on Babbage’s early ideas, developing what some consider the world’s first computer program. Listen to learn about the story of Ada Lovelace’s life and how, a century after her death, she contributed to modern computer programming.
Race in America is a complex and difficult topic. This is especially the case for children adopted into families of a different race than themselves. Listen to hear how one girl tries to navigate the waters of race after being adopted into a white family.
In 1992, a civil war in Afghanistan turned the country upside down. It also littered the country with landmines. In this audio story, we hear from a man who lost his father in the war, and also saw many childhood friends killed by these landmines. Landmines were a part of his everyday life. He eventually fled Afghanistan with his mother, and soon immigrated to the Netherlands. The wind in the Netherlands was the inspiration for the device he made that allows for the safe detonation of old landmines that are hidden all over Afghanistan.
The story of “Romeo and Juliet” is a fictional Shakespearean tragedy about star-crossed lovers. In Afghanistan, falling in love with someone from a different background can get you killed, especially if you are a woman. A true story of love between a man and woman from different ethnic sects of Islam was reported in The New York Times. Journalists have a code that requires them to remain impartial in their work, but one reporter got involved and helped these people during their crisis. Listen to how he helped this couple avoid danger, similar to the friar and nurse who helped Romeo and Juliet.
Every year, thousands of children in America are removed from their parents and placed in foster care because they are unsafe or neglected. Foster care is meant to be temporary, but sometimes kids can spend their entire childhoods in foster care and never be adopted or returned to their biological family. As well-intentioned as the system is, it often fails to deliver on its promises due to understaffing, overwhelming caseloads, and other issues. In this story, we hear from a young man who spent his childhood in foster care, and at the age of 21 is now leaving the system. Listen to hear how he faced this difficult challenge and why he thinks the foster care system failed him.
Anthony Horowitz is a British author known for his mystery and suspense novels and screenplays for TV and movies. His is very well known for the young adult series of novels about a skateboard riding spy named Alex Rider. In this interview Horowitz considers factors that have led to the Alex Rider series’ great popularity and describes what he considers to be his responsibilities to his young readers. Listen to the story to find out what impact choosing a character who is his own opposite had on Horowitz’s writing.
Paleontologists learn about dinosaurs by searching for and studying fossils, which provide evidence about how a living dinosaur would have looked or acted. They use what they learn to teach others. Occasionally, paleontologists make a discovery that changes a previously accepted idea. Listen to hear more about what paleontologists do, and to learn about some of the dinosaurs that have been discovered and named.
Throughout time, humans have developed systems of belief to address life’s big questions: How did the world begin? How should we treat other people? What happens to us after we die? Most religions rely on faith in some form of supernatural power to answer these questions. Listen to hear an expert describe why people have different religious beliefs and traditions and why those beliefs can be hard to change.
Food banks distribute billions of pounds of food each year throughout the United States to hungry children and adults. The Feeding America network is the nation’s largest organization working to end hunger. But it had a problem. The food banks were receiving large donations of food, but not necessarily the kinds of foods they needed. For example, one center received lots of pickles, but not enough produce. To solve this problem the Feeding America network created a market economy in order to distribute food among it’s food banks. Using fake money, the food banks created a market that assures better allocation of food across the distribution centers. Listen to the story to learn more about how market economics solved their allocation problem.
Children born in the U.S. to poor, undocumented immigrants face many problems. The children are American citizens, but their parents are not. Without a passport or proof of residency, those parents can’t apply for benefits for their children, and those children go without food, shelter, and other necessities. Listen to learn about the challenges facing the children of immigrants today.
Amy Tan has written a new novel, "The Valley of Amazement" which is set in both San Francisco and Shanghai in the early 1900s. This story explores Chinese cultural practices, American and Chinese identities, and the complexities of mother-daughter relationships. Tan’s book highlights our stereotypes and forces readers to question their assumptions about certain societal roles. While she wrote, Tan, too, questioned her own assumptions about her ancestry, and gained a more nuanced understanding of her family’s past. Listen to hear more about a novel’s potential to impact both readers and author alike.
Two Americans recently returned dozens of old coins to their original home in China, where they will be preserved at the Shanghai Mint Museum. The coins, which come from a personal collection, reflect the past 2,000 years of Chinese history. In China, these coins are considered invaluable national treasures. The donations also included coin molds and bank note molds. In their new home, they will be more accessible to scholars and others who are passionate about the region’s ancient history. Listen to learn more about where these precious coins come from and the rich history they represent.
Archaeologists have long explored the ruins of the middle east to learn more about the cultures that once existed there. This story follows archaeologists into ancient burial sites in Israel to study graffiti written on walls and tombs thousands of years ago. The tomb, Beit She'arim dates back to the first century B.C. It is the largest burial ground from the Roman and early Byzantine periods in the region. The next place they find graffiti is in a cave in the Judean foothills, where they find an inscription in Greek. Listen to learn more about these ancient writings and what they reveal about the ancient world.
In southeastern Turkey, archaeologists are studying ruins of what may be one of the first human places of worship. Archaeologists have long thought that humans began participating in religious rituals only after they invented agriculture. But ancient site of Gobekli Tepe, which dates back 11,500 years, may suggest otherwise. Gobekli Tepe is home to the world’s oldest temple. Listen to the story to learn more about what the site reveals about the beginnings of human civilization.
In modern times, conflicts around the globe have threatened to destroy historic sites and artifacts of all kinds. In response, preservationists have worked to protect architecture, landscapes, and other things of historical value. One such example is in Fez, Morocco. This audio story is about the efforts to preserve Qarawiyyin Library, which dates to the 9th century and is home to 4000 manuscripts and, among other things, early Muslim Hadiths. Listen to learn about this ancient library’s history, including the role women have played both in its creation and its restoration.
The printing press helped fuel the spread of knowledge and ideas in the Renaissance and European expansion across the globe. But how exactly in the age of print did people organize all this knowledge? An important clue to answering that question involves the life of Hernando Colón, Christopher Columbus’s son, an ambitious book collector who attempted to organize a massive library. This audio story is about the Libro de los Epítomes, a manuscript which summarizes every book Colón collected. It was recently discovered in Denmark and could help change our understanding of how knowledge was organized in the 15th century.
The neo-Assyrian empire was one of the most powerful of the ancient world, stretching along the fertile crescent and into Egypt. Nimrud was one of the most important Assyrian cities. Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal built his palace there nearly 3000 years ago. In 2014, during its occupation of Iraq, ISIS destroyed the palace. Listen to this audio story to hear about efforts to protect what remains of the Assyrian palace now that ISIS is no longer in control and learn about issues of cultural heritage and historical preservation during turbulent times.
Back in the days of colonization, Spanish explorers believed that cities of gold could be found in the Amazon. When anthropologists never discovered these magical gold cities, they supposed these indigenous people had no urban centers. They argued that the landscape of the Amazon made cities difficult, if not impossible, to build. Recent work, however, has changed this view. This audio story focuses on new evidence in the southern Amazon that suggests a level of centralization not previously believed to have existed. Listen to learn the details of these villages and how they shape the way we understand indigenous Amazonians.
Andrew Carnegie is famous not only for being one of the richest industrialists in American history, but also for donating nearly all of his wealth to charity. As part of his far-reaching philanthropy, Carnegie funded nearly 1700 public libraries around the country. Unlike many libraries before, these were open to all members of the community--women, children, rich and poor, and people of all races. Carnegie hoped these institutions would encourage people to read, research, and educate themselves--just as he had done as a young Scottish immigrant from a poor family. Listen to hear more about how one man’s generosity led to widespread learning opportunities for years to come.
Toys play an important role in children's development. They are also important to animals, even elephants. This public radio story is about how artists designed and built toys of elephants that were based on animal behavior and their environment. You’ll be inside the zoo with the elephants, hearing their joy when playing with the new toys.
In 2011, a crested macaque, a species of monkey found in Indonesia, used photographer David Slater’s camera to take several selfies. Slater posted the monkey’s selfies online, and one photo went viral. When animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) heard about the situation, they felt the macaque’s rights were being violated. After all, they argued, the monkey took the photo, not Slater, so the monkey owns the copyrights and should receive all royalties earned. Slater could not disagree more. The case eventually went before a federal judge. In this audio story, reporters and an attorney discuss the case and provide some context regarding the rights of animals before the law.
Animals have adapted to their environments in a wide variety of ways and developed a range of survival strategies. This audio story highlights a selection of interesting animal ”superpowers,” many of which offer ecological advantages to both predators and prey. Listen to hear about the difference between poison and venom and learn how two particularly lethal creatures compare: the box jellyfish and the golden poison frog.
From "Shiloh" to "Lassie" and "Old Yeller," young adult literature is full of stories about friendship between people and dogs. People love animals but what do animals feel? There is a debate in the scientific community and in popular culture about what emotions animals are capable of and how they display these emotions. Does recognizing that animals can feel take away from human emotion? Or does it help us recognize where these traits came from? This story discusses recent research on the emotions of animals. Listen to learn more about what researchers discovered, and the controversy surrounding the emotional lives of animals.
Literature has the power to influence our lives. In this audio story, several fifth graders at Anne Frank Elementary School in Philadelphia reflect on the lessons they have learned from reading Anne Frank’s innermost thoughts in "The Diary of a Young Girl." Their fifth grade class is diverse, with kids from many countries and cultures all over the world. You will hear many students explain how they can relate in different ways to the sentiments Anne Frank expresses in her diary. Listen to learn more about the ways these students think Anne Frank’s diary brings us together, gives us hope, and inspires us to never repeat the horrors of the past.
Anne Frank’s diary of her family’s life in hiding from the Nazis is one of the most famous accounts of World War II. Less known is how her father, Otto Frank made many attempts to get his wife and two daughters, Margot and Anne, out of Nazi Germany to safety. In 2005, several letters and documents written by Otto Frank were discovered. Despite the support of several wealthy and powerful friends in the United States, he was unable to acquire the necessary visas. The U.S. was making it more and more difficult for immigrants to enter the country and, after Germany declared war on the U.S., Cuba rescinded the visas it had originally offered. Listen to learn more about the powers that kept the Frank family in Europe, where they were eventually discovered, arrested and almost all murdered by the Nazis.
A rising tide of anti-Jewish sentiment has the German government chastising Germans for their prejudice. Antisemitism is a particularly volatile topic in Germany because of the Nazi-led Holocaust during World War II. Some blame the rising antisemitism in Europe on the conflict in Israel. Others believe it’s because of an influx of Muslim immigrants. This public radio story takes you to a protest against the attacks on Jews in Germany and explores how the present-day incidents refer to a dark past.
The year 1968 was a time of incredible upheaval in the United States. The hippie movement, a subculture youth movement that rejected mainstream American life, was just getting started. The Democratic National Convention in Chicago was disrupted by riots, and both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy–two prominent progressive leaders–had been assassinated. In the midst of all that political instability, NASA’s first mission to orbit the moon ended up bringing the entire divided nation together. Listen to find out how.
On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists checked in for flights, boarded four planes and then hijacked them. The use of an air travel system to attack the United States was a shock to Americans and led to big questions about the effectiveness of airport security checks that allowed these men to board airplanes with small hand weapons and tear gas. Airport security immediately changed to make air travel safer, but have these changes really made us safer? Listen to learn about the ways security has changed since 9/11 and ways it can continue to improve.
Forty years ago, a military coup in Argentina triggered what has since become known as the Dirty War. During the seven-year dictatorship that followed, as many as 30,000 Argentines either disappeared or were killed. In this story, you will hear about human rights activists who want the United States to reveal what it knew about the Dirty War, and about President Obama’s recent trip to Argentina. Listen to learn more about possible U.S. involvement in the Dirty War, and what activists hope to discover from newly declassified government documents.
While humans need food and water to survive, plants are able to get their energy from the sun through a process known as photosynthesis. Engineers are now trying to replicate this process of converting sunshine to power through artificial photosynthesis. They are trying to create an artificial leaf. Listen to learn how these problem solvers are approaching the challenge step by step.
During World War II, artists helped the war effort by creating a "Ghost Army." This was a battalion of artists, including painters, designers, and music technicians. They built rubber tanks, jeeps, barges, and other decoys to divert Nazi soldiers from real U.S. troop movements after D-Day. This audio story is about a documentary on the army of artists who worked to fool the enemy.
Australia is full of diverse and unusual animal life. It is home to hundreds of different species of marsupials, which are mammals that carry their babies in pouches, along with deadly snakes, spiders, and jellyfish. Listen to hear a story about exploring the Australian outback and learn about the unique adaptations and appearances of the animals living there.
Jacqueline Woodson’s free verse memoir, "Brown Girl Dreaming," won the National Book Award in 2014. Woodson has published 30 books and won three Newbery Honor Medals. This book explores different perspectives in a desegregating America. In this interview, Woodson talks about her experience of segregation of race and religion, and how her experiences are often similar to students who she talks with today. She talks about the need for more diverse literature in schools, along with her book being appropriate for a wider audience-- not only brown students. Listen to hear her discuss how she integrates her personal experiences into her writing.
Hundreds of years ago, the Aztec people established their capital, Tenochitlan, on top of a lake. They used mud to create islands, and channelled the lake into canals. It became the capital of the Aztec Empire in the 15th century, until Spain captured and destroyed the city. Since then, the city has supplied its many residents with water from the canals which still remain. Mexico City was built on top of this ancient city. Unfortunately, retrieving water from underground has created problems, and today, many residents do not have access to the water they need. Listen to the story to learn more about Mexico City’s history and water troubles.
The people of Ancient Mesopotamia practiced mathematics from the early days of Sumer to the fall of Babylon in the 6th century. Until recently, most evidence suggested that math was used primarily for things like measuring land. A new discovery by a researcher in Berlin has shed new light on how Babylonians used geometry to measure the changes in the velocity of Jupiter over time as it moves across the sky. Prior to this discovery, the use of geometry in this manner was thought to have come in the middle ages. Listen to hear how this new discovery shows that Babylonian mathematics was more sophisticated than previously thought.
Before the European Renaissance (14th–17th centuries), loaning money, or usury, was considered sinful and strictly prohibited by the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, the banking industry flourished. In time, the idea started that one could pay for salvation. “Sinners” began donating money and artworks to the Church as a way of gaining favor with both the Church and God. As these indulgence flooded in, the Church didn’t protest. The massive influx of wealth to the church provided the fertile ground for the birth of the Renaissance. In this audio story, learn about the birthplace of banking and how many of today’s banking terms come from 14th century Florence.
Many World War II historians agree that the 1942-43 Battle of Stalingrad was the decisive battle of World War II in Europe. Fought between German and Soviet forces, the battle may well have turned the tide of the war in favor of the allies and against Nazi Germany. This story recalls some of the ways in which the Soviet victory at Stalingrad was so remarkable and also the enormous cost of victory. Listen to this story to hear from people looking back on the battle, its impact, and its connection to the present day.
What happens when human structures and nature come into conflict? Ocean Beach in San Francisco is naturally eroding, but the consequence of this shifting shoreline is that a sewage treatment plant is put in peril. Without intervention, raw sewage could be dumped into the ocean. A rock wall has temporarily stabilized the pipeline, but not without complications. Listen to learn about the other solutions that are being considered, including construction of an artificial dune.