TEACHERS: Get free access to all Lessons and Current Events
Over the course of American history, debates have raged over the extent of presidential powers. When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they intended for there to be limits on what presidents could do without congressional approval or oversight. Nonetheless, presidents from Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln in the 19th century to Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan in the 20th century exercised an extraordinary amount of power. This story looks at presidential power in the 21st century, focusing on the “war on terror”. Listen to hear to what extent, and for what length of time, presidents should be granted expanded power.
During colonial times, free settlers were not the only arrivals to North America. Enslaved Africans and indentured servants, or people who agreed to work for several years in exchange for paid travel, accompanied their masters. A third, far less known group of servants also came to the colonies. Convicted criminals were punished with either three- or seven-year sentences as unpaid servants in the colonies. Listen to find out who these people were and how they played a role in the United States colonial history.
Giant volcanoes appear every few million years, and their eruptions are rare, but they are deadly. The ash and gas released into the atmosphere have the potential for significant harm. So scientists are studying two new suspected volcanic “hot spots" and are trying to figure out why they erupt. Listen to learn how seismic waves give scientists a picture of the large regions where intense volcanic activity could develop in the distant future.
What makes up a coral? This audio story takes you to an underwater observatory where a scientist is studying coral reefs. The scientist has found that CO2 in the ocean is making the ocean warmer and dissolving the coral reef system. But the scientist also discusses how coral reefs can recover. Listen to this story to hear the factors that threaten coral reefs and how they can recover.
When the two towers of the World Trade Center were attacked on September 11, 2001, the towers collapsed on themselves, creating a disaster area known as Ground Zero. A perimeter wall was quickly built around the area to contain the destruction in an effort to rebuild. One journalist spent five months with unrivaled access to the recovery effort and wrote about the experience. Listen to learn more about Ground Zero and how 9/11 changed America.
The Vietnam War has a controversial legacy in United States history and culture. The U. S. was immersed in the conflict in Vietnam for 20 years. The draft of young men to fight far from home in the seemingly endless war led to widespread resistance and protest against the war itself. This discontent led to a disrespect of veterans when they returned. Since then the sacrifice of soldiers has been honored in memorials, movies and books. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built in 1982 in Washington DC. But it was controversial at the start because it honored soldiers by etching the names of the more than 58,000 soldiers killed in polished black granite. Listen to this radio story to learn the history behind this war memorial.
The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States. It is responsible for the effective operation of the U.S. economy and conducts the nation’s monetary policy, stabilizes prices and moderates interest rates, and promotes the safety of individual financial institutions. In 1907, J. P. Morgan organized other leading financiers to backstop a run on banks and bring an end to a nationwide financial crisis. Later, with the encouragement of a powerful senator, a group of New York bankers went on to develop a plan for a central bank that was eventually adopted and that is still in effect today. Listen to the story to learn more about the formation of the Federal Reserve and America’s central banks by Congress.
For 12 days in October 1962, the world seemed poised on the brink of nuclear war. This public radio story describes President John F. Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It focuses on his role in finding a way to avoid his military advisors’ recommendation that the U.S. launch a military attack on recently discovered Soviet nuclear missiles being built in Cuba. It includes archival sound of his military advisors and the voice of Kennedy as he tells the American people about the crisis. It examines how Kennedy's actions avoided war.
The largest sea invasion in history happened June 6, 1944 during World War II. It was named D-Day, and the Allied forces landed on 5 beaches of Normandy, France to liberate the German-occupied territory. Every year, on June 6th, many countries commemorate this important battle that marked a turning point during World War II. In this audio story, an American soldier discusses his combat experiences on D-Day, the challenges as a soldier in WWII, and the encounters with the terrors of war. Listen to learn more about D-Day as well as how this soldier feels now as he reflects on this historic battle.
Trees can stand up to 100-mile an hour winds during strong hurricanes. Why do some trees survive and others don’t? The answer may be in a mathematical pattern in tree growth—first observed by Leonardo da Vinci. The rule states that smaller tree branches have a precise, mathematical relationship to the branch they came from. A scientist that is studying how air flows around objects is also studying this pattern in tree branches and looking for an explanation. Listen to hear more about these observations about trees and mathematics in nature.
This Public Radio Story describes the great importance of Syria’s ancient cultural heritage sites, for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of many other national and ethnic identities. Unfortunately, these sites are under attack as Syria’s civil war rages on.
Millions of people invest billions of dollars in the stock market to make their money grow. Some pool their money with other investors in high risk investment vehicles known as hedge funds. Hedge fund managers employ a variety of strategies with the goal of doing better than the stock market as a whole. The third richest person in the world, Warren Buffett, made a $1 million bet that he could beat the earnings of any hedge fund with his own investments in low-risk index funds. A hedge fund manager took him up on the challenge. Listen to the story to learn who is on his way to winning the bet and why.
Note: At the end of the 10 year time period, Warren Buffett won the bet as the index funds outperformed actively managed hedge funds.
What is heroism? Explore this question through a discussion with author Conn Iggulden who wrote a book about heroes throughout time. From Florence Nightingale to Harry Houdini, and the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, the author analyzes the moments and patterns of courage and bravery that make ordinary people heroes.
When getting knocked around by the ocean waves, a scientist realized the only things that were staying in place were the barnacles and muscles. This is due to the natural glue they produce that scientists are trying mimic to create a power glue that is non-toxic and can be used for things such as medical surgeries. Listen to learn more about how scientists developed these experiments and how this discovery could lead to a very useful resource.
Modern campaigning can get pretty dirty, but politicians today are only taking their cues from politicians in ancient Athens. This public radio story describes how direct democracy was carried out in ancient Athens, a Greek city-state. Listen to learn who was allowed to participate in Athenian politics and how the people of Athens voted for and controled their elected officials.
A tank holding 2 million gallons of molasses burst open and flooded the streets of Boston in 1919. This strange disaster killed 21 people and led to a scapegoating a group of people. An author has written a children’s story about the incident and what happened after the tank exploded. Listen to hear the author talk about this event and what happened in the years afterward.
The novel “Wonder” tells the story of a fifth grade boy with a facial deformity who enrolls in school for the very first time. In this audio story, the author, Raquel Jaramillo (a.k.a., R.J. Palacio) shares the incident that first prompted her to write the novel. She discusses how the boy, Auggie, struggles to feel ordinary in the face of extraordinary reactions. Listen to learn more about this novel and how the choices we make can have a lasting impact.
Many of the characters in books written for children don’t reflect everyone’s background. One girl became frustrated when she couldn’t connect to the characters. In response, she began to gather books about black girls and then give these books to schools. Now that she has exceeded her original goal and collected almost 4,000 books, the girl has started to consider how to impact schools in an even larger way. Listen to hear what actions this girl decided to take to promote diverse books in schools.
Many cities have seen growth in their population, and the high schools in these cities have become a fusion of races and ethnicities. Frisco, Texas has changed dramatically in the last twenty-five years. Not only has it changed from a sleepy railroad town into a bustling suburb of a major city, it has also changed a great deal demographically. A town that was once 75% white is now a mix of people from all over the world. Listen to hear how those demographic changes have affected the lives of students at one of its newest high schools.
The system we use to organize life is called the Linnean system, named after Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. The name of every living thing has a place because of Linnaeus. But now new DNA technology is changing the way to think about the classification system. Scientists are debating whether it is possible to change a system that has been strictly followed for the past few hundred years. Listen to learn how scientists discovered this change in the system.
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.
Most scientists agree that human beings originated in Africa. The first humans to come to North and South America has long been believed to be the Clovis people. But a 2002 discovery in the Paisley Caves in Oregon has challenged this view. Archaeologists discovered animal bones and fossilized excrement, known as coprolites. Some of these coprolites included human molecules, providing the earliest human DNA ever found in the Americas. This discovery has given archaeologists new clues to better understand the earliest humans found in North America.
Ellis Island is the symbol of our immigrant nation. This small island is where the ancestors of millions of Americans entered the United States. Immigration built our nation, immigrants peopled it, and their descendants often remember their immigrant past with pride. But many Americans do not know what their ancestors experienced upon arriving in the United States and starting their next big journey in a new land. Listen to this story to learn about the first immigrant to enter the United States through Ellis Island and how a case of mistaken identity kept her story buried.
Earthquakes can have far-reaching consequences not just on homes but on the power infrastructure. A 2008 earthquake in Southwest China left officials and engineers monitoring the structural integrity of enormous hydroelectric dams built to generate power. A fear of flooding caused by a cracked dam led some to wonder if they had taken the strengths of the region, its rivers and irrigation systems, and turned them into a potential threat. Listen to learn how hydroelectric power systems impact places and people.
Walter Mosley, an African-American writer, is one of the country’s best-known mystery writers. The Los Angeles-based private detective, Easy Rawlins, is his most popular character. Rawlins has been the main character in over a dozen mystery novels that examine the black experience in postwar Los Angeles. In this interview, Mosley discusses Easy Rawlins’ journey and the importance of Los Angeles in his novels. Listen to learn more about how Mosley uses Easy Rawlins to tell the stories of a hidden Los Angeles.
For early European Americans, daily life was about making sure you had enough food to survive. At various points, this was almost a day-to-day process. In places like Dutch New Amsterdam, settlers’ diets consisted of whatever they could hunt and forage for. This audio story is about a New York City restaurant who designed a menu to mirror the daily diet of 17th century Dutch settlers. The story highlights both the differences from and similarities to our diets today, and sheds new light on the lasting impact of the Dutch settlers in American history.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has inspired widespread fear throughout the U.S. and in many other countries. In reality, the threat of Ebola is actually quite small with only 1,700 deaths since 1976. The rarity of the Ebola virus has given major pharmaceutical companies very little incentive to develop a treatment for the virus given that the market for such a drug would be almost nonexistent. However, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, a small pharmaceutical company based in Frederick, MD, has been given government help to develop a cure for the virus. Listen to learn more about the complexity of the Ebola virus and what is being done to develop a cure.
Eddie Huang is an American chef, lawyer, and author. Both of Huang’s parents are Taiwanese immigrants. Huang’s father owned a number of restaurants when Huang was growing up, where Huang would often work after school. As an adult, Huang visited China to reconnect with his roots, and, while there, he cooked and served food to locals. Following this trip, Huang wrote his second memoir, Double Cup Love (his first, Fresh Off the Boat, was turned into a popular television series). Listen to learn more about why Huang went to China, what he learned while there, and how he views the connection between food, culture, and identity.
Edgar Allan Poe, poet and American master of the macabre, was recently celebrated in Baltimore, Maryland where he sometimes lived. It was the 200th anniversary of his birth, and it was celebrated with readings of his works. Hear from actor John Astin, who played Gomez Addams in a television series, about his lifetime appreciation for Poe. Listen to find out why Baltimore played such an integral part in Poe’s life, and what types of items are left at his grave each year.
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.
We live in an age when genetic engineering has the capacity to affect the course of human evolution. Scientists can edit human DNA, which could have profound benefits for society, but this ability also comes with dangers. Editing human DNA can allow for the treatment and prevention of disease, but this modified DNA can also become a permanent part of human genes, passed down from generation to generation. The scientific community met to discuss these issues. While experts agreed that creating a baby with edited DNA is unsafe, the support continued research to see what is possible. Listen to hear more about this issue and what scientists have concluded.
Jane Austen wrote a new type of female character. Emma Woodhouse of "Emma" and Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice" are two memorable characters. They were charming but normal, flawed but winning. The legend of Austen is that she wrote her novels exactly as they were published, but the release of her original manuscripts suggests she had an active editor. Does it matter that an editor helped clean up Austen’s prose or is it her genius that shines through?
The United States declared war on Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But Afghanistan had already been a troubled and war torn country for many, many years. In 1996, the Taliban seized control of the country, imposing strict rule over all of its citizens. This story focuses on how the strict rules of society in Afghanistan continue to affect its people--especially children and girls. Listen to this interview with the author of “The Kids of Kabul” and learn more about the challenges faced by Afghan children and women, especially in the area of education.
Animals adapt to their environment in ways that protect them from predation and allow them to find prey. Electric eels look like water snakes but use electricity to hunt. New scientific studies have gained insight into how electric eels use different electric volts to find and kill their prey. Listen to learn how the eel’s hunting method is adapted to their environment.
Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 to very religious Jewish parents. But in 1944 World War II came to his hometown and he and his family were put in cattle cars headed for concentration camps as prisoners of Adolph Hitler. He never saw his family again. Years later, in 1960, he wrote a memoir called “Night” about his time in the camp. Maybe more than any other survivor of the Holocaust, Wiesel became the memory of the genocide and a champion of fighting indifference. Listen to this story to understand Wiesel’s sphere of influence.
“Death of a Salesman” has been one of the most enduring plays on the American stage. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 when it was first produced and has been described as the first great American tragedy. The success of Arthur Miller’s play is in no small part due to the fascination Americans of every generation have had with its main character, Willie Loman. In many ways, Loman is a metaphor for the human condition in 20th century America. Listen to find out why this story of Willie Loman and his family has fascinated so many Americans for so long.
In this story, we hear from the head of Ecovative, a company that uses mycelium fibers from fungi to create useful and environmentally-friendly products. There are advantages of using mycelium fibers in place of plastics and foams, as well as challenges faced by the inventors in trying to create useful products. Listen to this story to hear how the engineering design process is described, as well as how scientists used this method to get to where they are today.
From 1882 to 1943, Chinese immigrants were legally barred from entering the United States. It was the only time American Federal Law shut out people based on their nationality. The law, known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, forced some Chinese to enter the U.S. using false names and documents. Many Chinese-Americans today are just learning that their ancestors came to America under false identities. Listen to learn more about what has come to be called the “paper children” of these immigrants.
American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway exemplified his literary style with novels like, “The Sun Also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway’s adventurous life inspired these stories. From running with the bulls in Spain to fighting in World War II, Hemingway was a larger than life celebrity known for his machismo and literary skill. Hemingway’s talent was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. His writing style, which consists of short sentences that describe the external world, changed American literature forever.
The Bosnia war started tragically with the siege of the capital, Sarajevo, in 1992. The takeover lasted longer than any siege of a capital city in modern European history. The growing nationalism among the 6 republics of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia sparked hostilities, and in 1991, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia declared their independence. When Bosnia declared independence in 1992, the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and Serbian leaders Radovan Karadžić and Slobodan Milosevic attacked Bosnia and caused two million Bosnians to flee their homes. The people of Croatia also attacked the country and claimed Bosnian possessions. The war lasted three and a half years and cost more than 100,000 people their lives. This audio story, recorded in 2012, describes relations among Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups—Muslims, Serbs, and Croats—at that time and 20 years later.