Culture

Culture, Ideas, Religion

American Eugenics

Dec 19, 2016
Photograph courtesy of Arthur Estabrook Papers, Special Collections & Archives, University at Albany, SUNY.

Journalist Adam Cohen has said if you want to learn about an institution, you look at where it’s gone wrong. For Cohen, Buck v Bell is a moment when the US Supreme Court went terribly wrong. Its 1927 decision upheld eugenics laws, and led to the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck and some 70,000 “undesirables” declared “feebleminded.” Monday, Cohen joins us to explain how Americans - and some of our most revered legal minds - succumbed to racism and classism in the name of “uplifting” the human race. (Rebroadcast)

Words on the Move

Dec 15, 2016
Tama Leaver via CC/Flickr http://bit.ly/1mhaR6e, http://bit.ly/2gMBl1m

If you’re worried that the word “literally” now means “figuratively,” or if you fret that acronyms are replacing actual words, today’s show will do one of two things: make you pull out your hair, or it’ll change your mind. The linguist John McWhorter says that changes to the English language are nothing new. Language, he says, isn’t some static thing that just is, “it’s actually something always becoming.” McWhorter will join us to discuss how languages evolve and why we should embrace the changes.

Vszybala via CC/Flickr, http://bit.ly/2fCvqsa

Lions were once feared as the king of jungle. But their influence on the world and in nature now pales in comparison to the diminutive, purring, and demanding house cat. In a new book, the journalist Abigail Tucker, investigates the natural and cultural history of house cats. Despite their ubiquity in modern life, she says, we know very little about what cats are, how they came to live among us, and why we love these furry freeloaders. Tucker joins us Monday to talk about the lions in our living rooms.

Modern American manners leave much to be desired. People answer their cell phones in the middle of meals, they shush loudly in movie theaters and even clip their toenails on the train. Henry Alford wanted to learn a little more about 21st century etiquette, so he went to Japan, AKA the Fort Knox of good manners, interviewed etiquette experts and even played a game called "Touch the Waiter." Friday, Doug talks with Alford about how we behave and how we could behave better. (Rebroadcast)

Nowadays, there are all kinds of devices to help us find our way through the world. But before all that stuff, before even cartography, humankind was navigating with nature as the guide. The adventurer Tristan Gooley is committed to recovering and teaching the lost arts natural navigation. Rocks, trees, grass, ducks, puddles, clouds, and the wind are all compass hands to him. Gooley joins us Wednesday to share what he’s learned about natural navigation and the joys of learning nature’s subtle signs.

A few years ago, Paul Tough wrote a book about research showing that character traits like grit, self-control, and optimism are critical to a child’s success. Tough’s latest book builds on that research by explaining how to put it into practice. He argues that a child’s home and school environments are the principle barriers to his or her success. Improve the environment, Tough says, and you can improve the child. He joins us Monday to explain his theory of helping children succeed. (Rebroadcast)

Last week’s presidential election marked the fifth time that there was a split on the popular and electoral college vote. Of course, it wasn’t the first time it’s happened in the early years of 21st century, and that’s got a lot of people are asking: why do we have an electoral college? How’d we end up with this obscure voting method? Defenders argue it’s a cornerstone of the American republic, while opponents counter that it doesn’t value each vote equally. Thursday, we’ll hear from both sides of the debate.

Wherever you turn these days, commercials, sponsored social media, and other advertising efforts await your attention. The influential thinker Tim Wu says we have the “attention merchants” to thank for that. In a new book, Wu argues that the concerted efforts of advertisers to attract our attention at every opportunity has made us more distracted and less focused than ever before. Wu joins us Monday to explore the rise of the attention merchants and the human costs of their efforts.

In Donald Trump’s Presidential victory speech, he struck a tone that some found hard to believe after the vitriolic race. He called on Republicans, Democrats, and independents to “come together as one united people.” But if you’ve been on social media recently, you know that’s a tall order. So Thursday, we’re looking at the state of polarization in the country and the internet’s effect on our political views. We’ll also talk to activists who are imagining a “Reunited” America.

Why Empathy Matters

Nov 8, 2016

Tuesday, we're offering a mid-day reprieve from election coverage with a conversation about empathy. The philosopher Roman Krznaric suggests you forget the idea that it’s some fluffy, feel-good concept. Krznaric argues that empathy is radical and dangerous, because it offers the possibility of real change. He also says it’s not a concept to reserve for the down and out. To really address the world’s empathy deficit, we must equally apply it to our neighbors and to people in power. (Rebroadcast)

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