Culture

Culture, Ideas, Religion

The psychologist Alison Gopnik is worried about modern day parenting, including her own. It’s too much like being a carpenter, she says, where you shape chosen materials into a final, preconceived product. Kids don’t work like that. In a new book, Gopnik suggests parents think less like carpenters and more like gardeners: creating safe, nurturing spaces in which children can flourish. Gopnik joins us to discuss how we can raise better kids by changing our approach to parenting. (Rebroadcast)

Where does genius come from? Some people say geniuses are born, or that they’re made by thousands of hours of work. But what if genius is actually grown, like a plant? Travel writer Eric Weiner has scanned the globe and come to exactly that conclusion. He says genius arises in clumps at particular places and times when certain ingredients are present. Think Ancient Greece, 14th-century Florence, or modern-day Silicon Valley. Weiner joins us to explain his theory of the geography of genius. (Rebroadcast)

How Eloquence Works

Dec 29, 2016
<a href="http://bit.ly/289uFxL">Jack Thielepape/jmt images, via <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC</a>/flickr

We all know eloquence when we hear it. The skillful delivery of language delights us, captivates us, persuades and moves us. Most importantly, says the linguist David Crystal, speakers and listeners alike enjoy eloquent speech. Crystal has dissected the qualities and practice of eloquence. Partly, he wants to better understand how it's achieved. He also wants to show that eloquence is a talent everyone who uses words can possess. Crystal joins us to examine how the gift of gab works. (Rebroadcast)

American Utopianism

Dec 22, 2016
Public Domain, http://bit.ly/1U56lcm

What should the future look like? That’s the question posed by ambitious, sometimes delusional Americans in the early 1800s who dedicated themselves to creating new ways of living. You had Mother Ann Lee’s Shakers; the Oneida community in New York; New Harmony, Indiana; intentional communities inspired by French socialist Charles Fourier; and the roots of a communist paradise in Texas. Thursday, the writer Chris Jennings joins us to explore the idealism and the lasting impact of these five utopian movements. (Rebroadcast)

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)

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