Imagine If We All Could Have Esther Wojcicki As A Parent

May 27th, 2019

Screen%2BShot%2B2019-05-27%2Bat%2B10.18.The evidence is overwhelming that in our schools today, the successful curriculums are those that are directed toward deeper learning, project-based learning, and social and emotional learning.

Learners that feel empowered and hands-on, that collaborate and learn empathy are the ones who excel academically.

So why shouldn't the same be true of parenting? The recent cheating scandal certainly shows the other extreme. What happens amidst helicopter parenting run amuck, of parents not having faith in the innate abilities and independence of their kids.

Maybe you don’t have to let your 11 or 12-year-old fly off to France and change planes by themselves as my guest did, but giving them responsibly at home from a young age is essential.

Few people understand this better than Esther Wojcicki. Esther understands not in some abstract white paper kind of way, but by having raised three incredibly successful daughters;  Ann, the co-founder of 23 and me, Susan is the CEO of YouTube and Janet is a distinguished doctor and professor of pediatrics.

Esther is in her own right an amazing success story. A formidable voice on behalf of journalism and media literacy, Esther Wojcicki is the founder of the Media Arts programs at Palo Alto High School and serves as vice chair of Creative Commons and was instrumental in the launch of the Google Teacher Academy.  Her new book is How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results.

My conversation with Esther Wojcicki:

We Are Not Descended From Fearful Men: David Maraniss and “A Good American Family”

May 23rd, 2019

download.jpegMark Twain is reported to have said that history does not really repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Today we live in a climate, not unlike the late ’40s and early ’50s, where fear is weaponized,  and where suspicion of the other is exploited as a salve for change.

Yet there always seem to be brave men and women trying to rise above. As Ed Murrow said in his takedown of Senator Joe McCarthy,” we were not descended from fearful men. They were not men who feared to write or to speak,” who, again in Murrow’s words, “did not confuse dissent with disloyalty.”

But fear is personal, visceral, and chilling when exploited by the government. It undermines the very foundation of a democratic republic, and sometimes of families. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss makes it as personal as it can be in A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father. The story of his father and his family caught in the maelstrom of the red scare in the 1950s.

My conversation with David Maraniss:

A Multi-Cultural Society, An Elite Senate, Good and Bad Leaders: How It All Went So Wrong

May 21st, 2019

Screen%2BShot%2B2019-05-21%2Bat%2B2.30.4Today as we sometimes contemplate the real possibility of the end of the American experience. We think about its roughly 250-year history, often in the context of the people that have led us, good and bad, and taken us to where we are today.

So perhaps it might be instructive to look at the 500 years history of the Roman Empire, and look at some of its leaders. Some who drove it to great heights and others who were responsible for taking it over the proverbial cliff.

Barry Strauss, professor of history and classics at Cornell, is a leading expert on ancient military and Roman history. His latest work, Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, and our recent conversation gives us new insights to where we might be headed.

My conversation with Barry Strauss:

Fear, Loathing and Immigration: The Battle Was Once Much Worse

May 17th, 2019

OkrentBook.jpgImmigration and the fear of outsiders is a deep strain in the American psyche. It didn’t start with Donald Trump. In fact, it hasn’t even reached its full flowering under this administration. When Trump talked of murderers and rapists coming to the border, of other nations not sending us their best, he was merely echoing a historical context that has actually played out in far worse ways in our history

From the Chinese Exclusion Act through the highly restrictive immigration acts passed in the early 20th century, the white Christians have always felt under siege. To make matters even worse, in the early part of the 20th century the rhetoric and false science of eugenics was weaponized in the immigration battles.

This is the story that my guest Daniel Okrent tell in The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America:

My conversation with Daniel Okrent:

Democracies Are Not Forever…Is The US Headed Down The Same Path As Rome?

May 8th, 2019

US_Capitol_Colosseum_1088x725-700x470.jpEvery day, no matter what the issue — whether it’s election integrity, rule of law, climate change, guns, impeachment, or the Mueller report — what’s at stake is not just daily political wins and losses, but the very survival of the republic.

As was the case at its founding, during the Civil War, and at a select few times in US history, Americans would be making a huge mistake if they took the survival of the nation for granted. History tells us that the Roman Republic had a very good 400-year run, only to have its citizens let it fail.

In this podcast we talk to prize-winning historian, professor, and Rome scholar Edward Watts. He takes us through some of the frightening parallels, which include cults of personality, dramatic wealth creation, the wearing down of critical guardrails and norms, and the willingness of Roman voters to ignore the damage being done as Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy.

Watts explains how, while it may have taken 100 years for the full effects to be felt, violent language, immigration issues, the ginning up of fear, and the violation of conventions in order to implement policy all played important roles. It’s ancient history we should well remember.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Edward Watts:

Outright Lies Are Posing As Today’s Conspiracy Theories

May 6th, 2019

MW-HI146_people_20190424093045_ZH.jpgLong before the Internet, in the early days of talk radio, the all-night hosts were the progenitors of modern-day conspiracy theory. Hosts spent hours talking about crop circles, animal mutilation, Area 51, the Kennedy assassination and all manner of events and evidence that could be used to construct a hidden narrative.

The idea was that strange things were happening, that evidence in plain sight could be interpreted in ways that evolved to different conclusions. The narrative was always about the interpretation of evidence that was in plain sight. We were told that we just didn’t understand the full impact of what it meant.

Today, all of that has changed. Almost like science, the “conspiracy theories” today from people like Alex Jones, or Donald Trump are not about another way of interpreting the world. It’s all about flat out lies, fabricated rumors and it’s often presented with the only backup being the mantra, “people are saying.”

Laying bear this new look to conspiracies are Harvard Professor Nancy Rosenblum and Dartmouth Professor Russell Muirhead in their book A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

My conversation with Nancy Rosenblum and Russell Muirhead:

The Klan and White Supremacy…Then and Now

May 2nd, 2019

BeFunky-collage_25.jpgEven though it may not seem like it, domestic terrorism, particularly built around white supremacy, is nothing new. Given that racism is our nation's original sin, it should not be surprising that in the post Civil War period, the historical efforts to deal with the Ku Klux Klan are both instructive in their own right, but at the same time foreshadows the thru lines that lead us to where we are today.

This is the story that the Washington Post’s Charles Lane shares in his book Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror.

My conversation with Charles Lane:

We’ll Be OK If We Can Make It to 2040

May 1st, 2019

Screen%2BShot%2B2019-05-01%2Bat%2B9.42.0America has often been a divided nation. Battles at our founding were often settled at 50 paces.The western ethos that is part of half of America fueled many of those divisions. Brother fought against brother

in the civil war. The industrial revolution gave us riots, and death and violence. The cold war and fear of communism gave rise to whole careers and lives ruined just by accusation. The ’60s didn’t just produce great music but led to the death of students on the safety of a college campus.

But, to use the often tired cliche of Wall Street, this time it’s different. Or at least so it seems. The divide today, fueled by social media, by 24/7 news cycles and the decline of faith in our basic institutions and fear of hyper-rapid and deep fundamental change has produced a kind of tribalism that undermines rather than reinforces all the central ideas of democracy and republican government.

Darrell M. West vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution looks at all of this in Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era.

My conversation with Darrell West: