More than fifty years after the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education, there is still an unacceptable gap between the academic achievements of white and black students in America. In fact, by some standards, black students today perform more poorly than they did fifteen years ago. Why? What role does culture play? Does culture explain the disparate performance of Hispanic and Asian students? And just how should we go about trying to close this gap? Peter Robinson speaks with Bernard Gifford, Abigail Thernststrom, and Stephan Thernstrom.
Is Saudi Arabia an ally or an adversary? Saudi Arabia remains an autocratic monarchy, where the rights of women and the press are severely restricted. Saudi money is a principal source of funding for the Wahhabi sect, which promotes a militant form of Islam throughout the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen participants in the attacks of September 11 came from Saudi Arabia. And yet, for more than 50 years, the United States has treated Saudi Arabia as an ally. Why? What role have Saudi oil and Saudi oil money played in shaping our relationship? Is it time to recognize that Saudi Arabia may threaten American national interests? If so, what should U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia be?
During the past decade, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have been able to capture a majority of the vote in national elections. In fact, the country hasn't been so evenly divided since the 1870s. Some say this is evidence of a culture war and a political divide that has split the country into two Americas. Others disagree, arguing that in fact most Americans are in the moderate middle and are divided on relatively few issues. Who's right?
In October 2004, the school board in the small town of Dover, Pennsylvania, ordered its high school biology teachers to preface classes on evolution with the statement: "Darwin's Theory is a theory not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence." As an alternative to evolution, the school board suggested "intelligent design," a theory holding that life on earth could not have developed at random. Are there gaps in the theory of evolution that undermine its credibility? What should we make of "intelligent design"? And just what should we be teaching our children about the development of life on earth? Peter Robinson speaks with Massimo Pigliucci and Jonathan Wells.
The year will be remembered as a difficult one for the Catholic Church in America. Sex abuse scandals and criticism of the church's response to those scandals dominated the headlines for months. Sexual abuse is not the only subject creating controversy within Catholic circles. Other divisive matters include the role of women within the church, gay priests, and the relation of American bishops to the Vatican. Is the Catholic Church in danger of losing its constituency in America? Are substantial reforms in the structure and teachings of the Catholic Church necessary? Or are reforms what got the church in trouble in the first place?
A class essay condemning rape was ‘unnecessarily provocative,’ the Title IX coordinator allegedly said.
On March 14, 2005, a California Superior Court judge ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violated the state constitution. Although the decision is certain to be appealed up to the California Supreme Court, California may now be on the road to joining Massachusetts in legalizing gay marriage. Did the Superior Court judge decide correctly? Just how compelling are the constitutional arguments for and against gay marriage? Peter Robinson speaks with Terry Thompson and Tobias Wolff.
In 1978, the Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected to the papacy of the Catholic Church, taking the name John Paul II. In the twenty-four years since, Pope John Paul II has traveled more widely and held audiences for more people than any other pope in history. But beyond his long service and high profile, how will John Paul II be remembered? Will he be remembered more for his political impact—many say that he played a crucial role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe—or for his ecclesiastical work? Just how well has John Paul II prepared the Catholic Church for the twenty-first century?
We look back at America during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Each decade was dominated by a two-term President and marked by long economic booms. Do these parallels suggest that 1990s were merely a continuation of the 1980s? Or does each decade have a unique place in American history?
It's been more than 25 years since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. For most of that time, the number of executions in this country climbed steadily higher. In the past several years, however, the death penalty has come under increasing criticism. Executions have fallen nationwide from a high of 98 in 1998 to 66 in 2001. Two states, Illinois and Maryland, declared moratoria on the death penalty over concerns that the death penalty could not be administered fairly. Is the death penalty immoral in and of itself? If not, is it unconstitutional? What is required to ensure that the death penalty is administered with fairness, justice, and accuracy?
The First Amendment of the Constitution declares in part that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." What did this amendment mean to the founders who wrote it? Did they intend to establish an inviolate "wall of separation between church and state"? Or was their intent instead to merely preserve religious freedom and prevent the establishment of a national religion?
It is estimated that currently there are between 7 and 10 million illegal immigrants in this country. Meanwhile the Border Patrol has grown from a staff of 2,000 and a $100 million budget 30 years ago to 11,000 men and women and a $9 billion budget today. Clearly, our attempts to control illegal immigration have not been working. But what should we do instead? President Bush has proposed a new immigration plan that would turn illegal immigrants already here into legal temporary workers. Is his plan an acknowledgment that our economy needs cheap immigrant labor and that we simply can't control our borders any longer? Or is his plan the entirely wrong way to address the immigration problem?
Behavioral scientists have begun to argue that the findings of evolutionary science should have legal, political, and moral consequences. If behaviors such as procreation, aggression, or homosexuality are determined more by our biology than by our free will, then it is foolish, these scientists argue, to ignore that evidence. Does evolutionary science have any place in public policy? How useful is the knowledge of our biological evolution in determining the values of our legal, social, and political system?
When it comes to public policy, is it time to take sex differences seriously? There is no disputing the biological differences between men and women. But how do or should these biological differences influence the roles that men and women play in modern society? Are efforts to create equality in every venue of life—from sports, via programs such as Title IX, to the working world, via the pursuit of subsidized child care and maternity leave—ultimately beneficial for women or harmful? Peter Robinson speaks with Steven Rhoads and Deborah Rhode.
The Crusades happened almost a thousand years ago—why do they still provoke an argument? Osama bin Laden has used them to attempt to rally the Islamic world to his cause; President Bush has called the war on terrorism a "crusade." But what is the truth about the Crusades? Were they motivated by savage greed and intolerance or by pious idealism? Were they an unprovoked attack by the West on the Islamic world or a reaction to centuries of Islamic incursions? How should we understand the legacy of the Crusades today, in a time of conflict between the West and radical Islamic terrorists?
Study after study has shown that married people are healthier and wealthier than unmarried people and that children raised in two-parent homes are generally more successful in life than those who aren't. And yet, according to the U.S. Census, about half of all first marriages end in divorce. Additionally, since 1960 the percentage of children born out of wedlock has grown from single digits to 20 percent. What is going on? Is the decline in marriage a symptom of underlying cultural problems in modern America? Or is it misguided to focus on marriage rather than on the economic problems facing all low-income families, whether married or not?
For decades, Western Europe has been known for its social democracies—large welfare states governed by a coalition of the political left and center. In recent years however, this center-left coalition seems to have broken down. Conservative parties have come to power in a number of European countries, including Spain, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. Why has Europe moved to the right? Have a few specific issues, such as immigration and crime, driven European voters to the right? Are voters merely expressing a temporary frustration with the center-left coalition, or is the new conservative Europe here to stay?
Has increased immigration to EU member nations created distrust and delusion, contributing to a continent in the grip of a culture in the midst of its own suicide?
Biographies of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams and histories of the revolutionary era have been bestsellers and Pulitzer Prize winners in the past several years. What explains this recent surge of interest in the founding fathers of the American nation? What does the fascination with the founding fathers tell us about our own time? What would the founders have to say about the state of the nation today?
In the past century the earth's human population has quadrupled, growing from 1.5 billion in 1900 to about 6 billion today. By 2050, it is estimated that the global population will reach 9 billion. In 1968, a young biologist named Paul Ehrlich wrote a best-selling book called The Population Bomb, which sparked an ongoing debate about the dangers of overpopulation. He argued that population growth was destroying the ecological systems necessary to sustain life. So just how worried should we be? Is population growth a problem or not? And if so, what should we do about it?