Kids and Character Building: What Works Best?

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Psychologist Walter Mischel talks about his new book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control (Little, Brown, September 2014). It’s about his famed experiment testing delayed gratification in kids and what it can teach all of us.

And grownups everywhere complain that our kids are spoiled — but is that really true? Or is it just a case of conservative ideology going mainstream? Alfie Kohn talks about his latest book, The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting (Da Capo Lifelong Books, March 2014.)

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Web Extras

Web-only Extra: Alfie Kohn on the Common Core

Alfie_Kohn11WV interviewed Alfie Kohn about his book, The Myth Of The Spoiled Child (Da Capo Lifelong Books, March 2014.) 

We also asked Kohn about his views on the Common Core and alternative education, but weren’t able to include it in the show. Here’s that segment.

Alfie Kohn is a frequent lecturer on the topics of education and parenting, and the author of twelve previous books, including The Homework Myth, Punished by Rewards, and Unconditional Parenting. His work has been covered by the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and USA Today, and he has appeared on CNN, BBC, and numerous NPR shows. His website is at alfiekohn.org.

Listen here to the full radio interview.


Humanizing The North Koreans — Plus, A Cartoonist’s Take On Charlie Hebdo


Author Suki Kim talks about her gripping story of life in North Korea, WITHOUT YOU, THERE IS NO US. She went undercover in the DPRK to bring a more humanized view of North Koreans to the West. Also, political cartoonist Ted Rall comments on the killings at Charlie Hebdo.

Suki Kim

cropped-author-photo-photo-credit-Ed-Kashi-VIIThe Korean War of 1950 to 1953 is a wound that has marked nearly every Korean family with tragedy and loss. South Korean born writer Suki Kim’s family is no exception. Her 17 year old uncle disappeared at the beginning of the war, probably taken captive by what was to become North Korea.

Kim teaching
Suki Kim teaching at PUST

That country is a pariah among nations, the butt of jokes and Hollywood lampoons like the movie The Interview. Its people are sealed behind impenetrable walls of tyranny and censorship.

See more of Suki Kim’s photos of North Korea.

When we think of the North Korean people, we picture them as a faceless mass, starving from famine or mindlessly hailing their Great Leader in brainwashed unison. Suki Kim wants to change that notion. She wants us to see the people inside the faceless mass.

Kim went to North Korea to find out for herself what life is like for the North Koreans — even though she knew she could only have access to a tiny slice of that society. She went undercover and got a job teaching English to the sons of the North Korean elite.

516uDGeKJUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Her every move was watched — not just by her North Korean minders, but also by her evangelical Christian colleagues who ran the school where she taught.

But despite the strict controls, Suki Kim was able to make a profound human connection to her students — young men who, after all, were not so different from teenage boys anywhere. Her wonderful book Without You,There Is No Us humanizes them and, in the process, invites her readers to deepen our own humanity.

In addition to Without You,There Is No Us, Suki Kim is the author of a novel, The Interpreter.

Ted Rall

The killing, in Paris, of the editor, several cartoonists and other staff of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has prompted a world wide reaction of horror and marshaled a huge response of support for the publication in the name of press freedom.

la-ol-rall-charlie-hebo-paris-victims-cartooni-001But questions have also been raised about whether Charlie Hebdo’s mocking of Muslim sensibilities might have fed into growing Islamophobia against a vulnerable minority population in Europe. Some critics even charged that the newspaper’s lampoons were designed to sell more copies.

Francesca caught up with political cartoonist Ted Rall the day after the massacre and asked him about his take on the controversy. Rall wrote a post for the LA Times stating: “Political cartooning may not pay well, or often at all, and media elites can ignore it all they want. But it matters. Almost enough to die for.”


The Four Big Reasons America Is Falling Apart — Plus, The Two Sides of Mario Cuomo


Bob Herbert talks about his penetrating new book, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America. It connects the dots between our crumbling infrastructure, the jobs crisis, mass defunding of public education and the multi-trillion dollar tab for ongoing wars to explain why America is falling apart.

And former New York Governor Mario Cuomo was buried this week to throated praise for his liberal legacy. But how liberal was that legacy, really? Investigative reporter Greg Palast talks about the two Marios he knew and worked for: the golden throated defender of the working man and the back room dealer.

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Big Changes in Cuba


Reuters journalist Marc Frank talks about his book, Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana. It’s about the profound changes that country is undergoing. Also, the US is stepping back from half a century of failed policy in Cuba. Will it take that long for us to correct our mistakes in the Middle East? We talk with foreign policy expert and Iraq War veteran Matthew Hoh (full interview is here.)

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Blowback in The Middle East: Matthew Hoh on Torture, Veteran Suicide & Endless War

Matthew Hoh

A few weeks ago, WV aired an interview with New York Times national security reporter, James Risen about his book, Pay Any Price. One of the people Risen writes about in that book is Iraq War veteran and ex-Marine company commander, Matthew Hoh. In the years since his deployment, he suffered from combat-related PTSD so severe that he came close to suicide.

Matthew Hoh
Matthew Hoh

After Iraq, Hoh worked for the State Department in Afghanistan, but in 2009, he resigned in protest over US strategic policy and goals in that country.

Francesca spoke with him just after the US Senate’s report on torture was released in November 2014 about the blowback caused by US policy in the Middle East, including torture. They also discussed Hoh’s analysis of ISIS, moral injury affecting verterans, the epidemic of veterans’ suicides and his own PTSD.

Matthew Hoh is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and former Director of the Afghanistan Study Group. In 2010, Matthew was named the Ridenhour Prize Recipient for Truth Telling. He writes on issues of war, peace and post-traumatic stress disorder recovery at matthewhoh.com.



Doing Right by Our Companion Animals

dog cat

Ellen Cooney talks about her newest novel, The Mountaintop School For Dogs. It’s a mystery about an unusual and redemptive rescue operation. We also replay our conversation with animal behaviorist Vint Virga about his book, The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human.

Ellen Cooney

EllenCooneyWe use the word “humane” to describe behavior that is compassionate and caring. But maybe we should use something like “canane” instead or, yes, even “felane.” Because, can we really hold up humans as exemplars of such behavior? Maybe we need to act more like our companion animals act toward us.  If more of us treated them as well as they treat us, we’d have a lot fewer traumatized, abused and neglected animals. We also might have fewer traumatized, abused and neglected humans.

MttopcvrEllen Cooney ponders these questions in her new work of fiction, The Mountaintop School For Dogs And Other Second Chances. Wrapped within a kind of mystery novel is an exploration of our relationship to the animals who share our lives. What happens when things go wrong, either through misunderstanding or evil intent?

Cooney’s protagonist is a young woman who has been through some traumas of her own. Answering a mysterious ad in the paper, she finds herself in the midst of a unique rescue operation for abused dogs. What she learns there not only changes the lives the animals she has come to help, but her life, as well.

Ellen Cooney is the author of numerous previous novels, including Lambrusco, which we spoke about with her in 2008. She lives in Maine with her canine companions.

Read an excerpt from The Mountaintop School For Dogs

Vint Virga
soul-of-all-creatures-680x440We love our cats and dogs and thrill to the sight of wild animals. But we tend to forget that we are animals ourselves — and thus share our fragile planet with what are really our cousins in the animal kingdom.

Veterinary behaviorist Vint Virga says that other animals have much to teach us about being human — not just the biological traits we share, but also other qualities like resilience, compassion and being present in the moment.

Virga draws on his 25 years of working with both domestic pets and zoo animals to explore these themes in his thoughtful and moving book The Soul of All Living Creatures.

Vint Virga has appeared as a featured guest on ABC World News, PBS Nature, and National Geographic Explorer. He is one of only 61 behavioral veterinarians in the US. The Soul of All Living Creatures won a Nautilus Book Award in 2014.

Read an excerpt from The Soul of All Living Creatures


Following The Thread of History To Find Ourselves

the family

David Laskin talks about his family memoir of Jewish life in the twentieth century, The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century. Then, a poet’s dialog with the 1886 diary of an ordinary woman: Sarah Sousa talks about her books, Diary of Esther Small, 1886 and Church of Needles.

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Paying The Price Of The War On Terror. Also, Talking Climate For Everyone


Journalist James Risen talks about his explosive new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. And George Marshall talks about what’s been keeping the climate crisis from seizing the hearts and minds of the public — and how to change that. His important book is Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. Continue reading


Rowing For The Gold Against Hitler & Shakespeare From The Female POV


Daniel James Brown talks about his bestseller, THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Then, a re-telling of the story of Romeo and Juliet — from the POV of Juliet’s nurse. We talk with historian-turned-novelist Lois Leveen about JULIET’S NURSE.

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The True Story of Thanksgiving – Plus, Tips on Eating & Studs Terkel


In this Thanksgiving Day special, we reach back into our archives for three treats: we air our 2005 interview with the late great Studs Terkel talking about his last book, And They All Sang. Then food psychologist Brian Wansink gives us tips on how not to overeat in this excerpt from our 2006 interview about his book Mindless Eating. Finally, Native American storyteller and historian Marge Bruchac tells us the real story of Thanksgiving.

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel
Studs Terkel

Late great radio man and chronicler of 20th century life, Studs Terkel was long a hero to Francesca. She leaped at the chance to interview him when, at the age of 92, he came out with his last book, And They All Sang: Adventures of An Eclectic Disc Jockey.

A homage to the power of music to bring out the best in humanity, the book features conversations Terkel had with some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century — like Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie and Mahalia Jackson — on his famed daily radio show on WFMT in Chicago. And They All Sang was his 14th book.

Brian Wansink

Mindless EatingThere are many drivers of the obesity epidemic. Food is everywhere and portions tend to be supersized. How can we resist the temptations that lures us from all sides?

Food psychologist Brian Wansink has the answer. Back in 2006, WV spoke with him about his book, MIndless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Today we play an abridged version of that interview.

Wansink is the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Marge Bruchac

Marge Bruchac

When Thanksgiving rolls around, Native American storyteller Marge Bruchac gets a lot of requests to talk about the first Thanksgiving, when the English settlers got together with the Wampanoag natives of Massachusettsfor a feast. The year was 1621. Bruchac co-authored the book, 1621: A New Look At Thanksgiving.

Marge Bruchac is an anthropologist, historian, and museum consultant. She’s also a performer of Algonkian Indian music and oral traditions. In addition to 1621, she’s the author of other books, including the children’s book, Malian’s Song.


Climate Changes Everything

album photo cefic.indd

Naomi Klein talks about her ground-breaking new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism and The Climate. It’s about how the climate crisis could lead to a more just and safer world. Then, the Senate voted down the Keystone XL pipeline for now, but is almost certain to pass it after January. We talk with climate journalist John Cushman, re-airing an interview with him about the pipeline and what it will mean if it’s approved.

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I Heart Archeologists — Plus, A Campus Satire


Marilyn Johnson talks about her delightful and informative book, Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble (Harper Collins, 2014). Then, Julie Schumacher tells us about her brilliant satire of academia, Dear Committee Members (Random House, 2014.)

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Is School Reform Failing Our Schools?

Dana Goldstein

Journalist Dana Goldstein discusses her groundbreaking history of school reform in the US and conflicts over teaching, then and now. It’s called The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession (Doubleday). Then, we check in with Katrina van den Heuvel about her interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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Six Great Books I Have To Read This Week For Writer’s Voice

6 books plate

Francesca’s Bookshelf

I love talking to authors about their awesome books, but that means I have to read — a lot! You’d be shocked at how many authors thank me for actually reading their books (I guess a lot of interviewers don’t.)

Of course, that’s one of the benefits of producing Writer’s Voice: I get to indulge my reading habit and ask questions of the authors.

But there’s so much great stuff coming out all the time that sometimes my desire to devour all of it gets ahead of the time available. That’s when I find myself with more books on my plate than I bargained for. This is one of those weeks. But what books! I just finished the first one: David Laskin’s THE FAMILY. Read on for my take on his book and more. Continue reading