The problem we all live with

The problem we all live with

For this assignment, you must listen to episode number 562 of This American Life, titled “The Problem We All Live With.” You can listen at the TAL website here


While the episode focuses on some school districts in suburban St. Louis, the issues discussed play out every year across the country. During and/or after listening to the podcast, respond to the following questions. The possible points for each question are given in parentheses.

1. What tool do they discuss at the beginning (and really throughout the episode) as being the key to improving schools and reducing racial gaps in educational outcomes? (1 point)


2. What has happened in schools around the country since 1988, according to the reporter? (1 point)

3. According to the reporter, why do students tend to fare better when they are in classes with kids from a mix of socio-economic backgrounds as opposed to being in a class made up predominately of kids in poverty? (2 points)

4. How well did Michael Brown’s school district perform compared to the rest of Missouri? (1 point)

5. What is Missouri’s “transfer law?” (1 point)

6. What are some of the reasons offered by the parents who spoke at the Francis-Howell town hall meeting for why they were angry and/or worried? (1 point)

7. What did the state of Missouri eventually do that prevented students from using the transfer law in the Normandy District? Did the courts ultimately intervene? If so, how? (2 points)

8. Towards the end of the episode, the reporter asked Normandy’s new superintendent “Do you think it’s possible for a black child in Missouri to get an equal education?” What do you think? Yes or no, and why? (2 points)

9. Public education decisions are typically made at the local level, but as you know from our discussions about federalism and the constraints/limitations of local government, a state could decide to mandate the sort of integration discussed during this episode (unless that is somehow prohibited by the state constitution). Given clear racial disparities in educational outcomes for public K-12 students, why do you think states don’t do this? Think particularly about political factors here. (2 points)
10. If you were a state legislator interested in the state getting more involved in solving the sort of problems discussed in this episode, what policies might you propose? Provide two and explain how they might address problems. (2 points)