March 24, 2016

Locked door

Facing a creative barrier? Cut the locks. Credit: Meena Kadri / Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes, a game isn’t designed for success. That’s where creativity (and maybe a mistake or two) can help.

Nearly a decade before “crowdfunding” became hot - because of companies like Kickstarter - Charles Best was a teacher in the Bronx who needed a way to get school supplies, even though budgets were tight. So he created one of the earliest crowdfunding sites, DonorsChoose.org, which allowed people to donate to school projects. We talk with him about what philanthropy can teach us about our educational system.

More than ten years ago, then-Harvard president Larry Summers floated some controversial ideas as to why women scientists and mathematicians weren’t well-represented at elite universities: was it an issue of hard work? Or that they didn’t have the same knack for science? He was widely criticized by colleagues and the media, but his comments also inspired researchers to take a closer look at the question. We talk with writer Eileen Pollack about what that research uncovered, and why the science world is still a “boys’ club.”

Ever consider the possibility that air conditioning led to the election of Ronald Reagan? Or that the Gutenberg Bible created microscopes? Well, technological progress isn’t a straight line. Steven Johnson, author of the book and PBS special 'How We Got To Now,' explores how innovators throughout history have shaped the world in wholly unexpected ways.

The audio for the segments was updated on April 5th, 2016.

Charles Best, Eileen Pollack, higher ed, Steven Johnson

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