Illuminating Journalism from American Public Media
Executive Editor and Host
Stephen Drury Smith is the executive editor and host of APM Reports. He has covered a wide range of international and domestic issues, including human rights, education, science and health, race relations and American history. His work has received many national journalism awards, including the duPont-Columbia University Gold and Silver Batons, the Robert F. Kennedy, Edward R. Murrow, Overseas Press Club, Investigative Reporters and Editors, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Major Armstrong, Society of Professional Journalists and Scripps-Howard awards. Smith is a graduate of Macalester College, where he is a visiting instructor in English. He holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago, where he was a William Benton Fellow.
Scientists say most people on Earth will first experience climate change in terms of water — either too much or too little. This documentary explores some of the most pressing water problems and some innovative solutions by visiting two countries where water issues are critical: India and Israel.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, he and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt both used the new medium of radio to reach into American homes like never before. They rallied the nation to combat the Great Depression and fight fascism. The Roosevelts forged an uncommonly personal relationship with the people. This documentary explores how FDR and ER's use of radio revolutionized the way Americans relate to the White House and its occupants.
Water has been a matter of national security for Israel since the nation's inception. Drought and growth have pushed the country to use desalination, wastewater recycling and other technology and engineering feats to address the demand. But it's a different picture where Palestinians are involved.
In much of India, getting enough water is a low-tech affair. In some places, women draw water by hand; in others suicide rates among farmers have risen because drought and dropping water tables make their lives difficult.
Some predicted radio would be a powerful force for democratizing information and spreading knowledge to a vast population previously separated by geography or income. But the new technology also raised anxieties.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was a consummate broadcaster but Eleanor Roosevelt was the actual radio professional. During her years in the White House, ER made some 300 radio appearances, about the same number as her husband. But for dozens of those broadcasts she got paid handsome talent fees by advertisers.
Humans obviously learn a lot of things through trial-and-error. A level of "desirable difficulty" built into a learning and exam process appears to boost the overall retention of new skills or knowledge.
For decades psychologists cautioned against raising children bilingual. They warned parents and teachers that learning a second language as a child was bad for brain development. But recent studies have found exactly the opposite.
The General Educational Development test (GED) is a second chance for millions of people who didn't finish high school. Each year, more than 700,000 people take the GED test. People who pass it are supposed to possess a level of education and skills equivalent to those of a high school graduate. Most test-takers hope the GED will lead to a better job or more education. But critics say the GED encourages some students to drop out of school. And research shows the credential is of little value to most people who get one.
Learning with a personal tutor is one of the oldest and best ways to learn. Hiring a tutor for every student was never a realistic option. Now, new computer programs can customize education for each child. But adding computers to classrooms isn't likely to help unless teachers are willing to change their approach to teaching.
Some of America's most prestigious schools are putting their courses online for free. Anyone in the world can attend, and millions of students have already signed up. Advocates say these new, online programs will revolutionize higher education both in cyberspace and in the face-to-face classroom.
Computer-based college classes designed by Carnegie Mellon University use a sophisticated "learning dashboard" to track each student. The instructor in these face-to-face courses uses data to focus class sessions on areas where students need the most help. Researchers say students learn more and faster while demanding less of the professor's time.
A group of western state governors created a non-profit, entirely online university to meet a growing demand for higher education at a time of shrinking state budgets. Western Governors University is a low-cost school that awards degrees based on what a student knows, not how much time has been spent in class. WGU enrolls students in all 50 states and is growing fast.
More than half of the students at America's public colleges and universities arrive on campus without the basic skills they need to succeed. Math is a particular problem. A community college in Chattanooga, Tenn. has created a model program using computer-assisted instruction to dramatically cut the time -- and the cost -- of remedial math education.
Education innovators at the University of Minnesota are using online social networks to teach college courses. Rather than using conventional video lectures and online quizzes, these classes look more like Facebook than a textbook. Researchers say the approach can be more engaging and effective than other methods of teaching online.
In a troubled economy, it's harder to make the case for a degree in English, or any college major without an obvious career path. More undergrads are opting for "practical" degrees in business, engineering or nursing.
Declining enrollment and financial problems forced Antioch College to shut its doors in 2008. Now, the 155-year-old college in Yellow Springs, Ohio is reopening with a goal of creating an affordable model for small, liberal arts programs.
Most for-profit institutions focus on degrees in "hard skills" like business, technology and health sciences. But American Public University System is a for-profit, online school that believes the liberal arts can be a money maker.