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Events in Egypt; Algebra; Muhammad Ali Outside the Ring; the Sequester; Temple Grandin

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

On today’s show: a live report on the latest events in Egypt. Nicholson Baker explains why he thinks that advanced algebra shouldn’t be a high school requirement. Director Bill Siegel talks about his documentary “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” about the legendary boxer’s life outside the ring. New York Times reporter Ron Nixon explains how the sequester is affecting the nation as a whole. And with grain prices on the rise, Temple Grandin describes what cattle farmers are feeding their herds to keep costs low, and its dramatic effects.

Egypt's Unfolding Political Situation

On Wednesday, an Egyptian court ordered that former president Hosni Mubarak be freed from prison. It’s the latest piece to of Egypt’s post-revolution political order to fall, after a military coup earlier this summer ousted Pres. Mohammed Morsi from office and led to a crackdown on protesters that has left some 1,000 Morsi supporters dead. Ashraf Khalil, Cairo-based correspondent for the Times of London, Foreign Policy, and other publications and author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation, and Charles Levinson, Middle East Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, fill us in on the latest from Egypt.

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Do We Really Need to Learn Algebra?

Nicholson Baker makes a case against requiring algebra 2 and asks “why, if math is so great and timeless and beautiful, do millions of people hate it so much?”

During his conversation with Leonard brought up a 2002 survey that found a very high correlation between people who took and succeeded algebra 2 and those who made money and were successful later in life. Baker said, “It isn’t more than a statistical correlation, but people pounced on this and said, my god! Algebra 2! It’s the mystic door! If we force every child go through this door successfully, if we make them do it and we make them succeed, then they’ll all be above average and the world will be a better place.” But he argues, that making it a requirement for everyone for college admission is “not just a waste of time but a real source of suffering for many people.” Baker noted that it shouldn't be removed entirely from the high school curriculum, but that it shouldn't be required for every student, especially for otherwise good students who are struggling to pass it. "I think kids should be compelled to take some algebra...so you get a sense of what's out there and whether you have a head for it," he said.

Many callers and commenters defended algebra, saying it teaches problem-solving and intellectual discipline, but a number of people agree with Baker that not every student should be forced to take algebra 2 if they're struggling to pass it.

Nicholson Baker's article “Wrong Answer” is in the September 2013 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

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“The Trials of Muhammad Ali”

The documentary “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” examines Ali’s life outside the boxing ring, beginning with his conversion to Islam and decision to change his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. Director Bill Siegel talks about Ali’s role as an activist, his the controversies spurred by his objections to the Vietnam War. “the Trials of Muhammad Ali” opens August 23 at the IFC Center.

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Sequestration and You

Sequestration began in March and a second round of cuts is looming for October. Ron Nixon, a New York Times Washington correspondent who covers the impact of legislative and regulatory policy on consumers, tells us how the sequester is affecting the Postal Service, food and agriculture policy, and consumer safety.

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Temple Grandin on Additives in Cattle Feed

Temple Grandin talk about how cattle feed additives, like popular weight-gaining supplements, are changing cattle behavior, health, and the meat we eat.

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