In general, I try not to talk too much about politics, but today will be one of my few exceptions. I received an email this morning from my mother. Apparently, the US Republican party released a budget proposal which "zeroes out funding for both NPR and PBS" which is the worst funding decrease in more than a decade. I love NPR. Although I do not listen to it every day, I set up my iTunes last year to download NPR podcasts on international news and science and I gain a lot of my current news from these podcasts. Although I do not generally like online petitions, I signed this one on MoveOn.org to save NPR.
I am not the only person who gains their news this way. When I was working last summer, my bookstore colleagues spent their entire shelving shifts listening to different NPR programs through a similar podcast program on other topics. For a number of the college students I know, this and the New York Times online are the only place that people listen to the news. In reality, NPR is real, free public education that only requires people to pick the type of podcast they which they seek and download and listen to it. You can find your shows at the NPR podcast directory.
I read an article recently in the New York Times about the FCC expanding internet access to under-served areas and possibly expand the proposal in future. As the internet provides so many resources for self-education (including NPR podcast directory), I think this will be a great step forward in raising the level od education in these populations. Sugata Mitra's work, which I discussed in previous blogposts, shows that the combination of the internet and curiosity can allow children to educate themselves in anything for learning a new language to concepts in science and technology.