Philosophy of Education Podcast Resource

This list was made with an eye toward podcasts that help illustrate concepts within philosophy of education and podcasts that connect well for courses addressing questions of policy and practice. Click on a theme to see related podcasts with descriptions and how they connect to ideas in philosophy of education. 

Podcasts by Theme

Radio Lab, “The Girl Who Doesn’t Exist,” aired August 29, 2016

Description: This podcast examines the case of a girl who was raised “off the grid” and homeschooled for most of her life and then leaves her family. It soon becomes clear that her parents’ values and decisions during her childhood have made it extremely difficult for her to live well as an adult. It raises the question: Should parents be allowed to do this? This podcast pairs well with This American Life’s “American Limbo” and also with McAvoy, P. (2012). “There are no housewives on Star Trek”: A reexamination of exit rights for the children of insular fundamentalist parents. Educational Theory 62 (5): 535–552.

Topics/Themes: Autonomy, homeschooling

This American Life, “A Not-So-Simple Majority,” aired September 12, 2014

Description: This podcast follows the story of a local political battle in the East Ramapo school district, a suburb of New York City, where a group of mostly low-income ultra-Orthodox Jews fought to take control of the relatively racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse school district. Although the past agreement had been that local officials would not have the private Orthodox Jewish schools, yashivas, investigated if their Orthodox Jewish neighbors would stay away from the polls, allowing school budgets to pass, this agreement fell apart. As the population of Hacitic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish people rose in East Ramapo and property taxes continued to climb, ultra-Orthodox Jews became frustrated with having to pay for their children to attend private yeshivas.

Topics/Themes: Democratic education


This American Life, “Kid Politics” aired January 14, 2011

Description: Through a prologue and three acts, cases in which children are given opportunities to govern are explored. The prologue investigates the case of a third-grade class in central China that holds its first ever election, using clips from a documentary film called Please Vote for Me. The first act follows a middle school field trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where children are asked to “stand in Reagan´s shoes,” by deliberating over whether or not to invade Grenada in 1983. In the second act, TAL charges Dr. Roberta Johnson, the Executive Director of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, with providing a high school climate change skeptic with the best evidence of climate change. The high schooler, Erin Gustafson, is given a chance to respond. The third and final act examines The Brooklyn Free School, a school where children are able to make decisions about topics ranging from their own homework and testing to school discipline. Acts I and II are relevant to discussions of indoctrination and pairs well with Rousseau’s Emile. Act III is relevant to Dewey’s discussion of progressive education.

Topics/Themes: Indoctrination, progressive education/free schools, Democratic education

American Radio Works, “Hard to read: How American schools fail kids with dyslexia,” aired September 11, 2017

Description: This podcast discusses the widespread problem of undiagnosed dyslexia in U.S. public schools, making the case that school districts do not have the resources to train educators in teaching strategies for students with dyslexia. It details the efforts of parents around the country to advocate for their children to help them get the services they need. Further, the podcast critiques the overall state of reading instruction in the U.S., arguing that many teachers still employ inadequate “whole reading” instructional strategies, to the disadvantage of dyslexic students, in particular, who would benefit from instruction in phonemic awareness.


Invisibilia, “How to Become a Batman” aired January 22, 2015

Description: This two-part podcast takes up the question: Is blindness a social construction? First, the podcast explores the case of a research psychologist, Bob Rosenthal, who performed an experiment using rats and fellow experimenters. He found that experimenters who were told their rats were smart treated their rats with more care, which ultimately caused these rats to perform better than the so-called “dumb” rats. Part II explores the case of a blind man who trained himself to use echolocation to move throughout the world. This podcast pairs well with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” for discussions of the social construction of knowledge/truth. It also pairs well with:

Terzi, L. (2011). Justice and equality in education: A capability perspective on disability and
special educational needs. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Wendell, P. (1996). The rejected body: Feminist philosophical reflections on disability.
Psychology Press.

Topics/Themes: Disability/ability studies, progressive education/free schools


Strangers, “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” aired July 10, 2015

Description: This podcast follows the story of John Corcoran, a man who graduated from high school and college without ever learning how to read and then became a high school teacher.

Radio Lab, “The Girl Who Doesn’t Exist,” aired August 29, 2016

Description: This podcast examines the case of a girl who was raised “off the grid” and homeschooled for most of her life and then leaves her family. It soon becomes clear that her parents’ values and decisions during her childhood have made it extremely difficult for her to live well as an adult. It raises the question: Should parents be allowed to do this? This podcast pairs well with This American Life’s “American Limbo” and also with McAvoy, P. (2012). “There are no housewives on Star Trek”: A reexamination of exit rights for the children of insular fundamentalist parents. Educational Theory 62 (5): 535–552.

Topics/Themes: Autonomy, homeschooling

This American Life, “American Limbo” aired February 1, 2001

Description: This podcast examines cases of people around the world living “off the grid” of American life and takes place through a prologue and three acts. Two acts in this podcast are of interest to philosophers of education. Act I is the story of a family who raised their kids in nature and away from society for seven years. The story follows their transition when they were forced to go back into society. This is particularly interesting for Rousseau and the idea that man and nature is most moral and society corrupts (see Emile and JJR’s “Discourse on Inequality”). Act III investigates the life of Sylvia, a Mexican-American girl who left her family to attend a predominately white school in upstate New York. Act III pairs well with Du Bois’ “The Coming of John,” as it wrestles with the notion that becoming educated can mean being separated from one’s identity and culture. 

Topics/Themes: Indoctrination, progressive education/free schools


This American Life, “Kid Politics” aired January 14, 2011

Description: Through a prologue and three acts, cases in which children are given opportunities to govern are explored. The prologue investigates the case of a third-grade class in central China that holds its first ever election, using clips from a documentary film called Please Vote for Me. The first act follows a middle school field trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where children are asked to “stand in Reagan´s shoes,” by deliberating over whether or not to invade Grenada in 1983. In the second act, TAL charges Dr. Roberta Johnson, the Executive Director of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, with providing a high school climate change skeptic with the best evidence of climate change. The high schooler, Erin Gustafson, is given a chance to respond. The third and final act examines The Brooklyn Free School, a school where children are able to make decisions about topics ranging from their own homework and testing to school discipline. Acts I and II are relevant to discussions of indoctrination and pairs well with Rousseau’s Emile. Act III is relevant to Dewey’s discussion of progressive education.

Topics/Themes: Indoctrination, progressive education/free schools, Democratic education


This American Life, “The Problem We All Live With” aired July 31, 2015

Description: School desegregation is taken up in this two-part podcast through an examination of one school district’s accidental attempt at school integration. The second act of this podcast will be particularly relevant to discussions about school choice. This podcast pairs well with discussion about education for social justice. Relevant readings include Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Beyond the World and Me, and Chris Lebron’s “Thoughts on Racial Democratic Education and Moral Virtue.”

Topics/Themes: Progressive education/free schools, school choice

This American Life, “Harper High School, Parts One and Two” aired February 15 and February 22, 2013

Description: This two-part podcast follows the lives of students and adults at Harper High School, a school located in a neighborhood with extremely high levels of gun and gang violence. The episodes discuss how gang membership is shaped by the neighborhood and calls into question the idea that young people choose to be in gangs. This lends itself to discussion of autonomy and flourishing (see Harry Brighouse’s, On Education).

Topics/Themes: Segregation, school discipline, moral education


This American Life, “Nummi 2015” aired July 17, 2015

Description: This podcast is not directly to schooling, but is an interesting case about whether good behavior is an individual choice or shaped by our institutions. This podcast investigates the collaboration of General Motors and Toyota in 1984 through a joint venture called “NUMMI.” Together, they might have saved the U.S. car industry. The show opens with a description of the rampant dysfunction within the GM plant, which eventually closes. Toyota proposes to re-open the plant with the same workforce, but operating under the Japanese principles of zaizen (continuous improvement). The episode describes how the workers transformed under Japanese management and a system that treated them as people who have valuable ideas. Frank Langfitt explains why GM didn’t learn the lessons—until it was too late. Act I describes the rise of NUMMI and how it began producing better cars thanks to lessons learned from Toyota. Act II examines why it took GM struggled and ultimately failed to implement the lessons learned from NUMMI across the company.

Topics/Themes:  Moral Education


Radio Lab, “Driverless Dilemma” aired September 26, 2017

Description: This episode discusses the “trolley dilemma” and the science behind our moral intuitions. It also considers a new social problem: How should driverless cars make decisions about who lives and dies? 

Topics/Themes: Moral reasoning/moral education

This American Life, “American Limbo” aired February 1, 2001

Description: This podcast examines cases of people around the world living “off the grid” of American life and takes place through a prologue and three acts. Two acts in this podcast are of interest to philosophers of education. Act I is the story of a family who raised their kids in nature and away from society for seven years. The story follows their transition when they were forced to go back into society. This is particularly interesting for Rousseau and the idea that man and nature is most moral and society corrupts (see Emile and JJR’s “Discourse on Inequality”). Act III investigates the life of Sylvia, a Mexican-American girl who left her family to attend a predominately white school in upstate New York. Act III pairs well with Du Bois’ “The Coming of John,” as it wrestles with the notion that becoming educated can mean being separated from one’s identity and culture. 

Topics/Themes: Indoctrination, progressive education/free schools


This American Life, “The Land of Make Believe” aired September 11, 2015  

Description: Act I of this podcast is particularly relevant to Dewey and discussions of progressive education. This act tells the story of how a father helped his 12 children build a ship in their backyard and proceed to structure a large part of the family’s life around role playing on the ship. A good example of the relationship between interest and discipline (in Democracy and Education) and social control (Experience and Education).

Topics/Themes: Progressive education


This American Life, “The Problem We All Live With” aired July 31, 2015

Description: School desegregation is taken up in this two-part podcast through an examination of one school district’s accidental attempt at school integration. The second act of this podcast will be particularly relevant to discussions about school choice. This podcast pairs well with discussion about education for social justice. Relevant readings include Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Beyond the World and Me, and Chris Lebron’s “Thoughts on Racial Democratic Education and Moral Virtue.”

Topics/Themes: Progressive education/free schools, school choice


This American Life, “Kid Politics” aired January 14, 2011

Description: Through a prologue and three acts, cases in which children are given opportunities to govern are explored. The prologue investigates the case of a third-grade class in central China that holds its first ever election, using clips from a documentary film called Please Vote for Me. The first act follows a middle school field trip to the Nixon library, where children are asked to “stand in Nixon’s shoes,” by deliberating over whether or not to invade Grenada in 1983. In the second act, TAL charges Dr. Roberta Johnson, the Executive Director of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, with providing a high school climate change skeptic with the best evidence of climate change. The high schooler, Erin Gustafson, is given a chance to respond. The third and final act examines The Brooklyn Free School, a school where children are able to make decisions about topics ranging from their own homework and testing to school discipline. Acts I and II are relevant to discussions of indoctrination and pairs well with Rousseau’s Emile. Act III is relevant to Dewey’s discussion of progressive education.

Topics/Themes: Indoctrination, progressive education/free schools, Democratic education


Invisibilia, “How to Become a Batman” aired January 22, 2015

Description: This two-part podcast takes up the question: Is blindness a social construction? First, the podcast explores the case of a research psychologist, Bob Rosenthal, who performed an experiment using rats and fellow experimenters. He found that experimenters who were told their rats were smart treated their rats with more care, which ultimately caused these rats to perform better than the so-called “dumb” rats. Part II explores the case of a blind man who trained himself to use echolocation to move throughout the world. This podcast pairs well with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” for discussions of the social construction of knowledge/truth. It also pairs well with:

Terzi, L. (2011). Justice and equality in education: A capability perspective on disability and
special educational needs. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Wendell, P. (1996). The rejected body: Feminist philosophical reflections on disability.
Psychology Press.

Topics/Themes: Disability/ability studies, progressive education/free schools


This American Life, “Shouting across the Divide,” aired December 15, 2016

Description: This podcast explores stories of when Muslims and non-Muslims try to communicate, and it backfires. Act II will be particularly relevant to those teaching education courses. This act considers the story of a Muslim family that moves from the West Bank to suburban America and faces anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of 9/11. In particular, the act investigates the daughter’s experience facing school sanctioned anti-Muslim sentiment as a 4th grader and the toll that it takes on her and her family. For more on this story, listen to the 10-minute follow-up podcast, “Bad Teacher”: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/445/ten-years-in/act-five.

Topics/Themes: Religion in schools


This American Life, “A Not-So-Simple Majority,” aired September 12, 2014

Description: This podcast follows the story of a local political battle in the East Ramapo school district, a suburb of New York City, where a group of mostly low-income ultra-Orthodox Jews fought to take control of the relatively racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse school district. Although the past agreement had been that local officials would not have the private Orthodox Jewish schools, yashivas, investigated if their Orthodox Jewish neighbors would stay away from the polls, allowing school budgets to pass, this agreement fell apart. As the population of Hacitic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish people rose in East Ramapo and property taxes continued to climb, ultra-Orthodox Jews became frustrated with having to pay for their children to attend private yeshivas.

Topics/Themes: Democratic education

This American Life, “The Problem We All Live With” aired July 31, 2015

Description: School desegregation is taken up in this two-part podcast through an examination of one school district’s accidental attempt at school integration. The second act of this podcast will be particularly relevant to discussions about school choice. This podcast pairs well with discussion about education for social justice. Relevant readings include Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Beyond the World and Me, and Chris Lebron’s “Thoughts on Racial Democratic Education and Moral Virtue.”

Topics/Themes: Progressive education/free schools, school choice

American Radio Works, “Spare the rod: Amid evidence zero tolerance doesn’t work, schools reverse themselves,” aired August 25, 2016

Description: This podcast examines the problem of racially disproportionate school discipline and its connections to the school-to-prison pipeline in the U.S. It traces the historical roots of suspension as a disciplinary practice in the U.S., considers why students of color are disproportionately selected for exclusionary practices, and explores how U.S. schools are confronting racially disproportionate exclusionary discipline. While research has demonstrated that exclusionary zero tolerance practices are ineffective, schools are now facing a new dilemma—how to handle student misbehavior. This podcast raises issues of racial inequality as it relates to school discipline and raises the question of how schools ought to confront student misbehavior.

Topics/Themes: School discipline


This American Life, “Harper High School, Parts One and Two” aired February 15 and February 22, 2013

Description: This two-part podcast follows the lives of students and adults at Harper High School, a school located in a neighborhood with extremely high levels of gun and gang violence. The episodes discuss how gang membership is shaped by the neighborhood and calls into question the idea that young people choose to be in gangs. This lends itself to discussion of autonomy and flourishing (see Harry Brighouse’s, On Education).

Topics/Themes: Segregation, school discipline, moral education


This American Life, “Is This Working?,” aired October 17, 2014

Description: This podcast examines the way that teachers cope with misbehaving students, despite having limited training and general lack of agreement on “best practices” for disciplining children. The podcast explores this issue through a prologue and three parts. Act I explores the case of JJ, a four-year-old child who received multiple school suspensions, and his three-year-old brother who had also been suspended from preschool. It connects this case to broader discussions about racially disproportionate exclusionary discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline. Act II investigates the experiences of Rousseau Mieze, who attended one of the first strict, rigorous “No Excuses” style charter schools. It then traces his experience as a teacher wrestling with how to implement school discipline. Act III examines a public school in New York City that sought to avoid traditional forms of punishment (e.g., detention, suspension, expulsion) in favor of Restorative Justice. This podcast raises issues of racial inequality in school discipline and how teachers ought to discipline students.

Topics/Themes: School discipline

This American Life, “Essay B,” aired September 8, 2017

Description: This podcast explores the issue of who benefits from school integration. In particular, acts one and two consider the case of the two first black students to enroll in an all-white private prep. school in Virginia, and how they were thought to benefit white kids by instilling them with the belief that integration was beneficial to society. This podcast is useful for thinking through the potential costs of integration.

Topics/Themes: Segregation


This American Life, “Harper High School, Parts One and Two” aired February 15 and February 22, 2013

Description: This two-part podcast follows the lives of students and adults at Harper High School, a school located in a neighborhood with extremely high levels of gun and gang violence. The episodes discuss how gang membership is shaped by the neighborhood and calls into question the idea that young people choose to be in gangs. This lends itself to discussion of autonomy and flourishing (see Harry Brighouse’s, On Education).

Topics/Themes: Segregation, school discipline, moral education


This American Life, “The Problem We All Live With” aired July 31, 2015

Description: School desegregation is taken up in this two-part podcast through an examination of one school district’s accidental attempt at school integration. The second act of this podcast will be particularly relevant to discussions about school choice. This podcast pairs well with discussion about education for social justice. Relevant readings include Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Beyond the World and Me, and Chris Lebron’s “Thoughts on Racial Democratic Education and Moral Virtue.”

Topics/Themes: Progressive education/free schools, school choice


This American Life, “Three Miles,” aired March 13, 2015

Description: This podcast takes place through a prologue and two parts. Part I investigates what happens when a group of public school students in the Bronx visit an elite private school three miles away. Part II follows up with several of these students who are now in their mid-20s to discuss how this visit affected them. This podcast relates to discussions of justice and school policy and pairs well with Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Beyond the World and Me, and Chris Lebron’s “Thoughts on racial democratic education and moral virtue.”