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Need to Know, December 10, 2010

This week on Need to Know: A Watch List investigation into coal mine safety. Education expert Thomas Hatch talks about why the U.S. doesn’t perform better in international educational rankings. We unveil a new segment, “Agents of Change,” and profile a social innovator who outsources “microwork” to women and refugees in the developing world. Jon Meacham analyzes President Obama’s deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. And Alison Stewart talks to director Julie Taymor about the new Spider-Man musical and her upcoming adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

Watch the individual segments:

Watch List investigation: In the coal

Need to Know correspondent John Larson reports about coal mine safety, focusing on Massey Energy, a company involved in the West Virginia mine explosion that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration calls “the worst mining disaster in almost 40 years.” Larson also examines the investigation into its possible causes.

Interview with Thomas Hatch

The just-released results of a global education report rank the U.S. 17th in reading, 23rd in science and a dismal 31st in math out of 65 participating countries and economies. Jon Meacham talks with Thomas Hatch, an education reform specialist at Columbia University’s Teachers College about why the United States doesn’t perform better and what changes need to make to our educational system to improve our standings.

Working for change

Need to Know profiles 28-year-old Leila Janah, the founder and CEO of SamaSource, an organization that brings what she calls microwork – small computing tasks – to some of the world’s most marginalized people, including refugees in Kenya, women in Pakistan, and earthquake survivors in Haiti.

In Perspective: The Bush tax cuts

In the wake of Obama’s decision to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, Jon Meacham comments on the similarity between today’s political climate and that of the 1990s.

Interview with Julie Taymor

Alison Stewart interviews Julie Taymor about her new productions of Broadway’s “Spiderman:Turn off the Dark” and new movie, “The Tempest.”

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.



  • E148

    I have known about education rankings. Personally, I am tired of hearing about a Sputnik moment.
    Don’t you know that Pres Bush and the governors of the various states got together to set some goals — among them was to be number 1 in both Math and Science. That was in 1989. The goal was to be achieved by the year 2000. Here it is 10 years later, not only are we not number in either but we are worse than before. We were in 21 and 24 out of 32 countries. THIS IS NOT AVERAGE. It has been declining for at least 20 years and probably more.
    I disagree with your so-called expert. Technology is not the answer. Computers and wireless communcations do not help learning. I read a book written by an educator saying that his research proves that the good teacher without a computer will be a good teacher with one while the bad teacher without will be bad with one. His research was relatively recent. He said that most of the research, what little there was before his, was done back the early 80s when it was a novel approach.

  • Davy d

    Congratulations and thank you for a calmer, better composed show.

    You were truer to the Bill Moyers spirit, for one thing, moving from social justice to mythology and doing it in simple conversations rather than over-produced network conventionality (I hope it’s not anachronistic to hold Bill forth as a winning model).

    Much improved show. A pleasure to watch, and I’m glad for you.

    SDH de Lorge

  • John Haury

    It seems criminal to me that the government over site arm and the industry can not discern the difference between non threatening nuisance safety issues and clearly those issues that create eminent danger to the miners safety.

    John’s questions were simple enough and to the point that even a non mining person can understand what needs to be done.

    I hope that the government inspectors do their jobs less the ego and that the mining business less its immoral greed, immediately work together to ward off another mistake such as this.

    Vent the mines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks you for this report.
    Sincerely John Haury

  • Sue fron upstate New YOrk

    Perhaps what is needed is the definition of a “Sputnik moment”. I read a book called,”Red Moon Rising” concerning the the space race against Russia. Mentioned in this book was president
    Eisenhower’s support and passage of the Military Education Act of 1958. This large infusion of public money for public school education especially for science, math and foreign languages to compete against the Russians. As a child growing up in the 1950′s I benefited greatly from this investment in our country’s education. My fellow students wanted and became engineers, scientists,doctors and teachers in a school district made up of working and lower middle class kids in a small city in upstate New York. Since Ronald Reagan until the present our public funding for public schools has been badly gutted. The wealthy upper one percent of our country must start paying ninety percent of their income in federal taxes as was done in the 1950′s to restore our public education. Charter schools do not hack it.

    Sue from upstate New York