American RadioWorks "War on Poverty: From the Great Society to the Great Recession"

American RadioWorks "War on Poverty: From the Great Society to the Great Recession"

Sun, 09/26/2010 - 10:00pm

In Marvell, Ark. 100 percent of the public school children are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Marvell is a town of 1500 people located in the Arkansas Delta, about 20 miles from the Mississippi River. This old grade school is one of the many empty buildings in downtown Marvell, though its cafeteria is still used for a volunteer-run after-school program.

Photo by Laurie Stern/American RadioWorks

What should the government do to help people who are poor?

WXXI-AM presents two American RadioWorks specials in September that look at two of America's cultural wars. War on Poverty: From the Great Society to the Great Recession, airing Sunday, September 19 at 10 p.m., blends contemporary storytelling with rich archival audio to study the modern face of poverty. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964, believing a mighty nation could eliminate want. War on Poverty examines American struggles in the wake of the Great Recession, probing the extent to which Johnson's dream of a Great Society is still beyond reach.

When Lyndon B. Johnson became president after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he put the power of his presidency behind a remarkable series of reform initiatives. The legislation was geared toward boosting economic opportunity, a theme captured by his administration’s catchphrase, the Great Society. "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America," he said during his 1964 State of the Union address. But the political drive to eradicate poverty soon faltered on a number of fronts, undone by doubts about the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs and the escalating costs of the Vietnam War. Many initiatives launched more than four decades ago are still in place today. Yet from the heady optimism of the Great Society to the trauma of the Great Recession questions remain about what government should do to help people who are poor. And poverty remains an abiding problem in America. Nearly 40 million Americans or 13.2 percent of the population live in poverty. The poverty rate for children is even higher. And most experts expect poverty rates will go up due to the economic trauma of the Great Recession.

The Great Textbook Wars, aired Sunday, September 19 at 10 p.m. on AM 1370/HD-FM91.5-2, examined the 1970s battle for the hearts and minds of America’s schoolchildren. The Great Textbook Wars examined how a controversy over new textbooks erupted in violence, as well as the divide that persists today over what to teach children in schools.