News Decoder
Is the U.S. superpower decaying as the Roman Empire did?

Is the U.S. superpower decaying as the Roman Empire did?

Primitive tribes helped topple the powerful Roman Empire. Did attacks on the U.S. by Islamist extremists 20 years ago augur the end of a superpower? The Statue of Liberty and New York City’s skyline as smoke rises from the ruins of the Twin Towers, four days...

We often hear that history repeats itself. A core tenet of News Decoder’s mission is to help students place current events in a broader historical context. Correspondent Gene Gibbons looks beyond today’s headlines all the way back to ancient Rome to show how pride, corruption, strategic overreach and other political mistakes have contributed to the decline of superpowers, then and now.

Exercise: Ask students to debate the question in the headline, providing evidence for their position.

Now, as COVID eases, do we need to worry about inflation?

Now, as COVID eases, do we need to worry about inflation?

Many nations’ economies are bouncing back from COVID-19, putting upward pressure on prices. The jury’s out on whether inflation is back to haunt us. Signs advertising jobs in Harmony, Pennsylvania, 21 May 2020. Increased economic growth in some economies...

Inflation can be a challenging topic to understand. What exactly is it, why is it important and is it really all that bad? Correspondent Sarah Edmonds brings her economics expertise to this decoder that unpacks the link between the prices of goods and services and the value of your money, and shows how consumer expectations as economies rebound could lead to an inflationary spiral.

Exercise: Ask students to compare the average price of goods in their city, such as food, gas or a new car, with average local wages since the pandemic began in March 2020. How have they changed (or not)?

The world is struggling to manage its aging population

The world is struggling to manage its aging population

The world’s population is aging. How are we to pay for the pensions and healthcare of a burgeoning number of elderly? Elderly exercise with wooden dumbbells in Tokyo, Japan, 16 September 2019. (EPA-EFE/FRANCK ROBICHON) Call it baby bust and oldster boom — two...

Population growth has long been seen as a threat to humanity, and government efforts to limit births have either failed (India) or led to imbalances and inequities (China). Bernd Debusmann takes a look at the problems that a slowing rate in population growth poses for societies — problems that younger generations will need to manage in coming decades. Global aging will require tough decisions so societies can support the elderly — decisions your students will be asked to make.

Exercise: Ask your students to examine their country’s demographic trends and to compare its policies with those pursued by nations with a similar demographic outlook.

The Olympic Games: Tarnished but clinging to their ideals

The Olympic Games: Tarnished but clinging to their ideals

Dogged by corruption and politics, the Olympic Games may seem outmoded. But their ideals survive, and the Games motivate athletes and excite fans. Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou lights the Olympic Torch, Athens, Greece, 19 March 2020. (EPA-EFE/ARIS MESSINIS / POOL)...

Paul Radford has covered 17 Olympic Games, and he displays his vast experience in this “decoder” that shows why the global sporting event still matters. Radford acknowledges the scandals and politics that have tarnished the image of the modern Games and made skeptics of many fans, while examining the high ideals that led to their creation. Like the Games, youth today are torn between idealism and skepticism born of frustration with their elders’ inability to resolve the world’s biggest problems. As Radford writes, it’s a tricky balance between idealism and skepticism.

Exercise: Organize a debate in class on the resolution, “The Olympic Games Should Be Abolished”.

Decoders