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Plain English with Derek Thompson

English, News magazine, 3 seasons, 230 episodes, 1 day, 32 minutes
Longtime Atlantic tech, culture and political writer Derek Thompson cuts through all the noise surrounding the big questions and headlines that matter to you in his new podcast Plain English. Hear Derek and guests engage the news with clear viewpoints and memorable takeaways. New episodes drop every Tuesday and Friday. 
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Why School Absences Have "Exploded" Across America

The other day, I read a statistic about my hometown of Washington D.C. that knocked my socks off. In D.C. high schools, 60 percent of students were chronically absent in the last school year. That means they missed one day of school every two weeks. Among ninth graders, it’s even worse: One-third of D.C. freshmen were absent for the equivalent of six weeks of school. The New York Times reported that, nationwide, one quarter of public school students are now chronically absent. That figure has practically doubled since before the pandemic. And it’s doubled across all sorts of districts—rich and poor, liberal and conservative. Today’s guest is Nat Malkus, a former teacher who is the deputy director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute. We talk about why school absences have exploded across the country; why some people think this just doesn’t matter; why we think it might matter quite a bit; and what teachers, parents, and lawmakers should do about it. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Nat Malkus Producer: Devon Renaldo Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
4/5/202443 minutes, 29 seconds
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What Evolutionary Biology Can Teach Us About Diet, Exercise, and Staying Alive

What can the science of ancient humans and the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers teach us about how to be healthy today? Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman joins the show to talk about his provocative “mismatch theory,” why humans are dysevolved for the modern world, and why exercise is the ultimate miracle drug. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Daniel Lieberman Producer: Devon Renaldo Links: Exercised, by Dan Lieberman The Story of the Human Body, by Dan Lieberman Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
4/2/202449 minutes, 22 seconds
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Fatherhood and What Americans Get Wrong About Major Life Changes

Derek is back, and ... he's a new dad! After several weeks of parental leave, he talks about what's surprised him about new fatherhood. Brad Stulberg, the health and science writer, returns to the show to discuss the psychology of major life transitions, why westerners—and, in particular, Americans—are so bad at dealing with challenges to their identity, and his new book, 'Master of Change.' If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at [email protected].  Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Brad Stulberg Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
9/6/202347 minutes, 22 seconds
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Five Reasons Putin’s War Was Doomed From the Start

Russia’s military isn’t just a little bit bigger than Ukraine's—it has three times more armored vehicles; four times more ground forces; five times more tanks; and 10 times more aircraft. But for now, David is holding up against Goliath. How is this happening? And how long can Ukraine hold out? Russia military analyst Rob Lee and diplomacy expert Max Bergmann explain how Ukraine is shocking Russia—and the world. Host: Derek Thompson Guests: Rob Lee and Max Bergmann Producer: Troy Farkas Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
3/14/202223 minutes, 56 seconds
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Why a No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine Could Be—Literally—the Worst Idea Ever

Three in four Americans say the U.S. and its allies should ban Russian aircraft over Ukraine by establishing a “no-fly zone.” Dozens of foreign policy experts agree. So do many Ukrainians. Is this the policy that could end the war, or is it an idea that could end human civilization as we know it? (Maybe it's both.) The author and foreign policy critic Robert Wright joins the podcast to debate the pros and cons of a no-fly zone. Host: Derek Thompson Producer: Troy Farkas Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
3/10/202237 minutes, 3 seconds
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“Every Person Is Ready to Die for Our Country”: Five Ukrainians on Life Inside Putin’s War Zone

Imagine running from your home, from a foreign army, knowing that every decision you make could be the difference between life and death—stay or flee? Turn left or right? Leave at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.? That is the world in which today’s guests live. Five Ukrainians who live in—or have recently fled from—Kyiv tell Derek what it’s like living in the Ukrainian capital, escaping to Poland, and returning to Kyiv to fight the Russian army. Host: Derek Thompson Producer: Troy Farkas Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
3/8/202223 minutes, 23 seconds
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Introducing Plain English with Derek Thompson

Longtime Atlantic writer Derek Thompson breaks down your weekly headlines in his new podcast, ‘Plain English.’ From tech to politics to culture, Derek and his expert guests cut through the noise surrounding the news and tackle the big questions that matter to you. ‘Plain English’ launches November 16, with new episodes dropping every Tuesday and Friday. Host: Derek Thompson Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
11/11/202138 seconds