Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

The Future in Context

There are few experiences that connect modern travelers to America’s past than on a train. Our resident humanities scholar recounts his journey west in preparation to tell the story of the man called both "The Empire Builder" and "The Devil's Curse."
The former president’s time in France changed him, and changed America. From haute culture to a silly spat over “freedom fries,” the two countries are inextricably linked.
The Corn Palace in South Dakota romanticizes the history of corn in rural America. But the current reality is that corn is now less of a food than an industrial product, raising questions about sustainability.
The iconic roadside attraction in Mitchell, S.D., is an unintended window into America’s complex relationship with its leading agricultural commodity. To think of it as just rural nostalgia is to miss the point.
The outside mosaics of the Corn Palace change every year, the inside mosaics almost never. A committee meets to choose each year’s theme.
There are contemporary lessons to be learned from the way Theodore Roosevelt, then the most popular man in the world, navigated a royal funeral 112 years ago.
In 1968, thousands of Mexican American high school students in East Los Angeles walked out of classrooms to protest discriminatory and substandard education. Despite mixed results, their demonstration ignited a new civil rights movement.
In 1990, a quirky campaign run by the then-upstart music channel MTV encouraged its viewers to Rock the Vote. Now, three decades later, we need a similarly audacious bid to have Americans trust the validity of the vote.
The passing of the United Kingdom’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, sparks reflections on English history and former British kings named Charles. By George, the House of Windsor may have missed the mark on this one.
Our resident humanities scholar asks, what happens when the glue that holds our society together stops sticking?
Thomas Jefferson thought that each generation should rewrite its own founding document. A constitutional scholar talks about the changes that could have happened if Americans had taken Jefferson up on his challenge.
Since the country’s founding, the federal government has had its fair share of scandals often followed by a congressional hearing to find out what went wrong and why. Some are famous, others less so.
The 33-year ordeal of Salman Rushdie came to head with a knife attack at a venerable cultural venue in upstate New York. That the onstage stabbing took place in America is a grim reminder of the need for eternal vigilance in defending the First Amendment.
In the 1940s, Black Georgians elected the second woman in the state to Congress. Her political rise and fall reveal the lengths that state officials would go to disenfranchise Black voters.
This large and largely unpopulated western state with a rich history is pioneering a new future by setting aside several million acres of public and private land to serve as natural habitat for returning bison and other displaced animals.
Two artists see the potential to bring theatrical disciplines to public meetings to better define the public’s role and make its participation more meaningful.
The Good Roads Movement of the late 19th century began as a grass-roots crusade to improve roads for bicyclists. By the 20th century, it had turned into a national effort embraced by the automobile industry, railroad tycoons and presidents.
As the country rapidly approaches its 250th birthday, it is not too early to define how it will be marked. Our resident humanities scholar wants to return to the Jefferson idea of rewriting the constitution — one that is for and by all Americans.
Our mass shootings confuse and dismay international observers. A journalist and scholar explains why Europeans cannot understand our inability to control gun violence and how that makes them uncomfortable with America today.
Since John Roberts was confirmed as chief justice in 2005, the court has ruled in favor of religious organizations 83 percent of the time, chipping away at the "wall of separation" envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.
They once numbered in the thousands. Now, only a fraction are left, mostly abandoned and falling apart. But Kathy Wilner is determined to find every remaining one-room school in her state.
Our resident humanities scholar is spending July leading tour groups that retrace the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is an annual summer ritual, and one that has him questioning where the trail actually begins.
Assessing a terribly broken system, a veteran analyst details the conflicting dynamics and possible solutions to America's illegal immigration dilemma.
Confronting their harsh legacy, the United States has taken steps to establish a Native American Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It’s a move that’s long overdue.
Now a federal holiday, its roots are based in local, grass-roots celebrations dating back to the Civil War. Once nearly forgotten, the rebirth of Juneteenth speaks to America’s ongoing struggle for racial equality.
The congressional House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol held its first prime-time televised hearing on Thursday evening. Dismissed by critics as show trials, these hearings may test the medium’s ability to capture the nation’s attention.
Competing political narratives about gun violence have not satisfied the yearning for justice after the Uvalde tragedy. Our resident humanities scholar offers four propositions to help us think through a uniquely American and polarizing problem.
With primary season underway, our resident historian examines the origins and role of primary elections in American politics and the intensification of American partisanship.
George Washington and John Adams were no fans of the Boston Tea Party, but the disruptive protest has endured as a prime example of how some Americans will express their desire for change.
A leading observer reminds us that the war is also a cultural and religious one. He cautions the U.S. not to underestimate the risk it’s taking nor overestimate its support from the international community.
About This Podcast
Context.png

The collision of technology and society and the fallout consequences can be hard to figure out. Context can help. Our writers and editors probe important questions about where we are going by first asking about where we have been and why.

Most Read