Six Podcasts That Dive Deep Into Current Issues

1. The Uncertain Hour

A deep dive into the current state of the US welfare system and how a 1996 bill made it what it is today. This first, six-episode season explores the many ways that states use welfare money—including on relationship advice and crisis pregnancy centers—and the people who benefit from the system, whether they know it or not.

2. How to Be a Girl

A deep dive into raising a transgender daughter, from picking the right elementary school to meeting Laverne Cox. Often devastating and always impactful, this is the anonymous story of a mother who’s struggling to raise a strong, proud young girl in a world where many don’t accept her, and of a young girl who’s navigating which friends can be trusted and whether it’s safe for her to be herself.

3. More Perfect

A deep dive into the Supreme Court from the magicians who brought us Radiolab. The show’s first season explores the Court’s role in U.S. history through six landmark cases you may never have heard of, from the loopholes in jury selection to the harrowing decision to redistrict.

4. There Goes the Neighborhood

A deep dive into gentrification in New York City, from the thoroughly gentrified Williamsburg to the recently rezoned East New York. Each of the nine episodes focuses on one of gentrification’s issues, examining what a changing neighborhood means for business owners, developers, recent transplants, and longtime residents—both those who are forced to move and those who decide to stay.

5. Us & Them

A deep dive into controversies that divide Americans, from the war on Christmas to the war on drugs. Host Trey Kay interviews folks on both sides of the issues to explore how deeply held beliefs shape our country, making the show one of the few places where both right-wing Republicans and leftist liberals get a voice.

6. Science Vs.

A deep dive into what science says about the things we have strong, scientifically unfounded feelings about. Is fracking really so bad? Is attachment parenting the answer? And what about guns? While host Wendy Zukerman’s jokes can be goofy, the issues are serious and the explanations thorough.

Six Episodes About “The Talk”

After the success of my crime show list, I’ve decided to continue the trend with another playlist. This time: the sex talk.

1. Mom, It’s Time We Had the Talk, The Longest Shortest Time

In which a mom talks to her eight-year-old son about sex—or rather, he talks to her. All. The. Time. And she answers him openly and honestly (up to a point). This is a great primer on how to have a transparent, but still mostly comfortable, conversation about sex with an elementary schooler.

2. The Sex Talk, Out in the Open

In which families from various cultural backgrounds navigate the sex talk—from Christian parents who preach abstinence until marriage to the head of the Native Women’s Association of Canada who talks to her daughters about the risk of being trafficked. Also, host Piya Chattopadhyay belatedly discusses sex with her own parents and realizes that they have a very different idea of what The Talk is all about.

3. How Do I Talk to My Kid About Molestation?” How to Get Away With Parenting

In which host Malaika Dower talks to sex and family therapist Courtney Watson about how to talk to her kid about sex, bodies, and staying safe. As I wrote before, it’s also about how to deal with your own issues so that you can raise your kids to respect their bodies and others’.

4. Birds & BeesThis American Life

In which we learn where kids get their information about sex and how colleges work to correct that information. (Also in which adults speak to kids frankly about death and in which parents grapple with how to teach their kids about racism.)

5. The Talk and Sex Ed for Grown UpsUs and Them

A two episode series in which host Trey Kay talks to an education historian and a specialist in Sex Health Ed about how and when Americans learn what they learn about sex. In “The Talk”, we learn how the history of sex education in the United States was shaped, and how it has changed. In “Sex Ed for Grown Ups”, doctors learn to talk to their patients about sex—because for many Americans, nobody else does.

6. Talking to My Kids About Sex in the Internet Age, The Moth

In which writer Adam Savage talks about talking to his kids about porn. This is an oldie but a goodie—funny, awkward, realistic, and a story I still remember after three years.

Four Serialized Crime Shows That Aren’t Serial (Updated)

1. Someone Knows Something

In 1972, a five-year-old Canadian boy went missing during a fishing trip with his dad, brother, and dad’s friend, and no trace of him was ever seen again. What happened?

2. Bowraville

In 1990-1991, three Aboriginal kids who lived on the same street of the same small, Australian town were murdered. Who did it? Was it…Jay? (Yes, actually. No, not that Jay.) [CW: Sexual assault]

3. Charles Manson’s Hollywood (You Must Remember This, episodes 44-55)

First Charles Manson was a child, then he started a cult, and then, in 1969, he and his followers murdered a bunch of people in Hollywood. What happened? Also, what does this have to do with the Beach Boys?

4. Finding Tammy Jo

The body of a Jane Doe was found in a cornfield in upstate New York in 1979. She was a teenager from a warmer climate who was dressed in a unique-looking jacket—but other than that, officials know nothing. Who is she? What happened? Can the internet solve this mystery?

UPDATE:

5. In the Dark

A new serialized murder mystery you can actually listen to week by week! 

Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped in 1989. For 27 years, his disappearance remained a mystery, and then—right before this podcast was set to release—his killer was arrested, and the story came out. Why did it take 27 years to find a man who lived so close? And how did this case change the way Americans police and parent? [CW: Sexual assault of a child]

6. Unsolved: A Murdered Teen, a 40-Year Mystery

A high school sophomore disappeared from school in 1976. Eight days later, his body was found in a park. What happened? Who did it? And why has this case gone unsolved for so long? [CW: Sexual assault of a child]

7. Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes

Another new serialized murder mystery you can actually listen to week by week!

In 1978, 23-year-old Elizabeth Andes was murdered in her apartment in Oxford, Ohio. Her boyfriend was charged with the crime. Under police pressure, he confessed, but then recanted. After two juries found him not guilty, police stopped searching for other suspects. What happened? And why didn’t police follow more leads?