The Tikvah Podcast

There aren’t enough public schools in Maine. By some estimates, about half of Maine’s school districts don't have the facilities or faculty to educate students who live in them. The state’s solution is to give families who live in such districts money to send their children to another school—either a different public school further away, or a private school. But Maine doesn’t make that funding available to families who choose to send their children to religious schools. In just a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Carson v. Makin, a case that could affect the way that Maine, and the greater United States, deals with the funding of religious schools.

On this week’s podcast, the legal academic Avi Helfand joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss the amicus brief that he filed for this case, and to explore whether Maine is acting in a way that is consistent with the First Amendment's religious freedom protections. This particular case also allows for Helfand to question more fundamental legal heuristics, such as the supposed distinction in American case-law between a legal entity's religious "status," and its "use" of religion.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Helfand_with_INTRO.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:05pm EST

Until recently, America was an outlier: despite rising affluence, its birthrate remained high, unlike in other countries where more riches have brought fewer children. That’s no longer the case today. America is now in demographic decline. Writing in National Review, the political economist and demographer Nicholas Eberstadt observes that 

U.S. fertility levels have never before fallen as low as they are today. In 2019—before the coronavirus pandemic—America’s total fertility rate (TFR—a measure of births per woman per lifetime) was 1.71, roughly 18 percent lower than the roughly 2.1 births per woman required for long-term population stability. By then, U.S. fertility levels were so low that even Mormon Utah had gone sub-replacement. And U.S. fertility levels were even lower in 2020. With a TFR of 1.64, America was well over 20 percent below replacement.

Eberstadt goes on to note that there’s reason to believe that the U.S. fertility rate may drop even further in the coming years. He joins this week’s podcast to discuss why this is happening, what it means for American society, whether it can be reversed, and, if it can't, how America can cope with it.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Eberstadt_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:16pm EST

Today, a number of young American women are pursuing the stuff of dystopian novels: the prospect of a childless future. These young women don’t just choose to avoid motherhood—they actively embrace that choice as a marker of their identity. Some embrace the label “child-free,” with the implication that they don’t want to have children themselves but are okay with other people doing so, while others are positively “anti-natalist”—they don’t want to have children and they also think that it’s immoral for anyone else to do so. Many of these women have even turned to surgical procedures to ensure they will never become mothers. 

It’s difficult to estimate how large this group is, but it's likely quite small. Nevertheless, despite its small size, it reveals something about American culture and its attitude toward the tradeoffs of family. What is it like to see the world as someone who is ideologically committed to not having children?  This week, the writer Suzy Weiss joins the show to discuss a recent article of hers that tries to answer that question. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, she explains how the child-free think, what motivates them, and what their existence says about mainstream American society.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Suzy_Weiss_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:17pm EST

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