18-11 Segment 1: Studying School Shootings and Gun Violence

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The recent shooting in Parkland, Florida has ignited a public debate over gun reform, but what are the real facts about gun violence in America? And, who is actually researching the phenomenon?

Adam Pah, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and gun violence researcher, has attempted to cut through the rhetoric and organize the essential data points, which he says should be used in policy decision-making. Pah explains the Federal Government not only does not but also cannot fund research on gun violence, due to the 1996 Dickey Amendment. The Amendment, which bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from funding any research on gun violence, lobbied for by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and, ultimately, passed by Congress. Due to these restrictions, Pah began researching gun violence independently, assisted by a research team at Northwestern University. What he found was the statistics on school shootings were scarce and had no consistent standard of what constituted an incident. Pah and his team decided the definition of school shooting should entail there was actual danger present to the people on a school campus, not just the discharge of a weapon, which was the standard for most of the previous research, or violence on the way to or from a school campus.

Pah and his team ultimately concluded there was a strong correlation between the shootings and indicators of economic security, such as unemployment and consumer confidence. He argues these indicators can and should be used to predict rises in mass shootings. Further research is desperately needed. Mainly, research into what types of intervention can be used once the violence is predicted. Without Federal funding, independent researchers like Pah are all that we have to uncover the facts associated with the devastating reality of gun violence in America.


  • Adam Pah, Clinical assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

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18-11 Segment 2: Spring 2018’s Biggest Books

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As the season’s change, the thought on a lot of minds may be warmer weather or Spring-cleaning, but recently this time of year has also been marked by a surge in book releases. One such book is Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. It is based on the premise of the main character being burdened with a disease that causes him to age extremely slowly, so that every fifteen years he ages roughly one year. Haig said this allowed him to delve into the topic of depression, an issue with which the author has had personal struggles. Haig has a specific interest in how mental health was viewed and treated in previous time periods and, because the protagonist ages so slowly, Haig was able to visit fourteen different time periods. He took the time to meticulously research all the settings and their stance towards mental health, so take the time to check out How to Stop Time this Spring.

A second book that will grab your attention this Spring is The Immoralists, written by Chloe Benjamin. Benjamin explores the psychology of mortality, as well as the complex nature of sibling bonds. This is just Benjamin’s second published piece, but she displays a maturity of a very experienced writer. Benjamin says the best part of the response to her book is the discussion it’s sparked among readers. She hopes it will continue to serve as a bridge to an in-depth discussion about the issues we often choose to ignore.

The final book you can’t miss out on this Spring is The Chalk Man, from the first-time author, CJ Tudor. With a backdrop of 1980’s Britain, Tudor described a group of adolescents who find themselves in a very precarious situation. The author then refocuses the reader on the same group, but now in modern times, as they attempt to fully understand what went wrong so many years ago. The thriller has been compared to recent hits, such as Stranger Things and It. Tudor chalks this up to her multiple 1980’s influences, such as The Goonies, Stephen King, and Spielberg. She makes sure to mention that her book isn’t simply another story piggybacking on the recent crime/thriller phenomenon. In fact, Stephen King himself gave the seal of approval to Tudor’s debut novel. For more information on all three books, see the links below.


  • Matt Haig, author, How to Stop Time
  • Chloe Benjamin, author, The Immortalists
  • CJ Tudor, author, The Chalk Man

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Culture Crash 18-11: Adapting a Book into a Movie: Annihilation

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Adapting a book into a movie can be tricky. The Lord of the Rings movies were praised for how faithful they were, but Peter Jackson’s subsequent Hobbit trilogy was criticized for stretching its source material too thin. The Harry Potter movies are beloved, but can never quite capture the magic of the books, in part because of the condensing that needed to take place to turn long books into palatable movies.

But few adaptations go the route of Annihilation, a sci-fi adventure/horror movie currently in theaters. The movie was written and directed by Alex Garland and is based on the book of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer.

Garland has gone on the record explaining that he wrote the script after having read the source book one time and didn’t bother to try to adapt it page-by-page. And readers of the book can understand that decision- Annihilation is an ethereal stream-of-consciousness type of book that may defy adaptation.

So the end result is a movie and book experience that are wildly individual experiences. The basic architecture remains the same- an inexplicable force of nature is consuming a swampy area and a group of explorers head in to discover what is happening, and why. But the characters motivations, decisions, and even the nature of the land they are exploring are fundamentally different things.

The debate has been raging about how successful the movie version is, and ultimately, it depends on what you want from an adaptation. For me, the movie actually elevates the material, Garland has given us new backstories, and tweaked the story to examine the nature of change and human nature. The movie gives audience a lot to think about…and it gives us this cool new musical cue:

Sometimes, we just want to see a beloved story play out exactly as we imagined. But with Annihilation, an abstract story that defies easy explanation, a departure from the source material feels just right.
Annihilation the book is available online and in stores now, Annihilation the movie is currently in theaters.

I’m Evan Rook.