And a four-step formula for handling sudden flashes of conflict, courtesy of “Bus Driver Dan.”

One fall evening when my son was about 9 years old, I was riding on a bus in Washington, DC, taking him to his martial arts class. We were chatting along, talking about his day, when all of a sudden, from the row immediately behind us, I heard two men start to argue. Their voices were quiet, but filled with unexpected venom.

One of them, it seemed, had closed the window beside him. The other wanted it left open.

These men did not seem to know each other. What surprised me was how old they were. …


We’re bewitched by high conflict. But there is a way out.

This is a true story about two grown women who stopped talking to each other. For 30 years. Over a piece of cheese.

A century ago, two sisters named Anna and Maria immigrated to America from Italy, raising their families side by side in central New Jersey, working hard to keep afloat during the Great Depression. Anna made pizzas. Maria ironed shirts and cleaned houses. They learned English and went to church, celebrating birthdays and mourning deaths and growing older together.

Then one day in the 1970s, Anna went back to Italy to visit. While she was there, someone gave…


Flowers growing around barbed wire in Peru. Credit: Amanda Ripley

I didn’t know James Bennet very well, but when I wrote for him at the Atlantic, I found him to be unusually humble and curious. He did not assume he had all the answers. He listened when other people talked. I admired that about him. My sense is that the country could use a lot more humility and curiosity right now. So I was deeply saddened to hear he’d become another casualty of the high conflict that we’re in as a country.

High conflict creates magical thinking. We concoct fantasies in our mind about what will make us safe and…


How to cover uncertainty and statistics in a pandemic, without making things worse.

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

One of modern life’s greatest challenges is to put alarming news in perspective. We get bombarded with the most disturbing stories and images from every continent, all the time, in every medium. It’s like looking out a ship porthole and seeing only sharks. There’s an entire ocean out there, but we only glimpse the most menacing fraction of the whole.

Every day right now, new numbers drop from the sky, like dumb bombs. How many people have been infected with the new coronavirus? How many have died…


As American towns become more politically segregated and judgmental, what can we learn from one that hasn’t?

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images


Reasonable Doubt

Reporters need to stop covering him as if he’s strictly a political one

Credit: JIM WATSON / Contributor/Getty Images

In the 818 days since the 2016 election, the Washington Post has used the word “unprecedented” in reference to President Donald Trump, or his associates, about 657 times­ — or almost every day. On just one day in January, for example, readers learned of Trump’s “unprecedented steps” to slow immigration, his “unprecedented decision” to hold onto his business in the White House, and his “unprecedented assault” on the census.

There is a breathlessness to the coverage that, oddly, does not diminish with time. The word “remarkable” appears almost as often in the Post, averaging every other day since 2016. We…


The outrageous price of a U.S. degree is unique in the world

Photo: Alicia Tatone

Before the automobile, before the Statue of Liberty, before the vast majority of contemporary colleges existed, the rising cost of higher education was shocking the American conscience: “Gentlemen have to pay for their sons in one year more than they spent themselves in the whole four years of their course,” The New York Times lamented in 1875.

Decadence was to blame, the writer argued: fancy student apartments, expensive meals, and “the mania for athletic sports.”

Today, the U.S. spends more on college than almost any other country, according to the 2018 Education at a Glance report, released this week by…


What if journalists covered controversial issues differently — based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious?

By Amanda Ripley / Solutions Journalism Network

Originally published at thewholestory.solutionsjournalism.org on June 27, 2018.

Last summer, 60 Minutes brought 14 people — half Republicans, half Democrats — to a converted power plant in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. The goal was to encourage Americans to talk — and listen — to those with whom they disagree. Oprah Winfrey led the conversation, her debut as a 60 Minutes Special Correspondent — and her return to TV news, where she’d started her career as a Baltimore anchor four decades earlier.

It was an extraordinary opportunity. For three hours, nine cameras captured the group’s conversation about Twitter, President Trump, health…


Authors Amanda Ripley and Elizabeth Green talk about the secrets of world-class learning

Green (left) and Ripley in Washington, DC

What is school like in the smartest countries in the world? Last year, I wrote a book that tried to answer that question from a kid’s point of view. Now fellow journalist Elizabeth Green has a new book out—from the teacher’s point of view.

Building a Better Teacher explains how teachers can get better in any country — and what it will take to finally treat the profession as an intellectual master craft instead of a charity. When people ask me what U.S. education reform should look like in the next decade, I tell them about Elizabeth’s book.

Despite the…

Amanda Ripley

Journalist & NY Times bestselling author. Most recent book: HIGH CONFLICT: Why We Get Trapped & How We Get Out (Prev: SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD & UNTHINKABLE)

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