Welcome to “Learning English”a daily 30 minutes program from the Voice of America.I am Jonathon Evans. And I am Ashley Thompson. This program is aimed at English learners, so we speak a little slower and we use words and phrases especially written for people learning English. Today on the program you will hear from Dorthy Gundi,Kelly Jean Kelly and Bryan Lynn. Later we will present our American history series : The Making of a Nation. But first here is Dorthy Gundi.
Valentine's Day Is for Love
Valentine’s Day celebrates love. It is a day to exchange flowers, candy, and greeting cards with your husband or wife, or someone else you desire. It is a popular day to become engaged and to get married.
Valentine's Day hearts
Historians argue about the earliest roots of Valentine’s Day. Many say it is linked to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was observed on the 15th of February. That day celebrated the coming of spring and female fertility.
Then, around 1,500 years ago, Christians supposedly began to celebrate the feast day of St. Valentine on February 14.
However, there are several Saint Valentines and several stories about them. One involves Valentine of Terni, a Christian clergyman. He was said to have violated the orders of Roman Emperor Claudius the 2nd.
Claudius was having trouble getting married men to serve as soldiers. So, he banned marriage. Valentine considered the ban immoral and secretly married young Christian lovers, anyway. When the Emperor learned of the actions, he ordered Valentine’s death. The execution is said to have happened on February 14, around the year 300.
Some people say this is the reason the holiday is linked to love.
The exchange of valentines, or written expressions of love, began in the 1500s. The tradition remains popular today. Valentine cards usually include images of hearts, flowers, or Cupid, the Roman god of love and desire. The cards also often include poems. One valentine from the year 1910 reads: “When we meet: The flowers look brighter, And all on earth seems sweet, My heart is always lighter, My darling, when we meet.”
But Valentine’s Day is not only for romance. It can also be a day to celebrate love of family and friends.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
Dorothy Gundy wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
greeting card – n. a thick piece of paper that is usually folded in half and decorated on one side and contains a message
romantic – adj. of, relating to, or involving love between two people
engaged – adj. promise to be married
festival – n. a special time or event when people gather to celebrate something
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments section.
Kenya's Flower Industry Grows
For some industries, Christmas or New Year’s celebrations are the busiest times of year. But for Kenya’s flower growers, the biggest holiday is Valentine’s Day.
Workers in the city of Navaisha, the center of Kenya’s flower industry, are busy cutting, packing, and cooling roses.
Flower workers are celebrating something else, too: a plan for direct flights from Nairobi to New York City beginning next October. The move would create a possibility for the Kenyan flower industry to sell more in the American market.
Right now, South American exporters dominate the U.S. market.
Jane Ngige is the outgoing chief of the Kenya Flower Council.
“What we're looking at is an opportunity to diversify our markets to the American market and we’re also looking not to compete with the South Americans, who are the main producers or the main suppliers of flowers to North America, but to look at complementing the product. Because our products are very different.”
Kenya’s roses, for example, have smaller heads than those grown in Colombia.
Industry experts believe Kenyan growers can offer different types of flowers and lower production costs.
Kenya is currently the fourth-largest exporter of cut flowers. Most of its flowers go to Europe, Australia, and Japan. It does not sell as many cut flowers to the United States because the cost of an air freight stopover in Europe is costly.
Jonathan Ralling is with Flamingo Horticulture Kenya. He says that the Kenyan flower industry’s success in America will depend partly on how much freight space is available on planes making the planned nonstop flights.
For most of the year, Kenya’s flower industry directly employs about 100,000 workers. But the Flower Council says other services and products create another 400,000 jobs. In total, the industry provides livelihoods for about 2 million people.
And with better access to the U.S. market, Kenya’s flower industry can only grow.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
Daniel Schearf reported this story for VOA. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
dominate - v. to be the most important part of
freight - n. goods that are carried by ships, trains, trucks, or airplanes
livelihood - n. a way of earning money in order to live
Changes Urged to Protect Children from Tech Addiction
Former technology industry leaders are calling for urgent measures to protect children from smartphone addiction.
Among those urging major changes is Tristan Harris – a former high-level employee at Google. He just launched a group that will seek to gather and publish evidence of how digital devices and social media can harm children and young people.
Leaders of the organization – called the Center for Humane Technology – used to work for major technology companies. They hope to use this knowledge and experience to lead a “cultural awakening” among the public about the dangers of technology.
While at Google, Harris says he felt the company had great power over millions of people who used its technology. He spoke about his experiences during a conferencelast week in Washington.
“Never before in history have 50 mostly men - mostly 20 to 35 year-old-engineers - in 50 miles of exactly one place on earth, shaped what a billion people - really two billion - think, feel and do, and who they relate to.”
He said Google was successful in building products that created certain thoughts in users’ heads. “Whatever you're thinking is first, and then you choose out of the thoughts you have, because thought precedes action,” he said.
Last year, Facebook announced it was opening to children under age 13 to use its new Messenger Kids service. (Facebook)
Harris says he believes companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have a “moral responsibility” not to create technology products that can “hijack how the mind works.”
The conference where Harris spoke was sponsored by Common Sense Media, a child and family activist group. The organization says research suggests that half of all teenagers feel addicted to their mobile devices, while about 60 percent of parents believe their kids are addicted.
The group also cites a recent study of eighth-graders that found heavy users of technology were 56 percent more likely to say they are unhappy, while 27 percent more likely to be depressed. Even Facebook cited research last year suggesting that social media use can harm mental health when used in certain ways.
Apple Camp students Brandon Wong, 9, left, and Matthew Choy, 12, learn to program robots using the Sphero SPRK+ with the Lightning Lab application during a Coding Games and Programming Robots session in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/J
And last month, two major investors in Apple raised fears about rising smartphone addiction among young users. In an open letter, the investors urged the iPhone maker to offer more choices and tools to help children fight addiction to devices. Such action “is both good business and the right thing to do,” the letter said.
In response, Apple said the iPhone and other devices running on its mobile software already offer controls for parents to limit or block material considered harmful.
But Tristan Harris says Apple and other technology companies need to go much further - and actually change their current engineering and design methods - to be more kid friendly.
“I see this as, this is game over, unless we change course. Really, genuinely, I 100 percent believe that.”
Groups to provide resources for learning
Common Sense Media is partnering with the Center for Humane Technology on a new campaign aimed at getting companies to make such changes. The effort includes a major public information campaign that will target schools, where research has also shown that mobile devices can hurt the learning process.
James Steyer is the founder of Common Sense. He says more than half of schools in the U.S. are already members of the organization. The group provides teachers and parents with learning materials intended to help students develop critical thinking skills and balance their digital lives.
Steyer says Common Sense will be providing even more resources to educators beginning in the new school year next fall.
“And you know what’s going to be in there? Stuff about addiction, how to prevent digital addiction. Stuff about digital manipulation. I actually think if you tell kids how they're being manipulated, it will change their relationship with technology.”
Most education experts believe technology will remain in schools far into the future. Steyer says the big question is, how will this ever-changing technology be used in schools going forward.
“And are we going to educate the teachers, the students and their parents about the thoughtful, ethical use of those platforms and the software? That's the whole challenge ahead of us.”
The Waldorf School
Some U.S. schools, however, have tried to limit or remove technology to improve learning. One of them is in Silicon Valley, the center of the American tech industry.
The Waldorf School of the Peninsula does not use any computers or digital technology in its education programs up to the seventh grade. The school’s websitesays while Waldorf teachers recognize the role technology can play in the classroom, it must wait until the student reaches the right developmental age.
“We observe that a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age,” the website says. When students reach high school, they are allowed to use computers and digital tools in the classroom.
There are many independent Waldorf Schools throughout North America. The schools center heavily on hands-on learning and aim to teach skills in “creativity and innovative thinking.” They also place importance on students developing “social and emotional intelligence” as part of the educational experience.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn reported this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
addiction – n. strong and sometimes harmful need to regularly have or do something
precede – v. to happen or exist before something else
genuinely – adv. actual, real, true
critical – adj. using or involving careful judgment about the good and bad parts of something
manipulation – n. the act of controlling someone or something in a clever and usually unfair or selfish way
ethical – adj. following accepted rules of behavior: morally right and good
challenge – n. a difficult task or problem
instinctive – adj. behaving or reacting naturally and without thinking
curious – adj. having a desire to learn or know more about something
innovative – adj. using new methods or ideas
The Effort to Make Kansas a Slave State
Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
Early in eighteen fifty-seven, the United States Supreme Court announced one of its most important rulings. The high court decided the case of a slave named Dred Scott.
Harry Monroe and Leo Scully tell us about the ruling, and the continuing national debate over slavery.
Dred Scott lived in Missouri, where slavery was legal. Then he was sold to a man who took him to Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was not legal. After four years, he was returned to Missouri. Dred Scott demanded his freedom, because of the years he had spent in places where slavery was illegal. Congress had banned slavery in those places under the Missouri Compromise Act of Eighteen Twenty.
The Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not have the power to close territories to slavery. It said the Missouri Compromise was a violation of the United States Constitution, and that Dred Scott was not a free man.
James Buchanan was sworn-in as president at the time of the Dred Scott case. Buchanan believed the Supreme Court's decision would put an end to the dispute over slavery. He believed that Americans -- North and South -- would accept the decision as the final word in the dispute.
This did not happen. The Dred Scott decision did not calm the storm that divided the nation. Instead, it increased its fury.
New trouble threatened to break out in the territory of Kansas between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers. In the past few years, the two sides had argued and fought over their opinions. They even had formed two separate governments. The pro-slavery forces controlled the legal government. The anti-slavery forces controlled an opposition government which had no power.
Supporters of slavery wanted to organize a constitutional convention that could put Kansas into the Union as a slave state. The pro-slavery legislature passed a bill calling for such a convention. The bill gave supporters of slavery every chance to control the election of delegates to the convention. And it gave the convention complete freedom to make its own rules. The bill provided no way for the people of Kansas to vote on their own constitution.
The governor of the Kansas territory, John Geary, vetoed the bill. But the legislature quickly overruled his veto. Pro-slavery men called for Geary to get out of Kansas. Some talked of shooting him if he did not leave.
Governor Geary had been living under extreme tension for months. He had worked hard to keep Kansas peaceful. He was angry, because he could get no help from the federal government. He sent his resignation to President Buchanan.
Then the former governor spoke publicly. He said most of the settlers in Kansas were peace-loving people. He said only a small group was responsible for the trouble there. Geary said a few powerful men hoped to make Kansas a slave state. If this failed, Geary said, they hoped their actions would produce civil war.
President Buchanan appointed a new governor for Kansas. Buchanan told him that slavery in the territory must be decided on the votes of the people of the territory. And he said the people must be given a fair chance to approve or reject a constitution for statehood.
The new governor arrived in Kansas at the end of May, eighteen fifty-seven. He explained his policies in a speech to the people of Kansas. The new governor promised to enforce the laws of the pro-slavery legislature -- but only those laws which were constitutional. He urged everyone to vote in the coming election of delegates to the constitutional convention.
He said he was hopeful that the convention would offer its constitution to the people for their approval or rejection. He added that Congress would not accept Kansas as a slave state, or a free state, until the people had voted on the question of slavery.
On June fifteenth, the election was held for delegates to the constitutional convention. Most anti-slavery men did not vote, because their names had been kept off the voting lists by pro-slavery officials. Others refused to vote, because they believed the election was unfair.
Sixty delegates were elected. All supported slavery. They planned to meet in the autumn to begin work on a constitution for Kansas.
Most of the delegates were wild, rough men who found it difficult to read and write. But these men were sure of one thing. They wanted Kansas to be a slave state.
The delegates began the constitution by claiming that the right of property was higher than any constitutional power. They said a slave-owner had as much right to his property as the owner of any other kind of property.
Then they wrote the different parts of the document. One part of the constitution severely limited the right of the legislature to free slaves. Another part barred free negroes from entering Kansas. And another prevented the constitution from being changed for seven years.
Most of the delegates to the Kansas constitutional convention wanted to send the document directly to Congress for approval. They did not want to give the people of Kansas a chance to vote on it. They were sure that the majority of the population would reject a constitution that made slavery legal.
Some delegates, however, knew that Congress would not approve statehood for Kansas unless the people voted on the constitution. The two sides finally agreed on a compromise.
The constitution itself would not be offered to the people. Instead, the people would vote only on the question of slavery. They could vote for the constitution with slavery or the constitution without slavery.
If the voters approved the constitution with slavery, then Kansas would be open to new slaves. If they approved the constitution without slavery, then Kansas would be closed to new slaves. Slaves already in the territory could be kept there.
This compromise brought a cry of anger from opponents of slavery in Kansas. They said the constitutional convention had only given them the right to vote for limited slavery or unlimited slavery. It had not given them the right to vote for freedom.
President Buchanan had promised the people of Kansas that they would have a fair chance to vote on their constitution. But members of his cabinet told him to forget this promise. They said Americans were tired of the dispute in Kansas and would accept any settlement.
They told Buchanan that approval of the constitution would end the Kansas problem. It would satisfy the South, they said, and the North would soon forget about Kansas.
Under this pressure, President Buchanan made his decision. He would ask Congress to accept the pro-slavery Kansas constitution and make the territory a slave state.
In Kansas, the vote on slavery was held. Most opponents of slavery did not vote. They were waiting until they could vote against the complete statehood constitution.
Many of the votes were illegal. Still, Kansas officials declared that slavery had been approved. They urged Congress to make Kansas a state under this condition. Shortly after, President Buchanan sent Congress a similar message.
Buchanan's chief opponent on the statehood bill was a member of his own Democratic Party, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois. Douglas did not oppose slavery. But he believed that the people of a territory had the right to make their own decision to accept or reject slavery.
Stephen Douglas united other Democrats and members of the anti-slavery Republican Party to fight against the bill in the Senate. He lost. The Senate approved the bill to make Kansas a state where slavery was legal.
The House of Representatives, however, rejected the bill. Instead, it approved a bill to let the people of Kansas vote again on their statehood constitution. The Senate approved a compromise version of this House bill.
So the people of Kansas got another chance to show that they did not want a pro-slavery constitution. They voted and rejected the constitution by a large majority.
The pro-slavery statehood constitution was dead. Kansas would continue as a territory for a few more years. But there would be no further attempt to make it a slave state.
And that's our program for today. Listen again tomorrow to learn English through stories from all around the world. I'm Jonathan Evans and I'm Ashley Thompson.