Ted Ed Lessons for Additional Listening Practice (Customs & Culture)

  1. The history of marriage https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-history-of-marriage-alex-gendler#review
  2. The history of Tea https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-history-of-tea-shunan-teng#review
  3. Where do superstitions come from? https://ed.ted.com/lessons/where-do-superstitions-come-from-stuart-vyse#review
  4. Kabuki: The people’s dramatic art https://ed.ted.com/lessons/kabuki-the-people-s-dramatic-art-amanda-mattes#review
  5. The origins of ballet https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-origins-of-ballet-jennifer-tortorello-and-adrienne-westwood#review

“A bus designed for people who never take buses”: how London’s Routemaster became a £300m white elephant |City Metric

The article has an interesting take on tradition vs modernity.


Summary:  Routemasters were the iconic London buses that were decommissioned in 2004. To revive this cultural icon, Transport for London (TfL) reportedly spent £11.4m to get the new Routemasters designed. Each new bus cost £375,000 (which was almost double the price of a normal bus at £190,000), were heavier and thus less environmentally friendly, could carry fewer passengers due to its design, caused discomfort for the passengers (too hot in summer, and too cold in winter), and cost more to run (a conductor is needed in addition to the bus driver due to the possibly unsafe open design at the back).


  • Should cultural icons or traditions be preserved at all costs?
  • If traditions are allowed to die out, what might the repercussions be?

Hong Kong could become the next ‘demographic time bomb’ | Business Insider

Source: http://www.businessinsider.sg/hong-kong-at-risk-demographic-time-bomb-2017-5/

Economists use “demographic time bomb” to refer to places where consumer spending and the national birth rate are both low. Often, they’re entangled in a vicious cycle: As people feel the economy tightening, they have fewer kids, leading to even less money flowing into the economy, and so on.

In Hong Kong, the government is faced with a striking gender imbalance; women outnumber men at nearly every age bracket above 25.

The imbalance is mainly due to men seeking women up north, in mainland China, as the women there are commonly viewed as less choosy than in Hong Kong, according to experts in gender studies. Each year, the city also brings in thousands of foreign domestic helpers (who are almost always female) from countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. The two trends have coalesced into a tense climate for younger generations.

A Fairytale Kingdom Faces Real-Life Troubles | National Geographic


The Setos have fiercely maintained their traditions for centuries. Those include their ancient polyphonic singing, recently recognized on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

But they’ve also created entirely new traditions, complete with their own royalty, to stave off modern threats to their cultural identity.

The greatest threat today is a border between Russia and Estonia—traditionally more of a suggestion than a demarcation—that divides the Setos. The border shifted multiple times over the 20th century—a span that saw two world wars, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, and the early stirrings of a European Union.

But by the mid-1990s, Estonia was relishing its post-Soviet independence. And the border—though still not ratified to this day—was becoming an enforced one, dividing Setomaa’s Russian and Estonian sides. Yet it was also dividing the Setos from one another, cleaving their crop fields, churches, and cemeteries.

“The border came, and it broke their daily life,” says Elena Nikiforova, a research fellow at the Center for Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg who conducted field work in Setomaa as the border was strengthened.

“The border became this trigger for them to start thinking of themselves as a separate people,” she says. “Being divided by the border, they became united.”

Unable to alter the course of foreign policy and torn between two countries, the Setos in 1994 declared for themselves a new, unified entity: the Kingdom of Setomaa.

Now, more than two decades later, they are keeping that kingdom alive.

Patients should have the right to choose marijuana over prescription drugs | ATTN

Source: https://youtu.be/6VjLwUtiUYs

  • What are the drugs that are legal in your country?
  • Is marijuana legal in your country? Why (not)?
  • What do you know about marijuana?
  • Do you think that people have an accurate idea of drugs?
  • Why might a “harmless” drug like marijuana be banned?
  • Do you think that this video is accurate, or is there a slant (bias) to it?

Centuries of Preserved Shipwrecks Found in the Black Sea | National Geographic

Read here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/black-sea-shipwreck-discovery/

“When the last ice age ended about 12,000 years ago, the Black Sea was really the Black Lake,” says Jon Adams, principal investigator on the project and director of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton. As temperatures warmed and sea levels rose, saltwater from the Mediterranean began spilling over a rock formation in the Bosphorus Strait. Suddenly the Black Sea was fed by saltwater as well as freshwater rivers, resulting in two distinct layers of water: an oxygenated upper level with less salt and a lower saltwater level without oxygen. “The oxygen drops to zero below 150 meters, which is ideal for the preservation of organic materials,” Adams said.


  • How important is it to explore the depths of the ocean?
  • Given the limited budget, how can governments balance the need to preserve culture or pursue technological advancements?

The World’s Largest Pyramid Is Hidden Under A Hill | IFLScience


What looked like a giant mound of earth and grass was actually a colossal pyramid. In fact, according to reports, it is the largest monument ever built. Legend has it that the locals covered the monument with soil themselves when they heard about the Spanish invaders sweeping through the Americas.


  • Are there any important archaeological sites in your hometown/city/country?
  • Have there been sites that were recently discovered?
  • Why are they important?
  • Given a choice between spending money on preserving artefacts and increasing the educational standards in a country, which do you think is more important?

Warning Signs Detected For Collapse Of Ancient Populations | IFLScience

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

~ George Santayana, The Life of Reason


As populations grew, Neolithic Europeans started to over-exploit resources. Nomadic peoples faced with the same problems might have moved, but these early agricultural populations were deeply invested in their locations. They responded in ways that might have provided temporary respite, but made things worse in the long run. “Continuing on such unsustainable courses in the face of steady resource decline ultimately leads to catastrophic failure,” Downey and his co-authors write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Along with sharp swings in population numbers, one of the major warning signs of collapse for these European Neolithic societies was deforestation. Considering the astonishing rates at which tropical rainforests are being felled, this is a disturbing indication that our future may reflect the worst aspects of our past. The difference is that this time we have the warning signs if we wish to act on them.


  • Why is history important?
  • Should it be compulsory in all schools?
  • What kind of history should people learn – from their culture, other cultures, etc?