The Morning Headlines are Back!

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The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog intern Devon Hearn is back in the saddle after spending the summer in Kenya.  This means that our “Morning Headlines” feature is also back.  Check in every morning to see daily headlines from The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, the BBC, CNN, and Fox News.  And for those who are local, we also post the daily headline from The Harrisburg Patriot News.

We have found that teachers have found these headlines useful not only for getting up to speed with current events, but also for teaching their students how to detect bias in various news sources.

Morning Headlines

I was talking about early national newspapers in my U.S. survey class yesterday so, for whatever reason, I felt the need to share today’s headlines.  Maybe this will become a thing.

New York Times: The Road to Nowhere” (Niger refugees)

Washington Post: “Facing Economic Pressures, N.C. lawmakers agree to repeal ‘bathroom bill.’

Wall Street Journal: “Trump’s Hoe for Rapid Reset With Russia Fades”

CNN: “It Look’s Like It’s Going to Get Even Worse for Trump”

MSNBC: “Schiff Presses for Public Hearing for Yates”

FOX News: “Down the Drain?: NC Lawmakers to Vote on Repeal of ‘Bathroom Bill'”

When the Minority Rules and the Press Doesn’t Matter Any More

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In the United States the majority rules and the minority holds the majority in check.

In the United States the press holds the government accountable.

According to historian Christopher P. Browning, neither of these things are happening in the age of Trump.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at Vox:

I am bewildered how to conduct political discourse and persuasion — about how to conduct politics, in short — when each political tribe lives in its own reality, increasingly incomprehensible to the other, and with no agreed-upon standards and measures concerning how we might ascertain facts and truth, much less agreement on even the desirability and relevance of such an effort.

Sadly, our democracy is challenged not just by the fraying of a democratic political culture through ever-intensifying polarization and demise of traditional norms. It is also challenged by a basic collapse of two vital institutions: rule through electoral majorities and a free media. That is the predicament we face today.

Read the entire piece here.

Why Historical Thinking is Essential in the #AgeofTrump

Why Study History CoverThis morning two commentators were on CNN talking about how a gunman, claiming he was investigating a fake news story about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, fired shots in a Washington D.C. pizzeria.

Yes, you read that correctly, a guy acted on a fake news story and could have killed someone.  Perhaps he was mentally unstable.  Perhaps he was one of the many people who feel empowered to do this kind of thing in the #ageoftrump. Or perhaps he was completely incapable of deciphering the difference between a fake news story and a real one.  To make matters worse, CNN is reporting that the son of Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser,  apparently created this story. Flynn himself has promoted similar stories.

In the course of the on-air discussion, both CNN commentators tried to say something about the importance of truth, evidence-based arguments, critical examination of news stories and other documents, understanding the context of news stories, and considering the source of such narratives.  Needless to say, I perked up as I watched these commentators desperately search for a language to describe this problem.

Let me suggest that the language they are looking for is the language of historical thinking.  Consider the recent report published by Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group. Read the entire thing here.  It is very rich and it should be read by all teachers, especially history teachers.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503129818/503141179

I remain convinced that the study of history is the best way to teach kids and college students how to read.  If Wineburg and these CNN commentators are correct, the study of history, and the thinking and reading skills that come with it, may be our best hope. Perhaps the #ageoftrump will finally wake us up to the need for this kind of thinking.   I hope so.

The Walking Mail Carrier

The other day I was thinking about the changes in the dissemination of information and news that have occurred in my lifetime.  Sunday was my birthday and, as has been the case for the better part of the last four decades, I received a birthday card in the mail from my mother and my aunt.  These were actual birthday cards–not virtual cards or Facebook birthday greetings.  I could hold them in my hand, open them, and read them.  They were delivered by a mail carrier working for the United States Post Office.

I am grateful for all of my Facebook friends who wished me a happy birthday on Sunday, but I also wondered how many more of these cards, delivered by a mail carrier, I will receive during the rest of my lifetime.

I thought about my birthday cards again after reading Wayne Curtis’s essay “Flash!: Information at the Speed of Foot.”  He begins with a very entertaining story about a mail carrier named Martha Cherry:

16 years ago a mail carrier with the cheerful name of Martha Cherry was fired. She was 49-years-old, and had been with the U.S. Postal Service for 18 years, delivering mail by foot in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in Westchester County.

Cherry was let go after her superiors determined that she walked too slowly. “You were observed on June 9, 1997, to walk at a rate of 66 paces per minute with a stride of less than one foot,” the condemning report charged, adding the detail that her “leading foot did not pass the toe of [her] trailing foot by more than one inch.” The upshot? She took 13 minutes longer than necessary to walk her route.

The flap was, essentially, over whether mail — that is, information — should move at three miles per hour or three-and-a-half miles per hour. And it all seems tremendously quaint now — post offices are being shuttered almost daily, regular Saturday mail delivery may cease next August, and the postal service is hemorrhaging staggering amounts of money — last year it posted a deficit of $16 billion. Mail moving a half-mile per hour slower was not responsible for this.

Curtis goes on the discuss the role that walking has played in the history of information.  He concludes:

Information today moves at the speed of light. And while we thrill at the idea of boosting our home data connections to 60 MBPS, I don’t think it would be a bad thing if more of us embraced slow information, and continued to convey it by foot. This would have the benefit of allowing information time to cool down as it traveled, making it less scalding upon arrival, while granting us sufficient time to digest what we’ve learned.

The postal carrier is one the great figures in our national development, like the Minute Men or the Doughboys. But they are increasingly an anachronism, soldiers on the front lines with bayonets rather than lasers.

So, as the post office continues its gradual slide into irrelevancy, I’d like to propose a memorial to Martha Cherry, the mail carrier with the one-foot stride. Perhaps a nice bronze statue. She represents not only what’s sure to be a fading sight along our streets and boulevards in the years ahead, but recalls an era when information moved with an appealing lack of urgency, and a time when information was conveyed by superheroes.

I think I will go out and take walk.