Good news, bad news, boring news, sensational news- it’s all in thousands of newspapers published in print and online daily, weekly, and monthly.  But since you can’t read them all, whatever should the aspiring mind do?  Are there some guidelines that might guide you through the avalanche of news available at the local newsstand and on the information superhighway.

Furthermore, there is more to reading and learning than newspapers right?  Of course.  There are journals, websites, blogs, etc.  So allow me to introduce you to rule #1 of the 10 Weeks to an Intellectual Transformation program and how it applies to a broad range of sources- mostly by introducing you to a broad range of sources.

Rule #1. If you aren’t reading things that might get you on an FBI list you probably aren’t reading enough.

Well maybe I should explain a bit.  I DON’T mean that you should run out to your local library and check out all the books you can find on becoming a survivalist, joining a militia movement, and how to make a bomb.  What I DO mean is that you should have a broad and diverse reading list that transcends the mainstream media that embraces both right and left and truly radical.  My inbox receives daily or weekly updates from Townhall.com, HuffingtonPost, FrontPageMag.com, PrisonPlanet, and LewRockwell.com.  Moreover, I get daily and numerous emails from Beliefnet featuring insight and advice for Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  My internet navigation bar wanders from the Drudge Report to the New York times, from the Wall Street Journal to Sojourners.  If someone tried to guess my political leaning by the internet sites I visited they would be utterly confused and most likely would throw their arms up in frustration- assuming me to be some odd non-politically aligned beast.  Now if they read my blog that would be another story.  But the point is simple (and bears strong emphasis):

Information intake should be both diverse and broad.  You should be open to wrestling with contradictory values, reasoning through the implications of our most dearly held values, and trying even the most beloved of our ideas.  However, once you are done wrestling with this new information- and pardon me for continuing the analogy- and the idea is now pinned to the mat, you should be able to come to some conclusion- the equivalent of raising your arm in victory over a vanquished foe.  Despite what you might have learned at college, not all ideas are of equal value.  Don’t be afraid to take a stand at the end of the day based on what you’ve researched and observed.

So your homework is to take some time and seek out a website that ideologically contrasts with your beliefs.  If it deeply offends you- especially if you are the type easily offended by those who politically disagree with you- even better. 

What’s in it for you?

  • You will be able to argue your own side of the issue better when you know how your opponent argues and reasons through the same issue.
  • You might actually learn something about yourself, like maybe you were wrong- perhaps you don’t really think the minimum wage is a good idea?  Maybe you were wrong when you said, “The invasion of Iraq is a smashing good idea!”
  • If you are the type who refuses to discuss political disagreements in a civil manner (I am talking to you “Buck Fush” types), maybe you might discover the humanity of those who disagree with you.  And perhaps, just maybe, you will be able to sit down and share a beer, a latte, or a carbonated beverage with someone who thinks that G.W. ain’t so bad.  Same goes for you Bill Clinton haters.

Where to get Started…

You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that some of the best places to start out can be found online and they are often free!  Good resources include newspapers, junction websites, magazines, journals, groups, and misc. publications by advocacy groups.  Each has different pros and cons, but all can play an important role in exercising your brain.  Let us walk through each source one-by-one and review their pros and cons as well as representative sources that can provide you a shortcut to a helpful reading list.

Newspapers: Good news, there are tons of great newspapers out there.  Bad news, there are even more mediocre or just plain bad newspapers.  Most newspapers are written so anyone with a middle school education can read them.  Which is great for people who barely graduated from high school, but bad for those of us seeking an intellectual challenge and a good way to maintain and grow a powerful and expressive vocabulary.

THE ONLY EXCEPTION: No matter how infantile, poorly proof read, or politically slanted, READ your local paper.  Why?  Bottom line, you should know what is going on in your community.

Some examples and suggestions: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe to name a few. For world newspapers why not try The International Herald Tribune, The Jerusalem Post, The Irish Times (Dublin), The Moscow Times, Zaman Gazetesi (Turkey, English version), balance The Daily Telegraph with the The Guardian, Daily Yomiuri Online (Japan), The Hindu (India),and The Economic Times (India).

Don’t want to take my word for it fine.  Want to see who the Columbia Journalism Review ranked as “America’s Best Newspapers.”

YES, I know that the list of newspapers is very long.  And NO, I don’t expect you to read them every day.  What I am suggesting is that you occasionally (weekly or monthly) drop-in and get a flavor for the local news across the globe.  So why not bookmark this post and swing by here and use this list to track down news and views from around the globe?

Junction Websites:  These sites don’t qualify as newspapers since many don’t produce in print and serve mainly as a vehicle for numerous opinion articles.  However, there is some degree of overlap between this group of sources and magazine sources.  For the sake of expediency both will be treated in this section.

The pros and cons of junction websites are one in the same- their political alignment is often easy to spot.  The news and opinions you are getting are quite slanted, but hey, you knew that going in.  A few of the most interesting and thought provoking junction sites include:

Anarcho-capitalism (in case you are unfamiliar with the term click for a definition) is fairly well represented by LewRockwell.com.  I would consider this the far-right.  However, I tend toward a political spectrum that places maximized personal autonomy and freedom on the far right and maximized state power on the far left.  There is also Capitalism Magazine for those seeking a site that is a bit tamer than Rockwell, but further right than Frontpage magazine.

Mainstream American conservative thought can be found at both Frontpagemag.com and Townhall.com.  For something a bit further right try The National Review and Human Events.

Fairly middle of the road (or only slightly leaning to the left or right) opinions can be found at the Freakonomics blog, The Politico, and Real Clear Politics.

Mainstream American liberal thought can be read over at places like the Huffington Post and Air America.  If you want to go a little further left try out the DailyKos [And yes I know that is technically a blog, but allow me some artistic license].

If you want a sampling of what might be considered “far left” junction sites (and admittedly the standards for the American far-left are tame compared to those of Europe) why not try out The Nation, Mother Jones, CounterPunch, and Moveon.org.

Journals:

I know this post has been slanted toward politics.  My apologies.  Here is where I make it up to you.  Why not read journals that discuss issues that you have some intellectual curiosity about?  Here is a list featuring a range of subjects from politics to literature, from art to history.  Well enough introducing, here are the links.

History: The American Historical Review, Chronicon (Irish History Journal), Traditio (Medieval History), Heroic Age (ditto),  Internet Archeology, Journal of 17th Century Music

Literature: The Atlantic

General: Arts & Letters Daily

Archeology: British Archeology

Religion: Journal of Southern Religion, Journal of Religion and Society, New Testament Studies, History of Religions

Medicine: New England Journal of Medicine

Science: Cosmos and History

Internet Groups:

Groups at Yahoo! Groups and other such sites offer you a chance to practice your skill in debate and argumentation.  Admittedly you are often debating with numb skulls who could not put together a rational argument to save their lives, but you stick to the rules of proper discourse, stay polite, and take advantage of the opportunity to convince a broader audience than the buffoon who thinks that the fluoride in your toothpaste is part of a government conspiracy.   I would make recommendations, but there are millions of groups to choose from.  Just wander over to Yahoo! Groups and search for a group that hits upon an area of interest to you.

This is enough to cu tyour teeth on.  As always, please feel free to post recommendations in the comments section.

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Comments
  1. Teresa says:

    ” Despite what you might have learned at college, not all ideas are of equal value. ”

    What college teaches that?

    I never learned that in college. What I learned in college is that all ideas should be equally explored and considered, and have equal opportunity to be supported by argument…

    …and then their unequal value can be assessed.

    ‘course, I went to a public university…

    The only people I hear insisting that all ideas have eaqua value are the Anti-evolution crowd, anti-Global warming crowd, the anti-vaxination crowd, the holocaust denial crowd and such…

    well…and Rupert Murdoch, though not in so many words. Just his assertion that there’s no such thing as “facts”…only “opinion”.

    🙂

  2. Teresa, first I must say I was definitely expecting some recommendations for the general reading list from you. 😉 So feel free to provide some when you have the time. Do you think I got the left-center-right parts of the spectrum right?

    “What college teaches that?”

    I would perhaps lose count if I had to number the times in undergrad that I encountered professors who were so intellectually lazy or academically crippled by modern methods of instruction as to leave almost every student entitled to their opinion and refuse to make any sweeping statements or conclusions- lest it negate or disagree with the personal experiences of a student. Of course, some of my professors brilliantly avoided this problem by doing nothing but deliver lectures and NEVER calling on students or asking them a single question.

    Moreover, you forget that the- to use Arthur Schlesinger’s phrase (although he applied it to quantitative history)- bitch-goddess of multiculturalism has indeed created an atmosphere in many classrooms that one should not critique or criticize another culture. This idea of not criticizing certain cultures has slowly crept into the realm of ideas.

    Then, there is also the issue of the contemptible speech codes which prohibit certain forms of speech which might make members of the university community uncomfortable. On their face it is claimed they support freer expression, but the reality is that they limit the free expression of members of the academic community to guarantee security of the ego at the expense of freedom of speech and intellectual growth.

    BTW: This might be a digression, but have you read about the case of Keith Sampson at IU?

    This story is written by a right-wing professor (I took his criminology class in undergrad) over at Townhall.com

    http://townhall.com/Columnists/MikeSAdams/2008/07/21/sampson_and_the_philistines

    And here is an AP article on the same topic

    http://www.charlotte.com/nation/story/712901.html

    What do you think?

    My point is that this ridiculousness didn’t begin in the janitor’s closet, it started in classrooms where the professor is more devoted to protecting and building the individual egos of their students as opposed to seeking out and discovering truth. Then again, ask many academics what truth is or if it even exists, and you won’t get very far.

    “The only people I hear insisting that all ideas have equal value are the Anti-evolution crowd, anti-Global warming crowd, the anti-vaccination crowd, the holocaust denial crowd and such…”

    Actually I am pretty certain that they think the opposing groups ideas are of considerably lesser value. 😉

  3. Teresa says:

    My first thought is: Whoa! I got in to a Townhall site, they must have lifed the ban on my IP address! Woo Hoo! Let the ridicule begin!

    I will go back and read the article, soonish and comment.

    When I was in college, professors delighted in scewering and insulting their student’s sincerely held beliefs and sacred cows.

    I can’t imagine any of them getting any reward out of teaching without it. And the Administration backed the professors, which lead to crowds of students with mutli-colored hair and bullhorns complaining about how offended they were.

    The response was, invariably, “have a spell-checked, grammar-checked, three-part essay on why we’re wrong on the desk by the due date.”

    On the other hand, my sister had a right-wing teacher in high school about the same time who insisted on using the “N” word to show how he wasn’t going to knuckle under to the “PC” crowd.

    It didn’t end well for him.

    Probably because he couldn’t back up his position with a decent intellectual argument. But I’m sure he thought he was being defested by the left-wing forces of evil and repression.

    Left and right…there are lots of people who are so clueless that they don’t recognize their lack of reasoning in an argument, and mistake a cohesive and consistant world-view for a rational one, and contrary evidence is a conspiracy…and the more contrary evidence there is…the greater the conspiracy.

    “Actually I am pretty certain that they think the opposing groups ideas are of considerably lesser value. ”

    I think you’re right, but their argument doesn’t say that: their argument is “teach the controversy!”.

    The stated strategy is to use their misunderstanding of liberal arts educational priciples against the “left”…which is, that all ideas have equal value…to gain a stage for their ideas.

    In fact, the priciple is that all ideas should have equal opportunity to prove their value. The ideas in Intelligent Design are all old, refuted ideas resurrected under new names. Their lack of validity decided long ago.

    For instance, the idea that there can only be change within species, not creation of new species has not had any new information added since Hitler used it in Mein Kampf, and therefore has no validity just because now the Discovery Institute has decided to all it “Micro-evolution”.

    If the DI brought anything new to the table, it would have a claim to argument. As it is, just changing the terminology doesn’t cut it, for instance.

    I’ll get back to you about the links.

  4. “My first thought is: Whoa! I got in to a Townhall site, they must have lifed the ban on my IP address! Woo Hoo! Let the ridicule begin!”

    Well I also threw in the AP link just in case.

  5. Teresa says:

    TT<

    OK, I’ve read the links, and it sounds to me like a case where outrage was warranted. It also sounds like it is resolved.

    I do have to say that I find this throw-away statement puzzeling:

    “Keith Sampson is really a rare kind of student. First of all, he was willing to take a job as a janitor to help pay for his college education. But, even more impressive, he spends his break time reading scholarly books on subjects such as American history.”

    I’m constantly amazed at Mike’s view of the world: A student who works his way through college and reads books is rare?

    On what planet?

    I did it, all of my friends did it…liberal or conservative…I personally only knew one student with a trust fund, and she had to run the family business after her parents died (while she was going to college).

  6. “I’m constantly amazed at Mike’s view of the world: A student who works his way through college and reads books is rare?”

    I graduated from undergrad back in 2001, and I can tell you that among my classmates, I would say a majority of those I knew lived strictly off their students loans. It doesn’t take a trust fund to get through college without working, college loans (Stafford and such) provide enough to meet the needs of most students- moderate partying included. Of course many of them don’t think about the joy of repaying them later- at that age such a concept is hard to grasp.

    You might be surprised to hear this, but even among some faculty the idea is taking hold that since student loans cover a student’s necessities students should treat college as their full time job- which means no moonlighting.

    Then again, you would also be surprised by the number of students at a state college (I attended both U.N.C.W. and NC State) whose parents can afford to buy them cars, pay their rent, etc.

  7. Teresa says:

    Huh.

    I’m the classic product of the “five-year-plan” – Full time job, full-time student, take a year off in the middle to earn more money and replenish the well from the slow bleed of funds.

    Graduated in ’93.

    Like most people I know from that time, I got a smattering of funds from an academic scholarship, no financial aid, and didn’t take out any loans.

    Of course, we were routinly denounced by conservative politicians as “lazy, weak, whiney,” Would have kicked up a fuss, but I was too busy.

    I remember a Republican politician who made a comment about how all college students did was sit around and watched the soaps. A friend of mine turned to me and said “I think there was a soap opera on in the lobby the last time I went to sell my blood plasma for book money” LOL! 🙂

    Guess I’m an old foggie shaking my head at the young’uns now. Old foggie at 40. Who’d a guessed it?

  8. “I think there was a soap opera on in the lobby the last time I went to sell my blood plasma for book money”

    Don’t laugh, there was a time during college when I was so broke I had to sell plasma- thrice. They paid surprisingly little. It wasn’t worth the metallic aftertaste and the shows on their T.V. screens stunk.

    Sad thing was, if I hadn’t squandered my financial aid on stupid things (partying, girls, a $600 paint job for my 280z, etc.) I wouldn’t have had to do that.\

    BTW, make sure you take a moment and check out my latest crazy search terms post. I think you will enjoy it.

  9. Teresa says:

    Then again, as I think about it…I have a male relative who graduated about the same time who got a full-ride scholarship, all expenses paid.

    He’s now a conservative who says nobody ever did anything for him, and complains about how the black people get handed everything on a silver platter at the expense of white people.

    Guess it takes all kinds to make a world, huh?

  10. Teresa says:

    TT,

    “Sad thing was, if I hadn’t squandered my financial aid on stupid things (partying, girls, a $600 paint job for my 280z, etc.) I wouldn’t have had to do that.

    If I had gotten financial aid…I would have eaten lunch EVERY DAY!

    LOL!

    Although, I have to admit that the last couple years of my schooling, things had started to look up pretty good. Wed gotten enough ahead that I went out once a week for happy hour with my buddies.

  11. I guess Stafford loans took off after ’93. Either that, or my parents were much more broke then yours so I qualified for more aid. 😉

  12. Teresa says:

    TT,

    Hard to say. Years 1 and 2 I was on my own. Years 3,4,and five I was married.

    My Dad was a civil engineer for the state. We lived off wild game and the garden mostly. Mom cut our hair, and our clothes were a mix of hand-me-down and home-made. Used cars, bikes made form parts bought at government auctions and assembled.

    Before that, he was a grad student supporting a family of five on a teaching assistanship. My guess: HE had student loans to pay off. dont know.

    Money always seemed short when I was a kid…but Mom supplimented the income by teaching music lessons.

    I always swore my kids would have store-bought clothes and barber haircuts. 🙂 Oh yeah, and REAL milk. Not powdered. 🙂 And I swore they would never eat oatmeal for breakfast. I got so sick of oatmeal for breakfast.

    My kids love oatmeal. I kept my word on the other things, though. 🙂

  13. funnygirl says:

    I’m sold :)) +1

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