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An ode to the NY Times

Posted on December 31, 2009

One of life’s great pleasures is to retrieve the NY Times from the front door while everyone else is still sleeping, to pour that first cup of coffee, and to read.  If we could mandate one act of daily civic duty, we could do worse than requiring everyone to read the Times.  In its pages one remains up-to-date on issues, travels the world, samples our culture, engages in our policy debates, and more. 

Indeed, this could be our core curriculum for all students: read the NY Times every day and come to class prepared to have a free roaming discussion that over the course of a year would touch on all the areas we care about in general education. 

There are two stories in today’s edition that have the dramatic power of delivering a simple truth usually reserved for art.  One is a front page story of an Israeli and Palestenian family united in the care of their desperately injured children as a result of the recent strife in Gaza.  In all of the maddening complexity of the decades long war, the mother of one of the children simply asks, “Do we need to suffer in order to learn that there is no difference between Jews and Arabs?” 

There is also a story from China about a “relocation man” who helped land developers evict Chinese home and business owners from their properties to make way for real estate development until a woman being evicted ran from her condemned home into the path of a bulldozer and was killed.  He was so shaken, he says, that “I decided one day I would atone for my wrongdoing and do something good for the world.”  He has since helped a restaurant owner in her fight (literally “fight” as developers often send gangs of thugs to do their work) against developers and become a local hero. 

The Times is full of stories of suffering, redemption, empathy, and heroism that we would write off as “unrealistic” if rendered in fiction or on stage.  The paper reminds us of the full grandeur and complexity and richness of the world in which we live.  In the paltry world of Fox News and CNN and MSNBC, the Times reminds us that great journalism serves an enormous public and personal good.

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