John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

How College Affected This Student: Why I Make My Students Make The New York Times A Part of Their Daily Lives

John N. Gardner,
President
Oh, there are so many ways that the college experience affected this student, now 45 years out of college. One of them was getting into the habit, really the addiction, of reading The New York Times, daily. I owe it all to my political science professor, freshman year. He told me that if I really wanted to get a lot more out of his class, I would make this a habit. He urged me to read the full texts of the Supreme Court decisions, of political candidate speeches, and other important documents. This really jarred my consciousness as The Times was not allowed in my suburban New York City home by my corporate father who saw the paper as far too liberal. Interestingly, my political science professor was from an extremely conservative wing of that discipline, but he really wanted me to experience multiple perspectives. And that I did. And now can’t do without, every day.
Throughout my teaching career I have required my students to read The Times. These are the reasons I give them for this requirement:
1.   I want them to read what is regarded as the most influential news organ in the world.
2.   I want them to see what the President of the United States reads each morning. And many other world leaders too.
3.   I want them to see what The Times is saying that will influence the movers and shakers of our country who check it out faithfully, even if they don’t agree with its editorial positions.
4.   I want them to see not just reporting of the news, but reporting that becomes news!
5.   I want them to read each day a truly interdisciplinary teaching tool—covering a wide range of topics from the integrated perspectives of many disciplines. It’s like having a complete college curriculum all in one paper.
6.   I want them to read one of the last remaining examples of “in-depth” print journalism.
7.   I want them to read challenging prose that will build their vocabulary and stretch their critical thinking capacities.
8.   I want them to read the paper that has won more Pulitzers than any other.
9.   I want them to read something each day that will make the events and trends of our world “relevant” to even the most unengaged college student. The Times is truly “relevant”.
10.  I want to get my first-year students reading and thinking at the level we used to hold back for the upper divisions in the major. What a waste. We need to be awakening to the world our newest college students.
11.  I want to introduce my students to a behavior that I hope they will continue to practice in adulthood after college, just as I did, and I do.
12.  I want to introduce my students to one of the pillars of support for our democracy, to keep our citizens informed and our government honest.
13.  I know that when students look back after college they will remember that I made them do this during college.
14.  I want them to experience what it really means to be “fair and balanced”!
15.  I want them to be teased with the print version and drawn in to the excellent, voluminous web support.

I want them to join the exclusive and inclusive club of educated men and women around the world who read an internationally influential newspaper.

One Comment

  1. RandomApril 18, 2011 at 3:33 pmReply

    John makes an excellent point – one of the biggest differences between a college graduate and a non-graduate is their broader understanding of the world. I am eternally thankful to my college professors who encouraged me to listen daily to NPR and other less – biased news sources.

    You can find out more about navigating your college experience at: http://winningcollegegame.blogspot.com/

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