News Quizzes

Statistically speaking, you are already among the most educated people in the United States. I am not suggesting that this makes you the smartest, but I do believe that such education requires particular responsibilities to be an informed citizen. We all have a responsibility to pay attention to the world. Moreover, I want to reward you for making an effort to be an informed citizen especially when your busy schedule and / or the unpleasant news hold powerful disinclinations.

Therefore, our class sessions will begin with a five minute news quiz, asking basic factual questions about what’s been going on in the US and the world. If you already read the news daily, they shouldn’t pose any problem to you. They are not at all designed to trap you, and will never include an intentional trick question. Instead, they are designed to be very easy for people who regularly read the news. (I say “read” because my limited engagement with tv news - mostly when I’m at the gym - suggests that it is more problematic and less smart.) If you have your own favorite news sites, feel free to keep up with those. Here are my recommendations about how to access the news that might help you be a more engaged and intelligent citizen:

1) By many measures, the New York Times and the Washington Post are the two strongest newspapers in the US. It used to be the case (to be read in your best old person voice), when I was a child, that it was very easy to figure out what the “important” news was - it was in the first section of the paper, literally the A section. Now, the internet has changed the ways newspapers are laid out, and obliterated the hierarchy that was once literally visible in the different sections. Therefore, I cannot simply tell you to read the NYT or WaPo because they can include a lot of junk news (fashion, sports, etc.) or clickbait (e.g. the NYT real estate section).

Instead I recommend you focus on specific sections and categories in these papers, specifically:
The New York Times. You can read a certain number of articles for free each month, or subscribe as a student for $4 per month (about $12 for the term). Within the NYT, I suggest you focus on the front page; US news; politics; and world news.

Here is the UMich library link to the Washington Post, which gives you free access. Within the WaPo, I suggest you focus on the front page; national news; politics; and world news.

2) There are also lots of wonderfully informative news sources in English based outside the US, and you’re welcome to explore them.

The Guardian
BBC News
Der Spiegel
Al Jazeera

3) If you prefer to get your news through podcasts - which can be really handy to listen to as you’re moving through your day - here are a few I recommend. They are all free to subscribe to.

On the Media - Hands down, my favorite podcast. It’s super smart, with some of the best interviews I’ve heard. Like the BBC hosts, these hosts actually call their interviewers out if what they say makes no sense. Listening to this once a week will help you keep up with the news.
BBC Global News Podcast - Two episodes each day, about 20 minutes long. They have some fluffy stories but it’s also good, quick coverage of what’s going on in the world.

On the first day of class, I’ll hand out a sample news quiz so you know what the format will be and what will be on it. If you don’t already pay attention to the news, please consider this as motivation to begin. I specifically designed this ongoing assignment to mean that it will be possible for a student who doesn’t pay attention to the news to get an A, but not an A+, in this course. No matter what the topic of the course, to be educated means paying attention.