Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Each week we’ll discuss up to six articles—most of them short commentaries either sent out as emails that I receive or articles posted on websites.  I’m calling them “provocative” although what is provocative to one person is merely common sense to another, so they will reflect different points of view on different currently relevant topics.

The main sources of these articles will be (a) newsletters distributed by Substack.Com (in particular, from Yascha Mounk, Judd Legum, Heather Cox Richardson, Andrew Sullivan, Jonathan Last, Charlie Sykes, Zeynep Tufekci, Matt Taibbi, and Robert Reich); articles posted on websites of The Atlantic, the Economist, and Medium, and from the New York Times (including several Times newsletters that I receive), the Washington Post, and the Wall St. Journal.  I’ll also look at links inside those sources for provocative articles.  The articles will be posted on a course website roughly 3-4 days prior to the class meeting and will have appeared in my reading “in-box” within a week prior to that point.

This course differs from the “Views on the News” course mainly in four respects:

  • I’m going to be responsible for selecting and leading the discussion of the articles each week, although I welcome suggestions.
  • The articles will be largely reasoned argumentation rather than focused on facts and events.
  • The authors of the articles will generally have some academic credentials as scholars or be journalists of excellent pedigree.
  • I’m expecting that people will have read most of them so that we will focus on critiquing them rather than just re-stating their content.

Below are examples that come from recent articles that I might have used if the course were beginning in December.  The ones we will start with will be ones that I will have read in the week prior to posting them to the course website.  You will be able to either read them on the web page or click on their titles to download them to your computer.

One NY Times columnist I often find provocative is Ross Douthat.  Here’s a column of his on the proper role of media in politics.

Lots in the news about abortion. One source I like to look at focuses on public opinion.  Here’s a piece from FiveThirtyEight.Com.

One “Substack.Com” newsletter I value a great deal is “Persuasion,” edited by Yascha Mounk, a Harvard-educated political philosopher.  This comes as a podcast except that it always includes an abbreviated transcript, which is what I read.  Most issues are conversations between Mounk and someone else.  But in this case Mounk turned the newsletter issue over to an essay from a new book by moderately-conservative black cultural linguist John McWhorter about “neo-racism.”

By far the LONGEST suggestion I’d make (and not too often) is the cover article by Anne Applebaum in the December Atlantic.  It deals with the success of authoritarian regimes around the world and what it means for our future.  Download it HERE.

Two Washington Post articles about the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court that deal with proposals for term limits and increasing the size of the Court.  (There were probably other sources on this report, but these were the ones that I happen to come across.  I’m posting one of them HERE.

For my final illustration, here is a cute, short piece about communicating across two generations.  It’s by former presidential advisor and labor economist, Robert Reich.  It also comes as a emailed newsletter and comes as a podcast plus a transcript.