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Symbolic Language

April 22nd, 2014 // 3:32 pm @

Two Different Americas

There are two classes in modern America, the literal class and the metaphorical class.Divergent film poster 191x300 Symbolic Language In the increasing divide between the “haves” and the “have nots,” this language difference is central.

Those who don’t understand the language of metaphor are falling behind in the widening gap that is the global economy. They are watching their family’s standard of living decrease over the decades.

This trend will only increase in the years ahead.

Those with a quality education learn to think, to readily see symbolism wherever it is found. But most Americans and Westerners are part of the literal class—symbolism is often lost on them.

They tend to see things without the metaphor.

Parental Guidance

For example, last year a long debate raged on social media about whether or not The Hunger Games trilogy was good or bad reading for youth. The most interesting thing about this debate wasn’t the arguments made by either side, but the fact that symbolism was hardly ever part of the debate.

But the symbolism is glaring: A nation sacrifices its helpless children for the convenience, entertainment, and libertine moral values of the urban upper class, while government, media, and big wealth combine to keep their control over the outlying, rural people dedicated to “archaic” family values.

What could be a closer parallel to our modern society? And what metaphor could ever more clearly point out the hypocrisy of the American cosmopolitan class and its views on abortion?

What Was Missed

To anyone trained in symbolism, the metaphor is obvious. We watch children killed for the convenience and political values of the elite class. And note that in The Hunger Games the urban classes have collectivist economic views combined with libertine moral values—the same as those in the real world who support Roe v. Wade and easy abortion laws in modern America.

This is blatant symbolism, but only the upper classes really understood this.

In fact, some of the most vocal voices declaring that The Hunger Games books and movies are inappropriate for youth came from people who are strongly against abortion.

They just didn’t understand that The Hunger Games was probably the biggest, best, and most popular anti-abortion movie ever. This was entirely lost on the literal classes.

When the ruling classes understand literal and symbolic language, while the masses only understand the literal, freedom is in decline and the power of the ruling classes will only increase.

This was true in Shakespeare’s day, in the time of Virgil, and when the Psalms and Proverbs were written.

The elite classes, steeped in the classics and great books that teach readers how to think (especially symbolically), are always going to rule over the literal classes whose education is limited to getting the “right” answers, preparing for jobs and careers, and not really thinking about things symbolically.

Allan Bloom warned that modern America has this problem at the level of Hitler’s Germany.

The Real Fascination

Another example: People in the literal classes can’t quite understand why today’s youth are so intrigued by vampire books, movies, and television programs. “What is this fascination with vampires?” the literal classes ask.

The elite classes, well-versed in metaphor and symbolism, know better. They understand that vampires are symbols of something—something many young people struggle with.

Imagine a society made up of two major groups. First are the hard-working, regular people who live in middle-class neighborhoods, go to work every day, raise families, sleep during the night (because they have to go to their job tomorrow), send their kids to school in order to get a good career in their adult lives, etc.

The second group in society is made up of a few people who have trust funds, inherited wealth, can get in trouble with the law but get out of it relatively easily, stay up through the night at fancy balls and dinners, then go home in the early morning and sleep late into the day, and have more power, wealth, fun and entertaining lives, and sophisticated connections with other aristocrats far beyond the local community—and even around the world.

The first group envies the second, while the aristocratic second group hardly gives a thought to their “inferiors.” Parents of both groups warn their children not to mix with the other group—because it inevitably causes many problems.

This clearly defines two things: 1) an aristocratic society, like all elite societies that have existed in human history, and 2) every group of vampires portrayed in literature, juvenile fiction, and in movies and TV programs.

But the literal classes mostly miss this symbolism. “Why do the kids like vampires?” the literal classes ask.

Some literal writers even try to explain how youth like to be scared, so they love the idea of biting strangers dressed in black. So literal. So shallow.

Answer: The kids don’t love actual vampires, they love the idea of rising into a higher class. In high school, this is a driving passion for many teenagers. If movies are to be believed, it’s the driving theme for most students in most high schools.

In such an environment, vampires are the shortcut to social success. If one bites you (dates you, likes you, includes you in his group, etc.) you immediately climb to a higher social class. The highest social class, in fact.

The one that has the money, the power, the mystery, and the worldwide connections (rather than the homegrown limits of the coal mines, a job at Blue Bell’s Rammer Jammer, or a lifetime of alumni fundraising for the Friday Night Lights).

The fact that many parents tell you to ignore the vampires (“Don’t worry about high school cliques, or being popular. It won’t even matter after you graduate.”) just adds to the intrigue.

Vampires are aristocrats. Elites. People with enough money, power and connections to ignore the limits most people and families struggle with—as youth, and also as adults.

The kids instinctively understand this, though their literal parents may not.

The Old Tool

This language barrier isn’t new.

In aristocratic Britain, the upper classes pronounced words differently than the lower and working classes—so elites would always know who they were dealing with. In fact, the pronunciations were literal (pronounce every syllable) versus symbolic (skip syllables, if you’ve been trained by other aristos and know what to look for).

For example, the word Worchester was pronounced “wor-ches-ter” by the lower classes, but simply “wis-ter” by the nobles. Or the name St. John was pronounced “Saint John” by working classes but “Sinjin” by nobility (see Jane Eyre). There are thousands of similar words.

This boils down to two classes, the Literal versus Symbolic. Checkers versus Chess. “Tell me the right answer, so you can pass the test and someday get a good job,” versus “Tell me your opinion, because there are many possible correct answers, and our purpose is to help you learn how to think—so you can become a leader.”

These are how public schools versus elite prep schools, respectively, generally teach.

The Price of the Literal

Facts versus Metaphor. Precision versus Imagery. One Meaning versus Poetic Allegory.

Again, the elite classes are well educated in both of these dialects. The problem is that the middle and lower classes are not. They only know the literal meanings of words.

This is a growing concern, because it causes increased divisions between the elites and the regular people. The masses don’t understand what is happening to their society, because they don’t speak the language of metaphor. When President Obama promised, “If you want to keep your doctor [under Obamacare], you can keep your doctor,” the two classes heard very different things.

The literal classes heard: “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Hearing this, they planned their family and business finances and voted accordingly.

The symbolic classes, trained in metaphor, heard the following: “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor, or at least one that is just as good; or, even if you can’t keep your doctor under the new plan, the nation will be better off, so it’s worth the change anyway.”

The symbolic class knows that political promises are rhetoric, meant to win elections—not meant to actually, literally be fulfilled. The literal class is slowly realizing that this is the case, but they still feel lied to by each new candidate. In reality, they just don’t understand metaphorical language.

A teacher I know once shared the following quote by Groucho Marx with her class: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” One student was very frustrated with this little proverb. When questioned, the student said emotionally, “This is so cruel to dogs. Why would anyone want to read inside of a dog?”

When the literal class doesn’t easily and immediately understand symbolism, it will lose its freedoms to the elite ruling class that does.

The Missed Symbols

I wonder what people will say about the book and movie popularity of Divergent. It is a great symbolic attack on the modern public school system and the way we choose careers and jobs in the U.S., Canada, and Europe—but I bet there will be a number of homeschoolers, charter school and non-traditional educators and parents who miss some key points.

First: this is not a book for youth; the intermittent suggested sensuality that is predictable and “natural” for youth in crisis who depend upon each other without family support is not suitable for most youth.

Second: this book is for adults, and it may be the best promotion for homeschooling and other cutting-edge, new educational choices since…well, ever.

If non-traditional education seizes this opportunity, there will be a lot of support for Divergent, because people will understand its symbolism: Each person is different, and each person has unique genius inside.

The purpose of education is to help each student discover and develop his or her inner genius and passion, and use it to improve and serve the world. When the focus is on making every child fit in, it’s not education at all. At best it’s training, at worst brainwashing.

This is the overarching message of Divergent—but will it be lost on the literal class? I hope not.

We all can benefit from including more symbolic thinking in our reading. It’s like a new mantra for 21st Century leadership: Read more, think more, serve more. And look for symbols and metaphor in everything you read.

Join Oliver for Mentoring in the Classics >>

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odemille Symbolic Language Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Aristocracy &Arts &Blog &Book Reviews &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Education &Family &Leadership &Liberty &Mission

Funny: Imagine a Different America

April 17th, 2014 // 8:01 am @

Joke for Thought

The column was a joke (literally).800px Red state blue state.svg  300x185 Funny: Imagine a Different America But in addition to being funny, it really says some very interesting things.

Written by Joel Stein in Time magazine (March 24, 2014), it is a blueprint for how the United States should break into two separate nations.

Consider some of what Stein wrote:

• “We should peacefully break into two countries, one made of red states and one of blue. The red one would still be called the United States of America, since it would otherwise have to alter the lyrics of every song its citizens know. The blue one would be renamed something racially inclusive and long and hard to remember. The Exceedingly Long-Named Country would be free to have the laws it has always griped about not being able to pass. Instead of guns, the cops would carry Change.org petitions.”

• “Once the blue states were their own country, they would develop a better appreciation for the South, as a foreign country they could visit when Mexico seemed like too much effort and Canada too little…. A place with the best breakfasts in the entire world. Where it’s easy to navigate since everyone speaks English, but figuring stuff out is still a bit of a fun challenge because, after all, it’s not really English. A place where you can shoot guns, drive cars with combustion engines and drink beer that isn’t painfully bitter—all at the same time.”

• “This split would in no way prevent Southerners [and Westerners] from vacationing up North for the same reasons they always have: they have relatives there and have no choice.”

Again, though meant as a joke, this describes some of the real differences between the Blue and Red states. Klein continues:

• “The South…could pass laws every month not to raise its debt ceiling since, let’s face it, no one is going to lend a Southerner money.” The North “could make environmental treaties with foreign nations about how to extract natural resources, since they’ll have no natural resources anyway.”

Very funny.

The Un-United States

What’s missing in Stein’s fictional proposal is how the southern red states and the western red states will get along. Since they won’t, they’ll just split too.

And what about the swing states? Florida, Ohio and West Virginia have a lot more in common with each other than most of their geographical neighbors, so maybe they’ll break away and create a fourth nation.

Colorado is part of the blue states anyway, so geography is already archaic in the new system.

But that’s just the beginning. Nevada and Utah are basically the opposite of each other, but Nevada is also the opposite of California—in a totally different way.

Nevada can’t co-exist well with either, but it can connect with Arizona and Montana.

Texas will probably want to its own nation. And that’s just the start…

Time to Stop Laughing

The more I think about it, the less funny it is. People who just want Washington to get along sometimes miss a key truth: the conflict in Washington is a lot less extreme than the conflict would be between capitol cities of competing nations.

As John Jay wrote in Federalist Paper 5:

“Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations…envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each…instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and disputes. [Afterwards], like most other bordering nations, they would always be…involved in disputes and wars [with each other].”

The result, Federalist 5 said, would be, first, that America would be weak against all its foreign enemies, and second, the new blocs of states would be dangerous “and formidable only to each other.”

Why Washington Feels Broken

Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and laugh at ourselves.

Yes, Washington can be a frustrating, angry, and dysfunctional place, but it could be a lot worse. Southern and Northern California could be two separate nations, for example. Or Michigan and Ohio. Atlanta and Athens, Georgia. Manhattan and the Bronx.

Talk about conflict. The thought makes Democrat versus Republican feel tame.

The U.S. is not, at it’s essence, federal. The Founders created the federal government as a national security entity that would protect, and loosely cobble together, thirteen distinct states.

When the federal government tries to homogenize fifty unique states, treating them with a one-size-fits-all mentality, the result is dysfunction.

Washington feels “broken” today because it is. It is trying to do something it was never designed for.

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odemille Funny: Imagine a Different America Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Blog &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Current Events &Foreign Affairs &Government &Politics

What Will You Be Doing After the Coming Crash?

April 3rd, 2014 // 6:01 pm @

After the Storm

What happens when a nation crashes? This is a fascinating question.Colosseum in Rome Italy   April 2007 300x176 What Will You Be Doing After the Coming Crash?

As people discuss the decline of nations comparisons are drawn to the fall of the Roman Empire or the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and so on.

But what happened in the years after these falls?

Of course, the first answer to this question is: that it depends on the severity of the crash or fall.

Every recession or depression, every big war or other calamity is, in a sense, a crash. In this way, 9/11 was a crash, as was the economic crisis of 2008-2010.

In setbacks like these, nations and people suffer, but they eventually get back on their feet.

After the stock market crash of 1929, the nation thought it was getting back to normal, slowly, for over a decade. Today we call this era the Great Depression, but at the time it didn’t look like the whole society had crashed. It hadn’t, though it certainly went through a very difficult time.

It wasn’t until Pearl Harbor, 12 years later, that the nation realized that almost everything and everyone would change.

The Three Types of Crash

After World War II, many things truly were different. We lived in a new nation, so to speak, with permanently altered values, economy, institutions, and vision for the future.

Some changes were arguably good for the nation, others not so much. The same kind of major fall/crash had occurred during the Civil War era and earlier at the time of the American Revolution.

Thus we have “serious” crashes of the Vietnam, Watergate, 9/11, and Great Recession variety, and also even more “major” crashes at the level of the Civil War and World War II.

If either type of crash comes at any point in the next decade, it will have a drastic influence on our lives, families, and national future.

When people speak of “the coming crash,” or “the crash,” in contrast, they usually seem to mean something more along the lines of the fall of Rome or the Ottomans—a truly world-shattering change, with the big powers almost shut down and other world players stepping up to fill the vacuum of power.

This third kind fall or crash is a Black Plague event, where a third of the population dies, or equivalent, and everything about the politics, economy and culture suffers drastic changes.

The Answer

So, now that we’ve defined three levels of crash events, how do we answer the original question? What will happen if we experience a crash or fall during the next decade? Answer:

  1. If we have a Minor crash event (e.g. recession, or 9/11 level), we will see an economic downturn, lots of layoffs and fewer jobs, many full-time jobs downgraded to part-time, less buying power due to inflation. The middle class will continue to shrink, and the lower classes will grow. Much U.S. capital will flee to international markets with better returns and less government red tape. Government programs and dependency will expand, and the gap between the wealthy and the rest will widen.
  2. If we witness a Major crash event (e.g. a great depression, a major war, etc.), we’ll experience everything in the list above, but two to five times more severe. It will be like a minor crash event but with a lot more impact.
  3. If we live through a Cataclysmic crash event (e.g. a Pompei-style natural disaster or a fall of Rome level collapse) it could go a number of directions. The results might be kept to major crash event levels with the right leadership, or they could be truly apocalyptic, where everyone goes back to farming and trading, or marauding, as their daily occupations.

Cycles and the Next Decade

It is interesting how many people—though still a minority—feel strongly that a Black Plague-level crash is coming soon to America. And of the people who reject this, who think this idea is extreme, it amazing how many of them fail to seriously consider how sure a Minor or even Major crash event is in the next ten years.

At the very least, a Minor level crash will happen. At least one such event will occur during the decade.

Why am I so sure? Because such an event occurs at least once during every decade. This is just the passage of history.

A Major level crash event might happen during the next decade—it is more likely than at any point since Pearl Harbor—but it might not.

If no such event transpires, the cycles of history predict that it will certainly happen sometime not too far in the future.

The third level, a true Cataclysm, is much harder to predict. Forecasters will call it highly unlikely right up until it happens, then it will seem obvious that it was coming all along. This pattern has repeated many times.

Part II

How does any of this information help us?

To begin with, it is at the very least interesting that when a Cataclysmic crash comes it turns everyone into farmers, entrepreneurs, or marauders. Maybe these are really the three ways of making a living, after all – in any society – even during peaceful times like ours.

This would mean that engineers, accountants, attorneys, teachers, and every other career are really one of the three—right now. Very enlightening, when you think about it.

Which is your focus? Which do you support in your daily efforts? This is extremely valuable information, because it helps you see what changes are needed now, before an upcoming crash event at any level.

Preparing for the Storm

Next, there are certain things we can do to prepare that will be extremely helpful in all three scenarios. This is where our focus should be, at least for most of us.

  • First, great education will help anyone think like a leader. This is hugely helpful in every possible scenario for the future. Those who have read the great classics, who understand the Great Conversation, who have cultivated the skills (mental, emotional, relational, and physical/practical) will know how to lead and what to do—whatever comes.The worse the crash, the more important the emotional, physical and practical skills.
  • Second, successful entrepreneurialism creates resources, builds connections and relationships, and fosters an environment where more people think and act like leaders.In difficult economic times, it will be those with effective entrepreneurial experience who help create jobs and products that turn things around. This is a proven law of history.
  • Third, getting involved at the local level, making connections with local leaders, is helpful in preparing for times of economic downturn or other potential disaster.When societies turn more to local leadership, your involvement and relationships can have a significant influence. Just attending city council, chamber of commerce, or other meetings of this kind can start this process. People nearly always underestimate their influence on a local level.

All three of these things will be much more effective if we start doing them before times of trouble. Those who wisely take action prior to difficult eras are the natural leaders when any level of crash/fall/downturn comes.

Winston Churchill called the time before World War II the “Calm Before the Storm.” Such a calm, like the world we now live in, doesn’t usually seem very calm at all.

But compared to what comes later, it is a time to prepare.

Are you taking advantage of this time? Specifically, how have your reading of great classics, your entrepreneurialism, and/or your community involvements increased in the last few months? How will they increase in the months ahead?

Leadership and wisdom are all about foresight, and taking action.

Whatever the future brings, these three ventures will make you a better leader, parent and friend in the times ahead.

FreedomShiftCover 200x300 What Will You Be Doing After the Coming Crash? For more on how “regular citizens” can preserve freedom, see Oliver’s book FreedomShift:

Americans who are so demonstrably willing to labor and sacrifice for the benefit of their posterity can only allow the destruction of the forms that protect our freedoms if they do not understand what freedom is, nor how to maintain it.

A FreedomShift is needed today; and to accomplish it, Oliver DeMille proposes The 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Can it be possible that such a peaceful revolution can be accomplished by three simple choices made by a relative few? 

Click here for more information >>

MIC badge 300x276 What Will You Be Doing After the Coming Crash? To get a whole new level of great leadership education, join our Mentoring in the Classics course, taught online twice monthly by Oliver DeMille. To learn more, click here >>

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odemille What Will You Be Doing After the Coming Crash? Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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The Cool Factor in Presidential Elections: Oliver DeMille

March 25th, 2014 // 2:34 pm @

Choosing a Candidate

I recently wrote:

“Americans elect the ‘cool’ candidate as president in the Entertainment Age. Carter was more cool than Ford, cl cah 243x300 The Cool Factor in Presidential Elections: Oliver DeMilleReagan was cooler than Carter and Mondale, Bush I was cooler than Dukakis but not as cool as Clinton, Clinton was cooler than Dole, Bush II was more cool than Gore and Kerry, and Obama was cooler than McCain and Romney.

“A simple ‘cool’ test (who is more likely to sing, dance, play the saxophone, fuel high school ambitions in the youth, etc.) would have accurately predicted every one of these elections. It’s high school musical at the White House. As for the 2016 presidential election, no potential candidate so far is nearly as ‘cool’ to a majority of the national electorate as Hillary Clinton. Nobody is even close.”

This thought touched a chord with many, and I’ve been asked to elaborate on it. So here goes.

The electorate wants a cool president, but one with at least a little experience in government. If Republicans are going to win the White House in 2016, they need a cool candidate — cooler than Hillary Clinton.

The 2016 Players

There is precedent for things moving quickly in presidential politics. Barack Obama wasn’t even on the national scene until 2005, three years before he won the presidency in 2008. Whoever can beat Clinton in 2016, needs to be elected to high office in 2014 (or before).

Some people think that one of the current Republican Governors or Senators can win in 2016, but no candidate has risen to a level of cool that will compete with Clinton.

Some conservatives try to deal with this by arguing that the electorate should change the way it chooses a president—and I agree—but this isn’t likely.

In current America, the “coolest” candidate will win. To date, the Republicans have nobody really cool in this sense.

By the way, a candidate doesn’t have to be actually cool, just cooler than the opponent. And Hillary Clinton is the standard for 2016. Arne Duncan is a close second for Democratic cool, with Timothy Shriver just behind.

That’s three Democrats that are cooler than any known Republican right now.

To get more specific, in the current electorate, winning the White House means being seen as the most cool candidate by women, Latinos, and independents. Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Sarah Palin are considered cool by many independents. Just as many independents like Hillary, however, and she also polls higher with Latinos and women.

Extreme Makeover: White House Edition

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush are considered cool by many Latinos, but not as cool as Clinton, and Hillary leads among women and independents. Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Mitt Romney are behind Clinton in all three of these swing groups.

The entire list of Republican potentials is seen as less cool than Hillary. If Republicans want to have any chance in 2016, either some new face needs to rise in 2014, or a past leader who can project as genuinely cool needs to effectively re-enter the fray.

For example, Scott Brown might be able to pull it off. Condoleezza Rice might compete well with Clinton, if she could get through the Republican primaries (she won’t).

Jon Huntsman might present himself as cool—more dirt bike and less boring policy wonk—but he’d need a public makeover. A lot of those listed above, including Rand Paul, will need such a makeover if they want to compete with Hillary. Ben Carson or any other newcomer would have to act now.

It’s way too early to call a national election, of course, but if Republicans don’t raise up a cool leader in 2014 who can compete for the White House in 2016, the executive election is all but over already.

Since this person hasn’t yet caught the national attention, 2014 is the last chance for them to win an election.

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odemille The Cool Factor in Presidential Elections: Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Are You Part of TV World (A Different Way to Get the News)

March 21st, 2014 // 12:01 pm @

Where to Look

I keep getting asked what I read to study current events. I actually taught a whole class on this recently—and it’s still available.tv 300x225 Are You Part of TV World (A Different Way to Get the News) By taking this class, you’ll get the real scoop on the best current events publications.

In this article, I’ll just share the Cliff’s Notes version. Read Foreign Affairs, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and The Economist.

There. That’s it.

Enjoy.

But there is a deeper way to think about this. To begin, there is actually a bit of a problem with the question itself: “What should I read to study current events?” The real answer is, “Everything.” Read a lot. If you’re conservative, read conservative and liberal publications. If you’re liberal, read liberal and conservative periodicals. You can’t study current events from one political view—not if you want to really know what’s happening.

Compare and Contrast

This goes for television and radio as well. When I watch a certain event to see how it is reported in the news, I always see what MSNBC and Fox News both have to say. Then I watch CNN and one of the networks, usually ABC or CBS, for their views as well. Bloomberg Television, C-Span, and PBS news shows often add interesting nuances.

But reading is better than watching. The NY Times and Wall Street Journal are fun to compare. USA Today and various online thought leaders share vital out-of-the-box insights. I could go on and on. Read. Read a lot. Read more.

But that’s only half of the message. The other half is a bit counter-intuitive, but it is still very important.

One of the problems with looking for one or two publications to read is that it limits us to one or two publications. This brings us to the main point: It is a major problem when we only get our news from news outlets.

To really know what’s going on in our world, you have to get beyond the news. Behind the news, under the news. You have to feel what the people are feeling, and dig to get a sense of what is happening in their culture. Their daily lives.

Culture and Events

To do this, I read lots of non-news publications. They are incredibly insightful. I read men’s magazines (like Men’s Health, Esquire, GQ, etc.), women’s magazines (Vanity Fair, More, Good Housekeeping, etc.), variety magazines (Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Via), cultural magazines (The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Harper’s, etc.), specialty magazines (Harvard Business Review, Guns and Ammo, Yoga Journal, etc.), science magazines (Psychology Today, Prevention, Popular Science, etc.), and more. These teach as much about current events as any news publication.

For example, I like to go to Barnes and Noble and grab a copy of Yoga Journal, Guns and Ammo, Entertainment Weekly, and Harvard Business Review. Then I read the main articles in each, in one sitting. It’s fascinating. These four publications are written to very different audiences, as you might have gathered, and they use different vocabularies, examples, assumptions, and writing styles. Yet all are quality publications with important articles. Add TV Guide to these four and you’ve got a manual on current America—like it or not.

Together they give the reader a cross-section insight into current events, much more than you could get by concurrently reading a top conservative magazine (say, The Weekly Standard) and liberal periodical (for example, The Nation). The ads in each of these four magazines listed above teach almost as much, sometimes more, than the articles. Reading non-news publications along with news is the key to really understanding current events.

Take off the Rose Glasses

Really. It is important, however, to read them differently than typical readers. Don’t read non-news periodicals looking for literal news. Read them to see what things they talk about that are newsworthy. Read like an anthropologist, looking for interesting trends and groups in modern society that could influence the world.

And think, think deeply, while you read. What does each article say (implicitly as well as explicitly) about our modern society? What trends does it portend? What assumptions does each author make about our current world, and what does this tell you about our culture?

Become a voracious reader. Turn TV World into Thinking World, at least in your own life. Oh, and ask the same kinds of questions when/if you watch television. We live in an Information Age, but we need more people who treat it like a Thinking Age.

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odemille Are You Part of TV World (A Different Way to Get the News) Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Blog &Culture &Current Events &Education &Generations &Information Age &Statesmanship

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