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Ezra Klein Is Transforming Education

Journalists have replaced teachers as the curators of expertise.
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Ezra Klein in 2007 as a Washington Post blogger. (Photo: Matthew Yglesias/Flickr)

Ezra Klein in 2007 as a Washington Post blogger. (Photo: Matthew Yglesias/Flickr)

The future of journalism is education. The future of education is journalism. All occupations struggle with innovation. Short of grabbing your sabot and throwing it into the server, what's a print journalist to do in an age of digital? Ezra Klein, paying tuition for self-education:

I think back to myself as a college student, about how much I wanted to know and how little I actually knew. When I started reading the news—after 9/11 is when I began to pay attention—for a long time I only understood 45 percent of every article. There was so much encoded around what it meant to say “Senate minority leader Tom Daschle.” I just didn’t have associations with that. After a couple of months, I got up to 55 percent, and after a year 65 percent.

It’s very frustrating to feel that dumb. So that’s a real sweet spot for us. Now we have this thing I can put inside every story that tells them everything they want to know.

To help others overcome the frustration of feeling dumb, Klein didn't go on to be a professor. He took the journalism world by storm as a blogger. Success in hand, he moved on to his life's work: education.

When I was college student (back in the late 1980s and early '90s), undergraduates were information illiterate. When I taught courses as a graduate student (late 1990s), undergraduates were still illiterate. I felt that teaching how to critically read a newspaper was more important than the subject of geography. What good did the knowledge do if the student couldn't use it to actively engage a Washington Post story?

Klein's review of his Vox venture vindicates my pedagogical pivot. Don't make journalism better. Make journalism's audience better. Vox teaches readers how to critically engage the Washington Post.

To consume media is to learn. Klein, as a journalist, takes an active role in that process. That makes him a teacher, a better one than I was.

Jim Russell, a geographer studying the relationship between migration and economic development, writes regularly for Pacific Standard.