Before there was an Internet

As a young person in the 1970s, I was obsessed with the idea of knowing. I wanted to know facts. I wanted to be able to walk through my world and be able to understand what was going on, and be able to describe it. So it was an amazing moment when I discovered the World Almanac. A book of facts, all smushed together for a young geek to digest! Needless to say, I spent hours poring over the state birds, important people, science facts, and U.S. statistics. Okay, maybe not so much the last one, but I knew it was there. I honestly bought that almanac every year.

world almanac, sup examinerFast forward to 2018, and the World Almanac is still here. It almost feels like an artifact in this time of instant access. However nothing is further from the truth. One of the main problems of internet research is reliability. How do you know whether the information you’re reading about is fact? Vetted information is critical for any researcher, and while we now how more information available to us than ever before, it’s very validity is in question. As a teacher, I can attest that one of the most important skills we teach our kids is how to find reliable information.

This is where the World Almanac comes into its own. The 2018/150th Anniversary edition comes is about a 1000 pages of facts, all curated for reliability. For fans of sports, there’s a huge new section with all the statistics you could want. There’s also a political review, quite useful in these whirlwind times when stories appear and dissipate overnight. Sections on consumer information (colleges, business directories), the arts, and the world are also great for perusing.

Why read the World Almanac?

It could be argued that in this day of the internet, all these facts are readily available already. Maybe so. On the other hand, there is no website that’s gathered all this information under one roof. It’s also hard to find a website as reliable as the World Almanac. The information may not be as current as the latest news site, but that’s the point. The Almanac is print, which means it isn’t ephemeral. It stays on your shelf and doesn’t require power. Often too there’s an inverse relationship between reliability and immediacy. The World Almanac errs on the side of accuracy. It may be slow and unsexy, but in this era of disputed facts, accuracy is a really good thing.

So gather ‘round kids! Check out what we used to read before them smartphones and Wikipedia things. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two. And when your teacher asks you where you got your facts in your latest research paper, you can proudly say, “I got it from the Almanac!”

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Ian Berger

Ian Berger grew up in love with the ocean, so discovering stand up paddling was a bit of revelation. Once he bought his first paddleboard, he realized this was the sport for him. Ian Berger lives in Peekskill, NY with his wife Kirsten and three children. He teaches middle school English and drama, and also has a passion for writing, which he shares with his students. Every morning Ian wakes up to write — sometimes science fiction or comic Young Adult novels, sometimes plays, but very often about stand up paddling. The Hudson River is his home turf, and you can usually find him there when the weather is good.