Jan 23, 2020 4 min read

#227: Facial Recognition

#227: Facial Recognition

We’ve reached Issue #227, which means I get to write about, and you get to find out about, one of my favorite TV shows growing up, 227 (1985-90), starring Marla Gibbs and Jackée Harry . Here’s the theme song, “ No Place Like Home ,” in case you’re having a tough Thursday morning. You’re welcome. Don

We’ve reached Issue #227, which means I get to write about, and you get to find out about, one of my favorite TV shows growing up, 227 (1985-90), starring Marla Gibbs and Jackée Harry. Here’s the theme song, “No Place Like Home,” in case you’re having a tough Thursday morning. You’re welcome.

Done listening? If so, get ready for some thought-provoking articles on the dangers of facial recognition software, the inequities of school funding, the effects of a powerful piece of writing, and the social benefits of knitting in public. If your time is limited this week, I’d recommend “Facial Recognition,” for its comprehensive look at yet another aspect of technology that may ruin our lives. Enjoy!

+ Let’s congratulate Gena, the winner of the Just Mercy Giveaway! Thank you for encouraging Bob to subscribe. For her hard work, Gena gets two free tickets to the movie. (Bob, did you know about this? Are you upset that you don’t get any tickets?)

Facial Recognition

Facial Recognition

There are plenty of things that I worry about (e.g., climate change, the next presidential election), but until I read this outstanding article, the impact of facial recognition software wasn’t one of them. My typical behavior was to skip articles like these and bury my head in the sand.

But putting together this newsletter pushes me to read past my comfort zone. I’m grateful that I found this set of short pieces from The California Sunday Magazine. They clearly explain the history of facial recognition, how computers recognize faces, how the technology is (mis)used in law enforcement, how its expansion threatens privacy, and how facial recognition is subjecting Black people to even more surveillance. (24 min)

+ Check out the flowcharts at the end, which offer tips on avoiding surveillance online, at work, at the airport, and in public.

No More School Districts

The root of educational equality, argues Kevin Carey, is that rich school districts want to hoard their resources, and nothing stops them. This article offers an outstanding history of how school districts developed into what they are now (answer: racism) and how the 14th Amendment has offered no recourse (San Antonio v. Rodriguez, Milliken v. Bradley), given that education is not a fundamental right. Unfortunately, Mr. Carey’s solutions won’t work, either. (27 min)

Moti, who belongs to loyal reader Shelley, enjoys his large and comfortable couch, a spacious respite from his otherwise hectic life. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter? hltr.co/pets

Four Hundred Years Of Harsh History Delivered In 8,000 Unflinching Words

Since the publication of The 1619 Project last August, Nikole Hannah-Jones has received praise and faced criticism for her work to reframe the founding of American history as the year 1619, not 1776. In this interview, Ms. Hannah-Jones reflects on the process of conceiving and writing her essay. We learn, for example, that structure is a challenge for her and that she skips outlining and starts with her gut. Her advice to writers? “If you want to do great, beautiful writing, you have to read great, beautiful writing.” (19 min)

+ Also by Ms. Hannah-Jones: “Choosing A School For My Daughter In A Segregated City (#46).

In Defense Of Public Knitting

Despite knitting’s history of activism, the practice remains mostly a private pursuit. But Aleesha Paz reminds us that “there’s power in the way we inhabit public space” and urges knitters to take their needles to the streets — not necessarily to protest, but rather to “turn sedentary spaces into places of creativity, productivity, and mindfulness.” As public spaces continue to disappear, Ms. Paz argues, we need to find ways to build community and exchange our ideas and passions. (14 min)

+ Reader Annotations: Loyal reader Gail connected with last week’s article, “Quit the News Cycle,” and shared this reflection:


That’s perfectly stated, Gail. Thank you for your contribution. Loyal readers, if an article in today’s newsletter got you thinking, hit reply and let me know.

Unfortunately, that’s it for this week. Don’t be too sad. Did you find at least one article that engaged your interest? I hope so. Please vote using the thumbs below. Also, let’s welcome our reading community’s four new subscribers: Raquel, Morgan, Peter, and Bob. I hope that you find this newsletter a welcome addition to your Thursday email inbox.

If you like The Highlighter, please help it grow and get better. I appreciate your support. Here are a few ways you can help:

On the other hand, if the newsletter is not a great match for your inbox, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am!

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