Hi loyal readers, and thank you for opening today’s issue of The Highlighter. Unless you live off the grid, which lately has become more appealing to me, you couldn’t escape news stories this week debating whether teachers should return to school next month. It’s a fair and important question. But I
Hi loyal readers, and thank you for opening today’s issue of The Highlighter. Unless you live off the grid, which lately has become more appealing to me, you couldn’t escape news stories this week debating whether teachers should return to school next month. It’s a fair and important question. But I noticed fewer stories in my feed that included the experiences of students. This week’s lead article, “The Test Of Their Lives,” tells the story of four San Francisco high school students and how they navigated distance learning in the Spring. No, the piece won’t magically give us the answers to our current questions. But it might offer perspective and help to keep young people at the center as we make key decisions.
Also in this week’s issue, you’ll find articles on the dangers of facial recognition technology and the benefits of having authentic conversations with voters. And if you happen to be in the mood for listening over reading, give the “This Land” podcast a chance. I think you’ll appreciate it.
+ I’d love to hear from you — especially if we’ve never met or you’ve never shared your thoughts before. If an article or podcast resonated with you, please let me know. All you need to do is hit reply!
As Los Angeles, Houston, and other major districts have decided to begin the school year in distance learning, this touching profile of four students at Burton High School in San Francisco and their quest last Spring to pass the AP World History examination reminded me of the resilience of young people and the massive challenges that they face. On what motivates him to persist, student Jonathan Tran says, “I want my baby sister to grow up without any stress, without having to move because we’re pretty close to being homeless — anything like that, I want to shield her from.”
Without treading too far down the saviorism path, education reporter Laura Meckler credits teacher Eirik Nielsen’s resolve as well. He presents rigorous lessons, maintains high expectations, and doesn’t let distance learning get in the way of his commitment to students. (23 min)
Malkia Devich-Cyril: “Black faces have long been considered a threat by American law enforcement. It’s discomforting, even dystopian, to think that when I step out of my home to exercise my constitutional right to protest, I will encounter a system that seems hell-bent on ending my life. My Black face can be identified, verified, and tracked without my consent or knowledge. My mother survived the surveillance of the FBI’s counterintelligence program as a civil-rights activist in the 1960s. As a second-generation Black activist, I’m tired of being spied on by the police.” (17 min)
For more than a year, this podcast series had languished in my queue, beckoning me to listen. But last week’s landmark Supreme Court decision, McGirt v. Oklahoma, finally got me unstuck, and I immediately binge-listened its eight episodes. What seems at first glance a simple story of a murder case becomes an inquiry into the long-standing treaty rights of five Native American tribes — and nearly half of Oklahoma. Host Rebecca Nagle, a citizen of Cherokee Nation, does a great job telling the story. (~240 min)
Most political scientists agree that the way to win elections is by mobilizing your base. There’s no point in trying to woo swing voters, because for the most part, nobody actually switches sides. But Aaron Vasquez and other advocates of “deep canvassing” believe that listening to people (without judgment) and telling personal and vulnerable stories (skip the facts, please) can make a difference, especially in local elections, and particularly in rural environments. (16 min)
+ What do you think? Is this method better than registering new voters and urging them to the polls?
+ Reader Annotations: VIP member Phoebe was pleased that Viet Thanh Nguyen’s essay led last week’s newsletter and shared these thoughts:
Asian Americans usually don’t figure into the greater discussion of race in America. As an Asian American, I always struggle with finding my place in the race discussion, and it has been particularly difficult this year. First came the increasingly overt anti-Asian sentiment that was especially unleashed by Covid, and then the complicated jumble of feelings about where I fit into the discussion of racism in America after George Floyd was killed. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s article was the best articulation that I’ve read about those complicated feelings. Thanks for highlighting it!
Thank you for sharing your reflection, Phoebe. Loyal readers, if an article this week resonated with you, go ahead, please tell me about it. All you need to do is hit reply!
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