Sep 30, 2021 4 min read

#313: Back To School 📚 🏫 🎓 👨‍🏫

#313: Back To School 📚 🏫 🎓 👨‍🏫

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here. If you’re an educator, or if you’re a parent, or if you know an educator or a parent, you know that this new school year has been rough so far. Young people are returning to classrooms with heightened anxiety and trauma. Many teacher

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here.

If you’re an educator, or if you’re a parent, or if you know an educator or a parent, you know that this new school year has been rough so far. Young people are returning to classrooms with heightened anxiety and trauma. Many teachers have left the profession, and positions remain unfilled. For the most part, salary schedules haven’t budged. Substitutes aren’t showing up. And like they always do, dedicated educators are working long hours, doing their best to provide young people a meaningful experience. Many of those educators are you. I appreciate you.

This week’s issue focuses on education. I highly recommend the lead article, “The Tragedy of America’s Rural Schools,” which makes clear that many of our young people have faced intractable structural challenges for a long time, well before the pandemic. If the state of rural schools doesn’t concern you, you may appreciate pieces on why the “acting white” myth won’t die, how men continue to disappear from college campuses, and how the master’s degree, for the most part, is a bad idea economically. Please enjoy!

+ If you’re a white parent who lives in Oakland (or Brooklyn, or somewhere similar), I recommend Learning In Public, by Courtney Martin. In this cringey but well-written book, Ms. Martin gets vulnerable (i.e., overshares) about her decision to send her daughter to the local “global-majority school” in her neighborhood. Here’s a review, and here’s a good podcast episode. If you read it and want to talk about it, let me know. (But please, spare your BIPOC friends.) (I might ask Ms. Martin to participate in Article Club.)

The Tragedy Of America’s Rural Schools

The Tragedy Of America’s Rural Schools

Harvey Ellington is a junior at Holmes County Central High School in Lexington, Mississippi, and he wants a better education. “I have laid out some ideas and changes I want to see,” he writes in an email to the superintendent. He wants a teacher for all his classes. (They make $44,000 on average.) He wants a debate club (or, really, any club – his school doesn’t have any). At some point before he graduates, he’d like to go on his first field trip, and he’d like to cheer for his school’s football team on a playable field. He’d like ventilation in his classrooms.

In this touching, devastating article, Casey Parks follows Mr. Ellington as he advocates for himself and his peers, while trying to keep up hope. He’s one of 9.3 million children in the country who attend rural schools, largely disconnected from social-service agencies and forgotten by state and federal policymakers.

Ms. Parks writes, “Ellington’s mom told him once that the district was in disrepair when she graduated in 1997. Whole generations of Holmes students had suffered the way Ellington had, and it pained the boy to think his brothers might inherit the same broken system. Sitting in the gym, sweating through his school uniform, Ellington told himself to hold on to the bit of hope he had left. His brothers were still young, though. Maybe, he thought, there would be time enough for them.” (41 min)

Nerds Come In All Colors

Linguist John McWhorter still talks about it: Black students underperform academically to avoid being labeled by their peers as “acting white.” Based on old, debunked research by UC Berkeley professor John Ogbu, this myth has seen a resurgence as conservatives decry Critical Race Theory. Let’s be clear, we cannot do this anymore, says Jenée Desmond-Harris in this clear essay from 2017. “All racial groups have nerds,” she writes, and it’s time for white educators to interrupt their colleagues’ uninformed racist thinking. (12 min)

Last week’s HHH #14 sold out quickly and was a huge hit, thanks to loyal reader Laura and VIP Trevor. Thank you all for coming!

‘I Just Feel Lost’: A Generation of American Men Give Up On College

The statistics are staggering: Men now account for only 40 percent of college students, the highest gender achievement gap in history. Given that men also have a lower graduation rate, women soon will earn their degrees at a rate of two to one. Experts predict the trend will likely not reverse. “I would say I feel hazy,” said 23-year-old Jay Wells, who quit Defiance College after a semester. Admissions officers don’t want to talk about it, but they’re considering affirmative action for men. (15 min)

+ If you hit a paywall: Here’s a copy you can access.

The Master’s Trap

Sure, dropping out of college is not a good idea, but is getting a higher degree still worth it? Be careful, writes Anne Helen Petersen, and beware of elite universities like Columbia and the University of Chicago promising big returns for big money. In this piece, Ms. Petersen answers the question, What makes a graduate program predatory? One tip: If the tuition is $62,640, think twice. (11 min)

+ “I was financially hobbled for life,” says Matt Black, a 36-year-old writer who completed his master’s program $233,000 in debt.

Thank you

for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Did you enjoy it? Let me know by clicking on “Yes” or ”No” below. I like hearing from you.

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