Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here. Like me, many of you are educators. So it makes sense that you may have subscribed to this newseltter thinking I’d be sending high-quality and thought-provoking education-related articles your way. But at last count, in The Highlight
Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here.
Like me, many of you are educators. So it makes sense that you may have subscribed to this newseltter thinking I’d be sending high-quality and thought-provoking education-related articles your way. But at last count, in The Highlighter’s almost-7-year history, just 14 percent (191 of 1,362) of the pieces have focused on education. Why? Though I’m sure there are many reasons, I mostly blame the pandemic. After all, who wants to read more doom-and-gloom articles about the doom-and-gloom we’re already experiencing firsthand?
But something has been shifting of late. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I’m coming across more outstanding articles about education. Is it maybe the light at the end of the tunnel? Or perhaps we have some distance now? Whatever it is, I am happy to devote today’s issue to education, as I was two weeks ago.
Now it’s time to choose your own adventure:
- Want the big picture view? Lead article all the way. (This is the one I recommend the most. Besides, it’s by Jill Lepore.)
- Tired of reading? Never fear. I’ve got a podcast for you, number two.
- Want to be disgusted? That’s the third article.
- Want something positive for a change? Head to the bottom.
Please enjoy, and let me know what you think! All you need to do is hit reply. Thank you very much for reading The Highlighter.
Parents banning books, protesting mask mandates, and decrying Critical Race Theory in schools are not just advocating for “parental rights,” argues historian Jill Lepore in this thought-provoking article. Rather, they are waging a campaign against public education altogether.
Prof. Lepore compares today’s school wars with those of the 1920s, in which Southern states, most notably in the Scopes Trial, fought to make the teaching of evolution unlawful. Another campaign to reject the Progressive era’s tenets and to limit the power of public schools came after Brown v. Board, when white segregationists advocated for “school choice” so their kids wouldn’t have to learn alongside Black children.
With the rise of charter schools and homeschooling, and with the pandemic further decimating traditional public schools, Prof. Lepore wonders if the free-market values of neoliberalism have triumphed, leaving behind public education’s dedication to a “bigger sense of covenant, toleration, and obligation.” (22 min)
+ More: “A functioning democracy needs citizens who know how to make decisions together,” writes George Packer in this essay that I’m not sure I agree with entirely.
We know that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on young people’s academic achievement and mental health. But with teachers quitting and families opting out, is school as we’ve known it over forever? That’s the question Chana Joffe-Walt explores in this outstanding episode of This American Life. You’ll meet fifth grader Neeah, whose mom prefers she stay home all day, alone, rather than getting in trouble at school. And you’ll follow eighth grader Maricela, who is back at school and ready to graduate, despite missing most of her middle school experience. (69 min)
+ Appreciation to loyal reader Melissa for making sure I listened to this outstanding episode.
Piedmont is an affluent, mostly white and Asian town, situated inside but separate from Oakland, where high school boys a decade ago formed a fantasy league in which they drafted girls and tracked their sex acts for points. In this well-reported story, graduate Lena Crown looks back on the impact of the FSL and wonders if the league was “harmless teenage hijinks” or an example of toxic masculinity. One boy said, “Gossip about people hooking up was inherently interesting to me.” (41 min)
In the daytime, the gym at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 Community School is like most across America: filled with students playing basketball and participating in physical education. But at night, the gym transforms into a shelter for young people and their families experiencing homelessness. Regarded as the first long-term, school-based shelter in the country, the Stay Over Program served 180 families in 2020. Educators at the school report that kids in the program are rested, fed, on time, and ready to learn. This is great news for a school district with an otherwise shaky reputation. (24 min)
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