And just like that, it’s June! Welcome to The Highlighter #95. For this week’s edition, I decided to feature articles from publications that most of us may not read regularly. The first, an explanatory piece about charter schools, comes from Ed ., Harvard Graduate School of Education’s alumni
And just like that, it’s June! Welcome to The Highlighter #95. For this week’s edition, I decided to feature articles from publications that most of us may not read regularly. The first, an explanatory piece about charter schools, comes from Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education’s alumni magazine. The second, a stark warning about our current political climate, comes from the Los Angeles Review of Books. After the photo break, which honors cherry season, the third article, a memoir / how-to manual, is from Catapult, which features emerging writers. The last article, an account of last year’s wildfire in the Smoky Mountains, is from Garden & Gun Magazine, which celebrates “the modern South.” I hope you enjoy reading a few of these pieces, and please let me know what you think!
Though it highlights Massachusetts, this article includes a solid general history of charter schools in the United States, plus explains why they’ve become even more controversial recently. One tension that emerges: Are charter schools “public?” This piece thinks so, as do I (mainly), but then points out that 80 percent of Michigan’s charter schools are run by for-profit organizations. That bothers me. What also bothers me is the argument that charter schools somehow have destroyed public education, or have promoted resegregation, or have decimated teacher unions. Nope, nope, nope. On the other hand, charter schools are by no means the solution, either. In my mind, the challenge of public education is whether we believe in a public in the first place.
Speaking of the public, picking up where Masha Gessen left off (#67, #75), Roger Berkowitz discusses how an isolated, lonely populace can lead to an autocratic leader and a totalitarian mass movement. Reviewing The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt, Mr. Berkowitz argues that manipulative tyrannical leaders offer a fictional stability to people who seek meaning in their lives. He quotes Ms. Arendt: “What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the ever-growing masses of our century.” Scary stuff. Check out parts I, II, and VI of this long review.
Please tell me if I should like this essay. Written by Porochista Khakpour, this memoir is delivered machine gun style, all in second person — or more accurately, in the imperative form, if my interpretation is correct. (The ending got me thinking.) Ms. Khakpour makes you feel ill at ease, alienated, as she did growing up Iranian-American in Los Angeles and trying to make it as a writer in New York. But she also offers a how-to manual of sorts for marginalized writers to make it despite the odds and the struggle to write about (or not write about) “what you know.”
Six months ago in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a small fire, likely started by teenagers playing with matches while on a hike, burst out of control, killing 14 people and destroying thousands of homes. It was the worst wildfire the Smoky Mountains had suffered in more than one hundred years. Justin Heckert, who knows how to write, features the people who narrowly escaped the fire and honors those who perished in the blaze.
Hope you enjoyed today’s issue! Thank you very much for subscribing to The Highlighter and for spreading the word about the digest. We’re coming up on the 100th edition pretty soon, which is pretty great, and which means maybe we should start thinking of a major celebration, don’t you think? Please let me know if you have ideas. Should there be prizes for serious subscribers? In the meantime, have a great week, and I’ll see you next Thursday at 9:10 am, the last day of school around here!