Hi there and welcome to The Highlighter #121! This week’s articles center on themes I’ve followed in previous issues of the newsletter: urban education, gentrification, journalism, and death. If you care about education, I highly recommend the lead article. It’s best read after listening to Code Switch’s four-part series on Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, which captivated many of you. Please reach out if you want to talk about the article.
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Last year, every single graduating senior at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. got accepted to college. Not bad, right? This exposé by NPR and WAMU’s Kate McGee begs to differ. Half of the seniors missed three months of school or more and still graduated. If you’re trending cynical about public education, this article will stoke your fire. Examples: students getting 50 percent on assignments they didn’t turn in, administrators urging teachers to pass students who rarely attended, hordes of students milling about in the gym instead of going to class, students taking credit recovery classes on computers as the norm, district officials (like former Oakland superintendent Antwan Wilson) spouting low-expectations gobbledygook. One reaction is to get angry and cast blame. Another is to acknowledge these practices happen everywhere. ⏳⏳
If you live in the Bay Area, you remember the protests against corporate buses that began in late-2013. This well-written reflection by Min Li Chan, who worked at Google, offers a perspective from a tech worker’s point of view. (Ms. Chan suggests that the term “techie” is pejorative.) The piece is naïve and defensive at points, particularly at the beginning, but if you keep reading, you’ll reach Ms. Chan’s point: When protesting gentrification, othering your opponent isn’t helpful and won’t solve the problem. ⏳⏳
My high school newspaper adviser Nick Ferentinos taught me the rights and responsibilities of the free press. The most important responsibility was making sure we got the facts right. The Washington Post passed that challenge this week as Project Veritas tried a sting operation to discredit the Post. If you haven’t seen this video of reporter Stephanie McCrummen and her professional questioning of scammer Jaime Phillips, please watch. While you’re at it, check out these 58 feel-good journalism movies, thanks to loyal subscriber Jessica. ⏳
I keep featuring articles about death (#4, #15, #52, #66, #80, #109) to remind me of the gift of life. This poignant and intimate piece by Karen Brown, of her father’s death from pancreatic cancer, captures well the quotidian events that occur in the last days of our lives. After Ms. Brown’s father chooses to end dialysis, he drinks coffee, watches TV, has Faulkner read to him, listens to birds, and snuggles one last time with his daughter. ⏳
Thank you for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter! Share your thoughts below by giving this issue a thumbs-up or -down. Also, please welcome our new subscribers: Grace, Michele, Colm, William, Heather, Lois, Corey, Mark, Cindy, and Philippe! Tell your friends and family about The Highlighter by forwarding them this issue, sending them a link to subscribe, or encouraging them to check out the website! Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you again next Thursday at 9:10 am.