Most Popular Articles (So Far) of 2019


Loyal subscribers of The Highlighter are discerning readers. Here are the favorite articles so far of 2019. Read one or all of them!

Confronting Racism Is Not About the Needs and Feelings of White People

Highlighter favorite Ijeoma Oluo is back, this time sharing her painful experiences leading anti-racism workshops. Often, conversations on racial equity center white voices, white tears, and white fragility — thereby attacking the dignity of people of color. Ms. Oluo writes, “The white attendees decide for themselves what will be discussed, what they will hear, what they will learn. And it is their space. All spaces are.” (6 min) (Issue #188) (99)

How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation

A year ago (#124), I featured the article, “Millennials Are Screwed,” which challenged stereotypical notions that millennials are lazy and spend too much money on avocado toast. This provocative article by Anne Helen Petersen offers a theory about why millennials have trouble doing errands, registering to vote, and preparing food. They’re burned out from adulting because they’ve spent all their energy optimizing their lives. (34 min) (Issue #175) (97)

The Problem With Growth Mindset

All good theories in education eventually get debunked. Or at least things seem that way. A few examples: the marshmallow test, the 30-million word gap, the 10,000-hour rule, and my favorite, grit. Now growth mindset, which focuses on the malleability of intelligence, might be on the chopping block. Apparently 30 years of research by psychologist Carol Dweck is not showing up in the same way in classrooms across the country. Prof. Dweck says educators are oversimplifying her theory, misappropriating growth mindset as the new self-esteem. This is likely true; after all, educators do enjoy repeating buzzwords over and over again. (15 min) (Issue #184) (63)

Rich Techie Is Surprised When He Finds Out It’s Not Easy to Improve Education

Usually what happens when rich parents don’t want to send their kid to the local public school is that they opt for private school. Not ex-Googler Max Ventilla. His answer was to found AltSchool, a network of private schools that focuses on personalized learning using a software platform. In this scathing profile, reporter Susan Adams details the failure of AltSchool, making Mr. Ventilla look ridiculous in pretty much every paragraph. (15 min) (Issue #179) (59)

White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots

When white men killed Black churchgoers in Charleston and Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh, most Americans called these acts un-American. But in this outstanding article, Adam Serwer argues that white nationalismis deeply rooted in the American experience. One hundred years ago, the eugenics movement advocated white superiority, Congress banned immigration, and Madison Grant worried about white genocide in The Passing of the Great Race, a book Adolf Hitler loved. In fact, Mr. Serwer writes, Nazis studied American slavery and Jim Crow and marveled how the United States could construct a mirage of equality while at the same time promote white supremacy. (21 min) (Issue #185) (59)

Capitalism Made Millennials This Way

The Highlighter #175 established that millennials are burned out because they’re always busy optimizing their lives. But what’s the root cause of all this self-improvement? The answer is unremitting, unflinching capitalism, according to Malcolm Harris, author of the new book, Kids These Days. Over the past century, neoliberal beliefs, which have elevated the market over the self, have created institutions promising young people power if they invest in their own human capital (e.g., college, student debt) and commodify themselves (e.g., branding, selfies). The problem is, these institutions (e.g., health care, home ownership) no longer work. But getting rid of them would disrupt The Olds. Keeping them is no better. (27 min) (Issue #178) (58)

How Journalism Maintains White Supremacy

In News for All the People, Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres write, “For more than 250 years, the nation’s news media, no matter how politically liberal, conservative, or radical, no matter what class they purported to represent, remained the press of its white population.” This sobering article chronicles the history of journalism — from the penny press to wire services to cable network conglomerates to YouTube — and argues convincingly that the press has remained complicit in the maintenance of white supremacy. Newsrooms are still overwhelmingly white. Reporters call racist acts “racially tinged” and amplify the voices of white nationalists. Meanwhile, at the same time Maggie Habermanwrites stories that may oust our current president, her newspaper may prefer, in order to sell subscriptions, that our current president stay in power. (20 min) (Issue #183) (56)

Fixer Upper America

Were you a fan of Fixer Upper, the popular HGTV show where Chip and Joanna Gaines renovated homes in Waco, Texas, with a farmhouse-chic aesthetic of wainscoting and shiplap? Even if you have no clue what I’m talking about, trust me, you’ll want to read this article. Anne Helen Petersen(#175) charts how the Gaineses spun Fixer Upper into Magnolia, a massive home decor company that has teamed up with Antioch Community Churchto convert the once-sleepy town into a tourist mecca. They call this “restoration of Waco” a major success. But in a town that’s 21 percent Black, 32 percent Latino, and 27 percent poor, what exactly does restoration mean? One resident said, “They want to come in and fix me. Fix us. But you know what? We’re not broken.” (39 min) (Issue #190) (53)

Emmett Till’s Murder, and How America Remembers Its Darkest Moments

Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market, where Emmett Till was accused of whistling at a white woman, before two white men kidnapped and lynched him in 1955, still stands, barely, in Money, Mississippi. The Emmett Till Memorial Commission wants to restore the market. The family of Ray Tribble, who sat on the jury that acquitted the white men, and who currently owns the market, does not. (8 min) (Issue #182) (50)

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