Newsletter #163: The Opportunity Myth

Good morning, loyal readers. Last Thursday, The Highlighter arrived in your inboxes during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and this week, the newsletter is published as senators read the FBI report that concludes its investigation. It is a very troubling time for our country.

Today’s Issue: If you’re an educator or a parent, please read this week’s lead article. It’ll jolt you, no doubt, but the push will be a good one. If you’re looking for cheerier fare, check out the second article and learn what San Antonio schools are doing to desegregate. Want some inspiration? Skip all the way to the bottom and have AJ Holbrook get you to the gym.

+ I would love to hear from you! Say hello and let me know what you think. All you need to do is hit reply.

The Opportunity Myth

We tell young people that if they go to school and work hard, they’ll get into college and success will follow. What if we’re lying to them? What if they do exactly what we say and then find themselves grossly underskilled and unprepared for the rigors of college? That’s exactly what’s happening, according to this report by The New Teacher Project. The biggest problem in American education is not the achievement gap but rather the opportunity myth. Schools are offering dumbed-down curriculum that does not challenge students to engage deeply in rigorous thinking. Perhaps worse, well-meaning teachers are calling their students “amazing” even when they’re performing below grade level. This combination leaves students not only unready but also unaware of their reality. (55 min)

78207: America’s Most Radical School Integration Experiment

On the bright side, some school districts are doing the right thing. Schools in San Antonio are starkly segregated by income, ever since San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1972), which declared that states do not have to fund school districts equally. For the past three years, superintendent Pedro Martinez has worked to integrate schools by redistricting them by gradations of income, by opening schools of choice, and by attacking beliefs about poor kids — that pobrecitos can’t possibly achieve. (29 min)

The Disappeared Kids on Long Island

Three years ago, 15-year-old Miguel Morán went missing one evening on Long Island. When his mother Carlota went to the Suffolk County Police Department the next morning, officers declared Miguel a runaway. In this article, Hannah Dreier(#138) explains how as MS-13 became stronger in Brentwood, the police retreated. Carlota said, “You get the sense that the police here have this attitude that we Latinos are just killing each other. If Miguel was an American, they might have found him right away.” (39 min)

+ Prefer a podcast version? Listen to this article on This American Life.

+ Thank you to loyal reader Anne for suggesting this story. (Want to nominate an article?)

This 20-Year-Old Transgender Man Wants to Change Bodybuilding

AJ Holbrook came out as trans when he was 13. Now he’s a bodybuilder who wants to compete against his cisgender opponents and become Mr. Olympia. Current IFBB policy is unclear on whether people who have had hormone replacement therapy can participate in its tournaments. AJ doesn’t care. He says, “Nothing is ever possible until it’s done. I’m going to make it possible.” (10 min)

That’s it for this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Thank you for reading it. Tell me what you thought hitting reply or by using the thumbs below. Also, let’s please welcome new subscribers Gayle and Phil! If you value this newsletter, forward this issue (or all issues) to a friend. Or use the buttons in the upper right to share via Facebook or Twitter. Word of mouth is the best way for our reading community to grow. On the other hand, if The Highlighter has become a slog, it’s OK, please unsubscribe. I’ll see you back here next Thursday at 9:10 am. Have a great week!