Newsletter #165: Jim Crow Education

Jim Crow Education

The biggest problem in American education, according to our lead article two weeks ago (#163), is not the achievement gap. It’s the opportunity myth. We promise kids of color that if they work hard, they’ll be rewarded. This is a lie. Across the country, we’re comfortable offering a separate and unequal education to Black and Brown students, as long as white kids get the resources they need. This article focuses on Charlottesville, Virginia — a liberal, affluent college town not unlike Berkeley — where:

  • white kids are 4x as likely as Black kids to be in the gifted program

  • Black kids are 4x as likely as white kids to be held back a grade

  • Black kids are 5x as likely as white kids to be suspended

  • white kids are 3x as likely as Black kids to receive an advanced diploma, which increases access to more elite colleges

School officials in Charlottesville cite socioeconomic factors, even when poor white kids outperform their Black peers. “I’m not trying to make excuses,” the superintendent says, arguing that test scores are only one measure of success. (16 min)

What do you think? What needs to be done to counteract the opportunity myth? Hit reply to share your thoughts.

You Find a Note Inside Your Purse from a Chinese Prisoner. What Do You Do?

Over the past year or so, many American shoppers have found notes from Chinese prisoners left in their purses and stitched on their garments. The messages describe horrible conditions: 14-hour days, little food and rest, meager pay. Retailers like Walmart have cried foul, blaming activist groups like Labour Behind the Label for manufacturing outrage. Except the notes keep coming, and more seem authentic. The question is, Do we even care where our clothes come from? Maybe in theory we do, but ultimately, price comes first. (22 min)

The Comforting Fictions of Caring for People with Dementia

Let’s say you’re taking care of a woman with dementia. She believes her late husband is still alive. Do you tell her the truth, over and over again, which causes pain and suffering? Or do you tell her he’s still at work or in a different room? The trend in memory care is to give patients “comforting fictions.” As usual, Larissa MacFarquhar (#107) is spectacular in this piece, which brings up many ethical issues. Like: Is it OK to lie to your patient? Is who we are what we remember? (54 min)

+ More on dementia: #9#21#40#108#120.

The Bed-Bug Whisperer of Brooklyn

Maybe even more than roaches and rats, bed bugs induce anxiety and revulsion. (Ever had them? Don’t worry. You don’t have to tell.) Bed bugs win the ick contest: invading our homes, sucking our blood, and multiplying rapidly. If you happen to live near Brooklyn, Billy Swan is the guy to call. He’ll assuage your fears, calm your frenzy, and take care of business. At the same time, Mr. Swan will emphasize that bugs remind us we’re all in this together. (14 min)

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