Newsletter #167: The Future of America


Happy Thursday, Loyal Readers! If you like to read because you like to learn, this week’s issue is right up your alley. Build your background knowledge on electric vehicles, leopard seals, legal marijuana, humpback whales, Iraqi immigrants, the Winchester Mystery House, nonbinary identity, bullet trains, how time zones work, and the Antarctic Peninsula, among other topics. There is something for everybody. Go out, discover, and get lost in the joy of reading. (Then find your way again and tell me what you liked.)

Are you ready for a competition? It’s November, which means I’m announcing the Second-Annual New Subscriber Contest. The goal is to gain 100 new readers — bold! audacious! attainable! Your goal is to outlast reigning champion Abby by encouraging your smart, caring, and curious friends to sign up for the newsletter. We’re looking for people who will make this community even stronger. There will be weekly prizes and an overall winner. To get your points, make sure new subscribers sign up here and type your name where it asks, “How did you find out about The Highlighter?” Good luck!

The Future of America

If you want to know where we’re headed as a country, follow what’s happening in California and Texas. That’s the premise of this outstanding eight-article collection, which centers on four key topics: immigration, urban policy, the economy, and transportation. Try to read them all, but if you can’t spare two hours, I recommend starting with “Los Angeles vs. Legal Weed” and “When Electric Isn’t Good Enough.” Also refreshing: These pieces, while focusing on the challenges we face, aren’t all doom and gloom. (Plus, these are great for social studies teachers.) (~100 min)

Which article grabbed your attention the most? Hit reply and let me know your thoughts! Or leave a voice memo. (Don’t be bashful.)

Nonbinary Identity: A Radical Stance Against Gender Segregation

Some people (like the Trump administration) believe that our gender is fixed: male or female, and based on our genitalia at birth. Other people (like Simone de Beauvoir) believe that our gender is mutable and socially constructed. For Robin Dembroff, who identifies as nonbinary, both approaches are constraining. Even to be trans is to align with a suffocating either-or dichotomy. As one nonbinary teenager said, “I don’t want to be a girl wearing boy’s clothes, nor do I want to be a girl who presents as a boy. I’m just a person wearing people clo

The Big Meltdown

Yes, this is another climate change article that you won’t want to read, because we’re all doomed in about 20 years, but please read it anyway, because you’ll travel to the Antarctic Peninsula, take in breathtaking photos and video, learn a ton about Adélie penguinsskuasleopard sealshumpback whales, and krill, and understand even more deeply the impact that melting ice has on the ecosystem and on the contours of our planet. (20 min)

The Legacy of Living With Guns

A child of Texas, Sara A. Lewis grew up around guns and learned to shoot, with her father’s guidance, at a young age. Now an adult, she looks back at her relationship with her father, his inability to connect emotionally, and her severe depression. When you think you know where this piece is going, Ms. Lewis introduces Sarah Winchester, tours the Winchester Mystery House in San José, and explores how our gun culture can lead to deep trauma — and how our society would rather blame women and ghosts. (30 min)

Reader Annotations: Loyal reader Nancy Jo, who teaches in Oakland, appreciated last week’s lead article and plans to use the piece in her upcoming unit on housing and gentrification. Please let us know how it goes!

After reading “America’s Next Civil War,” loyal reader Jamie wrote, “Time to move to Canada now before they shut their borders!” I have a few friends who are considering the same.

And here’s my favorite testimonial of the week, from loyal reader Becky: “I have subscribed to many newsletters in the past, and this is one of the only ones I always open and read the links from.” Thank you for the ringing endorsement, Becky!

Thank you very much for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Tell me what you thought by hitting reply or using the thumbs below. Also, let’s welcome this week’s four new subscribers: ZachStephanieGucci, and Cheryl! If you value The Highlighter, please:

I really appreciate your support. On the other hand, if you don’t find yourself opening up the newsletter regularly, please unsubscribe. I’ll see you back here next Thursday at 9:10 am. (Yes, that’s Pacific time, Alison.) Have a great week!