Newsletter #198: The Mindfulness Conspiracy


Happy Thursday, loyal readers, and welcome to The Highlighter. Thank you for opening this week’s issue. Today’s lead article questions the merits of mindfulness, arguing that the practice has become a multi-billion dollar industry that commodifies personal reflection and encourages us to ignore the ills of capitalism.

If the idea of reading that article stresses you out, feel free to explore today’s other excellent pieces, ranging from how charter schools have helped white Americans to segregate, how cryptocurrency has helped white South Africans to segregate, and how firearm training courses have helped American teachers feel comfortable with a gun. I hope you find one that pushes your thinking.

Before you get down to reading, I want to thank all of you for being loyal readers of this newsletter. We’ve gotten to a point where I don’t personally know the majority of you. This means our reading community is growing and getting stronger. I appreciate your readership, and I invite you to hit reply to share your thoughts and strike up a conversation. I’d love to hear from you.

The Mindfulness Conspiracy

Most people think that mindfulness, “the state of active, open attention on the present,” helps us increase our happiness and sense of well-being, while decreasing our depression, anxiety, and stress. Thousands of schools across the country teach mindfulness to their students. It’s a good thing, right, despite its appropriation of Buddhist meditation teachings? Not so, says San Francisco State professor Ronald Purser, author of McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. Instead of helping us gain clarity, mindfulness turns us inward, isolated from others, teaching us to accept the status quo instead of fighting against injustice. Our scary, chaotic world may overwhelm us, Prof. Purser suggests, but creating a private “religion of the self” is not the solution. (19 min)

The New White Flight

Beginning in the 1950s, white families moved to the suburbs to avoid having to send their children to integrated schools. Now they can remain where they are and choose a charter school instead. According to University of North Carolina law professor Erika K. Wilson, the school choice movement, designed to offer better educational opportunities for low-income children of color, has unwittingly allowed middle-class white parents to opt for majority-white schools, for their added comfort. (45 min)

Inside an All-White Town’s Divisive Experiment With Cryptocurrency

Dawie Roodt’s desire to live in an all-white town in South Africa — with a private water system, rapid-response security team, and homes equipped with high perimeter walls — has nothing to do with his feelings about Black people. No, he says, that’s also not the reason he wants to develop the e-Ora, a whites-only cryptocurrency, or move to Orania, where all 1,500 residents are white. In the most unequal country in the world, Mr. Roodt and other Afrikaners have the most wealth, and the most fear. (23 min)

When You Give a Teacher a Gun

More than six years after Sandy Hook, and more than a year after Parkland, thousands of teachers across the country have received training on how to use a firearm. In many school districts, the question is no longer, “Should we arm teachers?” but rather, “How many teachers should we arm?” In this article, you’ll meet kindergarten teacher Pam (“The kids are like sponges!”) as she navigates FASTER Saves Lives, a three-day course in Ohio designed to train educators to shoot to kill. (10 min)

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