Welcome to September, loyal readers, and thank you for opening today’s issue of The Highlighter. This week’s lead article is a letter to white teachers, which I highly recommend — particularly if you’re white, and especially if you’re a white educator. Please read it and tell me what you think.
Also in today’s issue, you’ll find two excellent articles, back to back, that will pummel you, relentlessly and without relief, on climate change, and how we’re all doomed. But they’re expertly written, and as a result, you might find yourself using less air conditioning and buying less plastic. But if the environment stresses you out, skip to the last piece, an ode to doing things in life when they come.
Chrysanthius Lathan is a Black teacher and instructional coach at a middle school in Portland who is tired of supporting her white colleagues to maintain high behavioral expectations for their students. In particular, Ms. Lathan wants to know why her colleagues are sending so many Black and Brown students to her classroom for timeout. So she asks the students, and the answer is clear: The teachers are scared. They’re scared of the kids, and of being seen as racist, and of asking for help. Ms. Lathan writes:
When you send your students to teachers like me, you are inadvertently forcing me to contribute to a racist system, asking me to tell kids how to behave within your four walls and sending them back. That is not fair to them, and it’s not fair to me. You need to find that bone in your body that tends to recoil when it comes time to deal with people of color—and purposely straighten it back out.
Instead of relying on Black staff members to discipline students of color, Ms. Lathan argues that white teachers need to do the personal work necessary to earn the trust of their students and to build strong learning environments on their own. (13 min)
My friends tell me I run cold and love the heat, both of which are true, so I’ve never understood the appeal of air conditioning. After all, who needs cold wind inside? Apparently 90 percent of Americans do, plus much of the world, according to this outstanding article, which chronicles the rise of air conditioning in the United States, its spread worldwide, and its horrific effects on the environment. (20 min)
+ My disdain for A/C began early. Here’s Issue #1.
Be ready: This article won’t let you not care. The startling statistics come early and often. Like: We recycle just 9 percent of our plastic waste, including just 1 percent of our plastic bags. China is no longer taking our plastic, so we’re burning it, mostly in poor neighborhoods, or sending it to India and Indonesia, and blaming them. Our water is filled with plastic, and so are the bellies of dead birds. Companies that make plastic are sponsoring Earth Day events, calling on our personal responsibility to solve the problem. Meanwhile, we keep drinking water out of plastic bottles and sipping lattes out of “recyclable” cups that never get recycled. (40 min)
Besides learning my multiplication tables, which happened early (and with vigor), and typing, which came on strong in middle school, I’ve mostly been a late bloomer. That’s why I appreciated this piece by Summer Block, who at 40 years old is discovering straight(er) teeth (via Invisalign) and true love for the first time. At middle age, do you accept your imperfections, or do you move aggressively, even if change means pain? (15 min)
+ Reader Annotations: I love it when loyal readers let me know they’ve devoured an entire issue. Here’s fantastic and hard-working educator Clare, owner of Tony C, basking in the glory of reading Issue #207 on an easy Thursday morning:
It must be my third year of principaling. I got to read the Highlighter. :) Hooray for historiography, Nikita Stewart, and having the palate of a 16-year-old stoner.
Great work, Clare! If you’re finding that you’re reading more articles than usual, by all means, please share the good news.
At some point, all that’s good must come to a close. Sorry that you’ve reached the end of this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Or hit reply and type me a quick message. Also, let’s please welcome our new subscribers Carol, Don, Martha, Sara, and Ana. Hope the newsletter is a good match for you! If you like The Highlighter, please help it grow and get better. I appreciate your support. Here are a few ways you can help:
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