The Highlighter #212: Dark Crystals

Hi Loyal Readers! It’s Thursday again, which means another article-packed edition of The Highlighter. Thank you for opening today’s issue. I predict that you will not be disappointed.

After two education-heavy issues in a row, today’s newsletter includes a greater variety of articles, focusing on trends, young people, and the ills of capitalism. This week’s lead article, which I recommend, explores our infatuation with healing crystals and the harmful effects of the wellness industry. If you’re looking for something more positive, check out the piece on TikTok (I approve of the app) and the double-dose-dog photo. Then it’s back again to two upsetting-but-important articles — the first on college persistence, and the second on vaping. Please enjoy!

+ I’d like your help to reach 600 subscribers (70 to go) by the end of the year. This newsletter grows one person at a time, from the good word of loyal readers. Because you’re great, you likely know one or two or 17+ other great people who love to read as much as you do. Share The Highlighter with them, encourage them to try it out, and urge them to subscribe. Thank you, and I’ll let you know next week how many new folks have joined our reading community.

Dark Crystals: The Brutal Reality Behind A Booming Wellness Craze

Like Kim Kardashian and Miranda Kerr and millions of wellness-seekers, you may love your healing crystals — your rose quartz and amethyst, your labradorite and carnelian. They’re beautiful, after all, plus you may believe, as 42 percent of Americans do, that crystals have the ability to rebalance energy, healing the body and mind.

This outstanding article does not dispute people’s beliefs in the power of healing crystals. But it does clearly explain the damaging effects of our skyrocketing demand for overseas gemstones. In Madagascar, for example, miners begin at age 14, working in tight tunnels and breathing noxious air, and earn less than $1.90 a day. Meanwhile, mining threatens Madagascar’s rain forest, kills wildlife, and contributes to climate change.

But the crystal vendors and the thousands of new age enthusiasts who descend on the Tucson Gem Show every year may not know, or not care, about what happens across the world. It’s more important, in that moment, to sell your product, or to find your own peace and health in a beautiful stone, at the expense of others. (22 min)

TikTok Famous: How The App Is Turning Teenagers Into Celebrities

“To be a very online young person in 2019,” writes Rebecca Jennings, “is to share the same goal: have the kind of social media following wherein performing your life online becomes a paying job.” (Who wants a boring day job, anyway?) In this profile of TikTok celebrity Haley Sharpe, you’ll learn why “everyone has always wanted to be a YouTuber” and “how much Instagram sucks now.” (27 min)

College Deferred: The Unmet Promises of a New Orleans Charter School

Rinata Williams excelled at Sci Academy in New Orleans but struggled in college. She wasn’t alone. Sci boasts astronomical college acceptance rates, but few of its graduates have completed their degree. Treat this article less as an anti-charter hit piece and more as a stark reminder that academic preparation alone (by predominately white teachers) only goes so far for first-generation students of color. (19 min)

+ “Classes weren’t the hard part,” says Anthony J. Jack, in last week’s most popular article.

How Juul Hooked Teens on Vaping and Ignited a Health Crisis

Juul makes me crazy. Vaping has led to at least 17 deaths, and more than 4 million teenagers vape regularly, a 78 percent increase from last year. But ask Juul’s founders and former CEO Chris Burns, and they’ll tell you they don’t advertise to young people, though they did, and in fact they want people to stop smoking, despite allowing Altria, the behemoth tobacco company, to buy 35 percent of the company last year. Do the founders have regrets? One said, “You can always do things better, every step of the way.” Ugh. (19 min)

+ Reread Jia Tolentino’s great article on vaping, in which teenagers say, “Juuling is really what’s up.”

+ Reader Annotations: In case you doubted the grandeur of our reading community, here’s additional evidence that we’re awesome. VIP and loyal reader Philippe texted me this message after reading Anthony Jack’s article in last week’s issue:

Dr. Tony Jack is my best friend from high school and officiated my wedding! His new book is amazing, and he calls out my privilege in the first 7 pages. Ha ha. The only downfall to the book is that he is getting so famous now that I don’t hear from him very much.

That’s pretty great, Phillippe, but sorry to hear that Prof. Jack is mildly ghosting you. Idea: Maybe sending him Issue #211 will change his mind? 😀

Which article intrigued you most this week? I would love to know. Thank you for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Or hit reply and send me a quick message. Also, let’s please welcome our two new subscribers Gail and one other person. 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:

On the other hand, if you’ve had enough, and can’t stand it anymore, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday!