#194: College Admissions Anxiety
You’re in luck, loyal readers: You’ve opened a great issue of The Highlighter (if I do say so myself). I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. This week’s lead article focuses on the crazy college admissions process and the great lengths that parents go to in order to help their kids gain an upper hand. The other articles — on white fragility, the search for enlightenment via religion and drugs, and gentrification — are pretty solid, too. Please enjoy!
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One last thing: I want to thank all of you again for your support and readership. The last 3+ years, the goal of The Highlighter has been to share with you the best articles on race, education, and culture. But together, we’ve built something more than that — a reading community, an article club, where we talk about the articles, and we listen to each other, and we connect and expand our knowledge across difference. Thank you!
College Admissions Anxiety is Class Anxiety
We scoffed at Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and the other rich parents who committed crimes (bribery! mail fraud! racketeering! conspiracy!) to get their kids into college. But maybe Operation Varsity Blues is just a small part of the real problem: that the college admissions process is rotten at its core.
This article follows the increasingly popular (and entirely legal) trend of parents paying tens of thousands of dollars for private college consultants like Ivy Coach and Command Education. The logic goes, If attending an Ivy League school leads to millions of dollars in additional revenue over one’s lifetime, isn’t investing $40,000 now worth it? The answer is decidedly yes, particularly for rich parents interested in preserving their status. “You’ve got people trying to make sure their kids don’t fall down a class, basically,” one consultant said. “They want what we all want, which is for their kids to have it at least as good as they do.”
Author Owen Davis calls this phenomenon an example of class anxiety and wonders whether middle class parents will fall prey and join in on the act, thereby propping up false notions that elite college admissions is an example of meritocracy, rather than a total sham. (21 min)
+ Have you experienced the college admissions process of late (as a student, as a parent, as a teacher)? Did you find it fair? Tell your story!
I Was A White Teacher Who Couldn’t Talk About Race. (So I Wrote A Book.)
I’m sure Sarah Fine is a perfectly kind woman. Like many white educators, she means well. Here’s her story of struggling as a teacher, not knowing how to talk about race, and pivoting to academia, after four years in the classroom, to write a book about schools that work. She calls this a vulnerable piece about acknowledging her white fragility. The trouble is, Ms. Fine keeps herself at the center, makes sure you know she went to Harvard, twice, and name-drops famous professors — all without getting much better at talking about race in the first place. (25 min)
+ This one got me mad! Want to see inside my brain? Read the article with my annotations, and then email me or send me a voicemail with your thoughts.
Stanley, who belongs to loyal reader Denise, enjoys the sturdiness of a robust park bench. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter? hltr.co/pets
Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy
I’m not a huge fan of organized religion or drugs, but this outstanding memoir by Jia Tolentino combines both topics in a profound way. Ms. Tolentino writes about growing up at a Christian megachurch in Houston, then questioning religion as a teenager when she discovered lean, Ecstasy, and acid. It turns out that drugs offered a rapturous experience not unlike what her pastors promised. Be ready: This piece has some A-plus writing. Besides, Ms. Tolentino is pretty rad. (27 min)
+ If you’re new to Ms. Tolentino, here’s her take on affirmative action, vaping, and weighted blankets.
Spotlight: The Best Articles on Gentrification, Its Causes And Effects
Back in January, I launched Spotlights, collections of the very best articles featured in The Highlighter, organized by topic, all in one place, for your deep reading pleasure. This week’s Spotlight focuses on gentrification and its causes and effects. With urbanization continuing to accelerate, many people say the issue of gentrification is a complicated one. But if you’re white, and you make more money and have more wealth than your neighbors of color, then it seems like gentrification is pretty simple. (7 articles)
+ Reader Annotations: Loyal readers Abby and Victoria loved Al Letson’s interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones. Victoria wrote:
Super agree with that choice of the interview between Al Letson and Nikole Hannah-Jones. One of my favorite podcast episodes of the last few months, maybe longer. Love her!
After listening to the interview, loyal reader Dave took the plunge and read Ms. Hannah-Jones’s stunning article, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City.” He wrote:
This sentence landed like a ton of bricks. “Part of what makes those schools desirable to white parents, aside from the academics, is that they have some students of color, but not too many.”
Abby, Victoria, and Dave, I appreciate that you share my enthusiasm for NHJ. Maybe we should invite her to HHH #10? Also, thank you for writing me your thoughts. It makes me happy that you’re enjoying the newsletter and building The Highlighter community.
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