#207: Teaching America’s Truth
Happy Thursday, loyal readers, and welcome to The Highlighter! Thank you very much for opening today’s issue. This week’s lead article discusses how teachers are changing the way they approach slavery and its legacy. It’s clear that the The 1619 Project is having an impact. Still, in my mind, we’re barely scratching the surface, and there is much more to be done.
Also in today’s issue, you’ll find great pieces focusing on the increase of homelessness among working Americans, the Christian missionary trip that went wrong, and the magnificent popularity of a fast-food chicken sandwich. Please enjoy!
+ Highlighter Happy Hour #11 is one week away. So far, 31 loyal readers have secured their free tickets. We’re well on our way toward an attendance record. If you live near Oakland, join us!
The typical U.S. History teacher devotes just a day or two to the study of slavery and its role in shaping our nation’s trajectory. Typical excuses include “there’s so much to cover” and “slavery is hard to teach” and “I’m white.” This article explores how some teachers are centering slavery as fundamental to our country’s story. Reporter Joe Heim writes:
For the 50 million students attending public school in America, how they are taught about America’s history of slavery and its deprivations is as fundamental as how they are taught about the Declaration of Independence and its core assertion that “all men are created equal.” A deep understanding of one without a deep understanding of the other is to not know America at all.
As a former History teacher, I’m happy a shift is happening, albeit very slowly. It’s evidence that Nikole Hannah-Jones and The 1619 Project are causing teachers to reconsider their curriculum. But the journey toward a truer teaching of slavery won’t come easily. After all, as Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, says, “Teaching about slavery is a loaded subject because everyone knows that it’s not really about the past.”(12 min)
+ Here’s a great piece about why slavery is mistaught in schools.
The New American Working Homeless
Cokethia Goodman works full time as a home health aide but can’t afford to live anywhere in Atlanta on her $9 an hour. She’s part of a growing group: the 7 million working Americans, living below the poverty line, who are homeless or housing insecure. With rents going up, evictions increasing, wages stagnant, tenant protections weak, and rental assistance rare, the problem is getting worse. (32 min)
+ Read Matthew Desmond’s outstanding article on the rise of evictions in the United States.
Stanley, who belongs to loyal reader Denise, loves to soak up the sun. Nominate your pet to appear in The Highlighter! hltr.co/pets
This newsletter is meant to promote empathy, but no matter how much I read about John Chau, the 26-year-old American missionary who wanted to convert the Sentinelese people to Christianity (and failed miserably), I just can’t get behind his motivations. (My basic questions: Why the need to proselytize? Why can’t people be left alone?) With author Doug Bock Clark’s help, though, I found myself suspending my judgment, and trying my best to be kind to Mr. Chau, who “welcomed his killers with Christlike love.” (46 min)
The Last Popeyes Chicken Sandwich
Did you gobble up multiple Popeyes spicy chicken sandwiches before they went out of stock on Tuesday? I hope so. After weeks of hemming and hawing, Megan Reynolds seeks out a sandwich to sample herself. On the way, she comments on the ills of capitalism, factory farm chicken, minimum wage workers, not wanting to conform to hype, virtue signaling, bougie people discovering lowbrow delights, doing things ironically, Instagram, and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. (9 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Loyal reader Kati, owner of Ollie, shared these thoughts about “Whiteness on the Couch”:
The article is good food for thought, but I still find myself questioning a lot of the beliefs. As someone raised mixed race and being part Mexican (and never “enough” white or “enough” Mexican), I find some of her points very thought-provoking, while others a bit long-winded and some even misguided. While the APA, as she said, rejected bigotry as a mental disorder (and I definitely think bigoted people have mental problems), I am not sure about flirting with the idea of considering whiteness a mental condition. It is, and it isn’t. It’s an interesting thought exercise, but in some ways, a leap of logic. I need to think more about this, though. I’m reminded of when my friend educated me on cultural appropriation and how I do not get to choose what offends people. My first reaction was to be defensive, but then I realized I needed to think a bit more about how my actions can affect people, and how I can better be an ally in general, since that is definitely my goal.
Thank you, Kati! Loyal readers, please keep your thoughts coming. Please feel free to email me and strike up a conversation.
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