#211: In School, On The Street
Happy Thursday, loyal readers, and thank you for opening today’s issue of The Highlighter. For the second week in a row, this week’s edition includes three articles on education, back to back to back. The first two explore the challenges (financial and otherwise) that college students face. If you live in the Bay Area, I recommend the lead article. If you went to a fancy college (or consider yourself elite in general), also check out the second piece. Then, after taking a photo break, dive into a well-written critique on education reforms that do not consider the context of local communities.
If you’re taking a break from education and in the mood for beautiful writing, please consider the last article, though only if you’re ready to read something sad. Please enjoy!
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More than half of the students attending community colleges in California have experienced food insecurity within the past month. Sixty percent report struggling with housing insecurity over the past year. Despite free tuition, financial aid, Pell grants, and work-study programs, thousands of young people seeking higher education can’t handle the exorbitant price of housing in the Bay Area. Many are living in their cars, couch surfing, and worrying about their next meal.
This article by East Bay Express chronicles the students’ struggles and also features organizations attempting to battle the problem. Food pantries, including FRESH at Chabot College, offer food, hygiene products, and other basic necessities. Tiny House Village and Safe Time provide temporary housing, as does West Side Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland. These efforts by no means solve the structural inequities plaguing the Bay Area. But they may spur more of us to consider how we could help. (20 min)
I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part.
Before Anthony A. Jack, author of The Privileged Poor, became a professor at Harvard, he was a first-generation college student at Amherst. In this essay, Prof. Jack shares his experience as a low-income student: foraging for food on holidays, when the cafeteria closed; holding down four jobs, to help his family with finances back home; and not knowing what to do when a professor asked him to coffee. Financial aid isn’t enough, Prof. Jack argues. Colleges must do more to support students’ basic needs. (14 min)
Loyal reader Dan(tastic) is ecstatic that he is the proud owner of a limited-edition Highlighter tote bag (now out of stock). There’s a rumor that T-shirts are coming soon! highlighter.cc/store
It’s Not One-Size-Fits-All: The Afterlife of Big Ideas in Education Reform
Typically I’m leery when non-educators complain about the ills of public schools. But this piece by Michael Hobbes (#83, #124) offers a fair critique of the small schools movement and the false hope that one big idea can cure all. What worked gloriously at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, for example, may not work in other communities. Rather, “you have to find out what every single kid needs and get it for them,” said Sarah Smith, who taught history at Nathan Hale. “There’s no shortcut that’s going to make that easy.” (25 min)
In this beautifully written (and sad) first-person account, Kris Willcox recounts her mother’s death from cancer and the days leading up to her passing. Visitors come and go. Ms. Willcox seeks comfort by making lists. Family pulls up close to the hospital bed, “in that half-light with her.” Ms. Willcox writes, “It’s as though I’m sitting in a boat on a quiet lake, staring into space and feeling the slight movements of the water.” (20 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Loyal reader Phillip, a big fan of donuts and the newsletter, expressed his dismay about last week’s lead article: “I was ready to like the donut article, having spent my first seven years teaching in LA! The intro was so inaccurate and stereotypical, it was maddening. I found myself distrustful of the article moving forward and didn’t finish it.” Thank you for the feedback, Phillip — I’ll be sure to include better donut-related articles in the future!
Loyal reader Kati shared these thoughts on the recent Clarence Thomas profile (#209):
I felt a palpable pain in reading this, imagining how an incredibly intelligent young boy experienced what he did, and grew too weary of it. I disagree with a lot of his beliefs, but can absolutely see how his experiences have colored his own truths. I am not entirely sure (would have to read more about his decisions on the court) if his seat on the Supreme Court has been used to help advance equal rights for all. He seems (based on this article) to have a very defeatist view of our society in general, and I can’t say I blame him for that opinion.
Thank you, Phillip and Kati, for your annotations. Loyal readers, please feel free to keep the conversation going. All you need to do is hit reply and tell me what you think.
Did you find any articles that sparked your interest? Hope so. 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 three new subscribers Anelisiwe, Gillian, and Shay. 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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