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#413: The Instagram Account that Shattered a High School
Join us this month to discuss Dashka Slater’s outstanding article on accountability
Happy almost-October, loyal readers. I’m excited to announce that this month, we’ll be reading and discussing “The Instagram Account that Shattered a California High School” by Dashka Slater. It’s a big one, and important, especially if you’re a teenager, educator, or parent. Originally published in The New York Times Magazine in August, the article tells the story of a racist social media account and its repercussions on young people and their community in the Bay Area. The piece also raises the question: What does it mean to be held accountable for harm that takes place behind a screen?
Ms. Slater writes:
The questions that the account raised — about fighting bigotry, about the impacts of social media and about the best way to respond when young people in your community fail so utterly to live up to the values you thought you shared — had no simple answer. Whatever you believed about Albany, about America, about teenagers, racism, sexism, social media, punishment and the public discourse on each of these topics, the story of the Instagram account could be marshaled as evidence. It was the incident that explained everything and yet also the incident that couldn’t be explained.
I instantly connected with the article, not only because I’m an educator in the Bay Area, but also because of Ms. Slater’s riveting prose. Her reporting is spot on; she does an excellent job eliciting the perspectives of the boy who created the account, his friends who laughed and egged him on, the girls who he harmed, the school administrators who had no clue, and the parents who called for blood. I especially appreciated the care and nuance Ms. Slater brought to this piece.
The article also exposes the limitations of our current notions of justice and accountability. We know old-school punishment doesn’t work. It doesn’t heal. It doesn’t teach. But it’s comfortable. It makes us feel we’ve done something to address the harm. But in this piece, Ms. Slater reminds us that the harm is still there, for everyone involved, including the perpetrator.
I’d love it if you read the article and joined our discussion on October 29. If you’re interested, this is how things will go:
This week, we’ll read the article
Next week, we’ll annotate the article as a group and share our first impressions
The following week, we’ll hear from Ms. Slater in a podcast interview
On Sunday, October 29, 2:00 - 3:30 pm PT, we’ll discuss the article on Zoom
If this will be your first time participating in Article Club, I’m 100% sure you’ll find that you’ll feel welcome. We’re a kind, thoughtful reading community. Feel free to reach out with all of your questions.
Also exciting, as with all Article Club monthly selections, the author will be participating in the festivities, recording a podcast episode for your listening pleasure. Ms. Slater is an award-winning journalist who has written for The New York Times Magazine and Mother Jones. She is also the author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. Her New York Times bestselling true crime narrative, The 57 Bus, won the 2018 Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association and the 2018 Beatty Award from the California Library Association. Ms. Slater has spent most of her adult life in Oakland, California.
So what do you think? Interested in reading the article and joining our discussion this month? Hope so! If you’re still a maybe, here are a few questions for you. If you’re a yes to one or more of them, you‘re a great candidate.
Do you care about teenagers? Are you worried about their use of social media?
Are you an educator who believes in restorative justice but struggles with how best to hold young people accountable for their actions?
Are you a parent who is doing their best but feeling overwhelmed?
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