Category Archives: Uncategorized

What the Thousands of Calls Against Betsy DeVos Say About American Public Schools

An Iowa public school. Photo by photolibrarian

Congress was inundated with thousands of phone calls from people urging their representatives to vote against Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Given her poor performance during confirmation hearings, her lack of experience, and her history of supporting attempts to dismantle traditional public education, Americans had visceral, negative reaction to DeVos. But this defense of our schools comes after years of anti-public education rhetoric by our country’s leaders about “failing schools” and teacher accountability.

Dana Goldstein’s 2015 book The Teacher Wars seeks to understand how America’s relationship with its public school teachers became so complicated. It goes much farther back than the battles of the past few decades: Read more…

The New Yorker Releases a Powerful New Cover

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The illustration is called “Liberty’s Flameout,” and it’s by John W. Tomac. “It was the symbol of American values,” Tomac says. “Now it seems that we are turning off the light.”

‘Thurgood’s Coming.’

Thurgood Marshall

Alice Stovall, Thurgood Marshall’s secretary at the NAACP, recalled the effect Marshall had on blacks when he showed up at courthouses in small Southern towns. “They came in their jalopy cars and their overalls,” she recounted. “All they wanted to do— if they could— was just touch him, just touch him, Lawyer Marshall, as if he were a god. These poor people who had come miles to be there.”

Southern juries might be stacked against blacks, and the judges might be biased, but Thurgood Marshall was demonstrating in case after case that their word was not the last, that in the U.S. Supreme Court the injustice in their decisions and verdicts could be reversed. He was “a lawyer that a white man would listen to” and a black man could trust. No wonder that across the South, in their darkest, most demoralizing hours, when falsely accused men sat in jails, when women and children stood before the ashy ruins of mob-torched homes, the spirits of black citizens would be lifted with two words whispered in defiance and hope:

“Thurgood’s coming.”

-From Gilbert King’s outstanding Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Devil in the Grove, about Thurgood Marshall’s civil rights work for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, and a case of gross injustice against falsely accused black men in the South.

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What We Saw in Washington, D.C.

Photos by Nate Gowdy for Longreads and The Stranger.
The StrangerTo cover this past weekend’s inauguration and Women’s March protests in Washington, D.C., Longreads teamed up with Seattle publication The Stranger. Armed with mood rings supplied by their editors, writers Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, met those celebrating and protesting, shared their personal perspectives, and examined what it means for the next four years. Here’s their full diary from the events of January 18-23.

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What Happened When You Invited Steve Jobs to Your Product Demo

Steve Jobs

“I think it’s coming along,” said Tim, “though we expect—” “I think it sucks!” said Jobs.

His vehemence made Tim pause. “Why?” he asked, a bit stiffly.

“It just does.”

“In what sense?” said Tim, getting his feet back under him. “Give me a clue.”

“Its shape is not innovative, it’s not elegant, it doesn’t feel anthropomorphic,” said Jobs, ticking off three of his design mantras.

You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional.” The last word delivered like a stab. Doug Field and Scott Waters would have felt the wound; they admired Apple’s design sense. Dean’s intuition not to bring Doug had been right. “There are design firms out there that could come up with things we’ve never thought of,” Jobs continued, “things that would make you shit in your pants.”

An excerpt from the 2003 book Code Name Ginger, the story behind Dean Kamen’s Segway scooter. Steve Kemper recounts the time Kamen introduced his invention (code-named Ginger) to Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. They immediately foresaw problems with the product. (via The Browser.)

 
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Basking in Reciprocated Love: Can Molly Save a Marriage?

Mark Ordonez CC-BY SA 2.0

What we did was talk. For six hours, we talked about our feelings for each other, why we love each other, how we love each other. We talked about what we felt when we first met, how our emotional connection grew and deepened, how we might deepen it still. The best way I can describe it is that we were transported emotionally back to our relationship’s early and most exciting days, to the period of our most intense infatuation, but with all the compassion and depth of familiarity of a decade of companionship. We saw each other clearly, loved each other profoundly, and basked in this reciprocated love.

The feeling lasted not for hours or for days, but for months. Actually, the truth is, it lasted forever. We’ve done the drug since, every couple of years, when we feel we need to recharge the batteries of our relationship. Though the experience has never again been quite so intense, it has been a reliable method of connection, of clearing away the detritus of the everyday to get to the heart of the matter. And the heart is love.

At Lenny, read an excerpt of Ayelet Waldman’s memoir of LSD microdosing, A Really Good Day.

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My Favorite Animal Longreads of 2016

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In November 2015, I adopted a dog. Harley. These 12 pounds of mostly shelter-raised animal cracked open the harder parts of my heart and I found myself sobbing into my coffee, almost daily, while reading the latest stories about rescue dogs. I’d gone so far as to set a Google Alert on “rescue dog,” and while I have calmed down — somewhat — I still find myself getting weepy when I read that a shelter has had its entire stable adopted or some flawed pooch got a new lease on life or … you get the idea.

I present my state of mind to explain why my favorite read about dogs this year was a Longreads exclusive by Richard Gilbert: “Why I Hate My Dog.” A year ago, I might have enjoyed this piece as an abstraction, but reading it after AD (After Dog) made it hit home in ways I would never have felt in my BD (Before Dog) era:

See what Belle brings out in me? The worst. My sadistic streak. Dogs are supposed to do the opposite. Would a good dog occasion such darkness? I think not.

As an extension of human ego—an undeniable dog role: something that kindles pride in their owners—she’s a washout. The odd thing is how close I’ve grown to Belle. The odd thing is how much her anxious nature illuminates mine.

I get this.

Not all my favorite animal reads this year are about dogs, or even directly about animals, they’re more about the complex ways humans interact with and react to animals. Some of these are a reach, but they’re all excellent reads with animals (in one case, a Triassic period aquatic crustacean, no really) as the instigator. Read more…

The ‘Anti-Helicopter Parent’ Is Just as Insufferable as the Helicopter Parent

Photo by jdlrobson

If you read enough #longreads about parenting in The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, and Slate, then eventually you will discover you are an awful parent. But there is nothing so satisfying for us awful parents as reading stories about parents who are more insufferable than we are. So it is with great pride I share this piece by Melanie Thernstrom, who profiles a “free-range” parent who lets his children play on the roof of their house and then rubs it in the face of his neighbors – thereby forcing the other parents to become imagination-quashing killjoys, AKA people who try to keep their kids from potentially breaking their necks. (But hey, my neighbor says the odds are low, and life-endangering activities are mother nature’s way of thinning the herd! I guess it’s fine!) Read more…

The Summer Break Where Charlotte Brontë Started ‘Jane Eyre’

Charlotte Brontë

Black Cardigan is a great newsletter by writer-editor Carrie Frye, who shares dispatches from her reading life. We’re thrilled to share some of them on Longreads. Go here to sign up for her latest updates.

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In the summer of 1843, Charlotte Brontë was staying at the school in Brussels where she was both a student and a teacher—at this time, more the latter. Over her time at the Pensionnat, she had developed an unrequited passion for the directrice’s husband, Constantin Héger, and she’d been present as he departed for the seaside with his handsome wife and their young children. The other teachers and the school’s boarders had already left for their own holidays, and Brontë was the only person left remaining except for the cook. Her friends outside the school had left the city too. Summer in the city: everyone who can, leaves. Her relationship with the cook, one suspects, was cordial but necessarily distant, and the cook would have had her sleep quarters in another part of the house. Brontë was alone at nights in the dormitory.

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The Summer People of Shirley Jackson and Kelly Link

Shirley Jackson and Kelly Link

Black Cardigan is a great newsletter by writer-editor Carrie Frye, who shares dispatches from her reading life. We’re thrilled to share some of them on Longreads. Go here to sign up for her latest updates.

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There’s a wonderful, creepy Shirley Jackson story—you may already know it—called “The Summer People.” It’s about a couple from New York City who decide to stay at their little cottage on the lake for a month past Labor Day instead of returning as usual to the city right after the holiday. The story starts out with Mrs. Allison, age 58, doing her shopping in the nearby village and announcing her and her husband’s change in plans. The first person she tells is the grocer: Read more…