Saturday, June 08, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Heavy and Light Edition

I am trapped at my desk, monitoring a big upgrade my team is doing. My roll is minor- to tell people when to do the next step, and to make decisions when things don't go quite as planned. But I have to be online, because I don't want anyone to waste their weekend time waiting for a decision from me. Luckily, I have a weekend links post to write! I have a mix of serious links and fluff today. So, to the links. Let's do the serious things first:

First, several people in my Twitter feed tweeted out a link to this article in which a woman answers a letter from a Harvard professor who was concerned about her ability to balance family and career- 52 years after she received it. It is a good read.

This article in Salon about a bus driver who was fired for posting on Facebook about a student who said he was denied lunch highlights the shortcomings of the free/reduced cost school lunch program in many places. I think the level of food insecurity we have in the US is shameful. I think this is one of the problems that we convince ourselves is intractable, but the experience in other countries tells us otherwise. We are such a rich country. We could solve this problem if we wanted to.

Finally, Ta-Nehisi Coates replies to a question about what advice he would give to kids. The question is phrased for advice for poor urban kids in a specific location, but Coates answers more generally, and I think his answer is brilliant. I won't try to summarize it. Just go read it.

It reminds me of an experience I had in 6th grade that has stuck with me. There was a kid in my class who was the class clown, and was frequently in trouble. Let's call him Joe. His family originally came from Mexico, but he had been born in the US. This family history shouldn't have mattered- but it did, as I learned. One day, we were doing a project in class and the teacher paired us up. I was paired with Joe. In the course of the project, I realized he was clearly just as smart as I was, although he rarely showed that in class. We got to talking about our career aspirations. At the time, I wanted to be either a doctor or an anthropologist. Joe said he wanted to be a mechanic.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a mechanic (or being a mechanic). It is a fine career goal, and I do not mean to disparage it at all. What struck me, though, was why Joe wanted to be a mechanic, and how he reacted to my question about that. He had an uncle who was a mechanic, and that uncle was the most successful person he knew. To Joe, mechanic was as high as he could aim.  It wasn't that he'd considered being a doctor or an anthropologist or President or what not and decided that they didn't sound as good as being a mechanic. It was that he didn't consider those other options at all. It was clear from how he answered me that he hadn't even thought he might go to college. I, meanwhile, had dreams that required not just college but post-graduate degrees.

I was just 12 years old. I didn't really understand why Joe and I had such different ideas about the limits on our lives. I knew I lived in a slightly nicer neighborhood, and of course I knew I was white and he was Hispanic. I had, up until that point, not really thought much about what those things meant to the rest of our lives, and to be honest, I didn't really think much about it right then. But that conversation stuck in my memory, and as I got older and learned more, the context around it filled in for me.

I still don't know what people like me can do to show kids like Joe that they can dream past the bounds of their neighborhoods. Ta-Nehisi Coates' article is a powerful reminder of the fact that we need to try.

Now for the lightweight things:

I forget where I came across this article with cool pictures of beaches from the air, but the pictures are great.

And lets close with a big smile. Mommyshorts has been running a competition to find the most epic baby hair. Her 12 finalists are great. My own babies were mostly bald, so I have no direct experience with epic baby hair. It is awfully cute, isn't it?


  1. was discussing situation just like "joe" with friend this weekend. S/he was frustrated that very smart girl wanted to be a nurse, thought she should aim higher. I pointed out that for many first generation college students, the people they are most familiar with who have college degrees are often people with "helper" degrees. Of course I also noted that nurses can become nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives etc, lucrative jobs. There is also the issue of how aiming high shifts familial relationships for some students in some situations. It is all very complex!

    1. I agree that there are a lot of reasons for the disparity, some better than others.

      We could perhaps turn the question around and wonder why I had such lofty dreams. It wasn't like I knew any doctors or anthropologists! I remember wanting to be a doctor and checking books about anatomy out from the library, but I don't remember if the goal came before the books or vice versa. And I can't remember the source of the anthropology goal at all.


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