News Highlights: Week of July 31

Justice Dept. to Take On Affirmative Action in College Admissions, by Charlie Savage of The New York Times

The Justice Department wants to reallocate resources of the Civil Rights Division toward investigating and suing universities over race-based admission policies considered to discriminate against white applicants. The course and outcomes of the initiative are unclear. Kristen Clarke, president of the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, worries that, although the Civil Rights Division was “created and launched to deal with the unique problem of discrimination faced by our nation’s most oppressed minority groups,” the new initiative will create chaos among higher education officials, who may fear consequences for maintaining campus diversity. A former official in the Civil Rights Division suggests the initiative would review test scores and dropout rates to determine if schools are putting too much emphasis on race, which he sees as evidence that the policies are an abuse of the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger to allow race-based admissions.

Mental Illness Is Far More Common Than We Knew, by Aaron Reuben & Jonathan Schaefer of Scientific American

Rename your Abnormal Psychology departments: a recent study reveals it’s mental health– not mental illness– that’s abnormal. The researchers found that 80% of participants in a longitudinal study experienced some form of diagnosable mental illness in their lifetimes, highlighting the temporary nature many disorders take. They suggest we combat the shame and stigma of mental illness by treating it like we do “bone breaks, kidney stones or common colds—as part of the normal wear and tear of life.”

Black stories matter: on the whiteness of children’s books, by Andrea Adomako of Aeon

There has always been a deficit in the number of children’s books representing Black lives in a positive way. All children wish to identify with the hero of a story, but many stories cast Black characters as villains instead. The deficit can make Black children feel excluded, confused, and without positive role models. More recent children’s literature attempts to counteract those effects by casting Black characters in positive and powerful roles. These stories allow children to develop a sense of imaginative possibility about their lives and, in the words of young-adult author Daniel José, “arm them with a language to describe difficult truths they already know.”

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