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Comments: Week of August 17, 2020

1 New York’s latest cover story, by Keith Gessen, took a close look at the city’s messy planning for returning students to the classroom (“What Will the First Day of School Look Like?,” August 3–16). The cover image — a photograph by Bobby Doherty of a young student in face shield and full-body PPE holding a lunch box — touched a nerve with many readers. Mark J. Rochester, the editor of Type Investigations, wrote, “This New York mag cover is the sum of all fears for parents of school-aged kids.” Pulitzer-winning journalist Laurie Garrett wrote that the photograph “does a pretty good job of summarizing what parents, teachers, kids and communities face in trying to reopen schools.” And on NY1, Annika Pergament said, “I mean, it’s sort of meant to provoke you, but this is — it really speaks to the anxiety that a lot of people are really facing right now.” In a letter to the magazine, Richard A. Carranza, schools chancellor for the New York City Department of Education, responded, “Closing New York City’s school buildings has had a staggering impact on our city — possibly none more so than for our young people. In the face of their trauma, we owe our students every opportunity to reopen as safely and quickly as possible. The enormity of this undertaking for the nation’s largest school district is hard to describe. None of it is easy, or perfect, but we are working around the clock to put every conceivable safety measure in place.” Ruchira Shah and Sheryl Linsky Adam, two mothers who founded the Facebook group Schools Before Bars, wrote, “The reality is that all sides agree on basic principles. We all desperately want students back in the classroom. The real culprit is the federal government. Instead of developing a national strategy for Covid testing and contact tracing, the federal government has abdicated this role to the states. Our nation’s children deserve better.” Many readers shared their own frustrations with reopening schools. NYU’s Eric Klinenberg tweeted, “Read this … if you want a good reason to tear out your hair, scream into the wind, threaten to move to another country, remember that you can’t because no one will have you, crumble to the floor, cry, and brace for September.”

2 Lisa Miller investigated what led two activist lawyers to allegedly throw a Molotov cocktail into a police car during the George Floyd protests (“The Making of a Molotov Cocktail,” August 3–16). Fortune’s Rachel King wrote, “Incredibly well reported profile on two people I don’t know but haven’t been able to stop thinking about all summer.” South African human-rights attorney Richard Spoor called it a “terribly sad story … Most people, even good ones, do something stupid sometime. When that results in the ruining of their otherwise good and productive lives, it’s tragic. I have seen it many times. In legal systems like ours it can be mitigated, but in the U.S. with harsh minimum sentences it cannot.” Some readers chafed at the empathy Miller extended to the pair. Russell Falconer wrote, “Lisa Miller’s paean to the virtues of the 2 Molotov Cocktail throwers during recent riots in NYC brings to mind the ’60s episodes of radical chic … The two bombers are both privileged, products of an education that seems to have been long on social justice rhetoric but short on truth and ethics. NY Magazine does its readers no service in publishing this love note to two bad people.” Others believed the incident was particularly telling of the criminal-justice system’s flaws. Public defender Scott Hechinger tweeted, “ ‘Rahman apparently threw a Bud Light bottle, filled with gasoline and lit with a toilet-paper fuse, through the broken window of a parked, abandoned cop car that had already been vandalized.’ For that a minimum of 35 years. The system is so broken.”

3 In “Good Conflict” (August 3–16), Molly Fischer wrote about author-activist Sarah Schulman and her theory that much healthy conflict is misidentified as abuse. Journalist Patrick Strudwick wrote, “Whether you agree with her stance on victimhood, abuse and conflict, she makes people think in new ways about all of this.” And @dangerfishback tweeted, “It’s a testament to the magnitude of Sarah Schulman’s oeuvre that one can write such a long and comprehensive feature about her without even digging into her stellar craft as a novelist.” Other readers complimented Fischer’s ability to capture this challenging thinker. Writer Alexander Chee said, “This is such an intelligent and thoughtful profile of [Schulman] and her work, a real pleasure to read.” And @TimPar6 called it a “compelling, beautifully woven story depicting the vast benefits of such an active life. All the disparate moments of existence leading to this provocative, evolved core. Inspiring work all around.” BuzzFeed News’ Shannon Keating added, “Whenever queer infighting makes me want to abscond forever to the woods I remember Schulman’s work and recommit to fighting for something better for all of us.”

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Comments: Week of August 17, 2020