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FOR FREE PEOPLE

American Education’s Dirty Little Secret. Plus. . .

Sheryl Sandberg on ‘Honestly.’ Jonathan Haidt was right. Suzy Weiss on the New York progressives waking up to antisemitism. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Sheryl Sandberg on Honestly, lonely hearts, the revolution eats its own in Brooklyn, Florida declares war on HOA Karens, and much more. 

But first, our lead story. 

Here at The Free Press, we’ve published our fair share of scoops about the shocking things being taught in American classrooms. To name just a few: the California public schoolers paid $1,400 to become social justice warriors, the BLM coloring book used to teach “restorative justice” at a Brooklyn elementary school, and the map on the wall of another Brooklyn school that erased Israel (all courtesy of the intrepid Francesca Block). 

If you’re like me, you’ll have read these shocking stories and asked yourself: How did this happen? The public school teacher turned education policy expert Robert Pondiscio has some answers. He says that American education has a dirty little secret: “On any given day in nearly every public school in the country, curriculum materials are put in front of children that have no official oversight or approval.” Read more from Robert on the black box of the public school curriculum.

Sheryl Sandberg on Feminism, Liberalism, and Her Waking-Up Moment 

This week on Honestly, Bari talks to Sheryl Sandberg. When most people think of the former Facebook executive they think of Lean In, corporate feminism, and Silicon Valley. Perhaps they imagine her in a power suit and campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Sandberg, in other words, is a normal liberal.

But as a major faction of the progressive left sides against Israel—and downplays, ignores, or even encourages antisemitism—a lot of people who consider themselves old-school liberals are now asking themselves: What happened? Why did we not see this coming?

That’s the position Sandberg—and many other Americans—find themselves in post–October 7: a world in which many people they thought were friends and allies are proving themselves to be anything but. 

On today’s episode of Honestly, Sheryl talks about Screams Before Silence—a documentary she made about sexual violence on October 7, which she calls “the most important work of her life.” She also talks about feminists’ silence in the wake of the atrocities, whether she feels politically homeless, and much more.

Watch Bari and Sheryl’s conversation in full below or catch it on the Honestly feed wherever you get your podcasts. And you can click here for an edited transcript of their conversation.

  1. Good news: year-on-year inflation cooled to 3.3 percent last month and core inflation dropped to 3.4 percent. And for the first time since July 2022, prices didn’t rise at all on a monthly basis. But before everyone gets too excited, the Fed noted only “modest further progress” toward its 2 percent inflation target and indicated that interest rates would remain unchanged. (NBC)

  2. Hezbollah launched more than 200 rockets, missiles, and drones at northern Israel Wednesday as retaliation for the killing of Taleb Abdullah on Tuesday. Abdullah is the most senior Hezbollah official to have been killed since the start of the war. (Times of Israel

  3. ICE agents arrested eight Tajikistani nationals with alleged ties to ISIS in Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia. All of them had previously been released into the United States after having been apprehended at the U.S. border with Mexico. In April, FBI director Christopher Wray warned of the terror threat posed by individuals crossing the southern border. (CBS

  4. A new poll asks: What do voters think of Kamala Harris? Not much, apparently. The vice president is as unpopular as her boss and only a third of voters think Harris would be likely to win were she the Democratic nominee. (Politico) Read The Free Press’s Kat Rosenfield on why America Doesn’t Need Momala Harris. 

  5. The Economist has launched its presidential election model, and it forecasts that Donald Trump has a two in three chance of winning reelection based on current polls. Things are a little less bleak for Joe Biden in 538’s model, which also launched this week. They say the race is a dead heat. (The Economist/538)

  6. “The hastily constructed pier was never designed to handle the Mediterranean Sea’s rough waters.” The Wall Street Journal details what went wrong with Biden’s $230 million Gaza pier—starting with the fact that the Pentagon learned about the plan only days before the president announced plans for it. (WSJ

  7. Jerry Seinfeld made headlines when, in his recent interview with Bari on Honestly, he said he misses “dominant masculinity.” “I get the toxic thing,” he qualified, before listing some examples: “Muhammad Ali, Sean Connery, Howard Cosell.” A Daily Beast columnist clearly under the gun decided that when Jerry said he liked “real men” he meant Hunter Biden, who apparently “bears the brunt” of toxic masculinity. You know how it goes—one minute you’re thinking “Sean Connery was a suave guy,” and the next you’re naked, waving a gun around, and smoking crack with a prostitute. Bros, we are so back. (Daily Beast)

  8. From J. Lo to The Black Keys, major artists are canceling arena tours because tickets aren’t selling. Why? One reason: post-pandemic “revenge spending” is over. Another: inflation. Putting on a show is getting pricey—and so are the tickets. How many people are going to spend $100 to see a rock band too old to be relevant and too young to be legends? (Stereogum

  9. John Fetterman, who has been on an extraordinary political journey since October 7, is also breaking new ground on the fashion front. The famously schlumpy Pennsylvania senator is smartening up, albeit in a peculiar way. His latest look involves a jacket and tie, but also a hoodie. It’s called layering, people. (X)

  10. You don’t need to believe in God to go to church, argues Emma Camp. She went from strident atheist to churchgoer, even though she “only believes in God about 30 percent of the time on a good day.” She thinks other agnostics should follow her lead. (America

In our lead Letter to the Editor this week, one of the sharpest columnists in Britain, Hadley Freeman, takes issue with Malcolm Collins’ recent Free Press piece, arguing that there is never an excuse to use physical punishment. Read Hadley’s letter, plus letters on rap lyrics and Javier Milei, here. 

→ NYC progressives realize they have a Jew-hate problem: Attendees at the Nova Music Festival exhibition were harassed in Manhattan, my colleague was mobbed while trying to report at a protest, and a masked thug on the subway barked in a train, “Raise your hand if you’re a Zionist. This is your chance to get out.” And that’s only what made the news. In New York. That was all Monday. 

Yesterday, I woke up to a text from an old source. He sent me pictures of the outside of his apartment building in Brooklyn Heights: it was covered in red paint, including red arrows meant to symbolize that the people inside are targets. A sign, punctuated with red handprints, was addressed to his neighbor, the director of the Brooklyn Museum. It read, “Anne Pasternak Brooklyn Museum White Supremacist Zionist.” He told me the act of vandalism happened around 2:30 in the morning, and that there was now an NYPD squad car stationed outside the building. “It’s pretty disgusting,” he texted. Other Jewish members of the museum’s board live in the building too. 

Credit: Peter Kendall Clark

From AOC to Brad Lander—the liberal comptroller who once defended the antisemite Linda Sarsour—New York’s leading progressives finally seem to realize they have a problem on their hands. As they issue condemnations of antisemitism, it’s tempting to dismiss it as too little too late. 

“You built this, @bradlander! Enjoy the fruits of the Jew-hatred you harvested,” wrote my old colleague Karol Markowicz. Noah Pollak wrote, “This is 100% the fault of the Democratic Party.”

The attack on Pasternak’s home was doubly irresistible. “I hate that this is happening but I hate even more that the progressives who run the Brooklyn Museum advocated for the rise of woke that led directly to this moment,” The Post Millennial’s Libby Emmons posted on X. Anne Pasternak is a liberal Jew, director of one of New York’s great cultural establishments who once told New York magazine, “white staff and trustees have to do the work of learning about our nation’s history and looking at their own education, conditioning, and biases, before we can lead meaningful change. That work is deep, hard, and essential.” She’s championed exhibits on themes of gender and race, lynching, and one that examined Picasso’s misogyny through the critical eye of comedian Hannah Gadsby. Her programming is like a woke Mad Lib. 

Even so, her own museum has been mobbed twice since her tenure began, by members of the Decolonize This Place movement in 2018 and by pro-Palestine protesters affiliated with Within Our Lifetime just last month. They stormed the lobby of the building and scaled the facade to hang a banner from the roof. Instead of repudiating the bullies literally storming the gates, museum officials were quick to tell CBS they did not call the police, even though 34 people were arrested by the NYPD that day. They offered this frankly surreal response to the mobbing: “Displaying banners inside the building or affixed to the building is against museum policy and security protocol.”

Today, we see that the revolution Pasternak and Lander and AOC fomented is eating its own. But that doesn’t mean it’s deserved. 

Putting on woke exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum and mouthing woke platitudes doesn’t mean Pasternak signed off on her own doxxing. No one deserves antisemitism—no matter how dumb their politics.

There should have been plenty of wake-up calls for the progressive left that the antisemitism was coming from inside the house. Often, they’re footing the phone bill. But if the alarm is finally rousing them out of their slumber, we shouldn’t pour cold water on their heads. We should welcome them back to reality. But an apology would be nice. —Suzy Weiss

→ Haidt was right: When Jonathan Haidt published The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness in March, it shot straight to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and started a timely conversation on an important subject: the negative impact smartphones have on kids. 

Haidt, in case you can’t tell from the title—or the excerpt we ran in The Free Press—is very worried about the damage social media has on young people’s mental health. But not everyone agreed with Haidt’s diagnosis. The debate that followed the publication of Anxious Generation got heated. 

As one Wall Street Journal headline put it: “Jonathan Haidt Blamed Tech for Teen Anxiety. Managing the Blowback Has Become a Full-Time Job.” Some accused him of fearmongering. A review in Nature questioned whether Haidt had the evidence to back up his claims. The most common objection goes something like this: declining mental health and increased smartphone use have certainly coincided, but correlation isn’t causation. Another was: Is social media really “rewiring” kids’ brains, as Haidt suggests? 

Well, last week, a new meta-study published in the academic journal PLOS Mental Health reviewed all the evidence on “functional connectivity changes in the brain of adolescents with internet addiction,” and it found plenty to back up Haidt’s thesis. 

I emailed Professor Haidt to ask him about the study. He replied that “at a time when many parents and policymakers really want to know whether the extant research gives us cause for comfort or alarm about kids who are heavy users of digital media, this paper is very important.”

He said the study “fits with common sense” and finds that “kids who are doing something that gives them massive amounts of quick and easy dopamine, for years, during the sensitive period of puberty, come out with brains that are different, in concerning ways, from those who don’t grow up in a flood of quick and easy dopamine.” In other words: Haidt is right. (We never doubted him.) 

→ Beating the busybodies: Florida is clamping down on HOA Karens—and not a day too soon. For years, homeowners associations (or HOAs) have terrorized Floridians, threatening to sue people over decorative garage door hinges and trying to force war veterans to give up their service dogs. Some have attempted to foreclose on families for being late on fees, even after they paid. Some outright steal money from residents.

But now, a new law—recently signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, and going into effect July 1—will finally limit the powers of the HOA. House Bill 1203 bans HOAs from fining residents for petty infractions, like leaving their garbage cans out past trash day, or failing to remove holiday decorations (unless they refuse to take them down a week after being given notice). Additionally, HOAs can no longer prohibit residents from parking their vehicles on. . . their own property. Or tell people how they can and can’t decorate the interior of. . . their own homes. Glad we spelled this one out. 

The law also requires HOAs to be more transparent. Any association with more than 100 “parcels”—essentially, properties—has to post all of its rules as well as its budget on its website. Is it insane that these weren’t rules before? Yes. But better late than never! —River Page 

Single readers, it’s that time of the week again! Welcome back to another round of FP Lonely Hearts. Happy soulmate searching to all. Email cupid@thefp.com if you want to be included in next week’s crop. 

Beth Shindler, 41, San Francisco

Hello, Free Pressers, I’m 41 and I live in San Francisco, CA. I work hard and enjoy traveling, watching sports, and exploring the Bay Area. 

All of my friends are coupled up, and I am the last single leper in the colony. I have an amazing life. I don’t want or need to get married at this point, or to have children. I would like a man with whom I can share Michelin star meals, go on hikes through the Presidio, and take bougie vacations to distant lands. 

When pondering The Free Press prompt about the last time I changed my mind, I realized how hard it is to change my mind and how infrequently it occurs. We make our judgments, and they tend to stick. I could get into many issues: politics, people, controversies at work. But for now, let’s stick with something lighthearted. I recently changed my mind about the WNBA: with Caitlin Clark’s arrival, it is now worth watching. My potential suitors can reach me by email: beth.shindler@gmail.com.

Todd Strauss-Schulson, 43, LA/NYC

I’m looking for a woman who is smart and stimulating, generous and warm, funny and beautiful. I’m looking for someone with whom I can build a life that is full of ideas, imagination, hot takes, good food, and most importantly, laughs.

I write and direct movies—mostly comedies—and there is nothing more romantic than a shared sense of humor. . . to overhear your partner’s quiet aside at a party and burst out laughing so hard that everyone around you says “What?”

I change my mind every day, all day, about everything. Would I say that makes me indecisive? No way. I try to stay patient until I can feel what’s right. Sometimes it takes a second, but I honestly wish more people did the same: quieted down so that they could really hear themselves think.

strauss.schulson@gmail.com

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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