The feature dispatches, articles, columns, and essays in The Atlantic’s October issue include:
The Case Against High-School Sports
The United States routinely spends more tax dollars per high-school athlete than per high-school math student—unlike most countries worldwide. And we wonder why we lag in international rankings? In the cover story, Amanda Ripley takes a look at what happens when schools prioritize academics over athletics. Take Premont Independent School District, outside of Corpus Christi, Texas. Facing the threat of closure for financial mismanagement and academic failure, the high school scrapped its pricey sports program entirely. Even the beloved football team. The following semester, 80 percent of all students passed their classes—up from 50 percent the previous fall. Now imagine what the rest of America’s schools would be like if our obsessive intensity about high-school sports was focused the classroom instead.
How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers
Behold the highly lucrative business model of the NFL: taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn’t apply to television deals, the league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year. It’s time, Gregg Easterbrook argues, to stop the public giveaways to America’s richest sports league—and to the feudal lords who own its teams.
The New Terrorist Training Ground
Last year, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb did something no other modern terrorist group has: conquered a broad swath of a sovereign country—Mali. Since then, despite French intervention, northern Mali has become a jihadist front, reports Yochi Dreazen, with Islamist militants flowing in from around the world. While America remains focused on threats from the Middle East and South Asia, the new face of terror is likely to be African.
My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me
What happens when a father, alarmed by his 13-year-old daughter’s nightly workload, tries to do her homework? After a week’s worth of algebra worksheets, Spanish quizzes, book reports, and more—upwards of three hours a night—Karl Taro Greenfeld realizes he can’t keep up with middle school anymore. If he can’t do it, what is homework doing to our kids?
The Boom Towns and Ghost Towns of the New Economy
New York, Houston, Washington, D.C.—plus college towns and the energy belt—are all up, while much of the Sun Belt is (still) down. Richard Florida maps the winners and the losers in the Great Recession.
- Everyone Loves a Loser: Liza Mundy investigates how Americans came to fetishize failure (see: Mark Sanford, David Petraeus, Jonah Lehrer). Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/everyone-loves-a-loser/309444/
- Why Wall Street Loves Houses Again: The Blackstone Group and other members of the fast-money crowd have a risky new strategy for investing in real estate—this time as landlords. To date, the hedge-fund behemoth has purchased some 32,000 houses from banks, spending more than $5.5 billion in the process, plus another $500 million in renovations. Is this another speculative bubble? William D. Cohan investigates the potential impact on the housing market. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/why-wall-street-loves-houses-again/309454/
- The Devil’s Daughter: Marine Le Pen is fast becoming a mainstream political leader in France. What does that say about the National Front, the far-right party she inherited from her father, Jean-Marie? What does it say about France? Cécile Alduy sits down with the rising political star for an in-depth interview. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-devils-daughter/309467/
- Been There, Said That: OMG, Arab Spring, and LOL all sound decidedly 21st-century, right? But as Jen Doll reveals in this month’s Wordplay, each phrase dates back much further than that. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/wordplay/309453/
- No. 1 in Wine and Porn!: Sommer Mathis explores the idiocy of state rankings and finds that, with enough creative polling, any place can rank first in something. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/no-1-in-wine-and-porn/309445/
- Why It’s Never Been More Fun to Watch Sports: In our Tech Column, Alexis Madrigal talks with Sportvision’s Hank Adams about glowing hockey pucks, football’s yellow line, and other TV whizbangery. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/why-its-never-been-more-fun-to-watch-sports/309456/
The Culture File:
- The Inner Life of James Bond: On the occasion of William Boyd’s new 007 novel, Solo, James Parker reexamines the superspy’s character—or lack thereof. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-inner-life-of-james-bond/309457/
- The Underdogs’ Guru: Malcolm Gladwell’s latest gospel of success further romanticizes the Davids of the world and underrates the Goliaths. Tina Rosenberg reviews of the author’s latest book. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-underdogs-guru/309458/
- From Table to Farm: Reid Wilson spent three weeks as an apprentice farmer in rural New Zealand. The experience transformed his relationship with food. Read more http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/from-table-to-farm/309449/
Finally, the Big Question on our back page: What was the best speech, historical or fictional, ever given? Ben Stein, actor and former speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford; Melinda Gates; James Carville; General Stanley McChrystal; and many more weigh in.