5 Best Tuesday Columns

David Ignatius on reconciling with the Taliban, Stanley Fish on student evaluations, and more

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  • David Brooks on Bill Wilson's Gospel  In an op-ed today, the New York Times columnist comments on the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous as portrayed in a recent Wired magazine article. He says, "The article is noteworthy not only because of the light it sheds on what we've learned about addiction, but for what it says about changing behavior more generally. Much of what we do in public policy is to try to get people to behave in their own long-term interests." He continues to break down the implications of the article and sums up its take on AA, saying, "In the business of changing lives, the straight path is rarely the best one. A.A. illustrates that even in an age of scientific advance, it is still ancient insights into human nature that work best."
  • Winifred Gallagher on the Other Real Estate Value The philosophy of owning a home--the sense of nurture and shelter--is visited by the real-estate author in the New York Times today. Commenting on her own experience in selling her house, Gallagher weighs the financial value of a home against the psychological value of having one. She says, "Like the old song says, there's no place like home, not because of the real estate, but because of the sense of shelter and nurture that it provides." She continues, "'home' doesn't mean just your house but also your village or community, where you're known and understood."
  • David Ignatius on Reconciling With the Taliban With no firm end in sight for the conflict in Afghanistan, the Washington Post columnist ponders the prudence of political reconciliation. While each side continues to battle from a position of maximum strength (which, to Ignatius, means inflicting maximum bloodshed), the Taliban's entrenchment in Afghanistan's cultural and political landscape can only be undone by psychological exhaustion among footsoliders. "Both the United States and the Taliban have set heavy preconditions for negotiations, which for now have stymied serious dialogue," writes Ignatius. "Washington insists that Taliban fighters disarm, renounce any links with al-Qaeda and accept the human-rights provisions of the Afghan constitution. The Taliban demands the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan. For now, those demands have produced an impasse."
  • Stanley Fish (and Readers) on Student Evaluations The New York Times' Stanley Fish is against "relying on student evaluations to assess teacher performance," and wrote about it last week. Now he's summarizing reader response to the column, and responding in turn where he sees fit. Readers' general message, he says, is "It's worse than you think." There are stories of teachers moving classes to morning hours as requested only to get "pilloried by those same students for making them get up too early," stories of teachers altering grading systems, and more.
A Teacher lets it all hang out and speaks for many: "Sorry kids, you are not the authority in the classroom. Me Teacher. You student. Me Teach , you learn. End of discussion . . . Education is not a business. You are not my customer. My classroom is not Burger King. You do not get to 'have it your way." ... I am pleased and amazed to report that one poster actually answered what was thought to be the impossible question: What exactly is good teaching? PES realized years after encountering it that he (or she) had been its beneficiary: "I had learned without knowing it almost, how to see three sides of a twosided story." I wish I had said that.
  • National Review Editors on Granting Mosab Hassan Yousef Asylum The editors lay out the facts of a relatively low-profile case: Yousef, son of a Hamas founder, "had a change of heart" in his youth and began working for Israeli intelligence, "prevent[ing] dozens of terrorist attacks." He's now in the U.S., seeking asylum, and his application was denied "on the grounds that he provided material support to a terrorist organization." National Review editors think this is absurd, not least because Yousef really will "risk execution" if he returns to the West Bank: "Yousef deserves asylum. If our immigration system can't distinguish between him and a true terrorist, it's more witless and perverse than even we imagined."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.