5 Best Wednesday Columns

Jet engines, greenhouse gas, digital youth, and Landon cads

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  • Kathleen Parker on a Jet-Engine Challenger  The Washington Post columnist goes granular on one of the odder political contests of the moment--funding for an alternate engine for the F-35 military jet, when a serviceable engine already exists. "The Pentagon doesn't want it. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says it's unnecessary. Former President George W. Bush was against it, as is Barack Obama," writes Parker. Yet she stands up for what she calls "the little engine that might," because she believes in "the free market, where competition often leads to lower costs and better quality." Parker concludes that "nowhere does competition make more sense... than with our instruments of defense."
  • John Derbyshire on the Myth of Education  In a column for National Review, Derbyshire takes aim at "educational romanticism"--the idea that, in Deborah Solomon's words, "given the opportunity, most people could do most anything." Not so, says Derbyshire, and we should stop structuring our schools as if it were. In classrooms across America, "unintelligent, unmotivated students are showered with resources, while those who will benefit most from teaching are neglected." What we need to do, in Derbyshire's view, is treat education like any other commodity. "If we really treasure our national traditions of liberty and personal autonomy, we should resist the academicization of America," he writes. "Trying to squeeze everyone into the book-learning straitjacket, gassing on about how everyone should go to college, is not merely wrongheaded, it is morally offensive."
  • Ruth Marcus on Our Gadgets, Ourselves  Contemplating Nicholas Carr's thesis in The Shallows, Ruth Marcus frets over her own love-hate relationship with technology. "I love technology. It lets me work better and faster," writes Marcus. "But technology also takes its toll -- including physically." Despite her own problems with her tech addiction, Marcus expresses more concern for those youths coming of age in our tech-centric world. "Like Carr, I had an 'analog youth' before a 'digital adulthood.' A modern child's existence is all digital, all the time. They have constant access to stimulation -- on their laptops, on their iPods, on their cellphones. It is no surprise that their capacity to submerge themselves for hours in the world of a book has been diminished. Their brains are wired to expect more stimulation."
  • Jon A. Krosnick on the Climate Majority  Passing Thursday's resolution to "scuttle the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to limit emissions of greenhouse gases by American businesses" is not a far-off bet, says the Stanford professor in a New York Times op-ed. According to national surveys released over the past few months, it appears that fewer Americans now believe in global warming. Not so, says Krosnick, whose recent study conducted by his Stanford Political Psychology Research Group, says the trend is just the opposite. He says, "huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it." Noting certain polls' skewed results from tricky wording of questions, he adds, "72 percent of Americans think that most business leaders do not want the federal government to take steps to stop global warming. A vote to eliminate greenhouse gas regulation is likely to be perceived by the nation as a vote for industry, and against the will of the people."
  • Maureen Dowd on Their Dangerous Swagger  In an op-ed today, the New York Times columnist brings to light a disturbing trend in predatory behavior by teenage boys toward their female counterparts. Using the example of a group of boys from the elite Landon high-school who set up a fantasy league in which they "drafted" teen girls based on their looks to be on their "teams," Dowd notes that, "Landon is where the sons of many prominent members of the community are sent to learn 'the code of character,' where 'a Landon man' is part of a 'true Brotherhood' and is known for his good word, respect and honesty." She adds, "Time for a curriculum overhaul. Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.