5 Best Wednesday Columns

GM's latest nemesis, the NFL's concussion epidemic and more

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  • Holman Jenkins on GM's Latest Nemesis While Toyota and GM have been grappling for the title of world's largest automaker, The Wall Street Journal contributor has his eye on a dark horse to emerge at the top of the heap. VW, which has been ramping up production in the U.S., is looking to become the largest automaker by volume, a worrisome development for GM. "A less ambitious company might have been content with trying to solidify its relationship with its known fans," writes Jenkins, "[E]specially given an iffy U.S. recovery. But VW's big bet is on the table. For all of Mr. Obama's happy talk in Detroit, the car wars aren't over."

  • Steven Pearlstein on the Limits of Scientific Testing The Washington Post columnist notes that it has only been relatively recently that randomized testing has migrated from the hard sciences to the business and social spheres, "where they're now attracting lots of money and attention." But society's adherence to scientific experimentation to "solve" perpetual social ills or understand irrational human behavior may ultimately be a losing proposition. There is too much variety within people to accurately predict ever-shifting conditions. "Try as we might, try as we should," he concludes, "we may never achieve a fully scientific understanding of human behavior."

  • Skip Rozin on Football's Concussion Epidemic Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Rozin becomes the latest pundit to applaud the NFL's campaign to raise awareness of head injuries, but questions whether players will get the message. The decision to prominently display posters detailing the long-term effects of multiple concussions in team locker rooms "embraces caution in what, for players, is a high-risk environment." Players are still taught to play through nagging injuries. "The axiom that 'you can't make the club in the tub' is taken as gospel." But as Rozin points out, "skeletal and muscular injuries are different from concussions. Recent studies confirm that the effects of concussions can be serious and permanent." Real progress on concussions will only come when there's a modification to "the athletes' code of playing hurt."

  • Ruth Marcus on the Congressional Culture of Corruption The Washington Post columnist mounts a quasi-defense of Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, both of whom are at the center of separate corruption probes. "What is wrong with these people? The tempting answer: They're members of Congress." Marcus realizes this statement sounds "harsh and glib", but she also thinks it just might be accurate. "[S]omething in the congressional atmosphere," writes Marcus, "encourages their sense of ordinary-rules-don't-apply-to-me entitlement." It's a problem that worsens with time. "The longer they stay -- nearly 40 years in Rangel's case, going on 20 in Waters's -- and the safer their seats, the sloppier they tend to get, and the more there tends to be a unseemly merger of the personal and the official."

  • Sol Stern on Standardized Testing's Lower Standards It seems like a no-brainer: the fastest way to improve students scores is simply to make the tests easier. But these wildly varying educational standards are more than concerning to National Review contributor Sol Stern, who points the finger squarely at the No Child Left Behind Act for leaving "the door wide open to massive test inflation." Not surprisingly, when students test scores rise, local authorities often turn a blind-eye to the sobering reality of lower standards. The "teaching-to-the-test" mentality has to be dropped if any real progress is to be made.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.