5 Best Monday Columns

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  • Arne Duncan on Rewriting No Child Left Behind  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan takes to the Washington Post this morning to urge bipartisan cooperation between law makers in rewriting what the current No Child Left Behind act. Duncan points out that the issues that most people have with the system--that it is inflexible and encourages learning tailored to test questions rather than overall education--are agreed upon by members of both parties. Duncan lays out the goals of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act: "more flexibility and fairness in our accountability system, a bigger investment in teachers and principals, and a sharper focus on schools and students most at risk." He also predicts a coming "bipartisan revolution" that he argues will be sparked by issues such as education behind which members of both parties can unite.
  • Gregory Rodriguez on the Joy Recovery  The numbers say America is slowly bouncing back from the recession, but the Los Angeles Times columnist wonders  if America's psyche has been permanently damaged by the downturn."Hard times," he writes, "slow us down, reign us in, and otherwise keep us waiting anxiously for the other shoe to drop." It's "dead wrong," Rodriguez believes, to argue Americans would benefit from a taste of austerity. "The gospel that money is somehow bad for your soul, to paraphrase Albert Camus, is little more than spiritual snobbery." Greed isn't good and money isn't a cure-all, but the thought of it keeps the brain humming and the spirit buoyant. "By keeping us in idle and dampening our imaginations," writes Rodriguez, "recessions kill that thrill and diminish that joy." The American economy may be on the way back, but the country's sense of joy continues to lag.
  • Ross Douthat on Popular Culture and Abortion  MTV has drawn criticism for airing reality shows purportedly glamorizing teen pregnancy, but the New York Times columnist believes the network's Teen Mom-themed programming offers remarkable insight into the hidden realities that shape the abortion debate in America. Even on acclaimed scripted shows like Mad Men and Sex & The City (not to mention hit movies like Knocked Up and Juno), the question of aborting an unplanned pregnancy is "remains a little too controversial, and a little bit too real." In light of Hollywood's tiptoeing around the subject, MTV's No Easy Decision special, in which an unwed, lower-class teen mother weighs terminating her pregnancy, deserves credit for being "a case study in how abortion can simultaneously seem like a moral wrong and the only possible solution." And while the special itself was "resolutely pro-choice," it illuminated the "tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted pregnancies and the burden of infertility" in a manner that should prompt reflection and empathy from those on both sides of the issue.
  • Andy Kessler on How Video Games Change the Economy  For "centuries," and throughout the 20th century, militaries have been a driving force for technological progress, writes The Wall Street Journal contributor. Computers were created to help calculate artillery firing, Global Positioning Systems were funded by Congress for a "nuclear detonation detection system," and microwaves were derived from radar systems. But now, figures Kessler, the "military-industrial complex" that has driven such progress is being displaced by something entirely different: the "entertainment-industrial complex." The next generation of workers will be influenced by innovations made popular and accessible by Call of Duty ("remote cooperation"), World of Warcraft ("real-time texting and talking") and Microsoft's Xbox device Kinnect ("tools that can harness voices and gestures"). "A fully functioning stock market can raise billions for productive commercial applications, bypassing the military connection" and thriving off of high-volume consumer sales, Kessler argues. This is good news for innovation.
  • The New York Times Editors on 'No Solicitation' Agreements Between Tech Companies  A New York Times editorial spotlights a recent Justice Department suit between Lucasfilm and Pixar, who had made an agreement "not to cold-call each other's employees and to notify each other when making an offer to the other company's employee. They also agreed that if one tried to poach one of the other's employees and the rival counteroffered, the poacher would not increase the pay package above the initial bid." The Times editors also point to another similar case over agreements made between Adobe Systems, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit and Pixar and they argue that these types of pacts basically prevent workers from searching for better job opportunities and thus from ever receiving raises. "What century are we in?" they ask, calling the practices reminiscent of feudalism. "We hope the settlements will also serve as a reality check for these companies," they write. "They are supposed to be laying the technological groundwork for a better future. That future can't be built with exploitive labor practices."

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