Five Best Tuesday Columns

On electric cars, the problem with teacher's unions, and joining with China to fix Pakistan

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David Brooks on America's Declining Workforce  New York Times columnist David Brooks would like to see more of a focus on America's declining workforce--a crucial component of America's flagging characteristic energy--and a little less on Democrats fighting tooth and nail to defend Medicare. Brooks points out that "one-fifth of all men in their prime working ages are not getting up and going to work," a portion of our country that will "find it hard to attract spouses. Many will pick up habits that have a corrosive cultural influence on those around them. The country will not benefit from their potential abilities." Brooks insists that "expanding community colleges and online learning; changing the corporate tax code and labor market rules to stimulate investment; adopting German-style labor market practices like apprenticeship programs, wage subsidies and programs that extend benefits to the unemployed for six months as they start small businesses," instead of sinking all that energy and money into Medicare can all contribute to "reinvigorating the missing fifth."

Seth Fletcher on Saving the Electric Car  The White House's plan to put "one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 ... is ambitious, but it's more realistic than it's critics maintain," insists Seth Fletcher at The New York Times today. He counters arguments that "batteries can't yet propel a full-size car 500 miles on the highway and recharge in a few minutes" by pointing out that most of the electric cars included in this proposal "will combine batteries, electric motors and internal combustion engines to use as little gasoline as possible while still doing everything Americans expect their cars to do." Fletcher suggests we can reduce American vehicles' oil consumption by seven million if "75 percent of all miles driven in the United States are powered by electricity" by 2040, "but getting there will require a mass rollout of these cars, and it will take government assistance to make that happen ... If we gut domestic clean-energy research, scientists in China or Germany or Japan will finish this work. But it would be far better to stick with the program we've begun."

Joel Klein on Fixing Education  The Wall Street Journal today runs an adapted version of Joel Klein's article in this month's issue of The Atlantic, in which he explains the control teachers unions have over firing any teachers--even those found guilty of sexual misconduct. "It's little surprise, then, that American kids don't get the education they deserve," writes the former New York City schools chancellor, who recalls demanding immediate reform and being told to be patient. The patience bit "was bad advice, typical of the status-quo thinking that dominates American education." Change is possible, he argues, and falling back on the idea that "we'll never fix education until we fix poverty" is simply a cop-out. The change needed takes time, "significant political capital" and "political support." He quotes Albert Shanker in insisting that reform will take the willingness "to change and stop doing the things that brought us to this point."

Michael Knox Beran on Islam's Darkness  At National Review, Michael Knox Beran observes that, despite dramatic changes rippling through the Muslim world over the past few months, "Islam seems unlikely to undergo the reformation its most generous hearts and minds desire." Beran predicts that after the revolutions, "only the identity of the ruling cabals is likely to change," noting that the effort of "Islamic intellectuals, many of them educated in the open the Islamic mind and reconcile the teachings of the prophet with individual liberty, freedom of conscience, the rule of law, and wide and accurate learning," is reflective of minority desires. He argues that, despite Islam's earlier history of openness and vibrant debate, "a darkness has come over the faith. Not the creative darkness that begets illumination but an oppressive darkness under cover of which millions of people live without freedom, opportunity, or the useful employment that offers a way out of squalor and sloth." Beren concludes, pessimistically, that the inability to "let in the sun" will result in the currently uprising countries seeing little change. "Because the Islamic mind, in its present benightedness, is so largely a closed one, the Islamic state can only be barren and corrupt."

Patrick Doherty on Uniting with China to Fix Pakistan  To repair Pakistan, the U.S. must work together with China, "Pakistan's primary ally and a major investor in the country's economic success," insists Patrick Doherty at Foreign Policy. Doherty argues that when he meets with Chinese officials this week, President Obama should focus on our two countries' shared interests, which lies in the fact that "China needs a marked increase in Pakistani agricultural productivity, while America needs Pakistan to build a prosperous economy and a moderate political order that sees its neighbors to the northwest and east as economic opportunities -- rather than threats." United, Doherty believes the world's two superpowers can accomplish much more than on their own.

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