Five Best Monday Columns
Ian Crouch on Kevin Ware's injury, Paul Krugman on California's absent crisis, Michael Brendan Dougherty on the golden era of baseball, Kurt Schlichter on losing the gay marriage battle, and Mary McConnell on homeschooling.
Ian Crouch at The New Yorker on Kevin Ware's injury Sports fanatics faced a rare moment of reflection, writes Ian Crouch, when a University of Louisville sophomore named Kevin Ware broke several parts of his right leg during his team's widely-watched March Madness game against Duke University. "March Madness is as much a cultural event now as a sporting one, and so it is easy to lose the brute physical facts of the game—the exertion, the torque, the sweat—amid all the other noise: our brackets, our alma-mater nostalgia, our fatigue at the same four ads running in a loop," Crouch writes, pointing to Salon's discussion of the post-injury bills Ware could be stuck with. He continues: "Ware’s injury was as bleak of a reminder as there could be that the games going on inside our televisions are actually being played by real people somewhere else—fragile people; young people."
Paul Krugman in The New York Times on California's crises Why, Paul Krugman asks, has California been a punching bag for GOP policy-makers for so long? "California has been solidly Democratic since the late 1990s," Krugman observes, highlighting the state's increasingly nonwhite population. "Ever since ... conservatives have declared the state doomed. Their specifics keep changing, but the moral is always the same: liberal do-gooders are bringing California to its knees." After taking count of various crises that supposedly doomed the state — an energy crunch, high unemployment, an unbalanced budget — Krugman concludes that the problem is one of politics, not policy. "California isn’t a state in which liberals have run wild; it’s a state where a liberal majority has been effectively hamstrung by a fanatical conservative minority that ... has been able to block effective policy-making."
Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Daily Beast on the golden era of baseball Baseball, Michael Brendan Dougherty suggests, is the ideal refuge from our scandal-soaked culture. Indeed, it provides a model for a way to live: "As long as we have Baby Boomer nostalgia and Internet gossip, the tendencies to idolize or vandalize will be indulged. But alternating temptations to lift baseball into a civic religion or pull it down into a sty of frat-antics have largely canceled each other out, and neither threatens to overwhelm the culture around the game," Dougherty writes, emphasizing baseball's sublime simplicity over its heady salaries and even headier doping scandals. "Fans of a losing team are not made to feel less American, or less dignified than the winners. We do not suspect that this game and its players are destroying the American way of life."
Kurt Schlichter at Townhall on the losing season of gay marriage opponents "There are several reasons," Kurt Schlichter explains, why conservatives lost the battle on gay marriage, despite millennia of precedent. For example, "Americans dislike harshness, and it is tough to look at good people and tell them 'No, you cannot have this thing we feel is central to a happy life.'" Furthermore, "the argument that gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage is very tough to make when Americans have seen gays getting married for a while and…nothing happened." So what are conservatives to do? In a word, relent — for the greater conservative cause. "As long as gay marriage remains unsettled, many will not even look at conservatism even though they are remarkably supportive of many of our positions."
Mary McConnell in First Things on how homeschooling could help reform "real" school In many ways, the principles of homeschooling — self-direction, curricular flexibility, unstructured time — are models for reforming the public and private schools most parents send their children to, argues Mary McConnell. "Homeschooled children learn more than their counterparts, at least to the extent that standardized tests measure learning, and are emotionally healthier as well, at least to the extent that psychologists' 'self-esteem and self-concept' scales truly capture emotional health," she writes, but acknowledges that it often leaves them under-equipped to succeed in structured, normal employment. (She quotes a former homeschooler who admits that perhaps "school is designed to acclimate humans to enduring long stretches of tedium.") Still, that's no reason to abandon the intellectual value of self-directed, tailored learning, especially in settings like large schools.