Five Best Tuesday Columns

William Deresiewicz on American colleges, The Wall Street Journal on religious extremism, David Newman on Israel, Sen. Charles Schumer on political primaries, and Jess Zimmerman on Facebook. 

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William Deresiewicz in The New Republic on why the Ivy League is detrimental to our education system. Deresiewicz contends that elite education in America has become too full of false notions of success and too short on real education. "Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it." Deresiewicz laments that high-level American education has stopped caring about fostering intellectual thought and has instead created students that are terrified of failure. "Elite schools like to boast that they teach their students how to think, but all they mean is that they train them in the analytic and rhetorical skills that are necessary for success in business and the professions. Everything is technocratic — the development of expertise — and everything is ultimately justified in technocratic terms."

The Wall Street Journal (subscription) on why moderate Muslims must denounce extremist Islam. There are an increasing number of Christian deaths by Islamic extremists in Mosul. The Journal hypothesizes what would happen if the roles were reversed. "Imagine if a fundamentalist Christian sect captured the French city of Lyon and began a systematic purge of Muslims. Their mosques were destroyed, their crescents defaced, the Koran burned and then all Muslims forced to flee or face execution. Such an event would be unthinkable today, and if it did occur Pope Francis and all other Christian leaders would denounce it and support efforts by governments to stop it." They call on moderate Muslims to have a similar reaction. "Today's religious extremism is almost entirely Islamic. While ISIS's purge may be the most brutal, Islamists in Egypt have driven thousands of Coptic Christians from homes they've occupied for centuries. The same is true across the Muslim parts of Africa. This does not mean that all Muslims are extremists, but it does mean that all Muslims have an obligation to denounce and resist the extremists who murder or subjugate in the name of Allah. Too few imams living in the tolerant West will speak up against it."

David Newman in The Jerusalem Post on why Israel must pursue a diplomatic cooperation with Hamas to prevent another war in the future. Although international criticism of Israel has been more muted than in the past, they are still losing the public relations war against Hamas in Gaza. "Every innocent child who is killed while playing football on the beach, every family that sees their home destroyed as they are turned out on to the streets with nowhere to go between the closed borders of Egypt, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, turns opinion against Israel." Newman argues that Israel must put renewed effort into a diplomatic solution if they ever want to substantially shift international public opinion. "The world may, for a very limited period of time, be partially receptive to Israel’s response to the threat to its civilian population from the firing of missiles... But opinion will quickly change – it is already beginning to do so – if Israel does not take this opportunity to move ahead with a new diplomatic initiative following the end of hostilities."

Charles Schumer in The New York Times on why primaries are polarizing the American political system. People have pointed to many causes for continued political partisanship and Congressional gridlock. Schumer faults the primary process. "The reasons behind the shocking primary defeat last month of Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, who was then leader of the Republican majority in the House, are still being debated, but there is no doubt that his defeat highlighted the pernicious effects of the predominant 'winner-take-all' party primary system." Schumer blames the influx of outside money in politics and redistricting, and proposes a new system that establishes a runoff between the top two vote-getters. "While there are no guarantees, it seems likely that a top-two primary system would encourage more participation in primaries and undo tendencies toward default extremism. It would remove the incentive that pushes our politicians to kowtow to the factions of their party that are most driven by fear and anger."

Jess Zimmerman in The Guardian on how Facebook's testing of a "buy" button could turn it into the Las Vegas of the online world. Facebook is testing a new feature: a button that allows you to purchase anything you see in a post. Zimmerman writes that Facebook, like Vegas, is trying to keep you chained to its site for as long as possible by making everything available to you right there. "The company's announcement of its new test notes that "people on desktop or mobile can click the 'Buy' call-to-action button on ads and Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook" – as though this is a service provided for its users. But of course, it's Facebook that prefers you not leave Facebook. It doesn't even want you to go out for a smoke." She continues, "When a mega-company increases your convenience, ask yourself: is it really making your life run more smoothly, or is it simply ensuring that the house always wins?"

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