The Atlantic Daily: Putting a Number on Disadvantage
The College Board will add a measure of students' life circumstances alongside test scores. Plus: faulty foundations of the research linking genes and depression, and more
What We’re Following
Most research on the specific genes linked to depression rests on a “house of cards.” Are people with, say, a variant of the gene SLC6A4 at greater risk for depression? Not really. That’s according to a comprehensive new study, which interrogated 18 genes that most frequently appeared in such research on depression. For decades, researchers built study after study on a blockbuster 1996 finding on SLC6A4 and depression, and now an entire field of work is in question. “This should be a real cautionary tale,” one researcher told Ed Yong. “How on Earth could we have spent 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars studying pure noise?”
Can students’ life circumstances be quantified alongside their SAT score? The College Board’s new “disadvantage” score attempts to add a measurable layer of context to each student’s test score, taking in environmental factors such as crime rates and housing values where the student lives. Test-taking students won’t see their score, but 150 participating colleges will begin evaluating applicants on this metric in the fall. Notably, the score doesn’t look at race, so it can still be used in states that have banned racial preferences in public-college admissions, as well as in a potential world without affirmative action.
I. M. Pei leaves behind a legacy of innovation as well as preservation of tradition. The renowned Chinese American architect, who died this week, is perhaps best known for the striking glass pyramid outside the Louvre museum in Paris, a structure that attracted fierce criticism when it opened in 1989. In the decades since, it’s become as much a symbol of the Louvre as the Mona Lisa itself. As France now ponders how to rebuild Notre Dame—severely damaged in a fire last month—for the centuries to come, Pei’s work might show a way.
The Catholic Church is in crisis. Is one possible future a Church without a clergy? “The crux of the matter,” James Carroll argues in his piece Abolish the Priesthood, is “the priesthood itself and its theological underpinnings.”
My five years in the priesthood, even in its most liberal wing, gave me a fetid taste of this caste system. Clericalism, with its cult of secrecy, its theological misogyny, its sexual repressiveness, and its hierarchical power based on threats of a doom-laden afterlife, is at the root of Roman Catholic dysfunction. The clerical system’s obsession with status thwarts even the merits of otherwise good priests and distorts the Gospels’ message of selfless love, which the Church was established to proclaim. Clericalism is both the underlying cause and the ongoing enabler of the present Catholic catastrophe. I left the priesthood 45 years ago, before knowing fully what had soured me, but clericalism was the reason.
Our Critics’ Picks
Read: The American war novelist Herman Wouk died Friday at the age of 103. Beyond a Pulitzer honor for The Caine Mutiny nearly seven decades ago, Wouk “deserves better remembrance and more honor in the literature of the country he loves so well,” David Frum writes.
Watch: George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s six-part adaptation of the classic war novel Catch-22 is expectedly imperfect, because “adapting Heller’s satirical, tart narrative for the screen is probably impossible,” Sophie Gilbert writes. But the series is still “magical, maddening, tender, and caustic in equal measure.”
And stick ’em with the pointy end, one last time: Game of Thrones will air its final episode on Sunday. For fans of the show who worry about how to fill a new Sunday-night void, may we point you to the research-supported pleasure of doing things for the second time? (In anticipation, sit with these historical connections from a scholar of classical warfare about the cataclysmic penultimate episode.)
Your Questions: Orban vs. Soros
(Paul Spella / The Atlantic)
An alarming change is sweeping through Hungary, Franklin Foer reported in his recent piece about the Viktor Orbán–led government’s systematic clampdown on universities, chief among them Central European University. As Orbán enjoyed a warm (and high-profile) reception at the White House this week, you had questions for Frank about what’s to come:
Q: In your view, is Orbán the most extreme among leaders of Eastern European democracies? — The Atlantic Daily reader Judith Tobin, from Paris, France
A: Orbán is the vanguard of the new autocrats, and circumstance has given greater space to expand his powers. He’s the one every other aspiring dictator in the region studies. — Frank Foer
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