Five Best Thursday Columns

Ruth Graham on Candace Cameron Bure and the culture wars, Jonathan Chait on Chris Christie, Rebecca Mead on standardized testing, Noreen Malone on the rise of Brian Stelter, and Gail Collins on Obama's Vatican visit. 

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Ruth Graham at Slate on Candace Cameron Bure and the culture wars. "It may be time to say goodbye to D.J. Tanner. Candace Cameron Bure, who played the oldest daughter on Full House, has spent the last several years quietly building her brand as a conservative Christian author and speaker," Graham writes. She's following in the footsteps of older brother Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains), Graham argues. But "where Kirk is energized by 'end times' theology and evangelism, Bure talks marriage and motherhood." Most notably, Bure has written in her books that she is submissive to her husband, based on her understanding of Christian theology. But "there have been previous hints that Bure is eager to throw herself into the culture wars. After Chick-fil-A’s CEO spoke against gay marriage in 2012, the actress tweeted a photo of herself and her son eating the fast food on Mike Huckabee’s 'Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day' with the caption, 'We love chikin!'" Graham calls Bure the "evangelical Anne-Marie Slaughter." Awl contributor Josh Fruhlinger tweets, "This is great/fascinating! (Also how did I not know that Mike Seaver and DJ Tanner were siblings???)"

Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Chris Christie. "The recent travails of Chris Christie have jumbled together two qualities of his style that are actually distinct. One is corruption of power, and the other is a willingness to work with both parties," Chait argues. "Working with a legislature controlled by the opposite party is a shrewd way for an executive to maximize his power and influence. Genuine ideological opposition may prevent such deals, but if your only goal is power and influence, then you’re less likely to let that stop you," he explains. Former President Nixon regularly cut deals with Democrats, but was still obsessed with gaining power, for example. "People like good government, and they also like bipartisanship. ... But the two are not remotely synonymous," Chait insists.

Rebecca Mead at The New Yorker on standardized testing. Standardized testing has long been thought to be a necessary evil by educators, but one Brooklyn public school "is actively and vocally preparing to support families who decide to opt children out of the testing. Alternative activities will be provided on those days, as will alternative ways of measuring children’s progress," Mead writes. But "the regime of testing has expanded in recent years, in the wake of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and a belief that what goes on in a classroom can most accurately be divined by data. Defenders of the Common Core curriculum, which seeks to insure that students nationwide are being taught according to the same standards and are meeting federally defined expectations, argue that testing is an effective means of determining whether standards have been reached, thus protecting the interests of children most at risk of being failed by the educational system," Mead explains. She argues, "There is questionable wisdom in entrusting a for-profit corporation with measuring how well kids learn to read, write, compute, and think." Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher and popular education blogger, tweets, "Wow, The New Yorker publishes [an] eloquent attack on standardized testing."

Noreen Malone at The New Republic on the rise of Brian Stelter. "Before CNN hired him last fall, the 28-year-old Stelter had for years covered television (among other media) for the Times, where he was a star. But his relationship to his subject always appeared more borne of love than the skepticism that can often seem to animate other beat reporters," Malone writes. His "youthful approach to news also helped him get sources. Television executives were impressed when Stelter embraced Twitter and spoke confidently way back in 2008 of how he was using the web to 'timeshift' his own TV viewing instead of watching it live — now, a banal commonality, but then still a relatively new problem for executives," she explains. Now "on television, Stelter still looks like someone trying to look like someone on television. He is a clearly excellent student of the body language and patter of the famous broadcasters. ... He is concentrating on being inside the screen," she notes.

Gail Collins at The New York Times on Obama's Vatican visit. "President Obama is going to visit the pope! He’s been to the Vatican before, but not with this pope, who is perhaps the only person in the world almost everybody likes. Except Rush Limbaugh, which sort of makes it even better," Collins writes. "The president’s visit, which is scheduled for March, comes at an interesting intersection in the two men’s careers. Pope Francis can currently do no wrong, and Barack Obama can do no right," she argues. While Republican congressmen have criticized Obama at every turn, they are wary of disrespecting Pope Francis, even though many disagree with his economic teachings. "The moral is: It’s way easier to be pope," Collins writes.

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