Five Best Thursday Columns

Michelle Obama on America's junk food crisis, David Ignatius on Obama's foreign policy speech, Oliver Bateman on regulating professors' tweets, Rebecca Traister on why feminists should bring back home ec for boys and girls, Katie McDonough on Richard Martinez and the NRA.

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Michelle Obama at The New York Times on America's junk food crisis. “When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy. But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children. Take, for example, what’s going on now with the Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC. Right now, the House of Representatives is considering a bill to override science by mandating that white potatoes be included on the list of foods that women can purchase using WIC dollars,” Obama writes. “Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated occurrence. Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches? You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Our children deserve so much better than this.”

David Ignatius at The Washington Post on Obama’s foreign policy speech. “President Obama’s measured defense of his foreign policy at West Point on Wednesday made many cogent points to rebut critics. Unfortunately, the speech also showed that he hasn’t digested some of the crucial lessons of his presidency. Obama wisely said he wants ‘to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty.’ But Obama ignored the ‘follow-through’ part of U.S. power: Surely he can see that al-Qaeda regained control of Fallujah this year in part because America walked away from Iraq in 2010. Surely the president recognizes that terrorism has a deadly new face in Syria in part because he turned down a mid-2012 recommendation to train moderate opposition forces to counter the extremists,” Ignatius writes.“I applaud Obama for trying to craft a foreign policy for the next decade that avoids the mistakes of the past decade. But I wish he hadn’t needlessly announced to our enemies in Afghanistan how long they have to wait us out. Some of those young cadets must picture in their minds the grim prospect of flying back into Afghanistan, post-2016, to combat a future disaster.”

Oliver Bateman at Al Jazeera America on regulating professors’ tweets. “After last September’s shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., during which lone gunman Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and injured three others, Kansas University journalism professor David Guth delivered a terse and somewhat careless commentary on Twitter: ‘#NavyYardShooting. The blood is on the hands of the NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.’ Faced with criticism from state politicians and gun lobbyists, the university placed Guth on administrative leave. In December, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a comprehensive social media policy that appeared to give state university presidents unlimited discretion over faculty members’ use of Twitter and Facebook,” Bateman writes.“The policy — intended to codify the standards of social media conduct that apply to faculty members and the process by which violators are to be punished — has largely been criticized as an imposition on free speech. But it’s more complicated — and the repercussions more harmful — than that.”

Rebecca Traister at the New Republic on why feminists should bring back home ec for boys and girls. “Home economics courses were first meant to improve a woman’s lot in life by legitimizing domestic work. But they also reinforced attitudes entrenched since the dawn of the industrialized age: that while middle-class white men’s destinies lay in the public and professional sphere, middle-class white women’s duties were in providing those male wage-earners a comfortable home and well-raised children,” Traister writes. “For men, there would be a whole other range of benefits. We’re often told about the ‘boy crisis in education’—that boys are more likely to be fidgety and to have trouble focusing in school. The addition of home economics to a grade-school curriculum could help these boys, particularly if that curriculum also included an element of interpersonal, emotional education that taught them how to express affection and disagreement and how to ask questions and speak up for themselves.”

Katie McDonough at Salon on Richard Martinez and the NRA. “Richard Martinez’s son Christopher was among the six college students murdered this weekend in Isla Vista, California. From his first public statement, to the tribute to Christopher he delivered Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, Martinez has been willing to show his raw and devastating grief to the world. His vulnerability and righteous, focused anger is unlike anything we’ve seen in response to a mass shooting. And it should scare the shit out of the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and the cowardly politicians who use these deadly weapons as literal and figurative political props,” McDonough writes. “He recognizes the pattern of violence. Anyone paying attention can. But while Congress has so far been wildly successful at shutting down gun reform efforts, Martinez — who is electrifying the national conversation and building solidarity among other families whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence — may be impossible for them to ignore.”

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