How Competition and College Admissions Harm American Families

June 24 2021

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections,” wrote the great British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke. His intent was to defend what later political scientists would label “civil society” or “mediating institutions”—families, churches, bowling leagues, volunteer organizations, and other units that bring people together independent of the government. From this observation, Matt Feeney derives the title of his recent book Little Platoons: A Defense of Family in a Competitive Age. Alan Jacobs writes in his review:

If there is any one idea that conservatives are thought to share, it’s the belief that a healthy society needs healthy mediating institutions. . . . The really brilliant thing about Feeney’s book . . . is its claim that in some areas of contemporary American life the mediating institutions are not too weak but rather too strong. And what he demonstrates with great acuity is the consistency with which those institutions, from youth soccer organizations to college admissions committees, have conscripted the “little platoon” of the family to serve their needs—indeed, to get families to compete with one another to serve those institutions’ needs.

Feeney is not by any means opposed to these mediating institutions as such—there’s a wonderful section on how he learned, through walking his kids to school every day and then hanging out for a while with teachers and other parents, how a school really can be the locus of genuine community—but looks with a gimlet eye . . . on the ways that, right now, in this country, a few such institutions form, sustain, and disseminate their power over families.

He’s scathing about college admissions, especially the turn towards “holistic” admissions processes which serve to transform mid-level administrators into eager shapers of souls.

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Read more at Snakes and Ladders

More about: American society, Edmund Burke, Education, Family

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform