How Competition and College Admissions Harm American Families

“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.

Read more at Snakes and Ladders

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

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria