The more public and private schools are forced to compete for places
and funding – “under pressure to
produce tangible, rankable results” – the more education will become
“risk-averse and narrow,” says Amanda Dunn in The Age. “Much of what
education does, and should do, is not
demonstrable by a table or a graph.” Instead it should force our youth
to think broadly and deeply about issues, and should be “concerned not
only with intellectual but with emotional and social
development.” Good grades – “something that looks like a guaranteed return on
the investment” – shouldn’t be the only way we measure our education system and our students.

Considering Maureen Dowd’s new book Are
Men Necessary?
and its
arguments for a women-only utopia, “perhaps there is nowhere
for feminist discussion to go but into some kind of
pseudo-scientific debate that views the relationship between men
and women as driven purely by reproduction,” says Winnie Salamon in The
Sydney Morning Herald
.
Let’s hope not. “Dowd is smart and stylish and
sexy and successful,” but there are plenty of equally smart, successful
women with kids and a life partner, and modern feminism need a
discussion that’s “meaningful and relevant, not merely controversial
and extreme.”

“Neither the present Israeli government nor Hamas want a negotiated
settlement bringing about a two-state solution,” says Gerald Kaufman in
The Guardian. When, just before he was hospitalised, Ariel Sharon
decided to uproot a number of Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip
some Western leaders were “gullible” enough to believe Sharon was
laying the foundations for a two-state solution. “Palestinian voters,
living in their hopeless predicament, knew better.” They voted with
their guns and their hearts: “If we can’t have our state, we will opt
for armed resistance.” And the consequences to come from the Iraq war
have never been clearer because when people are unhappy with the status
quo, they’ll let you know.

The new Bolivian president Evo Morales, who took office on January 22,
rode into power promising to reform the country, but so far his actions
have “smacked more of radicalism than pragmatism,” says The Economist.He’s
formed a cabinet full of those intellectual socialists who ran into
power with him, and who have very little experience with government or
management. His choice of cabinet shows that Morales wants to
really reform Bolivia’s economy. “Its job is to ‘refound’ the
country, says Mr Morales. He claims to be
leading a ‘democratic revolution’ in a poor and unequal country.” But
will the stress “turn out to be on democracy – or on revolution?”

There
may, at first glance, be very little in common with the US President
and his Russian counterpart, but there are some strange parallels
between two presidents who’ve “stumbled upon the presidencies of the
two former Cold War rivals,” says Alexei Bayer in The Moscow Times.
Both are accidental rulers – Putin chosen by rich oligarchs and oil
barons; and Bush who needed a Supreme Court ruling to confirm his
presidency. Both “Bush and Putin didn’t have to pay their dues, and
thus failed to learn about compromise and realism,” says Bayer, but at
least Russia lacks any real allusions to democratic rule. “It is far
more disconcerting to see American policy governed by the whim of the
president.” Because it’s obvious that “Putin and Bush have shown with
their privately driven policy
initiatives that the world’s two nuclear superpowers have become bored
with the democratic process.”

Worth reading Highly recommended