Monday, January 27, 2014

Watching Pundits Walk Back School Reform

Matt Yglesias:

Of course it takes many decades to understand the truly long-term consequences of cash grants for children, but the best evidence we have shows a large positive impact of welfare checks on life outcomes for kids who benefitted from the pre-Depression version of cash assistance for poor single moms. And even though domestic poverty in a rich country is actually quite different from absolute poverty in low-income countries, we see similar impacts for the global poor. It turns out that we could do an awful lot to improve human welfare by focusing our efforts more narrowly and more intensely on spreading the wealth around.

Yglesias is pretty much a prototypical young (neo-)liberal young wonk blogger with an unfortunately typical affection for contemporary school reform, perhaps attributable in part to formerly dating Sara Mead (or maybe vice versa). Anyhow, posting a stream of "new" studies about poverty and learning would seem to be a way for the savvy young pundit to begin walking back from the "schools (or teachers) only" precipice the reform community has chosen to stand on.

I started to write this post the middle of last week and was thinking about including a line indicating that this would be more than we would ever get from Tom Friedman or David Brooks, but then, Brooks:

... we’ve probably put too much weight on school reform.

Of course, David Brooks cannot transcend his essential David Brooks-iness, and the rest of the column is still insufferably self-satisfied, middlebrow, paternalistic bullshit, but it does actually represent an important shift in momentum and Conventional Wisdom.

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