Monday, February 20, 2017

Definition of insanity

I really like Thomas Edsall as a writer. He does good research and I almost always learn something new reading him. But even the best can be hostage to their world views. In this instance, Edsall's column seems to be a lengthy description of how he would wish the world to be rather than how it is.

The issue is education and the point is to establish some grounds to continue what we are doing or to bring back the nostrums of the past which have already failed. Integration, busing, spend more money, etc. There is no doubt that we are not getting enough value for the investment we are making in K-12 education. No argument there. There is no doubt that we would like education to be more of an equalizer than it already is. But which policies and to what end is the meat of the issue and is not really addressed in the column. Almost certainly, continuing the nostrums and bromides of the past will not get us to the future we might desire.

The argument is a faith-based argument and not really persuasive. He includes much information that is supportive of his position but omits much which is contradictory to it.

What grabbed my attention was the inherent and obvious contradiction between the headline to the column and substance of the article. The headline declares: Integration Works. Can It Survive the Trump Era? by Thomas B. Edsall. But six paragraphs into the column is the plain-as-day data that shows that integration does not work, at least in terms of ensuring that all races achieve equal outcomes.
At the same time, Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at Brookings, and Dimitrios Halikias, a research assistant, tackled one of the most vexing issues in education in their February 2017 Brookings paper, “Race Gaps in SAT Scores Highlight Inequality and Hinder Upward Mobility.”

“Race gaps on the SATs are especially pronounced at the tails of the distribution,” the two authors note. In math, for example,
among top scorers — those scoring between a 750 and 800 — 60 percent are Asian and 33 percent are white, compared to 5 percent Latino and 2 percent black. Meanwhile, among those scoring between 300 and 350, 37 percent are Latino, 35 percent are black, 21 percent are white, and 6 percent are Asian.
Translating those percentages into concrete numbers, Reeves and Halikias estimate that
in the entire country last year at most 2,200 black and 4,900 Latino test-takers scored above a 700. In comparison, roughly 48,000 whites and 52,800 Asians scored that high. The same absolute disparity persists among the highest scorers: 16,000 whites and 29,570 Asians scored above a 750, compared to only at most 1,000 blacks and 2,400 Latinos.
The implication of the headline is that integration will equalize scores but the evidence is that after fifty years of integration, the gaps remain as large as they ever were.

From there, the rest of the column essentially boils down to - we want to keep spending the same and more money on the same policies we have always supported and hope that the outcomes will be different this time.

This is not an example of evidence-based decision making or of an ideology that proclaims itself to be grounded in the scientific method. This is evidence of a faith-based ideology preaching the liturgy.

Edsall asks, Integration Works. Can It Survive the Trump Era? In fact, it is not clear that integration works, and more particularly, it is not clear that integration narrows the race gap. The headline casts this in Trumpian terms, as part of the NYT continuing campaign to fight the winner of the election. But the issue is not Trump. Possibly his might be the precipitating event but the core problem is that we have spent fifty years trying to solve a problem that won't go away. With or without Trump, that particular vehicle was already grinding to a halt. What we do next is critical and won't be solved by pleadings on behalf of the vested interests to continue what we have always done and which has never worked.

No comments:

Post a Comment