Saturday, March 05, 2011As an aside, I would like to identify Matt Yglesias as one of the worst offenders of sloppy thinking on education by liberal-leaning pundits. I generally like Matt's blog, but he has a terrible habit of holding forth on subjects before he's done his homework. There must be something in the water in D.C. that makes liberal pundits become elitist hacks. The most recent example is his post on the inability of public schools to narrow the achievement gap. A recent paper suggested that the gap between white and black students manifests itself before they ever attend school and persists, largely unchanged, through there involvement in the K-12 system. Matt then proceeds to use this as an argument for cutting K-12 funding and putting it into early childhood education.
I had to stop myself from screaming when I read this post. Matt has completely missed the distinction between educational equity and educational quality. Are schools good at closing achievement gaps? No. Are they good at teaching students things? As a matter of fact they are, as evidenced by the greater knowledge possessed by 18 year old high school graduates as compared with 6 year olds. Even the worst school system teaches kids something. Matt is right that we could cut school funding without altering the gap between white and black students, but the performance of both groups would be lower. Matt's proposals might make white and black school achievement more equal, but they would also make both groups dumber.
I'm all for a greater investment in pre-k, but let's not be idiots about it.