Bruno: Education Is Not A Morality Play
Economics, he says, is not a "morality play in which doing what you think is right is also the magic elixir that solves all problems."
We should think the same way about education.
An education policy we prefer - or even the policy we think is best - is probably not going to have only desirable effects. Nor is it likely to positively impact every single one of the problems facing education. If a pundit is telling a story to the effect that their preferred policy is going to cure everything that ails American education, we should probably suspect wishful thinking.
You might think such wishful thinking is extremely rare but in fact it's quite common, at least implicitly.
For example, ConnCAN's new report implies that by implementing the right policies - presumably their preferred policies - the state of Connecticut can not only raise student achievement but actually close entirely achievement gaps between students from different income groups or racial backgrounds in a mere 8 years.
And it's not just reformers who mistake their favorite policies for magic elixirs. It's not unusual to see critics of NCLB claim that repealing the law would bring big benefits to new teacher recruitment and teacher job satisfaction, for instance. And the Chicago Teachers Union recently defended arts education as likely to significantly boost - among other things - math scores.
Of course, it's always possible that some particular policy really would have a lot of different benefits in a lot of different areas. Too often, though, education commentators overstate the virtues of their position out of a combination of wishful thinking and the defensiveness that results from a highly partisan debate environment.