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Wonks: The Limits Of Dispassionate Policy Analysis

image from farm6.staticflickr.comThere's a curious chronic avoidance I sense among education pundits to taking on or even linking to the posts of top DC policy wonks Ezra Klein (Washington Post) and Matthew Yglesias (Slate), who cover many things including occasionally education policy. And so it's worth noting the publication of a curious piece in In These Times, if only to raise the topic (Programmed for Primetime).

The ITT piece is a bit mocking, as you might expect given that neither Klein nor Yglesias are particularly progressive - or at least they aren't any more.  "At some point, Klein and company stopped being liberals. They even stopped being human. The wonks had become robots, ready to force enlightenment down our partisan throats."

Obviously, there are some hurt feelings here related to Klein and Yglesias's absence from the field of battle in the most recent progressive resurgence.  But the piece makes a good point over all -- that objectivity and number-crunching only get you so far, that policy debates are often eclipsed by political and ideological ones, and that mainstream wonkery may make it hard to retain progressive roots.  

Now if only someone could explain (or disabuse me of) my notion that the two are under-noted in the online education debate that swirls around so uselessly every day. Image via CCFlickr


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It'd help if they seemed interested in education policy. Klein's underblogger, Dylan Mathews, recently wrote a big column in which he recommended the government establish an education data agency -- apparently unaware that IES exists. Just one example.

Speaking only for myself - and I subscribe to both Klein's and Yglesias' RSS feeds - because I follow so many other specialized education commentators, it's pretty rare that Klein or Yglesias puts out something I haven't seen before (usually more thoroughly-covered) by somebody else (e.g., over at Shankerblog.)

I think of Klein and Yglesias as targeting an audience of (primarily) non-specialists. That makes them really interesting reads for me on subjects I know somewhat less about (e.g., immigration, macroeconomics), but less interesting for me on subjects I know somewhat more about (namely, education).

rick kahlenberg is paying attention -- at least when yglesias talks integration, that is --

Teachers and School Integration—Both Matter: A Response to Slate’s Matthew Yglesias — The Century Foundation http://ow.ly/hfte3

My politics-addicted college-student son alerted me to Matt Yglesias to begin with -- he admires Yglesias' knowledge of international and economic issues. But he warned me that Yglesias is a prep-school type with no knowledge about public schools and has no clue that he has no clue what he's talking about on education issues. So now I read him sometimes. My son was right. Total uncomprehension.

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