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David Broder's latest column is giving me some serious cognitive dissonance. The cause he's advocating for is a very good one, and so I hope he succeeds in persuading people to take it up. And yet, the national security rationale he's offering for why this is important has very little grounding in reality. But if pretending that it's right is the only way to gain political support for ponying up the money, is that such a bad thing. The fate of millions hangs in the balance. Is duping the American elite about why this is important such a bad thing?

I also note that though the headline "Education Starts is School" is clever, all the empirical evidence indicates that it's wrong. Research indicates that education starts from day one, and that home enviornment during early childhood or the availability of early child education is, in fact, crucial. That's not really relevant to the point Broder's trying to make, but it's worth pointing out for when people try and think about American education policy. Early childhood matters!

March 6, 2005 | Permalink


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But if pretending that it's right is the only way to gain political support for ponying up the money, is that such a bad thing?

Hey, what's a little more delusion among friends? It'll widen the divide between political and actual reality, compromise your integrity, and take us a little farther down the road to the complete corruption of government. But you'll get what you want. Isn't that reason enough?

The answer is: no.

Posted by: Matt G. | Mar 6, 2005 2:52:40 PM

I also note that though the headline "Education Starts is School" is clever

Almost as clever as "Is our children learning?"

Posted by: digamma | Mar 6, 2005 2:57:01 PM

I assumed that was a typo on Mr. Yglesias' part. Isn't it?

Posted by: Matt G. | Mar 6, 2005 3:02:22 PM

"Is duping the American elite about why this is important such a bad thing?"

If not important on NatSec gounds, why do you think education is important? Economic/trade grounds?

And I have stated in this forum before why I think int'l feminism should be a NatSec priority.
Education for women is obviously radically insufficient, for Afghanistan/Iraq shows us elite educated women quickly become the primary target of patriarchal/sexist resurgences.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 6, 2005 3:27:25 PM

"David Broder's latest column is giving me some serious cognitive dissonance."

Take 2 Percocets and wash them down with a tumbler of bourbon. Your cognitive dissonance will go away in half an hour.

(Coincidentally, that's also Broder's solution for his constant cognitive dissonance problem. The widespread rumors of him relying on ketamine are categorically false.)

Posted by: Petey | Mar 6, 2005 3:30:16 PM

if pretending that it's right is the only way to gain political support for ponying up the money, is that such a bad thing.


Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | Mar 6, 2005 3:49:55 PM

You must be pretty bored to read Broder.

Posted by: Social Scientist | Mar 6, 2005 4:09:15 PM

"...the headline "Education Starts is School" is clever...."

And isn't the headline.

"Early childhood matters!"

So do typos when they're endemic and change meaning.

Posted by: Gary Farber | Mar 6, 2005 8:43:10 PM

Well, Brooks may be thinking (if he bothers to think nowadays - I often imagine him as a rather more benign version of C. S. Lewis' Unman, a bizarrely unreflective intelligence used only as a means to an end) that national security concerns may succeed where appeals to fairness, decency, and fundamental human values have failed. I tend to think that some of the absurdities that pass for education reform nowadays are a result of the mental contortions necessary to avoid the obvious - that for all our good words we simply don't care enough to provide a decent education to those less privileged . . .

Posted by: Dan S. | Mar 6, 2005 10:11:08 PM

Eisenhower sold the construction of the interstate system as a national defense project. It did make it easier to move troops around the country. How is giving money to foreign governments so they can build schools any different than giving those governments money so they can build roads or dams or buy weapons? Foreign aid to governments is often either stolen or used for something other than its intended purpose. If it is not stolen it is wasted by being tied to purchase of goods and services from the donor country. Is it not likely that aid to foreign governments for buying textbooks would be spent on buying books from US publishers? The best form of foreign assistance would be to dismantle trade barriers such as farm subsidies supported by certain democrats from the midwest or textile quotas supported by certain former vice presidential candidates. The PRC, not one of my favorite countries, was having famines 30 years ago just as North Korea does now, and has received hardly any foreign aid, but is now one of the fastest growing major countries in the world because the state has taken its dead hand off the economy. China's rival, India, a democracy, used to receive a lot of foreign aid, especially to stave off famines. Recently India dismantled its protectionist economy, and is now growing nearly as fast as China.

Posted by: jimbo | Mar 7, 2005 5:42:02 AM

"the state has taken its dead hand off the economy"
China? Smoking crack much? Huge portions of their economy are still nationalized. A few privatizations does not a free market economy make.

It isn't as though they bootstrapped themselves out of famine- a ton of people starved to death.

And while death does tend to alleviate hunger, I think most people would prefer you gave them an apple.

Posted by: TJ | Mar 7, 2005 11:57:59 AM

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