Civics, K-12 Governance & Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results: The Smart Technocats And Benevolent Dictators Always Fail

Points and figures

Have you heard of Bill Easterly? He is an economics professor at NYU. He wrote a book, The Tyranny of Experts. I’d suggest that you read it. It seems as though everyone is quoting from Hillbilly Elegy these days and I think I’d rather see them pick up the ethos of this book and put it into practice.

Top down solutions to big problems don’t work. In fact, when it comes to stamping out poverty, the top down solution becomes an excuse for technocrats, bureaucrats, the smart people, the elites and “benevolent dictators” to keep trampling upon the poor all the while making themselves feel good and important. They enrich themselves as well.

Easterly prefers free markets. I read this article about him this morning. Here is a quote.

He sees the development establishment—philanthropic organizations, multilateral institutions, many of his fellow academics—as shortsighted and inured to failure. He emphatically criticizes the field’s leaders for being enamored with central planning, so-called benevolent dictators, and their own technocratic genius.

Microeconomics 101 tends to work when you let it. Those principles are ingrained into human DNA.

If I look at what is going on in my own community, it’s full of central planners. The smart people. Deciding for us. Deciding for you. Charting the course. Stamping out dissent. Creating or enforcing a closed network. Trying to control outcomes.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts.

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

 2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.