The Corner

Too Much Reality

Charles:  Politics has not much patience with social science. You guys — social scientists — can gather your data with care, evaluate it with care, draw cautious, reasoned conclusions, discuss and publicize your results . . . but in the political world, nobody much is listening. Politics is a zone ruled by cognitive biases.

Case in point: a post or two ago I mentioned Jonathan Kozol’s 2006 book Shame of the Nation, about the re-segregation of our public school system. Now, one of the grandest experiments in education ever undertaken in the U.S.A. was the Kansas City project of 1985-97. Vast sums of money were spent on that city’s schools, with a total effect that was actually negative — test scores declined, drop-out rates rose. It was a complete fiasco, though it conformed to the very best Obama-ist drunken-sailor principles.

The Kansas City experiment was highly relevant to the thesis of Kozol’s book, as the city went to extraordinary lengths to get white students into the schools. They would even send a free taxi to bring you in from the suburbs.

Yet Kozol, a left-liberal, does not mention the Kansas City experiment in his book!

In your own recent book you talk at some length about the Coleman Report of 1966, which more or less predicted what the result of the Kansas City experiment would be, 20 years before the event. Apparently nobody in Kansas City knew about the Coleman Report.

In your opinion, would public education in the U.S.A. today look any different if the Coleman Report had never been published? Would it look any different if conscientious social science had all ceased completely, for ever, in 1966?

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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