Kevin Drum’s Education Manifesto: Open Thread

Image: Celine Nadeau

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Kevin Drum’s fiery missive this morning has me thinking about evidence-based education reform. Is it true, as he writes, that we’d likely get more bang for the buck by spending $50 billion less on K-12 education and $50 billion more on early intervention programs? Here’s Kevin on a rather depressing chart linking maternal/child education levels for life:

[James] Heckman argues that these achievement gaps—between black and white, between rich and poor—are today less the result of overt discrimination than they are of skill gaps that open up very early in life and persist in the face of a wide variety of both good and bad schools. What’s more, these gaps aren’t purely, or even mainly, the result of differences in cognitive ability. At least equally important are soft skills: “motivation, sociability (the ability to work with and cooperate with others), attention, self regulation, self esteem, the ability to defer gratification and the like.”

In the face of this evidence, Heckman recommends that we abandon a scattershot approach toward education and instead focus far more of our resources on intensive, early interventions.

I dunno. Wouldn’t it be far preferable to take $50 billion from, say, the defense budget, and turn it over to early intervention programs, rather than weakening existing K-12 reforms that might help kids like Pedro, Eman, and Natalie—but aren’t scalable? Or lack good metrics to measure success?

What does a truly effective early intervention program look like, anyway?

Brilliant readers, over to you.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate