Thursday, May 18, 2017

CURMUDGUCATION: So Now Failure Is Okay, Apparently

CURMUDGUCATION: So Now Failure Is Okay, Apparently:

So Now Failure Is Okay, Apparently

"Fail better," says Michael Q. McShane (Show-Me Institute, AEI) in a piece at US News, arguing to reformsters for the virtue of admitting failure and building upon it. Part of his point is vaid, part is hugely self-serving and part of it is just plain annoying.Policy ideas like charter schools, teacher evaluation and high standards first exist in the abstract. When they are actually implemented, they look quite different from state to state or district to district. What one state calls "charter schooling" might look different from charter schooling in another state. So if charter schools struggle in one state, it isn't necessarily an indictment on the idea as a whole. It might just be that the particular manifestation didn't match the context of the specific environment where it was tried. In an ideal world, we'd learn from that, and do better.

In other words,even when a policy has been tested and it has failed, that doesn't mean it's not a great policy that we should keep trying in new and different markets. This is just a variation of that golden oldie that folks used to defend Common Core-- "The policy is brilliant; you're just implementing it wrong." The policy may look like an utter failure, even after over a decade of reforminess, but honest-- any day now it's finally going to work the way we imagined it would.

This is part of a valid idea. But his list of possible causes for failure is missing one critical possibility-- your policy idea is a bad policy idea, and that sad pig won't fly no matter what shade of lipstick you try smearing on it.

He does offer a good description of the process often involved with reformy policy failures:

When a new study comes out that says a policy has "failed," we man the ramparts. Opponents (who were against the policy before any data were available) come out and tut-tut at advocates, telling them to "follow the data" or not to "cling to ideology." Advocates circle the wagons. They spin the 
CURMUDGUCATION: So Now Failure Is Okay, Apparently: