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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Second Best for Us

I recall talking to a teacher about the nightmare of "no child left behind," teaching to the standardized test, and so on.

"Well, I said, we really should return to local control of the schools: the higher levels of government should only be involved to even out funding."

My interlocutor was aghast: "No, that would be awful!"

"Why?"

"Well, then different localities can teach non-standard material."

Because the workable solution of local control of schools would not eliminate every possible problem, he was willing to embrace a completely unworkable solution that held out the promise of perfection.

I think this problem is pervasive in our culture, and extremely damaging. Think about our recent health care legislation: I am in favor of helping poorer people get the health care they need. So, what about giving every person who makes under... $50,000? $80,000?... a government-funded voucher to buy health insurance? The bill could have been about 5 pages long. But no: there might have been some fraud! Perhaps some insurance company wouldn't have covered contraceptive sponges! Someone might not have gotten their lexapro paid for!

So, instead, we get a 974-page attempt to make everything perfect. Which, of course, will wind up being far, far worse than the simple plan, with its obvious problems, would have been.

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