In 1966, Abraham Maslow, the famed professor of psychology that originated the hierarchy of needs, published The Psychology of Science, which included the phrase, “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
I think this sums up my opinion of government about as succinctly as anything ever will. The government has a tool shed full of hammers. But the house is made up of more than nails. No where is this problem more clear than in the education realm.
The problem: The kids ain’t learnin’ so good.
I don’t think anyone can dispute that our country has an education problem–although the specifics of the problem may vary depending on who you ask. Is it the percentage of kids that can’t read at grade level? The growing disparity between the performance of kids from different socio-economic groups? The fact that US students rank 25th in math…out of 34 countries?
To the US government, these problems are just a sea of nails. The Constitution gives the government limited powers, most of which involve spending. So, for our government, every problem must be fixed with spending increases. That’s the only hammer they really have. But as we’ve seen time and again, more spending doesn’t equal better results. In the last 30 years, the US has doubled spending on education and things have gotten worse.
Where’s the game changer? Why aren’t we trying new tools? Where is the support for charter schools and vouchers, both of which are cheaper than public schools? [More on charter schools coming soon.]
But, as nobody in particular said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” So, by all means, keep hammering away.