Schools, Data and the Bully Pulpit


whatever-it-takesIt’s nice to see charter schools promoted, but the David Brooks editorial points out how a subject like education is still subject to the whims of emotion and the bully pulpit.  Brooks was contacted by a scientist friend who conducted a study and was amazed to find that Geoffrey Canada’s middle school, Promise Academy, did indeed have better results, scientifically proven.  That’s wonderful, but nowhere does Brooks point out that one of the most important initiatives of the Harlem Children’s Zone was the concept of the “Conveyor Belt,” which included care about child’s life from before they were born all the way to middle school.  One of Canada’s greatest achievements, highlighted in the book called Whatever It Takes, is Baby College, a program for educating expectant Harlem parents in how to raise productive members of society.  Also missing from the Brooks editorial was any mention of the other charter schools systems (multiple schools under one management system) that have achieved better results, scientifically proven.  To see a list of charter schools and their results, visit either or

yinYangAll of this reminds me of the emotional and scientific nature of life.  In the end, data and science will win out.  My favorite book of late on this subject is The Black Swan.  But in the short term, emotions often win first.  Another favorite book of late on this subject is Made To Stick.  Ideas that win and stick are not always the best ideas.  I am fascinated that it is the emotional, “Made To Stick” concepts that continue to sell good ideas, not The Black Swan, rely-on-the-data approach.  Brooks editorial may propel Promise Academy and Harlem Children’s Zone to a new level of public appreciation, but only because of his bully pulpit, not because of his scientific and objective assessment of our educational system.  What must happen to truly propel education (and other social causes) is the implementation of a systematic, data-driven assessment of all schools (and other social causes) that makes it clear which organizations are performing better.  Op-Ed Columnist – The Harlem Miracle –



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