According to Julie

Principles vs. practice

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Interesting article about small private schools for the very poor in Hyderabad, India, and James Tooley, who has researched them. Quotes:

"The reason you haven’t heard of James Tooley is that his work is something of an embarrassment to the official aid and development industry. He has demonstrated something that many development professionals would rather not know—and would prefer that you not know, either. (…) The consensus on economic development—specifically, on the role of the state in promoting growth—cycles to and fro. At the moment, orthodox thinking embraces a leading role for the market in most areas of economic life. But in most developing countries, as in many rich ones (including the United States), schooling is widely regarded as quite another matter. Children’s education is higher than commerce. These realms must not be allowed to mix. Many development and education officials wish to enshrine free education as a universal human right. Education, in other words, is too important to be left to the market. (…) Tooley has been publishing his research in education journals but has also written for libertarian and conservative think tanks. Unfortunately, these associations have pushed him further outside the development mainstream."

A friend of mine who did a year or so of Developmental Studies before starting law school, complained that his classmates picked on him for reading The Economist and suggesting that "maybe it is possible to say something positive about the US". He told me that Developmental Studies drew two conclusions: 1. The world is in deep trouble. 2. American capitalism is behind this trouble. Now, (I hope) that was an exaggeration. But the main conclusion of my International Economics class was "free trade is the answer"; a conclusion that didn’t go down that well if some of my more left-leaning classmates. We all know that one should try to keep one’s own political ideals separate from serious research, but it’s easier said than done. If everyone at Developmental Studies votes for the same party, and everyone at Economics votes for another party, we’ll have a problem after these people graduate.

I was hoping that these thoughts were just speculations, and that people grow up and learn that the world is not black and white. Hopefully, they do. But apparently, even grown-ups argue about political principles when they should be concerned with what really works in the real world.

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