Of all the political memes out there, the one that most annoys me is the idea that liberals are so much more reasonable than conservatives. We’re told that they think in terms of facts and evidence. They like to consider all points of view. They are “evidence-based”.
But the simple reality is that almost everyone is full of shit. And when their shit is challenged, they try to shoot the messenger, whether that messenger is liberal, conservative or crypto-monarchist. To wit:
Last week, the American Federation of Teachers released a blacklist of financial asset managers that fund organizations supporting education reform and/or switching from defined-benefit to defined-contribution pension systems, such as StudentsFirst, the Show-Me Institute and the Manhattan Institute. The report urges AFT affiliates to pressure pension fiduciaries not to invest their money with such asset managers. The AFT also makes a not-so-subtle threat to go after the donors to other think tanks and education reform groups:
This isn’t the first time AFT has done this. But the emphasis against education reform proponents is probably related to this:
Yesterday, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released their third edition of their report “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.” The report provides a literature review of dozens of high-quality studies of school choice programs around the country, including studies from scholars at Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, the University of Arkansas, the Brookings Institution, and the Federal Reserve Bank. The studies examine the impact of school choice programs on the academic performance of participants and public school students, the fiscal impact on taxpayers, racial segregation, and civic values.
The report’s key findings included the following:
Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact. Twenty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools. Six empirical studies have examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six find that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact. Eight empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of these, seven find that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools. One finds no net effect on segregation from school choice. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation. Seven empirical studies have examined school choice’s impact on civic values and practices such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of these, five find that school choice improves civic values and practices. Two find no visible impact from school choice. No empirical study has found that school choice has a negative impact on civic values and practices.
On the same day, a new study from researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution found that a school choice program boosted college enrollment among African-American participants by 24 percent.
To be fair, some of the studies show only small gains. But that’s often the way science — not to mention social science — works. Studies have biases, errors or just bad luck in their sampling. There are always outlier studies and people who want to cite those outlier studies over the more numerous non-outliers. That the studies are consistently showing improvement is the important thing.
These studies would not be happening — would not even be possible — without the ongoing uphill fight by such as the Manhattan Institute. And so the AFT is getting desperate to stop these successful experiments in education reform. They have to kill the messenger before the taxpayer hears the message. They have been aided by a liberal establishment that will happily ignore the message (notice that these studies are never mentioned when Jindal’s Louisiana plan is discussed). But the truth is slowly getting out. School choice works better than the current system (and no, it’s not perfect; I know that. It’s an improvement is all I’m saying.) Other reforms opposed by union are also showing results. And this has to be stopped.
This is, of course, not unique to the education debate. Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society. This case hinges around the Bush-era policy — continued by Obama and supported by many liberal and so-called feminist organizations — of requiring NGO’s to denounce prostitution and oppose legalization in order to qualify for funds to combat the spread of AIDS. I’m not sure how the Court will rule; they have typically taken an “it’s my ball, I can go home now” attitude on these issues. But look closely. There is plenty of evidence that legalizing prostitution inhibits the spread of AIDS by giving sex workers legal backing for demanding condom use. In fact, in countries where prostitution is legal or quais-legal, non-street walkers often have lower STI rates than the general public.
But that fact is inconvenient to the Baptist and Bootlegger coalition that opposes sex work decriminalization. It is inconvenient to the feminist organizations that oppose decriminalization, inconvenient to the Obama Administration, inconvenient to five Democrats (and four Republicans) who filed an amicus brief in support of the law, inconvenient to the feminists and liberals who signed the amicus brief for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. It is critical that no one dispute the Pravda that fighting AIDS means outlawing prostitution.
We can go on and on but you get the point. People will happily talk about “getting the facts” and “considering the evidence” when it supports them. The minute the facts turn against them, those facts have to be stomped down. Liberals aren’t exempt from this in the slightest. I have a whole tag on my own site detailing case after case where liberals massage the facts, ignore the facts, deny the facts, stomp down the facts. Why just today, the liberal blogs erupted over a poorly designed analysis that claimed that gun ownership increases homicide rates despite extremely obvious flaws.
So yes, liberals like the facts … that is, until those facts shit their bed. Then the facts have to be ignored. Or better yet, never come to anyone’s attention.