Recent Clark medalist Roland Fryer gave a fascinating lecture for the inaugural Buchanan Speaker Series event at George Mason University towards the end of last year. The topic was “Education, Inequality, and Incentives.” Fryer has done impressive work on education, heading the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University. The need for education reform is real. In the conclusion of his lecture, after pointing out the long-term effects for children who got into the Harlem Children’s Zone (i.e. 5x reduction in pregnancy for girls and 3x reduction in incarceration for boys), he movingly says,
Do know how frustrating that is for a guy like me who grow up in these [low-income] neighborhoods? It’s almost maddening. It’s the lottery. We’re by random coin flip deciding who is going to have a 5x lower probability. And no, we don’t do it directly because that’d be mean. We do it indirectly by not doing what we know works. We talk about “no-excuses” schools. It’s time to have a no-excuses society. What other excuses do we have? We’ve seen the stuff from charters, we’ve seen the stuff from meta-analysis, you put it into the traditional public schools, the test scores go up. When the test scores go up using similar interventions, we get better social outcomes! What else!
…These are our children. It’s not a philosophical debate anymore…I got lucky. People look at me a lot and say, “Well, see! It can happen.” Well, shit, you can also drive a car with your feet, but it doesn’t make it a good idea…We know what works…The question is do we really have the courage and will to do it. Or deep down do we really not think this is possible.
See the lecture below to see what works.