Paul Soglin is upset with right wingers for blaming poor educational results in MPS on the "parents." He implies that the argument is racially based and complains that it admits of no solution by which he means that it does not readily suggest an intervention by the government - something that all social problems apparently require.
But what if they're right? Soglin doesn't like the aesthetics or implications of the argument, but what if it turns out to be true? When I talk to friends and family members who are education scholars or who work at MPS (not many of whom are conservatives), I am unfailingly depressed. The reason is that two things seem almost certainly to be true. First, there is the weight of the evidence does not provide much hope for the idea that additional research will result in better results. Second, we probably can't expect urban school districts like MPS to do much better without changing the family environments of a large proportion of the students. Indeed, it seems, much of the additional resources that urban districts call for seem to be needed so the school can do for a child what her family has not.
The problem is that government does a lousy imitation of a family. It may take a village to raise a child - I think it does - but the state is not the village.
There is, it seems to me, a reason that communities that do not have a history of dysfunctional families are marred by them today. It doesn't seem to be a simple function of racism and poverty and the absence of social programs because the degree of dysfunction has increased as both have decreased. Is it our increased laxity regarding sex and marriage? Is it the abandonment of poor neighborhoods by the black middle class?
The point seems to me that this stuff is important and it doesn't help to exclude certain perspectives because they are deemed racially insensitive or to assume that the measure of policy is involvement by the state combined with good intentions.
On a related point, Paul, in complaining about the parks in Madison, asserts that the size of state and local governments has not kept up with inflation. Is that true? It's not true nationally, is Wisconsin an exception. Do we have trouble maintaining the parks in Milwaukee County because conservatives have starved government or has government starved itself with unaffordable benefit packages that have devoted enormous resources to people who no longer work for it?