Last night we were watching Obama’s excellent town hall meeting at the White House (see transcript here) and was suddenly jolted by a very familiar statement that he used with regard to heath care reform “ What’s lacking is not knowledge … What’s lacking is political will”. Secretary Duncan uses that exact same line in reference to education. He probably gets it from a White House set of talking points. That’s understandable.
But the problem is that the knowledge base in education about what works is a drop of water in the ocean compared to the knowledge base in medicine. Just look at the annual federal investment of the two: about $28 billion for NIH and about $300 million for ED. Whew!
In the future perhaps Duncan might give some acknowledgment that our understanding about specific solutions in education is far from complete. In fact we need to be more like medicine in its ongoing, never ending search for remedies for persistent diseases like cancer. The Mayo Clinic to which the President alluded last night is not only an amazingly well run, data driven and cost effective operation. It is also a research institution. Education needs a bunch of Mayo Clinics!