Homelessness, School Testing, and the ‘what’ of the matter

I can’t help but feeling that sometimes people read or hear something, grasp that there is some sort of problem, and immediately enact a solution that in some sense addresses the issue but yet misses the “what” of the matter, the important part.

I’ll start with an old example, and move to a more recent one (prompted by an article I red in the New York Times).

We start with the problem of homelessness in our cities.

PROBLEM: Some politician (whose name I cannot remember and cannot find) noted that to see homelessness around our nations capital buildings was a sad commentary on the ability of the most powerful nation on earth to care for its people.  Similar statements were made by others about most every city in the country.

SOLUTION?: The seemingly universal response of the DC metro police and the police of other cities has been to arrest homeless people, and move them to other, less tourist visited parts of the city.

Now we don’t “see homeless people near the steps of our nations capital.”  Yes, I suppose in some strict sense we have addressed the issue but I can not help but feel that the “what” of the matter has been missed.

School testing:

PROBLEM:  Students in many parts of America are testing very poorly in reading, writing, and math.

SOLUTION?: Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that 66% of the cities students are effective readers, and that  82% are proficient in math (up from 29% in 2002).  It turns out, however, that Albany (and most states) have been lowering their standards for proficiency, and making the tests much easier.  A national test given to the same students showed 25% proficiency at writing.

Again, yes, I suppose that New York has fixed the problem of low test scores.  However, I would again suggest that they have missed the “what” of the matter.  It’s kind of like letting some of the mercury out of your thermometer instead of getting an AC unit.



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