Stop me when this sounds unfamiliar: You flip through the pages of the latest Economist (or parse through the articles online), looking for interesting material, chuckling to yourself over the risible article titles and amusing photo captions. Then you settle on a number of pieces to read?the majority of which are on topics you know little about. This week, for example, you may have assailed yourself (as I did) of a piece on the cooling of the sun (eerie) or on counterfeit wine (an oddly high-end black market), or of a book review of the chronicles of a Polish dissident (fascinating). About 90 percent of the time, you relish in the magazine's witty and cogent articles that seem to outline complex issues so smartly.
But then the other 10 percent of the time, you read an article about which you actually know something. And in that moment, the magazine's sparkle fades. The article lacks nuance, regurgitates trite ideas, and conflates relevant arguments to string a coherent thought.
This week, one such article appeared on school funding in the States (page 34 for those with a hard copy handy). From Austin, the author explains that ?many cities and states, struggling to make up budget shortfalls, have put schools on the chopping block.? These cuts will add up to billions of dollars and will be ?readily apparent when schools reopen in the autumn?among those that do re-open, that is.?
This melodramatic proclamation?both unjust and only a bit ignorant in its assertion?doesn't help readers understand the complexities of America's public-school spending leviathan. ?Few schools are slated to close in the coming year due strictly to budget cuts (to low student achievement, district consolidation, underenrollment, sure). Schools aren't being shuttered willy-nilly, leaving little Johnnies and little Susies without. And it isn't...