Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WSJ.com - Head Start for All



…what "study after study" really suggest is that government-funded pre-K programs are best when they are targeted at low-income, disadvantaged or minority children—those with the most need. Such a modest, practical reform may lack Mr. Obama's preferred political grandeur, but the other reason he didn't propose it is that the government has already been doing it for a half-century.


That would be Lyndon Johnson's Head Start program, birth date 1965. In December of last year, the Health and Human Services Department released the most comprehensive study of Head Start to date, which took years to prepare. The 346-page report followed toddlers who won lotteries to join Head Start in several states and those who didn't through the third grade. There were no measurable differences between the two groups across 47 outcome measures. In other words, Head Start's impact is no better than random.


Counting Head Start, special education and state-subsidized preschool, 42% of four-year-olds are now enrolled in a government program. Federal, state and local financing for early learning is closing in on $40 billion a year, double what it was a decade ago. But can anyone say that achievement is twice as good—or even as good?


The problem of America's undeveloped human potential is real, but Mr. Obama has set up a non-falsifiable evidentiary standard for government. The public schools fail the poor, but reforming them is hard and would upset the unions. So instead liberals propose Head Start to prepare poor kids for kindergarten. Head Start has little to show after 47 years, but rather than replacing it, the new liberal solution is to expand it to everyone.


Meanwhile, pundits who claim to be empiricists lecture Republicans to agree to all this so they don't appear to be so hostile to government. Everyone pretends that spending more on programs that have demonstrably failed is a sign of compassion and "what works," government expands without results, and the poor are offered only the false hope of liberal good intentions.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

WSJ.com - Are Polar Bears Really Disappearing?

I went north for a simple reason: I wanted to be a hero of the environmental movement and write a poetic obituary for a doomed species. The Center for Biological Diversity—the environmental group that sued the U.S. government to put polar bears on the Endangered Species list—had predicted that "two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be extinct by 2050."
But after months of reporting and hundreds of bear sightings, I kept running up against an inconvenient truth: There were a lot of well-meaning, well-credentialed scientists, wildlife officers and local experts who simply didn't believe that polar bears were one ice cube away from extinction. And they had the numbers to prove it.
Which was good news for the bears…even if it was terrible news for their careers as symbols of environmental doom.
Let's start with what we know. Almost everybody agrees that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears alive today. Here's another thing almost everyone agrees on: That number is a whole lot bigger than it was 40 years ago.
"Polar bears are one of the biggest conservation success stories in the world," says Drikus Gissing, wildlife director for the Canadian territory of Nunavut.