Correlation is not causation, of course, but sometimes it’s worth a “huh.” Such is the case with two snippets from separate articles in the March 19 National Review. The first comes from a profile of Saul Alinsky, by John Fund:
[Alinsky’s] most enduring influence may have been to inspire the National Education Association to become a political powerhouse. Sam Lambert, the executive secretary of the NEA in 1967, when it hired Alinsky as a political trainer, boasted that it would “become a political power second to no other special interest.” The NEA delivered on that promise. Between 1963 and 1993, the number of teachers belonging to unions grew to 3.1 million, up from only 963,720.
Next, consider this, from “The College Cartel,” by Vance Fried and Reihan Salam. The authors describe the role of secondary education in providing a foundation for world-leading higher education and economic activity:
Yet in more recent years, something has changed for the worse. In our breakneck efforts to subsidize education, we’ve wound up spending more and more for the same mediocre outcomes. High-school-graduation rates peaked in the United States in the late 1960s, despite the fact that the labor-market position of high-school dropouts has sharply deteriorated in the decades since. Despite the fact that per-pupil spending on K-12 schools has increased threefold in inflation-adjusted terms since 1970, high-school-graduation rates have been stagnant.
One can certainly not say from these limited assertions that Saul Alinsky’s influence on teachers’ unions caused the combination of stagnated results and higher spending, or even that the focus on higher spending has caused a decline in success.
Still, it’s an interesting coincidence and ought to inspire reconsideration of the interrelationships of money, labor, and education.