‘Nothing worked’

Nathan Glazer’s Warning should be heeded, writes Howard Husock in City Journal.  In The Limits of Social Policy, the Harvard sociologist reviewed the research on education, training and poverty programs including the Job Corps, Head Start, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the school breakfast program and early-childhood education programs.

“At least some of the states known for high expenditure on education and social needs have shown remarkably poor records.”

“After having done badly in schooling, we do not do well at making up for the failure through work-training programs, though we have certainly tried.”

And crucially: “The evaluations of specific programs that were available during the first ten years after the launching of the [War on Poverty] confirmed the verdict: nothing worked, and, in particular, nothing that one did in education worked.”

A neoconservative, Glazer came to see social policy as grandiose and too focused on “remaking” individuals instead of supporting families, writes Husock.

 Any social policy, he writes in Limits, must be judged against “the simple reality that every piece of social policy substitutes for some traditional arrangement, whether good or bad, a new arrangement in which public authorities take over, at least in part, the role of the family, of the ethnic and neighborhood group, of voluntary associations.”

Traditional agents are weakened and the needy are encouraged to depend on the government, Glazer wrote. That increases the demand for more social programs, which inevitably fail to produce the desired results.