A misplaced faith in top-down decision-making

David Brooks focuses again on health care in today’s New York Times, and his observations have huge implications for public education. Here are his key points:

Democrats tend to be skeptical that dispersed consumers can get enough information to make smart decisions … Democrats generally seek to concentrate decision-making and cost-control power in the hands of centralized experts … Republicans at their best are skeptical about top-down decision-making … Democrats have much greater faith in centralized expertise … Republicans … have much greater faith in the decentralized discovery process of the market … This basic debate will define the identities of the two parties for decades … In the age of the Internet and open-source technology, the Democrats are mad to define themselves as the party of top-down centralized planning.

I am a lifelong Democrat and the Florida coordinator for Democrats for Education Reform, but I agree with Brooks’ critique. Certainly in public education, continuing to centralize power in the hands of school boards and state legislatures is mad because doing so disempowers teachers and parents and ultimately undermines student achievement.