1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Friday, August 26, 2011

The McNamara Effect

In his fascinating history of the United States Air Force, Walter Boyne discusses the priorities of Robert Strange McNamara that "created a climate of fear and [placed] a value on reporting rather than on doing."

Boyne continues:
Numbers -- whether it be of the bodies counted, sorties flown, bombs dropped, or Congressional delegation visits -- became the be-all and end-all of the military system McNamara shaped.

Report numbers were transformed from black dots on a page to truths that were quantified, defended, and extrapolated from.

Whole bureaucracies sprung up to create the numbers, challenge them, and mold them into new requirements for more numbers (Beyond the Wild Blue, 2nd ed., p. 160).

Any teachers out there who can relate to a climate of fear and an obsession with "measurable outcomes" and "growth"? I can sure relate to it. We know what the McNamara Effect was on that war in Indochina: hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians dead for no purpose.

What the end game is for public educators who embrace McNamara's approach is yet to be seen. I'm betting Ho Chi Minh wins.

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