Transparency is powerful and President Obama has rightly made it a pillar of his administration’s approach to policymaking. But transparency also offers the seductive promise of an easy way out for policymakers. It can trap proponents of various policy proposals in an intellectual cul de sac because it becomes easy to see information as sufficient to drive reform rather than just as a predicate for change. The risk is especially potent when proponents are convinced of the obviousness of the changes they seek.
We’ve seen this repeatedly with federal education policy. The Bush administration assumed the federal No Child Left Behind law would produce a tidal wave of student and school performance data that would swamp opposition to school improvement efforts. Seven years later the political resistance to education reform is as potent as ever and former Bush aides now acknowledge placing too much faith in the power of information.
Tags: No Child Left Behind law, transparency