April 4, 2012 8:42AM

‘A Confident Person with Shiny Teeth’

“Sometimes people just want to hear a confident person with shiny teeth tell them appealing stories about the secrets to success.”

So writes Jay Greene in his debunking of Marc Tucker’s education reform book Surpassing Shanghai. Jay’s whole review is worth reading, but the basic point is simple: you can’t learn much about the systemic causes of success if you only look at a single success story or even at a small handful of them. You need to cast a wide net to detect meaningful patterns. Having spent a lot of time casting wide nets, into both the historical and modern evidence, I couldn’t agree more. But maybe Jay would just tell me that’s confirmation bias ;-)

[HT: Bill Evers]