The Heroism of Incremental Change (Part 2)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

In a recent  podcast, economist Ed Glaeser and journalist Stephen Dubner were discussing « big bang » solutions, big leaders who make dramatic changes, and the folly of looking for such « solutions » and leaders. Here is their exchange on civil rights between the 1940s and 1980s.

DUBNER: So civil-rights reform strikes me as one where, incrementally, there have been massive improvements, and yet it seems as though the appetite for an overnight  solution to every civil-rights issue is kind of expected. And when that doesn’t happen, there’s massive hue and cry — even though, overall, the trend has been moving in the right direction. You see that as well, or do you think I’m wrong on that?

GLAESER: No, no I agree totally with that. And it required people who — the NAACP for example, which worked for decades before the Civil Rights Act, right, to move the ball forward. Often in…

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