"Following my election as governor of Massachusetts, and knowing that I now shared responsibility for the education of hundreds of thousands of young people, I studied the education literature to gain perspective. What I found was a virtual quicksand of differing opinion in which it would be easy to sink, but what was missing was an examination of data."
"Anecdotes are illustrative but data is compelling -- particularly if it is comprehensive and presented by an unbiased source."
"At the outset of my term as governor, my perspectives were shaped by the writings and studies by education experts, by discussions with teachers, principals, and students, and by my study of statewide data on student achievement that was mined, collected, and carefully analyzed. What I learned was in large measure confirmed by data collected at the national and international levels, but even so, I did my best not to close the door entirely on alternative views."I will spare you other quotes, because the entire chapter is filled with Romney's careful attention to the "education literature." There are also two giant graphs in the middle of the chapter. And it's not just the education chapter. Romney cites study, after study, after study in making his arguments throughout the book.
I point this out because I think that it is vitally important. Romney is not a "gut" decision maker. His decision making is greatly informed by pouring over empirical evidence and data and exploring all possibilities.
Let me contrast that style with another Republican star. I am sorry to bring up Sarah Palin but I think that she perfectly illustrates what I am talking about here. Back in 2008, Palin was asked which Supreme Court cases she had a problem with. Of course, we all know that she was unable to think of a Supreme Court case that she didn't like, other than Roe v. Wade. What that illustrated to me at the time was that Palin knew the right language that she was supposed to employ -- "those liberal activist judges" -- but when tasked with an assignment to explain that language, she was unable to think of a single instance of overreach on the part of the Supreme Court. It is likely that Palin had never thought about reading "the literature" regarding the judicial system. She didn't think it was important, so long as she could recite some red meat, one-liners to her intended audience.
I am sincerely not trying to slam Palin, but that example is illustrative of what I am talking about. We need to make sure that our leaders are reading the "literature" and that they are able to argue effectively for the best policy option.
Cross posted at The Cross Culturalist.