Monday, April 11, 2011

No Apology: Mitt's Greatest Quality

Note the following passages from Romney's chapter on education and see if you can pick out Romney's best quality.
"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.


Rachel said...

Good points. That's been a consistent observation people have been making about Romney. It's unfortunate that many have set themselves against him entirely given his great intelligence and executive skill (I'm not even a Romney person and I'll give him that). I'm enjoying your posts on his book and looking forward to more.

Anonymous said...

seems like ann coulter had a change of heart. After declaring in cpac that romney will lose the race against obama, now she says he can win


DanL said...

Ann Coulter is almost as big of a tool as Dick Morris.

Anonymous said...

Except Ann Coulter is actually entertaining. Her books are awesome, blistering, biting humor.

Pablo, tell me what you thought of this:
The thing that stood out to me about that chapter on education was when Romney meta-analysed what the most important factor in successful education was. It's NOT what I thought it was and he thought it was, the size of the classroom. It IS the strength and skill of the teacher in the classroom - which incidentally puts him at odds with teachers unions, which want to keep small class sizes, which spreads the students out and ensures jobs to the teachers in their union. But Romney found that this common sense isn't always true, at least certainly NOT in the case of Massachusetts. It's an interesting case of an open minded Mitt just seeing for himself that the ideology of the Right in this case IS "right" - for him it was a real learning experience that he can intelligently talk about without sounding partisan and shallow.


Noelle said...

This is not based on studies, but just on my common sense and personal experience. I think there are three things that mostly contribute to success in school.
1. Quality teacher,
2. Discipline, and
3. Parental involvement.

Some people can succeed with 2 of the 3. Schools cannot guarantee parental involvement, but they can make sure that there are quality teachers, and effective discipline in the classroom.

I am a lot more interested in schools and education now that I have 2 little girls. One of them is in preschool now, and the other is still too young. In my community we are notorious for bad (and I mean really bad) public schools. Most people either move to a neighbouring county or choose private school. Because the school board is dominated by progressives and the teacher's union, I don't anticipate much improvement any time soon.

Pablo said...


I spent two years teaching US history in Miami. From my small experience, I think that Mitt was dead on in his analysis. However, I sent an email to a friend of mine who is a lot more acquainted with the education literature to see what his opinion is. I am interested to hear what he says.

I set out to criticize Mitt Romney's book, but I have found it to be a must-read for any conservative. It is thoughtful and makes me excited about the Romney campaign.

Pablo said...


I think you nailed it! Those are the three things that are needed to insure success in education.

Anonymous said...

Pablo, Good points.

This is one of the things I like the most about Romney--he immerses himself in the subject/issue, and studies it completely until he can form sound policy. He's also not reluctant to credit the people he learns from. His reputation is to hear all points of view on an issue or problem.

I remember back in the '08 campaign, some expert in terrorism or Iraq or something, said that of all the candidates, Romney had a better understanding of the issue. It's because he does his homework.

One of my big gripes about Palin is that she only learns enough to get by. We hear the same 10 phrases from her over and over, but not much else. I think Huck suffers from the same problem, if less severely.

Noelle, I have seen over the last 20 years in our school district, that the teachers/administrators who are the most effective, are the ones who care. It kind of boils down to that. Unfortunately, I think most are there just to collect a paycheck. I wish these folks would find other work, because it can be so detrimental to the students. It's rather sad, and there's not much a parent can do about it.


Matt "MWS" said...

I always considered Mitt's greatest quality to be his mortality.

Matt "MWS" said...


"One of my big gripes about Palin is that she only learns enough to get by."

Having seen her work, I wouldn't say she does that much. ;-)

Noelle said...

Matt "MWS", did you mean to say that Mitt's greatest quality is his MORALITY? Or did you mean to say that what you like best about Romney is that someday he is going to die? Because that is a quality that Romney and I have in common. I'm mortal too. Maybe I should run for president.

Just having a little fun. :)

Matt "MWS" said...


"Matt "MWS", did you mean to say that Mitt's greatest quality is his MORALITY?"


Matt "MWS" said...


"Just having a little fun."

Same here. I like to blow by and toss a grenade in every now and then, lest anyone gets nostalgic in my absence.

Anonymous said...

Matt, sometimes I wonder how your wife puts up with you. :-)


Anonymous said...

I haven't actually read the book BATTLE HYMN OF A TIGER MOTHER, but I can relate to her. I was raised in a large family where we were expected to work hard and get good grades. My husband and I have high expectations of our children, as well. We EXPECT them to do their homework, mostly by themselves, do practicing, and chores. We sometimes have to say no to outside activities or sports because we simply do not have the family time to donate to such causes. Want to teach your children discipline with no glory? Have them learn to play a musical instrument other than the electric guitar!

EXPECTATIONS are an essential part of education and responsibility. Actually, the much-maligned-by-Pablo-Rush Limbaugh says that kids need to be pushed a bit in education, otherwise they get bored. There is certainly truth in that. Some of my best teachers had very high expectations, but they were also passionate about their job and entertaining in the classroom.

Anyway, I'm not disagreeing with other posts here(except Matt MWS "mortality" comment, I just want to point out how important EXPECTATIONS are to education.

Another example of this was when the Harry Potter books were published. JK Rowling had difficulty getting them published, because they were considered too difficult--both in words and length--for children. Current educational wisdom dictated shorter, simpler books for children. Thankfully, Harry Potter was published, anyway. I am grateful, because my young son was one of those boys who were brought back to books by Harry Potter. He could read, but struggled to find anything interesting enough to catch his interest. Harry Potter did that, and my son became an avid reader and has never looked back! Thank you, JK Rowling who challenged the conventional wisdom!