iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Matt Cohen

Matt Cohen

GET UPDATES FROM Matt Cohen

The Myth of 'Throwing Money at the Problem'

Posted: 05/ 4/11 12:26 AM ET

If there's one thing we know for certain, it's that we can't fix what's wrong with education in America simply by throwing money at the problem. That's what people keep saying anyway. It sounds like it makes sense, right? "Throwing money" doesn't sound like a good course of action. It sounds reckless, wasteful, and futile.

Here's the odd thing about "throwing money." The phrase only seems to be used when people are talking about education. I've never heard this argument used in any business context. Nobody talks about "throwing money." Instead, we either call it investing (if you have the money) or financing (if you have an initiative that needs funding).

If you do a quick Google search for the phrase "you can't solve the problem by throwing money at it" (and it's variations) you'll see that approximately 60 percent of the time that expression comes up is in reference to education. The remaining 40 percent of instances are divided amongst other areas of the economy. The phrase doesn't usually get tossed around many corporate boardrooms, so the other problems that can't be fixed with money all seem to also be societal problems. Apparently, money is also powerless to make any dent in areas such as homelessness or children living below the poverty line.

In every other venture I can think of, money can be used to create change and to achieve goals. Is it possible that I've discovered an exception to the principles of economics? Is education immune to money? It would be nice if that were true -- a Nobel Prize in economics would look great on my resume. Sadly, I think I've merely stumbled upon a tired and baseless talking point.

What would happen if we really did throw money at the serious shortcomings within the education system? The entire enterprise of public education is so shamefully underfunded, it would be hard to find an area where more funding wouldn't yield a positive return on the investment. It's time to warm up our pitching arms and start throwing some serious cash at the problem.

 

Follow Matt Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mattcohen2