Many innocent people are sitting in prison with convictions for crimes they did not commit. This is often due to prosecutors who blatantly ignore information that might point away from their chosen suspect. Much of the time, these other leads could have exonerated an innocent prisoner, but they go totally disregarded.
We are a hugely wealthy country, and we can afford to go to Pluto and to educate our children to a much higher standard than we do. In fact, the way we became a hugely wealthy country, and the only way we can maintain our wealth into the future, is by investing in education, science, technology and invention.
Evidence junkies (like me) are reacting to the disappointing news on the evaluation of the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE), a program implemented at Rikers Island to reduce recidivism among adolescent prisoners. Bottom line: The rigorous independent evaluation of the program failed to find any benefits.
Of all the Great Society programs, Head Start is perhaps the most popular. It provides center-based services to millions of very cute 3- and 4-year-olds, mostly children from disadvantaged families. If members of the public, educators, and policy makers know a single conclusion from educational research, it is that early-childhood programs have long-term positive impacts.
The way we can find out what works is to compare schools or classrooms assigned to use any given program with those that continue current practices. Ideally, schools and classrooms are assigned at random to experimental or control groups. That's how we find out what works in medicine, agriculture, technology, and other areas.
When the beverage industry, for instance, helpfully points out that no long-term, randomized trial has specifically implicated their sugary concoction in epidemic childhood obesity, we might consider that no such trial has ever implicated any given snowflake in an avalanche fatality, either. Perhaps avalanches are actually innocuous.
It's no big surprise that someone untrained in research methods would tell us all what the research really means and why the scientists on this committee -- all trained to do research and interpret it -- are just a bunch of hacks. But that the New York Times would allocate its imprimatur and rarefied real estate to an infomercial masquerading as an Op-Ed is a lamentably disappointing surprise.