Do you agree with this statement?
Because its the constant refrain from politicians, academics and certain sections of the bureacracy and media.
Its been especially evident in Indigenous policy, where successive governments have claimed to be driven by "what works" rather than "the failed ideologies of the past"
In my opinion this approach is flawed in that it creates a false dichotomy between values and ideas ('ideology') and scientifically formulated knowledge ('evidence'). It also assumes that:
- evidence replaces the need for a political process to decide what the policy goals and ethical constraints should be.
- evidence (particularly quantitative data) will always provide a clear policy direction.
The Australian certainly thinks so, having backed the Noel Pearson-inspired trials from the start. Others, meanwhile, are not so sure.
Its a tricky one because while there is a clear correlation between the commencement of the trials in mid 2008 and improved school attendance, there are plenty of other possible causes, such as improvements in school leadership.
There is also the problem of isolating cause and effect. If CYWR was responsible for the improved attendance, which part of the reforms made the most difference? Was it the 'tough love' income management measures imposed on parents (as The Australian suggests), or the support services provided?
At this point the "evidence" raises just as many questions as it answers.
Yet it seems that the politicians have already (rightly or wrongly) decided that income management works and should be expanded to other communities - Logan being the first cab off the rank.
A case of ideology trumping evidence perhaps?
Or just an indication that in public policy the two can never be completely separated?
Over to you.