Intuitive Decision and the Law of Unintended Consequence

One of the talk radio programs today had a short discussion of what was a good intentioned Intuitive Decision done in by the law of unintended Consequence. 

It seems that someone had the idea that putting the lower ability Candidates at the Air Force Academy in with the higher performance Cadets would raise the performance of the lower performing cadets.  In the past there was no separation of cadets by performance level but it seemed that it was a good idea.

Well, as it seems, the performance of the cadets in the middle did improve a little, the poor performing cadets did in fact do worse in the new arrangement.  The study went on to say that the poor performers in the superior group tended to bunch together and as a group their performance drug them all down. 

This is a case where the Law of Unintended consequence failed as a social experiment.  This is to me why the social experiments of building housing developments fail from the 60's to now.  I contend that putting low income students in housing spread across a city would have a much better result than lumping them in a project.   

I attended a school that clearly had three classes of students.  Those from Eastborough were from very wealthy families and it was pretty clear that they had a lot of advantages that most of the rest didn't.  One year one of our friends went on Safari to Africa.  There were National Geographic Magazines but most of us had no hope or chance of making that trip.  The next level down was Forest Hills where the majority of the kids were from comfortable homes but not as wealthy as the Eastborough group.  Then there were the kids from the rest of the neighborhoods. Most of us had three meals and clean clothes but even there were exceptions.  We were for the most part put together for classes in groups of 30 (Damn Baby Boomer Classes).  I can't think of any time with one exception there was any separation based on class or education.

That one exception was a reading class in the sixth grade.  Because of my reading ability I was moved into the accelerated reading group and I think I stood out like a boil on the butt of a blonde in a nudist colony.   I could read very well, but hated spelling.  Even today I rely on the spell checker a lot.   In that class I probably got my average C with the majority of the class getting A's. 


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