Friday, March 18, 2005

Dyson on Game Theory and Education

New on Westlaw: Maurice R. Dyson, Playing Games With Equality: A Game Theoretic Critique of Educational Sanctions, Remedies, and Strategic Noncompliance, 77 Temp. L. Rev. 577 (2004). The abstract:

In this article, Professor Dyson offers a game theoretic analysis of the strategic effect of coalition formation and coercive commitment on bargaining outcomes within contemporary educational policy. The author suggests, however, that the increasing strategic dimension of educational policymaking is not a favorable development for equity advocates. Rather, he contends that it leads to the marginalization of an equity agenda when suburban coalitions are able to routinely employ exclusionary cooperative strategies using race, class, and home ownership as key focal points in a sophisticated prisoner's dilemma. Professor Dyson rigorously examines how policy outcomes are strategically shaped by tactical avoidance and tacit cooperation of state and private market actors under the No Child Left Behind Act, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, and within controversial state school finance schemes. In this regard, it is significant that public choice theorists such as Dennis Meuller or Anna Kruger have long suggested that tactical behavior often creates significant waste. These various educational acts, for example, often lead to the expenditure of a large amount of resources for a relatively smaller number of privileged constituencies. Moreover, tactical behavior by elected officials in the form of strategic delay results in prolonged impasses in negotiations that ultimately harm and divide stakeholders. Furthering this unequal result is the strictly enforced localized control of school reform, sophisticated sorting and signaling techniques of school policies, and the selective capture of legislative power in a way not fully explained by public choice theory. This article, therefore, attempts to answer two key questions. First, using insights derived from applied game theory, how can advocates encourage suburbanites and legislators to fully cooperate with egalitarian educational policy measures? Secondly, how do we discourage the monopolization of distributed educational benefits and the tactical avoidance of equalizing measures? In the process of addressing these concerns, Professor Dyson suggests some novel but promising strategic approaches to advocacy that may yield positive results for disadvantaged communities and their strategic ability to extract pivotal civil rights concessions from educational policymakers.
The piece has some interesting discussion of the way richer white folks benefit from the IDEA, though I'm not sure the game theory analysis adds much to that discussion.


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