Interests and Education Reform
in Multiethnic Cities
AN INTEREST-BASED perspective is a natural starting point for our analysis of the school reform puzzle. To understand why the concerns of new school constituencies are not reflected in school-reform agendas, we focus first on an analysis of the interests involved. The belief that interests matter—usually interpreted to refer to self-interested and purposive pursuit of material goals, social status, and power as a central force in politics—is the most common orientation to the study of politics in the United States. This approach highlights the relevance of material resources as both bases of political influence and incentives for maintaining group action and cohesion. A closely related view, the pluralist interpretation, argues that patterns of interest group interaction, such as competition, conflict, cooperation, and coalition building, are the core factors in understanding politics. And pluralism is probably the leading perspective on American politics (see Chapter 2). Most often, the basis for interest group formation and activity is economic interest; groups support or oppose public policies depending on their expected impact on groups’ material interests. Typically, analyses treat politics as competition over “who wins and who loses” or as “who gets what,when, and how” and usually explain outcomes in terms of comparative levels of resource across groups, or comparative mobilization and use of resources.
There is much that is attractive and intuitively plausible about interestbased interpretations that lead to their acceptance. They are consistent with the ideas of major thinkers in American politics. James Madison’s Federalist 10 asserted the importance of factions, or interest groups, in politics and society, arguing that factions were inevitable, and were rooted in unequal financial