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"Haven’t Learned Very Much (a few proverbs for progressives),"

by S.M. Miller July/August 2013 issue of Poverty & Race

1. Organization, administration and implementation are fateful, especially for programs to benefit the poor.

2. As important as what an executive knows, equally important is what s/he doesn't want to know.

3. Behind every agreement lurks a misunderstanding.

4. Every act of selection is an act of exclusion.

5. If unattended, the best off of the worst off are the most likely to be helped by a program (creaming).

6. The rise in educational levels leads very frequently to credentialism, the inappropriate raising of standards for access to jobs.

7. Originality largely depends upon a poor memory and ignorance.

8. More difficult than knowing what to do in a situation is moving into a position to do it.

9. Harder than making a decision is recognizing when you have made it.

10. The U.S. is basically a conservative country with brief liberal remissions.

11. The U.S. is a nation easy to disturb but difficult to change.

12. Many (most?) Americans have highly compartmentalized views so that they can live with quite contradictory attitudes (compartmentalization is not ambivalence).

13. Few people think of themselves as hypocrites; they believe in what is necessary for them.

14. Committees proliferate in the presumption of democracy and the operation of autocracy.

15. Believing is perception. People see and hear what they first believe.

16. Externalizers (“The media were against us”) out-number internalizers ("we made big mistakes").

17. Implementation determines impact more than do mission and funding.

18. Inclusion requires transformation of the institution rather than simply adding in the excluded.

19. Neglect the burdens of change and the vulnerable suffer.

S.M. Miller is a PRRAC Board member and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Boston University. He has worked with poverty and policy organizations in the U.S. and abroad. This article first appeared in Social Policy (Spring 1999).

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