How many months is four: Astoundingly bad. In todays Post, Maria Glod reports a new study about the progress of DC kids who got vouchers to attend private schools. Kids who got vouchers did somewhat better than their peers, the scribe somewhat murkily says:
GLOD (4/4/09): Overall, the study found that students who used the vouchers received reading scores that placed them nearly four months ahead of peers who remained in public school. However, as a group, students who had been in the lowest-performing public schools did not show those gains. There was no difference in math performance between the groups.
We wondered about several things. For simplicity, lets skip the murkiness in this report about who the control group actually was. Were the voucher kids being compared to public school kids in general? Or were they being compared to public school kids who applied for vouchers, but didnt get them? Yes, it probably makes a differencebut Glod never quite clears it up. (Looking quickly at the study itself, it seems that the latter is true.)
Lets skip that, moving on to a pair of simpler questions:
First, Glod says the voucher kids placed nearly four months ahead of peers in their reading scores. (No difference in math.) But how many years did it take them to do that? Did this difference occur after only one yearor did it perhaps take ten? Obviously, this makes a major difference. Glod never tries to explain.
More simplistically, our suspicious minds formed another question: How many months is nearly four months? Glod never explains that either. Sadly, our idealistic young analysts started to cry when they got their answer!
How many months is nearly four months? As it turns out, the Post has an editorial about this same study todayand the editors explain the basic facts much more clearly than Glod. How many months is nearly four months? Just try to believe what they wrote:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (4/4/09): An evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program released yesterday concluded that, after three years, students offered scholarships earned reading scores equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning. It also mirrored earlier studies in showing that parents who had children in the program were more satisfied with the schools, viewing them as safer and more orderly. The study found no difference in math performance and no gains for students from the lowest-performing public schools.
For the record, those gains were recorded after three years. But good God. How many months is nearly four months? Theres your answer: 3.1!
This sad incident doesnt massively matter in the vast sweep of cosmic history. But good God! You live in a world where a reporter at your biggest political newspaper will actually round 3.1 off to four, presumably with her editors assent! Wellshell do that if it serves the company line. At the Post, that line favors vouchers.
Lets try to build a larger context around this small hopeless bungle:
Several centuries ago, the western world had its ballyhooed Enlightenment. From now on, facts would rule, we saidfacts and their consort, logic. From now on, wed play by the rules, we all swore! No more saying X is right just because it feels so goodor because the king says X is right.
That was the pledgebut that ideal has faded. Enlightenment values lie in tatters, as you can see when you scan your newspapers. (Or when you watch your progressive TV shows.) We thought wed advancedbut that was a dream. Those very lofty Enlightenment values are routinely observed in the breach.
Perhaps we should have known all along! After all, as Frost told us (just click here): Nothing glod can stay!
Endless selectivity: Like you, we thought there might be a misunderstanding! We assumed that no real journalist would ever dream of calling 3.1 months nearly four. And so, we checked the actual study. Sorry. Just click here, then click ahead to page 18. Its 3.1 months, nice and neat.
That said, we noted another bit of selective presentation on the part of Glod and the editors. Right there in its basic summary, the study presents its second finding: The voucher program had a positive impact on parents reports of school satisfaction and safety, but not on students reports. In other words, parents thought the private schools were safer and better; the students themselves didnt have that perception. But at the Post, they favor vouchers. Result? Glod and the editors do the same thing. They tell you what the parents thoughtand omit the views of the kids.
Weve made no secret of our support for vouchers, the editors say. We have no strong view about voucher ourselves. But regarding this confession, well only say this: Editors, please! Weve noticed!
The way we progressives now reason: More astounding was this short post by David Kurtz at TPM. How do progressives reason these days? If a federal prosecutor says it occurred, progressives simply assume its the case! One day after the Stevens accouncement, wed call this truly astounding. (By the way: Olbermann and Maddow both treat this particular story as a source of endless entertainment/amusement. On GEs newly progressive channel, progressives just want to have fun.)
Sorryno hookers last night: Meanwhile, more entertainment from last nights Countdown! Keiths staff saw the deepening recession as a chance to show some prime stripper footage! (To enjoy all the fun, just click here.) On the very liberal Countdown, if they dont have a news report about hookers, they sell you some strippers instead.
Presumably, this is no ones idea of progressive values. (Liberal sites mock The OReilly Factor for pulling these same sorts of tricks.) But because we liberals get our comfort food there, Olbermann has gotten an endless pass on this retrograde craphas gotten a pass for years. We can tell hes on our sidewhen he tells us the other sides stupid.
MOST INSTRUCTIVE OF ALL: For decades, our political discourse has been ruled by well-crafted pieces of propaganda. Disinformation rolls down like rain about societys most basic issues. (The Social Security trust fund is just a pile of worthless IOUs!) And uh-oh! When somebody actually mentions the truth, the fixers roll their scripts out rapidly. Three letters in this mornings Post are amazingly illustrative of this broken culture. Click here. After that, click this. Finally, just click here.
Talk about the death of Enlightenment values! You simply cant run a free society this way. Well start with this deeply instructive display in Mondays edition.