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SCHOOLS THAT DON’T WORK! Marc Fisher’s piece in the Sunday Post explores a forgotten village:


FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE CHILDREN’S HOUR: We’re going to offer some closing comments on Hanna Rosin’s stunning column from yesterday’s Post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/7/03). In her piece, Rosin said that many young journalists “worshipped” the late Michael Kelly as a “hero.” As we noted yesterday, we think Rosin’s comment, if true, is stunning. Our jaws hung open all day long as we pondered what Rosin had said.

As we said yesterday, Kelly may have been a nice man to work for—but he was a terrible “journalist.” It was bad enough that young mainstream scribes said nothing about his work when he lived. But if they really regarded him as a hero, the values of the modern press are worse than even we had imagined. We can only hope that Rosin was spinning—offering up the latest bullroar to serve the interests of her own career.

Meanwhile, a point we didn’t stress enough: Don’t ignore the role of that sprawling house by the sea with the wraparound porch which popped up in Rosin’s column. We don’t have the slightest idea why individual scribes think or act as they do. But as a group, young scribes know that extremely rich material rewards now await those who do well in their profession. And young scribes know another thing too: They know that those wraparound porches go to those who don’t challenge the conduct of the insider press corps. Almost surely, that explains why many young scribes have so little to say about their own cohort’s frequent misconduct. As we have noted many times in the past, many bright young scribes do excellent work on policy matters—but are strangely silent when it comes to the work of the press. They said nothing about the borking of Gore—and they said nothing about Michael Kelly’s excesses. (Did you ever see them challenge Chris Matthews?) Now they tell us that Kelly was a hero. Guess what? Some day, such scribes will have wraparound porches of their own, on the side of their own sprawling houses.

We were stunned all day by Rosin’s column. If her statements are true, things in the press corps are worse—far worse—than even we had ever dared imagine.

The Daily update

THE FORGOTTEN VILLAGE: For those who care about kids in our urban schools, Marc Fisher’s lengthy piece in Sunday’s Post magazine is essential reading. We’ll offer more thoughts at the end of the week, when we return from a one- or two-day hiatus. In the meantime, Fisher’s piece demands to be read. Such articles almost never appear in the mainstream press—a press which much prefers to publish pleasing “Schools That Work” stories.

We’ll offer a word of caution now. At one point, Fisher describes a first-year teacher’s dismay at the shortcomings of his fifth-graders:

FISHER: In class, Kaplowitz tried to be true to Teach for America’s goal of high standards and expectations. He tested his students regularly and found almost all of them to be at least one and often two grades behind in basic skills.
In context, we’re supposed to be shocked that these fifth grade kids are so far behind traditional “grade level.” In fact, if the rest of Fisher’s article is even vaguely accurate, it’s highly unlikely that these fifth grade students were reading at third- and fourth-grade level. Almost surely, the situation was worse than Kaplowitz knew. More on this at the end of the week—but read this piece, and ponder a place Steinbeck might have described as our own “forgotten village.”