History can produce nausea: As noted yesterday, we have posted a large chunk of Chapter 5 at our companion site, How he got there (for chapter 5, just click here). We strongly recommend this material, which is thoroughly nauseating, true to the era in question. For an overview of the squalor, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/4/10.
This is how George W. Bush reached the White House. Are you happy with how that turned out?
Black kids can just go fly: We would have thought that the nations black kids had experienced every indignity by now. (And the nations low-income kids. And the nations Hispanic kids.) But this morning, the New York Times has published this unfortunate column about standardized testing by the hapless Charles Murray.
Murray starts by acknowledging an important facta recent study found that pupils in Milwaukees charter schools did no better, on average, than their peers in regular public schools. This is just one of several evaluations of school choice programs that have failed to show major improvements in test scores, Murray writes. For a news report about a more comprehensive study, just click this. (Headline, in Sundays New York Times: Despite Push, Success at Charter Schools is Mixed.)
Despite these disappointing results, Murray continues to support charter schools. (We do too.) This is the start of his argument:
MURRAY (5/5/10): This is just one of several evaluations of school choice programs that have failed to show major improvements in test scores, but the size and age of the Milwaukee program, combined with the rigor of the study, make these results hard to explain away.
So lets not try to explain them away. Why not instead finally acknowledge that standardized test scores are a terrible way to decide whether one school is better than another? This is true whether the reform in question is vouchers, charter schools, increased school accountability, smaller class sizes, better pay for all teachers, bonuses for good teachers, firing of bad teachersmeasured by changes in test scores, each has failed to live up to its hype.
Murray still likes charter schools. He simply says that standardized tests are a lousy way to decide whether one school is better than another.
Is that true? It can be.
Without question, there are limitations to the power of standardized tests in reading and math. Beyond that, there are obvious ways these tests utility can be subverted. One example: Some schools simply cheat on their standardized tests. Their shining test results are thereby rendered useless.
Second example: At this point in our history, it makes no sense to expect that schools with vastly different student populations will produce similar test scores. Kids from upper-income, high-literacy homes will typically do better than kids who come from low-income, low-literacy backgrounds. If we want to make sensible use of test scores, we must understand this unfortunate fact.
That said, standardized tests are very important, especially for low-income kids. What would happen if we threw them away? Duh. Some urban school systems would start to lie about their students achievement levels. We may like to believe that this couldnt be true, but it almost certainly is. Standardized tests can be abused, but they do provide a basic check on the tendency to wish our educational problems away.
That said, consider Murrays argument.
To Murray, a charter school with average scores still might be better than a public school with similar scores. The charter school might be better because it provides some sort of instruction that a parent might prefer. That is perfectly true, of course. But good grief, how foolish this is:
MURRAY: The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the countys other public schools.
I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is better than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occams razor means. But those subjects arent covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Marylands standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.
To Murray, standardized tests in reading and math couldnt capture what is great about this hypothetical school. But is there any school, anywhere in the country, that doesnt want its kids to learn how to read and how to do math? Reading and math are really quite basic. Everybody wants their kids to be strong in these basic areas.
(In the hypothetical situation he ponders, the test scores would suggest that the charter school was producing average success in reading and math, as compared to other schools with comparably smart kids. Why wouldnt a parent want to know that?)
Murrays column is a groaner. To the extent that it reinforces the notion that standardized testing is no darn good, we think it does potential harmespecially to low-income kids. Current testing/reporting requirements can be abusedand sometimes are. But the public needs to know how well our low-income kids are doing in reading and math. When administered and interpreted correctly, those standardized tests in reading and math perform this crucial function.
Were telling you this because you wont be reading it in our fiery liberal journals. (Trp Gabriels front-page report in Sundays Times ran some 3800 words. Have you seen it discussed?) These journals love to parade about raceand theyve ignored the needs and interests of minority children over the past many years. For the past decade, conservatives have widely proclaimed that a good education is the new civil right. We liberals, who love to proclaim our own greatness, have rarely dirtied our superior hands with this low-class topic.
About that lack of major improvement: In the passage we quoted above, Murray says the Milwaukee study is just one of several evaluations of school choice programs that have failed to show major improvements in test scores. Does Murray know that black kids and Hispanic kids have actually shown large score gains in reading and math (especially math) in the past dozen years? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/7/10.)
Most liberals have never heard that fact. Nor have they ever seen it analyzed. Our liberal journals, so racially pure, simply refuse to dirty their hands with such low-class concerns.
Our leaders love Chris Matthewsand hate black kids! Aint liberal purity grand?
JUST ASK ROBERT BENNETT (permalink): Is the Tea Party movement driven by racial animus?
Presumably yes, to some extent. According to that recent New York Times poll, 18 percent of adults will say, when asked, that they support the Tea Party movement. On a national basis, this would represent perhaps 40 million people. Presumably, some number of those people are driven by some sort of racism, bigotry or racial resentment.
Well spend next week reviewing a recent academic study which pretended to measure this problem, to widespread acclaim from us noble liberals.
But then, the tea-baggers (as we liberals like to call them) seem to hate white people too! Just consider the sad situation of Senator Robert Bennett.
A few weeks ago, we said that Charlie Crist was the whitest politican in America. Lets admit itwe lied. Senator Bennett quite plainly is whiter. Just how white is Senator Bennett? Please consider these facts:
Bennett isnt simply whitehes white, and hes from Utah. Hes white, and hes a Mormon. (Bennetts father was also a senatorand he too was white!) And Bennett isnt simply a Mormon; his grandfather, Herbert J. Grant, was seventh president of the LDS church! For Bennetts full story, click here.
Senator Bennett is exceptionally white. And the Tea Party pretty much hates him.
Bennett isnt struggling to get re-elected to his senate seat. He isnt struggling to get re-nominated by Utahs Republican party. Things are much worse than that for Bennett: At present, he is struggling just to get his name on the GOP primary ballot! Thats right! Bennett is so strongly opposed in his home state, the three-term senator may not even win a spot on the primary ballot!
Last Saturday, the Washington Post described the problems facing Bennett as he tries to win a fourth term. In the following passage, Amy Gardner describes why Bennett is struggling hard just to get on the primary ballot:
GARDNER (5/1/10): According to a poll published Sunday by local news outlets, 41 percent of [GOP] convention delegates say they will not vote for Bennett; Lee holds the lead by a wide margin.
Bennett's detractors point to his support for then-President George W. Bush's immigration amnesty proposal and the financial bailouts of banks and auto companies, as well as Bennett's authorship, with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), of a health-care proposal that included an individual mandate. Critics are also upset with Bennett for having pledged, during his first campaign in 1992, to serve only two terms (he is seeking his fourth).
"The whole reason I started the Tea Party of Utah was because of Bob Bennett," said David Kirkham of Provo, a convention delegate who said he is torn between voting for Lee or Bridgewater.
Kirkham's group, and the tea-party-affiliated Utah Rising and 9.12 movements, have been particularly active in opposing Bennett. All seven of his opponents are courting these groups heavily.
There's a lot of frustration among Republicans who feel that the party lost the moral high ground on fiscal issues during the Bush years," said Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R), who is officially neutral in the race. "He gets the broad brush because he was there. This is a perfect storm against him that's kind of unique to our times.
Might we offer a simple note? With minor adjustments, these are the reasons Tea Party folk cite when asked why they hate Obama.
Without any question, the talented hacks of the career liberal world will be able to tease the racism and bigotry out of this state-wide reaction to Bennett. But if you are less beholden to tired old political hustles, please remember: This is the way the Tea Party is currently treating the whitest pol in the whole land.
Here at THE HOWLER, we dont share the Tea Partys politics. We arent upset with Senator Bennett because he supported the bank bailouts. We arent upset with Senator Bennett because he supported the GM rescue. As far as we know, we arent upset with his stands on immigration. We arent in a fury because of the Wyden-Bennett health care proposal.
We would only suggest that you read Gardners article to ponder a basic fact: Many in the Tea Party movement are furious with Bennett because of these stands. And no, they arent going after Bennett because they hate him for his race. As is abundantly clear, Robert Bennett is the whitest pol in the whole land.
Robert Bennett is very whitebut career liberal leaders are very blinkered. In truth, they arent especially smart or honestand they adore yelling race. Next week, well look at the groaning social science which recently emerged from the University of Washington and well look at the groaning work done at Salon as the journals fiery liberals announced their vast love for this bungled, embarrassing work.
This morning, a second report, in the New York Times, discusses another racial aspect of the current conservative surge. According to Jennifer Steinhauer, an unusual number of black Republicans are seeking office this fall. (Steinhauer: At least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.)
Steinhauer includes grumbling nay-says from two black liberals; they suggest that few of these candidates will win. Do you mind if we offer a slightly different thought?
Our thought: An increase in wins by black Republicans would be the best thing for the liberal world. Only when our crutch is ripped away will our bankrupt intellectual leaders stop peddling standard cries about race and (perhaps) start to develop a winning progressive politics. At present, our intellectual leaders sleepwalk through life, kissing the keister of mainstream hacks and broadcasting their own racial greatness.
You couldnt make them address the lives of black kids if you promised the moon. Confronted with wide support for Arizonas new law, they know how to do one thingyell race.
Our fiery liberal intellectual leaders tend a bit toward the morally bankrupt. Beyond that, they simply arent very smart, as is typically the case among people who have no particular need to be smart. They have gotten away with feeding you race for a very long timewhen they were around at all. (They sat out the Clinton-Gore years.)
Your fiery, morally pure liberal leaders feed you comfort food about race. The actual world is a bit more complex. If you doubt that, just ask Robert Bennettthe whitest pol in the whole land.