Companion site:


Google search...


Print view: What is happening nationwide? The Times bungled that topic too
Daily Howler logo
ACHIEVEMENT, AND ACHIEVEMENT GAPS, NATIONWIDE! What is happening nationwide? The Times bungled that topic too: // link // print // previous // next //

Ed Schultz doesn’t understand Dr. King’s mission or legacy: But first, we were struck by Steve Benen’s reaction to this week’s stabbing attack in New York.

On Tuesday night, a Muslim cab driver was stabbed by a young man who seems to be disturbed. Unfortunately, the attacker has some liberal ties, so we liberals didn’t get to celebrate in the way we would have enjoyed. (Remember how we were ready to party when it seemed that a “tea-bagger” may have killed a census worker in Kentucky? Same disappointment here!) That said, Mayor Bloomberg had one reaction to the attack; Governor Patterson had another. Benen, safely ensconced in Vermont, found himself troubled by Patterson’s “wrong response to a shocking crime:”

BENEN (8/26/10): Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) invited Sharif to City Hall today, and said, "This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe, no matter what God we may pray to."

Gov. David Paterson's (D) reaction was less encouraging. Among other things, the governor said:

"The potential for this kind of violence is one of the reasons why I have called publicly for a respectful and unifying conversation about the Park51 project. I continue to offer my assistance for an open dialogue that I believe will help to bring New Yorkers together."

Of course, Paterson has said he wants to accommodate the demands of the Park51 critics, even considering state land for the project. In this context, his statement made it seem as if the controversy and the stabbing are connected, and moving the community center would make things better.

As Ben Smith put it, "The argument here: The mosque must be moved because its opponents are crazed, violent bigots who need to be appeased. Sounds like a good compromise."

Sitting safely on his white ass in Vermont, Benen demanded conflict. We mustn’t give in to the bigots, he cried, like Snoopy flying that plane. By way of contrast, Ahmed Sharif, the man who was stabbed, had apparently favored moving the non-mosque somewhere else. Could it be that Sharif understands something the Benens don’t care about?

For our money, Bloomberg’s reaction was perfectly sensible; so was Patterson’s. It’s Benen’s reaction which jumps off the page. It isn’t Benen whose throat may get slashed if extended conflict leads to further attacks by disturbed people. But even after someone gets stabbed, Benen—safely lodged in Vermont—still can’t seem to picture the thinking behind Patterson’s reaction.

We know that bait can taste really good, but this isn’t World War III. The proposed community center could conceivably do a world of good at its proposed location—or at some other location. It never had to be “at” ground zero, or even two blocks away. What amazes us is the way the Benens are happy to let other people’s throats get slashed, so they can play out identity games in which they pretend that the location of this worthwhile project is a matter of unyielding import.

It isn’t, and it never was. And it isn’t Benen’s life which gets put on the line by his utterly high-minded thinking, after which he waddles to Ben and Jerry’s to break up the afternoon.

It isn’t that Bloomberg’s reaction is wrong. It’s just that people like Benen show no sign of knowing—no sign of caring?—whose lives get put on the line in the process. Truly, it can be amazing to see the way we “liberals” think.

Back to Schultz: Big Eddie is back on vacation today, presumably at the fishing lodge his ratings allowed him to purchase. But we thought the way he opened his Tuesday and Wednesday shows was truly repellent. Long story short: he engaged in loud, music-driven demagoguery, trying to stir up outrage—and hatred—about tomorrow’s Glenn Beck event. He used the most inflammatory language our language provides; he clowned with a set of insignificant facts, which he twisted to serve his advantage. By Wednesday evening, his bad faith had even reached the point where he tried to draw Martin Luther King III into his brainless fury.

This produced a lovely, zen-like exchange. Dr. King’s son wasn’t going.

Here is the initial exchange as Schultz tries to enlist Dr. King’s son in his drive to bring on the outrage. Big Eddie offered King some bait. Dr. King’s son didn’t take it:

SCHULTZ (8/25/10): Joining me now is Martin Luther King III. He is the president of the King Center, and I will be joining him at Reverend Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream” rally on Saturday. Mr. King, thank you for joining us tonight.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III: Thank you for the opportunity.

SCHULTZ: How do you feel about this rally? How do you feel about the upcoming event on Saturday…the one that’s going to be at the Lincoln Memorial.

KING: Well, you know, I think that my father always fought for everyone to have a voice, but a voice of civility, a voice for inclusion, not an exclusionary voice. And what I hope is that out of this demonstration and the demonstration that Reverend Sharpton also—constructive demonstration that Reverend Sharpton and others, including myself, will be participating to, I hope that civility is the order of the day.

I mean, we’ve got to really focus on how we work through the differences that we have in America, not be destructive and have destructive behavior. And I’m not suggesting—certainly Glenn Beck and all who follow Glenn Beck, certainly my father would have been the first to fight for them to have a voice. But he would hope that all of us would engage in constructive dialogue, not necessarily negative rhetoric.

What! Was that the best this guy could do? In fact, Big Ed has been spewing some very “negative rhetoric” about the Beck event, using some of the most negative imagery our culture provides. Why in the world was King holding back? Big Eddie tried him again:

SCHULTZ (continuing directly): Is it constructive for the Tea Party to put out a directive to those coming to Washington to stay out of certain areas of Washington, D.C.—a map, a zone where to go in Washington, D.C.? Your father, of course, was all about ending segregation, and here, where we are coming up on Saturday, they want to segregate.

KING: Well, certainly, if that is being done, you know, I would certainly not embrace that necessarily, that philosophy. The philosophy of nonviolence, the philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr., is the philosophy of inclusion. And that means everyone. That means we have to go everywhere. And those of us who purport to be Christian, which my father was a Christian minister, not necessarily was he against anyone. But he was willing to go anywhere and everywhere.

Pitiful. Schultz was dragging the late Dr. King through the mud of his small, hater’s mind, pretending that a single e-mail from a single Tea Partier had been a call for “segregation,” an ugly, stupid, brainless claim he had been making for two days now. But darn it! Dr. King’s son had been mild once again! So Eddie gave King a third opportunity, praying that he could get Dr. King’s son to declare himself “offended” by Beck. But uh-oh! When Big Ed extended this outrage branch, Dr. King’s son gave his worst answer yet! Like his father, a moral giant, he just wasn’t playing this game:

SCHULTZ (continuing directly): Are you offended that Beck and his Tea Party cronies are going to be on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, and many people are taking this as a real shot at what your father stood for, the social justice, the economic justice, the fight for workers, civil rights, all of that?

KING: Well, I don’t know— offended is a very strong word. Again, I think all Americans have the right. They petitioned to get the particular space. And none of us own that space. That’s a space for Americans. And all of us purport to be Americans. So my dad didn’t own the space. He just made a very powerful speech there.

Good lord—what was wrong with this man? Nothing could get his hot buttons firing! Finally, Schultz gave King one final chance to serve as the voice of hot resentment, the voice which drives cable ratings along and keeps our minds in the ditch:

SCHULTZ (continuing directly): Also, you have written in the past about the work of your father. And I can’t help but ask you this question—if he were alive today, what would he say about the political climate in this country and the way President Obama has been treated?

KING: Well, I think he would say that we have to learn how to be—we have to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. And I don`t think we`ve learned that message in this nation.

We know how to be divisive. We know how to throw torpedoes. We know how to be disruptive. We need to all be focusing, as Democrats and Republicans, on how we can find constructive ways to rebuild this economy in this nation so that the nation can continue to be the great nation that it always has been.

Schultz had been throwing torpedoes all week. King refused to play.

We have always liked Schultz’s basic approach to politics. Of late, though, he has truly become a hater—a pimp for resentment, outrage, offense. He trains his viewers to be deeply offended, on a nightly basis, by all manner of consummate trivia. If the Dalai Lama appeared on his show, Big Ed would try to get his buttons firing. He has become a clown of a man—a force for unhelpful anger.

Dr. King came from a vastly deeper tradition, in which you respected and loved your opponents—even the ones who were hoping to kill you. For that reason, Dr. King is a mammoth figure in world history. He will remain so after Saturday’s event. He will remain so in spite of the conduct of lost souls like Schultz, who knows how to build a good rating.

“Offended is a very strong word,” Dr. King’s son said. So are words like “racist” and “bigot” and “segregation,” the strongest terms our language holds. Big Eddie loves those hot-button terms. Dr. King’s son? Not so much.

Special report: Who cares about black kids!

PART 4—ACHIEVEMENT, AND ACHIEVEMENT GAPS, NATIONWIDE (permalink): The analysts nearly fell out of their chairs as they watched Rachel Maddow this Wednesday. Good lord! Could it be that your DAILY HOWLER was getting results this fast? As the analysts glanced from their study carrels, Maddow seemed to be doing something we liberals simply don’t do! Rather plainly, Rachel Maddow was discussing public schools! On TV!

MADDOW (8/25/10): The Obama administration yesterday awarded more than $3 billion to nine states and the District of Columbia, states in the D.C. who applied for the “Race to the Top” grant. New Jersey came in eleventh. So ten of them got money, anybody after that didn’t.

New Jersey was eleventh. They lost to Ohio by just three points.

Say what? Readers, have you ever seen a TV liberal stoop to talk about public schools—about public schools in a state like New Jersey, a state with a lot of minority kids? Darlings, it simply isn’t done! We liberals walked away from black kids decades ago. But there was Maddow, breaking the rules, discussing big-state education!

Puzzled, the analysts glanced all around. And then, the actual game became clear! Snarking hard and bringing the snide, Maddow was playing a dumb, silly game aimed at mocking Governor Christie, who is in the wrong tribe, as you know. You see, Christie’s administration made a minor mistake on its application for funding for “Race to the Top”—a minor mistake which seems to have cost the state of New Jersey $400 million in federal swag! In what follows, Maddow is nearing the end of a long, snarky snarkfest. (To watch her full dollop of bullroar, click this.) This is how clowns like Maddow insult the interests of black and Hispanic kids, about whom they couldn’t care less:

MADDOW: Even while talking about the application process, Gov. Christie has still been making some basic mistakes, as evidenced by his appearance on this network this morning.

CHRISTIE (videotape): We came at 11th. Ten people won and we lost by 2.2 points, to Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next year. Next year.

CHRISTIE: If there’s more money. I doubt there will be.

(end of videotape)

MADDOW: Um—two point two points, Governor Christie? According to the Department of Education, Ohio got 440.8 points in the final phase and New Jersey got 437.8 points which, using my---“Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo”—umm, using my powers of math comprehension, that’s three points, not 2.2. I don’t know if there’s a math component to the test. If there is, I bet that’s Obama`s fault too.

Presto! Pseudo-liberals got to laugh at a conservative governor, and reaffirm their undying love for Rachel, who is so funny, so snide and so dumb—just the way we like it. Who doesn’t seem to give a flying frack about the interests of black kids, quite a few of whom live in New Jersey.

Maddow was helping display a famous old fact—white liberals quit on black kids long ago. You couldn’t make our “intellectual leaders” discuss the interests of black kids if you paid them a million bucks more.

That said, we thought you might like to know what the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP) has to say about nationwide progress in reading and math—about the achievement of the nation’s black and Hispanic kids, and about those achievement gaps. Along with virtually everything else, Sharon Otterman and Michael Gebeloff managed to bungle this topic in their front-page report in the New York Times—their report about the progress of Gotham kids during the Bloomberg years. What is happening to achievement gaps around the nation? Early on, right in paragraph 6, the Timesfolk proffered this:

OTTERMAN AND GEBELOFF (8/16/10): Reducing racial gaps in educational performance has been a national preoccupation for decades. But after substantial progress in the 1970s and ’80s, the effort has largely stalled, except for a brief period from 1999 to 2004, where there were some gains, particularly in reading, according to a report released this month by the Educational Testing Service, which develops standardized tests used across the country.

Jesus. In fact, the lone study to which the writers refer is a study of the national achievement gap between white kids and black kids only. The gap between white kids and Hispanic kids isn’t discussed at all. (To review the study, click this. You can start by noting its title.) This isn’t a flaw in the study itself; but the study only considers half the topic Otterman and Gebeloff were discussing, a fact the pair never betrayed any sign of having noticed. That said, we would say that there are certain flaws with this study, which uses data from the NAEP “Long Term Trends” research, a companion study to the regular NAEP. One flaw? While the study is clear about its topic—it is assessing changes in black-white achievement gaps, not changes in black achievement itself—it tends to obscure an important fact: according to the study’s bone-simple data, black achievement grew at a faster rate from 2004 through 2008 than it had from 1999 to 2004. In fact, on a per-year basis, black achievement grew almost twice as fast during the latter period! (Reductions in the achievement gap slowed because white kids did poorly during the first period, picked up steam in the second.) At a glance, it seems to us there is a second, possibly larger problem with the ETS study, concerning the topic of “accommodations.” (Don’t ask, though you can search the NAEP “long-term trend” report—click here.) But please understand that basic fact—according to this study’s bone-simple data, black achievement grew at a much faster rate from 2004-2008 than it did from 1999-2004. Understand that fact as you read the way the writers continued their discussion of national achievement gaps, here in paragraph 10:

OTTERMAN AND GEBELOFF: Experts have many theories, but no clear answers, about why national progress on closing the gap has slowed. They included worsening economic conditions for poor families and an increase in fatherless black households, social factors that interfere with students’ educational progress.

The gloom was general as the morbid pair pondered the national slowdown. Maybe the slowdown was caused an increase in fatherless black households, they said. From that passage, how many readers would have guessed that black kids’ achievement had improved at a much faster rate in the more recent period under review (2004-2008)—that the pace of black achievement had in fact substantially quickened? How many readers would have guessed that the writers were discussing a study of the black-white gap only–a study which didn’t examine the Hispanic-white gap at all?

So it goes when the New York Times attempts to discuss the lives of black kids—and the lives of Hispanic kids, who in this case got left in the cold.

The gloom was general as the New York Times presented its long, error-strewn report. New York City’s apparent progress in closing the gaps was gone, the scriveners correctly observed—while failing to note that all major groups in New York City have been making substantial progress in achievement itself on the NAEP. Meanwhile, progress on slowing the gap has stalled nationwide, they sadly declared, in passing, apparently having reviewed one study—a study which considered only one of the two basic gaps (black/white). They failed to note that progress in black achievement had substantially picked up steam in the recent period under review.

Readers, we knew what we had to do! We decided that we would review the data which define national progress in achievement, and the data which define national progress in reducing achievement gaps. If you’ve had enough of the snark and the snide, the silly, the pseudo, you might want to know what has actually been transpiring with the nation’s black and Hispanic kids.

Forget about New York City itself! On a national basis, what has been happening to the achievement of the three major demographic groups? What has happened to achievements gaps? We looked at data from the “regular” NAEP, comparing test scores achieved in the year 2000 to scores achieved in 2009.

We’ll report, and you can decide! These are the data from the NAEP, as found in the project’s detailed but user-friendly report. For math data, just click here. For data on reading, click this.

Fourth grade math: On a national basis, black kids gained a walloping 19 points in fourth grade math from 2000 to 2009 (average score). Hispanic kids gained the same 19 points. White kids gained 14 points.

All three groups showed large gains in achievement. Black kids reduced the achievement gap by 5 points. Hispanic kids reduced the gap by the same amount.

Fourth grade reading: Black kids gained 15 points in average score over the nine-year span. Hispanic kids gained the same 15 points. White kids gained six points.

In this area, black kids and Hispanic kids both showed large gains in achievement. Each group reduced the achievement gap by nine points.

Eighth grade math: Nationwide, black kids gained 17 points on average from 2000 through 2009. Hispanic kids gained 13 points. White kids gained 9 points.

Those are large gains in achievement. By now, you can cipher the reductions in the gaps by yourself. Or you can phone the clowning Maddow, asking her to help you out by “using her powers of math comprehension.”

Eighth grade reading: (Note—for this one measure, the comparison starts in 1998; no data exist for the year 2000.) On this measure, black kids gained two points from 1998 to 2009. Hispanic kids gained six points. White kids gained three points.

In this one area, gains in achievement were slim. The gaps stayed largely the same.

These are the national results from the NAEP, the widely-lauded “gold standard” of American testing. Except in eighth grade reading, gains in achievement have been rather large; achievement gaps have been reduced. None of this dimly resembles the picture described in the New York Times report—a report which seemed to derive its principle picture from a single, limited study.

Readers may have another question: How well are other major cities doing in raising achievement and in reducing achievement gaps? User-friendly data from the NAEP’s “Trial Urban District Assessment” are on-line for all to see. (For reading data, click here. For math data, click this.)

We will only note the gains recorded by Atlanta:

In Atlanta, fourth-grade black kids gained nine points in reading from 2002 through 2009. Black eighth-graders gained fourteen points in reading during that period, an enormous gain when compared to national norms. In fourth grade reading, Atlanta’s black kids gained seven points; black eighth-graders gained fourteen points. On the surface, these are very strong gains; in the eighth grade, the gains are so strong that we would want to trust-but-verify when it came to the sample groups tested. (Achievement gaps are hard to assess, but to the limited of white and Hispanic kids in the Atlanta schools.) But the point we’re making is simpler than that; a great deal of fascinating data exist about the progress made by the nation’s black and Hispanic kids. A fair amount of good news seems to be lurking there—and absolutely nobody cares.

Can we talk? To all appearances, nobody gives a flying frack about the interests of black kids. This long-term trend has been clear since the mid-to-late 1970s, when the liberal world pretty much quit on black kids. Starting in the mid-1960s, the plight of inner-city schools had been a major liberal concern. Famous books like Jonathan Kozol’s (brilliant) Death at an Early Age had fired the liberal spirit as the civil rights movement came center stage. But as things developed, defeating centuries of state-sponsored deprivation wasn’t as easy as liberals had hoped—and at some point in the 1970s, the liberal world pretty much walked away from the task. Today, the liberal world almost never discusses the interests of black kids. That clowning, who-gives-a-shit bullshit by Maddow helps show you where matters stand.

Let’s be candid just for once. Except for the occasional book by Kozol, which we all pretend to have read, we liberals haven’t discussed the interests of black kids from the mid-70s on. Clowns like Maddow mince and pander, pretending to be discussing Christie. But have you ever seen an MSNBC host devote a single segment to the state of our urban schools? No—and given the shape of our “liberal” culture, you damn straight never will.

For our money, the New York Times bungled the question of national progress in its endlessly-bungled report—but at least they tried to assess the topic. Some day, our greatest newspaper may acquire the type of talent which will let it succeed at this task. But there is no sign that the liberal world will ever condescend to this assignment. In part, this is why it’s so grating to see the white liberal world pimping its own racial greatness—the one assignment we white liberals seem to enjoy above all.

Monday—part 5: The Nation’s education issue—and a string of assessments