NINE PRESCRIPTIONS! If we want to survive Davis Guggenheims film, we should do eight or nine things: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2010
Beyond pathetic: Well return to Dana Milbanks breakthrough essay before the week is done. But today, we want to devote this space to a minor, floundering moment last night from the increasingly pathetic Ed Schultz.
More and more, its beyond pathetic to watch him. Last night, Big Ed attempted to correct Glenn Becks basic math. And yes, Schultz actually said this:
In his incarnation of the past few months, Schultz labors, struggles and strains each night, helping us learn to hate The Other, by whatever means necessary, however dumb. But this was especially pitiful.
Does Schultz know what the word about meansas in, we are about 35 percent independents? In his comment, Beck didnt cite any particular survey. But as everyone who has ever worked with numbers knows, survey results often add up to more than 100 percent. Can Ed Schultz really be this dumb? Or does he just think you are?
Second point: As we watched Schultz, we were struck by the way he seemed to miss the larger pointtypically, more Americans self-identify as Democrats than as Republicans. Bungling his own basic math, Big Eddie went right past that point.
Unfortunately, we checked this morning at Gallupand even on this basic measure, the numbers have been moving against Democrats. Below, you see a basic survey question. Gallup asks it once or twice per month:
Ugh. In its most recent survey (September 13-16), Republicans actually went ahead of Dems. That is not the norm. From the summer of 2009 through February 2010, Democrats routinely led by six or more points on this question. (To see all data back through 2004, just click here.)
That said, Schultz increasingly performs like a low-IQ clown on his show. That takedown last night was especially foolish. Maybe the guy is really this dumbor maybe he just thinks you are.
Question: Is this really the way to move progressive interests forward? Theres no correct answer, of course.
PART 2NINE PRESCRIPTIONS (permalink): Routinely, if it werent for the mis-information, we wouldnt have any information at all!
In recent weeks, Davis Guggenheims film, Waiting for Superman, has generated many misses, often from the nations film critics. In Boston alone, the nations unsuspecting rubes have been subjected to nonsense like this:
The creativity is always striking.
Reading Morris, Bostonians learned that American education has been steeply in decline since the 1970s. Did he mean since the start of the 1970s, or since the end of that decade? Whichever point we select, his claim is massively contradicted by our best domestic data (see below)data he has almost surely never heard described.
Reading Eagan, things got worse. America used to lead the world in public education, the know-nothing cipher foolishly typed, failing to specify what she meant. But now, we have fallen to 25th in mathand were even getting trounced by places like India. Whatever Eagan is talking abouttheres little chance she actually knowssuch comparisons are deeply invested in apples and oranges. (For the record, India has not participated in any of the major international measures from which Guggenheims data are drawn.)
Might Bostonians turn to national figures for a bit of clarification? Reading the nations best-known film critic, they got handed this load of shinola:
American students rank last in math skills? Sorry, that just isnt accurate. (Weve seen no one else describe such a chart.) Ebert goes on to offer pointless, amorphous, mush-mouthed claims about what is possible for even the most disadvantaged students. In Newsweek, meanwhile, political know-it-all Jonathan Alter issued a set of know-nothing claims, weirdly dating the push for reform to the 1983 government report A Nation at Risk.
Magi like Alter know everything. Did this nations push for reform really start in 1983? Between 1971 and 1984, the average reading score of black 9-year-olds jumped 16 points on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a program Alter knows nothing about; the average score of black 13-year-olds jumped 14 points in that period. (By a very rough rule of thumb, ten points is routinely said to equal one academic year on the NAEP.) Presumably, this was partly due to the drive for reform which started in the 1960s, with widely-read books by young liberal writers like Herbert Kohl and Jonathan Kozol. On occasion, one can find a published writer with some idea what hes talking about; in the New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann remembered his nations actual history with a bit more clarity:
Duh. Altered history to the side, the federal push for reform was well underway by the late 1960s, when the NAEP began its national testing. For the record, one quibble with Lemann; its also misleading to say that the achievement gap has mainly been stuck since the 1980s without noting that black and Hispanic achievement has grown a great deal since that time. (The gap has remained because white achievement has grown by almost as much.)
This problem isnt new? Reading the claptrap of writers like Morris and Eagan, people in Boston may have gotten a very different idea. They may have gotten the silly idea that things were great before the 1970s, when American students were first in the world. During that golden era, of course, black children were whipped in the basements of Bostons schools, and they couldnt read or cipher well, as Kozol described in his-once famous book. But when ciphers like Guggenheim are unloosed, nonsense runs all through the land.
If it werent for the mis-information, we wouldnt have any information at all! In the past several decades, this has been the familiar shape of American discourse as plutocrats, and their overpaid servants, have taken control of the culture. Do we want to have a real great debate about the state of the nations schools? If so, we would offer eight or nine prescriptions.
This morning, lets scan the first three:
Stop with the magic bullets: By all accounts, Guggenheims film is all about the failures of Americas teachers and their infernal teachers unions. Without any doubt, our schools could be better if we had better teachers. (Though it isnt clear how to identify same.) Presumably, teachers unions have sometimes made poor choices. But only a fool could really think that Americas massive educational challenges stem from this one magic source. Only a fool could think such a thingbut the press corps is crawling with such people, as is Guggenheims Hollywood.
When it comes to low-income schools, pseudo-liberals and media stooges have chased magic bullets since the 1960s. Frauds like Guggenheim always have some simple solution to sell. To appearances, they never have the slightest idea what theyre talking about.
Stop lying about our test scores: If we claim to care about public schools, could we possibly start to tell the truth about our most basic data? Hacks like those weve cited above are happy to tell the latest talea tale of misery and decline from the golden age of the 1970s (or before). In fact, all major student demographic groups are reading better, and doing math better, than they were in that earlier period. In particular, test scores of black kids and Hispanic kids have shown remarkable gains.
These facts are never discussed in public. Our American discourse is often a novel, with elites agreeing to tell bogus tales. (Al Gore has a problem with the truth!) But we have rarely seen a subject where the most basic data are so uniformly withheld from view. In fact, the scores of low-income kids are massively up on our most reliable tests. But for the typical American citizen, it is virtually impossible to learn this basic fact.
Stop lying about our glorious past: Truly, it should be disgusting to read about that golden age of American education. On NBC News, Rehema Ellis pimped the same pap Morris would peddle a few days later. She spoke with anchor Lester Holt on the NBC Nightly News:
Forty years ago, American students were first! Days later, Eagan and Morris would make the same amorphous claim in Bostons two major dailies. We dont whip journalists in this country, of coursebut Ellis and Morris, who are themselves black, ought to be reminded that black children were being whipped in Bostons schools during that glorious age, when American students were first. Eagan, who is fashionably white, should get her keister kicked too.
What on earth makes adults agree to tell such ludicrous tales?
You live in a land of magical tales, where the news has long been a series of novels. In truth, you will never see a great debate about the state of your nations schools. Instead, youll be exposed to whatever piffle the plutocrats select for you. But today, weve listed three prescriptions for the debate which will never occur. Tomorrow, we will list three more.
Three more will follow on Friday.