What did America’s children do?

FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2012

To deserve treatment like this: What did America’s children do to deserve treatment like this?

Needless to say, we refer to Gail Collins’ appearance on Monday night’s Maddow Show.

Unfortunately, Collins has written a book about Texas. After wasting time with some stupid shit about last week’s Texas primary, Maddow gave Collins about four minutes to discuss the new book.

Collins didn’t get much time. But she had enough time to say this:
MADDOW (6/4/12): One of the things that had not occurred to me before reading the book is that part of the reason that Texas is very influential is not just because of the sort of mind-meld hold it has on Republican politics, but specifically because of its population and its booming population, which explains so much of what’s going on in Texas economically, but does also explain why “as goes Texas, so goes the nation.”

But you’re saying that birthrate is a product of Texas policy failure.

COLLINS: Yes, even then as the rest of the country, on behalf of the rest of the country, I said, “OK, Texas, if you’re prepared to spend a bunch of money educating many, many, many, many of these babies really, really well, then maybe we have no reason to complain.” But they’re not.

They’re cutting back on education. The school scores are terrible. The SAT scores are among the lowest in the country. That’s 10 percent of the future workforce of America because of the size of the state and the birthrate.

So stuff like that really matters to the rest of us. And if Texas, which is going to be a majority Hispanic state within the next decade or so, if Texas can’t get a grip on these problems, then it goes in places that it’s not good for us to be going as a country.
To watch this dreck, click this.

Many states have been cutting back on education, including the state from which Collins writes. That said, are test scores “terrible” in Texas?

Actually, no—they are not. The student population in Texas is heavily black and Hispanic. Due to the tragedies of American history, this tends to bring down overall scores in the state, although Texas outscored the nation in math on the 2011 NAEP.

Texas outscored the nation straight-up.

But all three major groups in Texas—white kids, black kids, Hispanic kids—outscore their nationwide peers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. And how odd! Just two weeks ago, Collins referred to the NAEP as “the best national assessment we have available.”

Breaking scores up by group is known as “disaggregation.” Given the tragedies of our history, this is the only sensible way to compare test scores from state to state. (As everyone knows, SAT scores tend to be a lousy way to make such comparisons.)

Collins has heard about “disaggregation.” She mentioned the term in the same column where she praised the NAEP. Of course, she was telling a joke about Bush at the time, so maybe she doesn’t know what the term actually means.

Collins has an awful history when it comes to discussing public schools—a history built on kissing the ass of a billionaire mayor while rolling her eyes at those stupid dumb teachers who were messing up all his great plans.

Within discussions conducted by our elites, groaners like this from Monday night are common when public schools get discussed. In fairness, Collins’ misstatement did allow Maddow’s “liberal” viewers to roll their eyes at red-state Texas while feeling all northern and smart and superior.

On the other hand, we all got misinformed about public schools once again.

Texas is full of deserving children. What did American children do to deserve “intellectual leaders” like this?

22 comments:

  1. Important criticism, indeed, since it plays to stereotypes and the stereotypes need to be torn up.

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  2. I had already looked at the Texas testing scores and was impressed. Even Paul Krugman sometime in the past made a foolish remark about education test results in Texas as compared with those of Wisconsin. Krugman was wrong, but never corrected.

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  3. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/lets-blame-the-unions/

    April 9, 2012

    Let’s Blame the Unions
    By Paul Krugman

    A good article in the Times about the terrible state of Texas schools * — followed by a truly awful comment thread, in which many readers rush to blame, you guessed it, teachers’ unions.

    Folks, this isn’t an article about New York, where three-quarters of public-sector workers are unionized. It’s about Texas, where only one in five public workers belongs to a union. Blaming unions for the problems of Texas is like, well, blaming Jews for the problems of Japan: there aren’t enough of them to matter.

    Sigh.

    * http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/us/for-texas-schools-a-year-of-doing-without.html

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  4. Not having read the book (and not intending to either!), I'll bet it's just a variation on a theme that the left loves so much, that Republicans and/or conservatives are either evil,incompetent or just plain stupid. While the book's blurb notes that she has "visited" Texas, I'm also willing to bet that most of the "research" for this epic tome (288 pages)was conducted in the luxy confines of her Morningside Heights apartment.

    While fans of her work will no doubt lap this up, like the various "studies" produced by liberal groups "proving" that Republicans, conservatives and Fox News viewers are either uneducated, ill-informed or suffering from some form of brain malady, this work will very quickly fade into well-deserved obscurity.

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  5. Agreed, Gail Collins is a clown.

    But where do you get the idea that Republicans aren't "evil, incompetent or just plain stupid"?

    They sure are, and that's the biggest problem we have in this country. It wouldn't matter that Collins was a clown, if we didnt need her, or a writer in her space, to call the Republicans to account.

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  6. The student population in Texas is heavily black and Hispanic. Due to the tragedies of American history, this tends to bring down overall scores in the state ...

    Do explain about these tragedies, Bob, and how they affect the performance of these deserving children today. Because no one is racist anymore, or at least if they are, we can't prove it and certainly shouldn't comment on it.

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  7. Ummm, I think the primary tragedy he is referring to is slavery, and the effect it had on literacy among blacks (as he has said repeatedly). I don't think anyone is claiming that "no one is racist anymore." If you can find some evidence to back that up in the Howler archives, please share.

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    1. Bob's written post after post about how liberals should never call anyone racist because it just makes them mad and then they won't listen to the liberals' keen ideas about how to make society work better. He's also written extensively about how we can never know what motivates anyone to do anything, no matter how much of a resemblance their actions might bear to those of a person motivated by racism (Zimmerman) or homophobia (Romney). So I've decided to take him at his word. Yes, there was slavery, but it was 100 years ago and we fixed it. So what causes these children of today to not measure up? Oh, poverty, you might say. But what causes that? Isn't everyone equal now? Haven't all barriers been erased?

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    2. The cause-effect chain between past laws and customs and present achievement gaps is much stronger for blacks than for Hispanics, who did not suffer repeated family breakups due to slavery and who were not barred from learning to read and write. The first cause, coupled longstanding economic discrimination may explain why black children have always been more likely to grow up in single-parent homes with a higher risk of poverty. The second reason may partly explain why black children have access to fewer books compared to white children of the same SES.

      Hispanics are a different case. Their historical experiences with discrimination have been no worse than those of Asians, yet the latter excel every other group, including whites. This points to other reasons for Hispanic underachievement. One reason is parental educational attainment. Hispanic immigrants are less educated than Asians because a porous border makes it feasible for the very poorest Mexicans and Central Americans to enter the US to live,work,and raise children. The illegal status of the parents and some older children makes I very hard for these families to improve their living standards. Some Asian families live here unlawfully,too, but they cam ebetter educated and with assets since they had to qualify for some kind of visa like a tourist or student vis in order to board the airplane. A $30,000 journey hiding in a container ship crossing an ocean versus a $2,000 trip hiding in a vehicle crossing the Tijuana-San Ysidro border outs a better life out of reach of the poorest Asians.

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    3. AnonymousJune 9, 2012 12:13 AM:

      There are still racists obviously. It's frustrating - I hear what you're saying but Bob is saying that playing the racist card is really bad politics for us on the left and perhaps should be avoided.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous @ June 9, 2012 12:13AM, a standard-issue progressive and thereby a scholar in American social history, sardonically writes:

      >>>>>>Bob's written post after post about how liberals should never call anyone racist... So I've decided to take him at his word. Yes, there was slavery, but it was 100 years ago and we fixed it. So what causes these children of today to not measure up? Oh, poverty, you might say. But what causes that? Isn't everyone equal now? Haven't all barriers been erased?<<<<<

      This follows by a couple of years Bob Somerby having discussed some relatively recent social history in his September 10, 2010 edition of the Daily Howler:

      >>>>>

      “Forty years ago, American students were first?” [“education reporter” Rehema] Ellis led with this amorphous claim, suggesting that the state of the schools has greatly declined since that golden age. But at what were American students first? Ellis didn’t explain. But in the context of elementary and middle school test scores—in a discussion of low-income students—this was an astonishing claim, a claim which reinvents brutal history.

      How bizarre was Ellis’ claim? Forty-three years ago, in 1967, Jonathan Kozol published his famous book, Death at an Early Age. He described the year he spent teaching fourth grade in a low-income Boston school.

      Kozol’s book won the National Book Award during the golden age cited by Ellis. Chapter 2 started like this:

      ******
      KOZOL (page 9): Many people in Boston are surprised, even to this day, to be told that children are beaten with thin bamboo whips within the cellars of our public schools and that they are whipped at times for no greater offence than for failing to show respect to the very same teachers who have been describing them as niggers.
      ******

      Oh, that glorious era! Indeed, Kozol started his opening chapter with some of the most memorable persuasive writing of that or any day. This was his real-time account of an age when, according to NBC News, “American students were first:”

      ....“American students were first,” Ellis said, referring to that past glorious age—an era when children like Stephen were whipped, insulted and handed strings of substitute teachers, when the national test scores of kids like Stephen reflected this ludicrous treatment. Truly, for six-figure players like Ellis, there is no lie too vast to recite in service to corporate scripts....
      <<<<<

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  8. A fair number of Hispanic students in Texas are third and fourth generation Americans who may not speak much Spanish, but a majority of Hispanic students in many other states like North Carolina and Kansas are the children of immigrants. Even if we gave free green cards to every immigrant without one,these deserving kids would still lag behind because of little or no academic support at home from non-English-speaking parents with low educational attainment. Since Bob is a fan of data disaggregation, perhaps he could see if there is any difference in achievement between Hispanic children born to US citizens and those born to immigrants.

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    1. Good idea. Can that be done? Are the data available by that kind of demographic break?

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    2. I don,t think so since schools are forbidden to ask about legal status. Another factor that may impact Hispanic student achievement is a home environment in which three languages, Spanish , English, and an indigenous language like Mixtec or Otomi are mixed freely with no ral native or first language for the children. In my experience as an ESOL teacher, children from homes where an indigenous language is spoken have very limited oral language and literacy skills, even after three to four years of formal education in English. It is not unusual for us to find through testing that the English and Spanish language skills of a third grader from an indigenous background hover around kindergarten level. We do not have the resources to assess fluency in Mexican indigenous languages, but interviews with parents and the kids indicate that these children can understand some of what is spoken between the parents in the indigenous language but cannot speak it themselves. Bob doesn't seem too interested in factors like home environment which might partly explain lower Hispanic achievement since it's not a topic he can rant about on his blog.

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  9. If you are going to criticize can we at least see the data. One of the things I like about Krugman is that he presents the evidence for his claims.

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  10. Could someone please write a story in a major news outlet that explained that NAEP scores were going up, some of Bain's episodes were "looting," and that it was wrong to be mean to Al Gore for wearing the wrong colored suit? Maybe that would snap Bob out of the fugue state he appears to have lapsed into for the past several years. Like "Awakenings," only with punditry instead of L-dopa.

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    1. Someone would also need to write how Dubya never said "Nigeria" when he said Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Africa, even though the British intelligence report, already debunked long before the words came out of his mouth, to which Dubya clearly referred, had clearly said "Nigeria."

      That would explain how the bad guy in the whole Valerie Plame thing was not Scooter Libby or his boss, Dick Cheney, but Joe Wilson, Plame's husband, who brought all this on, while Dubya's State of the Union speech that made the case for "preemptive war" was pure as the driven snow.

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  11. Shorter comments:

    Yes, Collins is groaningly wrong.

    But I don't like Bob pointing that out.

    So I pretend there is another problem here:

    I pretend Bob has implied both that unequal educational outcomes must be due to racism and that there is no racism.

    Yes, this makes me an idiot.

    The Anonymous Idiot

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    1. Shorter Anonymous Idiot:

      I am so very clever! I have nothing to do! Any criticism of Bob Somerby is an offense against humanity!

      If nobody criticizes Bob Somerby, I will post my Shorter contribution in advance! Because you never know! There are so many anti-Somerby miscreants in this world, one can't be too careful! Besides, I'm so very clever! Everyone says so! Nothing gets by me! I get my rocks off summarizing my fantasy of other people's posts! It's so very rewarding!

      The Shorter Anonymous Idiot

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    2. It's not "clever" to notice how idiotic you've been.

      The Anonymous Idiot, hardly a fantasy, is spot on.

      You're clearly hurt. Wah!

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  12. Yeah, if you want to avoid being parodied you might want to not provide such a rich vein of material!

    "No one is racist anymore, or at least if they are, we can't prove it and certainly shouldn't comment on it."

    "Bob's written post after post about how liberals should never call anyone racist because it just makes them mad and then they won't listen to the liberals' keen ideas about how to make society work better. He's also written extensively about how we can never know what motivates anyone to do anything, no matter how much of a resemblance their actions might bear to those of a person motivated by racism (Zimmerman) or homophobia (Romney). So I've decided to take him at his word. Yes, there was slavery, but it was 100 years ago and we fixed it. So what causes these children of today to not measure up? Oh, poverty, you might say. But what causes that? Isn't everyone equal now? Haven't all barriers been erased?"

    If you're gonna write thick horsecrap stuff like that, you're gonna get mocked for your thickness.

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  13. Incredible, this really is gorgeous. Think about all of the studying as well as composing you could do this... Frosty in the winter however.

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