Even she gets fooled by one of the press corps’ scams: This weekend’s clearest, cleanest writer was a college freshman.
We refer to Sharon Liao, who wrote this very clear, sincere op-ed column in Saturday’s Washington Post.
Liao is finishing her freshman year at Columbia. She wants to go into K-12 teaching, though people keep telling her not to.
Did we mention how sincere, how clear Liao’s writing is? When you read a piece like this, you know it came from outside. But even there, we have to report that Liao got fooled by one the press corps’ scams:
LIAO (5/18/13): Part of the problem is systemic, and part of it is cultural. It isn’t just about money: Teachers fall too low within our professional hierarchy. They ought to command more respect. In China, where my parents grew up, teachers are addressed as laoshi, or “old master,” a reverent term of dignity and authority. Is it surprising that Asian and Scandinavian countries, where teachers are well-compensated and treated with dignity, show higher levels of student achievement than the United States?In that unfortunate passage, even this very bright, sincere young person got conned by one of our leading scams.
Is it true? Do Scandinavian countries “show higher levels of student achievement than the United States?” On balance, no—they do not.
Liao may be thinking of Finland. But according to the world’s leading authority on Scandinavia, the Scandinavian countries are Denmark, Norway and Sweden. According to this leading authority, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Finland sometimes get thrown into the mix, perhaps a bit inaccurately.
Whatever! A reader of this very fine op-ed column might get the impression that American students are typically outscored by their counterparts in those 3-5 countries.
This belief is a result of the scam. This journalistic scam is so widespread that even an inspiring young person like Liao can get conned.
Needless to say, no editor helped Liao out with a simple fact-check. On Saturday, we performed that check, looking at recent international tests.
This is what we found:
On the 2011 TIMSS, U.S. students always outscored their Scandinavian peers, unless you want to count Finland. To the extent that the relevant nations took part, these were the scores in math:
TIMSS 2011 math, Grade 4:An asterisk means that the score in question was considered statistically indistinguishable from the American score. These were the scores in science:
United States 541
TIMSS 2011 math, Grade 8:
United States 509
TIMSS 2011 science, Grade 4:As you can see, the United States outscored all the true Scandinavian countries. Finland outscored the U.S., though by very small margins in math.
United States 544
TIMSS 2011 science, Grade 8:
United States 525
Below, you see the scores from the 2011 PIRLS:
PIRLS 2011 reading, Grade 4:Liao’s mistaken assumption to the side, students from Denmark, Sweden and Norway continued to eat U.S. dust.
United States 556
Iceland took part in the 2009 PISA. Among all these recent international tests, the math component of the PISA is the only one in which a Scandinavian country outscored the United States by a margin rated as significant:
PISA 2009 reading:In recent international test, the United States tends to be outscored by Finland, sometimes by substantial margins. But American students have almost always outscored their peers in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
United States 500
PISA 2009 math:
United States 487
PISA 2009 science:
United States 502
Liao wrote a very impressive piece. You knew as soon as you started reading that it simply couldn’t have come from within the Post orbit. It’s very rare to read a piece which is so plainly sincere.
Basically, that’s our point! Our journalistic scams are so ubiquitous that even this very bright, sincere young person got fooled by this particular Mandated Bogus Group Tale.
In recent decades, the bogus scripts of our mainstream “press corps” have fooled even the best among us. If an smart young person like Liao can get tooken, what chance do the rest of us have?