Our press corps' so dumb that it hurts: As we mentioned yesterday, it’s hard to fathom how dumb we are as a people.
Again, consider the Q-and-A at yesterday’s Washington Post Live discussion concerning the public schools.
The Washington Post’s Mary Jordan was conducting a discussion with three governors. She asked a question which seemed to imply that American students are performing more poorly than they did in the past:
JORDAN (6/4/13): Can I ask you something? And then—just briefly. How did America get so mediocre? I mean these statistics across the board, every single one of your states, you know?The question implies that America was better than “mediocre” in some past golden age. In fact, our most reliable educational data show large improvements in reading and math over the past forty years.
Jordan showed no sign of knowing that fact—but then, she works for the Post, a genuine demon on the subject of “educational reform.” Sadly, the governors didn't seem to know either. Each of the governors tried to explain what made things go wrong.
We haven’t seen a single journalist explain the problem with Jordan’s question. (To review yesterday's post, click here.) At the Washington Post itself, education specialist Valerie Strauss didn’t seem to see the problem at all. Later, this is the way Katie McDonough described the exchange at Salon:
MCDONOUGH (6/4/13): In response to a question about why America has fallen behind in global educational outcomes (the United States placed 17th among a ranking of 50 countries in 2012), Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said Tuesday that the problem began when “mom got in the work place.”McDonough understood the question to mean that “America has fallen behind in global educational outcomes.” Her 17-out-of-50 ranking comes from the complex study described in this report.
Bryant quickly noted that his remark about working mothers was “controversial” and would get him “a lot of emails,” and attempted to clarify that he meant working parents in general: “In today’s society parents are so challenged. They’re working overtime.”
That said, has America “fallen behind” on those measures? We know of no evidence that the U.S. ever ranked higher on those measures than it does at present. Meanwhile, American students have been scoring better on the major international tests in the past decade or so.
McDonough’s reaction to that exchange was typical and unfortunate. (She is “an assistant editor for Salon, focusing on lifestyle.”) Like Strauss, McDonough didn’t seem to know that Jordan’s question involved a bogus factual premise. Instead, she was eager to take offense at Bryant’s answer, which simply wasn’t very offensive when quoted in its entirety.
What was the main problem with his response? He was trying to explain a decline which in fact hasn’t occurred.
McDonough’s reaction typifies the way the liberal world now approaches such issues. We don’t care enough about public schools to understand even the most basic facts. Instead, we use the schools as one more platform for taking offense at imperfect statements involving race and gender.
Last night, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow each took offense at Bryant’s rather inoffensive set of remarks. Neither one of the multimillionaire ciphers knew enough about public schools to understand that Bryant was trying to explain a decline which doesn’t exist.
Rachel snarked and Chris swelled up. But neither of these TV stars understands the basic facts concerning American public schools and American teachers and children.
Simply put, these are uncaring people. Sometimes, very big money makes people end up that way.
This just in from Erin Burnett: How bad were Matthews and Maddow last night? On CNN, Erin Burnett took the same approach. She complained about Bryant’s answer without noting the obvious problem with the question’s premise.
Burnett discussed the situation with two pundit guests. Reihan Salam is supposed to be one of our smartest young conservatives. He showed no sign of knowing that test scores are substantially better over the past forty years.
When Burnett turned to liberal pundit L. Z. Granderson, things got that much worse:
GRANDERSON (6/4/13): You know, I've been covering education for a long time. I went to graduate school to pursue education. And I have to tell you that for me the reason there's been a decline in education has nothing to do with working moms or stay-at-home dads. It has everything to do with the culture's focus on the importance of education.By his own admission, Granderson has been “covering education for a long time.” Despite that, he was eager to explain the “decline in education”—the decline which doesn’t exist.
Adding insult to injury, Burnett followed the line taken by McDonough, noting that Finland has terrific test scores even though most Finnish women work outside the home. Simply put, there are no words for the dumbness of our press corps.
In a slightly rational world, liberals and progressives would boast about the improvement in test scores. No one knows about that improvement because corporate power wants you to think that our ratty teachers, with their infernal unions, have ginormously failed.
The Washington Post routinely distorts the facts about this matter. This is done in deference to their personal savior, Michelle Rhee.
Among others, Maddow, Matthews, Burnett and McDonough have all purchased this plutocrat con.
Why doesn’t Maddow know that test scores are up in this country? After all, she's Our Own Rhodes Scholar!
Simple! We liberals quit on low-income kids a very long time ago. People like Matthews and Maddow simply don’t care about the fact that black kids are scoring much higher in reading and math than their counterparts did twenty years ago.
Our nation’s journalists are so dumb that it ought to hurt. To dull the pain, we bellow about the terrible thing Governor Bryant has said.
Go ahead—watch his full statement. It just isn't all that bad. But when you don’t care about anyone else, outrage is all that you have.