Here comes our ten millionth script-induced international nervous breakdown!


Chinese test scores, overstated by scam: Back in December 2010, Shanghai suddenly burst upon the international test score scene.

“Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators,” said the headline in the New York Times.

At issue were Shanghai’s scores on the 2009 PISA. Shanghai’s stunning performance came in its debut on the international test scene.

Even as the Times’ Sam Dillon noted that Shanghai’s schools are not representative of China, fear swept across the land. In the years since then, Shanghai’s high scores have often been cited, sometimes by pundits who seem to think that Shanghai’s scores are being recorded by China as a whole.

Recently, Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institute gave the lie to all this. We’re going to link you to Jay Mathews’ column about the Loveless report, which gives the lie to the Shanghai shenanigans and raises a lot of warning signals about the highly politicized PISA itself.

We’re not going to try to summarize for you; we’ll give you to Mathews for that. Suffice to say, Loveless has produced a fascinating report about life in China and about a rather sketchy form of international test score scamming.

This doesn’t mean that international test scores should be disregarded. It doesn’t mean that progressive educational activists should engage in their own test score scams—and yes, such bits of misdirection and misinformation are floating around.

It means that Loveless has created an heroic bit of international pushback, and that he has produced a fascinating piece of journalism. It means that great amounts of what we hear, no matter what the subject matter, are built from preferred elite scripts that powerful folk want to peddle.

(Warning! This is sometimes true in the case of stories you very much want to hear.)

To read Mathews’ column, just click here. We strongly recommend Loveless’ admirable report.


  1. "fear swept across the land. In the years since then, Shanghai’s high scores have often been cited, sometimes by pundits who seem to think that Shanghai’s scores are being recorded by China as a whole."

    Who spread this fear? Who were these know-nothing pundits. We don't know. Anyone is possible. Somerby names no names.

    It seems to be one of the rules of the guild. You don't name the names of your high-ranking colleagues unless you're lavishing praise on such people for their astonishing brilliance.

    1. Google Shanghai and PISA if you really want to know and aren't just ragging on Somerby.

    2. I did. Not a single piece implying fear in the first two pages. Not a single article from anyone I recognize as a pundit.

      I am not raggin on Somerby. I am in fact demanding Somerby meets Somerby standards. Goggle my last paragraph if you aren't just apologizing for Somerby.

    3. You have only to google "Shanghai" at this site to discover that Somerby has in fact mentioned names with regard to the mindless touting of Shanghai's scores in the past.

      You have only to posess a brain to realize that Thomas Friedman, for example, would be "recognized as a pundit" by most.

      Does Anonymous 5:18/11:14 actually doubt that this has happened? Does Anonymous 5:18/11:14 actually believe Somerby doesn't want to name any names -- that he's following a guild rule today in denying us some names?


      Anonymous 5:18/11:14 is a troll. The I-am-so-clever attempt to ape the blogger's own rhetorical style is a certain giveaway.

      The lack of anything of merit to say is the expected troll letdown.

    4. Sorry 7-11, I thought you wanted me to use Google, not Somerby's own self-searching engine.

      In either case, did Somerby name names in this post? Are we supposed to search his vast archives everytime he writes
      like a guild member? And whenever Somerby attacks another writer for not naming names, should we do a Nexis search of that writer to make sure no names have been mentioned in the past.

      Oh, and as for your use of Friedman as an example, Somerby did pen a post about him recently. In the column Somerby belittled, Friedman wrote "China still has many mediocre schools that need fixing." So I guess he wasn't the pundit Somerby meant when he wrote "pundits who seem to think that Shanghai’s scores are being recorded by China as a whole."

  2. "the Times' Sam Dillon" is not a name?

    1. cacambo certainly isn't. "In the years since then" certainly implies the pundits were not Mr. Dillon." But I will accept Somerby meant for us to think Dillon did all the fear spreading himself. Anything is possible. Everything is possible.

    2. cacambo, it certainly isn't.

  3. Bob's readers don't care about Tiger children.

  4. You could also learn from other sources, for instance:

    About schools in Fort Lee and Newark (yes, there are poor black children in NJ, not just Baltimore). About Chris Christie and said.