Part 2—Why won’t the New York Times tell you: In Friday’s New York Times, Motoko Rich described a large batch of information about America’s public schools.
The data came from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Headline included, this was Rich’s summary:
RICH (3/21/14): School Data Finds Pattern of Inequality Along Racial LinesIn her opening paragraph, Rich provided a link to this page. As of this morning, the page provides a choice among links to three sprawling data sets.
Racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience, according to comprehensive data released Friday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
In the first analysis in nearly 15 years of information from all of the country’s 97,000 public schools, the Education Department found a pattern of inequality on a number of fronts, with race as the dividing factor.
On their face, none of the choices seems to represent “the first analysis in nearly 15 years of information from all of the country’s 97,000 public schools.” None of the choices includes a study or a report. The searcher is simply directed to various boatloads of data.
We can’t find the particular data to which Rich devoted the most attention in her report—the respective suspension rates from preschool for black and white kids. (That’s right—suspension from preschool!)
A lot of data are available if you advance to this page, then click again on “National total.” That said, we couldn’t find the data behind this passage, although we assume it exists:
RICH: One of the striking statistics to emerge from the data, based on information collected during the 2011-12 academic year, was that even as early as preschool, black students face harsher discipline than other students.As we skillfully noted last Friday, it’s fairly obvious how a reader is supposed to respond to that passage.
While black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, close to half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once are African-American.
“To see that young African-American students—or babies, as I call them—are being suspended from pre-K programs at such horrendous rates is deeply troubling,” said Leticia Smith-Evans, interim director of education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
“It’s incredible to think about or fathom what pre-K students could be doing to get suspended from schools,” she added.
The reader is supposed to be shocked at the idea that young African-American students—“or babies,” as Smith-Evans calls them—are being suspended from pre-K programs “at such horrendous rates.”
We had a different reaction to that passage. We weren’t shocked by what we read, but we did consider being disgusted with Smith-Evans—with her unhelpful, unknowledgeable, scripted reaction to a statistic which is poorly explained by Rich, a statistic Smith-Evans doesn’t seem to understand.
In fairness, Smith-Evans may be the finest person on earth. We only meet her through a couple of quoted statements about a matter she seems to say she doesn’t know diddly about.
But for ourselves, as we read that report, that combination constituted the problem. In our view, the problem was Smith-Evans’ reflexive turn to script concerning a matter she doesn’t seem to know jack squat about.
As we read last Friday’s report, we felt sorry for black kids who have defenders like that. And as we’ve sometimes done in the past, we felt sorry for a nation where Rich (and her unnamed editor) function as major journalists.
Can we talk for a moment? (Warning! Good news follows!)
According to our most reliable data, black kids are doing much better in school over the past decade or so. According to our most reliable data, the score gains in reading are impressive. In math, the gains are even larger.
According to our most reliable data, black kids are doing much better in school! But you will never learn that fact by reading the New York Times.
Instead, you keep reading tired old script—scripted drivel of the type on display in the passage we’ve posted. For the rest of this week, we’ll feel sorry for black kids, based on various manifestations of this impulse to run to such script.
Black kids seem to be doing much better in school. You’d think that would be encouraging news.
But you never read that in the New York Times! Why won’t this newspaper tell you?
Tomorrow: A tale of two percentages