Also, the Times bungles Denmark: Young elite “journalist” Philip Rucker just keeps pouring it on!
This morning, he’s been bumped to page A3 of the Washington Post. But he continues to document every penny the Clintons have stolen since 2001.
“Obscene” and “grotesque,” he says today, describing a payment for a speech which will apparently go to the Clinton Global Initiative. (Rucker fails to record that apparent fact, which was reported on CNN last night.)
Rather, Rucker quotes a pundit who dropped those bombs. He quotes no one asking why the Post has embarked on this startling jihad.
Rucker’s reporting this week has had nothing to do with any current news topic. Rather plainly, Rucker’s owners are creating a “narrative” for the next presidential campaign—for an election which is still 29 months away!
Rucker is simply doing the scutwork in support of his owners’ preferred story line.
Can we talk? If you can’t see that pattern at play in Rucker’s reporting this week, you haven’t been alive on the planet over the past twenty years. Second possibility: You’ve always relied on the “liberal pundits” who are keeping quiet about this performance, just as they’ve done in the past.
Who the heck is Philip Rucker? Sadly, his story is quite familiar in these modern times.
Mother and Father sent him to Yale, filled with pride at his brilliance. He emerged in the class of 2006 with a degree in Doing As Told.
This pattern is followed by the bulk of today’s elite young “journalists.” Everyone else averts their gaze from the work these young climbers produce.
This is a process called “buying the narrative.” All next week, we’ll offer examples.
It’s obvious that the Washington Post is creating a narrative for the next campaign. That said, much of what we think we know comes from our repeated exposure to such Standard Stories.
For one small, sadly comic example, consider what happened in last Sunday’s New York Times, right there in the Sunday Review.
For unknown reasons, the Times decided to publish a giant puddle of piddle by a writer named Judith Newman. The piece was called, “But I Want to Do Your Homework.”
Almost obscenely, Newman started like this:
NEWMAN (6/22/14): My son and I are shouting at each other, and crying. He is holding his essay between his fingertips as if it’s a dead cockroach. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just made a few corrections...”Just that quickly, Newman had told us about her elite degree. If she really shouts at her son and cries about who should be doing his homework, she has also told us about her apparent mental illness.
“How could you do this?” Henry sobs. “You didn’t follow the format! I told you you’re allowed to edit—not write! You can’t write!”
“Listen,” I hiss. “People pay me to do this. I have a master’s in literature from an Ivy League school.” I continue, pathetically. “I write for all the major magazines. I write for The New York Times, for God’s sake.” Oddly enough, this doesn’t mollify him.
Presumably, she was lying about that, for fuller effect. But as she continued, Newman described the way she keeps insisting on doing her son’s homework for him. Quickly, though, the joke turns out to be on Newman herself:
Even with her Ivy degree, even though she writes for the Times, when she rewrote one essay for her son, he got a 73!
Newman’s piece approaches perfect piddle, as readers noted in comments. We were struck by the familiar impression which was conveyed by this minor passage:
NEWMAN: Let’s ignore, for the moment, the question of whether homework makes kids smarter and more successful. Almost all studies on the subject say it doesn’t, and in countries with some of the highest levels of academic achievement (hello, Denmark and Finland), there is little or no homework. But in many American schools there is anywhere from one to four hours of it a night.In the highlighted passage, we see the promulgation of a familiar narrative. For the ten millionth time, readers are exposed to the suggestion that students in other countries around the world blow our sorry students away in academic achievement.
Journalistic elites adore this theme; it’s endlessly advanced. Routinely, it’s used to denigrate our public school teachers with their fiendish unions.
This narrative is constantly advanced by Ivy League giants like Newman. If you read the Washington Post or the New York Times, you encounter such claims all the time.
Why did we notice that highlighted passage? Simple! Denmark isn’t a big high achiever on the major international tests. As a general matter, its students don’t outscore American kids, despite our demographic complexities and challenges.
In the most recent administrations of the major tests, Denmark’s students have achieved average scores very similar to those of American kids. As a general matter, its mop-headed students don’t outscore ours, however much homework they are or aren’t doing.
Let’s take a look at the record, something the Times and the Post rarely do when they’re advancing the narrative Newman conveyed in that passage.
When people seek to denigrate American schools, they often turn first to the PISA, an international test of 15-year-old students.
American students score less well on the PISA than they do on the TIMSS or the PIRLS. That said, these are the relevant average scores from the most recent PISA testing:
Average scores, 2012 PISA, ReadingDenmark did outscore the United States on the PISA math test. That said, here are the relevant scores from the most recent TIMSS (Denmark took part on the Grade 4 level only):
International average: 496.45
United States: 497.58
Average scores, 2012 PISA, Math
International average: 494.04
United States: 481.38
Average scores, 2012 PISA, Science
International average: 501.14
United States: 497.41
Average scores, 2011 TIMSS, Grade 4 mathDenmark outscored the international average, though not by as much as the top-scoring nations. Our students outscored the international average a little bit more.
International average: 500
United States: 540.65
Average scores, 2011 TIMSS, Grade 4 science
International average: 500
United States: 543.84
The PIRLS tests Grade 4 reading only. These are the most recent scores:
Average scores, 2011 PIRLS, Grade 4 readingThere are no perfect tests. But Denmark isn’t a high scorer on the PISA. Overall, it scores about the same as the U.S. on the big international tests.
International average: 500
United States: 556.37
Reading Newman’s fatuous drivel, New York Times readers were given a different impression. For about the ten millionth time, they were fed the official approved impression, in which other countries ace these tests while the U.S., a helpless pitiful giant, lags pitifully behind.
First question: If you were Judith Newman’s kid, would you want her doing your homework? Even in the Sunday Times, she doesn’t seem inclined to restrict herself to accurate representations.
A more serious pair of questions take us to the heart of the propagandistic processes which control a great deal of what we read:
Why did Newman throw in that claim about Denmark’s brilliant kids? Why didn’t the New York Times fact-check so basic a claim? (Data from these major tests are very easy to check.)
We can’t answer those questions. But if you read Americans newspapers, you’re constantly given false impressions about domestic and international test scores.
It happens again and again and again. Gloomy narratives prevail—the narratives loved by our corporate elites. Routinely, these narratives are driven along by bogus factual claims—claims which are easily fact-checked.
Why do our newspapers function this? We can’t tell you that. But another narrative is being crafted in the Washington Post this week. And all across our great wide land, our “liberal” pundits keep their traps shut about it.
All over cable this week, careerist pundits were finding ways to purchase this narrative. All next week, we’ll offer examples of the ways these hustlers played along.
Meanwhile, down in Savannah, Mother and Father are proud of their boy. They sent their brilliant child off to Yale.
He majored in Going Along.