The Post manufactures consent: Over at the Washington Post, the disinformation about public schools pretty much never stops.
A piece in yesterday’s Outlook section just kept pouring it on.
James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley touched all the mandated bases. They talked up Teach for America, charter schools in general and the KIPP charter network in particular. They complained about “the dumbing down of academic standards and an overemphasis on political correctness.”
As they closed their piece, they blasted “the shameful state of our primary and secondary schools.” But in the following passage, they got specific about our schools in a way which is easy to challenge:
PIERESON AND RILEY (10/26/14): Which brings us to the real hole in the debate over income inequality in this country: the problems plaguing our K-12 education system. Fifty years ago, it was possible for a child to grow up in a home where neither parent had a college degree, and still attend a decent public school, go to college and become a professional. Seventy-five years ago, it was possible to grow up in a home where no one spoke English and still attend a decent public school, go to college and join the middle (if not upper) class. Despite the quotas that were in place, making it difficult for racial and ethnic minorities to attend the most elite schools, state colleges were well within reach and provided a rigorous education for working-class kids. A high school graduate knew how to read, write and perform basic math. Any college professor will tell you that’s not always the case anymore.It was so much better back then! High school graduates had much better academic skills! You can ask any college professor!
Without any doubt, plenty of low-income kids are doing poorly in school. But according to our most reliable data, students today are performing better in reading and math than their counterparts forty years back.
If you “disaggregate” test scores—if you break the student population up into its demographic groups—kids today are doing much better than in 1971.
We’ve run through these basic facts a million times by now. Presumably, everyone actually knows these facts. That includes Piereson and Riley and the relevant editors at the Post.
Where are we getting our data? We’re referring to the basic data which have emerged from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the federal testing program which began in 1971.
The NAEP isn’t our favorite hobby-horse. Everyone regards the NAEP as the “gold standard” of domestic testing—as “the nation’s report card.”
NAEP data are relentlessly used by educational researchers and education reporters alike. That said, it’s as we’ve told you for all these years:
Everybody swears by the NAEP. But nobody is willing to tell you what the NAEP data show!
In this case, it’s Piereson and Riley who are making familiar claims which can’t be squared with results from the NAEP. As always, the Washington Post is providing a platform for the pro-“reform” propaganda.
It’s stunning to see the way the Post does this without a peep from the liberal world. Consider one especially audacious part of the latest brainwashing.
As they continue from the passage above, Piereson and Riley quote research by Stanford’s Sean Reardon.
What they say in the following passage is true. Below, we’ll show you what they chose to leave out:
PIERESON AND RILEY (continuing directly): Today, for most low-income kids, college is merely a fantasy. If you finish high school, you are probably unprepared to attend a good four-year university, even if you could get in. And if you do, you will probably need multiple remedial courses. About half of students entering the California State University system do, for instance.According to Reardon’s research, the achievement gap has been growing between students from low-income and high-income families.
According to 2011 research by Sean Reardon of Stanford University: “The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years.” One of the factors Reardon points to is greater residential segregation by income, noting that such divisions are “closely linked to school-attendance patterns.”
(Warning: Reardon is talking about genuinely affluent families, not the mere middle-class.)
To the extent that Reardon’s research is right, that’s an undesirable fact. But uh-oh! In April 2013, Reardon discussed this very research in a lengthy piece in the New York Times. When he did, he made a point of debunking the claim the propagandists are making:
REARDON (4/27/13): The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.Duh! When Reardon discussed this research, he explicitly rejected a certain “myth.” It’s the very myth the propagandists were peddling in yesterday’s Post, cherry-picking Reardon’s findings to serve their disgraceful ends.
Before we can figure out what’s happening here, let’s dispel a few myths.
The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.
Citing the NAEP, Reardon specifically noted the overall rise in academic performance. Cherry-picking Reardon, the propagandists sold you the opposite tale.
In this morning’s New York Times, we read about the brave young teacher who intervened in last week’s school shooting. But on the cover of Time magazine, we’re treated to the latest dramatic attack on our “rotten apple” teachers.
Yesterday, Piereson and Riley kept pouring it on, enabled by the Washington Post. This prompts a key point about gatekeepers:
In one way, our gatekeepers are long gone, as we discussed last week. Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley no longer sift the things we’re all permitted to hear.
In another important way, we’re surrounded by hidden gatekeepers. They peddle disinformation of a type the plutocrats favor. With their stunning message discipline, they misinform the whole nation.
The Washington Post keeps dragging these people out to disinform us about public schools. Mixing her cocktails and playing her games, Rachel Maddow just keeps looking away.
(On the brighter side, she is paid $7 million per year for all the entertainment and silence.)
“Manufactured consent,” Noam Chomsky calls it. Yesterday morning, the process was audaciously played out again, right before our eyes.