Concerning the ongoing promulgation of our many fake facts: Emma Brown is an education reporter for the Washington Post.
It’s hard to believe how bad an education reporter she is. And what about her unnamed editors? What role do they play in this mess?
We refer to Brown’s latest bungled news report. It stretches across the top of page B1 in today’s hard-copy Post—the first page in the paper’s Metro section.
This report helps answer an important question: Where do bogus facts come from? Headline included, this is the way Brown starts:
BROWN (2/28/15): Suburbs’ increasing poverty a challenge for schoolsThat passage strings together a bunch of claims, many of which may be accurate, at least on a technical basis.
The District and dozens of other city centers across the country are becoming younger, more affluent and better educated while poverty rates in inner suburbs are rising, according to a study from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
The study is based on an analysis of demographic changes in 66 cities between 1990 and 2012. It follows research that has shown a rise in suburban poverty, including a recent Brookings Institution study that found that more Americans are living in poverty in the suburbs than in rural or urban areas.
This sweeping demographic shift has clear implications for public schools in the Washington area and nationwide. Student populations are changing in traditionally high-performing suburban school systems, and superintendents and school board members are wrestling with how to adequately serve the rising number of poor children who come to class with far more needs than their affluent peers.
“This is the new reality in America,” said Joshua P. Starr, the newly departed superintendent of the Montgomery County school system, which, despite its reputation as a tony suburb of the nation’s capital, has more low-income students than the District of Columbia. The amount eligible for free and reduced-price meals, a rough proxy for poverty, has risen from 29 percent to 35 percent just since 2009.
Example: Does “the Montgomery County school system” actually have “more low-income students than the District of Columbia?”
Maybe! The Montgomery County Public Schools is one of the nation’s largest school systems. That said, the DC Public Schools reports that 76 percent of its students received free or reduced-price lunch last year.
According to the passage above, the corresponding number in Montgomery County is 35 percent. And according to our statistical bureau, that would be a whole lot “less” than 76 percent!
Whatever! We were mainly struck today by Brown’s continued insistence on a claim that is basically false—the claim that eligibility for free and reduced-price meals is “a rough proxy for poverty.”
At best, that claim is wildly misleading. More sensibly, it should be described as false.
That said, education reporters at the Post seem to adore this bogus claim. For reasons only they can explain, they just keep advancing this claim, along with a group of attendant false facts.
Let's take a look at the record:
Is eligibility for the federal lunch program “a rough proxy for poverty?” Yes it is, in much the way a solid C average is “a rough proxy” for being a straight-A student.
In fact, eligibility for the lunch program extends to families whose incomes are roughly twice the federal poverty rate. And by the way, participation in the program isn’t the same thing as eligibility:
The FBI isn’t called in to monitor this program! There are plenty of kids receiving free or reduced-price lunch who don’t actually qualify for the program, based on their actual family income.
No, Virginia, and Montgomery County! Students don’t have to be living below the poverty line to qualify for the federal lunch program.
Eligibility for the lunch program isn’t a measure of poverty; it isn't anything close. If 35 percent of Montgomery County students are receiving free or reduced-price lunch, then the poverty rate among those students is much lower than that.
There’s nothing confusing about these facts. Surely, everyone at the Washington Post secretly understands them.
But so what? A wide array of pseudo-journalists, mostly on the pseudo-left, are now pretending that participation in the lunch program is a measure of poverty. For unknown reasons, the Washington Post has been leading the way in the promulgation of this latest bogus fact.
For unknown reasons, the Post just won’t stop with this stupid shit. Brown’s incompetence is especially striking, given her academic background.
Brown graduated from Stanford in the year 2000. Two years later, she got an MAT in teaching from the University of Alaska.
In 2009, she got a master’s degree in journalism from Cal Berkeley. She’s been a reporter at the Post more than five years.
By the norms of the society, Brown has received an elite education. But so what? Today, Brown tells readers of the Post that eligibility for the federal lunch program is “a rough proxy for journalism.”
She never tells them just how rough this “proxy” actually is!
As the Post keeps pushing this formulation, it keeps spewing streams of ludicrous fake facts. This includes last month’s ludicrous claim that more than half the nation’s public school students are currently living in poverty.
That claim appeared on the Post’s front page. Needless to say, it’s balls-out false. For our real-time report, click here.
Editors at the Washington Post keep waving this crap into print. It’s another example of the way fake facts become widely believed.
Can we talk? College students don’t describe their female professors as “bossy.” Also, participation in the federal lunch program isn’t a measure of poverty, “rough” or otherwise.
If memory serves, Tina Turner always “liked it rough.” So do scribes at the Washington Post when it comes to measures of poverty. In the past, bogus factual claims of this type typically came from the pseudo-right. Increasingly, they now come from the pseudo-left, a point we’ll discuss all next week.
Who the heck is Emma Brown? Why is she typing this manifest bullshit?
What role do her editors play in this mess? Does the Post still employ such workers?