Kristof is hailed again: Last Sunday, Nicholas Kristof authored the biggest cherry-pick in the history of such endeavors.
For our previous report, click this.
Who knows? Maybe Kristof plowed through those eighty-eight different test items to do the deed himself. Maybe the cherry-pick came from a 19-year-old research assistant, whose work he didn’t bother to check.
Maybe Kristof got the cherry-pick from some advocate of “education reform” and he just typed it up!
Wherever it came from, the cherry-pick was amazingly egregious. And Kristof tied it to an ugly insult about the way “Johnny can’t even count.”
This morning, the ridiculous paper for which Kristof works published four letters about his brilliant column.
The first letter came from Professor Brenowitz. Incredibly but inevitably, the professor did it again:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/4/15): American kids aren’t inherently less intelligent than kids in Singapore, or so one hopes. That’s the good news. The explanation for the Americans’ continued dismal performance in math therefore lies elsewhere.Truly, it never ends.
Having watched my kids navigate the local public schools for the past 11 years, I know that one of the problems is that educators still seem to be trying to figure out how to teach math. My daughters have been through the Singapore approach, with its traditional emphasis on mastery of number facts and arithmetic procedures; the reform approach, with its confusing inquiry-based philosophy; and now the “can’t we all just agree” Common Core standards approach. Why are we still trying to figure this out?
Math has been taught to children at least since ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, and those kids grew up to use their mathematical skills to build the Parthenon, aqueducts and pyramids, which are still standing. The math taught in K-12 hasn’t really changed much since Gottfried Leibniz and Isaac Newton invented calculus in the 1600s, so one would think that educators have had enough time to figure out how to teach it.
How about if educators stop experimenting with our kids, adopt whatever approach the Finnish or Singapore schools use, and get on with it?
The writer is a professor of psychology and biology at the University of Washington.
In his letter, Professor Brenowitz quickly agreed with Kristof’s daring premise. He said American kids have displayed a “continued dismal performance in math.”
He went on to blame this state of affairs on—who else?—our brainless public school teachers.
Why can’t our teachers be more like Finland, the professor thoughtfully asked as he finished his remarks.
It never ends! As we told you last week, Kristof was cherry-picking information from the 2011 TIMSS. Specifically, he cherry-picked data about the performance of American kids on the Grade 8 math test that year.
Astonishing cherry-picks to the side, this is the way American kids scored on that test as compared to kids from Finland and other Euro nations, plus two nations from down under:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, TIMSS, 2011France and Germany didn’t take part at the Grade 8 level that year. Germany took part in Grade 4 math. Despite the fact that they can’t count, American kids outscored them.
United States 509
Great Britain 507
New Zealand 488
Let’s return to the Grade 8 test from which Kristof cherry-picked his data. If our teachers were more like Finland, we might have picked up two points.
By the way, Massachusetts is closer to Finland demographically than a lot of other states. Massachusetts scored 565 on this test, Minnesota 545. (2011 is the most recent year for which TIMSS data are available.)
Kristof is a major journalist. Professor Brenowitz is a professor at a major university.
The New York Times is a famous newspaper. It published Kristof’s astounding cherry-pick, then the professor’s letter.
(It also published a letter from Professor Curcio complaining about our kids’ “dismal results.” She at least didn’t mention the wonders of fabulous Finland.)
In the world of our elites, it’s truly narrative all the way down. Our journalists cherry-pick their facts. Our lofty professors support them.