Black and Hispanic kids in college!


No education reporter need apply:
To what extent are black kids and Hispanic kids "under-represented" in the nation's most highly-regarded colleges?

It isn't the most important educational question. Most college students don't attend the 100 colleges on which the Times reported last week, and most young people of college age don't attend a four-year college at all.

Beyond that, the Times report turns on a somewhat slippery concept—the concept of "under-representation." Absent careful explication, that concept can end up producing much more heat than light.

That said, all such questions about American kids are important. That's why it's surprising, yet not surprising, to see the way the New York Times presented this topic last week.

Last Friday, a highly unusual report on this topic topped the front page of the hard-copy Times. According to a note on Friday's page A3, it had been the Times' most-emailed article the previous day, when it appeared on-line.

What was the central claim of the Times report? In hard copy, the report ran under the following headlines, and featured the following bylines:
Affirmative Action Yields Little Progress on Campus For Blacks and Hispanics
After 35 Years, Racial Gaps Widen at 100 U.S. Colleges, an Analysis Shows

This article is by Jeremy Ashkenas, Haeyoun Park and Adam Pearce
Those headlines sounded suitably gloomy. For today, let's focus on the bylines, which had us slightly puzzled.

Why were we puzzled by those bylines? Because we didn't recall ever having seen those names before! Indeed, when we checked them out, we found that none of three credited writers is an education reporter.

All three are listed by the Times as "graphics editors." It's a job at which all three are experienced, and at which all three may be superbly skilled.

That said, it seemed, and seems, a bit odd to us to run a sprawling front-page report of this type without employing the services of an actual education reporter. This may explain the peculiar lay-out of this report. To wit:

According to Nexis, the entire front-page report ran only 308 words. And that constitutes the full front-page report. The report is not continued inside the paper in any normal sense.

The bulk of three editors' work appeared inside the paper, covering the whole of page A15. For the most part, it took the form of a hundred graphics showing the student demographics, down through the years, at the hundred colleges on which the Times is reporting.

Let's say it again: Ashkenas, Park and Pearce may all be superb at graphics. (Having said that, let's also say this: many of the graphics are fully legible and informative on-line, but they were virtually impossible to read in the Times' hard-copy editions.)

Ashkenas, Park and Pearce may all be superb as graphics editors. That said, this report touches on a wide array of important topics about public education, and we'd say this report showed little skill, or even interest, when it came to exploring those areas.

Indeed, the basic statistical framework on which the report is based makes little sense to us. In effect, this sprawling, heavily-emailed effort might be excellent as an appendix to a real report on the matters at hand. But that real report never seemed to materialize.

Over the years, the New York Times has persistently done a woeful job with its basic education reporting. This puzzling effort seems to continue an unfortunate family tradition.

Does the basic framework here even make sense? Tomorrow, we'll take a look at this report's basic statistical framework.

For our previous report on this front-page report, you can just click here. You'll read about this nowhere else. As you know, nobody cares.


  1. "That said, all such questions about American kids are important."

    There's nothing important about "such questions" whatsoever; zero. You liberal zombies will chase any meaningless 'identity' - to ignore the class aspect. That's your only purpose.

    1. Robert Somerby is the kindest, bravest, warmest,most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.

    2. Ah...class. Any mention of "class" has routinely been met with derision by conservatives...because, you see, in America, we have no classes. It was mostly Democrats who talked about the "middle class", and still do. Remember how Republicans said that Democrats hated the wealthy, because Democrats were engaged in class warfare?
      And how Republicans would defend corporate interests over those of "middle America?"
      And how Sanders did talk about "class?"
      And now Trump, a member of the 1% richest class, pretends to be a Republican and passes himself off as the working man's hero. Such weirdness.
      You conservative zombies will follow any snake-oil salesman that comes along.

    3. "You conservative zombies will follow any snake-oil salesman that comes along."

      Give them bigotry, and they'll give you their wallets.

    4. Republican Trump ally reportedly says: 'He's an asshole, but he's our asshole'

      I think that about sums it up.

  2. Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?

  3. Retention and graduation rates for minority students are more important than admission statistics. They indicate whether students are successful once admitted.

    Affordability, racial climate, realities of campus life are all more important to students than elite status of the institution. It also matters to the students themselves whether the bulk of the minority students admitted to an elite school will participate in athletics or not.

    Minority students have "gained ground" at less selective institutions because such schools frequently do a better job for them than an elite institution. Just as lists of the best colleges for various subjects are published each year, lists are published of the schools that do the best job of educating minority students.

    Minority students go where they are welcome and where they will feel included, not necessarily to the supposedly high status schools where they will have more to deal with than the curriculum.

    These realities undermine the validity of reports like that published by the NY Times. Many of the most talented minority students never apply to the elite schools because they do not want to go there.

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