We thought the Times was bad at this!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2019

Today, the Post gives it a try:
We've seen the analysts cry before. We've never seen them crying this hard.

This morning, as the weekend honor guard broke us our regular Saturday breakfast—two frozen waffles, a bit under-toasted—tears were streaming down their cheeks.

"We've never seen a conceptual muddle this vast," one of them glumly exclaimed.

They referred to this morning's front-page report in the Washington Post, an endless attempt to analyze something resembling "public school integration." And dear God, how right those analysts were:

We thought the Times was bad with this topic. Today, the Post gives it a try.

Warning! So far, we've only been able to fight our way through the first 33 paragraphs of the endless 99-paragraph hard-copy report. (Yesterday afternoon, we tried to read it on-line, but we quickly decided to stop, putting our sanity first.)

This morning, we gave it a try in a coffee shop, struggling for the better part of an hour. We came away with a major anthropological finding:

We humans aren't built for conceptual work. It just isn't the way we were made.

Quickly, a word of warning. On balance, the Post seems to be saying that "public school integration" (or something like it) has been advancing since 1995, a finding which flies in the face of Preferred Current Tribal Woke Content.

Within our increasingly woke liberal tribe, everyone knows what we're supposed to say. We're supposed to say that public school "segregation" has never been as bad as it is today!

The Post report seems to challenge that view, though the report is such a conceptual muddle that, at least at this point, we're not entirely sure what the Post mainly claims.

The Post report follows Joe Biden's occasionally coherent attempt to explain what we should do "about inequality in schools and race."

(We're quoting from the semi-coherent question posed to Biden during Thursday night's "debate.")

Also in this morning's Post, Margaret Sullivan offers a barely coherent critique of Biden's occasionally coherent remarks, including a few quotations from woke but seemingly underschooled tribal members on twitter.

Moral posturing to the side, our tribe has never shown much interest in the lives of kids in low-income schools. For example, you won't see any such topic discussed on MSNBC, and we do mean not ever.

The lives and interests of low-income "minority" kids are neither entertaining nor fun. Presumably for these reasons, Rachel never discusses any such topic, and neither does anyone else.

This morning, though, in its featured front-page report, the Washington Post discusses public school "segregation," or something very much like it.

As noted above, the Post's front-page report is extremely long—99 paragraphs in all. In print editions, the lengthy report consumes a large chunk of the Post's front page, then consumes the entirety of pages A12 and A13 inside the paper.

As we read the print report, we were struck almost instantly by the conceptual confusion. The writers talk about "deeply segregated school districts" and "highly integrated public schools," along with "schools that were not integrated in 2017," without making any early attempt to define these terms.

On line, the problem deepens. On line, the full-length report from the print edition includes a link to a second lengthy report, one which contains a whole new set of somewhat puzzling terms. Also, beware of puzzling interactive graphics!

At any rate, we're told in this second report that the nation's public school districts come in three flavors. They are defined as follows:
Types of public school districts:
Diverse: No one race constitutes more than 75 percent of the district’s student enrollment.

Undiverse: Some race constitutes 75-90% of the district's student enrollment.

Extremely undiverse: Some race constitutes more than 90% of the district's student enrollment.
Warning! Under this conceptual framework, a "diverse school district" can also be "deeply segregated."

With a little cogitation, that fact isn't hard to grasp. But this would apparently be a diverse school district under this conceptual scheme:
Student enrollment, School District A
Black kids: 50 percent
Hispanic kids: 50 percent
Under the Post's conceptual framework, that school district would be categorized as "diverse."

Meanwhile, if that district's black and Hispanic kids are evenly distributed in its various schools, those schools would presumably be assessed as "integrated," according to another part of the Post's conceptual scheme. No "segregation" to look at!

But uh-oh! According to the UCLA framework which controls modern woke liberal thought, every school in that district would be "segregated." Indeed, they'd all be "apartheid schools." There would be no white kids in those schools at all.

We may discuss this absurdly lengthy report next week. Then again, we may give up in despair. (We have no idea why a newspaper would present so much material, on such an important topic, all in one big dose.)

We may give up in despair! Today, though, we have two takeaways. Our first such thought is this:

If we insist on using the term "segregation," questions of diversity and racial isolation in public schools are quite hard to discuss.

That would be our first takeaway—if we want a clear discussion, we should stop insisting on the use of fraught historical terms which no longer have clear meaning.

Our second takeaway fills us with gloom, but it comes to us from top anthropologists:

We humans aren't built for conceptual work. It just isn't the way we were made!

36 comments:

  1. " but we quickly decided to stop, putting our sanity first"

    Good call, dear Bob; maybe there is hope for you yet.

    Although, after watching and reading all that GIGANTIC amount of goebbelsian liberal shit that obviously have watched and read already, I fear you have gotta be damaged. Seriously damaged.

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  2. Somerby's main complaint about this report is that it is long. There is no law requiring anyone to read it in one sitting.

    When you encounter something that is both long and complex, you use the skills taught you in high school and college -- you make notes and draw diagrams. When you encounter unfamiliar terms and need some definitions, you do what you were taught in school -- you look them up.

    Somerby apparently looked up some of the terms, but then he complains because the terms seem to be describing apples and oranges, they use two different criteria to describe schools. It shouldn't confuse anyone above 8 years old to cross-classify members of a category. A school can be integrated and also be diverse/undiverse, just as a toy can be blue or red and also be an airplane as opposed to a car.

    Throughout, Somerby does something he may not be aware of. He projects his own cognitive difficulties reading complex material onto everyone. Somerby is getting older. Those frontal lobe functions required to do analysis and categorization and to understand complexity may be deteriorating. But that is his problem, and many of the readers who are interested in the topic of segregation of schools may not be similarly impaired. Most people can think of two properties of an object at once (e.g., it's roundness or squareness and its color).

    Somerby says that humans aren't built for conceptual work. Not true. Humans invented this conceptual work. They do it all the time, across many occupations and it is the reason our culture and especially technology are making progress. Somerby may not be built for it any more (if he ever was, which is doubtful).

    The fact that a term is historical doesn't preclude it from having a current meaning, even one different than the historical meaning. Many terms used today had different meanings in the past. Segregated schools aren't good for kids. That fact is supported by many studies. Addressing today's segregation and finding solutions to benefit kids is a worthwhile thing to do. Somerby's inability to detach from his own past is another symptom of advancing age. It is another frontal lobe issue. It isn't a problem the Post or anyone else needs to address.

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    1. Anonymous at 1:57 PM writes:

      Somerby's main complaint about this report is that it is long. There is no law requiring anyone to read it in one sitting.

      In Somerby's defense, he is from planet Earth. Somerby's complaint is, given how almost all humans who read the output of what are still referred to as newspapers, that most of the information in this article, likely, will not end up being usefully considered by even a small percentage of those who do set out to read it.

      No doubt, though, in the future there will be references to this "important" article as having appeared in the Washington Post and as having authoritatively dealt with the important topic.

      Somerby believes that the periodicals which are the most influential in shaping public discourse, both because of the large number of people who read them regularly and the specific people who read them regularly, should provide a steady stream of often revisited explanation on the subjects of greatest importance for public policy. These explanations should feature, in understandable form, the consensus analysis on those subjects by those who are informed about them or the areas of controversy which exist among those who are informed about those subjects and who are acting in good faith.

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    2. He supposedly believes all that and yet he criticizes an article attempting to fulfill that goal as "too long" and too hard to read.

      I believe Somerby's complaints arise because the article dared to talk about segregation, a term he thinks shouldn't be used any more, since it is historical and current meanings are confusing. He thinks the racial balance of today's schools should not be analyzed and doesn't state why, given that studies have shown that it is important to achievement (and closing those gaps). He poses a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dilemma for newspapers. If they do nothing to address the gaps, they don't care about minority kids, but if they do talk about segregation (one cause of gaps), they are doing it wrong and are incompetent and still don't care about the kids.

      Please note that Somerby is dismissive of this report and he admits that he didn't even finish reading it! You don't get to criticize if you don't do the work of reading what you intend to discuss.

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    3. Somerby's media criticism is woefully outdated. He criticizes two newspapers that have lost much of their readership and a little watched tv network.

      Youtubers alone - Sam Seder, David Pakman, Kyle Kulinski, TYT, etc are more influential and in need of good criticism.

      In reality, Somerby's goal is not media criticism.

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  3. Why can't Somerby talk about segregation without disparaging those who work in education, and other stakeholders such as parents and teachers? Calling those who care about this "woke" or saying that "woke liberal thought" is controlled by a UCLA study, casts a negative light on liberals.

    Calling a report "muddled" because you can't follow it over a morning latte without engaging in some actual thought is annoying too. There is nothing conceptually muddled about using two different sets of terms to describe different demographic characteristics of schools, and certainly nothing muddled about talking about districts at one point and focusing on individual schools at another point in the paper.

    Somerby professes to care about children but he can't invest the concentration in reading a serious report on an important topic! Parents, who care about children, spend literally hours each week volunteering in classrooms. Teachers, who have a full teaching load, read reports such as this in their spare time, in the evening between grading papers. But Somerby gets frustrated because he can't drink coffee and read (and think) at the same time? Not impressed with his commitment to education issues.

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  4. “we're not entirely sure what the Post mainly claims.”

    “we've only been able to fight our way through the first 33 paragraphs of the endless 99-paragraph hard-copy report.”

    (We did on the other hand have time to count the number of paragraphs, some of which consist of a single sentence, most two or three sentences. )

    Apparently, in line with Somerby’s mission to “educate his readers”, his entire post today is an illustration of the statement

    “We humans aren't built for conceptual work. It just isn't the way we were made!”

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  5. OT -- Somerby has never admitted that collusion with Russia and James Comey manipulated the election to put Trump into office. Somerby (and certain commenters) keep pretending that Trump has shown leadership (because he has supporters) and that it will take a Democratic nominee with even more leadership to defeat him. That is plainly wrong.

    Trump didn't even come close to winning the popular vote. Any of the better known Democrats can defeat him in 2020. The threat to the election is continued manipulation of the voting process behind the scenes, involving Russian interference and Republican malfeasance. It may be that the impeachment proceedings will be enough to sidetrack Trump's reelection, but there may also be new plans to interfere in unanticipated ways. That's why it is essential that the vote hacking be addressed by Congress and by investigators.

    Meanwhile, discussions about who has sufficient leadership qualities to defeat Trump are farcical. A turnip could defeat Trump because he didn't win before and he has only gotten worse since 2016.

    If Somerby's goal has been to divert focus from the real causes of Trump's election to flaws in the female candidates, he has succeeded. We shouldn't be fooled by his subterfuge. One of the Democrats will emerge as the frontrunner and he or she will run a campaign. In a fair election, a Democrat will win. Somerby doesn't need to cry havoc and pretend that Trump has preternatural qualities of charisma that will be too difficult for anyone to defeat. That is idiocy. WE need to continue to insist that the election be fair, that foreign governments not be permitted to meddle, that Republicans not find a way to steal the next election. Somerby needs to write about that stuff. But he is a conservative shill, so he won't. He'll continue to puff up Trump and defend Republican malfeasance and pretend that his complaints are liberal while undermining liberalism at every opportunity.

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    1. Trump didn't even come close to winning the popular vote.

      Yeah, good thing the electoral college is a thing of the past.

      Oh, wait….

      In a fair election, a Democrat will win.

      That is simply adorable.

      Somerby (and certain commenters) keep pretending that Trump has shown leadership (because he has supporters) and that it will take a Democratic nominee with even more leadership to defeat him. That is plainly wrong.

      TDH has never claimed that Trump “has shown leadership.” And what’s more, I think you know that. (Trumpers have locked down the Republican Party apparat, however, making sure no challenge to him can succeed.) TDH has said that it will take leadership to counter the appalling destruction of democratic norms that Trump has inflicted. (TDH calls it “dislocation.”) He may be wrong, but I don’t see how he’s “plainly” so. Perhaps you could explain (he wrote, knowing you can’t.)

      He'll continue to puff up Trump and defend Republican malfeasance….

      TDH writes that Trump is possibly insane and a disaster for this society. He’s never defended “Republican malfeasance.”

      And you can’t quote anything he’s written to support your claim. You’ve just spotted someone who’s criticized your team, and instead of evaluating that criticism, you’ve decided he must be playing for the other team.

      That’s pathetic.

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    2. "TDH has said that it will take leadership to counter the appalling..."

      This is not criticism.

      "He may be wrong"? How so? "it will take leadership" is about as empty as criticism can get.

      "In a fair election, a Democrat will win.

      That is simply adorable."

      Smug condescension is not adorable. What would be engaging would be for you to provide counter arguments to those that push conservative ideas, something you avoid assiduously.




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    3. I am offering you untold rewards madame.

      I got an air compressor.

      Let's talk.

      Delete
    4. When has Somerby ever talked about “the appalling destruction of democratic norms?” Whenever anyone tries to investigate or hold Trump accountable, Somerby wails about how we liberals “love putting The Others in jail.”

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    5. We all have to work harder and work together to build a better future for our families.

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    6. "TDH has said that it will take leadership to counter the appalling..."

      This is not criticism.


      It wasn’t meant to be. And how about we quote me properly, eh?

      TDH has said that it will take leadership to counter the appalling destruction of democratic norms that Trump has inflicted. (TDH calls it “dislocation.”) He may be wrong, but I don’t see how he’s “plainly” so. Perhaps you could explain….

      This is in response to the comment from one of the Anonymi Ignorami that Democrats plainly don’t need a candidate with leadership skills. It isn’t my claim that Democrats do need great leadership; it’s my query to someone (you?) claiming that Democrats don’t need it. Do I need to explain the burdens of production and proof?

      “He may be wrong"? How so? "it will take leadership" is about as empty as criticism can get.

      Didja ask for your money back?

      Smug condescension is not adorable.

      Oh, sorry. Would you like your money back?

      What would be engaging would be for you to provide counter arguments to those that push conservative ideas, something you avoid assiduously.

      If I wanted to be “engaging” by arguing with conservatives, I’d waste my time in conservative comment sections trying to reason with the brain dead. I comment on what TDH writes; I correct the tribal stupidity in this commentariat; I bring facts to bear on the worst of the drivel posted by our Village Idiot, David in Cal.

      I’m sorry if that’s not good enough for you.

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    7. And Uno Sarcagian Garibaldian if you would.

      Let's not become engulfed in divisive bad blood. We are all working towards the same goal. I don't want to take out any hostility I have in other areas of my life on you.

      Life is too short to spend in ego centered comment section anger. Sarcagian

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  6. This is all that I gleaned from the Post article:
    A large number of Latino families have sufficient income/wealth/academic ambition to purchase/rent homes in school districts previously dominated by whites. Relatively few black families have such resources. Coupled with increasing numbers of middle-class Asian-Americans, this accounts for increased percentages of children attending school with “other races,” with urban blacks continuing to be isolated in the cheapest accommodations, thereby perpetuating school “segregation.”

    Please do not condescend with a long-winded explication of well-rehearsed historical causes. There are no time machines. If someone has no suggestion about how to move forward, STFU. Many more black males need living-wage jobs to be marriage material and form two-parent households that can afford to live in neighborhoods with higher standardized test scores, aka “better schools.” (Federal job guarantees?) Before that can happen, more black males need to become educated. (There is a circle, and it’s vicious.) Why do I focus on the males? Because “in any given year since 2000, among black college degree recipients, no less than 66 percent are women...” (http://www.columbia.edu/~tad61/Race%20Paper%2009232009.pdf)

    So that is how I view the problem. I don’t know of a quick or easy fix. Somerby’s fundamental complaint is the seeming refusal of the MSM to even address the real basic issues.

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  7. Kevin Drum has a new chart up showing that the more education someone has, the more likely they are to vote Democrat, at least lately. Somerby consistently attacks both professors and the educated elite (journalists from Ivy League schools), anyone with advanced degrees who he cannot readily understand. Is this anti-intellectualism likely to help Democrats (liberals) or Republicans (conservatives)? Which party's voting habits does attacking the meritocracy most benefit?

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    1. Kevin Drum has a new chart up showing that the more education someone has, the more likely they are to vote Democrat, at least lately.

      Thus the Republican attack on public education.

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    2. Republicans attack public education in order to:
      1. Ultimately eliminate all unions.
      2. Privatize as much as possible (privatize the profits, socialize the losses)
      3. Encourage the public subsidy of religious education (through vouchers) as part of the culture war.

      Democrats, even such as Obama, continue to refer to “failing schools” because it’s preferable to referring to failing cultures. So you see, we can all agree, we can all get along, if only for quite different reasons.

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    3. I forgot to add, to the end of the first sentence of the last paragraph, “and who knows (can it be?, is it possible?), maybe also failing policies and failing leadership.”

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    4. It’s the easiest and most facile thing in the world to criticize “failed policies” or “failed leadership”, but it’s another thing entirely to offer positive suggestions.

      Delete
    5. I suggest we go out and find some hot men.

      Delete
  8. This is how you combat Republicans who talk about Warren's so-called lies about being part-Cherokee:

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/9/15/1885275/-Letting-Trump-constantly-lie-about-9-11-means-the-press-will-let-him-lie-about-anything

    I know that Trump lies all the time about everything, but this matters to people. It is like Stolen Valor. This lie disrespects the people who risked their lives among the rubble and damaged their own health breathing toxic air in order to search for survivors.

    Warren's so-called lie doesn't matter. Trump's does.

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    1. Hello and Uno Sarcagian Garibaldian. How are you?

      Delete
    2. I know that Trump lies all the time about everything, but this [lying about his role after 9-11] matters to people. … Warren's so-called lie doesn't matter.

      Trump’s lies, including those about his role after 9-11, don’t matter in the least to his supporters, a reliable 40% of the voting public if Gallup is to be believed.

      Warren’s fib doesn’t mean anything substantive about her character and isn’t a guide to her subsequent behavior. That doesn’t mean it won’t matter when it comes time to vote, assuming she’s the Democratic nominee.

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    3. That leaves a reliable 60% of the voting public who will care about it. Do the math.

      Assuming Warren is the Democratic nominee, appealing to Trump supporters is unlikely to be her campaign strategy.

      Why was this important enough to write yet another comment about?

      Trump's lies about 9-11, which are nothing new, may be part of why he lacked support in NYC and his home state, where candidates are traditionally strongest. They have his number there.

      https://abc7ny.com/politics/how-each-nyc-borough-voted-(hint-clinton-didnt-win-them-all)/1598306/

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    4. 100% - 40% surely = 60%. But the reliable part confounds the equation. Of course Warren won’t appeal to the brain dead. That’s a fool’s errand. But Trump will appeal to the sixty percent. He only needs a sixth of them in key states.

      NYC is solid blue for national elections. No Republican Presidential candidate is going to do well there.

      You’re free to ignore any of my comments you deem not “important enough.” You know that, right?

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    5. NYC is the heartland of America. It's no wonder no Republican Presidential candidate is going to do well there.

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  9. Somerby’s post consists of 31 paragraphs. I only read the first 10 1/3.

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  10. “TDH has said that it will take leadership to counter the appalling destruction of democratic norms that Trump has inflicted.” -TM deadrat, interpreting TDH for us.

    In another deathlessly brilliant insight, TDH says it will take schools, teachers, parents, communities, and, darn it, leadership to fix those pesky achievement gaps.

    If anyone thinks that Somerby is saying something this boneheadedly empty and puerile, (and it is impossible to avoid the possibility that he is), then we would suggest that that makes Somerby look empty and ridiculous.

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  11. deadrat, interpreting TDH for us

    It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. If you’re posting as Anonymous, chances are that you can’t read for comprehension.

    In another deathlessly brilliant insight, TDH says it will take schools, teachers, parents, communities, and, darn it, leadership to fix those pesky achievement gaps.

    When did he say that?

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    1. Look it up. (He actually did say essentially that in one post).

      Delete
    2. Ah, "essentially."

      Look it up? No, Sparky. This is your claim, so it's your burden of production and proof. That's how it works.

      Delete
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