Plus Rachel's latest con: The December 30 Washington Post told a remarkable story on the Metro section's front page.
We'll grant you that the story was framed to advance a current tribal truism. That doesn't mean that the story isn't remarkable. It doesn't mean that we can't use the story to illustrate other important points.
The piece was written by Hannah Natanson. She graduated from Harvard this past June, having prepped at Georgetown Day before that. At the Post, this qualified her to become "a reporter covering education and K-12 schools in Virginia," right straight outta college.
Natanson's piece was a profile of Onelio Mencho Aguilar, a 27-year-old teacher at T. C. Williams High in Alexandria, Virginia. Aguilar's story is truly amazing. In Natanson's rendering, the story starts like this:
NATANSON (12/30/19): Aguilar immigrated to the United States from Guatemala at age 13, traveling alone and speaking only an ancient language, Mayan mam, known to just half a million people. The journey was arduous, the arrival not much better.How does someone who has to leave home at 13 accomplish something like that? We have no idea.
Friendless and disoriented, Aguilar spent months crisscrossing the country, seeking sanctuary. At times homeless, always hungry, he worked odd jobs. Eventually, he found his way to Virginia and enrolled at T.C. Williams High, where patient instructors taught him Spanish, English and a newfound love for learning.
But—lacking adult support and a stable home, unable to work full time and make all his classes—the teen foundered. He missed rent, homework and sleep.
T.C. Williams staffers saw something was wrong. They stepped in to offer food, comfort and an introduction to a social worker, who placed Aguilar in foster care.
“The support they gave me, I felt really loved, and I hadn’t experienced that in my whole life,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar went on to graduate from T.C. Williams with a 3.6 GPA (and a green card) and later won a spot at Marymount University. Now, with college degree in hand, Aguilar has returned to his old high school as a teacher.
That said, American history is full of remarkable immigrant stories, stories crafted by truly remarkable people. It sounds like Aguilar was abused or mistreated in some way by neighbors in Guatemala. We continue the story from there.
NATANSON: As soon as he finished sixth grade, Aguilar quit school and started working in the corn fields to save money to pay for his journey. After a year, he’d amassed 800 quetzals, equivalent to just over $100. He didn’t know for sure but figured that was probably enough to pay for bus tickets and passage across the U.S.-Mexico border.It does seem like a bit of a miracle that Aguilar "is still here." It's amazing to think that a person with this history could end up graduating from high school with a 3.6 GPA, going on to college and becoming a teacher at the high school which gave him a home.
Aguilar kissed his mother goodbye. He’d celebrated his 13th birthday four months before.
“That journey was crazy,” Aguilar said. “I did whatever I had to do to get from point A to point B.”
“When I think about it now as an adult, for a 13-year-old to just leave home and risk himself doing all of that . . . ” Aguilar paused. “It’s a bit of a miracle I’m still here.”
As this story was told in the Post, it was used to support a bit of conventional wisdom which is almost certainly accurate—it's a good idea for American schools to have diverse teaching staffs.
In Natanson's telling, immigrant kids at T.C. Williams are gaining from Aguilar's presence at a teacher—from having access to a teacher who understands the types of problems they face, based on first-hand experience.
Almost surely, that is true. For ourselves, we would draw an additional lesson from this remarkable profile.
Aguilar's is a truly remarkable success story. That said, most physicists aren't Albert Einstein, and most low-income immigrant kids from Central America will not end up at T.C. Williams pulling a 3.6.
Immigration of this type does put a type of stress on American public schools—a type of stress which is barely present in the officially miraculous schools of low-immigration Finland.
Something else is true about miraculous Finland. To its credit, the country never devoted several centuries to the task of trying to eliminate literacy from one segment of its population, as our own benighted ancestors once decided to do.
Our schools are dealing with the challenges of immigration. They're also dealing with the legacy of that brutal racial history.
Assuming Natanson's story is accurate, Aguilar is the Albert Einstein of low-income immigrant kids. Might we also note that teachers at T.C. Williams were saving Aguilar during the years when our upper-end newspapers were full of complaints about the way nothing was working in our public schools, thanks in large part to our slacker teachers with their ratty unions?
Think of all the kids who come to our schools with life stories resembling Aguilar's! These children, and their parents, are often the bravest and best—the architects of the nation's future.
That said, they often come from low-literacy backgrounds, and they speak neither English nor Finnish. These factors help explain the apparently huge achievement gaps which appear in our Naep and Pisa data. When slackers at the New York Times only hand you aggregate data, they rob you of the chance to consider the shape of the actual challenges we're living with at the present time.
We "liberals!" Ever since the 1960s, we've been pretending that those gaps just can't be that large.
At the Times and at the Washington Post, they refuse to report the actual data which quantify the gaps. In this way, they excuse themselves from the task of discussing the apparent size of the gaps. In their comically slacker way, everyone praises the Pisa and Naep and no one reports their data!
There's a simple term for this—we're just extremely dumb. Our tribunes serve us the pap which permits us to feel that we care. We're too dumb to understand the ways we're getting conned.
We've processed these topics this way ever since roughly forever. Nothing will ever change about this. We're currently making ourselves feel good by pretending that we can "desegregate" our way out of our gaps while discussing nothing else.
This is a fantastical notion. But it dominates the Hamptons-based thinking of the ridiculous, upper-class people who currently swarm at the New York Times.
Continuing his somewhat gloomy ways, Kevin Drum has raised a host of questions about the Naep—questions we'll address in the future. Having said that, might we speak in praise of our favorite blogger?
As you may have noticed, Drum is the only upper-end liberal commentator who ever discusses such topics. They don't so so at New York magazine's wonderblog, and they don't do so on MSNBC. Let's tell it straight for once:
At those sites, nobody cares. They don't give a flying felafel concerning the lives and the interests of the many good, decent kids within our low-income schools.
In a final comment today, we watched Rachel Maddow's latest disgrace last night. Five years later, this spectacular flimflam artist was lightly scolding the New York Times for its 4400-word, crackpot report concerning Candidate Hillary Clinton and Uranium One.
That clownish report appeared on April 23, 2015. It was an obvious gong show right from the start.
Five years later, our tribe's favorite corporate confection has boldly begun to speak up. Though not without praising the overall greatness of the upper-class paper in question.
In the near future, we'll show you what Maddow's program said about that absurd report in real time. (As usual, Maddow herself said absolutely nothing.)
How did Donald Trump reach the Oval? Maddow was self-protectively silent every single step of the way. That said, we love love love her endless cons and the ways she entertains us. We love her "performance of the Rachel figure," as Janet Malcolm weirdly put it.
This was the best our species was wired to do, future experts now gloomily say.