BREAKING: King assails "false" statements and "lies!"

SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2018

An anthropological primer:
In recent days, we've been approached by anthropological experts from all around the world—admittedly, mainly in dreams.

They've asked us to discuss the ways our species' shortcomings have been put on display in this challenging time. (They could do this themselves, of course. But they have their jobs to protect.)

They've asked us to discuss the following episodes:
The New York Times' "Here to Help" feature from Thursday, June 14. In spectacularly crazy fashion, it told readers how to get to sleep on a warm summer night when their air conditioning doesn't provide enough help.

(We'd planned to discuss that feature today. We've now pushed it back to Monday.)

Kat Stoeffel's tragic essay in the June 10 Sunday Review "The Age of the MSNBC Mom." Commenters said they regard the hosts on that tribalized channel as (their own words!) their "friends."

Essays by liberal, progressive or radical professors from that same day's Sunday Review and Outlook sections. In one essay, a department chairman explained why women actually should hate men. In the other, a George Mason professor explained the greatness of the late Kate Spade's wonderful handbags, even this many years on.

Also, many people can't afford to go to the dentist.

The discussions which consumed CNN this Thursday afternoon and evening concerning Melania's jacket, with special attention to the 8 PM foolishness involving Cooper, Bash and Powers. We'd considered handling that topic today. We hope to get to it next week.
As you can see, the world's leading anthropologists see plenty of grist for the mill. They're focused on the disordered ways our species tends to behave when the tribes wage war with the tribes, as the tribes are doing today.

Genghis Khan was hailed for uniting the tribes. So, in a way, was Lincoln.

A revered leader said, "Do unto Others." Mandela honored his jailer. But these are among the exceptions to the way our species is wired to behave, our experts continue to tell us.

(According to these anthropologists, we tend to honor these exceptions—but in the main, we're wired to stampede the other way. See the silly Southern boys, impressing Miss Scarlett with talk of war at the start of Gone with the Wind.)

For today, we'd considered discussing that Here to Help feature. We considered dumping that in favor of Cooper and Bash.

But then, we read Colbert King's new column in the Washington Post. What could be more illustrative of our current dilemma than that?

King is thundering today about "false" statements and "lies." His column is built upon the angry yelling which only serves to harden hearts of both sides of tribal divides.

We're wired to behave this way, international experts have said. But it hastens the descent into war, they've explained, insisting that their remarks must be off the record.

What the heck is wrong with King's column? The column starts in predictable fashion, with an angry tribal figure repeating scripted claims you've heard a million times before.

Accurate hard-copy headline included. Online, the headline has been hardened:
KING (6/23/18): Trump can't be believed or trusted

In all my years, I have never seen anything quite like this:
a U.S. president who lies and demonizes at the drop of a hat. I don’t just mean President Trump makes statements that tend to be inaccurate or misleading or that he exaggerates, equivocates and, at times, shades the truth.

No, this president repeatedly makes declarations that are flat-out at variance with established facts; assertions that on their face cannot be true.

As The Post’s “Fact Checker” column noted this week, until Wednesday, when Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of migrant families at the Mexican border, his “administration was insisting that it didn’t have a policy of separating families (false), that several laws and court rulings were forcing these separations (false), that Democrats were to blame (false), that only Congress could stop family separations (false) and that an executive order wouldn’t get the job done.”

No other words for it: Trump is a baldfaced liar.
In candor, there are many other possible words for it; we'll offer a few below. But King is refusing to use his words! This is the way our hotheaded species has always marched off to its wars.

In fairness, that hard-copy headline is certainly accurate! American president Donald J. Trump is a reliable engine of statements and presentations which are false and/or grossly misleading.

You can't automatically believe the various things he says. Absent verification, his statements and presentations certainly can't be trusted.

Still, we'd say the Post's fact-checkers (Rizzo and Kelly) got out over their skis with the statement King has quoted. Meanwhile, King moves directly, in the standard tribal way, from the assertion that statements are "false" to the assertion that the statements are "lies."

Who does that, except Homo sapiens on the way to a war? Our experts tell us that members of that famously self-regarding species are wired to behave that way at times of major tribal strife.

Having said that, let's cut to the chase:

Over in the other tribe, adherents are being given a different way of understanding those "false" statements. The story goes something like this:
What The Others are angrily told:
1) Concerning "policy," Trump has a policy of arresting people who enter the country without authorization.

2) Given that policy, "several laws and court rulings" do in fact force family separations in the wake of arrests.

3) Given that policy, only Congress can address the laws and court rulings which result in family separations.

4) Democrats refuse to pass laws which would accomplish that task.
That's what The Others are being told in their own angry gatherings. We're not entirely sure that we'd call any of those statements "false."

Inevitably, King doesn't stop at calling them false. In the tradition of the species, he angrily calls them "lies"—baldfaced lies at that!

Your lizard is currently telling you that what we've said is crazily wrong. That said, even you will have to admit that King's column flies off the rails in its next section. He returns to a famous exchange where a major reporter, in standard fashion, posed the wrong question to Trump:
KING (continuing directly): Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said April 5 that he was unaware of a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

From the White House transcript:

Q: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

The President: No. No. What else?
King goes on from there. By now, though, we've all read this particular script about a million times.

King seems to think that Trump was lying when he said "no" to that question. In fact, everyone, including King's own newspaper, understood Trump to be saying that he didn't know about the payment at the time the payment was made.

It's still not clear that Trump knew about the payment at the time it was made. In typical fashion, the reporter had asked the wrong question. She should have asked Trump this:
Mr. President, when did you learn about the payment to Stormy Daniels?
Most likely, Trump wouldn't have answered. But at least it would have been the right question to ask.

We haven't read the rest of King's column. By the time we reached this point, the analysts were crying and the anthropologists were coming to us in dreams.

King's righteous fury is duly noted—but then, the silly boys impressing Miss Scarlett were sure of their righteousness too.
We're strongly inclined to lobby for war. It's done within all "human" tribes.

A final thought about this particular righteous fury:

We liberals think we're being tough when we call Trump a "liar." It seems to us that we're being dumb, and that we're giving him an easy way out.

When Donald Trump does make crazily inaccurate statements, how do we know he's a "baldfaced liar?" Using some different words, how do we know that he isn't some version of "mentally ill?"

In our view, that remains the more disturbing possibility. But at times like these, we love to yell. According to several experts!

Still coming: The craziness of that "Here to Help" feature. The weirdness of Cooper and Bash.

The moral greatness of those handbags. The many, many, many people who can't afford a dentist.

BREAKING: Has the federal government stolen and lost some kids?

FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018

Also, new lessons in loathing:
We'd still like to know why it took so long for journalists to realize what was happening at the border under the "zero tolerance" policy. That said:

Is it possible that the federal government has basically stolen and lost some kids? Is it possible that kids were taken away from their parents in the process of pursuing a misdemeanor, and that some of those kids were then sent somewhere and were, in effect, lost?

We're thinking especially of the misplaced babies and toddlers who can't even state their own names. Is it possible that babies and toddlers have actually been lost? We've seen major news orgs suggesting that this actually may have happened. See, for example, this morning's Washington Post.

Is it possible that this could have happened? Also this:

If something like that has actually happened, so you feel confident that our major news orgs will ever figure that out and clearly report it? For ourselves, we do not.

We continue to be struck by the nation's failure to discuss the possibility that President Trump is mentally ill—insane. As his conduct becomes more disordered, such a discussion is badly needed. But too bad! Back in January, the New York Times said we shouldn't do that and everyone fell into line.

We're increasingly struck by the role that has been played by General Kelly. By now, he has become the three millionth example of a familiar type in the press corps' endless array of childish novels. To wit:

Kelly is the latest fellow hailed by the press as Most Upright Person Now Living who turns out to be anything but. Do they ever make an accurate judgment when they stage their silly Group Character Wars? Do they ever get one of their Inane Group Assessments right?

A final note about what we saw last night watching Maddow:

Last Wednesday night, we liberals got ourselves badly dumbed down when Maddow opened her program with eighteen (18) pointless minutes about Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon's personal lawyer. That was eighteen (18) minutes she could have been talking about something of value, not excluding events at the border.

Instead, we got an endless dose of Retro Schadenfreude involving the jailing of Kalmbach. It felt so good going down!

Last night, Maddow opened with a pledge to wage a hate campaign aimed at HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who apparently attended his college reunion this weekend when he apparently should have been doing something else. First, though, we had to sit through eight (8) minutes about Condi Rice—more specifically, about her alleged misbehavior during Hurricane Katrina.

At one point, Rice apparently bought some shoes! Last night, Maddow blew her first eight minutes on that.

Maddow is a highly developed personal loathing machine. That said, she's amazingly skilled at disguising this impulse through her constant grinning, laughing, mugging, clowning and talking about herself like she's our personal friend. But we've rarely seen anyone spend so much time encouraging us to hate the very bad persons found on The Other Side.

To her credit, she hasn't played the Bentley Telephone Sex Tape lately. That was deeply disordered conduct—by Maddow, not by Bentley.

Last week, it was 18 pointless minutes on Kalmbach. Last night, it was eight wasted minutes on Rice. Around here, Maddow is known as "The Nun" for the way she wishes ill on those whom she opposes.

For the record, that's a reference to East Coast nuns from the middle part of the last century, not to nuns as they exist today. Also, we have to admire Maddow's skill at hiding this disordered impulse.

Eight minutes of hate about Condi Rice for conduct during Katrina! Donald J. Trump may be flatly insane—but we have our own types Over Here!

GAPS AND TRACKS: God wants "tracking" in public schools!

FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018

Part 4—Why the Naep reports percentiles:
The New York City Public Schools face a gigantic problem.

Other systems face the very same problem. For the record, this gigantic problem isn't a New York thing.

(The gigantic problem seems to be worse in glorious, distant Seattle!)

The finer element in our society doesn't want to discuss this gigantic problem, which they find embarrassing. For this reason, they focus on the finer ideas preferred by their high social caste.

With the greatest respect for their lovely ideals, this is the shape of the gigantic problem they choose to ignore, as seen in New York City's schools:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
New York City Public Schools, 2017

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
Those data define a punishing state of affairs—but so what?. (For all Naep data, click here.) Because its reporters and editors are refined people who "went to the finest schools," you'll never see the size of that problem described in the New York Times.

Instead, you'll see headlines like these:
Recent headlines from the New York Times:
Schools Cherry Pick, Leaving Minorities Behind

A Shadow System of Tracking by School Feeds Segregation

A Shadow System Feeds Segregation in New York City Schools
All three headlines have appeared atop this front-page report from Monday's print editions. Those headlines direct your concern toward "tracking" and alleged "segregation," not toward the gigantic achievement gaps which constitute the modern-day problem we all live with.

The problem we all happily live with, just to be more precise.

The New York Times wants to focus on "segregation." It will never, never, never report or discuss the enormous size of those gaps. You see, the finer people who constitute its staff don't live on the short end of those gaps. They direct you to finer problems, to concerns which are much more refined.

In Monday's front-page news report, attention was paid to the question of "tracking"—more precisely, to the practice of "tracking by school." The practice was described as "cherry picking" in the hard-copy headline that day.

Just for the record, "tracking" has long been a dirty word in pseudo-liberal circles. The pretty people who write our tribal novels associate "tracking" with racial injustice, even with "segregation."

With this association firmly in mind, we pseudo-liberals tend to rail against all forms of "tracking." Today, we want to help you understand why "tracking" exists in our schools.

Why does tracking exist in our schools? Why do some kids get taught a more high-powered curriculum—in high school math, let's say—while other kids are asked to navigate a less advanced course of study?

To answer your question, we're going to show you Gotham's gigantic achievement gaps—this time, without any reference to race or ethnicity.

This means that we'll have to deal with the concept of "percentiles." Cutting directly to the chase, this is the shape of those gaps:
New York City Public Schools
Grade 8 math, 2017
Scores by percentiles, Naep

90th percentile: 329.72
75th percentile: 303.23
50th percentile: 272.76
25th percentile: 245.27
10th percentile: 222.66
The Naep provides these data for a reason. Let's get clear on what those data mean.

First, those data represent scores achieved on the Naep by New York City's eighth-graders as one big happy family. Above, we showed you the average scores recorded by different "racial" or ethnic groups. These new data show the scores attained by Gotham's kids writ large, across the board.

As you can see, those data define enormous achievement gaps. At the 90th percentile, Gotham's eighth-graders racked up a score of 329.72. Lower down, at the tenth percentile, other Gotham eighth-graders scored a measly 222.66.

Given the way percentiles work, this means that the highest-achieving ten percent of Gotham's kids scored somewhere above 329. The lowest-achieving ten percent—the kids who are truly "struggling students"—scored somewhere below 223!

That's an achievement gap of 106 points on the rarely-consulted Naep scale. Judged by a very rough rule of thumb which loses all meaning at times like this, that would be described as a gap of ten academic years—with twenty percent of Gotham's kids separated by a gap even wider than that!

Basically, that ten-point metric loses utility in outlier situations like this. But we're looking at truly enormous achievement gaps when we look at numbers like these.

Here's what that fact means:

Suppose you decided to start a large neighborhood high school in Gotham. Let's suppose that, through meticulous micromanaging, your various students don't just "look like" New York. Let's suppose they also do math like New York!

That would mean that your neighborhood school will have to deal with those enormous gaps—with that enormous range of achievement in math. This brings us to our basic question:

Do you really think that the kids who scored above 329 should be taking the same ninth-grade math class as the kids who scored below 223? Does that actually seem to make sense?

Do you really think that all those kids should take the same "ninth grade math?" Or do you think your non-selective neighborhood school should decide to engage in "tracking"—should decide to teach a higher-powered curriculum for the higher-achieving kids, and a less advanced curriculum for the struggling kids who are years behind?

If you aren't completely insane, you will of course engage in some form of "tracking," dirty word though it may be. IF you aren't completely insane, you won't ask the kids who are struggling badly to take the same high-powered class as the kids who are scoring off the charts.

If you are completely nuts, you'll apply for a job at the New York Times. You'll ignore these realities altogether. Instead, you'll lobby for minor adjustments in the demographic numbers at certain Gotham schools.

You'll headline this piddle as "desegregation," patting yourself on the back as you do. In the process, you'll completely ignore the educational challenges defined by the data we've shown you. You'll also ignore the actual needs of the kids who so clearly are struggling.

You'll pretend the kids are all pretty much the same—that the kids can just study math "side by side," as one apparently delusional principal recently said in the Times, with no one questioning his unlikely statement.

Just to be clear, there's nothing unusual about the size of those (non-racial) achievement gaps. This isn't a New York City thing. Here are the corresponding data for the U.S. as a whole:
National public schools, all students
Grade 8 math, 2017
Scores by percentiles, Naep

90th percentile: 332.44
75th percentile: 308.90
50th percentile: 281.67
25th percentile: 255.01
10th percentile: 232.10
The scores are higher at each percentile, But the size of the gaps is roughly the same—enormous, very large.

The same holds true if we imagine a perfect nation, one in which the kids are all one "race" or ethnicity. Within each demographic group, those very large gaps obtain on the Naep. We offer this example:
National public schools, Asian-American students
Grade 8 math, 2017
Scores by percentiles, Naep

90th percentile: 361.47
75th percentile: 339.51
50th percentile: 311.63
25th percentile: 281.66
10th percentile: 253.56
Those scores are much higher at all percentiles. But a very large gap still obtains.

Guess what, Times subscribers? This is what kids are like! More specifically, this is what eighth-graders are like here in the United States.

Some kids are better students than others. Some kids are much more athletic, or are much better dancers. Some can sing much better than others. Some kids are shorter, or taller.

And some know a lot more math! The idea that you'd teach them all the same "ninth grade math" will appeal to you if you're totally out of your mind, or if you're an unnamed editor at the New York Times.

Some kids know a lot more math! For today, let's apply this fact to Monday'a front-page report, though only in one basic way. We return to the highly bombastic claims of that cherry-picked parent from the Bronx, and to the preceding remark by Harris and Hu:
HU AND HARRIS (6/18/18): ...New York [City], in essence, has replaced tracking within schools with tracking by school, where children with the best records can benefit from advanced classes and active parent and alumni associations. According to the city, of the more than 830 middle schools and high schools, roughly 190 screen all of their students. Many of these screened schools are clustered in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with enrollments that are more white, Asian and affluent than the overall school population.

Edwin Franco, a father of two girls who lives in the Bronx, said that too many selective schools cherry pick the best students—and deprive everyone else of opportunities. “They’re almost like a factory,” he said. “They’re churning out high-performing kids who are doing great while the rest of the kids are trying to figure it out on their own because they don’t have the same resources.”
Do children with the best records "benefit from advanced classes" at those selective schools? Presumably yes, they do!

Would Edwin Franco's daughters benefit from those advanced classes? Are they being "deprived of an opportunity" if they don't attend the schools which offer those courses?

There's no way to know that! But the vast majority of Gotham kids wouldn't "benefit" from being enrolled in such classes. They would instead be destined to fail if they were asked to take such courses. It would be a form of "legalized child abuse," to cite the quotable statement Harris and Hu cadged from another cherry-picked loudmouth in Monday's front-page report.

Should New York City run "highly selective" schools for high-achievers only? That's a matter of judgment.

We might be inclined to say no. But just for once, let's understand this bone simple fact:

If Gotham didn't perform that form of "tracking by school," it would have to "track within schools." It would have to track its ninth-grade students within its large neighborhood schools.

In New York, as everywhere else, tremendous achievement gaps obtain by the time kids reach ninth grade. By the time they reach ninth grade, New York's kids aren't all the same. When it comes to math achievement, they aren't anything like that!

The New York Times won't tell you that. They're prettier people than that. Their concerns are much more lofty.

God wants tracking in public schools. Those Naep scores basically prove it.

God didn't produce a planet full of kids who are all the same. For better or worse, God created a planet of kids with different ability levels—and with vastly different achievement levels by the end of fifth or eighth grade.

It's possible that better instruction, earlier on, would lead to fewer "struggling students." But the New York Times doesn't burden itself with complex questions like that. Instead, the New York Times wants to make minor adjustments in the demographics at certain schools, ignoring the fact that kids will then be tracked into "advanced classes" where white kids and Asian-American kids sit in the bulk of the seats.

The Naep reports scores by percentiles for a reason. That said, we can guarantee this—no one at the New York Times has ever examined such data.

In its public school reporting, the Times is a bunch of pretty people tinkering around the edges of reality. We'd call it "legalized child abuse," but Homey don't play that game.

Everybody praises the Naep, but no one reports its data! This is the elite journalistic world within which our floundering society is struggling to survive.

Next week: The gaps and the plans

Still coming: Gaps and excuses

BREAKING: Agent Strzok had a strong sense of smell!

THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018

We've been down this road before:
We're sorry to raise such a negative point, but we think it'd worth recording. We refer to the sense of smell of the FBI's Peter Strzok, as described in the New York Times:
APUZZO AND FANDOS (6/20/18): At the heart of Republicans' criticism were two senior F.B.I. officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged text messages about their dislike of Mr. Trump, his supporters and his policies—even as they investigated his campaign's ties to Russia.

''Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart,'' Mr. Strzok wrote in August 2016, just a few weeks into the Russia investigation. ''I could SMELL the Trump support.''

Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said such quotes have undermined public faith in the F.B.I. in ways that stretch beyond the Clinton investigation. ''The arrogance and condescension and the elitist attitude, that's what ticks people off,'' he said. ''As they look at all this and see what Strzok said throughout these investigations, that's why their confidence is so shaken.''
A lot has been said, and correctly so, about Donald J. Trump's sense of "infestation." Agent Strzok's acute sense of smell reminds us that we finer folk, the ones Over Here, can sometimes lose our way too.

''The arrogance and condescension and the elitist attitude, that's what ticks people off?" Strzok made it amazingly easy for the perpetually furious Jordan when he texted that remark.

Long ago and far away, we've been down this road before. Soon after Nixon's re-election, film critic Pauline Kael offered a famous remark:
KAEL (12/28/72): I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.
Kael could feel The Others in darkened rooms; Strzok can smell Them at Walmart. In this and a million other ways, our team can sometimes show the world that we may not always be as fine as we tend to say we are.

We tend to look down on The Others. Have you seen a single person discuss this Washington Post report about The Others' lack of access to dental care?

The report appeared in the Outlook section on Sunday, June 10. And no, you haven't seen it discussed. Such things simply aren't done.

As many people mentioned this month, Robert Kennedy famously went to Appalachia and famously showed that he cared. That was long ago and far away. Today, such incomprehensible things are no longer done!

BREAKING: Our heroic Resistance has done it again!

THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018

First thoughts about what has occurred:
It didn't take long for us to start clapping ourselves on the back. The New York Times published the official congratulatory letter this morning:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (6/21/18): Well done, resistance. The protesters, the media that told the stories of the children, the politicians, medical professionals and celebrities who spoke out, the many who donated money to organizations that support immigrant families, and the Americans who took to social media let President Trump know what we want America to look like.

And he backed down. The people spoke, and the people were heard.

H— A—, OAK PARK, ILL.
Are we tired yet? Tired of all the winning?

We'll admit that we've had a slightly different reaction to what has occurred in the past week, though we haven't thoroughly researched our reaction. We'll offer it among a few other first reactions:

How did it get so far: Attorney General Sessions announced the switch to "zero resistance" back in April. We're not sure why it took two months to figure out what was going to happen—indeed, to determine what was happening in more than two thousand cases.

For the past day or two, we've been puzzling about the apparent slow reaction. This morning, though, the Times let us know that our amazingly insightful team has brilliantly done it again!

Concerning Donald J. Trump: Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is some type of "sociopath?" We ask for the following reasons:

Pundits keep saying that Trump didn't anticipate the way the separation of children from their parents would look to the American public. Apparently, Stephen Miller wasn't able to make this prediction either.

Could it be that these guys are "sociopaths?" We ask because a certain percentage of people are, and because, unless we're mistaken, sociopaths may tend to have difficulty grasping the way certain behaviors will appear to others.

Could the president possibly be a sociopath? We regard that possibility as a matter of pity, not as a matter of hatred. Unfortunately, any such discussion is officially verboten. At the start of the year, the New York Times ruled that such discussions are bad.

Pity the fool: We pity the poor American citizen who tries to get clear on the basic facts concerning what has happened. We've been especially puzzled by Linda Qiu's fact-check piece in yesterday's New York Times.

As she started, Qiu fact-checked the following statement by Trump. We'll admit that we were more confused by the time we were done than we'd been when we started:
TRUMP: We have to get the Democrats to go ahead and work with us. Because as a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together, only released. These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation, which we don’t want.
As best we can tell, three statements have been made there:
Three statements by Donald J. Trump:
1) As a result of loopholes in our laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors...cannot be detained together.

2) As a result of loopholes in our laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors...cannot be removed together.

3) Illegal immigrant families and minors...can in fact be released.
At the end of her fact-check, Qiu seems to acknowledge that the third statement is accurate. We were puzzled by her treatment of the first two claims. Here's the way she started:
QIU (6/20/18): Mr. Trump is again wrongly claiming that Democrats are responsible for “loopholes” that necessitate breaking apart families at the border.

The White House cites a 1997 court settlement and a 2008 law as these loopholes. Neither mandates detaining parents and separating children from their families.
Alas! In the quoted statement, Trump didn't claim that the settlement or the law mandated detaining parents and separating children. It seems to us that the murk in Qiu's treatment grows deeper from there. We thought her next paragraph was a genuine semi-doozy.

We're frequently puzzled by Qiu's work. For our money, the Times offered a much clearer "explainer" report today.

That said, we liberals are currently being propagandized too. Our president may be some type of sociopath, but there's a great deal of disordered behavior within our modern elites.

How did this latest disaster get so far? Did all the watchdogs abandon their posts? Does anyone know the answer?

GAPS AND TRACKS: We'll just pour resources into the schools!

THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018

Part 3—Solutions from those who don't care:
Should New York City operate "highly selective" schools at all?

Should the city identify the highest achieving kids and let them attend their own middle and high schools? Should the city run a Stuyvesant High or a Bronx High School of Science?

Should Boston run its own "exam schools?" Should it run Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, each of which is "selective?" Should our big city systems operate such schools at all?

These are perfectly sensible questions. We're discussing public education here, not private institutions. And the creation of "highly selective" schools may have undesirable effects throughout our public school systems.

Perhaps it's just a lousy idea to operate such "prestigious" schools at all. On the other hand, it's definitely a lousy idea to approach this important topic through the kind of journalism the New York Times tends to provide.

Why is this an important topic? Because we're talking about 1.1 million public school students in Gotham alone, most of them black and Hispanic. Also, because we're talking about a giant school system which produces data like these:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
New York City Public Schools, 2017

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
You're looking at punishing data—at giant achievement gaps. They affect those 1.1 million kids, and they affect the whole nation. But while Rachel is crying and breaking down about two thousand mistreated kids, the 1.1 million kids of New York are consigned to the incompetent journalism of Harris and Hu.

The 1.1 million kids of New York don't get mentioned by stars like Maddow. It simply isn't done. And when they're left to the likes of Harris and Hu (and their unnamed, incompetent editors), we're left with such efforts as this:
HU AND HARRIS (6/18/18): In Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest district, there are only two selective high schools and two “highly gifted” magnet schools. Boston has seven schools that screen—all high schools—including the prestigious Boston Latin School, a feeder for Harvard University that has an entrance exam akin to New York’s specialized high school test. In Seattle, the only screened schools are two elementary schools with accelerated curriculums for “highly capable” students who pass a district-administered gifted test.
For details, see yesterday's report. But given the entire nation to choose from, who other than Harris and Hu would compare New York City—unfavorably!—to glorious distant Seattle, a largely middle-class district which is heavily white and Asian-American?

To a city where the black-white achievement gap is much larger than it is in New York? To a city whose black kids are half a year behind New York City's black kids in the sixth grade, according to Professor Reardon's recent study?

Given the entire nation to choose from, who except the New York Times would come up with such a miscast comparison? And by the way, Boston seems to screen its middle and high school students just as much as New York does. Seven high schools may not seem like a lot, but Boston's a much smaller system!

Does anyone give a flying flip about the nation's black and Hispanic kids? Or does a different agenda obtain at am upper-class newspaper like the Times, which seems to focus on assuring liberal readers that We are the morally good advocates of "desegregation," as opposed to Them, the bad people found Over There?

Monday's front-page report by Hu and Harris was an insult to the nation's intelligence. For our money, the wheels had finally come all the way off the wagon with this insultingly clueless late passage:
HU AND HARRIS: The process at every level can be grueling for children and their families. “I don’t think anyone who’s gone through the high school application process thinks it’s anything but legalized child abuse,” said Clara Hemphill, the editor of the popular school guide InsideSchools, a project of The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. “I think it would be a healthier system if we poured resources into neighborhood schools to make them stronger.”
Ignore the thrilling, quotable claim about "legalized child abuse." (No alternate view is offered.) Like everyone else the scribes quoted that day, Hemphill seems to oppose the operation of "highly selective" schools.

That's a perfectly valid position, but good God—that final quotation!

At least as presented, Hemphill seems to have said that New York should return to neighborhood schools, the kinds of schools the city ran before it began permitting so many schools to "screen" students for admission.

That's a perfectly valid position. The insult comes when Hemphill, at least as quoted, explains why this would work out so well:

“I think it would be a healthier system if we poured resources into neighborhood schools to make them stronger.” That's how Hemphill is quoted.

We'll just "pour resources" into those schools! Might we note a few shortcomings with this stirring suggestion?

We'll note that Hemphill doesn't say what those "resources" might be. Nor does she say why the city didn't simply pour these resources into these schools in the first place.

Beyond that, there's no sign that Harris and Hu ever got off their upper-class ascots and took the time and the trouble to ask her. But so it goes when the New York Times pretends to report on the schools.

We'll just "pour resources" into those schools! This will make them "stronger." But would it erase the brutal achievement gaps we've already posted today? Trust us! New York Times readers will never be asked to consider a question like that.

New York Times readers are skillfully shielded from any such unpleasant questions! Times editors would hold hands and leap from the George Washington Bridge before they'd ask their upper-end readers to gaze on data like these, or to know what those data seem to mean:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
New York City Public Schools, 2017

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
Judged by a standard, very rough rule of thumb, those data mean that the average black kid in New York's public schools is (something like) five years behind the average Asian-American kid at the end of eighth grade.

Five years behind at the end of eighth grade! But don't worry! We'll "pour resources" into our neighborhood schools. That will make the schools stronger!

The insouciance of that quote (as presented) contrasts with glimpses offered by Harris and Hu of those neighborhood schools in the old days. Why did Gotham ever decide to take the "highly selective" route? In paragraph 9, the reporters start to explain:
HU AND HARRIS: Until at least the 1970s, most New York City students attended their neighborhood schools. Over the years, more options to these neighborhood schools emerged, often appealing to middle-class families and providing an alternative for families of many backgrounds to large comprehensive schools that were overwhelmed with struggling students, according to educators and parents.
Interesting! According to educators and parents, those large comprehensive neighborhood schools "were overwhelmed with struggling students" back in the good old days! When other options were provided, those options "appeal[ed] to middle-class families" and to "families of many backgrounds."

("Families of many backgrounds?" That's a disguised way of saying that many of these educationally ambitious families actually weren't white or middle-class.)

Breaking! Apparently, middle-class families, along with families of many backgrounds, prefer to send their kids to schools which aren't "overwhelmed!" Here's the way that ended up in New York:
HU AND HARRIS: Then, during Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration, the city required all children to apply to a high school in their eighth-grade year. Students rank up to 12 choices, and then get matched to one school by a special algorithm. The idea was to allow students to escape failing neighborhood schools and apply anywhere they chose.
Intriguing! Under the Bloomberg procedures, Gotham's students were "allowed to escape failing neighborhood schools." Or at least, some students were allowed to escape those schools—the students able to gain admission into selective schools.

Might we offer a thought? In these brief glimpses, Hu and Harris paint an extremely unattractive picture of those old neighborhood schools.

Gotham's large neighborhood schools were "overwhelmed with struggling students," we're told. They were "failing" schools, which families longed to "escape."

Today, though, there's no need for concern! We'll just "pour resources" into those schools! That will make them "stronger!"

The point we're making is simple. Harris and Hu and their unnamed editors seem to have one thing on their minds. They want to pose as apostles of "integration." There's little sign that they know or care about anything else.

There's no sign that they have the first freaking clue about the size of the academic challenge facing the nation's public schools. Beyond that, we'll make the obvious point:

There's no freaking sign that they care.

New York City's schools are full of good, decent kids. They're also full of good, decent kids who are black and Hispanic. Many of those kids are struggling badly in the classroom, though, without question, not all. (More on that tomorrow.)

In response to that mountain of pain, Harris and Hu and their hapless editors want to change a few diversity numbers a tad. They want to call this "desegregation." But that seems to be where their interest ends. They have no apparent understanding or concern beyond that.

In fairness, Harris and Hu aren't education specialists. The New York Times is too uncaring to bother with piddle like that.

Tomorrow: Where does "tracking" come from? A look at Gotham's astonishing (non-racial) achievement gaps

The basic takeaway here: The New York Times will never ask you to come to terms with data like these:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
New York City Public Schools, 2017

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
The Times doesn't seem to care about that. It cares about something else.