A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: When no one reports basic facts!


Epilogue—Mr. O sounds off about test scores: In yesterday’s post, we noted two basic facts:
Fact 1: Test scores are way up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the widely heralded “gold standard” of educational testing.

Fact 2: No one reports this fact.
Last night, we saw what happens when an entire nation agrees that no one will ever make accurate statements. Bill O’Reilly, a former school teacher, started his program like this:
O’REILLY (11/18/11): Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.

Once again, Congress hoses the folks. That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo.


So here is the real deal. The super-committee should triple the amount of spending cuts and should forget about tax increases for the moment. Next year, if the government shows the taxpayers it's serious about not wasting money, then some targeted tax hikes might be considered.

But I'll tell you what; I don't want my substantial tax check paying for Solyndra. I don't want to pay for $16 muffins and I don't want to continue funding programs that don't work.

For example, per-student spending on education, more than $10,000 per kid, 47 percent higher than it was 20 years ago. And the kids are dumber, the test scores lower. That's because discipline is broken down in the schools. And the family unit is under siege in America. So all the money in the world is not going to help the public school system until they impose standards and discipline in the classroom.

I could give you hundreds of examples of federal dollars going down the drain day after day.
Mr. O is still complaining about those $16 muffins—the over-priced muffins which didn’t exist. But in that highlighted passage, note what four million people were told about the public schools.

Test scores aren’t lower, but liberals agree not to say this in public. We liberals luvv to criticize Bush—so we can’t say that test scores went up, by a lot, during the time he was president. (As in the years before that.)

Black kids’ test scores are massively better. White liberals don’t care about black kids enough to waste their time on such a fact. We prefer to parade around calling the tea party racist.

No one ever reports basic facts. Mr. O steps into the void, telling the public about those horrible test scores.

For the record, we will assume that Mr. O actually thinks that test scores are lower. This claim is advanced again and again, by everyone up to Barack Obama.

Career liberal leaders agreed long ago—our side will not tell the truth. Black kids' test scores? People! How boring!

Black kids? Darlings! Who cares?

Look who has a reading problem: Yesterday, at Salon, Gene Lyons noted many of the points we have been discussing. All the analysts cheered:
LYONS (11/18/11): Despite melodramatic pronouncements to the contrary by sundry politicians, tycoons, tycoon/politicians and media-enhanced “reformers” like former Washington, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, the available evidence shows American students performing steadily better on standardized assessments of educational progress over the past 30 years.

“The only longitudinal measure of student achievement that is available to Bill Gates or anyone else,” writes Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, “is the National Assessment of Educational Progress.” Scores on the NAEP have trended steadily upward to where the most underprivileged African-American children do better in 8th grade reading and math today than white students did back when the measurements began in 1978. But no, they haven’t caught up because white kids’ scores have improved too.
Someone actually stated some facts! Now, go ahead and read the comments.

Over and over, people are told that test scores are lower. Commenters quickly started bruiting this claim in response to the Lyons piece. In most cases, these commenters didn't seem to have understood the basic things Lyons had said.

They didn't dispute his factual statements. They simply skipped right past them.

Our “career liberal” leaders are worse than useless. Our “educational experts” are anything but. Everyone praises the NAEP test scores—but no one reports what those test scores show!

You live inside a hall of mirrors. Disinformation rules the waves when Potemkin “elites” act like that.


  1. Mr. Somerby writes:

    "Over and over, people are told that test scores are lower. Commenters quickly started bruiting this claim in response to the Lyons piece. In most cases, these commenters didn't seem to have understood the basic things Lyons had said.

    They didn't dispute his factual statements. They simply skipped right past them."

    Welcome to the information superhighway!!

    I still don't see how you can claim this is a "liberal" problem or mostly the problem of the Times scribes when you have a well financed coast-to-coast and border to border 24/7 propaganda machine whose purpose is to politicize everything and the facts be damned.

    Check out O'Reilly's site and see if the comments reflect the facts any more accurately.

    The sad fact of the matter is most people are misinformed and easily manipulated into believing things that feel emotionally true rather than facts.

    It seems to me this is a human problem rather than a "liberal" one.

    However, posting something like that leaves one open to being called "elitist" or even worse "French"!!

  2. A math teacher friend hates No Child Left Behind because it applies unreasonable standards to the schools and because it restricts his teaching methods. My wife hates NCLB because it has led to less creative teaching methods -- memorizing lists of words and doing innumerable sheets of boring arithmetic problems. It has also led to large amounts of homework at young ages for my grandchildren.

    Nevertheless, NAEP scores are going up. What's going on? Here are three possibilities:

    1. NCLB is working.
    2. Educational achievement is improving despite NCLB, rather than because of NCLB.
    3. The rise in NAEP scores doesn't reflect real educational improvement. It's due to some combination of fraud and teaching to the test.

  3. NAEP scores have been rising over the last 20 years, including significant gains during the mid to late 90s, before NCLB was in place, so perhaps #2 is the most plausible answer. David in Cal.

  4. The "Real Anonymous" hits on something very important: right-wing lies, however preposterous, invariably make deep emotional appeals, while the truth tends to have far fewer attractions. And we Americans, in particular, seem to be suckers for the poison bait.

    More people believe they'll never get their SS checks than believe in UFOs, because that belief conforms to our worst fears the forms of our imagination. And, perversely, we seem to want to be frightened!

    If you can sit people down and explain things, they may or may not accept the reasoned view. But a) you can't sit down with people and explain things, in competition with Mr. O, and b) these false ideas are often more in the realm of religious conviction, than reasoned assessment. Disprove the gospel, and you're likely to hear redoubled false assertions!

    Of course, it doesn't help that there is no liberal discourse in the U.S -- that most Americans have never heard a genuine left-wing analysis of American foreign policy or the economy. Or, that when they finally hear such views, the stuff sounds like it came from Mars, because it's so rarely heard.

    In any event, we know that corporate America, and the people it employs, are not going to introduce truth, or alternate views, into American discourse. Liberalism, in the U.S. has degenerated into social liberalism -- support, for gay rights and abortion. On foreign policy and taxation, there's precious little difference.

    So, yeah, we've got a liberal media because the likes of Brian Williams is doubtless a social liberal.

  5. I don't know if O'Reilly really doesn't know about the NAEP. He was told that the $16 muffin story was wrong, to his face, on camera (on the Daily Show), and he's still selling that line.

    He's both dishonest and misinformed.

  6. Sounds like what XKCD comics mocked as "Citogenesis" - someone makes something up and posts in somewhere, someone else cites the post in what they're writing, and more "truthiness" hits the social memes as zombie lies.


  7. I read the Conason article on Salon, and the comments are depressing, particularly the college "perfessors " complaining about their students. Maybe they are the ones who aren't good teachers?

  8. Yes indeed Bob!

    The American public school system is one of the top achievement in this country, largely gifted to us by the WWII generation.

    But that is now under real attack.

    The neoliberal, fascist, free-market fundamentalists, (the entire Republican, Democratic and media establishment) are coming to take this public good from the public and using their political tools to do it.

    The people that rule us are truly evil.

  9. "I still don't see how you can claim this is a "liberal" problem or mostly the problem of the Times scribes when you have a well financed coast-to-coast and border to border 24/7 propaganda machine whose purpose is to politicize everything and the facts be damned. "

    Since the readership of this blog is probably mostly liberal, and since Bob is apparently liberal, I image most folks would take advice better if it comes in the spirit of solidarity, and are better able to hear constructive criticism from people like Bob. I doubt Bob can shame Bill O into truthful.

    The reason I believe liberals bear more culpability for the theft of our commons than the Republicans do is, ironically, because their rhetoric is slightly better than the Republicans. When they play the role of advocate, or protector, of the common good, then give away the store for some magic peas, they are more culpable than the Republicans.

    The Democrats are indeed the wolves in sheep's clothing, which is worse than a wolf that admits he's a wolf.

  10. There is, however, a certain logic to Gypsy's comment at Lyon's site. He/she is seeing students who are less prepared, because more students are going to college than did so back in the 1980s. Thus, even at a community college, he/she is not seeing students from the 80th percentile of student performance, but students from the 50th or 60th percentile of student performance. Those students are doing better than the 50th percentile of the 1980s, but they are not doing better than the 80th percentile of the 1980s.

    To use my track analogy again, if the 90th percentile in the 1980s ran a 5 minute mile and the 80th a 6 minute mile and the 70th a 7 minute mile and so on, and in two decades each decile improved by half a minute. So now the 90th perctile runs 4.5 minute miles. This college teacher might be used to students running 6 minute miles, because he/she was teaching the 80th percentile. Now sees students running 7.5 minute miles, (the new 60th percentile speed) and believes "students today are slower." When that same level of students would have run an 8 minute mile two decades ago.

  11. Anon above:

    Your point is well taken, however, why should only the elite go to college? Are they more deserving than "underachievers?" If the "perfessors" are so smart, why can't they seem to understand the subtle points you have made in your comment. Why are they so ignorant?

  12. Occupy Oakland Calls for TOTAL WEST COAST PORT SHUTDOWN ON 12/12 Please help spread the word!!!

    Proposal for a Coordinated West Coast Port Shutdown, Passed With Unanimous Consensus by vote of the Occupy Oakland General Assembly 11/18/2012:

    In response to coordinated attacks on the occupations and attacks on workers across the nation:

    Occupy Oakland calls for the blockade and disruption of the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coast on December 12th. The 1% has disrupted the lives of longshoremen and port truckers and the workers who create their wealth, just as coordinated nationwide police attacks have turned our cities into battlegrounds in an effort to disrupt our Occupy movement.

    We call on each West Coast occupation to organize a mass mobilization to shut down its local port. Our eyes are on the continued union-busting and attacks on organized labor, in particular the rupture of Longshoremen jurisdiction in Longview Washington by the EGT. Already, Occupy Los Angeles has passed a resolution to carry out a port action on the Port Of Los Angeles on December 12th, to shut down SSA terminals, which are owned by Goldman Sachs.

    Occupy Oakland expands this call to the entire West Coast, and calls for continuing solidarity with the Longshoremen in Longview Washington in their ongoing struggle against the EGT. The EGT is an international grain exporter led by Bunge LTD, a company constituted of 1% bankers whose practices have ruined the lives of the working class all over the world, from Argentina to the West Coast of the US. During the November 2nd General Strike, tens of thousands shutdown the Port Of Oakland as a warning shot to EGT to stop its attacks on Longview. Since the EGT has disregarded this message, and continues to attack the Longshoremen at Longview, we will now shut down ports along the entire West Coast.

    Participating occupations are asked to ensure that during the port shutdowns the local arbitrator rules in favor of longshoremen not crossing community picket lines in order to avoid recriminations against them. Should there be any retaliation against any workers as a result of their honoring pickets or supporting our port actions, additional solidarity actions should be prepared. In the event of police repression of any of the mobilizations, shutdown actions may be extended to multiple days.

    In Solidarity and Struggle,

    Occupy Oakland


  13. Evidently Occupy Oakland is a group of racists who want to screw up Oackland's economy.

  14. Democrats skip the data to argue for more spending. Republicans skip the data so they can argue that spending has not improved testing. If you never report any FACTS you can argue for whatever ideological bias you have. Why let facts get in the way? The entire country is run this way now. It is why I no longer watch any TV news, read a newspaper printed in the US nor any of the rags claiming to be news magazines. Thanks Daily Howler for pointing out the obvious.

  15. O'Reilly's $10,000 per student may be a national average (he may have pulled that number out of his heinie, as far as I know), but Texas has never spent that much per pupil. The highest number was around $7,900, and that was before our current budget shortfall. We are now spending less that $7,000 per student per year.