Terrible state of the public schools watch!


Paul Krugman messes with Texas: Yesterday, the New York Times ran a news report about funding cuts to the Texas schools. Click here.

On his blog, Paul Krugman praised the Times report, then messed with Texas—bad:
KRUGMAN (4/9/12): A good article in the Times about the terrible state of Texas schools—followed by a truly awful comment thread, in which many readers rush to blame, you guessed it, teachers’ unions.

Folks, this isn’t an article about New York, where three-quarters of public-sector workers are unionized. It’s about Texas, where only one in five public workers belongs to a union. Blaming unions for the problems of Texas is like, well, blaming Jews for the problems of Japan: there aren’t enough of them to matter.

At THE HOWLER, we sighed too!

First, a matter of opinion: That was not a “good article.” It was journalistically weak in many ways. In our view, it was massively underfed work.

(Earth to the Times: That high school kid walking a mile to school was not an impressive focus.)

Having said that, let us also say this: Few comments in the Times comment thread “rushed to blame, you guessed it, teachers’ unions.” (At least as far as we could stand reading.) Many of the comments were uninformed, as comments about poublic schools always are. But what comments was Krugman reading?

We have no idea.

That said, the most significant comment in Krugman’s post would be his instant, extremely vague jibe about “the terrible state of Texas schools.”

Liberals enjoy reading such things about Texas, as can be seen from some of Krugman’s commenters. But how terrible are the Texas schools? A commenter, writing from London, reacted to Krugman’s post exactly as we had:
COMMENTER: As bad as Texas schools may be, it's interesting to note that white students in Texas outperform white students in Wisconsin on standardized tests, black students in Texas outperform black students in Wisconsin, and Hispanic students in Texas outperform Hispanic students in Wisconsin. Overall Texas comes out lower because it has many more Hispanic students, who perform worse for whatever reasons (language?).
“As bad as Texas schools may be?” Judging from years of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Texas schools don’t seem to be “bad” at all.

Last year, we discussed this topic in some detail. To see NAEP scores from Texas compared with those from a half dozen other states, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/25/11. For a simpler assessment of this general point, see Matt Yglesias’ short but accurate post in yesterday’s Slate.

In the Texas public schools, all three major demographic groups have tended to outscore their peers from around the nation. It may be that funding cuts will harm this statewide performance. But in recent years, there have been large funding cuts to public schools in other states too. In our view, the failure to compare the size of the Texas cuts to those in other states was one of the obvious, groaning flaws with yesterday’s news report.

Bottom line: Conservatives do enjoy blaming the unions. Liberals like to mess with Texas.

We live in highly tribal times. Such times may tend to lower comprehension among even the brightest players.

Final question, for extra credit: Do the lives of American children matter? Or are school children useful props for enjoyable upper-class war games?


  1. There was a commercial during the Masters Golf coverage that did essentially the same thing. It claimed the U.S. was 26th in math and science across the world. It did not break out white, asian, hispanic or African American. It was incredibly misleading giving one the impression that our schools are utter failures.

  2. IMHO a problem with both Krugman's blog and the Times news aritcle is the unstated assumption that Spending = Quality. We know that this assumption isn't valid in other fields. If it were, Chris Matthews would be infinitely more accurate than Bob Somerby, which is hardly the case.

    One comment to the Times news article vividly made this point:

    Big deal, I teach 8 classes a day and my salary is about 1/2 of what is was when I was teaching at a public school. I have no problem helping the custodians with taking the trash out and keeping my room clean. I also used to walk to school my self. It is good exercise. Maybe if the superintendent would cut his salary in half then he could use that savings to hire 3 more teachers. More money isn't always needed just a re-advocating of priorities.

    1. Oh, I find it interesting how quickly that any story about "failing public schools" can be turned into an argument to further de-fund them.

    2. If only those darn teacher's unions didn't force teachers to drive their cars, all of America's teachers could walk to work, for their health.

      And it helps on health care costs, down the road, too!

      I think David in Cal should reconsider using anecdotes from anonymous internet denizens to prove a point.

    3. What? Teachers can afford cars? We're obviously overpaying them.

  3. Interesting, Bob. You knock Krugman for cherry-picking through a combox, then you do the same thing in the post immediately below this one.

  4. Thanks for the post, Bob. As a twenty year veteran of teaching in public schools in Texas, it nearly always amuses me when someone blames what problems we do have on those darned teacher unions. We don’t have any teacher unions at all. It’s actually a violation of the Texas Constitution for teachers to collectively bargain. We do have professional associations, but they are powerless. Also, too, think about this: if education’s problems were the fault of unions, then Texas should have the best public schools in the nation.

  5. Sometimes it seems that the only issue that liberals really care about these days is their intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority to those awful wing-nuts.

    1. Yeah. We never, ever hear "conservatives" claim intellectual, moral and especially spiritual superiority.

  6. Regarding the last little fillip, Bob, does the life of Trayvon Martin matter, or is it mostly an occasion for picking fights with second-rate media personalities?

    1. A "useful prop," one might say.

    2. Your question is rhetorical since the record of what Somerby really considers important about the Trayvon Martin case is apparent for all to see.

  7. jordan retro,jordan shoes,air jordan,air jordans,retro jordans,air jordan retro,jordans,jordan 11,jordan xx9,jordan 6,new jordans,cheap jordans,jordan retro 11,jordan 5,air jordan 11,jordans for sale,jordan 4,jordan 1,jordan future,jordan 3,jordan 12,michael jordan shoes,air jordan shoes, omega watches,omega watch,replica watches,rolex watches,replica omega watches,rolex,watches for men,watches for women,rolex watches for sale,rolex replica,rolex watch,cartier watches,rolex submariner,fake rolex,rolex replica watches,replica rolex, air jordan, air max 95,nike air max 95,air max 90,nike air max 90,air max 2013,nike air max,air max,air max 2014,nike air max 2014,airmax,nike air max 2013, nike free 5.0, nike free trainer 5.0,nike free run 5.0,free running 2,nike free run,nike free,free running,nike running shoes,nike free trainer,free runs,free run 5.0, cheap jordans,cheap jordan shoes,cheap jordan,cheap jordans for sale,jordans for cheap,jordan shoes,jordans,air jordan,jordan retro,jordan 11,jordan xx9,jordan 6,new jordans,air jordans,retro jordans,jordan retro 11,jordan 5,air jordan 11,jordans for sale,jordan 4,jordan 1,jordan future,jordan 3,jordan 12,michael jordan shoes,air jordan shoes,air jordan retro, toms outlet,tom shoes,toms shoes outlet,tom shoes,toms wedges,cheap toms,toms.com, nike free 5.0, omega watches, jordan retro, air max 90, cheap jordans, ralph lauren outlet,ralph lauren outlet online,polo ralph lauren outlet,polo ralph lauren outlet online,polo ralph lauren,ralph lauren,polo ralph,polo shirts,ralphlauren.com,polo outlet,ralph lauren polo, nike shoes, ralph lauren outlet, air max 90,nike air max 90,air max 95,air max 2014,air max 2013,air max 1,nike air max,air max,nike air max 2014,airmax,nike air max 2013, air max 95, air jordan,jordan shoes,cheap jordans,air jordans,jordan retro,air jordan shoes,jordans,jordan 11,jordan xx9,jordan 6,new jordans,retro jordans,jordan retro 11,jordan 5,air jordan 11,jordans for sale,jordan 4,jordan 1,jordan future,jordan 3,jordan 12,michael jordan shoes,air jordan retro, toms outlet, Cheap Jordans,Cheap Jordan Shoes,Cheap Air Max,Cheap Free Run Shoes,nike shoes,nike outlet,nike factory,nike store,nike factory outlet,nike outlet store,cheap nike shoes,nike sneakers

  8. oakley sunglasses,cheap oakley,cheap oakley sunglasses,oakley sunglasses cheap,oakley outlet,oakley sunglasses outlet,oakley vault,oakleys,oakley.com,sunglasses outlet,cheap sunglasses,oakley prescription glasses,fake oakleys,oakley glasses,oakley store,fake oakley,oakley sale,cheap oakleys,discount oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, Ray Ban Sunglasses,Ray Ban Outlet,Ray Ban Sale,Cheap Ray Bans,Cheap Ray Ban Sunglasses,ray ban sunglasses outlet,ray ban,rayban,ray bans,ray-ban,raybans,ray ban wayfarer,ray-ban sunglasses,raybans.com,rayban sunglasses,cheap ray ban, burberry, burberry,burberry outlet,burberry outlet online,burberry factory outlet,burberry sale,burberry handbags, chanel bags, chanel bags,chanel handbags,chanel sunglasses,chanel outlet,chanel purses,chanel handbags official site, coach outlet store, coach outlet,coach outlet store,coach outlet store online,coach outlet stores,coach factory outlet,coach factory,coach factory online,coach factory outlet online,coach outlet online, chaussures louboutin, louboutin,louboutin pas cher,christian louboutin,louboutin chaussures,louboutin soldes,chaussure louboutin,chaussures louboutin,chaussure louboutin pas cher,louboutin france, sac michael kors, michael kors,sac michael kors,michael kors sac,michael kors pas cher,sac michael kors pas cher,michael kors france, north face outlet, north face outlet,the north face,north face,the north face outlet,north face jackets,north face jackets clearance,northface, yoga pants, yoga pants,lululemon,lululemon outlet,lululemon athletica,lululemon addict,lulu lemon,lulu.com,lululemon.com, beats by dre, beats by dre,beats headphones,beats audio,beats by dr dre,beats by dre headphones,dr dre,dre beats,beats by dr,dr dre beats,dre headphones,beats by dr. dre,cheap beats, ferragamo, ferragamo,salvatore ferragamo,ferragamo shoes,ferragamo outlet,salvatore ferragamo outlet,ferragamo belts,ferragamo belt,ferragamo outlet, nike blazer, nike blazer,blazer nike,nike blazer pas cher,Chaussures Nike Blazer,Nike Blazer Femme, nike air force, swarovski crystal, swarovski