Three cheers watch: The Young Turks do care!

FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012

A glimpse of some basic facts: This Monday, we got a good impression of a small American public school. To read our report, just click here.

Two weeks earlier, we got a similar impression of Cenk Uygur’s Young Turks. Say what? A news enterprise that’s interested in basic facts about public schools?

Who ever heard of such an unusual thing!

We taped a brief segment for the Young Turks, to be used in a discussion of public schools. To view the whole outing, click here.

Three cheers for the Young Turks! That said, what are the facts about the NAEP data, which we discussed in our brief taping? (We refer to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the endlessly ballyhooed “gold standard” of American testing.)

What are the facts about the NAEP? Funny you should ask:

For our money, Richard Rothstein has presented the most dramatic account of the score gains which have been recorded by black kids and Hispanic kids on the NAEP. The fact Rothstein cites is truly amazing. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/30/11.

In October 2010, we challenged the liberal world to write about and examine these score gains. We tried to lick every pundit in the house. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/15/10.

Fullest information: In September 2010, at the start of the school year, we ran through the NAEP scores as they then existed, showing the gains which have been recorded by black kids and Hispanic kids. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/1/10.

They won’t discuss these data on MSNBC; they'd rather clown about Mitt Romney's cookies. They won’t attempt to figure out what these striking data might mean.

But then, those hustlers simply don’t care. Do you care? You have to decide.

Let's close again with three cheers for the Turks! But much, much more ought to be said about the true state of our public schools—about the children who go to those schools, about the teachers who work there. Why don't "liberal" news orgs discuss this world?

We complain. You can decide.


  1. You can tell how much online liberals care about education by the number of comments posts like these get versus how many comments posts about Rachel Maddow get. The same would be true of unions, BTW -- talk about labor issues and hear the crickets chirp. Say something bad about Maddow, though, and look out for the fire eaters.

  2. Thanks so much for this reporting, Bob Somerby, I'm going to share "Glimmers" with the folks I know.

  3. That's one of Bob's recurring themes...that liberals "gave up" on education some time ago.

    I don't think it's so much that "liberals don't care about education;" rather, they care more about winning elections. Policy is seen as boring to the average voter; that may or may not be true, but that's the perception. Maybe it's just another symptom of how broken our political system is.

  4. I guess it depends on location. Liberals in Arizona talk a lot about education, but it does no good.
    Republicans have a death grip on political power in Arizona, and Arizona consistently remains 50th out of 50 in educational funding.

    Republican politicians hate teachers because they vote against them, so they deny funding.

    Teachers hate Republicans for denying funding, so they vote against them.

  5. The Howler's work on education is always great. I'm just waiting for the various anonymouses to show up and start complaining that Bob never writes about anything but Rachel Maddow. Except when he does.

  6. As the party who has led the "let's buy Somerby a copy of Maddow's book" movement, I resent the comments of Annom 1 on this post. I've never had a problem with The Daily Howler going after Maddow when She had it coming, and that was most of the time. What I object to is The Howler, who has chided her poor work with such passion, ignoring her rather important work.

    I've always valued what he's done on Education and trust what he brings to the issue. But is someone claiming he HASN"T hectored at great length certain people, Maddow among them?

    1. Maybe Rachel Maddow should spend every other day berating Bob Somerby for not caring about nuclear proliferation and the military-industrial complex. Why doesn't noted liberal Bob Somerby use his platform to address these concerns, our analysts wondered? Try to believe it! Yet another instance of East Coast Irish Catholics setting the terms of the discourse, we chortled.

    2. Also, we emitted mordant chuckles and rubbed our thighs.

    3. Yeah, but do you remember when Somerby tried to turn the Howler into an education blog? He (and his discerning readers) quickly discovered he didn't have much to say, and certainly not enough to sustain a daily blog, and was repeating the same thing a couple of dozen times.

      This was somewhere around the same time that Somerby was turning himself into a pretzel trying to prove that everyone BUT George W. Bush was lying about those "sixteen words" in the State of the Union Address.

      Darlings! Dubya NEVER said Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Nigeria, just from Africa, which is a huge contintent. Never mind that the "British intelligence" reports on which he based that claim were based on forged documents concerning previously discredited allegations that Saddam attempted to purchase uranium from NIGERIA.

  7. I enjoyed reading Friday's posts. Nice video, Bob!

    There's a bit of Rashomon in the panel discussion after Bob's video. What the panel talks about doesn’t really have to do with what Bob was saying.

    Lopez talks only about gaps for the Latinos.

    Howard says the media should be skeptical of the numbers, but doesn't say why. Bob's numbers acknowledge the gap, but the gap is not the point (although it is the issue), it’s the overall gains. She then rambles without talking about the NAEP. Her portion ends with her stating she'd dispute Bob, but it's not clear over what.

    Winograd, the strongest panel member, dismisses the NAEP as statistically invalid ("random", "small sample", "extrapolated"). What's funny is Winograd admits the media does not pay attention to the test (Bob's point), but then she frames the test as not being high stakes because it won't lead to any firings; that's an interesting criteria for testing. She then rattles off other potentially useful but off topic statistics. It's curious because Winograd, as a public school teacher advocate, would embrace Bob's message about the good news from the NAEP. Instead she goes off talking about cultural relevance of the curriculum. What's notable is Winograd ends talking about socio-economic status of the family, which is a point Bob has alluded to over the years when talking about the preparedness of kids to learn when they show up for their first day of school.

    Of course, someone just had to mention Finland.

  8. MSNBC is operating as the propaganda arm of Corporate Ed Reform (Education Nation).

    MSNBC hosts have either bought in and run with the approved script/talking points (Al Sharpton, Mika, and Joe) or they keep their mouths shut (Rachel, Ed, and Chris Hayes).

    Diane Ravitch has asked to be on Rachel's show and was turned down. Teachers having been writing to Rachel and asking her to have Diane or Jonathan Kozol on her show. It hasn't happened. Why not?

    "The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. "

  9. Perhaps Bob's next book will be about the attacks on teachers as a proxy for the fight against organized labor and how our kids have been caught in the crossfire.

  10. Just watched part of the segment.

    1. Jimmy Dore began with a paradox:
    We live in the richest country in the world, but we're broke.
    The explanation of this paradox is that the word "we" is used in two different ways. "We", the people of the US, are indeed rich, by world standards. OTOH "We", the federal, state and local governments of the US, are broke, because these governments have made endless spending commitments, which they cannot afford.

    2. Bob Somerby pointed out that the belief that public schools are failing serves corporate interests. I partly agree. This belief serves the interests of a few specific corporations that want to get into the business of elhi education. Yet, this belief also serves the interests of those who want bigger government. E.g., one of the panelists used this belief to justify more school nurses and school meals.

    This may seem paradoxical, but it really isn't. One group says: public schools aren't working, so replace them with non-public schools. Another group says: public schools aren't working, so the govrnment should do even more. Neither group wants to hear that public schools are working.

    3. My grandchildren are in elementary school in Belmont, CA. California, in general, has lousy schools. Belmont would be considered somewhere in the middle. The children get enormous amounts of homework, much of it focused on reading and boring arithmetic. I don't see much creativity in this part of the teaching. However, the continued repetition of these basic skills does seem to be working.

    1. It's like this, Dave. When your old car stops working, you go out and spend money either to fix it, or on a new (or newer used) car, correct? You don't throw up your hands and say, "Well, all cars don't work and will never work, and even when they do, they all eventually stop working, so there is no sense at all in throwing money at cars."

      And interesting you say that California generally has bad public schools, yet the one you are familiar with is "somewhere in the middle." Even when perception meets reality, perception never dies.

      I do agree that kids these days have WAAAAY too much homework. My kids, when they were in middle school, were wearing out two or three backpacks a year lugging home six or seven books and doing upwards of three hours of homework a night. And it is a very lazy way to teach, confusing "rigor" with working kids like pack mules and pretty much taking away their childhood, and whatever else they might want to do. Including play.

  11. Anon, I meant that Belmont schools were somewhere in the middle for California.

    1. To David in Cal,

      As it happens our last four years in California (before moving East then abroad) were in Belmont. Two of our three children were in schools there: Central Elementary and then Ralston Middle School (youngest was too young). We were very happy with Central, but would characterize Ralston as okay. No comment regarding Carlmont High, which also serves San Carlos, but we knew some great kids who graduated from there and went on to the UC/CSU system schools. I realize my characterizations are very subjective based upon my experiences and expectations. Certainly Palo Alto is strong and has been for years (e.g. Palo Alto High or Gunn), while there's no shortage of weak areas (San Jose Unified). Best of luck to your grandchildren there.

    2. They'll need it, as the strangulation of government resulting from Prop. 13 continues unabated.

  12. What an awful panel discussion. Did anyone want to talk about NAEP scores instead of their own axes to grind?

    The way I see it, NAEP scores are like GDP - they've grown a lot since the 70's but the mainstream view is still that they're too low, which is just proof that average Americans can't have access to government services.

    Sure, the logic takes different paths, but both are based on the fact that people have no way to compare the average of something today to its corresponding average in 1972 without these data, so the data never get reported.

  13. Sorry Bob I don't think I'm going to read through six links to try to figure out whatever it is you're saying in this post. Next time please be considerate to readers and summarize your point (and btw take note that Rachel Maddow wouldn't tell her readers to go read through her archives in search of her message for the day). More reader-friendly post will help you reach a larger audience.

  14. CBS Evening News / Scott Pelley / Monday

    from Pelley: Social Security "will run out of money" in 2035. The dumb continues.

    Ed from Michigan

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