THE COLLINS RULES: A bit of a regional bigot!


What are Texans like: On Monday evening’s Charlie Rose, Gail Collins continued to pound away with her conceptions about the Texas public schools. At one point, she offered this:
COLLINS (6/25/12): And in Texas right now, for instance, my friends in Texas, they’ve been cutting the heck out of the school budgets in order to keep from raising taxes in the state. And Texas is not a place that can afford to have less resources for education. It’s terrible. They’ve got a huge, huge, huge growing population.

ROSE: O.K. But how about the Race to the Top? What do you think of that?
Her friends in Texas! Right!

For whatever reason, Collins has briefly stopped wringing her hands about Hispanic children in Texas. That said, what impression did she convey with those few remarks? In part, we would guess she conveyed the impression that Texas may have lousy schools.

How good are the Texas schools? For ourselves, we have no idea. But in every demographic group, Texas kids outscore their peers from around the nation. They often outscore their counterparts in our highest-scoring states.

We know that because we’ve looked at the data. It occurred to us that we should have included links to those data as part of yesterday’s post. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/26/12.)

Yesterday, we discussed math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the testing program Collins has described as our most reliable. Within the NAEP Mathematics report for 2011, you can find the basic data for all demographic groups in all the states. Just click here, then move down to the “Appendix Tables.”

All the data we listed yesterday can be found in those tables.

If you want more detailed information—for instance, if you want to adjust for income—you need to use the NAEP Data Explorer. Click here, then click on MAIN NDE. From there, you’re on your own.

These are the country’s only real data. (We don’t recommend using data from the various statewide testing programs.) Within the “press corps,” everybody calls the NAEP the gold standard of educational testing—and no one ever clicks those links to see what the data are.

Has Collins ever looked at these data? Based on the statements she makes in her awful new book, we’d say there’s little chance. By the way, when Collins appeared on Charlie Rose, Charlie got himself a snootful and asked a variant of the question Mary Schmich had asked:
ROSE: What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever spent in Texas?

COLLINS: I spent most of the summer there this summer.
We’ll assume she meant last summer. We think we might hear a second question lurking in Charlie’s words: Do you have the slightest idea what you’re talking about?

(At one time, Charlie lived in Texas, as he reminded Collins.)

Many people are complaining about the stereotypes which animate Collins’ book and discussions. Having said that, what are Texans like?

We pondered that question when we watched the NewsHour last night.

One full segment dealt with a student discipline program in some or all Texas school districts. Throughout the segment, Tom Bearden spoke with Deborah Fowler, a Texas attorney who has authored a report on this subject for Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center in Austin. To watch the full segment, click here.

We thought of Collins’ stereotypes as we watched Fowler last evening. Does Fowler think she lives in an empty place? Is she in thrall to the Alamo syndrome?

When Collins spoke with Schmich on C-Span, she very much stressed the idea that Texans all think they’re in empty places. (“They really do all think they’re in empty places,” she said. Emphasis hers.) Watching Collins with Schmich, we were struck by an unfortunate thought—she really did start to sound like a genteel regional bigot.

Over the past thirty years, the press has featured quite a few of these types, often drawn from among We Irish Catholics. One example: Quite plainly, Jimmy Breslin hated Al Gore because Gore came from Tennessee. But there has been a surprising amount of this—and yes, in the Clinton-Gore years, it helped change American history.

It’s plain that Collins was too lazy to do the requisite background work before offering her sweeping remarks about the Texas schools. But Collins truly does seem like a bit of a regional bigot.

On that C-Span tape, she laughs and laughs as she talks with Schmich. As she does, get a load of those lifeless eyes. We don't know why she seems to be lacking in joy.

But why take it out on us?

In conclusion: There are 28 million people in Texas. They don’t all think they’re in empty places. Watching the interview with Fowler, we were struck by the way we ourselves had been infected by exposure to Collins’ presentations.

Is it possible that other bright Texans like Fowler have played a role in producing those test scores—the scores in which Texas kids outscore their peers nationwide?

We don’t know, but the human brain is wired to believe stereotypical tribal claims. It’s really a shame that a person like Collins has been granted this role in our lives.

Collins has spent little time in Texas. She plainly hasn’t looked at the data. This is the way your “press corps” ends, not with a bang but a whimper.


  1. This is not perfectly on topic but I'm curious about something. In 1993 here in Massachusetts we passed a comprehensive Education Reform Act which completely changed how public education is funded, included a whole new testing system (MCAS), big new investments in teacher development and training, measures to create much more community involvement and a host of other changes, all while maintaining a commitment to special education that few states can match. It has not been perfect but Massachusetts K-12 education has significatnly improved on almost every measure and leads the nation on most (it did not 20 years ago). Yet, I rarely see any mention of this. Ed Reformers regularly run off to Singapore and Finland but never seem to even mention Massachuestts' success. Why not ? Surely there is something to be learned here. Am I missing something ?


  3. yet another column, among many, of somerby practicing his own clever bigotry against the only group which it is a patriotic thing to do so, americans with an irish-catholic heritage.

    why “clever”? because when a group is labeled as bigoted they largely lose the ability to successfully complain about bigotry which is directed at them.

    why “patriotic”? ethnically/religiously heterogeneous societies seem to need a superior ethnic/religious group to create order. in america that group naturally was the americans of english and protestant heritage because they were the first here and the founding fathers and mothers. and by extension included in that group were the following large immigrant populations of germanic descent protestants, as the english thought of themselves as ethnically identical to them. (wrongly as the latest gene based research fact they are near identical to the irish...and scots and welsh*.)

    but just as 'up' needs 'down', for their to be a superior ethnic/religious group there needs to be an inferior one. and the americans with an irish catholic heritage fit that bill very well in peoples minds as they historically (not biologically) screamed “not of english heritage”.

    he says hes an “irish catholic”. hes not from ireland so we know thats not true. (my parents were from ireland. they were irish-catholic. im an american, period full stop.) as far as I can tell hes only partly of irish-catholic heritage. he has said on numerous occasions he has “irish aunts” and he also has said his mother is “irish-catholic”. but even if hes fully of irish catholic heritage, he wouldnt be the first person to have a grudge against his own 'group' or be a willing tool used by others to get at his 'group'.

    “Breslin hated Al Gore because Gore came from Tennessee. But there has been a surprising amount of this—and yes, in the Clinton-Gore years, it helped change American history.“

    >>> so we got texan bush2 instead of gore. isnt texas considered part of the south? and even if this one media person didnt like tennesseans, he was just one member of the media among a multitude of others, and he wasnt self employed.

    “We don’t know, but the human brain is wired to believe stereotypical tribal claims. It’s really a shame that a person like Collins has been granted this role in our lives.”

    “On that C-Span tape, she laughs and laughs as she talks with Schmich. As she does, get a load of those lifeless eyes. We don't know why she seems to be lacking in joy.”

    >>> these quotes speak for themselves.

    google search: site: irish catholic

    * “Saxons, Vikings and Celts: the Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland” by Bryan Sykes or “Origins of the British” by Stephen Oppenheimer.

    1. You talk a whole lot, but you don't say much.

      What in this column by Somerby proves he's bigoted, exactly, you louse, you bedbug, you vermin?

  4. i havnt read the book but i saw that interview or talk last weekend with collins on c-span. reading between the lines i thought the genesis of her complaint might be the regional inequity of federal dollars distributed versus federal tax collected. the northern states receive much less than the southern states proportionally. and yet its the southerners who complain the loudest about the federal government being too big.

    as to the “empty places” theory, i hadnt thought of that, but it makes sense to me. ive never been there so I dont know how much of this attitude is shared by the texas city populations but it seems plausible that there could be a shared ethos between rural and urban texas, a unifying texas patriotism.

    1. Empty spaces?
      Yes, Texas is filled with empty spaces.
      I have made the trip from Phoenix to San Antonio many times and what is between El Paso and San Antonio is a whole lotta nothin’.

      Don’t get me wrong, people live there, but it is a mean existence.
      If you saw the movie The Last Picture Show, you have an idea what it was like way back when.
      It is much worse than that since the Great Recession.
      Towns there had been hanging on by their fingernails for generations, and the economy let them slip and fall down hard.

      A few years ago it was still possible to get a decent motel or meal in towns like Van Horn or Fort Stockton.
      As Chief Inspector Clouseau would say, “Not Anymore!”
      Even the town named Comfort is an oxymoron.
      It is hard to visit places like this and feel optimistic about our country’s future.

      As far as sharing among cities like Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and the rural regions, it is one-sided. The kids go to the cities for opportunities they don’t have at home, and the cities give nothing in return.
      The urbanites are fiercely loyal to their cities, the country folk worship God and their high-school football teams. (Usually simultaneously).

      On a separate point, hugh, Somerby is not bigoted against Irish Catholics. He is alarmed by the influence they wield as inside the beltway doyens of information and opinion.
      So am I.

      Q: Why do Southerners barbecue pork and Westerners barbecue beef?
      A: You have to get off your horse to steal a pig.

    2. Shorter version: I drove across part of Texas and didn't see anything that conflicted with my prejudices, ergo Collins is right.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. "I drove across part of Texas."

      My parents retired in San Antonio in 1972.
      I moved to Arizona in 1975.
      I buried them both at Arlington National Cemetery last year.

      I visited them three or four times a year, mostly by driving just shy of 1000 miles one-way.
      You do the math, since you're the smart one in the group.

    5. gravymeister, may i ask how u delete a comment? ive seen you do it a number of times before. do u have a special connection to this site?

    6. Deleting a comment has something to do with the little delete button that appears under your message after you've posted it.

      Just a guess here...

    7. i dont see a delete button under my posted comments.

    8. and i dont remember anyone but gravymeister doing it.

    9. so then r u and gravymeister maybe hired by the site and so u have access to some kind of special moderator version of the site? im not criticizing, just curious.

    10. hugh mann it may be the type of account you post with. i wouldn't know because i'm always anon but that's my hypothesis

    11. Sorry, should have said "I drove across part of Texas several times...."

    12. "I'm not criticizing, just curious."

      Oh, that's rich!

      (No, I don't work for this site or any other one.)

  5. "On a separate point, hugh, Somerby is not bigoted against Irish Catholics."

    heres a good one if youd rather not explore the 184 hits from google site-search of the old url pre-comments box:

    1. Yes, folks, by "184 hits" lowercaseguy does indeed intend to imply that *mentioning* "Irish" or "Catholic" is the same thing as being bigoted.

      lowercaseguy *is* just that simple.

    2. And no, lowercaseguy, the specific post you cite (without noting exactly what is supposedly bigoted about it) doesn't go anywhere in proving bigotry by Somerby.

      You're a weasel.

    3. "And no, lowercaseguy, the specific post you cite (without noting exactly what is supposedly bigoted about it) doesn't go anywhere in proving bigotry by Somerby."

      >>> see the comments section of this recent dailyhowler column which discusses specifically the column i cited earlier:

      note the comments of "loney eyes" and "quickdraw" in particular.

    4. lowercaseguy,
      I did go there and found nothing to substantiate your charge of bigotry.

    5. Well, here's some help from the first column I clicked, written Jan. 31, 2007:

      "Let’s state the obvious. There’s nothing wrong with being Irish Catholic. Indeed, we grew up (Boston) Irish Catholic ourselves. Our sainted mother was Irish Catholic. So was our grandmother, Ann Callahan; so were our four beloved aunts. [Sidebar: No one in our family had ever gone to college. But Ann Callahan told us, from Day One, that we’d be going to Harvard, just like the Kennedys did. God bless the hearts of the Boston Irish who rejected “No Irish need apply!”] Of course, most of us raised Irish Catholic in the 50s and 60s somehow arranged to grow up and move on from the blinkered, throwback cultural instincts which have been the downside of that glorious culture. But uh-oh! Some others have plainly not moved on. And a large number of these people now seem to work as opinion leaders inside our mainstream press corps.

      "Yep! A surprising number—including Matthews and Dowd—now work as opinion leaders inside our millionaire press corps. Unfortunately, their mossback, blinkered social instincts have driven a great deal of our political discourse over the past fifteen years."


      "Why do we finally raise the question of Irish Catholic culture? Because voters may need a bit of context when they consider the puzzling punditry being directed at Clinton. We Irish! For fifteen years, we’ve played a disproportionate role in the crackpot wars against Clinton/Gore/Clinton, and our hidebound instincts have flared up again in the days since Clinton announced. But because our members are so well-placed (and because they’re so determined), their instincts may acquire an air of common sense—an air they don’t deserve. When Dowd and Matthews and Barnicle (well named) bray and complain about Clinton’s gender, voters should understand what they’re seeing; they’re seeing the backwash of the cultural conservatism which has been the unattractive side of our otherwise glorious Irish Catholic culture."

      Utter bullshit!

    6. Dec. 21, 2006:

      "We grew up Boston Irish Catholic ourselves—but somehow managed to move past the 50s. But make no mistake—Washington punditry in the past fifteen years has been heavily driven by a group of retrograde, 50s-era Irish Catholics."

      June 23, 2008:

      "Awkward though it may be to say so, Dowd’s lunacy is the expression of a particular culture—a throwback form of Irish Catholic culture which most Irish Catholics have had the good sense to move far away from, long ago. But Dowd, and Matthews, and many others, have propagated this viral illness as it has damaged our public discourse over the past many years. We Irish! We sat on TV all last week and proclaimed how much we love the truth—how superior we are in that regard, thanks to our days with the nuns and the Jesuits."

      I would also refer to his entire post of March 4, 2008. In fact, Somerby was going particularly batty about Irish Catholic culture for months in that era.

    7. note particularly the last sentence of the last paragraph of this quote from page 96 of annual review of sociology, volume 5, 1979:

      “Irish Catholics, incidentally, are the most politically liberal Gentile ethnic group in the country; they are the most pro-integration of any Gentile 

      from page 96 of annual review of sociology, volume 5, 1979:

      Four NORC articles monitoring racial integration (Hyman & Sheatsley 1964; Greeley & 
      Sheatsley 1971; Greeley & Sheatsley 1974; Taylor, Sheatsley & Greeley 1978) have demonstrated that Catholics are more likely to support racial integration than other white groups, even outside the South. Taylor, Sheatsley & Greeley (1978) could find no evidence of the alleged white ethnic backlash against racial integration. They also found that Irish, German, and Italian Catholics outside the South continued to be above the 
      Anglo-Saxon Protestant average in their support for racial integration. Indeed, Irish Catholics were even more likely than Jews to be willing to accept for their children a school where most of the students were black. More than 70% of the Catholic parents in the country, according to Greeley, McCready & McCourt (1976), report their children are in integrated schools. A positive correlation exists between Catholic school attendance and support for racial integration, as well as opposition to anti-Semitism. 

      Reviewing the present state of the literature, Greeley (1978b) concluded that on the average Catholics remain where they were a quarter of a century 
      ago-slightly to the left of center in the Democratic coalition, less leftist on 
      most issues than blacks and Jews but more leftist than white Protestants, even white Protestants of the North who describe themselves as Democrats. Nie, Petrocik & Verba (1976) reported the same findings. 

      In summary, despite conviction to the contrary in many quarters, 
      Catholics continue to be moderate Democrats; more strongly than other than other Democrats and other white northern Americans, they support racial integration. Irish Catholics, incidentally, are the most politically liberal Gentile ethnic group in the country; they are the most pro-integration of any Gentile group.

    8. cant find a free online link to the annual review of sociology article quoted from above. . . . possible to get access to the database jstor thru a local community or college library.

  6. In other words, yes, you think just the hits prove it.

    Because you've shown nothing here, other than *mentions*.

    And that proves squat.

  7. Your comment from today, for example.

    There aint no meat on that thing, buddy!

  8. More on Collin's book, and nothing on Maddows. Switch off the light and curse the darkness.

  9. "In other words, yes, you think just the hits prove it."

    no i dont think that. u have to to click on some of the search results and then scan the column or use the find function in your browser (ctrl + f) to help find the search terms. and then read further ones which look promising... and go on to the next result quickly if u find nothing of interest.

    btw, u also can to good effect add the word irish to a person or group of names such as:

    site: dowd matthews irish

  10. Yes, let's move on to talking about Mitt Romney's dog, or laughing at the dumb conservatives,or praising Obama for his chessplaying brilliance, you know, the important stuff. Sometimes I want to scream at Paul Krugman, "Stop talking about the economy all the time. I don't care about those unemployed people!" Then I realize there are other blogs out there, and I'm choosing to read Krugman, and I almost feel dumb, except, of course, as an online liberal, I know I'm too smart to be dumb.

  11. Just curious, Typical. If you truly want substantive political dialogue, why do you come here? To cluck your tongue and laugh at how dumb those "other" pundits at the NYT and MSNBC are, and talk about how much smarter you are than "those" dumb "rubes" who read and watch them?

    Or maybe to discuss how easily confused the great unwashed masses will be by a variety of voices, unless every "liberal" pundit sticks exactly to the Somerby talking points and expresses them in exactly the way Somerby dictates?

  12. Here's what Texas health care is like:

  13. Again, this is all nothing at all, lowercase guy.

    To take one of your examples:

    "We grew up Boston Irish Catholic ourselves—but somehow managed to move past the 50s. But make no mistake—Washington punditry in the past fifteen years has been heavily driven by a group of retrograde, 50s-era Irish Catholics."

    Explain exactly how this shows Bob Somerby is a bigot.

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