It’s hard to top the New York Times!

TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2012

Great paper misquotes its own piece: Do we live in fictitious times? Imagine a citizen who wants to know about our public schools.

Last Friday, that citizen read two claims by David Brooks. Republicans want to spend less money on “education,” Brooks said.

In his very next paragraph, Brooks said that Republicans want to spend more money on “schools.” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/12.

Brooks and his editor saw no problem with those apparently dueling claims. Our citizen was likely confused by what he or she read.

Two weeks earlier, that same citizen saw Gail Collins tell a million people that Texas has very bad test scores. In fact, Texas has quite good test scores. But pseudo-liberals simply adore making the other statement.

Dear God, how it makes us feel good!

Collins had just written a book about Texas. Rather plainly, she didn’t know squat about the state’s schools, although she was happy to spout.

Then too, that citizen may have seen this column by Matt Miller in Saturday’s Washington Post. Young Americans are getting “swindled,” Miller said. This was one example:
MILLER (6/16/12): Our K-12 schools have slid from the best in the world to mediocre under both Republican and Democratic presidents and governors. That's largely because for decades we've embraced a bipartisan policy of recruiting middling students to become teachers.
When were our K-12 schools ever “the best in the world?” On what survey was this achievement recorded?

Truthfully, we have no idea. But this is a favorite type of claim. Citizens hear such claims all the time. No evidence required!

Do we live in fictitious times? It’s hard to hear any statement about public schools which hasn’t come out of a spin machine. Everybody praises the NAEP—and no one reports the large score gains in reading and math recorded on that testing program.

Everyone cites our glorious past. No evidence required!

Do we live in fictitious times? Does anyone ever get anything right? Check the letters about Brooks’ column in this morning’s Times.

Brooks’ column is the featured topic in the letters section. The Times prints three long letters about his piece, which we thought was quite weak. The third letter starts like this:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (6/19/12): David Brooks argues that the source of G.O.P. extremism is a conviction that “the government model is obsolete.” The Republicans I know didn’t seem particularly bothered by the model during the 1990s, when a Democratic president occupied the White House, the economy was booming and productivity soared.
The letter is fiery, but that’s a misquotation. In his actual column, Brooks
referred to “the governing model.” And no, in context, the two phrases don’t mean the same thing.

What kind of editor ran Brooks’ column without requesting a clarification with respect to his duelling claims? The same kind of editor who can’t post three letters about the column without including a misquotation.

We knew that quotation was wrong when we read it. They didn’t know that at the Times, although they had published the column.

When were our schools number one in the world? Not when these giants were in them!


  1. I don't know what the difference is, in context or otherwise. One refers to how the country is governed, the other to, well, how the country is governed. I guess I could construct a difference, but it would be nice to be clued in as to what is supposedly too obvious to mention.

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