THE WAY WE ARE: Professor entranced by a child with a horn!


Part 3—Intellectual squalor spreads: When you walk through the valley of the shadow of dumb, you may not see The Dumb all around you.

That doesn’t mean that The Dumb isn’t there, that it isn’t destroying your culture. Consider the cable discussion of public schools which occurred, among the complacencies of the peignoir, this past Sunday morning.

To watch all three segments of this gruesome discussion, click here.

For decades, Fox News and its pre-existing culture have made a joke of your discourse. Last Sunday, it fell to Melissa Harris-Perry and a four-member panel to extend the intellectual squalor, to continue our society's long stunning slide.

The jumping-off point for this pseudo-discussion was the Atlanta public school cheating scandal. That said, Harris-Perry and her panel wandered all over the countryside, promiscuously pretending to discuss dozens of different topics.

The Atlanta scandal was rarely discussed. All other topics were, ten seconds at a time.

Harris-Perry knows very little about the public schools. Perhaps for that reason, she was unable to make her panel focus on any specific question.

Beyond that, Harris-Perry doesn’t seem to know that she knows very little. All through the three segments about public schools, she kept inserting every thought that has ever entered her head concerning the conduct of schools.

There was rarely any sign that she actually knew whereof she spoke—or that she had any idea that she didn’t know.

As a moderator, Harris-Perry was an unskilled, undisciplined mess. Meanwhile, two of her panelists arrived with very clear agendas, which they inserted whenever possible, which was very often. Adding to the confusion, a third panelist, Laura Flanders, also knows nothing about public schools, beyond a bunch of talking-points she memorized in the 70s.

To see how dumb your culture now is, you really should watch these three segments, which total 29 minutes of wandering pseudo-discussion. As you do, you should remember the most remarkable part of this mess:

Harris-Perry is sold to us liberals as one of our smartest media players! Young liberals tune to this program thinking they’re seeing a really smart program. Where once we pitied Hannity’s viewers, today our heart goes out to those liberals. Most likely, they don’t know that corporate players at The One True Channel are selling them a badly mis-labeled product.

A tremendous amount of nonsense emerged from Sunday’s ball of confusion. Before we look at a few excerpts, let’s name two key players.

On the pseudo-left, Harry-Perry presented Linda Darling-Hammond, a well-known, high-ranking Stanford professor who, we’ve now been forced to conclude, tends to be a bit dishonest concerning her favorite claims.

On the pseudo-right, Harris-Perry presented Steve Perry, the principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, a charter school which is part of the Hartford school system. In essence, Perry is Michelle Rhee without the large cheating scandals.

That said, Perry may well run an excellent school. But he is a fountain of anti-teacher, anti-union, corporate talking-points.

The final member of this panel was Raymond Williams, principal of North Babylon High School, a public school in North Babylon, New York. Williams seemed sensible and mild-mannered. Alone among the five performers, he didn’t come to the table bearing a big pile of scripts.

You’ve now been introduced to the players. Let’s proceed to the mayhem.

To see what happens when the clueless fall into the hands of the hustlers, let’s review a remarkable exchange between Harris-Perry and Perry. In this exchange, the thoroughly clueless Harris-Perry ended up agreeing with one of Perry’s anti-teacher corporate talking-points.

Late in the program, Harris-Perry was ruminating about the advantages which accrue to middle-class kids. Everyone understands this, of course. But Harris-Perry seemed to feel like talking again.

This is the way a remarkable exchange got started:
HARRIS-PERRY (4/7/13): Let me suggest there is invisible spending. Let me just suggest this. If you are in wealthy school districts, parents are also paying for tutors after school, enrichment activities after school and very expensive summer camps. It’s April, right?

But we don’t count any of that when we talk about per pupil spending, right? Some of it is that there are huge disparities in some states, some of it is that we just miss a lot of the invisible spending that goes on.
In that statement, Harris-Perry seemed to buy the idea that there are huge disparities in per pupil spending in some states, with much less money being spent on low-income kids.

In saying that, she was following one of Darling-Hammond’s misleading claims. But as Harris-Perry continued, she engaged in the kind of condescending conduct which used to cause progressive to attack uncaring elites.

Harris-Perry described some children she had seen blowing horn on the steet. Instantly, she was conned into buying one of Perry’s anti-teacher complaints:
HARRIS-PERRY (continuing directly): But I guess, what I want to be clear about is, I’m not saying poor kids can’t learn. That is crazy town. Poor kids are abbbsolutely capable of learning...

I mean, I live in New Orleans. I watch our poor kids learn all kinds of—

In fact, I see them stand on the street corner in my neighborhood and play brass instruments at 8 and 9 years old. I mean, they’re amazing and exceptional. But I tell you what? I bet they don’t test well. I bet the 9-year-old standing on my corner playing the trumpet—

PERRY: Because of where they go to school.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. No doubt.

But I guess what I’m saying is, how do I somehow provide a way of measuring the extraordinary capacity of that 9-year-old playing the trumpet?
This upper-class person saw a black child playing his horn in the street. Based upon this inspiring sight, she declares that the low-income children of New Orleans are “amazing and exceptional.”

Quickly remembering that she is a pseudo-progressive, she added a familiar point:

“But I tell you what? I bet they don’t test well,” she said, failing to see that she was making a sweeping assessment of thousands of kids based upon a few trumpet players she had seen in the street.

What did Harris-Perry mean when she placed that bet? Did she mean that these kids are very bright but their tests are culturally biased? (Flanders had been mouthing this claim all through the day’s discussion.)

It wasn’t clear what Harris-Perry meant, so Perry quickly filled in the blank—and Harris-Perry bought his line. New Orleans children don’t test well “because of where they go to school,” he said—and Harris-Perry quickly agreed with this anti-teacher point.

Perry had been pimping this line all day, just as Rhee would have done. Did Harris-Perry realize that she was buying the current corporate line, in which lazy teachers create lousy schools, thereby explaining why low-income children “don’t test well?”

In her cluelessness and her self-indulgence, did Harris-Perry even realize that she had just purchased that line?

Can we talk? For the most part, New Orleans children “don’t test well” because they don’t read or do math as well as the average American child. The skill of some 9-year-old trumpet player has nothing to do with this obvious fact, except in the mind of certain upper-class people who seem like parodies drawn from the age of radical chic.

Warning! Pseudo-progressives often avoid the topic of public schools, sometimes because they don’t want to discuss the fact that low-incomes kids are way behind in reading and math. Within their own elite circles, that may sound like “racist” talk. And they don’t want to sound like that!

As a result, these upper-class souls avoid discussing black kids altogether. When they do discuss black kids, they say things like Harris-Perry did in that absurd exchange.

It doesn’t seem that Harris-Perry has left radical chic in the past. Her life began on a major campus, where he father was a department head. Today, she longs for a way to measure “the extraordinary capacity of that 9-year-old playing the trumpet.”

Admittedly, that’s pretty stuff. But the high-stakes tests which were under review are designed to measure how well school kids in Louisiana can read and do math.

Can some of them play the trumpet well? That isn’t the issue here.

Admittedly, this useless professor has pretty ideas. But as she indulged herself this day, she got conned into voicing agreement with a corporate talking-point voiced by an anti-union, anti-teacher attack man. Nor was this the only instance in which this rather clueless professor purchased the Perry line. In the remarkable exchange which follows, Harris-Perry and Darling-Hammond seem to accept such a line.

In this second exchange, Perry asserts an unproven claim—“overwhelmingly, more and more students are coming in [apparently, to college] incapable of doing the basic things like writing and reading.” Perry presents no evidence that this is the case; for does anyone ask hi mto. But two of our fiery progressives rush to buy his claim—or at least, they seem to:
PERRY: But you as a professor would be the first to say that, overwhelmingly, more and more students are coming in incapable of doing the basic things like writing and reading—

DARLING-HAMMOND: And that’s because they’ve been doing multiple choice testing for their whole lives.

PERRY: It’s not because of that. It’s because they haven’t been taught, because the tests are actually working.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is there some reason to believe— So let me ask this. Is there some reason to believe that at some point in our development as a nation, teachers just started hating students and being bad at their jobs?

PERRY: I don’t think this is about hate.

HARRIS-PERRY: Or just started being bad at—

PERRY: They’ve never been tested before.

HARRIS-PERRY: But if you’re telling me that there was a point at which, as a college professor, I would have had students who did a good job on writing their essays and now I don’t, what I’m asking, is in 1990, did teachers just begin to say, “You know what, screw it, I’m down? I’m on the dole?”

PERRY: But that’s a false argument, though.
Is Perry’s claim factually accurate? More to the point, is there any evidence that his ver yaggressive claim is facftually accurate?

Who cares! All day long, Darling-Hammond had a bone stuck way up her ass about the use of multiple choice tests. (She seems to think we shouldn’t use them at all.) This opinion might have produced an intriguing discussion, but Harris-Perry was too unskilled to focus the discussion on that topic.

(Or on anything else.)

Result? In this instance, Darling-Hammond seized upon Perry’s unfounded claim to help advance her own preferred point. She instantly seemed to accept the idea that college students are much worse writers than they were in the past.

Meanwhile, Harris-Perry went straight to the realm of imagination, trying to imagine the reason why such a thing might be true.

No one bothered asking Perry for the basis on which he had made such a claim—a sweeping, very aggressive claim which comes straight from the plutocrat playbook. No evidence was requested or offered. His remarkable claim seemed to stand.

These Kids Today are very dumb because of those lazy incompetent teachers! That’s the claim which Perry advanced in this exchange. And alas!

Harris-Perry was too incompetent to ask him to support this claim—let alone to note the best empirical evidence, in which reading and math scores have steadily risen on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, our much-praised “gold standard” of testing.

Are college students dumber than ever? Perry said so, and Darling-Hammond seemed to agree. Harris-Perry was too incompetent to see that a very partisan claim had thus been advanced—a claim which should be examined.

Let’s be excessively fair. You can’t expect Harris-Perry, or any moderator, to be an expert on every topic. There is no reason to expect Harris-Perry to be an expert on public schools—and, quite plainly, she isn’t.

That said, Harris-Perry has been hired by The Corporate Suits, at a very good price, to moderate public discussions on a major “news” channel. Moderators should know how to focus a discussion—to define a topic or question, to force a respectable examination of basic questions and claims.

Harris-Perry may as well have been on acid this day. Every thought which popped into her head was given instant expression. It was rarely clear where these thoughts had come from, though two of her panelists (Perry and Williams) did a good job at various times challenging her ruminations.

Harris-Perry’s acid trips continued all day. Here she is, imagining one of the ways public schools cheat on tests:
HARRIS-PERRY: One of my concerns, when we think particularly about low performing schools or poor schools, is that we start thinking of things that poor kids need that is dramatically different than what well-resourced kids need.

So it’s just to say that, you know, in private schools have lots of resources, given an option of high stakes testing or not, schools don’t do high stakes testing! Right? They opt out! And so if, at the very top, people are like, “Well, no, this would make life bad for my teachers and for my students,” then I wonder why do we impose on poor kids and poor communities things that we would simply not—

I mean, just saying we know that the kind of cheating that happens at the top and you know this, Steve, if you’re in the private school system and you have a kid not testing well, you get them a diagnosis so that they get time-and-a half on their testing, right?

So, then you end up with— I’m not saying that no kid deserves diagnosis. I’m saying the tools we use are still cheating tools.
In Harris-Perry’s imagination, private schools don’t do standardized testing. They also cheat on standardized testing, in the manner described!

Ignoring the obvious self-contradiction, this was one of the three million ways Harris-Perry and Flanders kept making a deeply noxious suggestion—the suggestion that low-income kids “don’t test well” because upper-class schools and school systems cheat in various ways. (The tests are biased! The rich kids get extra time!)

In this instance, no one stepped in to challenge Harris-Perry’s idea. Instead, the two partisans used her claim to advance their favorite points: Perry said that low scores are the fault of the nation’s teachers, while Darling-Hammond said that no one else in the world uses multiple-choice tests. The image of that extra time on tests was simply allowed to stand.

After another acid trip, Perry and Williams did challenge Harris-Perry. This led to one of Darling-Hammond’s flights to the less than honest:
HARRIS-PERRY: Cheating is one thing. But creating a testing system that fails our students is another thing altogether.

So, principals, I want to come to you on this because I do—I mean, OK, Atlanta, they’re erasing and putting in—allegedly erasing and putting in new answers, right? But if I’m in a school where I want my grades to do well in terms of testing or I want to be able to say all my seniors get into college, then I just start kicking out the bad kids around behavioral issues in freshman, sophomore, junior year. That’s still cheating, even if it’s not, even if it’s not erasing and putting in new answers.
Do public schools behave in the manner described? No one asked Harris-Perry to explain why she created this vivid tableau.

Are schools somewhere kicking out kids so they can say that everybody got into college? Harris-Perry painted a vivid picture. But where did this picture come from?

Uh-oh! In this case, the two principals (Williams and Perry) told her it would be hard to behave that way at this time, due to administrative protocols. At present, security measures vary from state to state—but many states have tightened protocols to guard against these kinds of abuses, which very much have occurred in the past.

This led to one of Darling-Hammond’s less than honest moments. She began to blow her own horn, forgetting to mention the time frame she was referencing:
DARLING-HAMMOND: Let me just say something about the research on this, because we’ve now got many studies, one of which I did with some colleagues, but there are many others which show that whole systems have created policies that eliminate high need/low scoring kids from school. In Texas, where the “Texas miracle” started, where there’s this idea that everybody does better on high stakes tests and that led to the test and punish policies we have nationally now, we found that in one of the largest districts in that state, two thirds of the kids in high school were pushed out before graduation. They were held back in ninth grade and only 12 percent of the kids held back ever were able to take the test and graduate...
Darling-Hammond didn’t mention the time frame of her study. It covers a large, unnamed Texas district in the mid to late 1990s.

Duh. The disgraceful practices she was describing were publicly known by the time of the 2000 White House campaign. In response to that abuse, many states have tightened protocols in the relevant areas, as the two principals semi-described.

Is there evidence that these abuses continue today? It would be interesting to know that. Inevitably, though, Harris-Perry didn’t ask. This was one of three million topics which flitted in and out of Harris-Perry’s pseudo-discussion this day.

For our money, Darling-Hammond was less than honest on this topic and flatly dishonest on another, concerning the amount of per pupil spending bestowed on low-income kids. In those brief discussion, as in all the others this day, Harris-Perry made no attempt to focus the discussion or to ask for evidence concerning the various claims.

Every topic on earth was discussed. And so no topic was.

These twenty-nine minutes of pseudo-discussion were an intellectual nightmare and a moral disgrace. Perry and Darling-Hammond behaved like determined pimpers of partisan points; Harris-Perry and Flanders behaved like Austin Powers-era liberal hacks, except when Harris-Perry would unknowingly get dragged into affirming current conservative dogma.

Because of Harris-Perry’s incompetence as a moderator, every conceivable topic came and went. And good God:

Misused liberals who watch this program are told that they are watching one of our smartest cable “news” programs! The Way We Are is barely alive when garbage like this is aired under that ludicrous rubric.

Despite her representations, Harris-Perry is a person of the upper class. She seems to know nothing about low-income kids—or at least, she isn’t willing to say the things she knows.

For that reason, let us clarify a few basic points from Sunday’s ball of confusion:

As everyone knows, low-income kids don’t test well because they can’t read as well as middle-class kids and they can’t do math as well. As everyone knows, their intellectual disadvantages start in the earliest days of life, a fact Harris-Perry may not want to voice since she’s a pseudo-progressive.

Such statements may sound racist when she gets back on campus! And so, she clowns around, trips and pretends.

Useless people like this to the side, decent society faces the following question about low-income kids: How do we help these deserving children overcome these disadvantages?

To Harris-Perry, though, the question is different. She sees a few kids blowing horn on the street and she wants to tell her chic friends that she thinks those kids are just marvelous.

Unfortunately, they aren’t real good in reading and math. Harris-Perry doesn’t much seem to care.

This brings us to the point with which we will close. Once again, consider the question Harris-Perry asked in this rambling passage:
HARRIS-PERRY: One of my concerns, when we think particularly about low performing schools or poor schools, is that we start thinking of things that poor kids need that is dramatically different than what well-resourced kids need.

So it’s just to say that, you know, in private schools have lots of resources, given an option of high stakes testing or not, schools don’t do high stakes testing! Right? They opt out. And so if, at the very top, people are like, “Well, no, this would make life bad for my teachers and for my students,” then I wonder why do we impose on poor kids and poor communities things that we would simply not—
At this point, Harris-Perry went off on her acid trip about the way these private schools give their low-scoring kids extra time on the tests—on the tests they don’t administer.

That said, Harris-Perry asked an actual question here. Luckily, we can answer that question.

Some private schools don’t give standardized tests. Why do we impose such tests on kids in low-income schools?

The answer is simple, though a ranking player like Harris-Perry would never know on her own.
Why should we have an annual test in low-scoring schools or school system? Duh! Many kids are struggling in those schools—and those systems will lie about that fact, absent objective measures.

They will lie to those students’ parents. They will lie to the broader community. There will be no record of where those deserving kids actually stand.

On the bright side, those kids will still be able to entertain Harris-Perry, blowing their horns on the street where she lives. But those deserving kids will be lied about absent objective measures.

How well are low-income kids really doing? Parents of low-income kids may be less able to make such judgments on their own. At the very least, they deserve an annual measure which gives them objective knowledge.

At least since the early 1970s, school systems have been cheating on such tests. People like Harris-Perry began learning this in the last year or two.

The decades of cheating have been a disgrace. That to the side, the desirability of such a measure remains abundantly clear.

That said, Harris-Perry grew up on a campus, lives in the rich world today. Last Sunday, she conducted one of the most god-awful displays we've ever seen on the planet.

Low-income kids, and their interests, were her program’s victims

The Way We Are is very bad when an unskilled person like this is paid to go on TV and talk about her great admiration for those exceptional low-income kids—the ones she saw playing the trumpet for change on the street where she lives.

Darlings, those kids are exceptional!

For sheer stupidity, Sunday’s discussion was right up there with the nightly work of Sean Hannity. Sadly, young liberals are told that this TV show is among the smartest we have.

They’re told that this is a brilliant professor, just one of The Channel’s very bright players. Sadly, though, The Way We Are is “barely alive” in the intellectual sphere.

Tomorrow: The Things We Know


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  4. As everyone knows, low-income kids don’t test well because they can’t read as well as middle-class kids and they can’t do math as well. As everyone knows, their intellectual disadvantages start in the earliest days of life

    I can only attest to what I've observed in the schools where I have worked, but both of these statements match what I see in the classroom. We even have some decent information to explain why these things are so.

    What we don't have is any agreement about what we should do about it.

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