Drum comes fighting back: Thirty minutes ago, spirits picked up among the analysts.
Their spirits brightened after Kevin Drum offered this new post. It concerns M. Night Shyamalan’s rather peculiar recent statements concerning American education and/or test scores.
For our previous post, click this.
Shyamalan’s factual statements are crazily wrong. In his new post, Drum says he agrees, though not completely entirely. Here’s his basic framework:
“Shyamalan is exaggerating, and I sloppily let it pass because I wanted to address what I thought was his primary point,” Drum writes. “So allow me to revise and expand a bit. Not as an excuse for a hurried post, but just to explain how I view this stuff.”
As he continues, Drum makes several points. We offer these reactions:
Concerning the Asian tigers: Drum explains that he basically disregards the high-scoring Asian nations when he thinks about education.
He does this because they achieve their high scores “by making their kids' lives a living hell.” Beyond that, he “very much doubt[s] that it actually produces better-educated adults in the long run.”
Fair enough. But that is no excuse for Shyamalan, or for major journalists like Ali Velshi who simply pass on his ridiculous misstatements. Can’t we ever start a discussion by requiring accurate facts?
Concerning the need for accurate statements: For years, we have been making a basic claim: facts play almost no role in our nation’s intellectual culture.
Drum says we’re “missing the forest for the trees” when we ask Shyamalan to make accurate statements. Wow! Just freaking wow!
Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Also: Regarding the Social Security trust fund, the money isn’t there. We’ve already spent it!
We oppose letting Fox and the Heritage Foundation invent reams of bogus facts. We also oppose letting Diane Ravitch do that.
Tomorrow, we’ll show you where Shyalaman got his absurd ideas about test scores. As his book makes clear, his errors stem from the fact that he got conned by a widespread bogus assertion.
The quality of American education: In this passage, Drum states his general view of American education:
DRUM (12/16/13): American education isn't, either philosophically or foundationally, a disaster area. Nor is it in decline. For most American children, it works fine and it doesn't need radical changes. Rather, there's a small subset of American children who have been badly treated for centuries and continues to suffer from this. We do a lousy job of educating them, but it's not because we don't know how to educate. We've just never been willing to expend the (very substantial) effort it would take to help them catch up.We’ve spent years trying to get journalists to acknowledge that American education isn’t in decline in any measurable way. Does that mean that American education “works fine for most American children?”
Anyone who disagrees with this conclusion is welcome to argue about it. But I think it's one of the paramount facts about education in America. If you ignore it, your diagnosis of our educational problems is almost certain to be badly wrong. In the end, the fact that Shyamalan recognizes this so forthrightly strikes me as more important than the fact that he gets a little too far over his skis when he talks about it.
We don’t know how to answer that. On balance, we’d be slow to agree with that statement.
That said, Drum makes one statement with which we strongly disagree. Concerning our low-income and minority kids, he says this: “We do a lousy job of educating them, but it's not because we don't know how to educate.”
We strongly disagree with the implication lurking in the second part of that statement.
Later this week, we’ll show you Ravitch stating a familiar slogan: “We know what works.” In our view, Ravitch is free to think and say that because she’s never worked a in a low-income school or classroom.
“We know what works!” It’s very, very easy to say that from various lofty perches. Liberal dogmatists constantly say it. (We don’t refer to Drum.)
“We know what works!” In our view, this claim is lazy, unhelpful, uncaring. And very easy to say.
Final point: In our view, Shyamalan is not “a little too far over his skis” in the matters under discussion. We’ll assume he’s completely well intentioned. He also makes some good points. (He rejects the Finland cult, buys the cult of the PISA.)
But all too often, Shyamalan shows few signs of knowing what he’s talking about. And in the factual matters Drum is discussing, Shyamalan is crazily wrong.
Must every discussion start with people making crazy misstatements?
Why did the analysts brighten today? Because Drum is one of the only front-line liberal writers who cares about these topics. For that reason, the analysts were down in the dumps when he threw off that Friday post.
The liberal world walked away from these topics decades ago. Liberals threw black kids sunder the bus. Few things could be more obvious, except to us liberals, of course, with our high self-regard.
Our tribe's disinterest in these topics is appalling, repulsive, disgraceful. (This is especially true given our addiction to our beloved R-bombs.) We need smart, decent people like Drum to bring these discussions back.
That said, real discussions really can’t start with crazy factual howlers. They need to start in the real world, with a few basic accurate facts.