Scribe reverts to form: Remember how great it was last week when Motoko Rich really nailed it?
For our report, click here.
What happened to that Motoko Rich? This morning, in the New York Times, the old Rich seems to be back.
Rich presents a weirdly fuzzy report about some new PISA scores. Her headline is strangely upbeat, and her facts are a bit hard to parse:
RICH (4/2/14): American Students Test Well in Problem Solving, but Trail Foreign CounterpartsA bit later, Rich says that these results come from the 2012 PISA. “The new problem-solving exams were administered to a subset of 15-year-olds in 28 countries who sat for the Program for International Student Assessment,” she says.
Fifteen-year-olds in the United States scored above the average of those in the developed world on exams assessing problem-solving skills, but they trailed several countries in Asia and Europe as well as Canada, according to international standardized tests results released on Tuesday.
The American students who took the problem-solving tests in 2012, the first time they were administered, did better on these exams than on reading, math and science tests, suggesting that students in the United States are better able to apply knowledge to real-life situations than perform straightforward academic tasks.
Still, students who took the problem-solving tests in countries including Singapore, South Korea, Japan, several provinces of China, Canada, Australia, Finland and Britain all outperformed American students.
If we scored behind only seven countries (of 28), that means we did pretty well on this measure, given the way the PISA works. But Rich never presents any actual scores, and she doesn’t do a great job explaining the nature of this test.
That isn’t our main objection to Rich’s report. Our main objection is this:
RICH (continuing directly from above): “The good news is that problem solving still remains a relatively strong suit for American students,” said Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy group focused on improving high schools. “The challenge is that a lot of other nations are now developing this and even moving ahead. So where we used to, in an earlier era, dominate in what we called the deeper learning skills—creative thinking, critical thinking and the ability to solve problems—in terms of producing the workers that are increasingly needed in this area, other nations are coming on strong and in some cases surpassing us.”We’ve taken part in several comedy events with ex-governor Wise. We’ll always have the Improv!
That said, please riddle us this: What the heck is Wise talking about in the highlighted passage?
In what era did American students “dominate in what we called the deeper learning skills—creative thinking, critical thinking and the ability to solve problems?”
By now, we thought everyone had agreed that there never was a time when American students led the world on international tests. For various reasons, it’s important to get clear on such facts, if only so voters can start to learn about the apparent progress which has been occurring in our American test scores.
In that statement, Wise seems to have reverted to the myth of the golden age. If Rich was going to use that quote, she should have made Wise explain it.
Over and over, in so many ways, our public discourse ends up running on narrative, myth and script. Again and again, it turns out to be narrative all the way down.
Absent explanation, it looks like Wise has reverted to myth. Meanwhile, what ever happened to Rich? Has she reverted to form?