Part 2—Uncaring and clueless on schools: Yesterday morning, the New York Times editorial board was worried about “the needs of black students” in Missouri’s Ferguson-Florissant School District.
For several reasons, we found the paper’s editorial hard to take. And that wasn’t all! One night before, we’d watched Tavis Smiley pretend to discuss the needs of black students as part of C-Span’s In Depth program.
(For yesterday's post, click here.)
We got the impression that Smiley didn’t know whereof he spoke. It made us think of Dana Goldstein’s portrait of the “achievement gaps” which dog many public schools.
Goldstein (Brown 2006) has emerged in recent years as one of the liberal world’s alleged “educational experts.” That said, how well do our liberal “experts” function in the modern world?
Recently, we ran across Goldstein’s discussion of elementary school “ability grouping” in a piece she wrote for Salon in 2013. We were struck by the picture Goldstein drew of the American public school classroom.
In our view, the following passage is truly amazing. Sadly, it’s also deeply instructive:
GOLDSTEIN (6/10/13): Grouping fell out of favor in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was stigmatized because of its relationship to high school-level “tracking”... [G]rouping remains controversial, in part because it pits two of the education world’s favorite buzzwords against one another: “differentiation” versus “high expectations.”Good lord! Goldstein pictured an elementary school classroom where the different achievement levels came to this:
“Differentiation” calls for a teacher to adjust the delivery and assessment of lessons for each student in her class. All students might hear the same introductory lecture on fractions, for example, but in small groups later on, some students would be expected to complete four numeric problems, while others would tackle those same four problems, plus an additional two word problems. The teacher would move around the room, providing one-on-one help and instruction geared toward each student’s ability level.
“High expectations,” on the other hand, refers to the idea that many children will rise to meet the standards set for them by teachers and parents. This rhetoric dates back to the civil rights era...
Everyone is taught the same math skill. The more advanced kids are then asked to solve six problems. The rest of the class solves four!
An elementary teacher might have a class like that. But that portrait doesn’t begin to capture the different achievement levels which may coexist within a modern American school, school system or classroom.
Reading that passage, we wondered if Goldstein (Brown 2006) has any idea how American schools really work. This past Sunday night, we had the same reaction when we listened to Smiley discuss the needs of the public schools.
Around 1:54 on the C-Span tape, Smiley offers the following oration. Sad to say, this cluelessness may sound good to the modern liberal ear:
SMILEY (1/4/15): I’ve come to put it this way, just to kind of synthesize it:Let’s assume Smiley’s good intentions. In fairness, let’s note that Goldstein is an educational specialist. Smiley is not.
What I want, and what I believe that we need in America, is a constitutional amendment. And I know I just gave somebody a heart attack, because I know how hard it is to get a constitutional amendment in this country.
But I think what we need to wrestle with, and I would like to put this on the table for consideration at least, on education, a constitutional amendment that would guarantee every child in this country access to an equal, high-quality education.
So think of all the constitutional amendments and all the guarantees that we have to free speech and to carry weapons and all the other rights that we have as Americans. Why is it that in this country every child, no matter what state you’re born in, no matter what color you are, what county you live in, why is it that every child in this country is not guaranteed access to an equal, high-quality education?
Now that doesn’t mean that you’re trying to judge outcomes. But why doesn’t each child in this country at least start at the same place?
We’ve got fifty states and fifty different ways of educating children but nobody is guarantee access to an equal, high-quality education.
So the next question is, how do you figure out what that is? The answer is, it doesn’t matter to me. Whatever the best education is in this country that we can agree on; whatever the students in the schools that are regarded as the best, whatever they get, let’s give that to every child in this country.
We can define the standard, what we think “the best” is. And whatever the best students have access to in this country, that’s what every child ought to have access to. And again, I offer for your consideration, what would happen and how education in this country might dramatically change.
Benjamin Franklin—somebody once said one day that if Benjamin Franklin came back, the only thing he’d recognize today is the education system, because it ain’t changed much in all these years.
But I think it’s going to take something radical to change our education system. So again, I ask you to consider what would happen if we had a constitutional amendment that would guarantee every child in this country access to an equal, high-quality education.
Still and all, that recommendation is so daft, so cosmically uncomprehending, that it could only come from a modern liberal “intellectual leader.” Only a group as lazy as we could produce such strange, rank fruit.
Smiley discussed public schools several times during the three-hour C-Span program. Each time, he seemed to have emerged from a time capsule he's been sharing with Austin Powers.
Smiley seemed to have no idea where our “achievement gaps” come from. He didn’t seem to have any idea what “the best students in the country” are “getting” from the first days of life—what it is that sets them apart, in later scholastic achievement, from others who are less educationally fortunate.
His ignorance reflects the massive indifference to the interests of black kids we liberals have displayed down through these many years. That passage from Goldstein boggled our mind. But so did Smiley’s peroration, which apparently seems to make sense when heard by modern liberals.
In yesterday’s editorial, the New York Times hailed the ACLU for bringing a law suit against that Missouri school district—the same school district the late Michael Brown attended.
The Times seems to think that this district’s schools will improve in some major way if the local board has more black members. That too reads like an unknowing (and uncaring) dispatch from 1965.
Tomorrow, we’ll briefly consider the ACLU’s suit. For today, we’ll only say this:
Goldstein and Smiley and Timesmen oh my! We liberals have badly failed the test of the past three or four decades.
At our various emerging liberal sites, we are currently being trained to hate The Others for their vile traits. But in our own sloth and incomprehension, one fact has become apparent:
We liberals are the problem now too! We’re lazy and we aren’t very smart. We exude a moral squalor.
We’re lazy and dumb and our morals are bad. There’s little reason for people to like us. Presumably, nobody does.
Tomorrow: New York Times, thumbs on the scales
Smiley makes the all too common confusion between rights and benefits. The original Bill of Rights listed things the government couldn't take away from you. A right can be enforced by preventing the government from doing certain things, like restricting speech or quartering troops in civilian homes.ReplyDelete
When you turn it around and define a right as something the government is obliged to give you, then you open the door to the government amassing all the power the resources to provide that item. A big powerful government is the opposite of what the Bill of Rights intended. In the process of fulfilling the new definition of "rights", we wind up losing traditional rights.
Making a good education a Constitutional right also might open the door to lawsuits. Anyone who didn't get a good education may be able to sue the government for a civil rights violation.
"Benjamin Franklin—somebody once said one day that if Benjamin Franklin came back, the only thing he’d recognize today is the education system, because it ain’t changed much in all these years."
For a review of the major influence of John Dewey on both public education and teacher training, see Wikipedia (scroll down to his writings on education). There was a sea change in education in the late 1800's & early 1900's so that today's approach to education is nothing like what was done in Benjamin Franklin's time.
I agree with Somerby -- how can someone like Tavis Smiley not know this? His idea that there exists some "best" education that needs to be given to all children similarly reflects the idea that education is something children are endowed with, not an interactive process. Smiley's views do seem stuck in a time before education was influenced by psychology, but these were the views overturned by reformers like Dewey over 100 years ago.
A good education cannot happen without first addressing poverty and the social context in which children grow up during their earliest years because learning isn't something a teacher gives to a student but something teacher and student achieve together. For that, we need to go back to the UN's set of basic human rights and start with nutrition, health, loving care, peace, safety and security, and freedom to explore one's world. I don't care whether the government provides those or whether it merely creates the conditions for parents to do so.
When Smiley tritely demands that each child has the right to "the best" education, he naively assumes that: we already know what "the best is;" that whatever "it" is, is the same for every child; and, that black children are being short-changed by being denied this "best" education.ReplyDelete
Bob faults Tavis Smiley for these overly simplistic views. He's correct, of course. However, there's no reson to single out Smiley, whose views could fairly be described as falling squarely within the mainstream consensus on matters of education.
That consensus largely amounts to the following: there exist "good schools" and "bad schools" in America, which are distinguished from each other by the test scores of their respective students -- thus, to fix the education problem, we simply shut down the "bad schools" and transfer the students within to the "good schools," then problem solved!
OMB (Fighting the Three Toed Liberal Sloth with the OTB)ReplyDelete
Has laziness, dumbness and a lack of morals kept liberals from passing the test of the past three or four decades?
In theory, that’s certainly possible! But alas! As the Howler proceeded, BOB quickly offered a silly though pleasing con:
"Smiley seemed to have no idea where our “achievement gaps” come from. He didn’t seem to have any idea what “the best students in the country” are “getting” from the first days of life—what it is that sets them apart, in later scholastic achievement, from others who are less educationally fortunate.
His ignorance reflects the massive indifference to the interests of black kids we liberals have displayed down through these many years. That passage from Goldstein boggled our mind. But so did Smiley’s peroration, which apparently seems to make sense when heard by modern liberals."
If Smiley doesn't discuss a topic does that mean he has no idea about it, or only "seems" not to to BOB? Does ignorance relflect indifference only to black kids. Does ignorance cause indifference to white kids. Are all liberals equally indifferent because they are ignorant, or are reflections not real but what we seems to see? How is indifference measured? Who gave the test liberals failed and why did some last a whole decade longer than others?
As far as we know, the answer has nothing to do with whether anyone seems to love or like liberals. In our view, we seem to hate them too. That said, more on that later this week. Apparently. Or so it seems.
what's yer problem @ 8:11? don't like self-important vintage somerby served regurgitated?Delete
troll somewhere else pleaseDelete
10:58 certainly fits the picture somerby paints of liberals...lazy, dumb, and trained to hate.Delete
You, Anonymous @ 12:22 are lazy and aren’t very smart. You exude a moral squalor. You’re lazy and dumb and your morals are bad. There’s little reason for people to like you. Presumably, nobody does.Delete
Now, I didn't really paint you as that. I just saw an instance where you appeared to behave in that manner.
It's pretty much off topic, but the Times printed an op-ed yesterday by Harvard Professor Naomi Orsekes that's filled with errors. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/opinion/sunday/playing-dumb-on-climate-change.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7b%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22%7d&_r=1ReplyDelete
The problems with the statistical discussion are pointed out at http://schachtmanlaw.com/playing-dumb-on-statistical-significance/
In addition, the article includes incorrect statements about the current climate.
The Times opinion pages could get just about any pundit they wanted. I don't know why there isn't more real intelligence and expertise in these pages. I also don't know why a Harvard Professor would publish an article that appears to be ghost written by Lucy van Pelt.
and 2013 salon articles are a fine topic to demand everyone stick to?Delete
Start your own blog.Delete
Your Howler gets results. It's been almost a whole year and....ReplyDelete
GOVERNOR ULTRASOUND HASN'T SPEND A DAY BEHIND BARS.
As one of those conservatives who have better command of the facts might say; Oops!
That, the Gentle Giant and the Christy bridge fiasco were the biggest news stories of the year in corporate liberal media ... an uninspired Democratic base shows up at its lowest participation rate since 1942.ReplyDelete
Spotting Seaman Smiley with his ignorance untucked on the C-Span, Lt. Commander Somerby allows the Howler to steam in a circle back to 2013, when he successfully upbraided a young education reporter so well even Uncle Drum sent him an indirect post of commendation.Delete
Clearly the problem with liberals started with Bob Somerby's boomer generation. I don't see how you can't help but blame it in part on draft dodging and drugs.ReplyDelete
Until liberals acknowledge and apologize for dropping the baton passed to them by the Greatest Generation, it is hard to see anything but a continuing cultural meltdown in our future.
Boomers are lazy and dumb and their morals are bad. There’s little reason for people to like them. Presumably, nobody does.Delete
OMB (We the People are Dumb...Lazy and Immoral Too)ReplyDelete
At least BOB didn't call us FAT!!!!
"I’ve come to the conclusion there is a conspiracy about to make the American people immoral, fat, lazy and stupid – and, in some cases, where these conditions among the populace are already acute, to promote these undesirable characteristics even further.
But what about fat, lazy and stupid?
Have you visited a government school lately? I won’t dwell on the intentional dumbing down that is so obvious it can only be deliberate. Now, faced with decades of declining test scores and rampant functional illiteracy among high school students and graduates, the National Education Association – which virtually dictates federal education policy – is calling for more emphasis in the classroom on teaching “alternate lifestyles.” I kid you not.
But immorality and stupidity are not the only end products of the government educational system – not by a long shot."
Joseph Farah World Net Daily February 19, 2002
"We’re lazy and we aren’t very smart. We exude a moral squalor.
We’re lazy and dumb and our morals are bad."
Bob Somerby, Daily Howler, January 6, 2015
Same conclusions from two fine thinkers. One blames ignorance about education. The other blames education for the ignorance. Who could be correct? Let's consult our Oracle himself, the One True BOB.
"conservatives often know more than we liberals do about the basic facts of various matters!"
Bob Somerby, Daily Howler, January 5, 2015
In our view, Mr. Somerby seems to be saying Mr. Farah, not Mr. Somerby, may be right.
Amazing blog and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading through some of your earlier posts as well and decided to drop a comment on this one!ReplyDelete
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