THREE-CARD MONTE, TRIBAL SCRIPT: In which we pursue a familiar false note!


Part 3—The case of the relevant percentage which didn't appear:
We feel almost totally certain!

We feel quite sure that Melinda Anderson isn't a "con man," to cite the term from Maria Konnikova's featured essay in last weekend's Sunday Review.

That said, we felt we encountered a bit of a con when we fact-checked Anderson's recent report for The Atlantic, a well-known publication which may perhaps, at certain times, tell us the stories we like.

Anderson's report seemed to stress the "staggering," "astounding" frequency with which preschoolers are getting suspended, especially black preschoolers.

Those are important claims. But uh-oh! Within Anderson's opening paragraphs, we thought we possibly might have detected "a false spot in the narrative" (to use a term from Konnikova's piece). In a familiar, tiring act, we proceeded to check it out.

Below, we'll show you what we found. First, let's describe where the "false spot" seemed to occur.

Right from the start, Anderson's piece seemed to stress the frequency of preschool suspensions. This is the way her report began, alarming headlines included:
ANDERSON (12/7/15): Why Are So Many Preschoolers Getting Suspended? / The frequency of punishment has a troubling racial skew

Tunette Powell travels across the country counseling families and mentoring youth. An award-winning motivational speaker and author, her professional work in the education field ranges from training nonprofit leaders to consulting for colleges and universities. But none of Powell’s career-related skills could prepare her for the frustration and helplessness of seeing her two sons suspended from preschool, which she pegged to overly harsh and racially biased discipline. In a July 2014 Washington Post opinion piece that gained national attention, Powell relates how her boys—ages 3 and 4—were suspended from their Omaha preschool program eight times total in one year. Once published, the essay resonated with readers nationwide. “So many parents reached out [to me]...a lot of black mothers” who shared her experience with excessive suspensions, said Powell. “We live in a time when we just say, ‘Suspend them, get rid of them.’”
It sounded familiar, and bad. The award-winning Powell had two preschoolers, ages 3 and 4. They were suspended from preschool eight times in the course of one year.

Powell told her story in the Washington Post. When she did, the story resonated. “We live in a time when we just say, ‘Suspend them, get rid of them,’ ” the award-winning author says. According to Anderson, it seems that this is especially true in the case of black preschoolers.

It sounded familiar, and it sounded bad. For all we know, it actually may be bad. But as Anderson continued, we thought we may have spotted a slightly bogus note.

In the passage shown below, Anderson seems to describe the sweep of preschool suspensions. Those eight suspensions of Powell's two kids were not an anomaly, she says.

It sounds familiar, and it sounds bad—but let us pose a question. As Anderson tells this "astounding" story, can you spot the missing percentage, the percentage that doesn't appear?
ANDERSON (continuing directly): A glance at news headlines confirms that Powell and her sons are not an anomaly. From a 3-year-old suspended for too many toileting mishaps to a 4-year-old booted out of school for kicking off his shoes and crying, toddlers are racking up punishments that leave many parents and child experts bewildered. Overall the rise in school suspensions and disproportionate impact on youth of color has triggered a flurry of interest from activists and high-ranking government officials, and for good reason: A February 2015 report from UCLA's Civil Rights Project examined out-of-school suspension data for every school district in the country and found that nearly 3.5 million children—about six out of every 100 public school students—were suspended at least once during the 2011-12 school year, with close to half of those (1.55 million) suspended multiple times.

But for some more astounding than these discipline statistics were the thousands of the nation’s youngest learners—nearly 8,000 preschoolers— suspended from school in the same year, often for relatively minor disruptions and misbehaviors.
For researchers and educators immersed in this work, why preschoolers are put out of school and the entrenched racial disparity seems most closely tied to reasons such as teacher bias and children living in poverty whose hitting, biting, and pinching is frequently labeled misconduct rather than developmental delays.
Does that passage say what we think it says? Here's what we think it says:

In the first of those two paragraphs, Anderson seems to say that six percent of public school students got suspended at least once during the 2011-12 school year.

(What grades does that include? Anderson doesn't make that clear. Let's continue.)

In the second of those two paragraphs, it seems to say that "some" people find the statistics from preschool "more astounding" than that. It then says that "nearly 8000" preschoolers got suspended in that year for "developmental delays," which may have included hitting and biting.

(Presumably, that means the biting of other preschoolers. Whatever! Kids are resilient!)

At this point, we thought we might have spotted a slightly puzzling note. Fewer than 8000 preschoolers got suspended last year? Given the size of the country, that didn't necessarily seem like a gigantic number.

We also noted that no percentage was supplied at this point. Six percent of public school students got suspended in the school year in question. What percentage of preschoolers met the same fate?

Anderson didn't say! Let's tease out the record:

Fewer than 8000 preschoolers got suspended. But was that a lot or a little? "Some" think it's "astounding," Anderson seemed to say.

We decided to click her link, then keep searching from there. When we did, to quote Sonny and Brownie, we felt we may have got fooled.

Here are the fuller numbers:

From her link, we learned that Anderson is referring to a report by "the Education Department's civil rights arm." According to a "snapshot" from that report, we learned that there were "over 1 million preschool students" that year.

Given the murky language of the snapshot, it isn't entirely clear how many preschoolers got suspended that year. It may have been roughly 7500 in all, with roughly 2500 suspended more than once. Or it may have been roughly 5000 in all, with roughly 2500 suspended more than once.

We'll guess the larger number is right. If we wanted to waste more time clicking, scrolling and clicking, we could probably puzzle it out.

We'll assume the larger number is right, although it could be wrong. If so, then roughly 3/4 of one percent of preschoolers got suspended at some point that year.

One quarter of one percent of preschoolers got suspended more than once. That is well under one percent. Written a different way, it's 0.25 percent. It's one in every 400 preschoolers.

One in every 400 preschoolers got suspended more than once that year. Fewer than one percent got suspended at all.

Was that a lot or a little? That's a matter of judgment. But it's massively smaller than the six percent figure we were given in paragraph 2, after which we seemed to be told that the statistics for preschool were even "more astounding."

Why was less relevant, larger percentage provided while the more relevant, smaller percentage was withheld? A less generous person might see that as a tiny bit of a con.

Incomparably, we won't do that. That said, we thought we'd encountered the kind of "false note" referred to by Konnikova in her piece about otherwise intelligent people who somehow fall for con men. And sure enough! When we researched that apparent false note, we almost felt that we'd maybe perhaps been possibly slightly conned.

Let's note a related point. Based upon those official statistics, the experience of that award-winning author was, in fact, gigantically anomalous. Her two preschoolers got suspended eight times in one year? Based on the data in Anderson's source, that experience isn't just an anomaly. It seems to border on the statistically impossible.

At this point, we're going to borrow from Bob Dylan's award-winning song, Talkin' World War III Blues. We used to think that we could trust presentations in publications like The Atlantic. But "time passed, and now it seems everybody's having them dreams!"

More specifically, time passed, and now it seems that we encounter "false notes" of this type all the time. With great frequency, we possibly feel a tiny bit conned after we check them out. We get that feeling all over the expanding organs of liberal cable and the liberal web. We don't think it speaks especially well of our tribal leaders.

We've also gotten that feeling on many pages of a recent, important book—Ta'Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, a superb memoir tied to a deeply flawed collection of analyses. That said, we liberals seem to love ignoring "false notes" of this type, and we seem to love the pleasing, simplified stories such indolence provides.

Why do otherwise intelligent people tend to overlook "false notes" in certain types of stories? In a slightly different context, Maria Konnikova tried to answer that question in her piece in the Sunday Review.

Tomorrow, we'll return to her account, and we'll float an example from Coates.

Tomorrow: "Caught up in a powerful story, we become blind to inconsistencies that seem glaring in retrospect"

The second part of the claim: Are black preschoolers treated unfairly? That is a very important question.

It's a question you'll never see discussed on corporate liberal TV, where smiling, corporate-selected liberals are being paid millions of dollars.

We'll suggest you review what Anderson wrote. As you do, keep this in mind—we seem to be talking about a rather small number of kids.


  1. By all means let's keep unruly and delinquent kids in classrooms and let them and their lousy parents undermine the education of everyone else's kids. Progress!

    1. If those numbers are true, I for one am willing to step up and allow my preschool kid to get bitten in the name of equality and tolerance.

  2. Lets make it Three Comments Bobby.

  3. By all means let's keep incompetent and deceptive writers at The Atlantic and let them and their lousy editors undermine the perceptions of everyone else's uncle. Progress!


  4. Hi everyone, I'm testify how i Got my Husband back after a Divorce !!!
    I'm Tiffany Wilson From California, after Five years of marriage,
    My Husband divorces me off no reason, I cried all through and try all the possible best I could to make everything work out for good and to get him back but to no avail, I was confused and frustrated until I crossed a site of Dr Frank Ojo, I read everything completely on the site, it was talking about Love spells and reunion marriage spells and different types of spells, I was more confused on what to do because I don’t believe on spell casters mostly on Love spells, though I decided to give a try out, I contacted Dr Frank Ojo and explained everything completely to him on what I am passing through to my own greatest surprise, Dr Frank Ojo told me that my husband is going to call me back to come home after two days he has finished casted the spell. I have believed on him and so surprising really my husband calls me back home and ask for forgiveness and he promised to Love me only and forever be with me only. All great thanks to Dr Frank Ojo for his marvelous spell work, contact him today by his Email: ,website info: , If you have any problem contact him, I give you 100% guarantee that he will help you, Thanks to Dr Frank Ojo.

  5. Great post with a lot of useful information.And you wrote the article very nicely too. keep sharing these valuable post again.

    Cheap essay writing company


  6. All thanks to the great doctor that help me to get back my boyfriend I thank you so much because you man of your words than anything he said will be done is a very good man I want to use opportunity thank Dr Ben and God shall bless him for getting my boyfriend back he is back to me now I didn't believe this at first until I put effort now my boyfriend is back I thank Dr Ben for the great work He has done for me I want him to keep doing this for other people are so that you can do it for me to thank you Dr Ben. And you can contact him at email or whatsapp number +2348151642717. Now I believe you are the great spell caster Dr Ben.


  7. Cleanliness is one of the very important and necessary things that cannot be dispensed with anywhere, and from here a specialized company is used to clean the place and get the best degrees of cleanliness, and it is worth noting
    شركة تنظيف بالبكرية

    شركة تنظيف مجالس بالبكرية

    شركة نقل عفش بالبكرية

    شركة كشف تسربات المياة بالبكرية

    شركة تنظيف فلل بالبكرية

  8. Thank you a lot for giving everyone a very remarkable opportunity to read articles about documents required for saksham yojana haryana

    ba part 3 result

  9. Wonderful service provider! I got 14 days Dubai visa on time. we enjoy Dubai with the best services.

  10. Thank you for this thought-provoking post on the cultural significance of the Three-Card Monte and Tribal Script. Your insights into these cultural phenomena are fascinating and have given me a deeper appreciation for the complexities of cultural symbolism. I am travel blogger and giving online Saudi Tourist Visa Guide

  11. Thank you for sharing this great post filled with a wealth of useful information. Your writing style is also impressive, making the article a pleasure to read. I truly appreciate your efforts in providing such valuable content. Please continue sharing these insightful and valuable posts with us. I look forward to reading more from you in the future. Keep up the fantastic work. Get Saudi Arabia Visa Online

  12. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is a city known for its picturesque canals, historic architecture, and vibrant culture 12 Best Things To Do In Amsterdam

  13. Very nice article. It covers almost all the points.
    I am on the portugal tour. If you want to travel for portugal then you need online portugal visaand check the portugal visa requirements before applying the visa.

  14. Nice post and lots of information!
    Are you planning to travel Kazakhstan? You need Kazakhstan tourist visa with invitation letter. Get Kazakhstan tourist visa and requirements

  15. The application process was straightforward to Apply for Schengen Visa , and the Schengen Visa agency provided clear instructions on what documents were needed and how to submit them. I was impressed with how quickly they were able to process my application of Schengen Visa UK, and I received my Schengen Appointment in no time at all to get Schengen Visa From UK.