Part 4—The children whose lives don't count: Not long ago, an amazing event occurred. A person could read, in the Washington Post, about improved test scores in the nation's public schools!
Granted, the discussion occurred in an op-ed column by a guest columnist, not in a news report. That said, the analysts were almost excited by the discussion—until they saw the metric the guest columnist used:
WHITE (2/9/18): [I]t's inaccurate to claim that there's been little progress since the Reagan administration's seminal report "A Nation at Risk."...[T]his line of thinking threatens the bipartisan push for change in America's schools, including the principles of verifying what progress students are making and holding school systems accountable for that progress.John White is the Louisiana state superintendent of education. In saying that public school performance has improved, he bucks the standard preferred party line, in which the public has long been told that nothing has worked in our public schools thanks to our ratty public school teachers with their fiendish unions.
Let's take the claim of failure first. The most widely trusted yardstick of American students' learning is the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Over the past quarter-century, the share of American fourth-graders fully proficient in math on the NAEP increased by 27 percentage points. The share of proficient fourth-grade readers increased by seven percentage points. Over that time, proficiency among African American fourth-graders increased by 18 percentage points in math and 10 percentage points in reading, and Latino fourth-graders' proficiency gained 21 points in math and nine points in reading...
This is no claim of "mission accomplished." Other nations have strengthened their schools faster and more profoundly than we have. Reading and math skills in middle and high schools, as well as knowledge of civics and science, are deplorably low. Learning gaps by race and income level remain tragically wide. But this country has made important improvements over a generation, with real implications for the lives of families and the economic health of our states and communities.
That gloomy line has long been standard within the mainstream press. In his recent column, White said the familiar claims which drive this gloomy picture are untrue.
That said, White bowed to the gloom-and-doom lobby with his claim that reading and math skills in middle schools are "deplorably low," and with his gloomy assessment of the international picture. Beyond that, he chose to measure progress on the NAEP in a way which made us gnash our teeth—by recording "the share of American [students] fully proficient in math and reading."
In fairness, that's one statistic a person can use to measure improvement on the NAEP over time. But for various barely technical reasons, we wouldn't say it's the best single statistic to use, and it results in a rather underwhelming set of claims:
The share of proficient fourth-grade readers has increased by seven percentage points since the 1980s? That has the unmistakable sound of a massively underwhelming claim.
Still, given the way this topic is normally discussed, this underwhelming presentation is about as good as you'll ever see in a newspaper like the Post. It's very, very, very rate to hear claims about progress at all.
That said, where does a modern liberal turn for information on a topic like this? More specifically, to whom can liberals or progressives turn for information about the progress recorded by black or Hispanic kids?
Alas! That liberal can't turn to Rachel Maddow, or to Chris Hayes, or even to the morally swaggering Lawrence, or to any of the seven- or eight-figure "corporate liberals" hired to perform on MSNBC. The lives and interests of black children simply don't exist on that channel until such time as someone gets shot, though only by a policeman or a "vigilante."
At least in her seven- to eight-figure professional capacity as a cable news entertainer, Rachel Maddow doesn't give a flying fig about the lives and interests of black kids. Their lives and their interests don't exist on her high-rated TV show.
At present, her TV show is devoted to The Chase—to the entertaining, pleasure-providing hunt after Donald J. Trump. Viewers are immersed in the minutia of that chase to a degree that borders on the pointless and the insane.
Black kids can go play in the yard. So can Patrisse Khan-Cullors and her intriguing new book.
What's the true state of the nation's schools? Of the nation's low-income schools? Of the service those schools are providing to the nation's black kids?
You won't hear a word from Maddow about that or any similar topic. Those children don't exist on her show. Neither does Khan-Cullors, or a group of people like her.
Who the Joe Hill is Patrisse Khan-Cullors? She's one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, a semi-organization our corporate liberal TV stars happily pretend to support.
Khan-Cullors' new book is called When They Call You A Terorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. The book appeared on the New York Times best-seller list on two recent Sundays, but its author hasn't appeared on MSNBC and most likely never will.
(So far, Khan-Cullors has done the full hour on C-Span's After Words, and she's been interviewed on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. According to Nexis, that's it. Full and complete total stop.)
In her book, Khan-Cullors describes her life as a child who grew up poor in the Los Angeles of the wars on drugs and crime. Among the intriguing stories it seems to tell is the story of Khan-Cullots' education in the Los Angeles public schools.
Although she lived in Van Nuys, Khan-Cullors went to Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, a school she improbably describes as being "all-white." She then went to Cleveland High, where it sounds like she received a fascinating, challenging education. The leading authority on Cleveland High describes the school as follows:
Grover Cleveland Charter High School is a public school serving grades 9-12. Cleveland Humanities Magnet is part of Cleveland Charter High School. The school is located in Reseda, in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California.So the school is described. Khan-Cullors would have graduated around 2002. According to the leading authority on her life, she holds a degree in religion and philosophy from UCLA and was a Fulbright scholar.
Cleveland, a part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, was named after President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland Charter High School is LAUSD's only comprehensive high school that holds the title of being a California Distinguished School.
Cleveland High School was honored as a 2005 California Distinguished School and as of 2010 was ranked the 703rd best high school in the nation by Newsweek, up from 854th the year before. It has a student population of about 3800. The school is divided into small learning communities.
As with much of her memoir, Khan-Cullors' description of her education is fleeting and somewhat impressionistic. Her description of other aspects of her childhood is more detailed and more pointed. This includes her accounts of the interactions of her brothers and her father with the Los Angeles police and the California prison system.
Khan-Cullors has been involved in prison reform for a good long time. That topic doesn't exist on "liberal cable" either. For this reason, people like Khan-Cullors aren't invited to appear on the channel. That channel is deeply invested in The Chase, and in increased corporate revenue.
When Maddow mugs and clowns and discusses herself and exclusively hands you The Chase, she makes us liberals feel moral and pure inside. We may not realize how many topics are being kept from view.
When Maddow wallows in The Chase, she makes the rest of the world go away. Tomorrow, we'll finish our discussion of the many topics you won't encounter on that cable channel—about the many people you won't see there.
Cable keeps making the world go away. On the brighter side, it helps us make it through the night knowing that We are the good ones.
Tomorrow: Which terrorized children don't count and other disappeared topics