Discussing California's schools, the Times is just as bad: In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman savages the economic team assembled by President Trump.
He uses one word we ourselves would have skipped. That said, here's his basic assessment:
KRUGMAN (1/15/19): [N]o man is an island, although Trump comes closer than most. You can’t fully make sense of his policy pratfalls without acknowledging the extraordinary quality of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. And by “extraordinary,” of course, I mean extraordinarily low quality. Lincoln had a team of rivals; Trump has a team of morons.Krugman savages the intellectual quality of Trump's highest ranking advisers. Presumably, his assessments are correct. That said, we were struck by a certain irony as we read his column.
If this sounds too harsh, consider recent economic pronouncements by two members of his administration. Predictably, these pronouncements involve bad economics; that’s pretty much a given. What’s striking, instead, is the inability of either man to stay on script; they can’t even get their right-wing mendacity right.
First up is Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers...
Right next to Krugman's piece on the Times op-ed page is this discussion of California's public schools, especially those in Los Angeles. The piece is written by Miriam Pawel. Her identity line says this:
Ms. Pawel, a contributing opinion writer, is the author of “The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation.”by Miriam Pawel.Pawel may be a superb biographer. There is no sign, at any point, that she knows a single significant thing about our nation's public schools, no matter what city or state they're in.
Even at her own web site, we find no sign that Pawel has any expertise about public schools or any background in reporting about them. Within the culture of the Times, this makes her the perfect person to opine about low-income schools.
The Times' reporting on public schools has been a disgrace forever. Do Trump's advisers display a disdain for average people in the ways Krugman's column claims?
Presumably, yes! But then again, so does the New York Times in the way it discusses the schools.
In this morning's column, Pawel works from a predictable array of know-nothing scripts about the state of the schools:
She tells us that California's schools were "great," a "lure," in the good old days, without offering the slightest bit of evidence to that effect.
She criticizes California because it "ranks low in average per-pupil spending, [spending] roughly half the amount spent in New York." She fails to note that test scores from the two states can barely be distinguished from each other.
Most absurdly, she offers the passage shown below, the type of passage which will always appear from the know-nothing pseudo-liberal who knows nothing about public schools but wants to opine about them.
This is terrible work. It's typical of the scripted work about public schools constantly churned by the Times:
PAWEL (1/15/19): For 20 years, Katie Safford has taught at Ivanhoe Elementary, a school so atypical and so desirable that it drives up real estate prices in the upscale Silver Lake neighborhood. Ivanhoe parents raise almost a half million a year so that their children can have sports, arts, music and supplies. But parents cannot buy smaller classes or a school nurse. Mrs. Safford’s second-grade classroom is a rickety bungalow slated for demolition. When the floor rotted, the district put carpet over the holes. When leaks caused mold on the walls, Mrs. Safford hung student art to cover stains. The clock always reads 4:20.To her credit, Pawel doesn't say that Ivanhoe is one of the "best" schools in Los Angeles. She merely says that it is "atypical" and "desirable," so desirable that it drives up real estate prices.
That said, everyone knows why a school like Ivanhoe is so "desirable." It's full of kids from "upscale" families who are good students coming in. They go on to produce the high test scores which will very rarely emerge from our low-income schools.
The school itself has little to do with this. As everyone but a Times writer knows, it's this demographic factor which makes schools like this so high-scoring and so desirable. Pawel shows no sign of ever having given a thought to the basic question here—how can we create a world where kids from low-income schools can have the kind of academic success "upscale" children routinely achieve?
In Krugman's profile, the president is surrounded by a failed "elite"—by a team of incompetent hacks. That's precisely the kind of know-nothing pseudo-elite which has been writing about our public schools in upper-end newspapers like the Times for the past million years.
Tomorrow, we'll show you some basic data about the direction of the public schools in California and in Los Angeles over the past several decades. From Pawel, you get the standard old happy talk about how good things were in the good old days when California's schools were just so amazingly good.
We know of no data which suggest any such thing about Cali's schools in the good old days. Nor does Pawel provide any.
Trump is served by a hapless pseudo-elite, but so are subscribers to the Times. That said, our upper-end journalistic elites have functioned this way for decades now. As a result, Donald J. Trump is in the White House and little is right with the world.
The New York Times almost seems to hold low-income kids in contempt. In its lazy, scripted, incompetent work, the paper has suggested this possibility again and again through the years.
We humans are "the rational animal," a famous logician once said. Did that famous Greek get it right, or should his famous assessment perhaps be listed as "Aristotle's error?"
Tomorrow: The word on those happy golden years, the ones which didn't exist