The God-Awfullest Story Ever Told!


The New York Times' two "solutions":
Have we mentioned the fact that last week's discussion at Slate between Harris and Gay may have been the worst conversation ever conducted by humans?

Right from Harris' opening statement, the discussion dove into the Slough of Despond. That statement went exactly like this:
"One of the best high schools in the country is on the edge of Manhattan, just a few blocks from where the World Trade Center is now—Stuyvesant."
Is Stuyvesant "one of the best high schools in the country?" It's amazing that, after all these years of pretending to care, upper-end journalists still don't see the conceptual problem which lurks within such declarations.

Whatever! Harris and Gay staged one of the worst conversations ever recorded on the face of the earth. It turned on a very important topic—the lives and the interests of "black" kids.

The liberal world, black and white alike, has pretended to care about that topic for roughly sixty-five years. Over the course of the past fifty years, that ministry has largely consisted in a string of attempts to pretend that data like these are, at heart, just a giant illusion:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
Since at least the 1960s, pseudo-liberals, black and white alike, have found various ways to pretend that data like those aren't worth talking about.

Nothing to look at! Keep moving along! That's how the story is told.

"It's the white racist teachers," we used to be told. Today, Gay and the Times have a different excuse:

"It's money and test prep all the way down! It's just those devious Asians, stealing the seats which rightly belong to our most accomplished learners!"

Harris and Gay embarrassed the human race with their dim-witted, ugly discussion. But so much was wrong with their conversation that we've decided to spend another two weeks reviewing its basic components.

Next week, we'll look at the "solution" to the problem at Stuyvesant which, as Gay told Harris, the New York Times has endorsed. After that, we expect to spend another week considering the cultural factors which help produce those data.

We liberals have treated black kids like toys for the past fifty years. And yes, that includes pseudo-liberals of both major "races."

When's the last time you saw the NAACP, or any other such organization, engage with the type of data we have presented above? As everyone on the planet knows, such things simply aren't done!

The New York Times has a gonzo solution to the Stuyvesant problem. Beyond that, the newspaper has a second solution, one the paper would apply to Gotham's public schools as a whole.

Each "solution" is utterly mindless. That said, did we mention the fact that this pair of solutions come from the Hamptons-based Times?

Is "man" [sic] really "the rational animal" in any essential way? As you've heard, that's the question we plan to explore all through the course of the year.

We'd hoped to move more quickly to the later Wittgenstein's analysis of the ways our human reasoning breaks apart on the highest academic platforms. But last week's conversation was so god-awful that we've decided to postpone that pleasure a couple of weeks—to postpone that pleasure again!

Right from Harris' opening statement, that conversation was god-awful. Neither participant was an education specialist, but when has that ever stopped us liberals from displaying our defiant disinterest in the lives and the interests of black kids?

We've been kicking those kids to the curb since roughly forever. History suggests that this "human, all too human" behavior is unlikely ever to end.

Our own solution, to our riddle: "Stuyvesant is one of the best high schools in the country."

It's a very familiar type of throw-away assessment.

But is Stuyvesant one of the best high schools because the functioning of the school itself is exceptionally good in some way? Or is Stuyvesant one of the best simply because the famous school is assigned Gotham's best students?

That basic distinction is very important. It goes unnoticed within the Slough containing our "upper-end press corps!"


  1. "We liberals have treated black kids like toys for the past fifty years."

    Toys? C'mon Bob, don't play stupid. If you don't know that this is a standard tool your tribal bosses use to manipulate voting behavior of ethnic groups ('identities'), then what are you doing writing about politics?

  2. "Since at least the 1960s, pseudo-liberals, black and white alike, have found various ways to pretend that data like those aren't worth talking about."

    Most liberals I know are supporting education issues at the polls while leaving the work of improving schools to professionals (teachers and administrators and education specialists). Those who are parents support their community schools via volunteering and donations and attendance at parent-teach meetings and regular monitoring and advocacy for their children (and others, where necessary). They are generally deeply involved. Those who work several jobs or have little extra money, I'm sure, do what they can to help their kids, but it should be obvious to everyone that they have fewer resources to help schools in general and their kids in particular.

    No one is pretending to care about schools. Neither are they pretending to be experts about how to improve education individually or collectively. This is one of the issues about which liberals and many parents care deeply and tend to be involved.

    So where does Somerby get off claiming that liberals don't care?

    But notice that Somerby is saying that liberals don't want to talk about this data -- he uses that as a proxy for caring. Talking about specialized data used to measure school performance isn't really how anyone needs to demonstrate their support and interest in schools and kids. This is technical stuff. And yes, everyone knows there is a persistent gap. They may not know that it has been closing, but it is hardly news that black kids have more problems in the schools than white kids (or Asian kids).

    Deon Cole did a bit on Conan recently where his refrain was "Know who wasn't surprised to hear people." This is much the same. Somerby's NAEP data doesn't tell anyone on the ground anything they don't already know, especially parents of black kids and especially liberals, and certainly teachers and administrators. While everyone is working to improve education, there is no need to keep throwing this data back in everyone's face, as if black parents were deficient or black kids were stupid, or teachers were complacent or uncaring. That is just insulting to all concerned.

    As Somerby has pointed out, NAEP scores are increasing across all groups over decades. That is because of global changes (improvements) in education occurring nationwide, as the state of the art in teaching, methods and materials, have improved. But kids are now expected to do more advanced work at younger ages. This is possible for most kids because they have exposure to learning opportunities at home and through preschool. But black kids are the group less likely (due to poverty and parental working conditions) to have exposure to such experiences, less likely to attend preschool consistently, less like to have books and literacy help before starting kindergarten. So some are behind before they begin formal schooling. The lack of such skills, foundational to subsequent learning, continue to handicap them as they move through the grades, widening the gap, not closing it. They can and do catch up, if they aren't discouraged, but there are more such kids in black communities than in white ones so there is that persistent gap in the statistics. Because of the nature of learning -- that it occurs rapidly when young and is hard to remediate later -- best efforts with existing resources make it hard to bring the struggling kids up to the level of their peers who had more advantages early on. Somerby should know this, so why is he pretending that this is due to liberal negligence?

    We need to work to reduce poverty and we need to educate parents about how to help their kids prepare for school as toddlers. California does this via its First Five program and other assistance to families. Liberals support this stuff, not conservatives, certainly not Trump, and apparently not Somerby, who never mentions it.

    1. While everyone is working to improve education, there is no need to keep throwing this data back in everyone's face, as if black parents were deficient or black kids were stupid, or teachers were complacent or uncaring.

      There is nothing in TDH’s invective directed at “everyone,” let alone parents and kids of any race. TDH reserves his ire for those engaging in the public discourse in general and politicians and journalists in particular.

      I’ve tried using my drunk driver analogy:

      If you habitually drive drunk, but you say you support the safety of your neighbors, then I don’t believe you.

      But it hasn’t had much effect. How about the following?

      If you’re a member of the KKK, but you say you’re in favor of equality and diversity, then I don’t believe you.

      If you support a policy of separating asylum seekers from their children, but you say you support immigrant rights, then I don’t believe you.

      If you’re an anti-vaxxer, but you say you support scientific medical practice, then I don’t believe you.

      Can you make the jump here to education issues?

    2. deadratApril 6, 2019 at 8:31 PM

      You nail one of the flaws in your thinking, almost epigrammatically.

      It is undemanding to dismiss your analogies:

      A drunk driver may support other safety issues like gun control or more cops etc. Many people have a genetic disposition to alcoholism.

      KKK members may support equal pay and employment for women. Someone may have been raised in a KKK family yet have notions that fall outside of their traditions.

      An anti-vaxxer is likely to desire scientific medical practice if they have cancer.

      People are complicated, there is value in discussions that accommodate these complications. We can even accommodate those just seeking to win points or prop up their egos - although these are the most difficult because it seems like one of their main goals is to stifle discussion.

    3. @3:55A, I'm going to assume your response is a joke, and I'm going to pretend that I think it's clever.

      If you're serious, you may want to seek professional help in case this is symptom of a more serious cognitive deficit.

    4. No joke, clever is a fool's goal. I understand your resistance, it is not easy to face one's own flaws, almost like facing death for some.

    5. Aw, it's my own personal Daily Howler troll. If you're still following my every comment, you may think you're my toughest critic, but, bitch, you're my biggest fan.

      Dance with yourself.

    6. I agree deadrat can not see beyond his own nose, instead of analogies, let's try some hypotheticals.

      Journalism is competent, yet liberal policies do not get passed.

      Journalism is incompetent, yet liberal policies do get passed.

      What does TDH do in those situations? Does TDH's actions in those situations indicate anything about Bob's intentions or goals, or his *gulp* motivations?

    7. Oh, look! My own personal Daily Howler troll has grown a sock puppet.

    8. deadratApril 7, 2019 at 8:10 PM


      I am not your troll, or critic, or follower, or fan. These are strange notions.

      I am just pointing out flaws in your thinking, and you turn into a sputtering lunatic hissing and spitting venom.

      Relax, we are all friends here.

    9. The clue here is "sputtering lunatic hissing and spitting venom." Although I think you mean "spluttering."

      I am relaxed. Too relaxed to dance with a personal troll. And I don't have any friends here because I don't know anyone here. Come to think of it, I don't have friends anywhere else either.

      But the only thing you're pointing out is that you can't stop commenting on what I write. You may think that makes you my toughest critic, but bitch, it really makes you my biggest fan.

      Don't think that I'm not flattered

    10. deadratApril 8, 2019 at 12:00 AM

      Friend, while your adversarial tone persists, I offer love, agape-style. Be well.

  3. If you want a reasonable look at the research and evolving understanding of achievement gaps without the hysterics and finger-pointing:

    What emerges is the tremendous complexity of the problem, and the difficulty of solving it.

    One can hypothesize about causes and solutions, but it is extremely difficult to create controlled experiments involving school students over time that can legitimately be used to prove the hypothesis.

    Somerby is just too invested in attacking liberals or pseudoliberals (or whatever his target is supposed to be) to view the problem calmly or holistically. He makes sweeping statements about these groups (including the NAACP) without providing evidence, and without acknowledging the good work done by these same groups that has led to a large increase in NAEP scores for all students over the past 40 years.

    I continue to believe Somerby could do so much better by switching off his endless outrage mode occasionally and leading his readers to a deeper understanding of the issues. If rank-and-file liberals, as he has claimed, are being kept in the dark by their “thought leaders”, then wouldn’t it be nice if Somerby could play the role of teacher and mentor? He can of course point out the flawed discussions and rail at the pseudoliberals having them, but that is pretty much all he does. (As a side note, why does he never discuss and critique “conservative” ideas and approaches to education? If he truly cared about education and “black kids”, he would have to examine the ideas and narratives on that side as well. )

    It gets tiresome after a while listening to the rants of an old man shaking his fist at the sky, generating far more heat than light.

    1. Thank you for the source.

      Some interesting paragraphs from the Coleman Report (cited above):

      "Where differences among schools serving black and white students did exist — in the availability of resources like science laboratories, advanced curricula, textbooks and qualified teachers — these differences explained little in terms of student achievement, once other factors were taken into account. Instead, it was family background — specifically, parental income and education, wealth, and aspirations for their children — that proved a strong influence on student test scores, along with students’ peers. As Coleman noted midway through the report:

      “One implication stands out above all: That schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school.”

    2. "and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school"

      Exactly. We're all formed by our environment, of which school is but a minor component.

      Or, as a famous man put it, about 150 years ago: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness."

    3. Addressing genetic explanations for the gap between black and white kids upon entering kindergarten:

      "One such explanation is genetic differences among children: a fair portion of intelligence is inherited, and perhaps low-income or minority children were less lucky, in terms of their genetic endowment. Yet rigorous studies of intelligence and genetics discount such a theory, as does evidence from intelligence tests performed with infants.

      Using a dataset that followed a nationally representative sample of children from birth, Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt found in a 2013 study that the average black-white difference in nine-month-olds’ mental functioning — a metric that measures infants’ exploration, expressive babbling, and problem-solving — was about one-tenth the typical differences found by kindergarten. When the authors used statistical techniques to account for differences in family demographics and children’s home environment, the relationship became even smaller; when the authors further accounted for children’s birthweight and prematurity, the direction of the relationship flipped, nominally favoring black children over white students."

  4. I taught statistics in the California University system for 15 years. I had quite a few black students in my classes. Several were the top students in the class. Others did fine. A few had trouble, usually because of insufficient time to do the homework required due to work requirements. None were noticeably different than the white, Asian, Hispanic and other students in my courses. These kids come from a cross-section of California, since the CSU is not an elite institution but is a strong public university system. It is fair to consider these black students typical of many moving on to college from high schools where they were prepared to go on, along with white peers.

    Somerby's exclusive focus on a gifted high school and his insistence that if the mean for black kids is lower than the mean for white kids, there won't be black kids eligible for selective high schools is wrong on the face of it. The mean says nothing about the high end of a distribution. Lots of black kids can do college work at an excellent level. More would be competitive at elite institutions if they were able to participate in high schools such as Stuyvesant. The assumption that no more than 8-9 can do that work is not consistent with my experience with black college students and I doubt it is true in New York either. But routinely screening out such kids using a test that by their own admission doesn't follow NY school curriculum, is unfair and discouraging to talented black kids, whose only fault might be the lack of educational opportunities to acquire more esoteric science knowledge included on a test. They are the ones who should be considered more in need and more capable of benefiting from enriched science education.

    Somerby worked with young kids in a disadvantaged community. But he shouldn't generalize the needs of those kids to all black children. I see the successes in my upper division stats classes, as I'm sure other science teachers do as well. These deserving black kids should get more of a chance to succeed. That's the issue -- not NAEP means.

    1. "I taught statistics in the California University system for 15 years" so I don't necessarily read real good, writes:

      Somerby's exclusive focus on a gifted high school and his insistence that if the mean for black kids is lower than the mean for white kids, there won't be black kids eligible for selective high schools is wrong on the face of it.

      Somerby does not have an exclusive focus but if we were to name one for him we'd go with what's in the banner of his blog, "the mainstream 'press corps' and the american discourse." That's been his focus.

      Believe it or not, Somerby would certainly be aware that the "mean says nothing [dispositive] about the high end of a distribution." Nor would the other related data he's posted in days past say anything dispositive about that range, but that data should be of as much interest to the liberal elite as the number of black students who have been accepted for admission to Stuyvesant in the coming year. Those other data sets have included these:

      Percentage achieving proficiency, annual New York State math exam
      Grade 8, New York City Public Schools, 2018
      Asian-American students: 72%
      White students: 64%
      Black students: 25%

      Percentage of students from low-income families, Grade 8 math
      New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
      White students: 38%
      Black students: 72%
      Hispanic students: 78%
      Asian-American students: 70%

      90th percentile scores, Grade 8 math
      New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
      Black students: 299.75
      Asian-American students: 355.63

      Percentage scoring at Advanced level, Grade 8 math
      New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
      Asian-American students: 27.3%
      White students: 13.2%
      Black students: 0.9%
      Hispanic students: 2.1%

      The assumption that no more than 8-9 can do that work is not consistent with my experience with black college students and I doubt it is true in New York either.

      Somerby does not assume that there are "no more than 8-9" black NYC public school students who "can do [the] work" at Stuyvesant. What I would guess Somerby assumes is that no more than nine black students [actually seven black students LINK] got better scores on the admissions test for the incoming year at Stuyvesant than the 888 non-black students who have been accepted.

    2. I’m suspicious of the claim that the SHSAT doesn’t “follow” the NY curriculum. It is true that the test has been revised recently with the stated goal of making it more compatible with that curriculum, but I’d like to understand how at odds the test is with what is taught.

      For instance, geometry is the second math course NY students have to take in high school. The department of education says that students must “develop an understanding of the attributes and relationships of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes that can be applied in diverse contexts.”

      I looked at one of the past SHSAT tests online and found the following problem. Given a square pyramid with base 8 inches on a side and a 6-inch perpendicular from the apex to one of the sides of the base, what is the surface area of the pyramid excluding the base? (There’s a diagram that I can’t reproduce here.)

      How is this not consistent with the math curriculum in NY public schools?

      Now, that’s only one problem and it’s in the math section. Perhaps the English-language section was way out of line.

    3. Cmike: “What I would guess Somerby assumes”

      Wouldn’t it be nice if Somerby made it clear so that you wouldn’t need to assume? You sound just like him with all those weasel words.

      And there’s this saying about what happens when you assume...

    4. Deadrat, you cannot tell by looking at the test what parts of it were actually covered during class in the various high schools across NYC. If the test was created without reference to NYCs specific curriculum, that is a problem because kids may never have had the chance to encounter some of the content. If teachers in NYC were not held accountable for teaching curriculum content, that is a different kind of problem because kids would also not have been exposed to the material tested. If some kids had special teaching or different kinds of educational experiences that brought them into contact with material that other kids were not taught, then that is an unfairness of a different type. You cannot be the arbiter of any of that if you are only looking at the test itself and reminiscing about your own high school experiences.

    5. I’m beginning to think there should be an admissions test for this commentariat. In two parts: one in reading comprehension and the other in argumentation.

      First of all, opponents of the test make a much lesser charge than that the test was created “without reference to NYC’s specific curriculum.” (In fact, I believe that the required curriculum is not NYC’s but NY State’s.) What they do claim is that the test does not “follow” the curriculum, although I have never read to what extent this failure obtains.

      I’m not even making a counterclaim. That’s because those making the claim bear the burdens of production and proof. All I’m saying is that I’m suspicious that the SHSAT fails to comport with the NY curriculum. My suspicion is not allayed by finding a geometry question on an SHSAT that is clearly contemplated by the published state curriculum in the subject.

      It is of course possible that teachers in NYC are not held accountable for teaching to the curriculum and that those teachers thereby simply failed to teach the subject matter they were mandated to teach. But note that this is not the claim of test opponents. They say the test does not follow the curriculum. Thus even if teachers were doing their jobs, the students would be unfamiliar with the contents of the test.

      It is of course possible that some kids had “special experiences” that other kids didn’t. This is part of the “test prep” charge. But neither is this the test opponent’s complaint, which, again, is that test doesn’t comport with the curriculum. If it did, then presumably, test prep wouldn’t be as effective.

      Nothing I wrote can be construed by a reasonable person as claiming arbitership of the test’s fairness. Or that I was reminiscing about my own high-school experiences, references to which ancient subject I make no mention. And for good reason. Euclid had retired only a few years before I took high-school geometry.

    6. The focus on gifted (or special in NYC parlance) arises from the focus of current discussion by city officials and journalists. And TDH’s “insistence” isn’t limited to mean scores.

      From a TDH blog entry on 4/419:

      Percentage scoring at Advanced level, Grade 8 math
      New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
          Black students: 0.9%
          Asian-American students: 27.3%
      90th percentile scores, Grade 8 math
      New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
          Black students: 299.75
          Asian-American students: 355.63

      Applying a standard through [sic, for though] very rough rule of thumb, the 90th percentile Asian kid scored more than five years ahead of the average black kid on that most recent Naep testing!
      (Emphasis in the original)

      By applying my non-standard and very rough rule of thumb, if NYC educators reserved places at Stuyvesant for every black student scoring at the advanced level of Grade 8 math, they still wouldn’t be able to fill the 3,300 seats available. This is more than a problem of making judgments on mean scores.

    7. SHSAT is administered to 8th and 9th graders in NYC.

      "geometry is the second math course NY students have to take in high school"

      So would that not be 10th grade?

      "How is this not consistent with the math curriculum in NY public schools?"

    8. Studies show that students that take advanced classes in high school do no better in college than kids that do not take advanced classes.

      No matter how much a kid might want to impress (these kids tend to go into things like marketing and finance), it is usually not a good idea to encourage them to attempt things before they are ready.

      No wine before it's time

      World is not going anywhere (although we have spoiled the nest) and the Tracy Flick students at the specialized schools in NYC are not saving us, indeed often just the opposite.

    9. @4:07A, Good catch. Indeed, some time spent with the google informs me that the high-school geometry course is taught in the sophomore year (10th grade) in NY, which would be after the SHSAT is given. It's my error to quote the course sequence.

      You can find the NY state standards by grade at, and those standards for the 8th grade include sufficient geometry to solve the problem I found.

      Perhaps you've found the origin of the charge of "not following the curriculum." Indeed the taking of SHSAT precedes the taking of a course called Geometry, but not before studying geometric concepts.

      Perhaps a non-geometric example is in order:

      If 3n is a positive even number, how many odd numbers are in the range 3n to 3n+5, inclusive.

      Surely anyone passing Algebra I, given in the freshman year, could answer that question.

      Thanks for the correction.

    10. Anon @4:35

      The advantages to taking AP classes in high school are that (1) college credit is often given for them, which means the kid can skip those classes at the college level, which helps them graduate faster and saves parents the tuition money for those courses; (2) they gain academic self-confidence which helps them set higher goals for themselves and aim higher by pursuing advanced education and more ambitious careers; (3) they tend to be surrounded by peers who are actively interested in those subjects instead of just taking something required, which helps them sustain their own enthusiasm and find like-minded friends, which is important to making it through a rigorous course of study.

      Not all benefits have to be academic.

    11. I could not find at 8th grade math standards that would necessarily indicate solving the surface area of a pyramid problem as presented, although my indolence is infamous. The other problem is simply knowing the difference between odd and even numbers, but presented in a way where it appears more difficult. It's fun to toy with youthful minds, yay!

      A student taught to those standards could extrapolate to solve such problems.

      I do not know if SHSAT is beyond the curriculum broadly speaking.

    12. Anon @11:52

      I disagree. (1) they should not be skipping those classes in college, which is when they are ready for them and will learn the material in greater depth. (2) if they gain anything it is an inflated sense of themselves and their knowledge, society does not need more super ambitious people aiming higher than their abilities. (3) we all need our bubbles, but to what end do they serve us, usually nothing good.

      Not only are the academic benefits superficial at best, but society pays a price for encouraging such heroes with empty goals.

    13. @6:02,

      Neither could I find in the 8th-grade standards the area formulas necessary to solve the pyramid problem, but they do mandate learning how to find the volumes of 3-D solid figures. Go figure, so to speak.

      I’ve only looked at several problems in the math section of a sample SHSAT test, but I’m going to venture a guess as to why the SHSAT has a reputation of difficulty: the questions are devised to so that the test takers must recognize how to apply familiar lessons to questions phrased in unfamiliar ways and with little time for contemplation.

      I’d expect a ninth-grader would have been taught the area formula for a triangle: one half the base times the height. In the pyramid problem, the student has to realize that the figure is a right pyramid (i.e., the apex is directly over the center of the base). The question doesn’t specify, but if that weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be sufficient information to find the answer. Armed with that inference, the student has to realize that each side of the base forms the base of one of four congruent isosceles-triangular sides and that the slant-height (length of the perpendicular from apex to base) is the height of each of those triangles. The base length and the slant height are given, so the answer is four times the directly-computable area of each side.

      This is considerably more difficult than a question that asks, “If a triangle has base 8 inches long and altitude 6 inches, what’s the area of four of these triangles?”

      The quickest way to solve the odd/even problem is to exploit the translational symmetry of the number line to realize that the value of n in 3*n doesn’t matter as long as n is even, so pick n=2. That makes 3n=6 and 3n+5=11. Now counting odd numbers is quick and easy: seven (one), nine (two), eleven (three).

      Now, I don’t mind tormenting youthful minds. It serves the little bastards right for trampling my lawn. The bias in this test (or at least in the math section) is in favor of puzzle solvers and against deliberate thinkers. If you can’t quickly find the tricks (or keys, if you prefer), then you’re not going to Stuyvesant. This strikes me as a better argument against the test than relying on the sly semantics of the term follows.

      My assessment of the test construction is only a guess, and I remain agnostic though still suspicious about the claim the test doesn’t follow classroom teaching.

    14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. @1:15 no doubt there are black kids who could handle the work at Stuyvesant but who didn't get in. There are also white and Asian kids who could handle the work and didn't get in. What should be done about this? Should lower scoring black kids replace higher scoring black kids? Should lower scoring white kids replace higher scoring Asian kids? Should lower scoring Asian kids replace higher scoring black kids? These are obviously ridiculous. And IMHO it's also ridiculous for lower scoring black kids to replace higher scoring Asian and white kids, simply because of skin color.

    As Bob pointed out, if there really are a lot more kids who can work at an advanced level, a better solution is to establish more special schools. Or just offer more advanced classes at regular high schools.

    1. David, in that kind of situation, many schools use a lottery system to allocate places.

      No test exactly measures kids well enough to say that one high scoring kids is better than another in any absolute sense. Further, the scores say nothing about how much the kids might benefit, their motivation and interests, or whether they might need the school and do better there. That's why good gifted programs consider many things in deciding who to admit, not solely test scores. It is bad practice to use only test scores like this, which supports the idea that their purpose is mainly exclusion.

      You want to say that racial balance is not an appropriate educational goal, but that is a different argument, one that has gone through the courts supported by testimony from academic studies, and been shown to be a valid concern, especially given that schools educate children to live in a society and cooperate with others, not just learn science facts. Diversity matters in a diverse society. Someone who cannot interact appropriate with people from a wide variety of backgrounds will be handicapped. Trump's supporters are demonstrating that now.

      Somerby has stated previously that he thinks it is ridiculous to call for more AP classes (for example) at high schools where most kids are not prepared for them. The point of a magnet school such as Stuyvesant is to aggregate kids who are rare in their own schools in one spot where their needs can be better met. There is no reason beyond money why that school cannot be expanded to include the kids who just missed whatever cut was established. The cut is to select a specified number of kids, not to identify who might do well in the school.

      What happens when you include kids in a gifted class who do not have the needed level of ability is that they are uninterested in the work, unhappy with their peers, and want to return to their regular classes. If you put a kid in the class and they thrive, you know the placement is right. If they struggle but are motivated and happy in the class, it is right too. If they don't want to do the work and don't like the material or the other kids, it is wrong. This is very obvious. So borderline kids are as big an issue as Somerby or anyone else wants to make this. It is about logistics, resources, not needs of kids.

      Why are kids aiming for such schools if they aren't interested in the work? Because their parents want them to attend, because it is a gateway to elite universities that their parents consider necessary for a good career and success in life. Asian and white parents are more likely to push their kids in that direction from toddler years, whereas black parents and Hispanic parents may be less likely to see that path and the connection between going to an elite high school and getting into an elite university. If they prepare for the high school test later, they won't be as prepared. Plus the kids may not care about the school and may not be as willing or motivated to do well on the test as their peers who have bought into their parents ambitions for them.

      When this is about status instead of about the learning, the test cutoffs are about maintaining eliteness and status of the school and not about giving kids opportunities. That makes it doubling unfair to the kids who are defined as undesirable and much harder for kids who do care about science to find their best learning environment.

      Having kids (not their parents) prepare a science fair project and evaluating those for admission might be a more fair test than this pencil-and-paper exercise. Teaching recommendations should count for something. Interviews would be helpful. And so on. If they really cared about finding the right kids instead of helping those already advantaged get into Harvard.

    2. ..a better solution is to establish more special schools.

      If David had some ham he would make ham and eggs.....if he had some eggs.

  6. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, @2:10. I agree with most of what you wrote. One point that I do not fully buy is that "diversity" = "racial diversity". That presumes that a person's race is his or her most significant characteristic.

    I have 3 half-black cousins who attended top colleges: McAlester, Yale and Princeton. They would have counted as "black". However, they were upper middle class kids with highly educated parents. I have read elsewhere that this is typical of the black kids accepted at top colleges. They're not poor inner city, by and large. They're from reasonably well to do families with backgrounds similar to their classmates. I have not seen data one way or the other about black kids accepted to NYC special high schools, but I suspect a similar pattern probably holds.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. In my opinion, DinC should nest his replies to comments. At 2:41 PM I covered the same point David had made at 1:51 PM in response to 1:15 PM because I did not realize there all ready was a reply to a particular point 1:15 PM had made when I first read their comment. Here DinC is formatting his reply in the same non-optimal way again.

      His point here is a good one, though. If we want to go the diversity route, why isn't socio-economic background the one we should be most concerned with? Why race instead of class? What's so important about diversifying the elite as opposed to the general population- why would that be the priority? Why isn't eradicating poverty the first order of business for social justice?

      As for blacks specifically, there now seems to be the claim from some quarters that the advantages of diversity programs are being realized disproportionately by the descendants of late arriving black immigrants (e.g. Colin Powell, Barack Obama, Joy Reid) and not the descendants of Americans who were slaves. In the matter of consciousness raising we wouldn't want to be using "they all look alike" as the filter, would we?

    3. Regardless of the origins of the black person and his or her relative disadvantages, all black people experience bias and discrimination because of their appearance. They will be judged and treated differently, not by all people but by enough to constitute a disadvantage in itself. No matter how fortunate a person might be in their life circumstances, a black person cannot change the fact that they are black and that still matters to enough people they will encounter to result in mistreatment at unexpected times. That is a disability because of the burden or unexpected obstacles and social mistreatment based on skin color that means a person can never fully relax about themselves and their abilities. White people don't carry that around with them.

      So it isn't just about economics and won't be as long as there are people out there who place a negative stigma on people with darker skin.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Sorry about failing to nest, CMike. I will be more careful.

  7. The discussion is always focused on the “liberal elite.” Where is the discussion of the “conservative elite?” After all, Conservatives run lots of school districts these days. Do they not count?

    1. The short answer is that the blogger doesn’t want to talk about the conservative elite. It’s his blog, so it’s his rules.

      There are good reasons not to expand the discussion to include conservatives. First, there are plenty of parts of the intertubuery that already do this. Secondly, there’s really nothing to discuss with conservatives: they hate public education. It’s socialism, dontchaknow. The Department of Education was one of the agencies that Rick Perry could remember that he wanted to abolish in his famous “Oops!” moment. People remember that Sam Brownback tried to abolish taxes for rich people in Kansas, but his other memorable contribution to Kansas politics was his war with the Kansas judiciary in general and the Kansas Supreme Court in particular, mostly over funding Kansas public schools. At one point Brownback and his legislative allies threatened to defund the judiciary entirely. When Brownback caved and supported the court-mandated funding increase for public schools, those allies lost their collective shit.

      Conservatives are privatizing grifters like Betsy DeVos, religious nut cases who want the Bible taught as fact with public money, and other anti-science ideologues. Liberals at least claim to support public education.

    2. 6:45 PM,

      The go-to liberal argument shouldn't keep ending up being, "We're the lesser evil."

    3. CMikeApril 6, 2019 at 8:34 PM

      Actually that's a reasonably understandable response to your approach of the issues. You want better responses, make better comments.

    4. deadrat - you denigrate conservative attitudes to education. However, Democrats have nothing to boast about. They tend to give teachers' unions whatever they want, even though that means keeping poor black kids trapped in failing schools.

    5. Poverty traps poor black kids, not teachers' unions.

    6. CMike - whatever it is that causes sh*tty schools, kids in such schools should have an alternative.

    7. David in Cal is that because then you think the magic will happen, namely boot-strap grabbing followed by levitation?

    8. Cmike,

      Let me suggest that you stop wasting your time responding to that moral and intellectual idiot, David in Cal. Do you think that someone who’s incapable of thinking beyond “Democrats give in to teachers unions” will be convinced by say, rubbing his nose in recent events in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and West Virginia?

      Be content that all he’s got is whataboutery, a tacit admission that conservatives are indeed grifters, religious nut cases, and anti-science ideologues.

    9. CMike - My older daughter was in a bad school situation in 4th grade. We moved her to a private school for 3 years. That move was a lifesaver for her. Every parent who has a child in such a situation deserves to have an alternative.

    10. DinC- I'd be curious about what constituted that bad school situation. If you had the means to send her to private school (I'm assuming it was not a subsidized parochial school) that suggests your older daughter was living in an affluent household. You're a CPA, you have a four year degree, and I'm under the impression your wife, to whom you're still married, also went to college.

      Therefore, there's a lot to suggest that your older daughter lived in a socio-economic environment that was both stable and comfortable. In short, your older daughter had a lot of advantages in place for her to be successful academically, advantages which "poor black kids" don't have.

      A better school might have been the final resource your daughter needed to thrive, though, again, I don't know what exactly the short comings of the public school she was going to were.

    11. CMike - I do not want to discuss my daughter's personal situation. However, you are correct about our financial situation. My wife and I were strong believers in public schools. We chose to live in Berkeley, CA because of the reputation of its schools. It was a wrenching decision to move our daughter to a private school. Fortunately, it turned out very well for her. We moved her back to public schools after three years.

      It's not always the overall quality of the school that matters. Sometimes a problem involves a particular student in a particular situation. In those cases, it can be a Godsend to have an alternative.

  8. Somerby’s motto:
    ‘musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the american discourse’

    Apparently the New York Times is practically the sole media outlet in the thing known as “mainstream media”. As far as American discourse, apparently there is no discourse about education or achievement gaps going on in America outside of the New York Times.

    1. I doubt Somerby thinks "the New York Times is practically the sole media outlet in the thing known as 'mainstream media.'" That said: LINK

    2. Fuck you retard.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. "For reasons he hasn't yet explained, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who faced criticisms in his 2016 campaign for his reluctance to release his tax returns, still seems hesitant on the issue. The Vermont senator told CNN yesterday that the materials would be released "soon." Pressed for some kind of details, he replied, "That's it. Thank you very much."

  11. From

    "Why does the coverage of Herman Cain's apparent nomination to the Fed focus on the sexual harassment allegations without mentioning that he is completely unqualified for the job. Don't get me wrong, the sexual harassment stuff is really serious and it is what derailed his 2012 presidential campaign, so it makes sense to cover that. But even if Cain had no such allegations in his record he would be a remarkably terrible choice for the Fed because he isn't an economist and he doesn't seem to have a clue about monetary policy, or any policy at all."

    1. Alan Greenspan was for two decades what passed for a central banker par excellence, a man with all the credentials the pre-Trump show used to require. In the end his formula was a simple one, to use a lot of verbiage to justify setting interest rates high enough to prevent wages from rising at more than a fraction of economy's growth rate and, otherwise, to deregulate the FIRE sector of the economy where he had the authority to do so and to ignore financial bubbles.

      Additionally, he was ever ready to threaten to bring on a recession and electoral ruin by raising interest rates when any Democratic presidential administration was suspected of wanting to follow through on any campaign promises to increase government spending on the 99%. Rounding out the job, Greenspan saw to it all the Fed's research money went to finance staff positions and grants for a small army of neo-liberal economists.

      I'm sure with a cheat sheet the size of a 3X5 index card in his wallet even Herman Cain will be able to keep these conservative mandates straight for whatever pro forma functions he would need to perform as a board member. Whether Cain or some PhD with honorary degrees from George Mason, Chicago, and Liberty University gets the seat, it's not going to make a bit of difference in the real world- we'll get the same results, though with Cain the Sunday shows will be more fun.

    2. @12:35 - I agree with you. Moore is questionable, but at least he knows a lot about economics. Herman Cain is a ridiculous choice for Federal Reserve.

      Over the last 30+ years, the Fed has done a magnificent job of keeping inflation in check. I hope that will continue.

    3. Moore, like many Conservatives, is tough to nail down. Who knows if he's a moron who knows nothing about economics, or if he just play acts as a moron who knows nothing about economics in his public life?

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