The New York Times published a novel: Kevin Drum wrote a sensible post in the wake of the Stuyvesant uproar.
It happens every spring! Only a handful of black kids had been admitted to Gotham's most "elite" public high school. In response to the annual uproar, Drum offered several sensible points.
First, he said progressives "are ill-served by the continuing notion that every standardized test ever invented is racially biased in a massive way." A larger point, one which was implied by this statement, was directly stated in Drum's headline:
The Black-White Testing Gap Is Real, and It’s a DisgraceThe nation's achievement gaps are real! So Drum said this day. He also said that we pseudo-progressives should stop pretending they aren't.
Drum's second basic point this day was even gloomier. He said he didn't know what to do about those achievement gaps. Indeed, he almost seemed to say that no one else seems to know what to do either:
DRUM (3/22/19): These gaps are real effects of education, not just an artifact of test-taking, and the fact that the gaps increase over time is good evidence that much of the fault lies with our schools and the communities they serve. We miss this if we insist that standardized tests are useless. After all, if there’s no “real” gap at all, then our schools must be doing fine.Oof! Drum said that he himself is "no expert in how to close this gap." He seemed to say that "many dozens of serious efforts" at closing those gaps have tended to fail.
I’m no expert in how to close this gap, though I can say that there have been many dozens of serious efforts—some aimed specifically at schools, others aimed at parents and communities—and virtually all of them have failed. In any case, we shouldn’t pretend there’s nothing here except a bunch of racist test constructors.
Drum said those gaps reflect actual failures, not simple artifacts of test construction or test-taking techniques. He said that "much of the fault lies with our schools." He also said that much of the fault "lies with the communities [our schools] serve." At one juncture, he even seemed to suggest that some of the "fault" may lie with children's parents.
Is Drum allowed to say such things in this dumbest of all possible worlds? We have no idea, but of one thing we can be sure:
Such comments will produce no discussion—none at all—within the liberal world.
Alas! Our massively self-impressed liberal world has long been one of the "communities" which fails to address that "national disgrace." That's due to our massive lack of interest in the lives and the interests of black kids.
Then too, we have the New York Times, which responded in the time-honored way to the Stuyvesant uproar, then behaved in a similar way on last Saturday morning's front page.
With respect to Stuyvesant, the Times responded with an ugly and stupid propaganda campaign designed to suggest that the achievement gaps in New York City actually aren't real.
It's all a matter of "test prep," this dumbest of all Hamptons-based newspapers said. Test prep, and the fiendish amounts of money spent on same by Those People, Gotham's devious Asians.
In weeks of insulting, ridiculous work, the Times used "test prep" as the way to prove that those very large achievement gaps aren't real. Last Saturday, the Times swing into action again, this time with a lengthy, front-page version of a favorite press corps novel.
The press has been pimping this heart-warming novel for at least the past fifty years. Though the novel can take on many forms, they all share a Platonic form. The name of this brain-dead novel is simple:
The Little School System That CouldThe upper-end, liberal world has been typing this heart-warming novel at least since 1967. In that year, Herbert Kohl published his high-profile memoir, 36 Children, in which a nice guy shows up in a sixth-grade classroom in Harlem and the kids start writing novels.
However these pleasing tales may be intended, they promote an obvious fiction. They seem to say that those apparent achievement gaps really aren't real—that the gaps can quickly be erased by a nice guy who doesn't hate the kids, or by a hard-charging principal with some magic solution.
Subliminally, these stories tell liberals that we can go back to sleep when it comes to the interests of black kids. There's nothing to look at! Keep moving along! Or so we liberals are told.
There is no serious problem here—or so we progressives are told. We can go back to our slumbers at Slate, where we amuse and thrill ourselves through gong-show headlines like these:
HOW TO DO ITSo it increasingly goes at Slate as the site tries to capture our eyeballs! As we type this report, those are the headlines on the featured, top of the front page report at that increasingly dumbed-down site.
My Sexually Generous Boyfriend Won't Even Kiss Me During My Period
Is this a deal breaker?
Is it all anthropology now? If so, such presentations might help us liberals see how dumb we actually tend to be. Such presentations might help us see what kinds of topics we actually care about.
Of one thing we can be sure—we don't seem to care a whole lot about the interests of black kids. That basic fact comes through loud and clear in last Saturday's front-page report in the New York Times.
The lengthy report concerns a brand-new school in Akron, Ohio—a school which is being substantially funded, directed and supported by NBA star LeBron James.
The school has been designed to address the needs of some of Akron's lower-performing grade school kids—though it apparently doesn't enroll Akron's "lowest performers," who were apparently excluded from the lottery from which the school's students were chosen.
The school may turn out to be a success, but it's still in its first year. At this point, there's nothing substantial to suggest that the school has been an instant success, nor would any sane person think that any such evidence would or should exist at this early juncture.
The school has been open less than a year! Its students haven't even taken their first set of annual statewide tests.
Only a fool would think it made sense to evaluate this school at this point. Needless to say, in stepped the Times, with a heart-warming, pointless old novel.
In last Saturday's presentation, we were told that the school's third graders have made it all the way to the ninth percentile nationally on a somewhat obscure reading test.
(Presumably, that means that the school scored in the ninth percentile as compared to other schools, not that the school's average student scored in the ninth percentile as compared to other students.)
As a further example of this new school's success, we were told that one particular fourth grade girl has boosted her attendance record to a point where she'll only miss 36 days of school this year—a figure which means that her rate of absenteeism is double the rate the state of Ohio regards as "chronic absenteeism."
(And yes, that's treated as a success! It's the heart-warming, unexplained anecdote with which the Times report ends.)
A long line of functionaries at the school are quoted by the Times as they shower themselves with praise. Such statements have long been a staple when newspapers insult their readers' intelligence by retyping this favorite old novel.
In a stunning insult to black kids, these ridiculous markers are treated as signs of this school's early success. The New York Times is our dumbest newspaper, but it also seems to be the least caring—and we liberals seem to love the silly old novels it types.
The Little School System That Could has been a favorite press corps novel for perhaps fifty years. We'll discuss its history, its effects, and its blinding stupidity during the rest of the week.
The school in Akron has been open less than a year! No serious person would think it makes sense to evaluate the school at this time. That said, the school involves a famous celebrity—and the school could be used to retell a favorite old story.
Anthropologically speaking, that familiar old story has long been a tale our liberal tribe—we "rational animals"—very much seem to enjoy.
Tomorrow: The rise of this particular novel