SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: In our tribe, we love that claim!


But where does the murky claim come from:
In our tribe, we love to make that claim!

As if to prove our infallible point, Eric Levitz made the claim just yesterday. He did so at the start of a somewhat peculiar essay for New York magazine:
LEVITZ (8/30/19): New York City’s public school system is among the most racially segregated in America. It is also one of the few school systems that uses standardized tests to sort incoming kindergarteners into separate “gifted” and non-gifted educational tracks.
By paragraph 3, the youngish scribe was linking us to videotape of George Wallace declaring, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!" Trust us:

Wallace wasn't endorsing unbalanced enrollment in gifted and talented programs. But so it goes as tribal devotion to yesterday's history spreads.

At any rate, consider that initial claim. "New York City’s public school system is among the most racially segregated in America!"

Our team loves that claim! On the down side, it isn't real clear what that claim even means, and standards tend to disappear when we attempt to source it.

In Levitz's case, he sourced the claim to this report by a New York City TV station. In fact, the body of the lengthy report makes no such claim as the one Levitz states. But for some reason which goes unexplained, its headline announces this:
NYC has the country’s most segregated schools; will the city’s plan to change that make its best schools worse?
We don't know what the first part of that headline actually means. That said, its fiery claim goes beyond the weaker claim Levitz sources to it.

Do you see what can happen when tribal members start reciting sacred litany? Standards of sourcing go down the drain. And adepts don't even feel the need to explain what the sacred claim means.

That said, is it true? Is Gotham's giant public school system one of the most "segregated" in the country? Indeed, do we even know what that claim means?

Given the fact that it thrills us deeply, can you explain what the claim actually means? Could you describe the type of data on which the claim is based?

Almost surely, the answer is no, but we know that the claim must be true. We know this because the claim keeps appearing in front-page reports in the New York Times. Eliza Shapiro repeated it for the ten millionth time one week ago today:
SHAPIRO (8/24/19): New York is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country. Black and Hispanic students make up 70 percent of the system, and white and Asian students represent about 15 percent each. About three-quarters of students are low income, and roughly half the city’s schools are more than 90 percent black or Hispanic.
"New York [City] is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country." Shapiro repeats this claim all the time. But how can we know if this statement is true? And what does the claim even mean?

To answer your question, we decided to start clicking Shapiro's links. After an extended search, we were able to find the source of the Nile—the original source of her claim.

Along the way, we were forced to observe the slipshod behavior which characterizes modern tribal elites, on both the journalistic and the academic sides. That said, we still aren't entirely sure what the claim really means, or if the claim is justified or reasonably close to correct.

At any rate, let's get started! Our journey will take us through four or five links until we reach the tribal headwaters for this treasured claim.

The most recent source of the claim:

Most recently, Shapiro repeated this familiar claim in an on-line report with Vivian Wang earlier this week. Here's what the journalists wrote:
WANG AND SHAPIRO (8/27/19): For years, lawmakers in deeply blue, proudly progressive New York City have grappled with a seemingly intractable problem: Its schools are among the most segregated in the nation.
Gotham's school "are among the most segregated in the nation," the scribes wrote. This was a slightly fuzzier version of Shapiro's statement from last Saturday's front page (see above).

Last Saturday, Shapiro provided no source for her claim. On Tuesday, a link was provided. Without fear or favor, we clicked.

Second source of the claim:

Tuesday's link took us to an earlier news report—to an earlier news report by Shapiro herself!

That's right! In sourcing Tuesday's claim, Shapiro merely linked to herself back in March. Here's what she wrote at that time:
SHAPIRO (3/27/19): New York City is starkly different today than it was 50 years ago. It is politically more liberal, and far more racially diverse. Yet one aspect has barely changed: The city’s public schools remain among the most segregated in the nation.
Again, that's a slightly fuzzier version of the slightly more explicit claim. But what did Shapiro mean by that claim, and how could we know it was accurate?

At that time, Shapiro provided a link. Hungry for learning, we clicked.

Third (alleged) source of the claim:

The link Shapiro provided in March took us to academia. More precisely, it took us to this 2014 press release, issued in the name of UCLA's Civil Rights Project.

Uh-oh! Nothing in that press release says a single word about the extent of "segregation" in New York City's schools as compared to other school systems. The press release does describe a fiery report about segregation, but the fiery report in question was focused on New York State.

In that sense, the link Shapiro provided in March was a technical dead-end. On the surface, it didn't prove a source for the widely-repeated claim that New York City "is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country."

For most readers, the search for knowledge would have ended there. That said, we're familiar with that UCLA report, and so we clicked ahead, two more times, to access its full text.

This took us to our fourth source. Inside that UCLA report, this pleasing claim appears right at the start of the Executive Summary:
UCLA REPORT (3/26/14): Executive Summary

New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.
We're now reviewing the work of two major progressive scholars. As a general matter, we'll say this:

Sad! Also, don't let the children know about what follows.

For starters, Professors Kucsera and Orfield were talking about New York State in that opening sentence, although they were too careless to make that explicitly clear. Perhaps for that reason, many tribals have seemed to believe, to this very day, that their report said that New York City "has the most segregated schools in the country."

Their report made no such claim. For whatever it may be worth, we'll also note that the data reviewed in the UCLA report are now ten years old. Those data can only hint at the degree of "segregation" found in various schools and school systems today.

As you can see, the professors did say, though only in fleeting fashion, that New York City was "home to one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation." But here's where things get really sad.

The professors make no attempt to explain or demonstrate the truth of this claim at any point in their report. Instead, they provided a footnote in the executive summary, thereby providing a source for their claim.

Refusing to submit to exhaustion, we followed that link. It took us to our fourth source.

Fourth source for the claim:

How did the professors know that New York City was "home to one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation?" And what did they actually mean by this claim?

In all honesty, there's no sign that they actually did know any such thing. Their footnote led to an extremely murky graphic in—you guessed it!—the New York Times.

The graphic they cited appeared in the Times on May 11, 2012. It appeared beneath this headline:
New York City’s public schools are among the most segregated in the country.
There it was! The widely repeated claim!

The graphic seems to compare the degree of "segregation" in the public schools of thirteen U.S. cities. They seem to have been the thirteen biggest U.S. cities at the time of the 2010 census, although the Times didn't explain the basis on which the cities were chosen.

According to the graphic, New York City's schools were less "segregated" than those in Chicago and Dallas. On the other hand, they were more "segregated" than those in the other ten locales. In fairness, the degree of "segregation" in Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles seemed to come fairly close to that found in New York.

In that sense, Gotham's system was the third most "segregated" out of thirteen, though it came fairly close to ranking only sixth. But in what did this "segregation" consist? What did that fiery claim mean?

By way of explanation, the Times provided only what's shown below. We'll try to explain what this means:
"Percentage of students that would have to move to achieve integration among blacks and whites in the largest U.S. cities, 2009-10."
That's all the grey lady wrote! Though few Times readers would have had any way to know what that meant, we'll guess it meant something like this:

Suppose you wanted the racial enrollment in every single school to match the racial enrollment of your school system as a whole. That would be a highly artificial goal, but suppose you wanted to do it.

How many kids would have to change schools to achieve that state of Nirvana? According to the graphic in the Times, New York City's number was something like 78%. Philadelphia, Houston and L.A. seemed to be right at 70%.

Is that what the graphic's claim actually meant? We can't say we're totally sure. Also, please note this:

The graphic only claims to involve black and white kids. This could completely skew results, given Gotham's large enrollment of Hispanics and Asians.

Meanwhile, were the Times' findings actually accurate? Who knows! The Times provided no source for the findings it was presenting in this murky fashion.

Had the Times done the research itself? Had the research come from some other source? We can't exactly tell you that and, judging from appearances, neither could the two professors, who seem to have passed on a claim for which they couldn't vouch.

In our view, it's amazing to think that Kucsera and Orfield would make a claim of that type based on a single unsourced graphic in a newspaper like the Times. But remember, these guys are so far gone that, according to their published definitions, the hypothetical school shown below is a "segregated school:"
Student enrollment, Public School A
White kids: 45%
Black kids: 20%
Hispanic kids: 20%
Asian-American kids: 15%
We'd call that school "paradise." But according to Kucsera and Orfield, a public school with that enrollment is—what else?—"segregated!"

(According to the professors, that school doesn't have enough white kids! We've explained this tribal lunacy in the recent past.)

Could Gotham do a better job spreading its white kids around? Presumably, yes, it could, though residential patterns may differ greatly in those thirteen systems. (Or not.)

That said, you also have all these other school systems. How much "integration" can we achieve in these systems, and in so many others like them?
"White" enrollment, U.S. public school systems
Los Angeles: 9%
Chicago: 9%
Miami/Dade County: 6.7%
Dallas: 5.1%
Houston: 8.9%
San Antonio: 2%

Detroit: 2%
Memphis: 7%
Birmingham: 1%
Jackson: 1%
New Orleans: 9%

Laredo: 0%
Brownsville: 1%

Camden, N.J.: 1%
Gary, Ind.: 1%
East St. Louis, Mo. 0%
Compton, Calif.: 0%
Are Gotham's school less "integrated" than Detroit's? How about San Antonio's? Compare, contrast and discuss. Try to stay in touch with the real world.

We've been promoting a "search for tomorrow" all week at this site. Next week, and also in future years, good, decent black and Hispanic kids are going to be going to school in school systems, schools and classrooms which are heavily black and Hispanic.

No furious link to Governor Wallace will change that.

Within our floundering liberal tribe, we're now focused on moving handfuls of white kids around instead of addressing the real-world, public school needs of those black and Hispanic kids.

We also spend a lot of time pretending that the achievement gaps which damage their interests don't really exist. We've been throwing black kids under the bus in precisely this way for at least fifty years.

The tribal behavior seems massively self-involved. We like to talk about 1619. It makes us feel tribally pure.

At any rate, we've offered you the original source of Shapiro's familiar claim. Based on data from 2009, New York City's public schools were said to be third most "segregated" out of thirteen, though there wasn't a huge amount of difference between third worst and sixth.

This was based on a somewhat exotic definition of "segregation." Hispanic kids weren't part of the mix. The research was apparently done by the New York Times.

The research is now ten years out of date. Even now, do you understand how that research actually worked? Or is that claim possibly part of a novel, a novel we like to recite?

Coming: More to come

Gail Collins, um, is concerned about Trump!


To our most recent coy journalist:
Did somebody think that there actually was a "gay gene?" The New York Times, in a front-page report, informs us today that there isn't.

Also this:

An inspector general's report is only as good as the judgment of the particular inspector general in question. There is no final, definitive judgment on the conduct of any public official. Inspector generals are significant players, but they aren't the oracle at Delphi. They aren't even philosopher-kings!

That said, it's never a good day for us the people when the New York Times is telling us this on its re-imagined page A3:
The Conversation

1) Is Trump, Um, Slipping? Even More?
This opinion column by Gail Collins was one of the most read articles on Thursday. "If anything important came out of the Group of 7 meeting, it was probably further evidence that our president is . . . getting worse," she wrote, arguing that the president seemed "even more befuddled and confused than usual" at the meeting of major industrialized countries.
That headline did in fact appear on Collins' Thursday column.

The word "Um" did appear in her headline. And when Collins wrote about the "probabl[e] further evidence that our president is . . . getting worse," that slightly coy "dot dot dot" was right there in her copy.

As such, Collins became the ten millionth upper-end journalist to suggest that Trump is undergoing some type of cognitive decline, or some advancing mental health problem, without being willing to come right out and say so.

Instead, she, um, talked around what she was saying, with the result that she never quite managed to say it. The following passage includes the only point where she came close to stating her apparent meaning:
COLLINS (8/29/19): The meeting in France wasn’t the only recent exchange with world leaders that suggested Trump is suffering from something more worrisome than the lack of a coherent foreign policy. Back in April, after talking with NATO officials in Washington, he said that despite his complaints about Germany, he had “great respect” for the country from which his father emigrated. “My father is German...born in a very wonderful place in Germany.”

Fred Trump was born in the Bronx. “To mental health professionals like me, the red flags are waving wildly,” wrote the psychologist John Gartner.
Interesting! But what might those wildly waving red flags be saying to those "mental health professionals?"

Collins made no attempt to say, or to inquire of Gartner. Again and again, then again and again, it's perfectly clear that such things simply aren't done.

Once again, we'll suggest that we're looking at an anthropological problem—at the limited intellectual and moral horizons of our less-than-spectacular species.

Donald Trump is the most powerful person on earth. He does in fact hold the nuclear codes, and Jared could probably help him figure out how to activate them.

If he seems to be having a problem with "mental health," or if he seems to be undergoing some type of cognitive decline, you'd think a serious adult journalist would want to explore the question directly. But again and again and again and again, the children take the road constantly traveled by—the path of insinuation and avoidance.

Had we but world enough and time, this coyness would be no crime! But with re-election drawing on, time’s winged chariot might be said to be hurrying near!

If something is happening to Donald J. Trump, shouldn't adult journalists examine the question before the pressure on this disordered man mounts even further?

Alas! "Let us sport while we may" has long been the calling card of the upper-end press corps. The children like to gambol and play while showcasing their vast wit.

They've been at this task for decades. Not unlike the commander-in-chief, they may be getting worse.

Also this: Also on today's A3, we were treated to seven noteworthy facts. The first and last of those noteworthy facts went exactly like this:
Of Interest

A franchise owner who runs 11 Popeyes locations in the Midwest said that last week he sold 1,200 fried chicken sandwiches at his restaurant in Appleton, Wis.


As a child, the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field painter Helen Frankenthaler drew a line in chalk on the ground from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to her family's apartment on 74th Street.
To some editor, they were "noteworthy facts." People, we're just saying!

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: "One of the most segregated school systems!"


Where do novels come from:
With its pre-ballyhooed 1619 Project, the New York Times has decided to "reframe" American history in a particular way.

Some of the work which emerges from that project will probably be quite worthwhile. We'll guess that some of the work will perhaps be somewhat less so.

The project may perhaps betray a bit of an obsessive, super-reductive focus. Every bird which falls from the sky, every traffic jam in Atlanta, will be connected to the brutal history of American slavery.

On balance, this may or may not be constructive. That said, the Times has been taking a somewhat similar approach in its reporting on the state of New York City's public schools.

The Times seems to care about just one thing—the alleged "entrenched segregation" on display in Gotham's 1800 schools, which serve 1.1 million students. Starting with its choice of language, the Times is taking a powerful turn to the past, to a time when "segregated schools" were an unfortunate blight on the world in a thoroughly straightforward way.

Today, the Times crusades against "segregation" in Gotham's schools without ever quite explaining what the term should be taken to mean in the current context. This is about as close as the Times' Eliza Shapiro ever comes:
SHAPIRO (8/24/19): New York [City] is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country. Black and Hispanic students make up 70 percent of the system, and white and Asian students represent about 15 percent each. About three-quarters of students are low income, and roughly half the city’s schools are more than 90 percent black or Hispanic.
"Roughly half the city’s schools are more than 90 percent black or Hispanic." In a sprawling school system with Gotham's overall student enrollment, that may, or may not, seem like a surprising fact.

At any rate, that seems to be what Shapiro and her newspaper mean when they say that Gotham's schools are "segregated." Before we're done, we'll try to show you the source of Shapiro's dramatic, much-beloved claim—the claim that Gotham's school system is "one of the most segregated school systems in the country."

First, a word about what we may lose when we dwell so much in the past:

Shapiro's courageous fight against "segregation" seems to connect her to the historical era in which remarkable people led a real fight against the total separation of public school students on the basis of their so-called race.

In this iconic painting, Norman Rockwell portrayed this as The Problem We All Live With. The painting reminds us of the actual dangers real people confronted during that non-imaginary historical era.

(As that painting reminds us, some those remarkable people were children.)

Today, things are somewhat different. Kids from different "racial" and ethnic groups attend school together in New York City every day of the week, weekend days excluded. It's also true that this undertaking, such as it is, results in data like these:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, Naep 2017

White kids: 290.71
Black kids: 259.60
Hispanic kids: 263.56
Asian-American kids: 306.03

U.S. public schools, all students: 281.96
U.S. public schools, white kids only: 292.16
Those data seem to define gigantic "achievement gaps" between different groups of students. But rather plainly, Shapiro and her dim-witted newspaper don't care about that.

The New York Times goes a hundred miles out of its way to avoid reporting, or discussing, those data and those gaps. In this very year, Shapiro went on NPR's All Things Considered and rather plainly seemed to say that the gaps in New York City are the result of "test prep," full stop.

A person can't make a dumber remark, or one more dismissive and cruel.

Hundreds of thousand of good, decent kids lie on the short end of those punishing gaps. The Times refuses to acknowledge those kids' very existence, let alone attempt to discuss the ways those gaps could imaginably be addressed.

How would we address those gaps? Before we show you where Shapiro gets her iconic claim about Gotham's schools, we'll briefly address your question:

First, you can't begin to address those gaps without reporting the fact that they exist. Those gaps are embarrassing, but they're real, and so are the good, decent kids on the short end of those gaps.

Shapiro pretends that those gaps don't exist, except for all those devious Asians paying for all that test prep. (The Times' Mara Gay is so deep inside this ancient slander that she might as well start building the new internment camps.)

In pretending that the gaps don't exist, the Times pretends that the struggling kids who produce them don't exist. At the Times, they don't exist because they won't end up at Stuyvesant High.

How might those gaps be addressed? For ourselves, we'd start with Candidate Clinton's discussion of the 30 million-word "word gap," part of her campaign's Too Small to Fail component.

Because it was boring and dealt with black and Hispanic kids, Too Small to Fail generated zero interest from the Times, or from anyone else, during the 2016 campaign. That said, the "word gap" deals with children's experiences long before they arrive in school—with the disadvantages lower-income kids from lower-literacy backgrounds may bring with them to kindergarten.

We're curious about the current state of research and analysis concerning the alleged "word gap" and its effects. Needless to say, the New York Times will never examine a topic like that. It's boring, and it involves kids who won't end up at Yale.

Beyond that, we'd wonder what Gotham's lower-income kids do during their kindergarten year. After that, we'd wonder about their grade school instruction.

We'd wonder if they're presented with textbooks which they can actually read. We'd wonder if they're surrounded by mountains of "outside interest" books for their personal reading.

We'd wonder if those mountains of books were both readable and geared to kids' actual interests. We'd wonder of kids were given plenty of time to lay on their backs with their friends, reading those books aloud to each other, something kids from middle-class backgrounds are more likely to do in their homes.

We'd wonder if kids who are "several years behind" in math are asked to do too much, rather than too little. For obvious reasons, we don't ask suburban eighth-graders to study an MIT engineering curriculum. We'd wonder if kids who are "several years behind" are being similarly overwhelmed in their Gotham classrooms, becoming more confused in the process.

There are many other questions we'd ask, but you won't read about any of this in the New York Times. At present, the New York Times is interested in Gotham's black and Hispanic kids 1) as a way to let the Times showcase its vast moral greatness, and 2) as a group from which a few more kids can be routed to Stuyvesant High.

Among those 800,000 kids, the Times doesn't know, and doesn't care, about anything or anyone else. The Times postures and preens about the need to tinker with diversity numbers in a handful of schools—a process it calls "desegregation"—and it shows no sign of giving a fig about anything or anyone else.

With what degree of journalistic brilliance does the Times approach this task? Let's return to that stirring claim, the one Shapiro's editors so love:
"New York [City] is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country."
The New York Times thrills its tribal readers each time it advances that claim. But is that statement actually true? And what does that claim even mean?

Briefly, can we talk? This thrilling claim seems a bit hard to credit, given what most people might sensibly take the terms "segregation" and "integration" to mean.

Phoning in from the Hamptons of a Thursday evening, the Times is deeply invested in bringing "integration" to Gotham's public schools. That said, how much "integration" could possibly be taking place in the big urban systems listed below?

We're showing you the percentage of white kids enrolled in these large school systems. Given normal understanding of the term, how much integration could he happening inside these large systems"
"White" enrollment, U.S. public school systems
Los Angeles: 9%
Chicago: 9%
Miami/Dade County: 6.7%
Houston: 8.9%
Dallas: 5.1%
San Antonio: 2%

Hartford: 9%
Newark: 7%
Trenton: 2%
Baltimore: 7.8%
Washington DC: 10%
Richmond: 8%
Atlanta: 13%

Detroit: 2%
Kansas City, Mo.: 9%
Memphis: 7%
Birmingham: 1%
Jackson: 1%
New Orleans: 9%

Laredo: 0%
Brownsville: 1%
El Paso: 9%

Oakland: 8%
San Francisco: 11%
Stockton: 7%
Fresno: 8.8%
We're taking most of our numbers from Professor Reardon's study, as presented by the New York Times.

Those numbers are several years out of date. But given normal understandings of the term, how much "integration" do you think is going on in those public school systems? How about in these satellite cities?
"White" enrollment, U.S. public school systems
Camden, N.J.: 1%
Gary, Ind.: 1%
East St. Louis, Mo. 0%
Compton, Calif.: 0%
However much we may be able to imagine something better and finer, our nation's urban school systems are heavily black and Hispanic by student enrollment. Inevitably, we have to look for the best ways to serve black and Hispanic kids in public school classrooms where Wally and the Beaver won't be present.

Wally and the Beaver have pretty much left the building! But given the most basic data from which all understanding starts, very little conventional "integration" is even possible in many school districts, or will be in the future.

That said, what are the odds that the New York City Public Schools is "one of the most segregated school systems in the country?" What does the Times even mean by this claim, which it repeats again and again?

What does the New York Times mean by this claim? Where does this pleasing claim come from?

We'll answer your question tomorrow. The answer will show the standards observed by our modern liberal elites, journalistic and academic, in the construction of the novels which keep our tribe well pleased.

On the bright aide, the answer to this question comes with a comical side. Sometimes, you do have to laugh. But we'll also be saying this:


Tomorrow: Seeking the source of the Nile

Lawrence O'Donnell gets over his skis!


For entertainment purposes only:
Why does Donald Trump seem to love Vladimir Putin so much?

We can't answer your question. At this point, neither can Lawrence O'Donnell, though he did get way out over his skis pm Tuesday night's Last Word.

On Wednesday night, he had to retract what he'd said. Everybody makes mistakes, and this was the latest example.

The fact that Lawrence retracted his claims doesn't mean that his claims are false. It's still possible that Lawrence's claims are true. It's also possible that Lawrence stopped to rob a bank Tuesday night on his way home from work.

Last night, Lawrence got massacred by Boston's Howie Carr on Tucker Carlson Tonight. We were struck by how many segments Carlson did last night which had a substantial semblance of truth. It's a measure of how much ridiculous conduct continues to emerge from various players on our team, helping prop Donald Trump up.

If you're behind on the Lawrence affair, we'll direct you to Erik Wemple of the Washington Post. It's getting harder and harder to force ourselves to go through the motions with this constant bullshit from our own players Over Here within our own self-impressed tribe.

We were happy to see that Wemple mentioned John Heilemann. He was cheering Lawrence on as Lawrence ran with the thrilling report he later had to retract:
WEMPLE (8/29/19): John Heilemann, an MSNBC national affairs analyst, regurgitated the cautionary phrase of the moment and then proclaimed how big a story this could be: “Got to stress if true, but if true, the reporting that you have … it’s the skeleton key, right, that opens—picks the lock on so many fundamental mysteries of the Trump era.”
How big a story this could be, if the story was known to be true!

Our team would be much better off if we were better able to see how much foolishness emerges from our corporate hirelings and our tribal elites. For example, this column in Sunday's Outlook section was just depressingly underfed all the way down.

We've been trying to force ourselves to reread and discuss the column; we may discuss it this weekend. But the silly, unhelpful tribal pieties, how powerfully they burn!

For entertainment purposes only, here's part of Lawrence's most famous historical meltdown, from late in Campaign 04. At the time, the newly emerging on-line left thought his performance had been heroic.

In our view, his effort was lazy and self-defeating, but don't force us to explain that. For entertainment purposes only, that link provides just a tiny part of Lawrence's two-segment meltdown that night.

He got kicked off the air for the next several months. He'd been too lazy to compose and publish actual work about the topic at hand.

Everybody makes mistakes, and Lawrence gets to make his. As a tribe, we've been praying for a magical knockout of Trump for the past several years.

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: Carranza's promise goes unmet!


Everything else gets ignored:
As we noted yesterday, Eliza Shapiro's profile of Richard Carranza's first year didn't seem real complimentary.

Carranza has finished his first year as chancellor of the New York City Public Schools. Like other school systems across the nation, Gotham's academic profile features massive "achievement gaps" between different racial and ethnic groups. And no, they aren't the result of "test prep," as the New York Times' Eliza Shapiro has inexcusably claimed, perhaps due to true belief.

The gaps are very large. Presumably, there is no magic wand Carranza could wave to address this punishing state of affairs. But in her lengthy front-page report in last Saturday's New York Times, Shapiro almost seemed to portray Carranza as a bit of a slacker when it comes to classroom instruction:
SHAPIRO: [S]ome educators say that Mr. Carranza also urgently needs to address the uneven performance of schools across the system.

[Mayor] de Blasio canceled a $773 million school improvement program, known as Renewal, after it was unable to turn around many long-struggling schools, and Mr. Carranza has not created an alternative initiative for the dozens of lowest-performing schools.

David Bloomfield
, a professor of education at Brooklyn College, said Mr. Carranza’s “impact on the classroom at this point seems insignificant.”
Can we talk? There are 1800 schools in the New York City system. Based on national norms, more than "dozens" of these schools would qualify as strikingly "low-performing."

That said, Shapiro made it sound like Carranza hasn't done much in the way of addressing classroom instruction. Most amazingly, this topic wasn't raised until paragraph 32 of Shapiro's front-page report.

On average, Gotham's roughly 770,000 black and Hispanic kids stand at the punishing end of gigantic achievement gaps. What was Shapiro doing for 31 paragraphs before she got around to briefly discussing this topic?

What else? Shapiro doesn't gargle or brush her teeth without discussing the "entrenched segregation" she and her editors are able to spot, and loudly decry, in Gotham's public schools. Hard-copy headline included, this is the way her front-page report began:
SHAPIRO (8/24/19): A Promise to Desegregate Schools in New York City Goes Unmet

Soon after he took the helm of the nation’s largest school district last year, Richard A. Carranza made his top priority clear: desegregation.

He sought to set himself apart from previous New York City schools chancellors and even his own boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, by promising both frank talk about racial inequality and sweeping action.

At an event for student activists this spring, he slapped the side of a podium and shouted: “No, we will not wait to integrate our schools, we will not wait to dismantle the segregated systems we have!” He repeated the message in speeches, television appearances and national magazine profiles.
Interesting! According to Shapiro, the newly-hired Carranza had vowed to pursue "desegregation!" He said it was his top priority. He made this focus clear.

It was this rather fuzzy pledge which dominated Shapiro's profile this day. But uh-oh! As she continued, she made it sound like Carranza had staged a bit of a flip:
SHAPIRO (continuing directly): But now, as he enters his second year, he seems to be trying to reset expectations. In an interview, Mr. Carranza described himself as a “realist.”

“If I integrated the system, the next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to walk on water,” he said.
We don't know if Shapiro's presentation is fair. But her first 31 paragraphs were burned away on the claim that Carranza's promise has gone unmet—that he has failed to act on his (rather fuzzy) pledge to "desegregate" Gotham's schools.

Might we talk? In our view, Carranza's fiery promise hasn't simply "gone unmet." It also goes largely unexplained in Shapiro's lengthy report.

Given the ugly history of American public schools, "segregation" will always sound like a dragon to be slain. "Desegregation" will always sound like a noble goal to pursue.

That said, in what sense are New York City's public schools "segregated" at this point? What would Gotham's schools look like after they've been "desegregated?" And how would that help Gotham's kids?

Such matters are rarely clarified in Shapiro's endless jihads on this, the New York Times' favorite topic in the realm of public schooling. Saturday's lengthy report provided no exception to this annoying rule.

At several points, Shapiro acknowledged that "desegregation" of Gotham's schools would be a daunting task. In this passage, she does at least provide a sense of what this noble-sounding term might mean:
SHAPIRO: Even some of the most avid proponents of integration have acknowledged that the system’s demographics make school-by-school diversity daunting, and have focused on ways to desegregate schools in mixed-income, racially diverse neighborhoods.

Still, activists and academics have offered proposals that they say could begin to chip away at segregation: The city could change selective admissions policies that tend to exclude black and Hispanic students from the highest-performing schools; adopt a cross-borough school transportation plan; or require that specific neighborhoods create desegregation plans for their schools.
Speaking some unnamed version of English, Shapiro seems to say that accomplishing "school-by-school diversity" would be a "daunting" task.

She says the Gotham schools could "chip away at" its poorly-defined "segregation" if they'd just "focus on ways to desegregate schools" in certain types of neighborhoods. The system could "require that specific neighborhoods create desegregation plans for their schools."

Out of repeated circular definition, a likely picture emerges. It would be better if Gotham's individual schools more closely matched the racial/ethnic demographics of the system as a whole.

To the extent possible, Shapiro would like the "diversity" in each school to match that of the overall system. In the early passage shown below, Shapiro makes a familiar, punishing claim about the New York City schools, and she gives us the clearest picture of what she means when she says that Gotham's schools are heavily segregated:
SHAPIRO: The past year has given Mr. Carranza an education in the complexities and challenges presented by the nation’s largest school system, an often unwieldy collection of 1,800 schools that sprawls across five boroughs and enrolls 1.1 million students.

New York is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country. Black and Hispanic students make up 70 percent of the system, and white and Asian students represent about 15 percent each. About three-quarters of students are low income, and roughly half the city’s schools are more than 90 percent black or Hispanic.
New York City is operating "one of the most segregated school systems in the country," Shapiro says, failing to explain the basis on which she makes this eye-catching claim. "Roughly half the city’s schools are more than 90 percent black or Hispanic."

Shapiro seems to feel it would be better if fewer schools, or no schools at all, fit that demographic profile—and in that judgment, she and her obsessive editors certainly may be right.

What's wrong with a public school which is more than 90 percent black or Hispanic? There are many answers to that question, some more compelling than others.

Long ago and far away, the New York Times' N. R. Kleinfield penned an insightful report which explored one important answer. He held a group discussion with ten middle-school kids at Explore Charter School in Brooklyn, a school where almost all the students were black.

Kleinfield posed a basic question to these good, decent kids: "What did they think of the absence of racial diversity?"

In an outstanding report, he recorded what those kids said:
KLEINFIELD (5/11/12): What did they think of the absence of racial diversity?

“It doesn’t really prepare us for the real world,” said Tori Williams, an eighth grader. “You see one race, and you’re going to be accustomed to one race.”

Jahmir Duran-Abreu, another eight grader, said: “It seems it’s black kids and white teachers. Like one time we were talking and I said I like listening to Eminem and my teacher said this was ghetto. She was white. I was pretty upset. I was wondering why she would say something like that. She apologized, but it sticks with me.”

Jahmir, one of Explore’s few Hispanic students, is its first student to get into Stuyvesant High School, one of the city’s premier schools. He was also admitted to Dalton, an elite private school, where he intends to go. He wants someday to become an actor.

Shakeare Cobham, in sixth grade, offered a different view: “It’s more comfortable to be with people of your own race than to be with a lot of different races.”

Tori came back: “I disagree. It doesn’t prepare us.”

Yata Pierre, in eighth grade, said, “It doesn’t really matter as long as your teachers are good teachers.”

Trevon Roberts-Walker, a sixth grader, responded, “When we are in high school and college, it’s not going to be all one race.”

Jahmir: “Yeah, in my high school there will be predominantly white kids, and I think this school will be so much better if it were more diverse.”

Kenny Wright, in eighth grade, piped in, “You could have more discussion instead of all the same thoughts.”

Ashira Mayers, in seventh grade, said: “We’d like to hear from other races. How do they feel? What’s happening with them?”
Though not all alike, those are beautiful thoughts. Those good, decent kids were discussing the problem of "racial isolation."

Most of those kids seemed to feel that they were missing out on something because they weren't attending school with kids of other "races." There's a lot to be said for that view—and kids of other "races" may well be missing out on something by not going to school with those Explore Charter kids.

That said, a public school doesn't run on "diversity" alone. The giant achievement gaps which obtain in Gotham''s schools wouldn't magically disappear if someone waved a magic wand and made every school magically conform to the perfect pattern in which an unwavering 15 percent of the students were "white."

Nor would that magic degree of diversity likely extend into the classrooms of those schools. Gotham's giant range of achievement levels would suggest the need to organize instruction in ways which could be called "tracking" or "grouping."

Unless we're prepared to pretend, as Shapiro has explicitly done, that the racial component of those gaps is simply an illusory artifact of "test prep," that school-by-school diversity would tend to fade away on a classroom-by-classroom basis. This unavoidable reality can create new "segregation" problems, perceptions and concerns on a within-the-school basis.

Few such matters ever survive the deeply propagandistic way the New York Times discusses this important topic. In last Saturday's lengthy report, Carranza's attention to classroom instruction didn't get mentioned until we'd burned away 31 paragraphs on the poorly explained claim that Gotham's schools 1) are severely "segregated" at present and 2) are subject to some substantial form of "desegregation."

Even Shapiro was prepared to admit that it didn't make sense to believe that Carranza could produce more than a certain amount of increased "diversity." But in the deeply uncaring New York Times, that limited advance in school-by-school diversity seems to be the only things that actually counts.

The New York Times cares about who gets into Stuyvesant High. Beyond that, it wants to juggle diversity numbers along the margins. It doesn't seem to care (or even know) about those massive achievement gaps, or about the hundreds of thousands of good, decent kids who struggle beneath their yoke.

"Segregation" is a painful, powerful word—a powerful word from the past. You could almost say that this powerful word leads back to 1619.

For reasons only it can explain, the New York Times seems to be in love with the powerful word, full and complete total stop. It seems to care about no other aspect of its city's public schools.

Rather than a bow to the past, we'd advise a search for tomorrow. What explains those giant gaps? Starting on this very day, what can someone like Richard Carranza possibly do to address those gaps?

Good, decent kids are losing out. Aside from the few who might end up at Yale, does anyone care about them?

Tomorrow: "New York is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country."

Where does that favorite claim come from? Also, dividing the tribes.

An August when the sharks wouldn't bite!


Bedbugs, bad polls fill the void:
What does the modern journalist do when it's late in August and the sharks aren't attacking swimmers often enough?

As you may have noticed, the modern journalist fills the void with various bedbug tales.

Here at this site, we're discussing the way the New York Times covers public schools. Over at Slate, Ashley Feinberg is offering a different type of press critique:

She's filing reports about the number of bedbugs
(very few) found in the Times' Gotham headquarters.

Also at Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley has filed a detailed report about who called whom a bedbug on-line and how each person reacted. Also, pretty much all around—bedbugs alleged at Doral!

Also this:

Check out the highlighted offerings at Slate from 5:55 AM right on through noon today. Try not to miss this highly typical show-stopper:
STOYA * AUG. 28, 2019 * 5:55 am
My Girlfriend Won't Stop Talking About Other Men—During Sex With Me
To all appearances, these are the things the modern "news org" must do to get us liberal/progressive giants to click. Have you been to The Daily Beast lately?

When all else fails, the last resort—you talk and you talk and you talk about polls, no matter how transparently worthless the poll in question may be:

A few days ago, Monmouth was pimping exciting results of a poll which seemed to show that Candidate Biden had lost a whole lot of ground. Cable stars jumped on the thrilling news, even though the poll was based on 298 respondents.

We have no idea who's going to win the Democratic nomination. (We are willing to say that it seems like a very weak field.)

That said, we also have no idea why a polling organization even bothers reporting a survey with such a small N. Saddest of all is the fact that our desperately bored cable hordes were more than willing to thrash it.


Is it possible that we're describing a major anthropological problem? Compare, contrast and discuss! Then pray that the sharks bite again.

One last humanitarian plea: It isn't clear that any poll is worth discussing, except in the most cursory way, at this stage in the alleged Democratic race.

Having said that, we make our plea:

MSNBC bosses, please! Stop making Kornacki roll up his sleeves when he gets sent to "the big board!"

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: Carranza's attempts to improve instruction...


...are mentioned in graf 32:
The New York Times' self-ballyhooed, new "major initiative" is deeply involved with the past.

If we might coin an original phrase, it seems that the past isn't simply un-dead. It isn't even past!

The traffic jam you sat in today may have been the result of American slavery! According to leading top-rated experts, such approaches to history are sometimes called "uber-reductive."

That doesn't mean that the work the Times will publish as part of The 1619 Project may not be informative and constructive. Presumably, some of the work will be superb. Some of it probably won't be.

That said, who but the self-impressed New York Times would undertake such a project? Within our modern political history, the Times is best known for such journalistic achievements as these:

Through a set of bungled front-page reports, the Times invented the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, which lent its name to a crackpot political era.

Katherine Boo warned the world about the dangers of "Creeping Dowdism" when Maureen Dowd was still just a front-page reporter. In 1995, the Times made Dowd a columnist anyway.

Thirteen years later,
a Times public editor finally savaged Dowd for the relentless misogyny she'd brought to her treatment of Candidate Hillary Clinton. She'd slimed many others before that, not excluding the balding Al Gore, and including the stunning insults she'd directed at Howard Dean's hopelessly under-styled wife.

Most recently, the brilliant newspaper decided to stage an anguished staff meeting because editors had managed to bungle a single front-page headline. Now, this puzzling collection of Hamptons four-day weekend types have announced that they plan to "reframe th[is] country’s history," skillfully reconfiguring "the story we tell ourselves."

That traffic jam is Atlanta today is part of that reframed history. And who knows? The Times may even get around to re-explaining the crazy decision the newspaper made to retell the ridiculous, hopelessly bungled story of Uranium One during the Trump-Clinton campaign!

They told that hopelessly bungled story at a length of 4400 words, teaming with a right-wing crackpot to do so. Today, they plan to retell the whole of American story, starting with the tragic events of the year 1619.

Almost surely, some of that work will be instructive and useful. On balance, though, this project's work may not be helpful at all. For an example of the newspaper's frequently cockeyed, quasi-ideological focus, consider last Saturday's front-page report on Richard Carranza's first year as head of New York City's schools.

Carranza was named chancellor of the New York City Public Schools in April 2018. He was serving as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District at that time. We assume he's a good, decent person.

Last Saturday, the Times' kid reporter, Eliza Shapiro, wrote a lengthy assessment of Carranza's first year in New York. Her lengthy report appeared on the Times' front page.

All in all, Shapiro's profile of Carranza's first year may not have seemed all that flattering. Needless to say, Carranza had accepted a deeply challenging job when he came to New York. In the baldest formulation, he'd accepted the task of directing a giant school system with such achievement gaps as these:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, Naep 2017

White kids: 290.71
Black kids: 259.60
Hispanic kids: 263.56
Asian-American kids: 306.03

U.S. public schools, all students: 281.96
U.S. public schools, white kids only: 292.16
For all Naep data, start here. But the gaps are extremely large in Gotham, as they are across the nation.

Based on a very rough rule of thumb, the average white kid in New York City's public schools is three years ahead of his black counterpart in math by the end of eighth grade.

The average white kid nationwide scored a bit better than that. Asian kids in New York City left everyone else in the dust.

No one could expect Carranza, or anyone else, to transform this state of affairs in his first year on the job, presumably by improving the performance of the black and Hispanic kids. Still and all, Shapiro made it sound like Carranza had possibly earned an F for effort in his inaugural year:
SHAPIRO (8/24/19): [S]ome educators say that Mr. Carranza also urgently needs to address the uneven performance of schools across the system.

[Mayor] de Blasio canceled a $773 million school improvement program, known as Renewal, after it was unable to turn around many long-struggling schools, and Mr. Carranza has not created an alternative initiative for the dozens of lowest-performing schools.

David Bloomfield, a professor of education at Brooklyn College, said Mr. Carranza’s “impact on the classroom at this point seems insignificant.”
We'll discuss one key word in that passage—"also"—in tomorrow's report. That said, this account makes Carranza's first year sound a bit underwhelming.

As she continued, Shapiro let the chancellor defend himself. Here's what Shapiro reported:
SHAPIRO (continuing directly): Looking back on his first year, the chancellor said in an interview that he had made significant strides in improving education for students learning English, and in reorganizing the Department of Education’s vast bureaucracy. He said he had put in a new discipline code that was intended to limit in-school arrests for students of color, who he said were disproportionate targets of policing in schools.

This week, the city announced that student test scores rose modestly during the chancellor’s first year on the job.

“There’s a lot of work that’s happening that I’m very proud of,” Mr. Carranza said.
Did Carranza somehow "ma[k]e significant strides in improving education for students learning English?" We have no way of knowing, and the New York Times will never examine such a boring and tedious topic.

Beyond that, Carranza was quoted saying that he'd reorganized the system's bureaucracy and had tried "to limit in-school arrests for students of color."

One paragraph later, he said his attempts at improvement "will not stick if the city does not address a more basic set of problems." Some of those problems were named:
SHAPIRO: The city’s school bus system, for example, suffered a major crisis last year when drivers could not complete new routes, leaving thousands of students stranded. This week, Mr. Carranza announced GPS tracking on city buses. And the city’s strained special education system appears to be reaching a breaking point; tens of thousands of students with disabilities are not receiving the services they need.
Something went wrong with the city's bus system. Also, the city's special education system was described as an ongoing mess, an ongoing mess which Carranza himself apparently hasn't addressed.

As this discussion unfolded, nothing was said about those giant, punishing achievement gaps, or about the types of classroom instruction which might imaginably start to address them.

The bus system failed, and special ed stinks. But what about standard classroom instruction? What can be brought to bear upon those large, punishing gaps?

As quoted, Carranza didn't address such points, not did Shapiro seem to have raised them. In truth, no one within our major news orgs seems to care about such matters, or about the kids on the short end of those punishing gaps. Again and again, these facts are made abundantly clear by Rachel Maddow's topic selection, but also by the New York Times' "education reporting."

Shapiro's account of Carranza's first year didn't sound all that inspiring. The chancellor's "impact on the classroom at this point seems insignificant,” or so said the one education expert she quoted on this subject.

Shapiro's account seemed unflattering. But there's something about the profile we've quoted which is even more striking than the apparent lack of big ideas brought to the city's classrooms:

The account we've posted didn't begin until paragraph 32 of Shapiro's lengthy front-page report!

Carranza took control of a giant school system with giant achievement gaps. One year later, his "impact on the classroom" was said to be insignificant.

You'd almost think that this might be the focus of Shapiro's report. But Shapiro's focus on the public schools also ties her to the past, in a way which is reminiscent of the possible reductive overreach of The 1619 Project.

At this site, we'll recommend that decent people conduct a search for tomorrow concerning our public schools. You could call it The 2024 Project. It would be a search for ways to improve the lives of the children who will be born today, the children who will enter Gotham's kindergartens in that onrushing year.

We'd recommend a search for tomorrow and a focus on those gurgling, squirming children. That said, Shapiro's reporting on public schools caries an unmistakable 1619 air. And no, her obsessive focus on past offenses is neither well-reported nor helpful.

What was Shapiro doing for 31 paragraphs before she offered the analysis we've quoted? She was musing about the brutal past, while once again helping us see the New York Times' moral grandeur.

This paper has bungled again and again as our political culture had slid toward the sea. Tomorrow, we'll suggest that a vast indifference, and an unhelpful self-regard, informed the puzzling 31 paragraphs which started last weekend's report.

Tomorrow: Just repeat the magic word and you'll win a hundred dollars!

What might Donald Trump do next year?


Joe Walsh meets Wallace and friends:
What might Donald Trump do next year, assuming there is a next year, if he's behind in the polls?

Might he start a serious war? Might be try to declare martial law and cancel the upcoming election?

We're not asking if he could succeed at such an approach. Regarding the attempt to cancel the vote, we're asking if he might try such an approach, with all the concomitant damage such an effort would cause.

Also, how about this:

Might he actually get involved in trying to hack voter tallies? Might he engineer a situation in which it's obvious that vote totals did get hacked somewhere, then use that circumstance to declare the election he lost null and void?

Might he even do something like this with Vladimir Putin's help? Might he start a war post-election, then declare that a nation at war can't change horses in midstream?

We're not asking if he could succeed at such approaches. We're asking if he is disordered enough to engage in such conduct.

For the record, we can't swear to you that he isn't. Did we mention the possibility of that war, whether pre- or post-election?

We thought such thoughts as we watched Joe Walsh speak with Nicolle Wallace and some of her favorite reporters and friends on yesterday's Deadline: White House.

We'll recommend that you watch the videotapes. Our takeaways:

For starters, we never knew that John Heilemann was so amazingly morally pure. Beyond that, we think Wallace is holding back in her war against Trump in a fairly obvious way, a type of accusation she directed at Walsh a few times.

Don't get us wrong! Wallace was mainly quite sensible during her eighteen minutes with Walsh. It was Heilemann who amazed us with his remarkable moral purity, with the morally pure David Jolly not too far behind.

These favorite reporters and friends amazed us with their moral grandeur. That said, Wallace engaged in this exchange early in the interview:
WALLACE (8/26/19): This idea of [Trump's] fitness—

WALSH: He's nuts. Nuts!

WALLACE: And I think the truth is that, whether people say it disparagingly or affectionately, anyone that comes in contact with him comes away saying he's crazy. But this is a hard story to cover and it's a hard attack to make. What are sort of your proof points?

WALSH: He's a psychopath. He lies every time he opens his mouth. He's the biggest narcissist we've ever had in that office, and that's saying a lot, John.
"It's a hard story to cover," Wallace said, referring to Trump's apparent lack of mental or psychological "fitness." As you can see, Walsh was a bit more direct.

But is Trump's possible lack of "fitness" actually "hard to cover?" At the end of the interview, Wallace returned to this general topic, copping out once again:
WALLACE: I hope we can keep having this conversation. There's a lot to talk about, and I'm telling you, I think that, if you sort of marshal all the evidence—

David Brooks wrote in 2017 about a group of Republican senators leaving a meeting with Trump thinking he displayed the early signs of Alzheimer's.

If you look at the reporting just from this trip [to the G-7 conference].

If you look at the reporting on the speech last week, the rally, where he forgot what he said.

I'm not a doctor, but if you really want to make that case and you do the work of putting together all that evidence, it's a really compelling case to Republicans who, I'm old enough to remember, used to care a whole lot about the person who served as our country's commander in chief.

WALSH: And the rule of law.
"The person who serves as our country's commander in chief?" The person who could imaginably start a self-serving, crazy war?

"I'm not a doctor," Wallace said, after suggesting that Trump may be suffering from cognitive impairment.

"I'm not a doctor," she said. But then again, neither is Walsh.

Luckily, Bandy X. Lee actually is a doctor. It's time that Wallace bit the bullet and interviewed Lee, and other professionals, on her TV program.

We're sorry, but this actually isn't "a hard story to cover." As with other topics, you just have to interview sensible specialists who know what they're talking about.

For the record, Wallace should stage a solo interview with Lee, not a revival of Crossfire. In our view, we'd be well served if she left the remarkably pious Heilemann and Jolly home that particular day.

Wallace complained that, in certain ways, Walsh isn't going all in on his crusade against Trump. That said, neither is Wallace, if she suspects what she obviously does, but won't interview respectable, competent specialists.

Some final words of praise:

A. B. Stoddard threw Heilemann and Jolly overboard and under the bus in a highly sensible followup segment. Heilemann and Jolly are the kind of Dimmesdales who don't want anyone rejecting Trump unless they're directly responding to direct orders from People Exactly Like Us.

Stoddard left these Dimmesdales for dead. We'd like to link you to what she said, but it's the one segment the Deadline staff chose not to post at their site.

Stoddard said Walsh might be exactly the type of guy who can erode Trump's support over there on the right. We think she got it right.

We leave you with a question we ourselves can't answer:

What might this disordered president imaginably do next year? Start a war? Hack the vote? Do you feel sure where he'd stop?

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: Experts release integration plan!


It's time for The Bluebirds to go:
In this morning's Washington Post, Michael Gerson drops the latest bomb on Donald J. Trump and Trumpism.

In hard-copy, the column appears beneath an aggressive headline. The headline, and the column itself, are easy for our tribe to swallow:
GERSON (8/27/19): The servile defense of Trump's crazy ideas

It is grotesquely fascinating to see President Trump’s apologists try to explain his most lunatic ideas and claims.
It is a bit like watching someone choke down a sheep’s eye on a bet, then declare it fine dining. (Note to animal rights activists: This is a simile, not a recommendation.)

This process has a number of steps—the stages of servility. At first, there is stunned silence. (Did he really propose to buy Greenland?) Then the frantic search for hidden wisdom...
So it goes as apologists march behind a parade of crazy ideas. Before long, we're planning to nuke the next hurricane—or perhaps the Greenland ice sheet.

Are we humans really "the rational animal?" So we've persistently said. But according to future anthropologists, the truth is emerging, every day, in the pages of our major newspapers.

According to Gerson, a servile elite is involved in a defense of lunatic claims and crazy ideas. But even as this process unfolds, our press elite insists that we shouldn't discuss the possible source of those crazy ideas!

Yesterday afternoon,
we showed you what happened when one member of that elite broke ranks with press corps guild. He tried to stage a discussion of Donald Trump's possible mental condition.

It didn't go especially well. It has been a long time since our journalistic elites were able to stage real discussions.

Gerson's column describes the mental and moral disintegration of one modern elite. For a possible analogue from within our own self-impressed liberal/progressive tribe, we invite you to read Eliza Shapiro's front-page report in today's New York Times.

In her coverage of the New York City Public Schools, Shapiro has been producing some of the worst print journalism we have ever seen. Today, she's simply reporting a major proposal for Gotham's schools from a group she describes as "a high-level panel."

A bit later, Shapiro describes the high-level panel in an even glossier way. With Shapiro leaning on the scales, here's a thumbnail of what the panel has proposed:
SHAPIRO (8/27/19): For years, New York City has essentially maintained two parallel public school systems.

A group of selective schools and programs geared to students labeled gifted and talented is filled mostly with white and Asian children. The rest of the system is open to all students and is predominantly black and Hispanic.

Now, a high-level panel appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio is recommending that the city do away with most of these selective programs in an effort to desegregate the system, which has 1.1 million students and is by far the largest in the country.


The plan includes all elementary school gifted programs, screened middle schools and some high schools — with the exception of Stuyvesant High School and the city’s seven other elite high schools, whose admission is partially controlled by Albany.

Gifted programs and screened schools have “become proxies for separating students
who can and should have opportunities to learn together,” the panel, made up of several dozen education experts, wrote in the report.
On its face, that sounds like an astonishing set of proposals. That said, are the people on this panel really "education experts?" Or are they possibly just liberal/progressive bubble-dwellers, like those in the other tribe?

The membership of this high-level collection of experts can be perused at this link. At a glance, they don't necessarily look like a group of "education experts" to us.

At a glance, that includes several members of the panel's five-person Executive Committee. This doesn't necessarily mean that the panel's proposals are bad. It tells us something about the way modern "elites" pander to one another.

According to Shapiro's report, this panel has apparently recommended "doing away" with "all elementary school gifted programs."

In fairness, the term "gifted" is overused in much the way "expert" is. But a bit later on, Shapiro extends her account of the panel's proposals:
SHAPIRO: Mr. de Blasio should also place a moratorium on new gifted programs, stop most grouping by academic ability and phase out existing gifted classes by not admitting new students, the panel said. If the recommendations are accepted, New York would shed its current gifted offerings within about five years.
Really? The New York City Public Schools should "stop most grouping by academic ability," even as it eliminates "all elementary school gifted programs?" Can that possibly be what these experts have recommended?

We ask the question because we spent a number of years in Baltimore's public school classrooms. During that time, we learned that fifth-graders are not all alike.

A similar story is told by the data produced by New York City's kids as part of the National Assessment of Education Progress (the Naep), the federal program which is universally regarded as the gold standard of domestic educational testing.

Are Gotham's fifth-graders all alike? Should they all be grouped together in their ongoing instruction? Consider the data for Grade 4 math from the most recent Naep testing for what data have been released:
Scores by percentile, Grade 4 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

90th percentile: 269.09
75th percentile: 251.60
50th percentile: 230.43
25th percentile: 207.50
10th percentile: 186.80
For all Naep data, start here. In the most elementary sense, here's what those test scores mean:

Ten percent of Gotham's fourth-graders scored above 269 on the Grade 4 math test that year. On that same test, ten percent of Gotham's fourth-graders scored below 187.

Starting in the fall of 2017, should those kids all have been doing the same "fifth-grade math?" Consider:

According to a very rough but widely-employed rule of thumb, ten points on the Naep scale is roughly equivalent to one academic year.

As a general matter, such rules of thumb start losing their meaning the farther one moves from the median score in some data set. That said, those data suggest that giant "achievement gaps" exist within New York City's public schools by the end of fourth grade.

In the name of "desegregation," should all those kids proceed together in their fifth grade instruction, with education experts happily saying, "Grouping be damned?"

If so, the top ten percent will be bored out of their skulls during math class; the bottom ten percent will still be totally lost. Our society's "education experts" may not always suspect such things, but classroom teachers possibly will.

On their face, it doesn't sound like these proposals necessarily make good sense. It's also true, as Shapiro notes at several points, that adoption of this new regime will likely stimulate a departure of middle-class families from the public schools.

There will be that many fewer "white" kids to produce the "desegregation" these experts seek. By the time the exerts get done, those kids will all be found in one overcrowded Catholic school somewhere on Staten Island.

At present, 15 percent of Gotham's public school kids are "white." It's never clear what "desegregation" might mean with so few "white" kids to go around. But how well will "desegregation" go when that rather modest percentage drops substantially lower?

Traditionally, grade school classrooms were split into three reading groups—The Bluebirds, The Robins and The Buzzards.

Experts say the children weren't fooled by those neutral group names. But will it help if The Bluebirds and The Buzzards are now asked to read the same books and do the same math assignments?

To certain "experts," that idea will make perfect sense. To us, it pretty much doesn't. Assigned books will often be too hard for The Buzzards. Does anyone care about them?

As Gerson notes in this morning's column, Donald J. Trump is enabled by servile defenders of crazy ideas. Our question, and it has anthropological roots:

Does some similar state of affairs occasionally obtain Over Here?

Tomorrow: We resume our postponed search for tomorrow with last Saturday's front-page report

For high achievers only: This is what those scores and those gaps looked like across all the nation's schools:
Scores by percentile, Grade 4 math
U.S. public schools, 2017 Naep

90th percentile: 278.59
75th percentile: 261.28
50th percentile: 240.70
25th percentile: 218.51
10th percentile: 197.27
What can we learn from such basic data? Such data are never reported, let alone discussed, in the New York Times.

Stelter interviews Bandy X. Lee!


Psychiatrists enter the crossfire:
Yesterday, on Reliable Sources, CNN's Brian Stelter finally did it.

Stelter interviewed two psychiatrists about issues of Donald J. Trump's mental health—or at least, he gave it a half-hearted try.

At the start of the segment, Stelter offered a lengthy justification for the fact that he was the raising the issue at all. Here's part of what he said:
STELTER (8/25/19): Now, I get it that Trump opponents have been saying he's sick since before Election Day. I think some folks threw out terms like "cognitive decline" way too casually. They dream about the 25th Amendment.

But it is possible to have a fact-based conservation about this. In fact, it's not just possible, it's necessary. Look at the New York Times reporting that some former Trump aides are, quote, increasingly worried about his behavior. Most people who cover this world for a living know that.


So something is wrong. There are lots of theories about what it is. There are some doctors who think they know. Others say we shouldn't speculate.

There are ethical questions about having this conversation at all, but we can't tiptoe around it anymore. We've got to talk about this. So let's talk about it. Let's do it!
"Let's do it," Stelter enthused, perhaps reassuring himself.

So far, almost so good! Stelter then introduced two psychiatrists. As in the old Crossfire days, they held "opposing views:"
STELTER (continuing directly): Let me bring in two guests, two psychiatrists with different views about this.

Dr. Bandy X. Lee is a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. She co-authored a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. It originally came out two years ago, started this conversation in many ways about Trump's mental health.

And Dr. Allen Frances is in Philly for us. He's a professor emeritus and former chair of psychiatry at Duke University Medical College. And he authored the book, Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump.
The contestants were in place. From that point on, we'll admit we don't exactly understand what either of Stelter's guests said.

The alleged conversation made little sense, and it didn't last long. Here, for example, is a statement by the guest who seems to think that we shouldn't be discussing Trump's mental health:
FRANCES: I think that medicalizing politics has three very dire consequences. The first is that it stigmatizes the mentally ill. I've known thousands of patients, almost all of them are well-behaved, well-mannered, good people.

Trump is none of these. Lumping the mentally ill with Trump is a terrible insult to the mentally ill, and they have enough problems and stigma as it is.

The second issue is that calling Trump crazy hides the fact that we're crazy for having elected him, and even crazier for allowing his crazy policies to persist.

Trump is as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin and Mao were in the last century. He may be responsible for many more million deaths than they were. He needs to be contained, but he needs to be contained by attacking his policies, not his person.

It's crazy for us to be destroying the climate our children will live in. It's crazy to be giving tax cuts to the rich that will add trillions of dollars to the debt our children will have to pay. It's crazy to be destroying our democracy by claiming that the press and the courts of the enemy of the people. We have to face these policies, not Trump's person.

Now, it's absolutely impossible, you can bet the house, that the Congress, that Pence, that the cabinet will never ever remove Trump on grounds of mental unfitness. That will never happen. Discussing the issue in psychological name-calling terms distracts us from getting out the vote.
We have no idea why a competent suggestion that Trump may be mentally ill in some serious way would "stigmatize the mentally ill." Just as most people who are physically ill aren't suffering from terminal cancer, most people with some sort of mental health problem aren't the most severe type of sociopath, the equivalent of Hitler or Stalin.

We have no idea if Donald Trump is "mentally ill" in some serious way. But if he is, it doesn't make sense to say we mustn't discuss the possibility because it would "stigmatize" others with mild conditions.

Beyond that, has some responsible psychiatric observer diagnosed Trump as "crazy?" In what sense have such people engaged in "psychiatric name-calling?"

To our ear, it was Frances who was starting to sound a bit unhinged this day. At times, he sounded less like a psychiatrist and more like a old-style ward-heeler trying to get out the vote.

This strangeness continued later, near the end of the segment:
STELTER: And Dr. Frances, your advice to the press? How do you feel the press should handle these situations, these ongoing questions about the president's health?

FRANCES: Well, the problem is, I thought [Lee's] book was really silly. The people most willing to offer diagnoses know the least about it, have never contributed to discussions about diagnosis.

There is absolutely no doubt that Trump is dangerous. Everyone knows that. Everyone should have known that before the election. The question is, is he dangerous because he's a bad, evil con man or is he dangerous because he's mentally ill?

And on that issue, I think it's very clear he's dangerous because he's evil. He's not dangerous because he's mentally ill.
Needless to say, "everyone" doesn't believe, let alone "know," that Donald J. Trump is dangerous. Meanwhile, Frances was never asked to explain how he knew that Trump isn't mentally ill, if that's what he was saying. These were his final remarks:
FRANCES: I think Trump is best characterized as a spoiled brat, as a baby having temper tantrums, as a completely unfit person unable to meet the challenges and the responsibilities of his office, as a con man, as a—the most narcissistic person maybe in our time, a narcissist for all times.
We're puzzled. If Trump is "the most narcissistic person maybe in our time, a narcissist for all times," doesn't that suggest a possible issue of mental health? Does it help that he may end up killing millions more people than Hitler, Stalin and Mao?

Alas! Stelter didn't seem ready to field these peculiar remarks in this Crossfire-style discussion, for which a limited amount of time had been scheduled and a slightly strange guest had been booked. We weren't even entirely clear about what Lee was trying to say, but the statements by Frances made little sense for us at all.

In the past, we've said two things about this long-forbidden topic. We've said the topic should be discussed. We've also said there's little chance that the mainstream press would be able to conduct that discussion in a competent manner.

It's been a long time since cable news hosts were ever really asked to try to figure anything out. Stelter seemed to be in way over his head. Beyond that, he'd been allotted a limited amount of time for this tricky discussion with, perhaps, a poorly selected guest.

After thanking his two psychiatrists, Stelter took a commercial break. He then moved to a more familiar question:

Should Sean Spicer have been picked for Dancing With the Stars?

One last very basic point: The fact that important discussions unfold this way is an anthropological problem. That said, this is the way our "national discourse" has worked for the past thirty-plus years.

This seems to be the best we can do, at least on the "elite" level.

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: Stephens extends the search for the past!


The 1519 Project:
Bret Stephens displayed a bit of cheek in Saturday's New York Times.

His famous newspaper is now involved in a major search involving—among other things—the brutal American past. In Saturday's column, he decided to go his paper exactly a hundred years better:
STEPHENS (8/24/19): When Hernán Cortés and his men landed on the coast of Mexico, in 1519, they encountered a world of utter barbarity: incessant warfare, endemic slavery, and human sacrifice on an immense scale. They, in turn, inflicted their own barbarities: massacres, epidemics, forced labor and religious intolerance.

Whether one barbarity was better than the other is not a particularly interesting debate. The conquest of Mexico was another chapter of history as it usually is, a contest for power with little hope for progress.
You read that year correctly! Cortés began his conquest of the Aztec empire in 1519 [sic], when he was 34.

This occurred in the part of the world now known as Mexico. According to the leading authority on his life, Cortés "was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas."

Last weekend, in its Sunday magazine, the occasionally self-involved New York Times launched a self-described "major initiative." To review that edition, click here.

This major initiative is called "The 1619 Project." A sensitive observer could almost imagine a bit of overweening pride on the part of the New York Times as the routinely ludicrous newspaper built a framework around its new undertaking:
THE NEW YORK TIMES (8/18/19): In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.
That text refers to a photograph of an ocean "horizon"—one which looks exactly like every other ocean horizon everywhere in the world. That said, those were the first words a reader encountered if he or she decided to tackle the Times' new quasi-journalistic project.

At any rate, finally! Finally, after all these years, someone was finally going "to tell our story truthfully!" And sure enough:

According to the New York Times, that truth-telling entity was going to be the New York Times itself!

After this initial reveal, editors from this occasionally silly newspaper extended their words of self-praise. Mercifully, these self-impressed souls went unnamed as they offered this description:
THE NEW YORK TIMES (continuing directly): The 1619 Project

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times
observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
Finally! A persistently silly, incompetent newspaper had finally decided to "reframe our history!" Newly describing 1619 as the year of "our true founding," the persistently incompetent paper was going to reconstruct "the story we tell ourselves," the one "about who we are."

We don't mean to prejudge the value of any work the Times will publish as part of this self-ballyhooed project. And of course, everyone but the persistently silly have long understood that our nation's brutal racial history lies at the heart of the American experience, such as it has been.

We don't mean to prejudge the value of any work the Times will publish. That said, we will suggest this:

When an entity like the Times undertakes a "major initiative" on so deeply important a topic, readers would be well-advised to check their wallets every step of the way.

Was Atlanta's traffic jam this morning a result of that brutal history? Did we put too much sugar in our coffee as a result of that history?

Everything is possible! But it's also true that everything can be "reframed," and made the object of our focus, to the possibly unhelpful exclusion of everything else.

At any rate, Stephens observed his employers' year of departure and saw them a century more. As he continued, he left no doubt—his citation of Cortes' year of entry into what is now Mexico was, at least in part, meant to be ironic:
STEPHENS (continuing directly): The Conquistadors and their successors also imported millions of African slaves. Seen in the overall context of the Western Hemisphere—or, for that matter, most of the pre-modern world—the arrival of more than 20 slaves in Virginia a century later was abominable, but not unique.
The 1619 Project is named for the year when those first twenty enslaved persons arrived, against their will, on the shores of our own Virginia. But just for the record, and as Stephens notes, this was part of a hemisphere-wide—indeed, world-wide—system of "barbarities" which had already been underway for a long time at that point.

Does it matter if this constellation of barbarities was already well underway? Does it matter when people like Stephens place the events of 1619 (and beyond) in a wider historical context?

It's pretty much as you'd have it! Personally, we think it's unhelpful and unwise to approach this matter as the Times is doing, though our basic reasons for thinking that seem to be somewhat different from the reservations Stephens goes on to express.

In thinking that way about the Times' project, we could always be wrong. But then again, there was the latest front-page report in that Saturday morning Times, in the same edition which carried Stephens' column.

That front-page report wasn't part of The 1619 Project, except perhaps in spirit. It was the latest front-page report about New York City's public schools—a report which again suggested that "desegregation," and virtually nothing else, will affect the lives of the 1.1 million kids attending those schools today.

Just for the record, the kids attending those public schools weren't alive in 1619. They were all born in the past twenty years. In some cases, they have a younger brother or sister who was born on this very day.

Those brothers and sisters will attend Gotham's public schools too. They'll enter kindergarten in the late summer or fall of 2024, in what a sensate human might even think about calling "The 2024 Project."

What kinds of schools will those children attend? How much happiness will they find in those schools?

To what extent will they end up being equipped to play rewarding roles in the American future, to the extent that such a future exists? How much pleasure will they take from their the various things they do in public school classrooms? How much pleasure will they take from their personal reading?

We ask these questions because the New York Times won't. At that frequently fatuous newspaper, a traffic jam in Atlanta calls 1619 to mind, and the lives of 1.1 million Gotham kids are about only one thing—a "desegregation" which goes unexplained and, absent some sort of explanation, can't necessarily be imagined by sensible human beings.

The Times' ongoing treatment of this topic involves what may be the worst print journalism we have ever seen. It also involves a strange devotion to the past. Also, a refusal to come to terms with the future which rivals Mister Trump's persistently crazy claims concerning climate change.

On its front page this Saturday morning, the New York Times was humping some imagined form of "desegregation" again. Its lengthy report made no earthly sense, in all the standardized ways.

On its front page, the Times was discussing this unexplained god. On page A24, that annoying person, the columnist Stephens, was suggesting that his brutally woke employers may suffer from a type of tunnel vision concerning affairs of this type.

In our view, that front-page report validated the skepticism Stephens seemed to be shopping around. Babies are being born today. What will their histories be?

We'd call that The 2024 Project; it's a bit of a search for tomorrow. Will the tragically woke, obsessive Times ever clamber aboard that sputtering bus?

This project takes place in the future. It involves milk-drinking children born far from Atlanta on this very day.

Tomorrow: As (finally) seen in paragraph 32...

Lawrence O'Donnell gets it right!


Sullivan follows suit:
Wednesday evening, Lawrence O'Donnell got it right.

He got it right right on the air! Here's the way it went down:

Donald J. Trump had seemed to be behaving so oddly that even the children had noticed. For that reason, and to his credit, O'Donnell started his program as shown below, once he'd finished his standard cloying exchange with Rachel.

It's the highlighted part of O'Donnell's remarks to which we directly refer:
O'DONNELL (8/21/19): Well, Donald Trump is behaving like a man who sees his presidency slipping away. His re-election polls are consistently bad for him. And now, what he thought was his strongest claim to re-election, the performance of the economy, is no long area sure thing in the president`s mind and—or in reality.

And so, he is blasting out enraged tweets at the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who he appointed. He is admitting that the government might have to bail out one of the most successful companies in the history of American capitalism, Apple, because the Trump tariffs are hurting Apple so badly and the president knows that.

The global economy is beginning to stagger under the weight of the Trump tariffs, which could begin costing American voters $1,000 a year. More American voters are realizing every day they are paying the Trump tariffs and China does not pay one penny of the Trump tariffs.

The Trump White House is having panicked meetings about what to do about the economy, cutting payroll taxes, an idea the president has reportedly embraced and then rejected, and then embraced and then rejected. Some of those embraces and rejections have occurred in the same day.

But tax cuts can only be done by the Congress, and the House of Representatives will not cut payroll taxes without dramatically increasing taxes on the richest Americans. In other words, restoring the Obama tax rates on the rich to replace the Trump tax cut for the rich.

All of this is maddening to Donald Trump—and so he is behaving this week as a mad king. And that is not my phrase. That's the kind of comment about the president we are hearing and seeing everywhere now.

And so, it is one of those nights when we're going to have to take another professional look at the mental health of the president of the United States.
Say what? O'Donnell was going to "take a professional look" at Donald J. Trump's "mental health?" Is that sort of thing allowed?

On that morning's Morning Joe, three of the children had rather plainly refused to do so, apparently keeping themselves in line with company policy concerning this awkward matter. They've played it that way on Morning Joe roughly since forever.

O'Donnell was playing a different game. As he continued, he said this:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): Former Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry Lance Dodes joined us on this program one month into the Trump presidency, in 2017, to warn us about the president's mental health because he felt what psychiatrists call "a duty to warn."

He told us then that the president's mental condition was only going to get worse. Dr. Dodes is back with us tonight. We will hear from him later in this hour.
Dodes did appear that night. He was interviewed about Trump's mental health during one full solo segment.

You can read Dodes' remarks in Wednesday evening's transcript. In the segment which followed, you can see O'Donnell interviewing two MSNBC pundits about what Dodes said.

All too predictably, they dissembled, joked and generally talked around this important topic, which has been "incredibly taboo, and rightfully so. It's not an easy thing to talk about."

Or so one of the pundits said.

Actually, the question of Donald Trump's mental health is an extremely easy thing to discuss. You just have to avoid the careerist obedients who serve as pundits and entertainers on corporate "cable news."

You have to direct sensible, respectful questions at someone who may bring expertise to the table, while remembering that "expertise," of whatever type, is always imperfect and fallible.

That's what O'Donnell did when he spoke with Dodes. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan followed suit. He did so in his weekly essay for New York magazine:
SULLIVAN (8/23/19): [Trump's] psychological disorder—the narcissism that guards against any hint of his own absurdity—is getting obviously worse. And it was always going to get worse. Someone with malignant narcissism has a familiar path, as Elizabeth Mika presciently wrote the week after his inauguration:

"It’s not only that he will never get better, but it is certain that he will get worse. There has never been a case of a malignant narcissist in power whose pathology improved, or even remained stable: They always deteriorate, and often rapidly, as they become drunk on (what they see as) now unlimited power and adulation."
Sullivan isn't a psychiatrist or a psychological specialist, and he knows he isn't.

Elizabeth Mika is! Like Dodes, she's one of the psychiatrists who contributed essays to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the 2017 book which a Yale psychiatrist compiled and the upper-end press disappeared.

The press corps has been working under the so-called Goldwater Rule. According to this ancient holding, psychiatric analysis should be banned from political journalism.

This rule dates to the 1964 presidential campaign. It's a very sound journalistic rule—until such time as a sitting president seems to be in the grip of a serious mental health problem.

On Thursday night's Hardball, a panel comprised of the usual pundits was still joking and laughing and enjoying themselves as they pretended to discuss the president's recent behavior. It's amazing to see how amusing such things can be, if you're being overpaid and you're getting TV-famous.

O'Donnell took a different approach; Sullivan followed suit. For Elizabeth Mika's fuller statement in 2017, you can (apparently) just click here.

We can't swear that she was right. But this is the saner discussion.

Rachel was clowning around last night, filling our heads with sugarplums about how great all our candidates are. Two nights earlier, Lawrence had gotten it right.

Yesterday, Sullivan followed suit. We'll leave you with this one last thought:

If Trump is suffering from some severe disorder, that's cause for pity, not loathing. We "pity the poor [metaphorical] immigrant" here. We're willing to guess that this approach would produce improved political outcomes.

We "pity the poor immigrant" here. You can try it too.