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.


  1. Since when is "buzzard" a neutral name?

    1. Since never, but a brief trip through the google finds numerous people reminiscing about their grade-school reading groups, and "blue bird" and "robin" are universally remembered as the good groups. The slow readers were supposedly and variously buzzards, crows, blackbirds, and sparrows. Perhaps someone has some old instruction materials from those bygone days. Until I see some documentation, I'm going to suspect that the buzzard category is apocryphal.

  2. There is a large literature on gifted education -- why gifted kids need their own classes, how to select such kids properly and especially, how to identify minority gifted kids. This program seems not to know how to do that. In that case, maybe it doesn't know how to be anything more than a special track for middle class white kids, and in that case maybe it should be disbanded.

    If it is truly a gifted program then it should include minority kids too. They occur in the minority population and should be identified and taught according to their needs, just as white and Asian kids are.

    1. If it is truly a gifted program then it should include minority kids too. They occur in the minority population and should be identified and taught according to their needs, just as white and Asian kids are.

      Asian kids ARE minority kids.

    2. David, you are being stupid. In this case, minority refers to black and Hispanic kids, since the Asian kids are already being included.

    3. BTW Trump has denied that he ever wanted to use nukes to blow up hurricanes before they reach shore. He calls this story "fake news".

    4. And yet it is not "fake" news. Trump really did ask his staff about nuking hurricanes and he mentioned it on several occasions. This isn't the press making anything up. He only denied it when public reaction showed him he had made a mistake. Lying is how he covers up.

    5. @ 12:24 I know what @12:21 meant. I objected for three reasons.

      1. I dislike the misuse or arbitrary re-definition of words. It's a sneaky way to try to support a position.

      2.The comment by @12:21 seems to imply ethnic discrimination -- that blacks and Hispanics are barred from the program. This is not so.

      3. The enormous success of Asian students shows that being a minority does not preclude educational excellence. Their success is an embarrassment to those who think integration is essential.

    6. Fake news: Trump's Secretary of State called him a "moron".

      Not fake news: Trump's Secretary of State called him a "fucking moron".

  3. Here is the info about identifying minority gifted kids:

  4. This is important too. Yesterday Kevin Drum wrote a column about this NYC decision and the comments were full of these myths about gifted kids:

  5. Here is what the National Association for Gifted Children says about elitism in gifted programs:

    "Gifted education programs are meant to help all high-ability students. Gifted learners are found in all cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups. However, many of these students are denied the opportunity to maximize their potential because of the way in which programs and services are funded, and/or flawed identification practices. For example, reliance on a single test score for gifted education services may exclude selection of students with different cultural experiences and opportunities. Additionally, with no federal money and few states providing an adequate funding stream, most gifted education programs and services are dependent solely on local funds and parent demand. This means that in spite of the need, often only higher-income school districts are able to provide services, giving the appearance of elitism."

  6. There's one vote for open borders, from someone who only sees humanity and not race. Anyone else?

  7. Why hasn't Somerby mentioned that being orange-faced on purpose surely must be a sign of mental illness?

  8. It sounds like that panel wants to punish white parents.

    This whole gifted=elitist thing got started because teachers and parents equate giftedness with higher status. Indicators of status contribute to elitism. Some liberals may think that the way to eliminate status is to have everyone be alike -- dress in those blue Mao shirts and all earn the same money. That's partly what the Cultural Revolution was about. But there is no reason to associate gifted classes with status when the kids did nothing to earn being smart -- they were born that way (or so it seems to them). Having a gifted child shouldn't confer status on a parent either, since it is the child's attribute. Some people look at the gifted classes and think the students are having more fun, but most kids wouldn't want to do the harder work, given the chance, nor would they find the interests of gifted kids appealing to them. But the singling out seems to confer specialness that is resented by other kids and teachers.

    Schools need to work hard to prevent this. Otherwise gifted kids who are identified will refuse to participate because they don't want to endure the resentment of other students. That means gifted kids are going to be stigmatized if they don't join the classes and stigmatized if they do -- by being considered privileged, full-of-themselves, etc. Some teachers unfortunately try to take the gifted kids down a peg, to show them they aren't so smart.

    That brings us to a committee that doesn't seem very concerned about the needs of gifted kids, doesn't seem to understand why gifted classes exist.

    Somerby presumably does understand this stuff, but he would rather beat up on DiBlasio, who hasn't done anything about the recommendation, than talk about the mistreatment of gifted kids within the NYC school district. Which comes first? Attacking liberals or helping kids? We know what Somerby's priorities are.

  9. A difference between Trump's lunatic ideas and de Blasio's lunatic ideas is that Trump only talks about his. He isn't really going to bomb a hurricane. But, de Blasio might actually implement his school plan.

    1. Trump nominated a sexual predator to the Supreme Court of the United States. He didn't just talk about it.

  10. Trump is so massively ignorant that he probably doesn't know nuclear weapons release fallout. Someone needs to take him aside and explain that so that he is less interested in using his nukes for any purpose.

    1. Don't let David hijack the topic here -- it is meeting the needs of gifted kids, whether white, black, Hispanic or Asian, not nuking hurricanes.

  11. Somerby cites NAEP scores for NYC and for the nation, but not for kids in gifted classes. Are they excluded from NAEP testing the way special ed kids are? What does 90th percentile mean if the gifted kids are excluded? If there is self-exclusion by white parents who send their kids to private schools, how might that affect the mean for NYC?

  12. How many times do you use "liberal zombie". It seems your brain and vocabulary are extremely limited.

  13. There will be that many fewer "white" kids to produce the "desegregation" these experts seek.

    No worries, Bob. We'll disarm their parents on grounds of being insufficiently appreciative of diversity, and march them into the public schools at bayonet-point.