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 mathThose 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.
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
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 systemsWe're taking most of our numbers from Professor Reardon's study, as presented by the New York Times.
Los Angeles: 9%
Miami/Dade County: 6.7%
San Antonio: 2%
Washington DC: 10%
Kansas City, Mo.: 9%
New Orleans: 9%
El Paso: 9%
San Francisco: 11%
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 systemsHowever 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.
Camden, N.J.: 1%
Gary, Ind.: 1%
East St. Louis, Mo. 0%
Compton, Calif.: 0%
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