What are our "thought leaders" actually like?

MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2021

One bombshell after another: Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post's media columnist, delivered her assessment shortly before noon today.

The headline on her column says this:

Oprah proved she is greatest celebrity interviewer of all time. All journalists can learn from her.

It was "bombshell after bombshell," the media columnist said. Soon, she was describing an exchange between two high-end professors:

SULLIVAN (3/8/21): I was entertained by the admiring Twitter exchange Sunday night between two hard-nosed New York City journalism professors who are normally highly critical of the mainstream media.

“That was the best interview I have ever watched,” wrote New York University’s Jay Rosen.

“Great, but not quite Frost/Nixon level for me,” responded Bill Grueskin of Columbia University.

But David Frost’s televised grilling of the disgraced former president was back in 1977, so by this reckoning the royal interview might have been the best televised sit-down in the past four decades.

The hard-nosed New York City professors spilled over with admiration. As a result, the media columnist was entertained.

Was this "the best televised sit-down in the past four decades?"

We aren't entirely sure. For one thing, we didn't watch. Why did anyone else?

Our answer would go something like this. This is all they really want, the ranking elites in Our Town. 

They want to perform their virtue for a while. After that, they want to sit down. They want to be entertained.

It was "bombshell after bombshell," Sullivan wrote. We thought about the millions of kids who attend our low-income schools.

We thought about the recent New York Times reports about the problem of "segregation" in New York City's public schools. We thought about the column the Washington Post published on Sunday—a column by a former Teach For America teacher in the Memphis schools.

We thought about all the good decent kids who attend our nation's "underperforming" schools. Those two professors, and the media columnist, will never—we repeat, will never—conduct discussions about the journalism surrounding the lives of those kids. 

Oprah will never discuss those kids or the schools they attend. And no one will want her to.

We've been unimpressed with the Times' reporting about the Gotham schools. On balance, we think it misses the basic point in a stunning array of ways.

On balance, we were unimpressed by the (strikingly dogmatized) column in Sunday's Post, which seemed to have been written as a self-confession during the Cultural Revolution. We were struck by the scattershot nature of the letters about charter schools which appeared in this morning's Times.

That said, millions of kids attend those low-income schools. In truth, nobody gives a flying falafel about those kids—about their lives and their interests. There will be no discussion of them.

We the people like to perform, after which we like to be entertained. We like to tell ourselves the stories which make us feel tribally good. 

This is the way we humans are wired, top major experts have told us. This pattern isn't going to change, disconsolate scholars now say.

Postponed: Maddow spots Joe Manchin's racism


49 comments:

  1. You are unimpressed, dear Bob, eh?

    Well, we guess you're a dispassionate, perhaps even phlegmatic fella. Good for you, we suppose.

    But not everyone is like you, dear Bob. Others, believe it or not, literally want to puke just from hearing your "thought leaders'" voices or looking at their self-satisfied faces.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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  2. NAMBLA lost and found department.March 8, 2021 at 3:06 PM

    Mr. Mao
    We have located your missing chromosome

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dotard in CaliforniaMarch 8, 2021 at 3:43 PM

    Mao your infantile, imbecillic emissions have inspired me To before an even bigger fool

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bob, I have spotted your racism.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "We thought about all the good decent kids who attend our nation's "underperforming" schools."

    Somerby has a lot of nerve calling our school "underperforming" in the midst of a pandemic during which many, if not most, kids are not attending school but are struggling to find ways to engage in virtual education, while teachers without training have scrambled to get their lessons online and fill children's time constructively. Many consider this a lost year for all concerned.

    What does Somerby think those journalists should be interviewing teachers about? The lack of funding to do what is expected of them? The strain on parents who have suddenly become classroom coaches while holding down jobs? Or the concerns of the kids themselves confronting a pandemic without full understanding of what is happening to the adults around them? Shall they talk about the stress? Or the anxiety teachers feel about being forced back into classrooms that may be unsafe?

    Somerby is a huge asshole. This is no time to be talking about so-called "underperforming" schools! What is wrong with that man?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's being sarcastic. He views them as coming along fine and is against the hysteria that is driving down support for public education.

      Delete
    2. What makes you the Somerby whisperer, anon 4:36? He has said no such thing.

      Delete
    3. The big clue was the scare quotes. The second big clue is that it's a major running theme of this blog.

      ----

      TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2013 The Washington Post sings the praises of KIPP!


      KIPP schools report academic gains which are very hard-won. Because KIPP is a symbol of “education reform,” the editors rush to discuss those gains. That said, there’s another impressive set of gains the Post refuses to report. Those are the gains recorded by black and Hispanic kids in the nation’s traditional public schools over the past twenty years.

      -----

      BLACK KIDS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS: A fuller set of Grade 12 scores!
      FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

      This year’s Dick-and-Jane narratives:
      1) Our high school seniors are dumber than ever. We need more charter schools!
      2) Black kids get suspended from school way too much. It’s mainly because of you-know-who in thirteen Southern states!
      3) The switch to charter schools in New Orleans has produced amazing results! My wife works for a charter school org. We need more charter schools


      -----
      Are charter schools building a revolution?
      TUESDAY, JANUARY 12, 2021

      When schools claim that their performance has "nearly wipe[d] out the Black-white educational gap," you'll rarely go wrong betting that some sort of fraud is involved in their claims.





      Delete
    4. Nowhere in any of that does he say the schools are “coming along fine.”

      And he himself has fueled anti-public school hysteria by constantly reminding his readers about those “achievement gaps.” Do they show the schools are “coming along fine?”

      Delete
    5. "coming along fine"

      "there’s another impressive set of gains the Post refuses to report"

      Further evidence:

      MISSISSIPPI MUDDLE: Naep scores rise in Mississippi!
      TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2019

      Over the course of the past fifty years, American public school students have recorded large scores gains in both reading and math on the Naep.


      TALES OF THE NAEP: Universally praised, almost never discussed!
      TUESDAY, JANUARY 7, 2020
      Black/white achievement gap, Grade 8 math, Naep
      1996: 40.22 points
      2019: 32.25 points
      Over those 23 years, we've gone from a very large achievement gap to a smaller achievement gap which is still very large.

      [.. ]
      There's good and there's bad in Naep data. Some of the bad is awful. But in our view, it doesn't make sense to call in the gloom on a selective basis.

      Delete
  6. Has it occurred to Somerby that many people do not feel "entertained" by the problems of these particular Royals but rather feel empathy and concern for them? Some of us are wondering how this may change the system of government in the UK, perhaps weaken the royal family and make the role of the monarch less important. This seems like a historical moment, perhaps a reevaluation of the role of journalists in Great Britain, a redefinition of privacy. And it seem like another unanticipated impact of social media on institutions. But Somerby dismisses all this as "entertainment" because if something doesn't interest him, then it shouldn't interest anyone.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Boomers gush all over Oprah for doing a fine and even great job because they took it upon themselves as a generation to try to really stop racism and that was how they decided to do it. They learned one definition of racism and that's personal bigotry.

    "The lessons Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers gleaned from the Civil Rights era is that racism is matter of personal bigotry — racists hate people because of the color of their skin, or because they believe stereotypes about groups of people they’ve never met — not one of institutional discrimination and exploitation"

    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/white-millennials-products-failed-lesson-colorblindness

    Today we're all woke enough to know the federal government denied Black families loans and that your risk of inhaling pollution is higher if you come from a Black American family. That's institutional racism.

    But Millennials still believe in some of this Boomer anti-racism. Seeing only the individual acting. The virtue of colorblindness. Thinking Obama and Oprah are the saviors. etc.

    Thanks guys.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Racism may be institutional, but it is experienced by individuals on a personal level. People, not institutions, feel the effects of racism, and people, not institutions, maintain the inequities and do feel hate, distrust, dislike, uneasiness, suspicion, and any number of negative emotions around minorities.

      This isn't a matter of Boomers being all wrong, and woke people being right, with Millennials somewhere in the middle. Both approaches are necessary, but by themselves are incomplete.

      You do boomers a disservice if you think they didn't know about redlining and bank loans (and vote suppression) back in the 60's. It is why so many important lawsuits were filed back then and why the civil rights act was passed. You don't address personal bigotry using lawsuits.

      So this seems like a plausible generalization about generations (a kind of analysis which Somerby hates, by the way), but it doesn't stand up to close examination. A civil rights movement based on personal bigotry would have looked much different, in my opinion.

      Delete
    2. "The lessons Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers gleaned from the Civil Rights era "

      "so many important lawsuits back then"

      These aren't the same. Try again.

      Delete
    3. I can't speak for Gen-Xers, but Obama was a baby-boomer. So were the Freedom riders and the kids who attended the first integrated schools.

      I am saying that there was a lot of institutional change enacted by Boomers as part of a continuing civil rights effort. They were a link in that chain. The idea that they worked only for an end to personal bigotry is wrong and unfair to the boomers.

      It is a facile and misleading generalization.

      I am a boomer and when I was in college, I never attended a march or rally. I did participate in a real-estate survey of apartments adjacent to UCLA which tested whether racism affected available of housing by sending a white/white married couple, a black/white married couple and a black/black married couple to rent advertised apartments. I was part of the black/white couple. Not only did we demonstrate the existence of discrimination, but we produced a listing of non-biased apartment owners which was made available to black apartment hunters. The study results were published in the LA Times. That was aimed at institutional racism in housing not changing hearts and minds. This happened in the mid-60s. Activities like this were happening all over the country, along with the protests and attempts to change personal bigotry.

      Recently, I was binge-watching epsidoes of The Love Boat. That show's cast and storylines were easily more integrated that anything appearing on TV today. That appeared in the mid to late 1970s. I would consider that an attempt to change hearts and minds. Both kinds of approaches were happening and I believe that both, together, are better at producing change than either approach separately. But accusing the boomers of only thinking of racism as a personal flaw and not institutional is manifestly incorrect.

      Delete
    4. Did your activism, however important, get into the mainstream of Boomer consciousness?

      If Yes, then why are millennials just as blinded? If no, then you don't have a rebuttal, you have some exceptions.

      Delete
    5. Circular. You prove the boomers had certain attitudes by assuming the millennials do. I think the progress made addressing institutional racism (admittedly unfinished) shows boomers didn't all hold the attitudes attributed to them.

      Delete
    6. Look, I'm a millennial, I don't drink PBR. But I know a lot of my generation does. It's the same with views on race. You happen to see nuance, but your generation very commonly does not.

      Delete
    7. AnonymousMarch 8 is totally right about the way it was back then, and I'm getting mighty tired of younger people now completely getting the past wrong. It's always culpable and blameworthy, too.

      Totally correct about the 70s changes as well.

      Delete
  8. 'That said, millions of kids attend those low-income schools. In truth, nobody gives a flying falafel about those kids—about their lives and their interests.'

    Neither does Somerby, since he spent most of the last 4-5 years concerned about and defending Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Donald Trump, George Zimmerman, Brock Turner and Devin Nunes.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. “Oprah will never discuss those kids or the schools they attend.”

    Umm...

    “President Winfrey? Here’s what we know about Oprah’s education outlook”
    https://www.chalkbeat.org/2018/1/9/21104091/president-winfrey-here-s-what-we-know-about-oprah-s-education-outlook

    You can criticize Oprah for the things she supports here. But she has clearly and quite publicly talked about schools.

    You can fault her for her wrong-headedness, but you can’t say she never talks about schools.

    And it isn’t a valid assumption to claim she or others don’t care about schools. She surely believes she is helping.

    There are plenty of mainstream and non-mainstream sources of discussions about schools that Somerby ignores, and he never actually discusses the schools or the kids himself. (And no, talking about tests like the naep and the racial “achievement gaps” isn’t a substitute for a discussion. In fact, these kinds of tests are precisely the things that get schools deemed “underperforming” and get people riled up about public schools. If anything, he has added fuel to that fire.)

    He isn’t adding anything to the discussion other than finger-pointing and politically charged rhetoric, which we already have more than enough of.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Somerby gets to talk about the Harry/Meghan interview by pretending not to talk about it.

    Meanwhile, his buddy Drum has a full blog entry about it, telling us why he hated it. Good use of pixels.

    ReplyDelete
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