GATES ON RACE: Award-winning series postponed for one day!


But also, the Bridgeport schools: Starting early last evening, a computer breakdown derailed our preparation for today's installment of our current award-winning series, the award-winning "Gates on race." 

The computer breakdown was conquered this morning. But due to the lack of prep, we're postponing our series for one day.

(The topic is very important. In a guest essay in Sunday's New York Times, Professor Gates joined Professor Curran in saying this: "We need a new language for talking about race.")

In a somewhat related matter, we direct you to Dana Goldstein's report, in today's New York Times, about post-pandemic public school reading instruction. The report's dual headlines say this:

It’s ‘Alarming’: Children Are Severely Behind in Reading
The fallout from the pandemic is just being felt. “We’re in new territory,” educators say.

The news in Goldstein's report isn't good. Reporting from lower-income Bridgeport, Connecticut, Goldstein starts like this:

GOLDSTEIN (3/9/22): The kindergarten crisis of last year, when millions of 5-year-olds spent months outside of classrooms, has become this year’s reading emergency.

As the pandemic enters its third year, a cluster of new studies now show that about a third of children in the youngest grades are missing reading benchmarks, up significantly from before the pandemic.

In Virginia, one study found that early reading skills were at a 20-year low this fall, which the researchers described as “alarming.”

In the Boston region, 60 percent of students at some high-poverty schools have been identified as at high risk for reading problems—twice the number of students as before the pandemic...

Our youngest kids have missed a lot of school, and this seems to have had an effect. 

"Children in every demographic group have been affected," Goldstein says as she continues, "but Black and Hispanic children, as well as those from low-income families, those with disabilities and those who are not fluent in English, have fallen the furthest behind."

If we ever stumble upon that new way of talking about matters involving "race," we may start talking about the large numbers of kids who are struggling in their public schools. We won't restrict our focus, as the New York Times normally does, to that handful of high achievers who might get into Stuyvesant High, and even move on to Yale.

We might discuss the many kids, along with the few. That would be a much better way of talking about this particular topic. 

Today, and to her vast credit, Goldstein is talking about the many today, not just about the few. That said, and in all candor, we could do without talk like this:

GOLDSTEIN: At Capital Preparatory Harbor Lower School, a charter elementary school in the working-class coastal city of Bridgeport, Conn., about half of the first graders did not set foot inside a classroom during their crucial kindergarten year. Though the school building reopened in January 2021 on a hybrid schedule, many families, concerned about the virus, opted to continue full-time remote learning.

At the beginning of this school year, when all students returned to in-person learning, more than twice as many first graders as before the pandemic tested at kindergarten levels or below in their literacy skills, according to the administration.

Teachers started with the basics: how to orient and hold a book, and where the names of the author and illustrator could be found. The school is using federal stimulus dollars to create classroom libraries filled with titles that appeal to the largely Black and Hispanic students there...

The stimulus money is also paying for a new structured phonics curriculum called Fundations. Given the depth of many students’ struggles with reading, the work has taken on “a level of urgency,” said Garensha John, a first-grade teacher at the school. “Let’s get it done. As soon as they know this, they’ll excel.”

Almost surely, no. Almost surely, the bulk of those good, decent kids will not "excel" as soon as they finish Fundations.

In fairness, that well-intentioned first-grade teacher is talking about the kids at one specific Bridgeport school—a charter school at that. She wasn't saying that lower-income first graders across the country will suddenly excel at their reading if they just get taught some phonics.

Something else is true. Well-intentioned teachers will often make the most hopeful remarks—will present the most hopeful face—as they encourage their students to succeed in school. 

That said, newspapers like the New York Times have excelled in reciting such happy talk dating back to the 1960s. 

In the modern era, the Times excels at the task of refusing to tell its readers about the size of the achievement gaps found in our public schools. The Times refuses to discuss such issues. Indeed, it won't even report the most basic facts about the size of those punishing gaps. 

Almost uniformly, the Times prefers to restrict its gaze to the high-achievers who may end up at Yale. It's a dismissive, uncaring version of upper-class happy talk.

"As soon as they know this, they’ll excel?” Almost surely, no—as a general matter, they won't. But as we've often noted, we've never seen the slightest sign that anyone at the upper-class Times actually knows this or cares.

Tomorrow, we'll return to the essay by Professor Gates. We admire him for his obvious decency. His topic is very important


  1. "Our youngest kids have missed a lot of school, and this seems to have had an effect. "

    Meh. Surely worshipping thy God COVID-19 (and Fauci, His Prophet) is far more important than learning to read.

    You, dear Bob, were telling us that much yourself, in the last couple of years. Remember: they worshiped well in Taiwan and Mongolia, but nowhere near that in the US of A.

  2. "If we ever stumble upon that new way of talking about matters involving "race," we may start talking about the large numbers of kids who are struggling in their public schools. We won't restrict our focus, as the New York Times normally does, to that handful of high achievers who might get into Stuyvesant High, and even move on to Yale."

    1. Somerby says the article claims the reading problems cut across race and income, yet Somerby thinks talking about race will address reading problems.

    2. Somerby says the NY Times only talks about the highest achievers and yet this report about kids falling behind in reading appears in the New York Times itself.

    Talking about race isn't going to cure reading problems because these are not dependent upon one's race. They are dependent upon the financial situation of parents during the pandemic. Because the pandemic made it especially difficult for low income parents to step in and fill the gap when schools closed, and because those with special needs were especially hard hit by the lack of schooling, these groups are more behind in reading than those whose parents could fill the gap. But is this really a racial issue? Does being Hispanic (which is not a race at all) or being African American predispose a child to falling behind more than peers when parents cannot fill in for teachers as the schools were closed?

    Race is not the issue. Inequities predicated on race are the issue. But what does it mean that this article, which Somerby himself cites, says that school closures affected upper income children too? And why does Somerby just brush past that as if it didn't matter? Is it because such evidence suggests that race has nothing to do with reading? What matters is what happened in these kids schools during the pandemic, how parents were or were not able to find alternatives (such as access to online teaching, or formation of tutoring groups among parents or in neighborhoods). Why doesn't Somerby see this as a matter of access to resources by parents, and not a deficiency of kids based on race?

    When will Somerby acknowledge that black and Hispanic kids get lower scores in school because their schools are less well equipped and their parents less able to help them learn -- and that has nothing to do with skin color but everything to do with how people with different skin color are treated in our society?

    1. I don't see evidence in this post that the Howler has a biological definition of race.

      I see a contradiction in your claims as well.

      - " this article, which Somerby himself cites, says that school closures affected upper income children too"

      - "Somerby says the NY Times only talks about the highest achievers and yet this report about kids falling behind in reading appears in the New York Times itself."

      I hope the contradiction is easy to see. The Howlers point is plausible, since the story includes rich kids, so it's possible that "the Times prefers to restrict its gaze to the high-achievers." I don't know why the New York Times picks its stories but you and he both agree that this one includes the wealthy. He simply speculated that maybe it was the main reason for the story. Evidence to the Howler's refute his hypothesis would be the Times printing articles solely about the poor, purely from a logical point of view.

      Moving beyond that, i think you and Howler probably do understand inequalities as a problem, he closes the blog with a plea to look at the bigger picture than simple wishful thinking.

      This is kind of common in media, to overlook systemic issues like you mentioned, inequality, but also who owns the schools, who gets contracted for test taking machinery etc. I would expect media to report seldomly on those.

      For example, there wasn't a lot of reporting on Manchin and Sinema's donors. There was very little reporting on Republican terrorists connections to deep money. For a while the news barely talked about global warming. Anything systemic they tend to ignore, anything where the fault lies with someone with money, it's treated as insanity to analyze.

    2. You need to review the manner in which Somerby has talked about race in his previous essays. His understanding of race is not the same as that held by many liberals, especially those familiar with the role of the social construction in maintaining a discriminatory economic and social system. Somerby has explicitly said that if race is a social construct, as liberals claim, then it should not be addressed or talked about because it is divisive and upsets conservatives and Southerners. That is pretty far from understanding the contribution of racial thinking and racism to our current problems.

  3. Never has there been written a more racist and misogynistic, pro Putin blog post.

    1. No?

      I imagine one that actually mentions Putin might be in the top position.

    2. That makes you a racist.

  4. Thomas Sowell is one of the few people willing to talk about the problem of inner city black culture. See two cogent 5-minute talks at and

    A substantial segment of black children are raised in a culture that is anti-education among other flaws. This reality needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. We cannot solve a problem unless we deal with the real cause.

    Sadly, today's definition of "racism" means that anyone criticizing inner city black culture is apt to be dismissed as a racist.

    1. I hope the days of Twitter shaping and defining discourse, especially what's "allowed" and what will get someone cancelled or piled on are numbered.

      There's a simple thing one can do, not read it. But it's hard, when for example news articles are put up that basically just contain a copy of a twitter post. We saw this a lot with Trump.

      Can we strive for a new age where thoughts are expressed without character counts, where we get away from analyzing complex issues with "hot takes", where things are discussed freely and in depth without having to shape every story to fit within accepted dogma?

      Or will this never be possible, and the current state of affairs is just the ultimate proof of that now that the internet is in full swing?

    2. Successful businesses evaluate policies based on whether they work or not. Otherwise, they fail.

      However, liberals and Democrats are not hurt when their policies toward inner cities don't work. They're not personally affected. In fact, Democrats are arguably helped by failed policies. If they raised a large number of poor blacks to the upper middle class, these people might vote Republican. As long as Democrats can get the black vote by giving people stuff and by calling the Republicans "racists", their policies are working for them, even if they're not working for black Americans.

    3. Liberal policies toward inner cities did work to reduce poverty and bring people into the middle class. Statistics show a study rise in such stats from Lyndon Johnson's declaration of war on poverty. There is no justification for calling these failed policies. More recently, when Biden enacted the child tax credit as part of covid relief, it changed child poverty statistics dramatically. Congress failed to continue it when the relief act expired, due to conservative opposition.

      I see no evidence that when Oprah became fabulously wealthy she became a Republican. The only one I see doing that is Kanye, and he is out of his mind. There is no plot within the Democratic party to sabotage anti-poverty measures in order to keep black people from becoming Republicans, but kudos for suggesting a Q-Anon-worthy conspiracy theory. But you forgot to mention pizza.

    4. A substantial segment of black children are raised in a culture that is anti-education among other flaws.

      You have just defined the current republican party, David.

      Survey results in 2017 suggested that typical conservatives had increasingly begun to share the president's dim view of higher ed. In a Pew survey, only 36 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning respondents said higher education had a positive effect on the direction of the country...

      It's funny, when you attack education from the right, it makes you a populist and the MSM swoons.

      “We won the poorly educated vote. I love the poorly educated”

      Why don't you go to the hills of WV, David, and teach the value of education, you fucking racist prick.

    5. David,
      Didn’t Meg Whitman run as a Republican?
      We should all be negatively affected by our failures like she was.

  5. Rationalist, Trump (being semi-literate) adopted the tweet as his official method of communicating with the public, eschewing press releases, press conferences, and official public statements. The press and others were required by that action to take such statements as official communications with the citizenry and respond accordingly. This should never have degerated into flame wars or twitter feuds, but the president himself engaged in such behavior so it could not be ignored.

    Now that there is a rational president in office who respects traditions for communicating with citizens, we can expect to see better discourse. It is wrong to overlook Trump's contribution to the disruption of conversation on serious topics. To the extent that Senators and House members behave like Trump did (see MTG and Boebert's tweets for example), that progress will be delayed.

    It does NOT work to let tweets by official members of Congress go by without comment when outrageous things are tweeted. It would be nice if Republicans exerted some pressure on their representatives to grow the fuck up.