Gotham's kids tackle New York State!

MONDAY, MAY 23, 2022

Let's take a look at the data: New York City "is facing a literary crisis," New York Times readers were told.

Are the city's novelists moving upstate? Actually, as it turned out, the actual crisis is this:

New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

Those numbers came from the annual statewide reading exams—and they didn't sound very good. 

Last week, we showed you that Gotham's kids (grades 3-8) seemed to outperform their counterparts around the state on that particular test. We also noted a few of the shortcomings built into those annual tests.

Today, we'll offer you a quick look at some data which may be more reliable. They come from the reading test on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the federally-run program which has long been considered to be the gold standard of domestic educational testing.

How did Gotham's public school kids fare on that reading test? Here are the "proficiency rates" for Grade 8, in reading and in math:

Proficiency rates, New York City Public Schools
Grade 8 reading, 2019 Naep
White kids: 46.3%
Black kids: 13.9%
Hispanic kids: 20.3%
Asian ancestry kids: 41.3%
Proficiency rates, New York City Public Schools
Grade 8 math, 2019 Naep
White kids: 48.3%
Black kids: 10.0%
Hispanic kids: 14.4%
Asian ancestry kids: 60.4%

We remind you that any measurement of "proficiency" involves the setting of a subjective standard. It has been said that the Naep sets the bar for "proficiency" artificially high, driving proficiency rates down. 

That said, the demographic "achievement gaps" are easy to spot in those data. Meanwhile, we'll take a quick guess:

Quite a few of Gotham's Asian kids may be English language learners. That may explain why their proficiency rate was substantially higher in math.

How did Gotham's kids compare to their peers, across the state and across the nation, on these two Naep tests? Long story short:

Gotham's white kids slightly outperformed their peers, across the nation and across the state, in both reading and math. Average socioeconomic status and parental literacy may start to explain this conquest.

For other groups, maybe not. Here are the reading stats for the state and the nation:

Proficiency rates, New York State public schools
Grade 8 reading, 2019 Naep
White kids: 41.2%
Black kids: 18.5%
Hispanic kids: 21.0%
Asian ancestry kids: 46.1%

Proficiency rates, U.S. public schools
Grade 8 reading, 2019 Naep
White kids: 41.3%
Black kids: 14.7%
Hispanic kids: 21.4%
Asian ancestry kids: 54.2%

You can scope the comparisons for yourselves. All in all, of course, nobody cares.

For all Naep data, start here.


STARTING TOMORROW: Our Rhetoric, Ourselves!

MONDAY, MAY 23, 2022

How diverse democracies die: Over the past (let's say) ten years, rhetoric from the MAGA world has turned into a deeply disturbing anthropology lesson. 

The rhetoric is often jaw-dropping, as are the widespread beliefs. This rhetoric, and this capacity for unfounded belief, raises a question about the ability of us human beings to conduct our own political affairs.

Then too, we now have the remarkable rhetoric which increasingly emerges from our own blue tribe. Consider Brian Broome's recent opinion essay in the Washington Post.

Brian Broome, age roughly 52, is a good, decent person. His essay appeared in the aftermath of the Buffalo massacre, in which ten good and decent people were crazily shot and killed.

It's clear that Broome was upset by these murders. Stating the obvious, there's no reason why he shouldn't have been. 

Early in his essay, though, the peculiar rhetoric began—rhetoric which was disseminated to the public by the Washington Post. For example, Broome's third paragraph read like this:

BROOME (5/17/22): The alleged shooter, Payton Gendron, is a man who is reported to have been concerned about immigration and decreasing White birthrates. It’s the same concern that Tucker Carlson shares with his Fox News audience almost every night. Gendron isn’t mentally ill. He isn’t “troubled,” nor is he just a misguided teen. These are terms you will hear when he is discussed. The truth is that he’s simply hateful in the same way that right-wing politics have instructed him to be.

"Gendron isn’t mentally ill," Broome peculiarly said. According to Broome, the Buffalo shooter isn't even "troubled." 

(He left open the possibility that the shooter had been "misguided." But that was as far as he'd go.)

Regarding the claim about mental illness, Broome didn't say how he could possibly offer such an assessment—how he could possibly know such a thing. 

Discussions of "mental illness" involve a challenging set of concepts and distinctions. Broome has no apparent background in the field.

How in the world could Brian Broome know if the shooter is mentally ill (in some particular way)? There seems to be no way that Broome could possibly know such a thing—but in a MAGA-adjacent way, he just went ahead and said it.

Broome just went ahead and said it—and the Post put his statement in print.

In comments, quite a few liberal commenters called attention to the oddness of Broome's  unsupported psychiatric assessment. As for Broome, he moved on to some mind-reading work about Justice Alito's recent draft opinion:

BROOME (continuing directly): It is easy to draw a straight line between the hateful actions of white supremacists and popular right-wing conservatives. It seems that neither group can imagine a world where all people are equal. In their minds, one group must be on top. And the fear of losing the top spot has mutated into an ideology known as the great replacement theory...[T]his fear-fueled, binary thinking will continue to bring harm to people of color.

The same sort of thinking about race and birthrates now dominates the conservative Supreme Court. The leaked draft opinion isn’t about protecting babies. It is about protecting Whiteness. Specifically, White babies.

Say what? Alito's draft opinion is "specifically" about "protecting white babies?" 

For the record, the draft opinion doesn't specifically say any such thing. But in a more general sense, how could Broome possibly think that he knew something like that?

How could Broome know such a thing? In what follows, he fails to explain. Instead, he offers the type of sweeping, unsupported rhetoric our blue tribe has increasingly come to enjoy:

BROOME (continuing directly): Many others have pointed out that if Republicans really cared about babies and children, they’d help provide help for poor infants, child care, health care, better funding for schools, and the like. But their concern is not about babies and children in general—only certain babies. The Supreme Court draft decision is about protecting what conservatives believe is a diminishing demographic and their most valuable resource: White people.

For the record, Broome now seems to be reporting what all Republicans think. According to Broome, "Their concern is not about babies and children in general—only certain babies."

Once again, Broome doesn't explain how he knows such a thing. He then mind-reads, once again, about the motives which lie behind the Alito draft opinion:

The opinion "is about protecting what conservatives believe is a diminishing demographic and their most valuable resource: White people." Or at least, so Broome declares.

How could Broome know that? He seems to feel no need to explain. Instead, he gives Post readers a further look at his various "beliefs:" 

BROOME (continuing directly): Some will accuse me here of indulging in conspiracy theories—or of believing the worst in people. But, as a Black American living in a racist society, I don’t find it difficult to believe in the worst in people. One tries not to. But we see evidence of it every day in our lived experience. And we have firsthand knowledge of how important Whiteness is to some people. We’ve seen how they conflate Whiteness with righteousness and innocence. And we’ve lived with how the power that this culture bestows upon Whiteness affects us negatively. It is my belief that conservatives couldn’t care less about whether or not mothers of color terminate pregnancies.

The real agenda here is to boost White birthrates, because among the biggest fears of conservatives is the fear of being outnumbered.

According to Broome, the "real agenda" behind Alito's opinion involves the desire to boost white birthrates. This would eliminate (white) conservatives' fear of being outnumbered in the future as demographic change proceeds.

Under the circumstances, this strikes us as a remarkably odd statistical theory. As best we can tell from the basic numbers and from the basic sociology, eliminating abortion would increase birthrates in "minority" communities much more than the birthrate of whites.

You can Google the data yourselves—or you can read this recent AP report, courtesy of The PBS Newshour. In this separate report, the Guttmacher Institute offers this brief overview:

"This much is true: In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women."

It's hard to imagine how five Justices could actually think that overturning Roe v. Wade—or eliminating abortion rights altogether—would be a way to turn back the clock on demographic change. But that's what Brian Broome has said—and the Washington Post chose to print it.

During these Trump-adjacent years, rhetoric from the nation's red tribe has becoming increasingly illogical, unfounded, unhinged, bizarre. Something else has become remarkably clear:

We humans are capable of believing almost any claim, no matter how illogical or unhinged, at times of tribal conflict. Sadly, as these Days of Trump move on, our own blue rhetoric increasingly seems to come from a Trump-adjacent realm. 

Brian Broome is a good, decent person. That said, large chunks of his recent essay read like the sort of thing you used to hear in corners bars, though only if you were unlucky enough to be physically present.

Today, newspapers like the Washington Post—and "cable news" channels like MSNBC—are increasingly ready to publish and broadcast such rhetoric. The rhetoric goes out to us the people—and we the people will be inclined to believe and parrot its various statements and claims.

(Cynics say this practice is good for the corporate bottom line. These cynics may well have a point.)

In conclusion, consider this:

In his new book, Professor Mounk warns about the historical difficulty of maintaining "[racially] diverse democracies." According to Mounk, crazy rhetoric from each of two warring sides can help doom such fragile attempts at human governance.

The rhetoric we approve and advance helps define our selves. In this morning's Washington Post, an opinion essay appears beneath this headline:

Disturbing, even inaccurate speech must be protected

Trust us! At present, the U.S. army isn't big enough to protect all that unfettered speech!

In all honesty, nothing is going to change the decline in the rhetoric—in the logic and the rationality—of our own flailing blue tribe. Even so, we'll explore the decline in our tribe's rhetoric during the course of the week.

Does our rhetoric really define our selves? In the face of the Crazy from major elements of MAGA world, is our tribe's devolving rhetoric really the tool with which we should respond?

Tomorrow: Stephanie Ruhle agrees


TIMES AND SCHOOLS: How severe is New York City's crisis?

SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2022

A, B and C, long ago: Long ago and far away, we were teaching fifth and sixth graders in the Baltimore City Schools.

We started in the fall of 1969; we left in the early 1980s. We came for the draft deferment, left because the time had come when we pretty much had to.

Along the way, we spent seven full years teaching fifth and sixth grades. We also spent two full years teaching junior high math, with time off for research endeavors.

In the grade school years, we generally taught the kids who were judged to be farthest "behind." Some of these kids really were far "behind." In some cases, we didn't know how they'd received that designation.

In some of these cases, the kids in question had already repeated one or two grades. They were fifth or sixth graders by designation, but they might be eighth graders by age—and they might be reading on (something like) "third grade level."

(You can't measure a child's "reading level" the same way you can measure her height. Also, test scores are higher today.)

These kids hadn't grown up in "high-literacy" homes. As a general matter, they hadn't had the types of reading experiences which are enjoyed by children from higher literacy homes—experiences which may begin before the new-born child even comes home from the hospital.

One of the interesting things about growing older involves the surprises you may experience as you remember the people you've known along the way. Somewhat oddly, we remember some of those fifth and sixth grade kids as some of the best people we've ever known.

In the past, we've mentioned three girls—A, B and C—who we taught for both fifth and sixth grades. By this time, we had come to believe that the best way for kids to learn to read and write was by doing a lot of reading and writing, so we would spend time, every day, just letting everybody do that, in whatever manner they chose.

Often, they were reading paperback books we had bought ourselves, generally six at a time. These were books about more mature subjects written on accessible "reading levels."

In the past, we've described some of the things we saw during those sessions. For example:

We would see A, B and C sitting together in a small circle, gravely listening to one another as they took turns reading aloud from one of these high-interest books. (A readable biography of Florence Nightingale comes to mind.)

A few years later, B asked us for help with a terrible personal matter. (As it turned out, there was nothing we could do, or at least that's what we decided.) Some years after that, A telephoned us out of the blue, telling us what was going on with other kids from that class.

When we look back on A, B and C, we can still see them sitting in their reading circle, having the kind of experience, at age 13, that other kids have at much earlier ages. Especially in the case of A and B, we think of them as two of the best people we've ever known.

It's odd to think about people so young in that way. But our memory breaks through to let us know what we actually saw way back then.

Due to our nation's brutal racial history; due to our nation's unfortunate class structure; some kids grow up having a bevy of reading experiences. Other kids do not. 

Except for the kids who lose their way, they're all good, decent kids. Similar good and decent kids are found all over the world.

At the New York Times (and elsewhere), our tribe doesn't pay a lot of attention to the interests of these good, decent kids. 

At the Times, they produce highly performative front-page reports about the interests of the top few percent. Good, decent kids like A, B and C rarely make the cut. 

When a new mayor suggests a new plan to address the needs of those kids, the Times assigns an inexperienced non-specialist to report on the mayor's proposal. Little experience or expertise is brought to bear in reporting the new mayor's new plan.

(This isn't that young reporter's doing or fault.)

Our tribe is convinced that we're the good, decent, very smart people. The Others are known to be deplorable, irredeemable—racist, misogynist, stupid.

According to legions of major experts, this is a classic human mistake. According to experts, our brains are wired to produce such beliefs at times of tribal conflict.

How bad is the "literary crisis" the new mayor's plan is (said to be) designed to "turn around?" Also, is there any serious reason to think that the new mayor's plan could or will accomplish any such task?

At the Times, you'll never find out! The New York Times [HEART] the kids who might get into Stuyvesant High, then move on to Yale. 

The Times shows every few signs of caring about kids like A, B and C.

Unless they can posture about "segregation," the New York Times doesn't ask us to think about the needs of those millions of kids. The Times likes to perform about "segregation"—and it likes kids who might end up at Yale, especially if they aren't of Asian descent.

A, B and C weren't headed for Yale! B, who is no longer living, spent her (somewhat shortened) adult life as a home health care worker.

Back when she was in sixth grade, she was eighth grade by age. She was bigger than a lot of the other kids and she was a Jehovah's Witness.

She took a lot of teasing. This badly hurt her gentle sensibility.

Also, she sat in a circle with A and C, listening gravely as three girls took turns having a series of belated reading experiences. Those three girls were very good people. 

How bad is the crisis in New York City? How do kids in New York City compare to their peers from around the state of New York? To their peers from around the nation?

You'll rarely read about such boring topics in the New York Times. Next week, we'll show you the data from the 2019 Naep and we'll answer as best we can.

Our tribe doesn't much care about A, B and C. Also, very few members of our tribe are aware of this ongoing fact.


Nothing that's said won't be good enough!

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2022

Carlson tackles replacement: Last Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson offered his take on the so-called "great replacement theory." At one point, he said this:

CARLSON (5/17/22): You've heard a lot about the great replacement theory recently. It's everywhere in the last two days and we're still not sure exactly what it is. 

Here's what we do know for a fact. There is a strong political component to the Democratic Party's immigration policy. We're not guessing this. We know this, and we know it because they have said so.  

They've said it again and again and again. They've written books on it and monographs and magazine articles. They have bragged about it endlessly. They talk about it on cable news constantly, and they say out loud, "We are doing this because it helps us to win elections."

That's not something that is said once. It's something they've gloated about again and again and again and we think that's wrong and in case you doubt us, here they are. 

To read the transcript or watch the tape, you can just click here.

Are the highlighted statements true? Is there, or has there ever been, some sort of "strong political component to the Democratic Party's immigration policy?"

If so, what is that political component? And when have "they"—presumably, Democratic officials and office holders—actually said so out loud? Who has written the books and the articles bragging about this (alleged) component of policy?  

We don't doubt that there may have been some such political component to Democratic policy thinking, but it's Carlson who's making the claim. He said that Democrats "have gloated about it again and again and again."

After that, he played videotape of four alleged examples.

He played tape of Stacey Abrams, of Julian Castro, of Dick Durbin and even Joe Biden (on C-Span in 2015). At this point in the monologue, Biden was offered to viewers as Carlson's fourth and final example. Here's the way it went down:

BIDEN (videotape): An unrelenting stream of immigration, nonstop, nonstop. Folks like me, who are Caucasian, of European descent, for the first time in 2017 will be in an absolute minority in the United States of America, absolute minority. 

Fewer than 50% of the people in America from then on will be white European stock. That's not a bad thing. That's a source of our strength.  

CARLSON (laughing): So you play clips of them saying it, and you're the deranged conspiracy nut!

You aren't required to agree with or to like what Biden said. But where did he say, let alone "brag," that Democratic immigration policy was somehow being affected by some demographics-based political assessment?

Answer: Biden didn't say any such thing in that videotaped statement! Did Carlson believe that he did? 

We don't know how to answer that question, but you can feel fairly sure that some of Carlson's viewers believed that they had just seen Biden making some such statement. At times like these, we're all inclined to hear the things we came in wanting to hear, or to hear the things our tribal leaders tell us that we just heard.

In fact, none of those four Democratic officials actually said, in the tape Carlson played, that their party's immigration policy was being affected by the desire to change the political balance of the electorate.

That doesn't mean that Carlson's original claim might not be true in some respect. It means that, when Carlson gave four (4) examples of Democrats allegedly saying that and bragging about it, none of the Democrats actually said any such thing.

Later in his monologue, Carlson cited several magazine articles from 2013 in which journalists seemed to say that the immigration reform package of the day was going to make Democrats unbeatable in future elections. 

One of these essays came from Politico. The other came from the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-aligned think tank.

Those writers did seem to say that the proposed immigration reform of that day would be a massive political boon for future Democrats. But those writers weren't Democratic officials, and even they weren't directly saying that Democratic policy had been shaped by the desire to affect future elections.

Is there now, or has there ever been, a political component to Democratic Party immigration policy? We'd be surprised if the answer was no, just as we'd be surprised to learn that there has never been a "low wages for business owners" component to Republican immigration policy.

Having said that, we'll also say this:

We've reached the point where any purported bit of evidence will be "close enough for Storyline work" for tribal true believers. We wish that practice only obtained among the reds, but we increasingly see that sort of behavior all over blue cable too.

Nothing that's said won't be good enough. If it's said by our tribunes, it's true!


TIMES AND SCHOOLS: New York City's proficiency rates!

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2022

Let's take a look at the record(s): Long ago and far away, we performed at an annual meeting of Baltimore City teachers.

Or was it teachers from the whole state of Maryland? Actually, we think it was, but we can't exactly recall.

We were no longer a Baltimore City Public Schools teacher ourselves. Operating now as a comedian, we joked about the various "simple solutions" we Baltimore teachers had been encountering over the past dozen years.

We'll briefly recall that moment below. First, let's focus on an important question:

How serious is the "literary crisis" Mayor Eric Adams is (said to be) hoping to "turn around?"

In a recent report in the New York Times, a young reporter framed the situation that way. The mayor had proposed a plan "to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City," she inexpertly said.

Four paragraphs later, this young reporter described the shape and the size of the "crisis." Once again, and for the last time, this is what she wrote:

New York [City] is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

Fewer than half of Gotham's kids were proficient on the 2019 reading exams, the young reporter said. And not only that:

Thanks to the pandemic, things are believed to be worse today. Black and Hispanic kids seemed to have the lowest rates of proficiency back in 2019.

Question! Does it make sense to suppose that Mayor Adams can "turn [that situation] around?" Also this:

In the vast sweep of things, just how severe is that crisis?

The New York Times rarely bothers itself with questions of that type. The famous and famously upper-class newspaper rarely assigns itself the task of defining the shape and the size of this problem. 

Today and tomorrow, we'll try to show you some basic data—data from the annual New York State exams, but also from the National Assessment of Education Progress (Naep), the federally-run program which is considered to be the gold standard of domestic educational testing.

What is the shape and the size of New York City's "crisis?" Below, we'll run you through the types of information you'll never find in the New York Times, which routinely restricts its focus to kids who might end up at Yale.

We'll start with the annual New York State exams—the exams which Lola Fadulu cited in her report for the Times.

The New York State exams

Fewer than half of New York City students were proficient on the state reading exams in 2019, Fadulu noted in her lengthy report.

As best we can tell, that's an accurate statement. (It's amazingly hard to find full data sets from New York City for this annual testing program.) That said, we should quickly add this:

Across the entire state of New York, the proficiency rate seems to have been slightly lower than it was in New York City. New York City's proficiency rate trumped that of the state as a whole!

At this official site, the state of New York reports that the proficiency rate for the entire state stood at 45 percent. In Gotham, the overall proficiency rate was slightly higher. 

In Gotham, the proficiency rate on the 2019 reading exam seems to have been 47.4 percent. That is indeed "fewer than half," but it's slightly higher than the proficiency rate for the state as a whole. 

And not only that! If you "disaggregate" those test results—if you look at the proficiency rates for different groups of kids by ethnicity and race—then Gotham's kids tended to outperform their peers across the state in those measures too. At the Manhattan Institute, Ray Domanico broke it down as shown:

DOMANICO (3/26/20): Students in every racial group in NYC traditional public or charter schools outperform their peers in the rest of the state.

[...]

In traditional public schools, white students in New York City score well above white students in the rest of the state. Other racial groups do better in NYC than in the rest of the state by smaller margins than white students.

That may not be what a subscriber might be inclined to suspect. As best we can tell from the scattershot availability of reliable data, Domanico's account is fully accurate, at least as far as it goes.

That said, several problems lurk. For starters, this doesn't erase the "achievement gaps" found within these data. Here are the proficiency rates for different groups of kids in the New York City Public Schools:

Proficiency rates, 2019 statewide reading exams
New York City Public Schools, Grades 3-8
White kids: 66.6%
Black kids: 35.0%
Hispanic kids: 36.5%
Asian ancestry kids: 67%

Those are the data on which Fadulu drew in her brief account of the "literacy crisis" the city is facing—the literary crisis the mayor's new plan is (said to be) designed to "turn around."

Is there any reason to believe that the mayor's plan might accomplish something like that? We're going to guess that the answer is no, for reasons we'll touch on below.

Now for a few other problems:

A significant number of parents across the state of New York refuse to let their kids take the annual statewide exams. Our guess would be this:

Those refusals may tend to tilt the results of the statewide tests in the favor of Gotham's kids.

With that in mind, we'll turn to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federally-run testing program we mentioned above. 

On the Naep. the bar for proficiency is set a good deal higher than on the New York State exams. (In the end, these are always subjective assessments.) 

Some experts have said that the bar for "proficiency" on the Naep is set artificially high. Keeping that assessment in mind, we'll show you Grade 8 proficiency rates from the 2019 Naep for New York City, for New York State, and for the nation's public schools as a whole.

We'll present those data tomorrow. As you will be able to see, Gotham's kids will no longer be outperforming their statewide peers in every case. Also, they won't be outperforming their counterparts nationwide in every case, though in general they'll come fairly close.

While we're at it, please remember this:

In the end, "proficiency" is a subjective assessment. You can't measure a student's "reading proficiency" in the same precise and "objective" way you can measure his height and his weight. 

That said, the achievement gaps are still visible, and are quite substantial, in the Naep reading data. This is part of a long-standing American "literary crisis" which does, in fact, need to be "turned around."

Evening at the Teachers' Meeting: a comedy performance

Long ago and far away, we entertained a group of Baltimore City and (we think) Maryland public school teachers. 

If memory serves, the commissioner was there. She was quite good-natured and gracious.

We joked about the endless array of miracle cures which urban teachers of that era had been asked to negotiate—the endless array of programs designed to "turn around" our nation's public school problems.

We recall joking about the one-year reign of "open classrooms"—the weird idea that there shouldn't be any actual walls between kids in different classrooms. 

That revolutionary idea came and went within the space of a single year. From there, it was on to the next miracle cure. And yes, the audience laughed.

Over the past sixty years, many proposals have come and come—proposals designed to "turn around" the deeply engrained shortcomings in our public schools. In the modern era, newspapers like the New York Times no longer seem to care about matters like this, or about the vast number of good, decent kids who are involved, through no fault of their own, in this undesirable situation.

Mayor Adams has made a proposal. We applaud him for his interest in the vast array of Gotham's kids, as opposed to the top few percent.

That said, no experienced person with an ounce of sense would accept his proposal at face value. The fact that his intentions seem to be pure doesn't mean that his ideas are sound.

Meanwhile, sure enough! When the mayor released his plan, the New York Times assigned a young non-specialist to report on the proposal. 

Lola Fadulu is very bright; as far as we have ever heard, she's done everything right in her life. But the Times was showing its endless disdain for Gotham's kids when it made that assignment.

Is there  any reason to think that the mayor's proposal can "turn around" New York City's public schools?

History suggests that the answer is no—that experienced and savvy people should function here as skeptics.  On the brighter side, you won't likely be asked to encounter such downers in the New York Times (or in the Washington Post).

When it comes to New York City's schools, the New York Times writes about the top few percent—the kids who might end up at Yale, or maybe just at Brown.

It throws the rest of the students away. This pattern is quite well established. 

We've never seen a "career liberal" journalist say even one word about this journalistic preference. Dearest darlings, use your heads! It simply isn't done!

In part, this is who, and this is what, our self-impressed, endlessly moralizing blue tribe really is. 

We care about black kids when they get shot (but only when they get shot by policemen). Other than that, we pay such good and decent kids amazingly little mind.

This doesn't mean that we're bad people over here in our tribe. It simply means that we're people people. 

It tends to suggest that, in the end, our treasured journalistic elites just don't ginormously care. They do like to entertain and edify us with endless dreck like this:

In Court, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Dress to Suggest

None of this is Fadulu's fault. This is in no way her doing.

Tomorrow: For whatever it may be worth, proficiency rates from the Naep


When are "white people" like a mass killer?

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2022

Our blue tribe's Pizzagate crowd: Recent years have supplied a punishing anthropology lesson.

The red tribe has painfully taught us this: 

At times of tribal dislocation, there's no claim that makes so little sense that millions won't believe it. You can start with the Pizzagate lunacy, move on to the stolen election.

Our own blue tribe is starting to teach a painful related lesson. Consider the headline which sat atop the featured report at Slate this very morning:

What Everyday White Americans and the Buffalo Shooter Have in Common

That's what the headline on the featured essay said.

Question! Just how much do "everyday people" have in common with an 18-year-old mass killer? We'd be inclined to start with this question:

How many "everyday white Americans" have shot and killed ten people in recent days?

The answer, of course, would be just one—but then again, so what? Letting his love and his wisdom show, Professor Matthew W. Hughey arranges to come up with this right in his second paragraph:

HUGHEY (5/18/22): Over the past several years, a half-dozen white supremacists committed acts of violence under the belief that their country belongs to white people and they must suppress any risk of replacement by force. This delusion led Anders Breivik to kill 77 people in Norway in 2011 and inspired Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. to kill three people outside of a Jewish community center in Kansas in 2014. Elliot Rodger espoused the same notion in 2014 when he killed six people in Santa Barbara, California. So did Dylann Roof before he killed nine parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Patrick Crusius, who killed 23 people in a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, and Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, also composed and shared lengthy white supremacist screeds. 

As he starts, Professor Hughey says that he's talking about the past "several" years. By the time he's done, he's talking about the past twelve years—and, in order to pad his numbers, he has to include an everyday white person from Norway and another everyday white person from New Zealand.

Breaking! If you're from Norway or New Zealand, then you actually aren't an "everyday white American." This means that Professor Hughey has identified four (4) everyday white Americans who behaved in much the same way the Buffalo shooter did, over the course of the past dozen (or more) years.

Needless to say, that's four people too many. But in his screeching, unintelligent rhetoric, Professor Hughey—and whoever decided to publish his essay at Slate—becomes our own tribe's equivalent of the lost souls who believed that Hillary Clinton had a bunch of children locked up in the basement of that pizza restaurant.

The crazy rhetoric emerges from Slate and serves to make everything worse. The crazies in the other tribe see their worst suspicions confirmed. Tucker takes over from there.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at the record:

Setting infants and children aside, there are well over 100 million "everyday white Americans" crawling about on the land. Very few such people ever have, or ever will, engage in conduct anything like the conduct the Buffalo shooter authored.

Don't tell that to Professor Hughey, who is one of Ours. Professor Hughey is one of the people who are increasingly making it clear that, at times of societal breakdown, there's nothing so dumb that it won't be loudly and dumbly screeched, by our tribe if not by theirs.

Who the Harold Hill is Professor Hughey? We began to suspect, some years ago, that our nation might not be able to survive biographies like this from our own tribe's exalted "thought leaders:"

Matthew Windust Hughey is an American sociologist known for his work on race and racism. He is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, where he is also an adjunct faculty member in the Africana Studies Institute; American Studies Program; Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, & Policy; Sustainable Global Cities Initiative, and; graduate certificate program in Indigeneity, Race, Ethnicity, & Politics. His work has included studying whiteness, race and media, race and politics, racism and racial assumptions within genetic and genomic science, and racism and racial identity in white and black American fraternities and sororities.

He first came to national attention for his book White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race, originally published in 2012.

Within Professor Hughey's work, everything looks like a nail.

The other tribe has lost its mind. Increasingly, our tribe is catching up. 

These bands of defectives need each other, and they need publications like Slate.


TIMES AND SCHOOLS: How serious is Gotham's "literary crisis?"

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2022

And does the New York Times care? When the mayor announced a major new plan, the New York Times couldn't be bothered.

More precisely, the New York Times couldn't be bothered to assign an experienced education specialist to report on the mayor's new plan. 

Instead, the Times assigned a bright young "general assignment reporter" to the project. This isn't the doing or fault of that very bright young reporter, but it does reflect the uncaring culture of the paper by whom she's employed

To what extent does the New York Times care about the (roughly) one million kids who attend Gotham's public schools? We'd say the newspaper tends to favor two approaches to this area of concern:

On the one hand, the newspaper seems to favor a policy of benign neglect, in which the only kids who get discussed are the school system's top few percent. 

This approach is augmented by the paper's widely observed "performative antiracism."  In accord with this approach, the only topic which gets discussed is racial imbalance within the system's various schools, a state of affairs the performative paper describes as "segregation."

The newspaper motors on these twin tracks, weekending out in the Hamptons. We've rarely seen a group of people who seemed to care so little about so many good, decent kids—about the toughly one million good, decent kids within their city's public schools.

It was in this context that the Times assigned Lola Fadulu to report on the new mayor's new plan. Fadulu is good and decent and very bright, but she's also very young—and she isn't an education specialist or an experienced education reporter. 

This last fact seemed to scream out at us at the start of last Friday's report:

FADULU (5/13/22): Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday the details of a plan to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City and, in particular, to serve thousands of children in public schools who may have dyslexia, an issue deeply personal to the mayor, who has said his own undiagnosed dyslexia hurt his academic career.

School officials plan to screen nearly all students for dyslexia, while 80 elementary schools and 80 middle schools will receive additional support for addressing the needs of children with dyslexia. The city will also open two new dyslexia programs—one at P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche in Harlem and the other at P.S. 161 Juan Ponce de Leon in the South Bronx—with a goal of opening similar programs in each borough by 2023.

Officials also plan to train all teachers, and will create a new dyslexia task force. School leaders are requiring school principals to pivot to a phonics-based literacy curriculum, which literacy experts say is the most effective way to teach reading to most children.

“Dyslexia holds back too many of our children in school but most importantly in life,” Mr. Adams said during a press briefing Thursday morning, adding that it “haunts you forever until you can get the proper treatment that you deserve.”

New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

That's the way the report began. The framework struck us as odd.

Are the New York City Public Schools "facing a literacy crisis?" That's a somewhat peculiar way to describe a situation which has obtained all through our nation's public schools ever since the mainstream world began keeping track of this matter in the 1960s.

The language employed by this young scribe almost makes it sound like this "literary crisis" is some sort of novel event—is something has just recently appeared on the scene. The notion that the mayor is prepared to "turn the crisis around" speaks to the cheerful ignorance which may perhaps accompany an unavoidable lack of experience.

In fact, the "literary crisis" which the mayor is (said to be) planning to "turn around" has dogged the nation's public schools ever since roughly forever. Over the course of the past sixty years, a wide array of simple solutions to this crisis have been brought forward and ballyhooed, and have then been quietly abandoned.

We don't blame Mayor Adams, in any way, for the Pollyannist tinge to the language which animates this description of his new proposal. Nor do we blame the bright young Fadulu, though we do think her framing is odd. 

(Are there any experienced editors at the New York Times?)

Lola Fadulu is a good young person. It's the upper-class newspaper by whom she's employed which has long been at fault.

As far as we know, the New York Times has never had an education specialist on its editorial board. When it does appoint the occasional journalist to serve as lead urban education writer, it may bring the eternal note of nepotism in, naming another young person whose mother has served as foreign editor and deputy executive editor of the Times, and as senior correspondent on gender issues.

Not that there's anything wrong with it! But that's how this newspaper functions.

Out of this unsalted stew comes the scent of benign neglect. In Times reporting, the message about the city's public school students is clear:

If you're headed for Brown, you can stick around! But if you're just black, get back!

We'd planned today to go beyond Fadulu's brief account of the "literary crisis" the mayor is (said to be) planning to "turn around." We don't blame Fadulu for the brevity of that account. If anything, this passage takes us a bit beyond what we normally read in the Times:

New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

In that passage, Fadulu offers some data from New York's statewide testing in 2019. Her data are quite limited, but they go beyond what one normally finds in the New York Times.

Having said that, let us also say this:

It's amazingly hard to find the data which emerge from New York City on this statewide testing program. 

Almost surely, Gotham's scores on this testing program are somewhat better than you might have suspected or guessed. It's also true that test scores in reading and math had been improving over the past fifty years, in New York City itself and around the nation, although the lordly Times has rarely bothered itself, or its readers, with information of that encouraging type.

At any rate, the New York City Public Schools seems to show little interest in letting the public see the data from the statewide program. Similarly, the New York Times simply motors along, periodically screeching about "segregation" and talking about nothing else.

What kind of "literary crisis" will the mayor's plan encounter? To the extent that it can be measured, Fadulu's report offered a tiny peek at the size of this crisis in question. 

We'd planned to run you through some data today, using performance from the federally-administered National Assessment of Educational Progress as well as from the New York statewide testing program, whose data are more problematic.

That said, we think we'll push that service back to tomorrow. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, and the New York City Public Schools are full of good, decent kids. That said, it's depressing to swim in the seas of the New York Times' education reporting. 

That isn't the fault of the young Fadulu. She's a good decent person herself, one of the many kids in our floundering nation who have done everything right.

Tomorrow: A fuller look


From the annals of meaningless pseudo-discussion...

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 2022

...Morning Joe debates "who we are:" The Morning Joe program began today with a lengthy, utterly pointless pseudo-discussion of the race for the GOP Senate nomination from the state of Pennsylvania.

As matters stood, the race was an unresolvable dead heat between the two leading candidates. There was absolutely no way to cipher out the basic question of who would eventually win.

Still and all, the topic carried the familiar thrill of an ongoing horse race. So Steve Kornacki stood before "the big board" and wasted astonishing amounts of time, speculating about what additional votes might still come in—or, of course, might not come in—from a wide range of Keystone State counties, large and small counties alike

It was the ultimate waste of time. Or so it might have seemed, until the gang began discussing what President Biden said yesterday—what he said about white supremacy and its role in American life.

The discussion didn't start until roughly 6:55 A.M. Eastern. But when the discussion finally started, it went on roughly forever.

What gave the discussion its high elan? It was the utterly pointless scripted claim, adopted by several members of the gang, that last weekend's murderous rage by one (1) teenager does in fact demonstrate "who we really are as a nation."

The claim could hardly be more pointless. True to form, the pundits loved it.

The later Wittgenstein seemed to think that most of our most highly exalted "philosophy" was really just meaningless pseudo-assertion. We're glad the later Wittgenstein didn't live to see this morning's pseudo-discussion.

If one deranged teenager shoots and kills ten people, can that crazy behavior actually show, in some sense, "who we really are?" If you think a question like that makes some sort of actual sense, you should perhaps be kind enough to abstain from further public discussion. 

We expect to discuss this lengthy conversation in greater detail at some point. We're waiting for MSNBC to post the transcript from Monday evening's 11th Hour program, where a different pundit went on and on, then on and on, in a similar ludicrous vein, with the grossly disappointing Stephanie Ruhle dumbly agreeing and posturing.

(For reasons which strike us as perfectly obvious, MSNBC continues to slow-walk its production of transcripts. Generally speaking, the channel now waits roughly a week before allowing the world to see what its employees have said.)

Over at Mediaite, Tommy Christopher thought today's Morning Joe discussion was worth transcribing and recording. We're very glad that he did.

Thanks to Christopher, you can watch 17 minutes of this utterly pointless pseudo-discussion. You can even see short transcriptions of some of the pundits' comments, though Princeton peacock Eddie Glaude somehow escaped this fate.

(Further note: Eddie Glaude is a good, decent person.)

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. The rhetoric of our self-impressed tribe is routinely well past pathetic.

You should very much stop assuming that our tribal leaders are fundamentally intelligent, insightful or wise. First and foremost, they're reflexive performers of memorized script—and their performative scriptings routinely make societal matters worse. It's mandated Storyline, pretty much all the way down. 

The other tribe has lost its mind. Our own flailing and floundering tribe is stunningly faux and unimpressive on the corporate "cable news" end.

Does a murderous rage by one teenager show "who we really are as a country?" You really can't ask a dumber question than that. 

Our corporate pundit corps loves such games. This is who, and what, they are.


TIMES AND SCHOOLS: The Times described the mayor's plan!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 2022

Did its descriptions make sense? In last Friday's morning's editions, the New York Times described Mayor Adams' plan for Gotham's public schools.

The city "is facing a literacy crisis," Times subscribers were told. Early in her news report, Lola Fadulu described the crisis in the manner shown:

FADULU (3/13/22): New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

The lack of easily accessible academic support for children with dyslexia has been an issue that has been top of mind for the mayor. He has said his own dyslexia went undiagnosed for years because his mother didn’t have the necessary information to get him screened. He recalled “not wanting to come into school every day because I just couldn’t keep up.”

In grades 3 through 8, just 36 percent of black and Hispanic kids were proficient on the official state reading tests back in 2019. In his desire to address this problem, the mayor has proposed a "plan to screen nearly all students for dyslexia," Fadulu wrote at the start of her news report.

Fadulu is a good, decent person; she's done everything right in her life. Our guess will be that she will go on to have a superb journalistic career.

Having said that, Fadulu is rather young—just five years out of college (Amherst, class of 2016). Also, she's a "general assignment reporter." For whatever reason, the Times didn't bother assigning an education specialist to report on the mayor's new plan.

As we've noted again and again, the Times tends to take this feckless approach when it comes to the problems confronting the mass of New York City's million public school kids. 

The paper will assign its education specialist, such as she is, for front-page reports about the prospects and the treatment of the system's top few percent. When it comes to the masses of good, decent kids in the city's schools, this widely-known upper-class paper tilts quite strongly toward a policy of uncaring benign neglect.

Nothing we say in discussing this matter is intended as a criticism of Fadulu, a very bright young reporter. She didn't assign herself the task of covering this important new plan. Nor is it a criticism of Fadulu herself to say that she isn't an experienced education reporter or an education specialist.

Fadulu has done everything right in her life. When it comes to covering the interests of our good, decent low-income kids, her newspaper often fails. 

It isn't Fadulu's doing or fault, but in the course of reporting the mayor's new plan, we think her inexperience and lack of technical expertise did repeatedly fail. Before we list some salient points, let's return to the role of the mayor.

The mayor is relatively inexperienced too. Also, he isn't an education specialist either!

We praise him again today for the focus he's brought to the needs and the interests of the vast swath of New York City kids. But does his proposal really make sense? Is it a sound proposal?

We have no idea how to answer that question. Meanwhile, the track record of such attempts at intervention is lengthy and fairly poor.

Tomorrow, we'll offer you a more detailed statistical assessment of the "literary crisis" which obtains in Gotham's schools. In some ways, that crisis may not be as bad as you might think.

In some ways, it may be worse.

We salute the mayor for switching our focus to the needs of the many kids, as opposed to the most favored few. Beyond that, we salute him for directing us to the pain associated with struggles at school—struggles he himself knew as a public school student. Here is the fuller passage from the start of Fadulu's report::

FADULU: “Dyslexia holds back too many of our children in school but most importantly in life,” Mr. Adams said during a press briefing Thursday morning, adding that it “haunts you forever until you can get the proper treatment that you deserve.”

New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

The lack of easily accessible academic support for children with dyslexia has been an issue that has been top of mind for the mayor. He has said his own dyslexia went undiagnosed for years because his mother didn’t have the necessary information to get him screened. He recalled “not wanting to come into school every day because I just couldn’t keep up.”

This mayor says he has been there. He understands that the pain of struggling in school can end up "haunting" good, decent children for life. 

It isn't just that they may emerge from school lacking the academic skills which will help them in the workplace. Along the way, they experience the daily pain of classroom failure—the feeling of  “not wanting to come into school every day because [they] just couldn’t keep up.”

Their reading difficulties rob them of the chance to lose themselves in the types of books which are written for children of their age and grade. They lose the chance to explore the world in the ways that other kids do.

The mayor seems to understand these things from his own childhood experience. But he's no more an education specialist that the young and bright Fadulu.

With that in mind, we pose these question:

Does the mayor's proposal make sense? And how about Fadulu's reporting of the mayor's plan?

It seems to us that Fadulu's inexperience—or the cluelessness of her editors—may have shown in various ways. For starters, riddle us this:

The mayor plan is built around the idea that Gotham's kids need to be screened and treated for dyslexia. Headline included, Fadulu's report starts like this:

Mayor Adams Unveils Program to Address Dyslexia in N.Y.C. Schools

Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday the details of a plan to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City and, in particular, to serve thousands of children in public schools who may have dyslexia, an issue deeply personal to the mayor, who has said his own undiagnosed dyslexia hurt his academic career.

School officials plan to screen nearly all students for dyslexia, while 80 elementary schools and 80 middle schools will receive additional support for addressing the needs of children with dyslexia. The city will also open two new dyslexia programs—one at P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche in Harlem and the other at P.S. 161 Juan Ponce de Leon in the South Bronx—with a goal of opening similar programs in each borough by 2023.

Officials also plan to train all teachers, and will create a new dyslexia task force. School leaders are requiring school principals to pivot to a phonics-based literacy curriculum, which literacy experts say is the most effective way to teach reading to most children.

Under the mayor's plan, almost every student will be screened for dyslexia. Also, school officials will create a new "dyslexia task force."

According to Fadulu's report, "national figures estimate that one in five children have dyslexia." She says there are no reliable figures for the prevalence of dyslexia among New York City's students.

Fadulu presents specific details of the mayor's screening plan as her report continues. That said, does anyone reading the New York Times actually know what dyslexia actually is?

We ask that question because the report never attempts to describe or define the condition. This seems like a very basic omission in a lengthy report of this type—though for all we know, Fadulu may have included a helpful passage addressing this point which her editors removed from her piece.

The failure to define dyslexia seems like a basic omission. Moving along, we were repeatedly puzzled by various parts of Fadulu's detailed report.

Start with Fadulu's third paragraph, as presented above. According to Fadulu's report, "literacy experts" say that "a phonics-based literacy curriculum" is "the most effective way to teach reading to most children." 

If that's true, why does it fall to Mayor Adams to introduce this instructional approach to the city's schools? Why hasn't this type of curriculum been in effect all along?

Fadulu skips past this point. In fairness, no news report can address every possible question. But if you think the New York Times will ever double back to explore this obvious question, we'll suggest that you have no idea of the degree of disinterest the New York Times has traditionally brought to such basic points concerning the public schools.

The Times is concerned with the top few percent—with the kids who succeed in Gotham's schools, and especially with their race and ethnicity. The Times has rarely shown any interest in the world of those Other kids.

That said, the mayor's plan seems to be based on the idea that dyslexia—whatever that is—lies at the heart of the city's "literary crisis." For all we know, that assessment may be accurate! But if so, consider the highlighted part of this passage, which starts with Fadulu describing part of the mayor's plan:

FADULU: The Literacy Academy Collective will be piloting second and third grade classrooms at P.S. 161 in the fall, and each class will have 15 to 18 students from that school, said Ruth Genn, one of the co-founders of the nonprofit. The goal is to eventually open a separate school and work with children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Lab School for Family Literacy will be running the program at P.S. 125, where two grade levels—either first and second or second and third—will each have a separate class for struggling readers. Teachers of those classes will be trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach in a 10-day intensive program.

Schools Chancellor David C. Banks said the department would look to these schools for lessons learned as it expands dyslexia programming to other boroughs.

“They will be labs of innovation for us,” Mr. Banks said.

The full-day programs won’t be the first in the city. The Bridge Preparatory Charter School, which opened in Staten Island in 2019, is the state’s first and only public school created to help children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. City officials have worked closely with the school’s officials to learn more about the programming.

The chancellor and other education officials have also spent time studying the methods used at the Windward School, a private school with campuses in both New York City and White Plains that primarily serves children with dyslexia. Ms. Quintana said teachers from the Windward school would be training teachers from other schools in helping children with dyslexia.

Question! If twenty percent of the nation's kids are suffering from dyslexia; if the prevalence of dyslexia explains the literacy crisis found within the New York City schools; then why in the world haven't many pre-existing programs been "created to help children with dyslexia?"

Why in the world is the Bridge Preparatory School the only such public school in the entire state?

If dyslexia is such a widespread condition, it seems a bit odd, at least on its face, to think that no one but the city's new mayor has ever come up with the idea of addressing this problem. Why aren't there numerous programs, around the country and the state, on which the city can draw?

Writing with great competence as a dutiful "general assignment reporter," Fadulu composed a lengthy report about the details of the mayor's proposal. Because we've followed the introduction of many such ballyhooed plans over the course of the past fifty years, we were struck by some of the oddities which Fadulu tended to move past.

Dyslexia is the heart of the problem—but there seem to be virtually no pre-existing programs attempting to address it! Experts agree that phonics-based instruction is best—but it falls to this newly-elected mayor to tell the school system this!

Such peculiarities abound in Fadulu's report. Consider this unexamined note:

FADULU (continuing directly from above): Under the new plan, school officials will require principals, who can choose their curriculums, shift toward a reading program that is based in reading science. Many currently use one developed by Lucy Calkins, an academic at Teachers College, Columbia University, that has repeatedly come under fire.

Officials will require principals to choose from a handful of phonics-based curriculums to include as part of their comprehensive reading programs, such as Fundations, Really Great Reading and Preventing Academic Failure, said Ms. Quintana.

Say what? If Cakins' reading program "has repeatedly come under fire," why have so many principals been using it? Also, riddle us this:

FADULU: Once children are identified as at-risk, they will be recommended for a neuropsychology evaluation. Some schools have partnered with a nonprofit group, Promise Project at Columbia University Medical Center, to help low-income families afford the assessment, which can sometimes cost thousands of dollars.

The students will then receive either additional support at their current schools or enroll at one of the two new programs, which will open this fall.

The additional support includes more intensive instruction steeped in the Orton-Gillingham approach, which teaches reading with more hands-on methods that break down words into smaller, more digestible parts. District-based coordinators will work with all schools to adjust instruction and provide intervention for those students.

We were surprised to see that the city's public school parents will apparently have to pay for the assessments in question. That said:

According to Fadulu, the Orton-Gillingham approach "teaches reading with more hands-on methods that break down words into smaller, more digestible parts."

Does that mean that the method teaches kids to break words down into syllables? (In fairness, we note the inclusion of the term "hands-on.") Also, the Orton-Gillingham approach has been around since the 1930s. If this approach is so successful, why isn't it in widespread use around the country today? Why isn't it already in use in the Gotham schools?

Is Gotham turning to Orton-Gillingham? We know nothing about the approach, but when we turned to the leading authority on the method, we found it telling us this:

An overview of all reported studies of Orton-Gillingham derivative methods, such as Alphabetic Phonics or Project Read, revealed only a dozen studies with inconsistent results and a variety of methodological flaws. Despite these conclusions, the article does provide a detailed overview of the available research, which viewed most favorably would show some evidence of benefit from classroom use of OG methods with first graders, and use in special education or resource room settings with older children with learning disabilities.

According to a review of the literature in 2008, its efficacy is yet to be established.

In July 2010, a US Department of Education agency reported that it could not find any studies meeting its evidence standards to support the efficacy of Orton-Gillingham based strategies.

If you care about Gotham's good, decent kids, that's a gloomy assessment. If you think the Times will ever examine this matter, we have a bridge to M.I.T. you might want to lease, rent or own.

New York City's public schools are full of good, decent kids. When these children struggle in school, they're losing large chunks of their happiness and their sense of worth. The wider world is losing part of its greatest resource.

"We don't have a single person to waste," one successful politician used to tell the public. The same is true of our nation's kids, including the giant numbers of good, decent kids found in Gotham's schools.

Fadulu is young, and she isn't a specialist. Through no fault of her own, she works for a newspaper which rarely seems to give a flying fig about the "lower 98" percent of kids in its city's schools.

Fadulu is young, and she isn't experienced. Older, more experienced people may know and understand this:

Many prophets have stepped forward with ballyhooed plans to turn around our low-income schools. These plans have tended to come and go with the seasons and the winds.

Experienced reporters would understand that. Our blue tribe pretends that black kids matter, but the Times rarely seems to care.

Tomorrow: How serious is that crisis?


The AP surveyed replacement theory!

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2022

Why did Democrats say what they did? We're so old that we can remember when Samuel Alito's draft opinion on abortion rights was still major news all across the land.

That was some time last week. Now we're involved in a great civil war about so-called "replacement theory."

Last evening, cable stars on our own liberal channels conducted themselves in the standard manner. They took turns topping each other in their recitation of talking points concerning the racist conspiracy theory which is so plainly false.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has spilled with references to a survey about this general topic from December of last year. Yesterday morning, in a news report on page A13, Marianna Sotomayor described one result as shown:

SOTOMAYOR (5/16/22): An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from December found that 1 in 3 U.S. adults believed there was “an effort to replace U.S. citizens with immigrants for electoral gains.” More Republicans believed in the likelihood than Democrats, 36 percent to 27 percent. 

Sotomayor seemed to be quoting the language from one of the survey's specific questions. Like several colleagues who have cited this survey, Sotomayor offered no link to the AP/NORC report.

That said:

According to Sotomayor's account, 36 percent of Republican respondents had said they believed that there was “an effort to replace U.S. citizens with immigrants for electoral gains.” 

Surprisingly, 27 percent of Democrats had said they believed the same thing! That doesn't seem like a giant difference. Or at least, so Sotomayor said.

Given current tribal messaging, it's surprising to think that 27 percent of Democrats said they agreed with that statement. Meanwhile, was Sotomayor giving an accurate account of what the survey had actually asked, and what the respondents had actually said?

In this morning's Washington Post, Michelle Norris seems to give the same account of the same AP/NORC survey. In her second paragraph, she links to this earlier account of the survey by the Washington Post's Philip Bump.

With that, the problems start. None of these Post reporters offer an actual link to the actual survey in question. Also, none of these reporters seem to describe the results of the survey in the exact same way.

After a considerable search, we managed to find the original AP/NORC report about the survey in question. Incredibly, the report appears without a date of publication, though it offers a link to this poorly-written AP news report about the actual survey.

Alas! Everyone is citing the survey, but it isn't clear that anyone knows what its respondents said. For better or worse, this is fairly typical work from within our badly failed upper-end journalistic culture.

What questions were respondents actually asked? How did they actually answer? Only Bump, in his Post report, seems to think that he can answer those questions, though he too fails to provide a link to the actual data. 

We still haven't managed to find the original data. But if we put our faith in Bump, we can tell you what the respondents were asked and what the respondents said. 

Warning! If Bump's account is accurate, then Sotomayor's account was wrong. According to Bump, respondents were asked if they agreed with this statement:

"There is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views."

According to Bump's graphic, something like 46 percent of Republicans said they agreed with that statement. So did something like 22 percent of Democrats.

That still sounds like a lot of Dems! According to Bump, respondents were also asked if they agree with this statement:

"Native-born Americans are losing economic, political and cultural influence because of the growing population of immigrants."

According to Bump, 36 percent of Republicans agreed with that statement, as did 27 percent of Democrats.

At present, we have no ultimate way to check the accuracy of Bump's account. That said, we'll assume that he has access to the actual data, and that his account is correct.

As President Kennedy used to do, we'll now say this about that:

According to this large survey from last December, 22 percent of Democrats agree with a statement which strongly resembles straight-up "replacement theory." Also, 27 percent of Democrats say that native-born Americans are losing political influence due to our nation's growing number of immigrants.

Compared to what you're currently seeing and hearing on cable TV, that seems like a lot of Democrats who said they agreed with those statements. At this point, we'll author a guess:

No one watching liberal cable saw those numbers reported last night. Instead, we were encouraged to blame the whole thing on The Others. 

In other words, Republicans believe the racist conspiracy theory which is plainly false. Our virtuous tribe does not, or at least so we were told.

Why did so many Democrats answer the way they did? We can't answer that question, but we'll show you some data, in the next few days, which create a wider context for this ongoing discussion.

For ourselves, we'll repeat our position from yesterday. We'd assume that some members of our liberal tribe do view immigration policy as a way to gain future political advantage. 

We'd be amazed if none of our tribe's journalistic or political elites view the matter that way. That doesn't necessarily mean that anyone does, though we may mention Frank Rich tomorrow.

At any rate, roughly a quarter of the AP/NORC's Democratic respondents gave answers to those two questions which tilted in the direction of "replacement theory." 

Last night, cable tribunes screamed long and loud, reciting mandated points. This is the nightmare into which our species descends when we split into warring tribes and it's Storyline all the way down.

Liberal cable was gruesome last night. Fox News almost always is.

Tomorrow: The 22 percent


TIMES AND SCHOOLS: The mayor's new education plan!

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2022

And the New York Times' new reporter: It was an unusual moment in the recent history of the New York Times.

When it comes to the New York City Public Schools, the paper of record typically concerns itself with the highest achieving students only—with the top few percent. 

Which of these higher-achieving kids, and from which racial and ethnic groups, will get into Stuyvesant High, then possibly move on to Yale? As we've noted again and again and again, the New York Times fills its front pages with anguished reports about those questions. 

The vast majority of students—the good, decent kids who won't be going to Yale—are rarely given the time of day in this Hamptons-based upper-class newspaper.  

Last Friday morning, the New York Times published different type of report. This news report concerned the struggles of the hundreds of thousands of good, decent kids who won't proceed from Gotham's public schools to the hallowed halls of Yale or Harvard or Brown.

Amazingly, New York City's new mayor, Eric Adams, has voiced concern about Gotham's more numerous and more typical kids! He has voiced concern about the way those hundreds of thousands of good, decent kids may struggle in hit city's public schools. 

This new mayor has even produced a proposal addressing the needs of these good, decent kids! In last Friday's New York Times, the news report about his proposal started like this, headline included:

Mayor Adams Unveils Program to Address Dyslexia in N.Y.C. Schools

Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday the details of a plan to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City and, in particular, to serve thousands of children in public schools who may have dyslexia, an issue deeply personal to the mayor, who has said his own undiagnosed dyslexia   hurt his academic career.

School officials plan to screen nearly all students for dyslexia, while 80 elementary schools and 80 middle schools will receive additional support for addressing the needs of children with dyslexia. The city will also open two new dyslexia programs—one at P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche in Harlem and the other at P.S. 161 Juan Ponce de Leon in the South Bronx—with a goal of opening similar programs in each borough by 2023.

Officials also plan to train all teachers, and will create a new dyslexia task force. School leaders are requiring school principals to pivot to a phonics-based literacy curriculum, which literacy experts say is the most effective way to teach reading to most children.

“Dyslexia holds back too many of our children in school but most importantly in life,” Mr. Adams said during a press briefing Thursday morning, adding that it “haunts you forever until you can get the proper treatment that you deserve.”

According to the news report, the mayor has released a plan designed "to turn around a literacy crisis" in New York City's public schools. His proposal will focus on screening kids for dyslexia, whatever dyslexia is.

For the record, reports about admission to Stuyvesant High tend to appear on the New York Times' front page. This report about the mayor's far-reaching plan was banished to page A21.

That said, we start by tipping our hat to the mayor for caring about the mass of New York City's kids, not just the top few percent. Beyond that, we tip our hat to the mayor for understanding the way his city's kids can be "haunted," damaged, forever harmed if they're unlucky enough to be among the large number of kids who struggle in Gotham's public schools.

We applaud the new mayor for his focus. At this point, "the eternal note of sadness" must also be brought to the fore.

To anyone with an ounce of sense or a bit of experience, that instant reference to "turn[ing] around a literacy crisis" will surely sound perhaps a bit Pollyannish. As she continued, reporter Lola Fadulu offered this capsule account of the size and shape of the problem found in the city's schools:

FADULU (continuing directly from above): New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

The lack of easily accessible academic support for children with dyslexia has been an issue that has been top of mind for the mayor. He has said his own dyslexia went undiagnosed for years because his mother didn’t have the necessary information to get him screened. He recalled “not wanting to come into school every day because I just couldn’t keep up.”

Developing a universal dyslexia screening program in the city’s schools was one of the few specific policy prescriptions the mayor offered during his campaign. He has devoted $7.4 million in his proposed budget for addressing dyslexia and other literacy issues.

In 2019, in grades 3-8, fewer than half of Gotham's public school kids "were proficient on the state reading exams." The proficiency rate of black and Hispanic kids stood at roughly 36 percent.

Before the week is done, we'll offer you a more detailed statistical look at this state of affairs. 

In some ways, this situation may be better than you think; in some ways, it might be worse. But to the extent that this is "a literary crisis," it's a crisis which has been faced by the public schools of New York City and the nation dating back many long years.

At this site, we tip our hat to Mayor Adams for the shape of his concern. He's concerned about the many kids in his giant city, not just the top few percent!

At the Times, this focus pushed last Friday's report from page A1 back to A21. The best and the brightest get love at the Times. Other children may get left behind.

Our question today is this:

Can Mayor Adams, for all his good intentions, really "turn around" this "literary crisis?" Does his proposal make good sense? Is there reason to think that it will succeed—and if so, to what extent?

What are the prospects for this proposal? As someone who's watched public schools since the 1960s, we're forced to voice a bit of skepticism about the mayor's plan. 

The mayor is very new to this game, and many ballyhooed proposals have preceded his. We admire the mayor for his focus, but we'd want to hear more—much, much more—about the actual shape of his plan.

It's at this point that we turn again to the journalistic culture of the Times. Mayor Adams is new to this task, but so is the very bright Fadulu—a young, relatively inexperienced reporter who isn't an education specialist.

Nothing we say in the course of this week will be intended as a criticism of Fadulu. She didn't assign herself this task of covering this proposal. It isn't her judgment, or her doing, that has a "general assignment reporter" covering this sweeping new plan in this highly technical area.

The decision to assign Fadulu to this task comes from the heart of the Times itself. And at the Times, the pattern holds:

The Times assigns its education specialists (such as they are) to its front-page news reports about the top few percent. Reports about the mass of kids are assigned to less experienced scribes.

Fadulu is young, and she's smart. That said, she isn't experienced in this field, and it seems to us that her report displays this lack of experience at various junctures.

This is the way the New York Times tends to cover the public schools. If you're headed for Brown, you can stick around! Everyone else can get back.

Tomorrow: For starters, what's dyslexia? 


We happened to be watching that night!

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2022

Tucker's replacement theory: Horrifically, mass shootings by deranged teenagers are part of our culture now. 

Some of these shootings involve racial motives. Some of these shootings don't.

We can't meaningfully discuss the types of (extreme) mental illness which play into such impulses and such horrific behavior. Here, as elsewhere, we'll offer this thought:

We'd have a more useful public discourse if (carefully selected) mental health professionals were more commonly involved. 

How might we understand the forces which lead certain teens to engage in such behavior? We'd like to see such questions posed to (carefully selected) medical / psychiatric specialists.

In the current case, the horrific shooting in Buffalo has generated a great deal of discussion of so-called "replacement theory." Tucker Carlson is often mentioned. We have a confession to make:

By happenstance, we were watching Carlson's program in April 2021 when he offered his fullest discussion of this general topic. For today, we can only bring ourselves to tell you this:

We think the transcript and the videotape are actually worth reviewing. To do so, just click here.

In our view, Carlson is basically lost to the world, morally and intellectually. As we noted a few weeks ago, he sometimes starts his show, at 9 P.M. Eastern, with a fairly reasonable premise—but, by 9:02 P.M., his wild embellishments and his ugly, unfounded ascriptions of motive make his braindead pseudo-discussions extremely hard to watch.

(And of course, his gratuitous insults.)

Regarding his discussion that night, we're only going to say today that we thought it was worth watching. In fact, we're going to make an awful confession:

We came away thinking that we'd rarely seen a cable news monologue which contained as much information as his monologue did that night.

Stating the obvious, changes in the demographics of a jurisdiction can produce changes in that jurisdiction's politics. Carlson sketched several examples that night. Some of his examples involved matters of ethnicity and / or race. At least one of his examples did not.

We happened to be watching Carlson's program that night. Concerning the idea that Democratic motives are always pure and non-political, we can only borrow this question from Michael Corleone:

Who's being naive now, Kay?

As our nation's tribal warfare unfolds, we live in a badly fallen world. Leaders our own blue tribe may sometimes be compromised, or at least so we sometimes are prepared to imagine here.

Idiotic comments to the side, we found Carlson's monologue intriguing that night. Provisionally, we'll offer this as this new discussion unfolds:

Who's (possibly) being (perhaps a bit) naive now? 


STARTING TOMORROW: The Times and the schools!

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2022

Journalism versus illusion: "Time is an illusion," Kant is sometimes rather crudely said to have possibly said.

Did he really say such a thing—and if so, what could he have meant? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers this overview of the matter:

Perhaps the central and most controversial thesis of the Critique of Pure Reason is that human beings experience only appearances, not things in themselves; and that space and time are only subjective forms of human intuition that would not subsist in themselves if one were to abstract from all subjective conditions of human intuition. Kant calls this thesis transcendental idealism.

According to that account, time would not "subsist in itself" (whatever that means) "if one were to abstract from all subjective conditions of human intuition." 

Speaking truth to alleged erudition, we don't have the slightest idea what such formulations might mean. (It's always possible that someone else might be able to explain it.)

That said:

By the middle of the last century, the later Wittgenstein had piped up with an unpleasant suggestion. He suggested that discussions of that type were illusory in a certain way—were imitations of life, were disguised imitations of discourse.

Such discussions were built on piles of conceptual confusion, Wittgenstein suggested and sometimes said. Down through the annals of time, college freshmen, such as they were, had always suspected as much!

An any rate, how about it? Is time really some sort of "illusion?" Or does illusion enter the scene when philosophers start to discuss it? 

We'll set such questions aside for the rest of the week. We'll turn instead to basic questions about our nation's modern journalism at its alleged highest end.

For our text, we'll examine a full-length news report in last Friday's New York Times. The report was written by Lola Fadulu. The news report's headline said this:

Mayor Adams Unveils Program to Address Dyslexia in N.Y.C. Schools

According to Fadulu, the mayor has released "the details of a [major] plan to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City." It almost sounds like that could be an important topic, worthy of careful discussion. 

In theory, a million public school students in New York City could be affected by the mayor's proposal. The question we'll be posing all this week is this:

Is there any chance—any chance at all—that the New York Times will be able to produce a coherent discussion of this new mayor's proposal? A million kids are tangled up in this proposal. Is the Times equipped to discuss it?

For today, we'll restrict ourselves to one intriguing point. Fadulu, who's five years out of college, isn't an education specialist or an experienced education reporter. 

Nothing we say in the course of this week will be offered as a criticism of Fadulu. Presumably, this very bright young reporter didn't assign herself to the current task.

We do regard it as strange, though perhaps also as revealing, when the New York Times puts a relatively young "general assignment reporter" in charge of this important and technical topic. For the record, this supports observations we've made in the past concerning the depth of concern at the New York Times about struggling public school kids.

That full-length report in Friday's Times appeared to be a standard journalistic account of an important new policy effort. But does that report present a real discussion of the mayor's proposal, or does it merely present the illusion of same? 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but it isn't clear that our flawed blue tribe possesses the ability to create such journalistic discussions. Beyond that, it isn't clear that we have the ability to notice our journalistic failures when it turns out that we've failed.

Is time an illusion in some way? We're not even sure what the question means! But even at its highest end, our journalism has trafficked in illusions for a very long time, and in this, and in so many other cases, our well-intentioned blue tribe is routinely unable to see this.

Tomorrow: As described, the mayor's plan


SATURDAY: Is "our democracy" in peril?

SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2022

It has been for a long time:  With apologies, we didn't do a very good job explaining our argument yesterday. 

We were discussing the perils involved in the possibility of charging Donald J. Trump (and an array of lesser GOP figures) with a series of crimes. 

Should Donald J. Trump be charged with a crime? We can't answer that question.

For starters, we don't know if he has actually committed a crime. Also, we don't know if he has committed a type of crime which can be described to the wider public in a way the wider public will understand.

Some types of crime are quite clearcut. You can't steal someone's wallet or purse. You can't shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. 

Other crimes (and constitutional rulings) involve layers of complexification which are very hard to explain—and which may not even make sense. It may be especially hard to explain such matters to the general public when deeply felt policy views, or deeply held political loyalties, are involved.

Criminal charges of that type would generate major backlash. Perhaps such charges should be brought, but this is a tricky and dangerous time.

On Deadline: White House, Nicolle Wallace's "favorite reporters and friends" have been walking the "criminalization" road all through these Trump and post-Trump years. They've been trying to address a serious political problem—How can we persuade people to vote against Donald J. Trump?—by means of criminalization.

For years, they've been asking this question: How we can get Trump locked up? More recently, they've even been asking this related question:

How can we get the candidates we don't like removed from the ballot?

Yesterday, Wallace joined Max Boot in worrying about the fate of "our democracy." In fact, our democracy has been on life support for decades, dating back—let's recall one of the most ridiculous episodes—to the time when the mainstream press corps had a collective nervous breakdown over the fact that a certain candidate for president was wearing three-button suits.

That was an undisguised lunacy of the mainstream press. The mainstream press is a major part of "our democracy"—and we've been detailing such lunacies for the past twenty-four years. 

In many respects, "our democracy" has been a tightly-scripted clown show dating at least to 1992. People like Wallace and Boot are never going to tell you that. Neither will the other stars of our own tribe's "corporate cable."

For now, just consider the functioning of "our democracy" and those three-button suits:

In the fall of 1999, two experienced Democratic candidates—Senator Bradley and Vice President Gore—conducted a debate which focused on American health care. It was the first Democratic debate of the 2000 campaign. 

At the conservative National Review, the late Kate O'Beirne praised the candidates for their breadth of  knowledge. At the Washington Post, Pulitzer winner Mary McGrory started her column as shown:

MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. 

McGrory barely mentioned what the candidates had said about health care. Instead, she lambasted Gore's deeply troubling wardrobe, in this and in her next column.

Everyone treated this lunacy as normal. Within "our democracy," things spiraled downward from there, with major mainstream journalists conducting lunatic discussions of every conceivable aspect of Gore's deeply troubling wardrobe.

That included the fact that some of his deeply troubling suit jackets had three buttons, not two. Eventually, one major national figure even sewed a fourth button on!

No, we aren't making that up—and the lunacy came to be even more lunatic than whatever you may be imagining. That was the state of "our democracy" as of the fall of 1999, and all the people our tribe admires knew that they had two choices:

They could play along with this jihad if they chose. But they mustn't notice or mention the lunacy, and they certainly mustn't complain.

Wallace herself has long been part of the threat to "our democracy," dating back to 2004, when she was pimping state ballot measures on same-sex marriage to enhance voter turnout for Bush. That said, "our democracy" has been a joke for decades—but you will never be told such things as corporate cable sells product.

We hope to do better again at this site starting on Monday. According to a string of experts, it won't make a lick of difference. But we'll be trying to find ways to get our time and our focus back.

Should Donald J. Trump be charged with a crime? On the merits, we have no idea. On the politics, it strikes us a very risky maneuver.

That said, people like Wallace are busy earning millions of dollars selling "cable news" product. You should never trust their judgment or their factual statements or the pleasing product they sell.

First three buttons, then four: Within the realm of the fourth estate, "our democracy" was a manifest joke as of the fall of 1999.

The conduct of the mainstream press was crazier than you think. "Our democracy" has been a form of lunacy for decades, and that isn't likely to change. 

To consider the troubling number of buttons on that one candidate's suits, you can just click here. This was the state of "our democracy" as of 1999—and you can trust us on this point:

What you find, if you click that link, will be crazier than you think. None of our blue tribe's exalted leaders said even a word in real time.