MONDAY, MAY 22, 2023

Miracles claimed and ignored: It was the most unlikely Morning Joe discussion of all time.

The discussion lasted less than two minutes. Last Thursday morning, at 6:46, it started exactly like this:

SCARBOROUGH (5/18/23): I want to talk really quickly, before we go to break...

He wanted to discuss a new topic "really quickly." Promises made, promises kept!

These are the kids we don't care about. Joe's statement continued as shown:

SCARBOROUGH: I want to talk really quickly, before we go to break, about reading in Mississippi and Alabama. 

I mean, you know, Mississippi—two states I love, two states I've lived in. Two states when I hear we're 49th in this, 50th in that, I roll my eyes.

Did you read about the "Mississippi miracle" yesterday? That Mississippi's reading scores have shot way up?



SCARBOROUGH: The Alabama miracle? It's so heartening, and maybe offers a road map for other areas in states that may be doing better but where there are pockets of illiteracy, to do better.

In fact, there was no claim of an "Alabama miracle," heartening or otherwise, in the news report in question. At issue was a lengthy AP report, whose headline offered this:

‘Mississippi miracle’: Kids’ reading scores have soared in Deep South states

The AP report was written by Sharon Lurye. Wisely or otherwise, it posited a "Mississippi miracle," but none in some other state.

The AP report was widely reprinted. As you can see, it was reprinted by the PBS NewsHour. It was also reprinted within the (online) Washington Post, where it was strangely categorized as a Lifestyle report.

It dealt with Grade 4 reading scores in last year's administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), the federally-run program which is widely regarded as the gold standard of our nation's educational testing.

Last year, the Naep was administered for the first time since the pandemic disrupted many public schooling procedures. In Grade 4 reading, Mississippi had (slightly) outperformed the national average. Alabama had not.

In fairness, Alabama's public school kids were less than half a year behind the national average in Grade 4 reading. On Morning Joe, that became the "Alabama miracle" as the topic was (very) briefly discussed before a commercial break.

Our posting will be light this week, but we'll focus on this topic. To some extent, we'll talk about the AP report, and about those new Naep scores.

For today, we'll start you off with an extremely basic observation. No one actually cares about the topic which was so briefly discussed last Thursday. Also, no one cares about the kids involved, or about their parents.

On Morning Joe, the discussion began at 6:46. It ended at 6:47. As we've told you for many years:

No one cares about low-income kids, especially within our own tribe!

Tomorrow: Let's take a look at the data


  1. The second amendment is evil.

  2. If you want miraculous literacy, teach phonics.

    1. What good is phonics if you don't know what the words mean after you have sounded them out? Reading is more than phonics.

    2. Mmmm yes, if only our brains were capable of making connections instead of mindlessly sounding out words.

      God was so mischievous in his design!

    3. You sounded a word out and you didn’t recognize it? Congratulations! You have just learned a new word. That’s one of the benefits of reading.

    4. If you don't know what the word means, you haven't learned that word. This is why students with limited experiences outside the classroom struggle with reading comprehension. They don't have referents to match to the words. If no one has used a specific word in conversation around you, the word will not be recognizable to the student.

      This is why reading programs cannot be just phonics.

    5. Your strawmaning about “limited experiences” and “just phonics” aside, our brains are able to make connections you seem to be saying they can not.

    6. Obviously reading requires more than phonics, but phonics is indispensable.

      Reading informs us about things we’ve never seen or heard of. We learn about new things, faraway places, unfamiliar ideas. And, increasing our vocabulary, we learn not only nouns, but also verbs, and all other “parts of speech” which might not be familiar to our family and friends.

    7. I am saying that we form mental representations based on experiences in our lives. When we learn words, we link those words to the stored experiences. If you have no such experiences, then the words do not have meaning for you. Here is an example. A child who has never seen an elephant in a picture book or in a zoo or on TV, may learn to decode the word elephant and pronounce it based on the phonemes in the word, but how will that child know anything about the animal that word names if he or she has never seen or heard anything about such a creature?

      Low income kids tend to be raised in impoverished environments where they do not go to the zoo or have picture books read to them, or watch TV shows about elephants. When they encounter such a word, they have no reference for it, no life experience to link with the word itself. They may be told that an elephant is an animal with a long trunk (what is a trunk?) but they immediately forget that info because they have no existing memory representation of such an animal. So, yes our brains make connections, but you have to have something to connect to, in order to form a connection. Otherwise the teacher is saying incomprehensible things that will not be remembered later.

      This is worse when it comes to abstracts instead of concrete concepts such as elephant. A child who is told that a freedom is important in a democracy, will have trouble learning about political systems without any reference points for those words.

      Exploring the world must go hand-in-hand with learning the words that name things in the world.

      You are perhaps just trolling, but I am giving you the benefit of the doubt. Kids with limited life experiences have fewer connections. People who are constantly having new experiences, trying new things, learning new languages, have many more connections in their brains. When a child has the same experiences over and over, that doesn't result in new connections. There is an optimal age for forming connections to acquire vocabulary, but that depends on exposure to both words and the things words name. If a child misses that learning early on, it will impair their ability to learn the content of their later grades in school. They will be wondering what words mean and what is being talked about, at a time when other kids know and are making progress. Later learning depends on earlier learning. While the disadvantaged child is trying to work out what the word "combustion" means, the other kids will be learning facts about fire and how it works. If you already know the word, you can follow what is being said about it.

      Phonics shouldn't be an either/or choice. It is one part of learning to read that should work with other parts, including experiencing the world, so that words will have referents.

    8. Low income kids have access to pictures of elephants and know what an elephant is - what would a more precise example be?

    9. Do you feel low income kids don't know what money is or what New Year's Day is? That doesn't make sense to me. Do you have a better example? What concepts can these kids not connect to?

  3. Bob logic: The fact that a media outlet brought up the sort of thing I would like to see discussed more just goes to show how evil they are.
    It's along the lines of "these examples I have of MSNBC guests breaking with the liberal take on MSNBC just goes to show no one is allowed to break with the liberal take on MSNBC.
    Rinse, bullshit, repeat.
    It was interesting that Bob added Rudy to his "Trump Trump" list last week. We found out through this lawsuit that Rudy may indeed be even more of a demented lost soul than we could have gleaned from his appearances attempted to destroy our Democracy in service to his crazed weirdo friend, and make no mistake, Bob does not want hear about it.

  4. "In fairness, Alabama's public school kids were less than half a year behind the national average in Grade 4 reading. On Morning Joe, that became the "Alabama miracle" as the topic was (very) briefly discussed before a commercial break."

    In fairness, whether Alabama has had a miracle increase or not depends on what its scores were before, not what they are now. Somerby doesn't bother to tell us that.

    Meanwhile, Scarborough is damned if he mentions reading scores and damned if he doesn't. It is remotely possible that Scarborough read about Alabama someplace besides that AP article -- Somerby assumes he didn't and just threw the name Alabama in for no reason. I might investigate before assuming that. Somerby has not, or he would presumably tell what the Alabama NAEP scores were previously, if only to prove they had no "miracle."

    I often find myself wondering why Somerby seems to root against the kids, against improvement, instead of hoping for kids to do better, especially after a pandemic that affected continuity of schooling. Somerby never mentioned that pandemic or the struggles of teachers and parents to keep kids learning, not one single day during the entire lockdown of 2020, not one single word. And that makes me question the sincerity of Somerby's concern for our kids.

  5. "SCARBOROUGH: The Alabama miracle? It's so heartening, and maybe offers a road map for other areas in states that may be doing better but where there are pockets of illiteracy, to do better."

    That dirty dog -- being heartened by school progress and wishing for others to do better! What is he doing offering hope instead of telling us that our nation is sliding into the sea?

  6. Republicans should support statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

  7. Which section of the newspaper does Somerby think education issues belong in? They aren't politics or world affairs or national news (schools are local). They aren't sports or wellness or fashion or comics or obituaries. Papers have generally had an Education section, but if there is only one recent story, do you hold it for later or put it into the closest category?

    Why does Somerby not understand such compromises? He often seems like that unfortunate woman discussed yesterday, fixated on one bike and unable to switch to another, even to prevent a video of her ridiculous behavior from going viral. Somerby's dominant trait isn't rationality, it is inflexibility.

  8. History, and anthropology, etc., shows us that literacy isn’t the miracle cure for societal ills, as many have suggested. This is particularly true in contemporary times, with vast amounts of information available through audio and video media.

    Long ago, humans unwisely shifted towards a society based on surplus and privatization, over commodification, hierarchy and dominance, which led to widespread inequalities and traumatizing experiences, particularly during childhood; humans shifted from the left to the right.

    Somerby does not care about any of that as it does not serve his right wing agenda, yet he attempts to scold the blue tribe for not caring.

    This is nonsense, as easily demonstrated by examining child poverty rates. Child poverty rates began declining in the late 60’s as a result of the blue tribe’s war on poverty started by President Johnson. Then child poverty rates nosedived during Covid when the blue tribe dispensed with the normal establishment safety net policies and moved towards more immediate-return oriented policies that gave cash directly to parents, which resulted in the greatest single year drop in child poverty.

    Somerby’s false claims about the blue tribe reveal a wounded and troubled lost soul, or perhaps a solution to his own personal financial struggles. One hopes he gets help and finds peace.

    1. You’re right. Literacy sucks. Without it, I wouldn’t be reading your comment.

    2. 1:06 you are just endorsing 12:39’s point, as literacy has not led you away from muddled thinking.

    3. Sorry, 1:06. I can’t read your comment. I’m illiterate!

    4. 3:58 I guess that makes you unaware that your own “joke” is on you.

    5. La, la, la, I can’t read your comment.

  9. Do we know whether Mississippi's scores went up or the national average went down?

    I'd want to see what Scarborough said about this, outside the portion quoted by Somerby. Somerby often leaves out important info in order to present his preferred narrative about Scarborough and is capable of being dishonest about what else Scarborough said before or after this quote.

  10. Somerby says that the article talked about no "Alabama miracle" and implies that it didn't mention Alabama, but this is what it said:

    "Louisiana and Alabama, meanwhile, were among only three states to see modest gains in fourth-grade reading during the pandemic, which saw massive learning setbacks in most other states."

    The article was about the Deep South, not simply Mississippi. Further, it discussed Mississippi's learning progress over the past decade (since 2013), going from 49th in the nation to 21st, not simply its progress on the latest NAEP, as Somerby states. Scarborough focused on that long-term change, relating it to his personal experience of having learned to read in Mississippi.

    I suspect that the gains after covid are related to not wearing masks and not closing schools, rather than any specific programs related to reading. Kids lose proficiency over summer and especially over a year of closure or disrupted education. A school that doesn't close is going to do better.

    I do think Somerby is misrepresenting both the AP article and what Scarborough himself said. Aside from being unreliable as a reporter, why is Somerby so down on any report of positive findings and why is he maligning Scarborough over such a triviality, misrepresenting what was said in both sources?

    1. Whenever Bob criticizes a female pundit, you claim it's because he's misogynistic. So his criticism of Scarborough must mean that he hates men. See how stupid that "logic" is?

    2. Somerby used to praise Scarborough, pretty much until he hooked up with Mika.

      Somerby attacks female journalists/pundits at a vastly higher rate than male ones, and while his rare attacks on males (usually he defends them, even the most abhorrent ones) tend to be straightforward and somewhat substantive, his attacks on females tend to be nit picky, trivial, and focused more on aesthetics.

  11. Defund the Supreme Court.

    1. With friends like Harlan Crow, who would care?

    2. Recall the Supreme Court. Impeach corrupt justices.

    3. For right wingers, corruption is a feature, not a bug, so it would be better to increase the number of justices and other similar reforms, like term limits.

    4. Impeachment won’t work, because the Republicans will vote to acquit. But if Democrats don’t vote for the appropriation, the Court will shut down.

  12. "I want to talk really quickly, before we go to break..."

    "On Morning Joe, the discussion began at 6:46. It ended at 6:47."

    From this Somerby concludes that nobody cares about low-income kids, especially in our blue tribe. Especially! As if the red tribe cares about low-income kids as it strips library shelves of books and rewrites racial history in textbooks, and works extra-hard to privatize education instead of properly funding public schools in low-income neighborhoods.

    Meanwhile, Somerby has lined up behind the so-called parents rights movement masquerading as educational improvement on the right. You can search Somerby's archives and you won't see the name DeVos mentioned at all. You won't see discussion of charter schools either. Nothing much about early childhood education or universal preschool, but lots about how admitting more black kids to NYC science high schools is unfair to Asian students.

    Mothers for Freedom started as an anti-mask, anti-shutdown activist group on the right. It has taken up the DeSantis culture war issues as a right-wing political movement, not because education requires that certain books be taken off the shelf or because parents have had no rights (they can and do control what their kids read). Somerby's latest essays about education have focused on these political issues, NOT on anything relevant to teaching or schools.

    Now Somerby claims that blue voters don't care about low-income kids. That is a huge lie. The main help for low-income families comes from the left, and (according to a survey by EdWeek) most teachers support Democratic candidates, do not support charter schools or vouchers, and strongly disliked DeVos. Only 27% of teachers are Republicans.

    What was Scarborough supposed to talk about for longer? There is nothing controversial about being happy because Southern schools improved their reading scores. And note that Scarborough was not focusing on low-income students but on the entire state.

  13. We live in a barred spiral galaxy.

  14. Justice for Karen!