TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2023
The silence of the elites: In the end, it has come down to this. It has come down to those four (4) letters in yesterday's New York Times.
The letters appear beneath the heading shown below. The letters appear in service to long-standing, vastly-preferred, lazy elite Storyline:
Mississippi’s Many Education Lessons
The letters appear in response to Nicholas Kristof's June 1 essay about the current state of Mississippi's public schools. To read the four letters, click here.
For the record, Nicholas Kristof is not an educational expert. It may seem, to the average Times reader, like yesterday's first letter writer is:
Mississippi’s Many Education Lessons
Re “Mississippi Is Offering Lessons for America on Education,” by Nicholas Kristof (column, “How America Heals” series, June 1):
Mississippi schools prove that all the reasons for the failure of children to learn how to read and excel have been excuses. Critics will no doubt claim that its success is an aberration, but the evidence is clear. The only question now is whether its approach is scalable.
Walt Gardner / Los Angeles
The writer taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer in the U.C.L.A. Graduate School of Education.
The writer may seem to qualify as an educational expert. In support of the claims in Kristof's essay, he says that Mississippi's public schools now prove "that all the reasons for the failure of children to learn how to read and excel have been excuses."
In fairness to Gardner, that's a perfectly reasonable summary of the claims in Kristof's essay. Kristof isn't an educational expert, but along the way in his lengthy piece he quoted someone who allegedly is:
KRISTOF (6/1/23): In the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of nationwide tests better known as NAEP, Mississippi has moved from near the bottom to the middle for most of the exams—and near the top when adjusted for demographics. Among just children in poverty, Mississippi fourth graders now are tied for best performers in the nation in NAEP reading tests and rank second in math.
“Mississippi is a huge success story and very exciting,” David Deming, a Harvard economist and education expert, told me. What’s so significant, he said, is that while Mississippi hasn’t overcome poverty or racism, it still manages to get kids to read and excel.
“You cannot use poverty as an excuse. That’s the most important lesson,” Deming added. “It’s so important, I want to shout it from the mountaintop.” What Mississippi teaches, he said, is that “we shouldn’t be giving up on children.”
There you see the heart of Kristof's claim. When you adjust for demographics—for family income, for race and ethnicity—Mississippi's kids are performing "near the top" of the nation, at least on the Naep's Grade 4 reading test.
That might look like a "Mississippi miracle," to cite the phrase the AP used in its earlier, May 17 report. To review that report, click here.
Colorful language to the side, Kristof was making an impressive assertion about Mississippi's schools. Right on cue, we were handed a full-fledged "education expert," advancing these latest pleasing claims about educational success among the nation's many deserving low-income kids.
In Kristof's essay, we were explicitly told that Deming is an educational expert. Plainly, Deming has no qualms concerning the claims which are being advanced about Mississippi's schools.
Yesterday morning, the Times finally published four letters about the Kristof essay. Gardner is cast in the role of the apparent educational expert.
The other three writers, though wholly sincere, are not education experts. That said, none of the four disagree, in any way, with Kristof's basic statistical claims, or with the conclusions he draws from those Grade 4 reading scores.
This is a pattern as old as the hills. Journalistically, it reeks of human indifference.
In the 1960s, the liberal world began to concern itself with the educational disparities which had emerged from centuries of racial brutality.
It soon became clear that it wouldn't be easy to erase our nation's deep-seated achievement gaps. At that point, liberal journalistic elites fell back on the practice of offering high-minded accounts of the occasional low-income "Schools That Work."
Again and again, it turned out that these pleasing accounts were built on statistical fraud and deception. In the current case of Mississippi, this basic Storyline is back, with the story of the occasional Schools That Work bumped up in this manner:
The Little Low-Income State That Could
The Little Low-Income State That Could! That where preferred elite Storyline currently takes us, with experts suggesting that other states could match Mississippi if they'd just work equally hard.
What follows this week will be an anthropology lesson about modern American culture, such as it actually is.
We'll walk you through the Naep scores recorded by Mississippi's good, decent lower-income kids in both Grade 4 and Grade 8. Especially after considering the likely statical effects of Mississippi's third grade retention policy, we'll show why there's much less to be thrilled about there than may seem to meet the eye.
To their vast credit, many people are working hard in Mississippi's public schools. By way of contrast, this nation's educational experts hardly seem to be working at all.
These lofty losers have been missing in action—have been reliably silent—every single step of the way over the past fifty years. That said, the nation's journalistic elites have been missing in action too.
Long ago, these sets of elites walked off their posts. At present, that includes Kristof himself, and any such editors may have reviewed his essay.
We got lucky long ago, starting in the fall of 1969. We got to spend nine full years as a classroom teacher to nine different arrays of Baltimore's lower-income black kids.
We were exposed to some very good kids. They were being badly served at that point in time.
Today, other kids are badly served by the likes of Kristof and Deming. For today, we'll explain it like this:
A detailed look at Mississippi's Naep scores puts Kristod's thesis in doubt. It has now been a month since that AP report appeared, and none of our educational experts has sallied forth to say that.
They're missing in action on leafy campuses, where the ivy seems to blow in the wind. Yesterday, pretending to close the book on that upbeat essay by Kristof, the Times presented letters from four readers.
None of them, Gardner included, seems to have the slightest idea how to assess Kristof's statistics-based basic claims. None of the four seems to be an educational expert in any relevant sense.
Citizens, can we talk? No one cares about low-income kids, and no one ever has. More specifically, no one cares enough to speak up about Kristof's shaky claims, whether on our Ivy campuses or at the uncaring Times.
There may be delays in our reporting in the days to come. We're dealing with the after effects of a June 7 surgical procedure, and we're losing large chunks of time.
That said, the world is full of good, decent kids like the kids we once taught. It's also full of lazy, indifferent, incompetent experts and elites who seem to love good Storyline more than life itself.
Long ago, our experts walked off their posts. In thrall to pleasing Storyline, they've wandered far away.
Tomorrow: We may not be able to post tomorrow, although we'll dang sure try.