The Washington Post takes us back to school!

MONDAY, AUGUST 29, 2016

The latest poisonous blast:
In theory, recovery from our thunderclap strike is proceeding apace.

Today, our cable provider's "dispatch team" is coming to get our cable team. Assuming that actually happens, connectivity to the Internet is next!

That said, Baltimore's children are walking back to school as we continue on hiatus. Despite the impressions you may get, this city is full of good, decent kids. Concerning the public schools they attend, you may sometimes be encouraged to gain misleading impressions.

Case in point: This remarkable back-to-school piece from yesterday's Washington Post Outlook section.

The piece was written by "education scholar" Shepard Barbash. It's full of poisonous claims and insinuations about American teachers and schools.

None of these claims is argued for, let alone established. We don't know if we've ever seen a journalistic offering which was less journalistic.

(On line, we note that the piece provides links which may produce evidence in support of some claims. At 35 cents per minute at Kinko's, we can't afford to click those links. The hard-copy version of the piece is argument- and evidence-free.)

What sorts of claims does Barbash advance in his enjoyable "pop quiz" format? He starts by asking these questions:
BARBASH (8/28/16): A new school year brings back all the old questions: What’s wrong with our schools? Why are they so hard to fix? Who is to blame for their failures? Take this test and find out. There are no wrong answers.
The implications are hard to miss. As he continues, Barbash poses questions like this:
BARBASH: 9. Why don't more educators do what works best?
A) They don't want to.
B) They don't have to.
C) They don't know how.
D) All of the above.
Because we've been told that "there are no wrong answers," those sweeping accusations are all presumed to be true.

To what extent is Barbash an "education scholar?" We don't know, and our current state of connectivity leaves us unable to perform a full search.

We will say this: In its identity line, the Post says that Barbash is "the author of five books, including Clear Teaching. We note that Clear Teaching seems to be his only book about education, and that it is a book of only 81 (81) pages which seems to advocate a certain teaching technique which has achieved a somewhat specialized, cultish following.

Is there some reason to believe that the teaching technique in question ought to be used more widely? The Post might have asked Barbash to write a column advancing that claim. Instead, the paper published the latest poisonous portrait of our allegedly hapless, ne'er do well, failing schools.

Are the nation's public schools an ungodly, failing mess? The claim is very popular among a class of "education reformers." The claim is also widely advanced within the mainstream press.

That said, we had occasion last week to review the latest NAEP scores. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a federal testing program which dates to 1970. It is widely regarded as our most reliable domestic testing program, perhaps as our only reliable domestic testing program.

As we've noted a million times, NAEP data show rising test scores among all groups of American kids. As we had occasion to note last week, these are average scores in Grade 4 math for the years 2000 and 2015:
Average scores, Grade 4 math
NAEP, 2000 / 2015

Black students: 202.94 / 223.98
Hispanic students: 207.10 / 229.97
On their face, those are large score gains. We'll offer a very rough rule of thumb: ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year. We regard rhat as a very rough rule of thumb, but NAEP data suggest significant gains by all demographic groups over the past four decades.

All in all, NAEP data are hard to square with the poison which pours from the pens of people like Barbash. That said, newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times virtually never tell their readers about the score gains recorded by American kids.

Regarding the Barbash piece, we have no idea why the Post would publish a back-to-school piece which was so non-journalistic. And no, there was no competing piece painting a different picture of American schools and the good, decent kids within them.

We know of no area where so much data is so systematically withheld from the public. In great detail, we've presented these data again and again. Nothing will ever persuade our mainstream journalists, or our liberal activists, to insist that these data be reported and explored.

We know of no area where so much data is so systematically withheld from the public. Making this pattern more astonishing, the information which is being withheld looks like good, encouraging news.

As Baltimore's kids went back to school, the Washington Post chose to do it again. Supporters of "reform" exchange high fives, but who will inform the public about the rising scores achieved by our good, decent kids?

We'll be on hiatus a few more days!

FRIDAY, AUGUST 26, 2016

But first, these observations:
We'll be on hiatus a few more days as we resolve our post-thunderclap connectivity and equipment replacement problems. But first:

Yesterday, we spent three hours in a workshop with an array of federal managers. This led us to move about the parlous partisan state into which the nation has fallen.

To what extent has our basic functioning broken down? Let's run through the three branches of government:

Due to our current dysfunctional state, the Supreme Court is operating with only eight members. There is no way to break a tie in the event of a 4-4 vote. Nor is there any assurance that there will ever be a ninth member.

It's a very peculiar state of affairs. That said, consider the current state of the Congress, the body which is failing to act on the nomination of a possible ninth Justice:

The Congress is in such a divided partisan state that it's virtually impossible to pass any legislation. This didn't start in the Obama years. It dates at least to the government shutdowns of the first Clinton term and to the subsequent stream of temporary "continuing resolutions" which were need to keep the government functioning.

Presumably, someone will be elected president in November. That said, will that person be able to pass any legislation next year? Evidence suggests that our current state of partisan breakdown makes that an unlikely prospect.

Finally, consider the status of that new president. Alas! The current state of our partisan breakdown means that the two major party nominees carry the highest "unfavorable" ratings of any nominees in modern history.

Whoever ends up in the White House, that person will be widely loathed. For better or worse, all parts of our federal government seem to be in highly unusual states of breakdown.

What explains this state of affairs? Yesterday, we suggested two basic ways in which the press corps has helped fuel this breakdown.

First, the rise of partisan news orgs of the left and the right has flooded the discourse with disinformation and misinformation. Also, with steady streams of messaging designed to make liberals and conservatives fully loathe each other.

If we might borrow from CSNY: Loathe the others well!

This sort of behavior from partisan orgs has fueled the types of division mentioned above. Meanwhile, our big mainstream legacy news orgs have persistently failed to challenge the conduct of such partisan players and orgs. Misinformation and deliberate confusion are routinely ignored—ignored and permitted to stand.

For the last ten years, we've been begging our big mainstream orgs to accept a basic principle: When major players mislead or misinform millions of people, that is in itself a news event, a news event which should be addressed in front page news reporting.

Over the past several decades, our big news orgs have largely ducked this role. In just this past week, the New York Times has finally begun to break out of this mold, challenging some misinformation being sold by Sean Hannity.

Such action is long overdue. That said, we don't expect to see such work done on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the skill level of our big mainstream orgs is often extremely low.

More and more, we resemble a failing banana republic. Players of the left and the right have happily driven this downward cycle. When will big news orgs, and us the people, finally say that the joy of loathing The Other must be subjected to a full frontal challenge?

We offer those thoughts as we start to address our post-thunderclap issues. As a nation, we've managed to achieve a clownishly dysfunctional state of affairs. Gloomily, we offer these thoughts:

Our skills at addressing this problem are few. Beyond that, the spirit seems weak.

Our mainstreamers tend to play along with disinformation and confusion pretty much as they find it. They tend to avoid rocking powerful boats. If you doubt that, listen to any mainstream pundit discussion.

Go ahead! Start with discussions on NPR, as we just (depressingly) did. Then branch out from there!

One final point: We liberals may instinctively claim it's all being done by Them, Over There. In that instinctive claim, we'll be counterproductive and wrong.

Example: We think Paul Krugman is right today. After that, we think he goes wrong!

UPDATE: Miraculous landlord files!

MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016

Hard to believe, but (at least temporarily) true:
Miraculous landlord does it again!

(Important key and essential note: This was not posted at Kinko's.)

To whom it may concern!

MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016

All others may disregard:
As part of our connectivity circus, we're forced to resort to this communication regarding Thursday's top-secret Charlottesville event.

For those who have a need to know, these URLs will be involved:

The Washington Post: Kranish and Fisher, August 14

The New York Times: Chozick, August 11

The New York Times: Rich, April 26

No other URLs need apply. Eventually, this post will disappear.

Revenge of the powerful thunderclap!

MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016

It looks like we'll be on hiatus:
It looks like the thunder-clap which killed our TV has also killed our computer.

On Thursday night, our landlord solved our connectivity mess. On Saturday, it looks like the whole machine died.

The gods of powerful thunder-claps take their revenge in such ways. Meanwhile:

We have an event this Thursday on which the future functioning the federal work-force may well depend. The event will be held at an undisclosed location in Charlottesville, Virginia. We plan to spend the week preparing for that and avoiding more wrath from the gods.

It looks like we'll be on hiatus this week. That said, we think Jim Rutenberg has begun to do something in today's New York Times which we've been suggesting for years.

Bogus information strikes at the very heart of our culture. The presence of mis- and disinformation needs to be widely discussed.

At any rate, it looks like we'll be on hiatus this week. Stay away from the thunder-clap gods!