I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Major Newspapers: Wrong On Iraq; Wrong On Education

The tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War came this week, with some, such as David Corn, taking the opportunity to reflect on the failure of the press. At the time, it was clear to any who cared to listen that the evidence in support of the invasion was weak at best and downright deceptive at worst.

And yet most of the major newspapers wrote editorials in support of George W. Bush's war that credulously swallowed the lies his White House sold.

The Chicago Tribune, 2/6/03:

In a dramatic appearance before a rapt United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out powerful evidence, replete with satellite photos and tapes of intercepted telephone conversations, that Saddam Hussein has evaded and deceived UN weapons inspectors and utterly failed to meet his obligations to the world body.
The Washington Post, 2/6/2003:
AFTER SECRETARY OF STATE Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Powell left no room to argue seriously that Iraq has accepted the Security Council's offer of a "final opportunity" to disarm. And he offered a powerful new case that Saddam Hussein's regime is cooperating with a branch of the al Qaeda organization that is trying to acquire chemical weapons and stage attacks in Europe.
The Wall Street Journal, 2/6/2003:
The Secretary of State [Colin Powell] had to provide this smoking proof because some people still refuse to believe what they see with their own eyes. An example is the way many, including U.N. inspector [International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed] El Baradei, have accepted Iraq's explanation that its import of high-strength aluminum tubes was for conventional rocketry, not uranium enrichment.
The New York Times, 2/8/03:

We reluctant hawks may disagree among ourselves about the most compelling logic for war -- protecting America, relieving oppressed Iraqis or reforming the Middle East -- but we generally agree that the logic for standing pat does not hold. Much as we might wish the administration had orchestrated events so the inspectors had a year instead of three months, much as we deplore the arrogance and binary moralism, much as we worry about all the things that could go wrong, we are hard pressed to see an alternative that is not built on wishful thinking.
Thanks to all these grudging allies, Mr. Bush will be able to claim, with justification, that the coming war is a far cry from the rash, unilateral adventure some of his advisers would have settled for.
Even the New York Times managed to suppress its doubts and cheer on the war. Now, ten years later, we have a $6 trillion bill on our books, 4486 American casualties, several hundred allied casualties, over 32,000 military personnel seriously wounded, and over 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians on our nation's conscience.

This was, again, a failure on the part of the press to do its job and accurately assess the information that was freely available to them at the time. So why do I bring this up on an education blog?

Because the same editorial boards that blew it on Iraq are now blowing it on education "reform."

The Chicago Tribune, 3/25/13:
Chicagoans understand that charters are the future of public education in this city. These schools draw excellent young teachers. They funnel money into the classroom, into serving students, not into a school district bureaucracy. And they often reap superior results where it matters: in student performance — not in kowtowing to local politicians.
Yet in the Trib's own city, there are many examples of "successful" charters that owe their "success" to student demographics and high attrition rates. Even then, charters as a whole do no better than publics in raising student achievement.

TEST SCORES for D.C. public school students released last week provide unmistakable proof that reforms instituted under mayoral control are working.
Results of the 2012 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) announced on Thursday showed steady and solid growth in student achievement over the past five years. In 2007, when then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) took over the schools and Michelle A. Rhee became chancellor, 27.9 percent of students were proficient in math, and 34 percent were proficient in reading. The results for 2012 — while still woefully unacceptable — are substantially improved, with 46 percent of students proficient in math and 43.5 percent proficient in reading.
As Matt DiCarlo has written repeatedly, Washington D.C. does not release test scores - only proficiency rates. These rates can actually rise as test scores decline, making them anything but "unmistakable proof." But The Post's editorial page has a history of presenting only the data that help it tell its preferred tales. And it remains strangely silent on the burgeoning cheating scandal that began under mayoral control.

The Wall Street Journal, 9/16/12:
The union had demanded a pay increase of 29% over four years, but the 25,000 teachers will still get 16%, which is far more than most workers in the private economy get these days. Chicago teachers already make on average far more ($71,000) than the average private worker ($47,000), not counting benefits and summer vacation, and this deal will increase the wealth redistribution.
Does it make one lick of sense to compare the salary of a college-edeucated professional to the average of all workers, most of whom do not have a degree? Continuing:
Teachers won big, however, on what they really care about (other than money), which is limiting the degree to which student test scores count in teacher evaluations. Student performance will count for only 25% starting this year, moving up over the next two years to 35%. This leaves the rest of the evaluation to the kind of subjective judgment that has long kept the worst teachers firmly in place.
The overwhelming research consensus is that test-based teacher evaluation is too prone to error to be used in high-stakes decisions.

The New York Times, 10/15/11:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the progress made by New Orleans’s school reform effort in the six years since Hurricane Katrina has been “stunning.” And there are many reasons for optimism about a system that is overwhelmingly made up of poor and minority students — just the sort of place where optimism is in short supply.
What's "stunning" is that RSD-NO remains a "failing" school district, ranking last out of all districts in Louisiana. Further, the district appears to have created a segregated system for special education students.

The information I am using to challenge the assertions of these editorial boards is publicly available and widely discussed among those of us challenging the corporate reform status quo. It is as accessible now as the news reports doubting the Bush Administration's claims about Iraq were accessible back then.

And yet, just as they did back in 2003, these editorial boards are rushing to push an agenda that has no evidence to back it up.

They do not care about the facts. They have no room for doubts. They want what they want, and they will stick their heads in the sand if that's what it takes to drown out the naysayers. It's what they do - since at least 2003. Let's pray that people are smart enough to ignore them so we don't have to face another avoidable disaster.

Editorial boards on education "reform."


giuseppe said...

Excellent article with data to back up the actual facts. The Iraq war was/is a monumental disaster that should have never happened. We learned nothing from Vietnam. So called education reform is another disaster being cheered on by the corporate media.

Luis Gabriel Aguilera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luis Gabriel Aguilera said...

Corporate-state education reform will go down in history as a crime against humanity. This is not hyperbole in any way. It is based on facts. Second to this crime will be the shame that will come with knowing what wonderful media tools we had in our hands that went unused to reject and end this reform. It's not too late though, so long as we pass on the good information and do something about it: http://www.scribd.com/doc/106337306/THE-CHICAGO-PUBLIC-SCHOOLS-ALLERGIC-TO-ACTIVISM