WHAT DO THOSE NUMBERS MEAN! Horrible numbers emerged from that poll. What do those numbers mean? // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2010
Shoveling is disruptive: With apologies, were dumping our series for this week. Shoveling has proven highly disruptive. It has knocked us off our normal trade routes. We expect to regroup next week.
We had planned to talk today about the staggering dumbness involved in the recent its snowing so global warming cant be real nonsense. But theres a great deal to say about that topic, and weve been too distracted to pull it together.
Next week, with our normal patterns restored, we will at least hope to comment on this New York Times news report on the subject. In its weakness of statement, we think its instructive. But then, heres what Olbermann said on the subject this Tuesday night, during his worst persons segment:
Were glad he remembered to blame all the kids! And since we just copy Republicans now, it was good to include the guilt trip part about people dying during the storm. But really? According to current climate change theory, When its supposed to get warm, it gets warmer, and where its supposed to get cold, it gets colder? If that were the theory, then how in the world would average global temperatures rise?
We thought of Vermin Supreme, the performance artist who runs for president in New Hampshire each time (click here). In 2000, Vermin ran on a simple platform: Its too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. But Vermin is staging a joke.
Olbermann was back Wednesday night, equipped with a clearer explanation. But our political culture is cosmically dumb, and this Drudge/Inhofe/Hannity-driven nonsense must be its dumbest manifestation. By the way, how weak was that New York Times report? This weak: On Wednesday evenings Special Report, all three pundits batted the Inhofian nonsense away with more ease than the New York Times did. Of course, theres a difference between a news report and a pundit statementand Hannity has clowned on this topic each night this week. But even Tucker Carlson was able to say this on Special Report:
Krauthammer had already batted the bull-roar away: [The snowstorm] has no effect one way are the other on the veracity of the science. There is no weather event in any one locality, even a string of weather events, that's going to have any effect on the truth or the falsity of global climate change.
The following morning, the New York Times discussed the topic on tiptoes. The Times was more timid than Charles.
The dumbness of our political culture is truly a thing to beholdand it threatens the nations future. People like Hannity dumb us down hard. But deeply timid mainstream news orgs have also been part of the syndromeand so, increasingly, are a few souls who parade all about on our side.
The amount of cheating is staggering: The amount of cheating is staggering. So says Ben Scafidi, director of the Center for an Educated Georgia.
This is the biggest erasure problem Ive ever seen. So says Gregory Cizek, described as a testing expert from the University of North Carolina who has studied cheating.
Scafidi and Cizek are quoted in todays New York Times, in a report which discusses apparent cheating on standardized tests in the Georgia public schools. Warning! The inquiry into this matter is just starting. Its always possible to jump to conclusions about the size of a problem at the start of such a process. How much cheating has gone on in Georgias schools? At present, no one can say. But this is the way Shaila Dewan describes the apparent problem:
Too many changes from wrong to right! This has been a well-known red flag in standardized testing for decades; we first described it on this site in 1999, though wed been aware of the syndrome since maybe 1980 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/13/99). But over the years, it has been impossible to get our nations editorial geniuses to come to terms with this sort of problem, as they thunder, recite, proclaim and posture about the need for more high-stakes testing. For ourselves, we strongly favor annual testing. But we also know that public school teachers and administrators will sometimes cheat on such testsand that theyll cheat their keisters off if the stakes get sufficiently high.
In fact, everyone has known this, for decades. Everyone except the geniuses who type our editorials and op-ed columnsthe fancy folk who love to proclaim, with high-minded fervor, about things they know little about.
The state of Georgia deserves a lot of credit for conducting this investigation. (Repeat: Its still unclear how much cheating may have occurred.) But we were struck by Dewans report, because weve shaken our heads in recent weeks as weve read reactions to several proposals for higher-stakes testing. One such proposal came from the Obama Admin. (It may be a perfectly OK proposal.) This is what Sam Dillon reported in the February 1 New York Times:
Under this proposal, the stakes in high-stakes testing would get a lot higher. Tens of billions of dollars would be dished according to test scores. To anyone whose head isnt stuck up his keister, one outcome is obvious, absent safeguards: This would lead to more cheating! But even after all these decades, know-nothing editorial boards leaped into action, praising the brilliance of this high-minded idea. For example, this was the wonderfully groaning opening paragraph of the Times editorial:
Groan. Rapid improvement is a wonderful thing. But rapid improvement on standardized test scores has long been a red flaga possible warning signal! Heres one more part of Dewans report about the Georgia schools:
These schools had made an extraordinary gain in scoresthat is to say, theyd made rapid improvements. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows this can be a warning sign. But high-minded editors at our big papers have rarely shown signs of knowing such things. Over the decades, it has been stunning to see their studied resistance to grasping the ways of the world.
For those whose heads arent lodged up their keisters, it has been well-known for decades: If you pay teachers to get better test scores; if you fire teachers who get lower scores; if you tie funding and advancement to higher scores, then a whole lot of teachers and principals cheat. (They also cheat at the school system level.) But it has proven nearly impossible to get editorial boards and op-ed savants to understand such facts of life. They recite High-Minded Mantras about raising achievement. And they behave like a clueless elite.
As noted, we favor standardized testing. Wed be inclined to favor the use of test scores in rating teachers. But if youre going to raise the stakes in testing that way, you have to institute strong test security measures. But so what? The know-nothing boards at the Post and the Times played their standard role this month. They clapped and cheered for rapid improvement, then wandered about the countryside like emperors shorn of their clothes.
Note again: The investigation in Georgia is just starting. The amount of cheating isnt known. But kudos to the New York Times for reporting this story today. We await the day when some editorial boardor some op-ed giantwill stress the need for greater test security measures as they posture, in scripted ways, about the wonders of rapid improvement.
WHAT DO THOSE NUMBERS MEAN (permalink): In our view, Steve Benen put the best possible face on this weeks Washington Post/ABC News poll (click here). Steve looked at certain results concerning health reformresults wed be inclined to disregard. These results arent bad, he said.
Steve was right. The results he cited werent all that bad, but the questions he looked at were a bit soft. (Respondents want Congress to keep trying!) For us, the rubber hit the road in the polls most basic question about health reform. It was question 15 (just click here):
We thought the result was awful. Overall, 46 percent favored proposed reform; 49 percent opposed it. But take a look at those who felt strongly. Only 22 percent were strongly in favor. A walloping 38 percent said they were strongly opposed.
That is just a horrible breakdown. Its hard to imagine passing major legislation in the face of such public sentiment. We have no idea whats going on inside the Admin and inside the Congress; we have no idea if they still plan to pass a bill. But if the House doesnt want to pass the Senate bill, those numbers may help explain why.
In our view, those horrible numbers raise a challenge for liberals and progressives. Its time for us to take a step back and ask ourselves an important question: Why are those numbers so bad?
Meanwhile, well make some suggestions about what we should do in trying to answer that question. For the moment, we should stop entertaining and angering ourselves with claims about how had (how hypocritical) the other side is. For the moment, we should focus on ourselves. We should ask ourselves what is wrong with uswhy our side couldnt convince the public of the merits of the plan.
We know, we know: Sarah Palin said death panels, and Betsey McCaughey did her usual crap. But weve known about McCaughey since 1993, and theres always a Palin around. In our view, its time to set aside our compalints about the other team, and ask ourselves what is wrong with our own. Why havent we done a better job convincing the American people?
The McCaugheys and the Palins will always be there. Why cant our side win?
Here at THE HOWLER, we have our own ideas about such questions; we may discuss them next week. But as you ask yourselves that question, steel yourselves against the joys of talking about the other side. In that new poll, the numbers are very bad among those who feel strongly. Forgot for once about the others:
Why doesnt our side win?