ANDREAS THE GIANT! Full of advice and trailing a conflict, a lofty Parisian bureaucrat is on his way to the states: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2011
Liberal blogger gone wild: Yesterday, Kevin Drum made a crazy statement.
In a truly outrageous post, he discussed last years decline in cable news viewership. Why might cable news be down? In the course of a semi-explanation, one of our favorites went wild:
People, can Kevin Drum say that?
For ourselves, we wouldnt call MSNBC the Fox of the left. We would say that MSNBC is rapidly adopting the strategies and tactics of Fox, while engaging in occasional conduct that looks a bit like lying. And yes, MSNBC is driven by blowhardery too! Indeed, some of Kevins commenters showed how effective this approach can be; they flew into action, reciting the various points which have been designed to reject such claims of moral equivalence. (Inevitable: Fox News broadcasts misleading right wing propaganda, and MSNBC tries to set the record straight.) That said, lets note one of the Fox-y ways MSNBC can dumb us all down. This takes us to a report by Ed Schultz on Monday night.
To Schultzs credit, he didnt throw Wisconsin under the bus just because of events in Japan. On Monday, he focused on Japan, but he also presented two reports on Wisconsin. (By way of contrast, the word Wisconsin wasnt heard on Maddow, ODonnell or Hardball. The shut-out continued last night.) But to close Mondays program, Schultz did a report which kept us slightly barefoot and clueless. He returned to a much-repeated statement Obama made as a candidate:
Schultz called in Laura Flanders of Grit TV. They spent the segment wondering why Obama hasnt gone to Wisconsin.
Why hasnt Obama walked that line? Here at THE HOWLER, we have no idea. But if you watch Fox, youve repeatedly been given a reasonand youve learned some basic facts in the process. Under current cable arrangements, these are the types of facts we liberals arent permitted to know.
Which facts do they get to hear on Fox? Three weeks ago, Bill OReilly played that same tape of Candidate Obama pledging to walk the picket line. But good lord! In what follows, Mr. O offered a good reason for Obamas failure to act:
Is that why Obama hasnt gone to Wisconsin? We have no idea. But the explanation does make some senseand some actual facts were included in OReillys report.
To this day, most viewers of MSNBC havent heard those facts.
If you watch Fox, youve heard that explanation again and again. In the process, youve learned a basic factfederal employees dont have collective bargaining rights! For ourselves, we still werent entirely sure about that; we had never heard it on MSNBC, after all. So yesterday, we did some googlingand we quickly found Ezra Klein confirming this fact, way back on February 23. Klein cited the very naughty Josh Barro, who had said the following five days before, at the start of the fight in Wisconsin:
Federal employees have few collective bargaining rights. As best we can tell, no MSNBC host has ever stated that fact. It did come out on March 2, when Lawrence ODonnell invitedwho else?Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman to appear on his program. (Sometimes, it seems if it werent for Grothman, we liberals would learn no fact sat all!)
Look, the federal employees do not have collective bargaining rights at all, which is less than you have, Grothman told a Wisconsin activist. And the reason the federal employees don`t have collective bargaining rights is because Jimmy Carter got rid of them, and Barack Obama kept them away. Now, youre expecting Scott Walker to give you far more rights than people like Barack Obama wants you to have.
Thats pretty much the only time weve been allowed to hear those facts on The One True Liberal Channel. Those facts may not explain Obamas absence from Wisconsin, but they seem to be part of the overall story about collective bargaining rights. Meanwhile, Fox viewers have heard those facts again and again, for obvious political reasons. But in the process, theyve been allowed to learn certain factsfacts which have been kept from us liberals, who are self-admittedly smart.
In such ways, we create a thoroughly tribalized political worlda world in which two warring tribes know two different sets of facts.
If you watch MSNBC, you often get treated like rubes these days, just like viewers of Fox. On the Maddow show, you have never been told the size of Wisconsins pending deficiteven though Maddow has never stopped suggesting that Walker created Wisconsins shortfall with his (relatively minor) tax cuts. That claim is flatly false, of course. But its widely believed in our tribe.
On Monday night, Schultz and Flanders wondered why Obama wont go to Wisconsin. Neither one could seem to think of a reason for his absence.
Federal workers dont have collective bargaining rightscould that be part of the answer? Not on the One True Liberal Channel! On Fox, they heard that fact long ago. We liberals are still in the dark.
This doesnt make MSNBC the Fox of the left. But we seem to be gaining ground fast.
INTERLUDEANDREAS THE GIANT (permalink): Heaven help the poor American school child! This morning, a high-toned European bureaucrat has leaped to his/her defense.
The Euro in question is Andreas Schleicher, reporting live and direct from a tufted pillow in Paris. Even worse, Schleicher is on his way to this country, where he plans to expound. Sam Dillon has a few of the details in todays New York Times:
Oh good grief! Thats all we needhelp from Andreas the giant! U.S. Is Urged to Raise Teachers Status, the New York Times headline says.
What seems to be wrong with Schleichers report? Lets note three areas, starting with the least significant:
Teacher pay: Direct from Paris, Schleicher enters the current debate about American teacher compensation. Some of his data may be instructive, but given the way our politics works, his advice-from-abroad may well be unhelpful. The fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay, Schleicher says from his Paris salon, thoughtfully setting his Dickens aside. A bit later, Dillon fleshes out some of the relevant data:
Say what? American teachers work long hours for little pay. But their pay turns out to be substantially higher than the OECD average!
Please note: The OECD includes several countries which are fairly poor. Beyond that, the fact that American teachers salary level is 40 percent below the average salary of other American college graduates should be duly noted. On the other hand, it might be better to use median salaries, given the way our salary structure now includes massive compensation for a fair number of lucky duckies. And of course, we all know by now that compensation includes more than mere salaryit also involves pension and benefits.
Whats the truth about American teachers pay as compared to the rest of the world? We dont know, but Schleichers scolding comments from Paris may not be especially helpful in the current debate. By the way: The next time you hear the well-scripted point about the way Finland values its teachers, remember the figure above, if its accurate. Were constantly told that Finland recruits only high-performing college graduates for teaching positions. Were usually told that Finlands teachers are drawn from the top third of all college gradsbut it seems they get paid less than the average college graduate.
Those infernal common standards: All good bureaucrats know they must cite the need for common standards, whatever that might turn out to mean. Schleichers report may even be clear. Dillons synopsis is not:
Do we need common standards for all 50 states? Or do we need common standards for all students in a given grade? Dillon doesnt explain, though he assures us were well on the way to achieving the goal. Who knows? Schleicher may even make some sense on this point, though we think thats highly unlikely. By now, everyone praises common standards, though no one ever seems to explain how this works within the American context, where many kids are doing quite well and many kids are way behind traditional norms. Whats wrong with common standards in the American context? Heres Ronald Wolk, founder of Education Week, in a recent column:
In our view, Wolk makes many puzzling claims in this piece; for one example, that achievement gap hasnt been unyielding. (Though substantial gaps still exist.) But in this particular passage, Wolk is right on the mark. Why would higher common standards help deserving kids who may be years behind their middle-class peers? How would common standards work in our schools at all, given our wide achievement gaps? Should kids who are years below grade level be taught the same things as our highest achievers? We first raised this question in 1989, in the Baltimore Sunday Sun. From that day to this, weve never seen the question addressed. But even bureaucrats in Paris know they must author this plea.
Has Schleicher ever set foot in a low-income American school? Or do his hands remain scented and clean?
Helpful collaboration: It gets worse. Schleicher isnt doing all this on his own. He has an American friend:
If one were to take the comedy angle, one of the pair is straight from Paris, the other is from Cabin Creek! But lets resist that obvious approach, while noting another thats equally obvious. Paine may be a smart, well-intentioned person. But CTB/McGraw-Hill is a major corporate player in the world of education, especially in the part of that world which revolves around constant testing. We favor annual testing ourselves; were also intrigued by the idea that we need better tests for use by teachers in diagnosing students day-to-day learning needs. But its amazing to see how routinely apparent conflicts of interest arise in our corporatized world.
A Parisian giant is coming to town; he plans to denounce our Dickensian ways. Does he know what hes talking about? Not likely. If his partner makes a few bucks in the process, how could that really be bad?
Tomorrowpart 2: Why does it fall to the New York Post to explain the latest scam?