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Daily Howler: This morning's Post is sadly instructive--and Countdown gives us a treat
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MOST INSTRUCTIVE OF ALL! This morning’s Post is sadly instructive–and Countdown gives us a treat: // link // print // previous // next //

How many months is four: Astoundingly bad. In today’s Post, Maria Glod reports a new study about the progress of DC kids who got vouchers to attend private schools. Kids who got vouchers did somewhat better than their peers, the scribe somewhat murkily says:

GLOD (4/4/09): Overall, the study found that students who used the vouchers received reading scores that placed them nearly four months ahead of peers who remained in public school. However, as a group, students who had been in the lowest-performing public schools did not show those gains. There was no difference in math performance between the groups.

We wondered about several things. For simplicity, let’s skip the murkiness in this report about who the control group actually was. Were the voucher kids being compared to public school kids in general? Or were they being compared to public school kids who applied for vouchers, but didn’t get them? Yes, it probably makes a difference—but Glod never quite clears it up. (Looking quickly at the study itself, it seems that the latter is true.)

Let’s skip that, moving on to a pair of simpler questions:

First, Glod says the voucher kids “placed nearly four months ahead of peers” in their reading scores. (No difference in math.) But how many years did it take them to do that? Did this difference occur after only one year—or did it perhaps take ten? Obviously, this makes a major difference. Glod never tries to explain.

More simplistically, our suspicious minds formed another question: How many months is “nearly four months?” Glod never explains that either. Sadly, our idealistic young analysts started to cry when they got their answer!

How many months is “nearly four months?” As it turns out, the Post has an editorial about this same study today—and the editors explain the basic facts much more clearly than Glod. How many months is “nearly four months?” Just try to believe what they wrote:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (4/4/09): An evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program released yesterday concluded that, after three years, students offered scholarships earned reading scores equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning. It also mirrored earlier studies in showing that parents who had children in the program were more satisfied with the schools, viewing them as safer and more orderly. The study found no difference in math performance and no gains for students from the lowest-performing public schools.

For the record, those gains were recorded after three years. But good God. How many months is “nearly four months?” There’s your answer: 3.1!

This sad incident doesn’t massively matter in the vast sweep of cosmic history. But good God! You live in a world where a reporter at your biggest political newspaper will actually round 3.1 off to four, presumably with her editor’s assent! Well—she’ll do that if it serves the company line. At the Post, that line favors vouchers.

Let’s try to build a larger context around this small hopeless bungle:

Several centuries ago, the western world had its ballyhooed Enlightenment. From now on, facts would rule, we said—facts and their consort, logic. From now on, we’d play by the rules, we all swore! No more saying “X is right” just because it feels so good—or because the king says X is right.

That was the pledge—but that ideal has faded. Enlightenment values lie in tatters, as you can see when you scan your newspapers. (Or when you watch your “progressive” TV shows.) We thought we’d advanced—but that was a dream. Those very lofty Enlightenment values are routinely observed in the breach.

Perhaps we should have known all along! After all, as Frost told us (just click here): Nothing glod can stay!

Endless selectivity: Like you, we thought there might be a misunderstanding! We assumed that no real journalist would ever dream of calling 3.1 months “nearly four.” And so, we checked the actual study. Sorry. Just click here, then click ahead to page 18. It’s 3.1 months, nice and neat.

That said, we noted another bit of selective presentation on the part of Glod and the editors. Right there in its basic summary, the study presents its second finding: The voucher program “had a positive impact on parents’ reports of school satisfaction and safety, but not on students’ reports.” In other words, parents thought the private schools were safer and better; the students themselves didn’t have that perception. But at the Post, they favor vouchers. Result? Glod and the editors do the same thing. They tell you what the parents thought—and omit the views of the kids.

“We’ve made no secret of our support for vouchers,” the editors say. We have no strong view about voucher ourselves. But regarding this confession, we’ll only say this: Editors, please! We’ve noticed!

The way we progressives now reason: More astounding was this short post by David Kurtz at TPM. How do progressives “reason” these days? If a federal prosecutor says it occurred, “progressives” simply assume it’s the case! One day after the Stevens accouncement, we’d call this truly astounding. (By the way: Olbermann and Maddow both treat this particular story as a source of endless entertainment/amusement. On GE’s newly progressive channel, progressives just want to have fun.)

Sorry—no hookers last night: Meanwhile, more entertainment from last night’s Countdown! Keith’s staff saw the deepening recession as a chance to show some prime stripper footage! (To enjoy all the fun, just click here.) On the very “liberal” Countdown, if they don’t have a news report about “hookers,” they sell you some strippers instead.

Presumably, this is no one’s idea of “progressive” values. (Liberal sites mock The O’Reilly Factor for pulling these same sorts of tricks.) But because we liberals get our comfort food there, Olbermann has gotten an endless pass on this retrograde crap—has gotten a pass for years. We can tell he’s on our side—when he tells us the other side’s stupid.

MOST INSTRUCTIVE OF ALL: For decades, our political discourse has been ruled by well-crafted pieces of propaganda. Disinformation rolls down like rain about society’s most basic issues. (The Social Security trust fund is just a pile of worthless IOUs!) And uh-oh! When somebody actually mentions the truth, the fixers roll their scripts out rapidly. Three letters in this morning’s Post are amazingly illustrative of this broken culture. Click here. After that, click this. Finally, just click here.

Talk about the death of Enlightenment values! You simply can’t run a free society this way. We’ll start with this deeply instructive display in Monday’s edition.