THE BEAT OF HER OWN DEMOS DRUMMER! The Post did a top-notch report on the schools. On cable, we still havent heard: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 2009
The inability to explain anything: How inept is the basic journalism on our cable news programs? We were struck by the way three or four shows explained an event last night.
At issue was a peculiar plane ride observed from lower Manhattan. Why in the world did Air Force 1 buzz the city yesterday morning, producing understandable panic? On CNN, Anderson Cooper let his sidekick explain:
Cooper was thankful for Hills explanation. But what exactly was her explanation? Twice, she said the event was a photo op. But in what way had it been a photo op? Who was taking photos? Of what? What sort of photo was this strange event intended to produce?
It didnt occur to Hill to say. But then, Our Own Rhodes Scholar didnt explain when she announced that the flight in question was apparently just a government photo-op.On Countdown, Olbermann played the thundering fool, insisting on a resignation. Our reaction? Maybe the big lug should resign too! Like the others, he failed to explain what he meant when he called the event a military flight over New York to take photos, a photo op.
Who was taking photos? Of what? You couldnt learn such things on cable, where the journalistic skills are slight. These people are good at chasing the demo, weak at everything else.
Mordantly sighing, we told the analysts: Youll have to wait for the morning newspapers. And sure enough! Their questions were answered in paragraph 3 of the Washington Posts news report.
Daniel de Vise gets it right: Daniel de Vise did a nice piece of work on the front page of Mondays Washington Post. Poor Neighborhoods, Untested Teachers, the headline said. In his opening paragraph, de Vise described a basic problem in Washington-area schools:
In the Washington area, kids who live in the poorest neighborhoods are about twice as likely to have beginning teachers, according to de Vises findings. In the hard-copy Post, de Vises report was accompanied by two graphics, which make this pattern more clear. With numbing predictability, the Post seems to have dropped these graphics from its on-line presentation. But heres the simple story:
In the Washington areas poorest schools (schools in the top quartile by incidence of poverty), 22 percent of teachers are in their first or second years. In the areas most affluent schools (in the bottom quartile by incidence of poverty), the figure is 12-13 percent. Kids in poor schools are almost twice as likely to be taught by beginning teachers.
(To his credit, de Vise included additional data in which the contrast is less stark. A 1999-2000 Education Department survey pointed to an inequity in the teaching force, he writes. It found that 20 percent of teachers in low-income communities had three or fewer years of experience, compared with 15 percent in more-affluent areas.)
At any rate, poor kids are more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers. At several points, de Vise explains why that probably aint a terrific thing. And by the way: Along with his highly relevant reporting, he displayed impressive diplomatic skills in this early, requisite pander:
We mustnt anger Wendy Kopp! How powerful are the laws of the clan? In his fourth paragraph, poor de Vise had to find a way to kiss Lady Kopps massively over-kissed keister! Teach for Americas first-year teachers occasionally come through, the scribe said.
(To recall Charlie Roses keister-kissing session with Kopp, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/16/08, with links to our five-part report. It may have been the worst interview ever. But Rose bowed to the laws of the clan.)
Its painful to read de Vises descriptions of the travails of several first-year teachers. That said, we were struck by the small class sizes involved in this report. At one point, de Vise describes Nick Fiorelli teaching a lesson to 16 sixth-graders. At another point, he describes Lisa Johnson teaching her 18 first-graders.
How has the world of the low-income school changed in the past forty years? In our own second year in the Baltimore schools (1970-71), we had 41 (forty-one) fifth-graders on roll at the start of the year (XLI). We dont think we ever saw all those kids. But were fairly sure that our working class size was 38 or 39 during most of that year.
Below, a photo from the last day of that school year. The chairs are up; the bulletin boards are down. The youngsters have no way to knowbut theyre less happy than we are.
Note: When your class is 38 strong, you cant get them all in a picture:
The beat of her own demos drummer: Rachel Maddow, stalking the demo, introduced a well-known drummer. (She was broadcasting live from San Fran.) I didn`t know whether or not I should like go total fan girl, she self-effacingly said to her guest, Metallicas Lars Ulrich.
Dont worry, we mordantly told the analysts. If Ulrich were an insider scribe, thats exactly what she would have done!
At any rate, no one expects a major rock star to know the secrets of the clan. Soon, Ulrich was copping to the sorts of attitudes youre supposed to disguise on cable. For the record, were from the Bay Area too (eighth grade through the end of high school):
Oof. Speaking for those in the world of culture and social issues, Ulrich said that San Francisco was the only place in the country heand theywould live. Uber-comically, that produced this reaction from Maddow:
Ulrich had just finished saying that his social set wouldnt be willing to live anywhere else in the country. To Maddow, this triggered thoughts of this social sets overpowering tolerance. As Ulrich continued, he offered a few semi-condescending thoughts about the people in this great countrythe great country he just got through saying he wouldnt be willing to live in:
We dont mean this as a criticism of Ulrich, who seemed like a very nice person. (To watch this interview, click here.) But its a very short way from these remarks to Janeane Garofalos recent discussion of all the redneck racists with the limbic brain problems who were found at those Tax Day events. (This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging red-necks. And there is no way around that. And, you know, you can tell these type of right-wingers anything and theyll believe it, except the truth. You tell them the truth and they becomeits like showing Frankensteins monster fire. They become confused, angry, highly volatile.) Theres a term for Garofalos lecture: Hate speech. But within the demo, it may be heard as an expression of tolerance.
Beyond that, these remarks help explain the insulting conduct Maddow aimed at those Tax Day participants for more than a weekwhile inventing excuses, night after night, for why such a lovely person would behave in such an ugly manner. (Shes just a jerk, a giggling host, she explained. She just couldnt help herself. And of course, she found her own conduct very embarrassing.) This also explains why you see the issue of torture explored on these shows (thats good), but never see that degree of attention directed at other large issues (thats bad). Why dont cables pseudo-liberals spend time on low-income schools, or on tax or income equity, or on the complex problems of health care? Just a guess: When you look down on the unwashed so thoroughly, you arent likely to spend your time worrying about their problems. Given their obvious limbic brain issues, can this group really be helped?
In 1999, the mainstream press didnt give a fig about health care. To all appearances, neither do our current cable progressives. Well extend a previous guess: Mary McGrory had health care. Keith and Rachel do too.
Maddows recent conduct was a disgrace (Olbermann too)but it gave us an unvarnished look at a type of upper-class pseudo-progressive. They have kinship to [those] in the world of culture and social issues; they tend to sneer and look down their noses when it comes to everyone else. And by the way: In previous eras, these attitudes have always undermined progressive interests. If the GOP ever returns to life, that may well happen again.
Last night, one such progressive marched to the beat of her own demos drummer. Our analysis? Hes a rock star, not a corporate confection. He didnt know which attitudes you mustnt cop to on cable.