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Daily Howler: Rose kept asking an obvious question--and Kopp gave the worst answers ever
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WORST ANSWERS EVER! Rose kept asking an obvious question–and Kopp gave the worst answers ever: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2008

REMNICK NEVER CHANGES: Is anyone worse than David Remnick, king of hard-hitting satiric cartoonage? In this morning’s New York Times, he ran and hid behind poor Stephen Colbert:

CARTER (7/15/08): The cover was drawn by Barry Blitt, who also contributes illustrations to The New York Times's Op-Ed page. David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, said in an e-mail message, “The cover takes a lot of distortions, lies, and misconceptions about the Obamas and puts a mirror up to them to show them for what they are.

“It's a lot like the spirit of what Stephen Colbert does—by exaggerating and mocking something, he shows its absurdity, and that is what satire is all about,” Mr. Remnick continued.

We could imagine a nice cartoon , with Remnick behind Colbert’s skirts.

What’s wrong with the cover of The New Yorker? For the record, Dems have seen a form of this movie before. That previous cover adorned the Atlantic, in late June 2000. Howard Kurtz filed the first report. His headline said, “Drawing Blood:”

KURTZ (6/26/00): Michael Kelly has been beating up on Al Gore for years...Now, as the Atlantic Monthly's new editor, he has produced his dream cover. A critical piece by James Fallows in the July issue is illustrated by a scowling vice president with a vampire tooth.

Gore stared out from magazine stands for a month, his fang clearly drawn. Few people read Fallows’ report, which was gruesome on its own terms (links below)—but the cover photo propelled a narrative the press corps had pimped since the previous fall. (Al Gore will do and say anything! Al Gore is too nasty and negative!) Indeed, this particular cover was so rough that even conservatives seemed a bit puzzled. In the Washington Times, Suzanne Fields reported her thoughts from a cruise docked at Juneau:

FIELDS (7/20/00): There's been lots of talk about the vice president among my shipmates and nearly everybody thinks he'll make a formidable candidate and the race will be close. But they're puzzled over how Al Gore has quickly become a man not to like. A magazine cover depicts Al Gore with a sinister vampire tooth overlapping his left lip. It's not a flattering picture, and this is not the cover of National Review but Atlantic Monthly.

In fact, Gore had become “a man not to like” because of the work of killers (and bald-faced dissemblers) like Kelly. Their effort was now in its seventeenth month, though Fields affected ignorance. At any rate, that cover illustration stared out from newsstands for a month in the summer of 2000. You didn’t have to buy the magazine to ingest its obvious message.

Ditto with this New Yorker cover, which toys, in High Gotham Clueless Fashion, with themes that are even more dangerous. Michelle Bernard was largely on-target on Hardball:

BERNARD (7/14/08): Chris, I think the cover of this magazine is absolutely revolting. The only thing that could have been much worse for them to do would have been to depict Barack Obama as Sambo and his wife as Aunt Jemima. I don’t understand it, particularly given what happened in New York on 9/11, the fact that so many questions have been raised about their patriotism, whether or not he’s a Muslim; it all fits in this caricature and stereotype that we have seen, that I really think borders on racism. It borders on being prejudicial religiously. I don’t see the satire in it. I don’t think the rest of the country that looks at it will see any satire. I don’t think there`s anything funny about it at all.

Yes, there’s a racial problem here; for many people, it isn’t possible to stop defining Obama as “the black guy.” Bernard, to a fellow panelist: “Maybe if you were in a different skin, you could see the problem with being depicted as this woman with this huge Afro and AK-47, doing the fist pump.” But then, there’s also the problem of all the rumors that have swirled around Obama’s religious heritage—in many cases, deliberately promoted by people who want to disinform voters. This cartoon will sit on newsstands for a week—and it will be ceaselessly posted on cable. Maybe Remick really believes that this cartoon will “take a lot of distortions, lies, and misconceptions about the Obamas and... show them for what they are.” In reality, this cartoon will surely reinforce a lot of ideas in a lot of very dumb heads. It will keep ideas and images in play. It will help make our world even dumber.

This is the way disinformation spreads, though the Remicks rarely seem to know—or care. Kelly deliberately floated an image of Gore as he wanted voters to see him; Remnick has floated a similar image, saying he thinks his brilliant work will (somehow) take distortions apart! Maybe he really believes this will happen. More likely, Remnick’s cover will keep deception alive. Sorry, this isn’t a rational process, though Remnick doesn’t seem to have heard.

But this is the way our elections now work, and the Remnicks rarely seem to notice. Repeatedly, our elections are driven by disinformation, bull-roar, high trivia and lies—often driven along by major pundits who, at their best, can’t seem to care. Let’s put Michelle in a giant huge Afro! Let’s show the two of them burning the flag! Most important: Let’s make Obama a Muslim! To them, this seems like a joke—like a sally that is tres amusant. To us, it seems more like a reprise of Al Gore said he invented the Internet—or of those Swift-boat tales.

Alas, poor Remnick! He had a chance to object during Campaign 2000. But here’s what the brave fellow said in real time, confronted by a twenty-month killer:

MATTHEWS (2/15/00): You know, up in New Hampshire recently, I went around—and I was cruel, but I went around and asked a lot of reporters who they think, of the four major candidates, the four front-runners, two on either side, would lick the floor they were standing on at any given moment, every quarter inch of it, every square inch of it, to become president if that's all that required? And everyone agreed there would be only one person who would do that. And you know who I'm talking about?

REMNICK: Yeah, I think you mean Gore—

MATTHEWS: Right.

REMNICK: But that's a very eleg—elevated discussion you were having up there. I can only imagine who was at the bar, Chris.

MATTHEWS: But it captures a certain—it captures a certain essence of ambition here that may not be lacking—may be lacking in some of the more intellectual discussions. He really wants this job in the worst way.

REMNICK: Oh, I think he, it—it's clear that he really is, is, is really hard after it, and he's campaigning the way he looks lately, which is very trim.

MATTHEWS: Yeah. He is pretty buff.

Confronted with the snarling attacks that were going to change the world’s history, Remnick managed a tiny hint of snark—then fell politely in line.

Two years ago, Remnick acknowledged that Campaign 2000 produced a disaster for the world (link below). You’d think he might have stopped to think about the lazy role he played in that process. But he toys with destructive images again, thinking he’s somehow produced brilliant satire. It’s much like something Colbert would have done, he says, cartoonishly ducking.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: To start our five-part series on Fallows’ piece, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/00. For a fuller treatment of Remnick’s ruminations on Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/19/06.

Special report: Worst interview ever?


ENJOY EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: Charlie Rose and Wendy Kopp may have staged the worst interview ever:

PART 1: Charlie Rose rolled over and died. Kopp seemed like a music man. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/10/08.

PART 2: Kopp told Rose some pleasing tales. But were the pleasing tales accurate? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/08.

PART 3: The studies say TFA ain’t all that—so Rose avoided the studies. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/14/08.

In part 4, Kopp gives the worst answers ever:

PART 4—WORST ANSWERS EVER: Wendy Kopp is on Easy Street now, but back in the early days (imagine Dangerfield), Hoo—I tell yuh! Late in her session with Charlie Rose—it may have been the worst interview ever—Kopp at last unburdened herself about the tough early years:

ROSE (7/1/08): This was 20 years ago. You were a young, 23-year-old graduate of Princeton with a dream. Where did you get the dream?

KOPP: That’s a good question. You know what? It was just one of these things. I was in a deep funk. I’ve never been—I was never in a funk before and I’ve never been in that deep of a funk again. But I was just, I could not—I mean, first of all, I had been really focused on this issue of educational inequity, and was doing what college students do when they’re concerned about issues. I organized a conference about it and such.

She did what any college kid would have! But given the depth of her mammoth blue funk, even organizing that conference wasn’t enough! Luckily for the fate of the world, Kopp continued her search:

KOPP (continuing directly): But on a whole different level, I was trying to figure out, as a senior at Princeton, what am I going to do with my life?...I didn’t want to go to more school, so I was applying to these two-year corporate programs, which I think is great if you know that that’s definitely what you want to do. But I felt like I was just doing that because I couldn’t figure out what else to do. One day, as I searched, because I just felt like I was searching and that I wasn’t alone—I thought I was one of thousands of graduating seniors out there who were searching for a way to do something that would give us real responsibility, but also make a real difference in the world.

One day I just thought, you know what? Why aren’t we being recruited as aggressively to teach in our country`s lowest income communities as we were being recruited to work on Wall Street at the time? It was just one of those things. I just immediately became sort of possessed.

And Kopp has remained possessed to this day! In all candor, her idea never made obvious sense, at least on the elementary school level, where it takes more than good intentions—and a B.A. from a “good college”—to teach children reading and math. Still, her idea was judged to be worth a try. Pimped along by corporate donors, it has gotten a nineteen-year try-out.

Nineteen years have come and gone since Kopp found the cure for that deep funk. But on balance, the studies seem to say that her idea hasn’t worked out all that well (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/14/08). But so what? By now, Kopp has become the darling of the upper-end, corporate/philanthropic world—a world which seems to like ideas which lightly reflect pseudo-conservative frameworks. (It’s all about the teachers’ unions! The unions are causing the problems!) Result: When she tells her pleasing but highly implausible anecdotes, upper-end journalists like Rose don’t challenge the pleasing stories. More important, they know they mustn’t mention those studies—the studies which aren’t all that hot.

As a journalist, Rose performed extremely badly when he failed to mention those studies during his forty minutes with Kopp. But this really became the “worst interview ever” when Rose began by asking Kopp the most obvious question on earth. To Rose’s credit, he went right to it. This was his very first query:

ROSE (7/1/08): Let me start with this. Before we talk about all that you have done in Teach for America and what its importance is, look at education, kindergarten through 12, K-12, and tell me: Why isn’t it better?

Why aren’t our current K-12 schools better? After nineteen years running TFA, you’d almost think that Kopp would have something to say in response to that question. But if you thought that, you’d be flat wrong. As Rose would soon find out.

Over his interview’s first dozen minutes, Rose tried and tried—again and again—to get an answer to that basic question. In all candor, we don’t know when we’ve seen an interview subject with less to say than the person Rose had at his table. She had been in the field for nineteen years; she was one of the world’s “most influential people.” But once you take her silly stories away—the stories which simply aren’t backed by the studies—Wendy Kopp has amazingly little to offer. This was her answer to Rose’s first question. Things would go downhill from here:

ROSE: Look at education, kindergarten through 12, K-12, and tell me: Why isn’t it better?

KOPP: It is a very good question. We live in a country that aspires so admirably to be a place of equal opportunity and yet, somehow we have the reality that 13 million kids who grow up below the poverty line, by the time they’re in fourth grade, they’re already three grade levels behind on average. Half of them will not graduate from high school and what I find truly the most shocking is that the half who do will have an 8th grade skill-level, on average, compared to kids in high-income communities.

You know, one of ten of our kids who are born in low-income communities will actually graduate from college. So why? Why is that? And I guess I think it’s a number of things coming together. You know, kids who are growing up in low-income communities just face extra challenges. First of all, even before they show up at the schoolhouse door, you know, anything from lack of adequate nutrition to lack of adequate health care and access to high-quality pre-school programs.

So they’re facing extra challenges and then they show up at a school system which, arguably, hasn’t had the mission and certainly doesn’t have the capacity to meet the needs of kids with extra challenges and truly put them on a level playing field. So I guess that’s—it’s those things coming together. And why do we have all that?

In that answer, Kopp cites three problems faced by (some) low-income kids “before they show up at the schoolhouse door.” Tomorrow, we’ll suggest that Kopp was somewhat selective in the three problems she picked. But Rose had asked why our schools aren’t better, and on that point, Kopp had been rather vague. According to Kopp, low-income kids “show up at a school system which, arguably, hasn’t had the mission and certainly doesn’t have the capacity to meet the needs of kids with extra challenges”—challenges like the three she had mentioned. We still had no real idea what she meant—and Rose broke in at this point with a stumbling comment about “economic disparity.” When he did, Kopp proceeded with this:

KOPP: I think that contributes to the problem. What is the solution? I think there’s a way to solve the problem. And what is inspiring us in this work and giving us greater urgency than we’ve ever felt is just seeing evidence in classrooms across the country and whole schools across the country that we can solve this problem. That it is absolutely possible for kids who face all the challenges of poverty to excel on an absolute scale when they’re given the opportunities they deserve. And it’s seeing that that fuels us to say, We have to solve this problem because we know that we can.

Truly, that was uplifting! But Kopp still hadn’t said what was wrong with our current schools—and she hadn’t named specific ways in which we can “solve the problem.” To his credit, Rose already seemed a tiny bit antsy. That’s when he asked his obvious question in its most perfect form:

ROSE (continuing directly): OK. You’ve given a lot of thought to this. We talk about it a lot, this program and other programs. Here’s what I want to know: What do we need to do to make better schools?

That was the world’s most obvious question—and Kopp was supposed to be a world leader when it comes to the plight of the schools. What do we need to do to make better schools? Try though he might, Rose wouldn’t be able to get his guest to answer that question this night.

He asked the question again and again; he never came close to getting real answers. For example, here’s the way Kopp meandered about in response to that most perfect form of this question. See if you can find an answer to Rose’s question in this mind-minded statement:

KOPP (continuing directly): Yes. You know, let me come at that by sharing the two things that I— You know, when I talk to the dozens and dozens, the hundreds of Teach for America alumni who have worked for two years or more themselves in this context, and many of whom who have obtained incredible success with kids and you say, What have you learned? What is the essence of what they learned? And I think I would say two things. First of all, they come out of this equally believing that we can solve the problem, that it is absolutely possible for kids who face all of the extra challenges that they face in low-income communities to excel on an absolute scale. I think their deep belief in that is actually part of the ultimate solution.

If we had a country that believed that it was possible for kids in low-income communities, predominantly kids of color, to excel academically, I think we’d be making different choices.

Inspiring! But what sorts of “different choices” would we make if we believed low-income kids could excel? At this point, Rose took Kopp briefly off-track, lobbing her this softball:

ROSE (continuing directly): There is the hope right there, that these Teach for America young men and women see things that say it’s not hopeless. What is it that they see that makes them believe?

Uh-oh! At this point, Kopp went off on her ramble about the young teacher in the Bronx who had (allegedly) produced four or five years growth in her fourth-grade students in just two years time. (That’s in reading and math.) This was very pleasing stuff. But Rose, recovering, now asked Kopp to tell him how this teacher had done this. Once again, becoming a tiny bit peeved, he asked a form of his obvious question:

ROSE: I continue my inquiry then. Is it because—something about the teaching? Something about the teachers?

KOPP: OK, so here’s the other piece of it. We know it’s possible, but what does it take?

ROSE: Right!

That’s right, Wendy! What the fark does it take? Rose had been asking for some time now. And now, at long last, in this response, Kopp began to make it clear that she wouldn’t really offer an answer:

KOPP (continuing directly): The thing about our alums is that they come out of this rejecting silver-bullet theories. As a country, we’re still looking for the silver bullets, like maybe we could give every kid a computer or just change the curriculum.

Trust us—Kopp rejects “silver-bullet theories.” She also rejects “easy answers”—and she says there are no “magic solutions.” As a matter of fact, she made this point any number of times in the course of Rose’s unfortunate program. But Rose still wanted his question answered: What can we do to produce better schools? And as Kopp replied to his next attempt, we began to see how thoroughly empty her understanding actually is. With apologies, we’ll post her full response. By now, though, it was perfectly clear. Kopp wasn’t going to answer:

ROSE (continuing directly): We do so many things well. Why can’t we do education as good as it ought to be?

KOPP: But we’re looking for an easy answer. What they come out of this just deeply knowing at their very cores is that there is no easy answer. There’s nothing elusive about it either. That’s the good news. There’s no magic to this. It’s about just doing everything well. And so they see it as a teacher— You know, when we look at what our most successful teachers are doing, they’re operating like the most successful leaders in any context. You know, they are like [that young teacher in the Bronx].

She stepped back from what seemed like a hopeless situation, maybe, and said, OK, by the end of this year my kids are going to—you know, they’re going to make two years of progress in a year`s time. She set a vision of where her kids were going to be at the end of this that was inspiring. She invested the kids in working harder than they had ever worked before to meet that goal. Then she was so purposeful. If you go into her classroom, you saw someone on a mission to move her kids forward, not going through the motions of a lesson plan.

There is no magic to this, Kopp insisted, just in case Rose wanted easy answers. But by now, we were looking for any answer at all—and Kopp didn’t seem to have one. How had that teacher produced so much (alleged) success? People, she’d had “a vision!” And not only that—her vision “was inspiring!” She simply told her students they were going to make two years growth! Then, she got them to work very hard. Beyond that, she was purposeful—on a mission to move her kids forward! She didn’t just go through the motions!

There is no magic to this, Kopp said. It’s about doing everything well!

Can we talk? At this point, Kopp’s inspirational non-answer answers began resembling the work of a dissolute college sophomore who forgot to study for the exam. Poor Charlie! He still wanted to know what that (allegedly) successful Bronx teacher had actually done in her actual classroom. Implicit in this was an obvious question: Did that teacher do various things that other teachers can copy? Can her (alleged) miracle practices by replicated elsewhere? But alas! Poor Charlie! Doomed not to learn! What follows is pure “music man” blather. It’s “Up With People”—“you gotta believe!” It’s pure, unfettered bull-roar. I want to know what did she do, Charlie asked. With apologies, here’s the full “answer:”

ROSE (continuing directly): You’re describing—I have no quarrel with what you’re saying. You’re describing the results—how one person achieved results. I really want to know, what did she do? She cared. That’s a start. She was passionate.

KOPP: I guess what I’m trying to describe is there is no magic. It’s not like she found a magic curriculum. She operated—what she did was— You know, we’ve come to deeply believe that excellent teaching is leadership. She came in. She set an ambitious vision. She said, You know what, guys? We’re going to make two years of progress in one year`s time.

ROSE: Goal setting is one thing.

KOPP: She then developed personal relationships with the kids. She got them tracking their own progress. She got them invested in that goal, so that they were working with her. They were on a mission themselves to make that kind of academic progress. Then she was just completely purposeful. You know, thinking constantly, Where are my kids now versus where they need to be? She was completely goal-oriented in her instruction and then completely relentless. Whatever it took.

She was doing so much to go above and beyond, to meet whatever the obstacles—overcome whatever obstacles were in her way. I guess at the teacher level—I mean, when I reflect on our history—this is maybe the better way to come at this. When I think about that first corps back in 1990, 500 committed idealistic people who went out across the country and started teaching with the same kind of commitment and idealism as the people we’re bringing in today, those folks, to make a generalization, but hit a wall and I think most of them would say that survival became the mantra of that corps.

What happened then was a small fraction of them rose above that and realized, We can change this context, and they realized what [this teacher in the Bronx] now was doing. I mean, they realized—they figured out how to rise above mediocrity and figured out how to get their kids really on a mission to effect, you know—move them forward much more than would typically be expected in a year’s time.

I want to know, what did she do, Rose had said. “There is no magic,” Kopp replied. “It’s not like she found a magic curriculum.” And then, she invented a long, winding answer—a reply she almost surely made up.

Does Wendy Kopp have the slightest idea what went on in that Bronx teacher’s classroom? At the start of this interview, Kopp had described the young teacher in question as “a woman whom I just talked with...Actually, she told me the story of her first couple of weeks as a teacher, as a fourth grade teacher.” But now, Kopp told a story which made it sound like she had observed this teacher quite closely. On and on she went with her portrait—a portrait of a classroom she had quite likely never observed. Does Kopp really know what went on in that class? Indeed, does she know if those miracle gains really happened? Or is this story pure stock—propaganda? Was Kopp just bull-sh*tting again?

Luckily, Kopp changed the subject at this point—and Rose was allowed to stop asking his obvious question. So what was the answer to Rose’s question—perhaps the most obvious question on earth? How had Wendy Kopp’s TFA teachers managed to get such (alleged) great results with their low-income kids? How had they made struggling, low-income schools better? It was simple! According to Kopp, “They figured out how to rise above mediocrity and figured out how to get their kids really on a mission to effect, you know—move them forward much more than would typically be expected in a year’s time.”

But what exactly did they “figure out,” some part of Rose still wanted to ask. But by now, he knew he had to stop. Simply put, Kopp couldn’t tell him.

In our view, it would hard to overstate the emptiness of those rambling answers by Kopp—answers a disingenuous college sophomore could have dreamed up, given three hours’ notice. What’s the secret of TFA’s (alleged) success—the success that doesn’t show up in the studies? Simple! You tell the kids they’re going to succeed, then you make them work very hard. You form a vision, and after that, you just do everything well! Whatever it takes! In fact, people who care about low-income children should be disgusted with answers like these—answers from a Tinkerbell who has never set foot in the classroom herself, except on brief fund-raising jaunts. Just for the record intelligent people come up with ideas when they spend time in our low-income schools. On July 10, Rose interviewed four different national “Teachers of the Year.” At one point, he asked Jason Kamras a basic question—and because he’s intelligent and sincere, Kamras offered quite a few thoughts in reply. This is the kind of discussion that often ensues with people who aren’t music men:

KAMRAS (7/10/08): The single most important determinant of a child’s success within school is the quality of his or her teacher, period.

ROSE: Then why aren’t we getting better teachers?

KAMRAS: Well, I can give you a couple reasons.

ROSE: Then we will define what a better teacher means.

KAMRAS: So I define a good teacher as one who is effective with his or her children, that is helping his or her children learn, produce real results in the classroom. And, you know, I think there are—there are really five reasons that I have found in my experience in working in the school system why we have difficulty attracting good folks, and why we have difficulty holding on to them.

So one is, we need great principals. Great teachers want to work with leaders who have a vision for their school. Two, we need to support them really well. Most professional development in American public education consists of half-day workshops that are not relevant, aren’t meaningful to the work that teachers do. Three, we need to not tolerate mediocrity. High-performing teachers want to work with other high-performing teachers, and that is true in any profession. And that means making easier transition out low-performing teachers.

Four, we need to give challenges to teachers who are higher-performing. That means give them more responsibility, different opportunities for leadership within the school and within the school system. And fifth, we need to pay teachers more and more smartly. That means targeting our resources towards those folks who are producing gains for children in low income communities in math and science and special education, where we need them the most.

ROSE: OK. Let`s take—that is an interesting agenda.

For ourselves, we wouldn’t necessarily agree with Kamras’ point of emphasis. But Kamras is someone you’d want to speak with because he’s obviously given a lot of thought to these basic questions. By contrast, Kopp had virtually nothing to say to Rose’s basic, obvious questions. “It’s all about doing everything well?” Sorry: That’s just not an answer. A college kid with three hours’ notice could come up with blather like that.

And don’t worry! The horror of the worst interview ever continued long after the point we have reached—long after it became quite clear that Kopp had nothing to offer. Soon, this “most influential person” was peddling the pleasing tale about the miracle gains Michelle Rhee (allegedly) produced (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/13/08)—claims Rhee simply couldn’t support when push came to shove last year. And Kopp kept peddling her murky line about the need for great leadership. But then, there seems to be nothing Kopp won’t say in support of her world-saving system. Soon, this slightly cult-like figure was even offering this:

KOPP: We believe that our only hope for addressing a problem that is this massive and this systemic in nature is to channel the energy of our country`s future leadership against it. And that is the mission of Teach for America.

ROSE: Not just having them buy into the idea, but having them inside the classroom.

KOPP: Well, we believe—so the big idea of Teach for America is to say, OK, we`re going to go out and recruit not just a few but many of our future leaders, and get them to commit just two years, initially, to teach in our highest poverty communities, knowing that there’s an incredibly important immediate impact of that, and some incredibly important long-term impacts. In the immediate term, we know that the kids growing up today—the only hope for kids, you know, who are in today’s school system is to meet enough teachers who are willing to go so far above and beyond traditional expectations to meet their extra needs and put them on a level playing field, teachers like [that young teacher in the Bronx]. We need every one of them, even if they`re just committing two years.

Sounds great! Except, as the studies make perfectly clear, the vast bulk of TFA teachers do not produce “an incredibly important immediate impact” among those they teach. In terms of measured classroom achievement, they haven’t gone “so far above and beyond traditional expectations to...put [low-income students] on a level playing field”—as Kopp said, without any proof, that young Bronx teacher had done. Unfortunately, the studies make it perfectly clear that Kopp’s tales come straight out of Peter Pan. It’s the type of palaver that works in settings like this, as described by Jodi Wilgoren in the New York Times, eight years ago:

WILGOREN (11/12/00): Though she has never had a classroom of her own, Ms. Kopp does visit her teachers frequently, sometimes just to watch, more often with potential donors in tow, eager to impress. On a sunny morning last spring, she took two money men to the South Bronx, touring KIPP Academy, the program's best-known success story, and Intermediate School 145, where 16 of the 111 teachers last year were Teach for America members or alumni.

[...]

Standing in the back of classrooms for, maybe, six minutes each, it is impossible to assess the teachers' success. One young woman has her students listening to an audiotape of a story, preparing for a test. Another is conducting an Oprah-style interview, pretending the youngsters are characters in the book they have read. A third shows how sound waves from a radio make grains of salt dance.

[...]

Heading back downtown, as the barbed-wire fences of Harlem whiz past the livery-cab window, Ms. Kopp makes the hard sell to one of the wealthy donors.

In settings like that, pleasing bull-roar works nicely. It shouldn’t work on Charlie Rose.

Let us offer a few basic clues about perhaps the worst interview ever:

  • Kopp told pleasing tales of miracle cures. Rose accepted these tales on faith.
  • The studies suggest that these tales are bunk. Rose didn’t mention the studies.
  • When Rose kept asking the world’s simplest question, Kopp showed no sign of being able to answer.
  • Kopp kept suggesting that TFA changes the world. The studies show plainly: It doesn’t.

In some ways, this awful interview was the real miracle. Has anyone ever spent nineteen years at any task and emerged with so little insight? Jason Kamras has been in our schools—and it shows. By contrast, Kopp has been riding around in limos, hitting corporate types for money while telling uplifting, fake tales.

It’s a shame that Rose played along with Kopp during this session, perhaps the worst interview ever broadcast. Unless you don’t care about low-income children, that is; unless you only care about the funks that sometimes afflict fine young ladies like Kopp. Luckily, Kopp now makes a very nice income, and she’s feted by the know-nothing upper-end world—the people who let her tell her fine stories. Tomorrow, we’ll offer a few final thoughts—about Kopp and about those three lists.

TOMORROW—EPILOGUE: Concerning those lists.