WORST ANSWERS EVER! Rose kept asking an obvious questionand 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 mornings New York Times, he ran and hid behind poor Stephen Colbert:
We could imagine a nice cartoon , with Remnick behind Colberts skirts.
Whats 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:
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:
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 didnt 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:
Yes, theres a racial problem here; for many people, it isnt 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, theres also the problem of all the rumors that have swirled around Obamas religious heritagein many cases, deliberately promoted by people who want to disinform voters. This cartoon will sit on newsstands for a weekand 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 knowor 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, Remnicks cover will keep deception alive. Sorry, this isnt a rational process, though Remnick doesnt 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 liesoften driven along by major pundits who, at their best, cant seem to care. Lets put Michelle in a giant huge Afro! Lets show the two of them burning the flag! Most important: Lets make Obama a Muslim! To them, this seems like a jokelike a sally that is tres amusant. To us, it seems more like a reprise of Al Gore said he invented the Internetor of those Swift-boat tales.
Alas, poor Remnick! He had a chance to object during Campaign 2000. But heres what the brave fellow said in real time, confronted by a twenty-month killer:
Confronted with the snarling attacks that were going to change the worlds history, Remnick managed a tiny hint of snarkthen fell politely in line.
Two years ago, Remnick acknowledged that Campaign 2000 produced a disaster for the world (link below). Youd think he might have stopped to think about the lazy role he played in that process. But he toys with destructive images again, thinking hes somehow produced brilliant satire. Its 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 Remnicks ruminations on Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/19/06.
In part 4, Kopp gives the worst answers ever:
PART 4WORST ANSWERS EVER: Wendy Kopp is on Easy Street now, but back in the early days (imagine Dangerfield), HooI tell yuh! Late in her session with Charlie Roseit may have been the worst interview everKopp at last unburdened herself about the tough early years:
She did what any college kid would have! But given the depth of her mammoth blue funk, even organizing that conference wasnt enough! Luckily for the fate of the world, Kopp continued her search:
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 intentionsand a B.A. from a good collegeto 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 hasnt 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 worlda world which seems to like ideas which lightly reflect pseudo-conservative frameworks. (Its 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 dont challenge the pleasing stories. More important, they know they mustnt mention those studiesthe studies which arent 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 Roses credit, he went right to it. This was his very first query:
Why arent our current K-12 schools better? After nineteen years running TFA, youd almost think that Kopp would have something to say in response to that question. But if you thought that, youd be flat wrong. As Rose would soon find out.
Over his interviews first dozen minutes, Rose tried and triedagain and againto get an answer to that basic question. In all candor, we dont know when weve 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 worlds most influential people. But once you take her silly stories awaythe stories which simply arent backed by the studiesWendy Kopp has amazingly little to offer. This was her answer to Roses first question. Things would go downhill from here:
In that answer, Kopp cites three problems faced by (some) low-income kids before they show up at the schoolhouse door. Tomorrow, well suggest that Kopp was somewhat selective in the three problems she picked. But Rose had asked why our schools arent better, and on that point, Kopp had been rather vague. According to Kopp, low-income kids show up at a school system which, arguably, hasnt had the mission and certainly doesnt have the capacity to meet the needs of kids with extra challengeschallenges like the three she had mentioned. We still had no real idea what she meantand Rose broke in at this point with a stumbling comment about economic disparity. When he did, Kopp proceeded with this:
Truly, that was uplifting! But Kopp still hadnt said what was wrong with our current schoolsand she hadnt named specific ways in which we can solve the problem. To his credit, Rose already seemed a tiny bit antsy. Thats when he asked his obvious question in its most perfect form:
That was the worlds most obvious questionand 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 wouldnt 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, heres the way Kopp meandered about in response to that most perfect form of this question. See if you can find an answer to Roses question in this mind-minded statement:
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:
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. (Thats 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:
Thats 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 wouldnt really offer an answer:
Trust usKopp rejects silver-bullet theories. She also rejects easy answersand she says there are no magic solutions. As a matter of fact, she made this point any number of times in the course of Roses 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, well post her full response. By now, though, it was perfectly clear. Kopp wasnt going to answer:
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 alland Kopp didnt seem to have one. How had that teacher produced so much (alleged) success? People, shed had a vision! And not only thather 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 purposefulon a mission to move her kids forward! She didnt just go through the motions!
There is no magic to this, Kopp said. Its about doing everything well!
Can we talk? At this point, Kopps 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. Its Up With Peopleyou gotta believe! Its pure, unfettered bull-roar. I want to know what did she do, Charlie asked. With apologies, heres the full answer:
I want to know, what did she do, Rose had said. There is no magic, Kopp replied. Its not like she found a magic curriculum. And then, she invented a long, winding answera reply she almost surely made up.
Does Wendy Kopp have the slightest idea what went on in that Bronx teachers 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 portraita 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 stockpropaganda? Was Kopp just bull-sh*tting again?
Luckily, Kopp changed the subject at this pointand Rose was allowed to stop asking his obvious question. So what was the answer to Roses questionperhaps the most obvious question on earth? How had Wendy Kopps 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 knowmove them forward much more than would typically be expected in a years 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 couldnt tell him.
In our view, it would hard to overstate the emptiness of those rambling answers by Koppanswers a disingenuous college sophomore could have dreamed up, given three hours notice. Whats the secret of TFAs (alleged) successthe success that doesnt show up in the studies? Simple! You tell the kids theyre 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 theseanswers 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 questionand because hes intelligent and sincere, Kamras offered quite a few thoughts in reply. This is the kind of discussion that often ensues with people who arent music men:
For ourselves, we wouldnt necessarily agree with Kamras point of emphasis. But Kamras is someone youd want to speak with because hes obviously given a lot of thought to these basic questions. By contrast, Kopp had virtually nothing to say to Roses basic, obvious questions. Its all about doing everything well? Sorry: Thats just not an answer. A college kid with three hours notice could come up with blather like that.
And dont worry! The horror of the worst interview ever continued long after the point we have reachedlong 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 couldnt 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 wont say in support of her world-saving system. Soon, this slightly cult-like figure was even offering this:
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 havent gone so far above and beyond traditional expectations to...put [low-income students] on a level playing fieldas Kopp said, without any proof, that young Bronx teacher had done. Unfortunately, the studies make it perfectly clear that Kopps tales come straight out of Peter Pan. Its the type of palaver that works in settings like this, as described by Jodi Wilgoren in the New York Times, eight years ago:
In settings like that, pleasing bull-roar works nicely. It shouldnt work on Charlie Rose.
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 schoolsand it shows. By contrast, Kopp has been riding around in limos, hitting corporate types for money while telling uplifting, fake tales.
Its a shame that Rose played along with Kopp during this session, perhaps the worst interview ever broadcast. Unless you dont 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 shes feted by the know-nothing upper-end worldthe people who let her tell her fine stories. Tomorrow, well offer a few final thoughtsabout Kopp and about those three lists.
TOMORROWEPILOGUE: Concerning those lists.