OUR LATEST FIX! Maybe well fix the New Orleans schools? What makes us think we can do that? // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2005
EXPANDING ON DRUM: We havent used the term refugees, and we pretty much doubt that we would have. (We also wouldnt compare scenes from New Orleans to Mogadishu, Haiti, or The Third World, as people have reflexively done—most recently, Doug Brinkley, on C-SPAN this morning.) But we applaud Kevin Drum for his sensible statement about the term refugee. I'm happy to stop using the word if it bothers people, he sensibly says. But wed expand upon that a bit; in our view, we should all be a little bit tougher on people like Rep. Dianne Watson (D-CA). Kevin quotes her recent, ridiculous statement—but fails to note how completely phony the statement actually is:
WATSON: These are American citizens, plus they are the sons and daughters of slaves. Calling them refugees coming from a foreign country does not apply to their status. This shows disdain for them. I'm almost calling this a hate crime.Kevin notes how stupid it is to refer to this as a hate crime. But lets go farther: Who exactly has called the New Orleans storm victims refugees coming from a foreign country? Answer: No one has made such a statement. Watson is pleasuring herself.
All liberals have a choice in this world; we can be liberals—or we can be pseudo-liberals. When people like Watson push nonsense like this, they distract attention from real problems onto nonsense designed to pimp their popularity. People are suffering—and liberals are peddling this crap? At THE HOWLER, were sick of liberals like this. Were glad that Kevin jumped ugly.
OUR LATEST FIX: Lets expand on yesterdays post—about the pleasing stories we tell ourselves concerning the lives of low-income children. In his column in todays Post, Gene Robinson quotes a credentialed expert about the future of New Orleans:
ROBINSON (9/9/05): New Orleans looks ruined and uninhabitable...But you can bet the city will be rebuilt. In their book "The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover From Disaster," scholars Lawrence J. Vale and Thomas J. Campanella point out that destroyed cities almost always rise again.Vale, a credentialed expert, discusses future priorities for New Orleans. Casually, he suggests that fixing low-income schools may be one of our choices.
Were sick of reading statements like that. A casual reader might draw a false inference; he might conclude that we currently know how to fix low-income schools. As far as we know, we do not. Where exactly have you ever seen the nations low-income schools get fixed? Let us quote, one more time, the remarkable passage from that latest new study (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/29/05):
THE LATEST NEW STUDY: Young low-income and minority children are more likely to start school without having gained important school readiness skills, such as recognizing letters and counting. By the fourth grade, low-income students read about three grade levels behind non-poor students.After three years, theyre three years behind! So why would a credentialed expert suggest that we fix the New Orleans schools? Where exactly have we ever accomplished something like that in the past?
As a nation, do we know how to fix these schools? As far as we know, we do not. And part of the reason lies in the ease with which statements like Vales are tossed off. For forty years, the mainstream conversation about urban schools has been driven by lazy statements like this—lazy statements which make it sound like success is pretty much there for the taking. Typically, these statements are made by lazy people who have never set foot in urban schools—people who have no intention of going into such schools to study whats happening in them.
Have Lawrence Vale or Gene Robinson ever spent time in our low-income schools? Most typically, credentialed experts (and journalists) avoid such hard time, then toss off statements about fixing such schools. At THE HOWLER, we have spent time in urban elementary schools, and we have some ideas about what is correctable in them. (We plan to spend time discussing these matters in a new, urban ed web-site.) But experts and journalists wont help anyone fix these schools under they go see what happens inside them. Jonathan Kozol makes a similar point in his current, must-read essay in Harpers:
KOZOL (9/05): You have to go back to the schools themselves to find an answer to these questions. You have to sit down in the little chairs in first and second grade, or on the reading rugs with kindergarten kids, and listen to the things they actually say to one another and the dialogue between them and their teachers. You have to go down to the basement with the children when its time for lunch and to the playground with them, if they have a playground, when its time for recess, if they still have recess...You have to do what children do and breathe the air the children breathe. I dont think theres any other way to find out what the lives that children lead in school are really like.Nor is there some other way to fix these schools—to see what produces the failure to thrive which leads us to that remarkable passage from that latest report.
We happen to know Kozol slightly—and wed guess that we might disagree with him (slightly) about what causes that failure to thrive. But no one is going to fix those schools until they sit down in those little chairs, just as Kozol prescribes. We think Kozol may well be the greatest persuasive writer of the age. So who knows? Maybe his new book will persuade credentialed experts (and mainstream journalists) to sit their keisters down in those chairs and see what actually goes on in those schools. No one is will fix those schools until that occurs, however pleasing it may feel to say otherwise.
ALL HAIL E. J. DIONNE: Superlative—and important. Just click here. Its essential—essential—to let people know what scripts are driving their discourse.
ALL HAIL JOE SCARBOROUGH: Joe Scarboroughs work has been simply superb in the wake of Katrina. But then, there have always been two Joe Scarboroughs. On the one hand, he has been the incisive, fair-and-balanced pundit who occasionally appears on Hardball. Then too, he has been the host of cables most vacuous show—until Rita Cosbys new program came along. But all this week, he has been the Good Joe; hes been smart, involved, focused, frank—and willing to tackle his own partys interests and scripts. Last night, on the ground in Biloxi, he continued to criticize President Bush. In this segment, he spoke with Ralph Peters:
SCARBOROUGH (9/8/05): Rate leadership, Colonel. That`s what you have done in the past. Rate leadership in this crisis on all levels. How have they done?I don`t want a president who is taking six-week vacations when Americans are dying That is exceptionally tough stuff—and it was coming from two Bush supporters. But Scarborough has told it this way throughout. He deserves the highest praise.
And after that, a question remains—will Democrats be equally tough on their leaders? For example, Ray Nagin isnt even a Dem—but many libs have rallied around him, pretending hes a man without flaw because he cussed at Bush a few times.
Final point: In best press corps fashion, Peters decided to embellish his facts. Having decided he was angry with Bush, he jumped Bushs vacation to six weeks!
HOWARD FINEMAN JUST KEEPS KEEPIN ON: Apparently, Scarborough will drop White House scripts faster than Howard Fineman will. The Newsweek sleuth offered this thought on last evenings Countdown:
OLBERMANN (9/8/05): The media criticism [of Bush] from the right, some of which I read at the beginning of this segment—Novak as an example, the stuff in The [Manchester] Union Leader—it sounds like it would be a huge surprise, especially in the White House. Is it?Strange as it seems, the notion that Bush went back to the White House a day late is likely a White House talking-point, designed to minimize Bushs late start. Bill OReilly, who has shilled outrageously for Bush in this matter, has been reciting this point all week.
A day late? A day late—arguably? The first levee broke on Monday morning, August 29. Bushs reaction? He flew west, to San Diego, for a speech the next day, and he didnt head east from Texas until Wednesday. On Scarborough Country, Peters said he was personally angry about this conduct. But Fineman is still out there pushing the OReilly day late routine.
When should Bush have returned to his desk? Should he not have returned before this storm hit? Yes, its easy to demagogue this. But the notion that Bush reacted a day late is likely the best script the White House can hope for. Result? Last night, there was Fineman, expressing this view—while Peters and Scarborough voiced their anger.
OTHERS WHO SERVED: Other cable pundits have done superlative work in the aftermath of Katrina. Two were on Fox—but they got trashed by pseudo-libs all the same. Well plan to lay it out Monday morning.