FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2003
DUDE! WHERES MY TRANSCRIPT? Many e-mailers have taken interest in Bill OReillys Fresh Air appearance. Wed hoped to speak to one or two points. But dudes! Wheres our transcript? For some reason, Fresh Air hasnt posted a Nexis transcript for its 10/8 session with Mr. O. All others, including 10/9, are there. Terry Gross! This means you! Wheres our transcript?
At any rate, we ended up reading the transcript of Molly Ivins 10/7 session with Gross. We found this passage worth noting:
IVINS: When I wrote about Bush in 2000, during the presidential campaign, I said, Look, you know, this guys record is mostly either not impressive or depressing, but there is one bright spot: He really is interested in education, he really understands the issue, and he put a lot of time and energy into it. I didnt know at the time, and in the new book we report that what had appeared to be significant advances in education in Texas, improving scores and just a general upward trend, turned out to have been, heartbreakingly enough, slightly fraudulent.We dont know Ivins, but we wrote her after her comment in 2000, warning her against putting her faith in those improved Texas test scores. But even now, she seems to lack a full understanding of the problems involved in this matter. Recent reporting has indeed shown that some Texas schools monkeyed with drop-out statistics and policies. But even as Ivins praised Bush in 2000, serious studies had already suggested that those improved Texas test scores may have been a mirage. Those studies didnt involve the hanky-panky about drop-out rates. Instead, they suggested the possibility of a more general type of cheating in Texas testinga type of cheating that has been widespread, all over the country, since accountability began to be tied to such tests around 1970. (How far back do these problems go? We first wrote about this topic in the Baltimore Sun in the late 1970s. We first warned Sun columnists about fake test scores in 1971.) But as we have noted in past DAILY HOWLERs, it is simply impossible to get American elites to pay attention to these matters. On Fresh Air, Ivins discussed the more recent reporting about drop-out rates. But she still doesnt seem to have heard about the prior concerns.
I didnt know at the time that what had appeared to be significant advances in education in Texas, improving scores and just a general upward trend, turned out to have been, heartbreakingly enough, slightly fraudulent, Ivins told Gross. But these problems were being reported in 2000, before Ivins wrote in praise of Bush. Indeed, why not visit our incomparable archives! Simply access our whirring search engines. Enter RAND or KIPP or TASS or NAEP or Cannell to bone up on these issues.
Were big fans of Ivins too. But she should have known, back in 2000, that those Texas test scores had been called into question. And she doesnt seem to know, to this day, on what basis the test scores seemed shaky.
Now: Getting back to Mr. O, lets say it again. Wheres our transcript?
SABBATICAL: Note the cranky tone of this piece? Were totally sick of our cranky tone too! For that reason, were planning to take a significant break, from which we may not even return! (To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger: Yes, its true ) But before we break, we plan to spend four days next week on a recent book reviewa remarkable review which brings us full circle, back to the topics which helped launch THE HOWLER. Yes, we refer to Larry McMurtrys bizarre review in the current New York Review of Books. How dysfunctional is American discourse? The fact that McMurtrys review ever went into print ought to puzzle every American. What could have gone through the minds of his editors? Frankly, were puzzled by that question too. But McMurtrys review really does say it all; we plan to assess it, then break. Well name his editors, and then well say this: When your discourse is run by such empty elites, theres really no point in dissent.
SHOW HER THE MONEY: Ivins continued, focussing on No Child Left Behind. As weve said, were Ivins fans too. But we dont think she knows this terrain:
IVINS (continuing directly): And there you are again. Its exactly the same thing at the national level. I mean, Bushs first big play was the education bill called No Child Left Behind. And Senator Edward Kennedy worked with the administration on that. And they came up with, you know, a plan toagain, standards, testing, lets see the results, lets find out how these kids are doing. And then Bush refused to fully fund what he had committed to with Kennedy in the course of negotiating for that bill. Theres no use demanding higher standards of schools unless you give them something to work with.Here at THE HOWLER, we spent our first twelve adult years teaching in the Baltimore City schools. The principal problem was not low funding. But our urban schools are a Forgotten Village (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/11/03); liberals havent been there in decades. It doesnt make them bad people, of course, but liberal elites dont have the first clue on thissubject. Or so we incomparably found ourselves thinking as we read Ivins remarks.