What are Texans like: On Monday evening’s Charlie Rose, Gail Collins continued to pound away with her conceptions about the Texas public schools. At one point, she offered this:
COLLINS (6/25/12): And in Texas right now, for instance, my friends in Texas, they’ve been cutting the heck out of the school budgets in order to keep from raising taxes in the state. And Texas is not a place that can afford to have less resources for education. It’s terrible. They’ve got a huge, huge, huge growing population.Her friends in Texas! Right!
ROSE: O.K. But how about the Race to the Top? What do you think of that?
For whatever reason, Collins has briefly stopped wringing her hands about Hispanic children in Texas. That said, what impression did she convey with those few remarks? In part, we would guess she conveyed the impression that Texas may have lousy schools.
How good are the Texas schools? For ourselves, we have no idea. But in every demographic group, Texas kids outscore their peers from around the nation. They often outscore their counterparts in our highest-scoring states.
We know that because we’ve looked at the data. It occurred to us that we should have included links to those data as part of yesterday’s post. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/26/12.)
Yesterday, we discussed math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the testing program Collins has described as our most reliable. Within the NAEP Mathematics report for 2011, you can find the basic data for all demographic groups in all the states. Just click here, then move down to the “Appendix Tables.”
All the data we listed yesterday can be found in those tables.
If you want more detailed information—for instance, if you want to adjust for income—you need to use the NAEP Data Explorer. Click here, then click on MAIN NDE. From there, you’re on your own.
These are the country’s only real data. (We don’t recommend using data from the various statewide testing programs.) Within the “press corps,” everybody calls the NAEP the gold standard of educational testing—and no one ever clicks those links to see what the data are.
Has Collins ever looked at these data? Based on the statements she makes in her awful new book, we’d say there’s little chance. By the way, when Collins appeared on Charlie Rose, Charlie got himself a snootful and asked a variant of the question Mary Schmich had asked:
ROSE: What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever spent in Texas?We’ll assume she meant last summer. We think we might hear a second question lurking in Charlie’s words: Do you have the slightest idea what you’re talking about?
COLLINS: I spent most of the summer there this summer.
(At one time, Charlie lived in Texas, as he reminded Collins.)
Many people are complaining about the stereotypes which animate Collins’ book and discussions. Having said that, what are Texans like?
We pondered that question when we watched the NewsHour last night.
One full segment dealt with a student discipline program in some or all Texas school districts. Throughout the segment, Tom Bearden spoke with Deborah Fowler, a Texas attorney who has authored a report on this subject for Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center in Austin. To watch the full segment, click here.
We thought of Collins’ stereotypes as we watched Fowler last evening. Does Fowler think she lives in an empty place? Is she in thrall to the Alamo syndrome?
When Collins spoke with Schmich on C-Span, she very much stressed the idea that Texans all think they’re in empty places. (“They really do all think they’re in empty places,” she said. Emphasis hers.) Watching Collins with Schmich, we were struck by an unfortunate thought—she really did start to sound like a genteel regional bigot.
Over the past thirty years, the press has featured quite a few of these types, often drawn from among We Irish Catholics. One example: Quite plainly, Jimmy Breslin hated Al Gore because Gore came from Tennessee. But there has been a surprising amount of this—and yes, in the Clinton-Gore years, it helped change American history.
It’s plain that Collins was too lazy to do the requisite background work before offering her sweeping remarks about the Texas schools. But Collins truly does seem like a bit of a regional bigot.
On that C-Span tape, she laughs and laughs as she talks with Schmich. As she does, get a load of those lifeless eyes. We don't know why she seems to be lacking in joy.
But why take it out on us?
In conclusion: There are 28 million people in Texas. They don’t all think they’re in empty places. Watching the interview with Fowler, we were struck by the way we ourselves had been infected by exposure to Collins’ presentations.
Is it possible that other bright Texans like Fowler have played a role in producing those test scores—the scores in which Texas kids outscore their peers nationwide?
We don’t know, but the human brain is wired to believe stereotypical tribal claims. It’s really a shame that a person like Collins has been granted this role in our lives.
Collins has spent little time in Texas. She plainly hasn’t looked at the data. This is the way your “press corps” ends, not with a bang but a whimper.