And then, he gets it wrong: In yesterday’s Washington Post, Harold Meyerson wrote a decent column about the Chicago teachers strike.
As he started, he described the mandated point of view which drives the mainstream press:
MEYERSON (9/20/12): Here’s a bit of advice to America’s teachers: If you want the nation’s opinion leaders and CEOs to like you, don’t congregate in groups. Everyone, it seems, loves teachers individually. But when they get together, they become a menace to civilization.Meyerson is certainly right. Within establishment press corps circles, all knees jerk in mandated ways with regard to public school issues.
That’s one of the clearest take-aways from the just-concluded teachers strike in Chicago. Editorial boards from the right-wing Wall Street Journal to the liberal New York Times were nearly unanimous in condemning the seven-day strike. The Chicago Teachers Union was depriving the city’s children of their right to an education not just during the strike, editorialists argued, but also every day—by refusing to bow down to standardized tests. In the eyes of our elites, such tests have emerged as the linchpin of pedagogy and the best way to measure teacher, not just student, performance.
The unrelenting attack on teachers unions has some measurable consequences...
Having said that, we’ll pick a nit. Why would Meyerson think this:
MEYERSON: Given what we know about the cost of private schools and the demographics of Chicago’s public schools (87 percent of students come from households below the poverty threshold), it’s safe to say that the school reform movement hasn’t converted many outside the upper middle class. I suspect that a number of parents with kids in the city schools may have a more direct understanding of the challenges, both in school and out, that their children confront, as well as a clearer perception of the lack of resources that bedevil the schools.Meyerson refers to “what we know about about...the demographics of Chicago’s public schools.” Immediately, he misstates something he thinks we know about those demographics.
No, Virginia! In Chicago’s public schools, 87 percent of students don’t come from poverty households. That’s the percentage of Chicago students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
You don’t have to be below the poverty line to qualify for subsidized lunch. If memory serves, the cut-off point is roughly twice the poverty level.
How well do we progressives understand our cities if we think that 87 percent of Chicago students are living below the poverty line? Why do we think such a thing?
How well do we understand American politics if we find ourselves rushing to advance that (politically dangerous) image? Why would we want to say that?
Did the 60s ever end? Black and Hispanic kids aren't making any progress in school! And not only that! They're all living in poverty!
These are the notions our agents advance. What makes us want to do that?
Our Friday soda pop quiz: What percentage of American public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch?
Answer: According to federal statistics, 52 percent of fourth-graders so qualified in 2011.
Fifty-two percent is more than half! That isn’t a measure of poverty.