An Excellent Article about the Heights School in Suburban D.C.

 

I just read an excellent article about The Heights School, a school in Potomac, Md., affiliated with Opus Dei, a Catholic organization.  As the article notes,

Opus Dei is known to millions of readers of “The Da Vinci Code,” which presents a sensational and quite sinister portrait of the group. In real life, Opus Dei, which was founded in Spain in 1928 and claims 90,000 members, supports charities and advises schools, including six in the United States.

In a moment, I’ll reveal the outlet where the article was published.  For now, let me just say that most people would consider the outlet to be part of the mainstream media.

When I lived in Pittsburgh during the early 1990s, I often attended services at the city’s Opus Dei chapter.  I’m pretty sure that I was the only Protestant who attended those services.  The main reason I attended was simply because I greatly admired and liked all the people I met who attended.

As I learned from the services, Opus Dei is very Catholic and very conservative.  That’s why I was pleased to see the article paint a favorable picture of the school and Opus Dei.  Here are some other passages from the article:

“Are your jackets on, boys?” Joe Cardenas inspects his charges in a first-period freshman humanities class, sees that they are all appropriately blazered and standing tall, bows his head and begins the morning Hail Mary: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee …” Only when they have finished the prayer do they take their jackets off. They sit and open copies of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the 14th-century English romance.

 Mr. Cardenas teaches at The Heights School, a suburban Washington boys’ school affiliated with Opus Dei, the Catholic organization of which he is a member. By the standards of more famous Washington private schools, like Sidwell Friends or Georgetown Preparatory, The Heights is poor, little known and young — it was founded in 1969. But since then it has become the popular school for a small clique of Washingtonians: conservative Catholics.

 Although he has made being a home-schooling dad part of his identity, the Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has sent two sons to The Heights. The school, for boys in grades 3-12, has also educated the sons of the Republican senators Mel Martinez and Chuck Hagel; the former F.B.I. director Louis J. Freeh; Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage; and Kate O’Beirne, an editor at National Review.

 “I’ve got just one job as a dad,” says Pat Kilner, a general contractor whose four sons (he also has five daughters) have attended The Heights. “And that’s to get these kids, who are gifts to me, to heaven, so they can be in the eternal presence of the Lord. And none of my kids has left the church.”

 Linda Maher, the school’s director of communications, sent two sons to The Heights. Outside the school, one mother she met at her son’s swim meet “would put condoms in her son’s Christmas stockings,” she said. The Heights mothers were different.

The article was published … in the New York Times! 

In my book, I accuse the Times of being one of the worst offenders of liberal media bias.  Specifically, I construct a statistical method that estimates its Slant Quotient to be 74.  That’s 24 points left of center–approximately as liberal as a Harry Reid speech, but a couple steps more centrist than a speech by Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank.

To estimate Slant Quotients I first compute Political Quotients, or PQs.  The latter is a numerical measure of how liberal a person is.  On this scale, Michele Bachman and Jim Demint score approximately 0.  Arlen Specter, when he was a Republican, scored about 50.  And Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank score approximately 100. (If you’d like to compute your own Political Quotient you can get a rough estimate with this 10-question quiz or a more precise estimate with this 40-question quiz.)

The idea behind Slant Quotients is the following thought experiment:  Suppose you read some content from a media outlet, and suppose you were falsely told that the content was a speech by a member of Congress.  What would you guess as the Political Quotient of the would-be politician? 

For the above New York Times article, my guess would be something like 25.  That is, I’d think, “No way could that politician have a PQ above 60.  More likely, it’s very close to 0.”

So let me conclude with a sentence I never thought I’d ever write:  I detect at least a slight conservative bias in the New York Times article I read today.

There are 8 comments.

  1. Mollie Hemingway Contributor

    Mark Oppenheimer is a very talented reporter. I’ll just mention that he’s also the author of the anti-monogamy, Dan Savage hagiography and a puff piece on Frank Schaeffer.

    • #1
    • January 13, 2012, at 9:55 AM PDT
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  2. Brian Clendinen Member

    So maybe the next paper is to examine Slant Quotients of Journalist and its interaction with the new outlet they write for. I know you have done some of this with editorial boards and specific news programs. It would be interesting to see what the variability of SQ is by author and story type in news outlets. For example, other than the pass few years “Market Place” used pretty moderate on stories with little to no political connections.

    Although you might only be able to due a small percentage of an outlets articles considering the population of articles might not be large enough for most writers.

    • #2
    • January 13, 2012, at 10:18 AM PDT
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  3. Fricosis Guy Listener

    This [St Anselm’s] Abbey Boy was surprised and pleased to see such a positive piece on our rivals The Heights in the NYT. Congrats and blessings on their ministry!

    • #3
    • January 14, 2012, at 5:25 AM PDT
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  4. She Thatcher
    She

    Do you think this article would have been published if one of the Republican presidential candidates were not sending his children to the school? Rick Santorum? Opus Dei? Acts of mortification? The DaVinci Code? I mean, how weird is that?

    Or perhaps I’ve just been reading too many potboilers . . .

    • #4
    • January 14, 2012, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  5. Tom Davis Member

    Take the PQ test referenced. I scored a 0.6 – To the right of Michelle Bachmann and Jim DeMint.

    • #5
    • January 14, 2012, at 9:26 AM PDT
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  6. Grendel Member
    Fricosis Guy: This [St Anselm’s] Abbey Boy was surprised and pleased to see such a positive piece on our rivals The Heights in the NYT. Congrats and blessings on their ministry! · Jan 13 at 4:25pm

    Dr. Groseclose: Just in case you didn’t have your tongue in your cheek: I should think that whatever a publication’s SQ straight reporting produces quite a few “biased” articles. What would balance the article? A couple of paragraphs of “Some say, however, that strict religiously informed education produces rigidity . . .”?

    Fricosis Guy: When I went to Gonzaga, we knew the Abbey as “the Priory”. The positive article is good, but it still has touch of “This is Jack Intrepid, reporting to you about the exotic and mysterious world of Religion in America”.

    • #6
    • January 14, 2012, at 9:35 AM PDT
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  7. Mel Foil Inactive

    “Two percent of Opus Dei members are priests. The rest are laypeople who practice an intense daily prayer regimen that they believe imbues their jobs and family lives with Catholic spirit. Nearly a third of the lay members are “numeraries,” who commit to lifelong celibacy and to acts of mortification, like the daily wearing of a cilice, a small spiked garter that can puncture the skin.”

    “Mortification, like the daily wearing of a cilice” is like writing “daily exercise, like the daily running of a marathon.” More typical types of “mortification” are occasional fasting, or sleeping on a hard surface. It’s just a physical way to more thoroughly appreciate the blessing of having the normal comforts of life. You appreciate things, like a soft bed, when they’re not there for awhile.

    • #7
    • January 14, 2012, at 12:30 PM PDT
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  8. Sisyphus Member

    Apologizing in advance for not having gotten to your book yet, Dr. Groseclose, based on your many interviews on the topic and treatment of it here, it appears that your work assumes a bipolar continuum from left to right (whatever that may mean in a given polity). Obviously, more complex geographies of political thought are out there, the Nolan Chart, for example, a plane whose axes are degrees of personal liberty and degrees of economic liberty and the Pournelle Chart whose axes are degrees of statism and degrees of rationalism.

    Does your work consider these kinds of issues? Is there room in the metric for more complex or alternate variations?

    • #8
    • January 14, 2012, at 12:51 PM PDT
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