A Kerfuffle or a Brouhaha?

Don’t matter what you call it. Ricochetti are a passionate bunch, and sometimes the fighting spirit takes over. Our first guests are Andrew Gutmann (hosts of the essential Take Back Our Schools podcast) and Ricochet member Michele Kerr who’s had some strong criticisms of the fellas’ takes on public education over the years. For those of you who like a little scrappiness on the flagship podcast: this one’s for you!

Next we bring on our favorite doctor (the kind that doesn’t ask if the bruises are Covid related), Jay Bhattacharya! He explains how he became known as a fringey pseudoscientific quack and the ins and outs of Covid’s last gasp.

With Peter out, James and Rob steer the ship through a Musk-y hostile takeover, NYC’s newest madman and the latest in Ukraine. And mark your calendars so you can join Rob for the America’s Future pub crawl on May 14th! Members only: so sign up today!

Music from this week’s podcast: Adult Education by Hall and Oates

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There are 242 comments.

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  1. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):
    Rob is correct that the perception on the right is that there are major problems. You don’t help change that perception (even if it’s wrong) by refusing to engage.

    There is the rub. Do Americans schools suck or not? If they don’t suck, why are they so wrong. Rob did interrupt alot but he wasn’t wrong to zero in like a sniper on that question.

    My belief is that the diversity quota and ideologically motivated solutions to “disparate impact” make our schools worse.

    Unfortunately, segregation is verboten, but instantiating leveled classes in every school to accommodate levels of English speaking is too costly. Allowing these things to be decided at a more local level as needed (even more local than county school board) would be a bureaucratic nightmare and puts a lot of pressure on parents in demographics where a great many are working multiple jobs. Stay at home parenting is the best way to get parents involved.

    Dealing with a bilingual population on top of an honors/regular structure is just too much for each individual school to handle and needs simplification.

    • #61
  2. James Hageman Coolidge
    James Hageman
    @JamesHageman

    EHerring (View Comment):

    l. Schools of Education are a problem. They are open about their goal of creating teachers who are social justice warriors promoting equity. This was birthed from critical theory.

    2. The federal government is a problem, from trying to mandate policy to encouraging the uneven application of discipline.

    3. Some home environments are a problem. Some teachers are a problem.

    4. Many bad ideas exist and schools seem to be a magnet for them. My children went to school in four states during my Air Force career. I saw a lot. Examples of bad ideas include eliminating honors programs, lack of discipline, mixing high performers with low performers to pull up the low performers, teaching sex to young children, eliminating Shakespeare, no more memorizing math tables , no more cursive..

    5. Teachers have too much administrative work.

    6. She is right about the cost of non-English speakers. Also, she is right about the cost of special education programs.

    More to come later, on to baseball.

    If I could double like this, I would.

    • #62
  3. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    EHerring (View Comment):

    5. Teachers have too much administrative work.

     

    I would like to suggest that the solution to this particular issue is NOT to hire MORE administrators.

     

    • #63
  4. Leslie Watkins Member
    Leslie Watkins
    @LeslieWatkins

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):

     

    There’s no basis for a conversation.

    And of course, I know that people here agree with Rob. That’s my point. Out in the real world, Rob’s favorite solutions of vouchers and charters barely break 50% with *Republicans*, much less the public. It’s not even a given among Republican voters that schools suck. And you guys are blind to this.

    Wow. Ok. I’m out.

    I’m struggling to understand why you bothered to engage at all. I actually don’t fully agree with Rob, and I suspect you would have some helpful things to say on the merits, as it were. But saying “I’ll engage once you agree with me” seems to negate the purpose of the conversation.

    My take exactly.

    • #64
  5. Flapjack Lincoln
    Flapjack
    @Flapjack

    Michele (View Comment):

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment)

    Hi–if you taught suburban middle school math, you have a serious restriction of range issue, and if you think schools have “problems” even so, then you have pretty ridiculously high standards. Not much point in our debating on that point.

     

    So, “Shut up,” she explained?   

    I’ve taught all over the socio-economic spectrum, and all schools have problems.  All.

    • #65
  6. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    kedavis (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    5. Teachers have too much administrative work.

     

    I would like to suggest that the solution to this particular issue is NOT to hire MORE administrators.

     

    Seems to be a growing problem, much of it driven by federal mandates if you want to get back your tax dollars you sent to DC so they could skim off some then return it with strings attached. 

    Critical theory is everywhere. Its subliminal messages sneak into curriculum and textbooks. Teachers don’t recognize it because they thought their professors were teaching them how to be caring and fair. 

     

    • #66
  7. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    EHerring (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    5. Teachers have too much administrative work.

     

    I would like to suggest that the solution to this particular issue is NOT to hire MORE administrators.

     

    Seems to be a growing problem, much of it driven by federal mandates if you want to get back your tax dollars you sent to DC so they could skim off some then return it with strings attached.

    Critical theory is everywhere. Its subliminal messages sneak into curriculum and textbooks. Teachers don’t recognize it because they thought their professors were teaching them how to be caring and fair.

    Rather like “fish don’t know they’re wet” etc.  One of the big signals also seems to be that teachers/admins say they’re not doing it, then raise holy hell if you propose laws saying they can’t.

     

    • #67
  8. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Michele (View Comment):

    I heard that schooling is broken, but not that schooling is an utter failure. “Broken” is subjective, but so are letter grades. Let’s say that schooling in the USA gets a “D-“. Tax payers deserve an “A-“

    Great. Define A- in a way that gets everyone to agree with you. And when you can’t, welcome to the real world.

    It does not have to be defined by a rubric, if it is a subjective grade.   We can use averages by nations, if you prefer to grade on a curve to have objective grade.

    This is not a rabbit hole, but a gold mine! What to fix is the only discussion worth having!

    When you can’t agree on what’s “fixed” no, it’s not. 

    What is fixed is the effectiveness of schools in America. 

    Google tells me “In 2017, only 7 percent of Detroit public school eighth-graders performed at or above the proficient level in reading“. In a world where “no child is left behind”, we have entire cities of kids being left behind.

     There are white and Asian kids that don’t hit that standard. Do you think their teachers failed? Or do you think, well, you can’t get *everyone* to proficient and then without pausing to think demand to know why only 7% of Detroit kids are at proficient (and by the way, if it’s NAEP “proficient”, then please. That’s an absurd standard).

    Is it your position that if you took the teachers from Grosse Pointe and gave them to Detroit that they’d all learn at proficient levels, or that if you took the Detroit teachers and put them in Grosse Pointe that suddenly all the kids in Grosse Pointe couldn’t read?

    Here is that communication problem.  I did not say anything about race.  I did not say anything about the proficiency of teachers.   You have made two assumptions, which are very very wrong, and that taints your thinking and makes communication very challenging.   Sometimes people make inferences, when they are feeling defensive.  I assume this is a carry-over from some previous discussion, which is not needed here.   Where to go from here?  

    • #68
  9. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Stina (View Comment):

    My belief is that the diversity quota and ideologically motivated solutions to “disparate impact” make our schools worse.

    Unfortunately, segregation is verboten,

    Using “segregation” after “diversity” implies racial segregation, which is probably not intended. 

     

    but instantiating leveled classes in every school to accommodate levels of English speaking is too costly. Allowing these things to be decided at a more local level as needed (even more local than county school board) would be a bureaucratic nightmare and puts a lot of pressure on parents in demographics where a great many are working multiple jobs. Stay at home parenting is the best way to get parents involved.

    Leveled classes and differentiation are the key to achieving maximal success for each student.

    Dealing with a bilingual population on top of an honors/regular structure is just too much for each individual school to handle and needs simplification.

    It is not that bad and technology helps.  ESL (English  as a Second Language) is the reality in most cities.  Having two languages would be the easy case.   We have a *lot* of immigrants in American and it takes more effort to each them.   Such is life.  The good news is that kids learn fast and technology is helpful here too.  

    • #69
  10. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    kedavis (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    5. Teachers have too much administrative work.

     

    I would like to suggest that the solution to this particular issue is NOT to hire MORE administrators.

     

    It is weird to think that a class of 25 kids comes with $300,000 of tax money.  The teacher only gets a quarter of that.   Every school should try to have 80+% of their budget go towards instruction staff.

    • #70
  11. Bereket Kelile Member
    Bereket Kelile
    @BereketKelile

    I found it hard to understand why Michele believed the teacher’s union is not powerful. The California Teachers Association is one of the most powerful political players in state politics. Their endorsement or opposition to a candidate or legislation is a crucial factor to what happens in Sacramento.

    • #71
  12. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Bereket Kelile (View Comment):

    I found it hard to understand why Michele believed the teacher’s union is not powerful. The California Teachers Association is one of the most powerful political players in state politics. Their endorsement or opposition to a candidate or legislation is a crucial factor to what happens in Sacramento.

    She is probably referring to influence in her school. The unions are quite powerful dealing with politicians. 

    • #72
  13. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Bereket Kelile (View Comment):

    I found it hard to understand why Michele believed the teacher’s union is not powerful. The California Teachers Association is one of the most powerful political players in state politics. Their endorsement or opposition to a candidate or legislation is a crucial factor to what happens in Sacramento.

    She is probably referring to influence in her school. The unions are quite powerful dealing with politicians.

    Except when the unions get the politicians to pass the laws they want, that’s what the schools and teachers operate by.

    • #73
  14. Michele Coolidge
    Michele
    @Michele

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    M] I did not say anything about race.

    Dude. You said Detroit. Detroit schools are over 80% black and 13% Hispanic–and most of the Hispanics are also ELLs. 

     

    You were asking”How come a school district that’s high poverty, 82% black and 13% Hispanic ELLS is only 7% Proficient–a very high standard?

    Answer: because when nationwide, blacks and Hispanics are 70-80% below basic (depending on grade) regardless of income. Detroit has low scores because the kids are very poor and black and Hispanic and there’s not much evidence that anywhere else is doing much better. To ask about it as if this is some sort of telling indictment of schools is absurd. To ask about it and then say “What, race, me?” is even more so.

    • #74
  15. Michele Coolidge
    Michele
    @Michele

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Bereket Kelile (View Comment):

    I found it hard to understand why Michele believed the teacher’s union is not powerful. The California Teachers Association is one of the most powerful political players in state politics. Their endorsement or opposition to a candidate or legislation is a crucial factor to what happens in Sacramento.

    She is probably referring to influence in her school. The unions are quite powerful dealing with politicians.

    Actually, unions don’t have much power with politicians, either. From the years 2000-2015, there was a bipartisan consensus to reform schools in ways that infuriated unions, and they couldn’t do a thing about it. No, not even the dread Randi Weingarten!  And since then, public anger with what happened during those years turned the Dems more supportive of public schools–once again, regardless of unions. They spend a lot of money, but don’t have much influence. And when they do, it’s almost always because parents agree with them, which is something conservatives hate to acknowledge.

    But you’re correct that unions have even less power in individual schools.

    • #75
  16. Michele Coolidge
    Michele
    @Michele

    EHerring (View Comment):
    Teachers don’t recognize it because they thought their professors were teaching them how to be caring and fair. 

    Um, no. 

    The whole idea that teachers are indoctrinated in college is just nonsense.  Teachers go into colleges with the beliefs they come out with. I’m not saying ed schools don’t push an ideology–they definitely do. But they aren’t converting anyone.  Relatively few teachers are far left. More teachers are Republicans than are far wacko left, is my guess. But then I don’t spend much time around elementary school teachers, where the real nutjobs are.

     

    On average, teachers’ views are closer to the center than average liberal. https://www.heritage.org/education/report/political-opinions-k-12-teachers-results-nationally-representative-survey

    • #76
  17. Michele Coolidge
    Michele
    @Michele

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):
    For level-setting purposes, I taught high school math in a middle class suburban school district for 8 years before going to law school.

    I just saw I misread this as middle school! I’m sorry. However, my point is still the same. If you think your school was that terrible, I’m not sure we have much basis for conversation. Which is not, as someone later said, that I’m telling you to shut up. I just don’t think there’s much value in arguing.

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    (Seattle comes to mind) putting very politicized content into the district curriculum – “racist math”, for example.  it doesn’t matter if 99.9% of the teachers want to teach it straight if the curriculum dictates otherwise.

    Teachers have complete control over curriculum. There’s no such thing as “curriculum dictating what teachers teach”. And I very much doubt that high school Seattle math teachers are going to teach a “race conscious” math curriculum. Washington state math teachers have to pass a difficult math test to be teachers, and anyone capable of passing that test isn’t going to teach race-based math, whatever that is. What happens in elementary school is a different story, but not much matters in elementary school, so whatever.

    • #77
  18. Michele Coolidge
    Michele
    @Michele

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Are you claiming that the NAEP standards are so off-the-wall that 7% should be considered acceptable?

    NAEP standards are indeed too high. “Proficient” means well above grade level.  https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/06/13/the-naep-proficiency-myth/

    Seems to me that even if the NAEP standards are too high, maybe we should still expect… oh, maybe 50%?

    Regardless of NAEP standards, there isn’t a single school in America that accepts all comers, doesn’t kick kids out, and gets 50% proficient from black kids, which is what Detroit schools primarily have. Results are even worse with poor black kids, which is what Detroit’s black kids mostly are.

    No one, anywhere, has fixed the achievement gap. 

    Maybe what teachers should do, if they really believe they aren’t getting enough parental support etc, is to quit. Lots of people who find they can’t accomplish what they’re supposed to be doing, for reasons outside their control – especially if they feel unfairly blamed for things outside their control – quit.

    I can’t speak for teachers as a group, but I’ve never said I don’t get parental support–in large part because I don’t think parental support is necessary for my job. The only person in the podcast who criticized parents was Andrew, not me. I objected strongly to his characterization that most parents don’t care about education.

     

    Nor do I think I’m being unfairly blamed. I don’t take what anyone says about teachers personally. I was angry 17 months ago because I think it’s horrible for Republicans to attack teachers and public schools so completely, not because my feelings are hurt. It cedes the ground to the left, because most of the public (including close to half of Republicans) value public schools and see Republicans as the enemy of public schools. I get paid very well to do a job I love. 

    As for teachers quitting: bad call. There’s already a shortage. If too many teachers quit, salaries will have to be raised to make the job more attractive. More taxes. Not good.

     

    • #78
  19. Michele Coolidge
    Michele
    @Michele

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    J

    There is the rub. Do Americans schools suck or not? If they don’t suck, why are they so wrong. Rob did interrupt alot but he wasn’t wrong to zero in like a sniper on that question.

    I answered this question countless times. Polls show that parents don’t think their schools suck.  Rob agreed with me on this point. We both agree that public opinion on America’s schools is lower (but not all *that* low, certainly not as bad as Rob paints it), but as I said it’s difficult to change something when the local customers are satisfied.

    So it’s up to Rob to explain why schools suck when polls show otherwise. By the way, very few Americans think our schools suck, even nationwide. 70% give schools at least a C. “Suck” is definitely F range, and we can debate Ds.

    Sorry for the multiple posts, everyone. I wanted to try and answer things and I’m not quite up on how the interface works.

    • #79
  20. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    Here was a 1895 test to pass eighth grade in Kansas

     

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/16/heres-the-famous-1895-eighth-grade-test-from-kansas-see-how-you-would-do/

     

    How many kids could pass (and adults for that matter)

     

    • #80
  21. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Michele (View Comment):
    Teachers have complete control over curriculum.

    This isn’t true. School boards decide curriculum. Teachers are flexible on how they teach it, but for the most part, they are limited to a curriculum. Like Common core.

    • #81
  22. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Michele (View Comment):
    but not much matters in elementary school, so whatever.

    Seriously? What is this supposed to mean?

    You sound so defensive and are not at all willing to listen. How on earth do you expect parents to want to deal with this?

    • #82
  23. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Michele (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    J

    There is the rub. Do Americans schools suck or not? If they don’t suck, why are they so wrong. Rob did interrupt alot but he wasn’t wrong to zero in like a sniper on that question.

    I answered this question countless times. Polls show that parents don’t think their schools suck. Rob agreed with me on this point. We both agree that public opinion on America’s schools is lower (but not all *that* low, certainly not as bad as Rob paints it), but as I said it’s difficult to change something when the local customers are satisfied.

    So it’s up to Rob to explain why schools suck when polls show otherwise. By the way, very few Americans think our schools suck, even nationwide. 70% give schools at least a C. “Suck” is definitely F range, and we can debate Ds.

     

    Polls show that everyone likes their individual congressman, but hate Congress. (Congress overall ranks about dead last in Public esteem, somewhere below used car salesmen). 

    This is *not* evidence that Congress is doing a good job.  

    • #83
  24. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Michele (View Comment):

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    M] I did not say anything about race.

    Dude. You said Detroit.

    I chose Detroit, because it is my hometown.

    • #84
  25. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Stina (View Comment):

    Michele (View Comment):
    Teachers have complete control over curriculum.

    This isn’t true. School boards decide curriculum. Teachers are flexible on how they teach it, but for the most part, they are limited to a curriculum. Like Common core.

    There is also district and state-level testing, which defines a lot of what must be covered.  How things are taught is basically defined by the books and workbooks from the big book companies.   Also, in a school with multiple grades per class, there is pressure to have the classes synchronized.   This allows the school to move kids around to avoid behavior problems.

    • #85
  26. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    Covid irony alert.  

    Just as Jay and Rob discussed bitter-enders I pulled up to our neighborhood and saw an older neighbor heading out alone and masked for her daily walk.   Same as she has for many months now.  

    NOT going into a crowded market, NOT riding public transport.  Walking, outside, in a residential area with absolutely zero impediments to giving passerby wide berth.

    Impervious to science doesn’t begin to describe it.

    • #86
  27. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Chris (View Comment):

    Covid irony alert.

    Just as Jay and Rob discussed bitter-enders I pulled up to our neighborhood and saw an older neighbor heading out alone and masked for her daily walk. Same as she has for many months now.

    NOT going into a crowded market, NOT riding public transport. Walking, outside, in a residential area with absolutely zero impediments to giving passerby wide berth.

    Impervious to science doesn’t begin to describe it.

    It was a female wasn’t it?

    • #87
  28. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Michele (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Bereket Kelile (View Comment):

    I found it hard to understand why Michele believed the teacher’s union is not powerful. The California Teachers Association is one of the most powerful political players in state politics. Their endorsement or opposition to a candidate or legislation is a crucial factor to what happens in Sacramento.

    She is probably referring to influence in her school. The unions are quite powerful dealing with politicians.

    Actually, unions don’t have much power with politicians, either. From the years 2000-2015, there was a bipartisan consensus to reform schools in ways that infuriated unions, and they couldn’t do a thing about it. No, not even the dread Randi Weingarten! And since then, public anger with what happened during those years turned the Dems more supportive of public schools–once again, regardless of unions. They spend a lot of money, but don’t have much influence. And when they do, it’s almost always because parents agree with them, which is something conservatives hate to acknowledge.

    But you’re correct that unions have even less power in individual schools.

    They have a lot of power with Democrats at all levels of government. The trick is to not let them have majority power.

    • #88
  29. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Michele (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):
    Teachers don’t recognize it because they thought their professors were teaching them how to be caring and fair.

    Um, no.

    The whole idea that teachers are indoctrinated in college is just nonsense. Teachers go into colleges with the beliefs they come out with. I’m not saying ed schools don’t push an ideology–they definitely do. But they aren’t converting anyone. Relatively few teachers are far left. More teachers are Republicans than are far wacko left, is my guess. But then I don’t spend much time around elementary school teachers, where the real nutjobs are.

     

    On average, teachers’ views are closer to the center than average liberal. https://www.heritage.org/education/report/political-opinions-k-12-teachers-results-nationally-representative-survey

    That is not correct. They might  not indoctrinate rock solid conservatives but they do influence. Either they turn the middle into the lefties or reinforce the views of students already on the left side. This is true of most liberal arts departments, schools of journalism, and schools of education. College faculty are about 80% democrats. Bible Belt schools have resisted much of this but even our state university school of education stated at least ten years ago its goal was to create teachers who would promote social justice. The critical theory propaganda is in “common core” books and even in those weekly reader things schools subscribe to.

    • #89
  30. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Michele (View Comment):

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):
    For level-setting purposes, I taught high school math in a middle class suburban school district for 8 years before going to law school.

    I just saw I misread this as middle school! I’m sorry. However, my point is still the same. If you think your school was that terrible, I’m not sure we have much basis for conversation. Which is not, as someone later said, that I’m telling you to shut up. I just don’t think there’s much value in arguing.

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    (Seattle comes to mind) putting very politicized content into the district curriculum – “racist math”, for example. it doesn’t matter if 99.9% of the teachers want to teach it straight if the curriculum dictates otherwise.

    Teachers have complete control over curriculum. There’s no such thing as “curriculum dictating what teachers teach”. And I very much doubt that high school Seattle math teachers are going to teach a “race conscious” math curriculum. Washington state math teachers have to pass a difficult math test to be teachers, and anyone capable of passing that test isn’t going to teach race-based math, whatever that is. What happens in elementary school is a different story, but not much matters in elementary school, so whatever.

    Teachers don’t get to control the textbooks they use • this is both good and bad. Lefty teachers can’t technically insert radical agendas and conservative teachers can’t avoid them if the administrations mandate them. Parents are more turned in than ever before. When one teacher sent home a weekly reader with a critical theory article in it, the school and teacher had to apologize. I think the NYT had slipped it in and the teacher assumed if the school gave it to him to give out, that it was ok.

    • #90
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