Friday, August 20, 2004

Ontological Deficit: Part II When People Don't Read,

There has been some talk about the controversial NYT article about charter schools performing poorly.

In response, Dan Drezner, has posted some words.

One possibility is that -- contrary to the fears of skeptics -- it turns out that charter schools do not merely skim the public student body's cream of the crop. As Harvard researchers Will Howell, Paul Peterson, and Martin West point out in their Wall Street Journal op-ed: "These results could easily indicate nothing other than the simple fact that charter schools are typically asked to serve problematic students in low-performing districts with many poor, minority children."

Now my question is did Dan and these Harvard researchers actually bother to read the report or the article before shooting off their big fat mouths? I don't know. When I actually bothered to read the original article, I stumbled over this paragraph:
Because charter schools are concentrated in cities, often in poor neighborhoods, the researchers also compared urban charters to traditional schools in cities. They looked at low-income children in both settings, and broke down the results by race and ethnicity as well. In virtually all instances, the charter students did worse than their counterparts in regular public schools.

I used to complain about numerical literacy lacking the social elites of this country. Now I'm starting to question their basic literacy skills. Now I don't know in fact whether or not the NYT is an adequate or accurate representation of the original study. Nor do I know anything about the study or whether it was valid by scientific standards.

What I do know is that if you take on faith for a moment that the article is reasonably accurate, that this one paragraph completely shoots down almost all of the media responses Dan quotes about the subject. Now if it's not true, that's a different story. But the responses Dan quotes don't argue that this paragraph isn't true, it's as if they don't realize that the paragraph and the claims it makes exist as an argument to be rebutted period.

How else could you get disjointed quotes like: "Much of the previous research on charter schools, which operate free of most of the regulations governing neighborhood schools, suggests that charters tend to attract lower-performing students in the first place. These data only seem to support that." So what? According to the article, the researchers controlled for that. If you disagree that they did so correctly, that is one thing. To forward this counter-claim in the absence of a rebuttal of their methodology however stinks of mendacity.

Now my question is, did Dan and these Harvard researchers and the other media writers who he quotes as having blitzed the news with counter-claims, well did they actually bother to read the article, note that paragraph, and realize that in order to falsify the article's claims they had to show that paragraph as in fact not true?

If they didn't then that's a failure of literacy and logic. An ontological deficit made apparent by the elites of our nation not even able to read a few brief paragraphs before shooting off their mouths.

Did you think that the oldman was getting cute coining a term like ontological deficit? I'm not kidding. It's not just isolated to here either. The POTUS can't be bothered to read the title of his daily Presidential briefing - you know the one entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Attack Inside United States". The Senators on the intelligence oversight committee can't be bothered to read the abstract summaries of the intelligence reports submitted to them. The intellectual elites can't be bothered to actually read a few brief paragraphs of summary text and respond to it logically before cavailing about defending their favorite pet ideas.

What is going on here? I call it the ontological deficit of America. I think it has serious and catastrophic consequences. To be even handed though, my next target will be a liberal economist whom otherwise I like very much.


At September 25, 2004 at 11:14 AM, Blogger calmo said...

A tad late here. This:
"Did you think that the oldman was getting cute coining a term like ontological deficit? I'm not kidding."
needs to be addressed.
No not 'cute', but a tad pretentious. It speaks of a certain insecurity that you might be upstaged by someone who has intellectual ( philosophical?) ambitions.
Some of us would rather hear about how the American high school graduate compares to his international peers ( not well) and to examine why this might be so, than face the next self-aggrandizing installment: the epistemological deficit. Just a thought.


Post a Comment

<< Home