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Pareene, For the Win


Alex Pareene has had about enough of the pundits, ranging from conservative to “liberal,” who are somewhere between outraged and annoyed by the Chicago teachers strike. I am going to write something more substantive about this going forward, about how the liberal punditry (I just assume the conservatives are evil) have problems with unions because they fully buy into the idea of individual achievement (never mind that most of them went to Harvard and Yale) and thus are suspicious of collective action, something they never think they’ve had to do in their lives.

Anyway, Pareene has had enough, especially given the utter hackishness of most of the pundits. And so he tweets:

Fun fact: pundits supporting test-based teacher evals work in a field with no professional consequences for making readers stupider



Hard to argue with that one.

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  • Malboa

    seems like Pareene’s mistake is believing that the job of the pundit is to inform his/her readers

    • Desert Rat

      Well, in all fairness, it takes one person to start a new trend.

    • ploeg

      It’s a common mistake. Krugman thinks that, when he’s asked to predict what is to happen economically, he is to use his models and knowledge and make the best prediction possible. I don’t think that it took him long to realize that his job is actually to flatter and entertain his bosses and the subscribers who buy the crap in the Saks Fifth Avenue ads, but he persists out of sheer bloodymindedness.

      • Cody

        He’s really bringing down the whole Pundit profession with him.

        Luckily, I doubt his rebellion will catch on. Unlikely many pundits will stop their logical lies and do something as crazy as telling the truth from time to time.

    • Pareene Fever–Catch it!

  • I think these people are all for collective action – as long as it’s for a small group of people just like them. A good part of the value of going to these elite schools is being part of networks where the elite help each other out. Much like conservatives are fine with socialism as long as it’s confined to the wealthy and banks, these folks are fine with collective action as long as it’s confined to graduates of Harvard and Slate.

    • somethingblue

      Yeah, pretty much. Matt Yglesias, for example, supports Rheeism in much the same way Tom Friedman supported the Iraq war. He’s not actually in favor of the thing as implemented by the people who will be implementing it (heavens no), he’s in favor of an entirely imaginary version of it in which everybody involved implements his own ideas and then flowers and candy are thrown.

      In the real world, of course, actual teachers and kids get to suck. on. this.

      • dollared

        That.was.pitch.perfect. Meter, rhythm, imagery. And so fucking true.

      • wengler

        Matt Yglesias is also one of those people that thinks any job that is done by millions of people is probably not at all hard nor all that valuable.

        • Anonymous

          “Matt Yglesias is also one of those people that thinks any job that is done by millions of people is probably not at all hard nor all that valuable.”

          Matt has never had a job worth a good d*mn, and as pointed out, the job he does have is notorious for not being based on anything except BS.

      • cheap wino

        Yglesias’ hard on for Rhee always struck me as, um, a hard on for Rhee.

        • Walt

          It struck me as the part of his brain he outsources to the collective consciousness.

        • Barry

          “Yglesias’ hard on for Rhee always struck me as, um, a hard on for Rhee.”

          That, and he’s just like a young neocon with a panting after the warmongers. Just as I’d love to hand those guys over to the (Support the!) Troops for use as mine detectors, I’d love to draft some of those school ‘reformers’ to work in classrooms, with lots of punishment for not meeting norms.

          • Kal

            Please, think of the children!

  • Rob

    Yes but they also have the experience of working for organizations that lose money every year and yet never have their jobs threatened.

    • Marc

      You are aware that the newspaper business has been shedding jobs at a fierce rate, right?

      • Emma in Sydney

        Not the right ones, unfortunately.

      • Pseudonym

        They’re mostly just shedding reporters though, not the important people.

      • Rob

        Pundits don’t lose jobs. Sometimes like Broder they even get to take buyouts and “retire” just to be hired back at likely higher wages.

  • firefall

    I was under the impression there were professional consequences for making readers stupider – namely, promotion and a salary bump.

    • Malaclypse

      People wrongly assume that a pundit’s “real job” is to deliver information to readers, rather than to give the upper-middle class a warm fuzzy feeling that leaves them vaguely happy with the advertisers of this “insightful” information.

      • timb

        How much of a pundit’s income is derived from speaking to the totebagger/corporate set of comfortable upper and upper middle class professionals.

        That’s their constituency; that and other pundits with whom they can share the speaker’s circuit podium with.

  • Fun fact: pundits supporting test-based teacher evals work in a field with no professional consequences for making readers viewers, listeners stupider

    Also, too, some folks (Roger Ailes, Faux News, Rush) actually are bearing the full force of professional consequences for making their readers, viewers, and listeners stupider – they are becoming rich by lining up the suckers for the slaughter.

    In fact, my observation is that the public school destruction mission from the Republican god actually has the same goal – keep the rabble as stupid as possible and fully compliant with the agenda of the current aristocratic class in the New Gilded Age.

    Educating the citizenry, formally or casually, is simply not in their interest. Critical thinking, using logic, seeking out facts are all severe impediments to eliminating the social safety net, cutting taxes on rich people to zero and austerity for the rest, etc.

    • Linnaeus

      In fact, my observation is that the public school destruction mission from the Republican god actually has the same goal – keep the rabble as stupid as possible and fully compliant with the agenda of the current aristocratic class in the New Gilded Age.

      It’s a key component of their program of neofeudalism.

      • c u n d gulag

        Serf’s don’ kneed ’em no edumakashion.

        • Cody

          I found the serfs in The Holy Grail to be highly educated. Although their ambiguity on their particular governmental structural was disheartening.

    • Heron

      In fact, my observation is that the public school destruction mission from the Republican god actually has the same goal

      How else can you square Republican crocodile-tears about the Constitution and their killing of Civics education in the US? We’d have a far more politically savvy electorate if everyone just had a year-long course covering the Federalist Papers in high school, but if we did it’d be much harder to convince people the that Framers were Christian fundamentalists who didn’t envision the Union as a national government, and that they’d have been perfectly fine with the rebellion of the Confederacy.

      • firefall

        depends who wrote the textbooks for it – if they come from Texas, they WOULD prove they were Christianist fundamentalists, and they intended the 10 commandments to be the base of the Constitution.

  • Your teacher would like to advise you not to use the phrase “going forward.” We don’t think you’ll be going backward, esp. when you’ve already typed “I am going to.”

  • bradp

    A bit of a noob on this topic, so a noob question:

    While I do understand that external factors are more important than teacher quality, I think evaluating teacher performance on some level is important. That said, arguments concerning test-based evaluations being inaccurate, ineffective, and often counterproductive and unjust is convincing to me.

    So help me out with the alternatives to test-based evaluations.

    • Cody

      A district level team of evaluators who sit in on class and/or video tape a week of classes each year. They do something similar with principals currently, but since most principals aren’t teachers because they’re awful at it…

      Perhaps it would be a 3 person team: Elected position, administrator, and union rep. They would each score. Coming from somewhere lowers the chances of bias. Some other method for making sure you still couldn’t fire someone cause you dislike them would need to be established. Maybe a tribunal?

      • bradp

        A district level team of evaluators who sit in on class and/or video tape a week of classes each year.

        I was thinking something along those lines. I wonder whether the criteria itself should be generated at a district level or whether the evaluators would be judging to a national standard.

        • Sly

          The evaluation standards would probably be state-wide. I can only speak for New York State, but our Board of Ed has a list of approved rubrics for in-class performance evaluations. The most commonly used one is, I think, the one developed by New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), our union, and I know a number of Teacher Prep programs utilize it (or a variation of it) for student teacher evaluations.

    • Ohio Mom

      I’m not going to say that teacher evaluation methods shouldn’t be strenthened, because of course that would be a good idea. (You do know that ongoing teacher evaluations already exist? In my state for example, even the most senior teachers are observed by an administrator every few years. If the administrator doesn’t follow up in any meaningful way, that’s not the teacher’s doing.)

      What I am going to say is, what an example of the old Overton Window shifting this is. Why do I read, in thread after thread, blog after blog, questions like this one (and I don’t mean to pick on you, Bradp, you asked your question in complete fairness and honesty) instead of the question, “How can we be more like Finland and emphasize helping teachers in their professional development?”

      I wish I had noted where exactly where in blogtopia I read the interview with the Finnish educator, who in response to the question, “What do you do with underperforming teachers?” answered, “We help them.” “And if they don’t improve?” “We help them some more.”

      We have inadvertently adopted the stance that teachers need to be sorted, like eggs at the packing facility, and the ones that don’t measure up need to be tossed. When we ask, “How can we make the sorting system better?” it implies that their are a lot of bad eggs out there the public needs to be protected from. We hand the school deformers a little victory, when we should instead be asking, “How can we support teacher improvement?”

      • Ohio Mom

        duh, there not their.

      • firefall

        Thats the most cogent comment I’ve read on the whole issue, so far. Thanks.

        • RhZ

          And probably the best comment I have read in the last week or two.

          Excellent! Or as we say around here, harumph!

      • Colin Day

        But how much of our educational system depends on sorting students like eggs? As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

  • jon

    It seems that the pundits are unanimous in calling for the pay scale and continued employment of pundits and columnists to be entirely based on the test results and advancement of their readers.

  • bobbyp

    So where’s the evaluation team for my doctor, lawyer, and accountant?

    • DrDick

      Or the head of the school district?

  • Rarely Posts

    Personally, I wonder how much elite anti-union opinion is a product of Yale’s ongoing battles and/or caves with the various Yale unions (particularly the dining hall workers), combined with the fierce student activism.* Yale’s administration is often very unresponsive to student action groups, unions, student movements, and so the battles can go on forever. The unions representing unskilled workers often demand a lot, their workers already have relatively good wages and benefits, and Yale’s the only employment game in town (so they are getting paid substantially above market). The dining hall service is pretty horrible (mostly for reasons completely outside worker control, not least of which is that there are 12 or more dining halls, each serving small numbers of people). When the administration tries to break a strike, they give checks to every student to buy food, so they eat much better—thus making them relatively unsympathetic to the workers. Finally, a good chunk (but by no means the majority) of Yale students are very dedicated to liberalism and activism (including the Union activism), but as one would expect from 18-21 year olds, few have learned or mastered actually effective activism or politics—so they can be very annoying.

    Meanwhile, that Union battle rages around a number of overwhelmingly privileged students. The majority are very hardworking, driven, careerist, type-A achievers who already have bought into the meritocracy, establishment strategy—even the students who rationally know that it’s wrong have had to buy in to get where they are. Of course, you’ve then got the Bush II types, etc., who are already at the very top of society’s status hierarchy.

    None of the above is meant to criticize the Unions for trying to do well by their workers, but the upshot is that: (1) the experience of the students as consumers is that the workers don’t add much to the quality of their lives; (2) the workers already have a much better deal than the majority of workers who are unionizing; and (3) the Unions do a very bad job of selling their movement to the majority of the careerist students. So, a lot of the careerist students coming out have turned against workers and Unions.

    Obviously, people should not shape their attitudes about Unions and workers based solely on their experience as a student eating at a dining hall. But, in some ways, almost all people are unfortunately apt to allow their personal experiences overwhelm objective evidence—this is a universal condition—so sadly, I’m sure it happens.

    * Yale has the potential to be particularly influential because it trains a lot of future academics and writers, and it generally has the reputation of the most “liberal” of the high-status Ivies. Thus, it’s where one might hope for sympathetic elites.

    • Anonymous

      Rarely Posts – Matt, for example, is from Harvard. It doesn’t take a Yale degree to be an entitled sh*t.

  • Lee

    Hasn’t this always been a perenial problem in America. That a lot of people buy into the idea of individual achievement and reject collective action?

    • L2P

      Yes, it’s more like a lot of people buy into the idea of individual achievement and ignore, or get get quite offended if you bring up, the collective action required for their “individual” achievement. Thus the vast anger over Obama’s “you didn’t build this” comment.

  • JL

    Being an “elite” in terms of where I went to college myself, and having formerly (probably 4-5 years ago) been a lot more suspicious of collective action then than I am now, and still being around a lot of people with that same suspicious mindset…

    A lot of people in that group (at least the ones from upper-middle-class backgrounds – as you might expect, those who came from a working-class background often have a different take) just don’t get collective action. Maybe they get why it was useful back in 1890, but they don’t get it now. When they were growing up, their parents weren’t union members, their friends’ parents weren’t union members, they might never have known anyone in a union besides their teachers.

    I don’t think it’s just about unions though. It’s about teachers and schools and resentment. A lot of young educationally-elite liberals still have resentment about their K-12 experience, where they were constantly bored in class, bullied for being smart while the teachers didn’t or were unable to help, and got in trouble for knowing more math than the math teacher. This sometimes leads to a belief that most K-12 teachers are incompetent and not very smart. I have witnessed, and participated in, some rather heated arguments about this among 20/30-something MIT graduates.

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