Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stossel's Attacks On Public Education Feature Misleading, Out-Of-Context Claims

From Media Matters for America courtesy of Eschaton:

During a Fox News appearance promoting an episode of his Fox Business show, John Stossel used misleading and out-of-context statistics to tout charter schools as a preferable alternative to traditional public schools.


Stossel: "In 1970 They Spent $50,000 On K-12 Education ... Now It's Triple That. But Test Scores ... Totally Flat."

From Fox News' Your World:

NEIL CAVUTO (host): That's a preview of what is to come on Stossel tomorrow night on FBN. And John hopes one Joe Biden is watching. Why? What was the vice president saying on this?

STOSSEL: He went to Pennsylvania to say if you just pass this jobs bill, we'll hire 300,000 new teachers and that will be wonderful for the kids. But if you look at the data, they have spent so much more -- this graphic shows it well. In 1970, they spent $50,000 on K-12 education, adjusted for inflation; now it's triple that. But test scores, the lines on the bottom, totally flat.

More here.

John Stossel's been on the air at least since I was in high school.

Indeed, I used to like his reports on ABC's show 20/20. He was always fun, debunking conventional wisdom on this or that topic, a sort of friend of the consumer, cheerfully and amusingly setting up his targets and then taking them down. Then at some point in the mid 90s I had to reevaluate him. He went after organic food, pushing the idea that, contrary to what everybody else seems to think, industrially produced food of all varieties is far more healthy than its organic counterpart. He used one guy, some scientist I'd never heard of, to verify all his claims.

This didn't really pass the smell test for me, so I started paying more attention to his stuff: in the long run, it became clear that, instead of being the consumer's champion, far from it, he is the exact opposite, the capitalist's best friend, an apologist extraordinaire for Big Business, a kind of modern day version of old 1950s pro-nuke propaganda.

In short, Stossel's just your standard libertarian piece of shit, albeit with a very friendly and loquacious facade, pushing his nonsensical views as news. It's just as well that he finally left ABC and moved over to Fox where his bullshit is much more obvious as bullshit, simply because Fox is bullshit, and most people know it.

Anyway, click through and read the Media Matters piece; it's got some very precise fact-checking, which virtually always makes Stossel's absurd claims collapse. But I just wanted to make a couple of points MM doesn't make.

First, charter schools can in no way be viewed as some sort of alternative to public schools. That's because charter schools aren't an approach to education. Rather, charter schools, in their totality, are an experiment, or if you prefer, a whole bunch of educational experiments. The idea is to free individual campuses of standard education rules and regulations, just to see what they come up with--if a charter school here or there finds something promising, maybe it can be adapted for use in the public schools. Consequently, there is no one single charter school method; there are as many charter approaches as there are charter schools. To push it as some sort of "alternative" to public education is to reveal that you have no fucking clue as to what you're talking about, which is no surprise with Stossel, who often has no idea what he's talking about.

Second, and perhaps we can be a bit more forgiving of Stossel on this because the entire public discourse on education is dominated by the concept, standardized test scores simply cannot be used as the sole measurement by which we gauge student learning. There are so many variables in a student's life that have absolutely nothing to do with what happens in the classroom, but have everything to do with student performance, that it is essentially impossible to tell how well a school is doing based on test scores alone. Indeed, one SAT official years ago remarked that we might as well erase the scores and replace them with parental incomes because we'd end up with just about the same result.

So, like I said, perhaps we can forgive Stossel just a bit on this one because the politicians and pundits are all about test scores these days when it comes to education. On the other hand, Stossel presents himself as a reporter, and if he'd actually done his job, he wouldn't be furthering this kind of right-wing libertarian claptrap. So forget the forgiveness. Fuck him.

He's just a shit-for-brains propagandist for the One Percent.