Clintonism breaks out in Swifty fight.

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 23 2004 3:04 AM

Clintonism Breaks Out

The Kerry eyewitnesses' fuzzy phrasing ...

(Continued from Page 3)

Times Crusade II--Anti-SUV: Isn't the key factor in those comparative highway safety statistics--one only barely hinted at by the New York Times' Danny Hakim--the sociological difference between the drivers of different types and makes of vehicles? Malcolm Gladwell uncharacteristically ignored this factor in his overrated anti-SUV piece ** earlier this year. ... For example, are "vans" the safest category, in terms of occupant deaths-per-mile, because the vehicles are safe or because vans (especially minivans) are mainly driven by cautious, milquetoasty moms? Is the Toyota 4-Runner relatively unsafe because it tends to roll over--or do 4-Runner drivers roll over so often because they tend to be aggressive young jerks? ...

**--Gladwell also dramatically proved, through intrepid, hands-on reporting, that a Porsche Boxster sports car handles better than a Chevy TrailBlazer SUV! ....

Update: Here's a study that--if I read it right-- tries to correct for variables like negligence, age of driver, speeding, etc. It concludes that pickup trucks, not SUVs, are the problem. SUVs do kill more third parties (e.g. other drivers, pedestrians) but they save the lives of those in the SUVs, and the second factor outweighs the first by over a thousand lives a year. (See page 26 of the Adobe Acrobat version of the full study.) This is completely in accord with the hoary consumer folk wisdom ('I won't die, the other guy will') that Gladwell sets out to debunk. [Thanks to alert reader J.H.]  P.S.: But note that it's a little unfair to correct for speeding, since (as the study's author notes) SUVs may give drivers the false impression that they aren't speeding when they are. ... Further study: The paper behind this abstract seems to come to a different conclusion.  ... 3:17 A.M.

Times Crusade I--Anti-NCLB: I was naturally suspicious of the NYT's front-page shot at charter schools--which trumpets data fed the paper by the American Federation of Teachers--but I didn't spot an obvious hole. The Times even seemed to have conservative ed-expert Chester Finn on the defensive. ... Eduwonk to the rescue. The fair-and-balancedAndy Rotherham points out that when you control for race, "it turns out there is no statistically significant difference between charter schools and other public schools." That's a big deal because the charter schools in the survey have almost twice as many black students as the public schools surveyed--some 61% of the charter schools were in the "central city."  The executive summary of the AFT's own report notes

because minority student achievement is generally low, it is therefore important to ask whether or not charters' disproportionate enrollment of black (but not Hispanic) students explains the lower achievement of charter schools relative to regular public schools.

The AFT's bizarre answer is that "The [survey] results suggest it does not." Huh? In the very next sentence the AFT admits that the differences between the two types of schools, when you control for race, "were not statistically significant." Doesn't that mean race does, in fact, explain the lower achievement of charter schools? A casual reader might conclude that the AFT's summary**--and its pitch to the NYT--were tendentious! Rotherham asks

[How] long can the AFT continue to trade on the notion that all this is more in sorrow than anger? They just don't like charter schools, they're not reluctantly concluding that they don't work, they're fervently hoping and working to ensure that's the case.

Yes, 'even the AFT' thinks charter schools don't work. ...

P.S.: The Times actually highlights the comparative test scores for each racial category in a chart that says flatly: "In almost every racial... category, fourth graders attending charter schools are ouperformed by their peers in traditional public schools." The chart gives as its source the AFT. But the AFT's own analysis declares that in the racial categories the math results presented in the Times' chart were "small and statistically insignificant. In reading, the gaps were even narrower." Why break out this "insignificant" difference in a chart and pretend it's significant?

** The executive summary of the AFT's paper--clearly written with spin in mind--also quite deceptively hides the fact that the differences in reading scores between central city charter and central city public schools were "small and statistically insignificant."

P.P.S.: I can't quite believe that former AFT head Albert Shanker--who, pace Mr. Allen, was one of the two or three smartest and most no-B.S. public figures I've ever seen in action--would tolerate this sort of deception if he were still alive. And if he had a nuclear weapon ...