Our Morning Roundup: McWhorter, Saletan, and the Color of Performance
Good morning, City Desk readers, and welcome to another edition of Freedom Friday. We're wrapping up our Summer Music Guide as I type, and I can assure you that it's going to be a doozie–the kind of doozie you'll likely keep on your coffee table from May 15 through September 1 as a quick reference to the summer's most notable shows, from Baltimore to Richmond and everywhere in between.
William Saletan vs. John McWhorter and Stephen Colbert vs. Byron York, after the jump.
- At his New Republic blog, John McWhorter lights into Slate's William Saletan (Amanda Hess' favorite pro-lifer). A few years ago, McWhorter writes, Saletan "was shot at like a varmint...after writing some columns on evidence that black people are genetically less gifted mentally than whites," and now he's being too timid in response to findings that No Child Left Behind has failed to close the achievement gap between white and black students. Specifically, McWhorter thinks Saletan made a mistake by asking "Why categorize and measure students by race?" McWhorter, who is both black and conservative–two decades after Armstrong Williams rose to prominence, this still qualifies as a novelty–backed off a little when he read the mea culpa that Saletan, who's white and conservative, published. The novella-length exchange is worth your time. In short, McWhorter maintains that education critics shouldn't shy away from the topic, even if the new study suggests that disparities in academic performance transcend environmental factors, but Saletan just isn't ready to go there. My two cents: The best public schools in the country are light-years behind mediocre private institutions. Why, then, are we surprised that a federally mandated public education program put together by Republicans failed to do what university-level education departments haven't been able to accomplish in decades of classroom experiments? Now would be a great time to stick it to Congress–most of which members' children attend private schools–for killing D.C.'s voucher program.
- Also on the race front: FishbowlDC (yeah, that Fishbowl) did a nice job capturing (and by "capturing," I mean, "imbedding a video of") Stephen Colbert lambasting Washington Examiner columnist Byron York. The sentence that got Colbert's team of writers–as well as Matt Yglesias (or, at least we think it was Yglesias who wrote about it)–so upset? "But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are." The rest of the column is simply a recitation of approval ratings broken down by race (York discovered that Obama has a significantly higher approval rating–we're talking 20-30 percentage points–among black voters). The fallout from his column was hot enough to inspire York to write a follow-up. IMHO, this kind of analysis is innocuous compared to the racial finger-pointing that Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, and, yes, even I committed when exit poll data suggested that blacks and Latinos bore a disproportionate responsibility for the passage of Proposition 8 in California. (Nate Silver, god love'm, proved us all wrong.)
That's it for me, good readers. Keep your eyes peeled for next week's Summer Music Guide.