The Talking Dog

August 30, 2006, Look over there!

When confronted with any... unpleasantness... the President quickly shifts into his favorite position (probably complete with camouflage-patterned underwear, though I have no evidence of this)... that being "the War President TM." This week, the President was forced to deal with the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the... less than fully effective... federal response, both at the time and with respect to clean-up (our friend Kevin Hayden of American Street has a multi-media compendium on Katrina matters)... and the blogosphere in general has many other discussions of the subject.

Not to worry. There is always an answer: the President, of course, plans to give more speeches on terrorism. (The same Grey Lady article, btw, alludes to Rumsfeld's sudden need to call Islamists "fascists", because, after all, misusing nomenclature is an essential part of the winning strategy...) After all, what else would you talk about? The decline in real wages I alluded to recently? The biggest plunge in SAT scores in over 30 years which occurred during the watch of "the Education President TM"? Or how about all that "good news" that keeps coming out of Iraq? Or even how stable his policies have made the Middle East?

No... best to... play on irrational fear! That's the ticket! The bet is that, coupled with the usual Al Zawahiri tape (probably during the Jewish holidays in late September or early October) and the bin Laden tape (probably a few days before Halloween) and the two or three "orange alerts" (and possibly the capture of another Al Qaeda Number Three TM, either in Pakistan or Afghanistan)... well, those people who, five years after 9-11, are still spooked by this... will still be spooked by it.

But one would think that number of such gullible people is declining (and one would think that, given that this is "only" a Congressional election, maybe the Bushmen's heart isn't in it.) Maybe things like deficits and wages and education and health care and the environment and social security and unfair tax policies, and yes, badly managed military actions, might matter more to voters than a shrill alarm about a real, though vastly overstated threat.

But as we've come to learn with American politics in the 21st century... that ain't how you bet.


In all, test-takers averaged a 2-point drop in math and a 5-point drop in reading from last year, College Board officials said Tuesday. They attributed declines to 41,000 fewer students retaking the test than last year.

"Whenever a new test is introduced, students usually vary their behavior in ways that affect their score," says College Board's Gaston Caperton.

Did you even bother to actually READ the USA Today article?! Moron.

Posted by Steve at August 31, 2006 10:59 AM

Actually, Steve is right. The SAT has changed a bit. Here is a sample question:
Ass is to Hole, as Steve is to _______:

A) Still living in his Mom's basement
B) Still looking for a date for the Prom
C) Still getting stuffed in his locker
D) Growing hair on his palms

Careful. It's a trick question.

Posted by Billy Batts at August 31, 2006 11:55 AM

stop the yellow, it hurts my eyes!

Posted by me at August 31, 2006 11:55 AM

Wow! Real intelligent insight there Billy boy. What a shock. When confronted with facts, liberals resort to personal attacks. Typical of the ignorance invading the left.

Perhaps the two of you should take a reading comprehension course. If USA Today is above you, you're in SERIOUS trouble.

Posted by Steve at August 31, 2006 12:05 PM

Hey, Steve... watch the fightin' words. Billy Batts may be many things, but he's no liberal! And please... don't accuse anyone of personal attacks after you started out with a personal attack.

Anyway, let's look at "the facts". All you're reciting about the USA Today article is a conclusion that the exam givers want out there, to cover up for the fact that either (a) they have altered the playing field by giving a harder, more grueling test that no one wants to take again, (b) they have altered the playing field by giving a more expensive test, or, if they've done their God damned jobs, (c) they HAVEN'T altered the playing field, and the test takers actually just plain scored lower (not that much lower, btw, around 1/2 a question per exam, though over 1.5 million takers, it adds up to statistical significance nonetheless.)

The very same USA Article notes that indeed, overall exam taking is down (by around 40,000 out of 1.5 million); it ALSO notes that lower income exam takers are down by a degree they can't explain; lower income students have tended historicalaly to have reduced test scores compared to middle and higher income students, of course, so their lower numbers when overall scores are down is kind of puzzling.

Now... why might fewer students be taking the exam? It's cost went up around $12; if that's driving thousands of people away from a chance at college admissions, then it's certainly a testiment to the "strong economy" the President is presiding over. Particularly since there was a fee waiver available.

Or perhaps tens of thousands of people have given up on wanting to attend college, and aren't taking the test. See above: re good news about strong economy. Some colleges (Bowdoin, for example) no longer require the SAT, and so at the elite levels, some students may opt not to take it.

The test has, of course, changed before during the last 30 years, without this level of plunge in test scores. (Frankly, it seems perplexing when one considers that rival test, the ACT, seems to have test scores that dramatically improved at the same time.)

Short answer: I don't know the answer, and YOU don't know the answer. But I didn't profess to know the answer and then call someone else a childish name; you did that (and then worse, showed that you have a thin skin when someone else responds to you in kind.)

Frankly, just as the President and his defenders insist that he "never said" Saddam's Iraq was responsible for 9-11 (even as he rarely mentions one in a sentence without the other), I never said that "the Education President TM" was responsible for the decline... merely that it happened on his watch. And it most assuredly did.

Or didn't you READ the post?

Posted by the talking dog at August 31, 2006 1:30 PM

As the parent of a teenager who just took the SAT, I am well aware of the changes in the tests. IMHO, that accounts for the changes in test scores over the past year. Frankly, it's hard to see what else could account for such changes. There's nothing that the federal government could do or not do that would have any effect over such a short period of time.

Posted by DBL at August 31, 2006 2:06 PM

Changing the subject (as we surely need to) and reverting to the opening comment on Katrina it baffles a European like me that a nation that, a lifetime ago, could put 250,000 prefab parts together and turn out an ocean-going Liberty Ship in 70 days tops can't put NO together again. Where did the will go?

Posted by euro-ron at August 31, 2006 2:46 PM

It's unfortunate that whether behind closed doors or in public, all politicians favor damage control and spin over problem resolution.

Posted by Stanford Matthews at August 31, 2006 4:03 PM

The answer is "d."

I do touch myself much to much
Much Much I enjoy my touch
So much much I've grown a wruch.

Posted by Steve Seuss at August 31, 2006 5:09 PM