Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” When it comes to the latest NAEP scores, this philosophy has been embraced by AFT president Randi Weingarten and anti-reform guru Diane Ravitch, who both cited a single standardized test as irrefutable evidence that standardized testing is a failure.
To her credit, NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia did not go that route, instead releasing a statement that said, in part: “Scores should be viewed in context, over time and, just because a single test score goes down (or up) it does not represent the complexity of the system or mean good things are not happening.” This is consistent with NEA’s previously stated positions on the issue.
Alas, the strain of being moderate and consistent was too much to bear for more than 24 hours, resulting in a statement about last night’s GOP debate berating the participants for failing to “recognize the road to a strong economy starts in America’s classroom and begins with investing in our greatest natural resource—our students.” She sarcastically noted that the Republican candidates were consistent. “Unfortunately,” she said, “that only means they consistently ignore the needs of children, working families and those everyday Americans who are finding it harder and harder to get by, let alone get ahead.”
By way of contrast, her statement on the Democrat debate was headlined, “Education gets air time in first Democratic presidential debate.” Almost everyone else commented on the lack of air time education got. (See here, here and here.)
Of course, being dependably inconsistent is a consistency of sorts. It is part and parcel of the practice of compartmentalized argument. Facts are presented, but are supposed to be interpreted only in the form in which they are presented. Consistency would require checking old talking points before issuing new ones, and who needs that headache?