Are We Allowed to Be Neither Naive Nor Cynical?

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

I have a question. Am I permitted to be neither naïve nor cynical about the Tony Bennett emails? Or is there some sort of law that dictates I must be one or the other? Indiana StateImpact places me with the Bennett supporters while Matt seems to think I’m attacking Bennett (I’m not sure how else to interpret “haters gonna hate”). I don’t intend to be either.

I find it difficult to buy the new house line, and I will continue to find it difficult until someone asks Bennett the obvious question: “If this was a glitch in the system, as we are now being told, why did you seek to change the grade only for this one school?” Rick Hess didn’t ask him that question. Matt seems uninterested in asking it, and seems to think I’m a “hater” for asking it. Until that question is answered, I don’t see why I’m a “hater” for pointing out uncomfortable realities.

Is it really so scandalous, does it really make me a “hater,” to acknowledge the obvious fact that politicians are responsive to their donors? When government sets educational standards and has to do what Bennett himself calls a “face validity” test, it is going to know which schools are run by major donors and it is going to be sensitive to that fact. Good grief, are we this naïve?

What we have now is not “the rest of the story” but a failure to seek the rest of the story. Or am I somehow missing something?

On the other hand, Ze’ev and others seem to think I’m saying all standards are arbitrary and there’s no such thing as a rational public consensus. I’m not; I’m just trying to be realistic about what I called “the sausage-making nature of the process” when those standards are being cooked up behind closed doors by a government bureaucracy and its political allies, as opposed to standards that emerge organically from the give and take of a thriving marketplace of options. Technology standards emerge in the context of a system dominated by consumer choice. Educational standards should emerge in the same way.

7 Responses to Are We Allowed to Be Neither Naive Nor Cynical?

  1. Matthew Ladner says:


    I did not intend to lump you in with the “haters.” You explicitly said that you did not believe that Tony was corrupt. If you google the phrase “Indiana grading scandal” you will however find many examples of people who took this misleading story and ran with it.

    There is no way that anyone in Tony’s position would have allowed these 13 schools to get knocked for a lack of 11th and 12th grade students. This story looks to have started with a fishing expedition request for emails and in lacking that critical context turned into a hatchet job.

    • Greg Forster says:

      I appreciate your clarifying that, Matt.

      I agree there is no way anyone in Tony’s position would allow these 13 schools to get knocked for not having 11th and 12th grade students – if that is in fact all that was going on. I also think that no one in Tony’s position would create a school accountability system without checking to see how his key donor’s school would be ranked by it. That is just the nature of the beast.

      My question for Bennett remains: “If this was a glitch in the system, as we are now being told, why did you seek to change the grade only for this one school?”

      • Matthew Ladner says:

        On what basis are you saying that Tony tried to change the grade of just this one school if the grades of 13 schools in a similar situation changed?

      • Greg Forster says:

        1) That is what all the news stories are reporting the emails show, and

        2) Bennett has not denied it (at least not in any of the statements I’ve seen).

        That’s why I want someone to ask him the question. All I’m saying is, let’s ask the question.

  2. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    As I wrote on yesterday’s blog entry, it seems Rick Hess *did* ask the question, and Tony Bennett did answer:

    “TB: I think grades changed for all 13. All 13 didn’t have 11th or 12th grades the way our system would recognize them, so they were all being calculated at zero for those particular measures.”

    Yet it may be that the issue is not really with those absent 11-12 grades, but with Christel’s actual scores. See here:

    Rick Hess brings up another issue. He quotes Bennett as appreciating Indiana people saying “We know Tony, and we know he wouldn’t change a grade for a dollar.”

    Which brings up two points.

    1) I can believe Bennett won’t do it for a dollar. Would he do it for 90,000 dollars? (Echoes of that old Churchill joke )

    2) Reminds me of Checker Finn’s assertion of incorruptibility when the question of his foundation getting one million dollars grant from Bill Gates arose in 2010: . Well, since then his Fordham Institute got another $2.5 millions in grants from Bill Gates ( ) If $1M is insufficient to question Gates’ influence on Fordham’s stance vis-a-vis the Common Core, is $3.5M sufficient? At what point do Fordham people become simply paid lobbyist for Bill Gates?

    • Greg Forster says:

      Here is the question Rick asked: “Did other school grades change?”

      Here is the question he did not ask: “Why did you seek to change the grade only for this one school?”

      You see the difference?

  3. […] leaders to ditch exams aligned with Common Core reading and math standards. Common Core foes smell blood. Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute, whose shoddy anti-Common Core mythmaking has been the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: