Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BBC&O: The denouement

It’s been some time since we referred to our “local print media” as the NOTWIUN (Newspaper Of The WIllfully UNinformed.)  Recent activity, or lack thereof, to be more precise, in the subject of “BBC&O – made for each other,” brought that sobriquet back to top of mind.  And don’t forget the “afterthought.”

You will recall that your correspondent was shocked, shocked we say, over the agitprop written by Matthew Klingle, a Bowdoin College Professor, and printed in The Ostrich before the recent school budget election.  Or on today’s tangent, the NOTWIUN.

Given the healthy supply of intellectual curiosity we possess, like any good editor should, we went in search of substantiation for Klingle’s Klaims.  So we went straight to the source with this email:

Professor Klingle:

I have just been catching up on my newspaper reading, and came across your letter published in the Times Record this past Friday, June 3rd.

In the spirit of academic inquiry, I would like to ask you about the following passages from that letter:

  • "precarious state of our public schools nationally and in Maine;" on what objective data do you base this assertion?
  • "an impoverished school system;" ditto - on what objective data do you base this assertion?
  • "the importance of well-funded and accountable schools;" please define what you mean by 'well-funded' and 'accountable,' and in particular, what you do to hold our local school system accountable.
  • "at the very moment that we're recruiting prospective employers and investors to come here;" please elaborate on this assertion, and whom you are referring to.
  • You also cite "budget cuts over the past five decades," and how they intensify "spirals of economic and social disruption."

I take explicit exception to your assertion that budgets have been cut over the past five decades.  I have compiled budget data for Brunswick going back to 1988, and the notion of budget cuts over this period is patently absurd.

The school budget has tripled over these years, and total expenditures for the town, including schools, has done the same.  In view of these increases, budget cuts and 'spiraling disruption' is a canard of the worst and least ethical sort.

Unless, however, you can provide evidence proving otherwise.  If challenged on this, I'll do what I can to compile data going back to 1961 to test your hypothesis.

I am confident that a review of state and federal budget history, adjusted for inflation, would show that they have increased monotonically as well.

Now the last question: did the opinion editor of the Times Record ask you to substantiate your claims before accepting your letter for publication?


That message was sent exactly one week ago, and we hate to disappoint you, but there has been not a sliver of a response to it.  No doubt the professor is busy grading papers, even if the school year ended some weeks ago.  Or he’s doing independent research on the issues raised, and will be submitting a lengthy thesis in response.  He might even be brewing up a fresh batch of adult Klingle Kool-Aid.

That last italicized paragraph ties back to “Suspicions confirmed: vetting the vetter.” the all time record setting post on Side.  As we did in that sorry episode, we launched off a letter to the editor regarding the offending claims.  It read as follows:

To the Editor:

No one who follows events in Brunswick would have even a smidgeon of a doubt that the referendum on the School Budget, held last week, would pass with overwhelming numbers. A largely clueless electorate (“there was an election?”), coupled with dependable ‘it’s for the children’ voters virtually guarantee that any number put before the public would be approved, no matter how unwarranted.

Hence, there is absolutely no need for a letter writer, a Bowdoin professor no less, to engage in barefaced agitation and propaganda in support of the budget. Times Record editors have a well-established weakness for the unsubstantiated assertions of tax and spend advocates, but you would think they could discern a glaringly false submission before printing if for unknowing readers.

You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. Matthew Klingle made the following statement in his letter: “Budget cuts over the past five decades have resulted in intensifying spirals of economic and social disruption.” This was after asserting that our school system is ‘impoverished” and our public schools are in a “precarious state.”

Anyone who says budgets have declined over the decades at municipal, state, or federal levels is either grossly incompetent, or a shameless liar. Here in Brunswick, school spending has tripled since the late 80’s. Even adjusted for inflation, it has increased steadily, especially on a per student basis.

Perhaps Patrick Moynihan’s statement - “you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts,” doesn’t apply to Bowdoin College faculty. It might interfere with their ‘academic freedom.’ One wonders what other knowledge, truth, and enlightenment one finds in the classrooms of our local ivory tower. And moral relativism to go with it.

Just last fall, town residents were reminded by a party-hearty Bowdoin student that the town is nothing without the college. Now we’re treated to pre-election falsehoods by a faculty member.

Once again, your editorial lapses give rise to concern that you willfully misinform the public, which is dereliction of your journalistic responsibility and a breach of ethical standards.

After a fashionable delay, the editor replied tersely with this:

“won’t run”

We could respond with a question as to why, but why try to inform the willful un-informers?  In an earlier failed career, we tried teaching pigs to sing, and some lessons were taken from that.

Oh, and for readers who couldn’t find “composity” in the dictionary in the “preaching” post the other day, it’s a combining form of compost + pomposity.  Hope that explains things, and feel free to “make it your own.”

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