Thursday March 12 | Average Joes

March 11, 2009 at 8:23 am | Posted in Coming Up | 23 Comments

It’s the March edition of Average Joes, a panel of WFAE listeners who join us to discuss the issues that are important to them. Some of our topics will include education, the economy, homeowners facing foreclosure, security vs. liberty and the same-sex marriage debate. Join us for the discussion!
Guests: Adam Tyson, Larry Bumgarner and Van Durrett

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  1. The hand wringing over our national debt is far too excessive. In the forties our debt was many times higher it is today because of t spending on both the New Deal programs and World War II. Then it was somewhere between 110 to 120% of our gross national product – the only measure that counts. Today it is in the teens, far far below that level.

    After the war we spent billions more on the Marshall Plan, the GI Bill and the interstate highway system, yet the debt quickly was lowered to reasonable levels and fifties were a very prosperous decade. This happened, in spite of the fact that most of the war spending was blown up, because we had also invested a lot in infrastructure development. In addition we had much higher top marginal tax rates – around 90%.

    I do not dismiss concern about the debt. Clearly we need to reduce waste, but not spending on needed investment will slow our growth, which is the engine we need to prosper and pay down our debt. This happened quickly when Clinton was in office and will happen again if we invest in our country – and have reasonable tax rates.

  2. No one pointed out the obvious: Larry thinks public radio is liberal because he can’t stand the truth.

    I find it strange that there has been no mention of the role of the enormous costs of the military and the decisions of President Bush to underfund such government agencies as the SEC and the food and drug administration in getting us in this mess. From thousands of brain-damaged soldiers to failed banks to salmonella, the fellow from Crawford left a trail of destruction.

  3. I am a teacher at one of the innovative public high schools that have been created in NC under the New Schools Project with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Your guest Larry is parroting some very tired points about homeschooling and charter schooling’s superiority over public schools. His emphasis on a “laser-like focus” in charter schools is not a fundamental reason for their success. All of the innovative high schools funded by the Gates Foundation across the US recently underwent a thorough review process by The Cambridge Review. This independent assessment found that the most significant contributor to student success was staffing of the schools. The dedication of the staff to the success of the students was the only thing that could reliably predict student success.

  4. RE: Your Average Joe’s liberal public radio bias comments:
    If ‘liberal bias’ is defined as presenting all the facts and allowing me to make up my own mind and determine my own position on an issue, then keep it up WFAE. I my 20 plus years of NPR listening I find the reporting to be straightforeward and factual. Commentators are a different story – they’re paid for their opinions just like editorial staff on a newspaper, and may offer their personal viuew on the matter at hand. But do not confuse the two and categorize NPR reporting as biased. It is not.

    Interesting panel of Average Joe’s today. I’ve spent most of the show shaking my head in amazement at some of Larry’s (I think it’s Larry – the 53 year old) comments. I think he may be doing a bit of posturing and having a thoroughly enjoyable time of taking an extremely conservative stance. To paraphrase Hamlet’s mother, The gentleman dost protest too much, methinks.

  5. Comparing private to public schools is unfair since it is almost always based on average test scores. Since the single best predictor of a child’s educational achievement is his parents’ level of education it should come as no surprise that private schools have higher average scores. These schools have students with extremely well educated parents, so their schools will score higher, regardless of what the school is doing. Kids from educated families do well even in mediocre schools because they enter school ahead of the game, having been read to frequently, exposed to educational activities, etc. Educated parents generally make up for school deficits by either supplementing instruction themselves or by getting tutors, sending kids to educational camps, etc.

    I personally know of some very mediocre private schools that have average test scores higher than most public schools. I went to a public school in Appalachia that had a significant number of children who were extremely poor, yet those of us who were lucky enough to have educated parents got a solid education and were well even equipped to hold our own in elite, private universities. I have always been thankful for this experience because not only did I get a good foundation, I got to know other kids who came from backgrounds quite different from my own, which is an education in itself.

    In our country it is very difficult to judge the quality of schools. We need better comparisons, such as comparing public school students from affluent, educated families with comparable students in private schools. We also need to look at other measures such as student progress, variety of offerings, etc. The best school would be the one that maximizes all children’s potential even if some of them wi never score well on tests. Currently a school that has a lot of children with learning problems, or who start school way behind others and do a great job look bad in comparison to more affluent schools. Teachers are even being forced to try to get kids with very low IQ’s to perform at grade level. (I know – I have a friend who teachers special ed and agonizes over what this does to her students.) This is madness and needs to be changed ASAP.

  6. It’s very subtle, but an example of bias in news coverage on NPR is when they always used the term “scheme” to describe any George Bush proposal, but it’s a non-loaded “plan” for a Democratic proposal.
    when Walter Cronkite publishes blatantly liberal writings after he retired, and Helen Thomas gleefully declares “Of course we’re liberals”, you know that the news media cannot claim objectivity. I just sent Mike C. an email with the list of the entire WFAE program schedule and, other than the newscasts, not one program (other than Marketplace) could be considered to have anything other than a liberal slant.

  7. I couldn’t listen to these guys and turned off the show. please spare us . . .

  8. To add to Shawn Moore’s comments:

    The evidence on the superiority of homeschooled children does not exist. There is an organized lobbying effort by to promote homeschooling – and divert public money to homeschoolers. The information we get about supposed superiority of homeschooled students comes from this biased source. No one is evaluating these students in any objective, systematic way.

    I personally believe we should mandate that all home schooled kids pass the same tests as public school children. Those who are not up to grade level should be evaluated and made to attend school if they are falling behind what is reasonable for them.

    As for charter schools, some are good, some are terrible. Ditto for voucher programs. We also need to keep in mind that parents who go out of their way to put their kids in these kinds of programs place more emphasis on the importance of education for their kids, which means comparisons with students not in the program are usually not meaningful.

    One thing years of research does show is that schools with a high percentage of low income students – somewhere above a third – are almost always of poor quality. (Income is more important than race.) Peer influence is a powerful force for kids so it is no wonder that these schools struggle. There are some schools with extremely intense programs that do work in these schools, but replicating them on a large scale is not practical. Just finding enough teachers to staff such schools is a huge obstacle.

  9. Congratulations Mike for surviving ‘Larry the know-it-all guy.’

  10. Larry was just gunning for his 15 minutes of fame.

    Honestly, such tired talking points. And so clever to admit giving to another public radio station.

    In the words of Bill the Cat, “GAAACCCKKK!!!”

  11. I was very surprised to hear a guest come on this morning and attack the station. If he doesn’t like the station, he could have elected to not accept the invitation and wait to be invited by another radio station that is more to his liking.

  12. Hey, I was on air this morning as the “20 year old” and just wanted to clear the air about my political affiliations: I am not a member of the Republican Party nor have I ever been. My parents are both registered Republicans but when I filled out my voter registration form I think I wrote in something like “The Dr. Seuss Party” or something equally nonsensical. I in the past have identified with the Republican party but as I have grown up I have distanced myself from any kind of political affiliation.
    ————————————
    Congratulations Mike for surviving ‘Larry the know-it-all guy.’
    I had to laugh at that. Larry was definitely a character but one that might do better to simply avoid politics in general as I try to do.

  13. Why is it whenever cold, hard, well-thought facts are presented the conservative right always accuses the media of automatic “liberal bias”?

    Hey Larry, why don’t you go listen to your right-wing “entertainment” news organizations and regurgitate some more arguements that America is tired of hearing, I’m sure we’d all just love to see that movie again.

    Matt Grunow

  14. Just put me in a small room with Larry, no broadcast necessary….

  15. The discussion about stem cell research at the end of today’s show was extremely misleading. The impression was left that Bush banned stem cell research and Obama lifted the ban. That is not the case. Bush banned the Federal funding of stem cell research. He did not ban the research. Bush found the middle ground by funding research on already existing cells at a cost of 130 million tax payer dollars.

    One guest, I believe the a fore mentioned “Larry”, summed up the position of those who recognize that life begins at conception. He did so graphically. Such matters are deeply personal and unknowable in their entirety. We should respect each others deeply held beliefs. It’s a problem. Now the “tolerant” left has told everybody’s favorite punching bag “Larry” that he has to pay for something that he finds amoral. The elitist write “Larry” off as a religious nut who isn’t enlightened enough to know what’s good for humanity. It’s not necessarily a religious issue. It is a life isn’t it? How ’bout an honest debate?

  16. “The discussion about stem cell research at the end of today’s show was extremely misleading. The impression was left that Bush banned stem cell research and Obama lifted the ban. That is not the case. Bush banned the Federal funding of stem cell research. He did not ban the research. Bush found the middle ground by funding research on already existing cells at a cost of 130 million tax payer dollars.”

    I was going to mention that point but we did not have the time to cover it. In fact I would have rather we not attempted to cover that topic at all since we had so little time near the end anyways.

  17. Mr. Durrett,

    I appreciate that, I do understand that it was the end of the show. The problem was Mike’s set up. He said Obama “reversed Bush’s stance” without articulating what that stance was. It was sloppy. It’s an important debate and should be dealt with honestly. BTW, you did a good job on the show. With all the belly aching about education no one was able to say how to maintain accountability without testing. At least you advocated better test.

  18. Looking at the previous comments should greatly bring Mike Collins et al about the liberal bent of WFAE. I’m still waiting for anyone to claim that WFAE and Collins are conservative. Since everyone thinks WFAE tilts left [or down the middle], that should be solid anecdotal evidence of the station’s bent. Which is fine, but still, I want separation of press and state and NPR stations should not be getting any tax money. Liberals would claim the same treatment if Fox News got the same proportional amount of tax money that WFAE does. And they’d have a point.

    Collins did list the small amount of money that WFAE gets for its operating budget, but he did not mention that the syndicated shows that WFAE carries also have federal subsidies. So the content we hear is subsidized and Mike wasn’t terribly forthcoming about mentioning it. The full picture should be given. That’s been my constant complaint… skewed details.

  19. I just received your Spring 2009 SoundSource newsletter which reviews the addition of “Tell Me More” to your schedule. So here’s another fine, objective “Award-winning journalist Michel Martin”, with ABC News, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal credentials.
    I listened to her interview with Alberto Gonzalez, former Bush Attorney General (AG). She asked him who he voted for in 2008 (an impertinent question to begin with); when he responded “McCain”, her response was: “Republican loyalist to the end.” It was comments like that that made me wince my way through Farai Judea’s “News and Notes” (which has now ceased production).
    Michel Martin would never in 100 years dream of asking a similar question of (and make a similar comment to) AG Eric Holder when he leaves his position. Not because he is African-American, but because he shares her ideology. She expects him to be liberal, as the world should always be in her mind.

  20. Mr. Durrett,

    I appreciate that, I do understand that it was the end of the show. The problem was Mike’s set up. He said Obama “reversed Bush’s stance” without articulating what that stance was. It was sloppy. It’s an important debate and should be dealt with honestly. BTW, you did a good job on the show. With all the belly aching about education no one was able to say how to maintain accountability without testing. At least you advocated better test.
    Well thank you, at least I tried. I know that some testing is needed but I think the classic “fill-in-the-bubble” tests are outdated and quite frankly, a rather poor measure of intelligence/knowledge of the material. I think that teachers should be given more leeway in whether or not a student knows his/her stuff but of course that opens an entirely different can of worms. It seems that the current testing system that has been fueled Bush’s No Child Left Behind program is far too rigid has turned into just another numbers game which puts the pressure on schools and teachers to make sure their students can take the test so that they can receive funding from the federal government. I actually would have rather spent the entire show on just education but hey, I’m just a guest.
    ———————————————-
    As far as liberal bias, I’ll readily agree that it’s in the media, but as to how much and how widespread, I don’t think there’s enough to make much of a difference and I also do not think it is as pervasive as some people think.

  21. To give credit where due, Michel Martin had 2-3 Republican spokesmen on her show last night, in addition to her other guests. Good work.

  22. My view is that NPR bends over backwards not to be seen as liberal-biased. My consternation is that they have to “bend over” at all. Privately owned media, being owned not by a cross-section of the populace, but by a minority that have benefited from capitalist tendencies is clearly content and message biased, and censored, to further benefit those same interests. The membership model of public radio is a partial counteractive to the positive reinforcement of capitalist ideology. Maybe it is the only viable alternative keeping media partially honest and accurate in our society. If the public “owns” the broadcast spectrum this is the ultimate benign communism and I applaud it. I only wish the public were in a better position to assert our common interests.

    Recently I watched early episodes of the Howdy Doody Show (1950s NBC). I was astounded at the Cold War Red Panic that was being communicated to children through a message of fearful conformism and authoritarianism. Maybe I’d sound like “nate” had I not preferred Kukla, Fran and Ollie (probably fellow travelers). So much for the educational potential of TV, and of advertising.

  23. “My view is that NPR bends over backwards not to be seen as liberal-biased.” – Jack Martin

    I agree totally, that’s what bothers me.


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