The comic stylings of G.I.’s Matthew Ladner

by David Safier

The good news is, Goldwater Institute's Matthew Ladner is turning into a pitiable study in self parody and should no longer be taken seriously by anyone. The bad news is, you have to learn to appreciate the man's subtle comic stylings to realize what a buffoon he is, and since most people make the mistake of taking him seriously, he has far too much credibility. He's dangerous in the way many lying, conniving Republicans are dangerous: he gets away with lying, again and again and again.

Current case in point. I posted twice about the recent takedown of Ladner by Madhabi Chatterji, from the Teachers College, Columbia University. Well, Ladner and the co-author of his recent faux-study singing praises of the "Florida Educational Miracle" have posted a response to Chatterji on the Heritage Foundation blog.

I won't go into the entire response, except to say it's classic Ladner. But I can't resist pointing out his best moment. It's when he argues with Chatterji's statement that Florida's 4th grade achievement scores are boosted by the state's third grade retention policy — a point so obvious it can't possibly be refuted. But he side-steps to a related point and cites a study saying the students who are held back in the third grade continue to outperform similar students who weren't held back for the next two years.

And you know what? Ladner is right. The students in the study who were held back do outperform similar students who weren't held back for the first two years. But a funny thing happens after four years. The students who weren't held back catch up and surpass the students who were retained.

See, Ladner was referring to a study done by his buddy, Jay Greene, who is now connected with the Goldwater Institute. It was an accurate study at the time. But another study conducted by other reseachers two years later found that, while Greene's study was correct when it was conducted, its findings don't hold up when you study the same children two years later.

If I know about the existence of the more recent study, what's the chance Ladner doesn't? Highly unlikely. But as usual, he puffs up his chest, puts on a scholarly demeanor and distorts the truth by cherry-picking his data.

I know my analysis gets kind of complicated, but it's so damn obvious that Ladner is an untrustworthy propagandist when it's pointed out. Yet he continues to be treated as a credible source of information.

So let's make this simple. Ladner claims bus drivers are bureacrats. When I pointed out how ridiculous the assertion is, he stuck to his guns. When I wrote a letter to G.I. pointing out the same thing out, G.I. defended Ladner.

It doesn't get any simpler than that.

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