Archive for May, 2019

Why Won’t the SPLC Commission “Scientific” Surveys?

May 19, 2019

In the wake of the recent scandals rocking the top management of the Southern Poverty Law Center, it is quite reasonable for the rank-and-file staffers to want to put the past behind them and get back to business as usual. It was therefore no surprise to find a newly-minted SPLC “survey” making the Media rounds in the last week or two.

That “survey,” Hate at School, shares a number of characteristics with previous SPLC “surveys,” especially those conducted by the company’s Teaching Tolerance division, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom.

Hate at School joins the ranks of The Trump Effect (Spring, 2016) and its updated sequel, After Election Day: The Trump Effect, (Fall, 2016). All three “reports” share the following characteristics:

  1. All of the “surveys” were broadcast online indiscriminately, with no way of verifying the identities of the respondents. Anyone could respond without proving that they were actual educators.
  2. All of the responses cited in all three reports were made by the anonymous likes of “A middle school teacher in Indiana,” “High school teacher, Tennessee,” and “In Arizona, a PreK-8 teacher.”

    Despite nearly 15,000 alleged responses across all three “surveys” combined, not one single “educator” is identified by name. Not one.

  3. Nobody outside of the SPLC has ever seen the alleged responses.
  4. All three “surveys” include disclaimers regarding the methodology used:

    Trump Effect I “Our survey of approximately 2,000 K-12 teachers was not scientific. Our email subscribers and those who visit our website are not a random sample of teachers nationally, and those who chose to respond to our survey are likely to be those who are most concerned about the impact of the presidential campaign on their students and schools,” (p. 4).

    Trump Effect II “The results of this survey are not scientific. The respondents were not selected in a manner to ensure a representative sample; those who responded may have been more likely to perceive problems than those who did not,” (p. 14).

    Hate at School “Respondents were not randomly selected, so we don’t claim they are a representative sample of the national teaching force,” (p. 21).

  5. Despite admitting that the “surveys” were not scientific, Maureen Costello, the head of Teaching Tolerance and the person responsible for the methodology employed, attempts to claim that her tainted data are somehow relevant:

    Trump Effect I
    – “But the data we collected is the richest source of information that we know of about the effect of the presidential campaign on education in our country. And there is nothing counterintuitive about the results,” (Ibid.).

    Well of course there is nothing counterintuitive about the results when you stack the deck from the get-go. You got exactly the alleged responses you were looking for and nobody in the Media will ever ask to see the proof.

    Trump Effect II
    “But it is the largest collection of educator responses that has been collected; the tremendous number of responses as well as the overwhelming confirmation of what has been anecdotally reported in the media cannot be ignored or dismissed,” (Ibid.).

    Actually, if your data are tainted from the outset, they absolutely can and should be ignored and dismissed, whether you are claiming ten unverified responses or a thousand. Unverifiable anecdotal reports, whatever the source, are just that — anecdotes.

    an·ec·do·tal – adjective: anecdotal

    1.  (of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.

    Hate at School
    “Our data, though based on an unscientific survey, raises important questions,” (p. 6).

Finally, Ms. Costello, a statement we can all agree on! With more than half a billion dollars in assets on hand, including $110 million donor-dollars in the last fiscal year alone, the most important question is WHY does the Southern Poverty Law Center and its Teaching Tolerance wing have to rely on unscientific surveys?

Why not hire a legitimate polling firm to create and conduct your surveys, such as Gallup, Harris or Pew, so that you do not have to include embarrassing disclaimers and factitious justifications? You have more than enough money and if things are truly as dire as you claim it should be ridiculously easy to verify them in the field.

Why not remove every last shed of doubt from the accuracy of your claims? If, as your “surveys” state, Teaching Tolerance reaches over 400,000 US teachers a month, why do you report so few “survey” responses? Why can’t anyone outside of the company see the results for themselves?

Well, we all know the reasons why. The whole purpose of all three “surveys” is to sell fear and outrage to the SPLC’s often wealthy, often Progressive donor base. Tying all of the anonymous anecdotes to the Bogie-Man-in-Chief, Donald Trump, is money in the bank.

As mentioned, the SPLC took in $110 million tax-free donor-dollars in 2018 and $130 million more in 2017, based largely on spurious “reports” such as these, and the company’s thoroughly disreputable annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool.

Lurid tales of terrified elementary school lesbians, tearful black kids asking if they are going to be “sent back to Africa?” and terrorized Latinx kids peering out school windows in search of Donald Trump driving up in an ICE van are precisely the product most SPLC donors are looking to buy.

It doesn’t matter that the SPLC itself admits that its anonymous findings are bogus as long as the donors can signal their superior virtue by cutting a check to the company and claim that they are somehow “fighting hate.”

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