Growing Up Surrounded by Books Could Have Powerful, Lasting Effect on the Mind

Brigit Katz:

Research has already suggested that opening a book may help improve brain function, reduce stress, and even make us more empathetic. Now, a team led by Joanna Sikora of the Australian National University is looking into the benefits of growing up around a book-filled environment; as Alison Flood of the Guardian reports, the researchers’ expansive new study suggests that homes with ample libraries can arm children with skills that persist into adulthood.

The study, published recently in Social Science Research, assessed data from 160,000 adults from 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Japan and Chile. Participants filled out surveys with the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies, which measures proficiency in three categories: literacy, numeracy (using mathematical concepts in everyday life) and information communication technology, (using digital technology to communicate with other people, and to gather and analyze information).

Respondents, who ranged in age from 25 to 65, were asked to estimate how many books were in their house when they were 16 years old. The research team was interested in this question because home library size can be a good indicator of what the study authors term “book-oriented socialization.” Participants were able to select from a given range of books that included everything from “10 or less” to “more than 500.”

Sears’s ‘radical’ past: How mail-order catalogues subverted the racial hierarchy of Jim Crow

Antonia Noori Farzan:

Monday’s announcement that Sears would file for bankruptcy and close 142 stores came as little surprise to anyone who has followed the retail giant’s collapse in recent years. Still, the news inspired a wave of nostalgia for a company that sold an ideal of middle-class life to generations of Americans.

A lesser-known aspect of Sears’s 125-year history, however, is how the company revolutionized rural black Southerners’ shopping patterns in the late 19th century, subverting racial hierarchies by allowing them to make purchases by mail or over the phone and avoid the blatant racism that they faced at small country stores.

“What most people don’t know is just how radical the catalogue was in the era of Jim Crow,” Louis Hyman, an associate professor of history at Cornell University, wrote in a Twitter thread that was shared more than 7,000 times Monday in the wake of the news of Sears’s demise. By allowing African Americans in Southern states to avoid price gouging and condescending treatment at their local stores, he wrote, the catalogue “undermined white supremacy in the rural South.”

Law School Grads Reach a New Low on Mass. Bar Exam:

Greg Ryan:

early one in three aspiring lawyers who took the Massachusetts bar examination this summer failed the test, the highest failure rate in the Bay State this century.

Only 69.2 percent of test-takers passed the bar exam in July, according to statistics posted by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners on Monday. The previous low for the July exam this century — 70.9 percent — occurred in 2016.

Facebook’s ex-security chief will start a new center to bring Washington and Silicon Valley together

Nick Statt:

Alex Stamos, Facebook’s ex-chief security officer, thinks his former home at the heart of Silicon Valley is ill equipped to address the world’s most pressing digital problems, namely security, user privacy, and the protection of democratic institutions. To address this, and perhaps help ease the tensions between Washington and the tech industry while pulling in more academic and research experts, Stamos is launching a new institute he’s calling the Stanford Internet Observatory.

The former exec, who left Facebook for the world of academia in August and has earned a reputation for being outspoken and frank about the issues facing the industry, plans to formally announce the institute later today with a speech at Stanford. News of Stamos’ plans was first reported earlier today by The Washington Post.

“There aren’t processes to thoughtfully think through these trade-offs,” Stamos told The Post in an interview ahead of his planned speech, which is set to take place later today at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. “You end up with these for-profit, very powerful organizations that are not democratically accountable, making decisions that are in their best and often short-term interest … without there being a much more open and democratic discussion of what these issues are.”

Civics and Privacy: Breaking US Encryption: The Australian Test Case

Justin Clarke:

A bill currently before the Australian Federal Parliament doesn’t seek to defeat encryption and enable Government to more easily spy on civilians. It just requests or compels ‘communications providers’ to do ‘acts or things’ to make spying easier.

How do you more easily access encrypted communications (largely provided by US companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook) without breaking encryption?

Apparently no-one knows, but hidden in plain sight is a clue.

The Australian Federal Government is attempting to rush through a bill – The Assistance and Access Bill 2018 – which seeks to empower law enforcement and national security agencies to request or compel ‘designated communications providers’ to do a range of ‘acts or things’ to provide technical assistance to these agencies.

Who are designated communications providers? Any global company providing communications services directly, or as part of the global supply chain, according to the Australian Human Rights Commision (AHRC) submission[1]:

School Districts Use Projected Tax Cuts To Hide Huge Referendum Tax Hikes

Bill Osmulski:

Homeowners in 148 school districts across Wisconsin will be getting an unexpected tax cut next year, but many of those districts would prefer to keep that a secret – and backfill those savings with new spending.
It will be decades before the savings justify the expense – which was considerable. Last year alone, districts collected an additional $92.3 million through the Energy Efficiency Exemption.

The reason for the tax cut is the termination of the Energy Efficiency Exemption (EEE). This loophole allowed school districts to raise taxes for supposed energy efficiency projects without going to referendum.

The energy savings on many of these projects is negligible. It will be decades before the savings justify the expense – which was considerable. Last year alone, districts collected an additional $92.3 million through the EEE. With the program eliminated, property taxes in those 148 school districts will automatically drop $92.3 million.

However, 21 of those districts see this as an opportunity to downplay the true tax impact of their referendums on next month’s ballot. For example, the Hartford J1 School District has a referendum for $5.5 million. According to the district’s website, “If the referendum is approved, there would be no impact on current school tax rates over the life of the 15-year borrowing term.”

Southern Door County Schools has a $6,270,000 building referendum that “would not increase your taxes over current levels.”

Setting, Elaborating, and Reflecting on Personal Goals Improves Academic Performance McGill University University of Toronto McGill University

Dominique Morisano, Jacob B. Hirsh, Jordan B. Peterson, Robert O. Pihl and Bruce M. Shore :

Of students who enroll in 4-year universities, 25% never finish. Precipitating causes of early departure include poor academic progress and lack of clear goals and motivation. In the present study, we investigated whether an intensive, online, written, goal-setting program for struggling students would have positive effects on academic achievement. Students (N 􏰂 85) experiencing academic difficulty were recruited to participate in a randomized, controlled intervention. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 intervention groups: Half completed the goal-setting program, and half completed a control task with intervention-quality face validity. After a 4-month period, students who completed the goal-setting intervention displayed significant improvements in academic performance compared with the control group. The goal-setting program thus appears to be a quick, effective, and inexpensive intervention for struggling undergraduate students.

“What is required is an articulate commitment by universities to open discourses and the environment of intellectual challenge that comes with it.”

Robert J. Zimmer:

Over the last several years, the debate over free speech on college and university campuses has become the dominant issue facing higher education. Reports of the implementation of university speech codes and trigger warning policies, commencement speaker “dis-invitations,” and protests, many of them violent, over the views expressed by faculty or invited speakers have ignited fierce controversy from both the right and the left.

Robert J. Zimmer, Ph.D., President of The University of Chicago, has emerged as a leading voice advocating for the freedom of speech and academic freedom on college and university campuses. In 2015, The University of Chicago released its “Report of the Committee on the Free of Expression” arguing that the “fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.” This report, now known as “the Chicago Statement,” has been adopted by 35 colleges and universities.

In October 2017, The New York Times penned an op-ed praising Zimmer’s efforts and calling him “the most essential voice in American academia today.” Earlier this year, a Wall Street Journal op-ed dubbed The University of Chicago “the free-speech university.”

More, here.

The cheapest electrical engineering degree in the world?

Hacker News:

Are you just interested in the lowest up front cost in dollars? I went to the US Military Academy. Tuition, room and board are free, you get a small stipend each month and you have a guaranteed job at graduation. You pay for school with 5 years of service as an Army officer. I was a Mechanical Engineering major, but they have a decent EECS department also. The military academies have an interesting setup where they are officially an engineering school, and everyone, even the history or law majors have to take an “engineering track”. The engineering majors also have more humanities courses than their peers at most schools.

I’d be interested in a comparison of your earnings over those five years of service compared to the median income for the first five years after graduating from public/private/Top-10 schools. I still think you’d be getting the best deal overall but the community college + state school route may seem more competitive in terms of cost after factoring in the relatively low pay of O1-O3s.

Incarcerated Pennsylvanians now have to pay $150 to read. We should all be outraged.

Jodi Lincoln:

Every year, thousands of people in Pennsylvania prisons write directly to nonprofit organizations such as the one I co-chair with a request for reading material, which we then send to them at no cost. This free access to books has dramatically improved the lives of incarcerated individuals, offering immense emotional and mental relief as well as a key source of rehabilitation.

But as of last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) has decided to make such rehabilitation much harder. Going forward, books and publications, including legal primers and prison newsletters, cannot be sent directly to incarcerated Pennsylvanians. Instead, if they want access to a book, they must first come up with $147 to purchase a tablet and then pay a private company for electronic versions of their reading material — but only if it’s available among the 8,500 titles offered to them through this new e-book system.

In case you forgot: Incarcerated people are paid less than $1 per hour, and the criminal-justice system disproportionately locks up low-income individuals. Adding insult to injury, most of the e-books available to them for purchase would be available free from Project Gutenberg. And nonpublic domain books in Pennsylvania’s e-book system are more expensive than on other e-book markets.

We Cannot Avoid the Ugly Tradeoffs of Bail Reform

Alex Tabarrok:

Many people think that “innocent until proven guilty” implies that everyone should be let loose on their own recognizance before trial. A moment’s thought reveals that this is idiotic. The white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people on June 17, 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. His image was captured on security cameras and he was arrested the next day. Roof’s trial, however, didn’t start until more than a year later, December 7, 2016, and he wasn’t convicted of anything until December 15, 2016. Should Roof have been released before trial because he was “innocent until proven guilty”? Of course not. I stand second to none in demanding high standards before the state can deprive a person of their liberty but high standards do not demand binary divisions. Tradeoffs are everywhere and when the evidence against the accused is strong and the danger to the public is high, it’s not unreasonable to deprive the legally innocent of some liberty prior to trial. The tradeoffs are ugly, as they always are when trading off two sacred values, but the tradeoffs cannot be avoided.

The tech giants, the US and the Chinese spy chips that never were… or were they?

John Naughton:

On 4 October, Bloomberg Businessweek published a major story under the headline “The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate US Companies”. It claimed that Chinese spies had inserted a covert electronic backdoor into the hardware of computer servers used by 30 US companies, including Amazon and Apple (and possibly also servers used by national security agencies), by compromising America’s technology supply chain.

According to the Bloomberg story, the technology had been compromised during the manufacturing process in China. Undercover operatives from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army had inserted tiny chips – about the size of a grain of rice – into motherboards during the manufacturing process.

The affected hardware then made its way into high-end video-compression servers assembled by a San Jose company called Supermicro and deployed by major US companies and government agencies. According to the report, investigators found that the hack eventually affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank, government contractors and Apple, which had originally ordered 30,000 Supermicro servers in 2015 but had cancelled the order after its own investigators had found malicious chips on the company’s motherboards.

Miseducation Is There Racial Inequality at Your School? School districts where White students are more likely to be in an Advanced Placement class or gifted and talented program, compared with Black students.

Lena V. Groeger, Annie Waldman and David Eads:

Based on civil rights data released by the U.S. Department of Education, ProPublica has built an interactive database to examine racial disparities in educational opportunities and school discipline. Look up more than 96,000 individual public and charter schools and 17,000 districts to see how they compare with their counterparts

In Madison, White students are 3.5 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Black students.

2006: They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

A majority of the Madison School board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.

The Pentagon’s Push to Program Soldiers’ Brains

Michael Joseph Gross:

His speech then took a turn: “Now, we’ve had a lot of interesting tools over the years, but fundamentally the way that we work with those tools is through our bodies.” Then a further turn: “Here’s a situation that I know all of you know very well—your frustration with your smartphones, right? This is another tool, right? And we are still communicating with these tools through our bodies.”

And then it made a leap: “I would claim to you that these tools are not so smart. And maybe one of the reasons why they’re not so smart is because they’re not connected to our brains. Maybe if we could hook those devices into our brains, they could have some idea of what our goals are, what our intent is, and what our frustration is.”

So began “Beyond Bionics,” a talk by Justin C. Sanchez, then an associate professor of biomedical engineering and neuroscience at the University of Miami, and a faculty member of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. He was speaking at a tedx conference in Florida in 2012. What lies beyond bionics? Sanchez described his work as trying to “understand the neural code,” which would involve putting “very fine microwire electrodes”—the diameter of a human hair—“into the brain.” When we do that, he said, we would be able to “listen in to the music of the brain” and “listen in to what somebody’s motor intent might be” and get a glimpse of “your goals and your rewards” and then “start to understand how the brain encodes behavior.”

Mathematics as thought

Mordechai Levy-Eichel:

There are almost too many examples of the power and pervasiveness of mathematical ideas. For instance, this essay was written on a computer. The software of the computer, its mind and spirit, if you will, is a compilation of code that is based on the ideas of Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, and his article ‘A Mathematical Theory of Communication’ (1948). But perhaps this is both too obvious and too slight an example. The personal computer is hardly an essential part of human existence, even if most of us have structured our lives around it today. Let’s take something more basic and widespread, something most of us probably already apprehend, even if only dimly – like the idea of regression to the mean.

As the Oxford English Dictionary explains, regression to the mean is ‘the tendency for the values of any distributed variable to move towards the mean over repeated independent trials’. In other words, the more trials, the less random or mistaken the measure. For instance, say you’re in a race at school. You do surprisingly well and beat most of your classmates. All things being equal, the next time around, you’re actually not likely to do as well, relative to the other runners. Obviously, one’s actual rank depends on skill and talent – if you did well the first time, you probably are pretty fast – but each result also depends on luck as well as a host of other circumstances. Therefore, in order to mitigate against any selection effect, one has to run the experiment multiple times. In order to be able to see just where you actually place or rank, you have to be able to know the shape or form of the distribution of outcomes. The notion of regression to the mean informs how we think about a wide range of things, from the design of clinical trials, to gambling, to, well, the prosaic pep-talks we give ourselves after coming up short by saying: ‘OK, next time will be better.’ Actually, it probably will be.

Using International Students As Cash Cows Does No One Any Favours

New Matilda:

Recent revelations in the Sydney Morning Herald that a number of international students at universities across New South Wales are ‘functionally illiterate’ and have submitted assignments written by ‘ghost writers’ is not exactly striking news, at least not for many university academics and administrators.

Despite all the institutional talk about ‘world class education’, ‘excellence’, ‘quality assurance’ and so forth, educators who mark assignments and engage with students in tutorials and online forums, are acutely aware of literacy problems that beset both international and domestic students.

Many of these problems can – at least in the case of Australian students – be traced back to the education they receive at school. Research by the Australian Council for Educational Research in 2013 clearly indicates a drop in levels of academic performance among Australian school children when compared to their counterparts in many Asian countries.

The Secrets of Getting Into Harvard Were Once Closely Guarded. That’s About to Change

Nicole Hong and Melissa Korn:

This year, 42,749 students applied to Harvard College, and only 1,962 were admitted. How Harvard decides who makes the cut has long been a mystery.

That’s about to change. A trial beginning Monday in Boston federal court will examine how the elite institution uses race to shape its student body. It will force Harvard to spill details about its admissions practices.

The case has transfixed the world of higher education—both for the peek it provides into a process cloaked in secrecy, and the prospect that the court decision will upend the admissions practices of other colleges as well.

A lawsuit accuses Harvard University of illegally discriminating against Asian-American applicants by holding them to a higher standard than students of other races. Harvard denies the accusation, saying race is just one of a complex matrix of factors it considers before handing out its coveted acceptances.

Harvard uses what it calls a holistic approach to admissions, considering not only an applicant’s academic record and test scores but also activities, formative experiences and personal attributes. The model is widely used by other top colleges.

Student turnover slows academic growth, but many states aren’t tracking the churn

Erin Richards:

Meticulous reports flow in on enrollment, attendance, test scores, dropout rates and college-entrance exam results. You can track students by race and income at every school and pull up each teacher’s salary and experience.

But no one is widely tracking a key group of students whose actions, experts say, may be thwarting efforts to improve education: Kids who move around a lot.

Academics call it student mobility. Most people know it as turnover, churn or transience. One Milwaukee principal calls them kangaroo kids: Where will they bounce to next?

All refer to students switching schools for reasons other than moving naturally to the next grade in a new building. Most are poor, and their disruptive movements can harm their own academic progress as well as the growth of their peers who stay put in high-churn schools.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors 2018

Chris Edwards:

The U.S. economy is in its 10th year of economic expansion, and state government budgets are benefiting from a solid growth in tax revenues. State general fund revenues have grown 40 percent since 2010. Many of the nation’s governors have used the growing revenues to expand spending programs, whereas others have pursued reductions in taxes.

That is the backdrop to this year’s 14th biennial fiscal report card on the governors, which examines state budget actions since 2016. It uses statistical data to grade the governors on their taxing and spending records — governors who have cut taxes and spending the most receive the highest grades, whereas those who have increased taxes and spending the most receive the lowest grades.

Five governors were awarded an A on this report: Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Paul LePage of Maine, and Greg Abbott of Texas. Eight governors were awarded an F: Roy Cooper of North Carolina, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Jim Justice of West Virginia, Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, David Ige of Hawaii, Kate Brown of Oregon, and Jay Inslee of Washington.

The Campus Diversity Swarm

Marl Pulliam:

By the time a homeowner discovers a termite infestation, chances are that the destructive pests have already caused serious structural damage. So it is with “campus diversity officers,” a category of academic bureaucrat that didn’t even exist until fairly recently. Within a short period, diversity apparatchiks have taken root on most college campuses, and in many cases expanded into sprawling bureaucracies with multimillion-dollar budgets. Diversity departments have become a common campus amenity, like gourmet dorm food, climbing walls, and lazy rivers. Unlike lavish recreational facilities for students, which turn college campuses into an expensive Club U, administrative bureaucracies breed inertia. With size and resources come power, and, in keeping with Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, a continual quest for aggrandizement.

It’s no wonder, then, that campus diversity officers have already formed a rent-seeking trade association, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), complete with annual conferences, self-serving “standards for professional practice,” a political agenda, and—since this is academia, after all—a pseudo-scholarly publication, the quarterly Journal of Diversity in Higher Education (priced at $681 per year for institutions). A typical article is entitled “The Influence of Campus Climate and Urbanization on Queer-Spectrum and Trans-Spectrum Faculty Intent to Leave.” Hundreds of universities, public and private, large and small, are members of NADOHE, including Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. NADOHE finances its activities with hefty membership dues for institutions ($1,250 per year), while offering individual and student memberships at lower cost.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: With corruption like this, it’s no wonder so many pension funds are insolvent

Simon Black:

Last week, the head of a New York state pension fund found herself a new job.

Vicki Fuller, the former head of New York’s $209 billion fund, now earns $275,000 per year working part time for a natural gas group called The Williams Companies– good work if you can get it.

It’s noteworthy that when Ms. Fuller ran her state pension fund, she invested $110 million of taxpayer money to buy bonds issued by none other than The Williams Companies.

Bear in mind that Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded Williams’ financial outlook to “negative” because of the company’s high leverage and risk.

The fund that Ms. Fuller managed also voted in favor of huge, multi-million dollar pay packages for senior executives of The Williams Companies even though the stock price was dropping.

So… gee… maybe it’s just a crazy coincidence that Ms. Fuller left her job at the state pension fund and took an extremely lucrative part-time job THE SAME WEEK with The Williams Companies.

Small Colleges Can Save Towns in Middle America

Noah Smith:

In 2016, economist Lyman Stone of the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrote one of the most important blog posts in recent history. It was promptly overlooked by almost everyone. But Stone’s post — a deep dive into the economics of the small town of Pikeville, Kentucky — shows the way forward for the U.S. economy and American society.

Pikeville, with about 7,000 people, is located deep in Appalachia near the West Virginia border — the same kind of poor, dying coal-mining region described in books like J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” But as Stone shows, Pikeville has been bucking this well-known trend, with an increasing population and a thriving downtown. Why? Because of the University of Pikeville. The University of Pikeville has fewer than 3,000 students, and it won’t show up on many elite college applicants’ top 10 lists alongside Stanford and Harvard. But since the turn of the decade, this tiny school has been expanding dramatically:

How China’s biggest social network fights fake news

Xinmei Shen:

Here’s how the mini program works: The front page shows a feed of articles that have been debunked recently, with a search box at the top where you can search for terms and see if there are any debunked articles related to it.

The second section (“Related to Me”) compiles all the fake news articles that you have either read or shared. The last section shows the number of articles debunked and who the fact checkers are.

WeChat says that it already has more than 800 third-party fact checkers, including 289 institutions in the China Food and Drug Administration system, 5 state-level media and 32 local “cyber affair” offices. Other organizations can also apply to join the fact checkers, provided that they send relevant qualification documents to Tencent and already have a verified public WeChat account.

The mini program will also send you a notification on WeChat if an article you’ve read has been debunked. It claims to have 19.7 million users as of the end of 2017, and that it has debunked more than a million articles so far — and punished around 180,000 public accounts.

Civics: Leaked Transcript of Private Meeting Contradicts Google’s Official Story on China

Ryan Gallagher:

It was Wednesday, July 18, and Gomes was addressing a team of Google employees who were working on a secretive project to develop a censored search engine for China, which would blacklist phrases like “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize.”

“You have taken on something extremely important to the company,” Gomes declared, according to a transcript of his comments obtained by The Intercept. “I have to admit it has been a difficult journey. But I do think a very important and worthwhile one. And I wish ourselves the best of luck in actually reaching our destination as soon as possible.”

Gomes joked about the unpredictability of President Donald Trump and groaned about the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, which has slowed down Google’s negotiations with Communist Party officials in Beijing, whose approval Google requires to launch the censored search engine.

Gomes, who joined Google in 1999 and is one of the key engineers behind the company’s search engine, said he hoped the censored Chinese version of the platform could be launched within six and nine months, but it could be sooner. “This is a world none of us have ever lived in before,” he said. “So I feel like we shouldn’t put too much definite into the timeline.”

It has been two months since The Intercept first revealed details about the censored search engine, code-named Dragonfly. Since then, the project has faced a wave of criticism from human rights groups, Google employees, U.S. senators, and even Vice President Mike Pence, who on Thursday last week called on Google to “immediately end development of the Dragonfly app that will strengthen the Communist Party’s censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.”

Many taxpayer supported school districts, including Madison, utilize Google services.

Your IQ Matters less Than you think

Steven Sloman & Philip Fernbach:

People too often forget that IQ tests haven’t been around that long. Indeed, such psychological measures are only about a century old. Early versions appeared in France with the work of Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon in 1905. However, these tests didn’t become associated with genius until the measure moved from the Sorbonne in Paris to Stanford University in Northern California. There Professor Lewis M. Terman had it translated from French into English, and then standardized on sufficient numbers of children, to create what became known as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. That happened in 1916. The original motive behind these tests was to get a diagnostic to select children at the lower ends of the intelligence scale who might need special education to keep up with the school curriculum. But then Terman got a brilliant idea: Why not study a large sample of children who score at the top end of the scale? Better yet, why not keep track of these children as they pass into adolescence and adulthood? Would these intellectually gifted children grow up to become genius adults?

Terman subjected hundreds of school kids to his newfangled IQ test. Obviously, he didn’t want a sample so large that it would be impractical to follow their intellectual development. Taking the top 2 percent of the population would clearly yield a group twice as large as the top 1 percent. Moreover, a less select group might be less prone to become geniuses. So why not catch the crème de la crème?

The Total Censorship Era: Chinese Journalists Reflect on Their Experiences

Sophie Beach:

On September 9, Hong Kong-based Initium Media published a lengthy article by freelancer Jiang Yannan which included several oral accounts from journalists and media employees working in various publications and websites in China. In their interviews, they discuss the current state of journalism in China and how the increasing restrictions on the media under Xi Jinping are impacting their day-to-day work. These accounts provide valuable firsthand details about dealing with propaganda directives, sensitive words on internet platforms, and other forms of censorship that they face as a matter of routine. One interviewee asks, “Right now, the scariest thing is that we don’t know where the ‘bottom line’ is. In the end, how low will it go?”

Capitalism is becoming less competitive

The Economist:

Competition in America: Where capitalism has become far less healthy

AMERICA’S airlines used to be famous for two things: terrible service and worse finances. Today flyers still endure hidden fees, late flights, bruised knees, clapped-out fittings and sub-par food. Yet airlines now make juicy profits. Scheduled passenger airlines reported an after-tax net profit of $15.5bn in 2017, up from $14bn in 2016.

What is true of the airline industry is increasingly true of America’s economy. Profits have risen in most rich countries over the past ten years but the increase has been biggest for American firms. Coupled with an increasing concentration of ownership, this means the fruits of economic growth are being monopolised.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Bermuda Triangle of Wealth

Conrad Bastable:

So long as the debt is there to fund it, or the surplus wages there to support it, the show will go on. This is the struggle of the middle class in America today. It’s not the only struggle in the country, nor even close to the worst one. There’s nobody behind it, no grim cabal to blame. But it is a struggle, and one that seems to evade stats and articulation and empathy and sympathy and an escape. The only enemy is your failure to beat the median quickly enough and by enough standard deviations.

Success only begins when you build enough wealth to pay for:

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts. This, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Why the novel matters in the age of anger

Elif Shafak:

I was an only child raised by a divorced, working, well-educated, secularist, Westernised mother and an uneducated, spiritual, Eastern grandmother. Born in France, I moved to Turkey with my mother when my parents’ marriage came to an end. Although I was small when I left Strasbourg, I often think about our little flat and remember it as a place full of French, Italian, Turkish, Algerian, Lebanese leftist students who passionately discussed the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, read poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky and collectively dreamt about the Revolution. From there I was zoomed to my Grandma’s neighbourhood in Ankara – a very patriarchal and very conservative-Muslim environment. Back then, in the late 1970s, there was increasing political violence and turmoil in Turkey. Every day a bomb exploded somewhere, people got killed on the streets, there were shootings on university campuses. But inside Grandma’s house what prevailed were superstitions, evil eye beads, coffee cup readings and the oral culture of the Middle East. In all my novels there has been a continuous interest in both: the world of stories, magic and mysticism inside the house, and the world of politics, conflict, inequality and discrimination outside the window.

How an Army propaganda writer became the country’s most controversial novelist.

Jiayang Fan:

Yan is routinely referred to as China’s most controversial novelist, thanks to his scandalous satires about the brutalities of its Communist past and the moral nullity of its market-driven transformation. In “Serve the People!” (2005), set during the Cultural Revolution, a commander’s wife and her young lover become aroused smashing statuettes of Mao and urinating on his books. Since 2016, almost all of Yan’s work—to date, seventeen novels, as well as short stories, novellas, and volumes of essays—has been subject to an unofficial ban. But his international reputation has grown. He won the Franz Kafka Prize in 2014, has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize, and is often mentioned as a likely recipient of the Nobel. Yan’s style is experimental and surreal, and he is credited with developing a strain of absurdism that he terms “mythorealism.” As he puts it, “The reality of China is so outrageous that it defies belief and renders realism inert.”

Henan is ground zero for Yan’s mordant imagination, and in his fiction it becomes a world of remorseless venality—of corrupt local officials, amoral entrepreneurs, and peasants with get-rich-quick schemes that prey on desperation and run on an engine of betrayal. “Some of the most memorable events in history happened here, but, during my lifetime, it’s become one of the poorest places in the country,” he told me. “There is no dignity left, and because of that the people of Henan have felt a deep sense of loss and bitterness.”

Yan does not exempt himself from his critique; his books often feature an alter ego, also named Yan Lianke, a hack writer who periodically goes back home to gather material. In “The Day the Sun Died,” which will be published in the U.S. in December, he writes, “For Yan, this town and this village functioned the way that a bank did for a thief—offering him an inexhaustible warehouse full of goods.” Throughout our trip, I noticed him unobtrusively harvesting details for his next book: Who built this recreational center? Where does the funding come from? More often than not, people ended up telling him slightly more than they should.

The Lost Art of Staying Put

Lucy Ellmann:

Not all that long ago, air travel was a clear badge of elite cultural distinction, from the “jet set” to the Sinatra-mangling ad slogan, “Come Fly With Me.” Droit-de-seigneur sexual fantasies of stewardess life were memorialized in that elegantly titled sixties tell-all Coffee, Tea, or Me? People actually used to dress up to take a plane. But that’s all over. Now you need a bulletproof vest when dealing with the cabin crew.

Airlines seem to be competing for Jerk of the Year awards. When they’re not bumping people off, figuratively or literally, they’re frighteningly “reaching out” to the customers they abused, customers with “issues.” (The language is patronizing and predatory.) We’re all sorry United’s planes are so attractive to terrorists. The staff must be under constant strain. But so are the passengers, with whom these tin-pot dictators are increasingly strict, banning leggings on ten-year-olds and bodily removing people from the passenger manifests.

Delta recruited airport police to threaten a couple with jail and the confiscation of their children, all for refusing to give up seats they’d paid for on a flight from Hawaii to LA. An American Airlines flight attendant bullied a tired mother of twin babies over her stroller, and then readied himself to punch a passenger who rose to her defense. These companies seem very exacting about how their customers behave—while apparently giving staff (or airport-based security officials) full license to unleash their inner demons. In airplane disaster movies, the pilot’s always wrestling with the yoke, trying to get full throttle; now these exertions are directed towards throttling the yokels.

Then United killed Simon. Simon was one of the largest rabbits in the world, maybe even a pooka! (United has a high rate of animal deaths, so watch whose hold you’re stuffing your poor pet into.) Rabbits go quietly belly-up, and Spandex-clad girls just sob and slip back into obscurity, taking their improper contours with them. But the sight of the bloodied Dr. Dao being manhandled and dragged along the aisle, on his back, through an “overbooked” United Airlines Chicago to Louisville flight, evoked fascist tactics, and caused United’s CEO to perform some tricky maneuvers to steer the airline out of a self-generated PR nose-dive. It also led to some suggestions for new slogans: Fly the unfriendly skies . . . Red eye and black eye flights available . . . If we can’t seat you we’ll beat you . . . Board as a doctor, leave as a patient . . . United: putting the hospital back into hospitality. Dr. Dao’s plight resonated because it so perfectly encapsulates the now-customary degradation of human dignity, morale, and will-to-live otherwise known as air travel in the twenty-first century.

How The Chinese Government Works To Censor Debate In Western Democracies

Frank Langfitt:

It used to be that the Communist Party focused on censoring free speech primarily inside of China. In recent years, though, China’s authoritarian government has tried to censor speech beyond its borders, inside liberal democracies, when speech contradicts the party’s line on highly sensitive political issues, such as the status of Tibet and Taiwan. It’s part of the party’s grand strategy to change the way the world talks about China.

The Chinese government has been so effective at intimidating Western businesses on this front that sometimes companies do the party’s work for it. That’s what happened in London this summer at an obscure soccer tournament modeled on the World Cup. The teams were drawn from a hodgepodge of minority peoples, isolated territories and would-be nations, including Tibet.

Some potential corporate sponsors were queasy.

The Morality Wars

Wesley Morris:

The civilized dinner party is probably over — even when you’re dining with friends. Everything means too much now. Everything. Our politics, obviously. But our genders, our food, our television. Our television. Last month, I was in a six-way conversation about HBO that narrowed into two people hung up on “Insecure,” a sitcom co-created by and starring Issa Rae about two best friends — Issa and Molly — in Los Angeles. It just ended its third season on HBO, and I’d describe my ongoing viewership as “exasperated fealty.”

Relationships — sororal, heterosexual, professional — occupy a lot of the show. But its best mode is as a shrewd, satirical consideration of how race pollutes the workplace. Molly is an attorney, first at a corporate firm and then at a smaller, ritzy black outfit that, because it’s black, is more stressfully protocol-ridden. Issa works at a nonprofit that strives to do nice stuff for black and Latino school kids between fits of self-congratulation and casual racism.

White progressive parents and the conundrum of privilege

Margaret Hagerman:

Greg and Sarah live in a predominantly white neighborhood and send their children to a predominantly white private school. “I don’t want to believe we are hypocrites,” Greg tells me. “But if we say diversity is important to us, but then we didn’t stick around in the place that was diverse, maybe we are?” He looks at Sarah. “I dunno,” he continues, “I guess we made decisions based on other things that were more important. But what does that say about us then?”

For two years I conducted research with 30 affluent white parents and their kids in a Midwestern metropolitan area. Over and over I heard comments like Greg’s reflecting a deep ambivalence: As progressive parents, is their primary responsibility to advance societal values ­— fairness, equal opportunity and social justice — or to give their children all the advantages in life that their resources can provide?

More often than not, values lost out.

Parents I interviewed felt conflicted about using their social status to advocate for their kids to have the “best” math teacher, because they knew other kids would be stuck with the “bad” math teacher. They registered the unfairness in leveraging their exclusive social networks to get their teenagers coveted summer internships when they knew disadvantaged kids were the ones who truly needed such opportunities. They felt guilty when they protectively removed their children from explicitly racist and contentious situations because they understood that kids of color cannot escape racism whenever they please. Still, those were the choices they made.

How The Chinese Government Works To Censor Debate In Western Democracies

Frank Langfitt:

It used to be that the Communist Party focused on censoring free speech primarily inside of China. In recent years, though, China’s authoritarian government has tried to censor speech beyond its borders, inside liberal democracies, when speech contradicts the party’s line on highly sensitive political issues, such as the status of Tibet and Taiwan. It’s part of the party’s grand strategy to change the way the world talks about China.

The Chinese government has been so effective at intimidating Western businesses on this front that sometimes companies do the party’s work for it. That’s what happened in London this summer at an obscure soccer tournament modeled on the World Cup. The teams were drawn from a hodgepodge of minority peoples, isolated territories and would-be nations, including Tibet.

Some potential corporate sponsors were queasy.

“There were inquiries made as to whether we would consider removing Tibet from the competition,” said Paul Watson, commercial director for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, or CONIFA, which ran the tournament. Watson spoke with one potential sponsor who was apologetic but direct.

“Look, I took this to my boss,” Watson recalled the sponsor telling him. “It’s Tibet. Can you get them out of there? I’m really sorry. It’s a terrible thing to ask. We love what you do, but would you remove Tibet?”

Civics and History: Celebrating Wrong Italian? (Columbus vs. Cabot)

James C. Bennett:

The interesting thing to me was the complete absence of anything representing the United States. This was not a coincidence. Columbus, and the holiday celebrating his landing in the New World, are seen throughout the Spanish-speaking world as having to do primarily with the extension of Spanish-speaking, Catholic civilization to the New World and the creation, through a conflicted encounter, of a new culture. It is, to coin a phrase, the creation of the Hispanosphere that is commemorated.

Traditionally, the role played by the United States in this narrative is not one of a joint participant, but rather an antagonist. In the narrative of Hispanosphere nationalists, Latin America is Shakespeare’s Ariel, the graceful and sensitive artistic spirit. The United States, or “Gringolandia” as it is sometimes called, is Caliban, the powerful but ugly monster that dominates tragic Ariel.

Columbus Day in the United States carries an entirely different set of connotations. During the 19th century, Columbus was reinvented by Washington Irving and his successors as a sort of Yankee visionary entrepreneur before his time. His specific roots in time, space, and culture as a Genoese in the service of Spanish monarchs was downplayed; what was celebrated was his seeming prescience and capacity for self-reinvention.

In fact Columbus did have some such characteristics; entrepreneurism is often a leap into the unknown, and he was neither the first nor the last to set out to seek one thing and discover another, nor to venture on the basis of mistaken calculations and assumptions. There was, it is true, a certain Enron-like quality to his mileage calculations.

Subsequently, this useful narrative was seized upon and expanded by Catholic immigrant communities eager to demonstrate that Catholicism was not inconsistent with being American. Italian immigrant groups found Columbus a particularly appealing figure; here was an Italian Catholic already elevated to heroic status by the Americans they sought to join. Columbus Day became established as an American holiday, but for reasons and with symbolism quite different from those for which it is celebrated in Latin America..

Now, of course, Columbus Day is under attack as a holiday in the United States by the forces of political correctness. This is primarily an effect of the Calvinist Puritan roots of American progressivism. Just as Calvinists believed in the centrality of the depravity of man, with the exception of a miniscule contingent of the Elect of God, their secularized descendants believe in the depravity and cursedness of Western civilization, with their own enlightened selves in the role of the Elect.

I do not particularly sympathize with the demonization of Columbus Day by the politically correct, although I do not think the injustices suffered by our Siberian-American fellow immigrants should be glossed over. However, I think Columbus Day should be reconsidered as a U.S. holiday for a different reason. I am fundamentally in agreement with the Hispanosphere nationalists on one point: Columbus’s voyage was very specifically the initiation of the contact between Spain and Spanish America. Neither the settlement of Brazil nor of English-speaking North America were direct consequences of Columbus’s voyages, and would probably have happened had Columbus never returned with the news of his landing.

The Portuguese discovery of Brazil was, after all, the accidental by-product of their ongoing exploration of Africa. The English-speaking world, on the other hand, began its expansion into North America as a consequence of John Cabot’s voyage of 1497.

Here are the US metro areas with the best and worst job markets – and the Midwest is doing better than you think

John Schoen:

The conventional wisdom is that the jobs boom has been better for coastal areas than in Midwestern and farm states.

But a closer look at the data shows that’s not the case at all.

Of the 20 metro areas with the tightest job markets — where unemployment rates are roughly half the national average or less — only five are in coastal states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest rate in the country, at just 1.7 percent, was in Ames, Iowa. Four other metros on the list are in Iowa, and three are in Idaho.

On the other hand, eight of the metro areas on the list of the 20 highest jobless rates are in California, where the overall jobless rate is 4.2 percent, a bit higher than the national rate. Yuma, Arizona, has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 22 percent.

The economic strength in the Midwest shows up in low jobless rates in dozens of other metro areas. That strength could be at risk, though, if Trump administration tariffs begin to weigh on exports, especially farm products.

‘Make them scared’ website posts uncorroborated sexual assault claims against male students

Daniel Payne:

Daniel Payne – Assistant Editor •October 5, 2018
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Site features dozens of unsubstantiated allegations; take them ‘with a grain of salt,’ moderators say

A website allegedly run by University of Washington students allows individuals to publicly accuse people of sexual assault with no evidence.

The website, titled “Make them scared UW,” was first registered in November of last year but reportedly launched in late September of this year by University of Washington students, the Daily UW campus newspaper reports.

It appears that the list of accused rapists and sexual assault perpetrators has grown substantially on the site in recent weeks in the wake of the rape claims made against U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, one student named on “Make them scared UW” told The College Fix that the allegation is false, that the University of Washington has dismissed the allegations against him as completely uncorroborated and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Who Prepares our History Teachers? Who should prepare our history teachers?

Diane Ravitch via Will Fitzhugh:

This is an exciting time for history education. States across the nation are strengthening their history curricula and expecting youngsters to learn more American and world history.

Even the vitriolic controversy over the national history standards serves to remind us that people care passionately about history. Not only is there a rekindled interest in history in the schools, but also, public history is bringing stories of the past to millions of people in museums, exhibitions, movies, and on television. The wonderful television programs created by Ken and Ric Burns have demonstrated that there is a large and avid public for history as a tale well told. There is now even a cable television station called the History Channel.

Yet all is not well with the teaching of history in the schools. The most authoritative source for student achievement is the National Assessment of Educational Progress; American history was last tested in 1994. The results were bleak. NAEP results are reported by achievement levels, with the highest called “advanced,” then “proficient,” then “basic.” Those who fail to reach the basic level are described as “below basic.” In the 1994 assessment, 57% of high school seniors scored “below basic” in American history (in public schools, the proportion “below basic” was 59%). These seniors had taken a U.S. history course in either 11th or 12th grade; their scores were unaffected by whether they studied history in the same year as the test or not. The NAEP results in history were worse than in any other subject area.

There are many reasons for this poor performance in history, and together we could probably come up with a long list of culprits, including television, popular culture, after-school jobs, a general social disregard for history, and so on.

But important as all these are, I will focus today on the most important variable that is within the purview and direct control of public policy: the preparation of those who teach history.

It seems a truism that students will not learn much history unless their teachers know it. This gets to the core of our discussion. Who prepares our history teachers now? Who should prepare our history teachers?

It should be self-evident that those who teach history should themselves have studied history. If they don’t know it, how can they teach it? If they don’t enjoy learning about it themselves, how can they transmit a love for history to students? How is it possible to teach what you do not know?

The only authoritative national data on the preparation of teachers are gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education. Its “Schools and Staffing Survey” reports on whether teachers have earned a major or minor in the main academic field that they teach. The data refer to teachers in grades 7-12, where teachers usually teach specific subject matter like mathematics, science, and history.

NCES surveys assume that those persons who lack either a major or a minor in their main academic field are teaching out of field. In 1996, NCES reported that “over half of all public school students enrolled in history or world civilization classes in grades 7-12…were taught by teachers who did not have at least a minor in history.” This disturbing finding compels us to ask, what is the educational preparation of those now teaching history? In a few states, people can be licensed to teach social studies without ever having taken a single college course in history. Presumably these are exceptions; what is the rule?

Last July, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report called “America’s Teachers: Profile of a Profession, 1993-1994.” This report contains some startling statistics. It found that a substantial number—28% of the nation’s public school teachers—had neither a major nor a minor in the main academic subject they were teaching. That includes 39.5% of science teachers; 25% of English teachers; 34% of mathematics teachers; 13.4% of foreign language teachers; and 17% of social studies teachers. The figures are even worse in private schools.

Since I was particularly interested in the state of history teaching, I asked analysts at NCES to determine the proportion of social studies teachers who had a major or a minor in history, and the proportion of history teachers who had studied history.

Thanks to the generous assistance of Pat Forgione, U.S. Commissioner of Education Statistics, Marty Orland, Kerry Gruber, Marilyn McMillen, and Steve Broughman of NCES, I learned the following:

Of those teachers who describe themselves as social studies teachers, that is, those who teach social studies in middle school or secondary school, only 18.5% have either a major or a minor in history. That is, 81.5% of social studies teachers did not study history in college either as a major or as a minor. In case you think you didn’t hear me correctly, let me say it again: 81.5% of social studies teachers did not study history in college either as a major or a minor. This figure helps to explain why history is no longer the center of the social studies, since so few social studies teachers have ever studied history.

Of those who teach one or more history courses, 55% do not have at least a minor in history. Of those who teach two or more history courses, 53% do not have a major or a minor in history; of those who teach one history course, 64% lack either a major or a minor in history.

Fifty-nine percent of students in middle school and 43% of students in high school study history with a teacher who did not earn at least a history minor in college.

Who did prepare our nation’s teachers of history and social studies? What did they study in college? Perhaps you assume that most social studies teachers earned their degrees in one of the social sciences, like sociology, psychology, economics, or political science, or in literature or the humanities. Wrong. Most social studies teachers received their undergraduate degree in education.

Among all those who identify themselves as social studies teachers, 71% took their undergraduate degree in education. When the 18.5% with history degrees are removed from the pool, 79% of the remaining social studies teachers have their undergraduate degree in education. What is the educational background of the social studies teachers who did not major or minor in history? About one out of seven (14%) gained an undergraduate degree in social studies education. However, about two-thirds (65%) have an education degree that is not related to any academic discipline, from such fields as special education, secondary education, bilingual education, curriculum and instruction, educational administration, counseling and guidance, or any one of a score of other pedagogical studies.

Of the social studies teachers who did not study history, a majority—53%—have not received an advanced degree; 42% have an advanced degree in education. Only 2% of these social studies teachers—the ones who lack at least a minor in history—have an advanced degree in any academic field. Put another way, of those social studies teachers who have received any advanced degree, 89% are in pedagogy, not history or the social sciences.

Now suppose we move from the universe of social studies teachers in the middle and upper grades to the more limited universe composed only of history teachers. As I said before, 55% of history teachers have neither a major nor minor in history. What did this 55% of history teachers study?

Nearly 77% have an undergraduate degree in education, 11% have an undergraduate degree in a social science other than history, and 5% earned their degree in some other academic subject.

But perhaps, one hopes, these history teachers who did not study history in college took a master’s degree in history, economics, sociology, political science, or one of the other social sciences. Wrong again. Fifty-three percent do not have a master’s degree, and of the 47% in this group who earned a master’s degree, 40% gained it in education, and only 3% in any academic field.

One can see a strong contrast between the preparation of those history teachers who studied history in college and those who did not. Those who earned at least a minor in history have a far stronger academic preparation, both as undergraduates and at the graduate level. Among those who have at least a minor in history in college, 22% have an undergraduate degree in education, 72% in history or one of the social sciences, and 4% in other academic subjects. Among this same group, 30% earned master’s degrees in education, 21% in history or another social science, and 1% in other academic fields.

From these numbers, it becomes clear that those who earned at least a minor in history as undergraduates are far likelier to earn a master’s degree in history or one of the social sciences than those who do not have at least a minor in history.

A picture begins to emerge of the social studies profession, in relation to history. The vast majority of social studies teachers—81.5%—as well as 55% of history teachers—did not major or minor in history, nor did they earn a graduate degree in history.

The typical social studies teacher has an undergraduate degree in education and, if she or he has a master’s degree, it too is in education.

At this point, it seems important to ask: How can teachers teach what they have not studied? How can students learn challenging subject matter from teachers who have not chosen to study what they are teaching? How can teachers create engaging, innovative and even playful ways to present ideas that they have not mastered themselves? How can teachers whose own knowledge of history is fragmentary help students debate and think critically about controversial issues?

This portrait of the social studies profession must be seen in a context in which states are expecting students to study not only U.S. History but increasingly more difficult courses in world history. How are students going to learn world history from someone who has never studied world history? How many universities even offer a course called “world history?” How many teachers in the United States are qualified to teach the rigorous content in the history standards prepared by the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA? The teacher who must teach a course that includes unfamiliar material will rely on the textbook as a primary source of information and is unlikely to raise questions or pose issues or develop activities that give the spark of life to the words in the textbook.

What I wonder is: Why do state officials grant teaching credentials to people to teach a subject that they have not studied? Why is teacher certification based on completion of education courses rather than on mastery of what is to be taught? Why not require future teachers of history to have a major or at least a strong minor in history?

In what other profession would public officials be so haphazard, so indifferent to professional preparation? Imagine going to a hospital and finding that the credentialing system permits scrub nurses to perform surgery. Or boarding an airliner and finding that ticket clerks have been certified to fly the planes. In education, placing teachers into out-of-field positions has become the usual, the acceptable and the normal.

In my view, it is professional malpractice when state officials do not require teachers to demonstrate—either by appropriate credentials or examination—that they know what they are supposed to teach. I say this not only about history teachers, but about teachers of every other core academic subject. Why should American students learn science, mathematics, or history from people who did not study those fields? Is it unreasonable to expect teachers to have studied what they will teach? There may be the exceptional instance where a gifted teacher really knows and loves history but chose not to study it in college or graduate school, but I suspect that those exceptions are rare indeed.

Who should prepare history teachers?

Ideally, future teachers should know their subject and know how to teach it. History teachers should study history in college. They should certainly have at least a minor and preferably a major in history, including American and world history courses. With states expanding the requirements in world history, it becomes essential for future teachers to study the history of Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and India. Imagine taking on the challenge of history teaching today without so much as a minor in history.

In addition, future history teachers should include the study of social sciences and literature as part of their preparation to teach. They should learn pedagogical methods, either in appropriate courses or in an apprenticeship setting with mentors. Their graduate studies should concentrate on history, the humanities and social sciences.

There are very possibly areas of fruitful collaboration between schools of education and colleges of liberal arts and sciences. Together, they should be able to work out a good balance between the knowledge and skills that good history teachers need to be effective in the classroom. That is, if they are willing to work together, as they have not in the past.

Of one thing I am quite sure: schools of education are not the appropriate place to prepare history teachers. One reason is simply the status quo. Schools of education are currently preparing most future teachers of social studies and of history, and they are not learning history. This is not an indictment of schools of education: They don’t teach history, so why should they be blamed if their students do not learn what the ed schools do not teach?

But there is another reason to urge that schools of education are not the right place to prepare history teachers. If we go back to the origins of the social studies, we will find that the field was created as an escape from the teaching of history. The founder of the social studies was Thomas Jesse Jones. He was probably the first person to teach a course called “the social studies” at Hampton Institute, an industrial and trade school for African-Americans and Indians in Virginia. Jones believed that history was useless to poor minorities; it was not history study that they needed, but the right sort of skills and attitudes to fit them into the existing social order.

Jones was a staff member at the U.S. Bureau of Education, where he produced a large federal report on “Negro Education” in 1916. In that report, Jones expressed disapproval of academic schooling for Negro children. He believed that what they needed was vocational and industrial training. He urged instruction in planting, sewing, cooking, and woodworking. Their parents and community leaders wanted them to get collegiate type schooling, but Jones insisted they were wrong. He thought that they had a mistaken suspicion “that the white people are urging a caste education which confines them to industrial pursuits.”

Jones was a former social worker, and he thought that education should adjust youngsters to their society and their prospects; the study of history didn’t do that. Many other progressive educators agreed with Jones that history was not only useless but elitist. What, after all, was the good of learning about ancient civilizations? How did knowledge of obscure worlds make anyone a better citizen? How did it prepare youngsters for labor in the factories and fields? Social studies, on the other hand, could teach youngsters the right attitudes and adjust them to the industrial order. Social studies was socially efficient; history was not. History was far too individualistic, and its results were not predictable. Students might even learn to think for themselves. This was not socially efficient. Better, thought Thomas Jesse Jones and likeminded educators, to teach only the history that connected to children’s immediate interests and better to concentrate on current events and existing social institutions because ordinary boys and girls could not possibly be interested in remote civilizations or faraway places. The trouble with history, it seemed, was that it frequently didn’t have a social purpose at all; too often, it was geared toward satisfying the student’s imagination or curiosity, which was a socially useless goal.

Jones was in the mainstream of progressive education; industrial and vocational education was in vogue. It was no surprise when Thomas Jesse Jones—father of the social studies—was named the chair of the committee appointed by the National Education Association to reorganize a new field in the high school curriculum. His committee’s report, released in 1916, established the social studies. The Committee on Social Studies proclaimed that “good citizenship” would be the goal of social studies.

Henceforth, the study of history would be subject to what the Committee called:

The test of good citizenship. The old chronicler who recorded the deeds of kings and warriors and neglected the labors of the common man is dead. The great palaces and cathedrals and pyramids are often but the empty shells of a parasitic growth on the working group. The elaborate descriptions of these old tombs are but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals compared to the record of the joy and sorrows, the hopes and disappointments of the masses, who are infinitely more important than any arrangement of wood and stone and iron. In this spirit recent history is more important than that of ancient times; the history of our own country than that of foreign lands; the record of our own institutions and activities than that of strangers; the labors and plans of the multitudes than the pleasures and dreams of the few.

The Committee on Social Studies stressed that social efficiency was “the keynote of modern education,” and “instruction in all subjects should contribute to this end.” In the future, social studies would be devoted to teaching students to have the right attitudes and to enable them to adjust to the “present social environment and conditions.”

These modern, progressive views were hailed in the nation’s schools of education. There was a consensus among pedagogical leaders of the day that history was only for the tiny minority who planned to go to college. The great majority of youngsters who came from working families, it was agreed, did not need to study history.

In light of these views, implanted in schools of education in their early years, it becomes understandable why history education is seldom found in our nation’s schools of education. There are professors who teach the history of education, but the programs that prepare teachers of American history and world history have been rare. Schools of education teach science education, math education, and social studies education, but not history education. Unfortunately, history continues to be treated as an elitist subject, because the anti-historical attitudes forged in the nineteen-teens persisted long after they lost any validity.

So now we must rely on the movies and television to teach history. Periodically there will be a hit show like Braveheart or Glory or Roots or The Civil War, and we know that for many youngsters it will be their best chance to learn history just for the fun of it. We just have to hope that the dramatic liberties that the filmmakers take are not too farfetched.

We should do better. We know that history is exciting, interesting, engaging, fascinating. We know that kids can get turned on to the history of ancient Egypt, modern China, the Aztecs, or a zillion other times and places and peoples. But we also suspect that, without teachers who themselves know and love history, the excitement doesn’t happen, indeed can’t happen.

I cannot conclude without pointing to the curriculum in the early grades, where the social studies has had an especially deleterious effect. We do not need historians teaching first, second and third grade. But we should have teachers in the early grades who understand the value of biographies, myths, legends, and history stories. Sadly, due to the power of the current social studies curriculum, little kids are compelled to learn abstract or trivial ideas about families and communities. Not only does this bore kids and teachers, but it gives youngsters a sense of insignificance. Why not introduce them to the lives of men and women who created, invented, struggled, discovered, and broke new ground? What the social studies now teaches is that the world is shaped by social and economic trends that are beyond anyone’s control; what history teaches is that one persistent, determined man or woman can change the world.

If we are to maintain the movement for history education, we must insist that states establish a strong history curriculum across the grades and that they require future teachers of history to have at least a minor in history.

Given the current state of the field, given the fact that 81.5% of current social studies teachers and 55% of current history teachers do not have even a minor in history, this will be an uphill battle. But it is the most important battle in the struggle to restore and improve history education.

Will Fitzhugh at the Concord Review.

“Students who are flourishing are not the ones typically transferring schools.”

Erin Richards:

Test scores tell another story. Less than 5 percent of students are proficient in English and math on the state exam. The vast majority score “below basic,” the lowest category, in both subjects.

Despite devoted teachers, a spirit of achievement, extra money and five years of attention from Milwaukee’s best minds in business and education as part of an unprecedented turnaround effort, Carver’s students are stuck academically.

The school’s biggest obstacle turned out to be something nobody was even tracking: Student turnover.

More than a third of Carver’s students — 38 percent — were brand new to the school last year. Just a few students from the elementary grades stay through middle school each year, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis of the social and academic consequences of chronic school-switching.

Improving urban education has no silver bullet. Low performance is too interrelated with poverty and toxic stress and the generational trauma many children carry into schools. But new data suggests that student turnover is a massive indicator of academic struggle and stagnation. Test scores drop because of it. Graduation rates fall because of it. Teachers don’t know what to do about it. Principals can’t recognize their own students as a result of it.

And until now, nobody knew the extent of it.
Angela Peterson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Third grade teacher Symona Gregory works with Kamariana Brown, 8, in preparation for a math test in May 2018. Gregory is a fourth-year teacher at Carver Academy and a former City Year staff member. She was named teacher of the year at the school in 2017-’18.

Enrollment and test-score data analyzed by the Journal Sentinel revealed the quiet churn of more than 22,000 Milwaukee students across all types of schools last year — a phenomenon that’s ravaging the city’s prospects for educational improvement.

Howard Zinn’s Anti-Textbook

Sam Wineburg:

History, for Zinn, is looked at from “the bottom up”: a view “of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army.” Decades before we thought in such terms, Zinn provided a history for the 99 percent. Many teachers view A People’s History as an anti-textbook, a corrective to the narratives of progress dispensed by the state. This is undoubtedly true on a topical level. When learning about the Spanish-American War, students don’t read about Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill. Instead, they follow the plight of foot soldiers sweltering in the Cuban tropics, clutching their stomachs, not from Spanish bullets but from food poisoning caused by rancid meat sold to the army by Armour & Company. Such stories acquaint students with a history too often hidden and too quickly brushed aside by traditional textbooks.

An inquiry into the actions of a prominent professor reveals why it’s so hard to report inappropriate behavior at the top law school in the country.

Dahlia Lithwick Susan Matthews:

One afternoon late in her first year at Yale Law School, Linda sat down to create a contemporaneous record of a conversation she’d had the night before. She’d met with one of her professors, Jed Rubenfeld, in his office after hours at his suggestion, following repeated attempts to see him in the afternoon about a paper she was working on for him. Rubenfeld had made her uncomfortable throughout the year, commenting on her appearance and asking her about his. While friends had told her she had reason to feel creeped out by his behavior, Linda wondered whether she was being too sensitive and agreed to the 8 p.m. meeting. She really needed to make progress on the paper, after all. But given the queasy feeling she already had, she asked her partner to pick her up that night, and to come looking for her if he hadn’t heard from her after a reasonable amount of time.

Yes, they graduated, but can they read?

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques:

Our analyses revealed that over the course of nine years of instruction, the percentage of minority students in the class of 2017 who were proficient in reading or math was very low and changed very little. At no point did more than 20 percent of black students or 30 percent of Hispanic students achieve grade-level proficiency in either content area. No limitation in the tests used or the data obtained — including any cultural bias that may exist in the tests — can explain away these painful results. Any way you slice it, we are failing to give the bulk of our minority students basic academic skills.

And yet 77 percent of Hispanic students and 72.6 percent of black students in the class of 2017 earned a high school diploma. Clearly most of them did so without having grade level skills. But a high school diploma without high school level reading and math skills is of limited value. What does the future hold for these students?

We have long been frustrated by the way the district selectively compiles, analyzes, and shares student data with the community. We see the situation as a decades-old cultural problem in the Doyle Building and do not hold any single individual responsible for it. For too many district administrators and school board members over the 20+ years we have been paying attention, making the district look good has been more important than thoroughgoing honesty about how our students are doing. In fact, we shared our analyses and concerns with the district administration and school board last month, but have received no response from the administration and only one from a board member.

See the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship between Madison (WI) school district graduation rates and student achievement.

The Printed Word in Peril

Will Self:

In February, at an event at the 92nd Street Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center in New York, while sharing the stage with my fellow British writer Martin Amis and discussing the impact of screen-based reading and bidirectional digital media on the Republic of Letters, I threw this query out to an audience that I estimate was about three hundred strong: “Have any of you been reading anything by Norman Mailer in the past year?” After a while, one hand went up, then another tentatively semi-elevated. Frankly I was surprised it was that many. Of course, there are good reasons why Mailer in particular should suffer posthumous obscurity with such alacrity: his brand of male essentialist braggadocio is arguably extraneous in the age of Trump, Weinstein, and fourth-wave feminism. Moreover, Mailer’s brilliance, such as it was, seemed, even at the time he wrote, to be sparks struck by a steely intellect against the tortuous rocks of a particular age, even though he labored tirelessly to the very end, principally as the booster of his own reputation.

Do we really still need Banned Books Week?

Ron Charles:

If you tell anyone, I’ll deny it, but I’ve been irritated for a long time by Banned Books Week. Despite my unqualified support for the freedom to read, the annual celebration, which began Sunday, has always struck me as shrill and inaccurate. I know the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association and other fine sponsors are doing important, necessary work. I just wish Banned Books Week didn’t appear to exaggerate a problem that’s largely confined to our repressive past.

All week in bookstores and libraries around the country, you’ll see displays, banners and special events like the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Brooklyn Public Library on Wednesday. Central to these celebrations is the annual list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books. This year, like most years, that list includes: Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and other fantastic, award-winning novels that only the most ignorant and backward people would object to.

Trouble With the Academic Star System

Mark Bauerlein:

Harassment policies and speech codes these days affect every aspect of campus life, including the content of academic discourse. Everyone is on the alert for microaggressions and situations of discomfort. But what about the discomfort of people constantly suspicious of one another, never sure who will misunderstand a word or look, commit a sexual transgression, or file a complaint out of anger over quite other matters?

This hardly creates an atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning. It also suggests an absolute separation between a personal and professional life that does not correspond with reality, though we like to pretend otherwise these days. People tend to get involved with people they know – in schools and workplaces. Thus, to formally prohibit relationships between adults is to take a huge step toward allowing the state to dictate personal life.

Thus far, the situation on college campuses has only gotten worse, not better, as the advent of campus Bias Report Teams and multiplication of avenues for filing complaints reveal. The ensuing hypervigilance has been instituted without any discussion of the consequences on human relations on campus.

UW System fall enrollment numbers drop. Here are the campuses that stand to lose the most

Karen Herzog:

But the stakes are especially high for UW-Stevens Point and UW-Platteville this fall because they are absorbing significant losses of enrollment at their new two-year satellite campuses, in addition to losses of their own.

Losing enrollment means losing valuable tuition revenue that, together with state funding, covers the cost of educating students.

Overall, the UW System’s 26 campuses collectively lost 2,598 students, compared with a year ago — dropping from a total 173,425 students to 170,827, or an enrollment decline of 1.5%.

‘I’m surrounded by people – but I feel so lonely’


When the BBC launched the Loneliness Experiment on Valentine’s Day 2018 a staggering 55,000 people from around the world completed the survey, making it the largest study of loneliness yet. Claudia Hammond, who instigated the project, looks at the findings and spoke to three people about their experiences of loneliness.

“It’s like a void, a feeling of emptiness. If you have a good piece of news or a bad piece of news, it’s not having that person to tell about it. Lacking those people in your life can be really hard.”

Michelle Lloyd is 33 and lives in London. She is friendly and chatty and enjoys her job – she seems to have everything going for her, but she feels lonely. She has lived in a few different cities so her friends are spread around the country and tend to be busy with their children at weekends. She does go for drinks with colleagues after work, but tells me it’s the deeper relationships she misses.

“I’m very good at being chatty, I can talk to anyone, but that doesn’t mean I’m able to have those lasting relationships with people,” says Michelle. “You can be in a group and it can be intimidating because you’re conscious of not letting people get to know the ‘real you’.

“I would say I’ve always had an element of feeling lonely. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve always felt a little bit different and separate from large groups of friends, but in the last five years it’s crept in more.”

Civics: The Government Wants Airlines to Delay Your Flight So They Can Scan Your Face

Sam Biddle:

Omnipresent facial recognition has become a golden goose for law enforcement agencies around the world. In the United States, few are as eager as the Department of Homeland Security. American airports are currently being used as laboratories for a new tool that would automatically scan your face — and confirm your identity with U.S. Customs and Border Protection — as you prepare to board a flight, despite the near-unanimous objections from privacy advocates and civil libertarians, who call such scans invasive and pointless.

According to a new report on the Biometric Entry-Exit Program by DHS itself, we can add another objection: Your flight could be late.

Although the new report, published by Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, is overwhelmingly supportive in its evaluation of airport-based biometric surveillance — the practice of a computer detecting your face and pairing it with everything else in the system — the agency notes some hurdles from a recent test code-named “Sprint 8.” Among them, the report notes with palpable frustration, was that airlines insist on letting their passengers depart on time, rather than subjecting them to a Homeland Security surveillance prototype plagued by technical issues and slowdowns:

Pass the tortoise shell

Eve Houghton:

The history of the book does not always involve the study of either history or books. As James Raven shows in this slim, engaging volume, the question of what sort of object might count as a book remains very much up for debate. The history of the book in the Western world has traditionally made “book” synonymous with “codex” – gatherings of leaves folded or stitched together – but in Professor Raven’s geographically and chronologically wide-ranging account, it takes a variety of material forms: Chinese tortoise shells inscribed 3,000 years ago; Sumerian clay tablets impressed with cuneiform scripts; knotted string records, or khipus, used for record-keeping by South American Incan officials. The boundaries of the book seem even less clearly defined in the era of the blog post and Kindle.

Furthermore, the “history” of the book might not capture the full range and diversity of a scholarly endeavour that now encompasses work in literary studies, sociology, anthro­pology and computer science. Data-driven projects such as the Open University’s Reading Experience Database consider histories of book ­provenance and use on an aggregate scale. Advanced word and phrase search functions in databases such as Google Books and the HathiTrust Digital Library have allowed a ­computational approach to traditional literary-critical investigations concerning questions of style, authorship and literary influence. Online collections – among them Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online – have replaced reels of microfilm with digital images. The field Robert Darnton described in the early 1980s as “the social and cultural history of communication by print” now involves objects of inquiry and methodological approaches that would have been hard to imagine even a few decades ago, such as work on “born-digital” archives (such as emails and Word documents) or computer models that can superimpose historical records of book ownership over geographic data.

Learn From These Bugs. Don’t Let Social Media Zombify You

Matt Simon:

You’ve heard that social media is screwing with your brain. Maybe you even read about it on social media. (So meta; so messed up.) The neurochemical culprit, dopamine, spikes when you like and get liked, share and are shared. You’ve probably also heard scientists compare the affliction to drug or alcohol addiction. That’s fair. The same part of the brain lights up.

Scroll, scroll, scroll. It’s a phenomenon now so pervasive that it’s got a name: zombie scrolling syndrome. (The security company McAfee coined the phrase in 2016.) We are the undead of lore, shambling through the world, moaning and groaning with half-closed eyes. I’d like to be able to tell you this is a fantastical bit of exaggeration, that we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. I can do no such thing.

The analogy, it turns out, has legs. Consider parasites. An astonishing number of them exist in nature, from worms to wasps, and some have the power of mind control. Or, said another way, zombification. And these fiends are doing it in—gulp—ways that bring to mind social media.

Ivy League school has little to show for $185 million spent on ‘faculty diversity’

Toni Airaksinen:

A newly released report reveals that Columbia University spent more than $185 million to increase “faculty diversity” but that it has effectively had no impact.

According to a September 13 report, Columbia University has spent $185 million since 2005 to increase the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities hired as faculty and tenured faculty professors. However, despite the $185 million spent, the proportion of black and Latinx faculty members have largely remained “stagnant” and, in some years, faculty diversity got worse, as 2017 saw a .05 percent drop in black faculty members.

“Social justice is not the purpose of a university.”

“We have to be able to make the scholarly case [for diversity] to our departments. But there is no stick. We are an office of carrots,” Dennis Mitchell, vice provost of faculty diversity and inclusion at Columbia University, told the Columbia Spectator.

Women faculty are the only demographic that has seen gains since the school started investing in faculty diversity, though the increase cannot necessarily be linked to the investment, as women are now the majority in higher education more broadly.

Civics: A nearly 100-year-old statute allows the chairmen of Congress’ tax committees to look at anyone’s returns.

Brian Faler:

A nearly 100-year-old statute allows the chairmen of Congress’ tax committees to look at anyone’s returns.

The years-old mystery of what’s in President Donald Trump’s tax returns will likely quickly unravel if Democrats win control of at least one chamber of Congress.

Democrats, especially in the House, are quietly planning on using an obscure law that will enable them to examine the president’s tax filings without his permission.

Story Continued Below

The nearly 100-year-old statute allows the chairmen of Congress’ tax committees to look at anyone’s returns, and Democrats say they intend to use that power to help answer a long list of questions about Trump’s finances. Many also want to use it to make public confidential information about Trump’s taxes that he’s steadfastly refused to release.

“Probably the approach would be to get all of it, review it, and, depending on what that shows, release all or part of it,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, the No. 4 Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.

That could bring a swift end to the long-running battle over Trump’s returns, while generating loads of fodder for what promises to be an array of investigations into the administration if Democrats win power.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal Agencies rush to exhaust budgets in final week of fiscal year

Elizabeth Harrington:

Federal agencies spent millions on cars, scooters, fidget spinners, and shuffleboards in an attempt to exhaust their budgets before they run out at the end of the fiscal year.

An analysis of federal spending by and shared with the Washington Free Beacon reveals 67 agencies and departments spend nearly $50 billion closing out their fiscal year 2017 budgets.

The “spending frenzy” totaled nearly $50 billion in seven days.

“Federal agencies spend-out their budgets,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of “If they don’t spend it this year, they lose it for next year. It’s a year-end spending spree whereby $1 of every $9 spent during the fiscal year is spent in the final week.”

“Last year, during the final week of the fiscal year, federal agencies literally ‘drove up taxpayer costs,'” he said. “They bought $170 million in ‘passenger motor vehicles.’ And that’s a lot more than the $1 million spent on motorcycles, scooters, and bikes. Health and Human Services bought a fleet of armored vehicles with Square One for $1.5 million.”

Inside the Black Mirror World of Polygraph Job Screenings

Mark Harris:

Commonly known as lie detectors, polygraphs are virtually unused in civilian life. They’re largely inadmissible in court and it’s illegal for most private companies to consult them. Over the past century, scientists have debunked the polygraph, proving again and again that the test can’t reliably distinguish truth from falsehood. At best, it is a roll of the dice; at worst, it’s a vessel for test administrators to project their own beliefs.

Yet Talbot’s test was no different from the millions of others conducted annually across the public sector, where the polygraph is commonly used as a last-ditch effort to weed out unsuitable candidates. Hiring managers will ask a range of questions about minor crimes, like marijuana use and vandalism, and major infractions, like kidnapping, child abuse, terrorism, and bestiality. Using a polygraph, these departments believe, increases the likelihood of obtaining facts that potential recruits might prefer not to reveal. And like hundreds of thousands of job candidates each year, Talbot was judged to have lied on the test. He failed.

New Haven allows failed applicants to plead their case in public before the Board of Police Commissioners. So in February 2014, Talbot sat down and recited his experiences with lie detectors. He had first applied to the Connecticut State Police and was failed for deception about occasional marijuana use as a minor. He then tried again with a police department in New Britain, where a polygraph test showed him lying about his criminal and sexual history.

This time he had failed the New Haven polygraph for something cryptically called “inconsistencies.” “[But] I’m not hiding anything,” he said at the hearing. “I was being straight and honest and I’ve never been in trouble with the law. I’m not lying about anything.”

“Less discussed in Wisconsin is the tremendous impact that economic status has on student achievement”

Will Flanders:

Less discussed in Wisconsin is the tremendous impact that economic status has on student achievement. A school with a population of 100% students who are economically disadvantaged would be expected to have proficiency rates more than 40% lower than a school with wealthier students. Indeed, this economics achievement gap is far larger in terms of proficiency effects than the racial achievement gap, and has important implications for the rural areas of the state, where the percentage of low-income families is higher than most suburban and some rural areas.

While the initial data release by DPI did not include sufficient data for apples-to-apples comparisons among private schools in the choice program, the data was comprehensive enough for charter schools. Particularly in Milwaukee, these schools continue to outperform their peer schools. For this preliminary analysis, we pulled out independent and non-instrumentality charters from MPS, while leaving instrumentality charters—or charters in name-only—as part of the district’s performance. In both mathematics and English/language arts, charter schools continue to outperform their other public school peers.

In English/Language Arts, “free” charters had approximately 9% higher proficiency than traditional public schools. In mathematics, these schools had 6.9% higher proficiency. This is consistent with our past analyses which have found that independence from MPS is a key component of better student outcomes, whether through the chartering or the school choice program.

“We set a high bar for achievement,” DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said.

Madison, despite spending far more than most, has tolerated long term, disastrous reading results.

Tony Evers, currently runnng for Governor, has lead the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction since 2009. I wonder if anyone has addressed Wisconsin achievement challenges vis a vis his DPI record?

The Wisconsin DPI has aborted our one attempt at teacher content knowledge requirements: “Foundations of Reading” for elementary teachers. Massachusetts’ MTEL substantially raised the teacher content knowledge bar, leading to their top public school rank.

An emphasis on adult employment, also Zimman.

Alan Borsuk:

“I didn’t have one phone call, I don’t have one email about this NAEP data. But my phone can ring all day if there’s a fight at a school or can ring all day because a video has gone out about a board meeting. That’s got to change, that’s just got to change. …

“My best day will be when we have an auditorium full of people who are upset because of our student performance and our student achievement and because of the achievement gaps that we have. My question is, where is our community around these issues?

Wisconsin DPI: “We set a high bar for achievement,” & abort Foundations of Reading Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement}

Molly Beck and Erin Richards:

“We set a high bar for achievement,” DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said. “To reach more than half (proficiency), we would need to raise the achievement of our lowest district and subgroup performers through policies like those recommended in our budget, targeted at the large, urban districts.”

The new scores reveal the state’s persistent gap in academic achievement between its black and white students remains large.

Twelve percent of black third-graders are considered proficient or advanced in English, compared to 48 percent of white students, for example.

In math, about 17 percent of black students in third grade scored proficient or advanced in the 2017-’18 school year, while 60 percent of white students scored at the same level.

Will Flanders:

Less discussed in Wisconsin is the tremendous impact that economic status has on student achievement. A school with a population of 100% students who are economically disadvantaged would be expected to have proficiency rates more than 40% lower than a school with wealthier students. Indeed, this economics achievement gap is far larger in terms of proficiency effects than the racial achievement gap, and has important implications for the rural areas of the state, where the percentage of low-income families is higher than most suburban and some rural areas.

While the initial data release by DPI did not include sufficient data for apples-to-apples comparisons among private schools in the choice program, the data was comprehensive enough for charter schools. Particularly in Milwaukee, these schools continue to outperform their peer schools. For this preliminary analysis, we pulled out independent and non-instrumentality charters from MPS, while leaving instrumentality charters—or charters in name-only—as part of the district’s performance. In both mathematics and English/language arts, charter schools continue to outperform their other public school peers.

In English/Language Arts, “free” charters had approximately 9% higher proficiency than traditional public schools. In mathematics, these schools had 6.9% higher proficiency. This is consistent with our past analyses which have found that independence from MPS is a key component of better student outcomes, whether through the chartering or the school choice program.

Madison, despite spending far more than most, has tolerated long term, disastrous reading results.

Tony Evers, currently runnng for Governor, has lead the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction since 2009. I wonder if anyone has addressed Wisconsin achievement challenges vis a vis his DPI record?

The Wisconsin DPI has aborted our one attempt at teacher content knowledge requirements: “Foundations of Reading” for elementary teachers. Massachusetts’ MTEL substantially raised the teacher content knowledge bar, leading to their top public school rank.

An emphasis on adult employment, also Zimman.

Alan Borsuk:

“I didn’t have one phone call, I don’t have one email about this NAEP data. But my phone can ring all day if there’s a fight at a school or can ring all day because a video has gone out about a board meeting. That’s got to change, that’s just got to change. …

“My best day will be when we have an auditorium full of people who are upset because of our student performance and our student achievement and because of the achievement gaps that we have. My question is, where is our community around these issues?

Love in the time of AI: meet the people falling for scripted robots

Oscar Schwartz:

I recently met a young woman named Wild Rose on an online chat forum. We struck up a conversation and within the first five minutes, Wild Rose – who is married, has a daughter, and lives in Texas with her in-laws – started telling me about her lover, a man called Saeran.

Saeran, she told me, is the illegitimate son of a politician who had grown up with an abusive mother. He is handsome, has white blond hair, golden eyes, a large tattoo on his shoulder. Wild Rose said that when she first met him, her “heart literally ached” and her cheeks “flooded with blood”.

She then paused and added: “But I don’t think Saeran loves me the way I love him. I love him genuinely. I’ll never know his true feelings.”

The reason: Saeran isn’t human. He is a character in a mobile phone game called Mystic Messenger, which was released two years ago by Cheritz, a South Korean game developer. It has since been downloaded by millions of people worldwide. The game is a mix between a romance novel and Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, in which a man develops a relationship with a Siri-like character.

Georgia’s Separate and Unequal Special-Education System

Rachel Aviv:

Seth Murrell, a four-year-old boy with dreadlocks to his chin, moved with his family to Atlanta in the fall of 2015. On his first day at his new preschool, he cried the whole morning. He wouldn’t sit still in his chair. He’d pop up and snatch the glasses off a classmate’s face, or spit at the teacher. When he was tired, he waved his arms in the air, begging his teacher to hold him. On the rare occasions that his teacher complimented him, he shouted “Yay!” too loudly.

His mother, Latoya Martin, a hair stylist, had moved with her husband and three children from Donalsonville, a rural town in Seminole County, in the southwest corner of Georgia, to be closer to psychiatrists and neurologists who would understand why her son was developmentally delayed. He couldn’t string words together into a sentence. His teachers called Latoya nearly every day and told her to pick him up early, because he was disrupting the class. When Latoya resisted—she was busy looking for a new job—her friends warned her that the school might call child-protective services if she couldn’t pick up Seth promptly. Latoya sensed that the teachers were accusing her of being a bad parent, so she informed the school’s principal that she had never done drugs and that in high school her G.P.A. had been 4.0. Latoya’s sister Anita said, “They kept saying we needed to work with him more at home. I’m, like, we work with him—that’s not the problem. This is part of his disability!”

Civics and Geography in the South China Sea

Gordon Lubold:

U.S. forces operating in the region navigate through international waters regularly and always abide by international law, a U.S. official said, adding that such patrols demonstrate the U.S. will “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

“That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” the official said. “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements,” the official said.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese government. Beijing says it has “indisputable sovereignty” over all South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters.

Last week, China said the recent flight of American B-52 bombers over the South China Sea was “provocative.” The Pentagon called the flight routine.

The last time the U.S. conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea was in May, when two warships—the USS Antietam and USS Higgins—navigated through the Paracel Islands.

Such maritime patrols are typically planned weeks in advance. Still, Sunday’s patrol comes amid rising tensions with China.

Economics: Money Printing (“Fiat Currency”) and Venezuelan Governance

Patricia Laya and Fabiola Zerpa:

Lost amid the economic chaos in Venezuela, the bolivar has actually stabilized somewhat.

In the six weeks since the initial plunge after the government simultaneously carried out a massive devaluation and redenomination of the currency, it has slid just 19 percent in the black market. That may not constitute stabilization in most foreign-exchange markets, but in Venezuela, where hyperinflation has been ravaging the economy for months on end, it’s the closest thing to normality seen in a while.

While far from a major policy victory and possibly only ephemeral, the bolivar’s relative stability is a rare feat for Venezuela and could even help slow the breakneck pace of hyperinflation, which is forecast to reach 1 million percent this year. President Nicolas Maduro devalued the bolivar by 95 percent last month in what was perceived as a tacit acceptance of the ubiquitous black-market exchange, where most Venezuelans acquire dollars.

Related: US Debt Clock and local taxpayer K-12 school district spending.

No Cash Needed At This Cafe. Students Pay The Tab With Their Personal Data

Chaiel Schaffel:

Ferris will turn away customers if they’re not college students or faculty members. The cafe allows professors to pay, but students have something else the shop wants: their personal information.

To get the free coffee, university students must give away their names, phone numbers, email addresses and majors, or in Brown’s lingo, concentrations. Students also provide dates of birth and professional interests, entering all of the information in an online form. By doing so, the students also open themselves up to receiving information from corporate sponsors who pay the cafe to reach its clientele through logos, apps, digital advertisements on screens in stores and on mobile devices, signs, surveys and even baristas.

According to Shiru’s website: “We have specially trained staff members who give students additional information about our sponsors while they enjoy their coffee.”

The website for the Japanese-owned cafe also explains Shiru’s mission and philosophy: “Through a free drink we try to give students some information which sponsor company would like to inform exclusively for university students to diverse the choices of their future career.”

Western Civilisation “Not Welcome Here”

Bella d’Abrerea:

Earlier this year, the Dean of Arts at Newcastle University wrote a piece for The Conversation in which she stated that Western Civilisation is past its used by date and that it’s too ‘white’ to teach in multi-cultural classrooms. The University of Sydney academics leading the charge, claim that the BA will “pedal racism disguised as appreciation for ‘Western Culture.’” At a National Tertiary Education Union forum, former University of Sydney chair, sociologist and gender theorist Raewyn Connell, told her audience that the curriculum “has racism embedded in its agenda.”

When I articulated to my fellow alumnus that I had not been surprised at the response from Australian universities—given the antipathy displayed towards Western Civilisation by many academics—he did not think this hostility to be a bad thing. When I added that I thought all students studying an undergraduate degree in history, or any humanities degree for that matter, should be required to do a foundation course in Western Civilisation, he was shocked and horrified. From his point of view, knowing about what happened during the Scientific Revolution or the Enlightenment is an irrelevancy and a waste of students’ time. For him, history is about ‘issues,’ not knowledge.

It was at this point that I realised that just how far universities, especially the humanities departments, have strayed from their original purpose. From the Renaissance until the 1960s, the humanities, derived from the expression ‘studia humanitatis’ or the study of humanity, made it their purpose to make sense of and understand the world through the great traditions of art, culture and philosophy. There appeared in the 1970s and 1980s however, a range of ‘new humanities’ subjects which rejected this tradition. The new humanities were underpinned by a range of radical post-structuralism and post-modernist theories which had been conjured up in the previous decade by a predominantly French group of philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, as well as the psychiatrist, Jacques Lacan.

Rise of the machines on college campuses

Ray Bendici:

Students accepted by Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina receive an introductory text message from Winston, the institution’s AI chatbot. Winston first congratulates them and then supports them through the onboarding process, says Joel Lee, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management.

“We wanted a better way to meet students and communicate in the ways they are communicating. Unlike email or traditional mail, texts have basically a 100 percent open rate.”

Introduced a little more than a year ago, Winston can now answer 75 percent of inquiries—or 3,000 to 4,000 questions—from incoming students. This past June, the peak period for incoming student questions, Winston engaged with 2,000 students, sending more than 42,000 texts.

China’s Leaders Confront an Unlikely Foe: Ardent Young Communists

Javier Hernandez:

They were exactly what China’s best universities were supposed to produce: young men and women steeped in the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party.

They read Marx, Lenin and Mao and formed student groups to discuss the progress of socialism. They investigated the treatment of the campus proletariat, including janitors, cooks and construction workers. They volunteered to help struggling rural families and dutifully recited the slogans of President Xi Jinping.

Then, after graduation, they attempted to put the party’s stated ideals into action, converging from across China last month on Huizhou, a city in the south, to organize labor unions at nearby factories and stage protests demanding greater protections for workers.

Creator Of U.S. News Rankings Dies At 89

Richard Sandomir:

Mel Elfin, a longtime Washington bureau chief for Newsweek who moved to the rival U.S. News & World Report in 1986 and helped build its college rankings feature into a major educational franchise, died on Saturday in Washington. He was 89. …

For Mr. Elfin, overseeing U.S. News’s college rankings posed a challenge that differed from working at Newsweek, where he covered President Richard M. Nixon’s groundbreaking trip to China and developed a strong stable of reporters during the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

Now, at U.S. News, he was dealing with college presidents, educational data and algorithms.

“He was a pivotal figure,” said Bob Morse, the chief data strategist of U.S. News, who worked closely with Mr. Elfin to hone the methodologies behind the rankings. “He embraced the fact that the rankings were needed and that serving consumers was our primary mission.”

Weaponizing Student Evaluations

Above The Law:

I remember a poignant conversation with an associate dean. The associate dean called me into his office because one of my courses had lower than average student evaluations. More specifically, one evaluation had something along the lines of “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOUR BOOK! I HATE YOUR FACE! I JUST HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU!” You know, the important feedback we are supposed to get from evaluations.

The associate dean then proceeded to talk to me as if I were a terrible teacher. I called him out: “Can we stop talking like I’m a terrible teacher?” My evaluations were, apart from this outlier, completely fine. He replied, “We’d be having this discussion even if you were a great teacher!” Yes, he said that. I then looked up his student evaluations. Let’s just say he wasn’t “a great teacher,” either.

I now instruct my students not to cause drama on student evaluations. I’m fine with comments about pedagogy, about the curriculum, and statements that will help me improve as a teacher. But that isn’t usually what I get. I get numbers and either “You rock!” or “I hate you!”

But I’m tenured. If the associate dean doesn’t like how I teach, the punishment is to put me in smaller classes with fewer students, with fewer exams to grade. That’s right: That’s the punishment. But it’s only punishment for those of us who enjoy and care about what we do, and the untenured for whom this might count as a death knell.

M.B.A. Applications Decline at Harvard, Wharton, Other Elite Schools as Degree Loses Luster

Kelsey Gee:

Applications to American M.B.A. programs dropped for a fourth straight year, with even elite universities starting to show signs of struggling to lure young professionals out of the strong job market.

For the first time in nearly a decade, waning interest in the traditional master of business administration degree hit business schools that draw the most applications, including Harvard and Stanford universities, according to a survey of 360 schools by the Graduate Management Admission Council, a nonprofit that administers the…

Internet, social media use and device ownership in U.S. have plateaued after years of growth

Paul Hitlin:

In addition, certain groups of Americans – most notably, older adults – face their own unique challenges when it comes to using and adopting new technologies. In a 2015 survey, 34% of internet users ages 65 and older said they had little to no confidence in their ability to use electronic devices to perform online tasks, while 48% of older adults said the statement, “When I get a new electronic device, I usually need someone else to set it up or show me how to use it” describes them very well. And a substantial share of seniors reports they have chronic health condition, disability or other type of physical limitation that might prevent them from fully utilizing a variety of devices.

While many long-standing measures of technology adoption have steadied the past two years, the ways that people get connected and use digital platforms are constantly shifting and evolving. For instance, Pew Research Center surveys have shown that the number of people who are “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone but do not have traditional home broadband service – has grown from 12% in 2016 to 20% this year.

And although the shares of Americans who use certain social media platforms have changed little in recent years, that has not been true with every site. The percent of adults using Instagram, for example, has grown from 28% in 2016 to 35% this year. And looking beyond the adult population, the social media environment of today’s teenagers looks remarkably different than it did just a few years prior.

Meanwhile, new connected devices continue to emerge. Consumer surveys show that the use of smart TVs and wearable devices has grown in recent years. Nearly half of Americans (46%) use digital voice assistants on smartphones or devices like Amazon Echo, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. A host of items collectively called “the Internet of Things” – ranging from household thermostats and security systems to “smart city” transportation systems – are also coming on the market.

‘Facebook doesn’t operate with real-world metrics’: GroupM talks tough on Facebook

Jessica Davies:

The biggest ad buyer in the world has some serious issues with Facebook, and it wants action.

“We’re increasingly holding Facebook to account to justify the levels of investment we are putting in them,” said Robin O’Neill, managing director of digital trading for GroupM. “We continue to press them to allow us to independently verify our metrics and operate in the real world. Facebook doesn’t operate with real-world metrics. I would urge every agency to hold Facebook to account and interrogate the data that comes out from them.”

Facebook and YouTube have been plagued by negative headlines over the last year or so, either related to brand-safety issues or lack of transparency around metrics. Both companies have attempted to offer improvements: Facebook introduced new brand-safety measures as recently as this week, though advertisers weren’t wholly impressed by its efforts. Google launched Google Measurement Partners in July, which allows advertisers to verify ad delivery through a set of third parties including comScore, DoubleVerify, IAS, MOAT, Nielsen, and Kantar.

Geography: Denton man proposes to girlfriend on Colorado peak, then couple promptly gets lost

Tom Steele:

But unfortunately, the couple didn’t have much water and, despite their late start, were not prepared for the cold or to camp for the night, according to the sheriff’s office. When it got dark, they became disoriented because of the lack of marked trail.

Another hiker happened upon the pair, who showed signs of dehydration and altitude sickness, and led them back to where a group of his friends were camping. Mason and Davis were given food, water and a tent while one of the campers hiked down to her vehicle and called 911.

BLS: Americans Spent More on Taxes Than on Food, Clothing Combined in 2017

Terence P. Jeffrey:

Americans on average spent more on taxes than on food and clothing combined in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s new data on consumer expenditures, which was released this month.

“Consumer units” (which include families, financially independent individuals, and people living in a single household who share expenses) spent an average of $9,562 on food and clothing in 2017, according to BLS.

But they spent $16,749 on federal, state and local taxes.

How France Created the Metric System

Madhvi Ramani:

On the facade of the Ministry of Justice in Paris, just below a ground-floor window, is a marble shelf engraved with a horizontal line and the word ‘MÈTRE’. It is hardly noticeable in the grand Place Vendôme: in fact, out of all the tourists in the square, I was the only person to stop and consider it. But this shelf is one of the last remaining ‘mètre étalons’ (standard metre bars) that were placed all over the city more than 200 years ago in an attempt to introduce a new, universal system of measurement. And it is just one of many sites in Paris that point to the long and fascinating history of the metric system.

“Measurement is one of the most banal and ordinary things, but it’s actually the things we take for granted that are the most interesting and have such contentious histories,” said Dr Ken Alder, history professor at Northwestern University and author of The Measure of All Things, a book about the creation of the metre.

Commentary on Wisconsin taxpayer redistributed K-12 spending practices and promises

Matthew DeFour:

Not all districts have the same revenue level. DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy highlighted some differences:

The Beloit School District, with higher poverty and lower property values, can receive $9,626 per student, about 83 percent of which comes from state aid. So when revenue limits increase, the district typically uses all of the extra funding without having to raise property taxes much.

The more rural Plum City School District in northern Wisconsin can collect $10,271 per student, about half of which comes from aid and half from property taxes, so when limits increase the district has to engage with its community about whether to raise property taxes.

The Nicolet Union High School District in a higher property value district Milwaukee suburb receives $15,344 per student, only 5 percent of which comes from state aid, so in order to raise funding levels the district must raise property taxes.

McCarthy added, “per pupil aid subverts all of these considerations.”

In the last budget Walker proposed more money for schools than Evers, even with the high price tag of the Evers funding formula change, but most of the increase went to per-pupil aid and property tax credits. Kitchens said the Legislature didn’t use the funding increase to back Evers’ plan because “politically there wasn’t a will to come back and change it.”

He also acknowledged that continuing to pump money into per-pupil aid is problematic.

“If we keep doing that, we’re defeating the purpose of the formula,” Kitchens said. “I know politically there may be advantages to giving everybody something so everybody’s happy, but that does defeat the purpose.”

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, long lead by Mr. Evers, has aborted our one attempt to improve teacher content knowledge requirements, as Massachusetts has done (via MTEL), in an effort to address our disastrous reading results.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer funded K-12 school districts, nearly 20,000 per student.

Yet, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, and recently promoted improved graduation rates despite declining academic results.

Google and Privatized Authoritarianism

JD Tuccille:

Tech giants get a lot of well-deserved flack for playing at partisan politics, picking sides in policy disputes, and suppressing speech and ideas that don’t fit well with their dominant political ideology—or promoting those that do. Even some of the companies’ employees’ find the internal culture stifling, such as the Facebook workers who recently derided the social media behemoth for “a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views.” But for a glimpse of real danger, consider what happens when Google, the dominant search-engine company, teams up with a regime it apparently finds agreeable, and lends its considerable clout to reinforcing authoritarian rulers’ control over their suffering subjects.

Google left China in 2010 after realizing that there was no end to the demands and intrusions the government would make, no matter how the tech firm tried to comply. But now the company appears willing to do almost anything asked to win access to the vast market. And what’s being asked of the company is that it help the government control its people.

A “memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location—and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have ‘unilateral access’ to the data,” The Intercept reports about a new search engine Google is developing for China.

How the West Was Lost: In America’s first climate war, John Wesley Powell tried to prevent the overdevelopment that led to environmental devastation.

John Ross:

Although this insight may seem self-evident today, it was revolutionary in Powell’s time; his maps were arguably as stunning to behold in the 19th century as nasa’s photographs of Earth from space were in the 20th.

One year later, he released his seminal Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, which put forward the first scientific and detailed understanding of the climate system of the American West. The important book, noted the writer Wallace Stegner, was “loaded with dynamite.” Here was clear-cut information and data that could rationally direct federal land-management policy.

The map and the report amounted to a full-frontal assault on the federal land-grant system, still rooted in the 1862 Homestead Act’s stipulation that any American adult could receive 160 acres, contingent upon demonstrating an ability not just to live on the parcel but also to improve it. However well that system worked in Wisconsin or Illinois, Powell’s research suggested, the arid West could not support such relatively small homesteads.

Mild conditions had given recent immigrants to the West good crops and false expectations of a rosy future. But Powell’s experience studying western geology had taught him that the climate was variable and cyclical, bad decades following good ones. Pioneers flocking into the lands beyond the 100th meridian, Powell believed, would soon see their dreams wither into spindly crops and foreclosure. The lucky few who owned access to water were likely to establish dangerous monopolies that would roll over small farmers.

Powell’s warnings were anathema to politicians and business interests. No one wanted to hear from a man who thought “rain follows the plow” was hogwash—who seemed to look back to the days of the Great American Desert and would impede America’s natural progress. The land agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad, itself the beneficiary of nearly 4 million acres in government grants (an area bigger than Connecticut), hammered back at Powell’s “grave errors.” Opponents claimed that Powell was blind to nationally crucial economic realities. Several powerful western senators took Powell’s position as a personal affront; they feared that, if his warnings gained currency, they would lose out on the tax revenue generated by settlers.

John Urschel Goes Pro

Jordan Ellenberg:

1. “Purposeful messiness”

John Urschel comes out of a rainy Cambridge night into the gleaming, very of-the-moment vegetarian restaurant where we’re meeting—his suggestion. He’s wearing a charcoal-gray sweater, his beard is perfectly groomed, there is not a drop of water on his glasses. He’s a very big guy but he doesn’t look as big as he is. He’s here to talk about math. He is exactly on time.

“Very rigorous, very structured,” Urschel tells me, when I ask him to describe his personal habits. “Nothing drives me crazy more than being late.”

At which point he pauses and rethinks. “I think I am messy,” he says. “But it’s a very purposeful messiness. My desk might be messy but everything’s where it’s supposed to be. I don’t like people messing with my mess.”

For those of you who don’t spend a lot of time around our tribe, Urschel is being an extremely typical mathematician here. This isn’t a matter of his work habits or his physical presentation. As far as those things go, there is no typical; the range of mathematicians is pretty much conterminous with the range of human beings. When I was starting out in math I wore John Lennon glasses and a lot of corduroy shorts. I know mathematicians who look and dress like Paris runway models, and mathematicians who look and dress like grindcore drummers, and mathematicians who look and dress like wind-battered sea captains. John Urschel looks and dresses like a successful pro athlete who has moved on to a string of high-profile media gigs, which, in part, he is.

Three arrested in shooting near La Follette; alleged shooter not a student, Madison police say

Shelly Mesch and Bill Novak:

The school district screened students entering the school Thursday and Friday with metal detector wands as a precaution following the shooting. Joe Balles, safety and security coordinator for the school district, said screening will not need to continue next week but there will be screening for students entering Saturday’s Homecoming dance.

The arrests were made by the Police Department’s violent crime unit.

The shooting was the second near La Follette in a week. On Sept. 19, a 15-year-old boy on a Metro Transit bus near the school injured two 16-year-old students when a gun he had accidentally fired. The 15-year-old, who was arrested the next day, was not a student at La Follette. A district spokeswoman would not say what schools the three attend.

Related: Gangs and school violence audio video.

DeVos Urges Campuses to Promote Free Speech


A few days ago, someone leaked a draft of the Education Department’s proposed new Title IX regulations. The document seeks to use federal authority to ensure that universities employ fairer procedures when adjudicating sexual misconduct claims. Today, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—quite appropriately—took a different approach to the issue of free speech on campus. Rejecting the idea of a “speech police” from the Department of Education, DeVos instead used the power of the bully pulpit to urge universities to create an environment that welcomes discourse, even on controversial issues.

DeVos’ Constitution Day speech worried that “precious few campuses can be described” as promoting a “free and open” intellectual environment. She cited several examples; perhaps the most troubling of her list was last year’s incident at William & Mary University, where Black Lives Matters protesters successfully shut down a talk—intended to celebrate free speech and the First Amendment!—by a representative of the ACLU. (Reason’s Robby Soave had excellent coverage of the affair.)

DeVos sharply criticized administrators for too often seeking to undermine, rather than promote, free speech on campus. (She especially worried about what she saw as the abuse of security fees as a way of shutting down controversial speakers whose views might challenge the perspective of the campus majority.) Administrators, DeVos feared, too often “attempt to shield students from ideas they subjectively decide are ‘hateful’ or ‘offensive’ or ‘injurious’ or ones they just don’t like”—a patronizing approach that the Education Secretary convincingly argued harms, rather than enhances, a typical student’s educational experience.

You’re Making a Better First Impression Than You Think

Katie Heaney:

Is there anything worse than meeting people? I don’t think so! Sure, they might become lovers (sorry), or lifelong friends, or even short-term friends, but more often than not, the people you meet just become people you met. And for many of us, people we met just become people we aren’t sure liked us. Sure, they smiled, and shook our hands, and asked us clarifying questions about our jobs. But they thought we were boring, right? Maybe even a little annoying? Yes, sometimes. (Sorry again.) But that’s not the norm — in fact, new research suggests that most people like you more than you think.

In an incredibly awkward-sounding experiment, researchers forced small talk among their subjects, who were strangers, and then asked them to rate their conversation partners, and to estimate how their partners rated them. The researchers found that participants consistently underestimated how well their conversation partners rated them and enjoyed their company, a phenomenon which they named “the liking gap.” This gap was found to be especially high for shy subjects, who tended to assume their partners basically hated their guts.

Interestingly, researchers noticed that the so-called liking gap persisted beyond the initial meeting — a number of the subjects were surveyed several times between meeting at the start of the school year and May, and even those who became friends (aw) still underestimated how much they were liked. No matter how long the conversations, or how much the subjects reported liking their new friends, they viewed their own conversational skills harshly. “Conversation appears to be a domain in which people display uncharacteristic pessimism about their performance,” said the researchers. They hypothesize that because we’re so absorbed in second-guessing the things we’re saying, we often miss signs that our conversation partners are actually enjoying themselves.

Denver law school pays up big-time over gender pay disparity

Joey Bunch:

Everyone at the University of Denver should have known better. The school’s prestigious Sturm College of Law was accused of under-paying women. The plaintiffs were eight law professors. The private university, founded in 1864, has a boldly progressive reputation. Let all that sink in.

If it can happen among the talented legal minds, brown-bricked temples of academia and the trimmed lawns of DU, imagine the free rein that pay discrimination enjoys in the factories, restaurants and offices towers anywhere else.

Ultimately it took $2.66 million from the university to settle a suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that DU paid women professors in its law school much less than men.

Facebook Network Breach Affects Up to 50 Million Users

Mike Isaac and Sheera Frankel:

Facebook on Friday said an attack on its computer network led to the exposure of information from nearly 50 million of its users.

The company discovered the breach earlier this week, finding that attackers had exploited a feature in Facebook’s code that allowed them to take over user accounts. Facebook fixed the vulnerability and notified law enforcement officials.

More than 90 million of Facebook’s users were forced to log out of their accounts Friday morning, a common safety measure for compromised accounts.

Facebook said it did not know the origin or identity of the attackers, nor had it fully assessed the scope of the attack. The company is in the beginning stages of its investigation.

Many services use Facebook credentials – unfortunately.

Brian Krebs has much more.

IQ scores look to be on the decline. Is there a complicated explanation, or are we just getting stupider?

Daniel Engber:

Given all this appetite for news of our destruction, you’d think the Great Endumbening described in that European special would’ve become a source of fascination over here (or at least a source of nervous Facebook posts). Instead, it’s been pretty much invisible. Across the Atlantic, one can find some real concern about a downward slide in measures of intelligence, amid confusing and disturbing arguments over what those changes, if they’re real, could really mean. In the United States, no one seems to care. We might be grateful for this fact—that for whatever reason we’ve been spared another gloom-and-doom prediction. But the latest science about these dropping scores suggests the worries aren’t altogether fake, and that they may deserve more attention than they’ve gotten.

It’s wrong to hint that scores on tests of memory and abstract thinking have been falling everywhere, and in a simple way. But at least in certain countries—notably in Northern Europe—the IQ drops seem very real. Using data from Finland, for example, where men are almost always drafted into military service, whereupon they’re tested for intelligence, Dutton showed that scores began to slide in 1997, a trend that has continued ever since. Similar trends have been documented using data from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. At some point in the mid-1990s, IQ scores in these countries tipped into decay, losing roughly one-fifth to one-quarter of a point per year. While there isn’t any sign of this effect on U.S. test results (a fact that surely bears on our indifference to the topic), researchers have found hints of something similar in Australia, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Such signs are all the more surprising given that IQ scores have (or had) been increasing, overall, for many decades in a row. That upward trend was identified by a few different researchers and named for James R. Flynn, who explored it most comprehensively.
Starting in the 1980s, Flynn documented “massive gains” in mean IQ, starting with Americans, whose scores had soared by 14 points since 1932. The Flynn effect has since been well established across at least 34 countries; on average, scholars say IQs have increased by several points per decade.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Seeing (More of) the Gig Economy and Platform Workers in Tax Return Data

District Economics:

The reason is very simple, really, and tied to what the BLS survey asks of the individual respondent. They ask about the nature of the respondent’s sole or “main” job—the job they spend the most hours per week doing. While the BLS regularly tracks how many people hold multiple jobs, in the contingent and alternative work arrangements survey, they did not ask about whether any of the job holder’s additional work qualified as contingent or alternative.

Here is where we realized that tax return data can tell us something about the labor market that even the official employment data cannot. In principle, all taxable income should be reported on one’s tax return. Tabulations provided by the Internal Revenue Service’s Statistics of Income (SOI) revealed close alignment between the numbers from BLS’s contingent and alternative arrangements survey and the numbers of persons reporting self-employment income as their only source of earned income on their tax return, as shown below:

How to read a mathematics textbook

David R. MacIver:

Miikka asked me how I read a maths textbook the other day, and I didn’t have a better answer than “badly”. I’ve mostly tried to read textbooks linearly cover to cover, and this doesn’t actually work – I sometimes end up understanding the material, but it’s usually not until long after I’ve finished or given up on the book.

After some thought and experimentation, I think I now have a better answer that helps integrate understanding and reading immediately. It’s very much a work in progress, and I’m sure I will refine the process over time, but initial experience with it seems promising.

It’s designed along a couple of important principles:

The goal is not, in fact, to read the textbook. The goal is to understand the material the textbook covers, and reading it helps you achieve that.

Why Schools Are Banning Yoga

Alia Wong:

In certain parts of the United States, it’s getting more and more likely that rather than a game of dodgeball in gym class or a round of Heads-up, Seven-up as a break between lessons, students will instead find themselves doing downward-facing dog. The internet is saturated with yoga-based lesson plans, teacher-training courses, and “mindful” music playlists designed for schools, while programs for certified yoga instructors who want to bring their practice onto campus have also gained popularity.

While up-to-date data on the prevalence of school-based yoga is hard to come by, a 2015 survey led by the New York University psychologist Bethany Butzer identified three dozen programs in the United States that reach 940 schools and more than 5,400 instructors. School-based yoga programs, Butzer and her co-authors concluded, are “acceptable and feasible to implement.” The researchers also predicted that such programs would grow in popularity.

The trend, however, seems to have been accompanied by an uptick in vocal pushback against the idea. In 2016, an elementary school in Cobb County, Georgia, became the subject of heated controversy after introducing a yoga program. Parents’ objections to the yoga classes—on the grounds that they promoted a non-Christian belief system—were vociferous enough to compel the district to significantly curtail the program, removing the “namaste” greeting and the coloring-book exercises involving mandalas. A few years before that, a group of parents sued a San Diego County school district on the grounds that its yoga program promoted Eastern religions and disadvantaged children who opted out. While a judge ruled in favor of the district, the controversy resurfaced two years ago amid concerns that the program was a poor use of public funds in already strapped schools. Meanwhile, just last month the Alabama Board of Education’s long-standing ban on yoga caused some ballyhoo after a document listing it as one of the activities prohibited in “gym class” was recirculated, grabbing the attention of a Hindu activist.

Madison’s Sherman Middle School focuses on new energy after blog post leads to principal’s departure

Jenny Peek:

Just three months ago, the school community was roiling over a blog post penned by teacher Karen Vieth about Sherman and its former principal, Kristin Foreman.

“I am leaving this district, because I cannot serve the children I love in the current climate,” Vieth wrote. “I have never seen a building as deeply in crisis as Sherman Middle School, yet my cries for help went unanswered for three years. I saw ‘Band Aid’ fixes and many more promises. I saw a principal being given chance after chance and three years of her being coddled and coached with no substantive change.”

The post spread like wildfire on social media. Parents, former students and teachers added fuel to the fire by sharing personal experiences and commentary on what they referred to as a school in crisis. Criticisms ranged from a lack of visibility to high turnover rates to blatant disrespect toward staff.

One Sherman teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, tells Isthmus that Foreman provided “little to no true leadership.”

Heather Banschbach, the mother of a sixth and eighth grader at Sherman, agrees that there were problems at the school. While Sherman didn’t have a formal PTO in the past two years, she says there was an informal parent group that met throughout Foreman’s tenure. Parents frequently vented to the group and Banschbach has about 100 emails from parents raising concerns about the school administration.

“I had a few families who had never been directly involved with the school come to me and ask for help advocating for their kids,” Banschbach writes in an email. “I can’t list all of the issues that came up. I just remember the big ones that were consistent were safety, staff morale, communication, policies, lack of parent involvement/input, and the overall culture of the school being toxic.”

In response to Vieth’s post, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham called the incident a “public shaming of a principal of color.”

“We do not believe this type and tenor of dialogue represents who we are or how we want to solve problems in MMSD. While we fully embrace the feedback, it is important that our words and actions align with our core values of belonging, inclusion and racial equity,” Cheatham wrote.

Much more on Sherman middle school, here.

The Mines

Pedestrian Observations:

There’s a literary trope in which an ambitious young man goes to work in the mines for a few years to earn an income with which to go back home. In the US it’s bundled into narratives of the Wild West (where incomes were very high until well into the 20th century), but it also exists elsewhere. For example, in The House of the Spirits, the deuterotagonist (who owns an unprofitable hacienda) works in the mines for a few years to earn enough money to ask to marry a society woman. The tradeoff is that working in the mines is unpleasant and dangerous, which is why the owners have to pay workers more money.

More recently, the same trope has applied in the oil industry. People who work on oil rigs, which as a rule are placed in remote locations, get paid premiums. Remote locations with oil have high incomes and high costs in North America, but even the Soviet Union paid people who freely migrated to Siberia or the far north extra. The high wages in this industry are especially remarkable given that the workers are typically not university-educated or (in the US) unionized; they cover for poor living conditions, and a hostile environment especially for families.

I bring up this background because of conditions that I’ve heard second-hand in San Francisco. When I first heard of university-educated adults living several to a bedroom, I assumed that it was a result of extremely high rents and insufficient incomes. But no: I am told a reasonably transit-accessible two-bedroom in San Francisco proper is $5,500 a month at market rate, which is affordable to a mid-level programmer at a large tech firm living alone or to entry-level programmers (or non-tech professionals) living one to a bedroom.

And yet, I’ve heard of Google programmers living two to three to a bedroom in Bernal Heights, not even that close to BART. I’ve also heard a story of people near the Ashby BART stop in Berkeley renting out their front porch; the person sleeping the porch was not a coder, but some of the people living inside the house were.

I have not talked to the people in these situations, only to friends in Boston who live one person (or one couple) to a bedroom, even though they too can afford more. As I understand it, they treat the Bay Area as like working in the mines. They earn a multiple of the income they would in other industries with their education and skills, and have no particular ties to the region. (Some East Coasters have taken to use the expression “drain to the Bay,” complaining that friends in tech often end up leaving Boston for San Francisco.) The plan is to save money and then retire in their 30s, or take a lower-paying job in a lower-cost city and start a family there.

Overcrowding is not normal in San Francisco. The American Community Survey says that 6.7% of city housing units have more than one person per room (look up the table “percent of occupied housing units with 1.01 or more occupants per room”); it’s actually below state average, which is 8.3%. Some very poor people presumably have more overcrowding, especially illegal immigrants (who the census tends to undercount). Figuring out overcrowding by demographic from census data is hard: the ACS reports crowding levels by public use microdata area (PUMA), a unit of at least 100,000 people, and the highest crowding in San Francisco (13.7%) is in the SoMa and Potrero PUMA, which covers both the fully gentrified SoMa area and poorer but gentrifying areas of the Mission. But it’s conceivable that crowding levels among tech workers are not comparable to those of the working-class residents of the Mission that they displace.

Credentialism: Maryland state school board agrees to allow non-educators to become superintendents

Liz Bowie:

The state school board voted Tuesday to allow the appointment of non-educators to superintendent positions.

The new regulation passed despite significant protest by educators across the state, including the association representing local school boards.

Across the nation, it is not unusual for individuals with a track record of success in another field to take the helm of a school system. Most notably, Joel Klein, a lawyer, headed the New York City school district from 2002 to 2010.

The impetus for the change came last year, when members of the board set up a task force to look at creating a new regulation that would allow local school boards to go outside of the usual education circles and find an “exceptional” leader.

Maryland currently requires its superintendents to have specific academic credentials, as well as teaching and administrative experience.

The new regulations do not go as far as many board members would have liked.

Parents Are Leery Of Schools Requiring ‘Mental Health’ Disclosures By Students

Julio Ochoa:

Children registering for school in Florida this year were asked to reveal some history about their mental health.

The new requirement is part of a law rushed through the state legislature after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The state’s school districts now must ask whether a child has ever been referred for mental health services on registration forms for new students.

“If you do say, ‘Yes, my child has seen a counselor or a therapist or a psychologist,’ what does the school then do with that?” asks Laura Goodhue, who has a 9-year-old son on the autism spectrum and a 10-year-old son who has seen a psychologist. “I think that was my biggest flag. And I actually shared the story with a couple of mom friends of mine and said, ‘Can you believe this is actually a thing?’”

Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans to Closely Track Search Users in China

Ryan Gallagher & Lee Fang:

Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned.

The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data.

The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained “pixel trackers” that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

Spending on California schools chief race expected to set records again

Nico Savidge:

Spending in the campaign for state superintendent of public instruction in California is expected to break records once again this fall, as charter school advocates and labor organizations focus on the race.

Although the Nov. 6 ballot will include races for governor and U.S. Senate, it is the nonpartisan contest between Democrats — Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive — for an office with limited power that is expected to attract the most money during the general election.

With seven weeks to go before Election Day, fundraising for Tuck has already surpassed what his supporters raised in the former school administrator’s unsuccessful run for superintendent four years ago.

“This is going to be the most expensive election, period,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.

Michael Sances:

Alongside the Black Lives Matter movement in the past several years, civil rights advocates have begun pointing out that the way municipalities collect fees and fines often disproportionately affects low-income communities of color, especially when those communities aren’t well represented in local governments. In 2015, as a follow-up to investigations of police bias in Ferguson, Mo., the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department released the Ferguson report, which painstakingly documents how the police department in that city relied overwhelmingly on fees and fines collected from people in ways that “both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias.”

But here’s another result of fee and fine enforcement that has never before been measured: Police departments that collect more in fees and fines are less effective at solving crimes.

Reading and knowledge never seem to find their way into discussions of Literacy in Our Schools: Reading Before Writing

Will Fitzhugh:

The extra-large ubiquitous Literacy Community is under siege from universal dissatisfaction with the Writing skills of both students and graduates, and this is a complaint of very long standing.

The Community response is to request more money and time to spend on sentence structure, paragraphing, voice, tone, and other mechanical Writing paraphernalia.

It never seems to occur to them that if students read more, they would know more, and in that way actually have some knowledge they wanted to write about. But reading and knowledge never seem to find their way into discussions of Literacy in Our Schools.

When teaching our students to write, not only are standards set very low in most high schools, limiting students to the five-paragraph essay, responses to a document-based question, or the personal (or college) essay about matters which are often no one else’s business, but we often so load up students with formulae and guidelines that the importance of writing when the author has something to say gets lost in the maze of processes.

On the one hand writing is difficult enough to do, and academic writing is especially difficult if the student hasn’t read anything, and on the other hand teachers feel the need to have students “produce” writing, however short or superficial that writing may be. So writing consultants and writing teachers feel they must come up with guidelines, parameters, checklists, and the like, as props to substitute for students’ absent motivation to describe or express in writing something they have learned.

Samuel Johnson once said, “an author will turn over half a library to produce one book,” the point being, as I understand it, that good writing must be based on extensive reading. But reading is just the step that is left out of the “Writing Process” in too many instances. The result is that students in fact do not have much to say, so of course they don’t have much they want to communicate in writing.

Enter the guidelines. Students are told to write a topic sentence, to express one idea per paragraph, to follow the structure of Introduction, Body, Conclusion, to follow the Twelve Steps to Effective Writing, and the like. This the students can be made to do, but the result is too often empty, formulaic writing which students come to despise, and which does not prepare them for the serious academic papers they may be asked to do in college.

I fear that the history book report, at least at the high school level in too many places, has died in the United States. Perhaps people will contact me with welcome evidence to the contrary, but where it is no longer done, students have not only been discouraged from reading nonfiction, but also have been lead to believe that they can and must write to formula without knowing something—for instance about the contents of a good book—before they write.

A nationally famous teacher of teachers of writing once told me: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much…” This is a splendid example of the divorce between content [reading and knowledge] and process [techniques] in common writing instruction.

Reading and writing are inseparable partners, in my view. In letters from authors of essays published in The Concord Review since 1987, they often say that they read so much about something in history that they reached a point where they felt a strong need to tell people what they had found out. The knowledge they had acquired had given them the desire to write well so that others could share and appreciate it as they did.

This is where good academic writing should start. When the motivation is there, born from knowledge gained, then the writing process follows a much more natural and straightforward path. Then the student can write, read what they have written, and see what they have left out, what they need to learn more about, and what they have failed to express as clearly as they wanted to. Then they read more, re-write, and do all the natural things that have always lead to good academic writing, whether in history or in any other subject.

At that point the guidelines are no longer needed, because the student has become immersed in the real work of expressing the meaning and value of something they know is worth writing about. This writing helps them discover the limits of their own understanding of the subject and allows them to see more clearly what they themselves think about the subject. The process of critiquing their own writing becomes natural and automatic. This is not to deny, of course, the value of reading what they have written to a friend or of giving it to a teacher for criticism and advice. But the writing techniques and processes no longer stop up the natural springs for the motivation to write.

As students are encouraged to learn more before they write, their writing will gradually extend past the five-paragraph size so often constraining the craft of writing in our schools. The Page Per Year Plan© suggests that all public high school Seniors could be expected to write a twelve-page history research paper, if they had written an eleven-page paper their Junior year, a ten-page paper their Sophomore year, and a nine-page paper their Freshman year, and so on all the way back through the five-page paper in Fifth Grade and even to a one-page paper on a topic other than themselves their first year in school. With the Page Per Year Plan©, every Senior in high school will have learned, for that twelve-page paper, more about some topic probably than anyone else in their class knows, perhaps even more than any of their teachers knows about that subject. They will have had in the course of writing longer papers each year, that first taste of being a scholar which will serve them so well in higher education and beyond.

Writing is always much harder when the student has nothing to communicate, and the proliferating paraphernalia of structural aids from writing consultants and teachers often simply encumber students and alienate them from the essential benefits of writing. John Adams urged his fellow citizens to “Dare to read, think, speak and write” so that they could contribute to the civilization we have been given to enjoy and preserve. Let us endeavor to allow students to discover, through their own academic reading and writing, both the discipline and the satisfactions of reading and of writing carefully and well.

In 1625, Francis Bacon wrote, “Reading maketh a Full man, Conference a Ready man, and Writing an Exact man.” These benefits are surely among those we should not withhold from our K-12 students.

The Concord Review, 730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 978-443-0022

A failure of parents to transmit religion to their children could be driving the rise of nonreligion


The number of so-called “nones” — individuals who do not identify with any organized religion — is rapidly growing in the United States. New research suggests that this trend could be driven, at least in part, by a disconnection between parents and their children.

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, found a large gap between the religiousness of parents and their teenage children.

“In an earlier publication, Joseph Hammer, Michael Nielsen, and I developed a new scale for measuring how secular someone is,” said study author Ryan T. Cragun of the University of Tampa.

“There were many reasons why we developed that scale. The obvious reason was that no one had done anything like that before. But there are two other important reasons. Most prior measures of religiosity either did a really poor job of asking questions that could be answered by the nonreligious or didn’t even ask questions that were relevant to the nonreligious.”

The Nonreligious-Nonspiritual Scale (NRNSS) measures secularity along two spectrums: from nonreligious to highly religious and from nonspiritual to highly spiritual.

Voucher Regulation Reduces Quality of Private School Options

Corey A. DeAngelis:

If only it were that easy.

My just-released study — co-authored with George Mason University graduate student Blake Hoarty — suggests that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in two of the most highly regulated voucher programs in the country, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program.

The data suggest that school choice regulations reduce the quality of private schools participating in voucher programs, with quality measured by tuition and customer reviews. Specifically, we find that an increase in tuition of $1000 is associated with a 3 to 4 percent decrease in the likelihood of participation in a voucher program. We also find that a one-point increase (out of five points) in a school’s GreatSchools review score is associated with around a 15 percent decrease in the chance that a school participates in the Milwaukee voucher program.

But this isn’t the first study to find that voucher regulations could inadvertently reduce the quality of options available to families in need. A recent peer-reviewed evaluation I conducted with colleagues at the University of Arkansas also finds that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in voucher programs in three other locations: Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Louisiana. And another recent peer-reviewed evaluation I conducted with the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke finds that voucher program regulation likely leads to less private school specialization.

Why does regulation reduce the quality of private schools that participate in voucher programs?

Curated Education Information