Big Sugar’s Secret Ally? Nutritionists

Gary Taubes:

The first time the sugar industry felt compelled to “knock down reports that sugar is fattening,” as this newspaper put it, it was 1956. Papers had run a photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower sweetening his coffee with saccharin, with the news that his doctor had advised him to avoid sugar if he wanted to remain thin.

The industry responded with a national advertising campaign based on what it believed to be solid science. The ads explained that there was no such thing as a “fattening food”: “All foods supply calories and there is no difference between the calories that come from sugar or steak or grapefruit or ice cream.”

A Lawsuit over Google’s Student Data Mining Practices

Joe Mullin:

“Through this lawsuit, we want to know the extent of Google’s data mining and marketing of student information to third parties,” Hood said. “I don’t think there could be any motivation other than greed for a company to deliberately keep secret how it collects and uses student information.”

The complaint claims that through a child’s educational account, “Google tracks, records, uses and saves the online activity of Mississippi’s children, all for the purpose of processing student data to build a profile, which in turn aids its advertising business.” That gives Google an unfair edge over its competitors and violates Mississippi consumer protection law, say state lawyers.

Civics: The Post-Snowden Cyber Arms Hustle

Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley:

Just after lunchtime one day in February 2015, Manish Kumar entered the presidential palace in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott via the side gate—the one reserved for private business. His government SUV was driven by a gregarious man in a loose-fitting white robe, who navigated the vehicle toward the back of the compound, away from the main palace building’s soaring glass atrium and modern-looking turrets, which give it a Martha Stewart-meets-Gunga Din look. The driver pulled up to a smaller structure with a massive satellite dish on top, where Kumar was to meet Ahmed Bah dit Hmeida, an official with the innocuous-sounding title of counsellor to the president.

For the First Time in 17 Years, People’s Trust Declined in Every Kind of Institution

Matthew Harrington:

We are living in an era of backlash against authority. So far, government and the media have borne the brunt of populist anger, while businesses have remained above the fray. Past protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street notwithstanding, mass outrage has yet to be directed squarely at the business elite. But there are signs that this is changing.

For 17 years the Edelman Trust Barometer has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and NGOs. This year was the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four of these institutions. In almost two-thirds of the 28 countries we surveyed, the general population did not trust the four institutions to “do what is right” — the average level of trust in all four institutions combined was below 50%.

Schools offer ‘safe spaces’ to combat ‘toxic masculinity’

Anthony Gockowski:

“Men will often resort to violence to resolve conflict because anger is the only emotion that they have been socialized to express,” a description for the school’s “Unlearning Toxic Masculinity” initiatives states. “BWell is investing in creating safe spaces for men to unpack all of the things they have learned about masculinity and what it means to be a man. The goal is to help those socialized as men to unlearn some of the notions that have led to such profound harm being enacted towards others and towards themselves.”

UMass, Amherst, likewise, has a “Men and Masculinities Center” for students to “interrogate and deconstruct traditional forms of masculinity,” even offering a support group for male students “who violated certain aspects of community standards” that “consists of a series of structured activities and conversations designed to get participants to reflect upon their behavior and the ways in which adherence to masculine norms influenced their choices.”

Campus Reform reached out to each of the other schools mentioned in this story for comment, and will update this story if and when any responses are received.

Wisconsin K-12 Academic Standards And The Department Of Public Instruction Superintendent Campaign

Molly Beck:

He said the revision is necessary because the current state report card system should be more “honest and transparent” about how well schools are educating students. The current system rates schools higher than student test scores indicate, he said.

“Fundamentally, the ratings are very likely to go down because that represents how our kids are actually doing,” Humphries said of his proposal. “You’ve got to have the honest conversation … it’s not a warm and fuzzy kind of a thing to be telling people, but they need to know the truth.”

Wisconsin’s WKCE standards were long criticized for their weakness.

The incumbent Superintendent is Tony Evers.

Google and the Misinformed Public

Safiya U. Noble:

igital media platforms like Google and Facebook may disavow responsibility for the results of their algorithms, but they can have tremendous — and disturbing — social effects. Racist and sexist bias, misinformation, and profiling are frequently unnoticed byproducts of those algorithms. And unlike public institutions (like the library), Google and Facebook have no transparent curation process by which the public can judge the credibility or legitimacy of the information they propagate.

That misinformation can be debilitating for a democracy — and in some instances deadly for its citizens. Such was the case with the 2015 killings of nine African-American worshipers at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., who were victims of a vicious hate crime. In a manifesto, the convicted gunman, Dylann Roof, wrote that his radicalization on race began following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen, and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. Roof typed “black on White crime” in a Google search; he says the results confirmed (a patently false notion) that black violence on white Americans is a crisis. His source? The Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “unrepentantly racist.” As Roof himself writes of his race education via Google, “I have never been the same since that day.”

Study says New Orleans schools spend more on administration and less on teaching after charter transformation

Marta Jewson:

A new report finds that New Orleans schools spend more on administration and less on teaching than than they would have if they had not undergone a transformation to charter schools after Hurricane Katrina.

The research undercuts one argument for charters — that they’re a solution to bloated bureaucracies at parishwide school systems. However, prior research by the same group has concluded that New Orleans’ shift to charters has raised academic performance.

Harnessing automation for a future that works

James Manyika, Michael Chui, Mehdi Miremadi, Jacques Bughin, Katy George, Paul Willmott, and Martin Dewhurst:

Automation is happening, and it will bring substantial benefits to businesses and economies worldwide, but it won’t arrive overnight. A new McKinsey Global Institute report finds realizing automation’s full potential requires people and technology to work hand in hand.

Recent developments in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have put us on the cusp of a new automation age. Robots and computers can not only perform a range of routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than humans, but they are also increasingly capable of accomplishing activities that include cognitive capabilities once considered too difficult to automate successfully, such as making tacit judgments, sensing emotion, or even driving. Automation will change the daily work activities of everyone, from miners and landscapers to commercial bankers, fashion designers, welders, and CEOs. But how quickly will these automation technologies become a reality in the workplace? And what will their impact be on employment and productivity in the global economy?

We Used To Have 6 More Letters In Our Alphabet

Hannah Poindexter

Phrases like ye olde are actually just some of the late 19th century’s first marketing ploys, meant to evoke a sentimental connection to older times. And ye has its own complicated story—based in the history of the alphabet.

English has always been a living language, changing and evolving with use. But before our modern alphabet was established, the language used many more characters we’ve since removed from our 26-letter lineup. The six that most recently got axed are:

Commentary on Federal Education Nominee Betsy DeVos

Kristina Rizga:

It’s Christmastime in Holland, Michigan, and the northerly winds from Lake Macatawa bring a merciless chill to the small city covered in deep snow. The sparkly lights on the trees in downtown luxury storefronts illuminate seasonal delicacies from the Netherlands, photos and paintings of windmills and tulips, wooden shoes, and occasional “Welkom Vrienden” (Welcome Friends) signs.
Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan’s Plan to Defund the Left

Dutch immigrants from a conservative Protestant sect chose this “little Holland” in western Michigan more than 150 years ago in part for its isolation. They wanted to keep “American” influences away from their people and their orthodox ways of running their community. Many of their traditions have lasted generations. Until recently, Holland restaurants couldn’t sell alcohol on Sundays. Residents are not allowed to yell or whistle between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. If city officials decide that a fence or a shed signals decay, they might tear it down, and mail the owner a bill. Grass clippings longer than eight inches have to be removed and composted, and snow must be shoveled as soon as it lands on the streets. Most people say rules like these help keep Holland prosperous, with low unemployment, low crime rates, good city services, excellent schools, and Republicans at almost every government post. It’s also where President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos, grew up.

Sitting in his spacious downtown office suite, Arlyn Lanting is eager to talk about his longtime friend, who will begin confirmation hearings Tuesday to become the nation’s top-ranking education official. DeVos is married to Amway scion Dick DeVos (whose father, Richard DeVos, is worth more than $5 billion, according to Forbes) and is seen as a controversial choice because of her track record of supporting vouchers for private, religious schools; right-wing Christian groups like the Foundation for Traditional Values, which has pushed to soften the separation of church and state; and organizations like Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has championed the privatization of the education system.

More, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Millennials are falling behind their boomer parents

AP:

Baby Boomers: your millennial children are worse off than you.

With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.
The analysis being released Friday gives concrete details about a troubling generational divide that helps to explain much of the anxiety that defined the 2016 election. Millennials have half the net worth of boomers. Their home ownership rate is lower, while their student debt is drastically higher.

Established education providers v new contenders

The Economist:

THE HYPE OVER MOOCs peaked in 2012. Salman Khan, an investment analyst who had begun teaching bite-sized lessons to his cousin in New Orleans over the internet and turned that activity into a wildly popular educational resource called the Khan Academy, was splashed on the cover of Forbes. Sebastian Thrun, the founder of another MOOC called Udacity, predicted in an interview in Wired magazine that within 50 years the number of universities would collapse to just ten worldwide. The New York Times declared it the year of the MOOC.

The sheer numbers of people flocking to some of the initial courses seemed to suggest that an entirely new model of open-access, free university education was within reach. Now MOOC sceptics are more numerous than believers. Although lots of people still sign up, drop-out rates are sky-high.

The jobs that really smart people avoid

Jeff Guo:

Over the last 35 years, Wall Street grew into an outsize part of the American economy. The financial sector now accounts for one fifth of U.S. corporate profits, which puts it neck and neck with manufacturing, an industry that employs twice as many workers.

During its transformation in the 1980s, Wall Street also turned into a top recruiter of graduates from fancy colleges. This is still true. Despite the humiliations of the financial crisis, which revealed how Wall Street’s complex dealings had undermined the public interest, it remains the most popular destination for Harvard and Yale students entering the workforce.

Trying to Keep the Internet Safe From Warrantless NSA Surveillance

Ashley Gorski:

One of the courtroom battles that will shape President-elect Trump’s spying powers is already underway.

On Thursday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument in Wikimedia v. NSA, our case challenging “Upstream” surveillance. First revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in June 2013, Upstream surveillance involves the NSA’s bulk searching of Americans’ international internet communications with the assistance of companies like AT&T and Verizon. If you email friends abroad, chat with family members overseas, or browse websites hosted outside of the United States, the NSA has almost certainly searched through the contents of your communications — and it has done so without a warrant.

Upstream surveillance takes place in the internet “backbone” — the network of high-capacity cables, switches, and routers that carries Americans’ domestic and international internet communications. The NSA has installed surveillance equipment at dozens of points along the internet backbone, allowing the government to copy and then search the contents of vast quantities of internet traffic as it flows past.

The rising price of knowledge: University of Calgary cuts 1,600 academic resources

Scott Strasser:

The reveal of the cancelled subscriptions — several hundred of which went into effect on Jan. 1 — sparked anger from some U of C faculty members.

“These are not just minor journals. A lot of these are the flagship journals of many disciplines,” U of C geography professor Byron Miller said. “And many more are journals that are considered among the top-five most important in specific fields. It was pretty shocking to us.”

Miller said the journal cancellations will make it harder for U of C faculty members to perform their research.

In face of shortage schools work to grow their own teachers

Annysa Johnson:

Pewaukee High School seniors Ryan Stoffield and Tori Johnson don’t really see themselves as school teachers. They both envision careers in business.

But you never know.

The two are among about 18 students who have signed up for the school’s new Pathways to Teaching strand, a collection of courses and experiences designed to expose juniors and seniors to careers in education.

Not everyone who signs up will end up in a classroom. But the hope is that some, with a little exposure and the right mentors, might re-think their career goals.

“If you surveyed most teachers, very few started as education majors,” said Danielle Bosanec, assistant director of curriculum and instruction for the Pewaukee School District, who helped design of the program.

“Part of putting together a program like this is to give them that early exposure, open the door and have them consider that as a career option that maybe they hadn’t before.”

The Pewaukee program, which launches in a few weeks, is one of a number of initiatives under way at schools and districts around southeastern Wisconsin aimed at bolstering the thinning ranks of prospective teachers.

Rich Students Go to Graduate School to Get Richer

Mikhail Zinshteyn:

More Americans are pursuing graduate degrees, but students from wealthier backgrounds are most likely to earn the degrees that pay the most, a new report published by the Urban Institute shows.

“I think that the idea that people from low-income backgrounds are so unlikely ever to get to medical school or law school is definitely a problem,” said Sandy Baum, a scholar on the economics of higher education and a co-writer of the report.

Between 1993 and 2008 the overall number of bachelor’s degree holders who enrolled in a graduate program within four years of completing their undergraduate studies ticked up from 34 percent to 39 percent.

Despite making up just 14 percent of the current higher-education population, graduate students represented 40 percent of the $1.3 trillion dollars-worth of student-loan debt in 2014.

Ask HN: What a 2nd tier college student must do to be at par with the best?

Amanda Vinci:

I’m a student of VIT University, India. Everyone in our country, from academia to industry, looks at us as second class undergrads.
I’m passionate about solving problems and making things, especially AI and game development. But due to some bad decisions I ended up dropping two years after high school and could not get into the IITs i.e. the top colleges in India. Ever since I started college and found the sub-par level of CS education here, I have tried to take my education into my own hands. I’m an autodidact by choice and here is the strategy that I have followed for the past one and half years at college:

– MOOC : I have studied all the important CS courses from popular MOOCs like CS50, MIT OCW, etc. I have earned a certification in an AI MOOC taught by the IITs and completed the Machine Learning course from Coursera too.

– Projects : I have done some good projects and open sourced them at https://github.com/AmanDaVinci

How the Young Are Indoctrinated to Obey

Noam Chomsky:

A more accurate description, I think, is “Failure by Design,” the title of a study by the Economic Policy Institute, which has long been a major source of reliable information and analysis on the state of the economy.

The EPI study reviews the consequences of the transformation of the economy a generation ago from domestic production to financialization and offshoring. By design; there have always been alternatives.

One primary justification for the design is what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz called the “religion” that “markets lead to efficient outcomes,” which was recently dealt yet another crushing blow by the collapse of the housing bubble that was ignored on doctrinal grounds, triggering the current financial crisis.

Claims are also made about the alleged benefits of the radical expansion of financial institutions since the 1970s. A more convincing description was provided by Martin Wolf, senior economic correspondent for The Financial Times: “An out-of-control financial sector is eating out the modern market economy from inside, just as the larva of the spider wasp eats out the host in which it has been laid.”

In North Carolina, Community College Controversies Open Pandora’s Box

Jesse Saffron:

At their best, community colleges provide educational opportunities to individuals who otherwise might not have them. They offer specialized workforce training that can lead to rewarding careers, as well as streamlined transfer options for those seeking more advanced degrees. But it seems that, while singing the praises of such schools, policymakers have overlooked serious problems within them.

While they may in the main be the “unsung heroes of American education,” community colleges are not immune to problems such as low academic standards, mismanagement, and even fraud. Unfortunately, when those issues arise, they often seem to receive little attention from school leaders whose job should be to provide accountability. Recent cases from North Carolina suggest that community college governance may be in need of an overhaul.

Consider Martin Community College (MCC). In 2014 an anonymous letter allegedly written by a group of concerned students, faculty, and staff was sent to the head of the state’s community college system, the school’s board of trustees, and lawmakers. It made numerous allegations against MCC’s president, Dr. Ann Britt, and trustees. “MCC is in a catastrophic state and immediate attention is necessary to re-establish its integrity and purpose,” the letter stated.

How I made sure all 12 of my kids could pay for college themselves

Francis Thompson:

My wife and I had 12 children over the course of 15 1/2 years. Today, our oldest is 37 and our youngest is 22. I have always had a very prosperous job and enough money to give my kids almost anything. But my wife and I decided not to.

I will share with you the things that we did, but first let me tell you the results: All 12 of my children have college degrees (or are in school), and we as parents did not pay for it. Most have graduate degrees. Those who are married have wonderful spouses with the same ethics and college degrees, too. We have 18 grandchildren who are learning the same things that our kids learned—self respect, gratitude, and a desire to give back to society.

Civics: Why Is Obama Expanding Surveillance Powers Right Before He Leaves Office?

Kaveh Waddell:

On Thursday, the Obama administration finalized new rules that allow the National Security Agency to share information it gleans from its vast international surveillance apparatus with the 16 other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

With the new changes, which were long in the works, those agencies can apply for access to various feeds of raw, undoctored NSA intelligence. Analysts will then be able to sift through the contents of those feeds as they see fit, before implementing required privacy protections. Previously, the NSA applied those privacy protections itself, before forwarding select pieces of information to agencies that might need to see them.

The Chicago torture video provides a close-up look at gang-centered criminal mayhem.

Heather Mac Donald

Anti-police activists and the mainstream media are incensed at the suggestion that the Black Lives Matter movement could have influenced the behavior of the four individuals in Chicago who tortured a disabled white man for hours last week while yelling “Fuck white people” and “Fuck Donald Trump.” In one sense, the activists and media are right: The influences were broader than that. They include the reign of racial victimology, inner-city gang culture, and black anti-white animus.

We live in Ta-Nehesi Coates’s America, characterized by the assumption that blacks are the eternal targets of lethal white oppression. Coates’s central thesis in Between the World and Me, his acclaimed phantasmagoria of racial victimology, is that America continuously aspires to the “shackling” and “destruction” of “black bodies.”

Updated Data for College Scorecard and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet

Lynn Mahaffie

Today, the Department of Education updated some of the data on the College Scorecard. In addition to providing the latest data on postsecondary institutions that are currently operating, institutional accrediting agencies, and institutions that the Department has placed on a heightened monitoring status, we :updated repayment rate data on the College Scorecard, as well as the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet Institutional Metric Data attachment from the November 14, 2016 Electronic Announcement.

Since the Department first published College Scorecard data, we have continued looking closely at all metrics and have considered feedback from institutions and other experts. As part of that review, the Department found a coding error in the calculations for repayment rates that we are correcting today.

Civics: Inference, or the Internet IS a Thing. Use it to find license plate readers

Kenneth Lipp:

This will be a post in three, well, probably three, parts, which I will probably post to Medium once done as a single thread. The eventual idea is to give a more complete picture of what I am trying to do — and what I mean by networked inference. For now I want to proof a concept and get some of you along for the ride. Don’t think of yourselves as bookish researchers, think CSI-Woke.

When someone says a file or ‘page’ is on “the Internet,” they’re saying it’s on someone else’s computer where it can be accessed from another. The computers themselves must communicate according to a sort of heuristic, and “Google hacking” for research is really about understanding that vocabulary as well as that of the subject matter, how to find the lowest common denominator to make your task as fruitful and *automated* as possible.

A Candidate Forum On Wisconsin’s K – 12 Spending And Achievement Plans

Molly Beck:

Overall on school funding, Evers said that the state is not spending enough on schools and that more funding should be sent to schools with higher numbers of students in foster care, students living in poverty and students who don’t speak English as a first language.

Humphries said academic achievement — particularly elementary reading levels — should be raised and budget efficiencies should be found before funding levels are increased. He said schools also should be held accountable on whether they’re spending money on programs that are found not to be effective after years of use.

Stop Using the Phrase Creative Writing

Cydney Alexis:

To many people, if not most, the phrase creative writing marks a genre. A man writes in a garret, his pages lit by the faint glow of a lamp. Ideas are spilling madly from his cerebral cortex to the page. He probably has a cup of coffee next to him. Or a dog. And he is writing a story—perhaps about a road trip.

I know that is the image in most people’s brains because it is the one I’ve read or heard described hundreds of times by the news media, in popular culture, by writers themselves, in books written by writers on writing, by my students and by friends. It is also the image most strangers (or distant family members) produce when I tell them my field is writing studies, a discipline dedicated to the academic study of writing of all kinds: college writing, digital writing, and workplace writing, just to name a few examples.

Upon hearing that, a man I met in a hostel over breakfast asked me to listen to his poem to see if it was publishable, even though, not being a poet, I have no credentials for evaluating his text. My distant cousin, after years of asking at Thanksgiving dinners, still can’t understand why I don’t want to edit his novel. Most of us learn to laugh off the glaze that comes over people’s faces as we academics in writing studies explain what we, in fact, do write. 


“Too often, according to Mark Seidenberg’s important, alarming new book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” Johnny can’t read because schools of education didn’t give Johnny’s teachers the proper tools to show him how”

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

UW-Madison’s Mark Seidenberg, Vilas Research Professor and Donald O. Hebb Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, has a long-standing commitment to using the science of reading to improve educational outcomes. Examples of insightful publications from Seidenberg and his colleagues in recent years include:

Language Variation and Literacy Learning: The Case of African American English 2013

Impact of Dialect Use on a Basic Component of Learning to Read 2015

Influences on Spelling: Evidence from Homophones 2014

The Science of Reading and its Educational Implications 2013 PowerPoint

Seidenberg’s new book, Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, And What Can Be Done About It, will be released in January of 2017. (Preorders are available on sites such as Target, Walmart, and Amazon.) Our New Year’s wish for Wisconsin is that this book is widely read and impacts reading education in the state.

Two media articles, The Ignored Science That Could Help Close the Achievement Gap in The Atlantic, and Seidenberg: To Improve Literacy, Teachers Must Embrace the Science Behind Reading in the Nonprofit Quarterly, focus on Mark Seidenberg’s new book, Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, And What We Can Do About It.

Mark Seidenberg’s new book, Language at the Speed of Sight, topped our 2016 holiday gift wish list. David Kipen’s review in the New York Times makes us even more anxious for our copies to arrive! Here are a couple of excerpts from the review:

Too often, according to Mark Seidenberg’s important, alarming new book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” Johnny can’t read because schools of education didn’t give Johnny’s teachers the proper tools to show him how. Economic inequality is a big problem, too, of course, but kindergartners may be grandparents before that can be redressed. Mr. Seidenberg, a veteran cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, makes a strong case for how brain science can help the teaching profession in the meantime.

We learn that, among other things, dyslexia is all too real and should be caught as early as possible; English spelling is a sadistic but nonlethal impediment to slow learners; the reading of books to children is insufficient but indispensable; and some modern pedagogical theories are “zombies that cannot be stopped by conventional weapons such as empirical disconfirmation.”

Read the entire review here. Wisconsin Reading Coalition . . . that’s everyone reading this . . . gets a special mention! We are honored to be fellow travelers with Professor Seidenberg on the quest to support teachers and students with the best information possible to improve reading instruction.

Midwestern Legislators Take Aim at Academic Tenure-for-Life

Higher Ed Watch:

Following in the footsteps of Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, which in 2015 and 2016 weakened tenure protections for public university faculty, legislators in Iowa and Missouri have introduced bills to eliminate the practice in their states.

“I think the university should have the flexibility to hire and fire professors and then I don’t think that bad professors should have a lifetime position guaranteed at colleges,” Iowa State Senator Brad Zaun told the Des Moines Register. “It is as simple as that.”
State Representative Rick Brattin of Missouri offered similar reasoning in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Where else in any other industry do you have tenure, do you have a protection to where after you work somewhere for so long you’re basically immune?,” he asked. “That doesn’t exist anywhere except for our education system, and that’s just un-American. If you’re doing your due diligence as a professor or any profession, you shouldn’t have to worry about termination.”

Lawmaker’s bid to ban tenure would make Iowa an outlier

Vanessa Miller:

If a bill introduced this week intending to make it easier for the state’s public universities to fire professors by abolishing tenure ever becomes law, it would make Iowa an anomaly in banning a widely accepted practice of ensconcing academic freedoms on campus.The Republican senator from Urbandale sponsoring the bill, Brad Zaun, said it’s needed so universities can weed out unfit faculty.“Our regents, and certainly our college presidents, cannot get rid of bad professors,” Zaun said, “and my bill would give them the ability to do that.”

How time-saving technology destroys our productivity

Rory Sutherland:

In 1929 John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2029 people in the developed nations could enjoy a perfectly civilised standard of living while working for 16 hours a week. His hope was for our precious hours of extra leisure to be devoted to such edifying pursuits as playing Grand Theft Auto and watching kittens skateboarding on YouTube. (Actually he didn’t predict that bit — he suggested we’d be listening to string quartets and attending poetry recitals but, hey, that was the Bloomsbury Group for you.) Today, however, not only has the work week stayed constant but, in direct contradiction of the theory, the better-paid now work disproportionately longer hours.

In 2008 some of the world’s leading economists contributed to a series of essays (Revisiting Keynes, MIT) discussing why Keynes’s dream now seems so wide of the mark. Between them, they furnished a number of competing theories. Some posited that people like working and that being busy now has the kind of social cachet that being leisured used to.

Assaults On Privacy In America

Jonathan Shaw:

DO PEOPLE BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY when they think they are being watched? When former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the mass surveillance of American citizens in June 2013, the question suddenly grew in importance. Can the behavior of an entire population, even in a modern democracy, be changed by awareness of surveillance? And what are the effects of other kinds of privacy invasions?

Jon Penney was nearing the end of a fellowship at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society in 2013, and he realized that Snowden’s disclosures presented an opportunity to study their effect on Americans’ online behavior. During research at Oxford the following year, Penney documented a sudden decline in Wikipedia searches for certain terrorism-related keywords: Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, dirty bomb, chemical weapon, and jihad, for example. More than a year later, when the study ended, such searches were still declining. “Given the lack of evidence of people being prosecuted or punished” for accessing such information, Penney wrote in the Berkeley Technology Law Review (which published his research last June), he judged it unlikely that “actual fear of prosecution can fully explain the chilling effects suggested by the findings of this study.” The better explanation, he wrote, is self-censorship.

K-12 Math Rigor? Are High School Graduates Capable Of Basic Cost/Benefit Calculations…

Kevin Carey:

The problem, from a regulatory standpoint, is that they borrow a lot of money to obtain the degree — over $78,000 on average, according to the university. The total tuition is $62,593. And because it’s a graduate program, students can also borrow the full cost of their living expenses from the federal government, regardless of their credit history.

After accounting for basic living expenses, the average Harvard A.R.T. Institute graduate has to pay 44 percent of discretionary income just to make the minimum loan payment.

PDF Report link.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

DEJA VU: REPORT OF THE 1965 MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT MATH 9 TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE.

More regulation simply makes things worse. Why not make sure that students can adequately assess the cost and benefits of their choices?

Backdoor: A Technical Definition

Jonathan Zdziarski

A clear technical definition of the term backdoor has never reached wide consensus in the computing community. In this paper, I present a three-prong test to determine if a mechanism is a backdoor: “intent”, “consent”, and “access”; all three tests must be satisfied in order for a mechanism to meet the definition of a backdoor. This three-prong test may be applied to software, firmware, and even hardware mechanisms in any computing environment that establish a security boundary, either explicitly or implicitly. These tests, as I will explain, take more complex issues such as disclosure and authorization into account.

The technical definition I present is rigid enough to identify the taxonomy that backdoors share in common, but is also flexible enough to allow for valid arguments and discussion.

Georgia Tech’s Model Expands Three years after its low-cost MOOC-inspired master’s degree program in computer science launched, the institute announces a new program in analytics priced at less than $10,000

Carl Straumsheim

The Georgia Institute of Technology will this fall offer an online master’s degree program in analytics for less than $10,000, a new investment in the institute’s model for low-cost, online graduate education.

The interdisciplinary program, called OMS Analytics, follows the blueprint the institute created with its online master’s degree program in computer science, known as OMSCS, which launched in 2014 and has grown to about 4,000 students. Last year, Georgia Tech announced plans to expand the model into new fields.

Since offering the program online greatly increases the number of students Georgia Tech can enroll, the institute will charge students a fraction of the cost of the residential program to study the same curriculum online. The 36-credit-hour program, split into 10 courses and a semester-long analytics capstone project, will cost in- and out-of-state students “less than $10,000,” the institute said. Georgia residents and out-of-state students pay about $36,000 and $49,000, respectively, for the yearlong residential program.

“Analytics is now a subject that touches practically every field and every problem that we face,” said Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Tech. “

Of class and classes

Glenn Reynolds:

The long knives have come out for Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. But her critics aren’t attacking her because they think she’ll do a bad job. They’re attacking her because they’re afraid she’ll do a good job. But I think that her success will be important, if you care about addressing inequality in America.

What DeVos’s critics hate most is that she’s an advocate of school choice. DeVos supports charter schools, education vouchers, and other ways of letting parents control where their kids go to school. The people who hate this idea are mostly, in one way or another, people who instead want a captive market of taxpayer-funded pupils. But what’s good for politicians, administrators, and teachers’ unions isn’t necessarily good for kids.

The other day I noticed a series of tweets from photographer Chris Arnade, who specializes in portraits of the parts of America that aren’t doing well. Arnade stressed that the big source of inequality in America is cultural, rather than economic. The values that are extolled by what he calls the “front row kids” who run things (Joel Kotkin calls them the “gentry liberals”) are those associated with fancy education, and it’s hard to get ahead without knowing them.

Even as we’ve had more talk about economic inequality, the lines of social inequality have hardened: You are made invalid, and so are your views, if you cannot speak as we speak. Eat as we eat. Dress as we dress. Properly pronounce. The tools to remind you of your place — that you are uneducated — are satire. Mocking. Condescending. Smug. Disdain. Or just dismissal.

Gramscian damage

Eric Raymond:

On a different level, in the 1930s members of CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.

Americans hearing that last one tend to laugh. But the Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.

Accordingly, the Soviet espionage apparat actually ran two different kinds of network: one of spies, and one of agents of influence. The agents of influence had the minor function of recruiting spies (as, for example, when Kim Philby was brought in by one of his tutors at Cambridge), but their major function was to spread dezinformatsiya, to launch memetic weapons that would damage and weaken the West.

How University Costs Keep Rising Despite Tuition Freezes

Jon Marcus:

At a time when public anger is laser-focused on tuition charges that are rising three times faster than inflation, something less well understood has actually been largely responsible for pushing up the cost of college: fees.

Think tuition is high? Now add fees for student activities, fees for athletics, fees for building maintenance, fees for libraries—even fees for graduation, the bills for which often arrive just as students and their families thought they were finally done paying for their higher education.

All are frustratingly piled on top of a long list of expenses beyond tuition that many people never plan for or expect, or that can’t be covered by financial aid—sometimes forcing them to take out more and more loans, or quit college altogether.

“It was, like, what is this?” Ann Roach remembered thinking as she kept getting billed for fees when her oldest son went to the University of Dayton. “It’s like buying a car. You think you have a price, and then they tell you, ‘Here’s a conveyance fee, or here’s a fee for $200 to put the license plates on.’ Nobody told us about these.”

That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century

Adam J. MacLeod

The traffic-camera ticket: like a parking ticket, it looks lawful enough. When they receive one, most people simply write the check. It seems like the sensible and law-abiding thing to do.

But this is not a parking ticket. In legal terms, it is not a proceeding in rem—against your car. It is a legal action against you personally. And before you pay the fine, you might want to hear my story.

My story is not legal advice. I offer it only to show how our ruling elites have corrupted the rule of law and to suggest why this matters for the American experiment in self-governance.

The Number of Older Student Loan Borrowers Is Rising

Ann Carrns:

Most student loan borrowers are young adults, but the number of older Americans with education loans has quadrupled in the last decade. Many of them say that difficulties with loan servicers are adding to their debt-management struggles.

Americans age 60 and older are the fastest-growing group of student loan borrowers, according to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that examines borrower complaints. There are now about 2.8 million Americans who are 60 or older with at least one student loan.

What employers can do to encourage their workers to retrain

The Economist:

Design thinking emphasises action over planning and encourages its followers to look at problems through the eyes of the people affected. Around 100,000 Infosys employees have gone through a series of workshops on it. The first such workshop sets the participants a task: for example, to improve the experience of digital photography. That involves moving from the idea of making a better camera to considering why people value photographs in the first place, as a way of capturing memories. As ideas flow, people taking part in the workshops immediately start producing prototypes with simple materials like cardboard and paper. “The tendency is to plan at length before building,” says Mr Rajagopalan. “Our approach is to build, build, build, test and then plan.”

That baffling structure in Palo Alto was another teaching tool. Mr Rajagopalan had charged a small team with reimagining the digital retail experience. Instead of coming up with yet another e-commerce site, they were experimenting with technologies to liven up a physical space. (If a weary shopper sat in the chair, say, a pot of tea on an adjacent table would automatically brew up.) The construction of the shop prototype in Infosys’s offices was being documented so that employees could see design thinking in action.

Infosys is grappling with a vital question: what do people need to be good at to succeed in their work? Whatever the job, the answer is always going to involve some technical and specific skills, based on knowledge and experience of a particular industry. But with design thinking, Infosys is focusing on “foundational skills” like creativity, problem-solving and empathy. When machines can put humans to shame in performing the routine job-specific tasks that Infosys once took offshore, it makes sense to think about the skills that computers find harder to learn.

Complaining of bias on campus, Republicans push for ‘intellectual diversity’ at UW schools

Nico Savage:

Conservative critics of higher education in Wisconsin have opened a new chapter of their long-running complaints about institutions such as UW-Madison, scrutinizing specific university courses and even a class reading they consider biased or inappropriate.

The shift is yet another sign of the divide between an increasingly conservative state government and a university system that houses programs, research and courses that some Republicans view as frivolous and liberally biased at best and hostile indoctrination at worst.

It could also foreshadow new legislation that seeks to change what many Republicans see as a lack of “intellectual diversity” on college campuses, by pushing institutions to invite more conservative speakers and hire more right-leaning faculty.

How, exactly, the Legislature would accomplish that goal remains to be seen, but the issue could emerge soon as lawmakers craft the state budget this spring and summer.

To proponents of academic freedom on and off campus, the push from state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and others to seek out bias in the operations of the university — and to use the prospect of budget cuts as a means to push for changes, as Nass has — is a troubling overreach.

The Dangerous Rise of ‘The New Civics’

Peter Wood:

National Findings: Traditional civic literacy is in deep decay in America. The New Civics, a movement devoted to progressive activism, has taken over civics education. “Service-learning” and “civic engagement” are the most common labels this movement uses, but it also calls itself global civics, deliberative democracy, and intercultural learning. The New Civics movement is national, and it extends far beyond the universities. The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as “progressive activism.” The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as channeling government funds toward progressive nonprofits. The New Civics has worked to divert government funds to progressive causes since its founding in the 1960s.

The New Civics redefines “volunteerism” as labor for progressive organizations and administration of the welfare state. The new measures to require “civic engagement” will make this volunteerism compulsory. The New Civics replaces traditional liberal arts education with vocational training for community activists. The New Civics shifts authority within the university from the faculty to administrators, especially in offices of civic engagement, diversity, and sustainability, as well as among student affairs professionals. The New Civics also shifts the emphasis of a university education from curricula, drafted by faculty, to “co-curricular activities,” run by non-academic administrators. The New Civics movement aims to take over the entire university. The New Civics advocates want to make “civic engagement” part of every class, every tenure decision, and every extracurricular activity.

Making Citizens Report.

There is actually nothing for low-income students in Cuomo’s free-college plan

Matthew M. Chingos:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared to jump on the progressive bandwagon when he announced a free-college plan yesterday. But buried in the fine print of the $163 million plan are significant benefits to upper-middle-income families — those making up to $125,000 per year — while the plan does nothing for low-income students, for whom existing grant aid already covers tuition.

Free-college plans surged in popularity in 2016 as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made such a plan a central element of his presidential campaign, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton eventually followed suit. The Sanders and Clinton plans would have provided benefits to students from families with a wide range of incomes. But supporters of these plans could argue that including more affluent families was necessary to obtain broad-based political support.

Wisconsin Department Of Public Instruction Candidate Answers

Wisconsin School Administrators:

As you know on December 22, 2016, the SAA asked the candidates for State Superintendent to respond in writing to several questions on current education issues impacting Wisconsin public schools and public school children.

We have received responses from State Superintendent Tony Evers and John Humphries. Lowell Holtz did not provide responses to the questions but has offered a statement that we are posting for SAA members.

After over spending by $14 million, West Allis sells school district offices

Erin Richards:

The school board and administration over-spent the district’s budget between 2013-’14 and 2014-’15 on everything from employee benefits and investment payments to school operations and athletics facility improvements. Neither the administration or school board appeared to realize the extent of the over-spending until late 2015 when an auditor’s report laid out the specifics. The report found no negligence or misconduct, according to West Allis Now.

K-12 spending (and taxes) increases annually, perhaps not as fast as some would like. This, despite growing academic challenges.

Poor Neighborhoods Make the Best Investments

Strong Towns:

What is obvious here is that the poor neighborhoods are profitable while the affluent neighborhoods are not. Throughout the poor neighborhoods, the city is — TODAY — bringing in more revenue than they will spend to maintain the neighborhood, and that’s assuming they actually invest the money to maintain the neighborhood (which they have not been). If they fail to maintain the neighborhood, the profit margins will be even higher.

This might strike some of you as surprising, yet it is important to understand that it is a consistent feature we see revealed in city after city after city all over North America. Poor neighborhoods subsidize the affluent; it is a ubiquitous condition of the American development pattern.

New Detroit school board takes reins of district

Ann Zaniewski:

“This is an incredible day in the city of Detroit,” interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather said during a break in the event at Cass Technical High School. “We have been pushing toward local control, and everyone in the city should be celebrating.”
Cynthia Diane Stephens, a judge in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Court of Claims, swore in the board members collectively before a crowd of about 300 people in the school auditorium, where the mood was celebratory. The audience erupted in applause.

Then the body handled some basic housekeeping: approving temporary bylaws, setting a meeting schedule and electing officers.

Our Students Can’t Write Very Well—It’s No Mystery Why

Tucker’s blog, via Will Fitzhugh:

My organization decided a few weeks back that we needed to hire a new professional staff person. We had close to 500 applicants. Inasmuch as the task was to help us communicate information related to the work we do, we gave each of the candidates one of the reports we published last year and asked them to produce a one-page summary. All were college graduates. Only one could produce a satisfactory summary. That person got the job.

We were lucky this time. We are more often than not disappointed at the subpar writing ability of the applicants for openings at our organization. Many applicants are from very good colleges. Many have graduate degrees. Many are very poor writers.

Their lack of writing ability does not auger well. When we look at what they have written, the logic of the narrative is often very hard to find. It would appear that their lack of writing ability stands as mute testimony to their lack of thinking ability.

If colleges keep killing academic freedom, civilization will die, too

José A. Cabranes:

Sixty years ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren warned our nation that we had a choice. Either “teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate,” or “our civilization will stagnate and die.” There was no third option.

Today, we face this choice again. Recent attempts to shame professors for unpopular views and to curtail the due process rights of those accused of misconduct are cause for alarm. Especially when academic freedom is endangered at places such as Yale — long celebrated as a leader on freedom of expression — we know that the erosion of academic freedom has become a national problem.

Academic freedom and the tenure system that protects it can seem unnecessary, even perverse, to the many Americans who lack job security. Why should professors be harder to fire than anyone else?

Virtual Reality Allows the Most Detailed, Intimate Digital Surveillance Yet

Joshua Kopstein:

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was on stage wearing a virtual reality headset, feigning surprise at an expressive cartoon simulacrum that seemed to perfectly follow his every gesture.

The audience laughed. Zuckerberg was in the middle of what he described as the first live demo inside VR, manipulating his digital avatar to show off the new social features of the Rift headset from Facebook subsidiary Oculus. The venue was an Oculus developer conference convened earlier this fall in San Jose. Moments later, Zuckerberg and two Oculus employees were transported to his glass-enclosed office at Facebook, and then to his infamously sequestered home in Palo Alto. Using the Rift and its newly revealed Touch hand controllers, their avatars gestured and emoted in real time, waving to Zuckerberg’s Puli sheepdog, dynamically changing facial expressions to match their owner’s voice, and taking photos with a virtual selfie stick — to post on Facebook, of course.

Automation Denialism Continues to Thrive

Cory Scarola:

Donald Trump’s climate change denialism is no more at odds with the educated consensus than is his quiet denial of job automation, one of the most critical economic issues of the next few years. Although, to hear many Americans talk about it, one wouldn’t think it such a critical issue at all. In fact, most Americans aren’t worried about it at all.

A White House report from early 2016 predicted an 83 percent likelihood that workers making $20 per hour will lose their jobs to robots. For those making twice that, $40 an hour, the chance is 31 percent. Considering the amount of time devoted by President-elect Trump to concerns that China takes American jobs, his silence on automation feels like a willful avoidance of the issue. And ignoring automation is, for the moment, the American way.

Trump has made a smart choice for education secretary

Mitt Romney:

Second, it’s important to have someone who will challenge the conventional wisdom and the status quo. In 1970, it cost $56,903 to educate a child from K-12. By 2010, adjusting for inflation, we had raised that spending to $164,426 — almost three times as much. Further, the number of people employed in our schools had nearly doubled. But despite the enormous investment, the performance of our kids has shown virtually no improvement. The establishment predictably calls for more spending and smaller classrooms — in other words, more teachers and more pay. But more of the same is demonstrably not the answer.

The interests opposing DeVos’s nomination charge that charter schools in Michigan — and particularly in Detroit — haven’t lived up to their promise. But recent studies show that choice and competition are having a positive impact on kids’ learning in the state. A recent analysis by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies found that students in Detroit charters are performing better than their counterparts in traditional public schools in every subject tested by the state’s annual assessment. Meanwhile, recent studies by Stanford University found children in Detroit charters showing stronger academic improvement, gaining an extra two months’ learning in math and reading per year, as compared with the typical public school student in the city.

Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Erin Richards:

Together, Travis Academy and Holy Redeemer have received close to $100 million in taxpayer funding over the years. The sum is less than what taxpayers would have paid for those pupils in public schools, because each tuition voucher costs less than the total expense per pupil in Milwaukee Public Schools. But vouchers weren’t supposed to provide just a cheaper education. They were supposed to provide a better one.

CREATED IN 1990 BY A COALITION of black parents and school-reform advocates with the blessing of a Republican governor, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program aimed to allow poor parents to withdraw their children from public schools and send them to higher-performing private schools they probably couldn’t otherwise afford.

Today, a little under a third of Milwaukee’s school-age population attends voucher schools. Overall, test-score outcomes for the Milwaukee Public Schools and the private voucher schools are remarkably low, and remarkably similar: On the latest state tests, about 80 percent of children in both sectors were not proficient in English and about 85 percent were not proficient in math. The voucher high schools, however, posted slightly higher 11th-grade ACT scores this year than Milwaukee Public Schools: a 17.5 composite, compared with the district’s 16.5.

The voucher program is not to blame for all of that, of course, but some wonder why the major reform hasn’t made more of a difference. The program has bolstered some decent religious schools—mostly Catholic and Lutheran—which would have never maintained a presence in the inner city serving poor children without taxpayer assistance. It’s helped to incubate a couple of private schools that eventually became high-performing charter schools. But it’s extended the same life raft to some abysmally performing schools that parents continue to choose for a variety of reasons besides academic performance. And it’s kept afloat a great number of mediocre programs.

Research shows Milwaukee parents have listed small class sizes and school safety among their top reasons for choosing a voucher school. Safety per se doesn’t equal educational excellence, but parents’ perceptions of safety can drive their decision-making. But are those perceptions accurate? Advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin examined police-call data for Milwaukee’s public and voucher schools in recent years and determined voucher schools to have proportionally fewer requests for assistance, but voucher schools also serve a disproportionately small number of students in high school, where many of the most serious school incidents warranting police attention occur. Objective data on school safety are hard to come by without records of incident reports, suspensions, and expulsions.

Henry Tyson, the superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School, a popular and high-performing voucher school that now serves children in Milwaukee’s central city, has long been frustrated at the lack of state and local political attention given to policies that would help expand high-performing programs and eliminate low-performing ones.

“I am intensely frustrated by the voucher schools that are chronically underperforming over a long period of time,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, any school that has been open three years or more that is under 5 percent proficiency should close, whether that’s a public school, charter school, or voucher school.”

Milwaukee has failed to develop such a mechanism in part because many choice advocates don’t want to give more power to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which they do not believe is an objective overseer. Other advocates refuse to acknowledge that parent choice alone will not always raise the quality of the market.

“What we need to do is to toil every day and keep pushing for that Berlin Wall moment,” says Kevin Chavous, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and education-reform advocate who supported the launch of the federally funded D.C. voucher program. Chavous is a founding board member of the AFC, and a tall African American with piercing blue-gray eyes and an industrious nature—he’s written entire books on education reform during long-distance flights. He believes that school choice can and will become the dominant method of delivering educational opportunity in America.

“We’re close to that tipping point,” he said in May 2016 during AFC’s annual conference at National Harbor, a resort hugging the Potomac River just south of D.C.

It’s important to remember that private-school choice is still just a tiny sliver of the pie when it comes to publicly funded education in America. Approximately 50 million children attend public schools run by school districts. About 2.5 million attend public charter schools. And only around 400,000 attend private schools with the help of voucher, tax-credit scholarship, or education-savings account, according to EdChoice. But substantial jumps could be around the corner, especially as the programs continue to expand from targeting solely low-income children to being open to all.

A useful article. Links and detailed spending comparisons would be useful. Madison currently spends around $18k per student, far ahove the antional average. Similar achievement at less than half the cost of traditional K-12 organs is worth exploration, perhaps offering opportunities to help students in the greatest need, such as many in Madison.

Survey: 41 Percent Of Americans Pay For Unexpected Expense With Savings

bankrate

Just 41 percent of adults said they would pay an unexpected cost from savings. That’s a 4 percent increase from last year’s survey.

If you have a car, house or apartment, or a pet or child — shoot, if you’re a member of the human race — something that costs money is bound to go wrong.

In Bankrate’s latest survey, 45 percent of American adults said they or their immediate family had had a major unexpected expense in the past 12 months. That’s up 2 percent from last year.

The most common unexpected incidents are related to transportation, appliances or home-related breakdown or injury or illness.

Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends which of these answer is right.

Fabius Maximus:

Will the young men now in high school and college marry in their late 20’s, as men do now? I gave an introduction to this vital issue in “Will young men break America’s family structure?” Here are some additional aspects I did not mention.

Marriage was an asset for our ancestors, as children provided labor whose value exceeded their cost. That changed by the 19th century, resulting in the street children and horrific orphanages described by Dickens. Now children are raised at fantastic cost by middle class families, often paid as child support by absent dads. I doubt many today’s young men, raised with pronatalism scrubbed from their textbooks, will marry to have kids.

The other major benefits of marriage, sex and companionship, are easily available without the risks and cost of marriage. Will this thoroughly unromantic generation of young men follow the traditional patterns in a world so radically changed? Or have the pressures on the institution of marriage grown, so that it snaps (similar to punctuated equilibrium in evolution)?

Civics: Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckberg hires David Plouffe and Ken Mehlman to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Alison Griswold:

Yet another reason to wonder about Mark Zuckerberg’s political aspirations: His philanthropic organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, just hired the guys who helped elect Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Former Obama campaign manager and Uber board member David Plouffe is joining the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as president of policy and advocacy. So is Ken Mehlman, a former George W. Bush campaign manager and Republican National Committee chairman, who will lead the group’s board.

Related: Yahoo’s privacy problems and Columbia’s Moglen on Facebook.

What Happened to the Class of 2010? Empirical Evidence of Structural Change in the Legal Profession

Deborah Jones Merritt:

Poor employment outcomes have plagued law school graduates for several years. Legal scholars have debated whether these outcomes stem from macroeconomic cycles or from fundamental changes in the market for legal services. This Article examines that question empirically, using a database of employment outcomes for more than 1,200 lawyers who received their JDs in 2010. The analysis offers strong evidence of structural shifts in the legal market. Job outcomes have improved only marginally for the Class of 2010, those outcomes contrast sharply with results for earlier classes, and law firm jobs have dropped markedly. In addition to discussing these results, the Article examines correlations between job outcomes and gender, law school prestige, and geography. In a concluding section, it offers four predictions about the future of the legal market and the economics of legal education.

Wisconsin superintendent candidate in favor of converting low-performing schools

Molly Beck:

Humphries said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal that if he is elected as the state’s chief of schools, he would implement a process during which consistently low-performing schools could be turned over to a variety of school operators — including those that run charter or private voucher schools — through a Request for Proposal process.

If the low-performing school is public, he said the RFP process would also allow the same public school administrators to apply, but with a different plan to raise academic achievement.

“We can’t let schools go on forever failing to meet the needs of our kids but we have to be collaborative and courageous at the same time,” he said.

He said the process would be for the state’s lowest-performing schools as measured by the state’s report card system — which Humphries also is in favor of revising — and would not be triggered until the school in question underwent at least three years of state-directed improvement.

Due Process, Federalism And American Colleges

http://freebeacon.com/culture/no-touching/Bruce Fleming

Think that’s scary? What happens next is even worse. Following guidelines from the Obama administration Office of Civil Rights, you will likely be denied representation by a lawyer, forbidden from presenting exonerating evidence or asking questions of your accuser (who will invariably be referred to as the “victim” or the “survivor”), be subject to the decision of a college administrator who is under pressure to show that her (as it almost always is) institution is eagerly working with the federal government’s esoteric understanding of Title IX, and found guilty if there is a 50.01 percent chance you failed to get consent, or lost it at some point unbeknownst to you. The press will rake you over the coals and your future, now that you’re expelled and branded a sexual malefactor, will be compromised.

Gay guys, don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. You have it just as bad, arguably worse. A case at Brandeis University that the book highlighted involves two men, one of whom was found guilty of nonconsensual sexual conduct because he looked at the other man, who he subsequently had an affair with, in the communal shower without getting consent. The looking was the misconduct, not the affair.

This is the Brave New World of sex in college under the Obama administration. Well, some colleges. Reports of sexual assault, a spectrum of acts that range from looking to touching, to what one woman interviewed (an opponent of the current rules) calls a “test kiss,” to actual rape of passed-out women or even penetration by force, are much higher at prestigious Ivy-level universities than other schools. That means it’s a problem, if it is one, of rich kids. Or their invention.

A Self-Segregated College Life

Danah Boyd:

If you ask a college admissions officer at an elite institution to describe how they build a class of incoming freshman, you will quickly realize that the American college system is a diversification project. Unlike colleges in most parts of the world, the vast majority of freshman at top tier universities in the United States live on campus with roommates who are assigned to them. Colleges approach housing assignments as an opportunity to pair diverse strangers with one another to build social ties. This makes sense given how many friendships emerge out of freshman dorms. By pairing middle class kids with students from wealthier families, elite institutions help diversify the elites of the future.

This diversification project produces a tremendous amount of conflict. Although plenty of people adore their college roommates and relish the opportunity to get to know people from different walks of life as part of their college experience, there is an amazing amount of angst about dorm assignments and the troubles that brew once folks try to live together in close quarters. At many universities, residential life is often in the business of student therapy as students complain about their roommates and dormmates. Yet, just like in the military, learning how to negotiate conflict and diversity in close quarters can be tremendously effective in sewing the social fabric.

In the springs of 2006, I was doing fieldwork with teenagers at a time when they had just received acceptances to college. I giggled at how many of them immediately wrote to the college in which they intended to enroll, begging for a campus email address so that they could join that school’s Facebook (before Facebook was broadly available). In the previous year, I had watched the previous class look up roommate assignments on MySpace so I was prepared for the fact that they’d use Facebook to do the same. What I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly they would all get on Facebook, map the incoming freshman class, and use this information to ask for a roommate switch. Before they even arrived on campus in August/September of 2006, they had self-segregated as much as possible.

Civics: Obama Policies And The First Amendment

Spencer Hsu:

First Amendment and whistleblower groups said the Obama administration was continuing a crackdown on disclosures of sensitive details that saw more than twice as many prosecutions for leaking than during the tenure of all of his predecessors combined.

Other observers who work with government technical experts saw the felony prosecution of Cartwright — once known as Obama’s “favorite general” — as a rebuttal to critics who accused the administration of going easy on politically influential officials.

Those critics cited the 2015 misdemeanor plea deal for ex-CIA director and retired Army general David H. Petraeus who admitted mishandling classified information in materials he shared with his former mistress and biographer.

Big bang for just a few bucks: The impact of math textbooks in California

Cory Koedel and Morgan Polikoff, via a kind Dan Dempsey email:

Textbooks are one of the most widely used educational inputs, but remarkably little is known about their effects on student learning. This report uses data collected from elementary schools in California to estimate the impacts of mathematics textbook choices on student achievement. We study four of the most popular books in the state from 2008-2013 and find that one—Houghton Mifflin California Math—consistently outperforms the other three. The superior performance of California Math persists up to four years after adoption and shows up in grades 3, 4, and 5.

The textbook impacts we identify are educationally meaningful and come at an extremely low cost. With regard to cost, textbooks are relatively inexpensive and tend to be similarly priced. The implication is that the marginal cost of choosing a more effective textbook over a less effective alternative is essentially zero. In terms of achievement impacts, our findings suggest non-trivial gains in student achievement are attainable simply by choosing more effective curriculum materials. The effect sizes we document are on par with what one could expect from a hypothetical policy that substantially increases the quality of the teaching workforce. But whereas there is much uncertainty about whether commensurate increases in teacher quality are attainable, and how they might be attained—at least in the near term—choosing a more effective textbook is a seemingly straightforward policy option for raising student achievement.

A critical factor limiting the capacity of school administrators to choose more effective textbooks is that there is virtually no evidence on how different textbooks affect student achievement. The fundamental problem limiting the development of an evidence base is that very few states track school and district textbook adoptions. This point bears repeating: most states do not know which curriculum materials are being used in which schools and districts. Without these data, it is not possible to perform evaluations of textbook efficacy. Thus, in most states, decisionmakers who wish to incorporate into their adoption decisions evidence on how textbooks affect student achievement are simply out of luck.

…..

Our work makes several important contributions. First, we have assembled a dataset of textbook adoptions in California, the largest U.S. state with the greatest number of schools. We have received funding to continue collecting these data moving forward. We will continue to analyze the data and go on to study other subjects and other grades. We also plan to make the data available to interested researchers so that others can pursue new lines of inquiry. There are many questions in this area of great import that do not have to do with impacts on student achievement—
for instance, is there equitable access to current curriculum materials? How do charter and traditional public schools differ in their adoption patterns? We hope these newly available data can spawn a new wave of data-driven research on textbook adoptions and their effects. The current research literature is sorely lacking in quantitative analyses of textbooks in schools.

Second, our work again demonstrates a method (previously demonstrated by Bhatt, Koedel, and Lehmannxiv) that can be applied in other states, grades, and subjects. We believe at this point that the method is suf ciently well developed that it can be widely applied. By doing this—studying textbook effects across multiple settings—we can begin to develop a better understanding of what is working, where, and for whom. In addition to California, we have collected data on textbook adoptions in Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida. Whether the data we have are suf ciently complete to allow this kind of investigation in each setting is unclear, but we will try.

PDF Report link.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

Connected Math

Discovery Math

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Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

DEJA VU: REPORT OF THE 1965 MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT MATH 9 TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE.

‘Snack-dealing’ schoolboy given suspension… and a scholarship

The Local:

Selling snacks at school and pocketing the profits – is it illegal dealing or an impressive flair for business? At one school in Italy, it’s unclear.
A schoolboy from Turin made national headlines after he was caught selling food and drinks to his peers at cheaper prices than the school cafeteria.

The 17-year-old has received both praise and punishment for the scheme.

He started taking orders for snacks and fizzy drinks – which he bought at a local discount store – last year, and received a ten-day suspension when he was caught by a teacher.

And when staff found out that the boy, who cannot be named due to his age, had started up his ‘black market’ again this year, he was handed a longer suspension of 15 days.

The case made headlines across the country and provoked fierce debate, with many arguing that the teen should be lauded for his entrepreneurial spirit.

Few of the great existentialists had children. How can their philosophy help with the anxiety and dread of fatherhood?

John Kaag:

A meeting of existential philosophers tends to be the spectacle one might expect: black berets whisper in hushed tones about death and anxiety; nervous hands and pursed lips smoke cigarettes in hotel rooms; throats are cleared to deliver scholarly papers to the chosen few. (What exactly would ‘The Patency of Art: Transubstantiation, Synesthesia, and Self-Touching Touch in Merleau-Ponty’s and Nancy’s Aesthetics’ be about?) There are, however, spectacles you will rarely see: the kind that children leave in their wake.

This is a gathering of predominately male philosophers, and male philosophers are notoriously bad fathers. Of course, there are exceptions, but think of Socrates shooing his family away in his final moments so that he can have alone time with his philosophical buddies, or, even worse, Jean-Jacques Rousseau writing Emile (1762), a tract about raising kids, while abandoning his own. Instead of being bad parents, many of the titans of European existentialism – Friedrich Nietzsche, Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre – remained childless.

Minnesota fumbles firing of football coach who stood up for players’ due process rights

Ashe Schow:

But two days after senior player Drew Wolitarsky spoke at a press conference about the boycott, the team reversed course and accepted the suspensions. The reversal came after media outlets received documents pertaining to the police investigation into the alleged sexual assault (police twice refused to charge the players) and the school’s own investigation.

Claeys defended his team on Twitter after the boycott was announced, writing: “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!” Sources later told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was initially reluctant about supporting the boycott, but came on board after speaking with the players after the press conference.

Claeys’ stance put him at odds with Coyle and university president Eric Kaler, who released a joint statement when the boycott was announced claiming people upset over the suspensions didn’t “have all the facts.”

Executive Summary of a report by the National Association of Scholars January 2017 The full 523-page report is available at www.nas.org/makingcitizens MAKING CITIZENS: HOW AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES TEACH CIVICS

National Association of Scholars (PDF):

A new movement in American higher education
aims to transform the teaching of civics .

This report is a study of what that movement is, where it came from, and why Americans should be concerned .

What we call the “New Civics” redefines civics as progressive political activism . Rooted in the radical program of the 1960s’ New Left, the New Civics presents itself as an up-to-date version of volunteerism and good works .

Though camouflaged with soft rhetoric, the New Civics,
properly understood, is an effort to repurpose higher education .

The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left’s dream of “fundamentally transforming” America .

The transformation includes de-carbonizing the economy, massively redistributing wealth, intensifying identity group grievance, curtailing the free market, expanding government bureaucracy, elevating international “norms” over American Constitutional law, and disparaging our common history and ideals. New Civics advocates argue among themselves which of these transformations should take precedence, but they agree that America must be transformed by “systemic change” from an unjust, oppressive society to a society that embodies .social justice.

Who doesn’t read books in America?

Andrew Perrin:

About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form. So who, exactly, are these non-book readers?

Several demographic traits correlate with non-book reading, Pew Research Center surveys have found. For instance, adults with a high school degree or less are about three times as likely as college graduates (40% vs. 13%) to report not reading books in any format in the past year. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey shows that these less-educated adults are also the least likely to own smartphones or tablets, two devices that have seen a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books since 2011. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

How teachers’ unions are fighting his education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos.

Edwin Rios:

On the day President-elect Donald Trump announced Michigan billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos as his pick for education secretary, the heads of the country’s two largest teachers unions jumped to condemn the choice. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten called DeVos “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education.” National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen García noted the administration’s choice “demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators, and communities.”

Educators have worried that DeVos, a prominent Republican fundraiser, and her support for “school choice” and the use of vouchers would endanger public education. With the billionaire’s confirmation hearing slated for Wednesday, the nation’s two biggest teachers’ unions have gone on the offensive with grassroots campaigns to challenge DeVos’ nomination.

Revised MO statute increases punishment on grade school fights

Derrion Henderson:

There’s a new statute going into effect starting January 1, 2017 that ups the punishment when students get into a fight.

The change means that if your student is caught fighting once they return back to school, they will get jail time.

Right now, if a student gets into a fight and hurts another person, they’re charged with a misdemeanor and then released to their parents.

However, with the new law going into effect on January 1, that student will now head to a juvenile detention center and be charged with a Class E felony.

That means they could spend up to four years in jail.

Public universities have “really lost our focus”

Christopher Newfield:

Since the 1970s, a “doom loop” has pervaded higher education, writes Christopher Newfield in his new book The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. Newfield, a professor of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, calls this loop “privatization” – the hidden and overt ways that “business practices restructure teaching and research.”
It’s a cycle in which colleges spend more and more money chasing research projects, building luxury dorms and academic centers to attract wealthy students, and engaging in activities that compel them to compete against each other, rather than focus on their own students. Newfield says he saw this first-hand while serving on the University of California’s planning and budget committee.

Civics: If a Best Buy technician is a paid FBI informant, are his computer searches legal?

Tom Jackman:

At a giant Best Buy repair shop in Brooks, Ky., Geek Squad technicians work on computers owned by people across the country, delving into them to retrieve lost data. Over several years, a handful of those workers have notified the FBI when they see signs of child pornography, earning payments from the agency.

The existence of the small cadre of informants within one of the country’s most popular computer repair services was revealed in the case of a California doctor who is facing federal charges after his hard drive was flagged by a technician. The doctor’s lawyers found that the FBI had cultivated eight “confidential human sources” in the Geek Squad over a four-year period, according to a judge’s order in the case, with all of them receiving some payment.

Facts and figures can be powerful weapons for technology’s giants

Alexandra Frean:

Uber’s decision this week to start releasing its traffic data from dozens of cities worldwide is a reminder that information can be as important to digital companies in shaping markets and creating value as the software and hardware used to access their services.
 
 Uber says that sharing average travel times gleaned from millions of trips will produce a public benefit. We can safely assume it is also acting for its own benefit. Not only is Uber probably hoping to buy loyalty from the city authorities with which it frequently clashes, it may also be seeking to gain a foothold in a key area of its business model presently outside its control: urban planning and traffic management.

The real secret to Asian American success was not education

Jeff Guo:

For those who doubt that racial resentment lingers in this nation, Asian Americans are a favorite talking point. The argument goes something like this: If “white privilege” is so oppressive — if the United States is so hostile toward its minorities — why do census figures show that Asian Americans out-earn everyone?

In a 2014 editorial, conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly pointed out that Asian household incomes were 20 percent higher than white household incomes on average. “So, do we have Asian privilege in America?” he asked. Of course not, he said. The real reason that Asians are “succeeding far more than African-Americans and even more than white Americans” is that “their families are intact and education is paramount,” he said.

Silicon Valley’s ‘prosperity paradox’ explains rampant poverty

Chris Weller:

At one end are California’s wealthy and super-wealthy – the 76,000 millionaires and billionaires who call Santa Clara and San Mateo counties home. At the other end are the thousands of people who struggle to feed their families and pay their bills each month. Nearly 30% of Silicon Valley’s residents rely on public or private assistance.

Wealth inequality gaps of that size exist elsewhere, but in America’s epicenter of innovation, the gaps demand extra attention. And if Silicon Valley manages to close those gaps, perhaps less-unequal areas could do the same.

English Is the Language of Science. That Isn’t Always a Good Thing

Ben Panko::

hirteen years ago, a deadly strain of avian flu known as H5N1 was tearing through Asia’s bird populations. In January 2004, Chinese scientists reported that pigs too had become infected with the virus—an alarming development, since pigs are susceptible to human viruses and could potentially act as a “mixing vessel” that would allow the virus to jump to humans. “Urgent attention should be paid to the pandemic preparedness of these two subtypes of influenza,” the scientists wrote in their study.

Yet at the time, little attention was paid outside of China—because the study was published only in Chinese, in a small Chinese journal of veterinary medicine.

It wasn’t until August of that year that the World Health Organization and the United Nations learned of the study’s results and rushed to have it translated. Those scientists and policy makers ran headlong into one of science’s biggest unsolved dilemmas: language. A new study in the journal PLOS Biology sheds light on how widespread the gulf can be between English-language science and any-other-language science, and how that gap can lead to situations like the avian flu case, or worse.

DeVos: Mainstream or monster?

Joanne Jacobs:

Only 10 percent of K-12 spending comes from the federal government, they write, yet education secretaries always want to run the whole show.

DeVos “isn’t an educator or an education leader,” writes Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press, also on USA Today. “She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.”

I’m bothered by DeVos’ lack of experience with traditional public schools: She attended private schools and sent her children to private schools. She’s an education advocate — Henderson says “lobbyist” — but not an educator.

That’s surprisingly common: Of 10 Education secretaries, only three — Bell, Paige and — were former K-12 teachers.

Civics: WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived

Glenn Greenwald:

Whether the Post’s false stories here can be distinguished from what is commonly called “Fake News” is, at this point, a semantic dispute, particularly since “Fake News” has no cogent definition. Defenders of Fake News as a distinct category typically emphasize intent in order to differentiate it from bad journalism. That’s really just a way of defining Fake News so as to make it definitionally impossible for mainstream media outlets like the Post ever to be guilty of it (much the way terrorism is defined to ensure that the U.S. government and its allies cannot, by definition, ever commit it).

But what was the Post’s motive in publishing two false stories about Russia that, very predictably, generated massive attention, traffic, and political impact? Was it ideological and political — namely, devotion to the D.C. agenda of elevating Russia into a grave threat to U.S. security? Was it to please its audience — knowing that its readers, in the wake of Trump’s victory, want to be fed stories about Russian treachery? Was it access and source servitude — proving it will serve as a loyal and uncritical repository for any propaganda intelligence officials want disseminated? Was it profit — to generate revenue through sensationalistic click-bait headlines with a reckless disregard to whether its stories are true? In an institution as large as the Post, with numerous reporters and editors participating in these stories, it’s impossible to identify any one motive as definitive.

Mediocrity Lobby Angry Because Grades for Schools Expose Their Incompetence

Jim Schutze:

When do we start calling the anti-accountability lobby in public education by its true name — the mediocrity lobby? When do we begin to talk about the fact that poor and minority children are not held down half so much by mean rich people as by glad-handing mediocrats who earn their livings off the bones of failed childhoods?

What? You don’t give a damn? It’s not your kids who fail in life? Oh, believe me, even if they’re not your kids now, you will own every one of them by the time they grow up. You’re the one who will put a roof over all their heads and three squares on the table. That all goes on your credit card.

In the last 30 years, the amount nationally that state and local governments spend keeping people locked up for crime has increased at three times the rate of increase for spending on elementary and secondary education. Two-thirds of prison inmates in this country lack high school diplomas.

All black men between the ages of 20 and 24 have a greater chance of being locked up than of having a job. Meanwhile, research has found that a 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates can produce a 9 percent decrease in crime rates.

School finance overhaul no easy task

Annysa Johnson

After years of complaints from constituents, Wisconsin lawmakers say they are serious about overhauling the state’s school funding formula.

But it will be no easy task, with daunting legal and political risks. And without a large infusion of cash — from the state, local property taxpayers or both — it is unlikely to succeed, many say.

“Unless we can put a lot more money into it, there will be winners and losers. And that will be a challenge for us,” said state Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), vice chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, who has been tapped by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) to spearhead the process.

Educators, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, welcomed the overture.

“I’m pleased to hear that,” said Evers, who has asked the Legislature for an additional $700 million for schools in the next biennium.

“My guess is they have heard what I’ve been hearing all this time — that the system is broken, so let’s fix it.”

Despite the rhetoric, K-12 spending continues to grow. Madison spends around $18,000 per student.

Michigan Charter School Backed by DeVos Growing

Ed White:

A teenager grips the steering wheel and presses pedals. He sees wind-blown snow in front of him as he approaches the runway. A video game? No, George Radashaw is at a public charter school, simulating a flight in a Cessna airplane.

“I’ve always loved aviation,” the 17 year-old said, keeping his eyes focused on panels of high-tech instruments. “It started at 3. I saw an airplane, and I wanted to fly them ever since.”

Radashaw is getting his wish at West Michigan Aviation Academy. It’s a unique public high school in western Michigan that was started in 2010 by Dick DeVos with much encouragement from his wife, Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S. Education Department, who will testify at a Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 17.

Technical developments in Cryptography: 2016 in Review

Electronic Frontier Foundation

The biggest practical development in crypto for 2016 is Transport Layer Security version 1.3. TLS is the most important and widely used cryptographic protocol and is the backbone of secure Internet communication; you’re using it right now to read this blog! After years of work by hundreds of researchers and engineers, the new TLS design is now considered final from a cryptography standpoint. The protocol is now supported and available in Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. While it might seem like a minor version upgrade, TLS 1.3 is a major redesign from TLS 1.2 (which was finished over 8 years ago now). In fact, one of the most contentious issues was if the name should be something else to indicate how much of an improvement TLS 1.3 really is.

How might users notice TLS 1.3? Speed. TLS 1.3 is designed for speed, specifically by reducing the number of network round-trips required before data can be sent to one round-trip (1-RTT) or even zero round-trips (0-RTT) for repeat connections. These ideas have appeared before in experimental form through the QUIC protocol and False Start for earlier TLS versions, but as part of the default behavior of TLS 1.3 they will soon become much more widespread. This means latency will decrease and webpages will load faster.

The Legislature of the Children

R.G. Ratcliffe:

The Texas Legislature will convene in regular session on Tuesday for the eighty-fifth time since 1846, and, for better or worse, we should call this the Legislature of the Child. However, with available state revenues down $2.8 billion, they may find themselves, like Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, pleading for more.

Governor Greg Abbot wants to save children from abusive parents and caretakers by overhauling the state’s Child Protective Services. This will be at least the third time the state government has called for drastic changes of the agency since it was recreated in 1993, yet each reform has been a mere bandage that did not save 3,409 children from death by abuse or neglect. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, there were 144 children who died despite having had three or more CPS investigations, and the death toll continued even after Abbott started overhauling the agency once more.

Orphaned by America’s opioid epidemic

Eli Saslow:

Nearly everyone in Zaine’s life had been anxiously monitoring that line for the past year and a half, ever since both of his parents died of heroin overdoses in April 2015. His parents had become two of the record 33,091 people to die of opioid overdoses that year in a national crisis that has been worst of all in rural West Virginia, where health officials estimate that overdose rates are now eight to 10 times higher than the national average. Middle-aged white men in this part of the country have lost a full year of life expectancy during the past two decades. Middle-aged white women have lost more than two years. The opiate epidemic has essentially wiped out an entire generation of health advances, and now West Virginia has begun to focus more of its resources on prevention and preservation among the next generation entering into the void.

The recent saga Evernote faced with its privacy policy proves the document’s necessity. But did you know there’s no single federal law mandating its use?

Ernie Smith:

Today in Tedium: You know who’s had a bad week? The folks at Evernote. They’ve been raked over the coals by their users over a change to their privacy policy, that document on nearly every webpage that most people don’t really read unless they’re bored. Well … someone read Evernote’s policy and found out that they were going to let engineers have access to user notes in an anonymized fashion. That didn’t go over well, even after a defense by the company’s CEO. The company announced just a little while ago that they’re backing off the changes they were going to make, but think of it this way—at least there was a privacy policy there at all. What if a company made a change like that without telling you? It’d be scary stuff. Today’s Tedium ponders the online privacy policy. — Ernie @ Tedium

Reuters finds lead levels higher than Flint’s in thousands of locales

M.B. Pell and Joshua Schneyer

On a sunny November afternoon in this historic city, birthplace of the Pony Express and death spot of Jesse James, Lauranda Mignery watched her son Kadin, 2, dig in their front yard. As he played, she scolded him for putting his fingers in his mouth.

In explanation, she pointed to the peeling paint on her old house. Kadin, she said, has been diagnosed with lead poisoning.

He has lots of company: Within 15 blocks of his house, at least 120 small children have been poisoned since 2010, making the neighborhood among the most toxic in Missouri, Reuters found as part of an analysis of childhood lead testing results across the country. In St. Joseph, even a local pediatrician’s children were poisoned.

Last year, the city of Flint, Michigan, burst into the world spotlight after its children were exposed to lead in drinking water and some were poisoned. In the year after Flint switched to corrosive river water that leached lead from old pipes, 5 percent of the children screened there had high blood lead levels.

An Introduction to Geometric Algebra over R^2

BitWorking

Geometric Algebra is fascinating, and I believe solves a large number of problems that arise from a more traditional approach to vectors, but I’ve been very disappointed with the quality of books and explanations I’ve found, most of them zooming off into abstract realms too quickly, or spending an inordinate amount of time building up a generalized theory before finally getting to something useful.

Below is an explanation of Geometric Algebra that will start with a simple two dimensional vector space, i.e. ℝ2. This will be a concise introduction to 𝔾2, the Geometric Algebra over ℝ2, and then quickly pivot to applications in 𝔾2. This introduction will not cover the fascinating history of GA, Clifford Algebras, or Hermann Grassman.

How Barack Obama Failed Black Americans

William Darity:

My father hardly was alone among black Americans, across all generations. The near complete unanimity of passionate black American admiration for Obama carried with it an absolute resistance to hearing any complaints about the black president. And, indeed, there was much to admire: an exceptional resume, an attractive family with a black wife who is his professional and intellectual equal, handsome and greying toward distinguished maturity, a strategically wise moderate progressive political position, and a place as the—sometimes self-professed—messianic fulfillment of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. For many black Americans, the ascent of Barack Obama to the presidency was equivalent to the moment of jubilee.

An extraordinarily disciplined individual, Barack Obama preempted the smallest hint of scandal by admitting that he had smoked pot during his youth. He even crafted a narrative of a rise from adversity—growing up successfully by the efforts of a single parent despite a missing father—albeit a white single mother with a Ph.D. whose own parents were affluent residents of Hawaii. With every drop of respectability in place, his somewhat icy intellect coupled with his enthusiasm for basketball and for black music across a half century of styles, he was an inordinately appealing candidate, with an ideal combination of the cool and the rational.

Parent demand drives growth in Montessori programs

Erin Richards:

When Katy Van Schyndle toured Fernwood Montessori last winter as a potential school for her daughter, she was impressed by how many children prompted at random could clearly explain their work to a bunch of strangers.

Van Schyndle thought her daughter, an independent learner at age 3, could thrive in that environment.

But when Van Schyndle and her husband decided instead to apply for a spot in Fernwood’s 4-year-old class, Norah Van Schyndle wound up on a wait list. By August, she and more than 130 other 4-year-olds across the city were waiting for spots in the district’s increasingly popular Montessori programs.

Competition was even stiffer at the 3-year-old level, where 278 children sat on a combined wait list for five district Montessori schools this August, according to Milwaukee Public Schools.

Kids Will Soon Be Able to Write Code With Lego

John Tell:

Lego wants to teach young kids about coding.

The Danish-based toy maker on Wednesday debuted a new toy called Lego Boost, a hybrid building and coding set that the company says combines the play experience of a traditional Lego set with an app-based coding play experience. Lego Boost, developed for children aged 7 or older, will hit retail shelves in the second half of the year and will be priced at $159.99. Lego debuted the set at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The hope is that Lego Boost can help kids learn to code using a downloadable app and the physical toy set. Lego Boost comes with building instructions and coding commands to create five possible Lego creations, including a robot and a cat. The app also includes more than 60 activities related to building and coding. The bricks also come with built-in sensors that can detect color.

Curated Education Information