K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Amazon and taxes: a simple primer

Tyler Cowen:

The main reason Amazon as a corporate entity does not pay much in taxes is because the company so vigorously reinvests its profit. The resulting expensing provisions lower their tax liabilities, in some cases down to zero or near-zero. That is in fact the kind of incentive our tax system is supposed to create, and does so only imperfectly, noting that many economists have suggested moving to full expensing.

(NB: You can’t hate both share buybacks and profit reinvestment!)

Amazon pays plenty in terms of payroll taxes and also state and local taxes. Nor should you forget the taxes paid by Amazon’s employees on their wages. Not only is that direct revenue to various levels of government, but the incidence of those taxes falls somewhat on Amazon, which now must pay higher wages to offset the tax burden faced by their employees. Not everyone wants to live in NYC or Queens! (Do you agree with Paul Krugman’s charge that the Trump tax cuts are mainly a giveaway to capital? If so, you probably also should believe that the wage taxes paid by Amazon employees fall largely on capital.)

There is no $3 billion that NYC gets to keep if Amazon does not show up. That “money” was a pledged reduction in Amazon’s future tax burden at the state and local level.

How did the police know you were near a crime scene? Google told them

Tony Webster:

The suspects in an Eden Prairie home invasion last October wore gloves, dressed in black, and covered their faces with masks. But despite their efforts to remain unseen, a trail of evidence was left behind — not at the crime scene, but with Google.

Knowing the Silicon Valley giant held a trove of consumer mobile phone location data, investigators got a Hennepin County judge to sign a “reverse location” search warrant ordering Google to identify the locations of cellphones that had been near the crime scene in Eden Prairie, and near two food markets the victims owned in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The scope of the warrant was so expansive in time and geography that it had the potential to gather data on tens of thousands of Minnesotans.

The technique has caught the attention of civil liberties lawyers who worry such warrants — deployed increasingly by police in the Twin Cities and around the country — are a digital dragnet ripe for abuse, and that judges may not realize the technical details or broad scope of the searches they’re authorizing.

“What is so problematic is that it can scoop up completely innocent people who are in an area for legitimate reasons, and who should not be treated as suspects,” said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the ACLU of Minnesota.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Law Prof Commentary On The U.S. News Faculty Scholarly Impact Rankings

Robert Anderson:

There are several lines of criticism. One group worriesthat releasing such a ranking will create incentives for law schools to focus too much on scholarship as opposed to teaching or cutting tuition. I don’t have much to say to this group in this post, because that’s a broader debate. Another group worries not about placing greater priority on scholarship, but about the idea of quantifying scholarly impact. Although there are real problems with quantifying scholarly impact, that too is a different debate. Scholarly impact or reputation is already quantified, it’s just quantified through the use of a somewhat haphazard survey distributed by US News.

More, here.

Oakland Teachers Plan to Strike

Roland Li:

Teacher salaries range from $46,750 per year to $83,724 per year, according to school district data, which the union said is the lowest rate in Alameda County. The school district spends an additional $13,487 per teacher annually to provide full health benefits for educators and their families.

The pay is for 186 days a year, which works out to just more than 37 five-day weeks.

The school district is offering a 5 percent retroactive wage increase from 2017 to 2020. The teachers union wants a 12 percent raise over the same time period. Brown said teachers will strike for as long as it takes to reach a deal. In 1996, a strike by Oakland teachers lasted for five weeks.

A fact-finding report released Friday recommends 3 percent in retroactive raises for both the last school year and the current school year, and new wage negotiations for the 2019-20 school year. Each 1 percent salary increase for teachers would cost the district about $1.9 million per year. The recommendations by Najeeb Khoury, an arbitrator appointed by the state’s Public Employee Relations Board, are nonbinding.

The district plans to keep schools open and hire substitute teachers in the event of a strike, which would affect 36,286 students in 87 district-run schools.

Nico Savidge has more

Leaky Database Reveals Horrifying GPS Surveillance of China’s Uyghur Muslims

Dell Cameron:

A misconfigured online database has exposed new details of China’s tyrannical surveillance apparatus, which the country’s government has used to further suppress one of its most persecuted populations.

In the past year, there’s been an uptick of reporting on China’s oppression of the Uyghurs. In August, for instance, Business Insider detailed how the mostly Muslim minority group, largely confined to China’s Xinjiang region, came to occupy “one of the most intrusive police states in the world.” That same month, a story in the Atlantic described how a million Turkic Muslims in China are being detained in so-called interment camps; forced, on top of being tortured and killed, to renounce the very faith that underpins their social identity—to adopt in its place a philosophy more consistent with that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Here we see, at gunpoint, the involuntary “re-education” of entire communities and the manual obliteration of a culture through an apartheid predicated on extreme religious prejudice. Nothing could be worse.

Behind all of this is a grotesque technological achievement whereby billions of dollars have been poured into the intensive monitoring of a people who, by the sheer mathematics of it all, could pose no real extremist threat to the security of the Red Giant. There’s no question that China has unleashed a surveillance apparatus unprecedented in its scale to collect even the most granular details about the daily lives of its citizens. New examples of that seem to arrive each day.

This week, one security researcher reportedly found himself peering through the looking glass after stumbling upon a massive database reportedly controlled by a Chinese firm called SenseNets, which had inadvertently left its shades undrawn.

China’s brightest children are being recruited to develop AI ‘killer bots’

Stephen Chen:

A group of some of China’s smartest students have been recruited straight from high school to begin training as the world’s youngest AI weapons scientists.

The 27 boys and four girls, all aged 18 and under, were selected for the four-year “experimental programme for intelligent weapons systems” at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) from more than 5,000 candidates, the school said on its website.

The BIT is one of the country’s top weapons research institutes, and the launch of the new programme is evidence of the weight it places on the development of AI technology for military use.

Unbalanced Literacy

Erica Meltzer:

Over the last year or so, an education reporter named Emily Hanford has published a series of exceedingly important articles about the state of phonics instruction (or rather the lack thereof) in American schools. The most in-depth piece appeared on the American Public Media project website , but what are effectively condensed versions of it have also run on NPR and the NY Times op-ed page.

If you have any interest in how reading gets taught, I highly recommend taking the time for the full-length piece in APM: it’s eye-opening and fairly disquieting. While it reiterates a number of important findings, its originality lies in the fact that Hanford takes on the uneasy truce between phonics and whole language that supposedly put an end to the reading wars of the 1980s and ‘90s, and points out that so-called “balanced literacy” programs often exist in name only.

In principle, this approach recognizes that both development of sound-letter relationships and consistent exposure to high-quality literature are necessary ingredients in helping students become proficient readers. What Hanford does, however, is expose just how vast a chasm exists between theory and reality. In many schools, phonics is largely neglected, or even ignored entirely, while discredited and ineffective whole-language approaches continue to dominate.

Researchers Find Further Evidence That Schizophrenia is Connected to Our Guts

Roni Dengler:

More than 21 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia, a profound mental illness that interrupts thinking, language and perception. Quite a few schizophrenic people experience delusions and hear voices. Many of the disease’s symptoms stem from faulty communication between brain cells. And, for decades, scientists have searched for a cure in the brain.

Now researchers say they’ve discovered that the way to heal schizophrenia might be through the gut. There’s an ecosystem of bacteria and microbes that live in our digestive tracts, known as the gut microbiome. And these may lead to some features of schizophrenia, an international team of scientists announced this week in the journal Science Advances. The discovery could revolutionize treatment options for schizophrenia.

Wisconsin Historical Society seeks input on proposed $120 million museum

Dean Mosiman:

As it plans a new, world-class facility, the Wisconsin Historical Society is bringing a statewide effort to get public input on the project to Madison for the first time this week.

The Historical Society and private developers, determined to fulfill a two-decade-long dream, are pursuing a striking new history museum with commercial and residential space above it on Capitol Square that could be the city’s biggest project ever.

The state, the Historical Society, Hovde Properties and landowner Fred Mohs have long eyed part of the block that fronts the Square and holds the current, undersized museum and surrounding properties for a joint redevelopment.

The Historical Society is pursuing a $120 million, 100,000-square-foot museum that would more than double exhibition space, and provide learning, meeting and flexible spaces with state-of-the-art technology that would attract 150,000 visitors annually. It would be topped by the Hovde-Mohs $80 million to $120 million private development bringing 200,000 to 250,000 square feet of commercial and residential space.

In recent months, the Historical Society initiated a series of more than 40 events to get input on the museum from diverse populations across the state.

Improve Your Privacy in the Age of Mass Surveillance

archive.org:

Technical side-note: In 2017 your user profile is automatically flagged by a machine without human intervention. Your data gets categorized according to risk-profiles, and these are sold! Your ability to get a loan, mortgage, insurance or even job, already depends on it TODAY! It’s common knowledge that the price of your loan is automatically adjusted depending on the zip-code of your current address. If you live in the «wrong» place, you won’t get approved at all! The technology for this is already in place and it’s not some future scenario.

== Step-4 encrypt browser traffic

Making sure the connection between your device and the remote party (the website you’re viewing) is encrypted should be on the top of our list. The «HTTPS-Everywhere» extension checks first if a URL can be served over an encrypted connection whenever you click an insecure HTTP link. You should go ahead and install this!

Technical side-note:
For those of you who want to only visit sites that are encrypted and instead block everything that is coming from an insecure channel, there is another option which works in a similar way but instead of falling back to the insecure method doesn’t allow you to retrieve content over non-encrypted channels at all. This one you can get here. If in doubt just install HTTPS-everywhere and not this latter one. It’s important to see HTTPS as a very basic, crude method to protect you (albeit one you can’t live without). If HTTPS is the only encryption layer to keep your data safe then it’s no good in nearly all cases (beyond sharing cake-recipes). The reasons being the many ways that HTTPS gets broken by middle-boxes or caching providers (Cloudflare a popular CDN is probably the biggest MiTM on the web). If you care to dig deeper into the subject of trusting the Trust Industry, you’ll also have to question how trust is being sold as a product online today. From DigiNotar to StartCom/WoSign, the industry is a sham. Nevertheless all security standards are a compromise between vendors. And encrypting browser traffic with HTTPS should be a thing every website offers to their visitors. Just don’t rely on your secret being protected with HTTPS only as a user.

Civics: You Can’t Be A Good Judge If You’re A Christian

Joy Pullman:

With six weeks left until election day in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race, several far-left organizations are using media outlets to amplify a smear campaign against a judge based on his Christianity. Brian Hagedorn, a current Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge and former Scott Walker legal counsel, is being publicly trashed for being on the board of a small Christian school, and for blog posts when he was in law school discussing court cases about abortion and gay sex.

In considering a run for the state Supreme Court, the father of five children says, “I expected to be attacked here because that’s what’s happening all across the country–you know, ‘Are you now or have you ever been associated with the Knights of Columbus?’” he said, chuckling. “Interrogating people [nominated for office] if they went to a Bible study or the Knights of Columbus, that’s where we are as a country.”

The media characterization of his writing is often misleading. For example, a ThinkProgress hit piece claims that, in a blog post paraphrasing former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent on a case about Texas sodomy laws, Hagedorn “compared homosexuality to bestiality.” In fact, his post simply notes the U.S. Constitution has nothing to say about any supposed rights to sex with anyone or anything, then essentially paraphrases Scalia’s dissent, which two other justices joined.

How America learned to think for itself

Carlos Lozada:

Works of intellectual history come in a few varieties. There’s the Salon Book, the story of a like-minded clique coming together to develop a new philosophy or sensibility, or at least to take down old ones. Louis Menand’s “The Metaphysical Club,” on the rise of pragmatism, is the ideal of the form. Then there’s the Book Book, arguing that one particular title remade the world, shaped the century, upended the cosmos. Think of Randall Fuller’s “The Book That Changed America,” about the impact of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” upon a nation verging on civil war. And there’s the Big Idea Book, painting a single, vital stroke across a vast canvas. Try Ibram X. Kendi’s relentless “Stamped From the Beginning,” on the arc of America’s racist designs from pre-colonial times to the new millennium.

These books are usually lengthy; intellectual historians have read a lot, after all, and they want us to read a lot, too. But “The Ideas That Made America” by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is an anomaly in the genre. Its brevity is a point of pride, yet it aspires to do a little of everything. It covers various schools in America’s life of the mind, from transcendentalists to progressives, from the Harlem Renaissance to mid-20th-century conservatives. It dwells on the struggles of a young nation to affirm its own literary and academic traditions — to end, in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s complaint, America’s “long apprenticeship to the learnings of other lands.” It highlights essential works and scholars, putting them in conversation across time, and it surfaces the recurring strains in American intellectual life. “There is no period in American history when thinkers have not wrestled with the appropriate balance of power between self-interest and social obligation,” Ratner-Rosenhagen writes, identifying a central theme not just of her book but of the republic.

Father at centre of measles outbreak didn’t vaccinate children due to autism fears

Ryan Patrick Jones:

The man whose family is at the centre of a measles outbreak in Vancouver said he didn’t vaccinate his children because he distrusted the science at the time.

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Emmanuel Bilodeau said he and his then-wife were influenced by reports that linked the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) with autism.

“We worried 10-12 years ago because there was a lot of debate around the MMR vaccine,” said Bilodeau. “Doctors were coming out with research connecting the MMR vaccine with autism. So we were a little concerned.”​​

The MMR vaccine prevents measles, mumps and rubella by helping the body make chemicals called antibodies to fight off the viruses. The BC Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends children receive two doses of the vaccine, one at 12 months of age and the second dose at five to six years of age.

There is no scientific evidence linking the vaccine to autism, says the CDC.

Bilodeau said he knows now the link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been debunked.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Amazon’s abandonment of NYC is a break in its alliance with the Left.

Joel Kotkin:

One can appreciate the economic benefits that firms like Uber, Lyft, Salesforce, and others have brought to San Francisco and other tech-oriented cities. Yet the concentration of high-end businesses has also helped create a neo-Dickensian reality: sky-high housing prices, widespread homelessness, and a rapidly shrinking middle class. There are now more drug addicts in San Francisco than high school students. Rising rents have undermined that city’s cherished bohemian culture and hastened a rapid decline in the minority population, both in the city and across the tech-dominated Bay Area. In 1970, 96,000 African-Americans lived in San Francisco; today, barely 46,000 make their homes there, constituting less than 5 percent of the city’s population. More than half of the Bay Area’s lower-income communities, notes a recent UC Berkeley study, are in danger of mass displacement. Amazon, it seemed to many progressives, threatened to bring the same conditions to New York.

Tech-dominated metros, though ostensible bastions of progressive values, increasingly resemble, as Wired recently noted, a “caste” system dominated by oligarchs and their key employees—“feudalism with better marketing.” Many working- and middle-class people have been reduced to joining the swelling “precariat” of temporary workers, while some have even slipped into the ranks of the homeless. Once dominated by manufacturing employment, Seattle has been transformed by Amazon, which has created nearly all the 60,000 new jobs downtown since 2010. The new housing demand, imposed on a highly restricted real-estate market, has driven metropolitan house prices stratospherically higher. All the signature San Francisco problems—homelessness, disappearing families, wealth inequality—are now all too evident in the Emerald City. Seattle’s African-American population has stagnated as the city has boomed and is losing its hold even in its traditional neighborhoods.

Seattle’s rising socialist political class did not cheer the city’s transformation. They have demanded that Amazon and other tech giants pay to alleviate homelessness and housing shortages. But Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, responsible for nearly 20 percent of the city’s office space, has the advantage of operating in America’s largest “company town.” When push came to shove, he could threaten to undermine the city’s entire economy in ways reminiscent of a mill-town company boss in the early industrial revolution.

San Antonio ISD is weighing multiple partnerships to run schoolsV

Alia Malik:

Jason Mims speaks during an SAISD board meeting last year that appoved a contract with Democracy Prep, a New York-based charter school network, to operate Stewart Elementary School. The district is considering

Photo: Billy Calzada /San Antonio Express-News

Image 2 of 2

Shelley Potter, right, president of the SAISD teachers union, walks with attorney Martha Owen before a hearing at the Bexar County Courthouse last year during the union’s attempt to block the charter

Attracted by the prospect of more autonomy and better state funding under a new law that occasionally has led to controversy, principals of as many as 10 campuses in the San Antonio Independent School District are considering partnerships with outside organizations.

They include the district’s well-regarded all-girls school, the not-yet-opened CAST Med school and some with existing International Baccalaureate programs.

Senate Bill 1882, which took effect last year, allows schools to contract their operations out to nonprofit organizations, charter school networks, higher education institutions or government agencies.

DeSantis wants grand jury to investigate Broward school system over Parkland failures Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article226209725.html#storylink=cpy

Martin Vassolo & Elizabeth Koh:

One day before the first anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury tasked with examining and reviewing school safety measures in Broward County and across the state, “as well as the responses of public entities to laws designed to protect schools such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.”

DeSantis appeared in Broward on Wednesday afternoon with several family members whose loved ones were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. He said the grand jury would be able to issue subpoenas, look into any potential failures and determine how the Broward school district and others carried out safety policies or used funds allocated for school hardening.

The grand jury would look for violations of the law related to Florida Statute 905.34, such as whether refusal or failure to follow a school-safety law put students at risk, if school officials diverted funds from “multi-million dollar bonds specifically solicited for school safety initiatives” or if officials underreported crimes to the Florida Department of Education. Florida’s high court confirmed receipt of the petition Wednesday evening, posting the document to its website.

My Wife Was Dying, and We Didn’t Tell Our Children

Jon Mehlman:

We decided not to tell the kids. Marla knew that once our three daughters understood that their mother had been given 1,000 days to live, they’d start counting.

They would not be able to enjoy school, friends, their teams, or birthday parties. They’d be watching too closely—how she looked, moved, acted, ate, or didn’t. Marla wanted her daughters to stay children: unburdened, confident that tomorrow would look like yesterday.

Marla was my first and only girlfriend. We were introduced in October 1987, when we joined a coed intramural flag-football team in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I wasn’t very good with women, monosyllabic in their presence. We all went to a bar after one game, and I came home with a napkin on which I’d jotted down words to describe Marla: “Hot. Fast. Fun. Sweet. Flint.” Yes, flint as in Flint, Michigan—her hometown—but also flint as in flinty—steely, speedy, mighty, glinting.

A month later, I mustered the nerve to call her house phone (we only had landlines in 1987). We would spend the next 31 years together.

Marla could water-ski barefoot. I was a rabbi’s kid; I rarely even went on boats. She made a habit of taking me places.

Record High Name Government as Most Important Problem

Justin McCarthey & Jeffrey Jones:

Thirty-five percent of Americans name the government, poor leadership or politicians as the greatest problem facing the U.S. This is the highest percentage Gallup has recorded for this concern, edging out the previous high of 33% during the 2013 federal government shutdown.

Gallup has asked Americans what they felt was the most important problem facing the country since 1939 and has regularly compiled mentions of the government since 1964. Prior to 2001, the highest percentage mentioning government was 26% during the Watergate scandal. Thus, the current measure is the highest in at least 55 years.

The current percentage of Americans naming government as the most important problem is nearly twice as high as the 18% recorded in November. That increase likely reflects public frustration with the government shutdown that occurred from late December through most of January. Gallup observed a similar double-digit spike spanning the 2013 government shutdown, from 16% in September 2013 to 33% in October 2013.

Americans have different things in mind when they name the government as the most important problem. An analysis of the verbatim responses to the question from the latest survey finds that 11% of Americans specifically cite “Donald Trump” as the most important problem, while 5% name “the Democrats” or “liberals” and 1% “Congress.” About half of those who say the government is the most important problem — 18% of U.S. adults — blame both parties or cite “gridlock,” “lack of cooperation” or the shutdown more generally. The latter figure has grown from 6% in December and 12% in January.

My Wife Was Dying, and We Didn’t Tell Our Children

Jon Mehlman:

We decided not to tell the kids. Marla knew that once our three daughters understood that their mother had been given 1,000 days to live, they’d start counting.

They would not be able to enjoy school, friends, their teams, or birthday parties. They’d be watching too closely—how she looked, moved, acted, ate, or didn’t. Marla wanted her daughters to stay children: unburdened, confident that tomorrow would look like yesterday.

Marla was my first and only girlfriend. We were introduced in October 1987, when we joined a coed intramural flag-football team in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I wasn’t very good with women, monosyllabic in their presence. We all went to a bar after one game, and I came home with a napkin on which I’d jotted down words to describe Marla: “Hot. Fast. Fun. Sweet. Flint.” Yes, flint as in Flint, Michigan—her hometown—but also flint as in flinty—steely, speedy, mighty, glinting.

Robots are becoming classroom tutors. But will they make the grade?

Maria Temming:

Pondering a tablet screen displaying a town scene, a pre-K student tilts her head to the side and taps her lip thoughtfully.

“What are we trying to find?” asks the plush, red and blue robot called Tega that’s perched on the desk beside the girl. The bot resembles a teddy bear–sized Furby.

“We are trying to find lavender-colored stuff,” the girl explains. Lavender is a new vocabulary word. “OK!” Tega chirps.

The girl uses her forefinger to pan around the scene. She eventually selects an image of a girl — not wearing purple. The game puts a red mark through her choice: wrong.

The girl slumps down in her chair, head dropped to her chest as Tega says, “I’m sure you will do better next time. I believe in you.”

The robot, which MIT researchers are testing with students in a Boston-area public school, tilts toward the girl, who leans in close so that her cheek is right next to Tega’s.

Student charged with wiretapping after livestreaming meeting at Maryland Rep. Harris’ office, prosecutors say

Lillian Reed and Jeff Barker:

Salisbury University student has been charged with illegal wiretapping after prosecutors say he streamed a meeting with a congressional staffer for Maryland Rep. Andy Harris to Facebook Live without permission.

Jake Burdett, 20, was charged last week with two felony counts of making an illegal recording and distributing the video filmed during a Maryland Marijuana Justice rally at Harris’s Salisbury office in October, according to a news release from the state prosecutor’s office.

Marijuana legalization protesters have long tangled with Harris, who in 2014 worked to block full legalization of the drug in the District of Columbia. A protest outside the Republican’s Capitol Hill office last year led to the arrest of two demonstrators on charges of consumption of marijuana in a prohibited public space.

State prosecutors allege Burdett and other advocates at the Salisbury rally agreed to meet with a congressional staffer in his office, which could only seat a few people. When another member of Harris’s staff noticed several people on their phones, the group was told they were not allowed to record because of an office policy, the release states.

Madison Police Chief: Scale of ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ has been ‘vastly exaggerated’

Logan Wroge:

Over the past three years at Madison high schools, while arrests have dropped and the number of citations has fluctuated, African-Americans continue to predominantly be those most cited or arrested, according to Madison Police Department data.

As the fate of a contract that stations police officers in high schools remains uncertain, Police Chief Mike Koval took to his blog Thursday to back the school-based officers and argue that the department’s data do not support a “school-to-prison pipeline” narrative that opponents say results in minority students being disproportionately put into the criminal justice system.

“While the numbers are at a point where we should still be doing a deeper drill to see how we can continue to improve and mitigate those numbers, the extent to which the ‘problem’ has been described, I think has been vastly exaggerated,” Koval said in an interview.

Koval attached to his blog post a report the Madison Police Department complied using data from the past three school years on the citations issued and arrests made at the district’s four main high schools — East, La Follette, Memorial and West — where a uniformed and armed police officer, known as a school resource officer, or SRO, is stationed during school hours.

“There is no question that the combination of school disciplinary practices and juvenile justice practices, working in interaction, have unnecessarily, disproportionately placed young people in the juvenile justice system,” said School Board member TJ Mertz.

Related: Gangs & School Violence forum

Can Stoicism Make Us Happy?

Carlos Fraenkel:

Though modern Stoicism has its roots in the culture of self-improvement, it also has more serious philosophical champions. One of these is Massimo Pigliucci, whose recent How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life proposes to bring Stoicism from “second-century Rome” to “twenty-first-century New York.” A professor of philosophy at the City College of New York, Pigliucci is best known for his work in the philosophy of science. In his latest book, he discusses his Catholic upbringing in Rome and his rejection of religion as a teenager. To find meaning in his life and, as he grew older, to prepare for death, Pigliucci tried out different systems of belief. Buddhism was “too mystical,” secular humanism “too dependent on science,” but Stoicism hit the spot. It was “a rational, science-friendly philosophy” that offered him an answer to the “most fundamental question: How ought we to live?”

In How to Be a Stoic, Pigliucci aims to demonstrate how we can use this philosophy to develop a moral character and attain peace of mind in three ways: by taking charge of our desires, by acting virtuously in the world, and by responding appropriately to events we can’t fully control. To update Stoicism for our 21st-century needs, he replaces its theology and cosmology with contemporary scientific views and applies it to the challenges we are likely to encounter in the modern world. Yet I question whether the core tenets of Stoicism can survive this reinvention—and even if they did, I remain doubtful that they provide the right moral and political framework for our time.

Do Police Officers Belong in Madison High Schools?

Elizabeth Janeczko:

The conclusion to renew the contract with MPD has come under criticism from those who oppose the presence of EROs in schools. To some members of the Madison community, the presence of police officers in schools poses physical, psychological and existential threats.

Freedom, Inc., a local advocacy group who testified at the committee meetings, opposes the contract with MPD. Bianca Gomez, gender justice coordinator of Freedom, Inc. and other members of Freedom, Inc., including youth of color, testified to the ERO Ad Hoc Committee about their concerns regarding the presence of EROs in schools.

Their opposition to the presence of EROs in schools is rooted in historical and present day assumptions by MPD that communities of color are crime plagued, at-risk, and in need of aggressive policing. Leaders of Freedom Inc. argue that these assumptions essentially criminalize actions by black and brown youth who receive more aggressive treatment by law enforcement and stiffer penalties in courts compared to their white peers for similar behavior.

Madison police and its school district “are standing in the way of liberty and justice and morality of black and brown people. I think they are scared of the reactions of white parents. They are privileging those fears,” Gomez said.

Opposition to the ERO program is found among white parents as well.

One City to Establish Elementary School in South Madison

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

Madison, WI – One City Schools Founder and CEO Kaleem Caire — with support from One City parents, Board of Directors, and partners — is pleased to announce that One City’s plan to establish One City Expeditionary Elementary School in South Madison has been approved.

Last Friday, One City received notice from the University of Wisconsin System that its proposal to add grades one through six to its existing public charter school was authorized. One City will add first grade next school year and will begin enrolling children in grades 4K, 5K and first grade for the 2019-20 school year during its upcoming enrollment period: March 4 – 22, 2019.

With this expansion, next year, One City will enroll up to 116 students at its elementary school and 28 children in its 5-star, accredited preschool that currently serves children ages 1 to 3. At full capacity, the elementary school will enroll a maximum of 316 students.

Reviewers called the proposal “superior” and said the proposal “is very well developed and can contribute to school reform efforts to improve the quality of education for all students, especially those that are traditionally underserved.”

Kaleem Caire hailed the decision. “We took this proposal very seriously because we know the incredible stakes for our children and their families, and we are dedicated to establishing a new model of public education that holistically prepares children for a globalized economy and complex future. While our plans to grow vertically included consultation with a wide range of community partners, including the leadership of the Madison Metropolitan School District, our plans for our elementary school primarily grew out of a strong desire among our parents to continue their children’s enrollment in One City. They are 100 percent behind us, and we are honored to extend our commitment to their kids’ future.”

In January 2019, One City was accepted into the Expeditionary Learning Network of Schools by EL Education, pioneers of personalized and project-based learning. For over 25 years, EL has been bringing to life a three-dimensional vision of student achievement that includes mastery of knowledge and skills, character, and high-quality student work. EL promotes active classrooms that are alive with discovery, problem-solving, challenge, and collaboration.

One City is proud that is has kept its commitment to families and to the City of Madison. “We said we would open a school in South Madison, we said we would renovate a building, we said we would start kindergarten, and we have done it all in four years. Now, we are honored to meet this next commitment by allowing students to stay enrolled continuously,” said Caire.

One City has also partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s new Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (CRECE), UW Research Collaborative and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) to launch a longitudinal evaluation of One City’s student outcomes. This research will inform the field of early childhood and K-12 education and provide valuable insight into the impact that preschool has on children’s outcomes as they persist through elementary and secondary school. A copy of the Evaluation Plan can be accessed by clicking here.

One City is supported by a Board of prominent leaders including:

Marcus Allen, PhD, Senior Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church
Robert Beckman, CPA, CEO, Wicab, Inc.
Bethe Bonk, One City Parent and Mental Health Therapist, Pathway to Wellness Community Clinic
Gordon Derzon, Retired President & CEO, UW Hospitals & Clinics
Carola Gaines, Badger Care Outreach Coordinator, UW Health/Unity and Past President, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Joseph Krupp, Owner, Prime Urban Properties and Food Fight Restaurant Group; Founder and former owner, Krupp General Contractors
Gloria Ladson-Billings, PhD,Retired Professor of Education and Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education, UW-Madison
Lynn McDonald, PhD, Retired Professor of Social Work at UW-Madison and Middlesex University in London, and founder of the internationally acclaimed FAST (Families and Schools Together) Program
Jodie Pope Williams, One City Parent and Academic Advisor, Madison College
Noble Wray, Retired Chief, City of Madison Police Department

Note: Questions have been raised about One City’s fiscal impact on the Madison Metropolitan School District. Click here to review a memo that One City has prepared that explains its fiscal impact on MMSD, and the impact of other programs that MMSD supports financially.

Logan Wroge:

According to the One City expansion application:

One City will phase the new grades in over four years, adding first grade in 2019-20, second and third grade in 2020-21, fourth and fifth grade in 2021-2022, and sixth grade in 2022-23.

By the end of the expansion, One City plans to enroll 316 students across 4-year-old kindergarten through sixth grade. This school year, there are 63 children in the 4K and kindergarten programs covered under the current independent charter agreement, the majority low-income and students of color.

“As One City Elementary school is built out, we are committed to recruiting, reaching and serving a diverse population of families that reflect the demographics of immediate neighborhoods that we serve,” the application said.

Class sizes for 4K through first grade would average around 10 students, while grades two through six would average about 15 students

Related: Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School (2011).

Much more on Kaleem Caire, here.

Ravenna school board fires superintendent for low student achievement

Justine Lofton:

The board’s decision to replace VanLoon came after its performance evaluation of him in December resulted in a score of 2.41 out of 4.

A score of 2 means “minimally effective,” while a 3 is “effective.”

“Knowing that I’ve had effective or highly effective ratings for the past nine years, yes I was very surprised,” VanLoon, 53, said of the score.

The goal is to have a new superintendent in place by July 1, said board President William Funk.

A special meeting on the superintendent search will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18, at the district’s administration office, 12322 Stafford St. in Ravenna. During the meeting, the board will discuss the search timeline, salary range, contract length and selection criteria.

Funk said he hopes to find a superintendent who can improve student performance on standardized testing.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

China’s two-child policy under fire as parents’ bank account frozen for having third child

Michelle Wong:

China’s family planning policies have been criticised after a couple’s bank account was frozen over unpaid fines imposed for having a third child, despite the country’s falling fertility rates.

The couple, from China’s eastern province of Shandong, failed to meet the deadline to pay the “social maintenance fee” of 64,626 yuan (US$9,500) to the local authority, the local court said on Sunday, and were denied access to the 22,987 yuan in their account as a result.

Shandong was reported to have the most newborns nationally in 2017, according to state news agency Xinhua, but a recent report by the21st Century Business Herald suggested the birth rate in the province may have dropped sharply in 2018, with many cities reporting declining figures.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics recorded a drop in the number of new births in 2018 to 15.23 million, from 17.23 million in 2017.

Simon Norton, mathematical prodigy who became the subject of the biography ‘The Genius in my Basement’ – obituary

Telegraph:

Simon Norton, who has died from a heart condition aged 66, was an Eton-educated maths prodigy considered one of the greatest minds of the 20th century – until the mid-1980s, when he lost his position at Cambridge University and ended up living in squalor in a dingy Cambridge basement packed with bulging plastic bags and piles of bus timetables, living on a diet of tinned mackerel, Bombay mix and brinjal pickle.

In 2011 his story was told by Alexander Masters, his one-time Cambridge tenant, in The Genius in my Basement: The biography of a happy man, a comically affectionate portrait which in the end could not bridge the chasm between the outer and the inner man.

Simon Norton was born on February…

Huge study finds professors’ attitudes affect students’ grades

Scott Johnson:

“You just have to believe!” is the kind of trite line you’d expect in a kids’ movie about a magic talking dog. But it seems the phrase doubles as important advice for college professors. That’s the upshot of a huge study at Indiana University, led by Elizabeth Canning, where researchers measured the attitudes of instructors and the grades their students earned in classes.

Mind the gap

One of the disappointing problems in higher education is the frequent existence of an “achievement gap” between underrepresented minorities and other students. It seems to be the result of various obstacles that students face along the way, from stereotypes about which groups are naturally skilled in which fields, to cultural differences that make some students hesitant to seek help in a class, to a lack of advantages in primary and secondary education. A lot of things can get in the way.

So these scenarios don’t have to take the ugly form of a racist teacher outright telling a student they aren’t welcome. Many issues are unintentional and subtle. If a student has the perception, for any reason, that they aren’t expected to succeed, that can drain enough motivation to ensure that they don’t.

Madison School Board Forum Seat #5

Simpson Street Free Press:

Simpson Street Free Press hosted an MMSD School Board Forum for Seat #5 on Feb. 16, 2019. Candidates fielded questions from MMSD students and parents. Voting for the primary races is on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. You can find out where your voting poll is by visiting https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/FindMyPol…. Thank you to all that attended!

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: What to Do About the Rebirth of Socialism

Matthew Continetti:

Not any more. If the death of the socialist idea was the most important political event of the last century, then the rebirth of this ideal must rank high in significance in the current one. Just as nationalism has reasserted itself on the political right, socialism has grown in force on the left. In the twenty-first century the two ideologies are estranged and antagonistic twins, paired in Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The Democratic victory in 2018 has elevated socialism to a height it has not reached in the United States in more than a century. Only in recent weeks, however, have defenders of democratic capitalism become aware of how great the socialist challenge really is. Only now are we beginning to formulate a response.

Take your pick of the headlines. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most talked-about Democrat in the country. Her fellow member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Rashida Tlaib, opened the 116th Congress by saying, "Impeach the mother—." Their comrade Ilhan Omar apparently wants to offend every Jewish American by the end of her term. The Green New Deal, Medicare For All, eliminating employer-based health insurance, marginal tax rates of upwards of 70 to 90 percent, requiring corporations above a certain size to obtain a federal charter, the expropriation of wealth, heavy inheritance taxes, free college, universal basic income, abolish I.C.E., the anti-Semitism that has long been socialism's fellow traveler—what was once radical and marginal is now embraced and celebrated by a large and vocal part of the Democratic Party.

Why? The answer goes a long way toward explaining the resurgence of nationalism as well. In "Socialism: An Obituary for an Idea," the essay quoted above, Kristol exhumed the ideology's intellectual remains. He explained that the ideal of utopian socialism offered "elements that were wanting in capitalist society—elements indispensable for the preservation, not to say perfection, of our humanity." Socialism supplied the values, aspirations, goals, mechanisms of meaning that democratic capitalism could not.

As Michael Novak observed in his 1982 masterpiece The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, what we call capitalism is really three systems in one. There is the economic system of entrepreneurship and free exchange. There is a moral-cultural system governing norms and behavior. And there is the political system of democratic pluralism and individual freedom. Socialism returns at times when the democratic capitalist trinity is out of whack, at places where the moral-cultural and political systems fail to provide answers that legitimize the economic system. Socialism is the attempt to derive from the political sphere the direction and purpose to human life that is the traditional province of morality and culture.

Machine learning ‘causing science crisis

Pallab Ghosh:

Machine-learning techniques used by thousands of scientists to analyse data are producing results that are misleading and often completely wrong.

Dr Genevera Allen from Rice University in Houston said that the increased use of such systems was contributing to a “crisis in science”.

She warned scientists that if they didn’t improve their techniques they would be wasting both time and money. Her research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

A growing amount of scientific research involves using machine learning software to analyse data that has already been collected. This happens across many subject areas ranging from biomedical research to astronomy. The data sets are very large and expensive.

Unbalanced Literacy

Erica Meltzer:

Over the last year or so, an education reporter named Emily Hanford has published a series of exceedingly important articles about the state of phonics instruction (or rather the lack thereof) in American schools. The most in-depth piece appeared on the American Public Media project website , but what are effectively condensed versions of it have also run on NPR and the NY Times op-ed page.

If you have any interest in how reading gets taught, I highly recommend taking the time for the full-length piece in APM: it’s eye-opening and fairly disquieting. While it reiterates a number of important findings, its originality lies in the fact that Hanford takes on the uneasy truce between phonics and whole language that supposedly put an end to the reading wars of the 1980s and ‘90s, and points out that so-called “balanced literacy” programs often exist in name only.

In principle, this approach recognizes that both development of sound-letter relationships and consistent exposure to high-quality literature are necessary ingredients in helping students become proficient readers. What Hanford does, however, is expose just how vast a chasm exists between theory and reality. In many schools, phonics is largely neglected, or even ignored entirely, while discredited and ineffective whole-language approaches continue to dominate.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Teacher Pensions and Accurate Accounting

Chad Aldeman:

But this result is impossible. According to the same official state projections that Rhee and Joyner apply to their sample, Colorado’s teacher pension plan assumes that 37 percent of males and 34 percent of females will leave in their first year, let alone make it to five years. Rhee and Joyner are trying to tell us that twice as many teachers will vest at 5 years than Colorado says will stay for one year.

I could repeat this same exercise for every state, with similar results, and it’s all due to the underlying sample that Rhee and Joyner start with. Looking only at the current teacher workforce has led them to impossible conclusions. Sure, Colorado’s pension plan looks ok for its current workers, but that’s only if we ignore all the people who have already left. It’s sort of like making inferences about tenure in the NFL by only looking at current rosters. For every statistical rarity like the 41-year-old Tom Brady, there are dozens and dozens of players who quietly shuffle in and out of the league.

Rhee and Joyner are certainly right to note that early-career workers have much higher rates of turnover than mid-career workers, and it’s reasonable to ask whether we should treat all workers the same in any retirement scheme. But they’ve taken that argument too far. The teaching profession is too large a group of American workers, and too important, to simply ignore all the ones who give five or ten or even 20 years of service and leave. Those teachers don’t do that well under current pension plan systems, and Rhee and Joyner don’t seem to have much sympathy for them.

Here’s How One Of Facebook’s Biggest Anti-Vax Communities Built Its Massive Network

Ryan Broderick:

As it comes under increasing pressure from lawmakers and public health advocates that it take action to clamp down on anti-vaccine messaging, Facebook continues to allow people and groups to run ads promoting it.

On Thursday, California Rep. Adam Schiff sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai a letter outlining concerns with the way the big tech platforms surface anti-vaccine content, and ramping up the pressure on them to take action. “The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information,” Schiff writes. “And the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues.”

In response to Schiff’s demand that the platform do something about the growing anti-vax community, Facebook said in a statement to Bloomberg News that it is currently “exploring additional measures to best combat” anti-vax content. Facebook is currently looking at “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available.”

All of this comes days after a massive Guardian report detailing how networks of massive anti-vax groups and pages have created an algorithmic feedback, pushing users into deeper and deeper vaccine-skeptic rabbit holes.

I tried to keep my unborn child secret from Facebook and Google

James Temperton:

The internet hates secrets. More than that, it despises them. And so, in February of last year, my partner and I resolved to try and keep the existence of our unborn child a secret from the online economy’s data-hungry gaze. Our reasons were simple: first, we wanted our child, when it was good and ready, to establish its own online identity; second, we didn’t want to be stalked around the internet by adverts for breast pumps and baby carriers; finally, and most pertinently, we wanted some semblance of control over something that felt deeply personal.

On the first point, we’re doing pretty well. On the second, we failed spectacularly. And on our foolhardy wish for control? Well, it goes without saying, the internet doesn’t want you to have control. (And yes, I realise the irony of me writing an article about a child I am trying to keep a secret from the internet.)

For my partner and I, this was irritating. For others, it’s downright upsetting. A little over a decade ago, US retailer Target started posting discount coupons to customers it suspected might be in the early stages of pregnancy based on their shopping habits. The problem? One of those customers was a teenager who had yet to tell her parents of the impending new arrival. Cue one very angry father.

Facebook uses its apps to track users it thinks could threaten employees and offices

Salvador Rodriguez:

Facebook is unique in the way it uses its own product to mine data for threats and locations of potentially dangerous individuals, said Tim Bradley, senior consultant with Incident Management Group, a corporate security consulting firm that deals with employee safety issues. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s general duty clause says that companies have to provide their employees with a workplace free of hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm, Bradley said.

“If they know there’s a threat against them, they have to take steps,” Bradley said. “How they got the information is secondary to the fact that they have a duty to protect employees.”

Making the list

One of the tools Facebook uses to monitor threats is a “be on lookout” or “BOLO” list, which is updated approximately once a week. The list was created in 2008, an early employee in Facebook’s physical security group told CNBC. It now contains hundreds of people, according to four former Facebook security employees who have left the company since 2016.

Facebook notifies its security professionals anytime a new person is added to the BOLO list, sending out a report that includes information about the person, such as their name, photo, their general location and a short description of why they were added.

In recent years, the security team even had a large monitor that displayed the faces of people on the list, according to a photo CNBC has seen and two people familiar, although Facebook says it no longer operates this monitor.

India Proposes Chinese-Style Internet Censorship

Vindu Goel:

India’s government has proposed giving itself vast new powers to suppress internet content, igniting a heated battle with global technology giants and prompting comparisons to censorship in China.

Under the proposed rules, Indian officials could demand that Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok and others remove posts or videos that they deem libelous, invasive of privacy, hateful or deceptive. Internet companies would also have to build automated screening tools to block Indians from seeing “unlawful information or content.” Another provision would weaken the privacy protections of messaging services like WhatsApp so that the authorities could trace messages back to their original senders.

The new rules could be imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government anytime after the public comment period ends on Thursday night. The administration has been eager to get them in place before the date is set for this spring’s national elections, which will prompt special pre-election rules limiting new policies.

In Milwaukee, Montessori schools are delivering what parents want

Alan Borsuk:

But it is not easy to create or sustain a Montessori school with quality. A lot depends on having teachers and principals who are trained in the approach. They are in limited supply, a factor that holds down growing the number of schools.

A fresh piece of good news for Montessori in Milwaukee: A group of parents and educators created a citywide Montessori Advisory Committee last fall. It has drafted a report on what is needed going forward to assure the viability and quality of Montessori offerings.

The draft plan was presented to a School Board committee Thursday night. Rather than big growth, it calls for cultivating what has been achieved, possibly with one more school ahead. It emphasizes the need to develop more Montessori-trained teachers.

Board members and MPS administrators appear to be receptive and supportive. A final plan is expected in several months. It doesn’t appear to carry a large price tag, but some recommendations may show up in the coming MPS budget.

Civics: Amazon’s Home Surveillance Chief Declared War on “Dirtbag Criminals” as Company Got Closer to Police

Sam Biddle:

On March 17, 2016, Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff emailed out a company-wide declaration of war. The message, under the subject line “Going to war,” made two things clear to the home surveillance company’s hundreds of employees: Everyone was getting free camouflage-print T-shirts (“They look awesome,” assured Siminoff), and the company’s new mission was to use consumer electronics to fight crime. “We are going to war with anyone that wants to harm a neighborhood,” Siminoff wrote — and indeed Ring made it easier for police and worried neighbors to get their hands on footage from Ring home cameras. Internal documents and video reviewed by The Intercept show why this merging of private Silicon Valley business and public law enforcement has troubling privacy implications.

This first declaration of startup militancy — which Siminoff would later refer to as “Ring War I” or simply “RW1” — would be followed by more, equally clumsy attempts at corporate galvanization, some aimed at competitors or lackluster customer support. But the RW1 email is striking in how baldly it lays out the priorities and values of Ring, a company now owned by Amazon and facing strident criticism over its mishandling of customer data, as previously reported by The Intercept and The Information.

Ring and Siminoff, who still leads the company, haven’t been shy about their focus on crime-fighting. In fact, Ring’s emphasis not only on personal peace of mind, but also active crime-fighting has been instrumental in differentiating its cloud-connected doorbell and household surveillance gear from those made by its competitors. Ring products come with access to a social app called Neighbors that allows customers to not just to keep tabs on their own property, but also to share information about suspicious-looking individuals and alleged criminality with the rest of the block. In other words, Ring’s cameras aren’t just for keeping tabs on your own stoop or garage — they work to create a private-sector security bubble around entire residential areas, a neighborhood watch for the era of the so-called smart home.

“Dirtbag criminals that steal our packages … your time is numbered.”
Forming decentralized 19th-century vigilance committees with 21st-century technology has been a toxic move, as shown by apps like Citizen, which encourages users to go out and personally document reported 911 calls, and Nextdoor, which tends to foster lively discussions about nonwhite people strolling through various suburbs. But Ring stands alone as a tech company for which hyperconnected vigilance isn’t just a byproduct, but the product itself — an avowed attempt to merge 24/7 video, ubiquitous computer sensors, and facial recognition, and deliver it to local police on a platter. It’s no surprise then that police departments from Bradenton, Florida, to Los Angeles have leapt to “partner” with Ring. Research showing that Ring’s claims of criminal deterrence are at the very least overblown don’t seem to have hampered sales or police enthusiasm for such partnerships.

Zhejiang education department limits students’ online time in draft regulations

Technode:

Education officials in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang have released a set of draft regulations that would limit the use of electronic devices for schoolwork, citing a need to prevent myopia.
The new rules prohibit assigning homework via apps, stating that take-home assignments should be on paper. In addition, instruction that uses electronic devices must not make up more than 30% of teaching time.

The regulations fall in line with guidelines released by China’s Ministry of Education last August, according to Beijing News (in Chinese). To prevent nearsightedness among minors, it mandated that teaching and homework should not rely on electronics. The same month, China’s media regulator the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television released similar regulations targeting myopia. Those rules, which were aimed at online games, affected tech giant Tencent and smaller industry players.

Public Education’s Dirty Secret

Mary Hudson:

Aside from the history teacher from Texas, other Washington Irving educators stood out as extraordinary, and this in an unimaginably bad learning environment. One was a cheerful Lebanese math teacher who had been felled as a child by polio. He called himself “the million dollar man” because of his handicapped parking permit, quite a handy advantage in Manhattan. Although he could only walk on crutches, he kept those kids in line! His secret? A lovely way about him and complete but polite disdain for his students. Where he came from, students were not allowed to act that way. Another was a German teacher, the wife of a Lutheran minister. Her imposing presence—she fit the valkyrie stereotype—kept those mouths closed. You could hear a pin drop in her unusually tidy classroom, and she managed to teach some German to the few hardy souls who wanted to learn it.

The most impressive of all was a handsome black American from Minnesota. He towered over us all, both physically and what the French call morally. He exuded an aura that inspired something like awe in his colleagues and students. I think he taught social studies. He was the only teacher who got away with blacking out his classroom door window, which added to his mystique. He engaged his students by concentrating their efforts on putting together a fashion show at the end of each school year. They designed and produced the outfits they strutted proudly on the makeshift catwalk, looking as elegant and confident as any supermodel. To tumultuous applause. They deserved it.

Although the school was always on the verge of hysteria and violence, it had all the trappings of the typical American high school. There were class trips and talent shows, rings and year books—even caps and gowns and graduation. High school diplomas were among the trappings, handed out to countless 12th graders with, from my observation, a 7th grade education. The elementary schools had a better record. But everyone knew that once the kids hit puberty, it became virtually impossible under the laws in force to teach those who were steeped in ghetto and gangster culture, and those—the majority—who were bullied into succumbing to it.

Students came to school for their social life. The system had to be resisted. It was never made explicit that it was a “white” system that was being rejected, but it was implicit in oft-made remarks. Youngsters would say things like, “You can’t say that word, that be a WHITE word!” It did no good to remind students that some of the finest oratory in America came from black leaders like Martin Luther King and some of the best writing from authors like James Baldwin. I would tell them that there was nothing wrong with speaking one’s own dialect; dialects in whatever language tend to be colorful and expressive, but it was important to learn standard English as well. It opens minds and doors. Every new word learned adds to one’s wealth, and there’s nothing like grammar for organizing one’s thoughts.

It all fell on deaf ears. It was impossible to dispel the students’ delusions. Astonishingly, they believed that they would do just fine and have great futures once they got to college! They didn’t seem to know that they had very little chance of getting into anything but a community college, if that. Sadly, the kids were convinced of one thing: As one girl put it, “I don’t need an 85 average to get into Hunter; I’m black, I can get in with a 75.” They were actually encouraged to be intellectually lazy.

The most Dantesque scene I witnessed at Washington Irving was a “talent show” staged one spring afternoon. The darkened auditorium was packed with excited students, jittery guidance counselors, teachers, and guards. Music blasted from the loudspeakers, ear-splitting noise heightened the frenzy. To my surprise and horror, the only talent on display was merely what comes naturally. Each act was a show of increasingly explicit dry humping. As each group of performers vied with the previous act to be more outrageous, chaos was breaking out in the screaming audience. Some bright person in charge finally turned off the sound, shut down the stage lights, and lit up the auditorium, causing great consternation among the kids, but it quelled the growing mass hysteria. The students came to their senses. The guards (and NYC policemen if memory serves) managed to usher them out to safety.

Tianlin’s Alleged Plagiarism Triggers Discussions on Academic Cheating in Chinese Universities

Gabi Verberg:

Earlier this month, Chinese actor Zhai Tianlin (翟天临) drew the public’s attention for his appearance at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, where he starred as a police officer preventing his parents from being scammed. Now, Zhai, again, is at the center of attention: not for his acting skills, but for allegedly committing academic fraud.

The famous actor is a Beijing Film Academy Ph.D. graduate and postdoctoral candidate at Peking University, one of China’s most renowned universities.

His alleged academic misconduct has been a topic of discussion for some days now. During a live broadcast with fans, Zhai apparently said he did not know what CNKI (知网) is, an academic database that all scholars in China will be familiar with.

It led to suspicions on Zhai’s academic standing, and people on the Quora-like Q&A platform Zhihu accused Zhai of not publishing any academic papers in recognized scholarly journals – something that is mandatory for Ph.D. students in China in order to fulfill their graduation requirements.

Shoshana Zuboff’s new book on “surveillance capitalism” emphasizes the former at the expense of the latter

Evgeny Morozov:

In a series of remarkably prescient articles, the first of which was published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in the summer of 2013, Shoshana Zuboff pointed to an alarming phenomenon: the digitization of everything was giving technology firms immense social power. From the modest beachheads inside our browsers, they conquered, Blitzkrieg-style, our homes, cars, toasters, and even mattresses. Toothbrushes, sneakers, vacuum cleaners: our formerly dumb household subordinates were becoming our “smart” bosses. Their business models turned data into gold, favoring further expansion.

Google and Facebook were restructuring the world, not just solving its problems. The general public, seduced by the tech world’s youthful, hoodie-wearing ambassadors and lobotomized by TED Talks, was clueless. Zuboff saw a logic to this digital mess; tech firms were following rational—and terrifying—imperatives. To attack them for privacy violations was to miss the scale of the transformation—a tragic miscalculation that has plagued much of the current activism against Big Tech.

This analytical error has also led many clever, well-intentioned people to insist that Silicon Valley should—and could—repent. To insist, as these critics do, that Google should start protecting our privacy is, for Zuboff, “like asking Henry Ford to make each Model T by hand or asking a giraffe to shorten its neck.” The imperatives of surveillance capitalism are almost of the evolutionary kind: no clever policy, not even in Congress, has ever succeeded in shortening the giraffe’s neck (it has, however, done wonders for Mitch McConnell’s).

Ham-shire College Announces Layoffs

Ryan Trowbridge:

Nelson added that another workforce reduction will be needed this semester and those announcements will come on or near April 1.

College spokesperson John Courtmanche told Western Mass News that the college employs approximately 250 staff members and 150 faculty members. The number of staff members impacted by the layoffs next week or this spring has not yet been released.

The move comes as the college works to find a strategic partner, a process which continues weeks after their initial announcement on January 15.

Fake news, Facebook ads, and misperceptions† Assessing information quality in the 2018 U.S. midterm election campaign

Andrew Guess, Jacob M. Montgomery , Benjamin Lyons, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler:

Concern has grown since the 2016 presidential election about the prevalence of misinforma- tion in American politics and the ways social media has potentially exacerbated its reach and influence. In this report, we assess the quality and quantity of information flows during the 2018 midterm election campaign, focusing specifically on two new forms of media — “fake news” and political ads on Facebook. First, we examine visits to fake news websites. We find a substantial decline in the proportion of Americans who visited at least one fake news website in 2018 relative to 2016. However, evidence is mixed on changes in the average share of people’s information diets that comes from fake news websites. Our data also reveal that exposure to political ads on Facebook was limited relative to other types of advertising and concentrated among a subset of targeted users who frequently use Facebook. Finally, we pro- vide new evidence of how frequently Americans believe fake and hyperpartisan news as well as misperceptions promoted by elites that circulated on social media during the campaign.

Here’s Why So Many Americans Feel Cheated By Their Student Loans

Anne Helen Petersen:

Such responses are indicative of what writer John Thornton calls “the retributive view,” which assumes “students could have made different choices to avoid or mitigate their debt. They could have chosen majors that pay more or schools with higher rates of success in the market. They could have worked a second or third job. They could have eaten ramen at home instead of going out.” Within this view, student loans become a mark of failure — failure of character, perseverance, or planning — that’s further compounded if and when a payment is missed. “I think there’s this assumption that millennials are spoiled, naive, and entitled,” Jen said. “Growing up a poor black kid, all I heard was college, college, college. Now we’re fools for taking out loans to make it happen?”

Even after making her loan payments steadily for years, Jen was still barely paying down the original principal amount. But she had some hope: Her job in public policy is considered “public service” — one of thousands of jobs, in both the government and the nonprofit sector, that would make her eligible for eventual student loan forgiveness through a program called PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness).

The premise of PSLF, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, is straightforward: Working in public service doesn’t pay a lot, and a lot of public service jobs — including teaching and social work — require advanced degrees, which in turn often necessitate hefty student loans. How do you encourage people to train for those jobs, jobs that are essential to society, even when it means taking on massive amounts of debt? You make “loan forgiveness” part of the package. (To be clear, these borrowers aren’t receiving a free education — they’re still paying. Indeed, in many forgiveness cases, what’s really getting “forgiven” after 10 years of repayment isn’t the original loan balance, but all the interest that’s accumulated on top of it.)

The Bad News About Helicopter Parenting: It Works

Pamela Druckerman:

The authors explain that when inequality hit a low in the 1970s, there wasn’t that much of a gap between what someone earned with or without a college degree. Strict parenting gave way to an era of “permissive parenting” — giving children lots of freedom with little oversight. Why spend 18 years nagging kids to succeed if the rewards weren’t worth it?

In the 1980s, however, inequality increased sharply in Western countries, especially the United States, and the gap between white- and blue-collar pay widened. Permissive parenting was replaced by helicopter parenting. Middle- and upper-class parents who’d gone to public schools and spent evenings playing kickball in the neighborhood began elbowing their toddlers into fast-track preschools and spending evenings monitoring their homework and chauffeuring them to activities.

American parents eventually increased their hands-on caregiving by about 12 hours a week, compared with the 1970s. Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Canadian and British parents ramped up their child care, too. (In Japan, hyper-involved mothers are known as “monster parents.”)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: $1,665,484,000,000: Feds Collect Record Individual Income Taxes in Calendar 2018–as Debt Climbed $1,481,349,159,596.80

Terence P. Jeffrey:

The federal government collected a record $1,665,484,000,000 in individual income taxes in calendar year 2018, according to the Monthly Treasury Statements for the year, which the Treasury finished publishing today with the belated release of the December statement.

Calendar year 2018 was the first full tax year after President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Dec. 22, 2017.

The previous calendar year record for federal individual income tax revenues was in 2017, when the Treasury collected $1,656,171,550,000 in individual income taxes (in constant December 2018 dollars).

The real federal individual income tax revenues collected in calendar 2018 were $9,312,450,000 more than the real individual income tax revenues collected in calendar year 2017.

Growth in College Endowments Slowed in 2018

Douglas Belkin:

The most sobering takeaway from the report: Endowments may not last for the long haul at the rate they are being spent.

“We may be sacrificing inflation-adjusted gains for future generations by placing a priority on providing funds for the current generation,” said Susan Whealler Johnston, president and CEO of the college business officers group.

That matters because nearly half of the money spent by endowments goes to student financial aid. Another 16% goes to support academic programs, 10%—faculty positions and 7%—campus operations, according to the report.

Schools with larger endowments enjoyed better returns as their riskier investments paid off. Among the 104 institutions with endowments over $1 billion, the one-year return was 9.7%, compared with an average 7.6% return for the 73 institutions with endowments under $25 million.

On cops in Madison schools, Police Chief Koval offers some advice

David Blaska:

Notice something? The other candidates for Madison school board are beginning to pretend that they always supported keeping police in our four Madison public high schools. But not one of the other candidates used their personal prestige, put their name to a letter, or braved the social justice bullies at a school board meeting to testify in favor of keeping our school resource officers. Not one!

For that matter, not one mayoral candidate and not one current alder (with the notable exception of Paul Skidmore), not one county supervisor from Madison, not one member of Madison’s state legislative delegation —not one of them defended keeping cops in schools.

But now, with an election approaching, watch them squirm.

Inside China’s crackdown on young Marxists

Yuan Yang:

Luke, an undergraduate student at one of China’s elite universities, recalls the day he became a committed Marxist. It was not in the countless hours of compulsory Marxism lectures he endured as part of the undergraduate curriculum, but during his first-year winter break in Beijing. Along with 20 other young workers, he squeezed into a minivan with nine seats and was driven to a small workshop on the outskirts of the city. There, he put together cardboard packages for 12 hours in a below-freezing room with no heating.

What startled him most were the hands of the dozen young women living in the workshop, which were “swollen like radishes” from the cold. Unlike him, they had not had the opportunity to finish school. The boss of the workshop had brought them there from their hometown, and they did not know when they could go back.

“They were like slaves. I thought, this capitalist mode of production can turn people into feudal serfs,” says Luke (not his real name). As he applied acrid-smelling adhesives to the cardboard, he turned over the “tiny coincidences” that separated the lives of the young women from his own, as a student at one of China’s most celebrated universities. The women were the children of workers, as he was, and were about the same age. “I had a really strong wish,” he remembers. “I wanted to make things better.”

Commentary and Data on Madison’s High School Graduation Data

Simpson Street Free Press:

Today, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released high school graduation data for the 2017-2018 academic year. Madison Metropolitan School District’s 4-year grad rates declined for both black and white students — to 65.6% and 87.8%, respectively. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, district officials “are pleased with the trajectory of minority and low-income students graduating in four years, despite a drop in the graduation rate for black students last year.”

But is this positive trajectory really something to celebrate? Wisconsin students don’t have to pass a state assessment to graduate. And national research has, for some time, questioned the truth behind the numbers.

In 2017, only 9% of MMSD’s black students met college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT in reading and math. How do we reconcile this with the 65.6% grad rate for black students the following year?

SSFP first voiced concerns about the focus on grad rates in a special report this summer. Today’s news leaves us more troubled. Of course we want our students to graduate on time. But we want our graduates to be prepared for the rigors of college and career.

Like Dr. Cheatham, we are “unsatisfied.” We stand behind the district’s commitment to “prepare students not just to graduate but for what comes after high school.” We hope this includes squaring positive grad rate trajectories with a less positive reality: too many of our students–and way too many of our students of color– aren’t graduating with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.

Charts via Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques.

Notes and links on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Election offers rare chance to change risk-averse School Board

James Howard:

In a recent Capital Times opinion piece by UW journalism professor Sue Robinson, it was stated that we find ourselves at a moment of racial reckoning, change and evolution. I couldn’t agree more. I want to add my voice to this conversation since I am currently the longest-serving African-American School Board member.

I also see the upcoming election as an opportunity. During my service over the past nine years, my largest frustration has been the board’s inability to support proposals that would directly benefit students of color. We can go back several years to Madison Prep and each initiative since that was offered as a possible solution to low academic achievement for students of color. The board has only been willing to pass initiatives to raise the achievement for students of color when they are embedded in initiatives that will benefit our white students. Our inability to take on risks and innovations that offer the possibility of increasing achievement for students of color are always voted down by the board.

Here we are 50 years later still experiencing the same low reading and math achievement for students of color.

This election offers the Madison school community an opportunity to change our historically risk-adverse board where students of color are concerned to a board that has a greater chance to vote in favor of initiatives that are specifically designed to increase the academic achievement for students of color.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

Facebook, Facing Lawmaker Questions, Says It May Remove Anti-Vaccine Recommendations

Sarah Frier:

Facebook Inc., under pressure to reduce harmful, misleading and fake content, said it is exploring removing anti-vaccine information from software systems that recommend other things to read on its social network.

Information discouraging people from getting vaccines for their children, which has gone viral on Facebook, especially in its Groups product, may have contributed to an increase in outbreaks of measles. The crisis drew attention on Thursday from Representative Adam Schiff, who sent a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Google boss Sundar Pichai, asking them to address the problem.

In response, Facebook said it is “exploring additional measures to best combat the problem,” according to a statement from the company. That might include “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available.”

Public Education’s Dirty Secret

Mary Hudson:

Bad teaching is a common explanation given for the disastrously inadequate public education received by America’s most vulnerable populations. This is a myth. Aside from a few lemons who were notable for their rarity, the majority of teachers I worked with for nine years in New York City’s public school system were dedicated, talented professionals. Before joining the system I was mystified by the schools’ abysmal results. I too assumed there must be something wrong with the teaching. This could not have been farther from the truth.

Teaching French and Italian in NYC high schools I finally figured out why this was, although it took some time, because the real reason was so antithetical to the prevailing mindset. I worked at three very different high schools over the years, spanning a fairly representative sample. That was a while ago now, but the system has not improved since, as the fundamental problem has not been acknowledged, let alone addressed. It would not be hard, or expensive, to fix.

Washington Irving High School, 2001–2004

My NYC teaching career began a few days before September 11, 2001 at Washington Irving High School. It was a short honeymoon period; the classes watched skeptically as I introduced them to a method of teaching French using virtually no English. Although the students weren’t particularly engaged, they remained respectful. During first period on that awful day there was a horrendous split-second noise. A plane flew right overhead a mere moment before it blasted into the north tower of the World Trade Center. At break time word was spreading among the staff. Both towers were hit and one had already come down. When I went to my next class I told the students what had happened. There was an eruption of rejoicing at the news. Many students clapped and whooped their approval, some getting out of their seats to do a sort of victory dance. It was an eye-opener, and indicative of what was to come.

The next three years were a nightmare. The school always teetered on the verge of chaos. The previous principal had just been dismissed and shunted to another school district. Although it was never stated, all that was expected of teachers was to keep students in their seats and the volume down. This was an enormous school on five floors, with students cordoned off into separate programs. There was even a short-lived International Baccalaureate Program, but it quickly failed. Whatever the program, however, the atmosphere of the school was one of danger and deceit. Guards patrolled the hallways, sometimes the police had to intervene. Even though the security guards carefully screened the students at the metal detectors posted at every entrance, occasionally arms crept in. Girls sometimes managed to get razors in, the weapon of choice against rivals for boys’ attention. Although I don’t know of other arms found in the school (teachers were kept in the dark as much as possible), one particularly disruptive and dangerous boy was stabbed one afternoon right outside school. It appears he came to a violent death a few years later. What a tragic waste of human potential.

More Colleges Are Asking Scholars for Diversity Statements. Here’s What You Need to Know.:

Chronicle of higher education:

The requests have appeared on advertisements for jobs at all kinds of colleges, from the largest research institutions to small teaching-focused campuses, said Rodrigues, a biological anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The statements tend to be one page, maybe two. In them, scholars are supposed to explain how their experience can bolster institutional efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. Colleges are under increasing pressure to increase access and completion rates for students from underrepresented backgrounds, the thinking goes, so they should hire faculty members who understand their role in improving those outcomes.

Coming up with material for a diversity statement isn’t a challenge for Rodrigues. She’s Indian, and her research focuses on women of color in science. If anything, such a statement might seem to give her an edge.

She doesn’t necessarily see it that way, though. She’s concerned about how search committees will evaluate the statements. She also worries about backlash. Committee members who are skeptical of intentional efforts to promote equity in the academy might even penalize her.

Is China’s corruption-busting AI system ‘Zero Trust’ being turned off for being too efficient?

Stephen Chen:

Resistance by government officials to a groundbreaking big data experiment is only one of many challenges as the Chinese government starts using new technology to navigate its giant bureaucracy.
According to state media, there were more than 50 million people on China’s government payroll in 2016, though analysts have put the figure at more than 64 million – slightly less than the population of Britain.
Xi Jinping tells judiciary and law enforcement agencies to ‘scrape away the poison’

To turn this behemoth into a seamless operation befitting the information age, China has started adapting various types of sophisticated technology. The foreign ministry, for instance, is using machine learning to aid in risk assessment and decision making for China’s major investment projects overseas.
Beijing has been developing a nationwide facial recognition system using surveillance cameras capable of identifying any person, anywhere, around the clock within seconds. In Guizhou, a cloud system tracks the movements of every policeman with a live status report.

The Science of Human Nature Has a Serious Problem

Daniel Hruschka:

Over the last century, behavioral researchers have revealed the biases and prejudices that shape how people see the world and the carrots and sticks that influence our daily actions. Their discoveries have filled psychology textbooks and inspired generations of students. They’ve also informed how businesses manage their employees, how educators develop new curricula, and how political campaigns persuade and motivate voters.

But a growing body of research has raised concerns that many of these discoveries suffer from severe biases of their own. Specifically, the vast majority of what we know about human psychology and behavior comes from studies conducted with a narrow slice of humanity—college students, middle-class respondents living near universities, and highly educated residents of wealthy, industrialized, and democratic nations.

To illustrate the extent of this bias, consider that more than 90 percent of studies recently published in psychological science’s flagship journal come from countries representing less than 15 percent of the world’s population.

If people thought and behaved in basically the same ways worldwide, selective attention to these typical participants would not be a problem. Unfortunately, in those rare cases where researchers have reached out to a broader range of humanity, they frequently find that the “usual suspects” most often included as participants in psychology studies are actually outliers. They stand apart from the vast majority of humanity in things like how they divvy up windfalls with strangers, how they reason about moral dilemmas, and how they perceive optical illusions.

Civics: Jeff Bezos Protests the Invasion of His Privacy, as Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State for Everyone Else

Glenn Greenwald:

Then there’s the patent Amazon obtained last October, as reported by the Intercept, “that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice.” In particular, it would enable anyone using the product to determine a person’s accent and likely place of origin: “The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent.”

All of this is taking place as Amazon vies for, and is the favorite to win, one of the largest Pentagon contracts yet: a $10 billion agreement to provide exclusive cloud services to the world’s largest military. CNN reported just last week that the company is now enmeshed in scandal over that effort, specifically a formal investigation into “whether Amazon improperly hired a former Defense Department worker who was involved with a $10 billion government contract for which the tech company is competing.”

Bezos’ relationship with the military and spying agencies of the U.S. Government, and law enforcement agencies around the world, predates his purchase of the Washington Post and has become a central prong of Amazon’s business growth. Back in 2014, Amazon secured a massive contract with the CIA when the spy agency agreed to pay it $600 million for computing cloud software. As the Atlantic noted at the time, Amazon’s software “will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.”

Fighting the surveillance economy — A practical guide for individuals and companies

Viktor Vecsei:

Consider two statements from different ends of the privacy awareness spectrum:

Facebook and Google helps me by offering great, free-to-use services. The ads they show me are not so bad, they usually match my interests and that’s fine. Everyone is using their products, so they can’t be very harmful. I understand they collect some data on what I’m doing, but I have nothing to hide.
Most things I’ve done, said or searched for online is stored somewhere, controlled by people who haven’t earned my trust. They can use that knowledge to change what I see online, influence how I spend my time and my money, coerce me into giving them more information and help others to monitor me or feed me propaganda. This freaks me out.
Which one would you say reflects your views better?

If it’s the first, are you ready to learn why it might be a false picture?

If you picked the second, would you like to do something about it?

Listing all the ways our realities are being tracked by companies is a challenging task. Browsing history, decisions, clicks and taps were the start, then with the rapid adoption of smartphones, fitness trackers and IoT devices, it’s now the data on how often you hit the breaks in your car, what products you pick in the supermarket and what you say during intimate conversations in your bedroom. There is little going on in your life that at least one major corporation doesn’t know about. Data collection like this can be framed as inevitability, as progress, as a necessity that brings us free services or convenience and personalized experiences. And it can be framed as something Shoshana Zuboff in her new book calls “surveillance economy”.

Considering the possibilities of where all this might take us by 2025 is an alarming exercise. As you walk into a furniture store, a shop assistant equipped with an AR device gets a summary of your backstory and preferences based on your past logged actions to help her close a sale. All motion and voice data captured by millions of miniature low-power devices on buildings is aggregated and tied to your personal ID; corporations use it to monitor, control, influence and possibly blackmail you. Searching for and writing about topics online deemed inappropriate are known to authorities within a second thanks to cooperating companies; the consequences range from increased surveillance and punishments determined by an AI to public shunning.

The Benefits of Starting College Early—in High School

Lisa Ward:

Here’s one way to help students complete college on time, and with less debt: start earlier. As a result, some educators and policy makers are making college-level courses available to more high-school students.

Traditionally, only the most academically gifted high-school students have taken college-level classes. But growing use of dual-credit courses—college-level classes taken in high school that offer both high-school and college credit—is making that opportunity more widely available. Even high-school students who might…

The George Mason University economist and Marginal Revolution founder explains why a richer world is a better world.

Nick Gillespie:

Over the past 20 years, arguably no libertarian thinker has cut a broader or deeper intellectual swath across American public policy and culture than Tyler Cowen.

The 56-year-old New Jersey native holds the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University and acts as chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center, a think tank based at the school. Cowen also co-founded the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution and is a regular contributor to Bloomberg. He is the host of Conversations with Tyler, a podcast series that includes interviews with people as diverse as tennis pro Martina Navratilova, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and comedian Dave Barry, and he is the author of a shelf full of books, including 1998’s In Praise of Commercial Culture, 2007’s Discover Your Inner Economist, and 2017’s The Complacent Class.

His work covers everything from the literal and figurative prices of fame to how globalization empowers Mexican folk artists to whether public funding for the arts has been more successful than most free marketers would grant. A recurring theme over the past decade is a fear that the West may have entered a period he calls “the great stagnation,” in which technological innovation and economic growth have slowed even as risk taking and moonshot-type ventures are demonized or ignored altogether.

In October, Reason’s Nick Gillespie spoke with Cowen about his latest book, Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals (Stripe Press). The work is an unapologetically libertarian argument for what he calls long-term sustainable economic growth and, more importantly, for intellectual and cultural attitudes devoted to freedom and prosperity.

Reason: You write in your new book that we need to develop a tougher, a more dedicated, and indeed a more stubborn attachment to prosperity and freedom. What do you mean?

Cowen: I think of this book as my attempt to defend a free society and give it philosophical underpinnings. The world is moving away from classical liberal ideas, and that case needs to be made in a new and fresh and powerful and vital way.

How important is prosperity to the ideals of freedom?

Prosperity is central to most human values. A wealthier world helps you be more creative. It helps you choose a job or a spouse that you might want to have rather than someone you have to marry for, say, the money. It helps us pay our bills. It helps us take care of needier members of society. It just keeps us on track and gives us some ability to control our environment and not entirely be at the mercy of nature. I think prosperity, oddly, is still underrated.

How a Strange Grid Reveals Hidden Connections Between Simple Numbers

Kevin Hartnett:

In 1983 the prolific conjecturer Paul Erdős posed a math problem: Take any set of numbers you like. These could be the whole numbers from 1 to 12, the first 10,000 prime numbers, or the dates of every birthday in your extended family. Arrange these numbers in a square grid, with your list of numbers arranged both across the bottom and up one side. Then fill in the grid with either the sums or the products of the crosswise pairs.

Have more children and pay no income tax, Orban promises Hungarian mothers

Valerie Hopkins:

Hungarian women who have four children or more will be exempt from income tax for good, the nationalist prime minister Viktor Orban announced Sunday in a bid to counter a falling population and labour shortages without accepting immigrants.

“There are fewer and fewer children born in Europe,” Mr Orban said during his annual State of the Nation address. “For the west, the answer is immigration. For every missing child there should be one coming in and then the numbers will be fine. But we do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children.”

The tax scheme was one of a number of initiatives the anti-immigration premier announced, including healthcare investments worth Ft700bn (£1.92bn); loans to newly-weds worth Ft10m that could be partially or fully written off if the couple bore two or three children; money for family car purchases; and increased capacity for childcare facilities. The government also promised mortgage assistance tied to childbirth and a kind of maternity or paternity leave for grandparents

Mr Orban, who himself has five children, did not elaborate on how the government would cover the costs of the announced measures and vowed to maintain levels of economic growth 2 per cent higher than the EU average.

The Misguided Sliming of High-School Sports

Frederick M. Hess & Amy Cummings:

They help build social and emotional intelligence, as well as self-discipline and perseverance.
In the long shadow of this week’s Super Bowl, high-school football drew some unflattering attention, including headlines such as “As the Super Bowl Approaches, Is High School Football Dying a Slow Death?” (the Guardian) and “Rams’ Run to 2019 Super Bowl Reveals Cracks in Football from High School to the NFL” (Forbes).

Such stories are hardly surprising. In recent years, high-school sports have had a tough go of it. Football’s concussion problem has spawned headlines such as CBS’s “Young Athletes Abandon Football as Concussions Rock High School Teams.” But it’s not just football. The indefensible actions of some pro athletes, especially with regards to domestic violence and sexual misconduct, have colored views of sporting culture more generally. Meanwhile, for many progressives, sports are seen as celebrating problematic notions of competition, toxic masculinity, and gender segregation.

Indeed, school sports have served as a convenient punching bag for advocates and academics who tend to regard athletics as a cultural backwater. Amanda Ripley, a senior fellow at the “social change” organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, has made “The Case against High-School Sports” in The Atlantic, blaming sports for mediocre U.S. performance on international tests. And Brookings Institution education scholar Mike Hansen has lamented that sports are “distracting us from our schools’ main goals.”

The manifold benefits of school sports can too readily get lost, especially the crucial role that athletics can play in supporting academic success and building character. Given all the negative attention, it might surprise you to learn that participation in high-school sports has actually risen steadily over the past four decades. The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that participation in high school athletics has risen from 40 percent of high schoolers in 1980 to 52 percent in 2015.

Call for retraction of 400 scientific papers amid fears organs came from Chinese prisoners

Melissa Davey:

A world-first study has called for the mass retraction of more than 400 scientific papers on organ transplantation, amid fears the organs were obtained unethically from Chinese prisoners.

The Australian-led study exposes a mass failure of English language medical journals to comply with international ethical standards in place to ensure organ donors provide consent for transplantation.

The study was published on Wednesday in the medical journal BMJ Open. Its author, the professor of clinical ethics Wendy Rogers, said journals, researchers and clinicians who used the research were complicit in “barbaric” methods of organ procurement.

Chicago Public Schools Quietly Monitors Social Media For Student Gang Activity

Aaron Leibowitz and Sarah Karp:

In January 2017, after a social media analyst for the Chicago Public Schools reviewed the Facebook profile of a Roosevelt High School student and began to suspect he might be in a gang, a police officer was summoned to the school to conduct an intervention. There wasn’t any imminent threat of violence, but the officer and a school district security official met with the student. They asked if he was in a gang.

“That is my business,” the student replied, according to a report from the intervention.

The officer, a member of the Chicago Police Department’s Gang School Safety Team, told the student he needed to be more respectful. The student said he was not in a gang but did hang around gang members.

The officer asked for their names, but the student wouldn’t give them. The officer asked if the student was considering joining a gang. He said he wasn’t sure. The student, the report concludes, “seemed to not be motivated and provided very short answers.”

Over the past four school years, more than 700 CPS students have been called into interventions like this one based on social media activity that points to their possible gang involvement. The interventions are one result of a $2.2 million award the district received in 2014 through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, which provides grants for violence prevention efforts.

School Board candidates stake out their positions at 2019 primary forum

Negassi Tesfamichael:

The nine candidates in a crowded primary for three seats on the Madison School Board made their case to an audience gathered at Christ Presbyterian Church Tuesday evening.

The forum, organized by the Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools, was the first time the candidates shared the stage during the current election cycle.

The fast-paced forum moved quickly through a number of issues, ranging from how the School Board should handle new programs and initiatives started in the district and how best to evaluate them, to how they would handle hypothetical situations that might arise if elected.

Candidates also answered several yes-or-no questions on their support of Wisconsin’s private school voucher program, emergency licenses for teachers, restoring collective bargaining rights for teachers and itemizing the amount of a local property tax bill that goes to fund private schools.

Kaleem Caire, the founder and CEO of One City Schools, is running against Cris Carusi, a University of Wisconsin-Madison employee and public education advocate, for Seat 3. Both candidates will likely advance through the primary race since a third candidate, Skylar Croy, withdrew from the race last month. Croy’s name will still be on the Feb. 19 ballot.

Florida’s Voucher Vindication

Wall Street Journal:

One issue that helped Florida Governor Ron DeSantis beat progressive Andrew Gillum in November’s gubernatorial nail-biter was his support for the state’s private school voucher program. To understand why that mattered, consider a report this week on the link between K-12 school choice and college success.

Nearly 100,000 low-income students can attend private school in Florida under its Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) program, and 68% of the students are black or Hispanic. When the Urban Institute examined limited data in 2017, it found that school-voucher alumni weren’t much more likely to earn bachelor’s degrees at Florida’s state universities than were their public-school peers. Some critics seized on this as evidence of school-choice failure.

The Real Cost of Cheap Groceries

Beth Kowitt and Dan Winters:

The pickers often hear about available work through Facebook and will carpool with neighbors and family to save on gas. The region’s warm climate supplies them with some kind of farm work income most months out of the year but when times are slow, house cleaning and lawn work help supplement. A few women had previously held jobs in the restaurant industry but had given it up for picking, which they said was more lucrative. Some workers mentioned their constant back pain—watermelons universally seemed to be the least favorite crop to harvest—and all talked about laboring in the fields so their kids, who they desperately wanted to stay in school, wouldn’t have to.

The Decline of Historical Thinking

Eric Alterman:

I do not refer to the obvious and ineluctable fact that some people are smarter than others but, rather, to the fact that some people have the resources to try to understand our society while most do not. Late last year, Benjamin M. Schmidt, a professor of history at Northeastern University, published a study demonstrating that, for the past decade, history has been declining more rapidly than any other major, even as more and more students attend college. With slightly more than twenty-four thousand current history majors, it accounts for between one and two per cent of bachelor’s degrees, a drop of about a third since 2011. The decline can be found in almost all ethnic and racial groups, and among both men and women. Geographically, it is most pronounced in the Midwest, but it is present virtually everywhere.

There’s a catch, however. It’s boom time for history at Yale, where it is the third most popular major, and at other élite schools, including Brown, Princeton, and Columbia, where it continues to be among the top declared majors. The Yale history department intends to hire more than a half-dozen faculty members this year alone. Meanwhile, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, Bernie L. Patterson, recently proposed that the school’s history major be eliminated, and that at least one member of its tenured faculty be dismissed. Of course, everything gets more complicated when you look at the fine print. Lee L. Willis, the chair of the history department, told me that the chancellor’s proposal is a budget-cutting measure in response to the steadily declining number of declared majors, but it’s really about the need to reduce the faculty from fourteen to ten, and this means getting rid of at least one tenured member. To do that, it’s necessary to disband the department. (A spokesperson for the university said that “UW-Stevens Point is exploring every option to avoid laying off faculty and staff members.”) The remaining professors will be placed in new departments that combine history with other topics.

Stevens Point, in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, educates many first-generation college students, and, in the past, the history department has focussed on training teachers. Willis pointed out that, after Scott Walker, the former governor, led an assault on the state’s teachers’ unions, gutting benefits and driving around ten per cent of public-school teachers out of the profession, a teaching career understandably looks considerably less attractive to students. “I am hearing a lot, ‘What kind of a job am I going to get with this? My parents made me switch,’ ” Willis said. “There is a lot of pressure on this particular generation.” But he also noted a rise in declared history majors this past semester, from seventy-six to a hundred and twenty. “This perception of a one-way trend and we’ll whittle down to nothing is not what I am seeing,” he said.

The steep decline in history graduates is most visible beginning in 2011 and 2012. Evidently, after the 2008 financial crisis, students (and their parents) felt a need to pick a major in a field that might place them on a secure career path. Almost all of the majors that have seen growth since 2011, Schmidt noted in a previous study, are in the STEM disciplines, and include nursing, engineering, computer science, and biology. (A recent Times story noted that the number of computer-science majors more than doubled between 2013 and 2017.) “M.I.T. and Stanford are making a big push in the sciences,” Alan Mikhail, the chair of the history department at Yale, told me. Other universities have tended to emulate them, no doubt because that’s what excites the big funders these days—and with their money comes the prestige that gives a university its national reputation. David Blight, a professor of history at Yale and the director of its Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, tells a similar story when it comes to funding. In a recent meeting with a school administrator, he was told that individual funders were all looking to fund STEM programs—and, Blight said, “It’s the funders that drive things.”

Nonetheless, the history major continues to thrive at Yale, in part because it’s a great department with a number of nationally known stars, all of whom are expected to teach at an undergraduate level, and in part because it is Yale, where even a liberal-arts degree opens almost all professional doors. As Mikhail said, “The very real economic pressure students feel today is lessened at Yale. Need-blind admissions make a big difference, together with the sense that a Yale degree in anything will get them the job they want, even at places like Goldman or medical school.” The school’s public-relations department recently made a promotional video about Fernando Rojas, the son of Mexican immigrants, who made national news a few years ago when he was admitted to all eight Ivy League schools. Rojas, who found an intellectual home at Yale’s Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration, intends to pursue a Ph.D. in history.

“State officials quietly published the full list of under-performing schools, which is required by federal law, without even issuing a press release.”

Will Huntsbury:

The schools on this list are among the lowest 8 percent in the state in terms of performance data, according to a new state analysis. The high schools have extremely low graduation rates. The other schools are rated near the bottom in most performance metrics tracked by the state.

Thousands of human children – each one of them far less likely to succeed than their peers in other schools – attend these struggling schools every day. These children are more likely to be brown and poor than white and affluent. They are less likely to graduate, less likely to attend college, less likely to get a good job and more likely to go to jail. Do we have a plan for them?

Making lists like this is controversial. One need look no further than the release of the data last Thursday to understand the shifting dynamics of education politics. State officials quietly published the full list of under-performing schools, which is required by federal law, without even issuing a press release.

In years past, when charter school advocates had the political swagger, ranking schools was more in vogue. Many states still use an A-F grading system – California does not – to rate schools. But, as teachers’ unions and their supporters have rightly pointed out, what those rankings actually tell us is fuzzy. They may say more about a school’s poverty level, for instance, than whether teachers are doing a good job educating students. The grades have also been used to shut down schools, which can cause more harm than good.

But there should be a middle ground between grading schools and making no effort to publicly identify those in dire need of help.

Vaccination data review in Dane County Schools

Chris Rickert:

The Madison public schools with the highest percentages of students on personal conviction waivers four years ago have seen those percentages fall. Marquette Elementary School on the Near East Side had 13.8 percent of students, or 30, on the waivers. As of last school year, that percentage was 8.0 percent.

O’Keeffe Middle School, which shares a building with Marquette, also had 8 percent of its students on personal conviction waivers last year. The only other Madison public schools with a rate higher than 5 percent were one of the district’s alternative high schools, Shabazz, at 7 percent, and Lowell, Lapham, Franklin and Randall elementary schools, all at 6 percent.

Theophrastus’ Characters

Emily Esfahani Smith:

The new translation of Characters, by the philosopher Theophrastus (Aristotle’s favorite student), presents 30 brief vignettes of vulgarians, dullards, and yokels who populated the streets of ancient Athens—and who continue to make their presence known in ours. The rascals he profiles—from “The Newshound” and “The Arrogant Man” to “The Social Climber” and “The Flatterer”—are figures straight out of contemporary headlines. We meet, for example, “The Obnoxious Man,” who compulsively exposes himself in front of women. Characters like Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels would have amused Theophrastus endlessly with their behavior. Civilization may be 2,400 years older, but human nature is apparently much the same.

Unlike this gallery of rogues, Theophrastus was beloved during his time. Born as Tyrtamus around 371 bc on Lesbos, he came to Athens in his youth and found his way to Aristotle’s philosophical school, the Lyceum, where the great philosopher rechristened him Theophrastus (“divine in speech”), according to the concise and helpful introduction that opens this volume, written by classicist James Romm of Bard College. Considered the father of botany for his writings on plants—though he covered a wide range of topics, from the gods and stars to human sweat and hair—Theophrastus not only became Aristotle’s favorite student but also revered by the citizens of Athens. His philosophy lectures at the Lyceum attracted thousands of Athenians, and when he died at 85, an ancient source tells us that “the whole population of Athens, honouring him greatly, followed him to the grave.”

This isn’t to say that Theophrastus did not encounter the seamier side of human nature. As a foreigner, he was considered an outsider in Athens and was made to remember it. “In legal terms,” writes Romm, “Theophrastus and Aristotle were ‘metics,’ resident aliens, who had no political rights and could not own property.” Once, when Theophrastus asked an old woman in the marketplace about the price of her goods, she responded disdainfully by calling him “foreigner.” “Though he might acquire fine Attic speech and join Aristotle’s high-minded school, he was still a ‘bowl carrier,’” writes Romm, referring to the role metics were relegated to in Athenian state processions.

Critics of The Bell Curve have attacked every point in the book—except the most important one.

Ned Block:

According to The Bell Curve, Black Americans are genetically inferior to Whites. That’s not the only point in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s book. They also argue that there is something called “general intelligence” which is measured by IQ tests, socially important, and 60 percent “heritable” within Whites. (I’ll explain heritability below.) But my target here is their claim about Black genetic inferiority. It has been subject to wide-ranging criticism since the book was first published last year. Those criticisms, however, have missed its deepest flaws. Indeed, the Herrnstein/Murray argument depends on conceptual confusions about the genetic determination of human behavior that have not been fully addressed—in fact, have been tacitly accepted to some degree—by many of the book’s sharpest critics.

Before getting to the confusions, let’s first be clear about the conclusion itself. In a recent article on “The Real Bell Curve,” Charles Murray grumbles about critics, such as Stephen Jay Gould, who read the book as saying that racial differences in IQ are mostly genetic. Murray answers by quoting from the book:

2019 Candidate Q&A: Madison School Board, Seat 4

Chris Rickert:

What is the most pressing issue facing the Madison School District and how would you address it?

Blaska: The overly bureaucratic Behavior Education Plan is both symptom and cause. After four years and $15 million, suspensions have declined 15 percent but “behavior incidents” have nearly doubled and the racial disparity remains unmoved. Worse, our district-wide Department of Public Instruction achievement score dropped to 58.2 from 60.6 in 2015-16.

Bryan: The achievement gap in the ability to read. Busing a child in the elementary school so he can sit in class with more intensively trained peers fails to close the gap, as was expected 30 years ago when the paired schools and busing kids away from their home neighborhoods were instituted.

Muldrow: We urgently must change schools into places where students enjoy learning and treat each other with humanity and respect. Currently schools are under-funded, teachers are overworked and students are less than inspired. I would bring innovation and arts every day to our schools promoting better behavior and academic performance.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

Civics: Digital Media: What Went Wrong

Edmund Lee:

The digital publishing industry took a big hit in recent days, when more than 1,000 employees were laid off at BuzzFeed, AOL, Yahoo and HuffPost. Vice Media started the process of laying off some 250 workers on Friday, and Mic, a site aimed at younger readers, axed much of its staff two months ago before a competitor bought it in a fire sale. Coupled with recent layoffs at Gannett, the company behind USA Today and other dailies nationwide, the crisis in the digital sphere suggested that the journalism business was damned if it embraced innovation and damned if it didn’t.

The cuts at BuzzFeed were the most alarming. Wasn’t this the company that was supposed to have it all figured out? Didn’t its team of wizards, led by the M.I.T.-trained chief executive, Jonah Peretti, know tricks of the digital trade that lay beyond the imagination of fusty old print publishers?

Chris Hayes, the author and MSNBC anchor, summed up the bleak outlook with a tweet that asked, “What if there is literally no profitable model for digital news?”

The in-the-moment doomsaying was understandable. But look past the gloom, and a complicated narrative emerges that does not lend itself to a one-size-fits-all interpretation of What Went Wrong or a handy forecast of journalism’s future.

The Problem with Relying on Testing When Assessing Students and Teachers

Amos Roe:

What defines a good school? Nearly every report, comparison or analysis on education labors under the assumption that this can be found in some form of test scores. Ever since No Child Left Behind made its debut in 2001, top-down government-funded education has proceeded from one failed experiment to another. Testing is now almost always the sole way schools are being judged for excellence.

But this reliance on testing is only done because of deeply flawed assumptions being made by politicians and an army of “experts” who have never actually taught children themselves. Dealing with disembodied numbers also makes it much easier for these “experts” to convince others that they know what they are talking about. Currently, the latest fad being imposed from above is Common Core, another guaranteed-to-fail government program which attempts, yet again, to force-feed children into learning what they “need to know.”

Certainly, test scores for truly motivated and older kids can be useful. Testing can help in assessing how well a school has performed for these motivated kids as they reach their later years in high school and as their interests become more defined and focused. But using tests as a useful indicator for the quality of our schools among younger children often only ensures a growing failure in ever getting a child to truly enthusiastically embrace learning. Institutionally-driven tests became a counter-productive instrument of “accountability,” and very often degenerates into full-blown child abuse and is causing an astounding rise in youth suicides.

Keep in mind that it is the needs of the unmotivated, or somewhat unmotivated students, who are hit the hardest with any form of early academic testing. (Also note that using tests to discover true learning disabilities – and not just manufactured ones by a growing army of LD teachers who want more work – are excluded from any of my assertions here.)

Amos Roe is a candidate for the Madison School Board. Learn more about the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

Here’s another view of what the research says about Tony Evers’ proposals

Will Flanders:

Perhaps the most egregious omissions are in the discussion of school funding and its effect on student outcomes. While the author cites one study – not yet peer-reviewed — the preponderance of evidence for decades has suggested little to no impact of per-student funding on educational achievement. This study, and others like it based on court-mandated increases in spending, hinge on the assumption that court-mandated increases in spending are random events when of course they are not. Courts are most likely to act to increase spending in places where there is a public push to improve educational outcomes, or where disparities are so great that legal action is required. None of these situations apply to Wisconsin.

A meta-analysis of about 400 studies by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University finds no relationship between spending and student outcomes. Our research on Wisconsin school districts has found no relationship between student outcomes and spending once important control variables are taken into account. Data points like this ought not to be ignored in the funding discussion.

On the subject of early childhood education, the author says that students enter pre-K more prepared than they otherwise would. However, there is an extremely important caveat here that is not included. While the best research suggests that students do enter kindergarten better prepared, the same research also shows that these effects dissipate rapidly, and even become negative by third grade — meaning students who didn’t have early childhood education were actually performing better by that age. The bottom line is that the preponderance of the evidence is negative on the impacts of pre-K, and to claim that the evidence shows otherwise is a disservice to readers.

When it comes to the achievement gap, the assessment that Wisconsin has some of the largest gaps in the nation is absolutely correct. But Evers’ well-documented anti-school-choice agenda is often at odds with what the evidence suggests can improve outcomes for these students. Particularly for students living in Milwaukee, research shows that private schools in the voucher program and charter schools offer students a better opportunity to succeed academically, graduate, and attend college.

Evers has suggested ending or reducing enrollment in these programs, which would eliminate access to alternatives for many low-income, minority families. Ending programs used by more than 30,000 students is likely to have a far more deleterious effect on minority students than the implementation of softer suspension policies that is suggested in the article, which our research has actually found can have a negative impact on student outcomes.

While running the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Mr. Evers waived thousands of teachers’ required content knowledge tests (Foundations of Reading).

Beijing’s Intensified Control over China’s Higher Education

China Scope:

A Duowei News article put together information about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) practices of tightened control over the nation’s higher education.

At the beginning of 2019, for the first time, the Chinese media reported a case of the CCP Central Disciplinary Committee intervening in the personnel appointment at a Chinese university. Observers believe that this is a new signal that the CCP is strengthening its discipline and supervision of its universities. Days later, at a Provincial and Ministerial Leadership Seminar on January 21, 2019, Xi Jinping emphasized ideological risk when talking about the “seven major risks.” The two incidents point to the same group in the population – China’s youth. The article gave a list of CCP actions at China’s universities.

In April 2013, the CCP General Office’s “No. 9 Document,” or Bulletin on Current Ideological Situations, issued a warning that there was an ideological crisis in China’s higher education system.

On August 19, 2013, the China National Propaganda and Ideological Work Conference identified Chinese universities as “important areas and as having forefront positions in ideology.”

Civics Illiteracy….

Dave Bangert:

Purdue President Mitch Daniels, bemoaning the civics literacy of American university students, including those on the West Lafayette campus, on Monday pushed faculty to help come up with a test to guarantee students who graduate can at least pass the same test given to newly naturalized citizens.

“It’s hardly a new issue,” Daniels told the University Senate, a faculty-heavy body that represents various academic departments at Purdue.

“You can make the argument, ‘Shouldn’t this have already been dealt with before students got here?’” Daniels said after his discussion with the University Senate. “As I told the Senate today, yes, it should have. I’d make the argument that it should be solved by middle school.”

Daniels said he didn’t know of other universities with a similar graduation requirement, but he said he was interested in at least knowing students at Purdue had basic knowledge about the American system. Daniels suggested that incoming freshmen would be told about the test the day they arrived on campus for Boiler Gold Rush – the university’s orientation program – and then they would be allowed to take the test any time, whether the next day or four years later, all the way up to the day before graduation.

He said if done right, the test would be over in five or 10 minutes.

How Should We Read the Totalitarian Philosophers?

Matt McManus:

How should one read and interpret authors whose work has clearly become associated—justly or not—with totalitarianism? In recent years, this debate has included figures like the Marxist historian Erik Hobsbawm, who has received scathing criticism for his soft approach to various communist regimes, and the literary theorist Paul de Man. However, here I will focus on the work of four philosophers whose work provided inspiration to totalitarianism and terror—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Martin Heidegger.

It might seem disconcerting to imply there is a problem with reading such authors. After all, an intellectual work isn’t especially interesting unless it forces us to look critically at sides of ourselves and our societies we have been unwilling to examine—the darker undercurrents of politics and the human psyche. This may be especially true if we wish to combat totalitarian and authoritarian impulses successfully. Looking at those who inspired or supported these movements can give us a better understanding of their appeal. Hannah Arendt remains one of the most probing and articulate analysts of twentieth century totalitarianism, but she never gave in to a prudish dismissal of its intellectual inspirations. This gives her still controversial analyses a considerable depth often lacking in comparable authors; the Origins of Totalitarianism would be a lesser work without her Heideggerian sensitivity to the dangers of modern technocracy and inauthenticity.

Stanford Is Reviewing Faculty Links to Chinese Scientist Who Claims He Made Gene-Edited Babies

Marilyn Marchione:

Stanford University has started a review of interactions that some faculty members had with He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who claims to have helped make gene-edited babies.

Several Stanford professors have said they knew or strongly suspected He wanted to try gene editing on embryos intended for pregnancy.

The work has been widely criticized since November, when He revealed the births of twins whose DNA he said he altered to try to help them resist possible future infection with the AIDS virus.

Most scientists think gene editing for reproductive purposes is too risky to be tried yet because of the danger of harming other genes and because the DNA changes may be passed to future generations.

EAGLE School fifth-grader Maya Jadhav takes first place in All-City Spelling Bee

:

Following more than 2½ hours of spelling, EAGLE School fifth-grader Maya Jadhav outlasted last year’s winner of the All-City Spelling Bee to take home the first-place medal Saturday.

Spellers from 44 public and private schools as well as homeschool groups competed in the spelling bee, sponsored by the Wisconsin State Journal, at Madison Area Technical College’s Mitby Theater.

Jadhav, of Fitchburg, daughter of Nitin Jadhav and Terra Theim, will advance to the Badger State Spelling Bee at the same location March 16. The top three spellers from that spelling bee will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

Civics: Police stop people for covering their faces from facial recognition camera then fine man £90 after he protested

Lizzie Dearden:

A man has been fined after refusing to be scanned by controversial facial recognition cameras being trialled by the Metropolitan Police.

The force had put out a statement saying “anyone who declines to be scanned will not necessarily be viewed as suspicious”. However, witnesses said several people were stopped after covering their faces or pulling up hoods.

Campaign group Big Brother Watch said one man had seen placards warning members of the public that automatic facial recognition cameras were filming them from a parked police van.

The impact of color palettes on the prices of paintings

Elena Stepanova:

We emphasize that color composition is an important characteristic of a painting. It impacts the auction price of a painting, but it has never been considered in previous studies on art markets. By using Picasso’s paintings and paintings of Color Field Abstract Expressionists sold in Chrisite’s and Sotheby’s auctions in New York between 1998 and 2016, we demonstrate the method to analyze color compositions: How to extract color palettes from a painting image and how to measure color characteristics. We propose two measures: (1) the surface occupied by specific colors, (2) color diversity of a painting composition. Controlling for all conventional painting and sale characteristics, our empirical results find significant evidence of contrastive paintings, i.e., paintings with high diversity of colors, carrying a premium than equivalent artworks which are performed in monochromatic style. In the case of Picasso’s paintings, our econometric analysis shows that some colors are associated with high prices.

Advanced Placement participation grows in Wisconsin

Hillary Gavan:

Wisconsin’s 2018 public school graduates took more than 71,000 AP exams while in high school, with 66.4 percent of those exams scoring three or higher on a five-point scale, which resulted in them being eligible for college credit, advance standing or both at many colleges and universities.

Wisconsin’s 2018 graduates who earned scores of three or higher on their AP exams are estimated to save nearly $43 million in college costs.

At Beloit Turner High School, the number of students taking AP classes continues to grow substantially. In 2006-2007, for example, 37 students took AP tests. In 2017-2018, 119 students took the tests.

AP tests taken at Turner grew from 49 in 2006-2007 to 180 in 2017-2018.

The AP participation rate at Turner is higher than the state average, increasing from 9.7 percent in 2006-2007 to 26.4 percent in 2017-2018. The state’s participation rate was 7.8 in 2006-2007 and 16.4 percent in 2017-2018, according to data from Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy.

The Vast Re-Education Program of the Superbowl Ads

Brett Robinson:

Therefore, the number one priority of advertisers is making sure that the new mediums built to sustain the next generation of marketing efforts appear as human and natural as possible as they enter the cultural slipstream. The medium is still the message. We are in the midst of a vast re-education program about what it means to live thoroughly digitized lives. Take the ad about the Google assistant’s language translation capabilities. The ad seems to be about the convenience of having a digital assistant translate speech in real-time. The viewer is taken on a visual and linguistic tour of the planet, dropping in on conversations between people of different cultures who overcome the language barrier by asking Google for help.

Visual signifiers like open air markets, women wearing hijabs and exotic nature scenes tell us that we are having a multicultural experience. The narrator speaks gently to the viewer in a vaguely Indian accent about all the kinds of words that are translated in these settings. Words about food, friendship, sports, belief, fear, “Words that can hurt and sometimes divide. But everyday, the most translated words in the world are “how are you,” “thank you,” and “I love you.”

The tinkling piano soundtrack lends an air of humility and heartfelt goodwill between people of different backgrounds. But what is really going on here?

The global fraternal charity bit is at least as old as Coke’s similarly cloying 1971 ad, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” where a band of singers on a hilltop, all with the same glazed expression, sing about the peace and harmony brought about by sharing a Coke. Babel was not built in a day, so Google picks up where Coke left off and continues selling the idea that products have the transcendent ability to resolve deep cultural tensions.

The Google ad is titled “100 Billion Words” because we are told at the beginning of the ad that more than 100 billion words are translated everyday. How do we know this? Because Google has likely captured and analyzed them. The cynical ad copy dangles words—food, friendship and sports—like the piece of meat for the guard dog of the mind. Sure, who doesn’t like those things! It does not matter where you are from or what you believe, we can all agree about the goodness of food and sports.

Meanwhile, the more architectonic work of inculcating the universal language of the new digital medium, namely its binary logic and code, is the real work of the ad. Food and sports work just fine at the human level but the system level has to be made up of something more consistent and uniform like 1’s and 0’s. More importantly, binary language and logic must be embraced as the new natural syntax for human interaction via our omnipresent devices.

Jean Baudrillard hit upon this nearly forty years ago in his seminal treatise, Simulacra and Simulation. Signs no longer reflect a profound reality. Think of the sacraments. Oil, water, bread and wine are signs that bring about profound changes in the soul of the recipient because they are tied to a fundamental reality, God’s saving love for mankind affected through the Incarnation and the created order. In Baudrillard’s view, signs no longer have this sacramental power because they have been detached from the Real, due, in no small part, to the dissembling media environment.

How the Right Learned to Loathe Higher Education

Kim Phillips-Fein:

n October 2017, Donald Trump Jr. spoke at a fund-raising event held at AT&T Stadium, in Dallas, intended to raise money for scholarships at the University of North Texas. Despite the stated goal of supporting education, the president’s son used the occasion to lambaste the elitism and pretense of the modern university. Higher education, rather than improving the lives of young people, made them “unemployable” by teaching courses in “zombie studies, underwater basket weaving, and, my personal favorite, tree climbing.” Universities, he argued, offered parents the following deal: “We’ll take $200,000 of your money; in exchange, we’ll train your children to hate our country.”

In his mockery, Trump Jr. echoed one of the more disturbing works of literature to be published in recent years — the 2014 novel Victoria. This strange book (written by William S. Lind, under the pseudonym Thomas Hobbes) fantasizes about the eruption of civil war in the United States, driven by a multicultural politics emanating from academia. By the early 21st century, Lind writes, universities had become expensive “diploma mills crossed with asylums for the politically insane: howling Bluestockings, inventors of ‘Afrocentric history,’ mewling ‘advocates’ for the blind, the botched and the bewildered.” Knife-wielding Christian revolutionaries consequently set upon a faculty meeting at Dartmouth, stabbing 162 “politically correct luminaries” to death as just punishment for their professed “cultural Marxism.”

Generations of conservatives have seen scholars as responsible for corrupting the young and teaching them to hate their countries.

The Brain Exceeds the Most Powerful Computers in Efficiency

Eric Holloway:

A number of thinkers claim that there is an intrinsic difference between the human mind and a machine. John Searle developed a famous argument known as the Chinese Room, which shows that understanding a language is different from looking up constituent characters or words in a reference table. Then there is Thomas Nagel’s famous essay, “What it is like to be a bat?” which argues there is something irreducible about conscious experience, often called qualia, which means that the experience cannot be captured mechanically. Hubert Dreyfus argues that machines cannot replicate human thought because ideas are analogs and are embodied within a broader context.

These arguments point to an inherent difference between the human mind and machines, a qualitative line. But where precisely this line lies is not pinned down. As a result, while the arguments are certainly appealing on an intuitive level and can be persuasive, they lack scientific grounding. They do not result in a hypothesis that can be examined and tested.

Is there is a scientific line between mind and machine? That is, can we measure the difference between what minds and machines can do? Near the end of his life, computer pioneer John von Neumann (1903–1957) began to evaluate the differences. At that point in computer technology, there was a significant difference in processing efficiency.1

The world’s watersheds, mapped in gorgeous detail

Frank Jacobs:

These maps are both data-rich and absolutely gorgeous. You’re looking at watershed maps, showing the flow of tributary streams into main rivers, and of those water courses into the sea (or final destinations inland). The streams are shown in the Strahler Stream Order Classification, which uses width to indicate the hierarchy of streams. Watersheds (a.k.a. drainage basins or catchment areas) are grouped together by color.

The maps are the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs, 33, who combines expertise in GIS with a passion for beautiful maps. “GIS is short for Geographic Information Systems. It’s a collective word for anything using spatial or geographic data — from monitoring changes in forest cover with satellite data to creating crime density maps for the police,” Szucs explains. “In this case, I’ve used GIS to create artistic maps, which is a beautiful hybrid of the artsy and geeky sides of my personality.”

Cory Booker Has a School Choice Problem

Ed Kilgore:

The growing militancy of teachers unions and their tendency to make uncontrolled growth of charter schools a primary issue means Booker won’t be able to dodge or finesse the issue much longer. And the way the wind is blowing in Democratic circles was amply illustrated by a recent column from former Chicago mayor — and former Clinton and Obama staffer — Rahm Emanuel, who regretted his long battles with teachers over his advocacy of “education reform,” which often came across as simply union-bashing.

Booker could choose to flatly repudiate his past positions on education policy and take this issue largely off the table for the 2020 primaries. Or he could, as other Democrats have long done, draw a bright line between private-school vouchers and public charter schools, and reject unaccountable charters that exist to make profits. He could even double down on his heresies as a token of independence from Democratic interest groups. But at some point soon he’ll have to make up his mind.

2019 Madison School Board Election: Seat 5 Q&A from the WiSJ

Logan Wroge:

What is the most pressing issue facing the Madison School District and how would you address it?

Mertz: Trust and accountability. Providing our students with the education they deserve requires repairing the collapses of trust within our schools, and between our families and our schools. We need to exercise respect for one another, and work together with honesty and hope. Building trust and accountability require practicing trust.

Mirilli: Schools cannot function or achieve positive outcomes and growth working in silos. We have an opportunity through collaborative work internally and externally to create sustainable change. Promoting teachers’ leadership, striving for racial equity and implementing the Behavior Education Plan are my greatest priorities.

Roe: Top-down directives from all levels keep experienced teachers and principals from doing the job they were hired to do. The Madison School District is a district overloaded with powerful paper-pushers who have little or no experience in actually working with children. The best solution is to offer true school choice

Much more on the 2019 Madison school board election, here.

Commentary on Wisconsin Voucher Spending (no mention of total spending….)

Susan Endres:

“It’s important for districts and taxpayers to understand the effect of open enrollment and the movement of money that occurs there, too,” he said. “Because there are a higher number of kids who open-enroll from public school to public school than receive vouchers through the state.”

Ruddy made the same connection.

“I think the open enrollment program was intended to give parents an opportunity to pick and choose what works best for their families, and in some respects that’s part of what the argument is for the parental choice program too,” Ruddy said. “It’s a mixed bag of things where, you know, it’s hard to argue with providing people the choices that they want.”

Wisconsin taxpayer’s spent $11.5 billion through redistributed state tax dollars during the 2017-2019 budget.

Adult Education Comes of Age

Beth Hawkins:

The city of Rochester in southeastern Minnesota is home to just 120,000 residents, but it draws upwards of one million visitors a year. Most of them come to seek medical care at the Mayo Clinic, which employs 34,000 people and anchors the city’s remarkably stable economy.

City leaders have a plan to double Rochester’s population over the next two decades. Ground is being broken on hotels, condo developments, and upscale facilities designed to draw patients and new residents alike. Developers from Abu Dhabi have begun work on the centerpiece of this activity: a million-square-foot mixed-use complex that will open onto the serpentine banks of the Zumbro River.

This unusual level of prosperity is a boon for job seekers, especially those with specialized training, but one segment of Rochester’s populace has been locked out of the economic boom: hundreds of adults who are immigrants or refugees, who didn’t graduate from high school, or who for some other reason lack basic job skills.

Civics: New Totalitarianism

Clarissa:

So I’m teaching a course on totalitarianism, right? And I kept thinking how outdated it all is. It’s still important to learn because it’s history but the material feels more antiquated and irrelevant than anything discussed in the course on Cervantes.

The repressive state apparatus that polices people into compliance is no longer needed. At the behest and with the aid of corporate giants people police each other into the kind of ideological compliance that traditional totalitarian regimes could only dream of.

In a recent article, a student at Yale unwittingly mimicks the speech patterns and ideas of her peers in the Stalinist USSR. The difference, though, is that she isn’t living in a police state that is conducting a genocide. She isn’t trying to survive in the midst of Stalinist purges. She isn’t coerced into this stance by the fear of being dragged off to a concentration camp in the middle of the night.

The vigilance that this student proposes to exercise isn’t based on the waning power of the neutered state. The surveillance apparatus she wants to use is corporate. And the ultimate goal is to ensure that corporate interests are never opposed.

The wall-to-wall propaganda that characterizes this new totalitarianism isn’t state-sponsored either. It’s disseminated solely through corporate channels. Traditional politicians are squeezed out by TV and social media stars who represent this new form of power. The complete dependence of their popularity on Twitter and Instagram means they will do absolutely anything to avoid being deplatformed. It’s no longer about courting rich donors to donate to your campaign. Now it’s all about being a funny enough clown that attracts hits and likes to enrich the owners of these platforms.

Additional commentary.

Curated Education Information