In 2005, a study found that 10 percent of graduate and professional students at the University of California at Berkeley had contemplated suicide. More than half reported feeling depressed a lot of the time. While concerns about undergraduates’ mental health were already growing then and have only increased since, the finding about graduate students surprised and alarmed many experts. And because of Berkeley’s prominence in educating future Ph.D.s and professors, the study was widely circulated.
Ten years later, the graduate student government at Berkeley is releasing a new study. It too finds a high percentage of graduate students showing signs of depression.
The new study is not strictly comparable to the one of a decade ago. This time the Berkeley graduate students were asked a series of questions to measure their life satisfaction and depression levels, rather than asking them if they felt depressed. The graduate students were also asked a series of other questions about their lives so researchers could note apparent relationships between certain factors and good mental health.
Claudia Niessler wouldn’t have attended a university that charged tuition, though even without it her living expenses in college require her to work as many as 20 hours a week at a supermarket.
Stefan Steinbock pipes in that having to pay tuition would discourage people with good grades but low incomes from getting university degrees. Eliminating financial stress means he can focus on his academics.
But Peter-André Alt contends that being unable to charge tuition means universities are overcrowded and thinly stretched. Meanwhile, hard-pressed taxpayers are unfairly forced to fill the void, even if they don’t go to college or have kids who do.
Niessler and Steinbock are students at Freie Universität in Berlin; Alt is the university’s president. Together, they embody the surprising ambivalence, unexpected nuances, and general pros and cons of tuition-free university in Germany, a model proposed in the US by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
But Hamid also thinks there’s something lacking in Western democracies, that there’s a sense of overarching meaninglessness in political and cultural life in these countries that can help explain why a young Muslim who grew up in the U.K. might feel drawn to martyrdom, for example. This is not a dismissal of democracy, nor does it comprehensively explain the phenomenon of jihadism. Rather, it’s a note of skepticism about the promise of secular democracy—and the wisdom of pushing that model on other cultures and regions.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – Psalm 111:10.
The day when police zap suspects from the sky with drones carrying stun guns may be nearing.
Taser International Inc., known for its stun guns and body cameras, is exploring the concept of a drone armed with a stun gun for use by police. This week, the company held discussions with police officials about such a device during a law-enforcement conference here.
Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said the company’s advanced research team met with law enforcement customers “to discuss various future concepts” to get feedback.
I volunteered until Sal turned Khan Academy into a real, more-than-one-person company, at which point I joined as our first engineer. I felt deep pride in using the engineering and management lessons I’d learned from Joel and Fog Creek to build a team pointed at KA’s epic mission: “A free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”
Now we’re a company of ~120 people. And that group has been steadily adding momentum to the pursuit of our mission, increasing Khan Academy’s impact a little here and a lot there…making me thankful while I just try to hold on:
We serve over 10M active learners monthly (37M+ registered students, 1.5M+ registered educators).
We’ve made thousands and thousands of educational videos, articles, and interactive exercises available for free to all learners (forever). Either by creating ‘em ourselves or partnering with exciting folks like Pixar and Crash Course.
All the content’s available in many different languages across many devices. And we’re aiming at larger and larger learner populations next.
We partnered with College Board to provide free, official SAT test prep, and within one year there’s been a 19% drop in the number of students who paid for SAT prep.
64% of first-generation students at top universities said that Khan Academy played a meaningful role in their education (survey by an independent group).
Since 2001, about $15 billion has been spent by taxpayers and philanthropists trying to boost academic achievement in American public schools. These efforts have largely failed — especially in high school. For the average 17-year-old, reading and math scores have not budged since 1971. On standardized tests, white 17-year-olds still outscore black 17-year-olds by 20 points or more — a stubborn gap, unchanged for 30 years.
Laurene Powell Jobs is undaunted by these facts. To her, the cause of the failure is clear: High schools fail to serve American kids because they were designed a hundred years ago for an industrial society that has ceased to exist. “You can pull all the disaggregated data that you want and get depressed about it,” she told me in June, as we sat drinking wine in the lobby of a downtown Chicago hotel — but what high school needs is a “completely changed design in 25,000 places.” Powell Jobs, who is the widow of Steve Jobs and worth about $18 billion, proposes the overhaul of all high schools neutrally, as though she’s suggesting something ordinary, like a cleanup of the garage. “That’s what we need to do.”
“We should have the best education system in the world!” she continues. “We should! We shouldn’t just have the best military. We shouldn’t just have the best economy. We should have the best education system. Of course we should! Every single person would agree to that!” It is perhaps not surprising that Powell Jobs holds a version of her husband’s disregard for Establishment institutions. But whereas the myth of Jobs portrays him as an enfant terrible, his widow is his opposite: low-key, disciplined, self-contained. At about six feet tall, she looks like a Valkyrie and comports herself like a queen. It’s her insistent optimism, even in the face of dire realities, such as the failure of a generation of school reformers to achieve any substantive gains, that betrays her defiance.
Last month, Powell Jobs announced the details of a $100 million investment in American high school through a contest she helped design called XQ: The Super School Project. She is not naïve to how venture philanthropists can be perceived by the people in the trenches, as unwelcome intruders or self-regarding colonizers. But she has lived in Silicon Valley for half her life, and in her world, “people actually get excited about solving problems. I feel very strongly that the problems we get to solve are really hard, otherwise they would have been solved. Now it’s our turn. We’re going to bring in people from all different disciplines who think about things a little different. Sometimes, they take it to the extreme, so — if we were to do this, which is not plausible, but if we were to colonize Mars, what would be our first step? And so you backwards map. After a couple of decades of living there, you think, Well, this shouldn’t be insurmountable. It’s a lot harder to have an early detection of all cancers than it is to give an excellent education to every kid in our country
The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a secret court to effectively turn its back on deciding the meaning of a broad swath of surveillance and cybersecurity laws without public disclosure.
A motion the ACLU is filing on Wednesday before the controversial foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court, a panel that operates in secret, argues that the first amendment requires the release of numerous classified decisions between 2001 and 2015 that have established a legal foundation for expanding the government’s surveillance activities.
Among the Fisa court opinions sought is an interpretation of the seminal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 that many suspect will shed light on a reported Yahoo program to scan vast amounts of users’ emails.
Critics of the court, most prominently Oregon Democratic senator Ron Wyden, have said its classified rulings amount to a body of “secret law” that discard congressionally enacted privacy restrictions. The court and its supporters in government rejoinder that the extraordinary sensitivity around US surveillance practices for national security objectives necessitate the secrecy.
It was a Friday afternoon at Mike Lanza’s house in Menlo Park, Calif., and the boys were going crazy. There were boys playing ball in the street, while in the backyard, boys were skittering along the top of the fence while others were wrestling on the trampoline. The house itself is nothing special — a boxy contemporary, haphazardly furnished — but even by the elevated standards of Silicon Valley, the Lanzas’ play space is extraordinary. It boasts a map of the neighborhood painted on the driveway, a fabulous 24-foot-long play river — an installation art piece, designed for children’s museums — and a two-story log-cabin playhouse with a sleeping loft, whiteboard walls inside for coloring and really good speakers, blasting Talking Heads.
Leo Lanza, who was 5 at the time, was taunting my kids, claiming they were too scared to climb 12 feet to the playhouse roof, using the toe holds, and then leap onto the trampoline, which has no surrounding netting. My daughter, Violet, the only girl there, continued to decorate the playhouse walls with a purple marker. “I don’t care if you get hurt,” she responded airily. Her twin brother, Kieran, scrunched up his round face, turning pink. “That’s not true!” he wailed. “I am not scared.”
Last week the University of Michigan held “diversity” forums sponsored by the Residential College (RC), but some were irked that the events were separated by race — one was for people of color, the other “open to all.”
Because it was geared “to create an open dialogue geared specifically to all people of color involved in the program,” a reporter from The Michigan Daily was asked to leave the forum for non-white students.
The reporter was permitted to attend the other event.
Estelle B. Richman believes teachers – especially those in struggling neighborhoods – need ample resources, and that parents ought to have choices about where their children attend school.
The public servant who was once a licensed school psychologist is well aware of the challenges the School Reform Commission faces.
And, she said, she’s up for it.
Donald Trump criticized universities last month for hoarding their endowments, saying that they “use the money to pay their administrators, to put donors’ names on their buildings.” He added that “many universities spend more on private-equity fund managers than on tuition programs.” Mr. Trump suggested that he would work with Congress to encourage colleges to direct more of their investments toward students.
That’s a laudable—and achievable—goal. Many of the schools with large endowments, such as those in the Ivy League, will protest that they are private institutions, and that the government shouldn’t tell them how to spend their money. But these colleges also receive massive cash transfers from the federal government, giving Washington a way to impel them to put their endowments to more responsible use.
These are the words of RH Tawney, quoted by the Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan in his renowned Ruskin College Speech on the 18 October 1976 as an answer to the question, ‘what do we want from the education of our children and young people?’
Exactly 40 years on, it is vital that parents ask this question with their heads and their hearts and make their voices heard to influence the state.
We are now used to Prime Ministers speaking out on education, yet Callaghan was aware of the new turf upon which he was treading and makes reference to those who inundated him with advice before the speech; “some helpful and others telling me less politely to keep off the grass”.
Speaking in the recent aftermath of events around William Tyndale School, Callaghan had touched on tensions between progressive and traditional approaches to education, casting doubt on “new, informal methods of teaching”, yet looking askance at “those who claim to defend standards, but who in reality are simply seeking to defend old privileges and inequalities
Just six years ago, Sun Prairie opened a new high school for students in 10th through 12th grades, part of a successful $96 million referendum in 2007.
The district now has 2,379 high school students, including ninth-graders who are in a different building. That gives Sun Prairie the second-largest high school population in the state, behind only Kenosha Indian Trail, and voters could be asked to build another high school in two years.
Six of the Sun Prairie School District’s seven elementary schools are over capacity, and more than 1,600 students could be added over the next decade in a city whose population has swelled 57 percent since 2000 to more than 32,000.
A state in Australia has launched an education programme designed to smash gender stereotypes and tackle the root causes of domestic violence.
The “respectful relationship” curriculum will be mandatory in all schools in Victoria from next year.
Students will explore issues around social inequality, gender-based violence and male privilege.
However, a report on a 2015 pilot trial accused it of presenting all men as “bad” and all women as “victims”.
Pay inequality, anger management, sexual orientation and the dangers of pornography will be among the topics explored by students in the programme, costing A$21.8m (£13.5m; $16.5m).
Assumptions: The software is documented, has users, and bugs, avoiding breakage is important.
0. Set up and install the software on your own server. Verify and demonstrate that it can handle a request. You can add a new page to the site. Authorize a new user.
On the latest round of statewide tests, fewer than half of Wisconsin public school students in grades three through eight scored proficient or better in English language arts or math.
The results, released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction, showed 42.5 percent of students scored in those top two categories in English language arts, while slightly fewer, 42.3 percent, scored proficient or advanced in math.
The state simultaneously released scores from the ACT college readiness assessment, now required of all high school juniors in Wisconsin. In this second year of the requirement, the composite ACT score for public school students was 20.1 out of a possible 36, up one-tenth of a point from the prior year.
The results are the latest picture of how publicly-funded students are performing in core subjects statewide.
A 2-year-old statewide ACT exam administered to all juniors offered a look at performance at high schools funded by taxpayers. Juniors in public schools posted an average composite score of 20.1, close to the same as last year. Juniors using taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private high schools posted a lower overall ACT score — 18.2 — than public schools but made comparatively more improvement from last year.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction made test-score results for all public schools and districts available on the department’s searchable data portal Tuesday. The private-school results can be found in separate spreadsheets on the department’s website.
“The federally required tests give us a look at how kids are doing when compared to a rigorous standard,” DPI Spokesman Tom McCarthy said. “They are not trying to assess whether a student is passing or failing a given grade.”
The U.S. high-school graduation rate is at a high, with gains by minority students narrowing the gap with white students, according to figures released Monday by the White House.
Still, graduation rates among black and Native American students continue to lag white students by double digits, the numbers show.
The overall graduation rate reached 83.2% in 2014-15—up from 79% in 2010-11, the first school year all states used a consistent measurement.
Engineering and technology are among the most challenging fields of study in college, but all of that hard work apparently is paying off, as many of the top-earning entry-level jobs are tied to related majors, according to a Glassdoor study released Monday.
The job search engine analyzed more than 500,000 resumes and self-reported salaries to determine which majors pay the most during the first five years after graduation. Eight of the 10 most-bankable majors are tied to engineering or technology, such as computer science, electrical engineering and information technology. Nearly half of the majors listed are in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, though business-related majors, such as accounting and marketing, crack the top half of the 50 majors listed.
The President of Iowa State University was recently reprimanded for crashing one school-owned airplane, overusing the other, and charging the cost to the institution. The institution’s Board is asking serious questions: such as “why they were paying for the President to go back and forth to his family-owned Christmas Tree business in North Carolina,” but not, apparently, “why in God’s name does our university own two aeroplanes?” As one does.
A thousand more people have been shot in Chicago this year compared with the same time last year after a weekend that saw eight people killed and at least 40 wounded, according to police and data compiled by the Tribune.
At least 3,475 people had been shot in the city as of shortly after midnight Monday compared with 2,441 people shot this time last year, an increase of 1,034, according to Tribune data. There have been at least 595 homicides this year compared with 409 this time last year, an increase of 186.
The gun violence over the weekend was at levels usually seen in the summer when shootings typically spike.
A month after Trenton Public Schools outlined its doomsday budget earlier this year, the top brass of the district received fat bonuses.
According to documents obtained by The Trentonian, 55 administrators received a combined $1.7 million in unused vacation time in February and May, and kept working for the district.
That type of payout is generally only made to retiring employees, but this time around, a one-time payment was agreed upon between the Board of Education, the state Department of Education fiscal monitor, and the Trenton Administrators & Supervisors Association (TASA) in the union contract.
The White House recently released two important reports on the future of artificial intelligence. The “robot question” is as urgent today as it was in the 1960s. Back then, worry focused on the automation of manufacturing jobs. Now, the computerization of services is top of mind.
At present, economists and engineers dominate public debate on the “rise of the robots.” The question of whether any given job should be done by a robot is modeled as a relatively simple cost-benefit analysis. If the robot can perform a task more cheaply than a worker, substitute it in. This microeconomic approach to filling jobs dovetails with a technocratic, macroeconomic goal of maximizing some blend of GDP and productivity.
Bob Walser’s induction into Minneapolis school board politics has been pleasant, so far. A newbie to the campaign trail, he secured the endorsement of the DFL Party and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers last spring and has been encouraged by the well-wishes he’s received from constituents in District 4.
“When the community comes together, it’s really, really heartwarming. That’s been the joy of it,” he said, noting people were very positive and supportive of his candidacy at a recent fall festival event. “People are grateful. That’s really affirming.”
A majority of the Madison School rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.
State Superintendent Tony Evers announced Monday that as part of the next budget, he’ll ask the Legislature to change state law to allow MPS to start the academic term earlier than Labor Day so that Superintendent Darienne Driver can pursue an aggressive slate of credit-recovery programs for high school students.
“It’s time to look at doing some things differently for Milwaukee Public Schools,” Evers said. “If they can do credit recovery in a robust way, that could raise the graduation rate.”
The achievement gap is so stark in Wisconsin because graduation rates are very high for white students and very low for black students. Almost 93% of white students earn diplomas on time in Wisconsin, which ranks just behind white students in New Jersey (94%) and Texas (93.4%). But Wisconsin’s graduation rate for black students is 64.1%, which ranks 6th lowest among states. Nevada is the worst, with a 55.5% black graduation rate, and Minnesota ranks fourth-lowest, at 62%.
Nationally, 74.6% of black students graduate on time.
1. The percent of students that tested advanced or proficient on the math portion increased 1% (45% to 46%) and increased 2% on the reading portion (40% to 42%) of the spring MAP test.
2. Proficiency gaps exist between demographic groups on MAP reading and math scores. These gaps are similar to disparities on other standardized tests.
3. All demographic groups saw the same or an increase in the percent of students achieving proficiency in reading and math from fall to spring during both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.
4. Students in each demographic group met their growth goal at more similar rates than the percent achieving proficiency. All demographic groups saw the same or an increase in the percent of students meeting reading growth goals. This is encouraging because students who have a lower score must grow more over the year to meet their goal.
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has administered the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test in grades 3-8 for the past five school years: 2011-12 through 2015-16. This report focuses on progress made on the percent of students testing at least proficient in math and reading for each of the fall and spring administrations of the test during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years and the fall to spring growth of students during each of these school years.
2011-2012 Madison MAP assessment data.
Almost all schools set goals for MAP growth that aligned with a district recommendation: 5%, 10%, or 15%. In addition, we see that very few schools actually achieved growth improvements of 5% or more, with changes in growth generally clustering around 0%.
Notes and links, here.
Chicago, interestingly, publishes extensive school data, here.
Before we had smartphones and iPads, parents ignored their children by getting lost in a newspaper story or keeping one eye on the television. Now parents are distracted by mobile technology more than anything else, according to new research, and the consequences are worse.
In a recent study of caregivers, child-behavior specialists at University of Michigan and Boston Medical Center found that parents feel their phones and tablets command more of their attention than other distractions, in way that’s unpredictable and requires more emotional investment. As a result, their interactions with their kids suffer.
In the locker room chaos before school Tuesday morning, the young men of Grapevine High School’s football team scrambled to get ready for a last-minute team meeting.
“Hurry up, hurry up,” head coach Randy Jackson shouted. “Something really important to talk about today, so let’s go!”
The teenage boys who were dressed grabbed folding chairs and set up in the main space of the locker room. Usually, they don’t step on the big red Mustang in the center of the room, but today they needed all the space they could get. Both the junior varsity and varsity squads crammed in to hear what the coach had to say, some lining the halls and craning their necks to see.
The working paper by Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist, casts light on this population, which grew during the recession that started in 2007. As of last month, 11.4 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 — or about seven million people — were not in the labor force, which means that they were not employed and were not seeking a job. This percentage has been rising for decades (it was less than 4 percent in the 1950s), but the trend accelerated in the last 20 years.
Surveys taken between 2010 and this year show that 40 percent of prime working-age men who are not in the labor force report having pain that prevents them from taking jobs for which they are qualified. More than a third of the men not in the labor force said they had difficulty walking or climbing stairs or had another disability. Forty-four percent said they took painkillers daily and two-thirds of that subset were on prescription medicines. By contrast, just 20 percent of employed men and 19 percent of unemployed men (those looking for work) in the same age group reported taking any painkillers.
On a hot Thursday afternoon in August, Tatlin McLeod sat on a shaded bench at the Chappaqua train station, sipping an iced drink out of a takeout cup. McLeod lives in the Bronx and commutes to this Westchester County suburb, 35 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. She has been working as a nanny for various Chappaqua families for 13 years. She is black and an immigrant from Jamaica.
Tucked into a set of forested hills, Chappaqua is a hamlet of 1,400 residents, famous as the adopted home of Bill and Hillary Clinton. I grew up in a neighboring village called Ossining, but to me, Chappaqua has always seemed a world apart; almost like the movie set version of a 19th century American suburb. Stately colonials and Victorians are situated on large plots, nary a McMansion in sight. (The Clintons live on a street called Old House Lane.) Many residents can walk from their homes to the train station, where there is an upscale restaurant and coffee shop. Property values reflect the fact that the public schools in Chappaqua are considered some of the best in the nation. The average home price here is more than $840,000, compared with $340,000 in Ossining.
About 60% of school districts will get a boost in state aid in 2016-’17, but the money will flow through to property tax relief instead of funding for classrooms, according to new state figures.
Meanwhile, costs to taxpayers for the Milwaukee voucher program and costs to nearly all districts for the expense of running independent charter schools have both dropped. Those changes benefit Milwaukee as well as taxpayers in most other districts getting more aid.
“More state aid doesn’t provide us more money, but it is good news for our Pewaukee taxpayers,” said Pewaukee Schools Superintendent JoAnn Sternke, whose district will see a 19% increase in aid.
In total, $4.58 billion was appropriated for general school aid in 2016-’17, according to figures from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The money to be distributed is an increase of about $122 million from last year, thanks in part to lawmakers changing the way independent charter schools and private voucher schools are funded.
The report by Dave Umhoefer and Sarah Hauer was the result of a study of the five-year impact of Act 10 during a nine-month O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism through the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.
Among the report’s findings:
Teachers are moving from district to district, creating a year-round cycle of vacancies and turnover as fewer people enter the profession.
An “arms race” for teachers is rewarding the most sought-after educators with five-figure signing bonuses and giving better-paying districts an edge in luring away top talent. Taxpayers win because of a state cap on school spending but that cap has undermined some districts’ ability to fend off the poaching of their teachers.
Underachievers are being rooted out and districts are slowly but steadily linking pay to performance and prizing skill over seniority.
By eliminating the most important elements of collective bargaining, Act 10 gutted unions, which have lost strength and membership and left many veteran teachers demoralized over past influence and compensation.
Not all its effects are bad, and the impact of Act 10 on educational quality statewide may be negligible so far.
Before a special night out, a glamorous Parisienne might treat herself to un brushing, at which her hair will be blow-dried and styled. In Moscow, would-be clubbers must first make it past feyskontrol (‘face control’), to ensure that only the beautiful people come in. And those Berliners who just can’t let the party end can carry on at eine Afterhour until well after the sun comes up.
These words – brushing, feyskontrol, Afterhour – seem odd to English ears. We recognise them, sort of, but we’d never use them ourselves – not in those ways, at least. They are borrowed from English but their meanings are new and different; linguists call them pseudo-anglicisms. Sometimes they are English words used to mean something else, other times they are combinations that native speakers find plain weird. Occasionally they’ve been made up to sound like English, but have nothing to do with the language of Shakespeare at all.
t was just after sundown when a man knocked on Steve Talley’s door in south Denver. The man claimed to have hit Talley’s silver Jeep Cherokee and asked him to assess the damage. So Talley, wearing boxers and a tank top, went outside to take a look.
Seconds later, he was knocked to the pavement outside his house. Flash bang grenades detonated, temporarily blinding and deafening him. Three men dressed in black jackets, goggles, and helmets repeatedly hit him with batons and the butts of their guns. He remembers one of the men telling him, “So you like to fuck with my brothers in blue!” while another stood on his face and cracked two of his teeth. “You’ve got the wrong guy,” he remembers shouting. “You guys are crazy.”
Talley was driven to a Denver detention center, where he was booked for two bank robberies — the first on May 14 and the second on September 5, 2014, 10 days before his arrest — and for assaulting an officer during the second robbery.
Do you think technology is a key to improving the situation, since people can now see it?
Definitely. When you listen to the great speakers or the great peacemakers of the world, the great problem-solvers, the one thing they always rely on to fix any problems is education. Social media is definitely a great way to spread information. I can put out a tweet, and if it goes viral, up to a million people or more can see it.
Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.
Pick any number. If that number is even, divide it by 2. If it’s odd, multiply it by 3 and add 1. Now repeat the process with your new number. If you keep going, you’ll eventually end up at 1. Every time.
Mathematicians have tried millions of numbers and they’ve never found a single one that didn’t end up at 1 eventually. The thing is, they’ve never been able to prove that there isn’t a special number out there that never leads to 1. It’s possible that there’s some really big number that goes to infinity instead, or maybe a number that gets stuck in a loop and never reaches 1. But no one has ever been able to prove that for certain.
The Association of Art Historians called the decision a significant loss of access to a range of cultures, artefacts and ideas for young people.
It added: “Being able to signpost educational opportunities such as an A-level in art history to students who may never have considered this an opportunity, forms a significant part of our campaign work with partners across west Yorkshire, Bristol, Brighton and Sussex. The loss of that A-level means that for many prospective students of the subject that door will close and future opportunities [will be] lost.”
“If you want a career in medicine these days you’re better off studying mathematics or computing than biology.”
This pithy aside was delivered by Sir Rory Collins, the head of clinical trials at Oxford University, in the middle of a discussion about the pros and cons of statins.
It is a nice one-liner, but I didn’t think much more about it until a few days later, when I found myself sitting in a press conference to mark the launch of a new initiative on cancer.
Rubbing shoulders on the panel with the director of the Institute of Cancer Research, Professor Paul Workman, was a scientist I didn’t recognise, but it soon became clear this was exactly what Sir Rory had had in mind.
Dr Andrea Sottoriva is an astrophysicist. He has spent much of his career searching for Neutrinos – the elusive sub-atomic particles created by the fusion of elements in stars like our sun – at the bottom of the ocean, and analysing the results of atom smashing experiments with the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Geneva.
In recent decades, universities have expanded their efforts to patent academic research. It’s not exactly clear, however, who licenses or buys university patents and how they get used.
In 2007, several universities signed a statement promising to be mindful of public interests when licensing or selling their patents. The signatories, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard and the University of California, agreed that public interests wouldn’t be served by turning over patents to companies who “rely primarily on threats of infringement litigation to generate revenue.” In other words, it was conceded that patents shouldn’t be given away to patent trolls. Unfortunately, not all universities have kept their promise.
Search the Internet for news stories about public libraries in America and chances are that, sooner or later, the phrase “on the front lines” will come up. The war that is being referred to, and that libraries have been quietly waging since the September 11 attacks, is in defense of free speech and privacy—two concepts so fundamental to our democracy, our society, and our Constitution that one can’t help noting how rarely their importance has been mentioned during the current election cycle. In fact quite the opposite has been true: Donald Trump has encouraged the muzzling of reporters and the suppression of political protest, while arguing that government agencies aren’t doing enough spying on private citizens, especially Muslims. Hillary Clinton has failed to be specific about what she would do to limit surveillance, while her running mate, Tim Kaine, has promised to expand “intelligence gathering.” Meanwhile, public libraries continue to be threatened by government surveillance—and even police interference.
In the most recent such incident, a librarian in Kansas City, Missouri was arrested simply for standing up for a library patron’s free speech rights at a public event featuring a former US diplomat. Both the librarian and the patron face criminal charges. The incident took place last May, but went largely unnoticed until several advocacy groups called attention to the situation at the end of September. In cooperation with the Truman Presidential Library and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Kansas City Public Library had invited Dennis Ross—a former advisor on the Middle East to Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, and to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and currently a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy—to speak about Truman and Israel at its Plaza Branch. The library hosts between twelve and twenty speakers each month, and though some of the topics and speakers have been controversial, the events have always been peaceful.
Or maybe, maybe, it’s all just a way of repackaging the same concerning results — too many kids who can’t read well, do math well or graduate high school are not ready for the world. And maybe it’s just intended to reduce the (sometimes counterproductive) pressure for change.
The letter from Evers was specifically relevant because it said that for at least the foreseeable future, MPS will not have to face the Republican-created law it dreaded, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program that was going to give Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele control of efforts to turn around a few “failing” MPS schools.
Evers said that when the new report cards come out, MPS will not have a rating that would trigger the Opportunity Schools intervention.
Frankly, that Opportunity Schools part of last week’s news didn’t interest me much because I considered the idea dead — no pulse, no breathing — since the resignation in June of the volunteer commissioner, Demond Means, who was also the superintendent of Mequon-Thiensville Schools (no, I never did understand this arrangement).
Here’s how it works (watch the mirrors): The school district keeps paying 7% of current teachers’ salaries into their pension fund, but it won’t make pension payments for new teachers. Instead, it pays new teachers 7% more and bills 7% for their pensions.
It’s not a wash, the city hopes: To make savings happen, the city will create a new incentive for experienced teachers to retire—$1,500 per year of service.
If it hangs together, the deal might reduce total spending on salaries for a couple of years, until raises come in the third and fourth contract years, while increasing long-term spending on pensions. It’s perfect for politicians who think only in the short term.
Neither the school district nor Mayor Rahm Emanuel could provide a cost estimate for the new contract.
Our field has always encouraged – required, really – peer critiques. But the new media (e.g., blogs, twitter, Facebook posts) are encouraging uncurated, unfiltered trash-talk. In the most extreme examples, online vigilantes are attacking individuals, their research programs, and their careers. Self-appointed data police are volunteering critiques of such personal ferocity and relentless frequency that they resemble a denial-of-service attack that crashes a website by sheer volume of traffic.
Only what’s crashing are people. These unmoderated attacks create collateral
damage to targets’ careers and well being, with no accountability for the bullies. Our colleagues at all career stages are leaving the field because of the sheer adversarial viciousness. I have heard from graduate students opting out of academia, assistant
professors afraid to come up for tenure, mid-career people wondering how to protect their labs, and senior faculty retiring early, all because of methodological terrorism. I am not naming names because ad hominem smear tactics are already damaging our field. Instead, I am describing a dangerous minority trend that has an outsized impact and a chilling effect on scientific discourse. I am not a primary target, but my goal is to give voice to others too sensible to object publicly.
Up there with being an astronaut, comic book artist, or the President, there’s one job that your average kid would probably love to snag: Working at Pixar. Animation and Pixar enthusiasts of all ages, take note! Pixar in A Box (or PIAB) is a collaboration between Khan Academy and Pixar Animation Studios that focuses on real-Pixar-world applications of concepts you might usually encounter in the classroom. The latest batch of Pixar in a Box gives Makers a rare peek under the hood so that you can get a whiff of the warm engine that keeps those Pixar pistons pumping. There’s no need to register for the course, nor a requirement to watch the lessons in order — just head to their site and start exploring!
The national board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will vote this week on a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools. If they vote yes, they should also change their storied name because they will be voting to leave black children behind.
Delegates to the NAACP national convention this summer passed a resolution to halt charter-school expansion. Most of the resolution’s complaints against charters, such as that they perpetuate segregation, are spurious. The NAACP’s main gripe seems to be that charters are threatening the union-run public-school monopoly.
Total general government expenditure on education(all levels of government and all levels of education),expressed as a percentage of GDP. Since someobservations for 2014 are not available the mapdisplays the closest available data (2011 to 2014).
Earlier this year, LeapFrog Enterprises, the educational-entertainment business, sold itself for $1 a share. The deal came several months after LeapFrog received a warning from the New York Stock Exchange that it would be delisted if the value of its stock did not improve, a disappointing end to the public life of a company that had the best-performing IPO of 2002.
LeapFrog was one of the very last remaining of the dozens of investments made by Michael Milken through his ambitiously named Knowledge Universe. Founded in 1996 by Milken and his brother, Lowell, with the software giant Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, as a silent partner, Knowledge Universe aspired to transform education. Its founders intended it to become, in Milken’s phrase, “the pre-eminent for-profit education and training company,” serving the world’s needs “from cradle to grave.”
The district wants to permanently exceed state-imposed revenue limits by $26 million each year into perpetuity. The additional taxing authority would be phased in over four years, beginning this year. Over those four years, the additional cost to the owner of an average-priced home in the district — currently $254,548 — is estimated to average $35.76 annually.
Kahlenberg said he is hopeful that the momentum will continue should Hillary Clinton be elected president. The Democratic nominee chose a running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D), who brought up the nation’s history of segregated schools during the one and only vice presidential debate. His wife — Anne Holton, Virginia’s former education secretary — famously helped integrate Richmond Public Schools. And Clinton’s own campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” is also the name of President Obama’s proposal for a new $120 million grant program to support voluntary integration of public schools.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misreported the year in which there were only two districts seeking socioeconomic integration. The story has been updated.
While in Milwaukee last week, I had the chance to spend some time visiting with the leadership team for Seton Catholic Schools, a network of about two dozen elementary schools enrolling about 8,300 students. As a Jewish kid who always attended (and taught in) traditional public schools, I always find parochial schools innately interesting. What they’re doing at Seton is doubly so.
In recent decades, Catholic education has confronted a bunch of challenges. A half-century ago, the parochial staffing model relied heavily on nuns—which served to make staffing a no-brainer and to keep costs way down. Because those nuns are no longer there in significant numbers, staffing parochial schools is now a lot more expensive and difficult than it used to be. Charter schools offer a tuition-free alternative for lots of urban families that might have once considered parochial schools. Meanwhile, parochial schooling also has to deal with the same hidebound routines, dated facilities, and ineffective practices that hinder so many urban public schools.
Needless to say, our complaint garnered quite a bit of attention—including that of Senator Al Franken, who sent Google a letter asking some detailed questions about its privacy practices. As part of its answer, Google for the first time explicitly stated that even though they do collect information on students’ use of non-GAFE services, they treat that information as “student personal information” and do not use it to target ads.
Additionally, after we filed our complaint, Google published a new GAFE “privacy notice” (which Google is now calling “G Suite for Education”). The webpage was subsequently updated at least couple times this year and currently states, “For Apps for Education users in primary and secondary (K-12) schools, Google does not use any user personal information (or any information associated with an Apps for Education Account) to target ads, whether in Core Services or other Google services accessed while using an Apps for Education account.” 1
Many years ago, the great British neurologist Oliver Sacks, a man with a flair for subtle observations and the clear prose to describe them, wrote a book about strange cases of mental confusion he had encountered. Its title seizes your attention instantly: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
The title was no joke, nor was the man in question blind. His eyes registered the colors and the contours of his wife, but his mind had lost the capacity to interpret the messages correctly. The poor woman had to endure having her husband grasp her head with both hands as if to lift her and place her atop his head. Today, however, Dr. Sacks’s title might not pass muster before the captains of the current sexual and linguistic guard. Let me grasp their preferred title with both hands: The Adult Human Being Who Was Biologically Male but of As Yet Undetermined Sexual Preference and Sexual Identity Who Mistook His or Her or Zis or Xer Committed Life Partner Who Was Biologically Female but Also of As Yet Undetermined Sexual Preference and Sexual Identity for a Hat.
The sane reader will note that the only clear item in that sentence is the hat. The sane reader will also note that, of the two madmen, the man who mistakes his wife for a hat is as clear in the head as a sunny day by comparison with a person who could conceive of that new and “improved” title. At least the man who mistakes his wife for a hat still knows what a man is and what a wife is, though he is unclear about where she or his hat might be. But the person who thinks himself into believing that we cannot tell from ordinary observation who is a man and who is a woman is mad in a special sense. The first madman’s reason is struggling in the fog. The second madman’s reason is gasping for breath, because the second madman himself is throttling it.
Everybody agrees that better education and improved skills, for as many people as possible, is crucial to increasing productivity and living standards and to tackling rising inequality. But what if everybody is wrong?
Most economists are certain that human capital is as important to productivity growth as physical capital. And to some degree, that’s obviously true. Modern economies would not be possible without widespread literacy and numeracy: many emerging economies are held back by inadequate skills.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday outed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for feeding a Chicago-based company their user streams—a feed that was then sold to police agencies for surveillance purposes.
After the disclosure, the social media companies said they stopped their data firehouse to Chicago-based Geofeedia. In a blog post, the ACLU said it uncovered the data feeds as part of a public records request campaign of California law enforcement agencies. Geofeedia touts how it helped police track unrest during protests.
In one document, Geofeedia hailed its service because it paid for Twitter’s “firehose” and because it is the “only social media monitoring tool to have a partnership with Instagram.”
“Geofeed Streamer is unique to Geofeedia and has numerous uses (Ie: Live Events, Protests—which we covered Ferguson/Mike Brown nationally with great success, Disaster Relief, Etc),” said one document (PDF) that Geofeedia sent to a police agency, which was then forwarded to the ACLU.
Following the ACLU post, Twitter tweeted, “Based on information in the @ACLU’s report, we are immediately suspending @Geofeedia’s commercial access to Twitter data.”
In late October 2016 JSTOR will be launching an Open Access program, with titles from University of California Press, UCL Press, University of Michigan Press, and Cornell University Press. University of Michigan Press believes that integrating Open Access monographs with other types of content on JSTOR’s highly used platform, and making records available in library catalogs and discovery services, will increase the usage and impact of these resources. In addition, long-term preservation of the Open Access titles is assured by Portico. “The titles we will initially be including in JSTOR Open are those that libraries participating in the Knowledge Unlatched program have paid to make available,” said Charles Watkinson, Director of the Press. “We are proud to be working with JSTOR on this pilot initiative and look forward to continuing to partner with them to improve the program.”
Allow me to take a wild guess: New Jersey’s newly-anointed next governor Phil Murphy has never stepped foot in a charter school. Yet on Saturday, he, along with the rest of the NAACP National Board, will vote to call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.
Now allow me a wish: that Mr. Murphy had spent an afternoon last week, as I did, with a young man named Chris Eley. Chris grew up in one of Newark’s South Ward projects, sharing a three-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with nine other people, including two loving parents and two brothers. In the winter his extended family had no hot water; they first had a working shower when he turned twenty years old.
As a young boy Chris attended Camden St. Elementary School, a traditional Newark public school where 17% of third-graders read at grade-level. He was in the gifted and talented program, spending afternoons in the public library reading about paleontology and was bullied for being a “nerd.” “School felt like a prison,” he told me. “It didn’t have anything to do with learning.”
Chris’s parents were effective, resourceful advocates. When he was ready for 8th grade they filled out an application for TEAM Academy, a Newark public charter school run by KIPP. Despite having to repeat 7th grade in order to catch up with his classmates, he recounted to me the sense of “immersing myself in a community, in a whole new world” where “the academics were challenging.”
For Chris and his family, KIPP was a life-saver. For many education advocates I’ve spoken to, NAACP’s anti-charter position is counter-intuitive. More than 160 African-American education leaders have signed a letter opposing the call for a moratorium. Parents are outraged. Chris Stewart reports that “every day more people are signing on and becoming more resolute about not allowing a retail civil rights organization to sell us down a river. But, to date, the NAACP has shown no interest in meeting with black people that disagree with them — even after repeated requests.”
Derrell Bradford writes today in The 74 that “NAACP’s long-standing resistance to empowering families with school choice remains antiquated and deeply wrongheaded.” Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Charter School Shoemaker in Philadelphia, calls the vote “alarming and unjust”; he suggests that those puzzled by the anti-choice leanings of this once-proud organization “follow the money,” which leads to anti-charter teacher union leaders who fund NAACP. (For more reactions from African-American leaders, see Education Post’s round-up.)
And here’s another riddle: how did governor-designee Phil Murphy end up as one of the Deciders?
Murphy is white. He went to Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He worked for twenty years at Goldman Sachs, retiring as a Senior Director with a multi-million dollar net worth. He lives in Middletown, NJ on a 6-acre riverfront estate with an estimated value of $9.6 million. He and his wife exercised a form of school choice available to (very) high-income parents: his children went to a N.J. private school called Rumson Country Day School (annual tuition: $29,000) and then to private Phillips Academy Andover boarding school (annual tuition: $54, 000).
Yet Murphy gets to decide whether the powerful NAACP takes a position about whether kids like Chris Eley get to go to public charter schools that offer challenging academic programs or whether they remain “in prison” in chronically-failing traditional schools. What’s wrong with this picture?
Maybe it’s as clear as day. Some of you non-New Jerseyans may be wondering why we’re all so sure who will succeed Chris Christie a year from now. That’s because most of the time the Garden State, at least in gubernatorial elections, practices an arcane form of democracy where party bosses, not real people, decide who wins primaries. As Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger wrote this weekend, after the other top Democratic contenders for governor abruptly dropped out of a race that officially hasn’t started yet and NJEA made an early endorsement,
Murphy won this thing because he spent a ton of money out of the gate, lending his campaign $10 million and funding a “think-tank” to punch out policy ideas. And the party bosses know he’s willing to spend tons more, including writing big checks for them.
“We saw it with Corzine, and we’re seeing it now,” says Brigid Harrison of Montclair State University. “On a gut level, that tells me something is seriously wrong.”
Similarly, the NAACP top bosses will disregard real people — Chris Eley’s parents, for example — when on Saturday they decide to bend to the will of union funders and lobby for the extinction of a form of school choice that non-millionaires can afford.
I wish that Murphy would consider spending an afternoon with Chris Eley who, at the ripe old age of 23, is a budding entrepreneur, real estate agent, motivational speaker, artist, and philanthropist. (If he’s pressed for time,or Chris is, he can go to Chris’ website.) Is that too much to ask for the privileged few who will cast a vote on Saturday for real people who don’t live on riverfront estates and send their kids to private school?
On a gut level, something is seriously wrong.
MacArthur Fellow Danielle Bassett says learning works best when you don’t overthink it.
Last year around this time, CIA stood up its first new office since 1963—the Directorate for Digital Innovation—a seismic shift for the agency that legitimized the importance of technology, including big data and analytics.
According to Deputy Director for Digital Innovation Andrew Hallman, the man tapped by CIA Director John Brennan to run the digital wing, that digital pivot is paying off.
The agency, Hallman said, has significantly improved its “anticipatory intelligence,” using a mesh of sophisticated algorithms and analytics against complex systems to better predict the flow of everything from illicit cash to extremists around the globe. Deep learning and other forms of machine learning can help analysts understand how seemingly disparate data sets might be linked or lend themselves to predicting future events with national security ramifications.
This month the ABA’s Council, which bears responsibility for accrediting law schools, will consider a proposal to tighten the accreditation standard governing bar passage. The proposed standard is a modest one: It requires simply that three-quarters of a school’s graduates who choose to take the bar exam pass that exam within two years of their first try.
Opponents of the proposal argue that it will diminish diversity in the legal profession. They draw upon data showing that minority applicants pass the bar at lower rates than their white peers. Requiring law schools to meet this modest bar passage standard, they suggest, will close down schools that enroll a substantial number of minority students.
Some of these claims are well intentioned, but they are misguided. They endorse a system of legal education in which minority students disproportionately enroll at low-ranked law schools, pay top tuition to attend those schools, and fail the bar exam at distressingly high rates. This is not a recipe for diversifying the legal profession.
Law schools have much better tools for accomplishing that goal. We could lower tuition, which would help less affluent minorities afford law school. We could award scholarships based on need, rather than LSAT scores. We could reform teaching methods to support first-generation lawyers. We could devote more resources to pipeline programs that offer opportunities to high school and college students.
Amidst an air of distrust and tension, a year after the #feesmustfall movement started, South Africa’s national student protests have once again erupted. Julian Brown looks at how these students are now part of the process of remaking South Africa’s post-apartheid democracy.
Poor communities in South Africa have been protesting for years – sometimes in the glare of publicity, but more often not. Sometimes these protests were immediately effective, leading to the delivery of services or the recognition of specific local complaints – but more often these protests have led to partial or incomplete outcomes, and to communities continuing to reinvent their struggles.
In most cases, these communities have been on the periphery of South Africa’s economic and social order: living in informal settlements, in the inner city’s ‘bad buildings’, or in under-resourced townships. But late last year, protest erupted at the heart of an elite institution.
On 14 October 2015 students at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, protested against a proposed increase in fees for the coming year. Large groups of students blockaded the main entrances to the campus, preventing cars from entering or leaving. They marched out on the thoroughfares around the campus, disrupting traffic and – at points – clashing with the police.
The information the FBI is requesting from Open Whisper Systems is “arguably available with a subpoena,” Nate Cardozo, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a Twitter message, but “overproduction is FBI’s goal.”
Overproduction occurs when a company or other target of a subpoena supplies more information than is asked for — either in range or in type.
Facebook, like Open Whisper Systems, requires a court order for more revealing metadata like “message headers and IP addresses” according to its public law enforcement guidelines. Apple tells The Intercept it requires the same standard.
When the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was enacted in 1986, Congress authorized law enforcement to get historical phone records from companies with just a subpoena — determining that this type of information was less sensitive — but not email metadata. For that, they’d need a higher-level court order.
For applications like Signal — which facilitates calls and text messages over the internet between users of the app — it’s unclear whether it falls under the protections of e-mail or phone calls.
Following up on the recent discussion about the gender differences on the SAT math test, the two tables above provide some additional food for thought based on gender differences on the ACT test.
The top table above shows the national test results by gender for the four ACT subject areas (English, reading, math and science reasoning) and the overall composite scores in 5-year intervals from 1995 to 2015 based on data from the Department of Education. Here are some details:
1. An the national level, high school girls have scored consistently higher on the English test over the last 20 years by 0.80 points on average and on the reading test by 0.40 points.
2. High school boys have scored consistently higher on the math test by an average of 1.1 points and on the science test by 0.9 points.
There are 145 Entrepreneurship Courses at Stanford
Imagine “The Wire,” “Serpico,” “Prince of the City” and “The Shield” rolled into one. It’s why Hollywood producers should read “The Code of Silence” and give Chicago freelance journalist Jamie Kalven a call.
It’s a remarkable, 20,000-word, four-part online series in The Intercept: an unseemly tale of two rank-and-file Chicago cops who stumbled upon a sweeping criminal enterprise among colleagues. But then, they “were hung out to dry” by a corrupt department.
It’s also a tale both of how mainstream media often blows law enforcement coverage and how potentially important stories run smack into journalistic conventions and just get lost.
His expose is like the grittiest fictionalized drama: dirty cops, abject poverty in crime-ridden projects, people wearing wires, murders to silence informants, the good guys being demonized and put in real peril, and ultimately a department hierarchy looking the other way.
One of the most extraordinary minds of our time has “left.” “Left” is the word Paul Erdos, a prodigiously gifted and productive mathematician, used for “died.” “Died” is the word he used to signify “stopped doing math.” Erdos never died. He continued doing math, notoriously a young person’s field, right until the day he died Friday, Sept. 20. He was 83.
It wasn’t just his vocabulary that was eccentric. Erdos’ whole life was so improbable no novelist could have invented him (though he was chronicled beautifully by Paul Hoffman in the November 1987 Atlantic Monthly).
He had no home, no family, no possessions, no address. He went from math conference to math conference, from university to university, knocking on the doors of mathematicians throughout the world, declaring “My brain is open” and moving in. His colleagues, grateful for a few days collaboration with Erdos – his mathematical breadth was as impressive as his depth – took him in.
Erdos traveled with two suitcases, each half-full. One had a few clothes; the other, mathematical papers. He owned nothing else. Nothing. His friends took care of the affairs of everyday life for him – checkbook, tax returns, food. He did numbers.
He seemed sentenced to a life of solitariness from birth, on the day of which his two sisters, age 3 and 5, died of scarlet fever, leaving him an only child, doted upon and kept at home by a fretful mother. Hitler disposed of nearly all the rest of his Hungarian Jewish family. And Erdos never married. His Washington Post obituary ends with this abrupt and rather painful line: “He leaves no immediate survivors.”
One monday morning last fall, at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, a 16-year-old girl refused to hand over her cellphone to her algebra teacher. After multiple requests, the teacher called an administrator, who eventually summoned a sheriff’s deputy who was stationed at the school. The deputy walked over to the girl’s desk. “Are you going to come with me,” he said, “or am I going to make you?”
Niya Kenny, a student sitting nearby, did not know the name of the girl who was in trouble. That girl was new to class and rarely spoke. But Kenny had heard stories about the deputy, Ben Fields, who also coached football at the school, and she had a feeling he might do something extreme. “Take out your phones,” she whispered to the boys sitting next to her, and she did the same. The girl still hadn’t moved. While Kenny watched, recording with her iPhone, Fields wrenched the girl’s right arm behind her and grabbed her left leg. The girl flailed a fist in his direction. As he tried to wrestle her out of her chair, the desk it was attached to flipped over, slamming the girl backwards. Then he reached for her again, extracting her this time, and hurled her across the classroom floor.
Pension hawks celebrated in August when a California appeals court upheld a state law limiting the ability of public employees to spike their pensions late in their careers. But with the case possibly headed to the state’s Supreme Court, the battle isn’t over yet. The Marin Independent Journal reports:
“Overall, there’s a movement towards more complex cognitive mathematics, there’s a movement towards the student being invited to act like a mathematician instead of passively taking in math and science,” said David Baker, a professor of sociology and education at Pennsylvania State University. “These are big trends and they’re quite revolutionary.”
Pedagogical revolutions are chancy endeavors, however. The Common Core math standards were released in 2010 and NGSS in 2013. Now, years on, even enthusiastic early adopters of the Common Core like the state of New York are retreating from the standards. While the ultimate impact of both the Common Core and NGSS is still uncertain, it’s clear these standards go beyond simply swapping one set of textbooks for another — to really take hold, they’ll require a fundamental rethinking of everything from assessments to classroom materials to the basic relationship between teachers and students.
Five days with no school.
“My head was in the clouds,” said the 27-year old mother, who works five days a week at McDonald’s. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do?’”
Days off from school create a perennial scramble for working parents. Even when parents plan in advance and have their school calendars sync’ed to their Outlook accounts or penned onto refrigerator calendars, any disruption to complicated family schedules pose a logistical and financial challenge.
Heather Mac Donald:
American employers regard the nation’s educational system as an irrelevance, according to a Census Bureau survey released in February of this year. Businesses ignore a prospective employee’s educational credentials in favor of his work history and attitude. Although the census researchers did not venture any hypothesis for this strange behavior, anyone familiar with the current state of academia could have provided explanations aplenty.
One overlooked corner of the academic madhouse bears in particular on graduates’ job-readiness: the teaching of writing. In the field of writing, today’s education is not just an irrelevance, it is positively detrimental to a student’s development. For years, composition teachers have absorbed the worst strains in both popular and academic culture. The result is an indigestible stew of 1960s liberationist zeal, 1970s deconstructionist nihilism, and 1980s multicultural proselytizing. The only thing that composition teachers are not talking about these days is how to teach students to compose clear, logical prose.
Predictably, the corruption of writing pedagogy began in the sixties. In 1966, the Carnegie Endowment funded a conference of American and British writing teachers at Dartmouth College. The event was organized by the Modern Language Association and the National Conference of Teachers of English. The Dartmouth Conference was the Woodstock of the composition professions: It liberated teachers from the dull routine of teaching grammar and logic.
The Dartmouth Conference rejected what was called a “transmission model” of English in favor of a “growth model.” In a transmission mode, teachers pass along composition skills and literary knowledge. In a growth mode, according to Joseph Harris, a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, they focus on students’ “experience of language in all forms”—including ungrammatical ones. A big problem with the transmission model of English, apparently, is that it implies that teachers actually know more than their students do. In the growth model, in contrast, the teacher is not an authority figure; rather, he is a supportive, nurturing friend, who works with, rather than challenges, what a student has to say. Dartmouth proponents claimed that improvement in students’ linguistic skills need not come through direct training in grammar and style but, rather, would flower incidentally as students experiment with personal and expressive forms of talk and writing.
The Dartmouth Conference and subsequent writing pedagogy reflected the political culture of the time. It was anti-authoritarian and liberationist; it celebrated inarticulateness and error as proof of authenticity. But it was also a response to the looming problem of race. City University of New York (CUNY) began the nation’s first academic affirmative-action program in 1966; other schools would soon follow suit. The movement to legitimate black English began at that time. Confronted with a barrage of students who had no experience in formal grammar or written language, it was highly convenient for professors to learn that students’ natural way of speaking and writing should be preserved, not corrected.
There is a final ideological strand in composition pedagogy that has its roots in the late 1960s: Marxism. Teachers on the radical left began arguing that the demand for literacy oppresses the masses. Writing in Radical Teacher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology humanities professor Wayne O’Neill explains that “it has become important for the ruling class to exclude the potentially radicalizing elements of higher education from the colleges. Thus everywhere along the scale of education there is a relentless march toward the basics.” James Sledd, professor emeritus of English at the University of Texas at Austin, writes in College English that standard English is “essentially an instrument of domination,” and that coercing students to speak properly conditions them to accept the coercion of capitalism. Richard Ohmann, humanities professor at Wesleyan, has pronounced the “decline of literacy…a fiction, if not a hoax.”
The political process
The Dartmouth Conference gave rise to what became known as the process school of composition. Peter Elbow of Evergreen State College is its most influential practitioner. Not all of Elbow’s ideas are bad. He emphasizes that writing is a continuous process, composed mostly of rewriting. He encourages students to think of their essays in terms of multiple drafts, rather than single-shot efforts. He had vigorously promoted “free writing,” a warm-up exercise in which the author writes continuously for a fixed period of time, uninhibited by grammar, punctuation, or logic.
But the drawbacks of the process school cancel its contributions. Elevating process has driven out standards. Rather than judging a piece of student writing by an objective measure of coherence and correctness, teachers are supposed to evaluate how much the student has grown over the course of a semester. The hottest trend in grading—portfolio assessment—grows out of the process school. Elbow created the method after he saw the “harmful effects of writing proficiency exams.”
Among the most harmful of those effects is apparently the assault on self-esteem that results from a poor grade. In portfolio assessment, students’ evaluations are based on drafts of papers, diary entries, letters, and other informal assignments compiled over the course of a semester, rather than on the freestanding merit of a paper or exam. Often the student “collaborates” with the teacher in assigning a grade to the portfolio. Portfolio assessment allows for the radical reduction of standards, imports greater subjectivity into grading, and is extremely time-consuming.
For the process school, politics undermines pedagogy. Elbow added an additional week of free writing to the start of his courses at Evergreen State College when he saw how useful the practice was in “building community” in the classroom. Elbow rails against grading because it interferes with his ability to connect meaningfully with his students. “Good writing teachers like student writing,” he explains, and “it’s hard to like something if we know we have to give it a D.”
In keeping with the anti-authoritarian commitment of process practitioners, students in a process classroom teach each other. Students form small groups to read aloud and comment on each other’s writing, while the teacher surveys the scene benignly. The students may be admonished to say two good, as well as two critical things about each other’s essay—a task that would tax the invention of Shakespeare. Many of the groups I have observed quickly turned their attention to more compelling matters, like last weekend’s parties or the newest sneakers. And no wonder, given the abysmal prose they are supposed to discuss. The following two paragraphs are from a student’s answer on CUNY’s writing-proficiency exam. The question was: “Do you think the personal life of a political candidate…should be considered a factor in determining his or her ability to do the job?”
“We are living in a world that’s getting worse everyday. And what we are doing nothing, just complaining about the other person’s life. We should stop because if we don’t stop by looking on every candidate lifestyle and focus more on how, we could make it better. We all gonna die of, hungry, because we wouldn’t have nothing to eat and no place to life.
“People tends to make mistake in life. We all are humans. That’s why we should never judge a person for the cover of a book. People change in life, most of them tends to learn from their mistake. We live in a world that we should learn to forgive and forget everyone mistake and move forward.”
While peer teaching may have value for more experienced student-writers, for the incompetent—which includes not just remedial students but increasing numbers of all incoming students—it is an egregious case of the blind leading the blind. It ignores the reason students are in remedial classes in the first place and violates the time-honored principle that one learns to write by reading good, not awful, writing.
The process school’s determination to break down hierarchy extends beyond the teacher-student divide. A pioneering freshman composition course at City College combines students who fail the CUNY writing exam with those who passed. Says Acting Provost Mike Aarons: “The idea behind the program [which is being replicated in other areas of the college] is that the more successful students help the less successful.”
Aarons might have added that another idea behind such programs is radical egalitarianism. Individual effort must go to raising the collectivity, not to raising oneself above the collectivity; individual success betrays the good of the whole. The course received a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education—apparently the federal government likes the idea of fighting elitism as well.
In a process classroom, content eclipses form. The college essay and an 18-year-old’s personality become one and the same. Effie Cochran, an English as a second language professor at Baruch College, gushes: “Here I am—teacher-confessor. All these [gay] people are coming out to me through autobiographical reports who wouldn’t come out to a priest.” One process professor recommends that the profession “pay more attention to the experiences of psychotherapists regarding role-modeling, sexual tension, and transference.”
Students who have been told in their writing classes to let their deepest selves loose on the page and not worry about syntax, logic, or form have trouble adjusting to their other classes. A student at St. Anselm’s College complained to her writing teacher that her humanities professor had prevented her from developing her ideas on Homer, Cicero and the Hebrew prophets. His sin? He had insisted on numerous references to the text and correct English prose. “In humanities,” she whined, “I have to remember a certain format and I have to back up every general statement with specific examples. Oh, and that word, ‘I,’ I just used. You would never see that word in one of my humanities papers.” In process-school jargon, the poor humanities student has been denied “access to a personal language.”
With its emphasis on personal experience and expression, the process school forgets that the ultimate task of college writing is to teach students how to think. In the personal essay, assertions need not be backed up by anything more than the author’s sincerity. According to Rolf Norgaard of the University of Colorado, evaluation then becomes a judgment upon students’ lives, their personalities, their souls. But how can you tell a student, he asks, that her experiences or family life were not terribly original or striking?
The process school of writing has spread well beyond college campuses. Washington Irving Elementary School in Chicago introduced process methods six years ago in the hope of improving students’ catastrophic performance in reading and writing. Teachers tossed out their red pencils and workbooks; from then on, students would simply write, unfettered by such enthusiasm-crushing methods as rote learning. Students worked in groups, grades were out, cooperation was in.
The initial response, euphoria, was short-lived. Student groups rarely completed their assignments. They made little progress in mechanics. Some teachers started giving grades and teaching the basics again. But when they handed out incompletes and tried to hold students to higher standards, they caught heat from both parents and the principal, who told them that their expectations were too high. Lesson: Once out of the bottle, the process genie is hard to get back in.
Derrida’s writing lessons
In the early 1980s, a few process teachers started to sense that something was deeply wrong. While they had been unleashing an orgy of self-expression in their classes, across the hall in the literature department, the hippest teachers were preaching that the self was a fiction, a mere product of language. The process theorists, in other words, stumbled across deconstruction. In the 1970s and 1980s, this was not difficult to do, since just about every field in the humanities during that period scrambled to parrot the impenetrable prose of Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and Michel Foucault.
What an embarrassment for the poor process teachers! Deconstructionism declared the self dead, and they had been assiduously cultivating it. And what to do about their favorite genre, the personal essay, which seems to presuppose a writing subject, a concept anathema to deconstructionists?
The solution to this dilemma demonstrates the resourcefulness of college professors today. While some process advocates, such as Elbow, have continued their former ways unchanged, many others have simply grafted deconstructive rhetoric onto a process methodology. The result is pedagogical chaos. Students are writing personal essays, but they are deconstructing them at the same time. Such writing assignments are designed with one sole purpose: to make the professor feel that he is at the cutting-edge. They have nothing to do with teaching writing.
Witness the rhetorical sleight of hand of Joel Haefner, a professor at Illinois State University. Haefner manages to demonstrate disdain for process pedagogy, while nevertheless preserving it. “Calls to revive the personal essay,” he writes in College English,
“carry a hidden agenda and rest on the shibboleth of individualism, and concomitantly, the ideology of American democracy…As we interrogate our assumption about the essay genre and its role in a “democratic” and “individualistic” pedagogy, we will find, I think, that it makes more sense to see the essay as a cultural product, as a special kind of collective discourse. Hence there is still a place for the “personal” essay in a collaborative pedagogy.”
This tortured reasoning may preserve Haefner’s credibility with the post-structuralists, but its practical result must tie students up in knots. Here are some of Haefner’s deconstructive writing projects that are intended to “critique the fiction of a singular author”: writing groups create a personal essay that purports to be the work of a single author; individual students write a personal essay using “we”; teams rewrite a personal essay from other singular viewpoints; and (this is my favorite) students are encouraged not to create a unified and coherent first-person-singular voice, but, rather, a mix of “I” speakers.
This borders on pedagogical malpractice. Here are students who are unable to write coherent paragraphs, and they are being encouraged to cultivate an incoherent writing voice.
But academia can be cruel. No sooner did writing teachers master deconstructive jargon than a new, improved version came along. After years on the top of the charts, deconstructionism has been pushed aside by multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is both the direct offspring of deconstructionism and its nemesis. The current obsession with racial, sexual, and ethnic difference grew directly out of deconstructionism’s obsession with so-called linguistic difference. But, whereas deconstructionism was a mandarin pursuit that had only contempt for political engagement, multiculturalism asserts the centrality of politics to every human endeavor.
For would-be composition theorists, the most important consequence of multiculturalism has been the reemergence of the self as the central focus of concern. But the new multicultural self is defined exclusively by racial, sexual, and ethnic identity. The multicultural writing classroom is a workshop on racial and sexual oppression. Rather than studying possessive pronouns, students are learning how language silences women and blacks.
As New York Times reporter Richard Bernstein described in his recent book, Dictatorship of Virtue, the University of Texas at Austin exploded in controversy in 1990 over a proposed writing course called “Writing about Difference.” The course text was Racism and Sexism: An Integrated Study, by Paula Rothenberg, a national leader in the movement to inject race and gender into every aspect of the curriculum. “One assumption of this book,” writes Rothenberg, “is that racism and sexism pervade American culture, that they are learned at an early age and reinforced throughout life by a variety of institutions that are part of growing up and living in the United States.” Students in the new writing course would use the text’s readings to explore their own role as oppressors or victims.
In a rare victory for common sense, the course was cancelled after a bitter fight. Most colleges have not been so lucky, however. Students in Muhlenberg College’s Third World Experience composition course, for example, study works by third-world authors to learn how colonialism and gender each have their unique system of oppression. According to two critics of the course at Muhlenberg, it primarily requires that students “wade through the material, applaud, and announce its authenticity.”
Effie Cochran of Baruch College assigns her remedial-writing students role-playing exercises so that women can vent their anger at the discrimination they suffer in and out of school. Whether these performances improve students’ writing skills is anyone’s guess.
The personal essay remains a cornerstone for the multicultural classroom; it is a special favorite of feminists. But it has been supplemented by “ethnography.” David Bleich’s students at the University of Rochester conduct personal ethnographies on social relations in the classroom, observing how their gender, race, and class allegedly determine their response to literary works. The most frequently assigned topic for student ethnographers, however, is popular culture—in other words, describe and respond to your favorite rock video.
Every writing theory of the past 30 years has come up with reasons why it’s not necessary to teach grammar and style. For the multiculturalists, the main reason is that grammatical errors signify that the author is politically engaged. According to Min-Zhan Lu of Drake University, the “individual consciousness is necessarily heterogeneous, contradictory, and in process. The writer writes at the site of conflict.”
It is the goal of current writing theory to accentuate that conflict. Today’s theorists berate former City College professor Mina Shaugnessy, whose book, Errors and Expectations, heralded the remedial-writing movement, for trying to introduce her students—however gently—to academic prose. Min-Zhan Lu write: “We need to contest teaching methods which offer to ‘cure’ all signs of conflict and struggle which the dominant conservative ideology of the 1990s seeks to contain.”
There is a basic law at work in current composition theory: As students’ writing gets worse, the critical vocabulary used to assess it grows ever more pompous. James Zebrowski of Syracuse University claims that doing ethnographies makes students “constructors of knowledge.” John Trimbur of Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes what he calls “post-process, post-cognitivist theory”: It “represents literacy as an ideological arena and composing as a cultural activity by which writers position and reposition themselves in relation to their own and others’ subjectivities, discourses, practices, and institutions.” According to Trimbur, “literacy crises result not from declining skills but from the contention of various interested representations of literacy.” In other words, students who can’t read and write are simply offering up another version of literacy, which the oppressive conservative ideology refuses to recognize. Such double-talk harks back to the 1960s, when open-admissions students were described as coming from a culture where “orality” was dominant.
The bottom line to all this nonsense is drastically lowered expectations of student skills. Marilyn Sternglass, a composition theorist at City College, argues that students should be able to pick up the topics for CUNY’s writing-proficiency exam before the test is administered because “responding to the questions cold makes too many demands on students. If they concentrate on content, their mechanics will suffer; if they concentrate on mechanics, they lose their train of thought.” It never occurs to her that such a zero-sum tradeoff indicates precisely what the test is supposed to measure: the inability to write.
Professors are expending vast amounts of energy making excuses for their students. At a 1994 composition conference at the CUNY Graduate Center, Geraldine de Luca, director of freshman English at Brooklyn College, railed against grammatical rules. Though teaching rules in response to individual students’ questions, she said, can be “empowering, the rules have a way of taking over. And some teachers think that’s fine: ‘It’s about time they learned some grammar,’ they say. ‘I knew this stuff when I was in the fifth grade.’ But in what time, in what community, in what country?” asked Luca melodramatically. “Even the concept of error,” she concluded, “is beginning to feel repugnant to me.”
Today, at CUNY and elsewhere, there is a growing movement to abolish the distinction between remedial writing and reading courses and regular freshman courses, on the grounds that placing students in remedial courses injures their self-esteem. Remedial-writing courses at Baruch College and elsewhere are now known as “English as a Second Dialect,” or ESD, courses. Proudly displaying their knowledge of Foucault, composition theorists argue that the category “remedial education” is merely an artificial construct imposed by the ruling class on the oppressed. Marilyn Sternglass of City College quickly corrected me when I asked about students who needed remedial work: “They are ‘judged’ to need remedial classes,” she retorted haughtily.
Professors who exempt students from the very standards that governed them when they were in school feel compassionate, noble, and powerful. But the professors’ power is limited to their world. Though they may be willing to overlook spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors in favor of a “holistic” approach to student writing, employers are clearly not as generous, as the census survey suggests.
[Heather Mac Donald graduated summa cum laude from Yale, and earned an M.A. at Cambridge University. She holds the J.D. degree from Stanford Law School, and is a John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal] – Via Will Fitzhugh.
My students can’t write a clear sentence to save their lives, and I’ve had it.
In 10 years of teaching writing, I have experimented with different assignments, activities, readings, approaches to commenting on student work — you name it — all to help students write coherent prose that someone would actually want to read. And as anyone who keeps up with trends in higher education knows, such efforts largely fail.
For a while now, compositionists have been enamored of a pedagogical orthodoxy that assumes the following:
Composition courses must focus on process, not just product.
Students should compose essays that tackle complex issues rather than imitate rhetorical modes (as in the much-maligned “current-traditional” pedagogy of years past).
Writing and reading instruction should be combined in the same course.
After years of experimenting with those three principles, here’s what I’ve learned: They rarely work.
First, a simple truth: Students do not revise. This cuts to the very heart of how most of us teach composition. It is an a priori assumption that a composition course must emphasize revision: Writers learn to make rhetorical decisions based on their audience, and that means the arduous process of “substantial revision.”
But substantial revision doesn’t happen in our courses. I have tried requiring students to write only three essays developed over several drafts, each of which I comment on without a grade. I have used peer workshops to help students respond to each other’s writing. I have used portfolio systems and deferred-grading schemes. I have cajoled; I have encouraged; I have experimented with more rubrics than I can count.
The invariable result? Weak drafts remain weak; stronger drafts get slightly stronger, but not by much.
In peer workshops, while students get more confident in sharing feedback on each other’s work, they generally ignore their classmates’ suggestions. And more often than not, when they do revise based on peer feedback, it’s often unhelpful and inexperienced advice — for example, telling a student that the paper has a clear thesis when it has no coherent argument at all.
How can students make effective rhetorical choices if they do not know what choices exist?
Yes, some professors assert that workshops allow students to find blind spots in each other’s essays. But, as their teacher, I can do that more succinctly and quickly, and it wouldn’t require the loss of another hour of class time.
A second observation: Even when students engage complex issues from readings in their papers, they do not use the basic argumentative structures they need in order to give their ideas voice, cohesion, and support.
In a recent course, I gave students a set of readings on liberal education and its role in a democratic society. Now, class discussion had been interesting, and students had struggled productively to understand Seneca, John Henry Newman, Mike Rose, and Rabindranath Tagore; they had even produced essays with some refreshing insights. But few of their essays contained a clear and unifying argument, and many students seemed unable to focus on one point for more than a paragraph.
Let me put it another way: How can students make effective rhetorical choices if they do not know what choices exist?
If a student’s essay on mass shootings could benefit from a broader discussion of the causes of violence, but the student does not know what it means to argue by causation, then in what sense is an effective rhetorical choice available to her? Writing well involves making rhetorical decisions, but it’s clear that you can’t choose from what you don’t know.
Finally, it’s a mistake to insist that “critical reading” should be as integral to a writing course as the teaching of argumentation, structure, paragraphs, and sentences.
First, study after study shows that reading comprehension is tied to background knowledge and context. So while we can teach general strategies for “reading actively” in our composition courses, there is no such thing as a universal approach to reading aside from a few basic principles: Read slowly and deliberately, annotate as you read, make summary notes, connect to the knowledge you already have. That’s why most composition instructors thematize their courses. We realize that we cannot talk about “reading” very long before we have to talk about reading about something.
Second, because “reading strategies” are context-bound, many composition instructors make their courses about their themes, which leads to two problems: (1) The course becomes more about the content than about writing at the nuts-and-bolts level, and (2) a number of composition instructors, for reasons stemming from the structures of higher education, are not academically qualified to be teaching disciplinary content (e.g., sociology, cultural history, gender criticism) with any semblance of expertise.
That is why students in a composition course can talk about, say, the role of sexism in children’s toys, but can’t write a clear sentence about it. In short, the more time a course focuses on “critical reading” and content, the less time it spends on structure, argument, evidence, logical reasoning, and concise, clear prose — the tools a composition class should give undergraduates.
So how can I help my students write better?
Some of the following injunctions might reek of the “current-traditional.” But they have been my interior manifesto as I move forward with this fall’s set of 100 students:
Students need to write an actual essay and receive feedback on it from me very early in the course. Whether I use neo-Aristotelian rhetoric or process pedagogy, by Week 2 of the semester, students need to have written a short argumentative essay and received feedback on their thesis, use of evidence, and integration of sources. There is no excuse for students to be halfway through the semester without having received this kind of clear response.
Students need to spend less time on difficult texts and more time writing arguments. The more time one spends on content, the less time one has for structure and form. Even if I require only three major essays developed through several drafts, more homework assignments should be short essays that receive clear feedback.
Alternatively, I might structure a course around many short argumentative essays that emphasize rhetorical structure, building up to larger essays. Either way, the point is frequent essays, frequent feedback.
Not every essay requires multiple drafts or peer response. I have foolishly assumed that students cannot submit an essay before having spent at least one class period hashing over a draft with their peers. That should change. Yes, students should be encouraged to read each other’s writing and learn to respond to it. But let’s face it: Unless one believes a writing teacher’s feedback carries no more weight than anyone else’s, this is unnecessary for every essay. (Some academics do claim that a writing teacher’s comments are no more authoritative than any other reader’s, but I doubt such instructors tell their own editors anything like that.)
The writing process is a means to an end. Of course the writing process is important: It can be therapeutic, formative, an aid to figuring out what we believe, the record of a mental life, an endless imaginative resource. But in a freshman composition course, process serves product. Let me put it this way: If a bright student sits down the night before a paper is due and hammers out an excellent essay in one draft, do I fail that paper? If I do, then I am not ultimately interested in helping students write effective essays, but in something else.
Sometimes it’s better to ditch an essay and move forward. Even professional writers admit that, at some point, you throw out a project and start over, or you put a project away to work on later (or never). Substantial revision is part of writing, but not for every project. After all, a number of writing contexts do not require, and might even be hampered by, overwrought attempts at revision. Sometimes writing has to come out adequate the first time. And “process” does not have to be restricted to a single piece. Being a writer is a process, too, a process of moving from one project to another, of learning from what worked the last time and what didn’t, of knowing when to revise and when to hit the delete key.
My job is not to save my students from cultural impoverishment. It is to teach them how to express themselves effectively in writing. The development of cogent, clear prose is at the heart of freshman composition. For too long, I have deluded myself into thinking that my job in a composition course was to introduce students to a rich academic topic, make them read difficult texts, make up for years of barely-more-than-functional literacy and book aversion, teach them to be critical thinkers, and help them understand the oppressive structures of late capitalism — all while helping them write focused arguments, revise, polish paragraphs, and edit sentences. Should college students be expected to read difficult texts? Sure. Should students develop a love of reading? Absolutely. Should students learn to express their views and persuade others in cogent, clear prose? Without question. But that last one is the only unique provenance of a composition course.]
So as much as I want to teach my students to love justice, be passionate about politics, and to think deeply about the future of humanity, they are not legitimate outcomes of a writing course. Neither are fostering a fetishistic love of the writing process or trying to teach “critical reading of difficult texts.”
My guess is that by the end of the semester, my students will hate my course because it is “boring,” “hard,” and “a lot of work.” They probably won’t have life-changing epiphanies about oppressive political structures. And I won’t swear to make them read esoteric academic articles. But if they show up, do the work, and turn off their phones, they just might leave my class able to write a sentence.
Joseph R. Teller is a professor of English at College of the Sequoias.
– Via Will Fitzhugh
One of the few things that could penetrate the “iron curtain” were ideas conveyed on radio waves. “The Voice of America” network broadcast to the peoples of the Soviet bloc, so that they were never completely isolated, and hearing only what the Communist dictatorships wanted them to hear.
Ironically, despite the victory of democracy over dictatorship that brought the Cold War to an end, within American society there has slowly but steadily developed in too many of our own colleges and universities a set of restrictions on what can be said on campus, either by students or professors, or by outside speakers with views that contradict the political correctness of our time.
There is no barbed wire around our campuses, nor armed guards keeping unwelcome ideas out. So there is no “iron curtain.” But there is a curtain, and it has its effect.
The One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, launched in the fall of 2014, is a long-term investigation of the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its influences on people, their communities, and society. It considers the science, engineering, and deployment of AI-enabled computing systems. As its core activity, the Standing Committee that oversees the One Hundred Year Study forms a Study Panel every five years to assess the current state of AI. The Study Panel reviews AI’s progress in the years following the immediately prior report, envisions the potential advances that lie ahead, and describes the technical and societal challenges and opportunities these advances raise, including in such arenas as ethics, economics, and the design of systems compatible with human cognition. The overarching purpose of the One Hundred Year Study’s periodic expert review is to provide a collected and connected set of reflections about AI and its influences as the field advances. The studies are expected to develop syntheses and assessments that provide expert-informed guidance for directions in AI research, development, and systems design, as well as programs and policies to help ensure that these systems broadly benefit individuals and society.
For some time, Hillary Clinton’s critics have been citing her defense of a 1975 rape case to attack her, and her defenders have been absolving her of any blame. Kathy Shelton — the victim1 in the case — has openly condemned Clinton and asserted that Clinton gratuitously attacked her, and others have criticized Clinton’s description of the case from a recorded interview in the 1980s. The criticisms are (mostly) wrong and the defenses are (mostly) right.
Michael Gove, the UK’s Secretary of State for Education, has expressed a wish to see almost all school pupils studying mathematics in one form or another up to the age of 18. An obvious question follows. At the moment, there are large numbers of people who give up mathematics after GCSE (the exam that is usually taken at the age of 16) with great relief and go through the rest of their lives saying, without any obvious regret, how bad they were at it. What should such people study if mathematics becomes virtually compulsory for two more years?
A couple of years ago there was an attempt to create a new mathematics A-level called Use of Mathematics. I criticized it heavily in a blog post, and stand by those criticisms, though interestingly it isn’t so much the syllabus that bothers me as the awful exam questions. One might think that a course called Use of Mathematics would teach you how to come up with mathematical models for real-life situations, but these questions did the opposite, and still do. They describe a real-life situation, then tell you that it “may be modelled” by some formula, and proceed to ask you questions that are purely mathematical, and extremely easy compared with A-level maths.
The employment landscape in the U.S. has undergone profound changes, and the public is adapting to the new realities of the workplace and rethinking the skills they need to compete. A new Pew Research Center survey, conducted in association with the Markle Foundation, and analysis of government data finds that employment in occupations requiring more education and training is on the rise, and many workers are realizing that retraining and upgrading their skills needs to be a lifetime commitment.
Here are six key takeaways on the state of American jobs:
A study came out last week that should have caused great alarm. For 13 years, researchers at the University of Copenhagen studied more than a million women between the ages of 15 and 34 who were taking a type of drug — one that is popular in all developed countries. Taking this drug, the researchers found, correlated with an increase in the risk of depression. The correlation was particularly strong in adolescent girls, who showed an 80 per cent higher chance of being diagnosed with depression.
Usually when a story about women’s health and depression breaks, a phalanx of activists and campaigners pop up all over the media to ‘raise awareness’ of the issue. Last week, however, barely a peep — the papers carried the story and a few online sites ran delicately objective surveys of women on the pill, but there were few howls of outrage.
Few if any candidates for federal office will tell you that as a consequence of current federal law, young Americans are being screwed in two life-changing ways.
First, under current law, every Social Security beneficiary under the age of 48 will have their promised benefits cut by a third. And second, every young person who works is contributing between $10,000 and $20,000 to the health care and retirement of those lucky Americans who are already drawing benefits under federal law.
In some ways the second screwing is worse than the first. Young workers do not have the defined benefit retirement programs commonly enjoyed by their grandparents, and if they do have health care through their jobs, their annual deductibles are probably greater than what their grandparents paid to have children and attend college.
Perhaps the media will notice that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have something very important in common: Both are on Social Security, or at least they are eligible for the old age benefit guaranteed by Social Security.
Last week the Nation’s Report Card announced that no more than 40% of America’s 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math. Those are scary numbers, but the numbers for writing are even more frightening: only 27% of American 8th and 12th graders attained proficiency.
Why are American students such terrible writers?
Several answers to this question dawned on me while reading through an 1897 text by Dr. Edwin Lewis. Entitled A First Book in Writing English, Dr. Lewis’ book was recommended for freshman and sophomore students and used in places such as Ann Arbor High School around the turn of the 20th century. Needless to say, American schools, students, and even adults regularly violate three principles which Lewis deemed essential to the writing process.
1. They Don’t Read High Quality Literature
As has been previously noted, today’s schools often fail to present their students with many literature selections which demonstrate good examples of vocabulary, sentence structure, and other components of high-quality writing. A thorough and challenging reading program, however, is one of Lewis’ keys to successful writing.
“One of the quickest ways of learning to know good English, is oral reading. For him who would write the language it is therefore a great economy to learn to read it. It is an invaluable habit to read aloud every day some piece of prose with the finest feeling the reader can lend to it. In no other way can one so easily learn to notice and to remember new words. In no other way can one catch the infinitely varied rhythm of prose, and acquire a sense of how a good sentence rises gradually from the beginning and then descends in a cadence. This rise and fall of the sentence is not merely a matter of voice; it is a matter of thought as well.…
If the student reads aloud from writers whose work was natural, unforced, original, he will gradually come to see his own ideas more clearly, feel his own feelings more keenly.”
2. They Skim
The fast-paced age of the internet has trained all of us – adults and children alike – to become text skimmers. But such a practice diminishes thought and understanding, two facets essential to good writing.
“To gain new words and new ideas, the student must compel himself to read slowly. Impatient to hurry on and learn how the tale or poem ends, many a youth is accustomed to read so rapidly as to miss the best part of what the author is trying to say. Thoughts cannot be read so rapidly as words. To get at the thoughts and really to retain the valuable expressions, the student must scrutinize and ponder as he reads. Each word must be thoroughly understood; its exact value in the given sentence must be grasped.”
3. They Don’t Memorize
“Drill and Kill” and the memorization of facts has become a prominent no-no in an age where creativity and feelings are encouraged. But is the de-emphasis on memorization actually depriving children of valuable writing material?
“To the habit of memorizing, many a person is indebted not merely for high thoughts that cheer hours of solitude and that stimulate his own thinking, but for command of words. The degree to which the language of modern writers is derived from a few great authors is startling. Shakespeare’s phrases are a part of the tissue of every man’s speech to-day. Such writers as Charles Lamb bear Shakespeare’s mark on every page. The language of the King James version of the Bible is echoed in modern English prose and poetry. It formed styles so unlike as those of Bunyan, Ruskin, and Abraham Lincoln. Most teachers would declare that a habit of learning Scripture by heart is of incalculable value to a student’s English.”
Would we see American writing ability increase if these three elements were restored to the classroom?
– Via Will Fitzhugh.
I’m delighted that you are mobilizing. Your demonstration reflects your recognition that the escalating crisis of racial terrorism requires a firm and uncompromising response.
Your protest in the face of daily atrocities is a sign of your humanity and your determination to live in peace, freedom, and dignity.
But as we demonstrate, we must take pains to avoid certain tactical and programmatic errors that often plague progressive protest in a neoliberal age.
What is neoliberalism?
Neoliberalism is a vicious but cunning form of capitalism. And like all varieties of capitalism, it rests on a foundation of white supremacy.
When the U.S. Education Department shut down ITT Technical Institute at the beginning of the fall semester, some people saw it as just desserts for the for-profit college. Given ITT’s relatively low graduation rates, alleged use of deceptive job placement figures in its recruiting efforts, and high numbers of loan defaults and delinquencies, the government may have seemed justified in refusing to fund more loans to ITT students.
Yet, now, 35,000 students are suddenly without a school and 8,000 faculty and staff are unemployed, and the entire episode shows that the government remains fixated on problems in the for-profit sector while virtually ignoring that all of U.S. higher education has long been guilty of what, in another business, might be called price gouging.
When you research how to donate your books to prisons, the same phrase comes up over and over again: that books are a lifeline for prisoners.
As someone who is fortunate enough that most of my experience with the prison system has happened through Netflix, I took that to mean simply that when you’re in the same small space day after day, it gets boring. But providing prisoners with books offers so much more than relief from monotony.
According to a Baltimore Sun article about Maryland’s prison libraries:
The U.S. is often referred to as the land of economic opportunity. Apparently, it’s also the land of consumption and “spend everything you’ve got.”
We don’t have to look far for confirmation that Americans are generally poor savers. Every month the St. Louis Federal Reserve releases data on personal household savings rates. In July 2016, the personal savings rate was just 5.7%. Comparatively, personal savings rates in the U.S. 50 years ago were double where they are today, and nearly all developed countries have a higher personal savings rate than the United States. In other words, Americans are saving less of their income than they should be — the recommendation is to save between 10% and 15% of your annual income — and they’re being forced to do more with less in terms of investing.
Since the public outcry began, Momentum Instruction has reviewed the book again, but Dunbar stated that the publishers only found one factual error: a passage that suggests that the national language of the United States is English. Dunbar defended the textbook, saying that the company had no “agenda” when they published it, but she’s not sure about the intentions of the textbook’s critics, who told her they would reveal the errors they found during a press conference.
“We have no agenda other than trying to make sure that book presents the best material for the students,” Dunbar told the Dallas Morning News. “I’m not sure really now what their agenda is because they were more concerned with the press conference than they were with errors.”
The disregard for Mexican-American input on the book and the belief that the scholars have biases that Dunbar’s “experts” somehow don’t are on full display in emails obtained by the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog nonprofit organization monitoring far-right activities in Texas. In one of the emails obtained by TFN through a public information request, one education board member, David Bradley, suggested “deny[ing] the Hispanics a record vote” to Thomas Ratliff, another board member.
Walden is the U.S. flagship of Laureate Education, which paid “honorary chancellor” Bill Clinton $17.6 million over five years before he stepped down in 2015 just ahead of wife Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign run.
Elizabeth Talbot, manager of Institutional Legislation and Licensing at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, said the agency is conducting “a qualitative and a quantitative analysis” of student complaints and comparing it to Walden’s marketing materials.
“I want to make sure the proof is in the pudding that their marketing claims match with student outcome,” Talbot said.
“Is it a policy issue, a culture issue or is it something more nefarious? And we don’t know until we complete the program review.”
She said that after the NBC News report in August, there was an increase in the number of individuals contacting her office and the state Attorney General’s office about Walden.
Reardon found some of the largest black-white achievement gaps in the U.S. in the college towns of Berkeley, California, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Charlottesville also displayed a significant black-white achievement gap.
Reardon hypothesized that low-income black students in college towns are adversely affected by the level of academic competition in these communities, where many children have highly educated parents.
“The pattern is even more striking and evident in these data, but I think people knew before that this was a problem in some of those places,” Reardon said.
Reardon acknowledged a flaw in his Virginia testing data — he said he did not know middle-school students take different math assessments in seventh and eighth grades, depending on what level of math they take in those years. He said these assessments soon would be removed from the dataset.
The students enter, taking their places in the circle, ready for the seminar to begin. The teacher sits with them in the circle and gets straight down to business. ‘Am I the same person today as I was yesterday?’ she asks. Debate breaks out immediately. The teacher says little, interjecting occasionally to ask for clarification of a point, or to suggest that the class gives further consideration to an argument that one of the students has made.
After a lively initial exchange of ideas, things calm down a little and the teacher makes some remarks about the distinction between essential and non-essential properties. She then suggests the students read an extract from the writings of the philosopher John Locke. This stimulates further discussion and debate.
Recently, Johns Hopkins University political scientists Jennifer Bachner and Benjamin Ginsberg conducted a study of the unglamorous D.C. bureaucrat. These are the people who keep the federal government humming — the Hill staffers, the project managers and all those desk workers who vaguely describe themselves as “analysts.”
As Bachner and Ginsberg argue, civil servants exercise real power over how the government operates. They write and enforce rules and regulations. They might not decide what becomes law, but they have a hand in how laws are drawn up and how laws are implemented.
For all their influence, though, nearly all of these technocrats are unelected, and they spend most of their time with people who are just like them — other highly educated folk who jog conspicuously in college tees and own a collection of NPR totes.
In their new book, which is part ethnography and part polemic, Bachner and Ginsberg argue that Washington’s bureaucrats have grown too dismissive of the people they are supposed to serve. Bachner and Ginsberg recently sent around an informal survey to selected members of this technocratic class, and the results, they say, were shocking.
“Many civil servants expressed utter contempt for the citizens they served,” they write in their book, “What Washington Gets Wrong.” “Further, we found a wide gulf between the life experiences of ordinary Americans and the denizens of official Washington. We were left deeply worried about the health and future of popular government in the United States.”
It may have never been formally codified into law, but freedom of choice may be one of the most important liberties we hope to enjoy as American citizens. It’s one we exercise daily, from the food we choose to eat to the products we choose to buy. We choose our leaders, and even choose not to choose if we are so inclined. So why is it that we should allow the government to restrict citizens to a single choice when it comes to education?
Public schools in America face a number of basic issues. They have suffered from classroom overcrowding since the 1990s. No Child Left Behind changed their focus from helping kids learn to making them learn to decode tests. Common Core has left many parents bewildered as children are taught ridiculously circumspect ways to solve basic problems.
In the most egregious cases, dilapidated buildings put children at risk, such as in Detroit where striking teachers published photos of bullet holes in windows and mold & mushrooms growing from the walls. The New York City Public Schools’ notorious “Rubber Room” was a wasteful concession to the public education unions where failed educators remained on the payroll while sitting around playing games and awaiting hearings instead of being fired for outrageous infractions.
On 23 February, Donald Trump stood before a rally of cheering supporters to celebrate a thumping victory in the Nevada Republican caucus – his third consecutive win, in defiance of the naysayers who had predicted that his bubble was about to burst. “If you listen to the pundits, we weren’t expected to win too much – and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country,” he bragged. “We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”
That last line provoked immediate waves of mockery. It sounded at the time like another one of Trump’s many gaffes – he loves that people do not get a decent education? Yet behind the mockery was a real sense of disquiet, which has not gone away: Trump loves the less educated because they appear to love him back. As the Atlantic reported in March: “The best single predictor of Trump support in the Republican primary is the absence of a college degree.” Education – or the lack of it – seemed to be propelling the Trump bandwagon.
Tennessee is ground zero for ObamaCare’s nationwide implosion. Late last month the state insurance commissioner, Julie Mix McPeak, approved premium increases of up to 62% in a bid to save the exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. “I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse,” she said.
Then last week BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced it would leave three of the state’s largest exchange markets—Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. “We have experienced losses approaching $500 million over the course of three years on ACA plans,” the company said, “which is unsustainable.” As a result, more than 100,000 Tennesseans will be forced to seek out new coverage for 2017.
BlueCross is only the latest insurer to head for the exits. Community Health Alliance, the insurance co-op established under ObamaCare, is winding down due to financial failure, leaving 30,000 people without coverage. UnitedHealthcare said in April it is departing Tennessee’s exchange after significant losses. That’s another 41,000 people needing new plans.
If we could snap our fingers and change the way math and science are taught in U.S. schools, most of us would. The shortcomings of the current approach are clear. Subjects that are vibrant in the minds of experts become lifeless by the time they’re handed down to students. It’s not uncommon to hear kids in Algebra 2 ask, “When are we ever going to use this?” and for the teacher to reply, “Math teaches you how to think,” which is true — if only it were taught that way.
To say that this is now changing is to invite an eye roll. For a number of entrenched reasons, from the way teachers are trained to the difficulty of agreeing on what counts in each discipline, instruction in science and math is remarkably resistant to change.
That said, we’re riding the next big wave in K-12 science and math education in the United States. The main events are a pair of highly visible but often misunderstood documents — the Common Core math standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — that, if implemented successfully, will boldly remake the way math and science are taught. Both efforts seek to recast instruction in the fundamental ideas and perspectives that animate the two fields.
“What we did in reorganizing the content of school mathematics was long overdue,” said Phil Daro, one of three lead authors of the Common Core math standards.
The changes go beyond the contentious new methods of teaching arithmetic that have grabbed headlines and threatened to blunt the momentum of Common Core math. Both documents developed out of decades of academic research on how children learn, and they reflect similar priorities. They exhibit an elegant rethinking of the basic structure of knowledge, along with new assertions of what’s important for students to be able to do by the time they finish high school.
About a dozen years ago, Willie Jude, a longtime Milwaukee Public Schools administrator who was principal of Custer High School at the time, told me that many Custer grads who went on to higher education (and there weren’t that many) realized quickly they were way behind many other students when it came to academic preparation.
That’s because those other kids were learning the B and C parts of the book when you were learning the A part, Jude said he told them.
In other words, a lot of freshmen hit college with a high school diploma that says they are more likely to succeed than students with other diplomas. The difference breaks strongly along lines of income and race.
This is so unsurprising, but still hugely important and sad. Many efforts to even things up by raising the success rates of those in the lower end of this spectrum have yielded little progress.
A report issued Sept. 20 by University of Wisconsin System administrators provides new ways of looking at this. In 2015, the Legislature approved a proposal by Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown) that requires UW to identify Wisconsin high schools each year with more than six graduates required to take remedial classes in English and math when they entered any UW System program.
The cost of a college education is rising for everyone in the U.S., even Uncle Sam. A government program forgives the federal loans of grads who take on public-service jobs and pay 10% of their discretionary income toward the loan balance for a decade. It’s poised to cause headaches for the government once borrowers begin to cash in next year.
Policy makers probably didn’t realize how costly Public Service Loan Forgiveness would be when they approved it in 2007. The program still isn’t widely used, but a quarter of the U.S. workforce has an eligible job—meaning a position with a federal, state, local, or tribal government (including schools and the military), child or family services agency, a 501(c)3 nonreligious nonprofit, or tribal college—and the folks taking advantage of the program tend to carry a lot of debt.
Although undergraduate debt averages $30,000, borrowers using PSLF have median debt of over $60,000, Education Department data show, and 30% of them have over $100,000. Since most undergrads can’t take out more than $31,000 in federal loans, this suggests that many using the program got costly graduate degrees.
In late July, the NAACP called for a national moratorium on charter schools, claiming they target low-income and minority communities with practices mirroring the predatory subprime mortgage lending industry. Now a group of more than 160 black civic leaders is asking the civil rights group to reconsider, arguing that charters create opportunities for black families that could allow minority students to excel.
In a September 21 letter, a coalition of educators, current and former politicians, public officials, and black leaders claimed that a charter school moratorium would deny parents the opportunity to choose “what’s best for their children”—and restrict access to high-quality alternatives to traditional public schools.
“The proposed resolution cites a variety of cherry-picked and debunked claims about charter schools,” the letter reads. “The notion of dedicated charter school founders and educators acting like predatory subprime mortgage lenders—a comparison the resolution explicitly makes—is a far cry from the truth.”
The NAACP’s proposed resolution, which will be voted on at the national board meeting next month, said that charter schools contribute to racial and socioeconomic segregation and raised concerns over disproportionately “punitive and exclusionary” disciplinary practices, fiscal mismanagement, and lackluster oversight. A few weeks earlier, the Movement for Black Lives, a network of 50 organizations brought together by Black Lives Matter, released a policy agenda that included a similar call to curb the growth of charters.
While the charter school industry is littered with the occasional bad actor, and some charters have even been found to practice “skimming”—illegally screening out potentially challenging students, according to a 2013 Reuters investigation and a recent report by the ACLU and Public Advocates, a public interest law firm—the pro-charter letter highlighted research showing the positive academic benefits and opportunities for black students at charters. Here are three of its main arguments:
1. Black students stand to make short-term academic gains: The letter, citing a study from Stanford’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO), argues that black students benefit from added exposure to charter schools. The 2015 study of 41 cities in 22 states found that students attending charter schools in those areas made slightly higher academic gains in both math and reading compared to students in traditional public schools. The gains were particularly pronounced for low-income, black, and Hispanic students, as well as English-language learners. Poor black students, for instance, received the equivalent of 59 additional days of math learning and 44 days of reading learning. For poor Hispanic students, the gains were 48 days of math instruction and 25 days of reading.
Andrew Maul, an assistant professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Graduate School of Education, questioned the CREDO report’s research methods, including that the sizes of the effects “are very small.” (In response, CREDO noted that the study looked at the change in student test scores from year-to-year as a sign of academic growth, rather than the test scores themselves.)
The problem is by no means limited to the Middle East or to Bush. President Obama’s inattention to the deep historical relationship between Russia and Ukraine led him to underestimate the risks of closer ties between Ukraine and Europe. “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” President Obama told The New Yorker for a January 2014 article, referring to the great Cold War–era diplomat and historian. By March, Russia had annexed Crimea.
To address this deficit, it is not enough for a president to invite friendly historians to dinner, as Obama has been known to do. Nor is it enough to appoint a court historian, as John F. Kennedy did with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. We urge the next president to establish a White House Council of Historical Advisers. Historians made similar recommendations to Presidents Carter and Reagan during their administrations, but nothing ever came of these proposals. Operationally, the Council of Historical Advisers would mirror the Council of Economic Advisers, established after World War II. A chair and two additional members would be appointed by the president to full-time positions, and respond to assignments from him or her. They would be supported by a small professional staff and would be part of the Executive Office of the President.
When he was studying for his doctorate in economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jonathan Levin suffered a crisis of confidence about his academic career, sparked by his failure to make progress with a paper on the jobs market.
“I was working every minute but at the end of every day I’d pretty much throw out all my notes,” Prof Levin admitted in a candid recent posting on Quora, the question-and-answer website. “Research can be incredibly frustrating when you are getting nowhere.”
Two decades later, it is abundantly clear that Prof Levin is getting somewhere. The 43-year-old former economist is days into his new job as dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“I feel incredibly lucky,” he says, speaking to the Financial Times in his first interview since being appointed.
The former head of Stanford’s department of economics has been handed control of one of the richest and most oversubscribed business schools in the world at a time when the nomination committee’s key requirement was a safe pair of hands.
Last year, the school received 7,899 applications for just 407 places on its MBA programme, which was placed fifth in the Financial Times 2016 global MBA rankings, and top for entrepreneurship.
The robots are coming to demolish your career. “No office job is safe,” says Sebastian Thrun, an expert on artificial intelligence at Stanford University. Lots of lawyers, accountants, even surgeons will be automated away. Having spent my career watching the long, slow carnage of my own industry, I have some insight into how that will feel, and how to cope.
When I entered journalism in 1995, it was a pretty cushy business. People bought newspapers — not necessarily for the articles but often just to find out the weather forecast, the football results, the stock prices or the TV schedule. Consequently, even mediocrities and alcoholics could have long, well-paid journalistic careers. I remember crabby FT subeditors of the 1990s who owned not just houses in London but second homes in France. When I started out, deadlines were about 6pm, after which — since rolling-news websites hadn’t been invented yet — everyone went to the pub. Expenses were good too: I’m told that at the FT, into the early 1990s, you could fly business class as long as you said you were working on the plane. So people would buy a copy of The Economist at the airport.