An Idea For Decreasing Income Segregation And Increasing Economic Mobility

Adam Ozimek:

One of the big and under-appreciated problems in this country is income segregation. One way this happens is that higher income neighborhoods use restrictive zoning to keep low-income housing out of their neighborhoods. This is bad for low-income households because it often means effectively keeping them out of better schools, and even keeps them away from areas with better job market access. In their massive study on economic mobility, Chetty et al (2014) found that income segregation and economic mobility at the commuting zone level were related with a correlation of -0.393. The graph below shows that this relationship is pretty clear in the data.

This suggests that decreasing income segregation is one way to improve economic mobility. Another obvious way to do this is to improve college attendance, and the quality of colleges attended, for low-income people. However, simply pursuing an aggressive income-based affirmative action strategy where colleges directly tie acceptance to household income has the perverse effect of disincentivizing higher earnings. That is, if you reward people for lower incomes, you’re effectively increasing the marginal tax rate.

I remark it must have been difficult for his four children (all graduates of Stanford University) to grow up with such a high-achieving father.

Roula Khalaf:

“I don’t think so but you can check with them.” The only area where he was demanding was academic results. “I couldn’t understand it when they were coming with low scores. I said, ‘You’re not stupid. I don’t understand.’ On all other areas, I was very open, very liberal.”

I’ve been told that at the heart of Ghosn’s ruthless leadership style is an obsession with “commitments and targets”. Is it true you fire people who don’t deliver on their commitments, I ask. He sits up and nods.

“When I arrived at Nissan in 1999, people didn’t feel committed to anything; they were saying, ‘I’m doing a great job and this guy next to me is not.’ The company was going bankrupt and everyone was sleeping well at night. I wanted people to make a commitment, which doesn’t have to reflect everything they could do but ensured that they did it. I also wanted them to express via a target what else they could do. If they don’t reach their commitments, I have a problem.” It was seen as ruthless, he goes on, but “the company went like a rocket, up in the first two years”.

Another of his traits is to pit people and companies against each other. He likes to call this the “systematic system” of benchmarking. “The only way I can push Mitsubishi is to say, ‘Go take a look at what Nissan is doing in this area.’ I am telling them, ‘You are engineers, you respect facts and data and I’m going to give you facts and data.’ ” Like it or not, Ghosn’s formula has been successful, although he admits that none of his techniques work unless the company feels the person leading it is engaged, believes in the mission, and sets his own commitments and targets. That, he says, is his definition of leadership.

“Parfait” is Ghosn’s verdict on the beef, much to the satisfaction of our waiter. The famed cake-sized millefeuille is placed between us. Ghosn teases that a second serving is on the way. I confess it is the best millefeuille I’ve tasted. Ghosn’s drive makes me wonder whether he can live with imperfections. I remark it must have been difficult for his four children (all graduates of Stanford University) to grow up with such a high-achieving father.

Obama Era School Discipline Reform Decreases Public School Scores, Increases Bad Behavior

Sheriff David Clarke:

Obama’s Justice and Education Departments fused social justice policies by attempting to undermine public school disciplinary policies in their 2014 initiative called the Positive Behavioral Supports and Intervention System (PBIS). Instead of objectively conducting a comparative analysis between disciplinary policies and outcomes in public schools along racial lines, PBIS spun reality to fit the former administration’s political agenda.

In medical school, bioethics students are taught the danger of making something worse than its present condition. The Latin phrase Primum non nocere means “first, to do no harm.” Similarly, the medical community preaches “given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.” It reminds physicians to consider the possible harm that any intervention might have before proceeding. Obama’s DOE had no such ethical creed, as they should have done, when crafting PIBS.

Liberal politicians and academics rarely consider the effects of their short-sighted experiments on human subjects — students, inmates, and the like — as they analyze disparate impact. It’s commonly referred to as the law of unintended consequences. It has always been more important for liberals to feel as if they’ve done something for a perceived injustice than to worry that the outcome might be worse than what they were trying to remedy.

Related: Police presence in Madison’s taxpayer funded K-12 schools.

Leaked Internal Memo Reveals the ACLU Is Wavering on Free Speech

Robby Soave:

The American Civil Liberties Union will weigh its interest in protecting the First Amendment against its other commitments to social justice, racial equality, and women’s rights, given the possibility that offensive speech might undermine ACLU goals.

“Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed,” wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memo obtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.

It’s hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment. Moving forward, when deciding whether to take a free speech case, the organization will consider “factors such as the (present and historical) context of the proposed speech; the potential effect on marginalized communities; the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values; and the structural and power inequalities in the community in which the speech will occur.”

The memo also makes clear that the ACLU has zero interest in defending First Amendment rights in conjunction with Second Amendment rights. If controversial speakers intend to carry weapons, the ACLU “will generally not represent t

The myth of revealed preference for suburbs

Joe Cortright:

One of the chief arguments in favor of the suburbs is simply that that is where millions and millions of people actually live. If so many Americans live in suburbs, this must be proof that they actually prefer suburban locations to urban ones. The counterargument, of course, is that people can only choose from among the options presented to them. And the options for most people are not evenly split between cities and suburbs, for a variety of reasons, including the subsidization of highways and parking, school policies, and the continuing legacies of racism, redlining, and segregation. One of the biggest reasons, of course, is restrictive zoning, which prohibits the construction of new urban neighborhoods all over the country.
 But does zoning really act as a constraint on more compact, urban housing? Sure, some skeptics might say, it appears that local zoning laws prohibit denser housing and walkable retail districts. But in fact, city governments pass such strict laws because that’s what their constituents want. Especially within a metropolitan region with many different suburban municipalities, these governments are essentially competing for residents and businesses. If there were real demand for denser, walkable neighborhoods, wouldn’t some municipalities figure out that they could attract those people by allowing that type of development?

Harvard Office of Institutional Research on Discrimination Against Asian-American Applicants

Stephen Hsu:

Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research (OIR) produced a series of internal reports on discrimination against Asian-American applicants, beginning in 2013. I believe this was in response to Ron Unz’s late 2012 article The Myth of American Meritocracy. These reports were shared with, among others, William Fitzsimmons (Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid) and Rakesh Khurana (Dean of Harvard College). Faced with an internal investigation showing systemic discrimination against Asian-American applicants, Harvard killed the study and quietly buried the reports. The Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA) supporting memo for Summary Judgment contains excerpts from depositions of these and other Harvard leaders concerning the internal reports. (Starting p.15 — SAD!)

The second report included the figure below. Differences are in SDs, Asian = Asian-American (International applicants are distinct category), and Legacy and Recruited Athlete candidates have been excluded for this calculation.

Has Your School Been Investigated for Civil Rights Violations? 16 Cases have been brought against the Madison School District

Lena Groeger and Annie Waldman:

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education investigates thousands of school districts and colleges around the country for civil rights violations ranging from racial discrimination in school discipline to sexual violence. Related: DeVos Has Scuttled More Than 1,200 Civil Rights Probes Inherited from Obama →

For the first time ever, ProPublica is making available the status of all of the civil rights cases that have been resolved during the past three years, as well as pending investigations. See if your school district or college is being investigated for civil rights violations and why.

One citizen speaks for keeping cops in schools, gets race-baited by school board member; Part #1

David Blaska:

Bad Language + Bad Manners = Bad Policyat the Madison school board’s ad hoc committee on educational resource officers Monday afternoon

Who, exactly, is demanding cops out of schools? I noted that the crowd seated in Room 103 were pretty much the same mob who shouted down the Dane County Board of Supervisors when that ultra-liberal body discussed building a smaller and more humane county jail, one that would treat mental illness and address substance abuse.

Apologizing to the disrupters

It was at this point that the hullaballoo reached a deafening crescendo. One board member, T.J. Mertz, bugged out entirely. Committee chairman Dean Loumos (whom I was seated behind) shouted into my ear (to be heard above the cacophony) if I would be willing to stop right there. Given the pandemonium, I did so. Still had 17 seconds left of the allotted three minutes, but Blaska is public spirited.

Then Dean Loumos did the unforgivable. He apologized to the disrupters! Dean Loumos said he did not know Blaska would use “coded language.”

What coded language? The protestors were black, white, hispanic, and east Asian. Very few are parents. All but a handful are very young, very loud, and very obnoxious. I intend for Dean Loumos to explain or apologize. (We have video at Part #2.)

Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum (2005).

Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: For the biggest group of American workers, wages aren’t just flat. They’re falling.

Jeff Stein and Andrew Van Dam:

This pool of workers includes those in manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as all “nonsupervisory” workers in service industries such health care or fast food. The group accounts for about four-fifths of the privately employed workers in America, according to BLS.

Without adjusting for inflation, these “nonsupervisory” workers saw their average hourly earnings jump 2.8 percent from last year. But that was not enough to keep pace with the 2.9 percent increase in inflation, which economists attributed to rising gas prices.

“This is very likely because of the spike in oil prices eating into inflation-adjusted earnings,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist and strategist at Decision Economics. “We pay for energy-related costs out of our wages, out of our compensation. And it’s making a real impact.”

The fall in those wages has alarmed some economists, who say paychecks should be getting fatter at a time when unemployment is low and businesses are hiring.

The $1.5 Trillion Student Loan Debacle Hits a Tipping Point

Peter Wood:

What’s to be done about the large and growing number of Americans who cannot repay their student loans? There are two new developments. The New York Times reports, “Senators Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill on Thursday that would prevent states from suspending residents’ driver’s licenses and professional licenses over unpaid federal student loans.”

And The Wall Street Journal explains, “For decades, bankruptcy judges refused to consider reducing student loans. That is now changing, and some judges are throwing lifelines to people struggling to repay their debt.”

The Rubio/Warren bill, though it comes from the oddest of political bedfellows, makes a fair amount of sense. Depriving debtors of the means to repay their debts never seemed the smartest way to collect what they owed. The NYT reported last November that it had found 8,700 cases of student loan defaulters being stripped of their professional licenses, a figure that “most likely understated the true tally.” Tennessee appears to be the worse state in which not to repay student loans. Between 2012 and 2017, it went after the licenses of 5,400 student loan debtors.

Before giving too loud a hurrah for Rubio and Warren, however, it is worth considering why states passed such laws in the first place. Some student loan debtors, for example, do have the means to keep up with their repayments and simply choose not to. I’ve encountered several such individuals in the last few years—encountered because they boasted about it. What leverage does a state have to make such deadbeats pay up?

The wit and wisdom of Dr Johnson is still of benefit to us all

Frances Wilson:

The most irritating of recent publishing trends must be the literary self-help guide, and Henry Hitchings’s contribution to the genre will join a shelf now groaning with accounts of how Proust can change your life, how Adam Smith can change your life, what W.H. Auden can do for you, what Montaigne can tell us about how to live, what Tolstoy can teach us in troubled times, and a whole heap of nonsense about what Jane Austen has to say on the subjects of friendships, dating and getting married. The formula is simple: the workings of a vast and complex mind (the mind of Dr Johnson, said Boswell, resembled ‘the Coliseum at Rome’) are boiled down and served up, in bite-sized chunks, for a public assumed to no longer understand the purpose of literature, or how to read.

That said, Dr Johnson lends himself well to the business of moral instruction because moral instruction was his business. He was, as Samuel Beckett put it, a ‘wit and wisdom machine’, whose ‘death’, wrote Thomas Hobhouse in his elegy on the Great Cham, ‘shall teach the world to live’. Johnson’s teachings were once collected in books of aphorisms and Table Talk, and can now be found on fridge magnets: my own Hotpoint reminds me that ‘The man who is tired of London is tired of life’; ‘A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek’; and wine ‘makes a man mistake thoughts for words’. Johnsonian erudition even extends to cucumbers, which ‘should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out’.

LAUSD’s Fiscal Crisis Can’t be Blamed on Charter Schools or Declining Enrollment

Lisa Snell:

Los Angeles Unified School District has lost 245,000 students over the last 15 years. Officials frequently claim charter schools are taking students and causing LAUSD’s budget crisis in the process. But a new report shows the district’s spending, including its hiring of more administrators as enrollment drops, is to blame.

A new Reason Foundation study finds only 35 percent of LAUSD’s enrollment decline over the past 15 years is due to students going to charter schools. In fact, as the district continues to lose students—losing 55,000 since 2013—a smaller percentage of the loss can be attributed to charter school students. Only 13 percent of the district’s enrollment loss for 2017-18 stemmed from students choosing charters.

In the last five years, LAUSD’s K-12 student enrollment dropped by nearly 10 percent and the number of teachers decreased by more than 5 percent. According to the California Department of Education, LAUSD’s per-student revenue went up 33 percent between FY 2012 and FY 2016 so LAUSD should have had more revenue to spend on fewer students.

But, even as it was losing students, the number of total LAUSD employees grew by 5 percent over the last five years, primarily thanks to a nearly 16 percent increase in administrators.

Locally, Madison spends far more than most, nearly $20,000 per student, yet we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A Movement Arises to Take Back Higher Education

Emily Esfhani Smith:

They started insisting on “trigger warnings” and demanding that controversial speakers be disinvited from campus. In fall 2015 a wave of highly publicized protests over racial issues hit Yale and the University of Missouri. In 2016 the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recorded 43 attempts to disinvite speakers from campus. Then in 2017, mobs at Berkeley and Middlebury rioted against provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and social scientist Charles Murray.

Data back up these anecdotes. A 2017 survey by FIRE and YouGov found that 58% of students said it was “important to be part of a campus community where they are not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas.” In a Brookings Institution survey from the same year, 1 in 5 students said using violence to stop a speaker was sometimes acceptable.

Judges sentence youth offenders to chess, with promising results

Monique Sedgwick:

Since January 2018, every Friday afternoon, one campus classroom in Canada is transformed. Tables are set up with two chairs facing one another; a chess set invites players to begin. An interactive white board shows a game in progress. Off to the side, another board is set up with a “chess problem.”

At half past one, the players begin to show up. The room fills with noisy young voices, sharing how their week has gone and clamouring for cookies and juice.

The scene is like any youth gathering, with one difference: Group home workers and probation officers are in attendance.

All of these youth are involved in the criminal justice system and are attending what’s known as the Chess for Life Program at Alberta’s University of Lethbridge as part of their sentence.

Sentencing practices for youth who engage in non-violent crimes have traditionally adopted a punitive approach — for example, ordering time in a juvenile detention centre. However, research suggests that punitive models have little impact on reducing the chances of reoffending.

Requesting action one more time on Wisconsin PI-34 teacher licensing

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

Thanks to everyone who contacted the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) with concerns about the new teacher licensing rules drafted by DPI. As you know, PI-34 provides broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) that go way beyond providing flexibility for districts to deal with emergency teacher shortage situations.

As a result of written and oral testimony on PI-34, the JCRAR put a hold on PI-34 and will meet again on July 13th. We hope at that time they will seek modifications to the rule to more closely align with the statutory requirement that new elementary teachers, special education teachers, reading teachers, and reading specialists pass the FORT. This statute was passed for the protection of our beginning and struggling readers, and to encourage educator preparation programs to do a better job of covering this basic content information about reading acquisition. It is particularly critical in a state like Wisconsin where student reading scores are low for all sub-groups and have not improved for over two decades.

Of course, there is pushback from the people who recommended these licensing changes to DPI. Various associations of school administrators have urged their members to lobby the JCRAR members in favor of allowing individuals to become teachers of record without passing the FORT. The talking points they have provided to their members are enumerated below, along with our comments.

Please contact the JCRAR once more in advance of July 13th, asking them to maintain the integrity of the statutory FORT requirement. Following are the members of the committee:

Representative Ballweg (Co-Chair)

Senator Nass (Co-Chair)

Senator LeMahieu

Senator Stroebel

Senator Larson

Senator Wirch

Representative Neylon

Representative Ott

Representative Hebl

Representative Anderson

Talking Points for School District Administrators with WRC comments:

Wisconsin school districts are facing growing school staffing issues including high turnover, fewer applicants for positions, and candidate shortages in a variety of disciplines. With fewer new teachers entering the profession, new approaches to educator recruitment and retention are critical to ensure all children have access to high-quality educators. We are not opposed to an exemption from the FORT in true emergency cases where a district shows it is unable to hire a fully-licensed teacher, but we should not call these individuals high-qualified educators. We are opposed to allowing those licenses to be renewed year-after-year without the teacher passing the FORT. A one-year time limit for passing the FORT would be sufficient to help districts meet immediate candidate shortages while working toward having a highly-qualified educator in that classroom.

The licensure flexibility afforded under CR17-093 is universally supported by school leaders in their effort to address the growing workforce challenges faced by Wisconsin school districts. This is simply inaccurate. There are school leaders, both superintendents and school board members, who have spoken against exemptions from the FORT.

We must also point out that districts are currently operating under these proposed rule changes as part of the current Emergency Rule. These proposals are already making a positive difference in meeting these workforce challenges in districts throughout Wisconsin. This is also inaccurate. The current Emergency Rule is much narrower than the proposed PI-34. It allows 1-year, renewable licenses with a FORT exemption only if the district shows it cannot find a fully-licensed teacher. PI-34 allows any in-state or out-of-state college graduate to obtain a Tier I license and teach in districts that have not shown shortages.

School administrators support all aspects of the proposed rule but, of particular importance are the flexibilities and candidate expanding aspects in the Tier 1 license. This will allow for a much-needed district sponsored pathway to licensure, immediate licensure for out of state candidates, licensing for speech and language pathologists with a Department of Safety and Professional Services license and licensing for individuals coming into a district on an internship or residency status. These are effective, no-cost solutions to a significant workforce need in Wisconsin school districts. We are opposed to district-sponsored and out-of-state pathways to licensure where the candidates do not have to take and pass the same outcome exams required of other educators. There is no reason to hold these programs to a lower standard.

Educator licensure is simply a minimum requirement. District leadership is responsible for hiring and developing successful educators, and ultimately determining educator quality based on actual teacher performance and student outcomes. District administrators and families should be able to count on licensed applicants having the basic information about reading that they will need to successfully teach all students on day one. This is particularly important in districts that have fewer applicants from which to choose.

Reducing the Tier 1 license flexibility in the rule has the potential to impact as many as 2,400 teaching licenses, many of which are FORT-related stipulations. Any portion of these licensees that lose their ability to teach will exacerbate an already troubling workforce challenge and reduce educational opportunities for children. This concern can be met by maintaining an one-year emergency exception for districts that can show a fully-licensed candidate is not available. Eliminating the continuous renewal option for these licenses and requiring the FORT for district-sponsored and out-of-state pathway licenses will help ensure quality educational opportunities for children. The quality of the teachers is just as important as the quantity. Meanwhile, DPI should set appropriate standards in reading for educator preparation programs, and institute improvement plans for institutions that have low passing rates on the FORT. What does it say about Wisconsin that we have over 1400 teachers in the classroom under Emergency Rules specifically because they have not passed the FORT? At some point, we need to address the root of the problem if we are to have sufficient numbers of highly-qualified teachers for every beginning or struggling reader.

Foundations of Reading: Wisconsin’ only teacher content knowledge requirement…

Compare with MTEL

Mark Seidenberg on Reading:

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

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

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

An emphasis on adult employment, also Zimman.

Alan Borsuk:

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

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

Homeland Security’s Massive New Database Will Include Face Recognition, DNA, and Peoples’ “Non-Obvious Relationships”

Jennifer Lynch:

The records DHS plans to include in HART will chill and deter people from exercising their First Amendment protected rights to speak, assemble, and associate. Data like face recognition makes it possible to identify and track people in real time, including at lawful political protests and other gatherings. Other data DHS is planning to collect—including information about people’s “relationship patterns” and from officer “encounters” with the public—can be used to identify political affiliations, religious activities, and familial and friendly relationships. These data points are also frequently colored by conjecture and bias.

In late May, EFF filed comments criticizing DHS’s plans to collect, store, and share biometric and biographic records it receives from external agencies and to exempt this information from the federal Privacy Act. These newly-designated “External Biometric Records” (EBRs) will be integral to DHS’s bigger plans to build out HART. As we told the agency in our comments, DHS must do more to minimize the threats to privacy and civil liberties posed by this vast new trove of highly sensitive personal data.

Harvard University ‘discriminates against Asian-Americans’


Harvard University is discriminating against Asian-American applicants, a non-profit group suing the flagship US academic institution has claimed.
Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) said Harvard preferred white, black and Hispanic applicants, some less qualified than Asian-American ones.
It said Harvard consistently ranked Asian-American applicants lowest on personal traits such as likeability.

Harvard denied this, saying admission rates for Asian-Americans had grown.

Asian-Americans currently make up 22.2% of students admitted to Harvard, according to the university website.

How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? A Meta-Analysis

Stuart J. Ritchie, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob:

Intelligence test scores and educational duration are positively correlated. This correlation could be interpreted in two ways: Students with greater propensity for intelligence go on to complete more education, or a longer education increases intelligence. We meta-analyzed three categories of quasiexperimental studies of educational effects on intelligence: those estimating education-intelligence associations after controlling for earlier intelligence, those using compulsory schooling policy changes as instrumental variables, and those using regression-discontinuity designs on school-entry age cutoffs. Across 142 effect sizes from 42 data sets involving over 600,000 participants, we found consistent evidence for beneficial effects of education on cognitive abilities of approximately 1 to 5 IQ points for an additional year of education. Moderator analyses indicated that the effects persisted across the life span and were present on all broad categories of cognitive ability studied. Education appears to be the most consistent, robust, and durable method yet to be identified for raising intelligence.

The Wounds of the Drone Warrior

Eyal Press:

n the spring of 2006, Christopher Aaron started working 12-hour shifts in a windowless room at the Counterterrorism Airborne Analysis Center in Langley, Va. He sat before a wall of flat-screen monitors that beamed live, classified video feeds from drones hovering in distant war zones. On some days, Aaron discovered, little of interest appeared on the screens, either because a blanket of clouds obscured visibility or because what was visible — goats grazing on an Afghan hillside, for instance — was mundane, even serene. Other times, what unspooled before Aaron’s eyes was jarringly intimate: coffins being carried through the streets after drone strikes; a man squatting in a field to defecate after a meal (the excrement generated a heat signature that glowed on infrared); an imam speaking to a group of 15 young boys in the courtyard of his madrasa. If a Hellfire missile killed the target, it occurred to Aaron as he stared at the screen, everything the imam might have told his pupils about America’s war with their faith would be confirmed.

The infrared sensors and high-resolution cameras affixed to drones made it possible to pick up such details from an office in Virginia. But as Aaron learned, identifying who was in the cross hairs of a potential drone strike wasn’t always straightforward. The feed on the monitors could be grainy and pixelated, making it easy to mistake a civilian trudging down a road with a walking stick for an insurgent carrying a weapon. The figures on-screen often looked less like people than like faceless gray blobs. How certain could Aaron be of who they were? “On good days, when a host of environmental, human and technological factors came together, we had a strong sense that who we were looking at was the person we were looking for,” Aaron said. “On bad days, we were literally guessing.”

Initially, the good days outnumbered the bad ones for Aaron. He wasn’t bothered by the long shifts, the high-pressure decisions or the strangeness of being able to stalk — and potentially kill — targets from thousands of miles away. Although Aaron and his peers spent more time doing surveillance and reconnaissance than coordinating strikes, sometimes they would relay information to a commander about what they saw on-screen, and “60 seconds later, depending on what we would report, you would either see a missile fired or not,” he said. Other times, they would trail targets for months. The first few times he saw a Predator drone unleash its lethal payload — the camera zooming in, the laser locking on, a plume of smoke rising above the scorched terrain where the missile struck — he found it surreal, he told me. But he also found it awe-inspiring. Often, he experienced a surge of adrenaline, as analysts in the room exchanged high-fives.

What the marsh Arabs can teach us about Noah’s flood.

Nicolas Pelham:

Few places would better qualify for hell on earth. In Basra, gas flares from oil wells shoot upward. They turn the sky orange at night and bake what is already one of the hottest places on earth by day. The ground is cooked to toast. The wreckage of past invasions and wars litters a landscape otherwise unremittingly barren and flat. Most of the palm trees that covered the surface have either wilted or been severed by shells. Slums spill out of Iraq’s decrepit second city, adding the black stench of sewage to the assault on the senses.

Out of the desolation flow the cleansing, balmy waters of the Ahwar, Iraq’s marshes. Barely an hour’s drive north on the highway from Basra, left at a derelict paper mill, and beyond an army checkpoint, herds of water buffalo slide into the cool shallows and bathe between the bulrushes. I went there in February, as spring was coming, and found Razaq Jabbar, a wizened boatman in a traditional black tunic crisply buttoned to the neck, waiting by his motorized mashoof, or gondola. He invited me and my traveling companions—Jassim al-Asadi, a director of Nature Iraq, which works to revive the wetlands, and my guide, Abbas al-Jabouri, and his teenage son—aboard, and steered his boat through a maze of reeds that bristled above marshlands stretching reassuringly beyond the horizon. As he sailed, he regaled us with the same songs he had sung a few months earlier to the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, in the same boat. He moaned for lovers lost forever in the harsh desert and delighted in new ones found among the wetlands. We clapped in accompaniment as he turned primordial fertility myths into song.

The return of the marshlands after a century of planned and unplanned desiccation is like Noah’s flood in reverse. Ever since the 1970s, Turkey and Syria had dammed the Euphrates River and its tributaries, curtailing the annual deluge that cooled and enriched Iraq’s flatlands with water and silt from Anatolia’s snowcapped mountains. Formerly fast-flowing waters slowed to a trickle, or on occasion stopped altogether. Fields lost their fecundity and turned to crust. The Middle East’s largest wetlands shrank and dried.

Google Is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die

Mark Bergen:

The harrowing account of the unidentified woman’s death was published by Google in May in research highlighting the health-care potential of neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve. Google had created a tool that could forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die.

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.

Hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers have been trying for years to better use stockpiles of electronic health records and other patient data. More information shared and highlighted at the right time could save lives — and at the very least help medical workers spend less time on paperwork and more time on patient care. But current methods of mining health data are costly, cumbersome and time consuming.

“There are half a million species of beetles, why did God make so many?”

Freeman Dyson:

Just to clarify here for our readers, obviously, you’re poking holes in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution but you’re saying it only tells the story up to a certain point. What do you mean by that?
Well that he believed that evolution was driven by selection. That’s essentially Darwin’s contribution. And it’s true for big populations, but it has limits.

The limits are you need big populations in order for selection to be dominant. If you have small populations, then random drift is actually more important than selection. That’s the Kimura theory. Kimura called it the neutral theory of evolution and he wrote a book about it which was widely ignored by all the orthodox biologists.

But I think he was right. And in fact, it happens that small populations are very important in evolution. In fact, you have to have a small population to start a new species, almost by definition. So small populations have a controlling effect on starting new species and also in the extension of old species.

So this neutral regime where the selection is not important may, in fact, be the real driving force of evolution when you come to a new species. And of course, if that’s true, it changes the picture in many ways.

Darwin understood the difficulty. He asked the question “why is nature so diverse?”, he asked, “why do we have millions of species?” Darwin asked the question, in a beautiful way, “why did God love beetles? There are half a million species of beetles, why did God make so many?”

And it’s hard to understand that on the basis of selection. If selection were dominant, then you’d expect that there would be a few species of beetle which would prevail. They would be the best adapted and the others would disappear.

But in the real world, you have this enormous richness of species, many kinds of beetle and there are birds of paradise and there are all sorts of weird peacocks with peacock feathers which seem to be peculiarly unfit. And all those weird creatures which have prevailed for reasons that Darwin couldn’t explain. He understood that there was a problem and I think that the neutral theory of Kimura really does help a lot to understand that.

I tend to believe the answer is yes. There are so many details in the universe that seem to favour life and intelligence. It looks as if there is some purpose there, but certainly, we cannot decide that. It’s a matter of religion, not of science.

The Onion Declares War on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook

Megh Wright:

Remember when news broke earlier this year that Elon Musk had poached several Onion staffers for a mysterious new comedy project, then the Onion and ClickHole retaliated by publishing a ton of articles like “I Did Everything I Could To Buy ClickHole, But Their Editorial Integrity Won Out Over My Billion-Dollar Offers, And I Respect Them Even More For That (By Elon Musk)” and “Elon Musk Embarrassed After Realizing He Proposing Idea For Thing That Already Exists”? Well, another powerful tech billionaire — Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — is the target of the Onion’s ire this week, and the result is deliciously and scathingly entertaining.

Design Thinking Is a Boondoggle

Lee Vinsel:

Do you know what design thinking is?

Your answer to that question will depend largely on where you sit. Design thinking is often centrally associated with the fabled design and consulting firm IDEO, most famous for crafting Apple’s first mouse and the look of the Palm V personal digital assistant. But in recent years, it is Stanford University’s design school (or “” — their asinine punctuation, not mine) that has become most associated with design thinking. IDEO will charge you $399 for a self-paced, video-based design-thinking course, “Insights for Innovation.” Stanford will charge you $12,600 for a four-day “Design Thinking Bootcamp” called, likewise, “From Insights to Innovation.” Clearly, there’s money to be made from design thinking.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Confusion is a common reaction to a “movement” that’s little more than floating balloons of jargon. If design thinking (for short, let’s call it the DTs) merely involved bilking some deluded would-be entrepreneurs, well — no harm no foul. The problem is that faddists and cult-followers are pushing the DTs as a reform for all of higher education. In the last couple of years, The Chronicle has published articles with titles like “Can Design Thinking Redesign Higher Ed?” and “Is ‘Design Thinking’ the New Liberal Arts?” The only reasonable answer to these questions is “Oh hell no.”

Both articles feature DT enthusiasts taking pilgrimages to Stanford’s In “Is ‘Design Thinking’ the New Liberal Arts?” Peter N. Miller, a professor of history and dean at Bard Graduate Center, explains the’s various origins. First, there is the product-design program in Stanford’s engineering school. Second, there is the Esalen Institute, a retreat center in Big Sur and home to the Human Potential Movement and other New Age nonsense. Stanford community members started hanging out there in the 1960s, where they picked up terms like “creativity” and “empathy.” Finally, there is the Stanford design alum David Kelly, who got deeply into the empathy thing and started IDEO in 1978.

After founding the company, Kelly was an occasional instructor at Stanford. In 2005, he approached the software billionaire and IDEO fan-client Hasso Plattner, with, as Miller writes, “the idea of creating a home for design thinking.” Plattner donated $35 million, inaugurating the, or what you might call “”

How an ultra-exclusive public school has avoided a citywide diversity push

Melissa Klein:

The children of Cynthia Nixon, Samantha Bee and Louis C.K. got into this popular public middle school, while hundreds of others are shut out every year.

The Center School has operated like a fiefdom on the Upper West Side, enrolling just 234 students in grades 5 to 8 with a mysterious admissions process that pledges diversity in race and ability but has resulted in a school that is mostly white, affluent and high-performing.

As the Upper West Side’s District 3 struggles to bring “academic diversity” and desegregation to the area, The Center School stands out as an island of privilege.

It would be exempt from the Department of Education proposal to require middle schools in District 3 give 25 percent of admissions priority to students scoring at the lowest two levels on state English and math tests.

Benedict Arnold’s ‘Villainous Perfidy’

Gordon Wood:

His path from wartime hero to resentful traitor.

It was once common knowledge, the story of Benedict Arnold—that extraordinarily successful patriot general who abruptly turned against the American Revolution. Because he had been so trusted by George Washington, Arnold was regarded as the worst of traitors. Indeed, his very name became synonymous with treachery and treason. Not so anymore. Nowadays many young Americans have no idea who Arnold was, and even those who have vaguely heard of the name have little sense of what he did and why “Benedict Arnold” has been a byword for betrayal through much of our history.

This loss of memory comes in part from a changing view of the revolution. In the hands of present-day teachers and professors the revolution is no longer the glorious cause it once was. It is now mostly taught—when it is taught at all—as a tale of woe and oppression, redressing what many academics believe was an overemphasis on the patriotism of great white men. “Those marginalized by former histories,” writes the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor in a recent introduction to current scholarship, “now assume centrality as our stories increasingly include Native peoples, the enslaved, women, the poor, Hispanics, and the French as key actors.” In his own narrative of the revolution, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804, Taylor has painted a bleak picture of the event. Most of the patriots were not quite as patriotic as we used to think. The Southern planters, for example, engaged in the revolution principally to protect their property in enslaved Africans, but “implausibly blamed the persistence of slavery on the British.” Ordinary white men were even worse. In the West, where the fighting was especially vicious and bloody, they tended to run wild and slaughter Indians in pursuit of their “genocidal goals.” In the end, writes Taylor, it was a white man’s revolution whose success came at the expense of everyone else—blacks, Indians, and women.

School’s Closed. Forever.

Julie Bosman:

Ten-year-old Lola Roske grabbed her backpack and headed to elementary school for the last day of class, the final check on her to-do list before the unstructured bliss of summer.

At drop-off, her mother, Kellie Roske, was determined not to linger. All around her, parents were hugging their children. Teachers were brushing away tears.

“I surprisingly held it together,” said Ms. Roske, who for weeks had steeled herself for an “ugly-cry day.”

If Trump wants to blow up the world order, who will stop him?

Yanis Varoufakis :

Donald Trump’s early departure, and his subsequent refusal to endorse the G7 communique, has thrown the mainstream press into an apoplexy reflecting a deeper incomprehension of our unfolding global reality.

In a bid to mix toughness with humour, Emmanuel Macron had quipped that the G7 might become the … G6. That’s absurd, not least because without the United States, capitalism as we know it (let alone the pitiful G7 gatherings) would disappear from the planet’s face.

There is, of course, little doubt that with Trump in the White House there is an awful lot we should be angst-ridden about. However, the establishment’s reaction to the president’s shenanigans, in the United States and in Europe, is perhaps an even greater worry for progressives, replete as it is with dangerous wishful thinking and copious miscalculation.

Some put their faith in the Mueller investigation, assuming that Mike Pence would be kinder to them as president. Others are holding their breath until 2020, refusing to consider the possibility of a second term. What they all fail to grasp is the very real tectonic shifts underpinning Trump’s uncouth antics.

Most Americans’ Wages Have Actually Declined Over the Past Year

Eric Levitz:

The second question is easier answer than the first. There is essentially no evidence that the president’s tax cuts (his sole piece of major economic legislation) did anything to significantly improve America’s macroeconomic performance. Since that legislation’s passage, economic growth in the U.S. has actually slowed; consumer spending and wage growth has been tepid; and business investment, unremarkable.

One can reasonably credit Trump for successfully avoiding any policy mistake disastrous enough to derail the expansion he inherited (a preemptive war with North Korea, for example). But his entrance into the Oval Office did not coincide with any significant, positive change in the economy’s preexisting trend line. If you do not own a pass-through business or a significant amount of corporate stock, chances are Trump has personally done nothing to significantly improve your economic circumstances.

This Man Is the Godfather the AI Community Wants to Forget

Ashlee Vance:

Many of the biggest names in the technology industry are consumed with developing an artificial general intelligence, or AGI. Unlike today’s leading artificial intelligence software, an AGI wouldn’t need flesh-and-blood trainers to figure out how to translate English to Mandarin or spot tumors in an X-ray. In theory, it would have some measure of independence from its creators, solve complex, novel problems on its own, and herald an era in which humankind is no longer superior to machines.
The consensus among our pitiful fleshbrains is that if humans ever manage to create an AGI, it’ll arise in Mountain View, Calif., Beijing, or Moscow. All three cities are near world-class AI research universities and are home to companies that have pumped billions into the AGI race. There exists, however, a chance that the breakthrough will come from the Swiss city of Lugano. Yes, Lugano.
The picturesque slice of Switzerland’s southern tip is home to about 60,000 people, including a computer scientist named Jürgen Schmidhuber. He’s a professor, a researcher, and the co-founder of a 25-employee AI startup called Nnaisense. (Pronounced like “nascence,” the name is proof that Silicon Valley holds no monopoly on ridiculous company names.) Schmidhuber is a pioneer who effectively figured out how to give AI systems memories. His ideas appear in one form or another in just about every smartphone, social network, and digital assistant. He’s not shy to mention these things, or to cite reams of documentation to back himself up, or to say things like, “My team plans to change the course of human history,” in between bites of salmon lasagna at a Lugano cafe.

In Harvard Affirmative Action Suit, Filings to Provide Rare Look at Admissions Process

Melissa Korn and Nicole Hong:

A closely watched lawsuit accusing Harvard University of discriminating against Asian-American applicants is approaching a critical juncture, as court filings later this week are expected to reveal new details about how the school’s undergraduate admissions process affects different ethnic and racial groups.

Both sides are due to submit lengthy documents Friday in Boston federal court that will serve as a preview for an October bench trial, in which a federal judge will decide whether the school’s affirmative-action practices are unconstitutional or illegal under federal civil-rights law.

The lawsuit against Harvard was filed in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit whose members include Asian-American students who were denied admission to Harvard.

The plaintiffs allege Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans by limiting the number of Asian-American students who are admitted and holding them to a higher standard than students of other races.

Friday’s motions are likely to include thousands of pages of supporting documents both sides have gathered over the past two years, including dozens of depositions and statistical analyses of detailed admissions data covering six years, during which roughly 200,000 people applied to Harvard.

Has Consciousness Lost Its Mind?

Tom Bartlett:

Start with Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra, and a robot that loves you no matter what. Add a knighted British physicist, a renowned French neuroscientist, and a prominent Australian philosopher/occasional blues singer. Toss in a bunch of psychologists, mathematicians, anesthesiologists, artists, meditators, a computer programmer or two, and several busloads of amateur theorists waving self-published manuscripts and touting grand unified solutions. Send them all to a swanky resort in the desert for a week, supply them with lots of free coffee and beer, and ask them to unpack a riddle so confounding that it’s unclear how to make progress or where you’d even begin.

Then just, like, see what happens.

The cover of the program for the Science of Consciousness conference, held recently in Tucson, shows a human brain getting sucked into (or perhaps rising from?) a black hole. That seems about right: After a week of listening to eye-crossingly detailed descriptions of teeny-tiny cell structures known as microtubules, along with a lecture about building a soundproof booth in order to chat with the whispery spirit world, you too would feel as if your neurons had been siphoned from your skull and launched deep into space.

Oh, by the way, attendees could also take a gong bath, during which you’re bathed in the musical vibrations of a gong being struck. Or lie down in a curiously unsupervised and unstable-looking sensory-deprivation chamber. Or take a black-light yoga class, which involves — as the name suggests — doing yoga in a room illuminated by black light accompanied by a DJ pumping out frenetic techno beats. Meanwhile, a company offered demos of a brain-stimulation device that had to be inserted way too far up one nostril. And an enthusiastic fellow demonstrated his Spontaneous Postural Alignment technique, in which a misaligned subject’s elbow is tapped with a gold medallion while the healer intones, “boy-yoi-yoing.”

‘Forget the Facebook leak’: China is mining data directly from workers’ brains on an industrial scale

Stephen Chen:

On the surface, the production lines at Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric look like any other.

Workers outfitted in uniforms staff lines producing sophisticated equipment for telecommunication and other industrial sectors.

But there’s one big difference – the workers wear caps to monitor their brainwaves, data that management then uses to adjust the pace of production and redesign workflows, according to the company.

The company said it could increase the overall efficiency of the workers by manipulating the frequency and length of break times to reduce mental stress.

Commentary on Madison’s Sherman Middle School’s Principal

Chris Rickert:

Foreman, who did not respond to requests for comment, says in a letter to Sherman staff earlier this week that she will be making “some key changes in my leadership approach” in the coming school year, which she coins the “year of renewal.” Among them are meeting with teachers union officials to discuss more regular communication, and being more accessible to staff and families and more visible in the building.

In her statement, Cheatham said district officials take feedback from Sherman staff and parents seriously and met with them last semester to “understand the concerns and to create a plan to address them.

“We also understand that, for some, this progress has not been fast enough,” she said.

Related: Madison teacher Karen Vieth.

Sherman Middle School.

Reasonableness Without Reasons: Yascha Mounk’s “The People vs. Democracy”

Jonny Thakkar:

“THE STAKES OF politics have become existential,” writes Yascha Mounk in The People vs. Democracy, pitched as a bracing call to arms for all those who fear that the foundations of liberal democracy are being rapidly eroded. “In the years to come, it may take more and more courage to stand up for what we hold dear.”

Apocalyptic visions are in vogue, it seems: Mounk’s book on contemporary threats to liberal democracy, subtitled “Why Our Freedom Is in Danger & How to Save It,” might easily be sold as part of a millenarian package deal with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die, Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny, and Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West.

What distinguishes Mounk’s contribution to the genre, for good and ill, is what we might call its fundamental Voxiness — its currency in the cafe society of liberal Washington. At the level of form, Voxiness combines a seemingly insatiable desire to convey the latest social science with a correspondingly steadfast refusal of wide-ranging normative argument. This is what generates its astonishing capacity, at the level of content, to somehow both overturn conventional wisdom and affirm the preexisting beliefs of reasonable people.

Passe presomptif

Peter Thonemann:

The first date in English History, according to 1066 and All That, is 55 BC, the year of Julius Caesar’s memorable landing at Thanet. “The Ancient Britons”, Sellar and Yeatman remind us, “were by no means savages before the Conquest, and had already made great strides in civilisation, e.g. they buried each other in long round wheelbarrows (agriculture) and burnt each other alive (religion) under the guidance of even older Britons called Druids or Eisteddfods . . . . The Roman Conquest was, however, a Good Thing, since the Britons were only natives at that time.”

The Truth About America’s Graduation Rate

Anya Kamenetz:

To find out, NPR Ed enlisted the help of 14 reporters at member stations around the country. We identified three major ways that states and districts try to improve their graduation rates.

1 Stepping in early to keep kids on track.

2 Lowering the bar by offering alternate and easier routes when students falter.

3 Gaming the system by moving likely dropouts off the books, transferring or misclassifying them.

Commentary on Madison’s recent graduation rate rhetoric.

Madison School District Response To Open Records Requests Called “Ugly”

Simpson Street Free Press:

Open records watchdogs and clean government advocates call responses by Madison school officials to open records inquires “ugly.”

A recent report distributed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and published in the Wisconsin State Journal says the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) would not fulfill a request for information about public records without payment. Responding to a specific request, filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), the Madison district required a payment of more than $1,000 to provide the requested information.

WILL attorneys Tom Kamenick and Libby Sobic say large school districts like Madison and Milwaukee “need to devote more resources to complying with open records law.”

According to an attorney representing MMSD, the Madison district does not have a system in place for tracking open records requests, hence its extremely high price in this case.

Writing in the Wisconsin State Journal, Kamenick says that while records custodians are allowed to charge fees for locating records, schools districts that need so much time to locate records are apparently not doing a good job of tracking requests.

“It should not be so hard to find out how well any government entity complies with the law,” Kamenick said.

Testing the populace before they can vote

Dambisa Moyo:

I have been examining electoral systems across the world. In many democracies, including the US and UK, migrants are required to pass government-sanctioned civic tests in order to gain citizenship. So, in this vein, why not give all voters a test of their knowledge? This would ensure minimum standards that should lead to higher-quality decision-making by the electorate. The message this would send is that voting is not just a right, but one that has to be earned. Such testing would not only lead to a better-informed electorate, but also to voters who are more actively engaged.

Of course, such a system would be truly democratic only if everybody had a fair chance of casting their vote. It is vital that those with fewer life opportunities have their say, and we cannot have a system that is skewed against the worst educated, which would leave poorer people even more marginalised and unrepresented than they already are. To that end, the knowledge needed should be part of the core curriculum, with young people tested in their final year of secondary education. Governments could also organise tests for those over school age.

But if we raise the bar for voters, we must also do so for politicians. Improving the quality and credibility of political leaders is essential to enhancing democracy’s legitimacy. One approach is to move away from the career politician model by setting minimum experience requirements for politicians.

In the Snatches of Free Time: On Collecting Roland Barthes

Ayten Tartici:

IN AN 1885 letter to Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé grumbled that all the thousands of bits, shreds, and fragments he had written over the years “make up an album, but not a book” [composent un album, mais pas un livre]. In 19th-century France, the album, echoing its Latin root albus (white), was an actual notebook of blank pages to which one’s friends and acquaintances contributed drawings, poems, and even musical scores (think of it as a yearbook on steroids, assembled just for your enjoyment). In the last course he ever offered at the Collège de France before his untimely death, Roland Barthes revived Mallarmé’s distinction, pitting the album and the book against one another as literary forms: if the album is circumstantial, discontinuous, and lacking in structure, the book is an ordered totality basking in its own architectural design. Mallarmé’s Divagations is an album, he readily agrees; Dante’s The Divine Comedy, a book.

The Defeat of Reason

Tim Maudlin:

People are gullible. Humans can be duped by liars and conned by frauds; manipulated by rhetoric and beguiled by self-regard; browbeaten, cajoled, seduced, intimidated, flattered, wheedled, inveigled, and ensnared. In this respect, humans are unique in the animal kingdom.

Aristotle emphasizes another characteristic. Humans alone, he tells us, have logos: reason. Man, according to the Stoics, is zoön logikon, the reasoning animal. But on reflection, the first set of characteristics arises from the second. It is only because we reason and think and use language that we can be hoodwinked.

Not only can people be led astray, most people are. If the devout Christian is right, then committed Hindus and Jews and Buddhists and atheists are wrong. When so many groups disagree, the majority must be mistaken. And if the majority is misguided on just this one topic, then almost everyone must be mistaken on some issues of great importance. This is a hard lesson to learn, because it is paradoxical to accept one’s own folly. You cannot at the same time believe something and recognize that you are a mug to believe it. If you sincerely judge that it is raining outside, you cannot at the same time be convinced that you are mistaken in your belief. A sucker may be born every minute, but somehow that sucker is never oneself.

A sucker may be born every minute, but somehow that sucker is never oneself.

The two books under consideration here bring the paradox home, each in its own way. Adam Becker’s What Is Real? chronicles the tragic side of a crowning achievement of reason, quantum physics. The documentarian Errol Morris gives us The Ashtray, a semi-autobiographical tale of the supremely influential The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) by Thomas S. Kuhn. Both are spellbinding intellectual adventures into the limits, fragility, and infirmity of human reason. Becker covers the sweep of history, from the 1925 birth of the “new” quantum physics up through the present day. Morris’s tale is more picaresque. Anecdotes, cameos, interviews, historical digressions, sly sidenotes, and striking illustrations hang off a central spine that recounts critical episodes in the history of analytic philosophy.

Chinese school installs facial recognition cameras to monitor students


The “Big Brother” strategy underscores how AI and facial recognition tools are increasingly being used in China for a host of tasks, from verifying payments and catching criminals to checking the audience at big entertainment events and customers at fast-food joints.

The ubiquitous cameras – part of daily life in most big Chinese cities – are part of an array of surveillance technologies that have raised worries about privacy.

“The system only collects students’ facial expressions and behavior information,” the school’s vice principal, Zhang Guanqun, told news outlet the Paper.

Biology Will Be the Next Great Computing Platform

Megan Molteni:

In some ways, Synthego looks like any other Silicon Valley startup. Inside its beige business park facilities, a five-minute drive from Facebook HQ, rows of nondescript black server racks whir and blink and vent. But inside the metal shelving, the company isn’t pushing around ones and zeros to keep the internet running. It’s making molecules to rewrite the code of life.

Crispr, the powerful gene-editing tool, is revolutionizing the speed and scope with which scientists can modify the DNA of organisms, including human cells. So many people want to use it—from academic researchers to agtech companies to biopharma firms—that new companies are popping up to staunch the demand. Companies like Synthego, which is using a combination of software engineering and hardware automation to become the Amazon of genome engineering. And Inscripta, which wants to be the Apple. And Twist Bioscience, which could be the Intel.

Civics: Canada’s ‘Random’ Immigration Lottery Uses Microsoft Excel, Which Isn’t Actually Random

AJ Dellinger:

Last year, Canada introduced a new lottery system used to extend permanent-resident status to the parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens. The process was designed to randomly select applicants in order to make the process fairer than the old first-come, first-served system. There’s just one problem: the software used to run the lottery isn’t actually random.

The Globe and Mail reported the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses Microsoft Excel to run the immigration lottery to select 10,000 people for permanent resident status from a field of about 100,000 applications received each year. Experts warned that the random number generating function in Excel isn’t actually random and may put some applicants at a disadvantage.

First, it’s best to understand just how the lottery system works. An Access to Information request filed by The Globe and Mail shows that IRCC inputs the application number for every person entering the lottery into Excel, then assigns them a random number to each using a variation of the program’s RAND command. They then sort the list from smallest to largest based on the random number assigned and take the first 10,000 applications with the lowest numbers.

The system puts a lot of faith in Excel’s random function, which it might not deserve. According to Université de Montréal computer science professor Pierre L’Ecuyer, Excel is “very bad” at generating random numbers because it relies on an old generator that is out of date. He also warned that Excel doesn’t pass statistical tests and is less random than it appears, which means some people in the lottery may actually have a lower chance of being selected than others.

The forgotten factor in student achievement: the student

Valerie Strauss & Will Fitzhugh:

Will Fitzhugh is the founder and editor of The Concord Review, believed to be the world’s only English-language quarterly review for history academic papers by high school students. The Review, founded in Massachusetts in March 1987, comes out four times a year and has published more than 1,000 history research papers—with an average of 6,000 words, with endnotes and bibliography—from secondary student authors in 44 states and 39 other countries. The latest edition, Winter 2013, includes research papers on Jackie Robinson, the Proclamation of 1763 and the German Navy in World War I.

It should come as no surprise that Fitzhugh has long called for a requirement that no high school student be permitted to graduate without having produced at least one serious research paper in history. As it is today, most students graduate from high school without having written one in any subject.

Fitzhugh is also a strong advocate for holding students responsible for their own work, noting in an e-mail, correctly, that if teachers are the only “moving part” in the classroom, then “there is no room, literally, for the agency of students.” In the current school reform era in which the focus has been on the effectiveness of teachers and to a lesser extent principals, his message has special resonance.

Here’s a piece that Fitzhugh wrote on the subject:

It is settled wisdom among Funderpundits and those to whom they give their grants that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality, but I have regularly pointed out that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work.

Now, however, a small number of other dissenting voices have begun to speak. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, in Academically Adrift have suggested that (p. 131) “Studying is crucial for strong academic performance…” and “Scholarship on teaching and learning has burgeoned over the past several decades and has emphasized the importance of shifting attention from faculty teaching to student learning…”

This may seem unacceptably heterodox to those in government and the private sector who have committed billions of dollars to focusing on the selection, training, supervision, and control of K-12 teachers, while giving no thought to whether K-12 students are actually doing the academic work which they are assigned.

In 2004, Paul A. Zoch, a teacher from Texas, wrote in Doomed to Fail:

“Let there be no doubt about it: the United States looks to its teachers and their efforts, but not to its students and their efforts, for success in education.”

More recently, and less on the fringe of this new concern, Diane Ravitch wrote in Death and Life of the Great American School System:

“One problem with test-based accountability, as currently defined and used, is that it removes all responsibility from students and their families for the students’ academic performance. NCLB neglected to acknowledge that students share in the responsibility for their academic performance and that they are not merely passive recipients of their teachers’ influence.”

There are necessarily problems in turning attention toward the work of students in judging the effectiveness of schools. First, all the present attention is on teachers, and it is not easy to turn that around. Second, teachers are employees and can be fired, while students can not. It could not be comfortable for the Funderpundits and their beneficiaries to realize that they may have been overlooking the most important variable in student academic achievement all this time.

In February, when the Associated Press reported that Natalie Monroe, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, had called her students, on a blog, “disengaged, lazy whiners,” and “noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS,” the response of the school system was not to look more closely at the academic efforts of the students, but to suspend the teacher. As one of her students explained, “As far as motivated high school students, she’s completely correct. High school kids don’t want to do anything…(but) It’s a teacher’s job…to give students the motivation to learn.” (sic)

It would seem that no matter who points out that “You can lead a student to learning, but you can’t make him drink,” our systems of schools and Funderpundits stick with their wisdom that teachers alone are responsible for student academic achievement.

While that is wrong, it is also stupid. Alfred North Whitehead (or someone else) once wrote:

“For an education, a man’s books and teachers are but a help, the real work is his.”

As in the old story about the drunk searching under the lamppost for his keys, those who control funds for education believe that as long as all their money goes to paying attention to what teachers are doing, who they are, how they are trained, and so on, they can’t see the point of looking in the darkness at those who have the complete and ultimate control over how much academic achievement there will be—namely the students.

Apart from scores on math and reading tests after all, student academic work is ignored by all those interested in paying to change the schools. What students do in literature, Latin, chemistry, math, and Asian history classes is of no interest to them. Liberal education is not only on the back burner for those focused on basic skills and job readiness as they define them, but that burner is also turned off at present.

This situation will persist as long as those funding programs and projects for reform in education pay no attention to the actual academic work of our students. And students, who see little or no pressure to be other than “disengaged lazy whiners” will continue to pay the price for their lack of education, both in college and at work, and we will continue to draw behind in comparison with those countries who realize that student academic achievement has always been, and will always be, mainly dependent on diligent student academic work.

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7:50 AM EST


My high school senior has done very little writing, short essays at best and absolutely no research paper. And this is with 6 humanities type AP classes. He did far more writing and research in the middle school humanities program.

Students at our high school aren’t asked to do any work of substance. From talking with parents, students in high school magnet or IB programs, and maybe a few others, are the only ones who learn how to do research and write.

MCPS does not hold high expectations and standards equally for all its high school students.

7:31 AM EST

Thank you, Valerie. I had planned to rail against Common Core Curriculum at tonight’s school board meeting, but intend to read your column during public comment instead.


7:23 AM EST

Fitzhugh is quite right. The consequences of the “blame the teacher” emphasis in K-12 become even clearer in college when students must become self-directed learners and produce a great deal of original research and writing. Many struggle with the basic academic work-products like short term papers and essays that have no plagiarism. Some students even say that plagiarism is not a problem because their job is simply to assemble other people’s knowledge. When students grow up taking zero ownership for their own learning, they learn almost nothing. Standardized tests measure only one narrow band of knowledge. For students to develop and manifest broad and deep talents in critical reasoning and synthesis, research, writing and quantitative analysis, they must learn to produce substantial amounts of their own work for critical assessment. For students to know how to do this kind of work, they must learn from first grade that their engagement is central to the learning contract.

Another big-name university drops SAT/ACT essay requirement

Nick Anderson, via Will Fitzhugh:

Few schools now require applicants to take the tests with essays. Among those that do are the University of California and Stanford, Princeton, Duke and Brown universities. Most of the Ivy League has dropped the requirement. Many admission professionals say that while they highly value writing skills, the essay scores obtained from the two tests are not useful. Selective colleges typically require students to submit one or more essays with their applications, and they also look closely at performance in English classes.

The SAT essay has a complicated history. For years, students were able to submit essay scores from the College Board, which oversees the SAT, through what are now known as SAT Subject tests (a program separate from the main SAT). In 2005, the main SAT was revised to include a required essay section, and the scale for the total test changed to a maximum score of 2400. In 2016, the main SAT was overhauled again. The maximum score reverted to 1600, and the 50-minute essay section was made separate and optional from the three-hour main test.

In the high school Class of 2017, about 1.7 million students took the SAT. Seventy percent of them — 1.2 million — took it with the essay.

The essay version of the ACT — officially known as ACT with Writing — debuted in 2005. A little more than half of the 2 million ACT takers in the Class of 2017 used this option. The writing section adds 40 minutes to a test that otherwise takes about three hours.

The essay option often means added expense for students. The main SAT fee is $46 without the essay and $60 with it. The ACT fee is also $46, or $62.50 with the writing portion. Both tests provide fee waivers to students in financial need.

The College Board had no immediate comment on Yale’s action.

ACT, asked about Yale’s action, said through a spokesman: “We encourage institutions to determine which factors to emphasize and utilize in admissions decisions based on rigorous scientific research.” The spokesman noted that the English test, part of the core ACT, also assesses writing skills.

Stanford’s dean of admission and financial aid, Richard Shaw, said he is reviewing the issue. “However, we should treasure writing as an important skill in life and it should be a major focus [of] K-12,” Shaw wrote in an email. “So the question becomes what is the alternative to assessing writing competency in the admissions process.”

How the course of Wisconsin school choice and vouchers changed on June 10, 1998

Alan Borsuk:

It’s a much different world for pretty much every school and school district in Wisconsin, both public and private. A few aspects of that, in thumbnail form:

Without vouchers, a lot of current private schools would have closed or would never have opened.

Competition for enrollment in Milwaukee and Racine — and increasingly elsewhere — is intense. Kids equal vitality and money for every school. After all these years, too little is known about how and why parents pick schools, but choice is, in general, popular, and just about every school pushes hard to get students in the door.
The rules of the voucher programs have changed a lot over the years. The good news is that there are fewer really terrible private schools than there used to be and more is posted publicly about the private schools’ performance than there used to be. Income caps on participating families have changed so that a much larger number of kids qualify for vouchers.

Choice is almost everywhere. Even within public systems such as MPS, there are a lot of options for schooling. It is a choice world for parents.

The voucher-public divide remains a polarizing, partisan source of division and disunity in education advocacy.

And most important, in my book: Overall academic outcomes in Milwaukee or Racine have not really improved and are deeply concerning. (The statewide picture is less troubling.)

In every stream of schools, there are good schools — and ones where students chronically do poorly. Overall, only about one in five Milwaukee kids rates as proficient or better in reading, and that is true for both MPS and voucher schools. Charter schools are somewhat better.

Yet, the traditional education establishment continues to resist essential improvements, such as the Foundations of Reading elementary teacher content knowledge requirements.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Main takeaways from the 2017 NAEP 4th grade reading exam:

Wisconsin’s score was 220, below the national average of 222

Wisconsin score statistically declined from 2015

Wisconsin scores have been statistically flat since 1992

Wisconsin ranked 34th nationally, compared to 25th in 2015

All Wisconsin racial, economic status, and disability status sub-groups perform below the national average for that sub-group

Sydney University academics denounce western civilisation degree

Michael McGowan:

More than 100 academics from the University of Sydney have signed an open letter opposing any push to introduce a western civilisation degree funded by the John Howard-backed Ramsay Centre.

The university has confirmed it is in conversations with the Ramsay Centre about the possibility of running the degree following the Australian National University’s decision to pull out of negotiations.

Published on Friday, the letter states the academics’ strong opposition to the Ramsay Centre proposal, describing it as “European supremacism writ large”.

They argue that the “cultural and intellectual legacies” of the west are already “intensively studied” at the university, and that the late Paul Ramsay’s $3.3bn bequest could have been made to existing humanities programs.

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“The fact he chose not to do so shows that his intention was more than simply fostering university study of Western intellectual and cultural traditions, within the standing norms of academic independence,” the letter states.

On Friday a University of Sydney spokeswoman confirmed that the vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, had been in discussions with the Ramsay Centre about “the possibility of financial support for teaching at the university”.

How China is trying to bust high-tech exam cheats

Mandy Zuo:

China’s make-or-break national college entrance exams start on Thursday and will take place across the mainland through Saturday.

This will be the most important exam in many students’ lives, an assessment that can set the course for their future.

But while millions will cope with the test by studying, studying and studying some more, others will be trying to cheat their way to success.

Even though cheating carries a punishment of up to seven years in jail under Chinese law, there’s no end to the schemes some will use to gain an edge.

But even as the methods of cheating change, the authorities, too, are updating their technologies and tactics to keep up.

Can Cantonese survive?

Verna Yu:

Indeed, promoting Mandarin Chinese among Hong Kong students has been a political task for the Hong Kong government since 1997, when control of the former British colony was returned to China. The Hong Kong government launched a scheme 10 years ago to incentivize schools to use Mandarin instead of Cantonese in Chinese language classes and has spent 180 million in Hong Kong dollars ($23 million in U.S. currency) in assistance to schools since the effort began.

According to official figures, over 70 percent of Hong Kong’s primary schools now use Mandarin in Chinese-language classes.

Simmering resentment over the promotion of Mandarin over Cantonese recently came to a boil when an article by a mainland Chinese scholar asserted that Cantonese could not be considered a mother tongue. The claim, seen as an attack on Hong Kong’s sense of identity, sparked an outcry.

According to official figures, over 70 percent of Hong Kong’s primary schools now use Mandarin in Chinese-language classes.

Ex-Senate Aide Charged in Leak Case Where Times Reporter’s Records Were Seized

By Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner:

The seizure — disclosed in a letter to the reporter, Ali Watkins — suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump has complained bitterly about leaks and demanded that law enforcement officials seek criminal charges against government officials involved in illegal and sometimes embarrassing disclosures of national security secrets.

This year, passing China’s biggest exam involves waxing eloquent about Xi Jinping’s philosophy

Zheping Huang:

This morning in China more than 9 million students across the country took the notoriously grueling college-entrance exam that will, for many, set the course of their lives. The first part, anyway—part two of the gaokao, as it’s known in Chinese, comes tomorrow.

The morning session was about Chinese language and literature and entailed writing an 800-character essay—a test of one’s writing and argument skills. In recent years, topics have ranged from choosing a life path to describing one’s feelings about a buzzword. Politics have not been front and center.

The big topic this year? The philosophy of Xi Jinping. Of the nine essay questions asked across the nation—there are some regional variations—five were directly related to propaganda terms put forward by the Chinese president. The questions were published today by state media (link in Chinese), shortly after the test. The ideology-oriented themes echoed those from the era of Mao Zedong, who once terminated the gaokao for a decade as part of a movement against intellectuals.

The odd reality of life under China’s all-seeing credit score system

Charles Rollet :

China’s social credit system was launched in 2014 and is supposed to be nationwide by 2020. As well as tracking and rating individuals, it also encompasses businesses and government officials. When it is complete, every Chinese citizen will have a searchable file of amalgamated data from public and private sources tracking their social credit. Currently, the system is still under development and authorities are trying to centralise local databases.

Given the Chinese government’s authoritarian nature, some portray the system as a single, all-knowing Orwellian surveillance machine that will ensure every single citizen’s strict loyalty to the Communist Party. But for now, that’s not quite the case. Rogier Creemers, a researcher in the law and governance of China at Leiden University, has described the social credit setup as an “ecosystem” of fragmented initiatives. The main goal, he says, is not stifling dissent – something the Chinese state already has many tools for at its disposal – but better managing social order while leaving the Party firmly in charge.

‘Analyze the footnotes’: Why US reporter Margot Williams starts at the end

Spencer Woodman:

In 2009, you told ProPublica: “I am a reader of documents. There’s no substitute for reading every line of every page.” For all our skills in acquiring documents, could reporters stand to improve how closely we read the documents we obtain?

I have to confess that I read for details and clues more than the general meaning. I obsessively analyze the footnotes. On a big document, I start at the end and read backwards because I know everyone else is starting from the beginning and often stops before the end. I try to find within a document what can be counted, aggregated, analyzed.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: That entitlements can is getting heavier, and we’re running out of road

Mitch Daniels:

So another congressional session is half over and, we’re told, is likely to go by without a mention of the moose on the American table, our preposterously out-of-control federal debt. It’s not as though the stakes are high: just our standard of living, national security, all the discretionary activities of government, and literally our future as an autonomous, self-governing people. Every honest observer knows what will cause the coming crunch, so aptly termed by Erskine Bowles as “the most predictable crisis in history”: the runaway autopilot programs we call “entitlements.” Without changes there, no combination of other measures can come close to preventing the reckoning.

We all understand the silence. Our political class was long ago scared witless by the career-killing cheap shots aimed at anyone daring to commit candor about the topic.

So far, no one has fashioned a vocabulary that an elected official can use to level with voters about Social Security and Medicare and live to tell about it politically. Everyone believes, and polls confirm, the fabled third rail is as electrified as ever.

A well-functioning democracy would, by now, have had a mature national discussion marked by a recognition of the need to set priorities among finite resources, as well as the intergenerational unfairness of the status quo, the ethical wrongness of borrowing for current consumption instead of investing in the future, the feasibility of alternative remedies if only we would start now, and so on. Regrettably, but realistically, our republic at this point doesn’t seem capable of discussions like that. Meanwhile, action really can’t wait much longer; the can is getting heavier, and we’re running out of road.

Whole genome sequencing in multiplex families reveals novel inherited and de novo genetic risk in autism

Elizabeth K Ruzzo, Laura Perez-Cano, Jae-Yoon Jung, Lee-kai Wang, Dorna Kashef-Haghighi, Chris Hartl, Jackson Hoekstra, Olivia Leventhal, Michael J. Gandal, Kelley Paskov, Nate Stockham, Damon Polioudakis, Jennifer K. Lowe, Daniel H. Geschwind, Dennis P Wall :

Genetic studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have revealed a complex, heterogeneous architecture, in which the contribution of rare inherited variation remains relatively un-explored. We performed whole-genome sequencing (WGS) in 2,308 individuals from families containing multiple affected children, including analysis of single nucleotide variants (SNV) and structural variants (SV). We identified 16 new ASD-risk genes, including many supported by inherited variation, and provide statistical support for 69 genes in total, including previously implicated genes. These risk genes are enriched in pathways involving negative regulation of synaptic transmission and organelle organization. We identify a significant protein-protein interaction (PPI) network seeded by inherited, predicted damaging variants disrupting highly constrained genes, including members of the BAF complex and established ASD risk genes. Analysis of WGS also identified SVs effecting non-coding regulatory regions in developing human brain, implicating NR3C2 and a recurrent 2.5Kb deletion within the promoter of DLG2. These data lend support to studying multiplex families for identifying inherited risk for ASD. We provide these data through the Hartwell Autism Research and Technology Initiative (iHART), an open access cloud-computing repository for ASD genetics research.

Written Off

Amber Walker:

Reese’s experience raises broader questions about what information is shared between MMSD and the Dane County Juvenile Court when it comes to youth in their care. While the district insists it was an isolated incident, juvenile court staff, like Smedema and her supervisor, Suzanne Stute, said collecting statements from school staff is a routine part of their work.

The case also illuminates communication issues and a lack of standardized procedures between MMSD and Dane County Juvenile Court employees. Such communication happens on an ad-hoc basis and varies from school-to-school, largely unmonitored by the district’s central office. A task force of both groups of employees has been working to correct this, and Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed adding $120,000 to next year’s budget to establish an office dedicated to court-involved and other “at-risk” youth.

After spending over a week in the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Reese’s son was ready to go.

“I want to go home,” he wailed as the court commissioner ruled to extend his stay for the second time, in an audio recording of a custody hearing reviewed by the Cap Times. The Cap Times is not identifying the student by name because juvenile court records are sealed.

The county’s Juvenile Court uses custody hearings to determine the best environment for a child before a delinquency hearing or trial. Custody hearings usually happen within 24 hours of a child’s apprehension by authorities. Options typically include secure detention, non-secure shelter, or returning home with a parent or other stable adult. If a child is not released after the initial hearing, they can request follow-up hearings. Custody hearings are not used to determine a child’s innocence or guilt when accused of a delinquent act.

Shortly before the commissioner made his decision in late February, the student’s public defender argued that he’d been doing well in his classes during detention, and both parents were committed to helping him stay in school and out of trouble.

Despite the student’s and his parents’ request for monitored release, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Miller and Melissa Tanner, a Dane County social worker assigned to the student, did not think it was the best option. Along with concerns about the student running away again, Tanner and Miller spoke about their perception of his experience at West.

When asked by the court commissioner whether or not they believed the student should be released from custody that day, both mentioned Pryor’s letter as a reason to think twice.

“I haven’t gotten confirmation about how West would feel about him coming back, but we do have this letter that was submitted to the court about their concern,” Tanner told the court.

“I strongly believe that if he stays at West or any of the large MMSD schools, his behavior will not change and he will progress to even more serious behaviors,” said Miller, reading a line from Pryor’s letter to the court.

“Returning (to West) is not a sure thing, it is by no means certain,” Miller told the commissioner.

An impressive piece of local journalism…

Gangs and School Violence Forum

They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine – Not!

Here’s How Higher Education Dies A futurist says the industry may have nowhere to go but down. What does the slide look like?

Adam Harris:

Maybe higher education has reached its peak. Not the Harvards and Yales of the world, but the institutions that make up the rest of the industry—the regional public schools who saw decades of growth and are now facing major budget cuts and the smaller, less-selective private colleges that have exorbitant sticker prices while the number of students enrolling in them declines.

Higher ed is often described as a bubble—and much like the housing market in 2008, the thought goes, it will ultimately burst. But what if it’s less of a sudden pop and more of a long, slow slide, and we are already on the way down?

Bryan Alexander started grappling with the idea of “peak higher education” in 2013—inspired by the notion of “peak car,” “peak oil,” and other so-called “peaks.” At the time, there were signs that the industry was already struggling. The number of students enrolled in higher education had dropped by a little over 450,000 after years of booming growth, the proportion of part-time faculty—more commonly referred to as adjuncts—had steadily become a more significant part of the professorship, and there was a general skepticism about the skyrocketing costs of college and concerns over whether a degree was worth it. Taken individually, he said, each sign was troubling enough. But when looked at together, they represented the outlines of a bleak future for higher education. Alexander, a self-described higher-education futurist and a former English professor, came to the conclusion that after nearly a half century of growth, higher education might be as big as it could get. It would, he reasoned, only get smaller from there.

Title IX: Is it possible for two people to simultaneously sexually assault each other?

Caitlin Flanagan:

Is it possible for two people to simultaneously sexually assault each other? This is the question—rife with legal, anatomical, and emotional improbabilities—to which the University of Cincinnati now addresses itself, and with some urgency, as the institution and three of its employees are currently being sued over an encounter that was sexual for a brief moment, but that just as quickly entered the realm of eternal return. The one important thing you need to know about the case is that according to the lawsuit, a woman has been indefinitely suspended from college because she let a man touch her vagina. What kind of sexually repressive madness could have allowed for this to happen? Answer that question and you will go a long way toward answering the question, “What the hell is happening on American college campuses?”

The substantive facts of the case come to us only through a lawsuit, one that has thus far implicated everything from Title IX, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Constitution to “slut shaming” and good old-fashioned horniness. But not super horniness, because—as with many high profile cases involving the infinitely expandable concept of “college sexual assault”—the actual encounter exists as merest prologue to the massive novel of ideas that followed it.

Prevailing Wage Legislation and the Continuing Significance of Race

David E Bernstein:

Since the early twentieth century, labor unions have lobbied federal and state governments to enact and enforce laws requiring government contractors to pay “prevailing wages” to employees on public works projects. These laws, currently active at the federal level and in approximately thirty states, typically in practice require that contractors pay according to the local union wage scale. The laws also require employers to adhere to union work rules. The combination of these rules makes it extremely difficult for nonunion contractors to compete for public works contracts.

Meanwhile, construction unions have been among the most persistently exclusionary institutions in American society. Not surprisingly, in many cases, the history of prevailing wage legislation has been intertwined with the history of racial discrimination. Economists and others argue that prevailing wage legislation continues to have discriminatory effects on minorities today. Union advocates, not surprisingly, deny that prevailing wage laws have discriminatory effects. More surprisingly, they deny that the granddaddy of modern prevailing wage legislation, the federal Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, had discriminatory intent.

A University of Washington student found success, and answers about her father’s addiction

Evan Bush:

Nearly eight years later, Mackenzie is a 21-year-old brimming with success. Soon, she will graduate with two University of Washington degrees: one in neurobiology, and another in bioengineering. She was nominated for the engineering school’s Dean’s medal. She’s a powerlifting champion and a budding entrepreneur. University lecturers rave; classmates can’t understand how she makes it all fit. Next year, she’ll pursue a masters at UW.

All the while, Mackenzie’s been searching.

She couldn’t have known it at the time. But her father’s arrest would send her on a yearslong quest, both academic and personal, to understand his stumbles and why her family fell apart. The pain of her family’s fracture would propel and shape her college career.

Addiction is a disease, her mother, Karina Andrews, told her at the time.

“I wanted proof,” Mackenzie says.

JUST WHY Mackenzie’s family unraveled is something of a debate.

All agree they began as a happy bunch, with a math-whiz daughter who favored playing in the dirt to Barbies.

As a youngster, Mackenzie climbed everything. On playgrounds, she walked across the monkey bars.

“It was important to teach her how to fall,” Karina says.

Sometimes, she wore her parents out with her energy. Her first time on a gymnastics mat, she refused to leave. On a road trip, Mackenzie, just 6 years old, demanded math problems — square roots, no less — from the back seat.

Mackenzie spent hours wiring an electronics kit, a gift from her father. She first put him in checkmate in second grade. She loved sitting on his lap amid the jungle of wires ensnaring his office.

Karina, an artist, taught her daughter to shape clay figurines. Mark brought her to job sites and taught her how to splice wires into connectors.

She was so mature, her parents called her an “old soul.

Centralization risks

John Robb:

For the first time in history, announced researchers this May, a majority of the world’s population is living in urban environments. Cities—efficient hubs connecting international flows of people, energy, communications, and capital—are thriving in our global economy as never before. However, the same factors that make cities hubs of globalization also make them vulnerable to small-group terror and violence.

Over the last few years, small groups’ ability to conduct terrorism has shown radical improvements in productivity—their capacity to inflict economic, physical, and moral damage. These groups, motivated by everything from gang membership to religious extremism, have taken advantage of easy access to our global superinfrastructure, revenues from growing illicit commercial flows, and ubiquitously available new technologies to cross the threshold necessary to become terrible threats. September 11, 2001, marked their arrival at that threshold.

Unfortunately, the improvements in lethality that we have already seen are just the beginning. The arc of productivity growth that lets small groups terrorize at ever-higher levels of death and disruption stretches as far as the eye can see. Eventually, one man may even be able to wield the destructive power that only nation-states possess today. It is a perverse twist of history that this new threat arrives at the same moment that wars between states are receding into the past. Thanks to global interdependence, state-against-state warfare is far less likely than it used to be, and viable only against disconnected or powerless states. But the underlying processes of globalization have made us exceedingly vulnerable to nonstate enemies. The mechanisms of power and control that states once exerted will continue to weaken as global interconnectivity increases. Small groups of terrorists can already attack deep within any state, riding on the highways of interconnectivity, unconcerned about our porous borders and our nation-state militaries. These terrorists’ likeliest point of origin, and their likeliest destination, is the city.

Cities played a vital defensive role in the last major evolution of conventional state-versus-state warfare. Between the world wars, the refinement of technologies—particularly the combustion engine, when combined with armor—made it possible for armies to move at much higher speeds than in the past, so new methods of warfare emphasized armored motorized maneuver as a way to pierce the opposition’s solid defensive lines and range deep into soft, undefended rear areas. These incursions, the armored thrusts of blitzkrieg, turned an army’s size against itself: even the smallest armored vanguard could easily disrupt the supply of ammunition, fuel, and rations necessary to maintain the huge armies of the twentieth century in the field.

To defend against these thrusts, the theoretician J. F. C. Fuller wrote in the 1930s, cities could be used as anchor or pivot points to engage armored forces in attacks on static positions, bogging down the offensive. Tanks couldn’t move quickly through cities, and if they bypassed them and struck too deeply into enemy territory, their supply lines—in particular, of the gasoline they drank greedily—would become vulnerable. The city, Fuller anticipated, could serve as a vast fortress, requiring the fast new armor to revert to the ancient tactic of the siege. That’s exactly what happened in practice during World War II, when the defenses mounted in Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad played a major role in the Allied victory.

But in the current evolution of warfare, cities are no longer defensive anchors against armored thrusts ranging through the countryside. They have become the main targets of offensive action themselves. Just as the huge militaries of the early twentieth century were vulnerable to supply and communications disruption, cities are now so heavily dependent on a constant flow of services from various centralized systems that even the simplest attacks on those systems can cause massive disruption.

Is ‘Innovocracy’ Hurting the Public Sector?

Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene:

Tom Shack has an unusual background for his job. Most state comptrollers have worked exclusively in finance and accounting. Before becoming comptroller of Massachusetts in 2015, Shack went to law school, taught college courses in entrepreneurship, and became an assistant district attorney.

When Shack took over the comptroller’s office, which has administrative and audit oversight over every state government agency, he quickly recognized an issue that he’s been trying to address ever since.

“One of the things I noticed right away, when working for government, is that there’s complete risk-aversion,” he says. “You have to be able to manage risk and avoid it when necessary.”

That tendency, he says, holds back innovation and progress. He and his staff have even made up a word for the phenomenon: “innovocracy, which in our vernacular means that though the government has come up with great innovative ideas, it then imposes a bureaucratic framework, thus crushing any entrepreneurial spirit associated with the idea.”

Perfected in China, a threat in the West

The Economist:

THEY’RE watching you. When you walk to work, CCTV cameras film you and, increasingly, recognise your face. Drive out of town, and number-plate-reading cameras capture your journey. The smartphone in your pocket leaves a constant digital trail. Browse the web in the privacy of your home, and your actions are logged and analysed. The resulting data can be crunched to create a minute-by-minute record of your life.

Under an authoritarian government such as China’s, digital monitoring is turning a nasty police state into a terrifying, all-knowing one. Especially in the western region of Xinjiang, China is applying artificial intelligence (AI) and mass surveillance to create a 21st-century panopticon and impose total control over millions of Uighurs, a Turkic-language Muslim minority (see Briefing). In Western democracies, police and intelligence agencies are using the same surveillance tools to solve and deter crimes and prevent terrorism (see Technology Quarterly). The results are effective, yet deeply worrying.

Between freedom and oppression stands a system to seek the consent of citizens, maintain checks and balances on governments and, when it comes to surveillance, set rules to restrain those who collect and process information. But with data so plentiful and easy to gather, these protections are being eroded. Privacy rules designed for the landline phone, postbox and filing cabinet urgently need to be strengthened for the age of the smartphone, e-mail and cloud computing.

Change the future of education at Cambly.


English learners can now access seemingly unlimited free content and software for learning vocabulary and grammar. As with any subject, it’s also important to complement that learning with practice to exercise those new skills. For language education, that means having actual conversations with real English speakers.

At Cambly our mission is to provide students with an easy and affordable way to practice and improve their English skills. The Cambly app gives English learners instant 1-on-1 access to friendly native speakers over video chat 24/7. Cambly students speak over 30 languages and live in over 130 countries. English isn’t just a hobby for Cambly students. It’s a critical skill that can change their lives.

Hong Kong history: the fortunes built on opium – including those of many of its richest families

Jason Wordie::

Opium – for numerous economic and political reasons – has loomed large in Asia for more than three centuries. Importation from India to China and the wider balance-of-trade dynamics, regional power struggles and eventual international conflicts that surrounded the trade have generated entire libraries of historical research.

Young American’s first-hand account of second opium war: bloody battles and ‘hospitable’ Chinese

Less acknowledged – especially by inter­net trolls who, like Pavlov’s dogs, salivate and bark at the slightest mention of the so-called opium wars – is the basic historical fact that virtually everyone involved in 18th- and 19th-century commerce on the China coast was connected with the trade. Individuals or firms were either directly involved or they brokered deals, banked or arranged letters of credit, or were tangled up in the shipping, refining and warehousing of opium, or its retail sale.

Wisconsin DPI Assistant Superintendent – Only ‘Social Justice Equity Warriors’ Need Apply

Senator Steve Nass:

Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) was outraged today by the most recent example of the radical politicization of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The DPI is currently seeking applicants for a career executive for the Assistant Director for Teacher Education/Professional Development/Licensing position.

The position is supervised by Sheila Briggs an Assistant State Superintendent and key advisor to State Superintendent Tony Evers. On April 19th, Ms. Briggs issued a Tweet announcing the position on her team and requested that “Social Justice Equity Warriors” please apply.

“This is just another example of how radical the Department of Public Instruction has become under Superintendent Tony Evers. Sheila Briggs, an Assistant State Superintendent, makes it abundantly clear that the person she wants for this job must be a ‘Social Justice Equity Warrior’. Sheila Briggs wants this key employee to promote liberal indoctrination instead of sound educational practices,” Nass said.

Meanwhile, reading…

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

Education improves with a sense of ownership

Drew Wilson:

Public education will only improve when people buy in, Step Up for Students President Doug Tuthill said Thursday at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Summit on Prosperity & Economic Opportunity.

“I’m going to start with the good news: public education today is in the best shape that it’s ever been in,” Tuthill said, citing the teaching quality and a National Assessment of Education Progress “report card,” which showed some progress.

“The bad news is the beneficiaries of progress tend to be people of privilege. It tends to be people with resources who come to school with a lot of social capital, and they’re able to benefit from our public education system.

“Unfortunately, this system isn’t capable of really addressing this issue of generational poverty the way that it needs to be — and that’s our challenge. It’s not a people problem; it’s a systemic problem.”

Tuthill said the root of that problem is the undermining of a sense of “ownership” for a majority of people — be they teachers, parents or students — in public education.

Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken the Foundations of Reading Test for elementary teachers

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

Wisconsin Reading Coalition has alerted you over the past 6 months to DPI’s intentions to change PI-34, the administrative rule that governs teacher licensing in Wisconsin. We consider those changes to allow overly-broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test for new teachers. The revised PI-34 has gone through DPI public hearings and was sent to the education committees of the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, where no action was taken.

PI-34 is now sitting with the Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which is the last stop before it becomes a permanent rule. Because of concerns it has heard from Wisconsin Reading Coalition and other groups and individuals, the committee will hold a public hearing on Thursday, June 7th, at 10:00 AM in the State Capitol. We urge you to attend this hearing and make a statement. If you cannot attend, please consider sending an e-mail comment to the committee members prior to the hearing. A list of committee members follows. As always, it is a good idea to copy your own legislators. If you copy Wisconsin Reading Coalition, we will make sure your comments are delivered in hard copy.

To refresh your memory of the issues involved, please see this WRC memo to the Committee on Administrative Rules.

Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (contact information provided in links):

Representative Ballweg (Co-Chair)

Senator Nass (Co-Chair)

Senator LeMahieu

Senator Stroebel

Senator Larson

Senator Wirch

Representative Neylon

Representative Ott

Representative Hebl

Representative Anderson

Teachers and more than 180,000 non-proficient, struggling readers* in Wisconsin schools need our support:

*There are currently over 358,000 K-5 students in Wisconsin public schools alone.
51.7% of Wisconsin 4th graders were not proficient in reading on the 2016-17 state Forward exam. Non-proficient percentages varied among student sub-groups, as shown below in red and black, and ranged from approximately 70-80% in the lower-performing districts to 20-35% in higher-performing districts.

    While we appreciate DPI’s concerns with a possible shortage of teacher candidates in some subject and geographical areas, we feel it is important to maintain teacher quality standards while moving to expand pathways to teaching.

  • Statute section 118.19(14) currently requires new K-5 teachers, reading teachers, reading specialists, and special education teachers to pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (WI-FORT) before getting an initial license to teach. The intent of this statute, passed in 2012 on a bipartisan vote following a recommendation of the non-partisan Read to Lead task force, was to enhance teacher quality by encouraging robust reading courses in educator preparation programs, and to ensure that beginning and struggling readers had an effective teacher. The WI-FORT is the same test given in Massachusetts, which has the highest 4th grade reading performance in the country. It covers basic content knowledge and application skills in the five components of foundational reading that are necessary for successfully teaching all students.
  • The annual state Forward exam and the newly-released results of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) highlight the importance of having high-quality teachers in Wisconsin classrooms. 65% of our 4th graders were not proficient in reading on the NAEP. Our national ranking has slipped to 34th, and all sub-groups of students perform below their national averages. Our black students rank 49th among black students in the country, and our white students rank 41st.
  • The revised teacher licensure rules that DPI has presented to the legislature in the re-written administrative rule PI 34, create a new Tier I license that provides broad exemptions from the WI- FORT.
  • We encourage the education committees to table the adoption of this permanent rule until it is amended to better support teacher quality standards and align with the intent of statute 118.19(14).
  • We favor limiting the instances where the WI-FORT is waived to those in which a district proves it cannot find a fully-qualified teacher to hire, and limiting the duration of those licenses to one year, with reading taught under the supervision of an individual who has passed the WI-FORT. Renewals should not be permitted except in case of proven emergency.
  • We favor having DPI set out standards for reading instruction in educator preparation programs that encompass both the Standards for Reading Professionals (International Literacy Association) and the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (International Dyslexia Association). This will enable aspiring teachers to pass the WI-FORT and enter the classroom prepared to teach reading.
  • We favor having DPI implement a corrective action plan for educator preparation programs where fewer than 85% of students pass the WI-FORT on the first attempt in any year. Students putting in four years of tuition and effort should be able to expect to pass the WI-FORT.

Foundations of Reading: Wisconsin’ only teacher content knowledge requirement…

Compare with MTEL

Mark Seidenberg on Reading:

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

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

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

An emphasis on adult employment, also Zimman.

Alan Borsuk:

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

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

“I didn’t have one phone call, I don’t have one email about this NAEP data…

Alan Borsuk:

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

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

“I feel that people have become very numb to our data and numb to poor performance. I can appreciate that it is frustrating. I have been in education my whole life and it is frustrating, you do feel like the work that we’re doing isn’t getting us where we want to be. But we can’t give up.”

She said, “Look, the data are telling us that what we’re doing isn’t working. Arguing hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Being polarized in our education beliefs has not gotten us anywhere.”

Madison spends more per student than Milwaukee, yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Here’s What The Facebook Media Backlash Really Looks LIke

Charlie Warzel:

It took just hours after the surprise result of the 2016 presidential election for the Facebook narrative to turn sour. Technologists, researchers, and the media quickly drew a connection between 2016’s sharp increase in ideological division, fake news, and harassment and the mammoth social network. In the ensuing months, discussion about Facebook’s culpability in everything from misinformation and election meddling to illicit harvesting of user data has erupted in a full-fledged media backlash.

New sentiment analysis data provided to BuzzFeed News puts that backlash in stark relief: In the aftermath of the 2016 election, media coverage of Facebook turned negative almost overnight. And it has largely stayed that way.

Using publicly available information pulled from the APIs of USA Today, the New York Times, the Guardian, and BuzzFeed, researcher Joe Hovde compiled over 87,000 articles about Facebook published by the four outlets between 2006 and 2018. Then he ran a sentiment analysis on them, scoring words on a positive-to-negative scale of -5 to +5 — for example, a negative word like “fake” was scored -3, while a more positive word like “growth” was scored +2. The results were grim.

ACCC investigating Oracle research showing Google users Android phone plan data to spy

John Rolfe::

THE ACCC is investigating accusations Google is using as much as $580 million worth of Australians’ phone plan data annually to secretly track their movements.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he was briefed recently by US experts who had intercepted, copied and decrypted messages sent back to Google from mobiles running on the company’s Android operating system.

The experts, from computer and software corporation Oracle, claim Google is draining roughly one gigabyte of mobile data monthly from Android phone users’ accounts as it snoops in the background, collecting information to help advertisers.

Why we hate making financial decisions – and what to do about it

The Conversation:

The advice to use your head, not your heart, might not be helpful after all.

We all make tough decisions, but choices relating to money send many of us running in the other direction. Unfortunately, ample evidence indicates that aversion toward financial decisions leads many of us to put off things like funding a 401(k), saving at a sufficient rate, or just doing a better job managing our credit card debt. All of these things can hurt our long-term financial health.

Economists and behavioral scientists have proposed several explanations for this phenomenon. For example, financial products are often quite complicated, and we may feel we lack the necessary expertise. We may be overwhelmed by too many choices – such as when picking mutual funds to put in our 401(k) portfolio.

But as valid as these reasons may be, my co-author Jane Jeongin Park and I felt that there was more to the story.

What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities

Kim Parker, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Anna Brown, Richard Fry, D’Vera Cohn and Ruth Igielnik:

Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. The country is growing in numbers, it’s becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and the population is aging. But according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center, these trends are playing out differently across community types.

Urban areas are at the leading edge of racial and ethnic change, with nonwhites now a clear majority of the population in urban counties while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. In contrast, rural counties have made only minimal gains since 2000 as the number of people leaving for urban or suburban areas has outpaced the number moving in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.

How Bill Abt helped Kenosha’s Carthage College beat Harvard and others (in investing)

Bill Glauber:

On the verge of retirement, Bill Abt is now a big man on a small campus.

For years, this former beer company executive quietly guided Carthage College’s endowment. He didn’t run with the large-college crowd and pour cash into hedge funds or hard assets.

He stuck to the simplicity of using mostly low-cost index funds.

And somebody finally took notice.

In early May, the 71-year-old Abt and his strategy were featured by Bloomberg Businessweek. The article noted that Carthage’s returns “beat Harvard’s $37 billion endowment and most others.”

In 10 years through June 30, 2017, Carthage reported a 6.2% average annual return. During the same period, the article said, Harvard had a 4.4% average annual return, with results weighed down by losses in timber and farmland.

Carthage’s performance was in the top 10% nationwide, according to National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Since the article appeared, Abt has been overwhelmed.

“It’s been crazy,” he said. “Half the people on campus here have emailed me, which is great. I’ve gotten calls from TV stations, wealth managers. I had a wealth manager ask me if I wanted to go into partnership with him.”

MPS board passes budget that restores $11.6 million to classrooms, cuts central office

Diana Dombrowski:

The Milwaukee Public Schools Board passed the 2018-’19 budget at a special meeting Tuesday night, slashing millions of dollars from the central office and returning $11.6 million to classrooms.

Interim Superintendent Keith Posley made changes to former superintendent Darienne Driver’s proposed budget just three days after assuming the office last week.

The vote was unanimous. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, which protested Driver’s 5% per pupil reduction in school budgets, cheered the board’s move.

“I feel this is a golden opportunity for the young people in the city of Milwaukee to receive a support that’s needed in the classrooms,” Posley said in an interview.

The $1.17 billion budget makes cuts to areas including operations, finance and human resources departments. The cuts to the central office will eliminate more than 32 full-time positions, some of which could be reassigned as school-based jobs.

Many studies’ results cannot be reproduced, scholars warn

Mark McGreal:

Don’t believe the latest study you read in the headlines, chances are, it could be wrong, according to a new report by the National Association of Scholars that delves into what it calls the “use and abuse of statistics in the sciences.”

The report broke down the issue of irreproducibility, or the problem that a lot of scientific research cannot be reproduced. The report took aim at unverifiable climate science, but also critiqued medical studies, behavioral research and other fields.

The 72-page report took the matter a step further in calling the issue a politicization of science.

“Not all irreproducible research is progressive advocacy; not all progressive advocacy is irreproducible; but the intersection between the two is very large. The intersection between the two is a map of much that is wrong with modern science,” the report states.

Co-authored by David Randall and Christopher Wesler, “The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science: Causes, Consequences, and the Road to Reform” focused on the irreproducibility of recent scientific studies.

Google Employees Resign in Protest Against Pentagon Contract

Kate Conger:

It’s been nearly three months since many Google employees—and the public—learned about the company’s decision to provide artificial intelligence to a controversial military pilot program known as Project Maven, which aims to speed up analysis of drone footage by automatically classifying images of objects and people. Now, about a dozen Google employees are resigning in protest over the company’s continued involvement in Maven.

The resigning employees’ frustrations range from particular ethical concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in drone warfare to broader worries about Google’s political decisions—and the erosion of user trust that could result from these actions. Many of them have written accounts of their decisions to leave the company, and their stories have been gathered and shared in an internal document, the contents of which multiple sources have described to Gizmodo.

The employees who are resigning in protest, several of whom discussed their decision to leave with Gizmodo, say that executives have become less transparent with their workforce about controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to workers’ objections than they once did. In the case of Maven, Google is helping the Defense Department implement machine learning to classify images gathered by drones. But some employees believe humans, not algorithms, should be responsible for this sensitive and potentially lethal work—and that Google shouldn’t be involved in military work at all.

Emanuel apologizes for sexual violence to students at Chicago Public Schools

Fran Spielman and Lauren FitzPatrick :

“All adults offer apology. I offer my apology. But the question is, what are we gonna do now besides words? What are the deeds to fix this up?” Emanuel said.

“I take responsibility. … I’m accountable for me,” he said. But Emanuel was quick to note that the sexual violence uncovered in Tribune reporting “goes back 10 years” and probably “way back” further than that.

“That doesn’t excuse what happened here. … All of us –– from principal to teacher to colleagues to the CEO, the bureaucracy, the mayor — we’re all responsible. We’re also then therefore … responsible for fixing it. From hiring to investigating to prosecuting and making sure that nobody ever is hired again anywhere — not just in CPS. All of that has to be tightened up,” he said.

His words were not enough to satisfy mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot convened a news conference outside Walter Payton College Prep, a top-rated selective high school often praised by Emanuel as among the state’s best, and home to one of the alleged victims.

There, she argued that parents should have been notified five months ago, when the Tribune filed its first Freedom of Information requests, setting off “alarm bells” at City Hall.

The Silence of the Bugs

Curt Stager:

Fifty-six years after Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” warned of bird die-offs from pesticides, a new biocrisis may be emerging. A study published last fall documented a 76 percent decline in the total seasonal biomass of flying insects netted at 63 locations in Germany over the last three decades. Losses in midsummer, when these insects are most numerous, exceeded 80 percent.

This alarming discovery, made by mostly amateur naturalists who make up the volunteer-run Entomological Society Krefeld, raised an obvious question: Was this happening elsewhere? Unfortunately, that question is hard to answer because of another problem: a global decline of field naturalists who study these phenomena.

West Sacramento Launching Controversial Program Watching Public’s Social Media Posts


West Sacramento is the first city to launch a controversial new program that watches what people post about it online.

The pilot project gives city leaders a look at what’s trending in the city, whether it’s good or bad. It’s also creating privacy concerns around how the data is being used.

When a wave of mailbox thefts hit the city last year, people complained about it on social media, and West Sacramento was watching. City leaders were alerted to the community concerns by a new system.

“We saw the thing that most people were talking about were mailbox thefts,” said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. “That’s something that we might not have noticed just by waiting for people to come to city hall or filing a complaint.”

The Weird Science Behind Chain Restaurant Menus

India Mandlekern:

Every pizza display case tells a story. The strategist knew that very well. From the signage to the slicers to the arrangement of the Parmesan and red pepper flake shakers, no visual cue could be left to chance, especially for this client: a 20-unit New York style pizza chain headquartered in San Diego. The CEO was very proud of the organic nature of his restaurants’ interiors, and the lack of “chaininess” to them.

Six different pizzas now rested on burnished metal stands, intermittently punctuated with an assortment of calzones, stromboli, salads, and beverages. It had taken three weeks of recipe testing to bake pizzas this good. For every perfect, client-ready pizza, there were at least six that missed the mark­­—crusts that weren’t crispy, mozzarella that didn’t stretch, pepperoni that curled when cast in the oven, pockmarking the pie with tiny buckets of grease. (I was a beneficiary of the process. An arsenal of failed recipe prototypes was accumulating in my freezer.)

The strategist carefully removed a stack of miniature chalkboards from her desk. On each one, she inscribed the name of a different pie: The Triboro (meat lover’s). The Whitestone (white pie). The Bronx (everything but the kitchen sink). New York’s exalted status in the pizza universe was essential to this client’s identity, so much that the client had even implemented a reverse osmosis system in the dough-making process to replicate the pH balance of New York water.

When the set up was complete, the strategist called over the head of the agency to evaluate her work.

Despite the far-reaching consequences of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, much about the man remains a mystery, buried deep beneath layers of Mainz history.

Madhvi Ramani:

he German city of Mainz lies on the banks of the River Rhine. It is most notable for its wine, its cathedral and for being the home of Johannes Gutenberg, who introduced the printing press to Europe. Although these things may seem unconnected at first, here they overlap, merging and influencing one another.

The three elements converge on market days, when local producers and winemakers sell their goods in the main square surrounding the sprawling St Martin’s Cathedral. Diagonally opposite is the Gutenberg Museum, named after the city’s most famous inhabitant, who was born in Mainz around 1399 and died here 550 years ago in 1468.

The printing press marks the turning point from medieval times to modernity in the Western world

It was Gutenberg who invented Europe’s first movable metal type printing press, which started the printing revolution and marks the turning point from medieval times to modernity in the Western world. Although the Chinese were using woodblock printing many centuries earlier, with a complete printed book, made in 868, found in a cave in north-west China, movable type printing never became very popular in the East due to the importance of calligraphy, the complexity of hand-written Chinese and the large number of characters. Gutenberg’s press, however, was well suited to the European writing system, and its development was heavily influenced by the area from which it came.

Tracking Firm LocationSmart Leaked Location Data for Customers of All Major U.S. Mobile Carriers Without Consent in Real Time Via Its Web Site

Bria Krebs:

But according to Xiao, a PhD candidate at CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, this same service failed to perform basic checks to prevent anonymous and unauthorized queries. Translation: Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about how Web sites work could abuse the LocationSmart demo site to figure out how to conduct mobile number location lookups at will, all without ever having to supply a password or other credentials.

“I stumbled upon this almost by accident, and it wasn’t terribly hard to do,” Xiao said. “This is something anyone could discover with minimal effort. And the gist of it is I can track most peoples’ cell phone without their consent.”

Xiao said his tests showed he could reliably query LocationSmart’s service to ping the cell phone tower closest to a subscriber’s mobile device. Xiao said he checked the mobile number of a friend several times over a few minutes while that friend was moving. By pinging the friend’s mobile network multiple times over several minutes, he was then able to plug the coordinates into Google Maps and track the friend’s directional movement.

Behind the Consulting Firm Raking In Millions From D.C. Charter Schools

Darrow Montgomery:

That’s a D.C. charter school administrator’s assessment of TenSquare, one of the city’s most connected, lucrative, and controversial charter consulting companies. And true to his word, he was talking anonymously. Not many people feel comfortable discussing TenSquare publicly.

Even in education circles, most people have never heard of TenSquare, a national for-profit consulting firm that currently operates in seven states and the District. It markets itself as a universal fixer for troubled charters—a one-stop shop for facility financing, staff recruitment, back-end operations, teacher training, and academic turnarounds. The company has kept a remarkably low profile since its founding in 2011, in one case even contracting to work with a charter unbeknownst to the school’s own principal.

TenSquare has powerful allies in D.C., most notable among them the Public Charter School Board, or PCSB, which governs the city’s charters. “I would characterize their results as remarkably strong,” says Scott Pearson, executive director of the PCSB. “In every case where TenSquare has done a full turnaround with a D.C. charter school, their results have improved significantly.”

But a five-month City Paper investigation has raised a host of questions about TenSquare’s work. Available data do not show consistent improvements across the D.C. schools that hired TenSquare, and several schools got worse. Its business dealings reveal a criss-crossing web of repeat players, potential conflicts of interest, and in one instance the recurring appearance of an alleged far-right activist. Yet it’s not a coincidence that TenSquare has landed some of the most remunerative charter contracts in the city: While not every school leader disparages TenSquare, a number have said they felt real pressure from the PCSB to hire the company.

Ancient Mass Child Sacrifice May Be World’s Largest

National Graphic:

Evidence for the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas— and likely in world history—has been discovered on Peru’s northern coast, archaeologists tell National Geographic.

More than 140 children and 200 young llamas appear to have been ritually sacrificed in an event that took place some 550 years ago on a wind-swept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of what was then the sprawling capital of the Chimú Empire.

Scientific investigations by the international, interdisciplinary team, led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, are ongoing. The work is supported by grants from the National Geographic Society.

Mathematical illustrations

Biol Casselman:

This manual has been available on this site since about 1996, with improvements taking place frequently. The current version has been published as a book of about 350 pages by Cambridge University Press. By agreement with the Press, however, it will remain posted on this web site. Many improvements in the current version over previous ones are due to the (anonymous) referees of the Press, whom I wish to thank heartily. I also wish to thank Lauren Cowles, of the New York office of the Press, for much help with preparing the original version for publication. The paper edition appears also in Duotone red and black. For information on obtaining the paper edition, take a look at the Cambridge Press catalogue.

From January 1, 2004 on, no changes except simple error corrections will be made to the main body of the text here — at least for a while. Corrections to both paper and web editions will be found below.

I am grateful to all those who have pointed out errors or lacunae in older versions of this manual, and I hope readers will continue to send me mail about what they find – both good and bad – at

U.S. Births Dip To 30-Year Low; Fertility Rate Sinks Further Below Replacement Level

Bill Chappell:

The birthrate fell for nearly every group of women of reproductive age in the U.S. in 2017, reflecting a sharp drop that saw the fewest newborns since 1987, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were 3,853,472 births in the U.S. in 2017 — “down 2 percent from 2016 and the lowest number in 30 years,” the CDC said.

The general fertility rate sank to a record low of 60.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 — a 3 percent drop from 2016, the CDC said in its tally of provisional data for the year.

The results put the U.S. further away from a viable replacement rate – the standard for a generation being able to replicate its numbers.

Why we should bulldoze the business school

Martin Parker:

Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious building will be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best building because it makes the biggest profits (or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) – as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.

Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what MBA – Master of Business Administration – really stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullshit Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.

Democrats say they would repeal Act 10 if they unseat Scott Walker

Patrick Marley:

The Democrats running for governor are pledging to end GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s union restrictions, while Walker is promising to veto any changes to Act 10 if he wins re-election and Democrats take control of the Legislature.

Act 10 — adopted amid massive protests shortly after Walker took office in 2011 — brought the governor national attention and helped fuel his brief presidential run.

The measure all but ended collective bargaining for most public workers and required them to pay at least 12% of their insurance premiums and half the contributions to their pensions. The changes saved state and local taxpayers — and cost public workers — billions of dollars.

Democrats view the law as a move by Walker to hobble organizations that have long backed Democrats in elections.

The nine Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in the Aug. 14 primary said they would seek to reverse Act 10, while Walker touted the savings it has brought to taxpayers.

“The far-left Democrats who want to undo it will open the door to massive property tax increases or reductions in school staffing — or both,” Walker spokesman Austin Altenburg said in a statement. “Scott Walker will not let that happen and will continue to support reforms that put more resources in the classroom to improve the education of our students.”

Walker would veto any attempt to change Act 10, Altenburg said.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Who Will Win the New Great Game?

Jochen Bittner:

To claim we are living through a new Cold War is both an understatement and a category mistake. The 20th-century face-off between the Communist East and the Capitalist West was, ideology aside, about two superpowers trying to contain each other. The global conflict of today is far less static.

What we are witnessing instead is a new Great Game, a collision of great powers that are trying to roll back one another’s spheres of influence. Unlike the Great Game of the 19th century between the British and the Russian Empire that culminated in the fight for dominance over Afghanistan, today’s Great Game is global, more complex and much more dangerous.

Call it the Game of Threes. It involves three prime players, Russia, China and the West, which are competing in three ways: geographically, intellectually and economically. And there are three places where the different claims to power clash: Syria, Ukraine and the Pacific. Many of the defining conflicts of our time can be defined through some combination of those three sets.

To differing degrees, governments and citizens from Cairo to Copenhagen have grown skeptical about whether liberal democracy and postwar internationalism have been, or will be, the right choice for them. To all those doubters, China and Russia stand ready as alternative models and protective powers, offering new arrangements for bilateral and multilateral alignments. You don’t want to follow international law, European integration or anti-corruption schemes? Follow us!

University requires viewpoint diversity group’s events to pass ‘health and safety’ review

Grace Curtis:

A Canadian university that investigated a graduate student for showing a debate in class is now imposing “health and safety” requirements on her student club, requiring it to move its next event to a different university.

“As far as I know, no other clubs are subject to this review,” Lindsay Shepherd told The College Fix in an email, describing the “increasingly complicated” measures that Wilfrid Laurier University is taking to regulate the Laurier Society for Open Inquiry.

Shepherd serves as president of the club, which was forced to move its April 30 event featuring the “Catholic nationalist” Faith Goldy and a professor skeptical of immigration to the University of Waterloo.

It has to charge attendees for the relocated event because the club is not getting the venue and security for free, as it would at WLU.

Shepherd said she does not have much information about why the club is facing new requirements, as “the administration is not being transparent and seems to avoid putting much in writing.”

The myopia boom Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.

Elie Dolgin:

Other parts of the world have also seen a dramatic increase in the condition, which now affects around half of young adults in the United States and Europe — double the prevalence of half a century ago. By some estimates, one-third of the world’s population — 2.5 billion people — could be affected by short-sightedness by the end of this decade. “We are going down the path of having a myopia epidemic,” says Padmaja Sankaridurg, head of the myopia programme at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, Australia.

The condition is more than an inconvenience. Glasses, contact lenses and surgery can help to correct it, but they do not address the underlying defect: a slightly elongated eyeball, which means that the lens focuses light from far objects slightly in front of the retina, rather than directly on it. In severe cases, the deformation stretches and thins the inner parts of the eye, which increases the risk of retinal detachment, cataracts, glaucoma and even blindness. Because the eye grows throughout childhood, myopia generally develops in school-age children and adolescents. About one-fifth of university-aged people in East Asia now have this extreme form of myopia, and half of them are expected to develop irreversible vision loss.

This threat has prompted a rise in research to try to understand the causes of the disorder — and scientists are beginning to find answers. They are challenging old ideas that myopia is the domain of the bookish child and are instead coalescing around a new notion: that spending too long indoors is placing children at risk. “We’re really trying to give this message now that children need to spend more time outside,” says Kathryn Rose, head of orthoptics at the University of Technology, Sydney.

What the History of Math Can Teach Us about the Future of AI

Nathan Myhrvold:

Whenever an impressive new technology comes along, people rush to imagine the havoc it could wreak on society, and they overreact. Today we see this happening with artificial intelligence (AI). I was at South by Southwest last month, where crowds were buzzing about Elon Musk’s latest hyperbolic claim that AI poses a far greater danger to humanity than nuclear weapons. Some economists have similarly sounded alarms that automation will put nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. at risk by 2030. The drumbeat of doomsaying has people spooked: a Gallup/Northeastern study published in March found that about three out of four Americans are convinced that AI will destroy more jobs than it creates.

My reading of the history of technology and my decades of work on its frontiers make me skeptical of such claims. Major shifts in technology—and AI does have the potential to be that—inevitably take longer than people typically imagine to transform our jobs and lives. So societies have time to apply regulations, cultural pressures and market forces that shape how that transformation happens. We’re making those kinds of adjustments today with social media technology, for example.

How ‘China’s MIT’ Tsinghua University drives the country’s tech ambitions

Celia Chen and Sarah Dai:

A group of alumni invested 5 million yuan (US$780,000) in his start-up “without hesitation”, which allowed him to continue to pursue research and development, according to Li Zhu, head of the 3,000-member Tsinghua Alumni TMT Association. “I don’t think he need worry about a shortage of capital with the support of alumni.”

Li, an angel investor, set up the group in 2011 so that Tsinghua alumni in the technology, media and telecommunications industries can get together and network. Such connections have helped establish the university as an influential kingmaker in the country’s technology industry.

“Entrepreneurs have to take advantage of guanxi (relationships in English), and Tsinghua alumni are more likely to help each other [compared with other universities], I think, ” Li said in a recent interview at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “Some funding deals were done directly within the association because it’s a very good place to connect entrepreneurs and investors.”

Curated Education Information