Teachers learn to use math as Trojan horse for social justice

Toni Airaksinen:

“Do you ask students to think deeply about global and local social justice issues within your mathematics classroom?” a course overview asks. “This education and teacher training course will help you blend secondary math instruction with topics such as inequity, poverty, and privilege to transform students into global thinkers and mathematicians.”

According to the website, the course can even help students to learn math, because while many aspects of middle- and high-school math “can seem abstract to students,” the developers claim that “setting the mathematics within a specially-developed social justice framework can help students realize the power and meaning of both the data and social justice concerns.”

What Orwell Saw—and What He Missed—About Today’s World

Tom Ricks:

But Orwell likely would have been fascinated about the next step these innovative new corporations took. Nowadays they produce goods that intrude far deeper into private life than ever was done by the titans of 20th century industry. It is not uncommon today to, say, search online for an airfare one day, and the next day to see an advertisement in your Facebook timeline for a bargain on a hotel at the contemplated destination. I’ve had similar advertisements pop up on my computer after searching for an obscure book. The chilling fact is that anyone using the internet is being monitored endlessly by companies eager to sell them more goods. Just as Orwell’s Big Brother conducted personal observation of citizens, so do too these companies—and far more efficiently than did Orwell’s clumsy monster.

Today, data is not only powerful, it also has become hugely profitable. There is a saying in Silicon Valley that there is no such thing as a free app—that is, if you use an app that comes without a cost, then you are the product. Today’s tech companies treat people as resources to be mined and exploited, not unlike, say, coal in the nineteenth century.

Yale’s Notorious Yelp Reviewer Is Now on Leave

Scott Jaschik:

June Chu is a dean of Yale’s Pierson College (a position that involves leadership of a residential college, not an academic deanship). For weeks now, Yale students have been circulating some of her Yelp reviews that denigrated various groups. Her comments frequently didn’t focus on the restaurant she was commenting on, but on groups of people she saw there, on which she offered her criticism. For example, in a much-quoted review of a restaurant (above) she wrote, “If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you.” In a review of a movie theater, she praised the “lack of sketchy crowds, despite it being in New Haven.” In a review of another movie theater, she wrote about “barely educated morons trying to manage snack order for the obese ….”

The Yale Daily News, which broke the story, has published a selection of the Yelp reviews here.

When the story first broke, and Chu apologized to her students, Yale seemed to regard the incident as unfortunate, but not necessarily career altering.

As the week went on, however, more and more Yelp reviews by Chu, containing insults, materialized (many of them promptly shared on social media), and Yale’s position changed. (Chu has taken down her Yelp account but is not commenting.)

Facebook and Twitter ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Denis Campbell:

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people’s feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children’s and young people’s body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

Social media and bullying: how to keep young people safe online
Read more
The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures “to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing”. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes to Human Intelligence

Carl Zimmer:

In a significant advance in the study of mental ability, a team of European and American scientists announced on Monday that they had identified 52 genes linked to intelligence in nearly 80,000 people.

These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule, the researchers said, suggesting that thousands more are likely to be involved and still await discovery. Just as important, intelligence is profoundly shaped by the environment.

Parents And Teachers Say Charter Schools Get These 4 Things Right

Madeleine Deliee:

You’ve probably heard a lot about charter schools lately, but you may not know exactly what they are, or what makes them so popular in some circles—and controversial in others. Now, with the proposed federal budget devoting $500 million in funding to charter expansion across the United States, you’re likely to hear even more about these publicly funded, independently operated campuses. And love them or leave, their unique status affords them the opportunity to function outside the traiditonal educational model. Though they aren’t perfect, charter schools offer a few advantages.

Colleges, Money And Recruiting

R0n Lieber:

In the minds of parents and teenagers going through the college application process, May 1 is a magic date. At that point, you’ll have made your decision, sent in a deposit, bought a sticker for your car window and posted your choice on social media.
This year, however, scores of teenagers had something unexpected happen next: During the first week in May, they received text messages or emails from schools that had accepted them but had not heard back. The messages all hinted at a particular question: Might a little bigger discount prompt you to come here after all?

Hampshire College, Elizabethtown College and Ursinus College all did this sort of outreach in recent weeks, as did Lawrence University — and perhaps many others, though these were the ones I was able to confirm after a week of reporting.

For some students, such a note can be a dream come true if it makes their first-choice college more affordable — even if it means forfeiting a deposit at another school, which typically runs into the hundreds of dollars.

UCLA paying students to fight ‘whiteness,’ ‘patriarchy’

Toni Airaksinen:

The application for the inaugural students asks aspiring Social Justice Advocates to explain their interest in social justice, list their preferred gender pronouns (such as “zi” and “hir”), and describe any experience they have in facilitating workshops on “social justice” issues.

Successful applicants will join the inaugural cohort of 8-10 Social Justice Advocates for the upcoming fall semester, during which time they are expected to commit three hours per week to their duties, which include weekly meetings and crafting presentations.

The program is funded through the Bruin Excellence & Student Transformation Grant Program (BEST), which receives funding from the university’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and from Gold Shield, Alumnae of UCLA.

What surprises do Wisconsin lawmakers have in store for education?

Alan Borsuk:

News of the future! Well, wait, we’ll get to that in a few moments. First, news of the past.

Every two years, the governor and Legislature labor mightily to come up with a new budget for Wisconsin. It’s a great and curious tradition that in the process of doing this, they add in stuff that doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with spending. Those who control the steering wheel and gas on this unwieldly vehicle are sometimes willing to fill it with surprising passengers.

Using the state budget as a vehicle, things like a statewide private school voucher program suddenly have strolled out of the back rooms in the Capitol in Madison in the smallest hours of the morning and — presto! — they’re state law, without any notice, public hearings or meaningful debate. (Yes, this really happened in 2013.)

Why some people are more cautious with their finances than others

The Economist:

RISK has always had a bit of an image problem. It is associated in the popular mind with gamblers, skydivers and, more recently, the overpaid bankers who crippled the global economy. Yet long-term economic growth would be impossible without people willing to wager all they have by starting a business, expanding an existing one or trying to invent a better mousetrap. Such risk-taking has been disturbingly scarce in America of late: the number of self-employed workers, job-creation at start-ups and the sums invested in businesses have been low.

Though changing appetites for risk are central to booms and busts, economists have found it hard to explain their determinants. Instead, they tend to cite John Maynard Keynes’s catchy but uncrunchy talk of “animal spirits”. Recent advances in behavioural economics, however, are changing that.

Millennials and baby boomers have conflicting views on when it’s time to pay your own way

Quentin Fottrell:

Young Americans are constantly told by the media — and, sometimes, their own parents — that they think the world owes them a favor.

Millennials say people should be able to pay for their own housing at 22 years of age, pay for their own car at 20.5 years of age and be responsible for their own cell phone plan at 18.5 years of age, according to a new study from personal-finance site Bankrate.com.

Solving the Mystery of Underachievement

Nick Ehrmann:

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed pathbreaking legislation to provide many of the state’s residents with tuition-free enrollment at public community colleges and four-year universities. In the swirl of commentary, which ranged from measured applause to outright skepticism, I could only think about one thing: the life of Travis Hill, a young man I met in the winter of 2000. Bright and conscientious, Travis joined my fourth-grade classroom at Emery Elementary School in the Eckington neighborhood of Washington, D.C., less than two miles north of the U.S. Capitol. He participated consistently in class, rarely missed a day of school, and tried to mask the emotional vacuum created by his father’s murder on the streets of D.C. Over the course of the year, he shared his thoughts with such careful depth that I began calling him “the philosopher.” We stayed in touch, and during his junior year of high school, I watched the same flashes of brilliance layer into his term paper on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. “The universal truth is we all start out as righteous,” he wrote, “but sometimes we sin to the point of no return.”

Doubling down: Los Angeles’ teachers union in the aftermath of its major election defeat

Sarah Favot and Mike Szymanski:

The teachers union in Los Angeles — one of the largest local teachers unions in the nation — suffered a huge loss in last week’s school board election, but observers say it will only cause union leadership to fight harder.

Ultimately, that could mean United Teachers Los Angeles will bolster efforts to unionize charter school teachers and might move to strike as it fights for a new contract.

“Normally a setback of this magnitude would result in retrenching, or at least re-evaluation,” said union watcher and writer Mike Antonucci. “It may instead lead to redoubling. Now that they have lost, they will use the defeat as evidence of the danger posed by their opponents, and so the fight must continue, and in fact, escalate.”
Antonucci predicted there is little chance of a quick settlement of its union contract negotiations, which have already begun, and that a strike is “very likely.”

“I don’t think it causes the union to pull back. Sometimes when you’re kind of in a corner, you get tougher,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA.

Beyond just promise, CRISPR is delivering in the lab today

the conversation:

There’s a revolution happening in biology, and its name is CRISPR.

CRISPR (pronounced “crisper”) is a powerful technique for editing DNA. It has received an enormous amount of attention in the scientific and popular press, largely based on the promise of what this powerful gene editing technology will someday do.

CRISPR was Science magazine’s 2015 Breakthrough of the Year; it’s been featured prominently in the New Yorker more than once; and The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Jennifer Lopez will be the executive producer on an upcoming CRISPR-themed NBC bio-crime drama. Not bad for a molecular biology laboratory technique.

Household Debt Reaches New Peak Driven by Gains in Mortgage, Auto, and Student Debt

New York Fed:

The CMD’s latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit reveals that total household debt achieved a new peak in the first quarter of 2017, rising by $149 billion to $12.73 trillion—$50 billion above the previous peak reached in the third quarter of 2008. Balances climbed in several areas: mortgages, 1.7 percent; auto loans, 0.9 percent; and student loans, 2.6 percent. Credit card balances fell 1.9 percent this quarter.

Google starts tracking offline shopping — what you buy at stores in person

Associated Press:

Google already monitors online shopping — but now it’s also keeping an eye on what people buy in physical stores as it tries to sell more digital advertising.

The Internet giant said Tuesday that a new tool will track how much money people spend in merchants’ bricks-and-mortar stores after clicking on their digital ads.

The analysis will be done by matching the combined ad clicks of people who are logged into Google services with their collective purchases on credit and debit cards. Google says it won’t be able to examine the specific items bought or how much a specific individual spent.

But even aggregated data can sometimes be converted back to data that can identify individuals, said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute privacy research firm.

Universal health care cost in California $400 billion a year

Angela Hart:

The price tag is in: It would cost $400 billion to remake California’s health insurance marketplace and create a publicly funded universal heath care system, according to a state financial analysis released Monday.
 
 California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called “single-payer” system, the analysis by the Senate Appropriations Committee found. The estimate assumes the state would retain the existing $200 billion in local, state and federal funding it currently receives to offset the total $400 billion price tag.
 
 The cost analysis is seen as the biggest hurdle to creating a universal system, proposed by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

Why American College Campuses Were Built to Get Students Out of Cities

Steve Diner:

In 1883, Charles F. Thwing, a minister with deep interest in higher education, published a study of American colleges. In his chapter 3, entitled “Morals,” he asserted that a significant number of city-bred college students “are immoral on their entering college” because the city environment has “for many of them been excellent preparatory schools for Sophomoric dissipation” and “even home influences . . . have failed to outweigh the evil attractions of the gambling table and its accessories.” In contrast, students from rural settings have been deeply elevated by “not only the purity of the student’s home but the associations of his country life.” Moreover, he explained, the higher rates of immorality among students in colleges “located in or near cities” reflected “the character and surroundings of the colleges.”

RFP 15196 – Educational Oversight of City of Milwaukee Charter Schools

City of Milwaukee:

For this RFP, the City of Milwaukee is using a Bonfire portal for accepting and evaluating proposals digitally.

All required documents are available for download on the Bonfire portal.

Your submission must be uploaded, submitted, and finalized prior to the Closing Time of May 30, 2017 at 2:00 PM CST. We strongly recommend that you give yourself sufficient time and at least ONE (1) hour before Closing Time to begin the uploading process and to finalize your submission.

Black Graduates Do Themselves And Americans No Favors By Booing Betsy DeVos

Justin McClinton:

After the protesting students, who the school administration numbers at approximately 20, 13 of whom were escorted out of the ceremony, met public criticism for their behavior, more than 200 black university professors signed a public letter supporting their actions.

“The world watched you protest the speaker you never should have had,” the letter says. “We cheered as we saw so many of you refuse to acquiesce in the face of threats and calls for complicity. Your actions fit within a long tradition of Black people fighting back against those who attack our institutions and our very lives with their anti-Black policies and anglo-normative practices. Betsy DeVos’ commitment to dismantling public education and her egregious framing of historically Black colleges and universities as ‘pioneers’ in school choice are just two examples of why she should never have been invited to speak at an event celebrating Black excellence.”

Wrong. It does not matter what your opinion is of Betsy DeVos, booing her during a speech is disrespectful. There has always been a trickle-down from predominantly white colleges to historically black colleges. The worse of these has been a blatant contempt for people who represent contrasting viewpoints.

Immigrant rises to top of graduating class El Salvador native credits family, dual language classes for path to success

Shelby Webb:

The price of Sofia Alfaro’s future was a 1994 Chevrolet Camaro.

Her stepfather sold the car when Sofia was 5, paying for safe passage from her native El Salvador to the United States. But that journey led to another – her years-long struggle to learn English and adapt to a new country. She fell a grade level behind her peers due to her limited English skills and was sent to an alternative school – not for bad behavior but to catch up.

Counted out

JOSEPH NEFF, ANN DOSS HELMS AND DAVID RAYNOR:

About this time every year, roughly 5,000 North Carolina 8-year-olds show they’re ready to shine. Despite the obstacles of poverty that hobble so many of their classmates, these third graders from low-income families take their first state exams and score at the top level in math.

With a proper push and support at school, these children could become scientists, engineers and innovators. They offer hope for lifting families out of poverty and making the state more competitive in a high-tech world.

But many of them aren’t getting that opportunity, an investigation by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer reveals. Thousands of low-income children who get “superior” marks on end-of-grade tests aren’t getting an equal shot at advanced classes designed to challenge gifted students.

As they start fourth grade, bright children from low-income families are much more likely to be excluded from the more rigorous classes than their peers from families with higher incomes, the analysis shows. The unequal treatment during the six years ending in 2015 resulted in 9,000 low-income children in North Carolina being counted out of classes that could have opened a new academic world to them.

Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

A Heretic at Duke Divinity School

Peter Berkowitz:

The campaign against free speech on American campuses rolls on, steadily decreasing the domain of permissible ideas. But the case of Paul Griffiths, a professor at Duke Divinity School, is something new. The defense of liberty of thought and discussion itself has been transformed into a career-ending transgression.

The case was brought to light in late April when Rod Dreher of the American Conservative published a series of email exchanges. It started Feb. 6, when Anathea Portier-Young, another Divinity School professor, distributed a facultywide email. “On behalf of the Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee,” she wrote, “I strongly urge you to participate in the Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training planned for March 4 and 5.” Ms. Portier-Young promised colleagues that the weekend program would be “transformative, powerful, and life-changing.”

Ms. Portier-Young, an Old Testament scholar with expertise in “constructions of identity, gender, and ethnicity, and traditions of violence and nonviolence,” approvingly quoted the Racial Equity Institute’s guiding ideas: “‘Racism is a fierce, ever-present, challenging force, one which has structured the thinking, behavior, and actions of individuals and institutions since the beginning of U.S. history.’ ” She also included the institute’s call to political action: “ ‘To understand racism and effectively begin dismantling it requires an equally fierce, consistent, and committed effort.’ ”

Asians With “Very Familiar Profiles”: How Princeton’s Admissions Officers Talk About Race

A trove of documents created during a federal investigation into Princeton University offers an unprecedented glimpse at how elite college admissions officers talk about race.

Outsiders have long debated how the secretive Ivy League admissions system considers the race of its applicants. Within the schools, such discussions form one of the most closely guarded elements of a process that has remained remarkably opaque for decades.

But documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show Princeton’s admissions officers repeatedly wrote of Asian applicants as being difficult to differentiate, referring to them dismissively as having “very familiar profiles,” calling them “standard premeds,” or “difficult to pluck out.” The comments were noted by civil rights investigators at the Education Department as they probed allegations of racial bias in the school’s admissions system.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Why Some U.S. Cities Are So Much More Productive Than Others

Mark Muro & Joseph Parilla:

So here’s another gap that bears examination: the city productivity gap. Labor productivity matters because productivity influences living standards. So while the pundits are right to debate the facts and causes of slowing productivity growth at the national level, they would do well also to explore the local dimension of the problem. After all, while many of the proposed causes of malaise—less competition in industries and fewer technological breakthroughs among others—remain national, many of them may be distinctly local.

Which is why we recently took a look at the limited accessible data and roughed out a preliminary analysis of city-by-city labor productivity—the amount of goods and services produced per worker.

Wondering What Happened to Your Class Valedictorian? Not Much, Research Shows

Eric Barker:

What becomes of high school valedictorians? It’s what every parent wishes their teenager to be. Mom says study hard and you’ll do well. And very often Mom is right.

But not always.

Karen Arnold, a researcher at Boston College, followed 81 high school valedictorians and salutatorians from graduation onward to see what becomes of those who lead the academic pack. Of the 95 percent who went on to graduate college, their average GPA was 3.6, and by 1994, 60 percent had received a graduate degree. There was little debate that high school success predicted college success. Nearly 90 percent are now in professional careers with 40 percent in the highest tier jobs. They are reliable, consistent, and well-adjusted, and by all measures the majority have good lives.

A University That Prioritizes the Students Who Are Often Ignored

Meredith Kolodner:

NEWARK, N.J.—Protests focused on entrenched racism rocked campuses around the country this year. Many top colleges enroll small numbers of black students, and the four-year college graduation rate for black students is half that of whites.

In response, many admissions officers have been scouring the country—and the globe—to attract “qualified” black and brown students, striving to meet diversity targets while avoiding students they consider “at risk” of dropping out.

But a growing group of colleges and universities think that the calculation for who is “at risk” is fundamentally wrong. They not only accept students often turned away by other four-year universities, but also aggressively recruit them, believing that their academic potential has been vastly underrated.

More Colleges, Universities Join Scholarship Platform to Fund Good Students

Sri Ravipati:

An online fundraising platform that has helped high schoolers raise more than $1 billion in scholarships for college is growing its community of academic institution partners. The University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Washington University in St. Louis, Harvey Mudd College and Grinnell College are all part of the newest cohort of campuses to join Raise.me.

The platform rewards good students for their hard work: Starting from grade 9, students can input their achievements (class grades, clubs, sports, etc.) to earn “micro-scholarships” from colleges on Raise.me. Different academic institutions award different amounts for the same achievement. So, U Penn could reward a student $150 for earning an “A” in algebra, while Grinnell could offer $100, for example. Micro-scholarships typically range from $100 to $3,000 and can be redeemed once a student is admitted by a partner college.

Harvard student submits rap album as his senior thesis

Collin Binkley:

While other Harvard University students were writing papers for their senior theses, Obasi Shaw was busy rapping his.

Shaw is the first student in Harvard’s history to submit a rap album as a senior thesis in the English Department, the university said. The album, called “Liminal Minds,” has earned the equivalent of an A-minus grade, good enough to guarantee that Shaw will graduate with honors next week.

Count Shaw among those most surprised by the success.

Amazon made a small change to the way it sells books. Publishers are terrified.

Constance Grady:

It used to be that when you were shopping for a new copy of a book and clicked “Add to Cart,” you were buying the book from Amazon itself. Amazon, in turn, had bought the book from its publisher or its publisher’s wholesalers, just like if you went to any other bookstore selling new copies of books. There was a clear supply chain that sent your money directly into the pockets of the people who wrote and published the book you were buying.

But now, reports the Huffington Post, that’s no longer the default scenario. Now you might be buying the book from Amazon, or you might be buying it from a third-party seller. And there’s no guarantee that if the latter is true, said third-party seller bought the book from the publisher. In fact, it’s most likely they didn’t.

Recent College Grad? Chances Are You’re in Sales, Making $38,000

Polly Mosendz:

Sales associate positions are the most common jobs for recent U.S. college graduates, a new study from the career website Glassdoor Inc. found. The jobs, which range from real estate sales to retail, have a median base salary of $38,000 a year, the study found.

A variety of assistant positions in research, teaching, and administration, all relatively low-paying, were also cited as common. The highest-paying job on Glassdoor’s list was software engineer, at a median base salary of $90,000, followed by engineer, at $70,500, and financial analyst, at $64,453. The lowest-paying job was teaching assistant, at $20,000. Substitute teachers earned a bit more, at $25,000, with tutors bringing in $36,000.

Two experts debate whether public funds should be used to support private school vouchers

Michael J. Petrilli, Richard D. Kahlenberg, and Kyle Spencer:

Rick doesn’t believe that kids should be forced to attend the school their district assigns to them, usually the one closest to their house, or that private schools should be illegal. I don’t believe that tax dollars should flow to schools without any accountability for results. We both believe in school choice—in allowing kids to choose publicly funded schools beyond their neighborhood public school. The question is how wide those choices should be, especially for families too poor to pay private school tuition, and what the conditions on the schools should be.

Rick supports public school choice, in part as a way to allow poor kids to attend more affluent public schools, and thus further the cause of integration. Same with charter schools. He’s also OK with magnet schools, even though they are selective, and thus don’t take all students. But he draws the line at private schools. Why? It can’t be because of accountability; states like Indiana and Louisiana have demonstrated that it’s possible to have voucher programs that are held accountable for student achievement. If private schools in those states don’t make enough progress with voucher participants, they get kicked out of the program.

Americans Are Paying $38 to Collect $1 of Student Debt

Shahien Nasiripour:

The federal government has, in recent years, paid debt collectors close to $1 billion annually to help distressed borrowers climb out of default and scrounge up regular monthly payments. New government figures suggest much of that money may have been wasted.

Nearly half of defaulted student-loan borrowers who worked with debt collectors to return to good standing on their loans defaulted again within three years, according to an analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For their work, debt collectors receive up to $1,710 in payment from the U.S. Department of Education each time a borrower makes good on soured debt through a process known as rehabilitation. They keep those funds even if borrowers subsequently default again, contracts show. The department has earmarked more than $4.2 billion for payments to its debt collectors since the start of the 2013 fiscal year, federal spending data show.

Black Students Don’t Even Get an Equal Education in Diverse Schools

Susan Berfield:

“Here’s the high school. It’s so huge, it takes a minute just to drive by,” says John Diamond as we pass a giant brick Victorian building surrounded by a lush green lawn. We’re on a tour of Evanston, Ill., which borders Chicago, runs along Lake Michigan, and is home to Northwestern University. In some ways, Evanston is an American idyll. People move here and stay, because it’s a diverse, relatively affluent, and well-read community. Two-thirds of its residents have library cards. Yet, to the dismay of the progressive citizenry, Evanston educates white students far more successfully than students of color.

Diamond, 47, is the parent of an Evanston seventh-grader, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the co-author of Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools. His book is based on a five-year examination of an unidentified Midwestern high school that’s diverse and affluent and still treats black and white students differently. Diamond promised never to reveal the school’s location. Maybe it isn’t in Evanston. But it could be.

Widening Gap in U.S. Life Expectancy

Francis Collins:

Researchers attribute this disturbing gap to a variety of social and economic influences, as well as differences in modifiable behavioral and lifestyle factors, such as obesity, inactivity, and tobacco use. The findings serve as a sobering reminder that, despite the considerable progress made possible by biomedical science, more research is needed to figure out better ways of addressing health disparities and improving life expectancy for all Americans.

In the new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a research team, partially funded by NIH, found that the average American baby born in 2014 can expect to live to about age 79 [1]. That’s up from a national average of about 73 in 1980 and around 68 in 1950. However, babies born in 2014 in remote Oglala Lakota County, SD, home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, can expect to live only about 66 years. That’s in stark contrast to a child born about 400 miles away in Summit County, CO, where life expectancy at birth now exceeds age 86.

Earlier studies suggested that Americans living in some parts of the country were living more than a decade longer than others [2]. In the new study, a team led by Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Seattle, wanted to get a closer look at those disparities. To fill in as much geographical detail as possible, they mapped life expectancies county by county—the smallest unit for which death records are routinely available—from 1980 to 2014.

Learning Japanese

Making Duolingo Blog

To show just how complex this can get, let’s take a simple English phrase – “I love you” – and dissect the many ways in which it can be said in Japanese. Spoiler alert: it’s not such a simple phrase in Japanese. One of our course contributors, Sho, estimated and found that there can actually be as many as 248,026 ways to say “I love you” in Japanese!

How is this even possible?

For one, there are several different ways to say “I” in Japanese (i.e., watashi, watakushi, boku, ore, etc.), each of which can be written in any of the three writing systems mentioned above. There are also two particles that can go with “I”, which you are actually able to omit. You can even choose to not mention “I” at all, since it is implied. This already makes 37 (4 × 3 × 3 + 1) different ways to just say “I” in Japanese.

The Economist explains: Why Harvard Business School is under fire

The Economist:

HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL (HBS) has come under the cosh this month. A new book, “The Golden Passport” by Duff McDonald, argues that HBS has lost its crown as the top business school in America and also become a breeding ground for toxic behaviour, with conflicts of interests rife within the school, and its alumni responsible for pushing a rapacious form of capitalism that explains many of the ills of the world’s biggest economy. Mr McDonald is a well-regarded author whose previous books, on McKinsey & Company, a consultancy, and JPMorgan Chase, a bank, were authoritative. Why is he attacking the school, and does he have a point?

Students Stop U.S. Immigration Officer From Speaking at Northwestern U.

Alex Arriaga:

Students at Northwestern University disrupted a sociology class on Tuesday to protest the visit of an officer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Daily Northwestern reports that members of student groups gathered outside the campus building where the ICE representative was beginning a guest presentation. The sociology course focuses on “inequality in American society with an emphasis on race, class, and gender,” its syllabus says.

According to the student newspaper, the protesters carried banners and yelled profanities. Administrators told the protesting students they would be allowed into the classroom if they did not disrupt the presentation. The students entered, and the officer left. Protesters asked the sociology professor, Beth Redbird, why the officer had been invited.

Civics: Whistleblower alleges voter fraud extends into Dallas County elections office

Jason Whitley:

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has secret audio recordings in which a campaign worker claims he pays off someone inside the county elections to find out when mail-in ballots get sent out.

Sidney Williams, 33, made the audio recordings of Jose Barrientos. Williams shared the audio with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and WFAA.
Barrientos told WFAA that the recordings are just “guy talk.” He said he has not done anything illegal.

“I don’t do that stuff. I know that looks bad me and Sidney talking s*** or trash. That looks bad. And I know it does but that’s just talk,” Barrientos told WFAA.

The Innovator’s Dilemma Hits Higher Ed

Alana Dunagan:

Last month’s announcement that Indiana’s Purdue University would acquire the for-profit Kaplan University shocked the world of higher education. The Purdue faculty are up in arms. The merger faces a series of regulatory obstacles. And it’s unclear whether the “New U,” as the entity is temporarily named, can be operationally viable or financially successful.

But Purdue’s president, Mitch Daniels, is willing to give it a shot.

The venture is unexpected, unconventional and smart. The nature of the partnership—in which Kaplan will transfer its assets to Purdue, a public university—is unprecedented. It’s also a rare instance of attempted self-disruption.

There are lessons here from the business world. In the seminal 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” Harvard professor Clayton Christensen describes how leading companies can do everything “right” and still be thwarted by disruptive competitors. In an effort to appease stakeholders, leaders focus resources on activities that target current customers, promise higher profits, build prestige, and help them play in substantial markets. As Mr. Christensen observes, they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Meanwhile, a disruptive innovation is changing all the rules.

Civic: Obama Era Deportation Policies

Leighton Akio Woodhouse:

IMMIGRATIONS AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT imprisons more than 10,000 parents of American citizens in California each year, according to a report released today by Human Rights Watch.

The report, entitled “I Still Need You,” analyzes the impact of immigration enforcement policy on immigrant families in California and finds that parents with U.S. citizen children were more likely to be deported from detention rather than released. The report also finds that from January 2011 to June 2015 nearly half of the immigrants detained in California had no criminal history, findings that directly contradict claims President Obama made about his immigration enforcement policy at that time. Under President Trump, the report’s authors believe, the trends suggested by the data have likely become even more pronounced.

In 2014, Obama announced a new immigration enforcement policy known informally as “felons, not families,” which purported to prioritize the deportation of undocumented immigrants with serious criminal histories and avoid separating families. But as the Marshall Project has shown, less than a fifth of the immigrants deported nationwide under the policy had been convicted of violent or potentially violent crimes. More than 40 percent had no criminal convictions whatsoever.

Diderot on Information Overload, and the Encyclopedia as a Means of Organizing and Enhancing Associations in Knowledge (1755)

HistoryofInformation.com

In 1755 French writer and philosopher Denis DiderotOffsite Link published in the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société‚ de gens de lettres an article entitled Encyclopédie. In that he explained that a primary reason for undertaking this enormous writing and publishing project was to manage information overload by providing a rational and comprehensible order to what was already an almost impossibly large and disorganized body of information.

I preface my remarks About the Database with a brief quotation from Diderot’s article. Equally relevant is this somewhat longer quotation, which places Diderot’s partially self-deprecating thoughts in better context:

Most Ordinary Americans in 2016 Are Richer Than Was John D. Rockefeller in 1916

Don Boudreaux:

This Atlantic story reveals how Americans lived 100 years ago. (HT Warren Smith) By the standards of a middle-class American today, that lifestyle was poor, inconvenient, dreary, and dangerous. (Only a few years later – in 1924 – the 16-year-old son of a sitting U.S. president would die of an infected blister that the boy got on his toe while playing tennis on the White House grounds.)

So here’s a question that I’ve asked in one form or another on earlier occasions, but that is so probing that I ask it again: What is the minimum amount of money that you would demand in exchange for your going back to live even as John D. Rockefeller lived in 1916? 21.7 million 2016 dollars (which are about one million 1916 dollars)? Would that do it? What about a billion 2016 – or 1916 – dollars? Would this sizable sum of dollars be enough to enable you to purchase a quantity of high-quality 1916 goods and services that would at least make you indifferent between living in 1916 America and living (on your current income) in 2016 America?

Charter backers win their first L.A. school board majority (Madison Continues It’s Lack Of K-12 Governance Diversity)

Howard Blume and Anna M. Phillips:

The Los Angeles Unified School District underwent a dramatic political shift Tuesday night, as the curtain dropped on what has been the most expensive school board election in the nation’s history.

The election has been a proxy war between wealthy charter school advocates and public employee unions. Charter supporters appeared to secure their first-ever majority on the seven-member Los Angeles Board of Education, a move that could accelerate the already-rapid expansion of charter schools across the city.

Secret report shows ‘special’ treatment for public officials in D.C. school lottery

By Peter Jamison and Aaron C. Davis:

Former D.C. Public Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson routinely helped well-connected parents — including two senior aides to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) — bend or break the rules of the District’s notoriously competitive school lottery to enroll their children at coveted schools, according to a confidential report obtained by The Washington Post.

The report, based on an investigation by the D.C. Inspector General’s Office, describes in remarkable detail how Henderson used her power as head of the school system to place the children of those with political clout at campuses they could not otherwise access through the random lottery, which every year leaves thousands of families on waiting lists for their desired schools.

Uber Doesn’t Want You to See This Document About Its Vast Data Surveillance System

Kashmir Hill:

The ever-expanding operations of Uber are defined by two interlocking and zealously guarded sets of information: the things the world-dominating ride-hailing company knows about you, and the things it doesn’t want you to know about it. Both kinds of secrets have been in play in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, as Ward Spangenberg, a former forensic investigator for Uber, has pursued a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the company.
 
 The case, filed in May of last year, has weaponized Uber’s secrecy. Most sensationally, Spangenberg’s suit got significant press coverage in December for his claims that company employees accessed its data inappropriately to track exes and to spy on celebrities like Beyoncé. Uber responded to those claims by saying that employees only have access to the amount of customer data they need to do their jobs and that all data access is logged and routinely audited, with thorough investigations performed in the event of potential violations.

Puerto Rico’s Debt Lessons

Wall Street Journal:

The legal brawl over Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy begins this week, and it will be long and ugly. The pain might be worth something if the island can use this rare chance to reform its government, and creditors learn a hard lesson about lending to spendthrift politicians.

After San Juan said last year that it couldn’t repay its debts, Congress passed a law known as Promesa that created a seven-member federal oversight board modelled on the one that turned around Washington, D.C. in the 1990s. The board rejected the first two fiscal plans proposed by former governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and his successor Governor Ricky Rossello before accepting a third.

But even that plan couldn’t prevent a debt restructuring after Mr. Rossello and creditors failed to agree on a voluntary plan. The creditors are now crying foul, claiming that the control board intervened to scuttle the talks. But the board says Promesa’s Title III bankruptcy process to reduce the debt was all but inevitable, and mutual funds could face losses as high as $5.4 billion in what are likely to be court-directed haircuts.

Private College “Discounts” Hit Historic Highs Again

National Association of College and University Business Officers:

Average institutional tuition discount rates are rising as larger percentages of students receive grants and scholarships from their institutions, and the awards cover more of their costs. An estimated 87.9 percent of freshmen and 78.5 percent of all undergraduates received grant aid in 2016-17, covering more than half of tuition and fees, on average, for both cohorts.

More than three-quarters of all institutional grant aid was used to meet students’ financial need. Institutions with the largest endowments were most likely to give aid to financially needy students: At schools with endowments worth more than $1 billion, 90.8 percent of all grant and scholarship funds met need.

“In each of the past 12 years, private colleges and universities have increased their freshman tuition discount rate–culminating in this year’s record-high estimate of nearly 50 percent,” said Ken Redd, NACUBO director of research and policy analysis. “As the findings from the 2016 NACUBO Tuition Discounting Study suggest, many private colleges are greatly expanding their aid programs to meet the needs of more students and families, but these financial aid expenditures are contributing to a financial strain for some institutions.”

The 2016 NACUBO Tuition Discounting Study points to other trends that are putting financial pressure on some schools. Net tuition revenue from first-time, full-time students grew by an estimated average of 0.4 percent this academic year, down from 1.5 percent in 2015-16 and 2.1 percent the year before. Meanwhile, 39.1 percent of respondents reported declining enrollments in both their first-year class and total student body, up from 37.5 percent last year.

California threatens to shut down book signings and therefore small booksellers

Liberty Blog:

Failure to disclose any of the required details, or to keep the certificate for the full seven years, results in outrageous penalties. Even an inadvertent omission can subject a seller to actual damages, plus a civil penalty of up to 10 times the damages, plus court costs, plus reasonable attorney’s fees, plus expert witness fees, plus interest. Professional plaintiff’s lawyers must be chomping at the bit. If Bill sold just 100 signed copies of a $30 book, but six years later, couldn’t locate the records noting the size of the edition, he’d be liable for (at minimum) $30,000. Bill sells tens of thousands of signed books each year.

For many booksellers like Bill and Book Passage, this massive threat of liability will make holding author events too much of a risk. And the loss to California’s marketplace of ideas will be gargantuan. Book signings aren’t just central to Book Passage’s business model, they’re vital to up-and-coming authors with less represented views, who use book signings to lure new readers. Many famous authors got their start by doing signing events. While Book Passage hosts such big names as Isabelle Allende and Khaled Hosseini, it also frequently hosts local poets, fiction writers, and even chefs who have authored cookbooks.

Even worse than irrational, the law is pernicious: despite the law’s vast breadth (it also covers paintings, sculptures, and auctioneers), certain sellers have secured exemptions. Online retailers and pawn shops, those places where uninformed buyers are most vulnerable, do not have to comply.

Unsayable Truths About a Failing High School

Kay Hymowitz:

Last week, my high school alma mater in the prosperous Montgomery County suburbs of Philadelphia went viral. A video of a student brawl injuring four security officers and eight teachers appeared on YouTube, bolstering long-whispered rumors of the district’s decline. Four students were taken into custody; one of them, 18 and charged as an adult for four counts of aggravated assault, is still in jail as I write. All four of the students were black females.

I haven’t visited Cheltenham High since I graduated in the faraway American Graffiti era, but I ventured back for a packed emergency community meeting about the May 4 events. In addition to memories, I found a stark illustration of the nation’s evasions about racial gaps in education.

Related: English 10, high school redesign and TAG complaint.

Harvard Business School risks going from great to good

The Economist:

YOU will all be aware that a book has just been published about our institution, Harvard Business School (HBS). Entitled “The Golden Passport”, by Duff McDonald, it makes a number of unflattering claims about the school’s ethics and its purpose. While often unbalanced, it is likely to galvanise hostility to HBS both inside Harvard University, of which we are a part, and among the public. This memorandum, circulated only to the most senior faculty members, assesses HBS’s strategic position.

Our school has been among the country’s most influential institutions since its foundation in 1908. Our forebears helped build America’s economy in the early 20th century and helped win the second world war. HBS educates less than 1% of American MBA students but case studies written by our faculty are used at business schools around the world. Our alumni fill the corridors of elite firms such as McKinsey. Many bosses of big American companies studied here. Even in Silicon Valley, where we are relatively weak, about a tenth of “unicorns”—private startups worth over $1bn—have one of our tribe as a founder.

Former Permian Panther Coach Gaines back on field as volunteer

Jessica Bruha

The storied former coach of the Permian Panthers, Gary Gaines, will return to the gridiron next month to help raise awareness for a disease he himself must now tackle.

Gaines was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, joining millions of Americans estimated to have the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. In an effort to raise money to help find a cure and support local programs, Gaines will help coach a team of women battling for victory in a friendly flag football competition.

Kickoff for the Blondes vs. Brunettes game is at 6 p.m. June 10 at Bushland Falcon Stadium, 99 Farm to Market Road 2381, Bushland, Texas. Gates open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Gaines, who retired as head football coach at Permian in 2012 after his second stint as the Permian head coach, said he is looking forward to returning to the football field.

Don’t stop others from having school vouchers just because you don’t want one

Citizen Stewart:

If the possibility of discrimination is cause for block funding for educational programs we might as well shut down public schools and start over. It’s that bad, and it’s the reason so many families want alternatives.
Yes, there are valid arguments against vouchers. Most can be addressed by the way voucher laws are written. But, it’s simply unfair to summarily disregard the aspirations of marginalized children and parents who currently make good use of public funds to access educational programs they want and need. They matter. They deserve choices. It’s their lives on the line and God bless them for actively seeking better for themselves.

For me, prioritizing their rights and their self-determination over the whims and privilege of voucher opponents is the truly moral thing to do.

A Stanford researcher’s 15-minute study hack lifts B+ students into the As

Jenny Anderson:

But students can be taught to think strategically about thinking and studying, says Chen, the lead author of a new study about the practice, and parents can prompt this type of learning by posing some strategic questions of their own.

In the study Chen led, researchers conducted two field experiments in which some university students were offered a variety of prompts to help them think carefully about how they studied, and how they might study more effectively for an introductory statistics class exam. The other students—the control group—simply received a reminder that their exam was coming up and that they should prepare.
Those who reflected on how they wanted to perform and what they needed to do to perform better outperformed those who did not, by an average of one-third of a letter grade. Those who received the intervention prompts twice did better than those who received it once.
“Our key insight in this research is the importance of being goal-directed and thoughtful about how one chooses and uses resources for learning—or to achieve any other goal for that matter,” Chen said.

Professor faces disciplinary proceedings for calling diversity training a waste of time

Greg Piper:

Paul Griffiths spoke a little too freely when he responded to a professor’s faculty listserv invitation for “racial equity” training at Duke Divinity School (DDS) three months ago.

The professor of Catholic theology told his colleagues not to “lay waste your time” with the training, which he predicted would be full of “bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs”:

When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance

U.S. Stats Officials Say Measurements of GDP, Inflation Are Off

Craig Torres:

Top officials from two U.S. government economic-statistics agencies said their measurement tools are understating growth and overstating some components of inflation by modest amounts, while cautioning that this doesn’t explain the sluggish expansion in recent years.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis agree that price index mismeasurement continues to lead to understated growth in real output over time,” five current and former officials from the agencies wrote in a paper published May 3 in the American Economic Association’s Journal of Economic Perspectives and presented last week at a meeting of the BEA’s advisory committee.

Private schools are doing worse in Washington, DC Should you spend your voucher on one?

The Economist:

IMAGINE you are a poor parent in Washington, DC. You assumed you would send your child to a public school. But you have been offered a voucher worth up to $12,000 towards tuition at a private one. Should you use it?

Until recently the evidence suggested that you should. In 2004 Congress created the DC Opportunity Scholarship Programme, the first school-voucher scheme directly subsidised by the federal government (states and charities subsidise many others). Since then up to 2,000 families a year have been handed vouchers to attend private school after winning lotteries. In 2010 a study found that 82% of pupils offered a voucher went on to graduate from high school, compared with 70% of similar peers who attended public schools.

Civics: The secret deal the Associated Press made with the Nazis during WWII

Michael Rosenwald:

Daniszewski, the AP vice president, said that given the time period — a war, with censors on both sides — readers would have known that Nazis had taken the photos, even if those origins weren’t specifically described.

Asked why the captions distributed with the photos didn’t include references to Nazi or SS photographers, Daniszewski said, “It is easy to second-guess eight decades later, but we do not believe and did not find in our research any intention to deceive anyone about the German origins of these photos depicting scenes from the German side of the battle lines and inside Germany itself.”

Wake Forest president made more Than $4M

Jane Stancill:

Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University, had total compensation of $4.23 million listed on the university’s 2015 tax filings.

The disclosure was made on the university’s website Monday by Board of Trustees Chair Donna Boswell.

In a lengthy message posted on the day of Wake Forest’s graduation, Boswell explained the elements of Hatch’s compensation, which could put him among the most highly compensated university presidents in 2015. “We on the Board of Trustees, together with President Hatch, want to be as open and transparent as possible concerning this information,” she wrote.

Ignoring Educational Productivity Is Immoral (Madison Spends About $18k/student Annually, Far More Than Most)

Neerav:

I. The Morality of Productivity

What if we knew a way to increase educational opportunity at no additional cost?

The benefits would be enormous. We could give more children the education they deserve.

And, by not having to increase educational spending, we could spend these saved tax dollars on families in need, or paying off government debt, or keeping money in the hands of working families.

Increasing educational productivity is one of the great moral issues of our time.

Unfortunately, increasing educational productivity in our country has been enormously difficult to accomplish.

II. Inequity in the City

Madison’s far above average spending has yet to address its long standing disastrous reading results.

Internet Atlas maps the physical internet to enhance security

University of Wisconsin Cartography department (Jennifer Smith):

Despite the internet-dependent nature of our world, a thorough understanding of the internet’s physical makeup has only recently emerged, thanks to painstaking work by University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers and their collaborators.

Professor of Computer Sciences Paul Barford, Ph.D. candidate Ramakrishnan (Ram) Durairajan and colleagues have developed Internet Atlas, the first detailed map of the internet’s structure worldwide.

Wisconsin Choice Schools Are Performed Traditional Public Organizations

Jenni White:

Tommy Schultz, national communications director for the Federation for Children, says WILL’s study is different from others because it shows how school choice affects the neediest children.

“There are many studies and testimonials that illustrate the positive impact of school choice, but this study is unique in its specific breakdown of how this is impacting children from low-income families and closing the achievement gap,” Schultz said.

Will Flanders, WILL’s research director and the study’s author, says the study provided data not previously available.

“Until this year in Wisconsin, we had no data on race and socioeconomic status, but part of the additional reporting requirements for schools last year included these data,” Flanders said. “We loaded all these data into an econometric regression model and isolated the effect of the school itself, so we controlled for those aspects.”

Talking About Race in Mostly White Schools BRIDGING THE DIVIDE BY GIVING YOUNG PEOPLE AN ENTRY POINT INTO THE PAINFUL REALITIES OF RACE IN AMERICA

Leah Shafer:

When racially charged controversies dominate the news cycle, some young people may feel disconnected — or even uninterested.

The reality is that many neighborhoods and schools in suburban and rural America are not diverse and are largely white. Students may not see many people who look different from them. Conversations about race can feel personally irrelevant, and therefore obligatory and rote. And teachers may feel stymied, worried about finding the right words.

How to improve high school? Ask college freshmen

Phil Luciano:

Last month, the state announced that Peoria Public Schools and Williamsfield Community Unit School District are among 10 school districts picked for a new project designed to transform how students prepare for college and careers after high school. The title is a mouthful — Illinois’ Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program — but the idea is simple: get away from the old model of youths sitting at desks and taking tests.

Instead, the program hopes to brainstorm new ways to equip kids for their future. As Tim Farquer, Williamsfield’s superintendent, put it, “The goal is to make high school less about chasing credits and more about building knowledge and skill.”

As the program’s educators and school boards begin to revamp high school curricula, they should listen to some recent customers — those who wore a mortar board not too long ago.

I teach freshman-level composition courses at Bradley University and Illinois Central College. Of my spring-semester students, the majority had graduated from high school within the last year or so, though a few are non-traditional (older) students. As the term wound down, I asked if they’d like to offer anonymous input regarding a simple question: looking back, how could high school have prepared them better — for college, the workplace or otherwise? Their responses had nothing to do with their grade: those who participated did so only with the aim of offering suggestions to help high schools and students.

Edited only for flow and space, these are their ideas:

Madison’s administrative adults have tried: English 10 and “high school redesign“.

The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth

Nina Martin and Renee Montagne

AS A NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE NURSE, Lauren Bloomstein had been taking care of other people’s babies for years. Finally, at 33, she was expecting one of her own. The prospect of becoming a mother made her giddy, her husband Larry recalled recently — “the happiest and most alive I’d ever seen her.” When Lauren was 13, her own mother had died of a massive heart attack. Lauren had lived with her older brother for a while, then with a neighbor in Hazlet, New Jersey, who was like a surrogate mom, but in important ways she’d grown up mostly alone. The chance to create her own family, to be the mother she didn’t have, touched a place deep inside her. “All she wanted to do was be loved,” said Frankie Hedges, who took Lauren in as a teenager and thought of her as her daughter. “I think everybody loved her, but nobody loved her the way she wanted to be loved.”

US Government Fears a Monday Explosion of the Ransomware Plague It Helped Create

Rhett Jones:

But many experts are afraid the beginning of the new work week will bring more attacks and reveal ones that already existed that went unnoticed. Many workers in Asia had already finished their business for the day on Friday. It’s possible that people could be heading into the office to find a nasty surprise. And despite the best efforts of a young security researcher in the UK who goes by MalwareTech, the temporarily halted ransomware has simply been altered and is being spread by copycats. “We are in the second wave,” Matthieu Suiche of Comae Technologies, tells the New York Times. “As expected, the attackers have released new variants of the malware. We can surely expect more.”

WYSO leader, UW-Madison conductor James Smith to retire

Gayle Worland:

When James Smith talks about the generations of students he’s led for 32 years as music director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, his tone belies a little amazement.
 
 He’s astonished by the level of talent he sees in his young string players. He’s witnessed huge growth in WYSO in recent years, and seen the positive impact of tours its young musicians have taken to perform together around the world.
 
 In fact, Smith seems shocked that he ever wound up conducting a youth orchestra program at at all.

soft question – Why do so many textbooks have so much technical detail and so little enlightenment? –

MathOverflow

I often find that textbooks provide very little in the way of motivation or context. As a simple example, consider group theory. Every textbook I have seen that talks about groups (including some very basic undergrad level books) presents them as abstract algebraic structures (while providing some examples, of course), then spends a few dozen pages proving theorems, and then maybe in some other section of the book covers some Galois Theory. This really irks me. Personally I find it very difficult to learn a topic with no motivation, partly just because it bores me to death. And of course it is historically backwards; groups arose as people tried to solve problems they were independently interested in. They didn’t sit down and prove a pile of theorems about groups and then realize that groups had applications. It’s also frustrating because I have to be completely passive; if I don’t know what groups are for or why anyone cares about them, all I can do is sit and read as the book throws theorems at me.

This is true not just with sweeping big picture issues, but with smaller things too. I remember really struggling to figure out why it was supposed to matter so much which subgroups were closed under conjugation before finally realizing that the real issue was which subgroups can be kernels of homomorphisms, and the other thing is just a handy way to characterize them. So why not define normal subgroups that way, or at least throw in a sentence explaining that that’s what we’re really after? But no one does.

Shanghai Punishes Primary School for Drilling Parents on Their Intelligence

Chen Shaoyuan and Li Rongde

Education authorities in Shanghai have ordered two private primary schools to apologize after it was revealed that one gave parents grueling IQ tests and another grilled students over the profession of their grandparents.

The move comes amid public uproar triggered by one parent’s social media tirade about how he was forced to take a sophisticated IQ test – on par with ones used to recruit civil servants – when he took his daughter for an interview at the city’s Yangpu Primary School.

It prompted thousands of comments over the growing inequality of access to quality education in China, arguing that better-resourced private schools increasingly favored children from privileged backgrounds.

NYC’s Plan “Isn’t Going to Cut it”: Striving toward Universal Literacy

new york school talk:

There are certain cruel realities that are seen in schools everyday. Teachers see the multitude of barriers students face from bullying, to poverty, to learning difficulties. Schools offer various methods to help students cope with these issues, many of which are a part of policies like DASA (the Dignity for All Students Act) that offer safe environments, lunch programs to make sure students are fed, and finally, IEPs and special education services to help students with learning disabilities.

But what we’re doing isn’t nearly enough.

One of the areas where we are having too little success is with students with learning disabilities. As a middle school teacher, too frequently I have students with reading skills far below grade level. Many of these students receive special education services, but some have slid through the cracks despite scores of 1 on state exams indicating that they are “far below grade level.” These students — with IEP’s or not — sit beside peers who were taught in the same way, yet their peers progressed while they didn’t.

4th Graders Are Getting ‘Thin’ Diet of Science Instruction, Analysis Shows

Liana Loewus:

Many elementary students are on a “starvation diet of thin and infrequent science instruction,” according to a new report from Change the Equation.

The nonprofit group, which works with the business community to advocate for improved STEM learning, analyzed data from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. (Over the last few months, the group has released similar analyses of NAEP data regarding students’ access to computer science, statistics, and engineering.)

More than half of 4th graders spend less than three hours a week on science, the data show. And 1 in 5 students get less than two hours.

Students at Madison’s Wright Middle School weigh in on uniform policy

Cristian Cruz:

Following a contentious 5-2 vote by the Madison School Board, James C. Wright Middle School will be the first school in the Madison Metropolitan School District to require students to wear uniforms.

Wright principal Angie Hicks told the board that the new uniform policy will decrease distractions for her students and, as such, aid in closing the school’s achievement gap, one representative of schools across the county and state.

First proposed in 2013, the uniform policy will go into effect in the 2017-2018 academic year. It will require students to dress in white, black or royal blue shirts and khaki or black slacks, shorts, skorts or skirts. The policy will also require Wright teachers to follow a similar code.

Google, Classrooms And Privacy

Natasha Singer:

CHICAGO — The sixth graders at Newton Bateman, a public elementary school here with a classic red brick facade, know the Google drill.

In a social-science class last year, the students each grabbed a Google-powered laptop. They opened Google Classroom, an app where teachers make assignments. Then they clicked on Google Docs, a writing program, and began composing essays.

Looking up from her laptop, Masuma Khan, then 11 years old, said her essay explored how schooling in ancient Athens differed from her own. “Back then, they had wooden tablets and they had to take all of their notes on it,” she said. “Nowadays, we can just do it in Google Docs.”

Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest school district in the United States, with about 381,000 students, is at the forefront of a profound shift in American education: the Googlification of the classroom.

In doing so, Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritizing training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasizing the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas. It puts Google, and the tech economy, at the center of one of the great debates that has raged in American education for more than a century: whether the purpose of public schools is to turn out knowledgeable citizens or skilled workers.

The director of Google’s education apps group, Jonathan Rochelle, touched on that idea in a speech at an industry conference last year. Referring to his own children, he said: “I cannot answer for them what they are going to do with the quadratic equation. I don’t know why they are learning it.” He added, “And I don’t know why they can’t ask Google for the answer if the answer is right there.”

Schools may be giving Google more than they are getting: generations of future customers.

Google makes $30 per device by selling management services for the millions of Chromebooks that ship to schools. But by habituating students to its offerings at a young age, Google obtains something much more valuable.

Every year, several million American students graduate from high school. And not only does Google make it easy for those who have school Google accounts to upload their trove of school Gmail, Docs and other files to regular Google consumer accounts — but schools encourage them to do so. This month, for instance, Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colo., sent out a notice urging seniors to “make sure” they convert their school account “to a personal Gmail account.”

That doesn’t sit well with some parents. They warn that Google could profit by using personal details from their children’s school email to build more powerful marketing profiles of them as young adults.

“My concern is that they are working on developing a profile of this child that, when they hit maturity, they are able to create a better profile,” said David Barsotti, an information technology project manager in the Chicago area whose daughter uses Google tools in elementary school. “That is a problem, in my opinion.”

Mr. Rochelle of Google said that when students transfer their school emails and files to a personal Google account, that account is governed by Google’s privacy policy. “Personal Gmail accounts may serve ads,” he said, but files in Google Drive are “never scanned for the purpose of showing ads.”

Mother and soon-to-be MIAD graduate designs drone to track her autistic child

Mike de Sisti:

Christine Carr says she may have found a way to do that.
The parent of a young autistic daughter, Carr is set to graduate Saturday from Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. For her senior thesis, Carr created a video camera-equipped drone designed to give parents some extra help keeping an eye on their kids.
She calls the device “Nonni” because it is a combination of a “nanny” and a “mommy.”
“It’s sometimes just a challenge to do laundry or get chores done because you feel like you need to be there all the time,” said Carr, 35.

Do not obey in advance.

Raio Open Source

Yale historian Timothy Snyder has 20 pills he wants us to take, and keep taking, perhaps to save our country. The stark premise that he laid out for us a month ago is that the real project of Donald Trump and Company is “regime change.” When they mock the legal restraints of “so-called judges” and call journalism “the opposition,” we should understand that they’re test-marketing their contempt for the rule of law and the constitutional protection of critical freedom. So Tim Snyder has written out his pocket-size get-real manual, called: On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

The Right to Read

Richard Stallman:

Later on, Dan would learn there was a time when anyone could go to the library and read journal articles, and even books, without having to pay. There were independent scholars who read thousands of pages without government library grants. But in the 1990s, both commercial and nonprofit journal publishers had begun charging fees for access. By 2047, libraries offering free public access to scholarly literature were a dim memory.

There were ways, of course, to get around the SPA and Central Licensing. They were themselves illegal. Dan had had a classmate in software, Frank Martucci, who had obtained an illicit debugging tool, and used it to skip over the copyright monitor code when reading books. But he had told too many friends about it, and one of them turned him in to the SPA for a reward (students deep in debt were easily tempted into betrayal). In 2047, Frank was in prison, not for pirate reading, but for possessing a debugger.

Dan would later learn that there was a time when anyone could have debugging tools. There were even free debugging tools available on CD or downloadable over the net. But ordinary users started using them to bypass copyright monitors, and eventually a judge ruled that this had become their principal use in actual practice. This meant they were illegal; the debuggers’ developers were sent to prison.

Programmers still needed debugging tools, of course, but debugger vendors in 2047 distributed numbered copies only, and only to officially licensed and bonded programmers. The debugger Dan used in software class was kept behind a special firewall so that it could be used only for class exercises.

It was also possible to bypass the copyright monitors by installing a modified system kernel. Dan would eventually find out about the free kernels, even entire free operating systems, that had existed around the turn of the century. But not only were they illegal, like debuggers—you could not install one if you had one, without knowing your computer’s root password. And neither the FBI nor Microsoft Support would tell you that.

Civics: James Comey Says Real Journalists Check With The Government Before Publication

Tim Cushing:

The First Amendment contains no such requirement to run leaked documents past the government first. This can be an ethical decision on the part of the publisher, but the notion that the First Amendment only covers publishing after government input has been sought is a dangerous one. This assertion by Comey also just isn’t true. As Trevor Timm pointed out on Twitter, Wikileaks has attempted to contact the US government in the past before publication, but has been ignored.

Furthermore, Comey and Sasse both claim Wikileaks’ publications have caused some sort of damage to government employees. They offered unproven assertions it has endangered lives, even though the evidence shows the worst the US government (and its employees) suffered is some embarrassment.

The only mitigating factor was Comey’s assertion that the DOJ isn’t interested in using espionage laws to prosecute journalists for publishing leaked documents. As he correctly points out, the culpability lies with the person leaking the documents, not the journalists publishing them. Of course, this statement isn’t being made in a vacuum. It’s being made in the current political climate where the president has expressed an interest in reducing free speech protections. The DOJ itself appears to be working towards prosecuting Julian Assange for publishing leaked documents. All that can really be gathered from Comey’s assertions is that the DOJ may not prosecute journalists who run everything past the government before publication.

Collecting huge amounts of data with WhatsApp

Loran Kloeze

Creating a database of phone numbers, profile pictures and status information of almost all users of WhatsApp turns out to be very easy . The user doesn’t even have to be added to your contacts. This should raise at least some privacy concerns and hopefully a lot more. Let me explain how it works.

A few years ago WhatsApp made it possible to use WhatsApp in your web browser. That is good for user experience because composing a message on your keyboard is a lot easier than using those tiny touch screen buttons. It also makes copying/pasting and adding attachments easier. So much for the good news. The bad news is that it’s technically possible to use the WhatsApp Web interface to create a huge database of all possible WhatsApp users. There’s only a small group of users not affected: the users who have changed their privacy settings. Unfortunately, most users don’t change those privacy settings and WhatsApp doesn’t encourage it very much. These facts open up the possibility of collecting huge amounts of interesting data which i’m going to show you now.

What it was like to be peer reviewed in the 1860s

Melinda Baldwin:

In January 1861 John Tyndall, a physicist at London’s Royal Institution, submitted a paper to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. The paper bore the title “On the absorption and radiation of heat by gases and vapours, and on the physical connexion of radiation, absorption, and conduction.” After testing the heat-retaining properties of several gases, Tyndall had concluded that some were capable of trapping heat, and thus he became one of the first physicists to recognize and describe that basis for the greenhouse effect. A month after its submission, the paper was read aloud at a meeting of the society, and several months after that, a revised version of the paper was in print.

That path from submission to revision and publication will sound familiar to modern scientists. However, Tyndall’s experience with the Philosophical Transactions—in particular, with its refereeing system—was quite different from what authors experience today. Tracing “On the absorption and radiation of heat” through the Royal Society’s editorial process highlights how one of the world’s most established refereeing systems worked in the 1860s. Rather than relying on anonymous referee reports to improve their papers, authors engaged in extensive personal exchanges with their reviewers. Such a collegial approach gradually lost favor but recently has undergone something of a resurgence.

Queens gang member finds redemption with Columbia degree

Edgar Sandoval:

Richard Gamarra’s long trip from inmate to the Ivy League ends next week with a master’s degree — in redemption.

The former Latin King gangbanger, after seven years behind bars for assault and weapon convictions, graduates May 17 from Columbia University’s renowned Mailman School of Public Health.

He never imagined swapping a prison jumpsuit for the university’s iconic blue cap and gown — but his dreams are coming true.

“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” said a beaming Gamarra as he walked around the prestigious Morningside Heights campus last week. “This is historic for me. It’s very humbling. I won’t believe it until I have that diploma in my hands.”

The 28-year-old Gamarra, after earning his master’s in public health, paused for a minute to admire the bronze “Alma Mater” sculpture outside Low Memorial Library.

The Secret Agent

John Nova Lomax:

JNL: How big a role do American employers play in the problems we’re seeing with immigration? It seems like we put more of the burden on the immigrants than on the people who hire them.

HA: We’ve gone from maybe 3 million illegal aliens in the United States a couple of decades ago to anywhere from 10 to 13 million now. The reality is they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t work. And it’s no different under this administration, despite the rhetoric. The administration talks about making it harder for refugees to come into the country. They talk about increasing the number of Border Patrol agents. But they don’t say much about what they’re doing with employers. I think it’s obvious why—we have a president who’s a businessman. If any agent had the guts to do an I-9 audit on Trump’s businesses—of course, nobody has the guts, but if I was an agent, I would do it—they would be surprised by what they would find.

Let me backtrack and say that agents tend to like what the president’s doing. The increased border security is great. The catch-and-release policies are great; the detention is great. But if we don’t start holding employers accountable, the problems will continue. When I was an agent, I walked the mountains of New Mexico for eight hours with a lady who was pregnant. And all she knew was that once she got away from the border and made it into Chicago, she would be home free.

“The deal also shortens the school year for teachers to 188 days from 191, and cuts it for students to 182 days from 185”

Leslie Brody:

Newark district and union officials said that under the tentative four-year agreement, teachers must still be deemed effective to climb up the salary ladder and those deemed highly effective would still get a bonus of $5,000.

Five years ago, those provisions marked a departure from the usual system of automatic annual raises for experience and pay increases for advanced degrees. At the time both Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, hailed the contract as an example of how they could work with political adversaries.

The bonuses were initially paid for by the foundation started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. For the first time, district Superintendent Chris Cerf said, the bonuses would come from district funds, showing this model is sustainable.

“We think this is a good deal for the district, teachers and especially for the students,” Mr. Cerf said.

Newark Teachers Union officials said about 200 teachers a year got a bonus. According to district data, in recent years 15% to 18% got ratings less than effective.

Unions often argue that pay-for-performance can undermine the collaboration that teachers depend on, but supporters say it adds incentives and helps recruit quality staff.

John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union, backed the deal but said he would rather have the district spend more on school resources and professional development, rather than bonuses.

“Those members who receive it are fine, of course they don’t complain about receiving it,” he said. “We still believe all people across the board should be given the same resources, and the same circumstances under which to teach, so they can all be highly effective.”

My neighbors told the New York Times that going to our local school is ‘malpractice.’ We picked it anyway

Smia Simring:

Meanwhile, I had been raised by striving parents and sent to the infamously elite Horace Mann School, where I was decidedly not in with the in-crowd — and I loved it. I loved that if I could dream it, I could write up a proposal and get a budget for it. I loved that I found my home in the out crowd, the goths and punks and nerds and theater kids. But I don’t think Horace Mann ensured my or my classmates’ success later in life.

So when we realized late last year that my daughter, born in the last week of 2012, could be entering kindergarten in 2017, I tried to keep an open mind, unclouded by the terrible things my mother had always said about public school. The fact was, my husband and I shared the primary goal of finding an educational setting that would first and foremost support our daughter’s social and emotional development. We realized this might have been different from our (and especially my) parents’ goals. We decided to first look at public schools, since we figured we would have the option of starting her a year later if she went to private school.

Hutchinson journalism instructor, president spar over First Amendment

Bryan Horwath:

A journalism instructor at Hutchinson Community College said he and his students had been locked out of their journalism computer lab by the school, which later decided to allow a final edition of the school paper to be published.

Alan Montgomery, a 17-year instructor and academic adviser at the college, said he was informed on Friday that he had been suspended from his job. He said the action was taken after several stories were published in the school’s newspaper – The Collegian – that were critical of its administration.

To prepare for the future, we need to shift from thinking about jobs and careers to thinking about challenges and problems

Alina Dizik:

When Jean-Philippe Michel, an Ottawa-based career coach, works with secondary school students, he doesn’t use the word profession. Neither does he focus on helping his young clients figure out what they want to be when they grow up—at least not directly.

For him, there’s really no such thing as deciding on a profession to grow up into.
Rather than encouraging each person to choose a profession, say, architect or engineer, he works backwards from the skills that each student wants to acquire. So instead of saying, “I want to be a doctor”, he’ll aim to get students to talk about a goal, in this case “using empathy in a medical setting”.

Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records

Anna Aizer and Janet Currie:

Using a unique dataset linking preschool blood lead levels (BLLs), birth, school, and detention data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, we estimate the impact of lead on behavior: school suspensions and juvenile detention. We develop two instrumental variables approaches to deal with potential confounding from omitted variables and measurement error in lead. The first leverages the fact that we have multiple noisy measures for each child. The second exploits very local, within neighborhood, variation in lead exposure that derives from road proximity and the de-leading of gasoline. Both methods indicate that OLS considerably understates the negative effects of lead, suggesting that measurement error is more important than bias from omitted variables. A one-unit increase in lead increased the probability of suspension from school by 6.4-9.3 percent and the probability of detention by 27-74 percent, though the latter applies only to boys.

Wisconsin charges $12,500 (!) for statewide public voter data

Josh Vorhees:

Civis says it mostly limited itself to publicly available information so that its analysis was repeatable; Hersh counters that repeating a flawed analysis will just lead to the same flawed results. As the New York Times’ Nate Cohn pointed out on Twitter, and as Hersh echoed in his conversation with me, the absence of a detailed voter file-based analysis of the impact of voter ID laws—by Civis or anyone else for that matter—is in itself telling at this point. “I would in no way argue that these [voter ID] laws have no effect, but what we’ve found is that it’s a relatively small one,” Hersh said. Making things more complicated, he added, is that the effect of a voter ID law can be difficult to separate from that of other non-ID-based measures that disenfranchise the same types of people. “It’s just very unlikely that these voter ID laws by themselves would translate into the effect of 200,000 voters,” Hersh said.

Related: openvote.me.

Life below the surface of the earth (and on Mars) — a Five Books interview

Five Books:

What life exists below the surface of the earth?

Previously biologists believed the only subsurface life was at the soil zone, that you go a metre down and it is inconsequential, except for in caves. But even then the people looking in caves didn’t realise the caves were being formed by sub-surface life. There were actually bacteria eating the rocks that make the caverns. They were looking at these minerals and gypsum deposits and saying “how did these things get here, how did they form?” — not realising that these enormous rooms that exist in caves are produced by a thin layer of bacteria dissolving the rock in order to get minerals. That’s an underlying theme of all subsurface life. It’s bacteria eating rocks and living off energy in the rocks and in the process dissolving the rocks and making more room.

William Faulkner Draws Maps of Yoknapatawpha County, the Fictional Home of His Great Novels

open culture:

If you’ve ever had difficulty pronouncing the word Yoknapatawpha—the fictional Mississippi county where William Faulkner set his best-known fiction—you can take instruction from the author himself. During his time as writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia, Faulkner gave students a brief lesson on his pronunciation of the Chickasaw-derived word, which, as he says, sounds like it’s spelled.

If you’ve ever had difficulty getting around in Yoknapatawpha—getting the lay of the land, as it were—Faulkner has stepped in again to help his readers. He drew several maps of varying levels of detail that show Yoknapatawpha, its county seat of Jefferson in the center, and various key characters’ plantations, crossroads, camps, stores, houses, etc. from the fifteen novels and story cycles set in the author’s native Mississippi.

William Baumol, whose famous economic theory explains the modern world, has died

Timothy Lee:

Decade after decade, health care and education have gotten more expensive while the price of clothing, cars, furniture, toys, and other manufactured goods has gone down relative to the overall inflation rate — exactly the pattern Baumol predicted a half-century ago.

Baumol’s cost disease is a powerful tool for understanding the modern economic world. It suggests, for example, that the continually rising costs of education and health care isn’t necessarily a sign that anything has gone wrong with those sectors of the economy. At least until we invent robotic professors, teachers, doctors, and nurses, we should expect these low-productivity sectors of the economy to get more expensive.

While some argue that prices keep rising because the government subsidizes health care through programs like Medicare and college educations through student loans and grants, you see the same basic pattern with services like summer camps, veterinary services, and Broadway shows that aren’t hamstrung by government regulations and subsidies.

Of course, as the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson pointed out a few years ago, the cost of many of these services is actually rising faster than wages are growing, suggesting that Baumol’s disease isn’t the whole story. Universities, for example, have been hiring a growing army of administrators and building ever more lavish amenities to attract the best students. The growing incomes of the richest Americans are a major underlying factor here — rich people are buying services like Broadway shows, summer camp spots, and Harvard educations more quickly than anyone can expand the supply.

How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality

Matthew Desmond:

Almost a decade removed from the foreclosure crisis that began in 2008, the nation is facing one of the worst affordable-housing shortages in generations. The standard of “affordable” housing is that which costs roughly 30 percent or less of a family’s income. Because of rising housing costs and stagnant wages, slightly more than half of all poor renting families in the country spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, and at least one in four spends more than 70 percent. Yet America’s national housing policy gives affluent homeowners large benefits; middle-class homeowners, smaller benefits; and most renters, who are disproportionately poor, nothing. It is difficult to think of another social policy that more successfully multiplies America’s inequality in such a sweeping fashion.

Consider Asare and Diaz. As a homeowner, Asare benefits from tax breaks that Diaz does not, the biggest being the mortgage-interest deduction — or MID, in wonk-speak. All homeowners in America may deduct mortgage interest on their first and second homes. In 2015, Asare and Jean-Charles claimed $21,686 in home interest and other real estate deductions, which saved them $470 a month. That’s roughly 15 percent of Diaz’s monthly income. That same year, the federal government dedicated nearly $134 billion to homeowner subsidies. The MID accounted for the biggest chunk of the total, $71 billion, with real estate tax deductions, capital gains exclusions and other expenditures accounting for the rest. That number, $134 billion, was larger than the entire budgets of the Departments of Education, Justice and Energy combined for that year. It is a figure that exceeds half the entire gross domestic product of countries like Chile, New Zealand and Portugal.

OSHEA SAYS: ‘‘Right now, we can’t even come up with $1,490 for our monthly rent. Every time our tax returns come through, we have to pay off the car, catch up on rent, buy food — by the time we’re done, there isn’t anything left to set aside. We talk about wanting to get our credit score recovered. Patricio was out of work for seven or eight months, and that ruined our credit. Outside of God providing a way, there really isn’t a way to get out of this situation. I don’t see it.’’

Recently, Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser to President Trump, heralded his boss’s first tax plan as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something really big.” And indeed, Trump’s plan represents a radical transformation in how we will fund the government, with its biggest winners being corporations and wealthy families. But no one in his administration, and only a small (albeit growing) group of people in either party, is pushing to reform what may very well be the most regressive piece of social policy in America. Perhaps that’s because the mortgage-interest deduction overwhelmingly benefits the sorts of upper-middle-class voters who make up the donor base of both parties and who generally fail to acknowledge themselves to be beneficiaries of federal largess. “Today, as in the past,” writes the historian Molly Michelmore in her book “Tax and Spend,” “most of the recipients of federal aid are not the suspect ‘welfare queens’ of the popular imagination but rather middle-class homeowners, salaried professionals and retirees.” A 15-story public housing tower and a mortgaged suburban home are both government-subsidized, but only one looks (and feels) that way. It is only by recognizing this fact that we can begin to understand why there is so much poverty in the United States today.

When we think of entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare immediately come to mind. But by any fair standard, the holy trinity of United States social policy should also include the mortgage-interest deduction — an enormous benefit that has also become politically untouchable.

The MID came into being in 1913, not to spur homeownership but simply as part of a general policy allowing businesses to deduct interest payments from loans. At that time, most Americans didn’t own their homes and only the rich paid income tax, so the effects of the mortgage deduction on the nation’s tax proceeds were fairly trivial. That began to change in the second half of the 20th century, though, because of two huge transformations in American life. First, income tax was converted from an elite tax to a mass tax: In 1932, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (precursor to the I.R.S.) processed fewer than two million individual tax returns, but 11 years later, it processed over 40 million. At the same time, the federal government began subsidizing homeownership through large-scale initiatives like the G.I. Bill and mortgage insurance. Homeownership grew rapidly in the postwar period, and so did the MID.

Black Hawk School financial review finds former principal Kenya Walker, staff didn’t follow rules

Karen Rivedal:

A Madison School District review of financial practices at Black Hawk Middle School found widespread disregard for proper accounting and money handling practices under then-principal Kenya Walker, who admitted using district credit cards for personal needs and oversaw school office operations so lax they resulted in the theft of at least $1,000 from a school fundraiser and more than $10,500 in credit card charges for which the district has no receipt, among other deficiencies noted in the review.

Walker, 45, who was paid $106,466 annually, effectively resigned on April 28 after spending months on a medical leave that began in late January and caused increasing concern among parents at the school. Also in January, the district hired external reviewer Shana Lewis to begin reviewing Black Hawk’s financial practices after concerns were noted by Central Office staff about spending there.

Many of the problems noted in the review revolved around the use of some 15 district-issued credit and procurement cards that are to be used by school staff members for the purchase of low-cost goods, usually under $500. They are designed to eliminate the use of petty cash and personal funds that have to be reimbursed to staff later, setting up a more secure, cost-effective method to purchase small-dollar items for district programs and activities.

Much larger spending questions arose several years ago after a large maintenance referendum.

Jürgen Schmidhuber on the robot future​: ‘They will pay as much attention to us as we do to ants’

Philip Olterman:

Then a tall, athletic man with a light-grey three-piece suit and a greying goatee who has spent most of the morning playing with his smartphone strides to the podium, and suddenly baby steps become interstellar leaps. “Very soon, the smartest and most important decision makers might not be human,” he says, with the pitying smile of a parent explaining growing pains to a teenager. “We are on the verge not of another industrial revolution, but a new form of life, more like the big bang.”

Jürgen Schmidhuber has been described as the man the first self-aware robots will recognise as their papa. The 54-year-old German scientist may have developed the algorithms that allow us to speak to our computers or get our smartphones to translate Mandarin into English, but he isn’t very keen on the idea that robots of the future will exist primarily to serve humanity.

Instead, he believes machine intelligence will soon not just match that of humans, but outstrip it, designing and building heat-resistant robots that can get much closer to the sun’s energy sources than thin-skinned Homo sapiens, and eventually colonise asteroid belts across the Milky Way with self-replicating robot factories. And Schmidhuber is the person who is trying to build their brains.

Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill

Bettina Elias Siegel:

On the first day of seventh grade last fall, Caitlin Dolan lined up for lunch at her school in Canonsburg, Pa. But when the cashier discovered she had an unpaid food bill from last year, the tray of pizza, cucumber slices, an apple and chocolate milk was thrown in the trash.

“I was so embarrassed,” said Caitlin, who said other students had stared. “It’s really weird being denied food in front of everyone. They all talk about you.”

Caitlin’s mother, Merinda Durila, said that her daughter qualified for free lunch, but that a paperwork mix-up had created an outstanding balance. Ms. Durila said her child had come home in tears after being humiliated in front of her friends.

Holding children publicly accountable for unpaid school lunch bills — by throwing away their food, providing a less desirable alternative lunch or branding them with markers — is often referred to as “lunch shaming.”

On school Choice

Neerav:

Moreover, if you increase access but restrict supply you well get frustration. And this is exactly what has happened in New York City. The city’s enrollment system persists, but its efforts to increase supply have faltered.

When NYC leaders have focused on increasing supply – both through the small schools movement and growing the charter sector – rigorous research found that school quality increased. The results of these efforts are detailed below.

In sum:

School choice is all about equity in access.

School supply is about creating better options.

We should not confuse the two, and we should not expect school choice to increase school performance in and of itself. It must be coupled with a deep focus on school supply.

Curated Education Information