Wealthy L.A. Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s

Olga Khazan:

Hollywood parents say not vaccinating makes “instinctive” sense. Now their kids have whooping cough.

When actors play doctors on TV, that does not make them actual doctors. And that does not mean they should scour some Internet boards, confront their pediatricians, and demand fewer vaccinations for their children, as some Hollywood parents in Los Angeles have apparently been doing.

The Hollywood Reporter has a great investigation for which it sought the vaccination records of elementary schools all over Los Angeles County. They found that vaccination rates in elite neighborhoods like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills have tanked, and the incidence of whooping cough there has skyrocketed.

Here’s a map of the schools with dangerously low vaccination rates (an interactive version is on their site). Note how the schools cluster together as little red dots all over the wealthy, crazy Westside—not unlike crimson spots on a measles patient:

July 2018 Average MBE Scores Decrease

National Conference of Bar Examiners:

45,274 examinees sat for the Multistate Bar Examination in July 2018. This represents 2.9% fewer examinees than those who sat for the July 2017 exam, and is the smallest group of examinees to take the July MBE since 2001.

The national average MBE score for July 2018 was 139.5, a decrease of about 2.2 points from the July 2017 average.

Jurisdictions are currently in the process of grading the written components of the bar exam; once this process is completed, bar exam scores will be calculated and passing decisions reported by jurisdictions.

Parents Claim Children Sick From Toxic School Grounds

Fan Liya:

Parents of students in Central China’s Hubei province are questioning their school’s health and safety standards after 100 children fell sick shortly after the start of the fall semester, China Newsweek reported on Sunday.

Some 132 of the 1,200 students enrolled at the newly built Canglong No. 2 Primary School in Wuhan suffered from nosebleeds, vomiting, and eczema, one parent surnamed Xia — who did not offer her full name for privacy reasons — told Sixth Tone on Monday. The mother of a 7-year-old student claimed that the illness was linked to toxins in the classrooms, running track, and playground.

Earlier this month, after parents staged several protests, the publicity division of Jiangxia District — where the school is located — said the medical diagnosis of some students showed that the nosebleeds were due to the autumn’s dry weather. However, Xia disagrees. “The doctors did not explicitly say that the nosebleeds resulted from the dry weather or the school’s refurbishing,” she said. “But some doctors said that nasal mucosa infection might be related to stimulants present in the campus air.” Sixth Tone could not reach the education bureau of Jiangxia District for comment on Monday.

On Sept. 10, Xia had joined several parents to request that officials from the school and the education bureau remove the synthetic surface on the playground and suspend classes until it was deemed safe. However, she said the school administrators rejected the request, citing that construction met standards. Two separate assessments led by the parents also showed that the materials used in the playground met the national standard for synthetic surfaces.

China is building a digital dictatorship to exert control over its 1.4 billion citizens. For some, “social credit” will bring privileges — for others, punishment.

Matthew Carney:

A vast network of 200 million CCTV cameras across China ensures there’s no dark corner in which to hide.

Every step she takes, every one of her actions big or small — even what she thinks — can be tracked and judged.

And Dandan says that’s fine with her.

What may sound like a dystopian vision of the future is already happening in China. And it’s making and breaking lives.

The Communist Party calls it “social credit” and says it will be fully operational by 2020.

Within years, an official Party outline claims, it will “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.

Social credit is like a personal scorecard for each of China’s 1.4 billion citizens.

In one pilot program already in place, each citizen has been assigned a score out of 800. In other programs it’s 900.

Civics: The Justice Dept’s secret rules for targeting journalists with FISA court orders

Trevor Timm:

When using the legal authorities named in the “media guidelines,” the Justice Department (DOJ) must go through a fairly stringent multi-part test (e.g. certifying that the information is critical to an investigation, that it can’t be obtained by other means, and that the DOJ exhausted all other avenues before doing so) before targeting a journalist with surveillance. They must also get approval from the Attorney General.

With the FISA court rules, there is no multi-part test that we know of. The DOJ only must follow its regular FISA court procedures (which can be less strict than getting a warrant in a criminal case) and get additional approval from the Attorney General or Assistant Attorney General. FISA court orders are also inherently secret, and targets are almost never informed that they exist.

How Connected Is Your Community to Everywhere Else in America?

Emily Badger & Quo trumg Bui:

America is often described as a place of great divides — between red and blue, big cities and rural towns, the coasts and the heartland. But our social lives are shaped by a much stronger force that ignores many of these lines: distance.

In the millions of ties on Facebook that connect relatives, co-workers, classmates and friends, Americans are far more likely to know people nearby than in distant communities that share their politics or mirror their demographics. The dominant picture in data analyzed by economists at Facebook, Harvard, Princeton and New York University is not that like-minded places are linked; rather, people in counties close to one another are.

Even in the age of the internet, distance matters immensely in determining whom — and, as a result, what — we know.

Coastal cities like New York, Washington, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles do exhibit close ties to one another, showing that people in counties with similar incomes, education levels and voting patterns are more likely to be linked. But nationwide, the effect of such similarity is small. And the pull of regionalism is strong even for major cities. Brooklynites are still more likely to know someone on Facebook near Albany or Binghamton than in the Bay Area.

A Picture of Social
Connectedness in America

How to reverse grade inflation and help students reach their potential

Amber M. Northern, Ph.D. and Michael Petrilli:

One of us recently mused that perhaps the reason dismal state test scores don’t resonate with parents is because they conflict with what parents see coming home from school. Who knows their kids better: their teachers or a faceless test provider? The teachers, of course. But what if the grades that teachers assign don’t reflect the state’s high standards? What if practically everyone is getting As and Bs from the teacher—but parents don’t know that?

That was the impetus for Fordham’s newest study, Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005–2016). We wanted to know how easy or hard it is today to get a good grade in high school and whether that has changed over time. We can’t develop solutions until we’ve accurately identified the problem. And in this case, we suspect that one reason for stalled student achievement across the land is that historically trusted grades are telling a vastly different story than other academic measures.

So we teamed up with American University economist Seth Gershenson, who is keenly interested in this topic, and whose prior research on the role of teacher expectations in student outcomes made him a perfect fit to conduct the research.

The study asks three questions:

How frequent and how large are discrepancies between student grades and test scores? Do they vary by school demographics?
To what extent do high school test scores, course grades, attendance, and cumulative GPAs align with student performance on college entrance exams?
How, if at all, have the nature of such discrepancies and the difficulty of receiving an A changed in recent years?

Related: Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.

Is the Second Farm Crisis Upon Us?

Siena Chrisman:

Joe Schroeder works as a farm advocate for Farm Aid, where he answers calls to the group’s farmer hotline. The calls, which are up 30 percent over last year, range from routine questions about navigating federal programs and exploring credit options to dire pleas for help from farmers who have run out of ways to keep their businesses solvent. He has heard from three or four suicidal farmers each month this summer.

Schroeder talks callers in crisis through Chapter 12 bankruptcy and sends out $500 checks to help them buy groceries and get the lights turned back on. One woman who called was eating nothing but frozen hamburger. Many families have had their electricity turned off, including one farmer who relies on an oxygen tank. Schroeder appealed to the electric company on his behalf, but the head of finance refused to work with them. The family could get him to the hospital if necessary, the farmer’s wife told Schroeder, because they had hidden their car in a barn nearby to keep it from being repossessed. Schroeder hasn’t been able to check in with the family since late July because their phone was disconnected.

Schroeder, who has been a farm advocate for nearly a decade, says the calls now are more desperate than they were even a year ago, when he started at Farm Aid. “They’re more complicated situations. People are calling us when it’s too late [to save their operations],” he says. He can offer help to many farmers, but what was once a robust network of state-funded farmer advocates has shrunk dramatically, leaving those remaining with more limited tools. “There are not many witnesses to this [crisis],” he says and sometimes simply being a witness is all he can do.

These are not isolated stories. As early as February 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicted a decline in net farm income to its lowest level since 2002 (adjusted for inflation), with median farm income projected at negative $1,316. For well over a year, worries about a new farm crisis have rippled across rural America. The very term is synonymous with the 1980s, when the bottom dropped out of the agricultural economy, sending thousands of farms into foreclosure and shuttering businesses.

The Number of Youth in Juvenile Detention in California Has Quietly Plummeted

Will Huntsberry:

But Dilulio’s crime bomb – which led to tougher laws and bigger prisons – was a dud. Crime didn’t actually go up; it plummeted, especially among juveniles. Fear of super predators gave way to an era of acknowledgment by prosecutors and judges that locking up children put society at more risk, not less. Throughout the 2000s, laws softened and more money headed toward prevention.

San Diego County’s four detention facilities can hold 855 young people. But on a recent Wednesday, just 311 youths were housed inside the county’s prisons and camps, said Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales. At least five to six wings of the county’s juvenile detention space are totally empty at present, he said. Just eight years ago, the number of incarcerated kids was three times as high: The average daily population in lockup stood at 1,008 for January 2010.

The Impact of Chief Diversity Officers on Diverse Faculty Hiring

Steven W. Bradley, James R. Garven, Wilson W. Law, James E. West:

As the American college student population has become more diverse, the goal of hiring a more diverse faculty has received increased attention in higher education. A signal of institutional commitment to faculty diversity often includes the hiring of an executive level chief diversity officer (CDO). To examine the effects of a CDO in a broad panel data context, we combine unique data on the initial hiring of a CDO with publicly available faculty and administrator hiring data by race and ethnicity from 2001 to 2016 for four-year or higher U.S. universities categorized as Carnegie R1, R2, or M1 institutions with student populations of 4,000 or more. We are unable to find significant statistical evidence that preexisting growth in diversity for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups is affected by the hiring of an executive level diversity officer for new tenure and non-tenure track hires, faculty hired with tenure, or for university administrator hires.

About 40% of economics experiments fail replication survey

John Bohannon:

When a massive replicability study in psychology was published last year, the results were, to some, shocking: 60% of the 100 experimental results failed to replicate. Now, the latest attempt to verify findings in the social sciences—this time with a small batch from experimental economics—also finds a substantial number of failed replications. Following the exact same protocols of the original studies, the researchers failed to reproduce the results in about 40% of cases.

“I find it reassuring that the replication rate was fairly high,” says Michael L. Anderson, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, not involved with the study. But he notes that most of the failures came from studies using a 5% “p value” cut-off for statistical significance, suggesting “what some realize but fewer are willing to discuss: The accepted standard of a 5% significance level is not sufficient to generate results that are likely to replicate.”

Psychology’s high-profile replication efforts, which were cautiously welcomed by the research community, have triggered policy changes at some scientific journals and modified priorities at many funding agencies. But the overall failure rate has also been called into question, because most of the original studies were reproduced only once, often without strictly following the initial protocol. And most of the replication studies allowed the replicators to choose their targets.

Civics: China, Venezuela, and the Illusion of Debt-Trap Diplomacy

Matt Ferchen:

In an article from early 2017, titled “China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy,” geopolitics pundit Brahma Chellaney argued that China has sought to purposely ensnare some of its South Asian neighbors in unsustainable loans-for-infrastructure deals.

Since that article was published, the concept of debt-trap diplomacy has become increasingly popular among some journalists, researchers, and policymakers. These individuals are critical of China’s rapidly expanding provision of international infrastructure finance, especially through its ubiquitous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Yet, the emerging conventional wisdom that China gains when the countries it lends to are unable to service their debts risks misunderstanding how China has and will become a victim of its own lending missteps and hubris. No Chinese debt-based relationship is more instructive in this regard than its dysfunctional ties to Venezuela.

America needs more Chinese teachers, but Donald Trump’s immigration policies may make it harder to get them

Simone McCarthy:

Every year Sharon Huang, founder of HudsonWay Immersion School, anxiously awaits October.

That is when she will learn if several of the Chinese language teachers at her primary schools will be able to carry on teaching or if they will be forced to leave the country midway through the semester.

“It’s very stressful on everybody,” said Huang, who runs two schools in New York and New Jersey. “We’ve had teachers who were denied visas and then very shortly thereafter they had to uproot their lives. It’s sad for the kids and the whole school community.”

Huang files around half a dozen applications to upgrade her teachers’ temporary graduate visas into something more permanent.

But each year a couple of those will not make it through the H1B visa lottery system.

Though H1B visa sponsorship is expensive, the process is a problem for the growing number of American schools offering a Chinese immersion curriculum, where elementary students take at least half their classes in Mandarin and teachers are typically native-level speakers.

It also points to a broader problem weighing down the buoyant American interest in Chinese language education: a shortage of Americans who are both highly fluent speakers and properly accredited schoolteachers.

California’s poverty rate is still the highest in the nation, despite state efforts

Michael Finch, III:

Newly released federal estimates show California’s poverty rate remained the highest in the nation, despite a modest fall, and the state’s falling uninsured rate slowed for the first time since before Medicaid expansion.

According to the Census Bureau, the share of Californians in poverty fell to 19 percent — a 1.4 percent decrease from last year. However, policy experts warned that in spite of the good news more than 7 million people still struggle to get by in the state.

The poverty figures released Wednesday are said to paint the best picture of life for California’s working poor since it encompasses income from government programs and factors in the high cost of living in some corners of the state.

Although California has a vigorous economy and a number of safety net programs to aid needy residents, it’s often not enough to forestall economic hardship for one out of every five residents, the data show.

What’s stored in your school Google Drive account? You might be surprised. (Madison uses Google Services…)

Cheri Kiesecker:

While many have questioned Google’s invasion of the classroom and how Google Apps for Education, (now called G-Suite), collects and uses student or teacher information, few have really gotten much in the way of answers. What is reportedly happening with Springfield Missouri Public School’s use of Google Drive offers a rare glimpse into Google’s potential to collect data. School-issued student Google accounts connect to Google Drive which can allow for the ability to Auto-Sync devices to Auto-Save passwords, browsing history and other digital data points from numerous devices used by a single user. For students in SPS this could include digital data from non-school related accounts. This July 17, 2018 Fox 5 KRBK news story explains how one family discovered this practice and reported it to the school district.

“The Elys claim that the SPS Google Drive, given to all SPS employees and students, automatically begins to store information from any device the drive is accessed on. This includes browser history, but also personal information such as files and passwords. They add that even if you log out of the drive, it stays running and recording in the background.

After bringing their concerns forward this past May, they say that despite the evidence presented, no serious action has been taken on behalf of the district.

“They have a lot of evidence and have had it since December, and we have not heard one word from any of them, said Dianne Ely.

With more searching, the Elys have now found even more sensitive information that’s been stored to their daughter’s Google Drive, including 139 passwords to both her and her husband’s different accounts and also voice recordings of both her and her children.

“My voice to text was being stored as well as any search my kids did, and I could say ‘sure my daughter was searching on Google,’ but my phone uses Safari. When I used my texting app on my iPhone, it recorded my voice, as well as typing out the words and saving it on my Google Drive,” said Brette Hay, the Ely’s daughter and a teacher at Pershing Middle School.

The Elys hope with this new evidence, not only will parents, employees and students take action to check what private information of their own could be stored on the drive, but that the school district will also take the appropriate steps to make their Google Drive safe.” [Emphasis added]

Google’s censored search service for China.

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Jessie Opoien:

Evers, a Democrat, is asking for $1.4 billion in additional funds for the state’s K-12 schools in the 2019-21 budget. The $15.4 billion request, submitted by Evers on Monday, comes less than two months before Walker and Evers will meet on the ballot — and Evers’ budget letter includes a swipe at the governor.

“Wisconsin has a proud history and tradition of strong public schools. Our state’s education system — from early childhood through higher education — has served as the pathway to prosperity for generations of Wisconsinites and the key to a skilled workforce and strong economy,” Evers wrote. “In recent years, however, historic cuts to education have impeded our progress.”

Evers’ budget request includes $606 million in new funding for special education programs, bringing funding for the programs up to $900 million by 2021. It also dedicates an additional $58 million to mental health programs, and an additional $41 million for bilingual-bicultural programs.

The DPI budget would also expand and fund new programs in the state’s five largest school districts — Milwaukee, Kenosha, Green Bay, Madison and Racine — which have disproportionate shares of students with significant achievement gaps. The proposals targeted toward those districts include expanding summer school grants, offering new funding for 3K programs and offering extra funding to National Board certified teachers who teach in high-poverty schools in those five districts.

The amounts noted above exclude substantial local taxpayer property taxes, redistributed federal taxpayer dollars and various grants. (The proposed taxpayer expenditure increase was 12.3% a few days ago).

Madison has benefited substantially from a $38B+ federal taxpayer electronic medical record subsidy.

Madison spends far more than most, nearly $20k per student.

Unfortunately, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), lead for years by Mr. Evers, has killed our one (!) attempt to follow Massachusetts’ successful teacher content knowledge requirement(s) – MTEL.

The DPI has granted thousands of annual waivers for the elementary teacher reading content knowledge exam: Foundations of Reading.

An emphasis on adult employment (2009).

“We are 10 steps behind”: Detroit students seek fair access to literacy

CBS News:

Our series, School Matters, features extended stories and investigations on education. In this installment, we’re looking at a lawsuit winding its way through the federal appeals process that questions whether access to literacy is a constitutional right. A federal judge in Michigan recently ruled it wasn’t when he dismissed a 2016 case. That case claimed students in some of Detroit’s lowest-performing schools were denied “access” to literacy due to poor management, discrimination and underfunding.

For years, Detroit public schools were under control of emergency managers, who were trying to lift the district out of debt. But, this case has drawn national attention because of its wide-ranging implications, possibly leading to federal changes to the education system.

March 10, 2018: The Wisconsin State Journal published “Madison high school graduation rate for black students soars”.

September 1, 2018: “how are we to understand such high minority student graduation rates in combination with such low minority student achievement?”


On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2011: On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

The Simpson Street Free Press (!) digs: Are Rising MMSD Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?, and digs deeper: Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap.

In closing, Madison spends far more than most K-12 taxpayer funded organizations.

Federal taxpayers have recently contributed to our property tax base.

Civics: China Is Buying African Media’s Silence

Azad Essa:

It is official. After more than a decade of planning, setting up, and bankrolling African media, the Chinese are finally ready to cash in on their investment.

Last week, I decided to dedicate my weekly column in a South African newspaper to discussing the persecution of more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

The column looked at the discrimination suffered by the Turkic-Muslim community and the inability of the more than 40 African leaders in Beijing for a historic China-Africa forum to seek clarity from their host. No more than a few hours after the piece was published by newspapers belonging to Independent Media, South Africa’s second-largest media company, I was told that the column would not be uploaded online.

A day later, my weekly column on neglected people and places around the globe, which I have been writing since September 2016, was immediately canceled. I was told the “new design of the papers” meant that there was no longer space for my weekly venting.

Given the ownership structure of Independent Media, with Chinese state-linked firms holding a 20 percent stake, I understood when I wrote the column that it might rattle the higher-ups. I didn’t expect the exorcism to be so immediate and so obvious. I had, it would appear, veered into a nonnegotiable arena that struck at the very heart of China’s propaganda efforts in Africa.

Civics: Upcoming Live Event: Reporting from Xinjiang with Journalist Megha Rajagopalan


Rajagopalan is a world correspondent (formerly China bureau chief) with BuzzFeed News. She has reported extensively on digital privacy, security, and growing abuses in Xinjiang and reported from China for six years. She was a 2011 Fulbright fellow in Beijing, where she conducted research on the Chinese news media and was previously a research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Five Reasons Why Student Loans Are a Looming Disaster

Peter H. Schuck:

The key feature of academic diversity ideology is the assertion that to be a member of an ever-growing number of favored victim groups at a college today is to be the target of pervasive bigotry on campus — despite, well, being favored. Taught by a metastasizing campus-diversity bureaucracy to believe that they are subject to an existential threat from circumambient bias, students equate nonconforming ideas with “hate speech,” and “hate speech” with conduct that should be punished, censored and repelled with force if necessary. This victimology fuels the efforts to shut down speech that challenges campus orthodoxies. Dozens of times in the past several years alone, classrooms have been invaded; professors, accosted and even assaulted; and outside speakers, silenced.

While these tactics have famously been directed at conservatives, that is not exclusively the case, as senior fellow at the Public Policy Center Stanley Kurtz has documented for National Review Online. It has happened year after year, recently.

In October 2017, protesters at Columbia University temporarily occupied a class and accused a professor who is an LGBTQ rights advocate and one of the school’s premier proponents of the idea that campuses are pervaded by rape culture of creating a “dangerous environment for students, including queer students.”

In Xi We Trust: How Propaganda Might Be Working in the New Era

Damien Ma and Neil Thomas:

That problem was the CCP itself. Most Chinese were well aware that the Party had drifted toward crony capitalism, as corruption swelled within its rank-and-file. The CCP brand reached its nadir when the Bo Xilai crisis—in which the populist and ambitious leader of Chongqing was purged and jailed after his wife murdered a British national—exploded in early 2012, reinforcing the growing cynicism the Chinese public held toward its government.

The crisis shook the CCP just before Xi took the reins of the world’s largest political party. Xi’s urgent task, then, which likely had consensus approval from other senior leaders, was to strengthen a weakened Party through a massive anti-corruption campaign and a reimagined Party narrative to win the hearts and minds of Chinese people.

These twin efforts were of equal importance to Xi’s goals and were mutually reinforcing in their implementation. From the CCP’s vantage point, faltering public trust was as much an existential threat to its legitimacy as a potential economic collapse. The Party understood that it must stand for something beyond perpetuating its own power and its cadres’ self-enrichment. Indeed, the CCP had to fill its platform with more compelling ideas—or face a credibility crisis of monumental proportions. In this context, Xi’s Chinese Dream set the stage for the elevation of ideological work to a level perhaps not seen since the Mao era.

Propaganda often gets short shrift in mainstream coverage of Chinese politics, possibly because the propaganda apparatus is frustratingly opaque and its effectiveness hard to measure. But the CCP, as a Leninist ruling party that demands political unity among its 89 million members and public compliance with its dictates from nearly 1.4 billion Chinese citizens, invests enormous resources in the promulgation of official ideologies, media management, and public opinion guidance.

Propaganda work is so instrumental to the political system that the Central Propaganda Department (CPD), established in 1924, is almost as old as the CCP itself, which was founded three years earlier in 1921. Since 1992, the propaganda system has been overseen by a PBSC member, who heads the Central Leading Small Group on Propaganda and Thought Work (CLSGPTW). This system is responsible for all Party publicity and for the supervision of all information domains in China and, to the extent possible, abroad. That it was so important for Xi to be the first top leader since Deng Xiaoping to enshrine his name in the Party Constitution—under the aegis of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”—is a testament to the tight control and crucial role of political expression under CCP rule.

Civics: Government Can Spy on Journalists in the U.S. Using Invasive Foreign Intelligence Process

Cora Currier:

The memos discussing FISA are dated in early 2015, and both are directed at the FBI’s National Security Division. The documents are on the same subject and outline some of the same steps for FISA approvals, but one is unclassified and mostly unredacted, while the other is marked secret and largely redacted. The rules apply to media entities or journalists who are thought to be agents of a foreign government, or, in some cases, are of interest under the broader standard that they possess foreign intelligence information.

Jim Dempsey, a professor at Berkeley Law and a former member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent federal watchdog, said that the rules were “a recognition that monitoring journalists poses special concerns and requires higher approval. I look on it as a positive, and something that the media should welcome.”

“They apply to known media, not just U.S. media,” he added. “Certainly back in the Cold War era, certain Soviet media entities were in essence arms of the Soviet government, and there may have been reasons to target them in traditional spy-versus-spy context. And it’s possible today that there are circumstances in which a person who works for a media entity is also an agent of a foreign power. Not every country lives by the rules of journalistic integrity that you might want.”

But Ramya Krishnan, a staff attorney with the Knight Institute, said that concerns remained. “There’s a lack of clarity on the circumstances when the government might consider a journalist an agent of a foreign power,” said Krishnan. “Think about WikiLeaks; the government has said they are an intelligence operation.” Hannah Bloch-Wehba, a professor at Drexel University, said that “a probable example would be surveillance of reporters who are working for somewhere like RT” — the state-funded Russian television network — “and as a consequence, anyone who is talking to reporters for RT. The reporters are probably conscious they are subject to surveillance, but their sources might not be.”

48 Ways to Get Sent to a Chinese Concentration Camp

Tanner Greer:

There is a crisis in Xinjiang. The details are murky. The Communist Party of China has little incentive to reveal the inner workings of the vast system of surveillance and terror it has built to control the 12 million Uighur and Kazakh citizens of China’s westernmost region. From the party’s perspective, the further away the global spotlight is from its activities the better.

But we now have a rough outline of what is happening to the people of the region. In response to growing tensions between Han Chinese and the Uighur population of Xinjiang itself, the recruitment of Uighurs to fight in the Syrian civil war, and several terrorist attacks orchestrated by Uighur separatists, the party launched what it called the Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism. Despite its name, the campaign’s targets are not limited to terrorists. No Uighur living in Xinjiang can escape the shadow of the party nor can members of other ethnic minorities, especially Kazakhs.

Some of the methods used to surveil and coerce the population of Xinjiang are straight from the dystopian imagination: The party has collected the DNA, iris scans, and voice samples of the province’s Uighur population, regularly scans the contents of their digital devices, uses digitally coded ID cards to track their movements, and trains CCTV cameras on their homes, streets, and marketplaces.

As Chinese school year starts, some Beijing residents find their kids can’t get admission

Elias Glenn:

In the past year, Beijing has evicted a legion of status-less migrant workers and relocated hundreds of factories to cut down on what it calls an “urban disease” of over-population. Its number of registered residents saw a rare, albeit small, decline last year to 21.7 million.

But now, some long-term, tax-paying middle-class families are moving out because new rules have made it difficult for children to get admission in city schools.

A 35-year-old man called He, who did not wish to be further identified, said he had moved out of Beijing to the neighbouring district of Hebei after new residency rules barred his six-year-old son from applying for admission to the city’s schools.

He and his son went to Hebei two weeks ago ahead of the start of the school year last week, while his wife had to move in with relatives to be closer to her job in the capital.

He, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear his son could lose his place in school, now only sees his wife when she visits them on weekends. He quit his job in Beijing in March.

Are the foot soldiers behind psychology’s replication crisis saving science — or destroying it?

Tom Bartlett:

The mic is passed and the psychologists rise, one by one, to explain why they’re here. Some reasons are kind of funny (“I’m here because it was better than sitting in my office and swearing”); others are heartfelt (“I’m here because I want to trust science again”); a few come tinged with regret (“I’m here to atone for the sins earlier in my career”). And some betray frustration, even anger: “I’m here,” one researcher says, “because I want to burn things to the ground.”

The mission statement of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science doesn’t mention anything about arson. Instead it states, in more measured tones, that the organization, known as SIPS, is dedicated to rigor, openness, and the “refinement of knowledge.” The couple hundred attendees at its fourth annual gathering, held recently in Grand Rapids, Mich., were mostly in their 20s and 30s, plenty of postdocs and assistant profs, along with a sprinkling of senior academics. They listened to presentations with nonthreatening subjects like “Using information-theoretic approaches for model selection” and “Assessing the validity of widely used ideological instruments.” There was enthusiastic chatter about a new project, called the Psychological Science Accelerator, that involves multiple laboratories coordinating data collection. All of which sounds serious, scholarly, and completely harmless.

So what’s with the talk of burning things to the ground?

Data selection and climate reporting

Alabama Climatologist:

Before you sell your house and move to Canada, let’s take a look at the real story. Having built many climate datasets of Alabama, some starting as early as 1850, I knew the Times story was designed to create alarm and promote the claim that humans who use carbon-based energy (gasoline, natural gas, coal) to help them live better lives are making our summers ever more miserable. Be aware reader, this webtool is not designed to provide accurate information.

First of all, climate data for Alabama began in the 19th century, not 1960. In 2016 Dr. Richard McNider (Alabama’s former State Climatologist) and I published a carefully constructed time series of summer temperatures for the state starting from 1883 that utilized numerous station records, some that even the federal government had not archived into its databases (which is the most common source for outfits like the Climate Impacts Lab.) I’ve updated that work to include summer temperatures through 2018 – the result is below. Not only are summer daytime temperatures not rising, they have actually fallen over the last 136 years. Hmmm … after looking at the graph, why do you suppose the Climate Impacts Lab decided to start their charts in 1960?

Chinese Thesis Ghostwriting Scandal Reveals Huge Gray Market

Wang Jiawen and Denise Jia:

A scandal involving a Chinese college professor providing thesis ghostwriting services has unveiled a lucrative market for academic paper fraud.

In an audio recording recently exposed by Chinese media, an associate biology professor named Han Chunyu discussed brokering thesis ghostwriting services for students, charging 7,000 yuan ($1,019) for a doctoral thesis, and 4,000 – 5,000 yuan for a master’s paper. Han is affiliated with Hebei University of Science and Technology (HEBUST) in the northern city of Shijiazhuang.

In the recording, Han also offered money in exchange for having his wife’s name added to a paper as a co-author.

Rethinking What Gifted Education Means, and Whom It Should Serve

Dana Goldstein:

It was a searing summer day before the start of the school year, but Julianni and Giselle Wyche, 10-year-old twins, were in a classroom, engineering mini rockets, writing in journals and learning words like “fluctuate” and “cognizant.”

The sisters were among 1,000 children chosen for an enrichment course intended in part to prepare them for accelerated and gifted programs in Montgomery County, Md. All of the students were from schools that serve large numbers of low-income families.

“It’s one of my favorite parts of summer,” Julianni said.

The program is one element in a suite of sweeping changes meant to address a decades-old problem in these Washington suburbs, and one that is troubling educators across the nation: the underrepresentation of black, Hispanic and low-income children in selective academic settings.


They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine, not!

TAG complaint.

English 10.

The Harsh Truth About Progressive Cities; Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

David Dahmer:

How can this be, in a “unversity town”?

It’s true, some more affluent people reside in this city due to the existence of a large, world-class university. People with more money do create disparities.

Does that explain the exodus of brown and black professionals when they complete their four years at the university because they feel so uncomfortable and unwelcome in this town?

Does that mean that Madison has to be so severely segregated by race?

Does that mean that we have almost zero affordable housing in Madison for people of color forcing Blacks and Latinos to live in separated areas on the fringes of the city where they are disenfranchised economically, socially, and politically?

Does having an elite institution mean huge disparities in prosecutions and arrests and incarceration?

March 10, 2018: The Wisconsin State Journal published “Madison high school graduation rate for black students soars”.

September 1, 2018: “how are we to understand such high minority student graduation rates in combination with such low minority student achievement?”


On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2011: On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

The Simpson Street Free Press (!) digs: Are Rising MMSD Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?, and digs deeper: Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap.

In closing, Madison spends far more than most K-12 taxpayer funded organizations.

Federal taxpayers have recently contributed to our property tax base.

St. John’s College announces plan to lower tuition by $17,000 a year

Laureen Lumpkin:

In a move to make education more affordable for its students, St. John’s College will slash tuition by $17,000 and attempt to bolster its endowment fund.

The private, liberal arts school in Annapolis is planning to install a new philanthropy-centered financial model that relies more on donor dollars, it announced Wednesday. This model will make St. John’s less dependent on tuition-paying students.

“We’ll make up that difference by doubling our endowment,” said Panayiotis Kanelos, president of the college’s Annapolis campus. St. John’s also has a campus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “By next fall, no student at St. John’s will pay more than $35,000 a year.”

St. John’s on Wednesday also announced a fundraising initiative called “Freeing Minds: A Campaign for St. John’s College,” with the goal of raising $300 million to make up any gaps in funding. Alumni Warren and Barbara Winiarski announced Wednesday that their family foundation will match dollar for dollar every new gift up to $50 million.

“The capital campaign is to grow our endowment to ensure that we have the resources to do this,” Kanelos said. He also said the school has already raised more than 60 percent of its goal.

By the 2019-2020 school year, the new model — and tuition change — will take effect.

Related: Financial Aid Leveraging.

The Real Cost of the 2008 Financial Crisis

Joun Cassidy:

The standard narrative is that the rescue operation succeeded in stabilizing the financial system. The U.S. economy rebounded, spurred by a fiscal stimulus that the Obama Administration pushed through Congress in February, 2009. When the stimulus started to run down, the Fed gave the economy another boost by buying vast quantities of bonds, a policy known as quantitative easing. Eventually, the big banks, prodded by the regulators and by Congress, reformed themselves to prevent a recurrence of what happened in 2008, notably by increasing the amount of capital they hold in reserve to deal with unexpected contingencies. This is the basic story that Paulson, Bernanke, and Tim Geithner, who was the Treasury Secretary during the Obama Administration, told in their respective memoirs. It was given an academic imprimatur by books like Daniel Drezner’s “The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression,” which came out in 2014.

This history is, on its own terms, perfectly accurate. In the early nineteen-thirties, when the authorities allowed thousands of banks to collapse, the unemployment rate soared to almost twenty-five per cent, and soup kitchens and shantytowns sprang up across the country. The aftermath of the 2008 crisis saw plenty of hardship—millions of Americans lost their homes to mortgage foreclosures, and by the summer of 2010 the jobless rate had risen to almost ten per cent—but nothing of comparable scale. Today, the unemployment rate has fallen all the way to 3.9 per cent.

Chinese Researchers Are Outperforming Americans in Science

Peter Orszag:

Thirty years ago in December, the modern exchange of scholars between the U.S. and China began. Since then, Chinese academics have become the most prolific global contributors to publications in physical sciences, engineering and math. Recent attempts by the U.S. to curtail academic collaboration are unlikely to change this trend.

For decades, China’s growth was driven by shifting workers from agriculture to manufacturing. As the country started to approach the so-called Lewis turning point, when such shifts no longer raise overall productivity, the government made an increasingly concerted effort to build the scientific base to provide another vector for growth. The results of those efforts are showing up in both the rankings of Chinese universities (11 of the top 100 globally) and in scholarly output.

Qingnan Xie of Nanjing University of Science & Technology and Richard Freeman of Harvard University have studied China’s contribution to global scientific output. They document a rapid expansion between 2000 and 2016, as the Chinese share of global publications in physical sciences, engineering and math quadrupled. By 2016, the Chinese share exceeded that of the U.S.

The problem with real news — and what we can do about it

Rob Wijnberg :

The news is also, almost without exception, negative. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a journalism catchphrase. In other words: good news is no news. People who keep up with the news are thus quick to think the world is getting ever more dangerous — though in fact the opposite is true. What’s more, the news constantly gives us the feeling that people can’t be trusted: they commit fraud, they’re corrupt, they steal from one another, they blow themselves up. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people are good and want to do right by others. But that’s not news, is it?

The news is also obsessed by what’s recent. Almost everything that’s news must be something that has just now taken place. But the most recent thing isn’t by definition the most influential one. Everything in the world has a history. And that history determines in large part why something happens. Because the news usually keeps its eye trained on today, it blinds us to the longer term, both past and future. Informing us about power structures that have grown over time, like the historical roots of racism, or alerting us to gradual societal changes, like the financialization of our economy, is simply not natural to the forms and rhythms of daily news.

And the reason for that, lastly, is that the news revolves mainly around events. News has to have a hook, to use journalism jargon: a reason to report it now instead of later. That sounds logical, but it means that trends rarely make the evening news. For trends aren’t instances; they progress over time. That’s why the nightly news always ends with the weather, but never with the climate. You can’t say: “Today the climate changed”, even though it actually did.

Hook-think is also why much of the news consists of what we might call calendar journalism: recurring, often planned events that serve as an excuse to elevate something to the status of news. Consider press conferences, quarterly earnings, think tank reports, commemorative services, and anniversaries. Or the president’s tweets. That means you can pencil in much of the news in advance, making it something that isn’t “new” at all.

Teacher Compensation Commentary

Nick Gillespie:

You can read the study here. Allegretto and Mishel argue that teacher demonstrations and shortages around the country are driven by the fact that educators in K-12 public schools are making less money compared to other college graduates and “professionals” over the past several decades. “The teacher wage penalty was 1.8 percent in 1994, grew to 4.3 percent in 1996, and reached a record 18.7 percent in 2017,” they write. According to their analysis, the “penalty” shrinks to 11.1 percent when you add in total compensation.

Their agenda is straightforward: They think teachers should be paid more, both in absolute terms and relative to other workers with college degrees or professional status. They have amassed a number of statistics from credible sources which show that inflation-adjusted teacher wages have in fact been flat for about the past 20 years.

I don’t agree with Allegretto and Mishel that average teacher pay should be increased and I don’t buy into their framework of a teacher “pay penalty.” But that’s besides the point that the Time story constitutes something akin to journalistic malpractice by suggesting that teachers such as Brown, who are pulling down salaries in the mid-50s, are being forced to sell bodily fluids to make ends meet. Indeed, according to Time’s sister publication, Money, the median household income in Kentucky is $45,215, meaning that Brown is making about $10,000 more than half of all other households in the Bluegrass State.

And in fact, teachers are doing well compared to households on the national level, too. The median household income in the United States is $61,372. According to the largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA),

An emphasis on adult employment (2009)”.

In Math Cram Sessions, Solving for Why

Tiffanie Wen:

“O.K., what are you supposed to know?” Dad would ask the night before my midterm.

Dad, an immigrant from China who has a Ph.D. from Berkeley in electrical engineering and worked for a space optics company in Silicon Valley, would take notes silently as I spoke. Sometimes I could rattle off concepts from the syllabus — linear equations and inequalities, graphing lines and slope, quadratics and polynomials. Other times I listed specific chapters (“he covered everything from seven through 12”), the contents of which the rest of my class had spent the previous months learning.

Dad would then shoo me from the room for a few minutes so he could flip through my textbook alone.

My mom was the one who interpreted the rules, cooked meals, drove us around and volunteered to work the hot lunch line. Dad, on the other hand, was driving to the office before we woke up, and came back in time for a late dinner, the whole family often sitting around the table staring at pots of Chinese food my mom prepared, waiting for him to walk in the door so we could start eating.

While my mom was gregarious and emotive, my dad was the quiet observer and thinker — some might say stoic, or on a bad day, curmudgeonly.

Reeducation Campus

John Tierney:

In 1970, after campus antiwar protesters ransacked and set fire to the administration building at the University of South Carolina, the school’s president appointed a task force to find a solution to student unrest. Many meetings, workshops, and encounter groups later, the university came up with an answer, and it was nothing so simple as expelling vandals and arsonists. No, the key was to teach students to “love their university,” starting with a new semester-long orientation course for freshmen.

An industry was born. John Gardner, an assistant professor of history and a social activist, made the course into an institution. He called it the Freshman-Year Experience, until he decided that the name was sexist and renamed it the First-Year Experience, now known commonly as FYE. He and his disciples promoted it so diligently that it has spread to 90 percent of American colleges and is rapidly growing overseas.

The programs often start with a “common read,” a book sent to everyone the summer before school starts, and proceed with lectures, discussion groups, seminars, courses, exercises, field trips, art projects, local activism, and whatever else the schools will fund. The programs are typically run not by professors but by “cocurricular professionals”—administrators lacking scholarly credentials who operate outside the regular curriculum. They don’t need to master an academic discipline or impart an established body of knowledge. They create a cocurriculum of what they want students to learn, which usually involves a great deal of talk about “diversity” and “inclusion.”

How Colleges Teach Students to See Bias Where It Doesn’t Exist

Heather MacDonald:

The key feature of academic diversity ideology is the assertion that to be a member of an ever-growing number of favored victim groups at a college today is to be the target of pervasive bigotry on campus — despite, well, being favored. Taught by a metastasizing campus-diversity bureaucracy to believe that they are subject to an existential threat from circumambient bias, students equate nonconforming ideas with “hate speech,” and “hate speech” with conduct that should be punished, censored and repelled with force if necessary. This victimology fuels the efforts to shut down speech that challenges campus orthodoxies. Dozens of times in the past several years alone, classrooms have been invaded; professors, accosted and even assaulted; and outside speakers, silenced.

While these tactics have famously been directed at conservatives, that is not exclusively the case, as senior fellow at the Public Policy Center Stanley Kurtz has documented for National Review Online. It has happened year after year, recently.

In October 2017, protesters at Columbia University temporarily occupied a class and accused a professor who is an LGBTQ rights advocate and one of the school’s premier proponents of the idea that campuses are pervaded by rape culture of creating a “dangerous environment for students, including queer students.”

“A Adult issues kept you out of the classroom where you belong”

Nate Bowling:

That’s an injustice and there’s no way to spin that. There shouldn’t have been a strike. I found the last two weeks mind-numbingly frustrating because it was preventable. If the McCleary Settlement was done with transparency, rather than dead-of-night-last-second deal making, we wouldn’t be here. If a fair contract had been offered from the beginning of negotiations, we wouldn’t be here. If young teachers in our city felt valued and knew they wouldn’t have to pick-up side-hustles to stay in their apartments, we wouldn’t be here.

Lastly for the school board, we elect school board members not spokespeople. Canceling school board meetings, ghosting from social media, and responding to community members with auto-form replies is not the way for school board members to lead. The community didn’t vote for the district public information office, we elected you. If you don’t want to face an angry public when things are bad, perhaps elected office isn’t your calling.

This will be my thirteenth year of teaching. I have worked in Tacoma my entire teaching career. But, my mentor in the profession departed during this strike. I am still not over that. Despite reaching a contract agreement, I have lingering concerns about our ability to retain many of the great teachers we have. I want for Tacoma Schools to be the world-class system our students deserve, but nothing that happened over the last two weeks brought us closer to that.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say

Markham Heid:

Even for people who love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. Many, then, rely on audiobooks, a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading. You can listen to the latest bestseller while commuting or cleaning up the house.

But is listening to a book really the same as reading one?

“I was a fan of audiobooks, but I always viewed them as cheating,” says Beth Rogowsky, an associate professor of education at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

For a 2016 study, Rogowsky put her assumptions to the test. One group in her study listened to sections of Unbroken, a nonfiction book about World War II by Laura Hillenbrand, while a second group read the same parts on an e-reader. She included a third group that both read and listened at the same time. Afterward, everyone took a quiz designed to measure how well they had absorbed the material. “We found no significant differences in comprehension between reading, listening, or reading and listening simultaneously,” Rogowsky says.

Civics: This Iowa city forged an unusual friendship with China and its president. Then came the soybean tariffs.

Jeanne Whalen:

This spring, residents of this Mississippi River city published a book celebrating three decades of friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who first visited as a regional official in 1985 to learn about modern farming practices.

That visit, and one Xi made in 2012, helped forge a relationship that turned China into a major consumer of Iowa’s agricultural exports. It also turned Muscatine into a pilgrimage site for Chinese officials and tourists wanting to meet the people Xi refers to as “old friends.”

So it was with some surprise that, a few months after the book’s publication, Muscatine watched Xi respond to a trade war with the United States by slapping steep tariffs on one of Iowa’s biggest exports: soybeans.

The tariffs caused a 20 percent drop in the price of U.S. soybeans and the first serious strain in a decades-long alliance on which U.S. farmers and Chinese consumers have come to rely. Local farmers say they understand the White House’s desire to challenge China on trade issues, but they worry that they will lose their grip on an export market developed through years of citizen diplomacy.

“I grow a lot of food, and they have a lot of people who need to eat. The tariffs are bad for both of us,” said Tom Watson, who grows corn and soybeans a short drive from Muscatine.

$250 Trillion in Debt: the World’s Post-Lehman Legacy

Brian Chappatta :

Now, 10 years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, we’re seeing the results of the grandest central-bank experiment in history. On the surface, it looks like mission accomplished. In the U.S., the unemployment rate is near a 48-year low, the S&P 500 Index recently reached another all-time high and consumers are about as confident as they’ve been this millennium. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that this road has been paved with debt, debt and more debt — and that it’s a one-way street.

This isn’t a uniquely American problem. Across the globe, government debt has soared over the past decade, both in nominal amount and as a percentage of GDP. While individuals and financial institutions have been busy getting their houses in order after the crisis, many large governments leaned on their captive buyer base — central banks — to binge on debt and pull forward economic growth.

The fact that central banks suppressed interest rates also encouraged nonfinancial companies to tap the bond markets early and often. Across the world, their debt load now represents more than 90 percent of GDP, up from about 77 percent in 2008, according to data from the Institute of International Finance. Sometimes those proceeds were put to productive uses, but often the corporations merely purchased their own shares, boosting the stock value.

If ‘Free College’ Sounds Too Good To Be True, That’s Because It Often Is

Cory Turner:

But is the idea pure fantasy?

More than a dozen states now offer grants, often called scholarships, promising to help qualifying students pay for some or all of their college education. In fact, that word, “promise,” shows up again and again in these programs’ official names: Nevada Promise, Oklahoma’s Promise, Oregon Promise, Tennessee Promise … you get the idea.

Sometimes referred to as “free college” programs, most are relatively new, sparked by the relentless rise in college costs and by a desire among state leaders to improve college access, especially for low-income students. Hundreds more free college programs have popped up at the local level, too. But a new review of 15 of these statewide programs, conducted by The Education Trust, finds that states vary wildly in how they define both “free” and “college.”

“I mean, I get paid to do this,” laughs Katie Berger, a senior analyst at the nonprofit advocacy group, “and it was very challenging for me to understand the nuances in a lot of these programs. … And if it’s hard for me to understand, I can’t imagine how challenging it is for low-income students and first-generation students to wrap their heads around this.”

To help measure and make sense of states’ free college efforts, Berger and The Education Trust used eight criteria, with a particular focus on equity. None of the programs managed a perfect score. Only one, in Washington, met seven of the criteria. Berger says that’s because every free college program is a complex balance of priorities and costs. “All of these choices represent trade-offs. There is no truly universal, college-is-completely-free-for-everyone-ever [program].”

“I think that the schools have been isolated and let on their own all too much,” K-12 monolithic governance: Madison edition

Abigail Becker:

The mayors also discussed Madison’s relationship with the school district. Sensenbrenner said the city, Dane County and community groups need to marshall their energy and resources to work more closely with the school district.

If Sensenbrenner were designing a local government from scratch, he said he would include the school district under the mayor’s purview.

“I think that the schools have been isolated and let on their own all too much,” he said

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most.

A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison preparatory IB charter school.

Graduation rates ≠ achievement.

Social Justice and a Tenured Professor

Peter Wood:

The Canadian case of the moment involves a tenured associate professor of psychology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. Professor Rick Mehta was suddenly fired from his position on August 31. The stated reason, provided to Professor Mehta in a letter from President Peter Ricketts, was: “failure to fulfill [his] academic responsibilities, unprofessional conduct, breach of privacy, and harassment and intimidation of students and other members of the University community.”

One might conclude from such language that Professor Mehta must be a walking nightmare who posed an enormous threat to the 3,500-some undergraduate students and 250-some faculty members. The truth, however, is that Professor Mehta found himself on what he calls the wrong side of a Canadian “culture war.” It’s a war that will sound pretty familiar to those who are watching the Littman, Hill, Brown, and Ronell cases in the U.S. Essentially, Mehta stood up for disinterested academic standards during a period in which Acadia University was rushing pell-mell to the “social justice” agenda.

The Herald News of Halifax covered the story in “Acadia Fires Rick Mehta After Fire Storm over Comments.” To fire a tenured professor over his “comments” suggests that he must have uttered some pretty remarkable syllables. Granted that Canada doesn’t have First Amendment protections. What did Mehta do? Did he denounce hockey as a sport inferior to American baseball? Did he declare personal opposition to Canada’s tariff protections of its dairy industry?

Chinese kindergarten asks children how much their homes cost

Zhuang Pinghui:

A questionnaire distributed to a class at BUJI The Dream of Children Kindergarten in Shenzhen on Friday included questions such as “does your family own the flat you live in, or rent it?”, “what is the floor plan of the flat?” and “how much did your family pay for the flat and what is its market value now?”, according to photographs of the document circulating online.

One parent posted a photo of the document with the comment: “Is this questionnaire really for children to understand the residential area they live in, or to pry on my financial capability?”

The questionnaire went viral online, with many asking whether the objective was background research on the families’ wealth.

Google China Prototype Links Searches to Phone Numbers

Ryan Gallagher:

“This is very problematic from a privacy point of view, because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people’s behavior,” said Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher with Human Rights Watch. “Linking searches to a phone number would make it much harder for people to avoid the kind of overreaching government surveillance that is pervasive in China.”

The search engine would be operated as part of a “joint venture” partnership with a company based in mainland China, according to sources familiar with the project. People working for the joint venture would have the capability to update the search term blacklists, the sources said, raising new questions about whether Google executives in the U.S. would be able to maintain effective control and oversight over the censorship.

Sources familiar with Dragonfly said the search platform also appeared to have been tailored to replace weather and air pollution data with information provided directly by an unnamed source in Beijing. The Chinese government has a record of manipulating details about pollution in the country’s cities. One Google source said the company had built a system, integrated as part of Dragonfly, that was “essentially hardcoded to force their [Chinese-provided] data.” The source raised concerns that the Dragonfly search system would be providing false pollution data that downplayed the amount of toxins in the air.

Google has so far declined to publicly address concerns about the Chinese censorship plans and did not respond to a request for comment on this story. In the six weeks since the first details about Dragonfly were revealed, the company has refused to engage with human rights groups, ignored dozens of reporters’ questions, and rebuffed U.S. senators.

Many taxpayer supported school Districts, including Madison, use Google Services.

Melting Away: In China’s Far North a once proud tradition of reindeer herding breathes its last

Matthew Walsh, with Daniel Holmes, Wu Huiyuan and Li You:

Such is the modern herder’s life, one of GPS trackers, long truck rides, store-bought feed — and bureaucracy. These days, He Lei must submit paperwork and pass through checkpoints just to see his animals. “We’re restricted,” he grumbles. “We can’t go here, we can’t go there.”

He Lei is a giant of a man. Broad-shouldered and barrel-chested, he wears his hair in an unkempt tumble and stretches jazzy-colored T-shirts over his formidable belly. His lifestyle is fairly typical of today’s reindeer herders: He spends most of his time at home in New Aoluguya with his wife, 2-year-old daughter, and grandmother. His animals remain in the surrounding forest, where they forage for meager amounts of the lichen that’s supposed to form the mainstay of their diet. He Lei keeps a cabin in the woods.

He Lei says that reindeer herding — and Evenki culture itself — is dying out.

Winters are long and bitter. Genhe, the city that governs New Aoluguya, holds the record for China’s coldest recorded temperature, a soul-numbing minus 58 degrees Celsius. When the snows come, He Lei often spends several days in his cabin, rearing his reindeer on city-bought feed. Things get busier in the spring, when the doe give birth to lanky fawns. Some summers, He Lei saws off a few antlers and sells them for profit.

Life for today’s herders is a far cry from that of their ancestors. Historically, the Evenki lived in urilen, close-knit communities of families linked through the male bloodline. The urilen spent life permanently on the move, setting up camp every few days before heading on to new pastures when they or their reindeer had exhausted local food sources.

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Walker proposed $13.7 billion in total state support for public schools for the 2017-19 biennium. That includes about $2.2 billion in property tax credits that are counted as K-12 funding, but don’t go directly into the classroom.

Walker’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger touched on the record amount in a Saturday statement:

“Scott Walker made record actual-dollar investments in our schools, the most in state history in what Tony Evers himself called a pro-kid budget,” Reisinger said. “He will continue to make historic investments in schools without raising taxes on hard-working families and seniors to do it.”

Evers’ spokesman Sam Lau referred questions to DPI’s McCarthy.

McCarthy said in an interview Saturday that the last time school finance was overhauled in Wisconsin this way was for the 1995-97 budget cycle when the state added $1.37 billion.

Evers’ request for $15.4 billion in state support for K-12 schools in 2019-21, up 12.3 percent from the $13.7 billion distributed to school districts in the 2017-19 cycle, is similar to what the Legislature agreed to more than two decades ago, McCarthy said.

Molly Beck:

Britt Cudaback, spokeswoman for the Evers campaign, did not say how Evers would pay for the increase if elected governor, but indicated he would make education funding a priority.

“Budgets are about priorities. If we can find $4.5 billion for a foreign corporation, we can make the investments needed in our students,” Cudaback said, referring to incentives passed for Foxconn to build $10 billion worth of facilities in Wisconsin. “Tony’s priority is to fully fund our schools which can be done without increasing property taxes or forcing over a million taxpayers to go to referenda to pick up the tab. Tony is prepared to make tough decisions as governor and will do whatever is necessary to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our kids.”

Walker, a Republican, and Evers, the only Democrat leading a major state agency, have been at odds for years over how much funding to provide schools and where to spend it.

In the current state budget, Walker adopted much of Evers’ budget request, which included $649 million in new funding — a plan similar to requests that had been rejected by Walker previously.

Walker spokesman Brian Reisinger didn’t release details of the governor’s plans for school spending in the 2019-’21 state budget, but signaled that he also would continue to make K-12 education spending a priority.

“Scott Walker made record actual-dollar investments in our schools, the most in state history, in what Tony Evers himself called a ‘pro-kid budget,’ ” Reisinger said, referring to Evers’ remarks when the current budget was passed. “He will continue to make historic investments in schools without raising taxes on hard-working families and seniors to do it.”

The amounts noted above exclude substantial local taxpayer property taxes, redistributed federal taxpayer dollars and various grants.

Madison has benefited substantially from a $38B+ federal taxpayer electronic medical record subsidy.

Madison spends far more than most, nearly $20k per student.

Unfortunately, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), lead for years by Mr. Evers, has killed our one (!) attempt to follow Massachusetts’ successful teacher content knowledge requirement(s) – MTEL.

The DPI has granted thousands of annual waivers for the elementary teacher reading content knowledge exam: Foundations of Reading.

An emphasis on adult employment (2009).

Asian Americans for Education Letter to Carol Christ / University of California

Yukong Zhao:

On behalf of the Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE), an alliance of over 100 Asian- American organizations in advancing the cause of equal education rights, I am writing to express our outrage at your statement on steering your university toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) during your welcome address on August 20. On account of lack of constitutionality and legality inherent in promoting such a goal of racial quotas, AACE strongly requests the Office of the Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley to retract this statement:

1. Drafting your institution’s strategic plan to become a HSI directly translates into a 25% Hispanic quota in your student population, which is in clear violation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke which ruled specific racial quotas as impermissible. Reiterated in the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, this rule states that: “a race-conscious admissions program cannot use a quota system –it cannot ‘insult[e] each category of applicants with certain desired qualifications from competition with all other applicants.’”

2. Fulfilling requirements of a HSI breaches the California Constitution, of which Section I, Article 31(a) states that, “The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” This provision was added to the California Constitution via the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996.

I don’t know

Matthew Backus, Andrew Little:

Experts with reputational concerns, even good ones, are averse to admitting what they don’t know. This diminishes our trust in experts and, in turn, the role of science in society. We model the strategic communication of uncertainty, allowing for the salient reality that some questions are ill-posed or unanswerable. Combined with a new use of Markov sequential equilibrium, our model sheds new light on old results about the challenge of getting experts to admit uncertainty – even when it is possible to check predictive success. Moreover, we identify a novel solution: checking features of the problem itself that only good experts will infer – in particular, whether the problem is answerable – allows for equilibria where uninformed experts do say “I Don’t Know.”

“Post-Truth” Schooling and Marketized Education: Explaining the Decline in Sweden’s School Quality

Magnus Henrekson and Johan Wennström:

Swedish school system suffers from profound problems with teacher recruitment and retention, knowledge decline, and grade inflation. Absenteeism is high, and psychiatric disorders have risen sharply among Swedish pupils in the last ten years. In this pioneering analysis of the consequences of combining institutionalized social constructivism with extensive marketization of education, we suggest that these problems regarding school quality are to no small extent a result of the Swedish school system’s unlikely combination of a postmodern view of truth and knowledge, the ensuing pedagogy of child-centered discovery, and market principles. Our study adds to the findings from previous attempts to study the effects of social-constructivist pedagogy in nonmarket contexts and yields the implication that caution is necessary for countries, notably the U.S., that have a tradition of social-constructivist practices in their education systems and are considering implementing or expanding market-based school reforms.

More, from Tyler Cowen:

Some parts of this paper seem a priori implausible to me, and I don’t think the abstract puts the best foot forward for the paper, but these are such important issues I wanted to pass along the new piece by Magnus Henrekson and Johan Wennström. Here is the opener:

Who’s to blame when a machine botches your surgery?

Robert David Hart:

Medicine is an imprecise art, and medical error, whether through negligence or honest mistake, is shockingly common. Some experts believe it to be the third-biggest killer in the US. In the UK, as many as one in six patients receive an incorrect diagnosis from the National Health Service.

One of the great promises of artificial intelligence is to drastically reduce the number of mistakes made in the world of health care. For some conditions, the technology is already approaching—and in some cases matching and even exceeding—the success rates of the best specialists. Researchers at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, for instance, claim to have developed an AI system capable of outperforming cardiologists in identifying heart-attack risk by examining chest scans. The results of the study have yet to be published, but if the AI is indeed successful, the technology will be offered, for free, to NHS hospitals all over the UK. And this is just one of the latest in a string of successful medical image-reading AIs, including one that can diagnose skin cancer, another that can identify an eye condition responsible for around 10% of global childhood vision-loss, and a third that can recognize certain kinds of lung cancer.

That’s all great, but even if an AI is amazing, it will still fail sometimes. When the mistake is caused by a machine or an algorithm instead of a human, who is to blame?

This is not an abstract discussion. Defining both ethical and legal responsibility in the world of medical care is vital for building patients’ trust in the profession and its standards. It’s also essential in determining how to compensate individuals who fall victim to medical errors, and ensuring high-quality care. “Liability is supposed to discourage people from doing things they shouldn’t do,” says Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami.

Long-buried report concluded Chicago school principal ignored warnings in horrific sexual abuse case

David Jackson, Gary Marx, Jennifer Smith Richards and Juan Perez Jr.:

The potentially explosive findings have been hidden from public view for 16 years in large part because the inspector general who reviewed the report rejected its conclusions and closed the case as “unsubstantiated.” Tyson, who adamantly denied to investigators and to the Tribune that she knew Lovett had abused children, was not disciplined and retired in 2004.

For more than two months, CPS denied Tribune requests for any records about the Lovett case. Reporters found a copy of the investigative report in a court filing from one of the lawsuits filed by Lovett’s alleged victims. It was attached as an exhibit to a motion submitted in that suit. Then on Friday, after the Tribune told CPS it was preparing to publish a story, district officials released a copy of the report with many names blacked out, as well as hundreds of pages of related records.

The Lovett case has fresh significance as CPS works to implement reforms in response to the Tribune’s ongoing “Betrayed” investigation, which revealed systemic failures of child protection and showed police had investigated 523 cases of sexual violence against students inside Chicago public schools since 2008.

California just replaced cash bail with algorithms

Dave Gershgorn:

But algorithmic risk assessment makes the details of how this new legislation is implemented all the more important—while some activists say that cash bail created a predatory industry around keeping people tied to the criminal justice system, others point to the biases against people of color documented in algorithmic risk assessment tools used in the past.

“It is a tremendous setback,” Raj Jayadev, a coordinator at civil rights activist organization Silicon Valley Debug, told Quartz. “This will, in our analysis, lead to an increase in pretrial detention.”

That’s because the machine learning systems used to calculate these riskscores throughout the criminal justice system, have been shown to hold severe racial biases, scoring people of color more likely to commit future crimes. Furthermore, since private companies have been typically contracted to offer these services, the formulas derived by machine learning algorithms to calculate these scores are generally withheld as intellectually property that would tip competitors to the company’s technology.

9.18.2018 @ 11:00a.m. Event: Reporting on Arts Education Data—Wisconsin’s Journey

Julie Palkowski and Susan Rose-Adametz:

Join representatives from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction who have created an arts education data dashboard using data from their statewide longitudinal data system. Their experience holds lessons for states that seek to report on new indicators of access or quality.

Wisconsin’s dashboard visualizes access to and participation in state arts educational programming over a three-year period. For the first time, educators, policymakers, and parents have information on the condition of arts education at the state, district, and school levels. Next steps in Wisconsin’s journey offer multiple possibilities for increasing arts education opportunities for the state’s learners.

The webinar will describe how the Wisconsin Arts Education Data Project created this new resource, and it will invite participants to share the challenges and opportunities they face in reporting data on areas that have not traditionally figured in states’ reporting systems. Further discussions will address how the process for arts education can inform states’ broader efforts to report on indicators of “well-rounded education.”

“We know best”, Disastrous Reading Results and a bit of history with Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond:

these stories of isolated societies illustrate two general principles about relations between human group size and innovation or creativity. First, in any society except a totally isolated society, most innovations come in from the outside, rather than being conceived within that society. And secondly, any society undergoes local fads. By fads I mean a custom that does not make economic sense. Societies either adopt practices that are not profitable or for whatever reasons abandon practices that are profitable. But usually those fads are reversed, as a result of the societies next door without the fads out-competing the society with the fad, or else as a result of the society with the fad, like those European princes who gave up the guns, realizing they’re making a big mistake and reacquiring the fad. In short, competition between human societies that are in contact with each other is what drives the invention of new technology and the continued availability of technology. Only in an isolated society, where there’s no competition and no source of reintroduction, can one of these fads result in the permanent loss of a valuable technology. So that’s one of the two sets of lessons that I want to draw from history, about what happens in a really isolated society and group.

The other lesson that I would like to draw from history concerns what is called the optimal fragmentation principle. Namely, if you’ve got a human group, whether the human group is the staff of this museum, or your business, or the German beer industry, or Route 128, is that group best organized as a single large unit, or is it best organized as a number of small units, or is it best fragmented into a lot of small units? What’s the most effective organization of the groups?

I propose to get some empirical information about this question by comparing the histories of China and Europe. Why is it that China in the Renaissance fell behind Europe in technology? Often people assume that it has something to do with the Confucian tradition in China supposedly making the Chinese ultra-conservative, whereas the Judeo-Christian tradition in Europe supposedly stimulated science and innovation. Well, first of all, just ask Galileo about the simulating effects of the Judeo-Christian tradition on science. Then, secondly, just consider the state of technology in medieval Confucian China. China led the world in innovation and technology in the early Renaissance. Chinese inventions include canal lock gates, cast iron, compasses, deep drilling, gun powder, kites, paper, porcelain, printing, stern-post rudders, and wheelbarrows — all of those innovations are Chinese innovations. So the real question is, why did Renaissance China lose its enormous technological lead to late-starter Europe?

We can get insight by seeing why China lost its lead in ocean-going ships. As of the year 1400, China had by far the best, the biggest, and the largest number of, ocean-going ships in the world. Between 1405 and 1432 the Chinese sent 7 ocean-going fleets, the so-called treasure fleets, out from China. Those fleets comprised hundreds of ships; they had total crews of 20,000 men; each of those ships dwarfed the tiny ships of Columbus; and those gigantic fleets sailed from China to Indonesia, to India, to Arabia, to the east coast of Africa, and down the east coast of Africa. It looked as if the Chinese were on the verge of rounding the Cape of Good Hope, coming up the west side of Africa, and colonizing Europe.

Well, China’s tremendous fleets came to an end through a typical episode of isolationism, such as one finds in the histories of many countries. There was a new emperor in China in 1432. In China there had been a Navy faction and an anti-Navy faction. In 1432, with the new emperor, the anti-Navy faction gained ascendancy. The new emperor decided that spending all this money on ships is a waste of money. Okay, there’s nothing unusual about that in China; there was also isolationism in the United States in the 1930’s, and Britain did not want anything to do with electric lighting until the 1920s. The difference, though, is that this abandoning of fleets in China was final, because China was unified under one emperor. When that one emperor gave the order to dismantle the shipyards and stop sending out the ships, that order applied to all of China, and China’s tradition of building ocean-going ships was lost because of the decision by one person. China was a virtual gigantic island, like Tasmania.

Now contrast that with what happened with ocean-going fleets in Europe. Columbus was an Italian, and he wanted an ocean-going fleet to sail across the Atlantic. Everybody in Italy considered this a stupid idea and wouldn’t support it. So Columbus went to the next country, France, where everybody considered it a stupid idea and wouldn’t support it. So Columbus went to Portugal, where the king of Portugal considered it a stupid idea and wouldn’t support it. So Columbus went across the border to a duke of Spain who considered this stupid. And Columbus then went to another duke of Spain who also considered it a waste of money. On his sixth try Columbus went to the king and queen of Spain, who said this is stupid. Finally, on the seventh try, Columbus went back to the king and queen of Spain, who said, all right, you can have three ships, but they were small ships. Columbus sailed across the Atlantic and, as we all know, discovered the New World, came back, and brought the news to Europe. Cortez and Pizarro followed him and brought back huge quantities of wealth. Within a short time, as a result of Columbus having shown the way, 11 European countries jumped into the colonial game and got into fierce competition with each other. The essence of these events is that Europe was fragmented, so Columbus had many different chances.

It’s interesting to ponder history in light of Madison’s (and Wisconsin’s) disastrous reading results:

1. The Wisconsin DPI (currently lead by Tony Evers, who is running for Governor) ongoing efforts to kill the “Foundations of Reading“; our one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement, and

2. Madison’s tortured and disastrous reading history.

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

4. 2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Recovery Threw the Middle-Class Dream Under a Benz

Nelson Schwartz:

Once a year or so, the economist Diane Swonk ventures into the basement of her 1891 Victorian house outside Chicago and opens a plastic box containing the items that mean the most to her: awards, wedding pictures, the clothes she was wearing at the World Trade Center on the day it was attacked. But what she seeks out again and again is a bound diary of the events of the financial crisis and their aftermath.

“It’s useful to go back and see what a chaotic time it was and how terrifying it was,” she said. “That time is seared in my mind. I looked at it again recently, and all the pain came flooding back.”

A decade later, things are eerily calm. The economy, by nearly any official measure, is robust. Wall Street is flirting with new highs. And the housing market, the epicenter of the crash, has recovered in many places. But like the diary stored in Ms. Swonk’s basement, the scars of the financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession are still with us, just below the surface.

The most profound of these is that the uneven nature of the recovery compounded a long-term imbalance in the accumulation of wealth. As a consequence, what it means to be secure has changed. Wealth, real wealth, now comes from investment portfolios, not salaries. Fortunes are made through an initial public offering, a grant of stock options, a buyout or another form of what high-net-worth individuals call a liquidity event.

Related: Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 District’s recent tax and spending practices.

Despite spending far more than most, we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Parents’ Jobs Increasingly Shape How Far Kids Get in Life

Paul Kiernan:

The American Dream of upward social mobility is less common than once thought, and it has become increasingly difficult for workers to achieve in recent decades, according to new study.

Just over half of Americans born in the 1980s have ended up with better jobs than their parents, according to an article by New York University sociology professor Michael Hout in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” That’s down from two-thirds of people born in the 1940s.

“Your circumstances at birth—specifically, what your parents do for a living—are an even bigger factor in how far you get in life than we had previously realized,” Mr. Hout said in statement.

The study approached social mobility by assigning scores to occupations ranging from housekeeper to surgeon, based on the idea that people’s jobs provide a reliable indicator of their socioeconomic standing.

In many cases, upward mobility as defined by Mr. Hout would hardly be noticed by a layperson. One point on the author’s scale corresponds to the difference between a receptionist (26 points) and a hairdresser (25 points). A 15-point improvement—from food-preparation worker to medical assistant, for example—is more perceptible but has also become considerably rarer. So-called “long-distance mobility” from one generation to the next declined from 37% of men born in 1945 to 22% born in 1985.

Americans Aren’t Practicing Democracy Anymore; As participation in civic life has dwindled, so has public faith in the country’s system of government.

Yoni Applebam:

The results have been catastrophic. As the procedures that once conferred legitimacy on organizations have grown alien to many Americans, contempt for democratic institutions has risen. In 2016, a presidential candidate who scorned established norms rode that contempt to the Republican nomination, drawing his core support from Americans who seldom participate in the rituals of democracy.

American government’s most obvious problems—from its dysfunctional legislature to Donald Trump himself—are merely signs of this underlying decay. The political system’s previous strength and resilience flowed from Americans’ anomalously high rates of participation in democratically governed organizations, most of them apolitical. There is no easy fix for our current predicament; simply voting Trump out of office won’t suffice. To stop the rot afflicting American government, Americans are going to have to get back in the habit of democracy.

In the early years of the United States, Europeans made pilgrimages to the young republic to study its success. How could such a diverse and sprawling nation flourish under a system of government that originated in small, homogeneous city-states?

One after another, they seized upon the most unfamiliar aspect of American culture: its obsession with associations. To almost every challenge in their lives, Americans applied a common solution. They voluntarily bound themselves together, adopting written rules, electing officers, and making decisions by majority vote. This way of life started early. “Children in their games are wont to submit to rules which they have themselves established, and to punish misdemeanors which they have themselves defined,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. “The same spirit pervades every act of social life.”

Why Is College in America So Expensive?

Amanda Ripley:

Before the automobile, before the Statue of Liberty, before the vast majority of contemporary colleges existed, the rising cost of higher education was shocking the American conscience: “Gentlemen have to pay for their sons in one year more than they spent themselves in the whole four years of their course,” The New York Times lamented in 1875.

Decadence was to blame, the writer argued: fancy student apartments, expensive meals, and “the mania for athletic sports.”

Today, the U.S. spends more on college than almost any other country, according to the 2018 Education at a Glance report, released this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

All told, including the contributions of individual families and the government (in the form of student loans, grants, and other assistance), Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year—nearly twice as much as the average developed country. “The U.S. is in a class of its own,” says Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, and he does not mean this as a compliment. “Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange.”

Only one country spends more per student, and that country is Luxembourg—where tuition is nevertheless free for students, thanks to government outlays. In fact, a third of developed countries offer college free of charge to their citizens. (And another third keep tuition very cheap—less than $2,400 a year.) Finland makes college free even to foreign students from other European Union countries. The farther away you get from the United States, the more baffling it looks.

This back-to-school season, The Atlantic is investigating a classic American mystery: Why does college cost so much? And is it worth it?

Civics: GCHQ (part of “five eyes”) data collection regime violated human rights, court rules

Owen Bowcott:

GCHQ’s methods in carrying out bulk interception of online communications violated privacy and failed to provide sufficient surveillance safeguards, the European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled in a test case judgment.

But the Strasbourg court found that GCHQ’s regime for sharing sensitive digital intelligence with foreign governments was not illegal.

It is the first major challenge to the legality of UK intelligence agencies intercepting private communications in bulk, following Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations.

The long-awaited ruling is one of the most comprehensive assessments by the ECHR of the legality of the interception operations operated by UK intelligence agencies.

The claims, which had already been heard by the UK’s investigatory powers tribunal, were brought by a coalition of 14 human rights groups, privacy organisations and journalists, including Amnesty International, Liberty, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch.

The judges considered three aspects of digital surveillance: bulk interception of communications, intelligence sharing and obtaining of communications data from communications service providers.

Related: Five Eyes and Snowden and the future.

Many lawmakers and aides who crafted financial regulations after the 2008 crisis now work for Wall Street

Jeff Stein:

Ten years after the financial crisis brought the U.S. economy to its knees, about 30 percent of the lawmakers and 40 percent of the senior staff who crafted Congress’ response have gone to work for or on behalf of the financial industry, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The pattern, which applies about equally to both parties, is a stark illustration of how policymakers sought to profit from the financial sector after dealing with one of the worst financial episodes in U.S. history.

Critics of the revolving door say it helps explain why Congress — even as it deployed hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out Wall Street — didn’t take tougher steps to rein it in.

“Some folks that softened Congress’ crackdown on Wall Street shortly after went to work for the companies that benefited from the softening,” said former congressman Brad Miller (D-N.C.), who served on the House Financial Services Committee and now works for a law firm that represents whistleblowers.

Former lawmakers and staffers who went to work for Wall Street say they are taking part in a long tradition of entering the private sector after playing a role in significant legislation.

In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law that established new rules for Wall Street, including requiring banks to hold more capital in reserve and creating a new federal agency to protect consumers.

Senior Google Scientist Resigns Over “Forfeiture of Our Values” in China

Ryan Gllagher:

He said that he was concerned not just about the censorship itself, but also the ramifications of hosting customer data on the Chinese mainland, where it would be accessible to Chinese security agencies that are well-known for targeting political activists and journalists.

In his resignation letter, Poulson told his bosses: “Due to my conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies, I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents.”

“I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe,” he wrote, adding: “There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands.”

“I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents.”
In the six weeks since the revelations about Dragonfly, Google has still not publicly addressed concerns about the project, despite facing a major backlash internally and externally. Earlier this month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai refused to appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where he would have been asked questions about the China censorship. The company has ignored dozens of questions from journalists about the plan and it has stonewalled leading human rights groups, who say that the censored search engine could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.” (Google also did not respond to an inquiry for this story.)

Poulson, 32, who began working for Google in May 2016, told The Intercept that the company’s public silence fueled his sense of frustration. “There are serious worldwide repercussions to this,” he said. “What are Google’s ethical red lines? We already wrote some down, but now we seem to be crossing those. I would really like to see statements about what Google’s commitments are.”

Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but stopped operating the service in the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack people’s Gmail accounts. At that time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin made clear that he was strongly opposed to the censorship. Brin had spent part of his childhood in the Soviet Union, and said that he was “particularly sensitive to the stifling of individual liberties” due to his family’s experiences there. In 2010, after the company pulled its search engine out of China, Brin told the Wall Street Journal that “with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents” he saw “earmarks of totalitarianism [in China], and I find that personally quite troubling.”

Jeff Bezos wants to fix preschools by treating them like Amazon

Annabelle Timsit:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is launching a $2 billion “Day One Fund” to help homeless families in the US and create a series of innovative preschools.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Bezos said that he asked for suggestions on where to direct his philanthropy efforts last year, and that the Day One Fund was born out of those conversations. “Where’s the good in the world, and how can we spread it? Where are the opportunities to make things better?” he wrote. Bezos currently ranks as the world’s richest person, and has to date been less active in philanthropy than some other top billionaires.

The Amazon CEO announced his new organization would be “creating a network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities,” inspired by the Montessori School model, a child-centered educational method that relies on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. The Montessori method has been shown to be beneficial for children’s cognitive and social skills, and helpful in developing kids’ early literacy and mathematics skills.

The Bezos Family Foundation, established by Bezos’s parents Jackie and Mike, currently runs two early childhood development programs: Mind in the Making (MITM), a national research-sharing and training initiative, and Vroom, a creative platform based on neuroscience, that gives families the tools to build their babies’ brains.

Related: commentary on 4K’s effectiveness.

The inevitable Los Angeles teachers strike — does Chicago hold the key to a solution?

Mike Antonucci:

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles continued their preparations for a strike by approving the transfer of up to $3 million from the union’s strike fund to its general fund in order to be ready for immediate use.

The first mediation session is scheduled for Sept. 27, with neither the Los Angeles Unified School District nor the union expressing optimism about prospects for success.

There have been no new proposals reported since UTLA submitted a 69-page “last, best and final” offer on July 24.

This leaves most of us wondering what it will take to settle the dispute. Naturally, we are all focused on the disparity in wage proposals, with the district offering a 2 percent increase and a 2 percent one-time payment, and the union demanding a 6.5 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2016.

China move points to possible end of birth limits

Associated Press:

China is eliminating a trio of agencies responsible for enforcing family planning policies in a further sign the government may be planning to scrap long-standing limits on the number of children its citizens can have.

The move was part of a reorganization of the National Health Commission announced Monday that creates a new single department called the Division of Population Monitoring and Family Development responsible for “establishing and perfecting a specialized system for supporting families.”

Expectations of an end to birth limits were also raised by the appearance of a postage stamp last month featuring smiling mother and father pigs with three piglets.

Alarmed by the rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce, China abandoned its notorious one-child policy two years ago to allow two children, producing a nearly 8 percent increase in births in 2016, with nearly half of the babies born to couples who already had a child.

However, that appeared to have been a one-time increase, with 17.2 million births in the country last year, down from 17.9 million in 2016. Meanwhile, the proportion of the population aged 60 or older increased last year to 17.3 percent.

Related: Choose Life.

Are assessments like the Myers-Briggs more self-help than science?

Louis Menand:

It was a long descent. Briggs and Myers were a mother-and-daughter team. To call them “mildly eccentric” would be indulging in a gender stereotype, but it seems fair to say that they were a little O.C.D. They devoted their lives to their system, and they kept the faith for a very long time. If they had not, there would be no MBTI today.

The mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, was born in 1875. When she died, in 1968, the test she inspired was all but forgotten. The daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, was born in 1897. She codified her mother’s method of categorizing personalities, copyrighted it (in 1943), and spent the rest of her life trying to find a permanent home for the product. She died in 1980, just as the test’s popularity was taking off.

Since Katharine began studying personality differences when Isabel was four, this means that the two women persisted for almost eighty years before the MBTI became the commercial bonanza it is today. According to Emre, personality testing has become a two-billion-dollar industry. But Briggs and Myers were not in the personality game for the money. They truly believed that they had discovered a way to make work more efficient and human beings less unhappy.

The Education System Isn’t Designed for Smart Kids

Daniel Lattier:

Sometimes, something that’s right in front of you can escape your attention.

Over the past five years I’ve looked at countless student performance numbers, and almost always, my attention goes to the large percentages of students who are performing below grade level in reading, math, history, etc. I see these numbers as evidence of the failure of the current education system.

But a recent policy brief (titled “How Can So Many Students Be Invisible?) has brought something else to my attention—something equally, if not more, damning of the education system. It’s the fact that large percentages of American students are performing ABOVE grade level.

After looking at data from five different, nationally-respected assessments of student performance, the researchers found that “20-40% of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, with 11-30% scoring at least one grade level above in math.”

Most would read that and think it’s evidence to the contrary: that it means that our education system is doing a good job. But not me, and not the professors who put together the brief.

China to regulate online religious activity amid crackdown


China is rolling out new rules on religious activity on the internet amid an ongoing crackdown on churches, mosques and other institutions by the officially atheist Communist Party.

Anyone wishing to provide religious instruction or similar services online must apply by name and be judged morally fit and politically reliable, according to draft regulations posted online late Monday by the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

Organizations and schools that receive licenses can operate only on their internal networks that require users to be registered and are barred from seeking converts or distributing texts or other religious materials, the rules said.

They also impose tight limits on what can be said or posted, including a ban on criticism of the party’s leadership and official religious policies, promoting religious participation by minors, and “using religion to … overthrow the socialist system.”

Livestreaming of religious activities, including praying, preaching or even burning incense, is also forbidden.

Lenore Blum shocked the community with her sudden resignation from CMU. Here she tells us why.

Tracy Carto:

But when the CIE morphed to the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, the management structure changed completely. The equitable balance became one that, I’ve come to understand, is inherently sexist. This corporate model, with a CEO-like position holding almost complete control and being the face of the Center and CMU’s entrepreneurship on and off campus, enables wanton abuse of power given bad actors at the helm. This management structure has no place in an academic setting. And yet I’ve come to understand from the many responses I have received to my email about resigning, this sexist structure is often subtly inherent in many areas of our academic community.

With this change in management structure, my role was noticeably marginalized, while ironically, Project Olympus, and all its programs, became a major part of the new Center. What might have previously been considered unconscious sexism became blatant.

Just one example: The LaunchCMU conferences, initiated under the CIE, continue. But while I helped plan the six earlier launches (all with women on the program), under the auspices of the new Center I was given a copy of the Fall 2016 program for the seventh launch a single day before it was to go to press. After I complained to the Provost that it was an all-male program, I was given one day to recruit some female speakers. One day to confirm that accomplished, busy people could attend and speak.

Google has been quietly collaborating with the Chinese government on a new, censored search engine—and abandoning its own ideals in the process.

Suzanne Nossel:

In May, Google quietly removed “Don’t be evil” from the text of its corporate code of conduct, deleting a catchphrase that had been associated with the company since 2000. Amid startling revelations of how social media and internet platforms can enable political interference and new forms of stealthy cyberwarfare, avoiding evil in Silicon Valley has turned out to be harder than it looks. In a world where Twitter’s terrorist may be Facebook’s freedom fighter, decisions over what content to algorithmically uplift or suppress can involve agonizing questions of interpretation, intent, and cultural context.

But amid all the moral ambiguity and uncharted terrain of running an internet platform that controls vast swaths of global discourse and reaps commensurate revenues, some dilemmas are more straightforward than others. That’s why word of Google’s plans to substantially expand its currently minimal role in the Chinese market—through the potential launch of a censored search engine code-named Dragonfly—has provoked such uproar.

The plans were revealed through documents leaked to the Intercept, which reported that prototypes and negotiations with the Chinese government were far along, laying the groundwork for the potential service to launch as soon as early 2019. In late August, a group of free expression and human rights organizations published a joint letter proclaiming that the launch of a Chinese search application would represent “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights.” Six U.S. senators, led by Marco Rubio and Mark Warner, sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding answers to a series of queries about the company’s intentions. Last week, PEN America sent a detailed letter to Google executives spelling out specific human rights issues and subjects that, per Chinese censorship rules, would be treated repressively and deceptively by any information platform operating in the country. Google’s own employees are also up in arms: More than 1,400 signed a letter to management saying the floated China project “raise[s] urgent moral and ethical issues” and demanding greater transparency before any plans are implemented.

Many K-12 taxpayer funded school districts use Google services.

Oakland Schools, Teachers Enter Mediation as Contract Negotiations Stall

Ken Epstein:

Oakland educators say they have reached a “bargaining showdown” with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as contract negotiations enter their second year.

The Oakland Education Association (OEA), along with parent, labor and student supporters, held a news conference last Friday at the end of the first day of state-assisted mediation, a process designed to kick-start the negotiating process.

Mediation is the second-to-last step before a potential district-wide strike, according to the union. Oakland teachers have been working without a contract since July 1, 2017.

“The school board has voted again and again to strip resources from our students in order to support a budget bloated with central office administrators and private vendors,” said Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Keith Brown, a Bret Harte Middle School teacher.

A look at K-12 Tax & Spending Practices

Citizen Stewart:

When we talk dollars and cents in public education, there are a few truisms: teachers are paid too little, schools are underfunded, private and charter schools “drain” funds from traditional districts, and when schools can’t make ends meet it is the result of things done to them and never stuff they do.

The public buys that story and many in the education industry eager to supply endless examples to multiply the trope. Those of us saying school spending is at least equal to school funding as an issue are forced to wear t-shirts that say “I am the day after Christmas.”

If raising concerns about lax controls on public spending makes me December 26th, I’m okay with it.

There are two ways to say we need more money in education. The first is to demand taxpayers give more, and the second is to require elected officials to stop squandering what they already get.

Almost everyone has the former covered, but the latter gets crickets.

I’ve blogged and Tweeted, and begged and pleaded, about the repeating instances of poor stewardship of public dollars. I’ve talked about the millions of public dollars misspent for unneeded technology; a $72 million high school football stadium; the $152 million bill New York pays for teachers that don’t teach; the $300 million Los Angeles Unified School District paid out in sex abuse settlements; the school board that signed an irresponsible decade-long teachers’ contract with 4% raises locked in; the high school rebuild that started at $30 million for a 1,600 seat school but ballooned to $250 million due to poor planning and limp oversight; or the school district under scrutiny for waste and “cronyism” in its $300 million bonding program.

State data to be used to limit child gamers in China


Chinese technology giant Tencent is introducing tough new rules to identify under-age gamers, amid a crackdown on gaming addiction in the country.

From mid-September it will introduce a real-name registration system for its Honour of Kings games, which will be linked to China’s public security database.
It will identify children and restrict the time they spend on the game.

The move is the first of its kind in the world’s largest gaming market.

Tencent, which also operates the Chinese social network WeChat, posted its first profit decline since 2005 this summer, blaming the drop on tighter regulation, specifically around the approval of licences that allow companies to make money from new mobile games.

How the Platform Economy Gives Superpowers to Freelancers

Marco Torregrossa:

Once the number of freelancers increases on the platform, a subscription model comes handy. The firm gives a menu for customers to choose from and charges them per month or year according to a subscription plan based on frequency, specific services or number of freelancers needed. The basic plan is usually free, which is the so-called freemium model that combines well with the subscription.

The firm again acts as the enabler. It collects the subscription fee from the customer and then releases the money to the freelancer. In this model it is the customer which is usually charged and not the freelancer.

What if a big study is done and nobody reports it?


As of our publishing this article — two days after the British study was published — coverage of this “largest-ever” trial remains scant. Is it because it’s a European study? Unlikely — the results were featured prominently in one of the most prestigious US medical journals and promoted with an embargoed news release. Or, because it represents a so-called ‘negative’ or non-dramatic finding? (That is, no increase in prostate cancer deaths between the two groups found.) Who knows.

But it stands in stark contrast to the mega-coverage we’ve documented for many years on other prostate cancer screening studies that are typically much less rigorous — and which often trumpet an imbalanced, pro-screening message about prostate cancer. . . .

It’s an interesting issue of selection bias in what gets reported, what is considered to be news.

Justice Department Says Harvard Hurts Asian Americans’ Admissions Prospects With ‘Personal Rating’

Melissa Korn and Nicole Hong:

The U.S. Department of Justice says Harvard University puts Asian-American applicants at a disadvantage through the school’s use of a subjective “personal rating” in the admissions process, according to a new court filing in a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of affirmative action.

The statement of interest filed Thursday by the Justice Department supported the claims made by the plaintiffs, who have sued Harvard for allegedly limiting the number of Asian-American students it admits and holding them to a higher standard than students of other races.

The lawsuit against Harvard was filed in Boston federal court in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit whose members include Asian-American students who were denied admission to Harvard. It has become a closely watched battle over how one of the nation’s most selective colleges chooses who gets admitted, and whether the process illegally discriminates on the basis of race.

In criticizing the personal rating, the Justice Department was referring to one component of Harvard’s undergraduate admissions process that evaluates applicants based, in part, on a subjective assessment of character traits.

The plaintiffs have said in earlier court filings that their analysis found Asian-American applicants have the highest academic and extracurricular ratings of any other racial group, but the lowest score on the personal rating, which includes an evaluation of the applicant’s personality. The rating is also based on teacher recommendations, personal essays and admissions interviews, according to Harvard.

To Heal Wounds, Cells Time-Travel Back to a Fetal State

Jordana Cepelewicz:

The discovery of the first stem cells came about indirectly from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Medical workers observed that exposure to radiation caused a precipitous drop in the survivors’ white blood cell counts, and experiments in mice showed that bone marrow transplants could offset those losses. Work over the following decades gradually revealed why: A population of cells in the marrow could both self-renew and differentiate into various, more specialized blood cell lineages. These were the blood-making stem cells.

They departed from the behavior of more specialized cells in several key ways. When a differentiated cell divided, it produced two copies of itself — and depending on the cell type, the number of times it could do so was limited. That wasn’t the case with the stem cells isolated from the bone marrow. When they divided, they did so over extremely long periods of time, in a process known as proliferation. Moreover, those divisions were asymmetric: Each stem cell produced not only a copy of itself but also a daughter cell fated to become a specific type of blood cell. For those daughter cells that gained a differentiated identity, there was generally no going back.

Merit-based admissions ‘reproduce inequality’

Toni Airaksinen:

But Warikoo seems concerned with students’ responses. Analyzing data from these interviews years later, Warikoo points out that students’ approaches to diversity suggest that they’ve “internalized” the tokenistic rhetoric of the school admissions office, even if they had disagreed with policies like athletic recruitment or legacy admissions before coming to campus.

“Unlike in other campus domains in which there is a history of social protest among college students, in the realm of admissions, students seem to agree quite strongly with their universities, and come to even more agreement rather than critique upon arriving to campus,” she writes. “They suggest that most actors in elite institutions espouse views that reproduce their elite status, rather than engaging in symbolic politics or protest.”

According to Warikoo, “US students espouse a collective understanding of merit,” but only “value collective merit for its impact on themselves, not for social justice, or for the collective good of society.”

“They are not espousing, for example, a vision of multiculturalism that emphasizes group identities and the need to support ethnic and racial groups in society, as many scholars define multicultural state policies,” she elaborates.

Bending to the law of supply and demand, some colleges are dropping their prices

Matt Krupnick:

Tuition is being cut by about $25,000 this year to attract more students to Mills College in Oakland, California, one of several colleges and universities freezing or reducing tuition this fall in the face of an enrollment decline and consumer backlash. Photo: John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images

It may have been one of the biggest back-to-school sales ever: a 36 percent drop in the advertised cost of a college education.

That’s what awaited students this fall at Mills College, one of a growing number of higher-education institutions that have started freezing or dropping their prices in the face of a years-long enrollment decline and heightened price sensitivity.

The 1,300-student private college in Oakland, California, which like many private colleges has been having trouble attracting students, dropped its sticker price from $45,000 to $29,000 a year.

Financial Aid Leveraging.

Civics: He Was the Resistance Inside the Obama Administration; Timothy Geithner’s refusal to obey his boss has had long-term political and economic consequences.

David Dayen:

Any objective look at Geithner’s actions in response to the financial crisis confirms that he would maximize his power on behalf of big banks, even if it meant going around his colleagues and his president. That included paying off AIG’s investment bank counter-parties at 100 percent instead of forcing a discount, or blocking Bair, the FDIC chair, from forcing higher capital rules on banks. Every action fit Geithner’s worldview: The financial system must be stabilized at all costs, as the only way to heal the economy so real people benefit. “We do not need to imagine that he was in the pocket of any one bank,” Adam Tooze wrote in the new book Crashed. “It was his commitment to the system that dictated that Citigroup should not be broken up.”

But this neglects the political implications of deploying massive resources to save Citigroup and Wall Street more broadly. Failing to hold anyone accountable for causing the Great Recession as the economy struggled to regain its footing generated significant public resentment, from the Tea Party on the right to Occupy Wall Street on the left. The same urgency and ingenuity was simply not adopted to save homeowners drowning in mortgage debt, which weighed down the overall recovery. Obama fired the CEO of GM, but no bank executive suffered for a moment. And people noticed.

Is the public library obsolete?

Eric Klinenberg:

A lot of powerful forces in society seem to think so. In recent years, declines in the circulation of bound books in some parts of the country have led prominent critics to argue that libraries are no longer serving their historical function. Countless elected officials insist that in the 21st century — when so many books are digitized, so much public culture exists online and so often people interact virtually — libraries no longer need the support they once commanded.

Libraries are already starved for resources. In some cities, even affluent ones like Atlanta, entire branches are being shut down. In San Jose, Calif., just down the road from Facebook, Google and Apple, the public library budget is so tight that users with overdue fees above $10 aren’t allowed to borrow books or use computers.

But the problem that libraries face today isn’t irrelevance. Indeed, in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community.”

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? “The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program”

Emily Hanford:

Balanced literacy was a way to defuse the wars over reading,” said Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book “Language at the Speed of Sight.” “It succeeded in keeping the science at bay, and it allowed things to continue as before.”

He says the reading wars are over, and science lost.

Seidenberg knows of a child who was struggling so much with reading that her mother paid for a private tutor. “The tutor taught her some of the basic skills that the child wasn’t getting in her whole language classroom,” he said. “At the end of the school year the teacher was proud that the child had made so much progress, and the parent said, ‘Well, why didn’t you teach phonics and other basic skills related to print in class?’ And the teacher said ‘Oh, I did. Your child was absent that day.'”

For scientists like Seidenberg, the problem with teaching just a little bit of phonics is that according to all the research, phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read. Surrounding kids with good books is a great idea, but it’s not the same as teaching children to read.

Experts say that in a whole-language classroom, some kids will learn to read despite the lack of effective instruction. But without explicit and systematic phonics instruction, many children won’t ever learn to read very well.

In 2016, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, reviewed the syllabi of teacher preparation programs across the country and found that only 39 percent of them appeared to be teaching the components of effective reading instruction.

Seidenberg says the scientific research has had relatively little impact on what happens in classrooms because the science isn’t very highly valued in schools of education. “Prospective teachers aren’t exposed to it or they’re led to believe that it’s only one of several perspectives,” he said. “In a class on reading, prospective teachers will be exposed to a menu in which they have 10 or 12 different approaches to reading, and they’re encouraged to pick the one that will fit their personal teaching style best.”

Education as a practice has placed a much higher value on observation and hands-on experience than on scientific evidence, Seidenberg said. “We have to change the culture of education from one based on beliefs to one based on facts.”

Kelly Butler has been trying to do just that for nearly two decades in Mississippi.

The Wisconsin DPI, lead by Mr. Evers, has largely killed our one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading.

Related: MTEL

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

2006: They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!

2011: A Capitol conversation.

On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

2018: The Simpson Street Free Press (!) digs: Are Rising MMSD Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?, and digs deeper: Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap.

The state of journalism, 2018.

Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

Molly Beck:

But Walker and his campaign accused Evers of flip-flopping on the issue of school funding because Evers once said in an interview with WisconsinEye that improving academic outcomes for students struggling the most could still be achieved even if the state didn’t provide a significant funding increase.

Evers in the interview did say schools needed more funding overall, however.

Four years ago, Walker leveled similar criticism when he was running against another education official: Madison School Board member Mary Burke.

He blasted Burke for the Madison School District’s massive gap in academic performance between black and white students.

The Wisconsin DPI, lead by Mr. Evers, has largely killed our one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading.

Related: MTEL

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

2006: They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!

2011: A Capitol conversation.

On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

2014: Wisconsin DPI Superintendent’s Task force on the Achievement Gap.

2018: The Simpson Street Free Press (!) digs: Are Rising MMSD Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?, and digs deeper: Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap.

Wisconsin Legislative Council Committee on Dyslexia.

The state of journalism, 2018.

Jessie Opoien, has more.

Dick Cavett in the Digital Age

Alex Williams:

Everyone wants to ask Dick Cavett the same question, and it is a question that he never wants to answer: Of all today’s talk-show hosts, who is the “next Dick Cavett”?

“Well, that’s an awkward subject matter for me, because I know all of them,” Mr. Cavett, 81, said on a recent sunny Thursday afternoon at his sprawling country house in Connecticut. “I’m not addicted to talk shows. God knows, I’ve spent enough time on them.”

As in Mr. Cavett’s 1960s and ’70s heyday, the country is in a period of turbulence, with racial tensions flaring, protests in the streets, and a fundamental ideological fissure. The hosts who have emphasized substance, who have “gone political,” have been praised and nominated for Emmys.

But “the next Cavett”? Is such a thing possible?

On Point: The Population Threat to China’s Prosperity

Austin Bay:

It’s highly probable China will face the same “geriatric” economic conditions that already threaten Japan and several Western European countries: too few workers paying the pensions of retirees as well as shouldering their medical costs. By 2030, the median age in China will rise to 43. In 1980, the median was 23. In 2011, China had 925 million workers. By 2050, China’s working-age population will fall by 225 million, about 23 percent of the projected population. Between 2040 and 2050, 25 percent of the population will be over 65 years old, retired and drawing pensions. The “squeezed” worker cohort must then support both pensioners and dependent young.

Technologists theorize increased automation may mitigate the worker shortage, but it won’t solve it.

Wealth exacerbates China’s government-inflicted conundrum. Worldwide, prosperous and educated couples tend to have fewer children. This trend applies to China.

Increasing wealth and personal lifestyle preferences played key roles in the fertility rate decline in Japan and highly developed Western countries. Japan’s fertility rate is 1.4 children per woman. A recent study suggested that circa 2080 the Italian and German populations could decline by 50 percent. The same trend has begun to affect wealthy South Korea.

Choice is one thing. However, China’s dictatorship relied on government intimidation and physical coercion to cut the birthrate. Concerned about overpopulation, Beijing used political stigmatization, stiff fines, compulsory sterilizations, abortions and infanticide to enforce the one-child policy.

Related: Choose Life.

Ten Things They Didn’t Tell You at Freshman Orientation

David Gelernter:

Welcome to Yale. Please disregard what you’ve been told so far, and follow these instructions.

1. Understand that you’re here to learn how to be good citizens of the United States. Many of you come from Japan or Ghana or France, and we’re glad to have you. But Yale can’t teach you to be a good Japanese citizen; we don’t know how. Nor can we teach you to be a “global citizen” or “citizen of the world,” because there is no such thing. The “globe” has no citizens, because the globe, as such, has no art, religion, music, literature, theater, traditions, folk songs, heroes, traumas or TV stations; no tastes, fads, styles, treasures or shared experience. So you might as well learn to be good Americans for now.

Like all nations, America is defined by its shared experience, and by the enemies it’s made: the Kaiser, the Nazis, the Japanese imperialists and the Soviet Union, among others—in just the past century or so. We are the one nation that always marks itself “C-minus: room for improvement!” Americans work constantly to clarify, concentrate and distill our principles and become more like ourselves—more like the luminous city on a hill to which all nations look up.

2. You are now a part-owner of Western civilization. This should be no surprise: You have come, after all, to one of the country’s leading schools for training Western leaders. You can tell this and other American colleges are Western because they are dedicated to noisy public argument about the truth, to the teaching of history without chauvinism, factionalism or (theoretically) self-hatred, and to competition among everyone over everything. Furthermore, we love sports more every year, starting at age 2, until at last we die of sheer boredom.

3. Now that you are a college student, learn skills. Everything else can wait. Learning science, mathematics or engineering centers on learning skills. Much of the arts, letters and history is centered on skills too. Learn as much music as you can. Master at least one foreign language completely. Reading and writing English are the most important skills of all.

4. Listen skeptically. Grade-school education is built on the myth that the teacher knows what he’s doing. Here, things are different. Never close your mind to the possibility that your teacher—despite his authoritative tone, his many books, papers, patents, theorems or epic poems, his international reputation and his world-wide following—might not know what he’s talking about.

Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole

Theodore Hill:

First, the National Science Foundation wrote to Sergei requesting that acknowledgment of NSF funding be removed from our paper with immediate effect. I was astonished. I had never before heard of the NSF requesting removal of acknowledgement of funding for any reason. On the contrary, they are usually delighted to have public recognition of their support for science.

The ostensible reason for this request was that our paper was unrelated to Sergei’s funded proposal. However, a Freedom of Information request subsequently revealed that Penn State WIM administrator Diane Henderson (“Professor and Chair of the Climate and Diversity Committee”) and Nate Brown (“Professor and Associate Head for Diversity and Equity”) had secretly co-signed a letter to the NSF that same morning. “Our concern,” they explained, “is that [this] paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.” Unaware of this at the time, and eager to err on the side of compromise, Sergei and I agreed to remove the acknowledgement as requested. At least, we thought, the paper was still on track to be published.

But, that same day, the Mathematical Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief Marjorie Senechal notified us that, with “deep regret,” she was rescinding her previous acceptance of our paper. “Several colleagues,” she wrote, had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” For the second time in a single day I was left flabbergasted. Working mathematicians are usually thrilled if even five people in the world read our latest article. Now some progressive faction was worried that a fairly straightforward logical argument about male variability might encourage the conservative press to actually read and cite a science paper?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Golden retirement — seven ex-Milwaukee County prosecutors gets $1 million-plus cash payouts

Daniel Bice:

Along with Martin and Shelton, the other three were former Deputy District Attorney Patrick Kenney and Gary Makhorn and David Robles, both ex-senior assistant district attorneys.

Records show Kenney got a backdrop of $1.34 million, Makhorn $1.09 million and Robles $811,000.

Three other former senior assistant district attorneys — Thomas Schulz, Donald Jackson and William Molitor — apparently benefited from the same provision in the 1989 statute. The trio each got backdrops of slightly more than $1 million but retired before the 2015 memo was drafted.

Coyne said he did not know how all of these individuals would have fared had they opted to join the state’s retirement system.

But one thing is clear: They hit the jackpot in Milwaukee County.

Challenge to Ban on “Literature with Offensive Content” at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Eugene Volokh:

Richard Esenberg, Tom Kamenick and Clyde Taylor at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty have just filed a lawsuit challenging the policy; you can read the Complaint, which lays out the facts and some of the Institute’s legal arguments.

The ban on “offensive” speech is clearly unconstitutionally vague and likely viewpoint-based; and, even setting that aside, the rule limiting leafletting to a narrow zone would be unconstitutional even if it were content-neutral. A university does have power to limit speech that is loud enough to cause a disruption, or to limit large demonstrations that can block pedestrian traffic; that is particularly so within university buildings. But the policy here is much broader than that.

Sacramento School District Spending and Budget Commentary

Michael McGough:

The district now has one month to file a revised budget for 2018-19 to replace the $555 million budget it had submitted, as announced during the district’s Thursday night board meeting.

In an Aug. 22 budget report letter addressed to district Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, county Superintendent David Gordon said the district will meet its 2018-19 minimum reserve requirements, but will fall short by $22.1 million the next year and by $40 million in 2020-21.

“The 2019-2020 shortfall leaves the district with a negative fund balance. Therefore, the district’s Adopted Budget is disapproved,” the letter reads.

Sacramento City Unified has until Oct. 8 to file a revised budget to the county, according to Gordon’s letter.

In further explanation of the disapproval, the letter says “unrestricted expenditures” for 2018-19 and 2019-20 have increased significantly, “even though the district has been asked to solve its structural deficit problem.”

“It’s not like we told them the day before yesterday that this was a problem,” Gordon said Friday in an interview. “We tried to warn them over and over and over.”

The expenditures increased by $23 million for 2018-19 and by $16 million for the following fiscal year, the letter says.

Sacrament plans to spend $555,000,000 for 42,776 students, while Madison spends nearly $500,000,000 (all budgets, including construction) for 27,009 (includes 1,797 4K) students.

The Strange Numbers That Birthed Modern Algebra

Jason Hise:

Everything you could do with the real and complex numbers, you could do with the quaternions, except for one jarring difference. Whereas 2 × 3 and 3 × 2 both equal 6, order matters for quaternion multiplication. Mathematicians had never encountered this behavior in numbers before, even though it reflects how everyday objects rotate. Place your phone face-up on a flat surface, for example. Spin it 90 degrees to the left, and then flip it away from you. Note which way the camera points. Returning to the original position, flip it away from you first and then turn it to the left second. See how the camera points to the right instead? This initially alarming property, known as non-commutativity, turns out to be a feature the quaternions share with reality.

But a bug lurked within the new number system too. While a phone or arrow turns all the way around in 360 degrees, the quaternion describing this 360-degree rotation only turns 180 degrees up in four-dimensional space. You need two full rotations of the phone or arrow to bring the associated quaternion back to its initial state. (Stopping after one turn leaves the quaternion inverted, because of the way imaginary numbers square to –1.) For a bit of intuition about how this works, take a look at the rotating cube above. One turn puts a twist in the attached belts while the second smooths them out again. Quaternions behave somewhat similarly.

Upside-down arrows produce spurious negative signs that can wreak havoc in physics, so nearly 40 years after Hamilton’s bridge vandalism, physicists went to war with one another to keep the quaternion system from becoming standard. Hostilities broke out when a Yale professor named Josiah Gibbs defined the modern vector. Deciding the fourth dimension was entirely too much trouble, Gibbs decapitated Hamilton’s creation by lopping off the a term altogether: Gibbs’ quaternion-spinoff kept the i, j, k notation, but split the unwieldy rule for multiplying quaternions into separate operations for multiplying vectors that every math and physics undergraduate learns today: the dot product and the cross product. Hamilton’s disciples labeled the new system a “monster,” while vector fans disparaged the quaternions as “vexatious” and an “unmixed evil.” The debate raged for years in the pages of journals and pamphlets, but ease of use eventually carried vectors to victory.

IBM secretly used New York’s CCTV cameras to train its surveillance software

James Vincent:

IBM secretly used footage from NYPD CCTV cameras to develop surveillance technology that could search for individuals based on bodily characteristics like age and skin tone. This is according to a report from The Intercept that cites confidential company documents, as well as interviews with former IBM researchers and NYPD officials.

Although IBM advertises its video analytics software’s ability to search for individuals using traits like age and ethnicity, the company has not previously disclosed its use of New York surveillance footage to develop this technology. The extent to which IBM worked with the NYPD, and the secrecy with which it did so, is a worrying example of tech companies partnering with governments to build surveillance systems without public oversight.

Should surveillance technology be developed and deployed in secret?
The ability of new technology like AI to supercharge surveillance has been worrying privacy advocates for years. Not only do we know that such systems can be racially biased (meaning they’re prone to making more errors when identifying individuals with particular skin colors), but there’s no clear legislation in place to regulate their use.

15 More Companies That No Longer Require a Degree

Glass Door:

With college tuition soaring nationwide, many Americans don’t have the time or money to earn a college degree. However, that doesn’t mean your job prospects are diminished. Increasingly, there are many companies offering well-paying jobs to those with non-traditional education or a high-school diploma.

“When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people,” said Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock.

“Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door,” added Maggie Stilwell, Ernst and Young’s managing partner for talent.

5 Uncomfortable Truths About Waste in School Spending

procure 12:

2. Higher spending does not always translate to higher achievement.

Local and state spending on education is nearing $870 billion annually (for K-12 and higher education)–and it increases every year. Yet, relative achievement has flatlined. WalletHub looked at the most populous US cities, dividing test scores in 4th and 8th grade reading and math by the city’s total per-capita education spending. They also adjusted for socioeconomic factors, including poverty rate and home language. The researchers found that many cities display very inefficient spending. For example, in 2015 Rochester, New York was second in total spending, but had the lowest test scores. Rochester’s average standardized test score was only 24% (Rank), but per capita expenditures were $3,176. Compare that to Grand Rapids, Michigan at 84.99% and $1,237.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 Districts.

A maintenance spending audit was floated locally several years ago, but I’ve seen no followup reports.

College Football’s Growing Problem: Empty Seats

Rachel Bachman:

When Minnesota hosted Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium last year, the game featured charismatic new Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, a home team fighting for a bowl berth and a big-name opponent. The announced attendance was 39,933—an OK crowd for a crisp November day in Minneapolis—but it didn’t tell the whole story.

Only 25,493 ticketed fans were counted at the gates, 36% lower than the announced attendance and about half of the stadium’s capacity. More than 14,000 people who bought tickets or got them free didn’t show up.

College football has an attendance problem. Average announced attendance in football’s top division dropped for the fourth consecutive year last year, declining 7.6% in four years. But schools’ internal records show that the sport’s attendance woes go far beyond that.

The average count of tickets scanned at home games—the number of fans who actually show up—is about 71% of the attendance you see in a box score, according to data from the 2017 season collected by The Wall Street Journal. In the Mid-American Conference, with less-prominent programs like Central Michigan and Toledo, teams’ scanned attendance numbers were 45% of announced attendance.

How Colleges Are Ripping Off a Generation of Ill-Prepared Students

Walter Williams:

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka the nation’s “report card,” was released. It’s not a pretty story.

Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math.

The atrocious National Assessment of Educational Progress performance is only a fraction of the bad news. Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that these students can read and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math.

For blacks, the news is worse. Roughly 75 percent of black students received high school diplomas attesting that they could read and compute at the 12th-grade level. However, 83 percent could not read at that level, and 93 percent could not do math at that level.

It’s grossly dishonest for the education establishment and politicians to boast about unprecedented graduation rates when the high school diplomas, for the most part, do not represent academic achievement. At best, they certify attendance.

Fraudulent high school diplomas aren’t the worst part of the fraud. Some of the greatest fraud occurs at the higher education levels—colleges and universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of white high school graduates in 2016 enrolled in college, and 58 percent of black high school graduates enrolled in college.

How social-media platforms dispense justice

The Economist:

EVERY other Tuesday at Facebook, and every Friday at YouTube, executives convene to debate the latest problems with hate speech, misinformation and other disturbing content on their platforms, and decide what should be removed or left alone. In San Bruno, Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s boss, personally oversees the exercise. In Menlo Park, lower-level execs run Facebook’s “Content Standards Forum”.

The forum has become a frequent stop on the company’s publicity circuit for journalists. Its working groups recommend new guidelines on what to do about, say, a photo showing Hindu women being beaten in Bangladesh that may be inciting violence offline (take it down), a video of police brutality when race riots are taking place (leave it up), or a photo alleging that Donald Trump wore a Ku Klux Klan uniform in the 1990s (leave it up but reduce distribution of it, and inform users it’s a fake). Decisions made at these meetings eventually filter down into instructions for thousands of content reviewers around the world.

Curated Education Information