K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Taxpayer Income, purchasing power and 2020 Madison Referendum climate

Oren Cass:

2/ Punchline: Popular perception is correct. In 1985, the typical male worker could cover a family of four’s major expenditures (housing, health care, transportation, education) on 30 weeks of salary. By 2018 it took 53 weeks. Which is a problem, there being 52 weeks in a year.

Notes, links and some data on Madison’s planned 2020 referendum.

“Madison spends just 1% of its budget on maintenance while Milwaukee, with far more students, spends 2%” – Madison’s CFO at a recent 2020 referendum presentation.

Projected enrollment drop means staffing cuts coming in Madison School District

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

The Case Against Italicizing “Foreign” Words

Catapult:

When Emily Dickinson implored us to “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” she wasn’t referring to an injunction to italicize words that people outside hegemonic cultures use on a regular basis, yet are deemed “other.” She was, we assume, referring to telling the truth in an uncommon way, encouraging us to create newness with language—and this newness, this uncommonness, is what is often implied with slanting words: italics.

In the past several years, working alongside fellow writers and translators who strive to operate with feminist, decolonial aesthetics (including my cohort of contributors to Sophie Collins’s edited volume Currently and Emotion: Translations, as well as Tilted Axis Press), I’ve become invested in the active ethos of not italicizing supposedly “foreign” words—words that supposedly aren’t used in the dominant culture. I’ve come to understand the practice of italicizing such words as a form of linguistic gatekeeping; a demarcation between which words are “exotic” or “not found in the English language,” and those that have a rightful place in the text: the non-italicized.

This magazine does not italicize non-English words for that reason, a policy I wish other English-language publications would emulate. So normalized is it to italicize the dominated “othered” that it takes people, myself included, many years if not decades to unlearn this trick.

Let’s use the example of food, a topic I’m always eager to discuss as a woman who is often hungry. At what point does a food word become worthy of inclusion in the English language, and according to whom? Who are the editors of which dictionaries? Which populations do they look at for usage frequency, considering more and more of the world (worryingly, for the state of linguistic diversity and cultural preservation in many regions) uses English regularly?

The New Haven Teachers Union Is Redoing Its Election. The Reason Involves Gift Cards, Personal Loans & Accusations of Extortion

Mike Antonucci:

The union was praised by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Its president, David Cicarella, was honored by the Obama White House in 2012 as a “School Turnaround Champion of Change.”

“New Haven is a gold standard in terms of how you do things right,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

But in 2019, the union made headlines for a different reason.

Cicarella was challenged for the presidency by his vice president and longtime friend Tom Burns. After the votes were counted and certified, Cicarella had won his fifth term by 20 votes.

Burns challenged the election on a number of grounds, most having to do with Cicarella allegedly using his powers of incumbency to gain an unfair advantage during the campaign. The challenge was dismissed by the union’s board, so Burns went up the chain — to AFT Connecticut, AFT national and the U.S. Department of Labor’s union oversight office.

During subsequent investigations, Burns withdrew some charges, and the rest were found to be without merit. However, AFT did determine that 27 members who worked as nurses in the private sector had not been allowed to vote. The national union ordered a rerun of the election.

UCLA drops controversial face recognition plan

Jefferson Graham:

The idea was to have the University of California Los Angeles use facial recognition as a way to gain access to buildings, to prove authenticity and to deny entry to people with restricted access to the campus, matching their faces against a database. Advocacy group Fight for the Future says UCLA was the first major university exploring using facial recognition to monitor students. 

The group had tested facial recognition software and found that “dozens” of student-athletes and professors were incorrectly matched with photos from a mug shot database, “and the overwhelming majority of those misidentified were people of color.”

A Future with No Future: Depression, the Left, and the Politics of Mental Health

Mikkel Krause Frantzen:

HOW DO YOU throw a brick through the window of a bank if you can’t get out of bed?” This question, formulated by Johanna Hedva in “Sick Woman Theory,” has been with me for quite some time now. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Why? Because it points to a situation familiar to too many of us (but who is that “us”?): a situation characterized by despair and depression. A situation in which you really can’t get out of bed. This situation is also, in most cases, saturated by politics and by the economy. Contrary to mainstream psychological and psychiatric discourse the reason why you can’t get out of bed is not because you have a bad attitude, a negative mindset, or because you have somehow chosen your own unhappiness. Nor is it merely a matter of chemistry and biology, an imbalance in the brain, an unlucky genetic disposition, or low levels of serotonin. More often than not it is a matter of the world you live in, the work that you hate, or the job that you just lost, the debt that haunts your present from the future, or the fact that the planet’s future is going still faster and further down the drain.

The World’s Most Efficient Languages

John McWhorter:

Just as fish presumably don’t know they’re wet, many English speakers don’t know that the way their language works is just one of endless ways it could have come out. It’s easy to think that what one’s native language puts words to, and how, reflects the fundamentals of reality.

But languages are strikingly different in the level of detail they require a speaker to provide in order to put a sentence together. In English, for example, here’s a simple sentence that comes to my mind for rather specific reasons related to having small children: “The father said ‘Come here!’” This statement specifies that there is a father, that he conducted the action of speaking in the past, and that he indicated the child should approach him at the location “here.” What else would a language need to do?

Effects of Scaling Up Private School Choice Programs on Public School Students

David N. Figlio, Cassandra M.D. Hart, Krzysztof Karbownik:

Using a rich dataset that merges student-level school records with birth records, and a student fixed effect design, we explore how the massive scale-up of a Florida private school choice program affected public school students’ outcomes. Expansion of the program produced modestly larger benefits for students attending public schools that had a larger initial degree of private school options, measured prior to the introduction of the voucher program. These benefits include higher standardized test scores and lower absenteeism and suspension rates. Effects are particularly pronounced for lower-income students, but results are positive for more affluent students as well.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Classics Faculty Proposes Removal Of Homer And Virgil From Mods Syllabus

Yaamir Badhe

The Oxford Student has been notified about a proposal by the Classics faculty to remove the study of Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid from the Mods syllabus, a decision which has surprised many across the faculty.

This proposal forms part of a series of reforms aimed to modernise the first stage of the Classics degree, known as Moderations (Mods), which take place during Hilary term of second year for all students taking Classics courses across the university.

The Mods course, which is assessed by a set of ten exams at the end of Hilary, has been increasingly criticised in recent years, due to the attainment gaps found between male and female candidates, as well as between candidates who have studied Latin and/or Greek to A-Level (Course I) and those who have not (Course II). 

The removal of Virgil and Homer papers, which take up two out of the ten Mods papers, have been marketed as a move that will reduce the attainment gaps and thus improve access to the subject. However many have questioned why the solution to this problem involves the removal of Homer and Virgil.

The 1619 Project perpetuates the soft bigotry of low expectations

Ian Rowe:

On March 18, 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama began an oration that Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic called a “searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech” and “the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime.”

“‘We the people, in order to form a more perfect union,’” Obama began, quoting the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. “Two hundred twenty-one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy.”

Standing in the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Obama argued that, despite America’s original sin, the abomination of slavery, he was optimistic that future generations would continue to make progress toward “a more perfect union,” precisely because our nation was founded on the principles enacted in the Constitution in 1789.

Obama’s speech is relevant amid today’s fierce debate as to what to teach young Americans about the nation’s origin story and true birthdate. Like Obama, some posit that it is 1789, the year the Constitution went into effect, establishing the American form of government. Most Americans believe it was 1776, upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the enumeration of the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

How I Learned French in 12 Months

Runwes.com

A bit over a year ago, I was a completely monolingual English speaker with zero experience with the French language. Twelve months later, I very comfortably passed the internationally recognized DELF B2 exam. If you don’t know what “B2” means, check out the CEFR scale.

Furthermore, all of my progress was the result of study and practice at home. My learning was entirely self-directed, without any formal programs or immersion. This was only possible through the many amazing resources available online, many of which are free. Furthermore, I succeeded in part because I prioritized receiving quality input and producing output, particularly by spending lots of time talking with fluent French speakers.

I will say my learning pace was somewhat aggressive, in that I devoted a lot of time towards learning French over the past year, but it was nowhere near full-time study.

I wouldn’t call myself completely “fluent”, but to give you an idea of my level, here are some things I can do without much trouble:

Endless Accountability Mulligans for Taxpayer Supported K-12 School Districts

Darrel Burnette II:

Across the nation, hundreds of school districts are trapped in a death spiral of declining enrollment that forces dramatic budget cuts which then trigger more student departures.

State officials, who have the power to merge or dissolve districts to create more financially stable systems, are often reluctant to interfere in a process that can raise issues of class and race and brims with emotional implications for how communities define themselves.

In Wisconsin right now, there are deep anxieties in the legislature about a dissolution process that went awry after residents in Palmyra-Eagle, a rural district near Milwaukee in fiscal distress, repeatedly voted to dissolve the district but were rebuffed by an appointed panel controlled by the state school boards association.

The district now faces severe layoffs this summer after more than 100 students, unsure of the district’s fate, enrolled in surrounding districts.

“This has created a bit of an uproar in Madison,” said CJ Szafir, the vice president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, an influential conservative think tank in Milwaukee. “We know there needs to be more district efficiency. The question for us is if the state should take a carrots or sticks approach to this.”

Math: Dealerships Give Car Buyers Some Advice: Just Stop Paying Your Loan

AnnaMaria Andriotis and Ben Eisen:

Credit-reporting firm TransUnion calculates that nearly 24 million U.S. vehicle loans were originated in 2018. About 300,000 of those vehicles were repossessed within 12 months, up 17% from 2014. Such a quick souring of the loan can be a signal of some sort of auto fraud.

Roughly a fifth of people who have had a car repossessed over the last several years take out another auto loan within a year of the repossession, TransUnion says.

Dealerships typically don’t make loans. When consumers need financing, a dealership electronically sends their loan applications to banks, credit unions and other lenders. They, in turn, decide whether to fund the loan.

An examination into incidents reported to the Bias Response Team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Christian. Schneider:

When students settled in to a sociology class on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on September 14, 2018, the professor started describing certain theories he said he was eager to critique in a proposal that he was thinking of sending to the sociology department.

Yet, the professor added, some theories and beliefs couldn’t be critiqued; he called them “sacred cows” within academia.

This statement angered one student, who complained to university administrators that use of the term “sacred cows” was inappropriate.

“The way he used this term was offensive to me, because in some cultures, cows are deemed to be sacred, and his employment of the term as a snarky rhetorical device demonstrates the lack of awareness or concern this person has towards future colleagues and students who might be from those countries,” the student wrote.

“I grew up in India, and found his use of this terminology to be condescending and racist,” the student added. “I would not feel safe around him, and feel that his confident lack of awareness perpetuates the unsafe white-centric and white-supremacist environment of UW-Madison.”

Mind Those Manners: Kids Need Lessons in Email and Phone Etiquette

Julie Jargon::

If the email addresses of Amanda McCraw’s eighth-graders didn’t contain some portion of their names, she would have no clue who the senders were.

“There’s no subject line, no signature. It’s just, ‘Hey, can you send me that paper?’ ” said Ms. McCraw, a teacher and principal at a tiny school in rural Paicines, Calif.

Texting may be second nature to many kids, but composing an email seems like an ancient craft. And making calls—or answering one from a stranger? That’s so last century. Educators and parents are trying to teach kids digital etiquette so that when they enter the workforce, they will be able to communicate using words instead of abbreviations and emojis.

Ms. McCraw is so serious about it that she has made email composition a part of her students’ language arts grade. Each week she has her middle-school students email her about assignments they have completed in Google documents, just to get them in the habit. If the memos don’t contain a subject line, a salutation and a signature, they get marked down.

Sandra Boynton Writes Children’s Books That Don’t Condescend

Warren Bass:

To celebrate her recent books “Silly Lullaby” and “Dinosnores,” the beloved children’s author Sandra Boynton threw not a book party but a pajama party. At a New York store on a Chelsea morning, three of Ms. Boynton’s four adult children—fresh-faced, cheerful and vigorous—shimmied onstage in flannel jammies near large cardboard cutouts of Ms. Boynton’s charmingly bewildered cows and other animals. They led a roomful of rapt children and beaming parents in the titular lullaby, which is as silly as promised: “Go to sleep, my zoodle, my fibblety-fitsy foo. Go to sleep, sweet noodle. The owl is whispering ‘Moo.’” A long line of short readers waited for Ms. Boynton to sign their board books, often lovingly battered and bitten. “This is like meeting Bono,” one mother said happily.

Children and parents don’t always agree on enjoyable reading (and rereading), but for decades, they have agreed on Sandra Boynton. Since publishing her first book, “Hippos Go Berserk!”, in 1977, her titles have sold 70 million copies, according to Workman, one of her publishers, along with Simon & Schuster. “It’s a lot of books,” she says. “And I’ve only bought half of those.”

M.B.A. Programs Rush to Add STEM Degrees

Patrick Thomas:

Business schools are racing to add concentrations in science, technology, engineering and math to their M.B.A. programs as they try to broaden their appeal to prospective students overseas who want to work in the U.S.

Several schools, including Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, have unveiled STEM-designated master’s in business degrees in recent months. The University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business recently reclassified its entire M.B.A. program as STEM.

A STEM degree or concentration in a field such as data analytics or management science can be particularly appealing to international students, especially those with visa worries. The designation allows foreign graduates of U.S. universities to apply for a work-authorization program that can extend their stay in the country by two additional years versus a more traditional business degree.

“If I’m an international student, going to a school that will give me the extra years would be a big deal,” said Georgette Phillips, dean of Lehigh University’s College of Business. The school unveiled a 15-credit, STEM-designated business-analytics concentration for its M.B.A. program in December.

Commentary on the Madison School District’s teacher climate

David Blaska:

In a school district that is 18% black, 57% of students suspended from school the first semester of the current school year (2019-20) were African-American. White students, 43% of the student body, accounted for 11% of out-of-school suspensions.

To school board member Ali Muldrow, the data showed more about school staff than about students’ behavior. “We are really excited to discipline black students and seem far less compelled to discipline or suspend or expel white students.”

Board member Savion Castro said the data is “evidence of racism in our schools” that needs to be looked at “through a lens of public health.” 

School board member Ananda Mirilli “pointed to adults who are upholding an old system that gives us this [disproportionality] year after year after year.”

Play by the rules and you’ll still get thrown under the bus, as Mr. Rob learned at Whitehorse middle school. Or use the N-word in an educational setting.

Heading for the exits

Good Madison progressives would rather blame Scott Walker. But the former Republican governor did not hire Jennifer Cheatham nor did he elect Ali, Ananda, and Savion. We’ll know the situation is going from bad to worse if Muldrow/Mirilli protege Maia Pearson survives today’s (02-18-2020) primary election

Scott Girard:

More teachers left the Madison Metropolitan School District during and after the 2018-19 school year than each of the four previous years, according to the district’s annual human resources report.

The report, posted on the district’s Research, Accountability and Data Office this month, shows 8.3% of teachers left the district, not including retirements. That’s up from the 6.7% that left in 2017-18, 6.9% in 2016-17, 6.1% in 2015-16 and 5.5% in 2014-15.

The count includes those who left between Nov. 1 of the given school year and Oct. 31 of the following year.

Notes and links on the 2020 Madison School Board Candidates.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

The Discriminatory Costs of Preserving Women’s-Only Sports

Leo Desforges:

Separate categories for men and women in sports will become a relic of the early 21st century. Here is why we will go backwards to go forwards:

In much of the world, we have become accustomed to having gender segregated categories for competition in sports. But the past 50 years mark a bubble which is popping as we speak. The past half century will be looked back on as the golden era of women’s sport, where segregated categories gave women a chance to compete on a playing field that excludes men, transgender people and intersex people.

Generally, men are not allowed to compete in women’s categories, but women ARE allowed to compete in mens. We have for decades allowed men, transgender people and intersex people to be discriminated against when it comes to sports. And this discrimination is now being highlighted as the discussions surrounding the inclusion of transwomen and intersex people intensifies.

This gendered bias is highlighted by the embarrassing “gender checks” of the previous century where genitals were inspected and/or genetic testing done. The IOC (International Olympic Comitee) stopped using that policy in 1999, recognizing its inherent ineffectiveness and discriminatory nature. In 2004, the IOC also made new provisions for transwomen to compete in womens categories at the Olympics. Those regulations were lightened in 2015, but recently tightend a bit for the 2020 games. (I will be talking more about these regulations later in this article). Either way, we see a very powerful regulatory body forced to publicly contend with the fairness and legality of the 20th century gender discrimination practices.

Top officials at Milwaukee Public Schools don’t apply or interview for jobs

Casey Geraldo:

The I-TEAM verified with a district spokesperson who clarified in an email that “the superintendent has the ability to appoint these positions regardless of an application process or not.” He continued, writing “I’d be curious to learn if that is common practice for other large districts.”

We called other similar-sized districts. Both Kansas City and St. Louis have processes that include an application and interviews. Milwaukee’s process does not.

Superintendent Keith Posley’s office declined several interview requests over two months. The I-Team’s Casey Geraldo caught up to him in a stairwell after a school board meeting. In response to a question about how he knows he’s chosen the best people to run the district, he said: “I know I have the best people working for the district.”

His office declined another opportunity to interview after the stairwell meeting.

Related: “an emphasis on adult employment.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: $418,600 pension for former CalPERS investment manager largest ever, new data show

Transparent California:

When excluding partial benefits paid out to beneficiaries, the average full-career pension for safety officers was $100,155 last year. Non-safety employees received an average full-career pension of $65,855.

There were 740 Oakland city retirees receiving a pension worth $100,000 or more — the most of any city statewide. Long Beach (533) and Anaheim (431) ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively, among cities enrolled in CalPERS. To view the data sorted by individual city or other employing public agency, please click here.

The number of $100,000 or greater pensions continues to grow both in raw terms and as a percentage of total outlays. While only 5 percent of pensioners are collecting annual pensions of $100,000 or more, these 5 percent account for 18 percent of total annualized pension payouts.

Ramanujan surprises again

Marianne Freiberger:

Ramanujan’s story is as inspiring as it is tragic. Born in 1887 in a small village around 400 km from Madras (now Chennai), Ramanujan developed a passion for mathematics at a young age, but had to pursue it mostly alone and in poverty. Until, in 1913, he decided to write a letter to the famous Cambridge number theorist G.H. Hardy. Accustomed to this early form of spam, Hardy might have been forgiven for dispatching the highly unorthodox letter straight to the bin. But he didn’t. Recognising the author’s genius, Hardy invited Ramanujan to Cambridge, where he arrived in 1914. Over the following years, Ramanujan more than repaid Hardy’s faith in his talent, but suffered ill health due, in part, to the grizzly English climate and food. Ramanujan returned to India in 1919, still feeble, and died the following year, aged only 32. Hardy later described his collaboration with Ramanujan as “the one romantic incident in my life”.

The taxi-cab number

The romanticism rubbed off on the number 1729, which plays a central role in the Hardy-Ramanujan story. “I remember once going to see [Ramanujan] when he was ill at Putney,” Hardy wrote later. “I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavourable omen. ‘No’, he replied, ‘it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.'” What Ramanujan meant is that…

The Map of Mathematics

Kevin Hartnett:

Here is a map of mathematics as it stands today, mathematics as it is practiced by mathematicians.

From simple starting points — Numbers, Shapes, Change — the map branches out into interwoven tendrils of thought. Follow it, and you’ll understand how prime numbers connect to geometry, how symmetries give a handle on questions of infinity.

And although the map is necessarily incomplete — mathematics is too grand to fit into any single map — we hope to give you a flavor for the major questions and controversies that animate the field, as well as the conceptual tools needed to dive in.

UW System seeks to double online enrollment after failing to meet unfunded budget requirement

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Key to Wisconsin’s online education market are the thousands of working adults who have some college credits but no degree. A recent report estimates this share of the state’s population to be as many as 662,000 people. System officials see online education as the bridge connecting this group with the skills employers say they desperately need from their workforce.

“We’re really aiming at this adult professional market,” said Aaron Brower, who oversees the System’s online education programs. “That’s a group that’s pretty under-served in our state.”

Many adult learners are in their 30s balancing work, school and family commitments, so they need flexible and personalized programming that fits their existing lifestyles.

Credentialism: Illinois Bill Would Ban Adults From Pumping Their Own Gas

Christian Britschgi:

The free market experiment of letting people pump their own gas is over. It failed. That appears to be the message behind a new piece of Illinois legislation that would prohibit self-service gas stations.

“No gas may be pumped at a gas station in this State unless it is pumped by a gas station attendant employed at the gas station,” reads the Gas Station Attendant Act, which was introduced last week by state Rep. Camille Lilly (D–Oak Park).

Should it pass, Illinois would join New Jersey as the only other state in the union to prohibit self-service gas stations. Oregon allows self-service gas stations in counties of less than 40,000 people but maintains prohibitions everywhere else in the state. A bill to allow gas stations in the Beaver State to designate a quarter of their pumps as self-service failed in 2019.

The Invasion of the German Board Games

Jonathan Kay:

In a development that would have been hard to imagine a generation ago, when video games were poised to take over living rooms, board games are thriving. Data shows that U.S. sales grew by 28 percent between the spring of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Revenues are expected to rise at a similar rate into the early 2020s—largely, says one analyst, because the target audience “has changed from children to adults,” particularly younger ones.

Much of this success is traceable to the rise of games that, well, get those adults acting somewhat more like children. Clever, low-overhead card games such as Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler, and Exploding Kittens (“A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions”) have sold exceptionally well. Games like these have proliferated on Kickstarter, where anyone with a great idea and a contact at an industrial printing company can circumvent the usual toy-and-retail gatekeepers who green-light new concepts. (The largest project category on Kickstarter is “Games,” and board games make up about three-quarters of those projects.)

‘They know us better than we know ourselves’: how Amazon tracked my last two years of reading

Kari Paul:

When I requested my personal information from Amazon this month under California’s new privacy law, I received mostly what I expected: my order history, shipping information and customer support chat logs.

But tucked into the dozens of files were also two Excel spreadsheets, more than 20,000 lines each, with titles, time stamps and actions detailing my reading habits on the Kindle app on my iPhone.

I now know that on 15 February 2019 starting at 4.37pm, I read The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish – a dark novel by Katya Apekina – for 20 minutes and 30 seconds. On 5 January 2019 starting at 6.27pm, I read the apocalypse-thriller Severance by Ling Ma for 31 minutes and 40 seconds. Starting at 2.12pm on 3 November 2018, I read mermaid romance tale The Pisces by Melissa Broder for 20 minutes and 24 seconds.

And Amazon knows more than just what books I’ve read and when – it also knows which parts of them I liked the most. On 21 May 2019 I highlighted an excerpt from the third installment of the diary of Anaïs Nin, the data shows, and on 23 August 2018 at 11.25 pm, I highlighted an excerpt from Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath. On 27 August 2018, I changed the color of a highlighted portion of that same book.

Other habits tracked included the times I copied excerpts from books into my iPhone’s clipboard and how often I looked up definitions of words in Kindle’s attached dictionary.

Commentary on Wisconsin’s Disastrous Reading Climate

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, Via a kind email:

New Wisconsin Group Issues a Call to Action for Reading Excellence
On February 12th, a new group called WI-CARE – Wisconsin Call to Action for Reading Excellence – issued a Call to Action for DPI, detailing five areas of concern. You can watch their press conference on Wisconsin Eye and read commentary in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal.

Some Efforts Are Already Underway
DPI issued a statement in January indicating a new focus on explicit, systematic phonics, and Madison Metropolitan School Districtsays it is focusing on explicit, structured phonics as it moves through a process to adopt new English Language Arts instructional materials. We will be watching with great interest for details.

Reading League Wisconsin Sell-Out Demonstrates High Interest Among Teachers
Wisconsin’s new professional development organization, Reading League Wisconsin, expanded the venue for its April 14th kickoff event in Wausau after a quick sell-out of seats. Registration has reopened to accommodate additional educators wanting to hear from national experts Susan Hall and Pati Montgomery.

Free Sopris Voyager Webinar to Demonstrate Analysis of NAEP Data
Voyager Sopris Learning presents Wisconsin Reading Coalition founding member Dr. Steven Dykstra explaining how to navigate the NAEP Data Explorer to move beyond cookie cutter reports on state performance. You can catch this free webinar on Wednesday, February 19th, at 3:00 CT, or watch it later on demand. Dykstra will demonstrate how to use this powerful tool to ask better questions and find better answers.

Of Course, There Is Always Some Pushback
Various blogs, podcast, and tweets in Wisconsin have been mentioning a position taken by Jeffrey Bowers which minimizes the importance of systematic phonics instruction. Any time an author espouses views that seem to fly in the face of settled science, it’s wise to take a closer look before coming to any conclusions. Jennifer Buckingham does an excellent job of critiquing Bowers in her article, “The grass is not greener on Jeffrey Bowers’ side of the fence: Systematic phonics belongs in evidence-based reading programs.”

Parents sue Madison schools over transgender policy

Todd Richmond:

 A group of parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging the Madison school district’s transgender policy is unconstitutional because it prohibits teachers and staff from informing parents that their children want to switch sexes. 

Conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit on the parents’ behalf in Dane County Circuit Court. 

According to the lawsuit, Madison schools adopted a policy in 2018 that states a person’s gender identity can be male, female, a blend of both or neither and is determined by person’s sense of self. The policy states that the district is committed to affirming each student’s self-designated gender identity and the district will strive to “disrupt the gender binary” with books and lessons stating that everyone has the right to choose their gender.

Bruce Vielmetti:

The district’s policy interferes with parents’ right to direct their own children’s health treatment and religious upbringing, the suit states. Eleven of the parents are Christians and believe the “sex each of us is born with is a gift, not an arbitrary imposition.”

A policy affecting such fundamental rights must protect a compelling government interest in the most narrowly tailored and least restrictive ways. The suit says there is no such interest in “keeping secret from parents that their child is dealing with gender dysphoria.”

Brian Juchems, co-director at GSAFE, a support and advocacy group for LGBTQ students, said Madison’s policies provide “space for students to understand their identity while building confidence to tell their parents.”

He said most state school districts prohibit discrimination against transgender students, but few have adopted formal procedures like Madison to guide staff in providing support.

He also agrees parents should be in the conversation when a student is ready. “Telling your child that you will love and support them no matter who they are is a way for families to make it safer for the child to have that conversation

The Complaint:

This action seeks to vindicate parents’ fundamental and constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children. The Madison Metropolitan School District has violated this important right by adopting a policy designed to circumvent parental involvement in a pivotal decision affecting their children’s health and future. The policy enables children, of any age, to socially transition to a different gender identity at school without parental notice or consent, requires all teachers to enable this transition, and then prohibits teachers from communicating with parents about this potentially life-altering choice without the child’s consent. Even more, the Madison School District directs its teachers and staff to deceive parents by reverting to the child’s birth name and corresponding pronouns whenever the child’s parents are nearby. These policies violate Plaintiffs’ rights as parents.

2020 Madison School Board Candidate Forum – 100 Black Men

Scott Girard:

“Teachers are ready to do this work, but for whatever reason there’s a barrier set up in front of them,” Ball said. “A goal is to have no gap. I know we can do it in this community.”

School Board candidate Ball wants to ‘get out of the way of people doing their work’ to help close opportunity gap

Gomez Schmidt, the director of enrichment at test prep and college admissions tutoring service Galin Education, is a Minneapolis native with two school-age children — one at Memorial High School, another in seventh-grade at EAGLE School in Fitchburg — and a third that graduated from Memorial. She stressed the importance of the district’s work toward adopting a new literacy curriculum, expected to be rolled out in fall 2021, as a tool to help close the gap and develop children’s reading skills early.

“We have to go back to the basics and we have to find a curriculum that teaches explicit phonics and teaches kids what they have to know to read,” Gomez Schmidt said.

Pearson, a revenue agent with the state Department of Revenue, has three children in Madison schools, all at Lincoln. She pointed to herself Monday as an example of what Black Excellence can look like in Madison, as someone whose family has been here for three generations, despite the ongoing disparities.

Notes and links on the 2020 Madison School Board Candidates.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Bodycam video shows Jacksonville girl, 6, ‘pleasant’ on ‘field trip’ to mental health facility from school

Emily Bloch:

The body camera footage obtained by the Times-Union captured the conversation between two responding officers. It also shows at times the child’s wrists, with no handcuffs visible. The mother had previously said the child was handcuffed, but the Sheriff’s Office and school district said that wasn’t true.

“I don’t see her acting how they said. She’s been actually very pleasant,” a female sheriff’s officer said to her male colleague. The Times-Union requested the names of the responding officers from the Sheriff’s Office. The male officer agreed, saying “you poke the bear one too many times and it’s gonna scratch you.”

The female officer added that she thinks the 6-year-old’s outbursts were in reaction to school personnel “pushing her buttons.”

She continued, “because they said this is the fourth out of five days she’s been acting like this. Well then, I think [the problem] might be y’all … she’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with her.”

Under the social worker’s recommendation, Falk’s daughter was placed under the Baker Act law, which provides emergency health services, temporary detention and psychiatric evaluation for people in need. River Point Behavioral Health Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Privacy: Unprecedented Facebook URLs Dataset now Available for Academic Research through Social Science One

Gary King and Nathaniel Persily:

We are excited to announce that Social Science One and Facebook have completed, and are now making available to academic researchers, one of the largest social science datasets ever constructed. We processed approximately an exabyte (a quintillion bytes, or a billion gigabytes) of raw data from the platform.  The dataset itself contains a total of more than 10 trillion numbers that summarize information about 38 million URLs shared more than 100 times publicly on Facebook (between 1/1/2017 and 7/31/2019).  It also includes characteristics of the URLs (such as whether they were fact-checked or flagged by users as hate speech) and the aggregated data concerning the types of people who viewed, shared, liked, reacted to, shared without viewing, and otherwise interacted with these links. This dataset enables social scientists to study some of the most important questions of our time about the effects of social media on democracy and elections with information to which they have never before had access. The full codebook for the dataset is here.

Big Data Won’t Save You From Coronavirus

David Fickling:

That’s not a comforting thought. We live in an era where everything seems quantifiable, from our daily movements to our internet search habits and even our heartbeats. At a time when people are scared and seeking certainty, it’s alarming that the knowledge we have on this most important issue is at best an approximate guide to what’s happening.

“It’s so easy these days to capture data on anything, but to make meaning of it is not easy at all,” said John Carlin, a professor at the University of Melbourne specializing in medical statistics and epidemiology. “There’s genuinely a lot of uncertainty, but that’s not what people want to know. They want to know it’s under control.”

That’s most visible in the contradictory information we’re seeing around how many people have been infected, and what share of them have died. While those figures are essential for getting a handle on the situation, as we’ve argued, they’re subject to errors in sampling and measurement that are compounded in high-pressure, strained circumstances. The physical capacity to do timely testing and diagnosis can’t be taken for granted either, as my colleague Max Nisen has written.

Early case fatality rates for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome were often 40% or higher before settling down to figures in the region of 15% or less. The age of patients, whether they get sick in the community or in a hospital, and doctors’ capacity and experience in offering treatment can all affect those numbers dramatically.

Even the way that coronavirus cases are defined and counted has changed several times, said Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the University of New South Wales’s Biosecurity Research Program: From “pneumonia of unknown cause” in the early days, through laboratory-confirmed cases once a virus was identified, to the current standard that includes lung scans. That’s a common phenomenon during outbreaks, she said. 

Related: the hype cycle.

The Quantified Employee: How Companies Use Tech to Track Workers

Chandra Steele:

For the seven years he’d been a professional trucker, 25-year-old Trevor had let his own common sense drive his actions. But one night last November, he was answering instead to a government-mandated device his employer had installed in his truck—and it nearly ended him.

Trevor, who asked us to use only his first name, was traveling through a small town and keeping to the posted speed limit. As he hit a curve, he knew he should have slowed down sooner, but the electronic logging device (ELD) installed in his truck was ticking away. If he lost time, he’d have to find a truckstop and sleep there instead of at home. 

Within seconds, he was nearly a statistic. His truck soared off the road. The twisted wreck of the bed lay behind it, and the lumber it carried was scattered down the highway like popsicle sticks. Miraculously, Trevor walked away with only bruises. 

‘Lord of the Flies’: Fights, bullying, chaos upend San Francisco middle school

Heather Knight:

A group of sixth-graders is even organizing a walkout for Feb. 21 to demand a beefed-up wellness center staffed with qualified therapists or social workers, crisis training for security guards, clear and consistent behavior guidelines, and follow-through when students violate them.

The students’ demands are spot-on — and it’s ironic they know what’s needed better than the adults paid to lead them. While the San Francisco Unified School District faces deep deficits in the coming years, it must direct more funds to help traumatized students and seek the philanthropic support to do it.

Assemblyman Phil Ting, whose daughter attends Aptos, said he was “a little bit shocked” when he began hearing from her and other Aptos families about what kids are facing there.

“What’s more concerning is the response from the district and the response from the administration, where they don’t seem like they’re doing anything. They don’t seem to be adding resources,” Ting said.

“I don’t think that actually stating they’re supporting these policies actually means that anything will change” (DPI Teacher Mulligans continue)

Logan Wroge:

“I don’t think that actually stating they’re supporting these policies actually means that anything will change,” said Mark Seidenberg, a UW-Madison psychology professor. “I don’t take their statement as anything more than an attempt to defuse some of the controversy and some of the criticism that’s being directed their way.”

While there’s broad agreement phonics alone is not a panacea for producing skilled readers, the degree and intensity to which it is taught has long been debated.

Forty-one percent of students scored proficient or better in reading on a state assessment last year, the state ranks middle-of-the-pack on its scores for fourth graders on a national reading assessment, and Wisconsin continues to have the worst disparity in reading scores between black and white students nationwide — figures proponents of the science of reading point to when saying the state needs to change direction.

State Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, said he’s pleased with DPI’s statement but is taking it with “cautious optimism.”

“They’ve been reluctant to go along with what the science has said, but to their credit, they seem to be making the right moves right now,” said Thiesfeldt, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee.

Last month Thiesfeldt and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, called for an audit to examine methods of reading instruction used in Wisconsin schools, whether DPI consistently measures student achievement and how a required test on reading instruction for certain teachers affects licensing.

“If they are serious about wanting to make these changes, they should not be hesitant to have an outside group come in and evaluate what it is they’ve been doing,” Thiesfeldt said.

At a Capitol press conference Wednesday, a group of science of reading proponents called on DPI to create a new cabinet-level position dedicated to reading, provide more training and coaching opportunities for teachers related to reading instruction, and place greater emphasis on reading proficiency when rating schools on state report cards, among other changes they’re seeking.

Annysa Johnson:

Speaking at the Capitol Wednesday, Seidenberg said DPI “has done little to address literacy issues that have existed for decades.”

“We know the best ways to teach children to read,” he said. “Wisconsin is simply not using them, and our children are suffering.”

The group said a small number of districts, including Thorp and D.C. Everest near Wausau, have seen promising results after shifting their reading curricula. It is promoting its initiative with a new website, and Facebook Page, titled The Science of Reading — What I should have learned in College.

Under the group’s proposal, the new assistant superintendent would work with a reading science task force to identify resources for educators across the state, including training and technical support, classroom coaching and guides to high-quality curriculum and instructional resources.

In addition, supporters said, all schools of education in Wisconsin would be invited to revise their reading curricula, to bring them in line with the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teaching of Reading.

Advocates for more explicit phonics instruction have found powerful allies in parents of children with dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes it difficult for them to read. They have been pushing legislation across the country, including two taken up by the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday that would require schools to develop systems for identifying and serving dyslexic students and require each of the cooperative education organizations known as CESAs to hire dyslexia specialists.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Mr. Wroge’s opening is incorrect.

DPI has resisted substantive reading improvements, largely by giving mulligans to thousands of Wisconsin elementary reading teachers who failed to pass our only content knowledge exam: the Foundations of Reading.

My question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment.”

3 more Madison private schools to join statewide voucher program

Logan Wroge:

Three more private Madison schools intend to join the statewide voucher program in the fall, bringing the number of Dane County schools that plan to accept vouchers in 2020-21 to seven.

The state Department of Public Instruction released Thursday the lists of schools that have signed up for three programs that provide taxpayer-funded vouchers for income-eligible families to send their children to private schools.

The Madison schools joining the program in 2020-21 are Eastside Evangelical Lutheran Elementary, Holy Cross Lutheran School and Madinah Academy of Madison, which will be the first Islamic school in Dane County to join.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Malcontents

Boz:

There is an important, under appreciated group at every company who are never content no matter how much success they or the company has had. There is a set of people who care so deeply about the company and its products that they take any shortcomings personally. They are offended by bad products and angered by cultural deficiencies. They write passionate notes that nobody asked for and rally people on comment threads in groups they aren’t required to be a part of. They speak truth to power because they are righteous and speak for those who might otherwise have no voice. They aren’t afraid to rock the boat no matter how much the people around them value stability and they can’t be bothered to do it politely. Adam Grant calls these people “Disagreeable Givers.” I call these people malcontents. And I am one of them.

We malcontents are often confused with entitled whiners but that’s a mistake. Whiners and Malcontents may share the same disagreeable tactics when it comes to complaining, but whiners have poor motivation whereas we malcontents have the best intentions. Whiners want to change the establishment for their own benefit. We malcontents want the establishment to change for its own benefit. Unlike whiners, we malcontents often make personal sacrifices to effect positive change (even if we would rather not be forced to). We often do valuable, unsexy, and sometimes underappreciated work like fixing bugs, improving tools or processes, and helping others. When you see large shifts in culture, organizations, or technology not driven by extrinsic or top down forces there is usually a malcontent behind the scenes or leading the charge.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Introduction to Clifford Algebra

John Denker:

We begin by discussing why we should care about Clifford Algebra. (If you want an overview of how Clifford Algebra actually works, skip to section 2.)

1. It is advantageous to use Clifford algebra, because it gives a unified view of things that otherwise would need to be understood separately:

• The real numbers are a subalgebra of Clifford algebra: just throw away all elements with grade > 0. Alas this doesn’t tell us much beyond what we already knew.

• Ordinary vector algebra is another subalgebra of Clifford algebra. Alas, again, this doesn’t tell us much beyond what we already knew.

• The complex numbers are another subalgebra of Clifford algebra, as discussed in reference 1. This gives useful insight into complex numbers and into rotations in two dimensions.

• Quaternions can be understood in terms of another subalgebra of Clifford algebra, namely the subalgebra containing just scalars and bivectors. This is tremendously useful for describing rotations in three or more dimen

2019-nCoV — A Teaching Moment, Spring Term 2020

Geremie Barme:

The following remarks were addressed to senior high school students by a Chinese Language teacher at the Linyin Campus of High School No.7 in Chengdu, Sichuan province 四川成都七中林蔭校區 as schools opened in the second week of February after an extended Spring Festival holiday occasioned by the outbreak of the coronavirus (2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.

The text of the speech was posted online on 10 February and widely circulated before being ‘scrubbed’ from the mainland Chinese Internet by intellectual hygiene workers.

Are Algorithmically-Generated Term Papers the Next Big Challenge to Academic Integrity?

Jeffrey Young:

There’s a new application of AI in education, and educators aren’t going to like it.

A growing number of companies now let students outsource their homework to a bot—or, more specifically, an algorithm that writes term papers for them based on chosen keywords.

For instance, after subscribing to a service called EssaySoft, you can tell its essay generator to write a paper on, say, “symbolism in the great Gatsby” (or whatever you need for class). Then you enter how many words you want the final paper to be, select other specs from drop-down menus (set research depth to “low” if you want the machine to return an answer as fast as possible), and click “Generate Essay.”

“Within five years these essay generators will be good enough that [students who want to cheat] won’t have to hire people anymore. They can just have the essay generator do it.”

—Tricia Bertram Gallant, director of the Academic Integrity Office at the University of California San Diego

Girls sue to block participation of transgender athletes

Associated Press:

The families of three female high school runners filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from participating in girls sports.

Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School are represented by the conservative nonprofit organization Alliance Defending Freedom. They argue that allowing athletes with male anatomy to compete has deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities.

“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” said Smith, who is the daughter of former Major League pitcher Lee Smith. “That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field.”

The Jerks of Academe

Eric Schwitzgebel:

This morning you probably didn’t look in the mirror and ask, “Am I a jerk?” And if you did, I wouldn’t believe your answer. Jerks usually don’t know that they are jerks.

Jerks mostly travel in disguise, even from themselves. But the rising tide (or is it just the increasing visibility?) of scandal, grisly politics, bureaucratic obstructionism, and toxic advising in academe reveals the urgent need of a good wildlife guide by which to identify the varieties of academic jerk.

So consider what follows a public service of sorts. I offer it in sad remembrance of the countless careers maimed or slain by the beasts profiled below. I hope you will forgive me if on this occasion I use “he” as a gender-neutral pronoun.

The Surprising Science Behind Friendship

Andrea Petersen:

What does studying how animals relate to each other tell us about human friendships?

At its simplest, it’s just how critical quality social bonds and friendships are. In animals, the big measures that evolutionary biologists study are reproductive success, which they count as either how many babies you have or how long those babies live, and longevity, or how long you survive. Nonhuman primates have very structured hierarchies that they exist in, and everyone assumed that that must have more importance for how long you live and how many babies you have and how healthy they are. And it wasn’t. The most important thing was the strength of the social bonds, how positively and well and regularly an individual animal interacted with other animals. Scientists really couldn’t believe it.

How does friendship affect physical health?

Friendship literally improves your body’s cardiovascular functioning, how your immune system works, how you sleep. You can imagine the food you put in your body makes you healthy or not. But sitting in a coffee shop with someone and just chatting about what’s going on with your life, we always thought emotionally that made you feel good. But actually it really is doing much more.

A big study at Harvard of men across their lives from 20 to 80 found that the single best predictor of your health and happiness at 80 was not your wealth or your professional success. It was your relationships at 50.

“We definitely see science-based reading instruction as urgent in our – Madison – schools” (!)

Scott Girard:

The 2018-19 state Forward Exam, given to students in grades 3 through 8, showed 35% of students scored proficient or advanced on the English Language Arts portion. For black students, it was 10.1% and for Hispanic students, 16%.

Those scores come amid a nationwide, and more recently statewide, push for using the Science of Reading to educate students at an early age. That includes the use of phonics — the understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds — and connecting that knowledge to text.

As detailed in an Isthmus article this spring, the district and state have, until now, focused on so-called “balanced literacy,” an approach that mixes foundational skills education and phonics with group and individual work on reading and word study. Kvistad said they’ve heard the push for more phonics education from teachers throughout the review process.

“We want explicit, structured phonics,” Kvistad said. “Our teachers are saying they want that.”

Logan Wroge:

Morateck said new materials also provide clearer direction for teachers by grouping instructional components of literacy, such as grammar, into “text sets.”

“We actually know a little bit more about the science of reading and how to teach reading,” Kvistad said. “We know more now that reading actually has to be taught. Children don’t just come knowing that.”

This year, the district is doing a “field test” with materials from curriculum provider EL Education in five kindergarten classes at Allis and Gompers elementary schools.

Morateck said the point of the pilot is to learn about implementing new classroom lessons and what training will be necessary.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

School choice and the Milwaukee vote

David Blaska:

“School choice is detrimental to our public schools,” state Democrats say,  when the reality is that too many public schools are detrimental to learning. Why won’t Democrats tell the public that the state aid follows the student? Why do they insist on penalizing families for choosing what works best for their children?

Competition is the surest reformer

⇒ The Urban Milwaukee study shows that the weighted performance score for MPS traditional schools is 54.9 (“meets few expectations”) out of a perfect 100. For charter schools, it is 74.2 (“exceeds expectations”) and for choice schools it is 70.1 (“meets expectations”).

Urban Milwaukee concludes: “So long as MPS schools continue to ignore the evidence of success by choice and charter schools, it is likely they will continue to lose students to those schools.”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

U.S. Fertility Reaches All-Time Low as People Choose Things Other Than Children

Ronald Bailey:

The U.S. total fertility rate has dropped to below 1.73 births per woman, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. This record low edges out the previous U.S. fertility nadir of 1.74 births per woman back in 1976.

U.S. rates appear to be following the downward trend seen in other developed countries. The overall total fertility rate for the 28 members of the European Union is just under 1.6 births per woman; Japan is at 1.4, and Canada is 1.5.

In a 2010 study, University of Connecticut anthropologists Nicola Bulled and Richard Sosis found that fertility drops as female life expectancy increases. As global average life expectancy rose from 52.6 years in 1960 to 72.4 years today, the global total fertility rate fell by more than half, from 5 to 2.4 births per woman.

CDC US abortion data:

In 2016, 623,471 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 48 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2016 was 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 186 abortions per 1,000 live births.

Compared with 2015, the total number and rate of reported abortions fell by 2%, and the abortion ratio decreased by 1%. Additionally, from 2007 to 2016, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 24%, 26%, and 18%, respectively. In 2016, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2007-2016).

Madison School District staff bathroom use becomes an issue after complaint regarding transgender staff member at Allis

Scott Girard:

Should Madison Metropolitan School District staff use the same bathrooms as students?

That question has been discussed at the district’s central office over the past couple of weeks after a transgender teacher at Frank Allis Elementary School accused the district of implementing a transphobic policy. The teacher said staff have been asked to only use the school’s all-gender bathrooms following a complaint.

A letter published in Our Lives Magazine’s January issue from Vica Steel claims that she used the women’s bathroom across from her classroom beginning in January after coming out last March, but after receiving a complaint, the district asked her principal to implement a practice that bars all staff from using the same bathrooms as students.

Civics: Why reporters should help combat misleading opinion pieces

Alexander Russo:

Maybe you, like me, are long past caring very much what Diane Ravitch has to say about education. Seeing how much less frequently she’s quoted in education stories these days, I get the sense that I’m not alone.

For that reason, I was more than a little bit surprised to see that TIME magazine published a particularly misleading op-ed from the former George H.W. Bush administration education official without seeming to have given it the editing and fact-checking it so badly needed.

However, you don’t have to care about Ravitch or TIME or opinion journalism to be concerned about what I’m calling “copy and paste” opinion pieces.

Copy and paste op-eds are minimally edited, generally absent thoughtful consideration of complexities, and sometimes factually inaccurate. They are unfortunately pretty common.

They create a Wild West experience for readers, who don’t know that what they’re reading is misleading. They erode trust in news stories that are carefully reported and edited for accuracy and fairness. Occasionally, they blow up in media outlets’ faces.

This kind of thing has to stop. The torrent of polarizing opinion pieces has grown too toxic. And it’s not enough to call for more and better editing by short-staffed opinion sections.

Mumps outbreaks across England

Gov.uk:

Provisional data from Public Health England (PHE) show that there were 5,042 lab-confirmed cases of mumps in England in 2019, compared to 1,066 cases in 2018. This is the highest number of cases since 2009.

The rise in cases looks set to continue in 2020, with 546 confirmed cases in January 2020 compared to 191 during the same period in 2019.

The steep rise in cases in 2019 has been largely driven by outbreaks in universities and colleges. Many of the cases in 2019 were seen in the so-called ‘Wakefield cohorts’ – young adults born in the late nineties and early 2000s who missed out on the MMR vaccine when they were children. These cohorts are now old enough to attend college and university and are likely to continue fuelling outbreaks into 2020.

Mumps is a viral infection that used to be common in children before the introduction of the MMR vaccine.

It is most recognisable by the painful swelling of the glands at the side of the face, giving a person with mumps a distinctive ‘hamster face’ appearance. Other symptoms include headaches, joint pain and fever, which may develop a few days before the swelling. If you suspect that you or a family member has mumps, contact your GP.

California Gov. Newsom Wants To Halt School Physical Education Class Testing

CBS5:

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to pause physical education tests for students for three years due to concerns over bullying and the test discriminating against disabled and non-binary students. The move also comes after annual test results show a growing percentage of students scoring not healthy.

H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance, said the state has received complaints that the current examination’s measurement of body mass index is discriminatory to non-binary students. A measurement calculated from weight and height, BMI screenings require students to select “male” or “female,” he said.

Annual state reports of the fitness test since the 2014-2015 school year show a steady decline in the share of students scoring healthy, according to a review by The Associated Press. Students’ scores have particularly dropped in the category of the fitness test that measures “aerobic capacity” — which can be tested in a one-mile run or by other methods. Other categories also test for flexibility and exercises like push-ups.

In the last five years, the percentage of fifth graders scoring healthy in the aerobic category has dropped by 3.3 percentage points. In seventh and ninth grades, the drops are 4.4 percentage points and 3.8 percentage points, respectively. Meanwhile, the percentage of students identified as “needing improvement” and having a “health risk” went up: by 3.3 percentage points among fifth graders, 4.4 for seventh graders and 3.8 among ninth graders.

The Department of Education did not immediately comment on those results.

Mechanical Engineer Bill Nye Madison Appearance

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Nye hosted a science show from 1993-1998 and has also written eight science children’s books. The Emmy award-winner recently starred in the documentary, “Bill Nye: Science Guy,” which took viewers behind the scenes as Nye challenged individuals denying science, including climate change.

GS. Muse: Why Bill Nye Is Not A Scientist – And Why It Matters:

What Qualifies Someone To Be Called A Scientist?

In order to earn the privilege of calling yourself a “scientist” one normally has to have an earned PhD (or at least a Master’s) in the natural sciences. But as one geneticist that I know told me, even after earning his PhD, he still felt hesitant using the word “scientist” to describe himself. To be able to call yourself a “scientist” is a very high honor, and not one that those in the scientific community use lightly.

[Author’s Note: In my original writing of this article, I failed to give credit to scientists who have their Master’s degrees who have done incredible work in the scientific community, and deserve that respect and recognition. And for that, I am deeply sorry. I thought about it, but then honestly failed to mention it, as it was not relevant to the case of Bill Nye. — That said, many of the replies insist that Bill Nye is a scientist, simply because he has spent a lot of time talking about science on TV, and trying to educate people, but this objection simply is not valid.]

Wikipedia:

Nye began his career as a mechanical engineer for Boeing Corporation in Seattle, where he invented a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on 747 airplanes. In 1986, Nye left Boeing to pursue comedy, writing and performing jokes and bits for the local sketch television show Almost Live!, where he regularly conducted wacky science experiments. Nye aspired to become the next Mr. Wizard, and with the help of several producers, successfully pitched the children’s television program Bill Nye the Science Guy to KCTS-TV, Seattle’s public television station. The show—which proudly proclaimed in its theme song that “science rules!”—ran from 1993 to 1998 in national TV syndication. Known for its “high-energy presentation and MTV-paced segments,”[4] the program became a hit among kids and adults, was critically acclaimed and was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards, winning 19.

Cut the drama. The real story of the West in the 21st century is one of stalemate and stagnation.

Ross Douthat:

Everyone knows that we live in a time of constant acceleration, of vertiginous change, of transformation or looming disaster everywhere you look. Partisans are girding for civil war, robots are coming for our jobs, and the news feels like a multicar pileup every time you fire up Twitter. Our pessimists see crises everywhere; our optimists insist that we’re just anxious because the world is changing faster than our primitive ape-brains can process.

But what if the feeling of acceleration is an illusion, conjured by our expectations of perpetual progress and exaggerated by the distorting filter of the internet? What if we — or at least we in the developed world, in America and Europe and the Pacific Rim — really inhabit an era in which repetition is more the norm than invention; in which stalemate rather than revolution stamps our politics; in which sclerosis afflicts public institutions and private life alike; in which new developments in science, new exploratory projects, consistently underdeliver? What if the meltdown at the Iowa caucuses, an antique system undone by pseudo-innovation and incompetence, was much more emblematic of our age than any great catastrophe or breakthrough?

Literary criticism and the existential turn

Toril Moi:

For generations, literature students have been told never to treat characters as if they were real people.1 Academic literary theory is replete with warnings against committing this cardinal sin. We must not ask how many children Lady Macbeth had. We must not think of characters as “our friends for life,” or feel that they “remain as real to us as our familiar friends.” We must not talk about the “unconscious feelings of a character,” for that would be to fall into the “trap of the realistic fallacy.”

If those are thoughts academic critics mustn’t think, then here are things we are urged to bear in mind: We must never forget that “le personnage … n’est personne,” that the person on the page is nobody. We must always remind ourselves that characters “exist only as words on a printed page,” and therefore “have no consciousness.” Should the “feeling that they are living people” arise, we must resolutely repress it, for it is an “illusion.” We must remember that if characters fascinate us, it is only because they “invit[e] cathexis with ontological difference.”

Standardized Testing Task Force Report

University of California Academic Senate:

In July 2018, President Napolitano wrote to 2017-18 Academic Senate Chair Shane White asking the Academic Senate to examine the current use of standardized testing for admission to the University of California (UC or the University); review the testing principles developed in 2002′ by the Board of

Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) and revised by BOARS in 20102; and determine whether any changes in policies on use of test scores are needed.

In early 2019, 2018-19 Senate Chair Robert May empaneled an eighteen-member Standardized Testing Task Force (STTF) to consider whether the University and its students are best served by UC’s current testing practices, a modification of current practices, another testing approach, or the elimination of testing. Chair May asked the STTF to develop a set of actionable recommendations to the Academic

Council; to approach its work analytically, without prejudice or presupposition; and to consult with experts from a broad range of perspectives. The STTF met 12 times between February 2019 and January 2020, and empaneled a six-member subcommittee to draft specific recommendations.

Chair May’s charge to the STTF identified the followmg questions:

How well do UC’s current stancfardized testing practices assess entering high school students for UC readiness?

How well do UC current standardized testing practices predict student success in the context of its comprehensive review process?

Do standardized testing assessments fairly promote diversity and opportunity for students applying to UC?

Does UC ‘s use of standardized tests increase or contract the eligibility pool compared to two other possibilities: I) cfe-weighting standardized tests; or 2) eliminating the testing requirement?

Should UC testing practices be improved, changed, or eliminated?

By way of background, the University admits students through a two-stage process: first, a determination of eligibility for the University overall, then selection by a specific campus using comprehensive review. Test scores are used to establish eligibility for some (but not all) students and are also used in admissions decisions. Some campuses also use test scores for purposes other than admissions, such as awarding of scholarships, placement in classes, identification of students who might benefit from extra support, and admissions to honors programs. Standardized test scores tend to exhibit differences along lines of race and class, with students who belong to many of the demographic groups historically excluded from educational (and other) opportunities on average receiving lower scores.

How well do UC ‘s current standardized testing practices assess entering high school students for UC readiness? How well do UC current standardized testing practices predict student success in the context of its comprehensive review process?

The STTF found that standardized test scores aid in predicting important aspects of student success, including undergraduate grade point average (UGPA), retention, and completion. At UC, test scores are currently better predictors of first-year GPA than high school grade point average (HSGPA), and about as good at predicting first-year retention, UGPA, and graduation.3 For students within any given (HSGPA) band, higher standardized test scores correlate with a higher freshman UGPA, a higher graduation UGPA,

What Do We Want History to Do to Us?

Zadie Smith:

Two women are bound at the waist, tied to each other. One is a slim, white woman, in antebellum underskirt and corset. A Scarlett O’Hara type. She is having the air squeezed out of her by a larger, bare-breasted black woman, who wears a kerchief around her head. To an American audience, I imagine, this black woman could easily read as “Mammy.” To a viewer from the wider diaspora—to a black Briton, say—she is perhaps less likely to invoke the stereotypical placidity of “Mammy,” hewing closer to the fury of her mythological opposite, the legendary Nanny of the Maroons: escaped slave, leader of peoples. Her hand is held up forcefully, indicating the direction in which she is determined to go, but the rope between her and the white woman is pulled taut: both struggle under its constriction. And in this drama of opposing forces, through this brutal dialectic, aspects of each woman’s anatomy are grotesquely eroticized by her adversary: buttocks for the black woman, breasts for her white counterpart. Which raises the question: Who tied this constricting rope? A third party? And, if the struggle continues, will the white woman eventually be extinguished? Will the black woman be free? That is, if the white woman is on the verge of extinguishment at all. Maybe she’s on the verge of something else entirely: definition. That’s why we cinch waists, isn’t it? To achieve definition?

The two women are traced in Kara Walker’s familiar, cartoonish line, which seems to combine in a single gesture the comic brevity of Charles Schulz, the polemical pamphleteering of William Hogarth, and the oneiric revelations of Francisco Goya and Otto Dix. The drawing was made, according to Walker, in “1994ish…when I was 24ish,” which is to say at the very beginning of her career, when her drawings were still largely unknown, and few people knew or could guess at the busy chalk portraits that lurked on the other side of the newly famous—and soon-to-be notorious—paper cutouts. The sentence underneath the image reads: what I want history to do to me. Its meaning is unsettling and unsettled, existing in a gray zone between artist’s statement, perverse confession, and ambivalent desire. The sentence pulls in two directions, giving no slack, tense like the rope. And just as the eye finds no comfortable place to rest in the image—passing from figure to figure seeking resolution, desiring a satisfying end to a story so strikingly begun—so the sentence is partial and in unresolved motion, referring upward to the image, which only then refers us back down to the words, in endless, discomfiting cycle.

Training teachers to fail

Jasmine Lane & Jon Gustafson:

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the reading crisis in U.S. schools. Careful reporting has pinpointed a common problem: Many newly-trained and veteran teachers are not aware of the latest research on early reading instruction or comprehension. In 2016, NCTQ reviewed the syllabi of 820 teacher preparation programs across the country and found that only 39 percent of programs were teaching the basics of effective reading instruction. Four years later that number of programs has risen to 51 percent. While this signals a positive trend in adopting evidence-informed reading instruction, the fact remains that 49 percent of incoming teachers do not have the tools to effectively teach reading.

After examining our experiences at two well-known teacher training programs in Minnesota and looking at what we were—and were not—taught about the basics of literacy, we have come to the same conclusion: We were not prepared for the responsibility of the job. This failure to prepare teachers, we believe, should be a red flag for the current system in place for how we train and place teachers into classrooms.

Restraint and seclusion in Wisconsin schools allowed, but not tracked

Samantha West:

When Amber McGinley looks at her 9-year-old son, she sees a kind and loving little boy who loves helping her in the kitchen, doing puzzles and playing with electronic devices.

She also sees a little boy who faces significant challenges at school.

The third-grader has autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, sensory processing disorder and vestibular issues, and he receives special education services at Ferber Elementary.

He sometimes becomes aggressive and violent when he’s upset or overly stimulated. He yells and throws objects. He threatens and hits and scratches and pushes his teachers.

When that happens, school staff may physically restrain him or seclude him in a room separate from his classmates.

On those days, he comes home from school withdrawn, sometimes with cuts and bruises. Teachers and administrators tell McGinley their actions were the only option, as he was presenting a “clear, present and imminent risk” to physical safety — the only time seclusion and restraint can be used, according to Wisconsin law.

Texas State assignment asks future teachers to argue ‘whiteness is a construct of privilege’

Jeremiah Poff:

Students studying to become teachers at Texas State University who take the course “Public Education in a Multicultural Society” are required to complete a series of assignments on “whiteness.”

The class, Culture and Instruction 3310: Public Education in a Multicultural Society, is “designed to give students an overview of public schooling in America in terms of multicultural, historical, legal and political contexts,” according to the course description.

“Prospective teachers will examine the concepts of professionalism, effective teaching, educational philosophy, curriculum, school organization and legal issues of teaching in a culturally diverse world.”

Civics: Suspected of spying for just being Chinese: US government rejects security clearance for Chinese-Americans

Peter Waldman:

For days after his FBI interrogation, Wei Su wondered: where had the microphone been? The agents had played him a scratchy recording of a conversation he’d had with a friend at a restaurant in Eatontown, New Jersey. Both men found it strange when an unasked-for pot of hot tea arrived at their table, but only later did Su, an award-winning scientist for the United States Army’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, form a hypothesis. He thinks the teapot was bugged.
On the recording, Su says, he can be heard telling his friend in Chinese to always use English when they spoke on the phone because the government was monitoring his calls. “When you work with us, you need to be careful,” he warned. Su says the FBI demanded to know if “us” was a reference to Chinese intelligence. No, he answered, “us” simply meant his employer, the army.
Nevertheless, questions about Su’s loyalty would propel a multi-year investigation that, in 2016, prompted the US Department of Defence to revoke the top-secret security clearance he’d held for 24 years. He retired the next year: humiliated, angry and, the Pentagon later admitted, completely innocent.

Don’t sell my data! We finally have a law for that

Geoffrey A. Fowler:

With apologies to the Beastie Boys: You gotta fight for your right to privacy.

America’s first broad data privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, went into effect Jan. 1. These days, a wild range of companies gather and sell your data, from Ford and Chipotle to Uber and Walmart. Now the CCPA gives you the power to say cut it out.

And while the law technically covers only California residents, Americans living anywhere can use the CCPA to reset their relationships with more than a dozen major businesses (and counting).

Just know that some companies are going to make you jump through hoops. To help, I’m breaking the CCPA down into bites — and collecting below a growing list of links you can use to take action.

I’ve been learning how to use the law by filing requests to more than 100 companies. To be covered by the CCPA, companies have to make more than $25 million per year or collect data on more than 50,000 people. They’re not incentivized to make it easy: Amazon hid critical links in legal gobbledygook. Marketing data company LiveRamp asked me to submit a selfie holding my own ID, kidnap-victim style. Walmart asked for my astrological sign to confirm my identity. (Really.) And one business left me a voice mail, but the message included no return number … or even the name of the company. (Please call back!)

Can Journalism Be Saved?

Nicholas Lemann:

The question arises at this point, why are there so many black sheep in journalism? Why so many “fakes”? Why is the epidemic of “yellow journalism” so prevalent? This phrase is applied to newspapers which delight in sensations, crime, scandal, smut, funny pictures, caricatures and malicious or frivolous gossip about persons and things of no public concern.

This was Horace White, one of American journalism’s most esteemed elder statesmen, writing in 1904. He continued:

When I entered journalism, the press of the country, with only one exception that I can now recall, was clean, dignified and sober minded. It had various aims in life, aims political, literary, scientific, social, religious, reformatory and mixed, which were deemed by the conductors of the papers advantageous to the commonweal. To make money by pandering to the vices and follies of the community, and thus adding to the mass of vice and folly, was generally unthinkable.

Journalists are eternally nostalgic, and alarmed at how things are now. Jill Abramson’s Merchants of Truth, published last year, is modeled on David Halberstam’s The Powers That Be, published in 1979. Abramson remembers Halberstam’s book as a description of a “golden age” in journalism—the 1960s and 1970s. That attitude is typical of members of the generation now past fifty (including me), who find ourselves longing for a period some decades back in the past. Three other books under review here—Dan Bernstein’s on The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California; Frederic Hill and Stephens Broening’s on The Baltimore Sun; and Dan Kennedy’s on (mostly) The Boston Globe—also use the term “golden age” to describe the newspaper business during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

School board candidates reflect on school climate ahead of primary

Jenny Peek:

It’s been a difficult year for the Madison school district.

A barrage of high-profile incidents has taken over the narrative of what it’s like in Madison’s schools, from the use of racist language, to a teacher being arrested for attempting to produce child pornography, to issues of safety at a district middle school.

The district is also in the midst of changing leadership as Matthew Gutiérrez takes over as superintendent, following Jennifer Cheatham, who announced her departure last May.

Amid the change and turmoil, voters will begin the process of electing two new members to the Madison school board. A primary for the general election is Feb. 18, and will include a narrowing down of candidates for the board’s Seat 6, currently held by Kate Toews, who is not seeking re-election.

All those running for Seat 6 — Maia Pearson, Christina Gomez Schmidt and Karen Ball — have children in Madison’s schools. The top two vote-getters will face off in the general election on April 7, where they will join incumbent Nicki Vander Meulen and challenger Wayne Strong, the two candidates running for Seat 7, on the ballot. Savion Castro, who was appointed to Seat 2 in July, is running unopposed in a special election.

Leading up to the primary, Isthmus wanted to know what each of the candidates in contested races thought about the overwhelmingly negative press the district has been getting in the last year — and how it’s affecting students. We also asked candidates to explain how, if elected, they would address the critical issues facing Madison’s schools, while also ensuring students feel valued and supported.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Much more on the 2020 Madison School Board election, here.

This Wisconsin student earned her high school diploma and an associate degree in the same year. How’d she do it?

Samantha West:

Thanks to a Fox Valley Technical College program called Start College Now, Pingel was able to get a head start on her college education. The program is designed to give high school students a taste of higher education by simultaneously earning high school and college credit.

But it’d be safe to say Pingel got more than just a taste of college. On Friday, she’ll graduate from FVTC with an associate degree in business management — just six months after she graduated from Chilton High School, and completely debt-free.

“It almost doesn’t feel real. Less than six months ago, I was having a graduation party for my high school graduation,” Pingel said. “Now we’re talking about celebrating my college graduation and I’m only 18 years old.” 

While it’s currently rare to see a student graduate as quickly as Pingel, technical college officials say it won’t stay that way for much longer, given that students are encouraged to take as many dual-credit and Advanced Placement courses as they can.

“It’s starting to get to be sort of the goal,” said Mary Hansen, director of FVTC’s office of K-12 Partnerships.

The college currently has dual-credit partnerships at 50 high schools and offers about 500 dual-credit courses every year. 

Dual credit courses are modeled after real college classes and are taught in high schools and by high school teachers, who are trained by the college. The Start College Now program, on the other hand, allows high school students to take real college classes that also count as high school credit.

I wonder what, if anything Madison’s taxpayer supported $20K/student K-12 system might offer?

Madison’s administration, has, in the past resisted credit for non District courses.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Inside Singapore’s oldest Islamic religious school, where they put faith in Apple iPads

Ilya Sholihyn:

About a thousand years ago, the Muslim world flourished with math, science, medicine, culture and economics.

It’s unrecognisable now, but Baghdad in the 8th to 13th centuries was an intellectual centre, a hub of learning that hosted the greatest collection of knowledge in a grand library known as the House of Wisdom. Muslim scholars gave the world devices that could read the stars, surgical instruments, and algebra, named after the Arabic word “al-jabr”, which translates to the “reunion of broken parts” in English.

But as religious conservatism and fundamentalism slowly took hold, the scientific method was tossed in the trunk, argues Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, while regular conflict in the Middle East didn’t exactly help push things forward.

Centuries later and over 7,000 kilometres away from the Middle East, an Islamic institution holds a sturdy belief that a conservative, religious education system doesn’t need to prohibit modern, cutting-edge technology. In fact, quite the opposite: Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah has fully embraced the cult of Apple — so much so that it has scored the official title of being an Apple Distinguished School. It’s a rare title attained by just 400 schools around the world, including Nanyang Girls’ High School and Singapore American School.

Loyalty (to diversity) oaths are back

Joanne Jacobs:

Many universities now require applicants for faculty jobs to submit a statement declaring their allegiance to “diversity.”

Like the anti-communist loyalty oaths of the McCarthy Era, it’s a political litmus test, writes Abigail Thompson, University of California–Davis math chair, in the Wall Street Journal. Applicants must pledge to treat people “not as unique individuals but as representatives of their gender and ethnic identities.”

At Berkeley, some departments will not consider a job candidates’ qualifications unless they submit a sufficiently detailed and enthusiastic plan to advance diversity, writes Robby Soave on Reason.

China influence scandal rocks Berlin university

David Matthews:

A leading German university has been plunged into scandal after it emerged that it had signed a contract binding it to abide by Chinese law while accepting hundreds of thousands of euros from China to set up a professorship to establish a Chinese teacher training programme.

German lawmakers have criticised the Free University of Berlin (FU) over the terms, which critics fear give the Chinese government leverage to prevent teaching about subjects such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and Tibet.

The contract, obtained by the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel, allows the Chinese side to reduce or halt funding if any element of the programme contravenes Chinese law.

Other clauses also place the FU at the mercy of political pressure from China, critics argue. Each year, Hanban – the agency that runs controversial Confucius Institutes in Western universities and is the contractual partner of the FU – is allowed to revoke the agreement at its discretion, according to Tagesspiegel. If the FU wants to end the agreement, however, the conditions are more onerous.

The revelations have drawn condemnation from some German lawmakers. “The interference of China at FU Berlin clearly shows how China envisages ‘cooperation’ with our educational institutions. Independence of science is one of the most important freedoms and must be guaranteed,” tweeted Renata Alt, a federal parliamentarian for the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Civics: For decades, the CIA read the encrypted communications of allies and adversaries.

Greg Miller:

For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret.

The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II. Flush with cash, it became a dominant maker of encryption devices for decades, navigating waves of technology from mechanical gears to electronic circuits and, finally, silicon chips and software.

The Swiss firm made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and even the Vatican.

But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.

The decades-long arrangement, among the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War, is laid bare in a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation obtained by The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, in a joint reporting project.

The Disneyfication of a University

Dane Kennedy:

The culture that Disney has crafted for us is not, it should be said, the high culture of the arts that the poet Matthew Arnold described as “sweetness and light.” Nor is it the anthropological notion of culture—a system of meaning that shapes social behavior. Rather, it is corporate culture, a creature that has become all the rage in the business world—and now, it seems, is burrowing its way into universities. Its professed aim is to instill a sense of shared purpose among employees, but its real objective is far more coercive and insidious.

Our president is rumored to have forked over three to four million dollars to the Disney Institute to improve our culture (he refuses to reveal the cost). A select group of faculty and staff, those identified as opinion leaders, are being offered all-expenses paid trips to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando “to gain first-hand insight into Disney’s approach to culture.” For everyone else, the university is conducting culture training workshops that run up to two hours. All staff and managers are required to attend. Faculty are strongly “encouraged” to participate, and some contract faculty, who have little job security, evidently have been compelled to do so.

I attended one of these workshops. It was a surreal experience. About a hundred mostly sullen university employees—maintenance workers, administrative staff, faculty members, and more—filled a ballroom. Two workshop leaders strained to gin up the crowd’s enthusiasm with various exhortations and exercises, supplemented by several slickly produced videos. The result was a cross between a pep rally and an indoctrination camp.

Civics: Can Journalism Be Saved?

Nicholas Lemann:

The question arises at this point, why are there so many black sheep in journalism? Why so many “fakes”? Why is the epidemic of “yellow journalism” so prevalent? This phrase is applied to newspapers which delight in sensations, crime, scandal, smut, funny pictures, caricatures and malicious or frivolous gossip about persons and things of no public concern.

This was Horace White, one of American journalism’s most esteemed elder statesmen, writing in 1904. He continued:

When I entered journalism, the press of the country, with only one exception that I can now recall, was clean, dignified and sober minded. It had various aims in life, aims political, literary, scientific, social, religious, reformatory and mixed, which were deemed by the conductors of the papers advantageous to the commonweal. To make money by pandering to the vices and follies of the community, and thus adding to the mass of vice and folly, was generally unthinkable.

Journalists are eternally nostalgic, and alarmed at how things are now. Jill Abramson’s Merchants of Truth, published last year, is modeled on David Halberstam’s The Powers That Be, published in 1979. Abramson remembers Halberstam’s book as a description of a “golden age” in journalism—the 1960s and 1970s. That attitude is typical of members of the generation now past fifty (including me), who find ourselves longing for a period some decades back in the past. Three other books under review here—Dan Bernstein’s on The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California; Frederic Hill and Stephens Broening’s on The Baltimore Sun; and Dan Kennedy’s on (mostly) The Boston Globe—also use the term “golden age” to describe the newspaper business during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

95%-ile isn’t that good

Dan Luu:

Reaching 95%-ile isn’t very impressive because it’s not that hard to do. I think this is one of my most ridiculable ideas. It doesn’t help that, when stated nakedly, that sounds elitist. But I think it’s just the opposite: most people can become (relatively) good at most things.

Note that when I say 95%-ile, I mean 95%-ile among people who participate, not all people (for many activities, just doing it at all makes you 99%-ile or above across all people). I’m also not referring to 95%-ile among people who practice regularly. The “one weird trick” is that, for a lot of activities, being something like 10%-ile among people who practice can make you something like 90%-ile or 99%-ile among people who participate.

This post is going to refer to specifics since the discussions I’ve seen about this are all in the abstract, which turns them into Rorschach tests. For example, Scott Adams has a widely cited post claiming that it’s better to be a generalist than a specialist because, to become “extraordinary”, you have to either be “the best” at one thing or 75%-ile at two things. If that were strictly true, it would surely be better to be a generalist, but that’s of course exaggeration and it’s possible to get a lot of value out of a specialized skill without being “the best”; since the precise claim, as written, is obviously silly and the rest of the post is vague handwaving, discussions will inevitably devolve into people stating their prior beliefs and basically ignoring the content of the post.

Personally, in every activity I’ve participated in where it’s possible to get a rough percentile ranking, people who are 95%-ile constantly make mistakes that seem like they should be easy to observe and correct. “Real world” activities typically can’t be reduced to a percentile rating, but achieving what appears to be a similar level of proficiency seems similarly easy.

We’ll start by looking at Overwatch (a video game) in detail because it’s an activity I’m familiar with where it’s easy to get ranking information and observe what’s happening, and then we’ll look at some “real world” examples where we can observe the same phenomena, although we won’t be able to get ranking information for real world examples.

Harvard Leads U.S. Colleges That Received $1 Billion From China

Janet Lorin & Brandon Kochkodin:

Trade tensions between Beijing and Washington have been building for years, leading the Trump administration to label the Asian nation “a threat to the world.” Yet the tally of gifts and contracts from China to U.S. universities since the start of 2013 is approaching $1 billion.

About 115 colleges got monetary gifts, contracts or both from sources in mainland China in the six and a half years through June, according to a Bloomberg analysis of U.S. government data. The leader was Harvard University, which pulled in $93.7 million, the majority as gifts. The University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania were second and third. 

Commentary on Federalism, the Education Bureaucracy, Spending & Results

Robby Soave:

The Obama administration in 2009 pumped $3 billion into a program that awarded an extra $2 million to underperforming public schools, so long as they made certain reforms. The money came from the School Improvement Grants initiative. And yet, according to a study by the education department published at the start of 2017, “Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any [School Improvement Grant]-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.”

Placing virtually all K-12 funding into the hands of states and school districts would essentially cut the department’s responsibilities in half—a move in the direction that DeVos has pushed for with some success.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Edgewood High School drops lawsuit against Madison, plans to apply for field lights

Emily Hamer:

The lawsuit alleged that the city discriminated against the private Catholic school on religious grounds by treating it differently than other high schools.

The city said Edgewood’s master plan prohibited the school from hosting games on its field, but Madison’s public high schools’ games were allowed because they do not have master plans. Madison’s City Council approved repeal of the Edgewood’s master plan in January, paving the way for daytime games but leaving the possibility of night games an open question.

Commentary on Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 School District 2020 Referendum & Spending Plans

Logan Wroge:

“I appreciate the cuts in central office because I want more people in the classroom,” said board member Nicki Vander Meulen.

Ruppel said the proposed reduction of school staff, which would be about 35 positions across a district that employs 4,000 people, is in response to expected short-term drops in enrollment due to lower birth rates, while still allowing schools to be staffed to reach optimal class sizes.

But under the two-budget scenario, which is partway through the planning process, base-wage bumps and new money for the district’s equity programs could vary depending on the outcome of a referendum.

….

In recent years, Madison School District referendums have passed with relative ease. Voters approved the last four referendums by at least a 2-to-1 margin.

The district has also found “broad support” (dive into the details) for both referendums proposed for the presidential election ballot, and an external poll of likely voters in November suggests the majority of voters in the district would support the referendums.

Drafts of both budgets will be released in April. The School Board will then take a preliminary vote on the spending plans in June before a final vote in the fall.

Notes, links and some data on Madison’s planned 2020 referendum.

“Madison spends just 1% of its budget on maintenance while Milwaukee, with far more students, spends 2%” – Madison’s CFO at a recent 2020 referendum presentation.

Projected enrollment drop means staffing cuts coming in Madison School District

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Seven-Year Auto Loan: America’s Middle Class Can’t Afford Its Cars

Ben Eisen & Adrienne Roberts:

Walk into an auto dealership these days and you might walk out with a seven-year car loan.

That means monthly payments that last well past when the brake pads give out and potentially beyond when the car gets traded in for a new one. About a third of auto loans for new vehicles taken in the first half of 2019 had terms of longer than six years, according to credit-reporting firm Experian PLC. A decade ago, that number was less than 10%.

China’s must-have social media app WeChat has endless functionality — but its downsides are pushing some people to quit.

Lin Qiqing:

In China, you can call a cab, get bubble tea delivered to your door, and even apply to get divorced all on the same social media app: WeChat. But that’s not enough to win over Shanghai lawyer Zhu.

In the seven years since WeChat was released by internet giant Tencent, it has seeped into almost every aspect of daily Chinese life, and now boasts over 1 billion monthly users worldwide — just short of the size of China’s total population. Zhu is one in a small minority of smartphone users who has never tried it.

“I hope to create more of a challenge when the government tries to map our big data,” 36-year-old Zhu, who did not want to give her real name for privacy reasons, tells Sixth Tone. The WeChat-objector lives the life of a Luddite, without e-commerce giant Alibaba’s mobile payment app Alipay or ride-hailing app Didi, which both require registration using a phone number tied to the user’s ID. “I know my data will be collected somehow in the end, but I just want to have more dignity,” she says, linking her heightened concern for privacy to her legal education.

The Most Important Skill of the Future is Being ‘Indistractable’

Nir Eyal:

I know how distractions work from the inside. For over a decade, I’ve helped tech companies build products to keep you clicking. In fact, I wrote the book about it in 2014: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. I wrote Hooked for companies who wanted to help their customers build healthy habits, like going to the gym regularly and eating right. But in the process of researching the book, I found that some products drew some people in too much, including me.

I remember sitting with my daughter one afternoon doing activities from a book written to help daddies and daughters bond. One exercise consisted of asking each other the following question: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Between the moment I asked the question and when my daughter could answer, I felt a buzz in my pocket. A work email diverted my attention.

“Daddy?” she queried.

“Just a second,” I grunted. “I need to respond to one thing.” My eyes were glued to my phone, my fingers were tapping away at a response.

She is the product of an education system that cultivate and rewards stupidity.

Bookworm room:

At the K-12 level, education is lousy for several reasons.

First, the education model is the worst way to teach children. Few students learn by sitting down, being lectured to, and then going home and struggling with homework. I highly recommend the Montessori approach, for Maria Montessori looked at how children learn, rather than how adults think they ought to be taught.

Second, K-12 education is bedeviled by every stupid leftist trend, from the “whole word” approach to reading that left a generation illiterate to the insistence on bringing transgender sexuality to kindergarteners.

Third — and there are wonderful and notable exceptions to this problem — women’s lib meant that women at the top of their class were no longer limited to teaching, nursing, and secretarial work. They went on to become high-paying professionals. Most teachers are now drawn from the bottom third of any college class.

At the college and university level, the problem is that these institutions are leftist indoctrination classes. They have little time to teach reasoning and knowledge. They’re too busy shaping little Marxists to go out into the world and support Bernie Sanders.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

No Lux or Veritas: how Yale trades “light and truth” for business in China

Hana Davis:

Last February, Yale President Peter Salovey traveled to China to meet with alumni and strengthen Yale’s research ties with Chinese institutions. This came amid allegations that a University geneticist designed the data used by Chinese state police to surveil and oppress over one million Uighurs, an ethnically Turkic Muslim minority from China’s Xinjiang province. Salovey has not explicitly commented on this controversy, reaffirming Yale’s “steadfast commitment” to Chinese students in a rare political statement three months later.

Just over a year ago, in November 2018, Yale hosted a panel titled “China 2049 — New Era or New Threat?” a discussion on the future of Sino-American relations. Moderated by Financial Times Asia Editor Jamil Anderlini, part of the conversation addressed freedom of expression within China’s international censorship machine. Anderlini asked President Salovey if the University might one day invite the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan religious leader, to speak on campus. According to the News report at the time, “Salovey answered that while Yale’s policies of free speech would prevent them from barring a speaker, the administration would still recognize the action as being offensive to the Chinese Communist Party and would have to manage protests to prevent any voices from being smothered.”

In a move received with great pride by University administration, then-Chinese President Hu Jintao delivered a key policy address at Yale on a historic trip to the U.S. in 2006. “I think we’re doing very well,” University President Richard Levin told the News at the time. “The fact that we were chosen by the president of China to be the site for his only campus visit does reinforce the sense that Yale is more deeply committed than any of our peer institutions.” One year later, a group of 100 Yale faculty, students and staff were invited by President Hu on an official 10-day tour of his country. Levin, who was president of Yale until 2013, went on this trip as well.

While time and changes in Yale leadership separate the above examples, together, they seem to illustrate three critical realities: That Yale is reluctant to speak out when an important alumni and donor contributes to a contentious issue, that the University prioritizes China’s good graces and that the public defense of human rights is apparently negotiable when the country’s economic potential comes into play.

Civics: James Carville is right. He’s also to blame

Stephen Miller:

He then set his sights on the New York Times itself, in particular, Binyamin Appelbaum, the bearded Bond villain who grilled Pete Buttigieg over Canadian bread prices and became an instant meme:

‘I want to give you an example of the problem here. A few weeks ago, Binyamin Appelbaum, an economics writer for the New York Times, posted a snarky tweet about how LSU canceled classes for the National Championship game. And then he said, do the “Warren/Sanders free public college proposals include LSU, or would it only apply to actual schools?” You know how fucking patronizing that is to people in the South or in the middle of the country? First, LSU has an unusually high graduation rate, but that’s not the point. It’s the goddamn smugness. This is from a guy who lives in New York and serves on the Times editorial board and there’s not a single person he knows that doesn’t pat him on the back for that kind of tweet. He’s so fucking smart. Appelbaum doesn’t speak for the Democratic party, but he does represent the urbanist mindset. We can’t win the Senate by looking down at people. The Democratic party has to drive a narrative that doesn’t give off vapors that we’re smarter than everyone or culturally arrogant.’

Carville was almost immediately excoriated by hoards of online Chapo-Bernie bros, but something tells me that the guy who got that Arkansas hillbilly elected president after 12 years of Republican rule knows a bit more about how to win elections and capture hearts. He is absolutely right about the cultural state of his party and its supportive media, as evidenced by Don Lemon, Rick Wilson and Wajahat Ali on CNN poking the yokels outside of New York City. Carville is right to call his party to task for pushing the woke issue of the day on Twitter instead of discussing real problems real people are facing.

The problem for James Carville, though, is he’s also to blame for the state of the party. He fostered a reputation for years as an underhanded and ruthless political operative; a sort of Roger Stone or Steve Bannon of the left. This is the same James Carville who defended Bill Clinton with the famous line about dragging a dollar bill through a trailer park — a reference to Paula Jones filing suit against Clinton which ultimately led to a special prosecutor and impeachment. Carville was a staunch ‘defend at all costs’ Clintonista that helped weaponize a media narrative against accusers such as Jones, and victims such as Monica Lewinsky.

Carville himself occupies a warm spot on the straight line of history that can be traced from the Clinton presidency to the Trump presidency, and much of how Trump was defended over the course of his impeachment by his party and his base is taken straight from the Clinton playbook. He’s a key figure in the coarsening of American politics, and a reason why the tribes fight to the death online over the conch on Twitter on a daily basis.

In 2016, Carville acted as a volunteer surrogate for Hillary Clinton, rebuffing everything from the Clinton Foundation’s shady associations to Hillary spilling classified information from an unsecured private server.

First Harvard, Now Yale. Law Students Want Paul Weiss to #DropExxon

Karen Sloan:

Students from two of the county’s most elite law schools have banded together to launch a national campaign to pressure Paul Weiss to drop ExxonMobil as a client.

A group of Harvard and Yale law students are asking counterparts at other law schools to sign a pledge that they will not interview for summer associate positions or work for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison until the firm no longer represents the oil and gas giant. They say the firm’s representation of Exxon in a series of climate change lawsuits makes it complicit in the planet’s destruction.

“As future lawyers, we have a choice,” the pledge reads. “Will we commit ourselves to enabling corporations to continue putting human civilization at risk of climate catastrophe? Or will we dedicate our careers to making a positive impact in our communities and helping build a more just and sustainable future?”

Digitization and Divergence: Online School Ratings and Segregation in America

Sharique Hasan and Anuj Kumar:

We analyze whether widespread online access to school-performance information affected economic and social segregation in America. We leverage the staged rollout of GreatSchools.org school ratings from 2006–2015 to answer this question. Across a range of outcomes and specifications, we find that the mass availability of school ratings has accelerated divergence in housing values, income distributions and education levels as well as the racial and ethnic composition across communities. Affluent and more educated families were better positioned to leverage this new information to capture educational opportunities in communities with the best schools. An unintended consequence of better information was less, rather than more, equity in education.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Teens have figured out how to mess with Instagram’s tracking algorithm

Alfred Ng:

Like about a billion other people, 17-year-old Samantha Mosley spent her Saturday afternoon perusing Instagram. 

She was taking a glance at the Explore tab, a feature on Instagram that shows you posts tailored for your interests based on algorithms that track your online activities and target posts to your feed. 

But unlike many of Instagram’s users, Mosley and her high school friends in Maryland had figured out a way to fool tracking by the Facebook-owned social network. On the first visit, her Explore tab showed images of Kobe Bryant. Then on a refresh, cooking guides, and after another refresh, animals. 

“I’ve never looked at animals on this account,” Mosley mentioned in Washington, DC. At the hacker conference Shmoocon, along with her father, Russell Mosley, she’d just given a presentation on how teens were keeping their accounts private from Instagram.

Facial Recognition Moves Into a New Front: Schools

Daley Alba:

Jim Shultz tried everything he could think of to stop facial recognition technology from entering the public schools in Lockport, a small city 20 miles east of Niagara Falls. He posted about the issue in a Facebook group called Lockportians. He wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times. He filed a petition with the superintendent of the district, where his daughter is in high school.

But a few weeks ago, he lost. The Lockport City School District turned on the technology to monitor who’s on the property at its eight schools, becoming the first known public school district in New York to adopt facial recognition, and one of the first in the nation.

The district, said Mr. Shultz, 62, “turned our kids into lab rats in a high-tech experiment in privacy invasion.”

‘This work is so crucial’: Madison School District staff lead conversations about Black Lives Matter At School Week

Scott Girard:

Every Madison Metropolitan School District site had staff participating in the Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action this year.

The national movement to hold a week of support for black students ran Feb. 3-7 this year, culminating Thursday night in Madison with a sold-out staff showing of the movie “Just Mercy” and a post-show discussion.

Participating staff led lessons about the 13 Black Lives Matter Global Network principles, intersectionality and black contributions to history: restorative justice, empathy, loving engagement, diversity, globalism, queer affirming, trans affirming, collective value, intergenerational, black families, black villages, unapologetically black and black women.

Madison Teachers Inc. staff member Kerry Motoviloff, who helps leads the union’s social justice and racial equity work, said teachers customized the lessons for students in the age group they teach through an elementary and secondary curriculum provided through the national movement. She saw elementary teachers using things like picture books or having students illustrate how they knew black lives mattered, while older students had a chance to offer more feedback about how the school system was doing.

At Memorial High School, for example, the county’s Black Student Unions gathered Tuesdayin the auditorium to hear from a motivational speaker who told his “prison to Ph.D.” story and answered questions about how the students could continue activism.

“This year we’re seeing much more support for and engagement with our Black Student Unions, that’s very helpful,” Motoviloff said.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

From the Cap Times (Madison) editorial board, a rant on education — just not about students

Jim Bender:

More than 43,000 families in Wisconsin’s school choice programs likely will be surprised to learn that they constitute a “threat” to the state.

The editorial board of the Capital Times offered up that opinion in a recent attack on programs that serve these low-income and working-class families. The impetus for the editorial — what can charitably be described as a rant — was a school choice rally in the Capitol attended by more than 800 students and parents. It was also the first time a sitting United States vice president or president had been inside our state’s Capitol building.

In the 767-word editorial, the word “student” appeared but once. “Parent” and “family” were not mentioned at all. Milwaukee school board politics was heavily covered, however.

The editorial lauded Gov. Tony Evers for being “right” in opposing the state’s school choice programs. We can safely assume, therefore, that the editorial board will not object to assessing those programs based on criteria established by the governor during his tenure as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Wisconsin’s three principal choice programs involve families in Milwaukee, Racine and the rest of state.

Let’s start with the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) where roughly 30,000 of the 43,000 students are enrolled. The DPI/Evers report cards rank schools using five categories, with the highest being “significantly exceeds expectations” or five stars. In the most recent ratings, this highest rank was awarded to 21 Milwaukee schools with a student population of color of at least 80%. Of those 21 schools, 14 are in the MPCP, five are autonomous charter schools and two are in Milwaukee Public Schools.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Civics: Louisiana Prosecutors Say They Can’t Be Sued Over the Fake Subpoenas They Used To Pressure Witnesses Into Testifying

Zuri Davis:

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro issued fake subpoenas to pressure victims and witnesses to testify. Now facing a lawsuit, the Louisiana prosecutor is arguing that the practice falls under the umbrella of absolute immunity—the doctrine that says prosecutors cannot face civil action for carrying out their official duties.

The good news is that there’s a strong chance the courts won’t buy it.

The Lens uncovered Cannizzaro’s tactic in April 2017. He would send people notifications telling them to appear in court or face fines or jail time. The documents were neither authorized by a judge nor issued by a county clerk, the proper channels for subpoenas. Cannizzaro’s office was producing them itself. Worse yet: Even though the subpoenas were unlawful, he really did jail people who didn’t obey them.

In October 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Cannizzaro and some of his staffers on behalf of the people who received the subpoenas. According to the suit, Cannizzaro’s office sought high bonds for those jailed for refusing to obey the orders, often higher than the bond set for the criminal defendants in the related cases. The victim in one domestic violence case was forced to spend five days in jail on a $100,000 bond; she appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit and shackles. Her alleged abuser was treated more leniently: He paid a $3,500 secured bond, returned home until his court date, and appeared before the court in his own clothes.

A rape victim, similarly, spent 12 days in jail. A child sex trafficking victim spent 89 days in jail, including Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The Unteachables

Mike Adams:

Last week, I received a phone call from a professor who teaches in another department here at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington (UNCW), where I have taught for the past 27 years. He was reporting a case of possible discrimination, which resulted in a professor being denied tenure thus losing his livelihood very soon. When I received the call, I immediately began asking questions to assess the validity of his concern. After just a few questions, I came across some information that will shock the conscience of any clear thinking, rational individual.

By way of background information, professors at our university must pass through several hoops to get tenure after they are initially hired for a tenure-track position. The initial contract is only for a few years. If professors get reappointed, a few years later they have an opportunity to apply for lifetime tenure. But to get this tenure, they first have to get approval from a majority of the tenured professors in their department, their department chair, and their college dean. If applicants succeed at this, they face a final vote from the university-wide Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion (RTP) Committee. Since every faculty member must pass through this committee, its chair is arguably the most powerful professor on campus.

In the case that was reported to me, the applicant had received all three initial approvals. But, then, the RTP committee chair rejected the application. When I learned this, I asked about who is currently on the RTP committee. That is when I learned that its chair is Dr. Kimberly Cook.

If you have followed my career or read my previous columns, you may recall that name. I successfully sued Cook (and others) in federal court for promotion discrimination. In fact, of the 500 or so faculty members at UNCW today, she is the only one to have ever been successfully sued for discrimination in federal court. 

China requires colleges, universities to offer online learning after semester postponement

Xinhua:

China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has required colleges and universities nationwide to offer online teaching and learning resources following the postponement of school semesters.

According to a set of guidelines recently issued by the MOE, colleges and universities should make full use of all kinds of quality open online courses and laboratory resource platforms to organize online education activities.

Efforts should be made to make sure that online learning can be as efficient as learning in the classroom, said the guidelines.

Official data showed that as of Feb. 2, 22 online course platforms had opened more than 24,000 free courses covering 12 undergraduate disciplines and 18 majors of technical and vocational education.

No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay In The Air

Ed Regis:

In December 2003, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright brothers, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Staying Aloft; What Does Keep Them Up There?” The point of the piece was a simple question: What keeps planes in the air? To answer it, the Times turned to John D. Anderson, Jr., curator of aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum and author of several textbooks in the field.

What Anderson said, however, is that there is actually no agreement on what generates the aerodynamic force known as lift. “There is no simple one-liner answer to this,” he told the Times. People give different answers to the question, some with “religious fervor.” More than 15 years after that pronouncement, there are still different accounts of what generates lift, each with its own substantial rank of zealous defenders. At this point in the history of flight, this situation is slightly puzzling. After all, the natural processes of evolution, working mindlessly, at random and without any understanding of physics, solved the mechanical problem of aerodynamic lift for soaring birds eons ago. Why should it be so hard for scientists to explain what keeps birds, and airliners, up in the air?

Toki Middle School (Madison) eighth-grader Matthew Brock wins All-City Spelling Bee

Howard Hardee:

After outlasting 45 fellow students in a war of words that played out over three hours, Matthew Brock won first place at Saturday’s All-City Spelling Bee.

Brock, 14, is an eighth-grader at Toki Middle School. He had his eye on the top prize after taking third place in the 2018 contest and falling to fourth last year, he said after the bee at Madison Area Technical College’s Mitby Theater.

“I read a lot and I practiced the study list,” he said. “Every time I see a word I don’t know, I look up the definition and try to understand whatever the context may be.

After second-place finisher Vincent Bautista stumbled over “euphonious,” Brock spelled it correctly and sealed his victory by getting “dolomite” right, too.

Brock will now move on to the Badger State Spelling Bee, scheduled for March 7 in Mitby Theater. The state champion will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee held in May in National Harbor, Maryland.

Wonderful!

Will Wisconsin return to its ‘three-legged stool’ to pay for schools? Here are reasons to doubt it

Alan Borsuk:

Let’s focus particularly on Evers’ call for using some of the money to return state support of general operating costs of public schools to two-thirds of the total bill (with the other third coming generally from property taxes).  

A bit of history: In the early 1990s, there was strong opinion, particularly for then-Gov. Tommy Thompson and Republican legislators, that property taxes in Wisconsin were too high and school spending was increasing too fast. The result was creation of what was called “the three-legged stool” that would provide something for school spending increases to rest on.  

The three legs were: A cap on how much money school districts could collect in state aid and property taxes; a rule known as the QEO which effectively put a lid on how much pay and benefits for teachers could increase; and a commitment by the state to pay two-thirds of school costs in exchange for reduced property taxes (which actually worked, at least for a while).  

Teachers unions’ hated the QEO and it died during the time Democrat Jim Doyle was the governor. Revenue caps (which also constrained teacher pay and benefits) are alive to this day.  

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Madison teacher accused of secretly filming students on trip allowed to travel home with victims

Molly Beck:

A Madison teacher charged with trying to create child pornography was allowed to travel home from an out-of-state trip with students who found hidden cameras in their hotel bathrooms and the victims’ parents haven’t been told why.

Madison School District officials won’t say whether they knew about the discovery of the cameras before David Kruchten, the accused teacher, and the students boarded a bus to travel back to Madison from Minneapolis for a Dec. 6-8 business club trip.

And police aren’t saying whether they suspected Kruchten before he and the students left Minneapolis in one vehicle to travel together for hours.

“Due to this being an active investigation, the district is not able to comment on the particulars of the case,” district spokesman Tim LeMonds told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said he couldn’t release details of whether officers contacted the district about the potential of Kruchten’s involvement before the group departed the city, but said the department ensured the students weren’t in danger. 

“We knew that by releasing him we weren’t jeopardizing anybody,” Elder said. “The safety of the children is absolutely the number one thing and each decision, as we moved through this case, we made sure in fact the children were safe.”

Kruchten is accused of secretly filming teenage students on three school-related trips during 2019. He was indicted in federal court in January over incidents in January and October of 2019 and charged Wednesday in Hennepin County, Minnesota, with hiding cameras in students’ hotel rooms during the Minneapolis trip. 

LeMonds said district officials haven’t interviewed Kruchten or anyone else about the incident because the Wisconsin Department of Justice asked them to hold off on investigating the incident until the criminal prosecution is complete. 

DOJ spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said the department did not order the district to stop its own investigation, but typically recommends that to make sure internal reviews do not affect a criminal prosecution. 

Credentialism: Undercover Cops Hired 118 Handymen, Then Arrested Them All for Not Having Licenses

Christian Britscghi:

The residents of Hillsborough County, Florida, can sleep safely tonight following the arrest of 118 people for performing unlicensed contracting work as part of a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office sting known as “Operation House Hunters.”

The sting, according to Patch, saw sheriff’s deputies pose as homeowners seeking handymen on social media to do jobs that required licensure. These unsuspecting handymen would be lured to one of five homes, where undercover deputies filmed them performing or agreeing to perform prohibited tasks like painting or installing recess lighting.

The stings were carried out between March and December of last year. The arrests were announced yesterday.

“These 118 con men and women were posing as contractors & preying on innocent homeowners in Hillsborough County, who were just looking to repair or improve their home,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister at a Tuesday press conference. The mug shots of those picked up in the sweeps were displayed behind him on big posters.

The Secret of Academic Success – or fun filled failure if you prefer

Bill Wadge:

In my research career I’ve discovered many things, including the secret of academic success (too late to help my own career). I’m  going to share the secret  with  you.

The obvious way to succeed is to do something impressive, like prove a theorem or invent some new technology. This might be helpful, but could get you into trouble if you’re not careful.

Here’s the problem: say you’re a young researcher starting out. You’ve made some progress attacking problem P. Researchers A, B, C, … have also worked on P but you think your work  puts theirs to shame (which it may or may not do in reality).

The temptation is to write papers proclaiming the superiority of your work and the pathetic inadequacy of the contributions of A, B, C, …

Well, doing so is a huge Career Limiting Move (CLM). I know because I did exactly that, in the notorious ‘Cowboys’ section of the 1985 Lucid Book I wrote with the late Ed Ashcroft (he had nothing to do with the notorious section). In a companion post I  present an annotated version of the Cowboys section.

Anyway, what should you do instead? The exact opposite. Write a paper which says, “P is an important problem and many talented researchers have made significant progress. A has done X, and it is good; B has done Y and it is also good;  C has done Z and it too is good; …”

Curated Education Information