Diversity in newsrooms has been bad for decades and it probably won’t get better: study

Karen Ho:

A NEW STUDY SAYS SOME OF THE BIGGEST NEWSROOMS in the country are still failing to fulfill a nearly 50-year-old pledge to increase the employment of people of color in top masthead positions, despite repeated reviews and greater coverage of the issue.

The report, titled “Missed deadline: The delayed promise of newsroom diversity” and conducted by student reporters in the Asian American Journalists’ Association’s Voices program, analyzed the mastheads of several news organizations to examine how closely they reflected the nation’s demographics.

In 1978, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) made a pledge to achieve parity with the percentage of people of color in the general population by the year 2000. After that deadline was blown and a new one was set for 2025, data in the Voices report shows many American newsrooms are still nowhere close to achieving this goal.

The report focused on the mastheads of five national newspapers—The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal—as well as NPR, Fox News, and CNN.

Primary Student’s Moving Essay on Teacher’s Abuse Goes Viral on Chinese Social Media

What’s on Weibo:

A primary school student’s essay about a teacher’s scoldings and beatings has gone viral on Chinese social media. “Teacher, What I Want To Tell You” has stirred widespread discussions about emotional abuse and corporal punishment in China’s classrooms. An essay of 2000 characters written by a primary school student from Lüliang in Shanxi province has gone viral on WeChat and Sina Weibo. The essay, titled “Teacher, What I Want to Tell You” (“老师我想对您说”), has triggered thousands of shares and comments from Chinese netizens. Over recent year, the issue of corporal punishment at school has been a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media. In the much-shared essay, a fourth grader writes about how she1 feels when her teacher punishes and degrades her. In seven pages, she writes down what she wants to tell her teacher after suffering abuse since the first grade. China’s first graders in primary school are usually around the age of 6; fourth graders are 9-10 years of age.

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An algorithm sorts out how to efficiently transport 30,000 Boston public-school students each day

Jo Craven McGinty

A trio of MIT researchers recently tackled a tricky vehicle-routing problem when they set out to improve the efficiency of the Boston Public Schools bus system.

Last year, more than 30,000 students rode 650 buses to 230 schools at a cost of $120 million.

In hopes of spending less this year, the school system offered $15,000 in prize money…

Ships fooled in GPS spoofing attack suggest Russian cyberweapon

David Hambling

Reports of satellite navigation problems in the Black Sea suggest that Russia may be testing a new system for spoofing GPS, New Scientist has learned. This could be the first hint of a new form of electronic warfare available to everyone from rogue nation states to petty criminals.

On 22 June, the US Maritime Administration filed a seemingly bland incident report. The master of a ship off the Russian port of Novorossiysk had discovered his GPS put him in the wrong spot – more than 32 kilometres inland, at Gelendzhik Airport.

After checking the navigation equipment was working properly, the captain contacted other nearby ships. Their AIS traces – signals from the automatic identification system used to track vessels – placed them all at the same airport. At least 20 ships were affected.

Write No Matter What: Advice For Academics

Jolie Jenson

With growing academic responsibilities, family commitments, and inboxes, scholars are struggling to fulfill their writing goals. A finished book — or even steady journal articles — may seem like an impossible dream. But, as Joli Jensen proves, it really is possible to write happily and productively in academe.

Jensen begins by busting the myth that universities are supportive writing environments. She points out that academia, an arena dedicated to scholarship, offers pressures that actually prevent scholarly writing. She shows how to acknowledge these less-than-ideal conditions, and how to keep these circumstances from draining writing time and energy. Jensen introduces tools and techniques that encourage frequent, low-stress writing. She points out common ways writers stall and offers workarounds that maintain productivity. Her focus is not on content, but on how to overcome whatever stands in the way of academic writing.

Why English is such a great language for puns

The Economist:

Away With Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions. By Joe Berkowitz. Harper Perennial; 273 pages; $15.99 and £8.99.

LAST week’s issue of this paper contained the following headlines: “Rooms for improvement” (in a story about British housing); “Though Mooch is taken, Mooch abides” (on the firing of Anthony Scaramucci); and “LIBOR pains” (on interbank loan rates). The Economist is not alone in its taste for wordplay. Our colleagues at the Financial Times routinely sneak subtle jokes into their headlines (July 17th: “Why China’s global shipping ambitions will not easily be contained”) while those at the tabloids indulge themselves more obviously. On the arrest of a famous golfer for drink-driving: “DUI of the Tiger”.

This Nationwide Program Is Teaching Millions of Students to Become Leftist Snowflakes

Grant Strobl:

Parents beware: A program called Challenge Day that applauds a culture of victimhood is planting the leftist agenda into young minds under the guise of anti-bullying education.

The program uses the power of peer pressure and groupthink to impress upon high school students the idea that everyone is a victim.

Challenge Day is no small initiative. According to the program’s website, it has been held at more than 2,200 high schools nationwide and reached millions of students.

Challenge Day purports to teach tolerance and acceptance, yet nearly every member of its board of directors and Global Leadership Council is politically left of center.

Of the 17 members of Challenge Day’s board of directors, 15 openly support leftist leaders and causes, and two have an unknown affiliation, according to Federal Election Commission records and personal social media accounts. Of their 22-person Global Leadership Council, 17 of the members support leftist leaders and causes.

$147,000 for a One-Year Master’s? In Journalism?

Nick Roll::

For those with an extra $147,514 lying around, there is a new a master of science in data journalism from Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

For everyone else, dropping just over $106,000 for tuition and fees — plus $41,232 in living expenses, per Columbia’s estimate — for a master’s degree in an unstable, layoff-ravaged industry where the median annual salary is less than $40,000 might seem ludicrous, or at least deserving of mockery.

“The higher ed Institution is crumbling,” journalist Josh Sternberg wrote on Twitter. “A $100,000 master’s of science in data journalism degree?”

Chicago Tribune editor Charlie J. Johnson put his feelings more succinctly.

“A $100,000 master’s degree in journalism is a stupid thing,” he tweeted.

Disaster: Philly’s Soda Tax Has Produced Miserable Results

Matt Vespa:

Philadelphia’s city council had a revolutionary idea. Let’s tax the poor to increase revenue and the soda tax was born. After its implementation, you could have probably guessed the results: soda is now more expensive than beer. Also, the tax on diet soda that was meant to raise money for education hasn’t been fully allocated to the children. About half of the money raised has gone to local Pre-K programs. Liz Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon broke down the Tax Foundation’s report on the subject:

Three Young Voices vs. A Superpower

New York Times

Will Hong Kong jail its first political prisoners this Thursday? If it does — and it looks likely — the event will be a watershed in Hong Kong’s modern history and should set off further alarms about China’s intentions for the territory.

Joshua Wong, one of the three young men bracing for this verdict, has been a hero of his hometown’s democracy movement since he was 14 years old. He’s still too young to buy a beer in the United States. The pinnacle of Mr. Wong’s activism came during 2014, when he and a group of students led hundreds of thousands of their neighbors in an extraordinary 79-day demonstration defending Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing’s increasing encroachment. The protest, known as the Umbrella Movement, named for its protection against the elements and police pepper spray, was one of the largest in the city’s history.

Three years later, Mr. Wong and his colleagues, including Nathan Law and Alex Chow, are still being punished for their courage. Several are under threat of bankruptcy thanks to onerous legal fees, and others are being stymied in their chosen fields because of their criticism of the Communist Party. But what is by far most troubling is the prospect that Mr. Wong, Mr. Law and Mr. Chow might be thrown in prison this week on charges for which they have already served sentences.

For better learning in college lectures, lay down the laptop and pick up a pen

Susan Dynarski:

Do computers help or hinder classroom learning in college? Step into any college lecture and you’ll find a sea of students with laptops and tablets open, typing as the professor speaks.

With their enhanced ability to transcribe content and look up concepts on the fly, are students learning more from lecture than they were in the days of paper and pen?

A growing body of evidence says “No.” When college students use computers or tablets during lecture, they learn less and earn worse grades. The evidence consists of a series of randomized trials, in both college classrooms and controlled laboratory settings.

Students who use laptops in class are likely different from those who don’t. They may be more easily distracted or less interested in the course material. Alternatively, they may be the most serious (or wealthiest) students who have invested in technology to support their learning.

Can You Cough Up $20K a Year? Welcome To The Top New Jersey “Public” Schools!

Laura Waters

What you see here is a section of the Princeton Regional Public School Board’s April 2015 Minutes that set tuition rates for non-resident students. Ho hum? Not to Charlie Barone, director of policy at Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now. In a piece published today, he throws shade on the conceit that traditional schools are really “public”: after all, you have to buy your way into great schools through the housing market.

But in a few school districts — Princeton, for example — parents can fork over $19K for elementary students and just under $18K for high schoolers, even if they don’t live there.

Has Iceland Eliminated Down Syndrome Through Abortion?


The report does not suggest that, however. It suggests that nearly 100 percent of the 80 to 85 percent of people who take the test choose to abort their pregnancy. There are similar termination rates after fetal diagnoses of Down syndrome in other European countries. In Denmark, for example, the rate is about 98 percent, CBS News reported. In the United States, for comparison’s sake, the rate of mothers choosing to terminate their pregnancy after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis is about 68 percent.

“Babies with Down syndrome are still being born in Iceland,” Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspitali University Hospital, in which around 70 percent of Icelandic children are born, told CBS News.

Mother Teresa on abortion. Eugenics. Margaret Sanger. 10 commandments. Planned Parenthood. Roe vs wade.

Baby in womb photos.

Abortion statistics.

Stop tech-driven problem-solving

Lars de Ridder

Let me give you a concrete example: Blockchain. The next big thing. A game changer. The biggest new technology since the Internet. However, nobody has any use case that needs a distributed consensus on a public ledger, except for Bitcoin / virtual currency that is. Most, if not all problems that can be solved with a blockchain, can be solved more efficiently with existing technology.

None of this has stopped a Dutch organization for municipalities to investigate how to apply Blockchain to make it easier for handicapped people to get a parking card (link in Dutch).

Seriously, what?
And this isn’t the only organization. I’ve read about a lot more organizations that try to solve mundane problems with a Blockchain. They start to change and perverse the concepts to fit into their niche, they talk about “private blockchains” and specialized coins, while instead, they could just call any Software Engineer worth its salt and he would solve their problem, without unnecessarily added technologies.

AI Superstar Andrew Ng Is Democratizing Deep Learning With A New Online Course

Daniel Terdiman:

That’s the vision of Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain deep learning project, and former head of AI at Baidu–a position he left in March–who is today announcing a set of five interconnected online courses on the subject. Participants in the “Deep Learning Specialization,” available only through Coursera, will be steeped in neural networks, backpropagation, convolutional networks, recurrent networks, computer vision, natural language processing, and more. They’ll get hands-on experience using the technology in healthcare, visual object recognition, music generation, language understanding, and other applications.

“Today, if you want to learn deep learning, there are lots of people searching online, reading [dozens of] research papers, reading blog posts, and watching YouTube videos,” Ng tells Fast Company. “I admire that, but I want to give people that want to break into AI a clear path of how to get there.”

Today, the major breakthroughs in the field are coming from the world’s largest tech companies, which have in-house AI departments and are investing significantly in the field. As Ng sees it, getting to an AI-powered economy is going to take the work of much more than any one, or even several companies. It’s going to take huge numbers of newly trained experts.

How Instagram hacked your operating system to make you an addict.

Will Chang:

Your outdated hardwiring isn’t a secret. Every company in every industry needs to persuade you to buy their product. Hacking your hunter-foraging operating system is the most effective way to do so. Marketers use tactics like social proof, tapping into our need for the tribe to keep us safe from danger.

As you know, Big Food puts sugar in everything because it’s more addictive than cocaine. As builders of technology products, we also try to put our own version of sugar into our products. Nir Eyal codified it for us as the Hook. Building a habit-forming product is our holy grail. Instagram, Snapchat, Candy Crush — we revere those that have done it the best and aspire to be like them.

Two Teachers Sacked, School Closed As Police Probe Alleged Abuse Of Autistic Children

South China Morning Post

The facility, which claims to be a specialist research institute and training centre for autistic children aged two to six has been closed pending further investigations, the report said.

The spokesperson said the centre had 41 children on its books but that 10 of them had been withdrawn after the video footage appeared online.

A parent surnamed Zhang was quoted as saying that he decided to take his son out of the school after seeing its “abnormal” methods. He added that he had been paying tuition fees of 9,400 yuan (US$1,400) a month.

You Are the Product

John Lanchester:

At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had hit a new level: two billion monthly active users. That number, the company’s preferred ‘metric’ when measuring its own size, means two billion different people used Facebook in the preceding month. It is hard to grasp just how extraordinary that is. Bear in mind that thefacebook – its original name – was launched exclusively for Harvard students in 2004. No human enterprise, no new technology or utility or service, has ever been adopted so widely so quickly. The speed of uptake far exceeds that of the internet itself, let alone ancient technologies such as television or cinema or radio.
 Also amazing: as Facebook has grown, its users’ reliance on it has also grown. The increase in numbers is not, as one might expect, accompanied by a lower level of engagement. More does not mean worse – or worse, at least, from Facebook’s point of view. On the contrary. In the far distant days of October 2012, when Facebook hit one billion users, 55 per cent of them were using it every day. At two billion, 66 per cent are. Its user base is growing at 18 per cent a year – which you’d have thought impossible for a business already so enormous. Facebook’s biggest rival for logged-in users is YouTube, owned by its deadly rival Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), in second place with 1.5 billion monthly users. Three of the next four biggest apps, or services, or whatever one wants to call them, are WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, with 1.2 billion, 1.2 billion, and 700 million users respectively (the Chinese app WeChat is the other one, with 889 million). Those three entities have something in common: they are all owned by Facebook. No wonder the company is the fifth most valuable in the world, with a market capitalisation of $445 billion.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Federal Debt Is Now $19,845,021,514,944

The Concord Coalition:

Why the budget process isn’t working

There are many signs that public trust has eroded when it comes to confidence in elected leaders’ budgetary decisions, and it is equally clear that budget reforms would help Congress act in a more fiscally responsible manner. Greater public confidence in the budget process will be necessary to make tough choices on our largest fiscal issues. One way to restore the trust of the American people is to reform the system through which Congress spends taxpayer dollars.

EFF Urges Supreme Court to Take On Unconstitutional NSA Surveillance, Reverse Dangerous Ruling That Allows Massive Government Spying Program

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the Supreme Court to review and overturn an unprecedented ruling allowing the government to intercept, collect, and store—without a warrant—millions of Americans’ electronic communications, including emails, texts, phone calls, and online chats.

This warrantless surveillance is conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law is exceedingly broad—Section 702 allows the government to conduct surveillance of any foreigner abroad­—and the law fails to protect the constitutional rights of Americans whose texts or emails are “incidentally” collected when communicating with those people.

German universities take on Dutch publishing giant Elsevier

Chemistry world

A consortium of German universities, research institutes and public libraries has rejected the latest offer from Dutch publishing giant Elsevier for a new country-wide licensing agreement for its research portfolio. Germany’s chief negotiator says the offer does not meet the requirements of German researchers.

The rejection in early July, comes after nearly a year of negotiations during which time rock-hard positions on both sides have scarcely budged, leaving a huge gap yet to be bridged. The German side, represented by a consortium founded in 2014 called Project DEAL, includes the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Fraunhofer–Gesellschaft, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Helmholtz and the Leibniz associations, and the Max Planck Society. Backed by these research giants plus dozens of universities, Project DEAL is demanding a nationwide contract from Elsevier that includes fair pricing, open access in Germany to all papers authored by researchers at German institutions, and permanent full-text access to all electronic journals published by Elsevier. Project DEAL will also lead negotiations for nationwide licensing agreements with Springer Nature and Wiley.

Civics: United States Expatriation at an All-Time High


Expatriation has been increasing each year by roughly 30% since 2010, which featured abnormally high expatriation rates, most likely attributable to the economic turndown of the Great Recession which began in the United States as a result of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. American citizenship is often sought after for the economic opportunity that comes along with the passport, as the ability to work and do business in the country is heavily restricted or regulated, and with the value of that investment or opportunity in question, it is unsurprising that the number of investors in the system, that is, new citizens, would fluctuate. It seems appropriate to call naturalization an investment because of the nature of the process, which is long, complicated, and often quite expensive similar to a long-position that will cost more at purchasing time but promises high returns after reaching maturity.

The peak, or more appropriately, valley of the global recession occurred in 2009 when the global GDP contracted causing a decline in the median familty income of about five percent.

In Defense of School Choice

Will Flanders:

Unfortunately, the public schools have not responded as well to increased competition. Aided by politicians like Representative Taylor, public schools leaders have chosen to not to embrace competition but to seek protection from it, fighting the growth of better educational alternatives at every turn.

While creating an incentive to improve, school choice has not come at a cost to the public schools. If, as Representative Taylor claims, school choice is designed to “siphon” money from public schools, it’s making a mess of the job. Per pupil spending is higher today than it was before the start of the voucher program. And because the voucher amount is substantially less than the amount spend on children attending public schools, the program actually saves money which could, if the legislature desired, be further redirected to public schools. Under current law, school districts can continue to receive funding for students they no longer educate if they choose to go to a private school with a voucher, meaning that a student leaving actually increases the districts per student revenue in the short term. Representative Taylor conveniently ignores these facts.

Julian Assange, a Man Without a Country

Raffi Khatchadourian::

Before Assange gained notoriety, he lived a reclusive, rootless life. While he was growing up, in Australia, his mother moved the family dozens of times, and the habit of motion seems to have persisted; he once wrote software on the Trans-Siberian Express. When I first got to know him, in 2010, he was traversing Europe, in possession of what he claimed was a roster of modest international leaks: documents about the BBC, Canadian detainees, Hungarian finance, Romanian police, Israeli diplomacy, and “some Russian and Chinese stuff that I can’t read.” None of it compared, though, to the trove of classified documents that a young Army private, Chelsea Manning, had just provided him: half a million military records from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a quarter of a million diplomatic cables from the State Department, among other things. Suddenly, he was walking around with gigabytes of secrets belonging to a superpower, and his worry about being surveilled had grown extreme. “There’s all sorts of aggressive intelligence action happening,” he told me. “Lots of spying.” He was trying to fly to Iceland, to connect with activists there, and he suggested that I come immediately to meet him.
A few days later, I stepped off an airport shuttle bus at Reykjavík’s station a little after dawn, uncertain whether I would find him, but there he was, dressed in a silver full-body snowsuit. (He had been out all night with friends to see a volcano that had recently erupted.) “You didn’t call,” he chided me, in a way that mixed humor and irritation. We climbed a hill from the bus station into town, and on the way to his base, in a rented clapboard house, we got lost; Assange has a terrible sense of direction. That morning, he showed me an Army video that Manning had given him, and we went through it moment by moment. He had known me for only a few hours, but back then he trusted journalists readily. A few months later, I wrote about the footage, which he released as “Collateral Murder,” and about his personal history, in a piece for this magazine titled “No Secrets.” I did not imagine that there would be so many secrets to come.

Since then, in addition to Manning’s releases, he has published millions of documents, including hacked e-mails from corporations and public figures, international trade agreements, and foreign government records. Some of these publications have brought real harm to the documents’ owners, some have altered public perceptions about war and state power, and some have been damaging to individual privacy, with no public benefit. In his confinement, Assange has become a quixotic cultural icon, helping to give the solitary act of whistle-blowing the contours of a movement. Dr. Martens has issued boots in his name, sculptors have cast him in alloy, and lyricists have memorialized him in song. He has inspired a Bond villain, and the fiction of Jonathan Franzen; he has mixed with A-list musicians, like Lady Gaga, and A-list dissenters, like Noam Chomsky. At the same time, he has had to navigate myriad legal and managerial complications: multiple F.B.I. investigations, crippling staff mutinies, venomous fights with journalists.
Whether you see Assange as a “fallen man” depends on how you viewed him to begin with. He has detractors who believe that he is a criminal, or a maniac, or both, and supporters who consider him an immaculate revolutionary. There have been calls for his assassination, and for him to be given a Nobel Peace Prize. Assange often describes himself in simple terms—as a fearless activist—but his character is complicated, and hard to reconcile with his considerable power. He is not merely the kind of person who will wear socks with holes; he is the kind of person who will wear socks with holes and rain fury upon anyone who mentions the holes in public. He can be mistrustful to the point of paranoia, but he can be recklessly frank. He tends to view human behavior as self-interested, driven by a Nietzschean will to power, but he runs an organization founded on the idea that individuals can be selflessly courageous. He is a seeker of hard, objective truths who often appears to be unable to see past his own realities. He can be quick in the moment, an impressive tactician, and he is often fairly blind to the long arcs of strategy.

Assange is a difficult person, and he knows it. The people who care for him see a driven, obstinate man who has constructed around himself a maze of deflections, but they see this behavior as evidence of vulnerability, rather than of malice or narcissism. They recognize that his urge to resist conformity is often greater than his urge to be understood. Beyond the noise of his persona, they see the chief custodian of a technology that can be used for transformative good; whatever the hostility that he provokes, they maintain that there is no way his work could proceed without angering people.

“Surveillance is now the business model of the Internet. Companies make money spying on you,

Liz Reid

But critics say there’s a catch.
 “Surveillance is now the business model of the Internet. Companies make money spying on you,” says Bruce Schneier, an Internet security expert and the chief technology officer at IBM’s cybersecurity arm. “When the app says I can detect when you’re out of paper towels, they’re not doing it for your best interest. They’re doing it because they want to sell you paper towels.”
 Schneier pointed to Roomba, the little automated vacuum from iRobot. The company’s CEO said last month that the device could soon start mapping your home, raising concerns that that data could be sold for a profit. The company swiftly clarified that it would collect and share data only if customers consented.
 Despite Its Promise, The Internet Of Things Remains Vulnerable
 Despite Its Promise, The Internet Of Things Remains Vulnerable
 But on top of the issue of surveillance, Schneier says makers of Internet of things devices just aren’t prioritizing security.
 “We’re building a world-size robot without even realizing it,” he says.

Why Men Are the New College Minority

Jon Marcus:

This fall, women will comprise more than 56 percent of students on campuses nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year. And the trend shows no sign of abating. By 2026, the department estimates, 57 percent of college students will be women.

The new minority on campus? Men.

That’s an irony not lost on Jennifer Carlo, the vice president of student engagement and student affairs at Carlow University, which is trying all kinds of ideas to bolster its supply of men—including showcasing male college-success stories as examples to prospective applicants.

“It didn’t used to be that you were worried about providing role models and mentors for males,” Carlo mused.

Started as an all-women’s college by an order of nuns, Carlow has had a longer road to travel than most other institutions to balance its enrollment by gender; although it has admitted men to its degree programs for nearly 50 years, it has recruited them aggressively only since 2004.

The university is adding sports teams to attract more men, including men’s track and field this fall, and men are disproportionately represented in the promotional photos on its website and marketing materials. There are also new degree programs in fields such as business meant in part to appeal to men.

On Living, and Thinking, in Two Languages at Once

Camille Bordas:

People ask me whether I think in French or in English now that I’ve lived in the US a while. I lie when I answer this. I say it depends on what I’m thinking about—English for work, French for family and curse words. This answer is usually welcomed as logical: a language for the intellect, another for the feelings. Of course. The truth is I have no idea what language I think in, and because I’m a hypochondriac, I worry that this might mean I have a brain tumor. I end up wondering if I ever actually think of anything. In my head, it’s mostly blurry images, or blocks of sense memories colliding with whatever I’m presently seeing. Rarely a fully formed thought—unless I’m actively trying to make sense of something, the way I am doing right now. In conversation, though, some words come to me in English and others in French, and I have to pause for a second to find the correct translation.

I did this the other day, on the phone with my sister. She was having a hard time and needed to vent, and we acknowledged the fact that she was venting, except I’d forgotten the proper French phrase for venting and so I used a literal translation of the English word before the French expression finally found its way back to me. The way you say you’re venting in French is you’re “emptying your bag.” Unpacking. I love both the images. The bag and the vent. They work. I kind of don’t want to choose between them.

Time-Travelling with Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Leif Batuman:

I like to think that I know a lot of words, but I definitely don’t know all of them. The other day I came across a new one, on page 2 of Michael Robbins’s new book, “Equipment for Living,” in a quote from the critic Kenneth Burke: “Surely the most highly alembicated and sophisticated work of art, arising in complex civilizations, could be considered as designed to organize and command the army of one’s thoughts and images.” I did not feel, at first, that I had to look up “alembicated,” because it was clear from the context that the word basically meant “sophisticated,” and also because I knew that an alembic was some kind of glassware, and this seemed, at the time, like enough knowledge. But then I came to a second instance: “I assume that what Burke says about poetry applies, mutatis mutandis, to the songs of Def Leppard, though they are hardly alembicated at all.” This usage sounded somehow more specific than the first, and it made me realize that I didn’t know the lyrics to even one Def Leppard song. Now I felt inadequate, and had to Google something.
I thought for a while about which to investigate, Def Leppard or “alembicated,” and decided on the latter. Indeed, it basically meant “sophisticated,” like something boiled for a long time in an alembic, or, to quote Merriam-Webster, “overrefined as if by excessive distillation.” Then, just as I was about to leave the dictionary’s Web site, I noticed something new: next to the earliest known year that a word appears in print—for “alembicated,” 1786—Merriam-Webster now offers a link to a list of all the other words that were first used in the same year. The feature is called Time Traveler, and it has indeed enabled me to travel in time, because once I start looking at it I find that hours have passed. What could be more bewitching than to see, under a given year, all the words that it birthed, like a squirming litter of word-kittens? In an effort to save the public some of the time I myself have lost in this fashion, I will endeavor to summarize my findings.

With a quiz to comment, readers test their article comprehension

Ståle Grut:

Since February our readers must pass a mandatory quiz to comment on our articles. But the world famous quiz has found another use too.

First, some navel–gazing and context.

NRKbeta is the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NRK) tech-site and R&D-blog. This February we launched a new experiment.

Readers wanting to comment on a story had to pass a mandatory test about the articles content.

Despite other websites abandoning their comments section, ours has mainly remained a positive space the last ten years.

Comments from our audiences have solved difficult problems for us. It has gathered fantastic and crazy ideas from our audience that we have tried out. It’s even helped us hire talented people! In short: a valuable arena we dedicate a lot of time and effort to maintain and improve.

Weingarten slanders Milwaukee choice program

Mikel Holt & Collin Roth::

National teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten has a message for the thousands of students, parents, and teachers enrolled or teaching at private voucher schools: You are the pawns of bigots.

In a recent speech to the American Federation of Teachers annual convention, Weingarten said, “Make no mistake: This use of privatization, coupled with disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” Weingarten went on to say, “The real pioneers of private school choice were the white politicians who resisted school integration.”

For Milwaukee residents, home to the country’s oldest private voucher program, Weingarten’s comments ought to raise a few eyebrows. Indeed, for those with any real memory of the voucher program’s origins, particularly the black and Hispanic citizens who lobbied for it, the feelings range from indignation to insult.

Weingarten’s attack centers on the rare, but shameful, experience of some counties in the South where vouchers were sometimes used to allow whites to flee desegregated public schools. But that’s not what happened here. Milwaukee’s voucher program may have its roots in segregation, but not in the way Weingarten suggests.

In the late 1960s, before the federal courts “forced” the Milwaukee Public Schools District to end “separate and unequal” public education, it was black community leaders who petitioned the School Board to apply for a federal voucher grant that would have helped them escape a segregated and failing system. Two decades later — amid a desegregated but still unequal district, MPS Superintendent Robert Peterkin proposed the idea of a “school choice” program. While Peterkin’s attempt failed, success came in Madison. State Rep. Annette Polly Williams — an African-American liberal Democrat — helped shepherd a pilot voucher program to the desk of a supportive Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Weingarten would have a hard time accusing the pioneers of Milwaukee’s voucher program of being the tools of racists. Peterkin, his successor Howard Fuller, the late Virginia Stamper, Zikiya Courtney and state Sen. Gary George, are all African-Americans who played critical roles in advancing choice legislation. What is more, thousands of African-American school leaders, teachers, volunteers and parents commit their lives daily to improving education outcomes through Milwaukee’s voucher program.

Vermont Medical School Says Goodbye To Lectures

Audie Cornish:

For students starting medical school, the first year can involve a lot of time in a lecture hall. There are hundreds of terms to master and pages upon pages of notes to take.

But when the new class of medical students begins at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine next week, a lot of that learning won’t take place with a professor at a lectern.

The school has begun to phase out lectures in favor of what’s known as “active learning” and plans to be done with lectures altogether by 2019.

Ironically, the man leading the effort loves lectures. In fact, William Jeffries, a dean at the school, wrote the chapter on lectures in two prominent textbooks on medical education. But he’s now convinced they’re not the best way to learn.

Jeffries spoke with All Things Considered about the thinking behind this move. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice

Eric Bellman:

The internet’s global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one.
 Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers—“the next billion,” the tech industry calls them—is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them.

Is LIBOR, Crucial Financial Benchmark, a Lie?

Matt Taibbi:

The admission comes by way of Andrew Bailey, head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority. He said recently (emphasis mine):
 “The absence of active underlying markets raises a serious question about the sustainability of the LIBOR benchmarks. If an active market does not exist, how can even the best run benchmark measure it?”
 As a few Wall Street analysts have quietly noted in the weeks since those comments, an “absence of underlying markets” is a fancy way of saying that LIBOR has not been based on real trading activity, which is a fancy way of saying that LIBOR is bullshit.
 LIBOR is generally understood as a measure of market confidence. If LIBOR rates are high, it means bankers are nervous about the future and charging a lot to lend. If rates are low, worries are fewer and borrowing is cheaper.
 It therefore makes sense in theory to use LIBOR as a benchmark for borrowing rates on car loans or mortgages or even credit cards. But that’s only true if LIBOR is actually measuring something.
 Here’s how it’s supposed to work. Every morning at 11 a.m. London time, twenty of the world’s biggest banks tell a committee in London how much they estimate they’d have to pay to borrow cash unsecured from other banks.
 The committee takes all 20 submissions, throws out the highest and lowest four numbers, and then averages out the remaining 12 to create LIBOR rates.
 Theoretically, a fine system. Measuring how scared banks are to lend to each other should be a good way to gauge market stability. Except for one thing: banks haven’t been lending to each other for decades.
 Up through the Eighties and early Nineties, as global banks grew bigger and had greater demand for dollars, trading between banks was heavy. That robust interbank lending market was why LIBOR became such a popular benchmark in the first place.
 But beginning in the mid-nineties, banks began to discover that other markets provided easier and cheaper sources of funding, like the commercial paper or treasury repurchase markets. Trading between banks fell off.
 Ironically, as trading between banks declined, the use of LIBOR as a benchmark for mortgages, credit cards, swaps, etc. skyrocketed. So as LIBOR reflected reality less and less, it became more and more ubiquitous, burying itself, tick-like, into the core of the financial system.

Why Are Police Officers More Dangerous Than Airplanes?

Pagan Kennedy:

“It’s 2:30 in the morning and my phone rings. My daughter says, ‘Daddy, you need to come to the hospital,’ ” Michael Bell told me, of the moment in 2004 when he learned that his son had been shot by a police officer in their hometown, Kenosha, Wis.

Twenty-one-year-old Michael Bell Jr. died that night from a bullet wound to the head. In the nightmarish hours that followed, his father expected independent investigators to arrive on the scene and find out what had gone wrong. A former Air Force pilot, he knew that when an accident happened in the military, a forensic team performed an exhaustive review. Above all, he wanted to make sure that if a mistake had contributed to his son’s death, it would be identified and fixed, so that nothing like it would happen again.

AUGUST 10, 2017| Disruption, Diversity, Google, Markets, sociobiology, Tenure, Travis Kalanick, Uber, University Comparing the Ideological Bubbles of Google and the Elite University

John McGinnis:

oogle and our elite universities appear to inhabit the same ideological bubble and intone the same diversity mantras. And that is not surprising, because almost everyone at Google is a product of the modern university and those at its HR department the likely product of its more PC inflected half—the humanities or soft social sciences. And Google must live within the world of mainstream media and government regulation, and these two sectors are also dominated by elite university graduates of the last quarter century.

But nevertheless the institutions and their employees operate under different constraints. Google is the elite university without tenure and the elite university is Google without market discipline. You might think that tenure is the more important obstacle to enforcing an orthodoxy like modern diversity policy. After all, a professor at an elite university would not be fired for making the largely accurate factual claims about the average differences in temperament between women and men that the Googler did in the memo that got him sacked. Nor would she be let go for arguing that it would be better to judge people as individuals and hire on merit alo

Measuring the Fiscal Health of State Pension Plans

Greg McGinnis:

A state pension plan’s annual funded ratio gives an end-of-fiscal-year snapshot of the assets as a proportion of the accrued liabilities. In aggregate, the funded ratio of these plans dropped to 72 percent in 2015 from 75 percent in 2014. Across the country, funded ratios for plans reviewed by The Pew Charitable Trusts ranged from 37 percent in New Jersey to 104 percent in South Dakota.

The underlying funding differences among pension plans and states reflect policy choices, including plan design, contribution policies, and investment return assumptions, in addition to pension fund performance in the stock market. Pew’s issue brief “The State Pension Funding Gap: 2015,” published in April 2017, outlines these differences in detail.

Studies Are Usually Bunk, Study Shows

Andy Kessler:

Many of the studies quoted in newspaper articles and pop-psychology books are one-offs anyway. In August 2015, the Center for Open Science published a study in which 270 researchers spent four years trying to reproduce 100 leading psychology experiments. They successfully replicated only 39. Yes, I see the irony of a study debunking a study, but add to this a Nature survey of 1,576 scientists published last year. “More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments,” the survey report concludes. “And more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.”

Bunk medical studies are worrisome, but who really cares about pop behavioral science? It’s easy to write this off as trivial, except millions take these studies and their conclusions seriously. The 2008 book “Nudge,” from academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, called for “libertarian paternalism” to push people in the right direction. But who decides what’s the right direction? Turns out the answer is Mr. Sunstein. He was hired by the Obama administration in 2009 to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Call it psychobabble authoritarianism.

This University President Can’t Take a Joke

Ted Balaker:

No. The disturbing event was a campus screening of my documentary, Can We Take a Joke? The film examines the clash between comedy and outrage culture, and in it comedians ranging from newbie college jokesters to successful veterans such as Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Christina Pazsitzky, Adam Carolla, Lisa Lampanelli, and Jim Norton push back against the “Outrage Mob” and stand up for comedy and free speech.

The film includes a variety of free speech scholars, and pays special attention to the college scene. It explains how universities have taught generations of students that they can shut down opinions they don’t like simply by declaring they’re offended.

Being offended is much easier than formulating a persuasive argument for your point of view, and in the upside-down modern college environment, parading your offendedness actually confers an air of enlightenment. What’s worse is that students bring the muzzler mentality with them after they graduate, and make society at large less tolerant and less fun.

What happened when eight states outlawed race-conscious admissions at colleges


To have an equal chance of admission as a black applicant, an Asian applicant to a top college needs as much as 450 additional points out of 1600 on the SAT (a whopping amount to those unaccustomed to American psychometrics). Encouragingly, research by David Card and Alan Krueger, two economists, shows that talented minority students apply at the same rate to leading universities with or without affirmative action.

On Segregation, Sacrifice and Scolding Both Sides

Mike Antunucci:

Rachel M. Cohen has written a piece in The American Prospect titled “Under Trump, Liberals Rediscover School Segregation” that almost seems designed to rile both sides of the education policy debate.

These kinds of articles always get my attention, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to tell people exactly what they want to hear. The next easiest thing is to tell your opponents what they don’t want to hear.

Telling your allies what they don’t want to hear gets really awkward, at best.

Cohen applauds the newfound focus on school segregation, but thinks “the timing sometimes seems politically convenient.” She notes a previous lack of liberal interest in the segregation found not only in traditional schools, but in charters when supported by a charter-friendly Obama Administration.

Charter advocates aren’t going to love the notion that they, as well as voucher advocates, are contributing to segregation. But unions aren’t going to love Cohen’s implication that they tend to fight segregation only when they don’t have to sacrifice anything:

Global Sex Differences in Test Score Variability

Stephen Machin and Tuomas Pekkarinen:

Do boys and girls differ in their intel- lectual and cognitive abilities and, if so, in what way? These questions have raised considerable debate, both in terms of average performance and in terms of variability around the average.
Empirical research on gen- der differences in achievements produces mixed conclusions, with some evidence that favors boys and some that favors girls (1–4). In many countries, girls show superior performance in school examinations, which is also reflected in higher rates of attendance in tertiary educa- tion. In addition, girls have been improving their position rela- tive to boys (5, 6). In countries with a more gender-equal cul- ture, the gender gap that is usu- ally in favor of boys in average mathematics test scores is erased or even reversed in favor of girls (7).

St. Augustine’s results, not its facilities, will determine voucher school’s impact

Alan Borsuk:

Every school on the south side is in fear of what Augustine Prep will mean, a leader of a different school told me recently. Some are at least expressing good wishes. Some are not, especially privately.

The biggest thing to watch over the next several years will be enrollment at a lot of the schools on the south side. Augustine, which is a private, Christian school where 100% of students will receive public voucher money, will debut with about 660 students in early elementary grades, sixth grade and ninth grade, said Ramirez and the school’s superintendent, Alfonso Carmona.

The plan is that it will fill out, grade by grade, to become a K-12, with 1,700 students. The intention is to build a second building immediately to the east and for enrollment to grow to 3,000 by a few years from now. If that comes to pass, Augustine most likely would be the largest school operation in Milwaukee, outside of MPS.

The population on Milwaukee’s south side and the population of Hispanics, the dominant portion of the Augustine enrollment, are growing. But it’s hard to envision so many kids going to Augustine without other schools losing enrollment.

St. Augustine Preparatory Academy.

Dear mums: don’t let the bottle bashers get you down

Katie Martin:

Still, it rankles, because it’s hard to overstate just how much pressure mums are under to banish the bottle. The bottle bashers are just one part of an overbearing commercial, social and medical enterprise that tells mums that whatever they do, however hard they try, they’re doing it wrong.

I noticed the start of the bullying in my first pregnancy, when I did what many middle-class parents do: paid to make new friends by going to tree-huggy childbirth classes. There, I was told by a lady who’d had her babies in her bathroom that real mums didn’t need to go to hospital to give birth, didn’t need pain relief in childbirth (“epidurals are for wimps!”), that newborns didn’t need vitamin K injections (they absolutely definitely do) and you can make your own mind up about vaccinations but, really, if Baby needed those chemicals, then nature would provide them, don’t you think? Oh, and, no matter how hard it is, get that baby on that boob. Bottles are bad.

After the joy of childbirth, which the lady said would be a doddle but might well have killed me and/or my daughter without some heavy-handed intervention, the midwives and health visitors kick in. Are you breastfeeding? You must breastfeed. Finding it painful? Running a fever? Whatever. (I’m a farmer’s lass, from a cattle farm, but hadn’t realised that mastitis could affect humans.) Are you crying day and night because the baby’s screaming the house down, losing weight, can’t latch on? That’s just how it goes. No bottles. We won’t discharge you until we know you’re breastfeeding. Say hello to “the Breastapo”.

How a School Ditched Awards and Assemblies to Refocus on Kids and Learning (Spends Far Less Per Student Than Madison)

Linda Flanagan:

When Paula Gosal took over as principal of the Chilliwack Middle School, she walked smack into the middle of a long-standing debate among the staff over awards. It wasn’t exactly a rumble that Gosal was tossed into so abruptly in the fall of 2016. Most of the teachers at this school for seventh- through ninth-graders in British Columbia had read the literature on awards, and were looking for feedback and support from their new principal. The majority wanted to do away with the school’s awards and awards assemblies, and needed the backing of their principal to make it happen.

“I did not have to be persuaded,” Gosal said. She called for a vote, and the staff unanimously decided to stop handing out awards.

Though data on the extent of school award-giving is scarce, the practice of delivering them is so customary that the Common Application to U.S. colleges includes spaces to report honors and other forms of recognition. Alongside their ubiquity, however, is abundant research showing that awards, rewards and other external incentives undermine intrinsic motivation.

“This is one of the most robust findings in social science—and also one of the most ignored,” wrote Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pursuit of the trinket or prize extinguishes what might have been a flicker of internal interest in a subject, suffocating the genuine sources of motivation: mastery, autonomy and purpose. “To say ‘do this, and you’ll get that’ makes people lose interest in ‘this,’ ” said Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards. Awards are that much worse than rewards, Kohn added, because they are simply prizes made artificially limited.

The Chilliwack School District plans to spend C$153,673,539 during the 2017-2018 school year for about 14,000 students. (US$121,340,626). That’s $8,667 per student, or less than half of Madison’s nearly $20,000.

The Future of Truth

Sam Lessin:

The Not Too Distant Future: A World Awash of Fake Video, Audio and Photos

In the last several months videos have been floating around the web showing how video and audio can be easily manipulated to make it appear that almost anyone is saying almost anything. A good recent example, from University of Washington professors, uses former President Barack Obama’s speech patterns to demonstrate one form of the technology. Another good demonstration, from Stanford last year, shows face expression-matching research.

In a sense, this isn’t new. For a long time, Hollywood studios have been creating believable fakes, bringing back deceased actors or grafting live actors onto increasingly expressive cartoon scaffoldings.

Much like weapons proliferation, however, the ability to create believable fakes isn’t too scary when it is extremely time consuming and expensive to access. It is far more dangerous, however, when the technology gets good enough that almost anyone can generate believable fake media with access to the internet, hundreds of dollars of equipment, and a few hours. That’s the direction in which we are marching.

Academic Publishing Meets Capitalism

Charlie Martin:

Quite a long time ago now, I reviewed a book for IEEE Spectrum (I think) on the “Reification problem” in formal methods of software development. (“The what?”, you ask? “Reification” is to make something less abstract. This was a book on how to convert beautiful proven programs on paper into ugly proletarian real computer code.)

The contents were normal for this kind of book – I’d just had a chapter published in a similar book, so I was familiar with the process – a collection of chapters which were provided in typeset form to the publisher by the authors and printed using photo-offset printing. The book itself was the cheapest sort of academic hardcover binding: sewn signatures in a cloth spine, hardboard covers and the sort of cheap plastic surface that would break and peel off in a semester’s hard use.

What struck me was what the book cost: over $200. I no longer remember the exact price and page count, but the number burned into my memory was that it was 62.5¢ per page. Making Xerox copies of the book would have cost 10¢ a page. The actual production costs of the book were as low as they could possibly have been in hardback, with no design, no typesetting, and cheap binding.

Now, there are some reasons why it would be expensive, but the reason they could get away with it was that thousands of research libraries were buying this sort of book for $200+ each so they could maintain the currency of their library.

Formal journals were — and are — even worse. You needed to produce your paper in typeset form to match the journal’s standards, after which the journal would charge “page fees” or a “publication fee”. Those fees are pretty significant now: up to $3000 in some journals. The journals are also published online, but if you want access to more than the abstract, you need to pay a fee — $30–$40 usually. (Here’s an example.)

Lighthouse Christian School moving to bigger digs after voucher-fueled enrollment growth

Karen Rivedal:

Lighthouse Christian School, which has operated since 2004 out of Lighthouse Church at 5202 Regent St., will gets its own building at 6400 Schroeder Road, with space for up to 260 elementary students. The $3.6 million, two-phase project will increase classrooms from eight to 19 and will add a cafeteria, a library with computer lab and a gymnasium, among other improvements such as broader hallways, more storage, a bigger playground and better equipment.

“This is the first time each grade level will have its own classroom,” said the Rev. Tia Sierra, the school’s principal and church co-pastor with her husband, the Rev. Marcio Sierra.

Madison’s government funded schools have long resisted governance diversity.

Civics: “Liberals” should reject the divisive, zero-sum politics of identity and find their way back to a unifying vision of the common good

Mark Lola:

The results of this shift are now plain to see. The classic Democratic goal of bringing people from different backgrounds together for a single common project has given way to a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition. And what keeps this approach to politics alive is that it is cultivated in the colleges and universities where liberal elites are formed. Here again, we must look to the history of the New Left to understand how this happened.

After Reagan’s election in 1980, conservative activists hit the road to spread the new individualist gospel of small government and free markets and poured their energies into winning out-of-the-way county, state and congressional elections. Also on the road, though taking a different exit on the interstate, were former New Left activists heading for college towns all over America.

Conservatives concentrated on attracting working people once attached to the Democratic Party—a populist, bottom-up strategy. The left concentrated on transforming the outlook of professional and party elites—a top-down strategy. Both groups were successful, and both left their mark on the country.

Up until the 1960s, those active in the Democratic Party were largely drawn from the working class or farm communities and were formed in local political clubs or on union-dominated shop floors. That world is gone. Today they are formed primarily in our colleges and universities, as are members of the overwhelmingly liberal-dominated professions of law, journalism and education.

Liberal political education, such as it is, now takes place on campuses that are far removed, socially and geographically, from the rest of the country—and particularly from the sorts of people who once were the foundation of the Democratic Party. And the political catechism that is taught is a historical artifact, reflecting more the idiosyncratic experience of the ’60s generation than the realities of power politics today.

The experience of that era taught the New Left two lessons. The first was that movement politics was the only mode of engagement that actually changes things; the second was that political activity must have some authentic meaning for the self, making compromise seem like a self-betrayal.

These lessons, though, have little bearing on liberalism’s present crisis, which is that of being defeated time and again by a well-organized Republican Party that keeps tightening its grip on our institutions. Where those lessons do resonate is with young people in our highly individualistic bourgeois society—a society that keeps them focused on themselves and teaches them that personal choice, individual rights and self-definition are all that is sacred.

The big lesson from the world’s best school system? Trust your teachers

John Hart:

Finnish education is rarely out of the news, whether it’s outstanding Pisa results, those same results slipping, the dropping of traditional subjects, not dropping subjects, or what makes Finnish teachers special.

I worked in England for two years as a teacher before moving to Finland eight years ago. My colleagues in the UK were supportive and the headteacher gave me subject leadership in my second year. I didn’t want to leave but the pull of home for my Finnish wife was too strong, so we upped sticks.

Finland’s education policies have been highly praised and the country has started to export its model around the world. Much of what has been written about this has, understandably, focused on policy, but it’s somewhat reductive to think in such narrow terms. The ethos of the schools and the society in which the policies are implemented are equally important.

No grammar schools, lots of play: the secrets of Europe’s top education system

Naysayers might argue that demographic differences between Finland and the UK (among other countries) make comparing education policies pointless. The population of Finland is homogeneous; just 5% of the population was born outside the country and don’t speak either Finnish or Swedish. This puts less strain on schools to plug linguistic and cultural gaps that exist elsewhere, but it only tells half the story. The economic homogeneity of the population, and the equity of society that is reflected in its schools, has contributed to Finland’s success. And this isn’t limited to education.

Cal State will no longer require placement exams and remedial classes for freshmen

Rosanna Xia:

Cal State plans to drop placement exams in math and English as well as the noncredit remedial courses that more than 25,000 freshmen have been required to take each fall — a radical move away from the way public universities traditionally support students who come to college less prepared than their peers.

In an executive order issued late Wednesday, Chancellor Timothy P. White directed the nation’s largest public university system to revamp its approach to remedial education and assess new freshmen for college readiness and course placement by using high school grades, ACT and SAT scores, previous classroom performance and other measures that administrators say provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of students’ knowledge.

Cal State will no longer make those students who may need extra help take the standardized entry-level mathematics (ELM) exam and the English placement test (EPT).

The new protocol, which will go into effect in fall 2018, “facilitates equitable opportunity for first-year students to succeed through existing and redesigned education models,” White wrote in a memorandum to the system’s 23 campus presidents, who will be responsible for working with faculty to implement the changes. The hope is that these efforts will also help students obtain their degrees sooner — one of the public university system’s priorities. Cal State has committed to doubling its four-year graduation rate, from 19% to 40%, by 2025.

100 Black Men of Madison Back to School Celebration

PDF Flyer::

Need a backpack for school this fall? We have you covered.

On August 12th, 2017 at 9AM The 100 Black Men of Madison will be hosting the Back to School Celebration at Madison College where FREE backpacks filled with school supplies will be given away. All K-12 students are welcome and encouraged to attend. Please see below for additional details and a few FAQs.

9:00a.m. Saturday 12 August 2017

1701 Wright St.
Madison, WI 53704 (Map)

“We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades”

Paul Fanlund:

For example? “If you’re looking for the simplest examples, we weren’t consistently teaching students the fundamentals of reading in the earliest grades. We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades, and then you wonder why students aren’t attaining the skills, the basic skills … the foundational skills of reading. We still have some more work to do in that area, but boy, we have come a long way.”

With her background in California schools before she held senior-level jobs in the gigantic Chicago school district, one wonders whether a successful 45-year-old administrator might find appeal in returning to lead a big urban district. When she was hired, Cheatham talked about being here for the long haul. She still does.

She says she is excited that her son, Theo, is starting elementary school at Crestwood this fall and adds: “I am more committed and invested than ever. Like I said, I think we had this foundation-building phase that we’re going to be bringing to a close and I’m really excited about what comes next. I think we’re poised to do so much and especially for students who need and deserve more, students of color in particular.

“When I signed up I told the board that I was walking in the door thinking that I was here for a good 10 years, or as long as you guys will keep me, and I serve the community, and so that commitment remains, so I’m not planning on going anywhere.”

Notes and links:

Plenty of resources“, now nearly $20k/student.

Madison’s long-term, disastrous reading results.

Jennifer Cheatham. Previous Superintendents.

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


Commentary on school choice in Madison

Madison Teacher and Parent Jen Greenwald:

I have worked as a teacher in the Madison Metropolitan School District since 1997. I have raised my two biracial daughters in and out of Madison public schools. And, like many of the people who support Isthmus Montessori, I would like to see radical change in our district. A school system that truly honors children for who they are would be a much better place for all of us.

However, I disagree that Isthmus Montessori would create the change we want to see. It would provide change for the very small number of children (fewer than 1 percent of students in the district) who win the lottery to attend the charter school — but at the expense of other students in the district. It is neither logical nor equitable to provide such a small number of children with a learning environment focused on creativity, imagination and exploration while insisting on more rigidity and standardization in the regular public schools, which serve the vast majority of our students.

Madison spends far more than most, now nearly 20,000 per student.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results, while rejecting any sort of K-12 governance choice.

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

What Is Harvard Hiding?

Wall Street Journal:

One microdrama last week came from a leaked document revealing that the Justice Department may staff up an investigation into “intentional race-based discrimination” in college admissions. The left is accusing Justice of dismantling racial preferences, though acceptance practices at elite universities deserve more scrutiny, particularly regarding Asian-American applicants.

In 2015 a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups filed a complaint with the Justice Department Civil Rights Division that alleges admissions discrimination at Harvard University, and the details are striking. In 1993 about 20% of Harvard students were Asian-American, and that figure has barely budged over two decades, even as the Asian-American share of the U.S. population has grown rapidly. Harvard’s admitted class of 2021 is 22% Asian-American, according to data on the university’s website, and the numbers are roughly consistent at Princeton, Yale and other Ivy League schools.

Disability Rights Advocates Are Fighting the Wrong Fight on School Choice

Robin Lake & Sivan Tuchman:

Many respected national groups have recently set their sights on school choice as the new battlefront for disability rights. They are anywhere from open to highly skeptical to adamantly opposed to charter schools and private school choice, often aligning with teachers unions to try to block new proposals or to re-regulate existing policies.

This opposition makes sense in many ways. Schools of choice, to varying degrees, are free of the hard-won regulations that these groups fought for over the last two decades: the right for access to, and inclusion in, general education classrooms, rather than isolated institutional settings; and the right to a defined set of supports and services to help students with special needs succeed in school.

Indeed, there are good reasons to be alert to issues like counseling out, disproportionate or inappropriate school discipline, and denial of services in public charter schools, which are required to comply with the same federal and state protections as district-run public schools. And when it comes to vouchers, education savings accounts (ESAs), and other forms of private school choice, the issues get more complex around student rights and school responsibilities.

This was accomplished via the indefensibly corrupt manipulations of language repeated incessantly in our leading media.

Patrick Lawrence:

Three, regardless of what one may think about the investigations and conclusions I will now outline—and, as noted, these investigations continue—there is a bottom line attaching to them. We can even call it a red line. Under no circumstance can it be acceptable that the relevant authorities—the National Security Agency, the Justice Department (via the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and the Central Intelligence Agency—leave these new findings without reply. Not credibly, in any case. Forensic investigators, prominent among them people with decades’ experience at high levels in these very institutions, have put a body of evidence on a table previously left empty. Silence now, should it ensue, cannot be written down as an admission of duplicity, but it will come very close to one.

It requires no elaboration to apply the above point to the corporate media, which have been flaccidly satisfied with official explanations of the DNC matter from the start.

Related: Madison’s long-term, disastrous reading results.

Presumably, citizens require reading and critical thinking skills.

Google Can’t Seem to Tolerate Diversity

Elaine Ou:

Suppressing intellectual debate on college campuses is bad enough. Doing the same in Silicon Valley, which has essentially become a finishing school for elite universities, compounds the problem. Its engineers build products that potentially shape our digital lives. At Google, they oversee a search algorithm that seeks to surface “authoritative” results and demote low-quality content. This algorithm is tuned by an internal team of evaluators. If the company silences dissent within its own ranks, why should we trust it to manage our access to information?

In a statement, Google’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Danielle Brown, refused to link to Damore’s memo, saying that “it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.” Companies don’t have viewpoints. Humans do — diverse ones. The swiftness with which Google removed an outspoken engineer demonstrates that Damore is exactly right: Google could use some diversity of ideas.

Madison Named Top City for Tech Talent Growth, Ranking #1 on CBRE’s Annual List of Tech Momentum Markets

Cal Owings

Madison ranked #1 on CBRE’s list of tech talent momentum markets, a measurement of the change in tech job growth, as part of its fifth annual Scoring Tech Talent Report. Aided by the presence of large universities, the report also found Madison has the highest concentration of millennials compared to other tech cities, accounting for 26.5 percent of the urban population.
 The report, which can be viewed in detail by market in the interactive Tech Talent Analyzer, finds that tech job growth gained momentum in 28 of the 50 markets. This means job creation grew faster in the past two years (2015-2016) compared with the prior two-year period (2013-2014). Madison’s tech talent pool grew 30.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, an increase of 24.8 percentage points compared to the previous two years.

New Illinois school funding plan could cost taxpayers billions over a decade or longer

Diane Rado:

That foundation amount in Illinois has been $6,119 per student for several years now, and has been the basis of distributing state aid to districts, in a formula that combines with local funds. Districts also get federal dollars. And some property-rich districts have been getting a flat amount from the state instead of the formula-driven amount.

But to have that same foundation level, $6,119, apply to every district “never made sense because districts have different needs,” said Benjamin Boer, deputy director at Advance Illinois, an education reform group that has been active in revamping the school funding formula.

The unique adequacy targets could mean surprises for taxpayers.

For example, some affluent districts spend more than $20,000 per student. But there is no district with an adequacy target as high as $20,000 in the new formula, according to ISBE’s analysis in May.

The range of per-pupil adequacy targets goes from about $9,800 to $16,650 in that analysis, which could prompt questions by taxpayers in some districts about why spending is higher than what’s considered adequate.

“That becomes a conversation at the local level on whether they (taxpayers) want to tax themselves and pay that (larger) amount,” Boer said.

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

The Fate of Online Trust in the Next Decade

Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson:

Many experts say lack of trust will not be a barrier to increased public reliance on the internet. Those who are hopeful that trust will grow expect technical and regulatory change will combat users’ concerns about security and privacy. Those who have doubts about progress say people are inured to risk, addicted to convenience and will not be offered alternatives to online interaction. Some expect the very nature of trust will change.
 Moreover, the rise of the internet and social media has enabled entirely new kinds of relationships and communities in which trust must be negotiated with others whom users do not see, with faraway enterprises, under circumstances that are not wholly familiar, in a world exploding with information of uncertain provenance used by actors employing ever-proliferating strategies to capture users’ attention. In addition, the internet serves as a conduit for the public’s privacy to be compromised through surveillance and cyberattacks and additional techniques for them to fall victim to scams and bad actors.
 If that were not challenging enough, the emergence of trust-jarring digital interactions has also coincided with a sharp decline in trust for major institutions, such as government (and Congress and the presidency), the news media, public schools, the church and banks.
 The question arises, then: What will happen to online trust in the coming decade? In summer 2016, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large canvassing of technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and other leaders, asking them to react to this framing of the issue:

K-12 Influence Peddling: 2016 Election

Peter Cook:

After spending eight long years at odds with the Obama Administration, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) viewed the 2016 elections as an opportunity to reassert themselves within the Democratic Party and to regain a measure of influence over federal education policy. As a result, the two unions spent massive amounts to get Democrats elected to office, threw their weight Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president, and closely coordinated their efforts with national Democratic Party officials.

It goes without saying that things did work out as planned. While the two teachers unions spent tens of millions of dollars during the 2016 election cycle to get Clinton and other Democrats elected, in the end, they failed to deliver where it counts: the voting booth. As Greg Toppo at USA Today reported shortly after the elections, internal union figures revealed that one out of every three NEA members and one out of every five AFT members voted for Donald Trump.

Related: $1.57M for four senators (WEAC).

Randi Weingarten’s ‘Racism’ Rant

Wall Street Journal:

Betsy DeVos must be doing something right. Why else would Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, devote a speech late last week to blasting the Education Secretary for using the word “choice”—and then tying it to racism?

Sounding like Hillary Clinton in full deplorable mode, Ms. Weingarten says the movement to give parents more say over where their kids go to school has its roots in “racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.” Adapting the theology of the climate-change censors who seek to shut down debate, she goes on to call Mrs. DeVos a “public-school denier.”

What really frosts the AFT president is that she recognizes that the public-school monopoly her union backs is now under siege, morally and politically, for its failure to educate children, especially minority children.

It’s Time For Millennials To Rise And Claim Their Inheritance

Ben Domenech:

Space is the next frontier. Throughout the history of America, we have been a nation driven by the idea of the frontier—a place where law was slim and liberty was enormous, where you could make your way in the world based on your own ambition and abilities, not fenced in by the limitations of society. The idea of the frontier is a stand-in for the idea of liberty. The danger for the millennial generation today is that even as they inhabit an era providing utopian degrees of choices, they have become too fearful to actually make those choices and seize the future liberty allows. In so doing, they deny their inheritance as Americans.

How a Catholic School Turned $15,000 Into $34 Million Thanks to Snapchat

Georgia Wells::

Simon Chiu has been wrestling with an unusual dilemma: how the Catholic high school he leads should spend one of the most extraordinary windfalls in Silicon Valley.

A $15,000 investment by Saint Francis High School five years ago turned into $34 million this past March when Snapchat parent Snap Inc. SNAP +4.56% went public.

Since the school hit the jackpot, Mr. Chiu has had to weigh competing ideas for what to do with the money. Students speculated they wouldn’t have to pay tuition next year. Parents asked whether annual fundraisers, including a Christmas boutique sale, were still necessary. Some advisers urged school officials to construct a new chapel and science laboratories.

China cracks down after investigation finds massive peer-review fraud

Dennis Normile:

A massive peer-review fraud has triggered a tough response from the Chinese government. Officials last week announced that more than 400 researchers listed as authors on some 100 now-retracted papers will face disciplinary action because their misconduct has seriously damaged China’s scientific reputation.

Some institutions have barred the scientists linked to the fraud from pursuing their research—at least temporarily. And they have imposed other penalties, including canceling promotions, honors, and grants. Government ministries have also announced new “zero tolerance” policies aimed at stamping out research fraud. “We should eradicate the problem from its roots,” said He Defang, director of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s (MOST’s) regulatory division in Beijing.

Senator: UW should cut programs with ‘little demand’ to produce more engineers for Foxconn

Nico Savidge:

University of Wisconsin System campuses should beef up their engineering programs to train workers at a planned Foxconn facility in southeastern Wisconsin by cutting funding for less popular programs — not by asking the state for more money — a Republican senator said Monday.

Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, criticized UW System President Ray Cross’ request at a hearing last week for lawmakers to provide additional higher education funding so campuses can hire new faculty members and produce more engineers for Foxconn.

Stroebel said UW should use the state funding it already has to expand engineering programs.

I invested early in Google and Facebook and regret it. I helped create a monster.

Roger McNamee

I invested in Google and Facebook years before their first revenue and profited enormously. I was an early adviser to Facebook’s team, but I am terrified by the damage being done by these Internet monopolies.

Technology has transformed our lives in countless ways, mostly for the better. Thanks to the now ubiquitous smartphone, tech touches us from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. While the convenience of smartphones has many benefits, the unintended consequences of well-intentioned product choices have become a menace to public health and to democracy.

Facebook and Google get their revenue from advertising, the effectiveness of which depends on gaining and maintaining consumer attention. Borrowing techniques from the gambling industry, Facebook, Google and others exploit human nature, creating addictive behaviors that compel consumers to check for new messages, respond to notifications, and seek validation from technologies whose only goal is to generate profits for their owners.

Many school districts, including Madison, use Google’s tools.

If All The Teachers of Honors Courses Are “Effective,” What’s Up With These A.P. Test Scores?

Tina Posterli:

Recently, the results of two new studies prompted me to delve deeper into the complex world of how effectively our teachers are being evaluated in New York. Collectively, the studies show that despite states’ efforts to make evaluations tougher, principals continue to rate nearly all teachers as “effective,” and when principals are asked their opinions of teachers in confidence, with no stakes attached, they are much more likely to give harsh ratings.

This concerns me because, ever since Governor Andrew Cuomo adopted a moratorium on test-based teacher evaluations through the 2019-20 school year, teacher ratings are primarily based on principals’ evaluations.

The New York teachers union, an arm of the American Federation of Teachers, strongly opposed Cuomo’s initial proposal to increase the weight of standardized test scores to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, stating that assuming a direct correlation among test scores, the effort of teachers, and success of children ignores all of the other factors that go into learning. Fifty percent may place too much weight on test scores that are aligned with course content, but isn’t zero percent — the result of Cuomo’s moratorium — too little?

Our educators still get annual “growth” scores from Albany based on results of state tests given during the moratorium, but the scores will not be used to decide which teachers and principals will be assigned improvement plans or fired. This means that roughly 60 percent of teachers’ evaluations are based on observations and 40 percent on local tests, depending on what is negotiated with local unions. Student learning objectives — locally-negotiated plans that outline how much students should learn over an academic year and how to measure growth — also factor into the equation.

NC State admin proposes exclusive housing for ‘women of color’

Toni Airaksinen:

“The point and purpose is if you are a Latina and you are an engineering major, with a very specific specialization, you may not ever see anybody who looks like you,” Whittenburg explained. “But when you come home, here is your opportunity to get some support and to deal with some of the microaggressions you might have had to deal with throughout your entire day when you’ve been at class.”

While NC State already has two housing options for racial minorities—one exclusively for black males and another for Native American students—the school does not currently have one for female racial minority students, hence Whittenburg’s proposal.

Executive Director of University Relations Fred Hartman told Campus Reform that NC State has 16 different “living and learning villages” for students, and while he claimed that the applications for each one are “open to any student,” he did not answer whether an applicant’s race would factor into admission decisions.

Hartman also declined to explain to Campus Reform how the segregated housing options are funded.

Madison Schools’ Behavior Education Plan ‘not meeting expectations’

Amber Walker:

The report also found that African-American students are 10.3 times more likely than white students to receive an out-of-school suspension, up from 8 times more likely before the BEP. The report indicated that the suspension risk ratio for African-American students outpaced the national average, where black students are 3 to 4 times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Might one might consider the District’s long term, disastrous reading results and our far above average spending, now nearly $20k per student?

Perhaps governance diversity might be worthwhile.

Houston ISD faces state takeover if long-failing campuses don’t improve

Shelby Webb and Andrea Zelinski:

The warning was issued during a meeting Monday between Texas Education Agency officials and Houston’s legislative delegation.

TEA officials told lawmakers that if even one of the district’s 13 schools that has struggled for at least the past three years receives failing accountability marks in 2017 and again in 2018, it could trigger state oversight of the entire district. Alternatively, the state agency could take over individual, chronically failing campuses.

Houston ISD is among 46 independent school districts that could face such sweeping changes thanks to a law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2015 that targets schools that have been in “improvement required” status for five or more years, as of the 2018-2019 school year.

While the state has taken over individual schools and smaller districts in the past, the law could overhaul how public education is provided in Texas. The Houston ISD is the seventh-largest district in the country, serving more than 210,000 students at over 280 schools and operating with a $2 billion annual budget.

Houston plans to spend $9,524 per student during the 2017-2018 school year, slightly less than half of Madison’s nearly 20K….

Madison’s far above average spending has not addressed its long standing, disastrous reading results.

What Music Do Americans Love the Most? 50 Detailed Fan Maps

Josh Katz:

YouTube has become a dominant force in the music industry in the last few years, particularly among younger people. With the help of YouTube’s geocoded streaming data, we set out to map the contours of music fandom and culture in the United States.
 Of the artists on the Billboard Top 100 this spring, we looked at the 50 that were most watched on YouTube in the United States between January 2016 and April 2017. Each map shows relative popularity in different parts of the country. If one part of a map is lighter, it doesn’t mean people there weren’t watching the artist’s videos; it just means fans were more likely to listen to a variety of other artists.
 See the complete set of fan maps below, listed in order of YouTube views in our data.

Academic Language and the Problem of Meaninglessness

Nathan Robinson:

It’s so easy to lose track of the meaning of words. Say any word enough times and it becomes a mere sound, its semantic content steadily evaporating with each additional usage (“anthill…anthill…anthill…”) Some words, such as “democracy,” “justice,” and “fascism,” can eventually turn into little more than empty praise or pejorative, essentially the equivalent of declaring “Hooray for this thing!” or “Boo to that thing.”

But, and this should go without saying, if people are actually trying to communicate with one another their words need to have meaning, and we need to have relatively fixed and identifiable definitions for concepts and actions. That’s always going to be elusive, because the usages of words will change over time and vary among users, so it will be impossible for any definition to stay truly stable and universally agreed. Yet while their boundaries can be fuzzy and contested, words ultimately need to be something more than meaningless mouth-noises. When nobody agrees on the definition of a word, when it contains so many possible connotations that it’s impossible to know what anyone who uses it actually means by it, the word is no longer able to effectively communicate.

The use of words without fixed or clear meanings is a major part of what makes academic writing so terrible. People often complain that academic writing is “obscure” or overly convoluted and complex. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with either complexity or obscurity in themselves; research papers in the sciences have to be complex and technical, and introducing people to obscure and unfamiliar words or concepts can be a key part of developing human knowledge. The problem largely comes when words are vague and unclear, admitting of many possible interpretations. Infamous academic terms like “phenomenological,” “intersubjectivity,” “embeddedness,” “hermeneutical,” and “discursive” are not bad because they describe complicated concepts, but because it’s often not clear just what an author means by them. It’s not that they’re meaningless, necessarily, but that they could mean lots of things, and people don’t seem to have a very precise shared idea of how to interpret them. (That’s one reason why Current Affairs mostly shies away from using the word “neoliberalism.” It’s not that it has no meaning, it’s that because people mean different things by it, it ends up being somewhat ineffective as a tool for communication.)

Civics: Why Corrupt Bankers Avoid Jail

Patrick Radden Keefe:

What Breuer delivered, however, was the sort of velvet accountability to which large banks have grown accustomed: no criminal charges were filed, and no executives or employees were prosecuted for trafficking in dirty money. Instead, HSBC pledged to clean up its institutional culture, and to pay a fine of nearly two billion dollars: a penalty that sounded hefty but was only the equivalent of four weeks’ profit for the bank. The U.S. criminal-justice system might be famously unyielding in its prosecution of retail drug crimes and terrorism, but a bank that facilitated such activity could get away with a rap on the knuckles. A headline in the Guardian tartly distilled the absurdity: “HSBC ‘Sorry’ for Aiding Mexican Drug Lords, Rogue States and Terrorists.”

In the years since the mortgage crisis of 2008, it has become common to observe that certain financial institutions and other large corporations may be “too big to jail.” The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the causes of the meltdown, concluded that the mortgage-lending industry was rife with “predatory and fraudulent practices.” In 2011, Ray Brescia, a professor at Albany Law School who had studied foreclosure procedures, told Reuters, “I think it’s difficult to find a fraud of this size . . . in U.S. history.” Yet federal prosecutors filed no criminal indictments against major banks or senior bankers related to the mortgage crisis. Even when the authorities uncovered less esoteric, easier-to-prosecute crimes—such as those committed by HSBC—they routinely declined to press charges.


They used their pull in the administration, including at the White House, and with a high-level friend at the Justice Department, going over the heads of staff prosecutors. And just days after the suit was announced, the airlines turned to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first White House chief of staff, to help push back against the Justice Department.

The School Funding Crisis Facing Rural Texas Schools (some spend half of Madison, per student

Sutton Travis:

Even without ASATR, Carthage might fare the best of Panola County’s three public school districts. The other two—Gary and Beckville—could be in worse shape. Todd Greer is the superintendent of Gary, a school district just fifteen miles or so from Carthage, depending which Farm-to-Market road you take. ASATR accounted for $1.3 million of Gary’s $5 million budget last school year. Greer says that Gary, a school district with less than 500 students enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade, would be essentially bankrupt in two years without the program. Still, he remains hopeful that legislators will extend ASATR funding during the special session. “It has such a simple fix, to such a huge, catastrophic problem,” Greer said. “I can’t fathom people in the state of Texas not fixing that problem.”

Madison spends far more per student, now nearly $20k, during the 2017-2018 budget.

UT student sues Fenves over sexual assault suspension

Ryan Autullo and Ralph K.M. Haurwitz:

A University of Texas student claims in a lawsuit that UT President Gregory L. Fenves misapplied the school’s sexual assault policy and suspended him for five semesters even though his accuser agreed to have sex after a sorority formal in spring 2016.

The case, which raises questions about the rights of the accused, comes amid national and local concern over the prevalence of campus sexual assault.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Austin, Fenves on April 12 overruled a university hearing officer who determined that there had been no assault. In a letter informing the student of his suspension, Fenves asserted that the woman was highly intoxicated and “someone who is intoxicated cannot give consent to sexual activity because they are incapacitated.”

Fenves, citing testimony by a witness who attended the formal, added, “While parties may disagree as to whether intoxication and incapacitation are synonymous, certainly, someone described as: ‘incredibly intoxicated, no longer coherent, at a point where she needed to be taken home away from the event because she couldn’t form sentences,’ meets the definition of incapacitated.”

The lawsuit accuses Fenves of coming up with his own standard for incapacitation and ignoring the university’s standard, which defines it as “a state of being that prevents an individual from having the capacity to give consent” and “could result from the use of drugs or alcohol.”

Beware the Browser Extensions Privacy Trap!

Lauren Weinstein::

There’s a story going around currently about a group of researchers who claim to have de-anonymized a variety of browser users’ search data. The fact that proper anonymization of data is a nontrivial task is quite well known. Sloppy “anonymization” can be effectively as bad as no anonymization at all.

But the interested observer might wonder … where did these researchers get their search data in the first place?

It turns out that the main source of this data are the individuals or firms behind third-party browser extensions and apps, which provide or sell the user data that they collect to data brokers and to other entities.

And so we open up a very big can of worms.

The major browsers (e.g., Google’s Chrome) provide various means for users to install extensions and applications to extend browser functionalities. While the browser firms work extensively to build top-notch security and privacy controls into the browsers themselves, the unfortunate fact is that these can be undermined by such add-ons, some of which are downright crooked, many more of which are sloppily written and poorly maintained.

Restrictions on digital mapping by overseas firms present hurdles to non-Chinese vehicle and tech companies

Liza Lin and Tim Higgins:

China is creating roadblocks for U.S. auto makers and tech companies to bringing self-driving cars to the world’s largest auto market.

Citing national security concerns, China is limiting the amount of mapping that can be done by foreign companies, as General Motors Co. , Ford Motor Co., Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. rush to develop self-driving cars or the software behind them. High-definition maps are crucial for autonomous cars to help them discern their exact location, navigate tricky intersections and avoid fixed objects such as buildings.

Global car makers already need to form a partnership with a local company to open factories in China, but some are skeptical they will be able to find a way to operate their autonomous-car software in China because of the mapping restrictions.

The cognitive differences between men and women

Bruce Goldman:

“I wanted to find and explore neural circuits that regulate specific behaviors,” says Shah, then a newly minted Caltech PhD who was beginning a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia. So, he zeroed in on sex-associated behavioral differences in mating, parenting and aggression.

“These behaviors are essential for survival and propagation,” says Shah, MD, PhD, now a Stanford professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neurobiology. “They’re innate rather than learned — at least in animals — so the circuitry involved ought to be developmentally hard-wired into the brain. These circuits should differ depending on which sex you’re looking at.”

His plan was to learn what he could about the activity of genes tied to behaviors that differ between the sexes, then use that knowledge to help identify the neuronal circuits — clusters of nerve cells in close communication with one another — underlying those behaviors.

At the time, this was not a universally popular idea. The neuroscience community had largely considered any observed sex-associated differences in cognition and behavior in humans to be due to the effects of cultural influences. Animal researchers, for their part, seldom even bothered to use female rodents in their experiments, figuring that the cyclical variations in their reproductive hormones would introduce confounding variability into the search for fundamental neurological insights.

But over the past 15 years or so, there’s been a sea change as new technologies have generated a growing pile of evidence that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired and how they work.

UW System launches group to review hiring rules, recruit leaders from outside academia

Nico Savidge:

A University of Wisconsin System group is expected to recommend changes later this year that would overhaul how UW chancellors are hired and aim to recruit more leaders from outside of higher education, officials said Monday.

The work group follows a call last month from John Behling, the new head of the UW Board of Regents, for the System to hire university leaders from the private sector or government — not just those who hold doctorates or are tenured professors.

“As the responsibilities of university leaders continue to evolve, universities across the country have benefited from being open to hiring individuals from non-academic backgrounds,” Behling said in a news release announcing the group.

China Charges Labor Activist for ‘Picking Quarrels’

Chun Han Wong and Josh Chin

A Chinese activist who for years has documented worker unrest faced charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on Friday, in a trial seen as a bellwether of Beijing’s approach to containing labor tensions.

A former migrant worker, Lu Yuyu roamed around China with his girlfriend, collecting information about public protests that he then tallied online. The detention of the couple last year closed a rare window on social unrest in China by putting a key provider of such data out of commission.

Mr. Lu’s one-day trial in the southwestern city of Dali concluded at 9 p.m. on Friday, with prosecutors recommending he be sentenced to between three and five years in prison, one of Mr. Lu’s lawyers, Xiao Yunyang, told The Wall Street Journal.

Civics: What’s Worse: Trump’s Campaign Agenda or Empowering Generals and CIA Operatives to Subvert it?

Glenn Greenwald:

During his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, for better and for worse, advocated a slew of policies that attacked the most sacred prongs of long-standing bipartisan Washington consensus. As a result, he was (and continues to be) viewed as uniquely repellent by the neoliberal and neoconservative guardians of that consensus, along with their sprawling network of agencies, think tanks, financial policy organs, and media outlets used to implement their agenda (CIA, NSA, the Brookings/AEI think tank axis, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, etc.).

Whatever else there is to say about Trump, it is simply a fact that the 2016 election saw elite circles in the U.S., with very few exceptions, lining up with remarkable fervor behind his Democratic opponent. Top CIA officials openly declared war on Trump in the nation’s op-ed pages and one of their operatives (now an MSNBC favorite) was tasked with stopping him in Utah, while Time Magazine reported, just a week before the election, that “the banking industry has supported Clinton with buckets of cash . . . . what bankers most like about Clinton is that she is not Donald Trump.”

America’s amnesia

Thomas Bass:

Everything wrong with the new ten-part PBS documentary on the Vietnam War is apparent in the first five minutes. A voice from nowhere intones about a war “begun in good faith” that somehow ran off the rails and killed millions of people. We see a firefight and a dead soldier in a body bag being winched into a helicopter, as the rotor goes thump, thump, thump, like a scene from Apocalypse Now. Then we cut to a funeral on Main Street and a coffin covered in Stars and Stripes, which multiply, as the camera zooms out, into dozens and then hundreds of flags, waving like a hex against warmongers who might be inclined to think that this film is insufficiently patriotic.

Everything right with the documentary is apparent in the next few minutes, as the film rolls back (literally running several scenes backward) into a trove of archival footage and music from the times and introduces the voices — many of them Vietnamese — that will narrate this history. The film relies heavily on writers and poets, including Americans Tim O’Brien and Karl Marlantes and the Vietnamese writers Le Minh Khue, and Bao Ninh, whose Sorrow of War ranks as one of the great novels about Vietnam or any war.

What Sets Thrivers and Divers Apart in College?

Liz Stucke:

Is your daughter or son ready to head off to college? You (and they) may have conflicting feelings—relieved that the application process is over and yet somewhat apprehensive about whether they will thrive in college. After all, if the university mostly admits students in the top ten percent of their high school class, most of these students, once in college, will no longer be in the top ten percent. As Maurice’s former dean said to the entering law students, it is simple math. Only 10 percent can be in the top 10 percent.

So, what sets thrivers and divers apart in college? Fours economists sought to answer that question. Graham Beattie, Jean-William P. Laliberté, Catherine Michaud-Leclerc, and Philip Oreopoulos surveyed approximately 6,0000 first-year economics students at the University of Toronto in the 2016-2017 academic year. They then compared the top ten percent (the Thrivers) and bottom ten percent (the Divers) in terms of academic performance. How did they differ in terms of study habits, attitudes, and personal experiences?

Their study had some interesting findings.

First, as expected, the students’ high school grades were a strong predictor of their academic performance at college.

Some Top U.S. Educators Went to Finland. Their Big Takeaway: Empower Teachers

Madeline Will:

After their time in Finland, the U.S. teachers traveled to Milan, Italy, for Education First’s Global Leadership Summit, which was focused on the future of food and had celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as one of the speakers. The teachers’ travels were funded through scholarships by EF, an international educational tours company, and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers—recipients were chosen for their essays on becoming globally minded educators.

I spoke to two teachers—Jitka Nelson from Indiana and Amber Vlasnik from Nebraska—about their takeaways from their trip. You can also read the lessons learned from last year’s cohort of teachers who traveled to Finland.

The Secret Key: Empowering Teachers

Nelson and Vlasnik said the teachers left with the impression that Finnish schools are doing a lot of the same things U.S. schools are: The major difference is that teachers are held in higher regard.

Teacher preparation programs are rigorous and selective, and there’s only about a 10 percent acceptance rate, Nelson said. Because of that, teachers are not evaluated through standardized test scores.

I asked Madison’s 2008 candidates if they preferred a top down approach to teachers or simply sought to hire the best and let them do their job (assuming we measure student and teacher content knowledge, of course).

UW System office seeks charter school proposals; Milwaukee market may be tapped out

Annysa Johnson:

Bennett said he has had some interest in the Madison, though he declined to identify schools or individuals. If a school is authorized there, it would be the first in the city not chartered by the Madison Metropolitan School District, and only one of three independent charters — those not authorized by a school district — outside of Milwaukee.

Bennett’s office and post were created by the Republican-led Legislature to authorize charter schools in districts with 25,000 students or more — Milwaukee and Madison, effectively. The 2015-’17 budget plan proposed by Senate Republicans last month would expand that authority beyond those two cities.

Charters are publicly funded schools that allow for greater flexibility in the way they operate in areas such as staffing and curriculum. As of January, Wisconsin had 237charter schools serving about 44,000 students, the vast majority of those authorized by local public school districts. Twenty-two others were independently chartered — all but two of those in Milwaukee — by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the UW-Parkside.

Though they are growing nationally, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, interest has waned in Wisconsin in recent years. Only one new school, Pathways High, is slated to open in Milwaukee this fall. And independent chartershave been slow to catch on outside of Milwaukee, in part because of a lack of funding and a push by parents for public school alternatives.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results. This, despite spending far more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Demonizing School Choice Won’t Help Education

Megan McArdle:

Katherine Stewart doesn’t like Donald Trump’s language about “failing government schools.” School choice, she suggests, has some unsavory ancestors. Libertarianism, for one, “for which all government is big and bad.” And (presumably) even worse: “American slavery, Jim Crow-era segregation, anti-Catholic sentiment and a particular form of Christian fundamentalism.”

One could quibble with some of Stewart’s summation 1 . But it’s certainly fair to note that people opposed to desegregation decided that one way to solve the problem was to get rid of public schools, allowing racists to choose a lily-white educational environment for their children. Maintaining Jim Crow is a vile motive, and it can’t be denied that that was one historical reason some people had for supporting school choice.

Only the proper answer to this is, So what? You cannot stop terrible people from promoting sound ideas for bad reasons. Liberals who think that ad hominem is a sufficient rebuttal to a policy proposal should first stop to consider the role of Hitler’s Germany in spreading national health insurance programs to the countries they invaded. If you think “But Hitler” does not really constitute a useful argument about universal health coverage, then you should probably not resort to “But Jim Crow” in a disagreement over school funding.

Evergreen College pledges to train students not to discriminate against white people

Jennifer Kabbany:

After a white Evergreen State College student filed a formal complaint citing claims of “racially driven violence and harassment” from peers of color, a campus official has pledged that future training topics for student leaders will include preventing bias based on race.

The complaint had been filed by student Steve Coffman*, a junior and history major at the embattled university, who stated that at a heated campus meeting in late May organized by students who claimed the campus is racist and attended by President George Bridges, Coffman was told to get out of the seat he was sitting in and move to the back of the room because he is white.

Back to School Nashville: Parents Got 99 Problems…The Type of School Ain’t One

Velia Hawkins:

Parents, you know we’ve got all kinds of problems to worry about. But feeling judged for the kind of school we choose for our children shouldn’t be one of them.

Just last week I had an issue that sucked up my time and attention for the better part of the week.

It was the third day that week my eldest child claimed sickness so she didn’t have to go to her summer program. She is a talented actress, I should say—so good that I was doubting myself. Maybe she actually was sick? Maybe I should keep her home?

The program she is in seems like it should be perfect — academically stellar, beautiful setting. But for some reason that week she had been struggling and claiming to be sick for much of it.

By day 3 of this parenting fiasco I was enlisting help — asking the person I was meeting with at 10 am for his wisdom on the subject as the father of three. Should I make her go to school? How should we handle this?

Engineering Education: Social Engineering Rather than Actual Engineering

Indrek Wichman:

We engineers like to solve technical problems. That’s the way we think, that’s why we chose our major, that’s why we got into and stayed in engineering.

There are several other reasons why we got into engineering. One of them was the absence of what I describe here as “social engineering,” where the professor/instructor is interested not so much in solving technical problems as in setting the world right—in his or her opinion.

A second and related reason is that engineering (and the sciences generally) should be, like the scales of justice, blind. Engineering does not care about your color, sexual orientation, or your other personal and private attributes. All it takes to succeed is to do the work well.

Attacking dissent at Google


An anonymous Googler is providing evidence at Gab that various employees at Google are openly attacking James Damore, the author of the document dissenting from the SJW diversity doctrine there, and actively lobbying the executives to fire him, despite the fact that more than one-third of Googlers surveyed tend to agree with his dissent.

From the document:

De-emphasize empathy.

I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.

Yonitan Junger:

3. That brings us, however, to point (3), the most serious point of all. I’m going to be even blunter than usual here, because I’m not subject to the usual maze of HR laws right now, and so I can say openly what I would normally only be allowed to say in very restricted fora. And this is addressed specifically to the author of this manifesto.

What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas. And worse than simply thinking these things or saying them in private, you’ve said them in a way that’s tried to legitimize this kind of thing across the company, causing other people to get up and say “wait, is that right?”

I need to be very clear here: not only was nearly everything you said in that document wrong, the fact that you did that has caused significant harm to people across this company, and to the company’s entire ability to function. And being aware of that kind of consequence is also part of your job, as in fact it would be at pretty much any other job. I am no longer even at the company and I’ve had to spend half of the past day talking to people and cleaning up the mess you’ve made. I can’t even imagine how much time and emotional energy has been sunk into this, not to mention reputational harm more broadly.

Commentary: Cathy Young and Dan Eaton.

Madison “four (out of five) of them are not proficient in reading in elementary school”

Just, wow: “…if you take five African-American children in this district, four of them are not proficient in reading in elementary school”


& if you take one hundred…ninety-three of them are not proficient in reading at the end of middle school:

Madison School District reading data 2012-2017.

Background on Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results, here, and, perhaps a bit of hope to address our lack of governance diversity.

What is privilege and what do we do with it?

Dan Williams:

Last week, colleague Laura Townsend wrote about the reality of white privilege. Her column relays the experiences of three college-age individuals who feel they have been affected by white privilege. This is an important topic that deserves a public discussion, because, as Townsend’s column illustrates, there’s some confusion about what white privilege is.

Not only is talking about race difficult, which makes talking about white privilege difficult, but it is necessary to understand the notion of privilege before we can understand the notion of white privilege. Therefore, when talking about white privilege, it is prudent to at least mention the wider concept contained therein: that of privilege itself.

The relevant notion of privilege I define as the receipt of certain benefits wholly through accident of birth. It is undeniable that privilege itself is a reality. Any of us could have been born the unluckiest person on the planet, which, by definition, picks out precisely one person. But we all have the privilege of not being that person. We are all privileged by comparison.

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.

College journalist nabs $2k award for reporting on campus sexual harassment

Haley Samsel:

Co-sponsored by the Student Press Law Center, which supports the First Amendment rights of student media and student journalists, the award spotlights stories that utilize open records laws and encourage public dialogue on campus. The award includes a $2,000 cash prize — $1,000 for Ares and $1,000 for the College Heights Herald, which published the story.

“I literally spent so many hours on this story that if you probably divided up all the money, I probably got paid like 10 cents an hour,” Ares tells USA TODAY College with a laugh. “So it wasn’t for the money.”

Ares first became interested in how universities handled faculty sexual misconduct cases in 2016, when the University of Kentucky sued its independent student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, over requests for documents involving a professor accused of sexual harassment.

Related: U Kentucky is suing its own student newspaper over a sexual assault investigation
As news editor of the Herald at the time, Ares was curious about what documents she could get if she asked for personnel records from universities across the state. In November, she requested Title IX investigation documents from eight public universities in Kentucky. Only two refused her request: Kentucky State and WKU.

Ares decided to pursue WKU’s denial a “little more vigourously,” she says, and wrote an appeal to Kentucky’s attorney general, Andy Beshear. He ultimately sided with Ares and the Herald, stating that WKU was responsible for releasing Title IX records about the university’s final actions in sexual harassment investigations involving university employees.

As Ares pored over Title IX investigation documents she had received from other universities, WKU filed a lawsuit against the Herald and the Kentucky Kernel, UK’s student newspaper, in efforts to turn over the attorney general’s decision.

Ares took a backseat to the lawsuit to focus on her larger project. “I’m not going to see the records anytime soon, I’ve already graduated,” she says. “But I would be interested to see them eventually.”

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

John Twenge:

Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Curated Education Information