What Know-It-Alls Don’t Know, or the Illusion of Competence

Kate Fehlhaber:

To investigate this phenomenon in the lab, Dunning and Kruger designed some clever experiments. In one study, they asked undergraduate students a series of questions about grammar, logic and jokes, and then asked each student to estimate his or her score overall, as well as their relative rank compared to the other students. Interestingly, students who scored the lowest in these cognitive tasks always overestimated how well they did – by a lot. Students who scored in the bottom quartile estimated that they had performed better than two-thirds of the other students!

This ‘illusion of confidence’ extends beyond the classroom and permeates everyday life. In a follow-up study, Dunning and Kruger left the lab and went to a gun range, where they quizzed gun hobbyists about gun safety. Similar to their previous findings, those who answered the fewest questions correctly wildly overestimated their knowledge about firearms. Outside of factual knowledge, though, the Dunning-Kruger effect can also be observed in people’s self-assessment of a myriad of other personal abilities. If you watch any talent show on television today, you will see the shock on the faces of contestants who don’t make it past auditions and are rejected by the judges. While it is almost comical to us, these people are genuinely unaware of how much they have been misled by their illusory superiority.

Sure, it’s typical for people to overestimate their abilities. One study found that 80 per cent of drivers rate themselves as above average – a statistical impossibility. And similar trends have been found when people rate their relative popularity and cognitive abilities. The problem is that when people are incompetent, not only do they reach wrong conclusions and make unfortunate choices but, also, they are robbed of the ability to realise their mistakes. In a semester-long study of college students, good students could better predict their performance on future exams given feedback about their scores and relative percentile. However, the poorest performers showed no recognition, despite clear and repeated feedback that they were doing badly. Instead of being confused, perplexed or thoughtful about their erroneous ways, incompetent people insist that their ways are correct. As Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man (1871): ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’

Madison schools drop winter reading and math test for elementary and middle school students

Logan Wroge

Given this, it was decided the winter MAP test is something the district doesn’t really need, Peterson said.

Instead, district officials want to move to more formative assessments, which generally cover shorter time frames of learning, can come in more informal manners, such as asking students by a show of hands if they understand a concept, and gives a teacher a better ability to determine what areas individual students needs further help on, Peterson said.

“We’re working to continue to build up information that teachers can use right away in their classrooms,” Peterson said. “While testing fatigue plays in the background, that’s not a driver of what this decision was.”


The Chinese Government Cannot Be Allowed to Undermine Academic Freedom

Sophie Richardson

There are now approximately 350,000 students from China at American universities. While many have great experiences, some have to deal with the surveillance and censorship that follows them to campus. Over the past several years, Human Rights Watch has documented the unique threats these students face. Our research has revealed Chinese government and Communist Party intimidation ranging from harassment of family members in China over what someone had said in a closed seminar to censorship by US academic institutions that did not want to irk potential Chinese government partners. One scholar said a senior administrator had asked him “as a personal favor” to decline media requests during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, fearing that any criticism could have negative consequences for the university’s profile in China.

Even when campus debates take an ugly turn—such as when students from the mainland tried to shout down speakers at a March 2019 event at University of California, Berkeley, addressing the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, or in September when unidentified individuals threatened Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law as he arrived for graduate studies at Yale—schools appear reluctant to publicly respond to these threats against free speech. In mid-October, students at the University of California, Davis, tore down other students’ materials supporting Hong Kong protesters, yet in the ensuing days searching the school’s website for “Hong Kong” yields only information about summer internships—not unequivocal support for peaceful expression.

“The age of AI


FRONTLINE investigates the promise and perils of artificial intelligence, from fears about work and privacy to rivalry between the U.S. and China. The documentary traces a new industrial revolution that will reshape and disrupt our lives, our jobs and our world, and allow the emergence of the surveillance society.

Higher Education’s Enemy Within An army of nonfaculty staff push for action and social justice at the expense of free inquiry.

Jose Cabranes

First, colleges and universities have subordinated their historic mission of free inquiry to a new pursuit of social justice. Consider the remarkable evolution of Yale’s mission statement. For decades the university said its purpose was “to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge.” The language was banal enough, but nevertheless on the money. In 2016, however, Yale’s president announced a new mission statement, which no longer mentions knowledge. Instead, Yale is now officially “committed to improving the world” and educating “aspiring leaders”—not only through research, but also through “practice.”

Second, American colleges and universities have been overwhelmed by a dangerous alliance of academic bureaucrats and student activists committed to imposing the latest social-justice diktats. This alliance has displaced the traditional governors of the university—the faculty. Indeed, nonfaculty administrators and activists are driving some of the most dangerous developments in university life, including the erosion of the due-process rights of faculty and students, efforts to regulate the “permissible limits” of classroom discussion, and the condemnation of unwelcome ideas as “hate speech.”

How did the university lose its way? How did this new alliance of activists and administrators supplant the faculty?

Though there are many factors, they all point back to a far-reaching intellectual confusion that pervades the nation’s campuses, from dorm rooms to classrooms. Too many in higher education are unwilling or unable to maintain a distinction that lies at the core of the liberal democratic project, and at the center of the West’s intellectual tradition: the distinction between inquiry and action, speech and conduct.

A Centenary for Free Speech

Ilya Shapiro and Michael T. Collins:

Americans may take free speech for granted, but they couldn’t do so a century ago. Courts convicted newspapermen, pamphleteers and politicians for nothing more—and sometimes less—than trying to sway the public against U.S. involvement in World War I. On Nov. 10, 1919, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of antiwar protesters under a law that made it a crime to “hinder” the war effort. But a dissent in Abrams v. U.S. laid the foundation for today’s robust protection of controversial speech.

The idea that speech could pose a “clear and present danger” to the government, and thus lacked First Amendment protection, came from a quartet of 1919 cases, three of which were unanimous. In March, in Schenck v. U.S., the court, led by archprogressive Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., upheld the convictions of pamphleteers who encouraged draft-dodging. A week later, Frohwerk v. U.S. upheld the conviction of a newspaperman who criticized U.S. involvement in foreign wars, while Debs v. U.S. affirmed the conviction of Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs for denouncing the war in a speech. (Debs went on to receive 3.4% of the 1920 presidential vote from prison.)

In October the court in Abrams upheld another antiwar protest conviction—but this time not unanimously. Like Charles Schenck, Jacob Abrams was a socialist who had distributed antiwar pamphlets. His group criticized U.S. military support for the anti-Communist White movement in the Russian Civil War. As socialists of the time often did, the pamphleteers urged a general strike in New York, on grounds that workers were making weapons to use against their Bolshevik comrades.

Search warrant overrides 1M users’ choice not to share DNA with cops

Kate Cox

Law enforcement agencies around the country have for the past few years eagerly latched onto consumer-facing DNA sites as a rich repository of information to help them close cases. Many of those sites have been allowing users to adopt privacy settings and restricting what data they allow police to access, but a first-of-its-kind search warrant may blow those users’ data banks wide open.

Police in Orlando, Florida, obtained a warrant this summer to search DNA site GEDmatch and review data on all of its users—about a million people, The New York Times reports. Privacy advocates are now concerned that police will continue to get broad warrants for DNA sites, including larger peers such as 23andme or Ancestry that have much larger pools of user data.

Want to Raise Successful Boys? Science Says Do This (but Their Schools Probably Won’t)

Bill Murphy:

Now researchers say that mistake leads us into a three-pronged, perfect storm of problems:

1. We overprotect kids, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers—which ultimately increases their likelihood of real health issues.

2. We inhibit children’s academic growth (especially among boys), because the lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.

3. When they fail to conform quietly to this low-energy paradigm, we over-diagnose or even punish kids for reacting the way they’re naturally built to react.
Start With the Boys

News flash: Most boys are rambunctious. Often they seem like they’re in a constant state of motion: running, jumping, fighting, playing, getting hurt—maybe getting upset—and getting right back into the physical action.

Except at school, where they’re required to sit still for long periods of time. (And when they fail to stay still, how are they punished? Often by being forced to skip recess—and thus they sit still longer.)

It’s not just an American issue. Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland recently tried to document whether boys actually achieve less in school when they’re restricted from running around and being physically active.

Censorship is bad even when it’s done by private companies

Philippe Lemoine:

There are many reasons to oppose state censorship, but the people who argue that it’s okay for big tech companies to suppress content for ideological reasons on their platforms oppose it on the ground that it prevents the marketplace of ideas, which they believe maximizes the probability that people will discover the truth and settle on it through rational debate, from working as it’s supposed to. The problem is that, if that’s why you oppose state censorship, and to be clear I think it’s a good reason to oppose it, there is nothing about the state that makes censorship bad when it originates from the government but unproblematic as long as it comes from private companies. Indeed, while it’s true that the government can distort the marketplace of ideas, so can private companies.

For instance, if Google makes it harder to find right-wing content, it stacks the deck in favor of the left, because people are more likely to be only exposed to left-wing content. Similarly, if Twitter hides content by conservatives and/or promotes content by liberals, the former are less likely to be heard. Big tech companies don’t even have to completely suppress right-wing content to distort the marketplace of ideas. Even a pro-liberal/anti-conservative bias that comes way short of the systematic suppression of right-wing content would introduce a distortion. Of course, as long as big tech companies are biased in the relevant way, it doesn’t matter which ideologies are penalized by it, it will distort the marketplace of ideas all the same.

The people who defend big tech companies argue that it’s not the same on the ground that if people are unhappy about what those companies do, they can always stop using them and use other platforms instead, whereas people can’t opt out of the government. If the state bans the expression of certain views and you express them anyway, it can use violence to compel you to stop and imprison you, but Google or Twitter can’t do that. However, since the companies in question are de facto monopolies, it’s not actually true that if you’re unhappy with big tech companies you can just use another platform. Moreover, even if it were true, it would be irrelevant.

First, it’s not always true that, if you’re unhappy with big tech companies, you can always stop using it and use another platform instead. For instance, if you’re a journalist and you want to promote your work, there is simply no viable alternative to Twitter at the moment. No other microblogging platform comes even close to having the number of users Twitter does, and most of the alternatives are hotbeds of extremism, so that anyone who joins them is thereby disqualified in polite company. People who reply that, if Twitter were so bad, a viable alternative would have emerged are just missing the point. Of course, it’s possible that, if Twitter’s behavior were really egregious, it would lose its dominant position to other platforms, but its monopoly power means that it can get away with a lot without endangering that position. Again, for bias to distort the marketplace of ideas, it isn’t necessary that Twitter completely suppress certain viewpoints.

College Ranking Metrics Should Include Academic Freedom

Mohan J. Dutta, Richard Ashford and Shampa Biswas:

Does the standing of your college or university have anything to do with the state of academic freedom on your campus? The global ascendance of the metrics industry — which is primarily based on the collection and aggregation of data to create rankings — has increasingly led to conditions where select performance indicators drive college and university administrators’ decisions and actions. Yet those indicators are systematically disengaged from the question of academic freedom, the foundational cornerstone of college life.

Consider a recent prominent example. In late summer 2014, the University of Illinois retracted a job contract from American studies professor Steven Salaita — one both he and the institution had already signed — after tweets that he posted critiquing the atrocities perpetuated by Israel in Gaza generated considerable donor pressure on the institution. As Salaita fought the university’s decision, academics throughout higher education institutions in the United States and abroad mounted a massive campaign to support him and the principle of academic freedom. Petitions circulated. The university’s decision to unhire Salaita became the cornerstone of this campaign.

Nearly 80,000 California retirees are receiving $100,000 or more in pension pay, new data show

Transparent California:

The number of California retirees collecting a public pension of $100,000 or more hit an all-time high of 79,235 last year, up 85 percent since 2013.

That’s according to an analysis of 2018 pension payout data posted on Transparent California — the state’s largest public pay and pension database.

Those receiving pension payouts of at least $100,000 accounted for nearly 20 percent of the $51.7 billion total payments made last year, which is also an all-time high, according to the data.

“The only reason public pensions are an issue of public concern is because of the costs they impose on taxpayers,” explained Transparent California Executive Director Robert Fellner.

“The data show that one out of every five dollars paid out by California’s public pension funds last year went to someone who is drawing an annual pension of at least $100,000,” Fellner said.

Their colleges closed — but their student loans didn’t disappear. Then, they sued.

Dawn Rhodes

“I didn’t realize what accreditation was until we didn’t have it anymore,” said Emmanuel Dunagan, of Bellwood. “We got one email about the loss of accreditation. The way it was worded, and I’m an intelligent person, you would not have understood it without having it explained.”

Mahone left school in July. RJ Infusino, of Wood Dale, withdrew from the Schaumburg campus in September. Dunagan finished his two remaining classes before the school closed in December 2018.

“It was madness,” Infusino said. “I didn’t have a good understanding of whether I’d be able to graduate. I’d already spent close to four years on this and to not get my degree would have been a waste of time.”

The House Education and Labor Committee has been investigating the Dream Center collapse for several months.

A new type of genetic profiling promises cleverer, better-looking children.

The Economist:

Debate about using science to create “bespoke” human beings of one sort or another usually revolves around the ideas of genetic engineering and cloning. People worry about these for two reasons. One is practical. The tinkering involved could end up harming the resulting individual. The other is a more visceral dislike of interfering with the process of reproduction, perhaps best encapsulated in the phrase “playing God”.

There is, however, a third way that the genetic dice which are thrown at the beginning of human life might be loaded—and it does not involve any risky tinkering. It is a twist on the well-established procedure of in vitro fertilisation (ivf). The twist would be to decide, on the basis of their dna, which of a group of available embryos should be implanted and brought to term.

Meritocracy’s Waterloo?

Wall Street Journal:

Social-justice organizations last week threatened the University of California with a lawsuit unless it halts the use of standardized testing in admissions, claiming the tests discriminate against minorities. Who knows what success they may have before a sympathetic judge. But the issue may be settled sooner as the political mood in the UC moves against testing. This shift could have baleful nationwide consequences.

Standardized tests have been a target of the left for decades, but in 2018 something changed. Dozens of colleges, most significantly the University of Chicago, have been dropping their standardized-test requirements. The number of students who take the SAT and ACT has been holding steady because enough schools still use them. Yet the UC is by far the largest university system in the country, and if it throws out testing the admissions landscape would fundamentally change.

Several UC regents are on record criticizing the test as unfair to the underprivileged. Governor Gavin Newsom, who appoints most regents, said last month that tests exacerbate “the inequities for underrepresented students.” A UC faculty task force will give recommendations early next year.

Joshua Wong: ‘We used to play laser tag. Now we face bullets’

Sue-Lin Wong:

Another thing that bores him? The media. Although Wong’s messaging is always on point, his appraisal of journalists in response to my questions is piercing and cheeky. “In 15-minute interviews I know journalists just need soundbites that I’ve repeated lots of times before. So I’ll say things like ‘I have no hope [as regards] the regime but I have hope towards the people.’ Then the journalists will say ‘oh that’s so impressive!’ And I’ll say ‘yes, I’m a poet.’ ”
Raised in a deeply religious family, he used to travel to mainland China every two years with his family and church literally to spread the gospel. As with many Hong Kong Chinese who trace their roots to the mainland, he doesn’t know where his ancestral village is. His lasting memory of his trips across the border is of dirty toilets, he tells me, mid-bite. He turned to activism when he realised praying didn’t help much.

“The gift from God is to have independence of mind and critical thinking; to have our own will and to make our own personal judgments. I don’t link my religious beliefs with my political judgments. Even Carrie Lam is Catholic,” he trails off, in a reference to Hong Kong’s leader. Lam has the lowest approval rating of any chief executive in the history of the city, thanks to her botched handling of the crisis.

Gold Fever! Deadly Cold! And the Amazing True Adventures of Jack London in the Wild

Richard Grant:

Questing for gold, what he found instead was inspiration and material for one of the most successful literary careers of all time. His best-known Yukon book, The Call of the Wild, has been translated into nearly 100 languages, and will be released in February as a movie starring Harrison Ford as a Klondike gold prospector. Such is the enduring power of the story—a dog named Buck is kidnapped from California and thrust into the frozen wilds of the Far North—that this is the ninth time that the 1903 novel has been adapted for film or television.

Techniques including computer-generated imagery enabled the latest filmmakers to shoot the entire production without leaving California, and it’s hard to criticize them for not using authentic Yukon locations. In summertime, the advantages of 20-hour daylight are offset by horrendous swarms of mosquitoes, among other challenges. In mid-winter, when much of the story takes place, the sun doesn’t reach the horizon and temperatures plunge to 50, 60, or even 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. In that kind of weather, as Jack London discovered, even the strongest whiskey freezes solid, and a man’s spit turns to ice before it hits the snow.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Property Tax Assistance

Joe Tarr:

City property taxes for their home are about $5,000 a year. “That’s a whole chunk of our total income, because our only income is Social Security,” he says.

But then they discovered a little-known city program for people in their situation. The “property tax assistance for seniors reverse mortgage loan program” allows seniors to defer paying their property taxes.

Property owners are eligible if they are 65 or older with less than $30,000 in assets and meet income guidelines (currently $52,850 for a single person or $60,400 for two people). When people qualify, a lien is placed on the property, meaning the property taxes will be paid when the owner sells the property or dies and their estate is settled.

The city charges an annual interest rate for the loan — depending on borrowing costs, between 2.5 and 6.5 percent.

Madison’s taxpayer supported school district is planning a substantial referendum for 2020.

Elite Colleges Reconsidered

Erich Prince:

Yale students, if they’re still anything like they were when I graduated a few short years ago, likely aren’t overly concerned with the college admissions scandal that dominated the news this past spring, even as Lifetime releases its TV-movie based on the events and Felicity Huffman walks free after having served her eleven days in jail. Instead, Yale students will be focused on their classes, fulfilling their language requirements, agonizing as early as November about their plans for the following summer, and scrambling to join the various clubs that, like so many activities on campuses, require a surprisingly vigorous application process. For the newly arrived freshmen, who are, by now, probably starting to feel a bit more at home on campus, there is also probably still that lingering sense in the back of their heads that they made it: that they were admitted from the record 36,829 who applied for a spot in the class of 2023 to a school considered among the most prestigious in the world.

Life expectancy for American men drops for a third year

Aimee Picchi:

Unlike other industrialized countries, the U.S. is seeing a plateau or decline in life expectancy, making it an outlier since higher health expenditures are typically tied with longer lives. One theory attributes that to different health outcomes for rich and poor households, an issue that has been exacerbated by rising income inequality in the U.S.

Wealthier Americans are more likely to live into their 70s and 80s than people in the middle class and the poor, according to a September report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. In other words, being poor can be hazardous to your health.

And that can lead to significantly different life expectancies, according to a recent Harvard analysis of 15 years’ worth of IRS data. Men who are among the richest 1% of Americans live almost 15 years longer than those who are in the poorest 1%, the Harvard analysis found. The gap was about 10 years for the richest versus poorest women.

“Theoretically All Children Are Equal. Practically This Can Never Be So”: The History of the District Property Tax in California and the Choice of Inequality

Matthew Gardner Kelly:

Background/Context: Dealing mostly in aggregate statistics that mask important regional variations, scholars often assume that district property taxation and the resource disparities this approach to school funding creates are deeply rooted in the history of American education.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article explores the history of district property taxation and school funding disparities in California during the 19th and 20th centuries. First, the article documents the limited use of district property taxation for school funding in California and several other Western states during the 19th century, showing that the development of school finance was more complicated than standard accounts suggest. Then, the article examines how a coalition of experts, activists, and politicians worked together during the early 20th century to promote district property taxation and institutionalize the idea that the wealth of local communities, rather than the wealth of the entire state, should determine the resources available for public schooling.

Locally, Madison taxpayers have long spent far more than most K-12 school districts, while tolerating disastrous reading results.

Make private, public, and charter schools play by the same rules

Joe Henderson:

Charters and private schools are here to stay in Florida, and that’s just the way it is. That’s not a bad thing. But the rules that apply to public schools sometimes don’t apply to the other schools.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, wants to change that. She filed SB 632 that would make private and charter schools operate by the same standards as traditional public schools. Private schools would also face stricter requirements for academics, testing, and building requirements.

“I don’t care where they want to send them,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. “But at least have the same requirements. … It makes for a better education system.”

That seems fair to me, but it prompted this retort from Erika Donalds. She is a charter school operator, and her husband, Byron Donalds, is a GOP state lawmaker.

The DNA database used to find the Golden State Killer is a national security leak waiting to happen

Antonio Regalado:

private DNA ancestry database that’s been used by police to catch criminals is a security risk from which a nation-state could steal DNA data on a million Americans, according to security researchers.

Security flaws in the service, called GEDmatch, not only risk exposing people’s genetic health information but could let an adversary such as China or Russia create a powerful biometric database useful for identifying nearly any American from a DNA sample.

GEDMatch, which crowdsources DNA profiles, was created by genealogy enthusiasts to let people search for relatives and is run entirely by volunteers. It shows how a trend toward sharing DNA data online can create privacy risks affecting everyone, even people who don’t choose to share their own information.

“You can replace your credit card number, but you can’t replace your genome,” says Peter Ney, a postdoctoral researcher in computer science at the University of Washington.

NAEP 2019: Mississippi improvement more impressive under closer examination

Matthew Ladner:

While last week’s NAEP news was glum nationwide, Mississippi students performed relatively well. You have to dig into the details to see just how well.

First, a bit of backstory.

Mississippi is one of the nation’s poorest states and has the largest African-American student population in the country. The state has ranked at or near the bottom on NAEP scores for many years. Over the past decade, policymakers have adopted several K-12 policies familiar to Floridians: A-F letter grades for schools, a strong emphasis on early literacy, a charter school law and an education savings account program for students with disabilities.

The state’s choice sector went from non-existent to nascent in recent years, although it’s not yet at a scale where it can play more than a complimentary role to the public education system. Yet based on this year’s NAEP, as seen in this crosstab of student race/ethnicity on fourth-grade reading, something seems to have gone very right.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin continues to address its long term, disastrous reading results by granting thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers.

Teacher Mulligans, continued: The latest report on reading was really bad. Here are some possible solutions

Alan Borsuk:

Mississippi got a lot of attention when the NAEP scores were released. It was the only state where fourth grade reading scores improved. Mississippi is implementing a strong requirement that teachers be well-trained in reading instruction. Massachusetts did that in the 1990s and it paid off in the following decade.

Wisconsin passed a law in 2012 to promote better teaching of reading and it hasn’t paid off. Advocates suggest that is because the law hasn’t been taken seriously enough by the state and by college-level teacher training programs. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look.

The Wisconsin Department of Public instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements (Foundations of Reading, based on Massachusetts’ best in the States MTEL requirement).

You can fool some of the people all of the time

The Economist:

In 2001 jonathan haidt, a psychologist at New York University, published a paper in Psychological Review delightfully entitled “The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail”. He argued that when people make moral decisions, they are influenced by emotion, or what might also be termed intuition. They may think they are weighing evidence but in fact their decisions are made in the blink of an eye. The reasons they give afterwards merely reflect these emotions, like a dog wagging its tail.

Others have taken similar views. “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions,” wrote David Hume, a philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment, in 1739. But the lessons of Mr Haidt’s essay are particularly apt at a time when lying has come to define politics more than usual.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

The woman who reshaped maths

Leila McNeill:

When 46-year-old Hilda Geiringer arrived in New York with her daughter Magda, she must have felt relieved. The year was 1939. And Geiringer, as well as a talented mathematician, was a Jewish woman from Vienna.

For six years, she’d been seeking an escape from the Nazi threat in Europe. In that time, she’d fled to Turkey, been stranded in Lisbon and narrowly escaped internment at a Nazi camp. Her arrival in the US should have opened a new, and far better, chapter.

But it brought other challenges.

The first woman to teach applied mathematics at a German university, Geiringer was known as an innovative thinker who applied her mathematical insight to other sciences. But in the US, she struggled for decades to regain her status in the field.

This wasn’t because of Geiringer’s talent, or lack thereof: she was part of an early vanguard in 20th-Century applied mathematics at a time when the field was trying to find institutional legitimacy and independence from pure mathematics. With crucial contributions to mathematical theories of plasticity and to probability genetics, Geiringer helped advance the field of applied mathematics, laying fundamental groundwork which many parts of science and engineering rely upon today.

Parenting : Who is it really for?

Derek Sivers:

Since my son was born five years ago, I’ve spent at least thirty hours a week with him, just one-on-one, giving him my full attention. But I’ve never written about parenting before because it’s a touchy subject — too easily misunderstood.

So why am I writing about it today? Because I realized that the parenting things I do for him are also for myself. And that’s an idea worth sharing.

Here are the things I’ve been doing for my son since he was born:

Colleges Should Not Have to Have Food Pantries

Bridget Huber:

One of the first lessons Jalyn Wharton learned her freshman year at Kennesaw State University was how to stretch a pizza so it would feed her for a week. It wasn’t the only time she’d had to ration food. When she was in high school, her family became homeless and Wharton would sometimes eat less to make sure her younger siblings got enough. Even as her family bounced between hotels and friends’ houses, Wharton stayed focused on school. Everyone told her education was her path out of poverty. She finished high school with honors and was thrilled to get into Kennesaw State, a research institution with 35,000 students near Atlanta, Georgia.

It was a relief to finally start college, Wharton says, but there were new obstacles. “I wasn’t really a resident here, or a resident of anywhere,” she says. Because she’d had no permanent address while her family was homeless, she couldn’t prove that she qualified for in-state tuition or a state scholarship. She couldn’t afford books or campus housing, which started at about $600 a month for a room, so she moved into a cheap hotel. Her family, now living in Indiana, pulled together enough money to pay for the room and to have a large pizza delivered once a week. “I was trying to remain positive, because this is what I needed to do to get where I want to go. This will help me stop the cycle of poverty, ” Wharton says. She was scared to admit how much she was struggling, and felt pressure to set a good example for her siblings. So she told herself: “You’re just going to tough this out.”

Wharton felt alone, but it has become clear in recent years that’s she’s no outlier; in fact, food insecurity and housing instability are defining factors of today’s college experience for a significant number of students. A recent survey of nearly 86,000 students found that 45 percent of respondents reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, meaning they had limited or uncertain access to food. Fifty-six percent had been housing insecure in the previous year—that is, they were unable to pay full rent, lived in overcrowded conditions, or experienced other instability. Seventeen percent had been homeless at some point during the year. Despite a lack of representative national data, the evidence has continued to mount, and a steady stream of news stories has documented what it looks like on the ground: students sleeping in airports and in their cars, taking “hunger naps” when they can’t afford to eat, trading tips on how to keep their homework dry when living in the woods.

A.I. and the Future of Cheating

Matt Bartlett:

No matter whether you were a straight-A student at university or more a student of beer pong, it’s extremely unlikely that your positive memories of college took place in an examination hall. Beyond being generally miserable, exams exacerbate anxiety and other mental health issues, and do a poor job of assessing skills like critical thinking and creativity. Time-pressured tests are used as the key filter for several prestigious professions and universities and, some argue, for no apparent good reason.

Given this sad state of affairs, it should be positive to see supervised exams and tests fall slowly out of vogue. Headmasters and professors have urged that more flexible, less time-pressured assessments like essays and written assignments should replace exams. Singapore, the world leader of exam-based education, has abolished exam rankings (albeit only for primary grades). At the same time, online education has surged, with enrollment in online courses quadrupling over the last 15 years.

Survey finds 3 in 4 voters oppose Supreme Court allowing race in college admissions

College Fix:

A survey of voters nationwide by the Marquette Law Poll, a project of the Catholic university’s law school, finds that three in four voters (77 percent) oppose Supreme Court decisions that “[d]ecided colleges can use race as one factor in deciding which applicants to admit.”

The breakout of responses is even more surprising: A full majority are “strongly” opposed (56 percent), while just one in five is “somewhat” opposed (21 percent). Only 4 percent of voters “strongly” favor the use of race in college admissions, and another 11 percent “somewhat” favor it.

Leaked document reveals that Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto plans for private taxation, private roads, charter schools, corporate cops and judges, and punishment for people who choose privacy

Cory Doctorow:

Tomorrow, Toronto’s City Council will hold a key vote on Sidewalk Labs’s plan to privatize much of the city’s lakeshore in the name of creating a “smart city” owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Today, the Globe and Mail published a summary of Sidewalk Labs’s leaked “yellow book”, a 2016 document that lays out Sidewalk Labs’s vision for Toronto and future projects in Detroit, Denver, and Alameda.

The plan lays out a corporate-owned city similar to Lake Buena Vista, the privately owned municipality established by the Walt Disney Company on a massive tract of central Florida land that contains the Walt Disney World resort.

The plan calls for the creation of privately owned and regulated roads, charter schools in place of publicly administered schools, the power to levy and spend property taxes without democratic oversight, a corporate criminal justice system where the cops and judges work for Sidewalk Labs, and totalizing, top-to-bottom, continuous surveillance.

Torontonians who decline to “share” information with Sidewalk Labs will not receive the same level of services as those who do.

Sidewalk Labs says that the document does not reflect its current ambitions.

Gaggle Knows Everything About Teens And Kids In School


All of it is monitored by student surveillance service Gaggle, which promises to keep Santa Fe High School kids free from harm.

Santa Fe High, located in Santa Fe, Texas, is one of more than 1,400 schools that have taken Gaggle up on its promise to “stop tragedies with real-time content analysis.” It’s understandable why Santa Fe’s leaders might want such a service. In 2018, a shooter killed eight students and two teachers at the school. Its student body is now part of the 4.8 million US students that the for-profit “safety management” service monitors.

A college student whose middle school used Gaggle told BuzzFeed News that the tool taught them that they would always be watched. “I feel like now I’m very desensitized to the threat of my information being looked at by people,” they said.

Using a combination of in-house artificial intelligence and human content moderators paid about $10 an hour, Gaggle polices schools for suspicious or harmful content and images, which it says can help prevent gun violence and student suicides. It plugs into two of the biggest software suites around, Google’s G Suite and Microsoft 365, and tracks everything, including notifications that may float in from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts linked to a school email address.


Joanne Jacobs:

States are moving away from requiring students to show they’ve mastered the content in core courses, writes Fordham’s Adam Tyner, who co-authored a new Fordham study on end-of-course exams (EOCs).

Mississippi, which requires students to pass a U.S. history exam to earn a diploma, is considering dropping the requirement. “Even New York, where the high school Regents Exams have been central to raising high school standards, is debating whether to keep them,” writes Tyner.

Wisconsin school choice advocates sue education department for timing of test score release

Scott Girard:

“This Court should declare the Defendants’ conduct unlawful and permanently enjoin its future occurrence,” the plaintiffs wrote. “The Defendants can easily comply with state law by ensuring that when they publicly release qualifying school choice data, they release all of the data to everyone at the same time and do so without any ‘spin.’”

DPI and State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor are named as defendants in the lawsuit. In an emailed statement, DPI spokesperson Benson Gardner said the department released all of the data publicly at the same time on Sept. 12.

“The department provided complex assessment data to the news media one day earlier simply to allow them lead-time to write their stories, including in-depth print articles,” the statement read. “The department followed the law in the public release of this information.”

The embargoed news release did include aggregated data on the choice program, which the lawsuit alleges shows “a deliberate attempt to shape the news narrative of the assessment results so as to make public schools appear in a more positive light and choice schools appear in a more negative light.”

K-12 Tax & SPENDING Climate: The Emerging Millennial Wealth Gap

Reid Cramer, Fernaba R. Addo, Colleen Campbell:

The Millennial generation is on a much lower trajectory of wealth accumulation than their parents and grandparents. Dramatically so. Their generational balance sheet, tabulating assets and liabilities, is historically poor. Despite its dramatic emergence and real world consequences, the Millennial wealth gap has received scant attention to date. This publication is an attempt to address that. By examining the data, identifying trends, and exploring the underlying dynamics of the generational distribution of wealth in America today, the authors included in this volume have committed to participating in a constructive policy discourse to address the misalignment between public policy and the lived experience that threatens to undermine the potential of an entire generation. It is time to incubate large-scale policy interventions to respond to the economic vulnerability of the Millennial generation and create new pathways to progress. Absent a concerted policy response, the troubling disparities in wealth and opportunity will persist for years to come.

Breaking: The Bookworm Bookstore to Close

The Beijinger:

After almost two decades in the business of providing the city’s book enthusiasts with food for thought, beloved Sanlitun institution The Bookworm will close its doors on Monday, Nov 11

A statement issued via the bookstore’s official WeChat account on Tuesday afternoon describes how, “Despite our best efforts, we appear to have fallen prey to the ongoing cleanup of ‘illegal structures,’ and we have not been able to secure an extension of our lease,” adding, “This is particularly disappointing given that, despite many challenges, at this time The Bookworm remains a thriving business with stronger, more diverse links to the wider Beijing community than ever before.”

According to the announcement, management is currently attempting to find a new location, but for now you can support the store by heading in and buying books at a  “heavily discounted” price.

The closure marks the end of a rich chapter in Beijing’s literary history. Over the years, countless expats and locals climbed the store’s iconic staircase, lured inside by one of the venue’s many events or the warm glow of the red lanterns in their dining area. As well as providing a welcoming space for bibliophiles, The Bookworm stood as a beacon of hope in an era where countless independent bookstores and established publishing houses have long since fallen under the axe.


I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can, Too.

Kashmir Hill:

Every so often, journalists lament these systems’ inaccessibility. They’re “largely invisible to the public,” The New York Times wrote in 2012. “Most people have no inkling they even exist,” The Wall Street Journal said in 2018. Most recently, in April, The Journal’s Christopher Mims looked at a company called Sift, whose proprietary scoring system tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid. “Sift judges whether or not you can be trusted,” he wrote, “yet there’s no file with your name that it can produce upon request.”

As of this summer, though, Sift does have a file on you, which it can produce upon request. I got mine, and I found it shocking: More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I’d opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many entries included detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at the time.

What Admiral Grace Hopper really meant when she said, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”

Ron Evans:

If all we do is restrict biohacking completely, like “No man’s land. You can’t go there”, then it’s going to be done elsewhere. It’s like saying, “You can’t do computing on the internet, because you might transfer an internet virus.”

So one extreme means we remain in ignorance, and then it’s like The Demon-Haunted World of Carl Sagan – we don’t understand what’s going on, and it’s affecting us.

The other extreme is every human for themselves with no control and no care over the implications (which I think has been a very common attitude in tech). This is poorly interpreting Grace Hopper’s, “Ask forgiveness, not permission.”

First of all, many people don’t know that Admiral Grace Hopper said that; the attribution. But also, they don’t realize what she was talking about.

For Sale: SAT-Takers’ Names. Colleges Buy Student Data and Boost Exclusivity

Douglas Belkin:

Jori Johnson took the practice SAT test as a high-school student outside Chicago. Brochures later arrived from Vanderbilt, Stanford, Northwestern and the University of Chicago.

The universities’ solicitations piqued her interest, and she eventually applied. A few months later, she was rejected by those and three other schools that had sought her application, she said. The high-school valedictorian’s test scores, while strong by most standards, were well below those of most students admitted to the several schools that had contacted her.

“A lot of the rejections came on the same day,” said Ms. Johnson, a 21-year-old senior film major at New York University, one of three schools that accepted her out of 10 applications. “I just stared at my computer and cried.”

The recruitment pitches didn’t help Ms. Johnson, but they did benefit the universities that sent them. Colleges rise in national rankings and reputation when they show data suggesting they are more selective. They can do that by rejecting more applicants, whether or not those candidates ever stood a chance. Some applicants, in effect, become unknowing pawns.

Feeding this dynamic is the College Board, the New York nonprofit that owns the SAT, a test designed to level the college-admissions playing field.

The board is using the SAT as the foundation for another business: selling test-takers’ names and personal information to universities.

That has helped schools inflate their applicant pools and rejection rates. Those rejection rates have amplified the perception of exclusivity that colleges are eager to reinforce, pushing students to invest more time and money in preparing for and retaking exams College Board sells. Colleges say the data helps them reach a diverse pool of students they might have otherwise missed.

Microsoft Japan tested a four-day work week. Productivity jumped by 40%

Kari Paul:

Microsoft tested out a four-day work week in its Japan offices and found as a result employees were not only happier – but significantly more productive.

For the month of August, Microsoft Japan experimented with a new project called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, giving its entire 2,300 person workforce five Fridays off in a row without decreasing pay.

The shortened weeks led to more efficient meetings, happier workers, and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%, the company concluded at the end of the trial. As part of the program, the company had also planned to subsidize family vacations for employees up to ¥100,000 or $920.

“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement to Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”

US debt surpasses $23 trillion for first time

Niv Elis:

The federal government’s outstanding public debt has surpassed $23 trillion for the first time in history, according to data from the Treasury Department released on Friday.

Growing budget deficits have added to the nation’s debt at a speedy rate since President Trump took office. The debt has grown some 16 percent since Trump’s inauguration, when it stood at $19.9 trillion. It passed $22 trillion for the first time just 10 months ago.

Of the $23 trillion figure, just under $17 trillion was in the category of debt held by the public, which is a more useful gauge of the debt the government has to pay down, and the number typically used in calculating the nation’s debt burden. The other $6 trillion comes from loans within government bodies.

Separating ‘gifted’ children hasn’t led to better achievement

Jo Boaler:

When New York City’s mayor began a move to revamp the program of selective schools last year, a public outcry ensued, and the issue has yet to be resolved.

Objections echoed those in the San Francisco Unified School District, which six years ago began in earnest the elimination of advanced mathematics classes until after 10th grade. Parents created Facebook groups to oppose the changes.

Many believe that children learn more effectively in schools or classes with similar learners, but are they right? It is a question that has long intrigued and divided people. When learners show different achievement levels, should we teach them separately or together? I have spent my career studying this question and, although the logic of separate classes seems strong, evidence leads us in a different direction.

For instance, after San Francisco Unified de-tracked math, the proportion of students failing algebra fell from 40 percent to 8 percent and the proportion of students taking advanced classes rose to a third, the highest percentage in district history. Until 10th grade, students take the same mathematics classes. From 11th grade on, students can choose different pathways.

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

A Racially “Woke” Agenda Is Now Hardwired in Public Schools

George Leef:

Many college professors and administrators are eager to turn their students into ideological clones of themselves in hopes of ensuring that the U.S. will have the kind of governmentally controlled, collectivistic society they desire.

Sometimes their “success” in that becomes spectacularly evident, such as the furious, vitriolic attack by the Oberlin College community against a small bakery in town over its alleged racism – for trying to prevent an underage black kid from stealing wine. That supreme exercise in “wokeness” led to a lawsuit and $33 million jury verdict against the college. (I recommend “O Oberlin, My Oberlin” by retired professor Abraham Socher for a comprehensive study in the way zealous leftists have come to dominate the school.)

Unfortunately, the job of academic leftists in training young activists is getting easier and easier. That is because public schools are doing more and more to condition students to accept a wide array of leftist notions — notions that make them highly receptive to further leftist teaching and calls for them to act against perceived enemies of the social justice agenda.

In decision certain to draw fire, journal will publish heavily criticized paper on gender differences in physics

Dalmeet Singh Chawla:

In a move likely to attract criticism, a peer-reviewed journal has agreed to publish an Italian physicist’s highly contested analysis of publications, which concludes that female physicists don’t face more career obstacles than their male colleagues. The journal says it will also simultaneously publish critiques of the paper, which one member of the journal’s editorial board says is “flawed” and contains “unsubstantiated claims.”

Last year, physicist Alessandro Strumia received widespread criticism after presenting a talk at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, where he was a guest professor. During the presentation, he asserted that physics was built and invented by men, and stated on a slide that “Physics is not sexist against women.” Thousands of physicists signed a letter voicing concerns about Strumia’s views and some researchers published detailed critiques of his findings and methods, which focused on published papers in the field of “fundamental physics” that includes theoretical and experimental studies of fundamental particles, cosmology, and astrophysics. Some of Strumia’s critics have argued that such literature analyses are not sufficient to support his claims. Both CERN and Strumia’s employer, the University of Pisa in Italy, launched investigations. Earlier this year, CERN cut all ties with Strumia and the university released a statement condemning his comments.

Why White Privilege is Wrong—Part 2

Vincent Harinam and Rob Henderson:

Many people enjoy invoking race as an explanation for all sorts of things. It is a shared pastime for both the far-left and the far-right. The media expend vast sums of money and effort to ensure we don’t escape discussions about race as something that is or should be important. This vocal minority of political extremists and news broadcasters has directed our attention away from more powerful causal explanations that underlie group outcomes. Perverse incentives for these two groups have made race a more a prominent feature of our lives.

As a consequence, white privilege has become the favoured explanation for differences in group outcomes among many educated people. But unintentional or otherwise, by attributing success to white privilege, affluent individuals who invoke this mistaken idea thwart the ambitions of those who are seeking success but who are also lacking in privilege. If we want to not only understand differences in group outcomes but also mend them, then we need a more robust and less ideological framework.

The Pitfalls of One-Thing-ism

The presumption that social groups should be proportionally represented in all activities and institutions is a fallacy that goes against key statistical laws. In nature, there is nothing resembling representatively equal outcomes. Grossly unequal distributions of outcomes are the rule, not the exception.

Here are a few examples. More than 80 percent of the doughnut shops in California are owned by people of Cambodian ancestry. During the 1960s, although the Chinese minority in Malaysia was only 36 percent of the population, they comprised between 80 and 90 percent of all university students in medicine, science, and engineering. In the early twentieth century, Scots made four-fifths of the world’s sugar-processing machinery. In 1937, 91 percent of all grocers’ licenses in Vancouver, Canada, were held by people of Japanese ancestry.

Rethinking Encryption

Jim Baker:

From 2012 to 2014, I worked for Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund located in Connecticut. Bridgewater seeks to operate consistent with a set of principles articulated by its founder, Ray Dalio. Over the years, Dalio has written hundreds of principles and has now put them into a book. The first principle described in the book—one that has had a significant impact on me even after leaving Bridgewater—is “[e]mbrace reality and deal with it.”

What follows are reflections on my efforts to embrace reality with respect to some aspects of several interrelated subject areas that have comprised a substantial part of my career: national security, cybersecurity, counterintelligence, surveillance, encryption and China. Those efforts have caused me to rethink my prior beliefs about encryption and to better align those beliefs with the reality that (a) Congress has failed to act—and is not likely to act—to change relevant law notwithstanding law enforcement’s frequent complaints about encryption, and (b) the digital ecosystem’s high degree of vulnerability to a range of malicious cyber actors is an existential threat to society.

How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

David Dudley:

You might say, “Yes, of course I love the library.” We do, too. But I’m not sure anyone loves libraries quite like the Finns do.

In a country that boasts one of the world’s highest literacy rates, the arrival of the new central library in Helsinki last year was a kind of moon-landing-like moment of national bonding. The €98 million facility, whose opening in December 2018 marked the centenary of Finnish independence, has since been widely celebrated internationally as a model reimagining of these critical pieces of social infrastructure. At the CityLab DC conference this week, Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director for culture and leisure, offered his own, more personal take on exactly why this building is so important to Finland’s future.

Information is Beautiful shortlist 2019

Dan Kennedy:

The 2019 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards Shortlist came out this week – these are some of our favourites.

The Room Of Change

As data visualisations go, they don’t come much more epic than this. Commissioned for the Milan Design Triennale, the Room of Change (pictured above) is a 30-metre long visualisation of how the world has changed over multiple centuries, conceived by Milan/New York based datavis studio Accurat (@accuratstudio).

The chart covers everything from environmental changes to technology, eclipses and social change, with each custom chart getting a band that stretches the entire wall. The unusual charts have a strong graphic quality, like art or fashion design:

You’re very easy to track down, even when your data has been anonymized

Charlotte Jee:

The data trail we leave behind us grows all the time. Most of it isn’t that interesting—the takeout meal you ordered, that shower head you bought online—but some of it is deeply personal: your medical diagnoses, your sexual orientation, or your tax records.

The most common way public agencies protect our identities is anonymization. This involves stripping out obviously identifiable things such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, and so on. Data sets are also altered to be less precise, columns in spreadsheets are removed, and “noise” is introduced to the data. Privacy policies reassure us that this means there’s no risk we could be tracked down in the database.

Sign up for The Download — your daily dose of what’s up in emerging technology

Also stay updated on MIT Technology Review initiatives and events?YesNo

However, a new study in Nature Communications suggests this is far from the case.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Louvain have created a machine-learning model that estimates exactly how easy individuals are to reidentify from an anonymized data set. You can check your own score here, by entering your zip code, gender, and date of birth.

On average, in the US, using those three records, you could be correctly located in an “anonymized” database 81% of the time. Given 15 demographic attributes of someone living in Massachusetts, there’s a 99.98% chance you could find that person in any anonymized database.

“As the information piles up, the chances it isn’t you decrease very quickly,” says Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a researcher at Imperial College London and one of the study’s authors.

The tool was created by assembling a database of 210 different data sets from five sources, including the US Census. The researchers fed this data into a machine-learning model, which learned which combinations are more nearly unique and which are less so, and then assigns the probability of correct identification.

This isn’t the first study to show how easy it is to track down individuals from anonymized databases. A paper back in 2007 showed that just a few movie ratings on Netflix can identify a person as easily as a Social Security number, for example. However, it shows just how far current anonymization practices have fallen behind our ability to break them. The fact that the data set is incomplete does not protect people’s privacy, says de Montjoye.

It isn’t all bad news. These same reidentification techniques were used by journalists working at the New York Times earlier this year to expose Donald Trump’s tax returns from 1985 to 1994. However, the same method could be used by someone looking to commit ID fraud or obtain information for blackmail purposes.

“The issue is that we think when data has been anonymized it’s safe. Organizations and companies tell us it’s safe, and this proves it is not,” says de Montjoye.

For peace of mind, companies should be using differential privacy, a complex mathematical model that lets organizations share aggregate data about user habits while protecting an individual’s identity, argues Charlie Cabot, research lead at the privacy engineering firm Privitar.

The technique will get its first major test next year: it’s being used to secure the US Census database.

Surveillance State

Finn Brunton & Helen Nissenbaum:

Consider a day in the life of a fairly ordinary person in a large city in a stable, democratically governed country. She is not in prison or institutionalized, nor is she a dissident or an enemy of the state, yet she lives in a condition of permanent and total surveillance unprecedented in its precision and intimacy.

As soon as she leaves her apartment, she is on camera: while in the hallway and the elevator of her building, when using the ATM outside her bank, while passing shops and waiting at crosswalks, while in the subway station and on the train — and all that before lunch. A montage of nearly every move of her life in the city outside her apartment could be assembled, and each step accounted for. But that montage would hardly be necessary: Her mobile phone, in the course of its ordinary operation of seeking base stations and antennas to keep her connected as she walks, provides a constant log of her position and movements. Her apps are keeping tabs, too.

This article is adapted from Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum’s book “Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest.”

Any time she spends in “dead zones” without phone reception can also be accounted for: Her subway pass logs her entry into the subway, and her radio-frequency identification badge produces a record of her entry into the building in which she works. (If she drives a car, her electronic toll-collection pass serves a similar purpose, as does automatic license-plate imaging.) If her apartment is part of a smart-grid program, spikes in her electricity usage can reveal exactly when she is up and around, turning on lights and ventilation fans and using the microwave oven and the coffee maker.

Surely some of the fault must lie with this individual for using services or engaging with institutions that offer unfavorable terms of service and are known to misbehave. Isn’t putting all the blame on government institutions and private services unfair, when they are trying to maintain security and capture some of the valuable data produced by their users? Can’t we users just opt out of systems with which we disagree?

Before we return to the question of opting out, consider how thoroughly the systems mentioned are embedded in our hypothetical ordinary person’s everyday life, far more invasively than mere logs of her daily comings and goings. Someone observing her could assemble in forensic detail her social and familial connections, her struggles and interests, and her beliefs and commitments. From Amazon purchases and Kindle highlights, from purchase records linked with her loyalty cards at the drugstore and the supermarket, from Gmail metadata and chat logs, from search history and checkout records from the public library, from Netflix-streamed movies, and from activity on Facebook and Twitter, dating sites, and other social networks, a very specific and personal narrative is clear.

If the apparatus of total surveillance that we have described here were deliberate, centralized, and explicit, a Big Brother machine toggling between cameras, it would demand revolt, and we could conceive of a life outside the totalitarian microscope.
If the apparatus of total surveillance that we have described here were deliberate, centralized, and explicit, a Big Brother machine toggling between cameras, it would demand revolt, and we could conceive of a life outside the totalitarian microscope. But if we are nearly as observed and documented as any person in history, our situation is a prison that, although it has no walls, bars, or wardens, is difficult to escape.

Which brings us back to the problem of “opting out.” For all the dramatic language about prisons and panopticons, the sorts of data collection we describe here are, in democratic countries, still theoretically voluntary. But the costs of refusal are high and getting higher: A life lived in social isolation means living far from centers of business and commerce, without access to many forms of credit, insurance, or other significant financial instruments, not to mention the minor inconveniences and disadvantages — long waits at road toll cash lines, higher prices at grocery stores, inferior seating on airline flights.

It isn’t possible for everyone to live on principle; as a practical matter, many of us must make compromises in asymmetrical relationships, without the control or consent for which we might wish. In those situations — everyday 21st-century life — there are still ways to carve out spaces of resistance, counterargument, and autonomy.

Professors, Beware. A ‘Student Information Officer’ Might Be Watching

Javier Hernandez:

With a neon-red backpack and white Adidas shoes, he looks like any other undergraduate on the campus of Sichuan University in southwestern China.

But Peng Wei, a 21-year-old chemistry major, has a special mission: He is both student and spy.

Mr. Peng is one of a growing number of “student information officers” who keep tabs on their professors’ ideological views. They are there to help root out teachers who show any sign of disloyalty to President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party.

“It’s our duty to make sure that the learning environment is pure,” Mr. Peng said, “and that professors are following the rules.”

China Revamps Undergraduate Studies, Tapping Controversial Talent Program

Dave Yin:

China’s wants the country’s top experts to remember its younger minds.

China’s Ministry of Education called for a three-year revamp of the higher education system, aiming to devote vast resources to undergraduate studies, including the expertise of those who are part of the controversial Thousand Talents Program.

By 2021, the ministry wants 10,000 national-level courses and 10,000 provincial-level courses of “top quality,” taught online, offline, via virtual reality and in practical settings, according to a Thursday directive (link in Chinese).

Those courses will be designed by “high level talent” such as scholars of the renowned Chinese academies of sciences and engineering, recipients of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars and Chang Jiang Scholars Program fellows. They will also draw on experts from the Thousand Talents Program, a government-backed recruitment project to lure scientific talent from foreign countries to work in China, and a similarly named Ten Thousand Talents Program.

China introduces exit system for political educators

Wang Qi:

A withdrawal mechanism and severe punishment was proposed for political teachers at Chinese primary and secondary schools who are found to damage the Party’s authority and violate professional ethics, a new guideline on strengthening the political education teacher team showed.

The guideline issued by China’s Ministry of Education (MoE) on Monday proposed to introduce a withdrawal mechanism for unqualified political teachers, and those who damage the authority of the Communist Party of China (CPC) or go against the Party’s policy during teaching will be subject to punishment.

Teachers who violate professional ethics or lack the teaching capabilities should be transferred to other posts or quit their positions as a political teacher, according to the guideline published on the ministry’s website on Monday.

The guideline also mentioned a mechanism to motivate teachers to improve their comprehensive abilities.

Distinguished teachers will have the chance to teach model classes nationwide and further their studies abroad. They should be favored in promotion and commendation.

The guideline followed in March when Chinese top leader called for ideological and political teachers to uphold firm Marxist belief and boost creativity in teaching to cultivate talent to build socialism.

Schools that lack political teachers should recruit enough personnel and assign enough class hours. Teachers are selected according to their ethics, morality and teaching capacity, the guideline said.

The link between savantism and autism

Linda Marsa, via a kind Amos Roe email:

This cherubic young man was born blind, due to a congenital condition called septo-optic dysplasia. He had serious cognitive disabilities as a child, and severe symptoms of autism: Even the faintest noises would make him scream, and he was so sensitive to touch that he kept his hands balled up in fists. “On his third Christmas, we had to go out of the room to open presents because he couldn’t stand the ripping sound of the wrapping paper,” recalls Lewis. “He wouldn’t eat solid foods and pretty much lived off liquids for his first few years. It seemed like he was a prisoner in his own body.” His doctors predicted he would never walk or talk.

When he was 2, Lewis-Clack’s father gave him a piano keyboard. It became his gateway to the outside world. Lewis-Clack taught himself to play the piano, says Lewis, “and would play until he dropped from exhaustion.” When he began formal lessons at age 5, his teacher noticed his remarkable gifts. Lewis-Clack has perfect pitch, a phenomenon that occurs in about 1 in 10,000 people: He can identify a musical note immediately, even when he hears it completely out of context. Although he cannot see and cannot read music, he only needs to hear most songs once to play them back perfectly. And he has whole libraries of music stored in his brain. “One day, Rex sat down and played through all 21 of Chopin’s nocturnes, and played them perfectly even though he had only studied or played six of them [before],” says Lewis. Unbeknownst to her, he had memorized the other 15.

University Of Maryland To Restructure, Terminate Contracts Of 100 Faculty Who Can ‘Recompete’ For Their Jobs

Emma Pettit:

The global campus, which used to be known as the University of Maryland University College, serves tens of thousands of students and is one of the nation’s biggest players in distance learning. The institution focuses on educating adult students and veterans.

The new structure is necessary, Smith said, to prepare for the rest of the 21st century, as employer and adult-learner needs evolve, and to prepare for challenges to come, before it’s too late.

“Most colleges wait until they’re really in the soup,” Smith added. “We’re not even close to the soup.”

But some faculty members said that they and their colleagues had been stunned by what they considered an unwelcome and jarring announcement. It was devastating for some people who no longer felt secure in their employment, said three faculty members who spoke to The Chronicle on the condition of anonymity, because they did not want to harm their job prospects or their reputations.

Synthetic Content

Przemek Chojecki:

Fake News vs Synthetic Content
As an AI entrepreneur and a scientist I follow machine learning research on a daily basis. With the recent outcry about fake news and deepfakes, I wanted to test what is really possible if you were to generate an entire website with every piece of content on it by artificial intelligence. The whole process, which I describe below, let me arrive at a concept of a synthetic content, a content which is made purely through AI and machine-generation.

First of all, not every synthetic content is a fake news and vice versa. Secondly, it is almost impossible to determine whether a given piece of content is synthetic, especially if it was generated in a narrow knowledge domain. Hence a basic criterion for evaluating a piece of content should be its quality and whether it’s true or not.

If you think about it, a synthetic content is not necessarily bad. Imagine synthetic research, new science discoveries made by machines, which would only enrich our civilisation and boost our growth. This is the good side and this should be a true goal of building complex AI systems.

The global fertility crash

Andre Tartar, Hannah Recht, and Yue Qiu:

While the global average fertility rate was still above the rate of replacement—technically 2.1 children per woman—in 2017, about half of all countries had already fallen below it, up from 1 in 20 just half a century ago. For places such as the U.S. and parts of Western Europe, which historically are attractive to migrants, loosening immigration policies could make up for low birthrates. In other places, more drastic policy interventions may be called for. Most of the available options place a high burden on women, who’ll be relied upon not only to bear children but also to help fill widening gaps in the workforce.

Related: abortion data.

‘We’re cosseting our kids’ – the war against today’s dangerously dull playgrounds

Oliver Wainwright:

In the decades after the second world war, the celebrated architect Aldo van Eyck designed more than 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam, filling bomb sites with dazzling constellations of tumbling bars, leapfrog posts and climbing domes. His idea was that by providing children with a range of elemental forms and open-ended structures – rather than swings, roundabouts and other playground staples – their creativity would be stimulated and they would invent new games.

These “tools for the imagination”, as he called his kit of sandpits, frames and posts, became a familiar part of Amsterdam’s streetscape, a connected galaxy of playtime fragments that spread across the city, from public spaces and even to roadside verges, never fenced off. It was a vision of play without walls, the protected domain of the child thrown open and spilling over into the rest of the city.

Parenting & Panic

Agnes Callard:

Parenting starts out lonely, because newborn babies do not know that you exist. No one in my social circle—grad students in their twenties—had children, so I joined a new moms group at my local hospital. You know the drill: sit in a circle, tell birth stories, swap sleep advice, etc. I quit the group after a few sessions, because everyone there was boring. So I started my own group, via Craigslist. But everyone there was boring, too. So I started another one. Were all the mothers in Berkeley boring? It was around the time I abandoned my third or fourth new moms group that I began to consider the possibility that I might be the problem.

After Abuse Allegations, Oregon Brings Back Foster Kids Sent Out of State

Zusha Elinson:

Foster children in Oregon who were sent to privately run group homes out of state are now being brought back following numerous allegations of abuse.

Oregon is one of several states that in recent years began relying on faraway residential treatment centers to house children with severe behavioral and psychiatric issues for whom adequate care couldn’t be found nearby. But the state’s child welfare agency didn’t regularly monitor their treatment and now two of the largest companies in the field have closed down facilities in Utah and Montana after staff members were accused of physical abuse and frequent use of drug injections to control the children, according to state regulators.

In Oregon, the issue has become a flashpoint for the child welfare agency. Lawmakers have held public hearings, Gov. Kate Brown installed a new agency director, and declared the agency in crisis. The reversal, which is also occurring in neighboring Washington, highlights the ways in which states lacking resources for foster children have turned to private companies to handle their most challenging cases without providing much oversight.

Disinheriting your children might be for their own good

Rhymer Rigby:

More recently, Lane Fury, a woman in her twenties who has begun to inherit significant sums and eventually stands to inherit $6m, told the New York Post: “There is this sense of shame or embarrassment, like maybe some of the problems in the world are my fault.”

In his book Inherited Wealth, John Levy identifies how some of those who are bequeathed a large sum are afflicted. These include a lack of self-esteem, guilt (from not having earned it), delayed maturity (from not having to overcome life challenges), paralysis (brought on by not knowing what to do with it) and boredom, which can lead to the type of self-destructive behaviour we see with Roman in Succession. So, should we disinherit our children for their own good?

Well, maybe not. There are plenty of ways to use wealth positively. Inheriting a large sum of money can free your descendants from the shackles of everyday work and give them the choice to do what they want with their lives. They can, to dip into the self-help lexicon, find their passion and purpose. It can allow them to become leaders in the battle against climate change or exponents of female empowerment in developing countries. It can provide them with a launch pad to found empires of their own. Or it can turn them into the next Paris Hilton. “Money is a magnifier and can enhance problems as well as good instincts,” says Carol Sherman, managing director of the Institute for Preparing Heirs, a California-based wealth adviser.

Civics: The FBI is Tracking Our Faces in Secret. We’re Suing.


The FBI is currently collecting data about our faces, irises, walking patterns, and voices, permitting the government to pervasively identify, track, and monitor us. The agency can match or request a match of our faces against at least 640 million images of adults living in the U.S. And it is reportedly piloting Amazon’s flawed face recognition surveillance technology.
Face and other biometric surveillance technologies can enable undetectable, persistent, and suspicionless surveillance on an unprecedented scale. When placed in the hands of the FBI — an unaccountable, deregulated, secretive intelligence agency with an unresolved history of anti-Black racism — there is even more reason for alarm. And when that agency stonewalls our requests for information about how its agents are tracking and monitoring our faces, we should all be concerned.

That’s why today we’re asking a federal court to intervene and order the FBI and related agencies to turn over all records concerning their use of face recognition technology.

Credentialism vs. Merit

Victor Davis Hanson:

What explains the bankruptcy of the elite?

We have confused credentials with merit—as we learned when Hollywood stars and rich people tried to bribe and buy their mostly lackadaisical children into named schools, eager for the cattle brand BAs and without a care whether their offspring would be well educated.

Graduating from today’s Yale or Harvard law school is not necessarily a sign of achievement, much less legal expertise. Mostly, entrance into heralded schools is a reminder of past good prep school grades and test scores winning admittance—or using some sort of old-boy, networking, athletic, or affirmative action pull.

Being a “senior” official at some alphabet government agency also means little any more outside of the nomenklatura. Academia, the media, and entertainment industries are likewise supposedly meritocratic without being based on demonstrable worth. Otherwise, why would college graduates know so little, the media so often report fantasies as truth, and Hollywood focus on poor remakes? Take all the signature brand names that the Baby Boomers inherited from prior generations—Harvard, Yale, the New York Times, NPR, CNN, the Oscars, the NFL, the NBA, the FBI, the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, and a host of others. And then ask whether they enhanced or diminished such inheritances?

A country over $22 trillion in debt, with an open border, an existential conflict with China, and a West in cultural and demographic decline, for two years was told falsely that Donald Trump supposedly knew of a meeting in advance at Trump Tower, that James Comey would supposedly testify that he never told Trump he was not under investigation, and that Trump would soon be indicted, resign, or impeached. The amount of elite energy spent replaying the embarrassing progressive 2016 loss and trying to abort the Trump presidency before the 2020 election, remember, was the product of our best and brightest, the top echelon of our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and our most esteemed political and media elite.

Gloucester County School Board appeals federal judge’s decision in favor of Gavin Grimm

John Riley:

The Gloucester County School Board has appealed a federal judge’s decision finding that its restroom policy discriminates against transgender students.

The lawsuit against the school board, originally filed in 2015 by then-student Gavin Grimm, a transgender male barred from the boys’ restroom, continues to be a point of contention — not only among residents of Gloucester County, but nationally, as the nation is deeply divided when it comes to issues of transgender people’s ability to access shared public facilities.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that the restroom policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX’s prohibitions on sex-based discrimination. The policy was imposed by the board after almost all of its members caved to public pressure and complaints from enraged parents.

Allen also ordered the school board to change the gender on Grimm’s school transcripts to accurately reflect his gender identity, as Grimm has both changed the gender marker on his birth certificate to male and obtained a Virginia court order in 2017 legally recognizing him as a male.

First Common Core High School Grads Worst-Prepared For College In 15 Years

Joy Pullman:

Students in the U.S. made significant progress in math and reading achievement on NAEP from 1990 until 2015, when the first major dip in achievement scores occurred,” reported U.S. News and World Report. Perhaps not coincidentally, 2015 is the year states were required by the Obama administration to have fully phased in Common Core.

Common Core is a set of national instruction and testing mandates implemented starting in 2010 without approval from nearly any legislative body and over waves of bipartisan citizen protests. President Obama, his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, and myriad other self-described education reformers promised Common Core would do exactly the opposite of what has happened: improve U.S. student achievement. As Common Core was moving into schools, 69 percent of school principals said they also thought it would improve student achievement. All of these “experts” were wrong, wrong, wrong.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Company drops lawsuit against parent who has led opposition to Wake’s math curriculum

T Keung Hui:

The provider of Wake County’s controversial high school math curriculum had dropped its lawsuit against a Cary parent who is leading the fight to get the program dropped from the district’s schools.

The Mathematics Vision Project had filed a lawsuit in July in a Utah state court accusing Blain Dillard of making false and defamatory statements about the MVP Math program that the company says harmed its business. Dillard had responded with his own countersuit, charging that MVP was trying to chill free speech rights.

In a joint settlement released Tuesday, both parties said that they had agreed to dismiss their lawsuits.

Related: Madison’s math task force and forum.

Civics: Meghan Daum’s merciless take on modern feminism, woke-ness and cancel culture

Rosa Brooks:

Part memoir and part jeremiad, “The Problem with Everything” is replete with examples of what Daum views as intolerant, self-righteous woke-ness: She highlights the young-adult fiction authors forced to withdraw their books “when social media mobs attacked them” for purported “racial insensitivity” or cultural appropriation, for instance, and the “self-congratulatory reverence” displayed by white liberal admirers of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the “unofficial paterfamilias of the wokescenti.” Commenting on the controversies surrounding Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Daum writes that although she found Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault “moving, compelling and entirely credible,” she was “less moved by the sloganeering that rose up around them.” The “Believe Survivors” trope, she argues, draws no distinction between violent rape and lesser forms of male creepiness (groping, leering), and sacrifices due process for the accused to outraged assertions of male sinfulness.

Eastman to Remove Koreans from Top Orchestra For China Tour. Update: Tour postponed

Joseph Galamba:

China refused to issue visas for Korean students, forcing Eastman to either remove them or cancel their tour. Eastman has shockingly chosen to go with the former.

Even more stunning, the students in the orchestra themselves voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the tour by leaving their peers behind. Under such tremendous pressure from their fellow students and school administrators, the Korean students could never have voiced any objections that they may have had.

There have been countless times in history where musicians have been called to stand up for their colleagues in the face of discrimination. In the Civil Rights era white jazz musicians would refuse to tour when their black colleagues were unwelcome. In World War II, which musicians chose solidarity with their colleagues and which chose collaboration is forever linked to their legacy.

By bowing to Chinese demands and enabling them to dictate exclusion on the basis of nationality in their orchestra, the students and administrators of Eastman have shown a remarkable lack of character and have put a black mark on the reputation of classical music when we can ill afford it, as the corruption and misconduct at institutions such as the Cleveland Symphony and Metropolitan Opera is fresh in the public mind.

Hollywood Reporter:

Taylor Swift is heading to China to perform at Alibaba Group’s annual Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza next month.

The pop star will perform at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on the evening of Nov. 10, along with a lineup of prominent stars and personalities from China and other parts of Asia. Among the acts slated to shill online shopping for Alibaba are Chinese singer-songwriter and actress G.E.M., local pop star Hua Chenyu, Japanese singer Kana Hanazawa and over a dozen others.

More than a few U.S. sports and entertainment figures — including Scarlett Johansson, David Beckham, Mariah Carey and Daniel Craig — have flocked to the Alibaba-produced spectacle in years past to build their brands among Chinese consumers. But in recent months, U.S. celebrities’ eagerness to please the Chinese government and the country’s enormous consumer base have begun to be viewed with more skepticism by the U.S. public.

America’s Schools Flunk Despite more spending, test scores fall and the achievement gap grows.

Wall Street Journal:

The highest-achieving students are doing better and the lowest are doing worse than a decade ago. That’s one depressing revelation from the latest Nation’s Report Card that details how America’s union-run public schools are flunking.

The results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is administered to students around the country every two years, were published on Wednesday. There isn’t much to cheer. Only 35% of fourth graders rated proficient in reading, which is about the same as in 2009. Worse, students have backslid in reading over the last two years.

While median math and reading scores have stayed about the same over the last decade, achievement gaps are increasing. Since 2009 scores for the lowest 10% of students fell by about as much as they improved for the top 10%. The 90th percentile of eighth graders in math scored about four points higher while the bottom tenth scored five points lower.

The teachers unions’ answer to every education deficit is more spending. But between 2012 and 2017—the last year of available Census Bureau data—average per-pupil education spending increased by 15%. Spending has been growing at an even faster clip over the last couple of years as government revenue has recovered from the recession.

States that are spending more haven’t shown improvement. In California annual K-12 spending has increased by more than half since 2013 to $102 billion. Yet student test scores have been flat since 2013. It’s a similar story in New York, Illinois and New Jersey where Democrats have raised taxes for schools.


Privileged Poor vs. Doubly Disadvantaged at Elite Schools

Andre Archie:

As a professor at a fairly large state university, I have noticed a pattern during my years of teaching. Students who consistently avail themselves of office hours, to seek clarification on course content, to chat, or to do both, have attended, on average, private preparatory, parochial, or high performing public high schools.

The moment these students walk into my office, it is clear that they were prepped to see professors as allies, not adversaries. At a minimum, they are admiringly self-possessed.

Having casually kept in touch with these students throughout their undergraduate years, I have found that they often excel in the classroom and confidently take advantage of the many opportunities around campus to learn and engage. There are two questions that arise from these observations: first, are they correct? And second, if so, what is it about high performing high schools that make the difference?


Kashmir’s Gander:

The team looked at answers from 49,050 parents of young people aged between six and 17 years old, who took part in the 2016-2017 National Survey of Children’s Health. The parents detailed how much their child slept.

The survey also measured what are known as flourishing markers, such as whether the child was curious about new things; if they did all their homework; cared about doing well at school; were committed to finishing tasks; and stayed calm and in control while faced with a challenge.

The under-12s who didn’t have enough sleep were less likely to be curious about learning, care about school, do their homework and finish tasks. Those in the older category had similar problems, but were also less likely to stay calm when encountering a challenge.

The authors wrote: “Chronic sleep loss amongst youth is a major public health crisis globally and is associated with a multitude of physical and mental health issues.”

How to Get a World-Class Education for Free on the Internet

Amy Wang:

As crucial as a university degree has become for working in the modern economy, it is not the only route forward into a wildly lucrative and satisfying career—just ask famous dropouts Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg.

In the future, a single bachelor’s degree in a particular subject will no longer suffice for many of us anyway. As robots and automation sweep the global workforce, hundreds of millions of people—the majority of whom do not have the time or money to go pick up a brand-new four-year degree—will have to “re-skill” in order to land new jobs. The question that employees and employers alike face is how to get that done quickly, efficiently, and, most importantly to many, cheaply.

The internet, luckily, is already a booming resource. Whether you find yourself seeking new employment mid-career, curious about alternatives to a college education, or simply are interested in learning for learning’s sake, Quartz At Work has compiled some of the most dependable, high-quality materials you can access to learn anything on the internet.

UNH Law School Budget Deficit Exceeds 100% Of Revenues


In the 2018-19 year, the law school’s total operating budget was $5.5 million, but it spent $11.9 million. That’s more than double its operating budget, with a total loss of $6.4 million in that year alone.

The most dramatic year to date was the 2017-18 year, with a total loss of $6.7 million, and an operating margin of negative 130 percent. …

Enrollment did increase this academic year, up to 145 students in the incoming class. But in 2016, there were only 71 incoming students, according to numbers provided by current UNH Law Dean Megan Carpenter.

In fact, the law school is losing millions of dollars in an era when the state’s university system is receiving some of the lowest state funding in the country. UNH doesn’t see these losses as a barrier, but rather, as an investment.

M Is Not For Picture Clues


You may be familiar with “The Reading Wars,” a global literacy teaching conversation which seemingly pits the simple view of reading against the complex view of reading.

The simple view of reading maintains that accurate decoding leads to comprehension. Therefore, in instructional models based on this theory, students are first systematically taught phonics through a series of explicit lessons beginning with the smallest word units to the largest. Teaching often includes decodable texts with controlled vocabulary and an isolated focus on phonemes.

Congressional Ignorance Leaves the U.S. Vulnerable to Cyberthreats

Jackson Barnett:

In the last U.S. presidential election, Russian hackers penetrated Illinois’s voter-registration database, viewing voters’ addresses and parts of their social security numbers. Election results were not affected, but the attack put intruders in the position to alter voter data, according to a report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The incursion was part of hacking attempts against all 50 states, and intruders will try even more vigorously in 2020, yet experts say Congress is doing little to improve defenses. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University says states will need just more than $2.1 billion to upgrade election computer systems, yet last month the Senate approved only a fraction of that amount: $250 million.
One reason for the inadequate response is that elected representatives and their staffs are not tech savvy enough to understand the scope of the problems, says Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center and co-author of the cost analysis. His sentiments are echoed by other cybersecurity specialists. “I just didn’t have the tools,” recalls Meg King, director of the Digital Futures Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who worked on a cyberdefense bill a decade ago as a senior staff member on a House homeland security subcommittee. She now describes that bill as “too little, too late.” Today her think tank has begun to offer staffers short courses in cybersecurity issues, but security researchers worry that step will not be enough.

While substantially changing the outcome of an election by hacking into voting machines is extremely unlikely because those machines and the ballot counting process are very decentralized, altering voter rolls could block people from voting. If the system is even slightly exploited, says David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, it could trigger public distrust in elections. “I think the greatest challenge that we do have is to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our election system,” said Joseph Maguire, the U.S. acting director of national intelligence, during recent congressional testimony.

Elizabeth Warren Pledges To Crack Down On School Choice, Despite Sending Her Own Son To Elite Private School

Peter Hasson:

“I do not blame Alex one bit for attending a private school in 5th grade. Good for him,” said Reason Foundation director of school choice Corey DeAngelis, who first flagged Alexander’s private schooling Monday. “This is about Warren exercising school choice for her own kids while fighting hard to prevent other families from having that option.”

It’s unclear whether 1987 was the only year Warren sent any of her children to private school. Warren’s campaign didn’t return emailed questions by press time. (RELATED: Dem Senator Bashing Betsy Devos Had No Problem Personally Profiting From Charter Schools)

Warren praised charter schools as recently as 2016, when she said charter schools “are producing extraordinary results for our students” in Massachusetts. Warren’s crackdown on elite charter schools would leave elite private schools like Kirby Hall unscathed, while greatly eliminating charter schools as a parallel option for lower-income families.

The senator’s plan to crack down on charter schools drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, including from The Washington Post’s editorial board, which described Warren’s reversal as transparent catering to teacher’s unions.

“The losers in these political calculations are the children whom charters help,” the Post’s editorial stated. “Charters at their best offer options to parents whose children would have been consigned to failing traditional schools. They spur reform in public school systems in such places as the District and Chicago. And high-quality charters lift the achievement of students of color, children from low-income families and English language learners.”

Medical librarian talks about rare books, spooky subject matter, and Halloween plans

Sallyann Price:

How do you manage all these projects, both practically and psychologically?

I think having a therapist is a great idea; I recommend that for everyone who can manage it. I am also the mother of a toddler, and that experience completely changed the way I look at my projects. Having a toddler is a super intense circle-of-life experience. There is big joy, but it also brings up a ton of mortality questions.

Part of death positivity—I don’t know if it’s a side effect or maybe the whole point—is that when you engage in mortality and know that life is finite, you tend to value your life more, because you know how precious it is.

Google CEO, in leaked video, says company is ‘genuinely struggling’ with employee trust


Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged the tech giant is struggling with how to deal with internal debate over controversial topics and the company defended hiring a former government official who backed the Trump administration’s travel ban, according to video of an all-hands meeting obtained by The Washington Post.

At the closed-door meeting Thursday, a weekly gathering known as TGIF, Pichai and other top executives sought to quell employee discontent and defended the hiring of Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security official, while chastising employees for airing their gripes publicly.
Pichai acknowledged the company had violated some employees’ trust. “We are genuinely struggling with some issues — transparency at scale,” he said, according to the video.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Will cursive become a lost art form? Not if these Wisconsin lawmakers can help it

Sharon Roznik:

The Nesvacil sisters of Ashwaubenon take their handwriting seriously.

Grace Nesvacil, now a freshman in high school, was named the nation’s top fifth grade hand-writer in the 2016 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. Her sister Evelyn was a semifinalist as a third grader, and another sister, Claire, earned a state award in the competition.

All three of the siblings attend Ashwaubenon schools, where curriculum instructor Jill Kieslich says they still teach cursive to students in second through fifth grade, although it’s not required as part of Wisconsin’s Academic Standards.

The sponsor of the contest, Ohio-based Zaner-Bloser company, is a longtime producer of writing, penmanship and grammar materials for schools. During the 1800s, founders Charles Zaner and Elmer Bloser developed a cursive style that dominated classrooms for decades.

But cursive has been on the decline since the rise of personal computers. In 2010, when most states adopted Common Core curriculum standards meant to equalize education in America, nothing about cursive was mentioned. Today, teaching cursive has declined to the point that it’s not unusual to find teens and twenty-somethings barely able to decipher it. Often, children master typing on a computer, tablet or mobile phone before they feel comfortable writing by hand.

The price of teacher Mulligans, continued: Wisconsin Proficiency Rates Flat Despite Spending Increases

Will Flanders:

While DPI is willing to acknowledge the gravity of the achievement gap, the agency remains stubbornly opposed to proven solutions. Year after year and study after study reveal that public charter schools, freed from the mandates of bureaucracy and unionization, do a better job educating exactly the type of students that need the most help. Giving lie to the claims that public schools are starved for cash, charters accomplish this task with thousands of dollars less per student. If those on the left are truly concerned about improving academic outcomes for minority students, they must stop demonizing the charter and private schools that get the job done.

The Price of Wisconsin’s Elementary Reading Teacher Mulligans


My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

“36 people” on madison’s 2020 superinteNdent search

Logan Wroge:

“The challenges of the district are actually not completely known because of a lack of transparency in how the district is doing with respect to several critical and urgent matters,” Chan Stroman, a West Side resident and education advocate said, adding she wants to see honesty and competence in the next leader of the state’s second-largest school district.

The input session was facilitated by BWP and Associates — an Illinois-based, education-focused search firm contracted by the School Board to help solicit feedback, advertise the position and vet candidates, among other responsibilities.

A second community input session is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at La Follette High School, and a survey on the superintendent position is available online until Nov. 5.

While in town Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives of BWP also had a marathon of meetings planned with elected officials, community groups, advocacy organizations, business leaders and others.

Among those scheduled to meet with the BWP consultants are black student unions, social justice advocacy organization Freedom Inc., the heads of American Family Insurance and Exact Sciences Corp., school principals, Disability Rights Wisconsin and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

Debra Hill, a managing director for BWP, said throughout nearly 20 meetings held Tuesday, a theme of trust was already emerging.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Former Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham; what will be different, this time?

Mayor Lightfoot’s 2020 budget requires Chicago Public schools repay $60 million for pensions

Fran Spielman:

The historic about-face is buried in the mayor’s budget overview.

It states: “In 2020, an additional $60 million is expected from Chicago Public Schools to cover a portion of its share of the city’s annual contribution to the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund.”

For years, City Hall has covered the school system’s annual contribution to the largest of four city employee pension funds.

This year, Lightfoot needs the money to chip away at the city’s $838 million shortfall triggered, in part, by the city’s own rising pension payments.

And, according to a Chicago Teachers Union official, Lightfoot also wants CPS to repay the city for $33 million in security costs, although the city says that’s not a new demand this year.

The dark and white flours of ideology

Nicolaia Rips:

Bread as a symbol of material and physical fulfillment was also invoked in the US suffrage movement, but there the opposition between bread and freedom was dismissed as a false choice. A rallying cry of suffragists was “Bread and Roses,” a slogan coined by Helen Todd in the early 1910s for speeches that she would give while traveling through Illinois advocating for women’s rights. In an essay published in The American Magazine in September 1911, Todd, a factory inspector, further explained the phrase, adding that women’s suffrage “will go toward helping forward the time when life’s Bread, which is home, shelter and security, and the Roses of life, music, education, nature and books, shall be the heritage of every child that is born in the country, in the government of which she has a voice.”9 Simply put, Todd acknowledges that while bread may be the staff of life, freedom and the pleasures it entails are just as critical.

And how do I like my bread? I prefer it sliced thick and slathered with butter, and as free as possible of political symbolism. But even that, sadly, cannot be, as it turns out that I am gluten- and lactose-intolerant.

Money, Politics and Adult Employment/School Choice

Collin Anderson:

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren raked in tens of thousands of dollars from teachers’ unions before reversing her past support for student vouchers and education reform.

In 2004, Warren argued that vouchers “relieve parents” from relying on failing public schools. Her campaign’s newly-released education plan attacks charter schools and school choice. Warren’s reversal comes after the Massachusetts senator took more than $2.5 million in campaign cash from the education industry throughout her political career, including nearly $70,000 from the country’s most powerful teachers’ unions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Civics: Comcast is Lobbying Against Encryption that Improves Privacy

Joseph Cox:

Internet giant Comcast is lobbying U.S. lawmakers against plans to encrypt web traffic that would make it harder for internet service providers (ISPs) to determine your browsing history, according to a lobbying presentation obtained by Motherboard.

The plan, which Google intends to implement soon, would enforce the encryption of DNS data made using Chrome, meaning the sites you visit. Privacy activists have praised Google’s move. But ISPs are pushing back as part of a wider lobbying effort against encrypted DNS, according to the presentation. Technologists and activists say this encryption would make it harder for ISPs to leverage data for things such as targeted advertising, as well as block some forms of censorship by authoritarian regimes.

Harvard Admits Its Preferences

Heather Mac Donald:

Students for Fair Admissions’s suit against Harvard presented a new twist on anti-preference litigation: rather than arguing that Harvard’s preferences discriminate against whites in favor of blacks, sffa argued that Harvard discriminates against Asians in favor of whites. This shift reflected both reality and legal strategy. Asian students everywhere are the most penalized when meritocratic admissions are scrapped for a race-based system, since their academic qualifications surpass those of all other racial and ethnic groups.

But litigation calculus also influenced the changed focus. SFFA v. Harvard was filed in 2014, when Justice Anthony Kennedy was still on the Supreme Court. Kennedy had been a pivotal vote for upholding racial preferences. If sffa’s attorneys could convince him that his pro-preference jurisprudence was now harming Asians—themselves a minority and thus part of the student “diversity” that preferences were supposed to enable—they would have a better chance of persuading him to reverse that jurisprudence, their thinking went. And using whites, rather than blacks, as the benchmark for anti-Asian discrimination avoided the appearance of pitting one minority group against another, a charge which left-wing preference supporters routinely make.

Majority of Americans Say Parents Are Doing Too Much for Their Young Adult Children

Amanda Barroso, Kim Parker & Richard Fry:

The share of young adults who could be considered “financially independent” from their parents by their early 20s – an assessment based on their annual income – has gone down somewhat in recent decades. A new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds that, in 2018, 24% of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared with 32% in 1980.

Looking more broadly at young adults ages 18 to 29, the share who are financially independent has been largely stable in recent decades. Overall, young men are more likely than young women to be financially independent, but this gender gap has diminished significantly.

The new survey findings underscore the extent to which many young adults are financially reliant on their parents. Some 45% of adults ages 18 to 29 (with at least one living parent) say they have received a lot of or some financial help from their parents in the past 12 months.1 According to parents of young adults, those shares may be even higher. About six-in-ten parents with children ages 18 to 29 (59%) say they have given their kids at least some financial help in the past year. The study is based on two nationally representative surveys. The first survey of 9,834 adults was conducted online from June 25 to July 8, 2019, using Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. The second survey of 1,015 adults was conducted on the telephone June 25-30, 2019.2

‘Toxic’ lab lasted for years. UW-Madison had little idea until a student died by suicide

Kelly Meyerhofer:

University officials said the circumstances surrounding Brady’s suicide three years ago this month were an extreme and isolated incident that does not represent the daily work conditions of the nearly 5,000 graduate students employed as teaching assistants, research assistants and project assistants, many of whom develop positive lifelong relationships with their mentors.

Mental health also played an important role in the case, university officials said, an area in which UW-Madison has invested significant resources in recent years.

Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan to Hurt Wisconsin Schools

CZ Szafir Libby Sobic:

Presidential candidate — and 2020 Democrat frontrunner — U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her vision for K-12 education in America this week. While the document contains plenty of hyperbolic language (combating the “corruption” associated with charter schools), Warren, who likes to say “she has a plan for that”, does offer policy details on what she would do as President. At a minimum, it shows what her priorities will be.

In short, her plan calls for massive spending increases to the tune of $800 billion over ten years (funded by her wealth tax), more federal intrusion into the classroom, an all-out assault on school choice, and overturning collective bargaining reform laws.
We breakdown what it could mean for Wisconsin:

Overturning Walker’s Act 10 collective bargaining reform law
Warren pledges to “make it easier for teachers to join a union, bargain collectively or strike” and work to pass legislation that would “ensure that public employees like teachers can organize and bargain collectively in each state and authorize voluntary deduction of fees to support a union.” In other words, she wants the federal government to overturn collective bargaining reform laws — like Governor Walker’s 2011 Act 10 law that limits collective bargaining for public employee unions.

This would be a major set-back to Wisconsin students, teachers, and school district administrators. A reminder:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Home Affordability; Property Tax Growth

Ryan Dezember, Laura Kusisto and Shane Shifflett:

“Houses are the democratic assets, roughly half of housing wealth is owned by the middle class,” said Moritz Schularick, a professor of economics at the University of Bonn and one of the authors.

It isn’t unusual for high-earners to rent in pricey coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, where sky-high real-estate prices have long limited homeownership. Yet these markets account for less than 20% of the new six-figure renters, according to the Journal’s analysis.

The Vanishing Library

Johnny Rodgers

The library at Glasgow School of Art has—or had—special status for connoisseurs of the work of architect-artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Its ineffably graceful timbers garnered a totemic value as a symbol of the workaday genius of their creator. It was said that this exquisite room could be created by any competent craftsman under instruction from the architect’s drawings; no special craft skills were needed. Indeed in the aftermath of the fires that destroyed Mackintosh’s masterwork and all its contents in 2014, and again in 2018, the School authorities claimed, evidently by way of reassuring those connoisseurs and others, that the Library would be rebuilt ‘as Mackintosh designed it, to the millimetre’—‘It is absolutely coming back.’footnote1

The implicit suggestion—and indeed often the explicit claim at the time—was thus that Mackintosh’s conceptions, or in other words, his models in the form of architectural drawings, are the real art, and the physical manifestation of that graphical genius in the timbers of the Library can be recreated by any joiner the School cares to appoint. We might then begin to wonder about that relationship between the drawings and the materially constructed Library, whereby Mackintosh’s very plans seem to operate like some type of magical incantation, and take possession of the hands of a dayjobbing tradesman to conjure them into the execution of a work of supreme artistic merit. This might in turn bring us to ask if, in the post-fires era of destruction, the Library does, in fact, still exist? The actual timbers of the room are gone, but those plans, the original prime movers in the creation of the space, and the formulae that will be used to put the material version back into place—they still exist. So what is the relative ontological status of these two components, which both have some evident claim to be Mackintosh’s Library? Can the Library still exist after it has been destroyed by fire? Does its putative totemic status indeed entail something of a magical, or fantasy, ideal or utopic quality, something beyond those everyday material qualities already annihilated twice in the fires?

Curated Education Information