“the strength of the nanodegree program is that students are required to complete projects”

Jeffrey Young

Shen stressed that the problem with the old MOOC model is a focus on video libraries for teaching. She said the strength of the nanodegree program is that students are required to complete projects. “We care about completion rates, projects student build, and ultimately career readiness,” she said. “MOOCs have been too content-only focused and not a model that engages our students deeply. They are an improvement on pure content libraries when done well, but as a product not what we felt achieved success for our students and industry partners.”

Asked whether the company might phase out free courses, she said that the company’s latest programs continue to include free versions. “There is no change there,” she added.

Dhawal Shah, co-founder of Class Central, which tracks MOOCs, says that “it’s plausible” that the company would move away from making new courses free at some point. “Free courses are a marketing channel to feed learners into the paid programs,” he said in an e-mail interview. “But Udacity is able to generate huge amounts of press at a regular basis by launching nanodegrees like the Self-Driving Car Nanodegree or the recently announced Flying Car nanodegree. So the free courses might not provide the same returns as they did early on.”

Shah argues that Udacity and other providers of large-scale online course have gradually created more and more paid services, and made it harder for students to find their free offerings.

Word embeddings in 2017: Trends and future directions


The word2vec method based on skip-gram with negative sampling (Mikolov et al., 2013) [49] was published in 2013 and had a large impact on the field, mainly through its accompanying software package, which enabled efficient training of dense word representations and a straightforward integration into downstream models. In some respects, we have come far since then: Word embeddings have established themselves as an integral part of Natural Language Processing (NLP) models. In other aspects, we might as well be in 2013 as we have not found ways to pre-train word embeddings that have managed to supersede the original word2vec.

This post will focus on the deficiencies of word embeddings and how recent approaches have tried to resolve them. If not otherwise stated, this post discusses pre-trained word embeddings, i.e. word representations that have been learned on a large corpus using word2vec and its variants. Pre-trained word embeddings are most effective if not millions of training examples are available (and thus transferring knowledge from a large unlabelled corpus is useful), which is true for most tasks in NLP. For an introduction to word embeddings, refer to this blog post.

Is Estonia a Preview of Our Tech Future?

Vivienne Walta>:

Given Estonia’s history, the invention of Skype in this country was ironic. While Americans were buying their first cell phones, about a quarter-century ago, Estonians were shut off from the world as an outpost of the Soviet Union. You could easily wait 10 years to be assigned a landline phone. By the time the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, the country was in a time warp. “We did not have anything,” says Gen. Riho Terras, the commander of Estonia’s armed forces, who had been a student activist at the time. The country had to reboot from zero. Terras says each citizen was given the equivalent of 10 euros, or $10.60. “That was it,” he says, laughing. “We started from 10 euros each.”
 One generation on, Estonia is a time warp of another kind: a fast-forward example of extreme digital living. For the rest of us, Estonia ­offers a glimpse into what happens when a country abandons old analog systems and opts to run completely online instead. That notion is not fanciful. In various forms, governments across the world, including those in Singapore, Japan, and India, are trying to determine how dramatically they can transform themselves into digital entities in order to cut budgets and streamline services (and for some, keep closer tabs on citizens). Estonia claims its online systems add 2% a year to its GDP.

Déjà vu: Madison elementary school students explore the district’s new math curriculum

Amber Walker:

MMSD highlighted the success of the new math curriculum in its annual report, released last July. The report said the first cohort of schools using Bridges saw an eight-point increase in math proficiency scores and nine-point gains in math growth in one school year on the spring Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exam for third through fifth grade students.

By comparison, fifth grade MAP proficiency scores across the district increased eight points in the last four years.

“(Bridges) focuses on developing the students’ understanding of math concepts,” Davis said. “It is not about how students can memorize certain skills, but really around their ability to problem solve and look at math in more complex ways…and explain their reasoning to their teachers and peers.”

Related (deja vu):

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Math task force

Math forum

Singapore Math

Stretch targets

Youth prison guard: ‘I am afraid of getting killed’

Molly Beck:

Inmates at the state’s youth prison have kicked in glass windows, stolen pepper spray and threatened to rape female staff members since a federal judge told state Department of Corrections officials to make drastic changes to how they manage behavior of the prison’s inmates, records show.

Ten staff members at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma told Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, through interviews with his staff that they fear for their lives and that the facility is no longer safe.

The comments came after U.S. Judge James Peterson ordered prison officials in July to no longer keep inmates in solitary confinement around the clock for weeks, excessively pepper spray inmates and put them in shackles regularly.

“Kids now believe they have nothing to lose” one staff member told Tiffany’s aides.

Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017 m

Aleks Kajstura :

With growing public attention to the problem of mass incarceration, people want to know about women’s experience with incarceration. How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? And why are they there? While these are important questions, finding those answers requires not only disentangling the country’s decentralized and overlapping criminal justice systems, but also unearthing the frustratingly hard to find and often altogether missing data on gender.

This report provides a first-of-its-kind detailed view of the 219,000 women incarcerated in the United States, and how they fit into the even larger picture of correctional control. Since 2014, the Prison Policy Initiative has quantified the number of people incarcerated in the United States, and calculated the breakdown of people held by each correctional system by offense in an annual Whole Pie: Mass Incarceration report. This report, done in collaboration with the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, finally provides similar data on women incarcerated in the Unites States. We break the data down to show the various correctional systems that control women, and to examine why women in the various systems of confinement are locked up:

We Can’t Stem the Tide of Language Death

Laura McPherson:

BEFORE THE TURN of the next century, more than half of India’s 780 languages may die out. In this respect, India can be seen as a microcosm of the world, with experts warning that thousands of little-spoken languages are at risk for extinction within the century.

These reports might act as a call to keep teaching these languages to new users and ensure they are passed on to the next generation. But we have to be realistic, too. Without an unlikely transformation in political, socioeconomic, and ethnic conditions, it is naïve to think we can stem the tide of language death.

What we can and must do is document this rapidly diminishing linguistic diversity and archive these astonishing displays of creativity for the future. These cultural materials hold the key to understanding the range of human ingenuity in expression, and ultimately to giving these endangered languages a chance to bounce back, even if slim.

A world without hate speech

Zach Greenberg :

It takes as little as a flyer, a speech, a newspaper article, or a comedian to trigger calls for “hate speech” bans on college campuses. Considering that many college students support the prohibition of hate speech, let’s imagine if the would-be censors got their way — what would our society look like?

First, we must acknowledge that, in the United States, hateful speech is fully protected by the First Amendment. There’s no “hate speech versus free speech” debate raging in our nation’s judiciary. Nor is there a balancing test, an exemption, or a special constitutional provision allowing the government to prohibit it — hateful speech is categorically protected in our nation, including at public colleges and universities, and that’s not changing anytime soon.

Oxbridge access data

David Lammy:

Today (20th October) I have published data on Oxbridge access following Freedom of Information requests. You can download the data in full here and read the press release in full below. You can read more in The Guardian here and here, or on BBC news here. You can read my article for The Guardian here.


Former Higher Education Minister David Lammy MP brands Oxbridge colleges “fiefdoms of entrenched privilege” and “the last bastion of the old school tie” as data released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals a shocking lack of progress on widening participation and access to Oxbridge:

Civics: Little to Gain: Why U.S. Senators Face Tradeoffs to Casting Moderate Roll Call Votes

Christopher Donnelly:

This paper asks whether legislators are able to benefit from opposing their party on one or more high-profile issues. Such a strategy likely entails a tradeoff, as it might on the one hand attract cross-over support from opposite-party voters but, on the other hand, alienate co-partisan voters who make up the legislator’s “primary constituency.” Using data from a 2006 national survey in which citizens are asked their own positions on seven high-profile issues voted on by the U.S. Senate, as well as how they believe their state’s two senators to have voted on these issues, I find that senators generally do not benefit from voting against their party. First, same-party voters who oppose a senator’s party-deviating stance are more likely to notice this behavior than are opposite-party voters who should be pleased by a legislator’s vote against her party. Second, the uptick in electoral support that senators receive from the small subset of opposite-party voters who do notice their deviation on a particular issue is substantively small, while the decrease in their job approval among their co-partisan constituents–the voters upon whom senators must rely to win re-nomination–is non-trivial. These findings have important implications for legislators’ strategic incentives and offer hints as to why the last decade has seen a substantial number of re-election losses by moderate senators representing states in which their party is not favored, as well as a non-trivial number of serious primary challenges–some of which have succeeded–to senators who compile moderate voting records.

Matt Damon Seems Blissfully Ignorant of Many Things. So Why Should We Listen to Him on Schools?

Andrew Rotherham

In other words, his protestations of ignorance seem as disingenuous as his claim that his family, with their exceptional means, had no possible alternative to private school. Still, let’s give Damon the benefit of the doubt and assume he was the one person in the film business who didn’t know what Weinstein was up to. I’m surely not going to take my educational cues, let alone parenting advice, from someone that unaware of what’s happening all around him.

You might want to think twice, too.

How Teach for America Lost Its Way

Sohrab Ahmari:

Has the most celebrated education-reform organization in the U.S. transformed itself into an arm of the progressive movement? Teach for America, or TFA, the national corps of recent graduates who commit two years to teaching in underserved classrooms across the country, was founded to help close the achievement gap between rich and poor students. But now it increasingly functions as a platform for radical identity politics and the anti-Trump “resistance.”

In remaking itself, TFA has subtly downgraded the principles that had won it allies across the spectrum. George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Chris Christie, and Meg Whitman are a few of the Republicans who championed TFA. The group attracted such boldface names, and hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the largest American firms and philanthropies, because it stood for a simple but powerful idea: that teacher quality is the decisive factor in the educational outcomes produced by schools.

Judging by its interventions in recent debates, it isn’t all that clear that senior TFA executives still believe this. These days, TFA’s voice on charters, accountability, and curricular rigor is decidedly muffled. Such education-reform essentials have been eclipsed in TFA’s discourse by immigration, policing, “queer” and transgender-identity issues, and other left-wing causes. TFA’s message seems to be that until numerous other social ills are cured—until immigration is less restricted, policing becomes more gentle, and poverty is eliminated—an excellent education will elude the poor. That was the status-quo defeatism TFA originally set out to challenge.

Wendy Kopp conceived TFA when she was a senior at Princeton in 1989. Unable to get a New York City teaching job without a graduate degree and state certification, Kopp wrote a thesis calling for the creation of a nontraditional recruitment pipeline that would bring America’s most promising young people to its neediest classrooms. TFA members would teach for two years, applying their energy and ambition to drive achievement at the classroom level. She speculated that some would stay in education, while others would go on to careers in law, medicine, business, journalism, etc. But all would remain “lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity.”

Civics: The ruling classless

Andrew Ferguson:

Ingeniously, Quinn has outfitted the book with a literary device guaranteed to discourage bad reviews. Her fellow scribblers can only kick themselves for not thinking of it first. Quinn begins with a loving portrait of her childhood in Georgia, where the family servants schooled her in voodoo. Her mother was already initiated. When the local vet misdiagnosed the family dachshund, Quinn tells us, Mom lost her temper and cried, “I hope you drop dead!”

“And,” she writes laconically, “he did.”

In the next chapter we learn that 10-year-old Sally came under the care of a doctor who upset her mother. Mom fed him the same line she gave the vet, and “he died shortly thereafter.”

Well, life goes on—not for the vet and the doctor, of course, but for Sally. She grew up and moved to Washington and dated a yummy reporter. Once he flirted with another woman. “I won’t say exactly what I did—even now it would be bad luck for me,” she writes. “I worked on the hex for several days.” The woman killed herself. In his reading chair, the reviewer stirs uneasily.

Next we read about Clay Felker, the editor of New York magazine, who commissioned a scurrilous profile of Quinn. She put a hex on him. Suddenly the magazine was sold and Felker was fired and publicly humiliated. “Clay never recovered professionally,” she tells us. “Worse, he got cancer, which ultimately led to his death.”

Here the reviewer pauses to reflect. That’s four hexes and four corpses, two undertaken by Sally when she got extremely upset. And bad reviews can be extremely upsetting to an author. By the time the reviewer reads about the fortune teller—she foretold an unhappy future for Quinn’s son and, after Sally worked her mojo, died of a cerebral hemorrhage—why, the glowing review practically writes itself.

Sally Quinn has been writing books and articles for more than 40 years, yet her prose retains a childlike, disarming artlessness that makes Finding Magic and its serial revelations all the more arresting. She buys a house, she switches jobs, she kills someone with a hex…the tone never changes. “During my college years I had occasional psychic moments,” is how she begins one chapter, as if daring you to stop reading. Another chapter begins: “I love the Tarot.” She talks to ghosts. On her first visit to the Middle East, she faces her own personal Arab–Israeli conflict: She is torn, she tells us, between sleeping with the Israeli defense minister and “the Palestinian leader, an incredible hunk wearing traditional robes.” (She decides to stay faithful to her beau back home.) She reads minds and thinks you can, too: “It is just a matter of time before we don’t have to speak to one another anymore.” She has sex frequently and ardently. It’s all here.

Young people and their inventions


On 15 September 1997, two young Stanford University students registered the Google domain which sought, with a play on words, to catalyse the infinite quantity of information on the Internet. The name was chosen by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, inspired by the mathematical term googol, indicating a number beginning with a 1 and followed by 100 zeros. It was coined by American mathematician Edward Kasner in 1938 to convey the difference between a huge number and infinity. Google boasts that it can index a huge number of web pages, certainly more than the figure achieved by its rivals. It marked the birth of an invention characterised by young people who, with their own ideas and desire to be a part of the world, created a parallel world populated with virtual visitors every day. We have all smiled at the doodles, modified versions of the Google logo that, on various occasions or for special events, celebrate figures from past and contemporary history, welcoming us to the search engine when we connect via our mobile phones or any other electronic device. It is a distinctive trademark that has, over the years, stood out as original and unique, that has no equal and that now arouses the curiosity of users, accustomed to being amused by these brilliant periodical expedients.

Mass. sees increase in educator misconduct investigations

Ben Dempsey:

Massachusetts education officials have been investigating a growing number of educators for alleged misconduct — including sexual assaults, substance abuse, and criminal activities — which has resulted in the reprimand, suspension, or revocation of 371 licenses over the past five years, according to a state report released this week.

Nearly one-third of the 774 investigations launched by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education since 2012 involved educators who potentially crossed boundaries with children or adults in areas including sex, pornography, or touching.

On Citizenship

Charles Murray

That American life has coarsened over the past several decades is not much argued, but the nature of the beast is still in question. Gertrude Himmelfarb sees it as a struggle between competing elites, in which the left originated a counterculture that the right failed to hold back. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has given us the phrase “defining deviancy down,” to describe a process in which we change the meaning of moral to fit what we are doing anyway. I wish to add a third voice to the mix, that of the late historian Arnold Toynbee, who would find our recent history no mystery at all: We are witnessing the proletarianization of the dominant minority.

The language and thought are drawn from a chapter of “A Study of History,” entitled “Schism in the Soul,” in which Toynbee discusses the disintegration of civilizations. He observes that one of the consistent symptoms of disintegration is that the elites–Toynbee’s “dominant minority”–begin to imitate those at the bottom of society. His argument goes like this:

The growth phase of a civilization is led by a creative minority with a strong, self-confident sense of style, virtue and purpose. The uncreative majority follows along through mimesis, “a mechanical and superficial imitation of the great and inspired originals.” In a disintegrating civilization, the creative minority has degenerated into elites that are no longer confident, no longer setting the example. Among other reactions are a “lapse into truancy” (a rejection, in effect, of the obligations of citizenship), and a “surrender to a sense of promiscuity” (vulgarizations of manners, the arts, and language) that “are apt to appear first in the ranks of the proletariat and to spread from there to the ranks of the dominant minority, which usually succumbs to the sickness of `proletarianization.’”

That sounds very much like what has been happening in the U.S. Truancy and promiscuity, in Toynbee’s sense, are not new in America. But until a few decades ago they were publicly despised and largely confined to the bottom layer of Toynbee’s proletariat — the group we used to call “low-class” or “trash,” and which we now call the underclass. Today, those behaviors have been transmuted into a code that the elites sometimes imitate, sometimes placate, and fear to challenge. Meanwhile, they no longer have a code of their own in which they have confidence.

Building of the Week: St. Coletta of Greater Washington

Jacqueline Drayer:

Across the street from the Stadium-Armory Metro Station is perhaps the most carefully-considered school design in DC. St. Coletta of Greater Washington is a non-profit public charter school serving children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Its campus was designed by famed architect Michael Graves, who drew on discussion with and feedback from the school’s leadership and staff.

After touring the school with St. Coletta’s Principal Christie Mandeville and discussing the building’s evolution with CEO Sharon Raimo, the lesson from this school’s careful planning is clear: firms should think more about the needs of students and how schools can facilitate desired behavioral and learning outcomes.

What’s Really Keeping Pakistan’s Children Out of School?

Nadia Naviwala:

On a visit to a village school in the mountains near Abbottabad in northwestern Pakistan, I asked a group of third graders to spell “Pakistan.” They stared at me, silent and bewildered. The school had 20 students; only two have survived till the fifth grade. The two fifth graders were somewhat literate. One of them had learned to read and write at a private school, but even he struggled to write simple, misspelled sentences.

Less than half of third graders in Pakistan can read a sentence in Urdu or local languages. Thirty-one percent can write a sentence using the word “school” in Urdu, and 11 percent can do it in English.

Children in government schools report that teachers have them clean, cook, massage their feet and buy them desserts. Children are categorized as smart or stupid as soon as they start school. Corporal punishment is severe. Parents will send their kids to a private school if they can afford a few dollars a month, but they do not see government schools as worth it.

Since 2010, Pakistan has more than doubled what it budgets for education, from $3.5 billion to $8.6 billion a year. The budget for education now rivals the official $8.7 billion military budget. The teaching force is as big as the armed forces.

Ai Weiwei Explores the “Human Flow” of Refugees and Finds an America That Lost Its Conscience

Elizabeth Rubin :

“Do you think our asylum policy is broken? Do you really think that? That’s what you wrote,” the red-faced lawyer from Homeland Security shouted at me.

We were in immigration court at Federal Plaza in New York City. He was young and outraged that I had written those words in an op-ed and was now testifying as an expert witness on Afghanistan on behalf of an Afghan asylum-seeker. Clearly I had a conflict of interest.

“Actually I think we have a pretty good asylum policy, but we are not implementing it,” I said.

The judge interrupted.

“With all due respect, what she thinks of our immigration policy is irrelevant to why we are here today which is to determine whether there is a 10 percent chance of persecution if he returns to Afghanistan. That’s it.” I was relieved, but the Homeland Security lawyer kept on — I was a paid immigration advocate, I was biased, I was not really an expert since I had no academic expertise. The judge didn’t seem impressed by any of these arguments to disqualify my testimony, which went on for two hours.

I left the tiny courtroom. In the halls, mothers from Central America waited with young children tugging, leaning, falling, bored mostly. He’s lucky to be in New York, I thought. The judge was considerate and fair. In Texas, the judge denied the asylum-seeker’s claim and sent him to prison in Alabama where he was left to his own devices for nearly two years.

Civics: America Is Waking Up to the Injustice of Cash Bail

Bryce Covert:

On any given morning, some 20 people in orange jumpsuits sit in a pen in a courtroom at the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most rest their handcuffed wrists in their laps; a chain connects the cuffs to shackles around their waists and ankles. They’ve been arrested for allegedly committing a range of offenses, from possessing drugs to stealing a girlfriend’s car to strangling a domestic partner. But at this point, none of these people have been formally charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. As far as the law is concerned, they’re innocent.

As they make their appearance before Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell, each defendant gets approximately three minutes to meet with a public defender, if they’re found poor enough to need one, and explain why the charges they’re facing should be dismissed or, barring that, why their bail should be low. This meeting takes place in a Plexiglas booth that resembles a bank teller’s window, with the public defender, who serves every indigent person in court that day—in New Orleans, over 85 percent of criminal defendants are represented by a government-appointed lawyer— separated from her clients by a wall of clear plastic.

Cornell’s Black Student Disunion

Naomi Shaffer Riley:

A century ago, colleges cared if your ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Now some are demanding that when universities admit black students, they give preference to descendants of those who arrived on slave ships. Black Students United at Cornell last month insisted the university “come up with a plan to actively increase the presence of underrepresented Black students.” The group noted,

Denmark Student Privacy Policy


Det skal være muligt for gymnasier at gennemsøge elevers private computere for at forhindre eksamenssnyd.

Det mener undervisningsminister Merete Riisager (LA) ifølge Information.

Også elevernes aktivitet på sociale medier skal gymnasierne have adgang til at undersøge i samme forbindelse.

Det fremgår af et udkast til en ny bekendtgørelse om reglerne for prøver og eksamener, som ministeren har sendt i høring.

I udkastet står der blandt andet, at eksaminanden skal give skolen adgang til at undersøge hjælpemidlers indhold, søgehistorik og logfiler samt anvendelsen af materialer, konti på sociale medier med videre på internettet.

The Looming Decline of the Public Research University

Jon Marcus

Four floors above a dull cinder-block lobby in a nondescript building at Ohio State University, the doors of a slow-moving elevator open on an unexpectedly futuristic 10,000-square-foot laboratory bristling with technology. It’s a reveal reminiscent of a James Bond movie. In fact, the researchers who run this year-old, $750,000 lab at OSU’s Spine Research Institute resort often to Hollywood comparisons.

Thin beams of blue light shoot from thirty-six of the same kind of infrared motion cameras used to create lifelike characters for films like Avatar. In this case, the researchers are studying the movements of a volunteer fitted with sensors that track his skeleton and muscles as he bends and lifts. Among other things, they say, their work could lead to the kind of robotic exoskeletons imagined in the movie Aliens.

The complex and cutting-edge research here combines the expertise of the university’s medical and engineering faculties to study something decidedly commonplace: back pain, which affects as many as eight out of every ten Americans, accounts for more than 100 million annual lost workdays in the United States alone, and has accelerated the opioid addiction crisis.

“The growth of the technology around us has become so familiar that we don’t question where it comes from,” says Bruce McPheron, an entomologist and the university’s executive vice president and provost, looking on. “And where it happens consistently is at a university.”

Oxbridge uncovered: More elitist than we thought

Hannah Richardson:

The sheer dominance by the top two social classes of Oxford and Cambridge University admissions has been revealed in newly released data.

Four-fifths of students accepted at Oxbridge between 2010 and 2015 had parents with top professional and managerial jobs, and the numbers have been edging upwards.

The data, obtained by David Lammy MP, also shows a “shocking” regional bias, with more offers made to Home Counties pupils than the whole of northern England.

Mr Lammy said he was “appalled to discover” Oxbridge is actually moving backwards in terms of elitism.

Unveiling the data, covering offers to students in England and Wales in the years 2010 to 2015, he described the universities as the “last bastion of the old school tie” and highlighted stark regional divisions.

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

Gene therapy helped these children see. Can it transform medicine?

David Crow:

When Caroline Carper was 10 years old she saw rain falling from the skies for the first time. “So I was in grammar class, and it started to pour down. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is that?’ And my friend goes, ‘That’s rain, you’ve never seen rain before?’ It was like a whole new world.”

Caroline’s eyesight problems emerged shortly after birth, but it was not until her younger brother Cole was also born with poor vision that doctors realised something more serious was afoot. The pair were eventually diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare inherited retinal disease that left them with severe impairment in both eyes. “I just told people that I was half-blind. That’s really the only way they’d understand,” says Cole.

Their parents decided not to tell them the disease was likely to progress to the point where they would go completely blind. “I just felt like there was no point in burdening them with it at that age, when they’re little,” recalls their mother Ashley. “If you’re an adult, you might be able to handle that – but as a child? I think that’s too much. Privately, sometimes, our hearts might have hurt a little bit, but we have never felt sorry for them.”

None of that heartache is evident when I meet the family at their home in Little Rock, Arkansas, on a hot and humid Saturday morning. Over home-made brownies and iced tea, Caroline and Cole tell me how they received a pioneering treatment known as gene therapy on a clinical trial in 2014, which restored much of their sight. “Basically, they take a gene and they put it in your eye,” explains Caroline, before she is interrupted by her brother, who is apparently outraged that she is leaving out the gory bits. “They put you to sleep and they slice open your eye,” he interjects with a broad grin. “And then they give you a popsicle. The popsicles are the best part.”

With giddy excitement, the pair recall the weeks and months following the treatment, when they saw things properly for the first time — stingrays at the aquarium, the intricate structure of a snowflake, a starry night sky. Cole, now 11, could not contain his excitement when he saw the toy section in the supermarket, especially when he happened upon the shelves with his favourite Nerf guns (he is fiddling with a loaded one as we speak).

Civics: Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics

Ryan Devereaux, Spencer Woodman:

An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.

HSI’s 71-page “Asset Forfeiture Handbook,” dated June 30, 2010, underscores the role seizures play in “helping to fund future law enforcement actions” and covering costs “that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.” It thus offers an unprecedented window into ICE’s wide-ranging asset forfeiture operations and the premium the agency places on seizing valuable property. Forfeiture proceeds can bolster ICE’s partnerships with local police departments, which are now the subject of heightened debate given the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.

An unlikely consequence of Trump’s immigration policies? Declining enrollment at U.S. business schools

Kim Gittleson :

An unlikely consequence of Trump’s immigration policies? Declining enrollment at U.S. business schools

Mention Nottingham in a conversation, and it’s pretty likely the first thing to come to mind is Robin Hood.

But the story being told here is very different from the fable of old.

Instead of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, students today who hope to get rich are flocking to this charming city two hours north of London.

Nottingham Business School – which is part of Nottingham Trent University – has seen a 25 percent uptick in interest from international students.

That’s partially due to an unlikely source: Donald Trump.

After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople

Matt Krupnick:

At a steel factory dwarfed by the adjacent Auto Club Speedway, Fernando Esparza is working toward his next promotion.

Esparza is a 46-year-old mechanic for Evolution Fresh, a subsidiary of Starbucks that makes juices and smoothies. He’s taking a class in industrial computing taught by a community college at a local manufacturing plant in the hope it will bump up his wages.

It’s a pretty safe bet. The skills being taught here are in high demand. That’s in part because so much effort has been put into encouraging high school graduates to go to college for academic degrees rather than for training in industrial and other trades that many fields like his face worker shortages.

Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?

Gray Matter:

Young Americans seem to be losing faith in freedom. Why?

According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Young Americans also are disproportionately skeptical of free speech. A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to regulate certain types of offensive speech. Only 27 percent of Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 50), 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 12 percent of the silent generation (ages 70 to 87) share that opinion.

Could do better: my first half term as a maths teacher, “I still see the electronic white board as my sworn enemy, but I am sometimes able to make it bend to my wishes”

Lucy Kellaway:

There are rules governing where I need to be, what I wear and how I comport myself

An even more radical change is that I have come to love rules. Pre-teaching, my life had been almost entirely rule-free. I was educated at a liberal school that viewed rules as an impediment to creativity. Later, as a journalist, I made a point of disregarding the few rules there were. It was my job to mock corporate rigidity. I even wrote a column once, boasting about how I had never read my own company’s code of conduct.

Now I live in a world where rules rule. Mossbourne is famous for its strict ways — uniform is worn perfectly and students move around the school in silence. “No excuses” is one of the school’s two values (the other being excellence) and that applies to the staff as much as to the students.

There are rules governing where I need to be, what I wear and how I comport myself. Bells ring every 55 minutes, and as students move between lessons I station myself on the staircase and try to bark “hands out of pockets!” as authoritatively as my colleagues.

By lunchtime I am so ravenously hungry that I fall on a plastic tub of soft pasta

These rules, and the punctilious way in which they are upheld, daily save my bacon. It is thanks to them that no one has thrown furniture at me. That no one has sworn at me. That instead, students come to lessons ready to learn.

I welcome the rules in another, less obvious, way. They have freed me from the ambiguity that has dogged my professional life. For the first time I know precisely what is expected of me — with the result that I feel oddly calm.

Theme 1: The information environment will not improve. The problem is human nature

Janna Andersen and Lee Rainie:

Misinformation and “fake news” have been around for as long as people have communicated. But today’s instant, low-budget, far-reaching communications capabilities have the potential to make the problem orders of magnitude more dangerous than in the past.
 Mankind has always lied, and always will; which is why the winners of wars get to write the history their way and others have no say, but with the internet, the losers have a say!
 William L. Schrader

OK Google, Get Out of My Face

Rachel Metz:

Today I got a glimpse of the future. It’s overwhelming. And it’s amazing. But it’s also very scary.

I was at a press event Wednesday in San Francisco, where Google introduced its newest slate of products. There were a lot of updates to existing products: shiny Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, a new version of the Daydream virtual-reality headset, smaller and larger versions of Google’s Home personal assistant speaker, and a convertible Pixelbook laptop. There were also two less-expected items: a square life-logging camera called Pixel Clips and a pair of wireless earbuds called Pixel Buds aimed at real-time (or, probably more realistically, close to real-time) translation when used with one of the company’s Pixel smartphones.

Lies, damned lies and UNC.

JD King:

he sad thing is we bought it.

For a long time, we bought it – the whole business. The idea that UNC was a public Ivy. The idea that there was such a thing as the Carolina Way. The idea that the crucible of the ‘60s scandal was so severe that UNC, scorched as it was, would stay away from the dark side of the game forevermore.

Worse, when Duke lost to these cheaters, we consoled ourselves, and our readers, that at least UNC did things the right way. It wasn’t like losing to, say, Kentucky or worse, Vegas. UNC still had some honor.

It took awhile but we began to catch on. We heard rumors in the ‘90s, some very specific. We heard one that Dean Smith called a professor and left a message asking for a lenient grade for one of his players.

When the professor called back, the rumor said, Smith told him never mind. I got it from someone else.

We knew about the 400 SAT of course, everyone knew that. We didn’t know until later what FSU coach Pat Kennedy said about how it wasn’t fair to play UNC when the Tar Heels started five academic exceptions.

There was another rumor about a player who went to the NBA in the late ‘90s. The rumor was that he cheated in summer school. The details were pretty specific.

Brain Stimulation Partly Awakens Patient after 15 Years in Vegetative State

Sharon Begley:

Patients who lose consciousness for more than a year are considered extremely unlikely to regain it, but a 35-year-old Frenchman who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years has shown hints of awareness after having key brain regions electrically stimulated, scientists reported on Monday.

The patient was able to follow an object with his eyes, turn his head when asked to, and widened his eyes in surprise when a researcher’s head came close to his face — none of which he did in a vegetative state. Although he is far from recovered, and although hopeful results in one patient don’t mean the technique will work for others, the study adds to evidence that there might be a way to restore consciousness to some patients — even years later.

The new report shows that even in a very low functioning brain “a shift in observable behaviors from none, a vegetative state, to some limited ones — a minimally conscious state — can occur,” said Dr. Nicholas Schiff, a neurologist at Weill Cornell Medical College who was not involve in the current case. He led a 2007 study in which a minimally conscious patient (a person who shows occasional intention, attention, awareness, and responsiveness) improved somewhat with deep brain stimulation of the thalamus..

The Mathematical Genius of Auto-Tune

Zachary Crockett:

Auto-Tune — one of modern history’s most reviled inventions — was an act of mathematical genius.

The pitch correction software, which automatically calibrates out-of-tune singing to perfection, has been used on nearly every chart-topping album for the past 20 years. Along the way, it has been pilloried as the poster child of modern music’s mechanization. When Time Magazine declared it “one of the 50 worst inventions of the 20th century”, few came to its defense.

But often lost in this narrative is the story of the invention itself, and the soft-spoken savant who pioneered it. For inventor Andy Hildebrand, Auto-Tune was an incredibly complex product — the result of years of rigorous study, statistical computation, and the creation of algorithms previously deemed to be impossible.

Land of the Free? 50 state study on how professional licensing laws lead to fewer jobs

Will Flanders & Collin Roth:

Occupational licensing laws, or state permission slips to work in certain regulated professions, serve as a major barrier to entry for workers in America. For aspiring cosmetologists, manicurists, massage therapists, and aestheticians, licensing requirements can mean thousands of hours of training, tens of thousands of dollars for school, and regular fees to the state. These laws force people with skills and aspirations to take on debt they cannot afford, defer their dreams, or conduct their trade underground with the accompanying threat of fnes and prosecution.In 1950 just 1 in 20 workers required a license to work, now close to 1 in 4 do. With more professionals, and aspiring professionals, running into licensing laws, the case for reform has found an increasingly broad and diverse audience. Coalitions of liberal and conservative activists and policy experts, Democrat and Republican governors, and the Obama and Trump administrations have all embraced the cause of licensing reform. And while progress has been made in this reform movement, rigorous research into the effects of licensing on workers and the broader economy are still in their infancy.This peer-reviewed1 study examines, for the frst time, the impact of licensing requirements across the country on ten low and moderate income professions. For each state we created a Red Tape Index which measures the license requirements, i.e. fees, training hours, exams required, and minimum age, for ten professions. Then we looked at how employment related to a state’s score on the Red Tape Index. Our

This Is What A 21st-Century Police State Really Looks Like

Megha Rajagopalan:

This is a city where growing a beard can get you reported to the police. So can inviting too many people to your wedding, or naming your child Muhammad or Medina.

Driving or taking a bus to a neighboring town, you’d hit checkpoints where armed police officers might search your phone for banned apps like Facebook or Twitter, and scroll through your text messages to see if you had used any religious language.

You would be particularly worried about making phone calls to friends and family abroad. Hours later, you might find police officers knocking at your door and asking questions that make you suspect they were listening in the whole time.

For millions of people in China’s remote far west, this dystopian future is already here. China, which has already deployed the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship system, is building a surveillance state in Xinjiang, a four-hour flight from Beijing, that uses both the newest technology and human policing to keep tabs on every aspect of citizens’ daily lives. The region is home to a Muslim ethnic minority called the Uighurs, who China has blamed for forming separatist groups and fueling terrorism. Since this spring, thousands of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have disappeared into so-called political education centers, apparently for offenses from using Western social media apps to studying abroad in Muslim countries, according to relatives of those detained.

Wikipedia’s Fate Shows How the Web Endangers Knowledge

Hossein Derakhshan:

That happy news masks a more concerning problem—a flattening growth rate in the number of contributors to the website. It is another troubling sign of a general trend around the world: The very idea of knowledge itself is in danger.

The idea behind Wikipedia—like all encyclopedias before it—has been to collect the entirety of human knowledge. It’s a goal that extends back to the Islamic Golden Age, when numerous scholars—inspired by Muhammad’s famous verdict of ‘Seek knowledge, even from China’—set themselves to collecting and documenting all existing information on a wide variety of topics, including translations from Greek, Persian, Syrian, and Indian into Arabic. In the 9th century, a Persian scholar named Ibn Qutaybah collected the first true encyclopedia, 10 books on power, war, nobility, character, learning and eloquence, asceticism, friendship, prayers, food, and women. He was followed a century later by another Persian scholar, al-Khwārizmī who, in addition to inventing algebra, produced an encyclopedia covering what he called indigenous knowledge (jurisprudence, scholastic philosophy, grammar, secretarial duties, prosody and poetic art, history) and foreign knowledge (philosophy, logic, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, mechanics, alchemy). The Chinese had their own encyclopedia dating back to the 7th century.

In Europe, the quest to compile a modern encyclopedia started with the Enlightenment in the 18th century. (Immanuel Kant coined a fitting Latin motto for the movement: “Sapere aude,” or “Dare to know.”) French Enlightenment thinkers like Francis Bacon and Denis Diderot began compiling ambitious encyclopedias, inspiring others throughout France, Germany, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The religious ruling class’s discomfort with the effort only helped its financial feasibility; there was an obvious market for these massive collections, often published in numerous volumes, for an increasingly secular middle-class. The first volume of Encycopedie was sold in 1751 to 2,000 subscribers, who would go on to receive the entire twenty-eight-volume set. Notable revolutionary thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu were involved in the editing of the work and several even ended up in prison. Only 17 years after the publication of the last volume in 1772, the French revolution began, leading to perhaps the most secular state in human history.

NCAA’s ‘student-athlete’ hypocrisy comes full circle with North Carolina verdict

Reid Forgave::

On Friday morning — 17 days after the college basketball world was shaken to its core with the arrest of 10 people involved in the sport, including top-tier assistant coaches and shoe-company executives — the NCAA washed its hands of an investigation into academic misconduct within the University of North Carolina athletic department that began seven years ago. Instead of coming down with the hammer, taking down banners and reinforcing that there is still some holiness left in this unholy marriage between academics and athletics, the NCAA said, basically, “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”

The dichotomy of these two simultaneous cases — the UNC case and the FBI case — is stunning.

For nearly two decades, UNC had, according to a university investigation, offered a “shadow curriculum” of so-called “paper classes.” These classes, nearly 200 in total, required no attendance and only one paper. Some 3,100 students attended these paper classes, with some 1,500 student-athletes — ahem, “student-athletes” — being steered into these classes.

The Supreme Court Will Decide If the US Can Access Anyone’s Data on Earth

Louis Matsakis:

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would hear a major digital privacy case that will determine whether law enforcement officials can demand user data stored by technology companies in other countries.

In 2013, federal investigators obtained a warrant for emails and identifying information tied to a Microsoft Outlook account they believed was being used to organize drug trafficking. The problem was that the emails were stored overseas in Ireland, where the anonymous user of the account registered as a resident.

Microsoft turned over information stored in the US, but refused to retrieve data stored on the Irish servers. The case was then escalated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which sided with Microsoft, ruling that the emails were outside the reach of a search warrant because they were being held overseas.

Fraud Scandals Sap China’s Dream

Amy Qin:

Having conquered world markets and challenged American political and military leadership, China has set its sights on becoming a global powerhouse in a different field: scientific research. It now has more laboratory scientists than any other country, outspends the entire European Union on research and development, and produces more scientific articles than any other nation except the United States.

But in its rush to dominance, China has stood out in another, less boastful way. Since 2012, the country has retracted more scientific papers because of faked peer reviews than all other countries and territories put together, according to Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks and seeks to publicize retractions of research papers.

Now, a recent string of high-profile scandals over questionable or discredited research has driven home the point in China that to become a scientific superpower, it must first overcome a festering problem of systemic fraud.

Standing on the Shoulders of Diversocrats

Heather Mac Donald:

Another academic year, another fattening of campus diversity bureaucracies. Most worrisomely, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields are now prime targets for administrative diversity encroachment, with the commercial tech sector rapidly following suit.

The most significant new diversity sinecure has been established at the University of California, Los Angeles, where the engineering school just minted its first associate dean of diversity and inclusion. The purpose of this new position is to encourage engineering faculty to hire more females and underrepresented minorities, reports the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. “One of my jobs,” the new dean, Scott Brandenberg, told the paper, is “to avoid implicit bias in the hiring process.”

The new engineering-diversity deanship supplements the work of UCLA’s lavishly paid, campus-wide Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, whose 2016 salary was $444,000. Kang, one of the most influential proponents of the “implicit-bias” concept, already exerts enormous pressure throughout the university to hire for “diversity.” Even before his vice chancellorship was created, any UCLA professor hoping for the top rank of tenure had to write a “contributions to diversity” essay detailing his efforts to rectify any racial and gender imbalances in his department. The addition of a localized diversity bureaucrat within the engineering school can only increase the focus on gender and race in hiring and admissions decisions. (Brandenberg, of course, expresses fealty to California’s beleaguered ban on racial and gender preferences in government. But it would be naïve to think that the ubiquitous mandate to increase “diversity” does not inevitably tip the scale in favor of alleged victim groups.)

An online game gives glimpse of life as an Uber driver

Kia Kokalitcheva:

A pebble made a small crack in your car’s windshield—do you want to spend $30 to fix it? This is just one of the many questions I had to answers while playing a new short game created by the Financial Times that offers a short simulation of life as an Uber driver. My mission: To make as much money while dealing with a variety of passengers and mishaps.

The bottom line: Designed based on interviews with real Uber drivers, the game offers a good glimpse into the long hours of driving and the complexities of the job, as the FT describes in this story. A full-time driver has to manage expenses, become familiar with traffic and business laws (don’t forget that business license!), and is constantly balancing Uber’s game-like and financial incentives to drive more with sticking to sane and healthy hours.

Today’s turn-of-the-century problems

Michael Barone::

Is America in a new Gilded Age? That’s the contention of Republican political consultant Bruce Mehlman, and in a series of 35 slides he makes a strong case.

In many ways, problems facing America today resemble those facing what we still call “turn-of-the-century” America from the 1890s to the 1910s. Just as employment shifted from farms to factories a century ago, it has been moving from manufacturing to services recently.

Financial crashes are another point of resemblance, coming precisely one hundred years apart. The panic of 1907 was resolved when J. P. Morgan locked his fellow financiers in his library and required them to pony up funds to save failing banks. Something similar happened in 2007, this time with Ben Bernanke in the bowels of the Federal Reserve.

Technological advances providing new products, and threatening incumbent businesses, is a feature of both epochs: huge steel mills and automobile factories then, tiny smartphones and mouse clicks today. Monopoly power also reared its ugly head then and now. Railroads and steel and oil muscling potential regulators then, retail-dominating Amazon and political communication censors Google and Twitter now.

Income inequality was greater in the 1920s (and probably earlier, but the statistics are incommensurate) than today. Immigration as a percentage of pre-existing population was three times as high in peak year 1907 than in peak year 2007.

Kmele Foster Gets Shouted Down by Black Lives Matter Activists After Pointing out That MLK Used Free Speech Protections—Wait, What?

Matt Welch:

So the “Unsafe Space” campus speaking tour sponsored by Spiked (and hosted at least once so far in an emergency backup way by Reason) continues to generate interesting collisions between libertarian commentators and the angry campus progressives who seek to shout them down. One recent incident, while not coming close to a Berkeley-style riot, or a “Cocks Not Glocks” dildo-waving protest of gun-right speaker Katie Pavlich, or even the latest Charles Murray kerfuffle, nonetheless caught my attention because it involved old pal Kmele Foster, and my favorite piece of writing by Martin Luther King.

Foster (see video below) had just sat through a series of emotional audience harangues defending identity politics and speech-sensitivity as necessary pushbacks against a racist power structure, when he attempted to make a case familiar to Reason readers—that free-speech protections are crucial precisely for minority populations’ struggles against the majority:

Post-Recession Borrowers Struggle to Repay Loans

Andrew Kreighbaum::

New federal data show that college students are taking out more student loan debt and also taking longer to pay it off.

The report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, released today, examines patterns of student loan repayment for two separate groups of borrowers — those who started college in the 1995-96 academic year and those who started eight years later, in 2003-04. Twelve years after beginning their postsecondary educations, the second group had paid off a smaller proportion of their student loans and had defaulted at a higher rate on at least one loan.

K-12 Tax & Spending climate: Opaque and sky high bills are breaking Americans — and our health care system.

Sarah Kliff:

On September 28, 2016, a 3-year-old girl named Elodie Fowler slid into an MRI machine at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Doctors wanted to better understand a rare genetic condition that was causing swelling along the right side of her body and problems processing regular food.

The scan took about 30 minutes. The hospital’s doctors used the results to start Elodie on an experimental new drug regimen.

Fowler’s parents knew the scan might cost them a few thousand dollars, based on their research into typical pediatric MRI scans. Even though they had one of the most generous Obamacare exchange plans available in California, they decided to go out of network to a clinic that specialized in their daughter’s rare genetic condition. That meant their plan would cover half of a “fair price” MRI.

They were shocked a few months later when a bill arrived with a startling price tag: $25,000. The bill included $4,016 for the anesthesia, $2,703 for a recovery room, and $16,632 for the scan itself plus doctor fees. The insurance picked up only $1,547.23, leaving the family responsible for the difference: $23,795.47.

25% Of Madison’s 2014-2015 Budget was spent on benefits. Madison now spends nearly $20,000 per student.

Irfan Shahîd’s history of the Arab’s interactions with Rome and Byzantium before the rise of Islam is available for download

Dumbarton Oaks:

We are happy to announce that all seven volumes of Irfan Shahîd’s monumental Byzantium and the Arabs, published by Dumbarton Oaks Publications, are available for free download from our website.

Irfan Shahîd knew even as an undergraduate at Oxford that the role of the Arabs in Roman history would be his life’s work. Rome in late antiquity was caught between the German tribes in the west and the Arabs in the east. German scholars had engaged with “the German problem,” but the Arabs did not have their historian, Shahîd recalled in his 2008 oral history for Dumbarton Oaks. “No one has really dealt with Arabs as part of Roman history.”

From an early interest in the role the Arabs in al-Andalus played in the creation of Western Europe, Shahîd’s encounter with the medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz at the Institute for Advanced Study prompted him to start with the East—and to discover Dumbarton Oaks, where he was a Junior Fellow in 1954–55 and with which he would have a lifelong association. The outcome of this early shift in focus is the history of the Arabs’ relationship with Rome and Byzantium before the rise of Islam and the Arab conquests of the seventh century. If his work has one virtue, Shahid said, “it will be because I’ll be the first historian to have filled the gap of all these centuries with my gaze fixed on the seventh to know exactly what happened and why it happened the way it did.”

Turkish minister of culture says 169,000 books to be withdrawn from libraries

Turkish Minute::

has said 169,141 copies of books are planned to be withdrawn from public libraries as part of an ongoing investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, the İhlas news agency (İHA) reported on Wednesday.

Speaking at Parliament’s general assembly, Kurtulmuş responded to a question regarding the number of books withdrawn from public libraries after an attempted coup on July 15, 2016.

Kurtulmuş said there are 1,142 libraries under the administration of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and that the books under investigation were either written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen or under pseudonyms referring to him. The minister also said the books had been acquired by the ministry either by donation or purchase between the years 1982 and 2014 and that they were published by printing houses that were shut down by government decree issued during an ongoing state of emergency declared after the failed coup.

The government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup attempt of July 15 even though the movement denies any involvement.

What Allan Bloom Got Right

Todd Gitlin::

ou can slam its young people into universities with their classrooms and laboratories, and when they come out all they can talk about is Babe Ruth. America is a hopeless country for intellectuals and thinking people.” Babe Ruth is the giveaway. These words were spoken in 1923, and the speaker was Theodore Dreiser, who had dropped out of Indiana University after one year.

So it is not a new thought that American universities are nests of self-betrayal and triviality where inquiring minds trade the nobility of their tradition for cheap trinkets and the promise of pieces of silver to come. Indeed, five years before Dreiser popped off, Thorstein Veblen was denouncing “the higher learning in America” for having surrendered to business domination, ditched the pure pursuit of knowledge, cultivated “conspicuous conformity to the popular taste,” and pandered to undergraduates by teaching them “ways and means of dissipation.” “The conduct of universities by business men,” to borrow from Veblen’s subtitle, had rendered university life “mechanistic.” Veblen anticipated that the academy would wallow in futility when it was not prostrating itself at the feet of the captains of finance. His original subtitle was A Study in Total Depravity. Veblen having dropped it, Allan Bloom should have picked it up.

To Inspire Young Communists, China Turns to ‘Red Army’ Schools

Javier Hernandez:

With the fiery zeal of a preacher, Xie Hong addressed her class of 50 fourth-grade students, all in matching red tracksuits.

“Today’s life is rich, blessed, happy and joyous,” she said. “Where does our happy life come from? Who gave it to us?”

In Ms. Xie’s classroom at the Workers and Peasants Red Army Elementary School, there was only one correct answer, and she had worked tirelessly to ensure her students knew it.

“It comes from the blood of revolutionary martyrs! From the Red Army!” said a 9-year-old boy, Li Jiacheng. The class burst into applause, and Ms. Xie beamed.

For decades, the Chinese Communist Party has pushed a stiff regimen of ideological education on students, requiring tedious lessons on Marx and Mao and canned lectures on the virtues of patriotism and loyalty. Now, amid fears that the party is losing its grip on young minds, President Xi Jinping is reshaping political education across China’s more than 283,000 primary and secondary schools for a new era.

Boys and Girls Club funding only start of the story

Chris Rickert:

Never have I seen such to-do over one $50,000 appropriation in a small city’s annual budget as the to-do over the $50,000 that is being stripped from the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Fitchburg’s proposed 2018 budget.

Then again, rarely does a $50,000 city appropriation serve as such a good reason to get worked up over race, class, parenting and the role of government.

For the past 13 years, the club has been getting a noncompetitive grant of between $40,000 and $50,000 from the city to help feed, transport and otherwise care for Fitchburg kids, generally at the club’s location just on the Fitchburg side of its border with Madison.

Last year, Fitchburg City Council members proposed replacing such grants with a process by which nonprofits would compete for funding through a presumably objective, staff-driven process. Amid vociferous opposition from Boys & Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson and his allies, that idea was dropped as it would apply to the club, and the club’s funding was restored.

Hecklers shout down California attorney general, assembly majority leader at Whittier College

Adam Steinbaugh:

Last week, Whittier College — my alma mater — hosted California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, in a question-and-answer session organized by Ian Calderon, the Majority Leader of the California State Assembly.

They tried to, anyway.

The event ended early after pro-Trump hecklers, upset about Becerra’s lawsuit against the Trump administration over DACA, continuously shouted slogans and insults at Becerra and Calderon. A group affiliated with the hecklers later boasted that the speakers were “SHOUTED DOWN BY FED-UP CALIFORNIANS” and that the “meeting became so raucous that it ended about a half hour early.”

The event, held in Whittier College’s Shannon Center theater, was free and open to members of the community, and featured introductions from both Whittier’s president and student body president. Becerra and Calderon were to have an hour-long question-and-answer session using audience questions randomly selected from a basket. As soon as they began the discussion, however, hecklers decked in “Make America Great Again” hats began a continuous and persistent chorus of boos, slogans, and insults.

How a Messaging App Challenged Traditional Banks and Captured 45% of the Market

Jene Park:

Messaging platform KakaoTalk has successfully entered the banking industry in Korea after obtaining a license from the regulator FSC in April this year. It was designated as one of the two online-only banks in the nation. This will likely be a critical disruption to a sector that has enjoyed a long period of stability but has lacked innovation.

KakaoBank was established in January 2016. It is led by chat platform KakaoTalk which has a 10% stake but the major shareholder is Korea Investment Holdings, a major financial group in Korea. It has positioned itself as a mobile only bank with no physical branches. All activities occur over the app which is a natural extension from its main messaging app KakaoTalk. KakaoBank fully leveraged the advantage of being linked to the leading messaging platform in Korea, KakaoTalk which is used by 42 million users out of the 50 million population in Korea.

Within just 24 hours of opening on July 27th 300,000 new accounts were opened with KakaoBank (this is more than what all other Korean banks got in 2016 through online channels). The number continued to rise throughout August. We estimate KakaoBank took close to 45% market share in all new bank accounts opened in August – including both offline and online. If we only count the mobile internet based accounts it was almost a 70% share. It extended US$1.2 billion in credit loans during August and this again accounted for 40% of the country’s total loans during the month.

Who do you trust? How data is helping us decide

Rachel Botsman:

My first lesson in the dangers of trusting strangers came in 1983, not long after I turned five, when an unfamiliar woman entered our house. Doris, from Glasgow, was in her late 20s and starting as our nanny. My mum had found her through a posh magazine called The Lady.

Doris arrived wearing a Salvation Army uniform, complete with bonnet. “I remember her thick Scottish accent,” Mum recalls. “She told me she’d worked with kids of a similar age and was a member of the Salvation Army because she enjoyed helping people. But, honestly, she had me at hello.”

Doris lived with us for 10 months. For the most part she was a good nanny – cheerful, reliable and helpful. There was nothing unusual about her, aside from a few unexplained absences at weekends.

Back then, our neighbours, the Luxemburgs, had an au pair Doris spent a lot of time with. Late one evening, Mr Luxemburg knocked on our door after discovering the pair had been involved in running a drugs ring. “They had even been in an armed robbery,” my father later related, “and Doris was the getaway driver.” The getaway car, it transpired, was our family’s Volvo estate.

My parents decided to search Doris’s room. In a shoebox under her bed, she had stuffed piles of foreign currency, stolen from my parents’ home office. My dad stood on guard by our front door all night with a baseball bat, scared Doris would come home. Thankfully, she didn’t.

Judge Comes Down On Side of District and Grants Restraining Order

Erik Sandi:

So while it’s true that the teachers have been working without a contract since 2015, there are legitimate reasons for that.

For example, the union will not settle for only 18 sick days. And regarding their demands to limit the number of special education students per class, the Superintendent and school committee have offered them the same language as any other district’s contract in the state. They have said No to that offer as well.

And none of this takes into account the backdrop of a staggering decline in student enrollment and subsequent underutilization of space. Despite the plummeting enrollment, the union is opposed to any reduction in staff.

The $100 million question: Did Newark’s school reforms work? New study finds big declines, then progress (less Than 4% Of School Spending…)

Matt Barnum:

The study comes with a few important caveats.
The spike in test-score growth toward the end of the five-year grant coincided with the introduction of a new test aligned with the Common Core, the PARCC. It also coincided with an increase in students opting out of state tests, both in Newark and statewide. The researchers try to account for this, but it’s not entirely clear if those changes skewed the findings.

Also, the researchers came to their conclusions by comparing test score growth of Newark’s students to students with similar backgrounds and in similar schools across New Jersey. That doesn’t guarantee that the study is able to isolate the effects of the reforms, but does allow for comparisons to places without the Zuckerberg money or attention.

The results don’t show whether the reforms “worked” — because that’s a complicated question.
The study is focused on standardized test scores, a significant limitation that means it doesn’t speak to other effects of the reforms on students. A separate analysis, funded by the Community Foundation of New Jersey and also released Monday, points out that high school graduation rates in Newark rose substantially in 2016 and 2017, after remaining flat between 2012 and 2015. Enrollment in the city schools has also trended upward in recent years.

Source: “Moving Up: Progress in Newark’s Schools from 2010 to 2017”
The results also don’t account for political turmoil or the sense that the reforms were done to — rather than with — the community in Newark, whose schools had been under state control for a over two decades. An agreement was finalized in September to return them to community control.

“Ultimately we’re giving the parents the opportunity to have their democratic rights back,” Baraka told NPR, who argued in the same interview that the Zuckerberg dollars had not improved the school district. “There is no real kind of causal relationship between that money and the development of the traditional public schools in Newark.”

Locally, we have spent far more than most government funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results. Yet, Madison’s non diverse governance model continues unabated, aborting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and more recently a quasi Montessori charter proposal.

First Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society

MIT Technology Review::

Not so long ago, nobody met a partner online. Then, in the 1990s, came the first dating websites.

Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further. Today, more than one-third of marriages start online.

Clearly, these sites have had a huge impact on dating behavior. But now the first evidence is emerging that their effect is much more profound.

5 facts about government debt around the world

Amy Budiman::

Public debt has increased sharply in many countries in recent years, particularly during and after the Great Recession. Globally, the total amount of government debt now exceeds $63.1 trillion, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of International Monetary Fund data.

Here are five facts about government debt around the world. This analysis is based on IMF data for 43 countries that are members of the Group of Twenty or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The figures used are for consolidated debt issued by all levels of government, less debt held by other governmental units (unless otherwise noted).

Commentary on campus politics

Daniel Payne:

Several recent demonstrations at various colleges across the country illustrate nicely the incoherent temper-tantrum style of politics that currently dominates campus life.

At the University of Oregon, the school’s president was delivering his yearly State of the University address when student protesters stormed the stage babbling about “neo-Nazis” and “fascism.” They chanted things like “shame.” One student announced: “Expect resistance to anyone who opposes us.” The protestors needn’t have worried about any opposition: the school cancelled the president’s speech and beat a hasty retreat

Denver, Boulder schools home to the state’s largest achievement gaps based on race, new data shows; Spend Far Less Than Madison.

Nic Garcia:

The data show wide differences between how different student groups score — for example, gaps separating black and Hispanic students from white students, or students with special needs from other students, or students who qualify for subsidized lunches and those who don’t.

On Monday, state officials quietly posted district- and school-level scores broken by student subgroups for the 2016 and 2017 tests. What took so long? Officials say they had to follow data suppression rules meant to prevent individual students from being identified, and it took time.

During the next few days, we’ll be examining this data — starting today with race and ethnicity-based gaps:

Denver plans to spend $968M during the 2017-2018 school year, or $10,637 per student for about 91,000 students.

Boulder plans to spend $13,372 per student, about 46% less than Madison.

Madison spends about 80% more (!), nearly $20,000 per student.

Technology companies may have to say whether they are data peddlers or data stewards

Rana Foroohar:

“We’re entering an era in which data can be used to solve all sorts of the most pressing problems, but only if there’s trust in how that data has been handled,” Ms Rometty told me in a phone interview last week. “We see ourselves as stewards of clients’ data. And we don’t need to be regulated to do the right thing. We’ve been doing the right thing for a hundred years.”
 The comment was a clear swipe at Google and Facebook, both of which have been fined by national privacy watchdogs for their data collection methods, as well as a reference to new UK and EU regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, that will make it tougher for companies to process, sell, or allow third-party access to personal data without consumers’ explicit consent. But it was also a new kind of marketing pitch: in a world in which most economic value is going to intellectual property, we are not only going to protect that value, we are going to offer a greater share of profits from it to clients.
 How would this work in practice? IBM, which serves mainly other businesses and governments, is now pitching the fact that they won’t keep any proprietary data in their servers for more than a specified contract period, and that the informational wealth garnered from using artificial intelligence to analyse that data would be owned by the clients themselves. For example, if a national health service gave IBM health records, the company could not then monetise information about the fact that certain populations in certain parts of the country have higher than average cancer rates.

Facebook’s Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline

Electronic frontier foundation:

Since its incorporation just over five years ago, Facebook has undergone a remarkable transformation. When it started, it was a private space for communication with a group of your choice. Soon, it transformed into a platform where much of your information is public by default. Today, it has become a platform where you have no choice but to make certain information public, and this public information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to target ads.
 To help illustrate Facebook’s shift away from privacy, we have highlighted some excerpts from Facebook’s privacy policies over the years. Watch closely as your privacy disappears, one small change at a time!

Entitled millennials? More like hamsters in a wheel

Robert Shrimsley:

Like middle-aged men through the ages, I have long worried about the character of the country’s youth while privately hoping my own spawn would be the exception. Sadly, events at home have now provided incontrovertible proof that this generation is veering badly off track.

Our saga began last Thursday, when the girl underwent an unpleasant tooth operation in which two molars that had failed to grow through were removed under general anaesthetic, in a procedure that involved cutting into the gums. All went well and she returned home later that day in good spirits, enjoying the attention and the copious amounts of ice cream we had bought while under the mistaken impression that this was the same as having your tonsils out.

I had taken the next day off work to look after her as the painkillers wore off and the side effects of the anaesthetic kicked in. So it was with some surprise — and indeed irritation — that I learnt she intended to go into school the next day. I know that a loving parent should have welcomed this speedy recovery. But as a concerned father I was, well, concerned. Clearly this was a sign of delirium. This was the drugs talking. Surely no child of mine would turn up her nose at the chance to miss school — on a Friday too? This is not a big exam year, so there seemed no justification for this display of diligence. But she was adamant: “I’ve already missed one day. I don’t want to have to catch up on two days’ work.”

Now, the girl has many virtues but a fanatical commitment to schoolwork has never been one of them. She will do what is expected, but keen is not a look she cultivates. She is also — how can I put this? — not one of those kids who is unknown to the school nurse. So her insistence was a surprise and, if I’m honest, a bit of a disappointment. I had always believed we had raised the spawn with strong principles and yet here she was, spurning a legitimate sick day. Where, I had to ask myself, did we go wrong?

The next morning, still only half-awake, I heard her leaving for school, abandoning me to a day of nursing duties bereft of a patient. I could, I suppose, have scrapped the day’s leave and headed into the office but the lure of a long weekend was too seductive and, anyway, I didn’t want to risk a reaction to the anaesthetic.

But the more I reflected on her action, the more it bothered me. The boy, in his A-level year, is working flat out but she, at 14, has only just reached what one might call the business end of her education. Her school, while good, is certainly no hothouse, and yet missing just two days is seen as falling impossibly far behind. Something has gone wrong when young teenagers dare not take a day to recuperate after an operation.

Increasingly, it feels that the pressure never lets up. From 14 on, they face GCSEs and then it’s straight into the lower sixth, where end-of-year exams determine university predictions and, finally, A-levels. We hear a lot of talk about entitled millennials — but all I can see in my children and their friends is the terror of the world into which they are moving, and the sense of being on a hamster wheel that never slows. They face job insecurity even if they are smart enough to know which of their possible chosen professions might still offer a viable career path in 10 years’ time. They feel an intensity of competition that I certainly never felt, hailing from a cohort in which fewer than 10 per cent went on to university.

China to build giant facial recognition database to identify any citizen within seconds

Stephen Chen:

China is building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds.

The goal is for the system to able to match someone’s face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy.

The project, launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015, is under development in conjunction with a security company based in Shanghai.

The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project.

What you learn from the Very Short Introduction series.

Kathryn Schulz:

I learned this fact about myself (and you) from one of the more unlikely books I lately committed to reading: “Teeth: A Very Short Introduction,” by Peter S. Ungar, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas. Like its subject, “Teeth” is both a freestanding entity and part of a larger body: the Very Short Introduction series, a project of Oxford University Press. At present, that series consists of five hundred and twenty-six books; “Teeth” clocks in at No. 384. If you are so inclined, you can also read a Very Short Introduction to, among a great many other things, Rivers, Mountains, Metaphysics, the Mongols, Chaos, Cryptography, Forensic Psychology, Hinduism, Autism, Puritanism, Fascism, Free Will, Drugs, Nutrition, Crime Fiction, Madness, Malthus, Medical Ethics, Hieroglyphics, the Russian Revolution, the Reagan Revolution, Dinosaurs, Druids, Plague, Populism, and the Devil.

Some of these books are concise introductions to topics you might later wish to pursue in greater depth: Modern India, say, or Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Others, like “Teeth,” contain pretty much everything the average layperson would ever want or need to know. All of them, however, take their Very Short commitment seriously. The length of each book is fixed at thirty-five thousand words, or roughly a hundred and twenty pages. (See Very Short Introduction No. 500, “Measurement.”) Never mind that the Roman Empire got some four thousand pages from Edward Gibbon, and that was just to chronicle its demise; here it gets the same space as Circadian Rhythms, Folk Music, and Fungi.

They Once Cheated in Class. Now They Teach.

Sam Hoisington:

Being caught cheating can tank a student’s academic career — it can mar a reputation, result in a failed class, or even, in extreme examples, lead to expulsion. In some cases, the difference between a scholar being able to climb the ladder of academic success or not is as simple as not being caught when cheating.

When The Chronicle asked instructors to tell us whether or not they had ever cheated during their studies, the majority replied emphatically in the negative (several had multiple exclamation marks). But a few admitted their misdeeds.

Some of those who spoke to The Chronicle wouldn’t admit to academic misconduct in a publication read by their peers. For that reason, we agreed to keep identities confidential in order to hear the full story of why they cheated, how they cheated, and how that experience changed their teaching.

The Monumental Task Of Reopening Puerto Rico’s Schools

Lauren Migaki::

The schools in Puerto Rico are facing massive challenges.

All the public schools are without electricity, and more than half don’t have water. More than 100 are still functioning as shelters.

But Puerto Rico’s secretary of education, Julia Keleher, tells us that the schools that are open are serving as connection points for communities. They’ve become a place where children and their families can eat a hot meal and get some emotional support, too.

On Wednesday, we reported on two schools that have reopened — one public and one private.

Caught Sleeping or Worse, Troubled Teachers Will Return to New York Classrooms

Kate Taylor:

Francis Blake has not held a permanent position in a New York City public school in at least five years. At his last job, in a Bronx elementary school, records show he was disciplined for incompetence, insubordination and neglect of duties — he had been caught sleeping in a classroom when he was supposed to be helping with dismissal.

Felicia Alterescu, a special-education teacher, has been without a permanent post since 2010, despite high demand for special education teachers. According to records, in addition to getting a string of unsatisfactory ratings, she was disciplined for calling in sick when she actually went to a family reunion. She also did not tell the Education Department that she had been arrested on harassment charges.

This month, Mr. Blake, Ms. Alterescu and hundreds of other teachers who are part of a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve could be permanently back in classrooms, as the city’s Education Department places them in jobs at city schools.

The Feds’ Grand Plan to Fix Chicago’s Gun Problem Is Not Going Well

Mike Dumke:

John Thomas set up the deal the way he had arranged nearly two dozen others. A friend said he wanted to buy as many guns as he could, so Thomas got in touch with someone he knew who had guns to sell.

The three of them met in the parking lot of an LA Fitness in south suburban Lansing at noon on Aug. 6, 2014. Larry McIntosh, whom Thomas had met in his South Shore neighborhood, took two semi-automatic rifles and a shotgun from his car and put them in the buyer’s car. He handed over a plastic shopping bag with four handguns.

None of the weapons had been acquired legally—two, in fact, had been reported stolen—and none of the men was a licensed firearms dealer.

Thomas’ friend, Yousef, paid McIntosh $7,200 for the seven guns. He always paid well.

US Undergraduate survey

Jim McLaughlin and Rob Schmidt:

Would you favor or oppose your college or university having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty? A slight majority of students, 52%, now oppose having speech codes at their school, while 38% would favor them. This has changed from September 2015, when the plurality favored speech codes, 48% to 40%. By ethnicity, white students are most likely to oppose speech codes, at 58%. Conversely, African American students favor speech codes, 52% to 41%, while Hispanic students divide, 45% to 44%.

Reed and identity politics

Joe Kolman::

The photograph on the college website shows a confident, happy, young African-American woman using a bullhorn to address more than a hundred overwhelmingly white students holding protest signs. It was taken at a Black Lives Matter protest at Reed College, my alma mater, in September 2016. It was a beautiful day in Portland, Oregon, and the students were parading through campus, accompanied by drums and anything else that could make a sound. One of the cardboard signs in the crowd behind her said: ‘Brown People for Black Power.’ Another said: ‘1 out of 2 black students at Reed do not graduate.’

The demonstration marked the beginning of a year-long series of confrontations that turned the historically leftist college inside out. The young woman in the photo was responsible for organising most of them. I’ll call her Amanda, not her real name, because I don’t want her to be hounded by right-wing trolls. At most schools, demonstrations tend to flare up once or twice a year during a visit from a controversial right-wing speaker. At Reed, Amanda managed to create protests that occurred three days a week for most of the academic year.

Before Amanda, the Black Lives Matter movement hadn’t gained much traction at Reed. Although its students have been ranked as the most liberal in the Princeton Review’s survey of the top 382 liberal-arts colleges, only about three per cent of the student population is black. The school has had a hard time attracting them, in spite of a ‘fly-in’ programme that distributes free airline tickets to prospective black students. But in September 2016, on the heels of a national debate on race, the school got behind the movement, letting demonstrators set up an afternoon rally in the quad and allowing sympathetic professors to cancel classes, hold extra sessions and adjust assignment deadlines.

School district pulls ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from reading list; ‘makes people uncomfortable’

associated press:

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is being removed from a junior-high reading list in a Mississippi school district.

The Sun Herald reports that Biloxi administrators pulled the novel from the 8th-grade curriculum this week. School board vice president Kenny Holloway says the district received complaints that some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.”

Published in 1960, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee deals with racial inequality in a small Alabama town.

A message on the school’s website says “To Kill A Mockingbird” teaches students that compassion and empathy don’t depend upon race or education. Holloway says other books can teach the same lessons.

Civics and the deep state: commentary On Millennials

John Schindler:

America’s intelligence agencies are having terrible problems keeping secrets these days, none more than my former employer, NSA, or, as I’ve termed it, the National INsecurity Agency. Since the recent rash of leaks and thefts of classified information has real implications for our national security, this issue needs public attention. If you can’t keep secrets, there’s hardly any point to having spy services—much less spending some $50 billion annually on a behemoth Intelligence Community that leaks like a sieve.

Take the recent case of the improbably named Reality Winner, the NSA contractor who was arrested in June for stealing an above-top-secret report and passing it to The Intercept, which published its revelations. A former Air Force linguist assigned to NSA Georgia, located in Augusta, the 25-year-old Winner took it upon herself to sneak highly classified intelligence out of her office—hidden in her pantyhose—because she felt the public had a right to know its contents.

According to Winner, she stole a Top Secret Codeword signals intelligence assessment on Russian hacking of our 2016 election because she felt it needed to be known: “Why can’t this be public?” she asked. Of course, she knew the answer: because it’s highly classified and therefore should be seen only by properly cleared people with a need to know, in the jargon of the espionage business.

$20 Trillion and Counting

Robert Bixby:

As of Friday, September 8, the total debt of the United States government topped $20 trillion.

That eye-catching number should prompt all of us to reflect on what the growing debt means for future generations (a lot) and whether our elected officials have a plan to deal with it (they don’t).

The most important thing to recognize about the $20 trillion debt is that its size in dollar terms is not as important as the fact that it is on an unsustainable track.

Two non-partisan agencies, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have concluded that unless actions are taken to cut spending, raise taxes or both, the debt will continue to grow faster than the economy.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Trump’s debt clock ticks as Iowans try deficit reduction

Kathie Obradovich::

The Concord Coalition, which conducted the budget exercise at Drake on Tuesday, is in its 25th year of preaching the gospel of debt reduction. Concord Coalition doesn’t follow either party’s talking points on the budget. The organization argues for reining in spending, particularly on entitlements as the worker-to-retiree ratio continues to shrink. That’s not a popular subject with Democrats.

But it also does not embrace the GOP’s small-government mantra or the idea that cutting taxes magically leads to economic growth. The Concord Coalition’s bottom line is whether we want a big government or a small one, we should pay for the size of government we have.

Having admittedly failed to make financial restraint a priority in the 2016 election, the non-partisan organization was in Iowa trying to plant new seeds for 2020.

In the last presidential campaign, voters did not insist that candidates present detailed budget proposals. “The budget plans in the last cycle were a joke,” he said. “That just cannot happen again.”

The impact of the Obama administration‘s discipline policies on Wisconsin public schools

Will Flanders and Natalie Goodnow:

Much has been made in recent years about the rate of suspensions and expulsions across the country and the role that student race ostensibly plays in them. A 2016 U.S. Department of Education study showed that African American students were 3.8 times more likely than white students to be suspended. But other scholars claim that racial disparities in suspensions are emblematic of other problems, such as poverty (Eden, 2017; Kersten 2017). In an unprecedented, controversial manner, the Obama Administration took action to ensure that race was not a factor in school suspension decisions. Through the Supportive School Discipline Initiative and a “Dear Colleague memo,” the U.S. Justice Department and Education Department under the Obama Administration threatened public school districts with legal penalties in order to change their disciplinary policies. The letter told schools that unlawful discrimination can occur if it has a disproportionate effect on minority students and the school cannot justify the difference. None of these actions went through the traditional rulemaking, regulatory process – or were implemented into law though Congress. School districts changed disciplinary policies to comply. Since 2011-2012, according to the Manhattan Institute, over 50 of the largest school districts and 27 states changed their laws or policies relating to school discipline. These changes resulted in fewer suspensions and, as highlighted by Wisconsin talk radio show host Dan O’Donnell, made the classroom less safe. As a result, the disciplinary policy changes were unpopular; a 2015 EdNext poll found that a majority of the public – and nearly 60% of teachers – disapproved of the Obama Administration’s actions. Wisconsin was not immune to the national trend. This paper seeks to build on previous studies by providing the most comprehensive analysis, to date, of how the Obama Administration’s disciplinary policy changes have impacted Wisconsin public schools. We provide the historical context for changes in suspension policy before conducting extensive analyses of data on suspensions in Wisconsin since the 2007-08 school year. Some of our findings include:

‘Mindfulness’ Is a Meaningless Word With Shoddy Science Behind It

Kate Sheridan:

The benefits of meditation may have been seriously overhyped, a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, Buddhist scholars and mindfulness teachers warn—and the evidence to support mindfulness as a treatment certainly has been.

A new study by a multidisciplinary group of researchers at several universities calls out the “misinformation and propagation of poor research methodology” that pervade much of the evidence behind the benefits of mindfulness. They focus in particular on the problem of defining the word mindfulness and on how the effects of the practice are studied.

The long ride: A zoning decision sends kids in a west side condo complex to Cross Plains for school

Amber Walker::

In 1982, the city of Madison annexed the land where The Crossings now sits from the town of Middleton. That same year, Wisconsin passed a law that no longer required school district boundaries to follow municipal boundaries. While the land was in Madison, it was still a part of the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. There are 747 students — about 10.5 percent of the district’s total enrollment — who have a Madison address, but are zoned to MCPASD.

Real estate developer Gary Gorman built The Crossings, then called Elver Park Apartments, in 1989. Gorman said his initial vision for the project was to provide affordable rentals for working-class families.

In the early stages of development, Gorman filed a petition with MCPASD to have the property detached from the district and turned over to the Madison Metropolitan School District so the students could attend school in their city.

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board rejected Gorman’s petition in August 1989. In a last-ditch effort, Gorman filed an appeal with the statewide School District Boundary Appeal Board, which also denied his claim in March 1990.

“I recognized there were a number of Madison schools that were much closer than the Middleton-Cross Plains School District,” Gorman said. “I made my case, fundamentally, that for the convenience and safety of the kids, they should go to the school that is closest to them, and I lost. There was no effective appeal, that was the end of it.”

Gorman said he believes the MCPASD decision was motivated by funding. The more students in a district, the more money a district receives in state aid.

Related: 2006 Swan Creek (Fitchburg) seeks to leave Madison schools for Oregon.

Academic Freedom in an Era of Globalization

Martha Bayles:

For the past few years, the American principle of academic freedom has been under attack. On campus after campus, these attacks have come from extremists on both ends of the political spectrum. And while university administrators have struggled to cope, most of their efforts have been so ineffectual that zealous activists themselves are now proposing remedies—from even stricter campus speech codes on the Left to convoluted lawsuits on the Right—that will only make the situation worse.

Yet curiously, the international reputation and drawing power of the U.S. system of higher education remains high. Despite fluctuations in world opinion toward the United States as a whole, America’s universities continue to bask in the glow of global approval. As John Waters, former president of the American University in Beirut, once put it, “The word American is to education what Swiss is to watches.”

The American traveler will hear this sentiment echoed everywhere. In Jakarta a few years ago, the eminent Muslim intellectual Azyumardi Azra told me, “Even those Indonesians who oppose U.S. foreign policy have America as their first choice for higher education.” In Dubai, a Lebanese media executive remarked, “Even when Arabs have negative stereotypes of Americans, we dream of sending our kids to an American university.” And in Mumbai, a prominent Indian businessman commented, “Education is an incredibly farsighted form of public diplomacy for America.”

Majority of college students self-censor, support disinvitations, don’t know hate speech is protected by First Amendment

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education::

A new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education finds a majority of students on college campuses self-censor in class, support disinviting some guest speakers with whom they disagree, and don’t know that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. The study also finds that Republican and Democratic students have different opinions on campus protests, disinvitations, and hate speech protections.

The Corrosion of High School Debate—And How It Mirrors American Politics

Jack McCordick:

While high school football players burst out of locker rooms at halftime to vigorous cheers, their counterparts on the debate team exit their buses and cars to a more muted welcome: the quiet babble of a school cafeteria early on a Saturday morning, where teams of debaters rush to colonize their plots of tables and chairs nearest to the electrical outlets or concessions stand.

As extracurriculars go, debate may be the most grinding of them all. In my four years of high school debating, I spent many long nights holed up alone in my room poring over amicus briefs or economic analyses. I passed even longer weekends on buses and planes traveling to schools across the country and staying in hotels or with local families. From winter to spring, in settings as grand as a Harvard lecture hall and as cramped as a boiler room in a Salt Lake City public school, my debate partner and I held forth on everything from nuclear proliferation to sanctions against Russia to the private prison industry.

Do Parents Value School Effectiveness?

Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag A. Pathak, Jonathan Schellenberg, Christopher R. Walters :

School choice may lead to improvements in school productivity if parents’ choices reward effective schools and punish ineffective ones. This mechanism requires parents to choose schools based on causal effectiveness rather than peer characteristics. We study relationships among parent preferences, peer quality, and causal effects on outcomes for applicants to New York City’s centralized high school assignment mechanism. We use applicants’ rank-ordered choice lists to measure preferences and to construct selection-corrected estimates of treatment effects on test scores and high school graduation. We also estimate impacts on college attendance and college quality. Parents prefer schools that enroll high-achieving peers, and these schools generate larger improvements in short- and long-run student outcomes. We find no relationship between preferences and school effectiveness after controlling for peer quality.

America’s Ruling Class – And the Perils of Revolution

Angelo Codvilla:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

The Fraternity Paradox: Lower GPA, Higher Incomes

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

Tragedies at college fraternities never seem to be out of the spotlight for very long.

Four men pleaded guilty in May in the beating death of a Baruch College freshman during a kind of racial-awakening ritual at an Asian fraternity. At Louisiana State University, a student died after a drinking game. A few weeks ago, a judge told 14 members of a now disbanded Penn State fraternity that they would not have to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter (the most serious charge) in the hazing death of a pledge, Timothy Piazza. Security cameras recorded the students’ cruelty and indifference to Piazza as he lay dying.

You might think that more and more parents are advising their sons to steer clear of fraternities. Instead, these associations seem to be more popular than ever. And no matter how many critics — liberal and conservative — condemn fraternity culture, joining one looks like a perfectly rational decision.

The Volcano That Shrouded the Earth and Gave Birth to a Monster

Gillen D’Arcy Wood:

One such group of English tourists, at their lakeside villa near Geneva, passed the cold, crop-killing days by the fire exchanging ghost stories. Mary Shelley’s storm-lashed novel Frankenstein bears the imprint of the Tambora summer of 1816, and her literary coterie—which included the poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron—serve as tour guides through the suffering worldscape of 1815–18.

Considered on a geological timescale, Tambora stands almost insistently near to us. The Tambora climate emergency of 1815–18 offers us a rare, clear window onto a world convulsed by weather extremes, with human communities everywhere struggling to adapt to sudden, radical shifts in temperatures and rainfall, and a flow-on tsunami of famine, disease, dislocation, and unrest. It is a case study in the fragile interdependence of human and natural systems.

Confronting the Myths of Segregation

Tanvi Misra:

The MacArthur Foundation announced Wednesday its list of 2017 fellows—24 people from all walks of life who will receive $625,000 “genius” grants, as they’re often called. As Kriston Capps reported yesterday, this fresh batch of recipients has a healthy sampling of people who shape the conversation about cities.

Among them: acclaimed New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose recent work lays bare the institutional and individual decisions that continue to keep urban spaces separate and unequal. We caught up with her yesterday to talk about why that work is so important, and what she plans to do next.

One-Way Salesman Finds Fast Path Home

Mark Kim:

salesman has to visit every major city in the U.S. What is the cheapest way to hit them all exactly once and then return to the headquarters? The computation of the single best answer for what is known as the traveling salesman problem is famously infeasible. Nevertheless, computer scientists have long known how to find a pretty good route — one that incurs no more than 1.5 times the optimal cost.

The traveling salesman problem assumes that a trip between any two cities will cost the same going in either direction. But that’s often not the case. For example, perhaps a flight from Chicago to Denver is cheaper (or takes less time) than the flight from Denver to Chicago. Finding the optimal flight path under these conditions — known as the asymmetric traveling salesman problem — is also computationally infeasible. But unlike when solving the plain vanilla traveling salesman problem, researchers didn’t know how to find a near-optimal route for a trip to a large number of cities. That is, until last month, when three computer scientists announced that they had devised an approximation algorithm that remains efficient in all cases.

Pop goes the tax? Cook County soda tax moves closer to repeal

Rachel Hinton

With a 15-1 vote, the Finance Committee of the Cook County Board of Commissioners sent the sweetened beverage tax swirling toward the drain on Tuesday, setting in motion a likely repeal of the controversial penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks.

After nearly five hours of public comment — featuring Cook County Clerk David Orr, Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown and Public Defender Amy Campanelli — the committee voted to sunset the tax by Dec. 1.

The only nay vote on the repeal came from Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston). W

Disadvantaged pupils learning watered-down curriculum, says Ofsted

Richard Smith:

Disadvantaged children are being shut out from learning a rich range of knowledge, as schools restrict low-attaining pupils to “badges and stickers” rather than history or geography, the chief inspector of schools in England has said.

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, said social mobility could be at risk if some pupils were given restricted options and schools watered down their curriculum to concentrate on exam results.

“Low-attaining pupils need basic skills, as all pupils do, but they shouldn’t as a consequence be shut out of parts of the essential body of knowledge for any pupil,” Spielman said in a commentary published by Ofsted.

Her comments were based on initial results from research carried out by Ofsted, involving visits to 40 schools, discussions with headteachers and other data such as inspection reports and parent surveys.

School board to weigh charter school petition

Cambridge news:

The Cambridge School Board will consider Monday night, Oct. 16, whether to approve a petition to create an outdoor-agriculture charter school.

The board’s decision, to be made at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Cambridge High School, will be preceded by a public hearing at XXX.

Jennifer Scianna, director of the Severson Learning Center, the school farm in the town of Christiana, where Cambridge ACRES – Agriculture Center for Rural Environmental Sustainability – would be located, said the hearing will last about an hour. It will start with her giving an abbreviated version of a presentation about the school she made last month to the Cambridge School Board. Then, it will open up for comments and questions from community members.

Commentary on Charter School Financial models, Compare to K-12 Districts

School Finance:

About a year ago, I released this report:

In which Gary Miron and I discuss various methods by which charter school operators work largely within existing policy constraints, to achieve financial gain. While working on this report, I explored various other topics that did not make the final cut, in part because I was then, and continue to have difficulty gathering sufficient information. The other day, however this article was posted on LA Weekly about wage extraction by “Gulen” charter schools:

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student annually, despite long term, disastrous reading results.

After an eventful summer in Silicon Valley, there is blood in the water. At stake is democracy itself.

K Sabeel Rahman:

It was an eventful—and decidedly negative—summer for Silicon Valley. In August the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, not only sending shockwaves through the grocery business but adding to growing anxieties about Amazon’s dominance of the larger retail industry.

Around the same time, New America, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, was engulfed in controversy after an overly public parting of ways with one of its Fellows, Barry Lynn, who had been a leading advocate for expanded antitrust enforcement against tech platforms such as Google, one of New America’s funders. Whether or not Google played a direct role in Lynn’s dismissal, the incident nevertheless raised questions about the political influence of leading Silicon Valley firms.

Vladimir Voevodsky, Revolutionary Mathematician, Dies at 51

Julie Rehmeyer::

Vladimir Voevodsky, formerly a gifted but restless student who flunked out of college out of boredom before emerging as one of the most brilliant and revolutionary mathematicians of his generation, died on Sept. 30 at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 51.

Nadia Shalaby, his former wife, said he was found dead in his home by friends, whom she had called when she had not heard from him. They then called the police. He had been ill and had apparently collapsed, she said, but the exact cause of death had not been determined.

North Tonawanda law punishes parents for their kids’ bullying

Thomas Prohaska:

North Tonawanda has a message for parents of bullies: If your kid commits a crime, you might do the time.

Not a lot of time – no more than 15 days – but long enough to reflect on your bad parenting from the inside of a jail cell.

A new anti-bullying law passed by the North Tonawanda Common Council last week is the first of its kind in Western New York and may be the first in New York State, City Attorney Luke A. Brown said. It places the legal onus on parents of minors who bully other kids, host parties where laws are violated, or who stay out after the city’s curfew.

The law sprang from the frustration of parents and police over juvenile violence earlier this year in North Tonawanda.

Who runs Alameda, city manager … or the fire union?

Daniel Borenstein:

In Alameda, an island community with a long history of strong labor influence, the city manager could lose her job because she resisted political pressure to hire a union leader as fire chief.

The people who probably should be removed from City Hall are council members Malia Vella and Jim Oddie, who apparently violated the city charter by meddling in the selection process. Oddie even threatened to fire City Manager Jill Keimach if she didn’t bend to his wishes, the police chief says.

The charter specifies that hiring decisions rest with the city manager. Council interference is prohibited and grounds for removal from office for malfeasance. City Attorney Janet Kern said Monday she will hire an outside law firm to investigate.

Rather than capitulate to the union, Keimach conducted an open and rigorous recruitment for a new chief to manage the 111-person fire department and its $34 million annual budget.

Last week, she hired Edmond Rodriguez, the chief of the Salinas Fire Department, to fill the post. Questioned by four interview panels, Rodriguez ranked highest in the selection process.

Madison’s taxpayer funded K-12 District has long resisted changing its non-diverse governance model, most recently rejecting a psuedo charter school proposal.

Opinion: Europe’s Strict New Privacy Rules Are Scary but Right

Jason King:

Apple defies industry logic.
 Apple is the only major tech company with a default assumption that consumers don’t want to be tracked or targeted across the web. Its leaders convey a belief that your data is your data until you say otherwise. In a world where data has been called the “new oil,” how does Apple side with privacy and stay so rich?
 Cynics argue that it’s because Apple depends less on advertising and commerce. I say it’s a benefit of Apple’s strategic decision to build trust with its customers.
 If you work in digital media, you need to know that the industry is one year from taking a big step toward Apple’s view. No, this isn’t a case of digital disruption coming (once again) from Silicon Valley. In this case, the seismic shift originates in the European Union. Much of the digital media industry is likely to panic over the coming months. But mark my words: The EU will ultimately lead publishers and advertisers to a better place.

Freedom of Speech isn’t About Speech

Geoff Grear:

There’s been a lot of debate about free speech lately, and I’ve noticed that people on both sides often misunderstand why it’s a good idea. It’s commonly assumed that freedom of speech is about the right of the speaker to express their ideas, but if you read early formulations of the concept, you’ll find a totally different justification: Free speech is good because it benefits the audience, including those who disagree with the speaker. Freedom of speech isn’t about speech. It’s about hearing.

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