1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility

Monya Baker:

More than 70% of tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. Those are some of the telling figures that emerged from Nature’s survey of 1,576 researchers who took a brief online questionnaire on reproducibility in research.

The data reveal sometimes-contradictory attitudes towards reproducibility. Although 52% of those surveyed agree that there is a significant ‘crisis’ of reproducibility, less than 31% think that failure to reproduce published results means that the result is probably wrong, and most say that they still trust the published literature.

Contra “We Know Best”

Deirdre N. McCloskey:

The Great Enrichment of the past two centuries has one primary source: the liberation of ordinary people to pursue their dreams of economic betterment.

Why are we so rich? An American earns, on average, $130 a day, which puts the U.S. in the highest rank of the league table. China sits at $20 a day (in real, purchasing-power adjusted income) and India at $10, even after their emergence in recent decades from a crippling socialism of $1 a day. After a few more generations of economic betterment, tested in trade, they will be rich, too.

Actually, the “we” of comparative enrichment includes most countries nowadays, with sad exceptions. Two centuries ago, the average world income per human (in present-day prices) was about $3 a day. It had been so since we lived in caves. Now it is $33 a day—which is Brazil’s current level and the level of the U.S. in 1940. Over the past 200 years, the average real income per person—including even such present-day tragedies as Chad and North Korea—has grown by a factor of 10. It is stunning. In countries that adopted trade and economic betterment wholeheartedly, like Japan, Sweden and the U.S., it is more like a factor of 30—even more stunning.

Boys to Men: The underachievement of young men in higher education – and how to start tackling it

Nick Hillman and Nicholas Robinson With a Foreword by Mary Curnock Cook:

HEPI’s scan across the evidence and possible solutions to the growing imbalance in educational achievement of boys is enormously useful and highlights just how complex this topic is.

Understanding the challenges presented requires expertise in a vast array of subjects: neurology, psychology, pedagogy, culture, social science, anthropology, education, assessment, geography, economics, humanity, feminism, politics, history and behavioural science – come to think of it, it has the makings of a superb liberal arts / science degree.

But the evidence is compelling. Boys are performing worse than girls across primary, secondary and higher education, not to mention apprenticeships, and the situation is getting worse. On current trends, the gap between rich and poor will be eclipsed by the gap between males and females within a decade. UCAS’s latest End of Cycle report shows the entry rate for men increased by much less than for women in 2015, widening the gap between the sexes to a record 9.2 percentage points at age 18, meaning young women are now 35 per cent more likely to go to university than men. If this di erential growth carries on unchecked, then girls born this year will be 75 per cent more likely to go to university than their male peers.

“Free” Tuition Is Not The Solution

Ingrid Eisenstadter:

But there’s a problem: These plans are guaranteed to escalate already high dropout rates, as more and more students start their higher education with no financial risk to themselves. They will, however, have ever greater academic risk, since 75% of community-college students now start their “higher education” with remedial reading and math classes, and less than 10% graduate on time.

The ratio of debt to inability that causes students to drop out is unknown, but the more the government lures unqualified students into the groves of academe, the more students will be falling out of the trees.

Statistics about accumulation of student debt are complex, but debts are mostly owed by people with manageable loan payments and by graduate students who will make a good living from their advanced degrees.

“Free” is often the most exoensive approach.


Carol Black:

In Wildness is the preservation of the World.” Thoreau says it in “Walking,” and Jack Turner, in his exquisite collection of essays, The Abstract Wild, questions how many of us have any idea what it means. People often misread the quote, Turner points out, as “In wilderness is the preservation of the world;” but Thoreau did not say that preserving wilderness preserves the world; he said that wildness preserves.

What does this mean? Turner has tracked down a reference in Thoreau’s “Fact-book” to the word “wild” as “the past participle of to will, self-willed.” The wild, then, is the self-willed, that which lives out of its own intrinsic nature rather than bowing to some extrinsic force. But we are also confused, Turner says, about what Thoreau meant by “world:”

Near the end of “Walking” he says: ‘We have to be told that the Greeks called the world κόσμος, Beauty, or Order, but we do not see clearly why they did so, and we esteem it at best only a curious philological fact.’ Our modern word is cosmos, and the most recent philological studies suggest the meaning of harmonious order. So in the broadest sense we can say that Thoreau’s “In Wildness is the preservation of the World” is about the relation of free, self-willed, and self-determinate “things” with the harmonious order of the cosmos. Thoreau claims that the first preserves the second.
Okay, then. So what does that mean, and what do we do about it?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Conclusion: How did we get here and why is this so hard to fix? – True Cost of Health Care

David Belk:

Without increased transparency and protection from over-billing, no reform will effectively reduce our healthcare costs or even slow the rate in which they’re increasing. Increased transparency in health care costs would make it very difficult for health care providers and insurance companies to continue operating the way in which they do now.

Most of all, remember: All healthcare reform in this Country will be met with strong opposition from inside the healthcare industry. They’ll say anything to prevent it simply because they’re protecting their own bottom line. If you’ve learned anything from this website, you should know, you can’t always believe what the health industry “experts” are saying.

Gold Star Father Recalls Son’s Sacrifice Memorial Unveiling

Erica Moura:

Long before Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti gave his life trying to save a fellow soldier in Afghanistan, he was an adventurous, big-hearted boy who looked out for his friends, Gold Star father Paul Monti told Stoughton High School students yesterday.

“Jared was a very adventurous young man. There was no tree too high, no river too wide, no hill too big for him,” said Monti, who taught school in Stoughton for 30 years and came back yesterday to instruct a new generation on the importance of Memorial Day.

He told stories of a young Jared who, when he was in high school, gave up his bed for a friend who was homeless. He told his father, “I figured he needed it more than I did.”

Jared Monti, who was 30 when he was killed in 2006, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his repeated efforts to save a wounded soldier under heavy fire.

What Does It Mean To Be Poor?

Florian Diekmann und Britta Kollenbroich:

What is there to eat today,” Manfred Huber* calls out to the woman at the cash register. “The same as always!” she shouts back. Huber looks confused. How’s he supposed to know what the “same as always” means? It’s been years since his last visit to Seehaus, which is possibly Munich’s most beautiful beer garden. Yet how can the cashier be expected to know that this dapper retiree in his leather jacket hasn’t been able to afford Seehaus for some years now?

It was a dumb question anyway, Huber decides a few minutes later when he finds himself sitting in front of a beer, obatzda cheese spread and a pretzel. He wouldn’t have wanted anything else, anyway. He’s sitting in the beer garden on the bank of the Kleinhesseloher Lake in the city’s massive English Garden. Just like he used to. At his favorite place.


How one California university faked students’ scores, skated by immigration authorities — and made a fortune in the process.

Molly Hensley-Clancy

A college on the edge of Silicon Valley has turned itself into an upmarket visa mill, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found, deploying a system of fake grades and enabling thousands of foreign students to enter the United States each year — while generating millions of dollars in tuition revenue for the school and the family who controls it.

Spending millions on foreign recruiters, Northwestern Polytechnic University enrolls 99% of its students — more than 6,000 overall last year — from overseas, with little regard for their qualifications. It has no full-time, permanent faculty, despite having a student body larger than the undergraduate population of Princeton.

The school issues grades that are inflated, or simply made up, so that academically unqualified students can keep their visas, along with the overseas bank loans that allow the students to pay their tuition. For two years, top college administrators forbade professors from failing any students at all, and the university’s president once personally raised hundreds of student grades — by hand.

Pisa tests to include ‘global skills’ and cultural awareness

Andreas Schleicher:

Pisa tests, an international standard for comparing education systems around the world, could include a new measurement of global skills in the next round of tests in 2018.

The OECD, which runs the tests in maths, reading and science, is considering adding another test which would look at how well pupils can navigate an increasingly diverse world, with an awareness of different cultures and beliefs.

How Uber Is Changing Drug Dealing

Brian Anderson :

Erik* had been driving for Uber for over a year when it happened. To that point, almost every trip Erik logged on the ride-hailing platform was destination-to-destination, with the occasional passenger dropped off along the way. But one night in 2015 was different.

It started as any other pickup would in Schertz, Texas, a modest town 22 miles outside San Antonio. Erik rolled up to a house, the passenger hopped in, and off they went. But then the passenger asked Erik to make stops at a couple gas stations en route to a final destination, a sketchy motel in San Antonio. It was the same routine at each stop: Without ever going up to the register, the passenger would briefly encounter an employee and then come back out to Erik’s vehicle. The passenger would linger inside each gas station for under a minute, according to Erik, and never walked out having made an obvious purchase.

Mathematicians Bridge Finite-Infinite Divide

Quanta Magazine:

surprising new proof, two young mathematicians have found a bridge across the finite-infinite divide, helping at the same time to map this strange boundary.

The boundary does not pass between some huge finite number and the next, infinitely large one. Rather, it separates two kinds of mathematical statements: “finitistic” ones, which can be proved without invoking the concept of infinity, and “infinitistic” ones, which rest on the assumption — not evident in nature — that infinite objects exist.

Regeneron Sponsors High School Science Competition


Here’s news that could fog a young biologist’s safety goggles: Winning the nation’s top high-school science contest is now worth $250,000, up from $150,000.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (ticker: REGN) announced Thursday that it had been chosen by the Society for Science & the Public as the new sponsor for the yearly Science Talent Search. The biopharma outfit committed $100 million over 10 years, including $3.1 million annually for prizes, nearly double the amount under previous sponsor Intel (INTC). The 75-year-old STS was long known as “the Westinghouse” before Intel took over sponsorship in 1998 from the old-line manufacturer.

University Endowments

Janet Lorin:

Endowments have long played a central role in the rise of some colleges. A $17 million bequest in 1932 from George Eastman, the inventor and founder of Eastman Kodak, helped make the University of Rochester one of the nation’s richest for several decades. Donations of $100 million or more have come in a flurry in recent years, with about a dozen received by universities in 2014 and 2015. Endowments have also grown by adopting aggressive investment techniques. In 1985, 65 percent of Yale’s fund sat in U.S. equities; its asset allocation target for domestic stocks in fiscal 2016 is 4 percent. Its pioneering chief investment officer, David Swensen, described an endowment’s long time horizon as “well suited to exploit illiquid, less efficient markets.” Other universities followed suit, and returns rose. Then came the 2008 downturn, when the lack of liquidity contributed to some big losses. Harvard’s fund declined 27 percent.

Is it true that only half of Milwaukee Public Schools students go on to college?

Sarah Hauer:

What is behind the “skills gap” that business and civic leaders often say inhibits economic progress in the Milwaukee metropolitan area?

Milwaukee Area Technical College President Vicki Martin points to a low percentage of Milwaukee public high school students going on to college as one factor.

Martin spoke May 12, 2016 on a WisPolitics panel about narrowing the skills gap, along with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy.

Kleefisch first described the skills gap saying, “the folks that employers are seeking don’t necessarily represent the skill sets that those job seekers actually have.”

Artificial intelligence, cognitive systems and biosocial spaces of education

Ben Williamson:

new ideas about ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘cognitive computing systems’ in education have been advanced by major computing and educational businesses. How might these ideas and the technical developments and business ambitions behind them impact on educational institutions such as schools, and on the role of human actors such as teachers and learners, in the near future? More particularly, what understandings of the human teacher and the learner are assumed in the development of such systems, and with what potential effects?

The focus here is on the education business Pearson, which published a report entitled Intelligence Unleashed: An argument for AI in education in February 2016, and the computing company IBM, which launched Personalized Education: from curriculum to career with cognitive systems in May 2016. Pearson’s interest in AI reflects its growing profile as an organization using advanced forms of data analytics to measure educational institutions and practices while IBM’s report on cognitive systems makes a case for extending its existing R&D around cognitive computing into the education sector.

Boys who live with books ‘earn more as adults’

Jamie Doward:

A room without books is like a body without a soul,” observed the Roman philosopher, Cicero. It can also be a sign of financial hardship to come.

New research has uncovered a strong correlation between the earnings of adults and whether they grew up surrounded by books as children.

Three economists at the University of Padua – Giorgio Brunello, Guglielmo Weber and Christoph Weiss – studied 6,000 men born in nine European countries and concluded that children with access to books could expect to earn materially more than those who grow up with few or no books.

They studied the period from 1920 to 1956, when school reforms saw the minimum school leaving age raised across Europe. They looked at whether, at the age of 10, a child lived in a house with fewer than 10 books, a shelf of books, a bookcase with up to 100 books, two bookcases, or more than two bookcases.

The Privatization of Childhood Play

Malcolm Harris:

Kids used to play outside more. They would hopscotch through the streets, assembling games of stickball and breaking glass soda bottles for fun. Parents would tell their children to be home for dinner and then forget about them until dark.

That golden age of unstructured play was real — scholars place it in the second quarter of the 20th century — but the children who lived it are now senior citizens. If you’re currently alive, you probably played less than your parents did. Between 1981 and 1997, for example, six- to eight-year-olds lost 25 percent of their play time. We aren’t romanticizing some fictional American idyll — kids really are playing less today, even if you include video games. And for some kids, even play is now a regimented and supervised activity.

Chicago Schools: $38,000 Pension And Bond Debt Per Student

Josh McGee:

CPS’ budget crisis was not created overnight. For more than a decade, the district has struggled with a widening structural budget deficit. Since 2001, inflation-adjusted spending per pupil increased by nearly 40 percent. In 2001, CPS spent close to $12,000 per student; in 2015, $16,432. Yet revenue has not kept pace: CPS per-pupil revenue has not matched per-pupil spending, with revenue falling short, on average, by $1,000 per pupil since 2001. More recently, the revenue gap has widened to nearly $3,000 per year.

CPS has papered over its annual shortfalls by borrowing vast sums from bond markets. As a result, CPS bonds are now rated as “junk” and the district has to pay a huge premium to get anyone to buy them (three times the rate for benchmark government bonds).

What’s more, by failing to make the necessary pension contributions, CPS has borrowed even larger amounts from its current and former teachers through the pension fund—today the district owes the fund billions upon billions. CPS owes bondholders and the pension fund more than $38,000 for every student, up from less than $10,000 in 2001.

What’s more, by failing to make the necessary pension contributions, CPS has borrowed even larger amounts from its current and former teachers through the pension fund—today the district owes the fund billions upon billions. CPS owes bondholders and the pension fund more than $38,000 for every student, up from less than $10,000 in 2001.

It is useful for the 4th estate to review spending, debt and outcome data.

“An emphasis on adult employment“.

Oberlin students want to abolish midterms and any grades below C

The Week:

Students at Oberlin College are asking the school to put academics on the back burner so they can better turn their attention to activism. More than 1,300 students at the Midwestern liberal arts college have now signed a petition asking that the college get rid of any grade below a C for the semester, and some students are requesting alternatives to the standard written midterm examination, such as a conversation with a professor in lieu of an essay.

In automaton we trust

Adam Zewe:

are two kinds of robots, the friendly and helpful BB-8s, and the sinister and deadly T-1000s. Few would suggest that “Star Wars: the Force Awakens” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” are scientifically accurate, but the two popular films beg the question, “Do humans place too much trust in robots?”

The answer to that question is as complex and multifaceted as robots themselves, according to the work of Harvard senior Serena Booth, a computer science concentrator at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. For her senior thesis project, she examined the concept of over-trusting robotic systems by conducting a human-robot interaction study on the Harvard campus. Booth, who was advised by Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science, received the Hoopes Prize, a prestigious annual award presented to Harvard College undergraduates for outstanding scholarly research.

Asian Americans and Ivy League Admissions

Douglas Belkin:

coalition of Asian-American organizations asked the Department of Education on Monday to investigate Brown University, Dartmouth College and Yale University, alleging they discriminate against Asian-American students during the admissions process.

While the population of college age Asian-Americans has doubled in 20 years and the number of highly qualified Asian-American students “has increased dramatically,” the percentage accepted at most Ivy League colleges has flatlined, according to the complaint. It alleges this is because of “racial quotas and caps, maintained by racially differentiated standards for admissions that severely burden Asian-American applicants.”


Nathan Heller:

Wasn’t free self-expression the whole point of social progressivism? Wasn’t liberal academe a way for ideas, good and bad, to be subjected to enlightened reason? Generations of professors and students imagined the university to be a temple for productive challenge and perpetually questioned certainties. Now, some feared, schools were being reimagined as safe spaces for coddled youths and the self-defined, untested truths that they held dear. Disorientingly, too, none of the disputes followed normal ideological divides: both the activists and their opponents were multicultural, educated, and true of heart. At some point, it seemed, the American left on campus stopped being able to hear itself think.

Uber For Tutors

Evan Smith:

college. Coming of age during a recession culminates in a focus on financial caution, after all. Secondly, they eschew the garage for a coffee shop, because everything is done on laptops anyway, and coffee is cheaper than rent. Thirdly, they don’t move. Better to work remotely from somewhere like the Midwest, what with the cost of living in California being so high.

If that sounds less than romantic, so be it. For recent college graduates Ameya Deshmukh and Matt Deptola, this revamped formula has been working just fine.

The duo is now in the process of launching a new mobile platform called PeerUp, which aims to disrupt the current system by which college students find and receive assistance with their studies.

“I guess the easy way to describe it would be Uber for tutors,” Deshmukh told Opportunity Lives. “We saw a need for students that just wasn’t being addressed.”

A Review Of The UW Madison’s People $5M Annual Program

Pat Schneider:

UW-Madison spends nearly $5 million a year on the program, most from state funding.

Goldrick-Rab said the study was frustrated by the lack of data routinely collected about the program. Poor data use in the past led to the program making unrealistic and unsupported high rates of success, she said.

That was the case for a 2014 Cap Times feature story on the PEOPLE program.

The Education Northwest evaluation also flags a number of management deficiencies, including the need for better organization of systems and processes, better coordination with K-12, community and campus partners and improved recruiting, hiring and retention of staff.

Deficiencies in program design is also not uncommon in this arena, said Noel Radomski, director of WISCAPE, a UW-Madison center for research into post-secondary education challenges.

Much more on the People program here.

Addressing Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results and K-12 achievement issues would surely improve higher education opportunities.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pew Report: More Young Adults Living With Parents Than in Own Household With Romantic Partner Since 188

Laura Bliss:

From stealth dorms to pod apartments, young Americans are finding all kinds of new ways to live within their means, on their own. But a historic share of 18- to 34-year-olds are relying on the most affordable housing strategy of all: their parents’ house.

A new report by the Pew Research Center finds that for the first time since the 1880s, more young adults in the U.S. are living with their parents than with a romantic partner in their own household. This turn comes as the result of shifts in marriage norms, grim economic realities, and growing college enrollment, both before and after the Great Recession and recent improvements in the labor market.

“i’m awfully glad i’m a beta”: the educational effects of status groups


Thad Domina, Andrew Penner and Emily Penner have a really interesting new paper out in Sociological Science, AKA the official journal of people on my Twitter feed.

So it turns out that some crazy Californians had the great idea to assign high school students color-coded IDs based on their standardized test results. Everyone got a white, gold, or platinum card based on their level of proficiency on the California state tests. The students had to display their ID card whenever they were on campus, and gold and platinum card holders got certain perks, including discounts on school events, but most visibly an “express” line in the cafeteria. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this raised some eyebrows once word traveled beyond the schools themselves. The article doesn’t name the two schools, so I won’t either, but Google exists, and it sounds pretty clear that creating these visible new categories had real status effects. You can find quotes about how kids in honors classes with platinum cards told other kids in honors classes who only had a gold card that they shouldn’t even be there, and a principal apparently told some girls they should try to find platinum prom dates.

The program was in place for two years, then was shut down after quite a bit of unfavorable press. But not before our intrepid sociologists managed to collect some data.

Thinking Clearly on Internet Security, or Not

Matt Velazquez and Charles F. Gardner

n April 26, an unknown party requested the documents from the Bucks via email, using a spoof email address to impersonate Peter Feigin, the team’s president. An employee responded to that email request, not knowing that it was from a fraudulent source, and provided the documents, according to the team statement.

Email is not secure….

GAO On Library Of Congress: Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses


The Library of Congress has established policies and procedures for managing its information technology (IT) resources, but significant weaknesses across several areas have hindered their effectiveness:

Strategic planning: The Library does not have an IT strategic plan that is aligned with the overall agency strategic plan and establishes goals, measures, and strategies. This leaves the Library without a clear direction for its use of IT.

Investment management: Although the Library obligated at least $119 million on IT for fiscal year 2014, it is not effectively managing its investments. To its credit, the Library has established structures for managing IT investments— including a review board and a process for selecting investments. However, the board does not review all key investments, and its roles and responsibilities are not always clearly defined.

Additionally, the Library does not have a complete process for tracking its IT spending or an accurate inventory of its assets. For example, while the inventory identifies over 18,000 computers currently in use, officials stated that the Library has fewer than 6,500. Until the Library addresses these weaknesses, its ability to make informed decisions will be impaired.
Information security and privacy: The Library assigned roles and responsibilities and developed policies and procedures for securing its information and systems. However, its implementation of key security and privacy management controls was uneven. For example, the Library’s system inventory did not include all key systems. Additionally, the Library did not always fully define and test security controls for its systems, remediate weaknesses in a timely manner, and assess the risks to the privacy of personal information in its systems. Such deficiencies also contributed to weaknesses in technical security controls, putting the Library’s systems and information at risk of compromise.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois

Monique Garcia and Kim Geiger:

Spending for most agencies would remain flat, except for the $700 million bump in funding for schools, which goes far and above Rauner’s proposal to send an extra $55 million for elementary and secondary education. That money would be doled out to poorer school districts such as CPS, which stood to lose money under Rauner’s proposal because the governor wants the money to be distributed using the standard formula, which has led CPS to lose funding in recent years.

The district, which skipped pension payments for many years, has been borrowing heavily to stay open. It has a huge teacher pension payment due at the end of June. Under Madigan’s plan, CPS stands to gain an extra $287 million, plus $100 million in state help to pay its pensions.

That’s a direct jab at Rauner, who for the past year has resisted requests from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic lawmakers for state help to dig the troubled school district out of its financial hole. The governor has spent the past few months touring schools statewide and touting his call for an education funding boost while warning of a CPS bailout at the expense of suburban and Downstate districts. Under the Madigan plan, no school district would lose state aid, but some wouldn’t gain much.

The ‘transferable skills’ paradigm is cover for the creation of transferable people

Nina Power:

Transferable skills are thus gained from work and outside work, and help you get work when you have lost work (or, more euphemistically, ‘in case you need to change your job’) because they allow you to move between jobs: you are transferability itself. We might wonder if they are skills with content or instead the generic capacity to acquire skills which in the end turns out to be something slightly different, namely flexibility?

I want to suggest that the increasingly precariousness of contemporary employment, as well as the demands placed upon education by governments, management and employers have meant that transferable skills – or really, the ability to move between various forms of insecure employment at short notice – are a cover story for the creation of transferable people.

The blurring of the boundary between life and work (you can pick up transferable skills anywhere and everywhere!) and the generic nature of the skills themselves are geared towards the generation of a workforce trained to accept that it must work zero-hours contracts, be un- or under-employed for long periods of time and adapt quickly to the practical and social demands of agency work or short-term contracts. More worryingly, we can ask what skills are being taught alongside the ‘transferable’ ones, or whether in fact, skills with content or practical value are less significant in an economy that requires a large people of workers trained not with specialist skills but with the capacity to be replaced at short notice.

A deadly crisis: mapping the spread of America’s drug overdose epidemic

Nadja Popovich:

The overdose crisis began early in central Appalachia, a region encompassing much of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

The largely rural area – dominated by physically taxing industries, including coal mining, agriculture and timbering – was susceptible to the pain-relief promise of prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin. These painkillers were aggressively marketed throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. As prescriptions proliferated, so did misuse and abuse.

“We Know Best, Redux”: Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?

Joe Gelonosi:

I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.

The power of the family to tilt equality hasn’t gone unnoticed, and academics and public commentators have been blowing the whistle for some time. Now, philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse have felt compelled to conduct a cool reassessment.

Swift in particular has been conflicted for some time over the curious situation that arises when a parent wants to do the best for her child but in the process makes the playing field for others even more lopsided.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’

Once he got thinking, Swift could see that the issue stretches well beyond the fact that some families can afford private schooling, nannies, tutors, and houses in good suburbs. Functional family interactions—from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories—form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.

So, what to do?

According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’

It’s not the first time a philosopher has thought about such a drastic solution. Two thousand four hundred years ago another sage reasoned that the care of children should be undertaken by the state.

Is ‘grit’ overrated in explaining student success? Harvard researchers have a new theory

Jeffrey Selingo:

The concept of “grit” is perhaps the hottest trend in education circles these days, the idea that students who have a certain fire in their belly outperform those with high IQ or natural talent. Just this month, a book with the same name rose to the top of the bestsellers list, written by the University of Pennsylvania psychologist who turned the term into a buzzword in recent years.

Angela Duckworth’s research has found that the most successful people are those not only with self-discipline but also with a singular determination to accomplish a task, no matter the obstacles.

Graduating This Year? Here’s Where to Move

Zara Kessler:

Congratulations, class of 2016. You did it! Now, where to next?
Pittsburgh’s sounding awfully nice.
The Steel City comes in first place on the new Graduate Opportunity Index. Compiled by Trulia in partnership with LinkedIn, the index rates “40 of America’s strongest job markets based on what they have to offer recent college grads,” according to a report released on Thursday.1

Three equally weighted factors go into each metro area’s score on the index: the share of entry-level job openings for recent graduates, the percentage of rental units affordable2 to a median-income grad between the ages of 22 and 30, and the share of the area’s population 22 to 30 with at least a bachelor’s degree (a measure of how dense a city is with a college grad’s peers).

The Commencement Speaker Racket

Hank Reichman

It’s that time of year again, as colleges and universities celebrate their graduates at commencement ceremonies, often by providing a celebrity speaker. And, of course, that means it’s also the time of year when complaints are raised about whether some speakers are appropriate (or, as some would have it, “politically correct”) and about whether those who object to speakers engage in censorship. Even President Obama, who addressed the graduating class at Rutgers last week, got into the act, declaring that it was “misguided” for the school’s students and faculty to protest former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s planned commencement speech two years ago. It’s not so clear his criticism was well-founded, about which more shortly, but what most observers have failed to notice is the fact that, controversial or not, commencement speeches can also be quite costly in a quite literal sense.

The Associated Press asked twenty institutions with celebrity speakers to provide costs for those speakers, including speaking fees and travel expenses. The results aren’t pretty. “The University of Houston, which increased tuition this year, paid $166,000 to bring Matthew McConaughey to speak last spring, including $9,500 for his airfare. The University of Oklahoma paid $110,000 to book journalist Katie Couric in 2006. Both speakers donated their fees to charity, but their costs sparked a debate about whether colleges pay too much for pageantry.” Although the president spoke for free at Rutgers, that university has been paying for speakers ever since it gave $30,000 to Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison in 2011. This year the school paid $35,000 for journalist Bill Moyers, who spoke at one division’s ceremony after Obama’s university-wide keynote address.

The Horrifying Reality of the Academic Job Market

Hamilton Nolan:

I got my PhD in Classics, which maintains a bit of an old school appeal to pedigree (and white males). Our PhDs are being churned out at an alarming rate (not as bad as English, though), and there are few tenure track jobs. If you look at the Classics wiki, which goes back to 2010, the jobs go to ivy PhDs 90% of time. I may be a touch bitter about it, but objectively I think it is bad for the discipline because we have the same ideologies from the same institutions being placed all over the country. I also think that it is incredibly irresponsible for tenured faculty to encourage undergraduates to go to graduate school when the adjunctification of the university has been bad for a really long time (as I am sure you know, it is only recently that the issue has exploded all over the internet). I’ve been telling students for years not to do it while my colleagues pushed others through, because schools rank better if they produce PhD graduates.

Pre-defense I was in visiting instructor line at school in Florida that was supposed to last 3 years. Due to budget cuts from president’s office, and despite the pleas to the chair and dean from my many students, I was cut after a year. My graduate institution, U of SC, offered to pay me a higher adjunct rate with a full schedule, so I moved back from Florida to take the position. This extra rate was still only 4k a class, for 32k a year. I taught upper level classes, one with over 300 students, and a bunch of language classes. It was grueling work, with 4 different preps each semester. I wasn’t allowed to go to any department meetings and, while my colleagues were generally nice and appreciative of me doing the bulk of teaching for the department, we were definitely not on equal terms.

You are being followed: The business of social media surveillance

Aaron Cantú:

LittleSis is partnering with MuckRock to investigate how police across the country are monitoring, tracking, and archiving public social media posts. To plug into our work, follow this link to file a freedom of information request using MuckRock’s platform.

In keeping with our mission to monitor and track the powers that be, we at LittleSis turned the surveillance gaze back onto the local forces monitoring social media. We not only dug into the corporate profiles of some of the companies police contract to snoop on your Tweets and Facebook rants, we also filed freedom of information requests to twenty police departments across the country to find out how, when, and why they monitor social media.

How an industry helps Chinese students cheat their way into and through U.S. colleges

Koh Gui Qing, Alexandra Harney, Steve Stecklow and James Pomfret:

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The advertisements were tailored for Chinese college students far from home, struggling with the English language and an unfamiliar culture.

Coaching services peppered the students with emails and chat messages in Chinese, offering to help foreign students at U.S. colleges do much of the work necessary for a university degree. The companies would author essays for clients. Handle their homework. Even take their exams. All for about a $1,000 a course.

For dozens of Chinese nationals at the University of Iowa, the offers proved irresistible.

“Test-taking services. Paper-writing. Take Online Courses for you,” says the social-messaging profile of one Chinese coaching outfit used by Iowa students, UI International Student Services. A pitch emailed by another business ended with this reassuring claim: “Your friends are all using us.”

Commentary On Madison’s $489M K-12 Budget

Todd Milewski:

Adding to the difficulties: Madison’s student enrollment, a key component of the per-pupil revenue formula, is projected to decline for a second straight year in 2016-17, which further trims the money that MMSD will have available to spend.

“It’s really difficult to operate in that environment, that kind of revenue forecast,” said Mike Barry, the district’s assistant superintendent for business services. “It’s almost like an ecological metaphor: How can we adapt to this new climate change, essentially?”

Dive in: Madison’s 2016-2017 budget notes and links.

The Craziest Black Market in Russia: It’s not for oil or guns. It’s for plagiarized dissertations. And every self-respecting doctor, lawyer, and politician in the country wants one.

Leon Neyfakh:

Late last year, Russian newspapers reported what would have qualified as a stunning piece of news almost anywhere else: The chairman of the country’s largest parliamentary body had been exposed as a plagiarist. Sergei Naryshkin, the former chief of staff in Vladimir Putin’s administration and a prominent member of his United Russia party, stood accused of receiving the Russian equivalent of a doctoral degree on the strength of a dissertation in which more than half of the pages contained material lifted from other sources.

Of course, no one really believed that Naryshkin had read Inozemtsev’s article or that he was guilty of copying it himself. Rather, he was suspected of paying a ghostwriter to produce a thesis in his name, then bribing academic officials to secure its certification. Naryshkin probably never even read the dissertation that had earned him his degree.

Evaluating the privacy properties of telephone metadata

Jonathan Mayera, Patrick Mutchlera, and John C. Mitchell:

Since 2013, a stream of disclosures has prompted reconsideration of surveillance law and policy. One of the most controversial principles, both in the United States and abroad, is that communications metadata receives substantially less protection than communications content. Several nations currently collect telephone metadata in bulk, including on their own citizens. In this paper, we attempt to shed light on the privacy properties of telephone metadata. Using a crowdsourcing methodology, we demonstrate that telephone metadata is densely interconnected, can trivially be reidentified, and can be used to draw sensitive inferences.

Intellect: The Universal Solvent

grey enlightenment:

late December 2015, Scott Alexander’s How Bad Are Things article went massivly viral, with accolades from both right-wing and left-wing communities and forums, which got me (and others) thinking about how Scott is consistently able to transcend the left/right bulwark. Normally, people write articles for a specific audience or clique in mind, and spillovers [1] are uncommon. For the right, it’s National Review and Brietbart articles, for example, which are read and written by conservatives. For the left, it’s Mother Jones and Salon, both read and written predominately by liberals. But Scott’s articles seem to appeal to everyone, with audiences as diverse as NRx on the far-right, to socialist and Marxist communities on the far-left. It’s especially impressive, however, how Scott was ingratiated into the NRx community/movement [2], almost becoming an ‘honorary reactionary’, despite being somewhat critical of NRx and holding political and social views that could be antithetical to NRx.

So how did he do it. It boils down to four reasons, which I will expound on:

The man who helps students to cheat

Andrew Bomford:

Most students are happy to work hard, try their best and accept the consequences. But there are a host of commercial essay writers who are prepared to help those who can’t be bothered.

Marek Jezek is the pseudonym he’s currently using, but there have been many others. He’s bright, hard-working, and loves learning – loves the intellectual challenge of taking on a new subject. And there have been many.

“Philosophy, psychology, nursing, education, physics,” he lists, counting them off on his fingers, “criminology, hospitality management, ethics, management.”

The marks are all first-class, and there’s a long list of the universities where the work was submitted.

A dissertation is supposed to be the culmination of years of study for students – the piece of original research and extended writing where a student demonstrates their understanding and expertise in their subject.

The Changing American Diet

Nathan Yau:

After seeing the Open Data Institute’s project on the changing British Diet, I couldn’t help but wonder how the American diet has changed over the years.

The United States Department of Agriculture keeps track of these sort of things through the Food Availability Data System. The program estimates both how much food is produced and how much food people eat, dating back to 1970 through 2013. The data covers the major food categories, such as meat, fruits, and vegetables, across many food items on a per capita and daily basis.

Civics: Snowden calls for whistleblower shield after claims by new Pentagon source

Spencer Ackerman in Washington and Ewen MacAskill in London:

“If your boss in the mailroom lies on his timesheets, the IG might look into it. But if you’re Thomas Drake, and you find out the president of the United States ordered the warrantless wiretapping of everyone in the country, what’s the IG going to do? They’re going to flush it, and you with it.”

While Drake’s case is well known in US national security circles, its internal history is not.

Major source
In 2002, Drake and NSA colleagues contacted the Pentagon inspector general to blow the whistle on an expensive and poorly performing tool, Trailblazer, for mass-data analysis. Crane, head of the office’s whistleblower unit, assigned investigators. For over two years, with Drake as a major source, they acquired thousands of pages of documents, classified and unclassified, and prepared a lengthy secret report in December 2004 criticizing Trailblazer, eventually helping to kill the program. As far as Crane was concerned, the whistleblower system was working.

The Relationship between Education and Mental Health: New Evidence from a Discordant Twin Study

Andrew Halpern-Manners, Landon Schnabel and Elaine M. Hernandez, Judy L. Silberg and Lindon J. Eaves:

Prior research has documented a strong and positive correlation between completed education and adults’ mental health. Researchers often describe this relationship using causal language: higher levels of education are thought to enhance people’s skills, afford important structural advantages, and empower better coping mechanisms, all of which lead to better mental health. An alternative explanation—the social selection hypothesis—suggests that schooling is a proxy for unobserved endowments and/or preexisting conditions that confound the relationship between the two variables. In this article, we seek to adjudicate between these hypotheses using a relatively large, US-based sample of identical adult twins. By relating within-twin-pair differences in education to within-twin-pair differences in mental health, we are able to control for the influence of genetic traits and shared family characteristics that may otherwise bias the estimates associated with educational attainment. Results from our analyses suggest that the observed association between education and mental health is attributable to confounding on unobserved variables. This finding holds across mental health conditions, is robust to several sensitivity checks, and survives a falsification test. Theoretical implications for the study of educational gradients in mental health are discussed.

There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.

Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu and Lauren Kirchner:

A SPRING AFTERNOON IN 2014, Brisha Borden was running late to pick up her god-sister from school when she spotted an unlocked kid’s blue Huffy bicycle and a silver Razor scooter. Borden and a friend grabbed the bike and scooter and tried to ride them down the street in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Coral Springs.

Just as the 18-year-old girls were realizing they were too big for the tiny conveyances — which belonged to a 6-year-old boy — a woman came running after them saying, “That’s my kid’s stuff.” Borden and her friend immediately dropped the bike and scooter and walked away.

But it was too late — a neighbor who witnessed the heist had already called the police. Borden and her friend were arrested and charged with burglary and petty theft for the items, which were valued at a total of $80.

The ‘Taiwan’s Light’ Performance and Questions of the Representation of Taiwanese History

Brian Hloe

ONE DAY AFTER Tsai Ing-Wen’s inauguration, we may perhaps look back in further detail upon one of the events which prompted controversy during the inauguration ceremony—the musical performance which preceded Tsai’s inauguration speech. The performance, entitled “Taiwan’s Light” (台灣之光), was a depiction of Taiwan’s history meant to represent Tsai’s incoming presidency as the beginning of a new era, but the political contradictions present within the performance may actually prove to be a sign of the challenges faced by the incoming Tsai administration. Namely, in the way that the Tsai administration will be a DPP administration taking power following a KMT administration and a DPP administration operating within the Republic of China framework that the DPP has traditionally bucked against, the performance was an overlap of a more pro-Taiwan DPP version of Taiwanese history on top of the KMT’s view of Taiwanese history.

Commencement Speech On Our Lifelong Partner


If, by the time you reach the age of 30, you do not consider yourself to be a libertarian or a conservative, rush right back here as quickly as you can and apply for a faculty position. These people will welcome you with open arms. They will welcome you, that is, so long as you haven’t developed an individual identity. Once again you will have to be willing to sign on to the group mentality you embraced during the past four years.

Something is going to happen soon that is going to really open your eyes. You’re going to actually get a full time job! You’re also going to get a lifelong work partner. This partner isn’t going to help you do your job. This partner is just going to sit back and wait for payday. This partner doesn’t want to share in your effort, just your earnings.

Your new lifelong partner is actually an agent; an agent representing a strange and diverse group of people. An agent for every teenager with an illegitimate child. An agent for a research scientist who wanted to make some cash answering the age-old question of why monkeys grind their teeth. An agent for some poor aging hippie who considers herself to be a meaningful and talented artist … but who just can’t manage to sell any of her artwork on the open market.

Your new partner is an agent for every person with limited, if any, job skills; for every person who ignored all offered educational opportunities, dreaming of nothing more than a job at City Hall. An agent for tin-horn dictators in fancy military uniforms grasping for American foreign aid. An agent for multi-million-dollar companies who want someone else to pay for their overseas advertising. An agent for everybody who wants to use the unimaginable power of this agent’s for their personal enrichment and benefit.

Think Tank Review Suggests Media Tilt Against Charters In 2015

Alexander Russo:

Looking for confirmation of the view that mainstream media coverage of education reform is wildly critical or credulous? Go somewhere else. A new report from the conservative-leaning Washington DC think tank AEI (which has published several case studies I’ve written) finds that “claims of media favoritism toward charter schooling—or hostility against it—are overstated.”

That’s right. Media coverage is not as overwhelmingly critical (or favorable) as some have claimed it is — at least when it comes to coverage of charter schools:

“On balance, in 2015, charter coverage was broadly mixed,” state the report authors (AEI staffers Rick Hess, Kelsey Hamilton, and Jennifer Hatfield).

The authors gathered over 200 mainstream news stories about charter schools during 2015, then coded a sample of them according to which outlet published them and whether the tenor of the coverage was critical or positive.

The college debt crisis is even worse than you think

Neil Swidey:

IT’S ONE OF THE MOST enduring selling points for the value of higher education: The best route out of poverty is through the college quad. Spend four years in college, and all that book learning, mind opening, and network expanding will help even the lowest-income student jump up several rungs on the economic ladder. Nowhere is that message preached as often or with as much evident authority as in Massachusetts, the nation’s historic capital of private, nonprofit higher education, where the concentration of colleges in some areas is surpassed only by the number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.

But just how true is this truism about college lifting low-income students out of their circumstances, Horatio Alger style? In fact, like the actual story of author Horatio Alger, who was born into a well-established family and graduated from Harvard, there’s more myth than truth. That’s been especially so in recent years, as nonselective private colleges from around the region have increasingly filled their freshman classes with low-income students — often the first generation in their families to go to college — from Boston and other urban areas. Quite a few of these small schools are former junior colleges and women’s colleges with rich histories of opening doors to students traditionally shut out from higher education, an admirable pursuit that officials refer to as “access.” Many of the colleges are also in tough financial straits, struggling with rising costs, stunted endowments, and declining enrollments.

Dershowitz And Others Decry Attack On Student Rights

Jacob Gershman:

group of law professors are accusing the civil rights office of the U.S. Education Department of taking “unlawful actions” that have led to “pervasive and severe infringements” of speech rights and due-process protections on college campuses.

An open letter signed by Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz and 20 other legal scholars blasts a series of directives issued by the federal office to schools on dealing with sexual misconduct and harassment complaints from students.

Commentary on K-12 Governance

Annysa Johnson:

Milwaukee Public Schools has until June 23 to respond to an invitation from County Executive Chris Abele and his Opportunity Schools commissioner, Demond Means, to partner with them in a plan to turn around some of Milwaukee’s poorest performing schools.

Means has told MPS that rejecting the deal could force him to bring in an outside operator to run the schools as dictated in state law. But school reform advocates and observers in Milwaukee and around the country say that would be tougher than it sounds, and may not yield the results the Legislature envisioned when it created Means’ post.

Charter school operators generally prefer to create schools from the ground up, rather than take over existing operations, they said. In addition, the lack of seed money, the lower per-pupil funding for charter schools, Milwaukee’s competitive school market and highly charged political environment could make it difficult to attract quality operators.

Why women earn less: Just two factors explain post-PhD pay gap

Helen Shen:

Women earn nearly one-third less than men within a year of completing a PhD in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field, suggests an analysis of roughly 1,200 US graduates.

Much of the pay gap, the study found, came down to a tendency for women to graduate in less-lucrative academic fields — such as biology and chemistry, which are known to lead to lower post-PhD earnings than comparatively industry-friendly fields, such as engineering and mathematics.

But after controlling for differences in academic field, the researchers found that women still lagged men by 11% in first-year earnings. That difference, they say, was explained entirely by the finding that married women with children earned less than men. Married men with children, on the other hand, saw no disadvantage in earnings.

Many studies have reported similar gender pay gaps and have identified similar contributing factors — but few have systematically broken down the relative contributions of different variables, says Bruce Weinberg, an economist at the Ohio State University in Columbus who led the study, published in the May issue of American Economic Review1. “I was quite surprised that we could explain the wage gap using just field of study and family structure,” he says.

In-Ear Device That Translates Foreign Languages In Real Time

Bored Panda:

awkward situation of trying to communicate in a foreign language. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. And sometimes it’s downright disastrous. But thanks to a new translation device that easily fits into your ear, the days of struggling to speak the local lingo might soon be a thing of the past.

The device is called The Pilot system and Waverly Labs is the company behind this brilliantly simple yet potentially groundbreaking idea. When it hits the shelves in September, the system will allow the wearer to understand one of several foreign languages through real-time in-ear translation. A handy app will allow you to toggle through the languages you want, and the selection includes French, Spanish, Italian, and English. It’ll retail for $129, and you can pre-order one here. Or you can just keep talking to people really loudly and slowly in English. Good luck with that.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Credit Card Debt Nears $1 Trillion


That sum would come close to the all-time peak of $1.02 trillion set in July 2008, just before the financial crisis intensified, and could signal an easing of frugal habits ingrained by the recession.

The boom has been driven by steady economic conditions and an improving job market that have made creditworthy consumers less reluctant to take on debt. In addition, lenders have signed up millions of subprime consumers who previously weren’t able to get credit.

principal, two schools, and a high-stakes experiment gone awry

Patrick Wall:

Wiltshire has openly questioned a core tenet of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature school-improvement program: that each struggling school must partner with a nonprofit, which is tasked with helping treat students’ social and emotional needs. After repeatedly clashing with Wiltshire, Boys and Girls’ partner organization informed him this week that it will no longer work with the school after this year.
In addition, Wiltshire’s controversial plan to move his former school, the high-performing Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, into Boys and Girls’ Bedford-Stuyvesant campus has caused a headache for the city. The proposal stoked suspicions at Boys and Girls that Wiltshire arrived at his new job with ulterior motives, even as Medgar Evers parents voiced concerns about the move. Still, the city went along with Wiltshire, turning his plan into an official co-location proposal — one whose future is now in doubt after a Medgar Evers leadership team officially rejected the move on Friday.

School & Lifelong Learning

Alan Borsuk:

Today’s subject: “How to Grow Cucumbers.”

Javari Brister, a fourth-grader at Milwaukee Environmental Sciences, gave me a lesson in this when I visited the school at 6600 W. Melvina St. last week to see the results of projects done by students from kindergarten through seventh grade at the 308-student charter school, authorized to operate by the Milwaukee School Board.

How to fix potholes, including those in an alley near the school. A sophisticated water conservation system, built in partnership with a roster of agencies and nonprofits. Plans for a “pinnacle playground” for the school, including efforts to get grants to build it. The life cycle of bees. The work was good, and oral presentations by students as visitors came around were impressive.

“We must weed out ignorant Americans from the electorate”

David Harsanyi:

Never have so many people with so little knowledge made so many consequential decisions for the rest of us.

A person need only survey the inanity of the ongoing presidential race to comprehend that the most pressing problem facing the nation isn’t Big Business, Big Labor, Big Media or even Big Money in politics.

It’s you, the American voter. And by weeding out millions of irresponsible voters who can’t be bothered to learn the rudimentary workings of the Constitution, or their preferred candidate’s proposals or even their history, we may be able to mitigate the recklessness of the electorate.

Thomas Jefferson:

The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance

Unfortunately, our K-12 structure requires radical improvement.

Refusing to Be Measured

Colleen Flaherty:

The faculty of the Graduate School at Rutgers University in New Brunswick took a stand against Academic Analytics on Tuesday, resolving that administrators shouldn’t use proprietary information about faculty productivity in decisions about divvying up resources among departments, or those affecting the makeup of the faculty, graduate teaching assignments, fellowships and grant writing. They also demanded to view their personal data profiles by Sept. 1. The vote was 114 to 2.

The new resolution is similar to one passed by the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences in December, in that it expresses concern about the accuracy of the Academic Analytics data and the implications for academic freedom. Rutgers signed a nearly $500,000 contract with the data-mining company in 2013, in exchange for information about the scholarly productivity of individual professors and academic units and how they compare to those at peer institutions. Yet some faculty members who have seen their personal profiles — an opportunity most professors haven’t had — say the data are in some cases wrong, under- or overcounting publications. Many faculty critics also say the data lack nuance or accounting for research quality and innovation, and could chill the scholarly inquiry of junior faculty members in particular as they seek to boost their “stats” ahead of applying for tenure.

First CubeSat Built by an Elementary School Deployed into Space


In 2012, the students from St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia lined up in the shape of a space shuttle in the school parking lot and witnessed the flyover of the Space Shuttle Discovery as it was being retired to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This awe-inspiring vision was an inspiration to the entire school and a catalyst for them to literally reach for the stars. Thus beginning their quest to build a small satellite, called a CubeSat, that would engage students around the world in Earth observations.

Over the next three years, all 400 pre-kindergarten through eight grade students participated in the design, construction and testing of their small satellite. Through this hands-on, inquiry based learning activity the students conducted real world engineering and will operate the St. Thomas More (STM)Sat-1, the first CubeSat built by elementary school students to be deployed in space.

‘Paternalistic Babysitters’ Begone! Dartmouth Students Call for Intellectual Independence

Catherine Sevcenko

At least some Dartmouth College students have had enough. In a scathing petition on change.org, five leaders in Dartmouth’s student government, joined by more than 1,200 signatories, have called on the administration to return the college to its mission of educating, rather than policing, students. Although the growth of bureaucracy in academia is no secret, it is always sobering to confront the statistics. According to the well-cited petition, non-faculty staff at Dartmouth grew by more than 1,000 people from 1999 to 2004, and in spite of faculty layoffs, that number had increased to 3,497 by 2015. And most administrative staff do not come cheap, especially at prestigious research universities. As the petition points out, this contributes to the institution’s sky-high tuition; the sticker price for a year at Dartmouth is now just below $70,000.

But the petition points out that the cost of non-faculty staff is only part of the problem; what many of these people do all day damages the college as a place of learning as well. The petition does not mince words:

Pension Pac Man: How Pension Debt Eats Away at Teacher Salaries

Chad Aldeman (PDF):

Why aren’t teacher salaries rising?It’s not for lack of money. Even after adjusting for inflation and rising student enrollment, total school spending is up by about 29 percent over the last 20 years.1It’s not for lack of money spent on teachers, either. Instructional costs, including salaries, wages, and benefits for teachers, make up slightly more than 60 percent of all district spending today, just like it did 20 years ago.2

So overall expenditures are up, but teacher salaries are actually down slightly over the same period. Today, the average public school teacher earns $56,689 annually, a couple hundred dollars less than the average teacher salary 20 years ago (in constant dollars).3

Why is this happening? This puzzle can be explained by three trends eating into teachers’ take-home pay: rising health care costs, declining student/teacher ratios, and rising retirement costs.Rising insurance costs have affected all American workers, but they’ve hit teachers even harder. For all civilian workers, insurance costs consume 8.9 percent of compensation, up from 7.5 percent in 1994. Insurance costs are rising even faster for teachers, and they now eat up 10.2 percent of total teacher compensation, up from 7.3 percent in 1994. The good news is that insurance costs have begun to moderate. In the wake of the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurance costs, as a percentage of total compensation, began to decline for all civilian
workers including for teachers.4

The Farmer Girl and the City: The Rootless Women of Rural China

Manya Koetse

Ji Hua (极花), the new novel by renowned author Jia Pingwa (贾平凹), has again attracted public discussion on the fate and circumstances of China’s rural women. The novel recounts the story of a daughter from a rural family who goes to the city and becomes a victim of human trafficking. When she is rescued after three years, she returns to her family. According to an article that was recently published by author Cao Dongbo (曹东勃) on Tencent’s public discussion platform Everybody, the book reiterates the vulnerable position of women in today’s rural China. When they fall victim to China’s black market bride trade, their prospects are hopeless, Cao writes. But even when are not victimized by these kinds of crime and are legally married, their basic rights are murky. In his essay, Cao describes the economic and social problems facing women within China’s small peasant economy.

Reading Proust on My Cellphone

Sarah Boxer:

hopelessly hung up, and not in a good way, on a certain passage in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. The offending passage, obstructing all the rest of Proust for me, lay in the very middle volume, the fourth of seven, which was then called Cities of the Plain (and has since been retranslated, with more accuracy and more filth, as Sodom and Gomorrah).

There was no reason I should have been waylaid there. This was the volume that thrilled Colette: “No one in the world has written pages such as these on homosexuals, no one!” It was the volume, according to Proust’s newest biographer, Benjamin Taylor, that outraged and possibly killed Count Robert de Montesquiou (the supposed model for the sneering gay aristocrat Baron de Charlus). And it was the volume that André Gide abhorred for its sneaky, secretive, un-Greek view of homosexuality.

Think you’re an ethical person? You may just have a selective memory

Beth Mole:

Proud and happy moments in our lives become cherished memories, kept in relatively crisp condition in our noggins for the occasional uplifting retrieval. But memories of not so pleasant events, such as a moment of weakness when we cheated on a math test or snuck a candy bar from a store, may get roughed up in our brains, perhaps to the point where we can’t clearly recall them anymore, according to a new study.

Collecting data from a series of nine experiments involving 2,109 participants, researchers suggest that our brains actively blur and junk memories of our own misdeeds to help avoid dissonance between our actions and moral values. This mental hazing, the researchers hypothesize in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, helps us maintain a positive moral self-image and sidestep distress.

A School District That Was Never Desegregated

Sharon Lerner:

The wheels of justice have been said to turn slowly. And few things move quickly here in Cleveland, Mississippi, a town of 12,000 people with no movie theater and a quaint commercial district that’s shuttered on Sunday. But when a deadline on a school desegregation suit—originally filed in 1965—came and went last month with opposing sides still unable to agree on a resolution, some locals admitted frustration.

Stanford quantifies the privacy-stripping power of metadata

Natasha Lomas:

More proof, if proof were needed, of the privacy-stripping power of metadata. A multi-year crowdsourced study, conducted by Stanford scientists and published this week, underlines how much information can be inferred from basic phone logs cross-referenced with other public datasets.

Wake County school board votes to stop naming valedictorians

T Keung Hui:

High school valedictorians are on the verge of becoming a thing of the past in Wake County as school leaders cut down on what they call unhealthy competition among top-achieving students.

The Wake County school board unanimously gave initial approval Tuesday to a policy that would bar high school principals from naming valedictorians and salutatorians – titles which go to the two seniors with the highest grade-point averages – after 2018. Starting in 2019, high schools would begin using a new system that recognizes seniors with Latin titles such as cum laude if they have a weighted GPA of at least 3.75.

“K-12 spending under the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessor agencies rose from $4.5 billion in 1965 to $40.2 billion in 2016, in constant 2016 dollars”

Neal McCluskey:

Despite the large increases in federal aid since the 1960s, public school academic performance has ultimately not improved. While scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have improved for some groups and younger ages, math and reading scores for 17-year-olds—essentially, the school system’s “final products”—have been stagnant. In addition, America’s performance on international exams has remained mediocre, yet we spend more per-pupil on K-12 education than almost any other country.6 Federal funding and top-down rules are not the way to create a high-quality K-12 education system in America.

Congress should phase out federal funding for K-12 education and end all related regulations. Policymakers need to recognize that federal aid is ultimately funded by the taxpayers who live in the 50 states, and thus provides no free lunch. Indeed, the states just get money back with strings attached, while losing billions of dollars from wasteful bureaucracy. There is no compelling policy reason, nor constitutional authority, for the federal government to be involved in K-12 education. In the long run, America’s schools would be better off without it.

Indeed, spending more does not seem to improve academic outcomes. Madison spends more than $17K per student annually, despite long term, disastrous reading results. Via Chris Edwards.

“You can’t close the achievement gap by erasing the data”

Laura Waters:

Certainly, Chris’s points are borne out by the opt-out activity in New York and New Jersey, where the biggest fans of test refusal live in wealthy suburbs and are financially and educationally invested in local control of their high-performing and exclusionary school districts. Yesterday Jonathan Chait described the “emerging alliance between teacher unions” — stalwart standard-bearers of, well, no standards or standardized assessments — and Republicans, both of whom share “cultural distrust” and fierce defense of local control.

Here Chait refers to Sen. Lamar Alexander’s opposition to an Obama Administration proposal to shift more federal aid to poor students and expand efforts to address the disproportionate number of inexperienced teachers in poor, minority districts, a result of current teacher tenure laws and contracts:

Related, on Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results: “When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before”.

Private Colleges Offering Record Tuition Discounts to Lure Students

Consumer Reports:

Amid all the grim news about the skyrocketing price of a college education, here’s something to celebrate: Colleges are asking students to shoulder less of the costs.

In the 2015-2016 school year, the discounts on tuition that private colleges gave to students in the form of scholarships and grants hit a record high, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) annual report.

Last school year, private colleges gave freshman an average tuition discount of 49%, and all undergrads an average discount of 43% off the published price of tuition.

At the same time, the percentage of students who received some discount on tuition and fees—88%—remained relatively steady, the NACUBO report says.
Doling Out Discounts

Such discounting is nothing new. Rather, it is a continuation of a long trend of private colleges lowering prices to boost enrollment. Ten years ago, the average tuition discount was 34%, according to NACUBO.

“list prices” continue to rise….

Related: Financial Aid Leveraging.

9-year-old girl who was struck by errant bullet in home dies

Jesse Garza:

A 9-year-old girl struck by an errant bullet on Milwaukee’s north side about a week after asking if police could keep her safe died Monday afternoon, according to the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office.

Za’layia Jenkins was pronounced dead at 5 p.m., according to a medical examiner’s official.

Za’layia was struck by a bullet that pierced a wall of her home in the 1500 block of W. Meinecke Ave. as she watched television shortly before 8:30 p.m. May 5, according to Milwaukee police.

“Universities are too costly, too elitist and aren’t catering properly to the needs of technology companies”

Marie Mawad:

“Studies in the United States are very expensive, blocking the way for many individuals to receive an education, find a well-paid job, and live the American dream,” according to a statement from 42 Tuesday.

U.S. tech companies have long complained that there aren’t enough qualified American workers to fill the industry’s job gaps. Companies from Alphabet Inc., to Facebook Inc. to Uber Technologies Inc. are fighting to hire software engineers with the right mix of personality, culture and coding chops. Niel’s school aims to help give more students the opportunity to get a debt-free education in highly desirable skills — “based solely on their talent and motivation,” according to the statement, rather than financial status or education degree.

This is your brain on mathematics

The Intrepid Mathematician:

Mathematics is one of the several ways we communicate, allowing us to grapple with the complex patterns abundant in the universe. If I state that “The number of non-isomorphic groups of order 16 is 14,” then that means something to most mathematicians. It may mean more to some; in particular, those who study groups, or group theorists.

K-12 Tax& Spending Climate: Are Property Taxes a “Wealth Tax” on the (Mostly) Non-Wealthy?

Charles Hugh Smith:

entry Dear Homeowner: If You’re Paying $260,000 in Property Taxes Over 20 Years, What Exactly Do You “Own”?, I questioned the consequences of high property taxes. Some readers wondered if I was saying all property taxes should be abolished. The short answer is no–what I was questioning is local government reliance on property taxes to the point that owning a home no longer makes financial sense because the property taxes consume any appreciation other than the transitory “wealth” generated by a housing bubble.

Madison residents have long paid high property taxes, despite long term disastrous reading results.

Milwaukee middle-schoolers sink to the top in robotics competition

Annysa Johnson:

As submarines go, the USS Macaroni doesn’t look like much: a series of plastic pipes and rubbery mesh, propelled by two small thrusters and a hand-held circuit board.

But the underwater robot represents months of work by three tech-minded middle-schoolers from Milwaukee Montessori School.

The trio bested more than 50 middle-school teams in the U.S. Navy’s SeaPerch Robotic Submarine regional competition. Now, theirs is the youngest of four Wisconsin teams headed to the national competition Friday in Baton Rouge, La.

“This was the first time our school’s ever done it,” said 12-year-old Owen Ledger of Germantown, the team’s go-to-guy for the mathematical equations needed to calculate such things as buoyancy and water density.

“We were just trying it out,” he said. “We didn’t expect anything like this.”

Ledger and teammates Xander Salick and Samantha Stahl put their ROV — for Remotely Operated Vehicle — through its paces recently at their top-secret training center. (A friend of a friend’s apartment complex swimming pool.)

Exploring The mathematical universe

American Inst. of Mathematics:

A team of more than 80 mathematicians from 12 countries is charting the terrain of rich, new mathematical worlds, and sharing their discoveries on the Web. The mathematical universe is filled with both familiar and exotic items, many of which are being made available for the first time. The “L-functions and Modular Forms Database (www.LMFDB.org),” abbreviated LMFDB, is an intricate catalog of mathematical objects and the connections between them. Making those relationships visible has been made possible largely by the coordinated efforts of a group of researchers developing new algorithms and performing calculations on an extensive network of computers. The project provides a new tool for several branches of mathematics, physics, and computer science.

Academics Make Theoretical Breakthrough in Random Number Generation

Michael Mimoso:

academics have made what some experts believe is a breakthrough in random number generation that could have longstanding implications for cryptography and computer security. David Zuckerman, a computer science professor, and Eshan Chattopadhyay, a graduate student, published a paper in March that will be presented in June at the Symposium on Theory of Computing. The paper describes how the academics devised a method for the generation of high quality random numbers. The work is theoretical, but Zuckerman said down the road it could lead to a number of practical advances in cryptography, scientific polling, and the study of other complex environments such as the climate.

Coding school 42 plans to educate 10,000 students in Silicon Valley for free

Romain Dillet:

Xavier Niel’s new project is an ambitious coding university in Silicon Valley called 42. But the trick is that it’s nothing like other universities out there. 42 is free, doesn’t care about your SAT and wants to educate 10,000 students within the next 5 years.

This isn’t Niel’s first try at building a coding school. 42 has been doing well in France. The French businessman started 42 in 2013, and there are already 2,500 students learning to code right now in Paris. But what makes 42 different?

Hiring Hurdle: Finding Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test

Jackie Calmes:

back, the heavy-equipment manufacturer JCB held a job fair in the glass foyer of its sprawling headquarters near here, but when a throng of prospective employees learned the next step would be drug testing, an alarming thing happened: About half of them left.

That story still circulates within the business community of this historic port city. But the problem has gotten worse.

Cost disease: Why U.S. Infrastructure Costs So Much

Justin Fox:

That said, the U.S. probably also ought to be spending less on infrastructure. Not overall, but on something like a per-mile basis. Broad international cost comparisons across all kinds of infrastructure don’t seem to be available, but there is a growing body of evidence on one particular infrastructure area that matters a lot to me as a New York City commuter: subways and other rail systems. And it shows that U.S. construction costs are among the world’s highest.
 Transportation blogger Alon Levy has probably done the most to raise awareness of this, with five years of posts documenting the cost differences. And last year, Tracy Gordon of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and David Schleicher of Yale Law School examined 144 planned and finished rail projects in 44 countries and found that the four most expensive on a per-kilometer basis (and six of the top 12) were in the U.S.
 To put these numbers in global perspective, New York’s Second Avenue Subway will cost roughly eight times more than Tokyo’s Koto Waterfront line and 36 times more than Madrid’s Metrosur tunnels on a per-kilometer, purchasing power parity (PPP) basis.
 Why is this? It’s actually pretty hard to answer. Here’s Levy, writing in November 2014:
 I try to avoid giving explanations for these patterns of construction costs. If I knew for certain what caused them, I would not be blogging; I would be forming a consultancy and teaching New York and other high-cost cities how to build subways for less than $100 million per kilometer.
 Still, others have been willing to offer explanations. In a 2012 Bloomberg View piece, New York land-use and transit writer Stephen Smith blamed over-reliance on outside consultants, overly ambitious station architecture and a legal system that favors contractors over the agencies paying them to build things. Gordon and Schleicher agreed that the legal system may be an issue, but for other reasons:

The Science of Speaking is the Art of Being Heard

First Round Review:

For years, people have constructed cairns, a human-made stack of stones, as landmarks, monuments or tributes. These days, hikers will add a rock to a cairn as they reach a summit of a mountain or a turning point on a trail. The longer one sits across from Khalid Halim in Reboot’s San Francisco office, the more one realizes his sofa is a modern day cairn. Instead of stones, well-known tech leaders, angels and VCs have dropped their guard there—along with their stories, ambitions and fears. It marks the start of many technologists’ inflection points.

The entrepreneurship craze is solidifying the corporatization of American universities.

Avery J. Wiscomb

American colleges and universities are feeling the entrepreneurial spirit. The number of formal programs (majors, minors, certificates) in entrepreneurship is well over 500, quintupled in the past thirty years according to a Kauffman Foundation report. Entrepreneurship courses for students and faculty numbers top 5,000, taught on more than 2,500 campuses — up from only 250 courses in 1975. In 2013, roughly 400,000 US students took courses related to entrepreneurship taught by 9,000 different faculty members.

The following year nearly a quarter of all incoming college freshmen declared they “wanted to be entrepreneurs” of some kind. Meanwhile, faculty hiring and tenure decisions at research universities are increasingly based on professors’ entrepreneurial ability to generate revenue streams.

Elite scribes find the source of America’s weakness

Chris Lehman:

First up was crusading lady-savior Nick Kristof, who weighed in this past Sunday with an anguished thumbsucker on the alleged plague of “liberal intolerance” in the American university. Kristof here joins the great trolling chorus of liberal critics of alleged PC trespasses against the spirit of free inquiry. And like those heroes of responsible discourse, he adduces virtually no evidence that any grim show-trial system of intellectual conformity has seized control of the U.S. academy. Yes, he talks with conservative professors who complain of a broad culture of sinister left-leaning groupthink—and yes, they compare themselves to oppressed minorities and other marginalized population. “I am the equivalent of someone who was gay in Mississippi in 1950” confesses one conservative faculty member in a study cited by Kristof—the sort of thing you hear from someone who actually has no idea what it meant to be gay in Mississippi in the 1950s.

Speaking Multiple Languages Staves Off Dementia

Emilie Reas:

arlez-vous francais? If you answered yes, then you’re well on your way to enjoying the many benefits of bilingualism. Speaking both English and French, for example, can enrich your cultural experiences in multilingual destinations like Belgium, Morocco, or Egypt, and broaden your access to books, music, and films.

But the benefits of speaking another language aren’t limited to just cultural perks. “Studies have shown that bilingual individuals consistently outperform their monolingual counterparts on tasks involving executive control,” says Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive psychologist at York University. In other words, speaking more than one language can improve your ability to pay attention, plan, solve problems, or switch between tasks (like making sure you don’t miss your freeway exit while attending to your kids in the back seat). You may think it’s just higher intelligence that underlies these benefits, but evidence suggests otherwise. A 2014 study, for example, showed that those who learned a second language, in youth or adulthood, had better executive functions than those who didn’t, even after accounting for childhood IQ.

Milwaukee K-12 Governance Debate

Annysa Johnson:

State Rep. Dale Kooyenga on Tuesday called the dismal performance of some Milwaukee Public Schools “a humanitarian issue” and defended the turnaround district he helped to create as one way to address their shortcomings.

“We cannot accept the status quo; we need to be open to change,” the Brookfield Republican told Milwaukee teachers union Executive Director Lauren Baker in a wide-ranging debate at the Marquette University Law School. “I know you disagree, but I believe this will help MPS do better.”

Baker said the “takeover district,” as she called it, could divert as much as $41 million from MPS over the next five years. In addition, she said, all of the reforms Kooyenga envisions, including intensive wrap-around services for students, could take place without usurping control from Milwaukee’s democratically elected school board.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Linguistic purism in English


Linguistic purism in the English language is the belief that words of native origin should be used instead of foreign-derived ones (which are mainly Latinate and Greek). “Native” (inborn) can mean “Anglo-Saxon” (Engelsaxish) or it can be widened to include all Germanic (Theedish) words. In its mild form, it merely means using existing native words instead of foreign-derived ones (such as using begin instead of commence). In its more extreme form, it involves reviving native words that are no longer widely used (such as ettle for intend) and/or coining new words from Germanic roots (such as wordstock for vocabulary). The resulting language is sometimes called Anglish (coined by the author and humorist Paul Jennings), Roots English (referring to the idea that it is a “return to the roots” of English), among other names. The mild form is often advocated as part of Plain English, but the more extreme form has been and continues to be a fringe movement.

Girls outscore boys on inaugural national test of technology, engineering skills

Emma Brown:

Girls outperformed boys on a national test of technology and engineering literacy that the federal government administered for the first time in 2014, according to results made public Tuesday.

Among eighth-grade students in public and private schools, 45 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys scored proficient on the exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Overall, 43 percent of all students were proficient.

The test was designed to measure students’ abilities in areas such as understanding technological principles, designing solutions and communicating and collaborating. Girls were particularly strong in the latter.

Unfunded Mandate: Columbia College, Arts and Sciences, and the Bollinger Era

Michael Ouimette:

Columbia’s marketing won me over. I came to Columbia because I did not want to choose between the close interaction with faculty of liberal arts colleges and the world-class scholars of top research universities. Columbia College promised it all—not just some of the best scholarship in the world, but also the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with faculty right away through the Core Curriculum.

But the reality of my experience was quite different.

In eight semesters of the signature Core classes, I was taught by a tenure-track faculty member just once. As an American history major, a significant number of my classes were taught by adjunct and visiting professors. Columbia was slow to hire tenure-track replacements for the legends I came to Columbia to study under.

The Partnership Between Colleges and Helicopter Parents

Laura Hamilton:

A few days after dropping off her youngest child at college, Andrea got a phone call. The wounds in her daughter’s mouth from a recent wisdom-tooth surgery had gone septic. Andrea drove there immediately, located an oral surgeon in town, booked a room at the university hotel, and put her daughter to bed to recover. The next morning, Andrea went to her daughter’s classes, taking notes on her behalf. It was important to Andrea, a professor, and her husband, an MBA, that their daughter head into the first semester of college without missing a beat: A future dental career required four years of a stellar undergraduate academic record.

At the same time, another parent faced a different type of problem. Alexis had handpicked her daughter’s new university specifically for its Greek life, big-time sports, and array of not particularly challenging majors. She and her husband, a CFO of a major Fortune 500 company, were intent on giving their daughter the ideal social experience in college. But when she got there, she seemed not to hit her stride. Alexis blamed it on a working-class roommate who “didn’t ever want to go out [and] meet people”—and told her daughter, in no uncertain terms, to change roommates. Alexis also shipped bags of designer clothes to help her child fit in with affluent sorority members.

Liberal condescension towards white workers is code for a broader anti-working class agenda.

Connor Kilpatrick:

The white working class is a zombie that doesn’t know it’s dead.

Or if it’s not fully zombified yet, its members are all too busy cleaning their AR-15s and posting racist comments on YouTube to vote for a progressive. That is, if they’re not already on the Trump bandwagon, which they probably are.

At least that’s what the Democratic Party wants you to believe.

Last Tuesday, Bernie Sanders won the 93.7 percent white state of West Virginia with ease, beating Clinton among men and women, young and old. The week prior, he cruised to victory in Indiana, despite no longer apparently being a serious contender for the nomination.

Leftists were ecstatic: a socialist winning over middle America!

Mainstream observers were less enthused. In fact, they were quick to dismiss Bernie’s victory on this very basis. They saw an old, infirm, and irrelevant group thwarting their desired coalition of what Michael Lind calls business-friendly “urban cosmopolitanism.”

3 years into effort at Carver Academy, partners remain committed

Alan Borsuk:

Janel Hawkins recalls the situation when she became principal of Carver Academy in 2012: “There was so much wrong that I didn’t know where to start.”

Carver, a kindergarten through eighth grade school at 1900 N. 1st St., was one of the most difficult schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system. It had been that way for many years, going back to when it was called Palmer School.

Now, Hawkins says, Carver is “a very different place.” There is no question that the educational environment at Carver is much better — more orderly, more focused, more energetic.

What is Education For?

Danielle Allen:

Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Danielle Allen calls for a paradigm shift in the way we think about education, moving away from instrumentalism to the cultivation of civic and social engagement. I find the notion of citizenship as “co-creating” and “world-building” compelling, and I have seen the most profound manifestations of this idea inside a state prison in Massachusetts, where I taught creative writing and literature to a group of men serving life sentences.

In the current discourse around prison education, the efficacy of enrichment programs is often determined by recidivism post-release employment rates: Does the former fall and the latter rise? As the Massachusetts Division of Inmate Training and Education puts it, the purpose of these programs “is to provide comprehensive academic and occupational (vocational training) programs and services that will assist offenders in becoming more productive citizens upon release.” But one of every nine individuals in U.S. prisons is serving a life sentence, almost a third of whom—about 50,000 people—have no possibility of parole. What of those who will never be released? My experience has taught me that we need a different framework for thinking about the role of education in incarcerated spaces, just as Allen suggests that we need a shift in how we think of education more broadly.