While giving a talk about Minority Serving Institutions at a recent higher education forum, I was asked a question pertaining to the lack of faculty of color at many majority institutions, especially more elite institutions.
My response was frank: “The reason we don’t have more faculty of color among college faculty is that we don’t want them. We simply don’t want them.” Those in the audience were surprised by my candor and gave me a round of applause for the honesty.
Given the short amount of time I had on the stage, I couldn’t explain the evidence behind my statement. I will do so here. I have been a faculty member since 2000, working at several research universities. In addition, I give talks, conduct research and workshops and do consulting related to diversifying the faculty across the nation. I have learned a lot about faculty recruitment over 16 years and as a result of visiting many colleges and universities.
Monthly Archives: September 2016
UW-Madison to seek tuition increases for non-residents, professional students
Out-of-state students and those in UW-Madison’s professional schools could soon see another round of tuition increases after Chancellor Rebecca Blank told faculty Monday she plans to ask the university’s governing board in the coming months to raise prices for those students.
Blank also said UW-Madison plans to distribute $9 million in raises and bonuses to its faculty and academic staff in a move aimed in part at shoring up morale among employees.
The chancellor announced the initiatives during her State of the University speech Monday at a meeting of the UW-Madison faculty senate, where she touted the university’s achievements over the past year but acknowledged the challenges it faces in creating a “more stable financial base” amid declining state funding.
Two Madison West High students arrested, one with BB gun outside school, police say
Two West High School students were arrested Thursday afternoon after an officer stationed at the school took a BB gun from one of them, Madison police said.
The students, both 14-year-old boys, were outside the school on Regent Street at 1:25 p.m. when the officer took the gun away from them, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.
After the officer took the gun, the students ran to the high school and tried to get in, but the door was locked, police said. One student broke a window after punching it while trying to get in.
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio/video.
Madison West Principal Beth Thompson, via a kind reader email:
Dear West HS Families:
I’m writing to let you know that this afternoon, we briefly directed students to remain in their classrooms while we investigated a safety concern that originated outside our school. Shortly after 1:30 pm, our ERO was talking to a student near the Regent Street Market when he noticed the student had a gun. The officer was able to obtain the gun safely, which turned out to be a BB gun. The student and a companion then ran toward the school and attempted to gain entry into the building. In the process of forcibly knocking on the door, a window was shattered. Both students were taken into custody by the police.
Please know that the safety of our students is a top priority in our school and that we communicate closely with the police to ensure the safety of our students. I want to reassure you that school safety was not compromised and staff responded quickly and appropriately to help manage the incident and to re-direct students.
We make every effort to keep our families informed about incidents that occur in our school.
Please contact me if you have any questions,
Beth Thompson, Principal
West High School
Teen Girl Suspended for Days After Publicizing School’s Dirty Water Problem
A senior at John Glenn High School in Westland, Michigan, was suspended for three days after she took a photo of the disgusting water in the girls’ restroom and posted it on Twitter.
The student, Hazel Juco, had aimed to call attention to the dirty water. But it’s against school rules to take pictures in bathrooms.
“I was called to the office and told by one of the assistant principals that an administrator found a photo of the girl’s bathroom on social media and that I’d be issued a three-day out-of-school suspension for ‘inappropriate use of electronics,'” Hazel told CNN.
I’m often quick to criticize schools for needlessly punishing students, though in this case I agree that Juco deserved a little bit of scolding. Privacy is important, and young people do need to learn that there are some places in the world where selfies just aren’t appropriate. The school bathroom is one of those places.
But a three-day suspension is a fairly strict punishment for a well-intentioned lapse of judgment. Why not simply give her after-school detention, or something?
Northwestern Univ. President Calls Those Who Decry Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings ‘Lunatics’
The president of Northwestern University told students on Monday that anyone who opposes “trigger warnings” or who ridicules the pain of those “microaggressed” is an “idiot” and a “lunatic.”
In his convocation address on Monday, NU President Morton Schapiro took a firm stance against censorship, but said he disagreed with University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison, who recently told first-year students they should not expect “safe spaces” in which to escape from ideas that make them uncomfortable.
Poll: Most Texans worried about student debt, want state to fund financial aid for all
Most Texans believe student loan debt is a major problem and that state government needs to fund financial aid for all college students, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
“The most interesting thing that you see here is, on one hand, a set of very clear concerns by very high margins about student debt loan as a problem, and cost as an impediment for Texans who don’t have a degree,” said Jim Henson, a pollster and professor at the University of Texas at Austin who conducted the poll.
“People are concerned about those things not because they think there’s something wrong about higher education, but because they still attach such importance” to getting a college degree, he added.
How to predict someone’s chance of escaping poverty
Ask for the passport. It better be Chinese. Eight in ten Chinese living in extreme poverty in 1990 no longer did so in 2010*. In Sub-Saharan Africa, not only were you probably still poor in 2010, but your children might be so as well (this excludes South Africa). The number of people living of less than $ 1.90 per day in the region increased by 40% from 1990 to 2010.
While the jury on aid and international development is out, it is remarkable that 73% of the reduction in global poverty over the last 20 years comes from a country where the government, not donors are in charge. This contrasts sharply with the trend in donor hotspot Sub-Saharan Africa.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Will boom in loans at retailers, manufacturers turn to bust?
NEW YORK — They sell diamond rings in malls and used cars at dealerships, make wrench sets for mechanics and giant combines for farmers.
Not one has “bank” in its name, but they are all big lenders, and getting bigger by the day.
If you’re wondering how companies can get people to buy things when wages have been barely rising, check out the financial statements of some of the nation’s retailers and manufacturers. Money lent out at Signet Jewelers, CarMax and tool maker Snap-on has jumped more than 50 percent in four years at each of these companies, 2.5 times the growth of loans at banks. Financing at Deere & Co., which leases much of its farm and construction equipment, has risen 27 percent.
Companies see the loans as a useful, safe way to drum up business. Customers seem to love them, too.
What’s not to like?
If you listen to short sellers, plenty. Short sellers are investors who place bets that pay off when stocks drop, and they say that is going to happen with stocks of some of these non-traditional lenders. They say companies have gotten sloppy in picking who to lend to after seven years of super low interest rates and easy-money monetary policy, and defaults are coming.
Harvard University manages its $36B endowment with a staff of 200+ investment experts who can’t beat the market
MP: My suggestion is to fire the 200+ employees of the Harvard Management Company team (whose top six executives were paid salaries between $4.4 million and $13.8 million in 2014) and have the Vanguard Group’s Nonprofit Institutional Investment Services team manage the $36 billion Harvard endowment, probably for higher returns at definitely at a much lower cost. As Warren Buffett advises, “Most investors, both institutional and individual, will find that the best way to own common stocks is through an index fund that charges minimal fees. Those following this path are sure to beat the net results (after fees and expenses) delivered by the great majority of investment professionals.”
The Fallacies of Neoliberal Protest
What is neoliberalism?
Neoliberalism is a vicious but cunning form of capitalism. And like all varieties of capitalism, it rests on a foundation of white supremacy.
Neoliberalism’s goals are not merely privatization and the decimation of unions and the social safety net. It also seeks to manage the social order and ensure the continued political dominance of the ruling class by absorbing social threats.
A Settler Colonialism Analysis Course — Israel and Limits of Academic Freedom at UC Berkeley
As the sponsoring faculty member for the now “suspended” student-led DeCal course Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis, I must set the factual record straight and provide a list of the institutional academic procedures followed to approve the class offering.
The Chancellor’s Office letter providing the reason for “suspension” stated that: “it has been determined that the facilitator for the course in question did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the Decal program.” Certainly, one would expect that the Dean and the Chancellor’s office would have reached out and communicated with the student facilitator and sponsoring faculty to clarify and consult before taking action to suspend the course two weeks into the semester, but it was not the case. Up to Tuesday morning September 13, 2016, I and Paul Hadweh, the student facilitator, did not receive any communication or requests for clarification from the Administration regarding this course or any issues related to it.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: On Substantial Healthcare Cost Increases
ObamaCare won’t work without young Americans like me, and the Obama administration knows it. That’s why the president is holding a Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit focused on the Affordable Care Act at the White House on Tuesday. But no matter what the president says, many young Americans simply aren’t buying what he’s selling—mainly because we can’t afford it.
The administration has targeted my generation to sign up for ObamaCare for one reason: We’re healthy. The health-insurance companies selling plans on the law’s exchanges need us to pay a pretty penny in premiums without using much medical care. We’re supposed to subsidize the system so that it stays afloat. That was the plan, anyway. It fell apart when we didn’t sign up in droves like the White House expected.
Why Avoiding Student Loan Debt Was The Best Thing I Ever Did
Most of us want to do it all: find meaningful work, travel while we’re young, say no to the wrong opportunities, say yes to the right ones, experiment with entrepreneurship, save for the future and create a lifestyle that allows us to live life to the fullest.
Unfortunately, the financial structures behind higher education in the United States today are constructed in ways that hinder freedom of some Americans, and we’ve only begun to understand the social and economic implications of this systemic malpractice.
I believe student loans were created with good intentions. The plan was to help provide a vehicle for upward mobility for the lower classes. With no possible way to fund a higher education, a loan was a sensible way to get a leg up.
Kids Love MIT’s Latest Squishable Social Robot (Mostly)
MIT’s Personal Robotics Group has been one of the driving forces behind social robotics since… well, since they pretty much invented social robotics. Led by Professor Cynthia Breazeal, who is also founder of social robot startup Jibo, the MIT group has built an amazing collection of smart, cute, and squishy creatures, and now they have a new one. The latest, smartest, cutest, and squishiest social robot that MIT has been testing out is named Tega, and it’s already gotten to work, adorably teaching Spanish to preschoolers.
We spoke with Jackie Kory Westlund, a Ph.D. student in the MIT Media Lab who’s been doing research with Tega, about why it’s such a useful social assistive robotics platform and how to keep preschoolers from utterly destroying it with hugs.
A Global Crisis of Faculty Faith
Michael Meranze & Christopher Newfield:
I’ve always believed that university professors are willing and able to govern academics, but now I am not so sure. I am worried about growing fatalism among even tenured faculty activists. I’m concerned about the tacit belief that unstoppable historical forces have already destroyed the universities they want to keep. From this standpoint, local resistance can work but remaking is futile, though remaking is the premise of shared governance and of academic freedom.
My summer travels took me to London, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Liverpool, Bonn, Cambridge, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Crewe, York, and Valencia, mostly for lectures and discussions with faculty members about the state of universities in their country. I was struck by the contrast between the great intelligence and professional commitments of the professors on the one hand, and their lack of hope for universities on the other. Several of the visits revolved around higher education conferences, where I heard brilliant analyses of the nuts and bolts of national education initiatives that lacked a standpoint for faculty intervention.
UW-Madison cuts student workers’ hours, citing Affordable Care Act
UW-Madison is cutting the work week of its student employees to no more than 29 hours to conform to requirements of the Affordable Care Act, a move some student workers say will make it harder for them to stay in school.
“With less hours, many students will have to juggle two jobs, and that will definitely hurt academic success,” undergraduate student worker Reid Kurkerewicz said in comments provided by the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC).
“UW-Madison student workers would love to work less hours so they can put their academics first, but Chancellor Blank refuses to pay a living wage, making that impossible for many working class students,” said Jia Gonitzke, an undergraduate student worker.
Student leaders at SLAC, whose mission is to engage students in labor issues, say they are concerned that not only student workers, but other limited term employees of the UW-Madison will see cuts to their hours so that the university doesn’t have to offer them health insurance.
Student Income Loans Transfer Wealth to Investors, Risk to Students
At more than $1.3 trillion dollars as of 2016, US student loan debt has become widely discussed in the media, the business press and academia as a new debt bubble with the potential to burst and trigger a global economic crisis that puts everyone at risk. The student debt bubble is regularly compared to the subprime mortgage debt bubble that resulted in the failure of banks, the great recession and the public bailout of Wall Street and the auto industry in 2008. Prior to the subprime crisis, high- and low-risk mortgages were packaged together into investment bonds so that when enough of the high-risk mortgages defaulted, the bonds that had been rated as safe collapsed. Similarly, one form of student debt investment security, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities (SLABS), is composed of pooled student debt.
A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt. If a homeowner defaults on a mortgage, the bank claims the property in its stead. Student loan debt has traditionally not been collateralized. In other words, if a student or former student defaults on student loans, there is no tangible asset for the bank to claim. However, since a great deal of student loan debt has been federally subsidized and especially reinsured, private banks that package student loan debt into investment securities have been able to sell these investment securities because they carry the full faith and credit of the federal government. Despite having no collateral, they have the federal guarantee.
Living ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ these teachers moonlight to make ends meet
Unfolded laundry sits in a basket and dishes stack up in the sink at Dawn Cardenas’ home.
“Things that are not important don’t get done,” said Cardenas, who teaches at O’Banion Middle School in Garland ISD.
Instead, Cardenas, 54, devotes nearly all of her time to making sure her four grown children —three of whom are in college — have enough money for rent, groceries and incidentals. Sometimes a single textbook can cost $400.
That means that on top of teaching U.S. history, Cardenas also sells cosmetics at Dillard’s. In one week, she spends close to 75 hours teaching, preparing for class and communicating with parents. She works 25 to 30 additional hours at the department store.
Cardenas is one of many teachers who moonlight to make ends meet.
Nearly one-third of teachers who responded to a survey released by Sam Houston State University in August said they have a second job to supplement their income. That’s down from 44 percent in 2012 and 41 percent in 2010.
Public school teachers who moonlight during the academic year put in an average of about 13 hours a week at their extra jobs, the study found. Eighty-six percent of them wanted to quit their extra jobs, but reported they’d need a $9,000 raise to do so.
At $51,758 a year, teacher pay in Texas is more than $6,000 below the national average, according to a 2015-16 school year survey by the National Education Association.
End The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Bonanza For Graduate And Professional Schools
The federal government is making more data available about the performance of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program for federal student loans. Many policymakers are not aware of this program, but the new data reveal PSLF is growing rapidly and is larger than most observers expected. Budget agencies recently revised the projected cost of the program upward by a staggering amount, and the U.S. Department of Education reports that many PSLF enrollees borrowed over $100,000 to finance graduate degrees. Recent research suggests that borrowers in certain professions stand to have their entire graduate and professional educations paid for through loan forgiveness under PSLF. In light of these developments, reforms that limit the most excessive features of PSLF are warranted, although repealing PSLF altogether and letting the federal Income-Based Repayment program (IBR) accomplish the goal of PSLF is an even better course of action.
Technology’s Unmet Progressive Promise
Twenty-five years ago, I was a young history teacher soaking up progressive teaching methods that aimed to foster deep, personalized learning for my students. My classroom was decidedly low-tech, but I can see how today’s technological advances might have made it easier for me to manage the significant demands of progressive teaching. Yet in the personalized learning (PL) schools we’ve visited so far for this project, few teachers appear to be taking advantage of technology’s potential to support progressive teaching.
In the late 1990s, I was part of Brown University’s Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP). UTEP allowed me to graduate with my BA in American History and a secondary teaching credential. Ted Sizer, the chair of Brown’s education department at the time, heavily influenced the program’s curriculum; his belief in the power of coherent, mastery-based, and personalized schools has guided my sense of what schools and teaching should be like ever since.
As a student teacher in Providence, Rhode Island, I spent untold hours earnestly crafting history lessons around “big ideas,” developing case-based learning activities, and learning how to facilitate group work. I asked my students (my “historians”) to work with primary documents and make what today’s Common Core advocates would call evidence-based claims. With these and other progressive approaches, my fellow teacher candidates and I were pushing students toward deeper and individualized learning, though we didn’t use those terms. Teaching this way was incredibly exciting, but it was also extraordinarily time-consuming and challenging.
The Financialization of Higher Education
Dominic Russel, Alan Smith, Carrie Sloan:
Higher education in the U.S. is in a state of crisis. We see evidence of this crisis in huge cuts in funding for public schools, skyrocketing costs of attendance at both private and public schools, and increases in student debt burdens.
Financialization has a number of disturbing consequences for higher education, including increases in overall borrowing by colleges and universities, increases in the cost of interest payments on debt on a per-student basis, and a concentration of endowment assets at a small group of the wealthiest institutions—a form of concentration of wealth.
This research is brought to you by the biggest victims of these deals: the students who have been shut out of the decisions that will shape their future.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Millennials: You Can’t Afford a Startup. Time to Get a Job
More than 55 percent of them think their generation is more entrepreneurial than were Generation X, or even baby boomers. In reality, not only are there fewer entrepreneurs among millennials, they’re moving in the opposite direction: More view rising through the ranks of existing companies as the best route to success.
Sixty-two percent of millennials have considered starting their own businesses, and 72 percent think startups are “essential for new innovation and jobs,” according to The Millennial Economy (PDF), a survey of 1,200 18- to 34-year-olds commissioned by EY (formerly Ernst & Young LLP) and the Economic Innovation Group (EIG). At the same time, a total of 42 percent said that they don’t have the means to be entrepreneurs, in part due to student debt, which 48 percent believe has limited their career prospects.
Robot-written reviews fool academics
Using automatic text generation software, computer scientists at Italy’s University of Trieste created a series of fake peer reviews of genuine journal papers and asked academics of different levels of seniority to say whether they agreed with their recommendations to accept for publication or not.
In a quarter of cases, academics said they agreed with the fake review’s conclusions, even though they were entirely made up of computer-generated gobbledegook – or, rather, sentences picked at random from a selection of peer reviews taken from subjects as diverse as brain science, ecology and ornithology.
“Sentences like ‘it would be good if you can also talk about the importance of establishing some good shared benchmarks’ or ‘it would be useful to identify key assumptions in the modelling’ are probably well suited to almost any review,” explained Eric Medvet, assistant professor at Trieste’s department of engineering and architecture, who conducted the experiment with colleagues at his university’s Machine Learning Lab.
Copyright Trolls Now Threatening College Students With Loss of Scholarship, Deportation
In all of our coverage of copyright trolls, those rent-seeking underdwellers that fire off threat letters to those they suspect of copyright infringement with demands designed to extract cash without having to actually take anyone to court, it’s quite easy to become somewhat numb to the underhanded tactics they employ. Between specifically targeting folks over pornography in order to minimize the chance that anyone might want to actually go to trial, to the privacy invading tactics occasionally used when a court case actually commences, it becomes easy to simply shrug at the depravity of it all.
But there is a special place in hell for copyright trolls who falsely inform students that failure to pay on receipt of threat letters, or who falsely inform foreign students that deportation could result from a failure to pay. According to at least one university in Canada, this is apparently a new favored tactic among some copyright trolls.
Herding Cats: Managing Diverse Charter School Interests in Collaboration Efforts
Sean Gill, Sarah Yatsko, Robin Lake
More than 23 cities have signed District-Charter Collaboration Compacts— formal agreements between school districts and charter schools that aim to share resources and responsibility and build trust and collegiality to ensure equal access to high-quality schools for all students. Yet, within the charter sector itself there are highly varied perspectives on and motivations for collaboration. Based on dozens of interviews and observations over four years, we look at why many cities have missed opportunities to create more lasting relationships between their district and charter sectors, and offer suggestions for fostering stronger partnerships that could help improve outcomes for all of the students in their cities.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin faces billions in retiree obligations
Jason Stein and Haley Henschel:
Over the next generation, Wisconsin’s taxpayers and public workers must deal with at least $6.5 billion in unfunded retirement promises made by local governments, with more than $4.7 billion in the state’s largest county alone, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation has found.
From Milwaukee to Eau Claire, local governments face problems more severe than any in a generation, a review of thousands of pages of financial documents shows. The biggest challenges lie in southeastern Wisconsin, with the city, county and schools in Racine, for instance, combining for at least $686 million in unfunded liabilities to retirees and workers — $3,500 for every person in the county.
THE NEURAL NETWORK ZOO
With new neural network architectures popping up every now and then, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Knowing all the abbreviations being thrown around (DCIGN, BiLSTM, DCGAN, anyone?) can be a bit overwhelming at first.
So I decided to compose a cheat sheet containing many of those architectures. Most of these are neural networks, some are completely different beasts. Though all of these architectures are presented as novel and unique, when I drew the node structures… their underlying relations started to make more sense.
MOOC-based master’s degree initiative expands to more than a dozen universities
Fourteen universities around the world are today launching modular master’s degree programs in which students can complete up to half of the course work online, earn a credential and then decide whether they want to apply to pursue the full degree.
The launch of the 19 programs, known as MicroMasters, follows a pilot at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT has since early this year tested the model in its supply chain management program. Learners start the program by taking massive open online courses hosted on edX, the MOOC platform MIT helped found. After completing five MOOCs, learners who pay a fee can either call it quits and walk away with a certificate — or apply and, if accepted to MIT, eventually earn a master’s of engineering in logistics.
Playpen: The Story of the FBI’s Unprecedented and Illegal Hacking Operation
In December 2014, the FBI received a tip from a foreign law enforcement agency that a Tor Hidden Service site called “Playpen” was hosting child pornography. That tip would ultimately lead to the largest known hacking operation in U.S. law enforcement history.
The Playpen investigation—driven by the FBI’s hacking campaign—resulted in hundreds of criminal prosecutions that are currently working their way through the federal courts. The issues in these cases are technical and the alleged crimes are distasteful. As a result, relatively little attention has been paid to the significant legal questions these cases raise.
But make no mistake: these cases are laying the foundation for the future expansion of law enforcement hacking in domestic criminal investigations, and the precedent these cases create is likely to impact the digital privacy rights of Internet users for years to come. In a series of blog posts in the coming days and weeks, we’ll explain what the legal issues are and why these cases matter to Internet users the world over.
Is School Reform Hopeless?
Last week a Connecticut judge ruled that the educational disparities between rich and poor districts were so great and so persistent that the state needed to revise every major aspect of its school system. The problems he found exist throughout the United States. Why is failure so widespread and persistent in poor districts and how can it be resolved?
What Mizzou Knew
“The only demand we would have received without the help of the football team is an apology from Tim Wolfe, which he wouldn’t have issued had Jonathan Butler not went on the hunger strike,” Ervin said.
On the seventh day of Butler’s hunger strike, there was no rest, and there was no football. The work was just beginning, and the black members of the football team issued a statement: “We will no longer participate in any football-related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences.” Thirty-two young men joined in arms and in struggle.
MSNBC: Your Kids Aren’t Your Own
The TV cable-news network MSNBC runs sermonettes from its anchors during commercial breaks. They are like public-service announcements illuminating the progressive mind, and perhaps none has ever been as revealing and remarkable as the one cut by weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry.
Harris-Perry set out to explain what is, by her lights, the failure to invest adequately in public education. She located the source of the problem in the insidious idea of parental responsibility for children.
“We’ve always had kind of a private notion of children,” she said, in the tone of an anthropologist explaining a strange practice she discovered when out doing far-flung fieldwork. “Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility.” So long as this retrograde conception prevails, according to Harris-Perry, we will never spend enough money on children. “We have to break through,” she urged, “our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes once wondered, “Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks?” Harris-Perry’s contribution falls into the former category, at least within her orbit of left-wing academia (she teaches at Tulane University, after stops at Princeton and the University of Chicago) and journalism (she writes a column for The Nation as well as holding forth on MSNBC).
When Blind People Do Algebra, The Brain’s Visual Areas Light Up
People born without sight appear to solve math problems using visual areas of the brain.
A functional MRI study of 17 people blind since birth found that areas of visual cortex became active when the participants were asked to solve algebra problems, a team from Johns Hopkins reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“And as the equations get harder and harder, activity in these areas goes up in a blind person,” says Marina Bedny, an author of the study and an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California’s public pension debt is third-worst in U.S.
If all of California’s public pension debt were divided evenly by household, each house would need to pay $77,700, according to a new project from a Stanford University researcher.
The relatively high debt-to-household ratio makes the Golden State the third worst in the nation for total pension debt burden, behind Alaska and Illinois. That’s not to say that each Californian is responsible for paying $77,000, but the costs will fall on residents in different ways, as state and local governments figure out how to pay the debt, said Stanford researcher Joe Nation.
Oregon officials face truth behind state’s soaring public pension costs
Bad enough that Rukaiyah Adams, the normally polished investment professional who is vice chair of the Oregon Investment Council, broke down in tears last week as she spoke of passing a record $22 billion in unfunded promises to future taxpayers.
“My call to the Legislature and to the governor is for leadership on this, and I mean right now,” Adams said during last Wednesday’s joint meeting of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System board and the citizen panel that oversees its investments. “This is becoming a moral issue. We can’t just talk about numbers anymore.”
The numbers are bleak. Oregon’s pension system owes billions of dollars more to retirees than it has, and the last major attempt to fix the problem was shot down in courts.
This month, cities, school districts and others will find out how much more they’ll pay to help prop up the system. Higher pension costs could come at the expense of funding for other needs, including social services, infrastructure investments and education programs.
New exhibit on American workers makes us think: Why do we work?
We all work, but we rarely take time to think about what a job means, how it shapes our identity and what it is, specifically, about what we do that matters in the grand scheme of things.
“So much of our life is defined by work,” said Jane Saks, president and artistic director of Project&, the group that created the exhibit. “It’s not just monetary. It’s not just skill or talent. It has so much to do with self and identity.”
The exhibit was inspired by Terkel’s classic book “Working,” a collection of interviews with working Americans. As you walk past the stunning photographs, taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lynsey Addario, you are given only general descriptions of each person: a name, a job title, where the person lives.
Here’s $160,000 Toward Your Stanford MBA. And Here’s the Catch
What if somebody offered you a small fortune to … live in the Midwest?
Insert Garrison Keillor joke here. And then, if you’re thinking about getting an MBA and can demonstrate a bond with the region, you might want to get your application ready for January.
That’s the next deadline to apply for the new Stanford USA MBA Fellowship, which will cover tuition and associated fees for as many as three students in next year’s entering MBA class. It adds up to approximately $160,000 over the two-year program.1
The fellowship, offered by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, is for people who qualify for need-based financial aid and are “committed to economic development in underserved regions of the United States.” In this first iteration, it targets the Midwest. Would-be fellows must show strong connections with at least one state in the area—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin fit the bill—such as living there, currently or for at least three consecutive years in the past, or being a graduate of a Midwestern high school.
UW System fall enrollment down 5,000 students
“Frankly, competition is fierce,” said Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of UW Colleges and UW-Extension. “There’s a big incentive to go after tuition revenue. We’re experiencing competition from institutions that haven’t competed with us in the past, including the four-year campuses.”
Several factors likely contributed to UW Colleges’ early loss of about 3,000 students this fall, she said.
When the economy picks up, enrollment at two-year institutions often declines as more jobs become available, especially for nontraditional students, Sandeen said. The national conversation about affordability, student loan debt and the value of higher education also has been “very negative,” she added. Some new high school graduates may delay college and choose to earn tuition money first to avoid taking out loans, the chancellor said.
Two-year campuses hit the hardest are in counties that have been severely affected by the demographic shift, she said. “We’re in a trough, in terms of the number of high school graduates. We’re at a low point in that demographic, and that’s the demographic that traditionally comes to our campuses.”
The Math Inside the US Highway System
Whoa. There’s so much information conveyed in a simple numbering scheme! Without looking at a map, I know I can drive from Seattle to Boston on I-90. Maybe I’ll take I-95 South when I’m there and make my way to Florida. On the way I’ll take I-10 West, over to LA, then drive up I-5 North back to Seattle.
How does this work?
We have a concept of a number, and all its properties (even/odd, size, number of digits…)
We noticed a real-world object (a highway) that had various properties (North/South, position, major/minor)
We associated the properties of the number to the properties of the object
A Law Professor Explains Why You Should Never Talk to Police
James Duane doesn’t think you should ever talk to the police. Not just, “Don’t talk to the police if you’re accused of a crime,” or, “Don’t talk to the police in an interrogation setting”—never talk to the cops, period. If you are found doing something suspicious by an officer (say, breaking into your own house because you locked yourself outside), you are legally obligated to tell the cop your name and what you’re doing at that very moment.
Other than that, Duane says, you should fall back on four short words: “I want a lawyer.”
In 2008, Duane, a professor at Virginia’s Regent Law School, gave a lecture about the risks of talking to police that was filmed and posted to YouTube. It’s since been viewed millions of times, enjoying a new viral boost after the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer spurred interest in false confessions. His argument, which he’s since expanded into a new book called You Have the Right to Remain Innocent, is that even if you haven’t committed a crime, it’s dangerous to tell the police any information. You might make mistakes when explaining where you were at the time of a crime that the police interpret as lies; the officer talking to you could misremember what you say much later; you may be tricked into saying the wrong things by cops under no obligation to tell you the truth; and your statements to police could, in combination with faulty eyewitness accounts, shoddy “expert” testimony, and sheer bad luck, lead to you being convicted of a serious crime.
Bad science misled millions with chronic fatigue syndrome. Here’s how we fought back
If your doctor diagnoses you with chronic fatigue syndrome, you’ll probably get two pieces of advice: Go to a psychotherapist and get some exercise. Your doctor might tell you that either of those treatments will give you a 60 percent chance of getting better and a 20 percent chance of recovering outright. After all, that’s what researchers concluded in a 2011 study published in the prestigious medical journal the Lancet, along with later analyses.
Problem is, the study was bad science.
And we’re now finding out exactly how bad.
Under court order, the study’s authors for the first time released their raw data earlier this month. Patients and independent scientists collaborated to analyze it and posted their findings Wednesday on Virology Blog, a site hosted by Columbia microbiology professor Vincent Racaniello.
Students are not hard-wired to learn in different ways – we need to stop using unproven, harmful methods
In health there are well-established protocols that govern the introduction of any new drug or treatment. Of major consideration is the notion of doing no harm. In education there are no such controls and plenty of vested interests keen to see the adoption of new strategies and resources for a variety of ideological and financial reasons.
Teachers need to be critical consumers of research – as with medicine, lives are also at stake – yet with the best will in the world and without the knowledge and time to do so, decisions may be made to adopt new approaches that are not only ineffectual, but can actually do harm. A case in point is learning styles.
Prosecutors’ Group Doubles Down on Junk Science in Face of New Report
This week, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST”) released a system-shaking report that explains how several fields of forensic analysis—including bite-mark analysis, hair comparisons, and shoeprint analysis—lack adequate scientific validation. Although many of these techniques have not been shown to be sufficiently reliable, they have been permitted to produce evidence in criminal cases across the country for many years. It is no wonder that D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Edwards and Jennifer Mnookin, the dean of UCLA’s law school, wrote in the Washington Post that “[t]he report is a much-needed wake-up call to all who care about the integrity of the criminal-justice system.” Rather than waking up, however, the National District Attorneys Association (“NDAA”) is doubling down on the pseudo-science masquerading as forensic evidence. Given that district attorneys themselves widely evade accountability and face inadequate constraints on their power, perhaps it is no surprise that their representative organization is unwilling to stomach expert scrutiny of the evidence prosecutors introduce in criminal trials every day.
To get into elite colleges, some advised to ‘appear less Asian’
Why don’t black and white Americans live together? –
Legal segregation in the US may have ended more than 50 years ago. But in many parts of the country, Americans of different races aren’t neighbours – they don’t go to the same schools, they don’t shop at the same stores, and they don’t always have access to the same services.
In 2016 the issue of race will remain high on the agenda in the United States. The police killings of unarmed black men and women over the past few years reignited a debate over race relations in America, and the reverberations will be felt in the upcoming presidential election and beyond.
Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago are three cities synonymous with racial tensions – but all three have another common denominator.
They, like many other American cities, are still very segregated.
Is science only for the rich? :
Last year, Christina Quasney was close to giving up. A biochemistry major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Quasney’s background was anything but privileged. Her father runs a small car-repair shop in the tiny community of Millersville, Maryland, and she was the first person in her immediate family to attend university. At the age of 25, she had already spent years struggling to make time both for her classes and the jobs she took to pay for them, yet was still far from finishing her degree. “I started to feel like it was time to stop fighting this losing battle and move on with my life,” she says.
Zero Correlation Between Student Evaluations and Learning
“Meta-analysis of faculty’s teaching effectiveness: Student evaluation of teaching ratings and student learning are not related” was written by Bob Uttl, professor of psychology at Mount Royal University; Carmela A. White, a graduate student in psychology at the University of British Columbia; and Daniela Wong Gonzalez, a graduate student at the University of Windsor, all in Canada. Most of the studies analyzed were based on U.S. data.
Civics: Police Union Contract Review
We reviewed the police union contracts of 81 of America’s 100 largest cities* and police bill of rights in all 14 states with such legislation to identify the ways in which these policies make it more difficult to hold police accountable
Alternative and Next-Generation Credentialing
In recent years, the higher education space has seen stunning transformation in the way we recognize and credential student learning.
With the resurgence and expansion of competency-based education, we’ve seen the value both students and employers put into mastery and learning outcomes. With the expansion and success of coding bootcamps—as well as institutional non-credit offerings—we’ve come to understand that a degree is not the ultimate goal for many learners.
This Special Feature explores the new higher education reality and shares some insights into how colleges and universities can compete and succeed in today’s rich and competitive postsecondary marketplace.
Oxford Tops List of World’s Best Universities
The University of Oxford, the oldest in the English-speaking world, took the top spot in the latest World University Rankings, released annually by Times Higher Education. The English university dating to 1096 dethroned the California Institute of Technology, a small, private school in Pasadena that had ranked No. 1 for five consecutive years, according to Times Higher Education, a London magazine that tracks higher education.
This is the first time a university outside the U.S. is No. 1 in the list’s 13-year history. This year’s list also underscores strengthening university systems in Asia as schools in China and Hong Kong have risen up the ranks, some by double-digits.
What does a kilowatt hour look like?
Some time ago I came across a very good read by David McCay – Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air. I’ve seen many good reviews of the book, so it didn’t take me long to download and start reading it. I haven’t finished yet, but I can already confirm that the book is outstanding – it’s one of the books that fundamentally change the way you look at things around you. The only thing I knew about “kilowatt hours” before, was that they come every month with an electricity bill. The book can give you a much broader picture of i.e. where they come from, and what they can do for you.
A Critique Of “We Know Best”
Trump voters may not vote the way I want them to, but, after having spent the last five years working in (and having grown up in) parts of the US few visit, I know they are not dumb. They are doing what all voters do: Trying to use their vote to better their particular situation (however they define that).
Labeling them dumb is simply a way of not trying to understand their situation, or what they value.
Related, Madison, despite spending nearly $18k per student annually, has long tolerated disastrous reading results and perpetual resistance of K-12 diversity.
Enrollments surge at historically black colleges amid rise in racial tensions
As we begin a new academic year, many colleges and universities find themselves with heightened sensitivity around issues of race. Led by the unrest last year at the University of Missouri, dozens of campuses from coast to coast saw protests as students of color, particularly black students, reached a collective breaking point. As students saw their peers at Missouri create a national conversation and topple both a system president and campus chancellor, they found the courage to address similar concerns on their respective campuses.
A typical outcome was a list of demands. Several themes emerged from the campuses: changing names of buildings, more black students, faculty and staff, mandatory diversity training, targeted support and counseling for black students, and the creation of safe spaces including in designated residential halls. Campuses have responded in kind with task forces, new initiatives, and the hiring of chief diversity officers.
In the safe spaces on campus, no Jews allowed
For Mokhtarzadeh, an Iranian Jew at UCLA, her freshman year was punctuated by incidents of anti-Semitism that were both personal and met with national controversy. She was shocked during her first quarter in school, when students entered the Bruin Cafe to see the phrase “Hitler did nothing wrong” etched into a table. Months later, Mokhtarzadeh’s friend Rachel Beyda was temporarily denied a student government leadership position based solely on her Jewish identity, an event that made news nationwide.
The campus was supposed to be her new home, her new safe space — so why didn’t she feel that way? She went to the conference hoping for some answers.
Textbooks: a closed-off corner of learning set free by technology
Students around the world returning to university this week are, whether or not they know it, living disrupters of the global market in education. Given that tuition fees vary widely between colleges and countries, many are looking overseas.
A growing number of American students, for example, are trying their luck at British, Canadian, French, German and Australian institutions.
But there is one corner of the education market that is proving harder to disrupt.
Regardless of fees charged by the university, all students face high and rising book bills. For 75 per cent of those enrolled at the University of São Paulo, the cost of textbooks exceeded their family’s monthly income.
In the US the retail prices for recent editions of Fundamentals of Corporate Finance , Modern Physics and Principles of Microeconomics , textbooks that are required for big introductory courses, run to hundreds of dollars.
Textbook prices in the US increased 82 per cent between 2003 and 2013. The digital versions do not help much; they are often coupled with expensive access codes without which students cannot complete and submit coursework. These codes often come with expiry dates, at which point students’ access to their materials is cut off. The potential for reselling is eliminated.
How Are You Rewired My Brain To Become Fluent In Math
was a wayward kid who grew up on the literary side of life, treating math and science as if they were pustules from the plague. So it’s a little strange how I’ve ended up now—someone who dances daily with triple integrals, Fourier transforms, and that crown jewel of mathematics, Euler’s equation. It’s hard to believe I’ve flipped from a virtually congenital math-phobe to a professor of engineering.
One day, one of my students asked me how I did it—how I changed my brain. I wanted to answer Hell—with lots of difficulty! After all, I’d flunked my way through elementary, middle, and high school math and science. In fact, I didn’t start studying remedial math until I left the Army at age 26. If there were a textbook example of the potential for adult neural plasticity, I’d be Exhibit A.
The Chicago Teachers Union’s vote charade
But here’s why the strike approval is a foregone conclusion: Instead of secret ballots — which would permit dissent — teachers and other CTU members are being asked to authorize a strike via “petitions” circulated at schools. The details aren’t clear, but that reportedly means union delegates will gather members’ signatures to authorize or reject a strike. Presumably that means members will be able to see how their colleagues vote. And so will union bosses.
Governance: Inspector general for Chicago school board says CPS auditor is interfering
A “parallel investigation” of that case by CPS’ Office of Internal Audit and Compliance last year “compromised a criminal investigation by prematurely alerting a main subject, and sowing fear and confusion in the minds of key witnesses,” Schuler said in his report, which was sent to Claypool and the school board.
Auditors also contacted Cook County prosecutors in an effort to inject their department into the inspector general’s fare card investigation, Schuler’s office said. He said “very troubling issues remain” with other investigations being undertaken by the auditor’s office.
Schuler’s report, obtained by the Tribune, outlines a dispute between his Office of the Inspector General and Claypool’s administration, which was installed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the wake of a scandal that led to the ouster of CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett prior to her conviction on federal corruption charges. As part of the Board of Education’s role to advise and oversee the district, Schuler’s office worked with federal authorities on the case against Byrd-Bennett.
CPS IG: Whitney Young offered facilities to for-profit sport clubs ‘for little or no cost’
The district’s internal audit team is led by Andrell Holloway, who previously worked with Claypool in a similar role at the CTA. The unit has received significant funding increases since Claypool took office.
Via a kind reader, who wonders if Madison might benefit from substantive oversight!
The College Application Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me
So your high school senior is in the throes of preparing his college applications. He’s retaking the SATs for the umpteenth time, hoping to squeeze out a few extra points there. He’s collapsing under the weight of the multiple AP classes that he felt compelled to take. And you honestly don’t see how to narrow his college list down from 25 schools, even though you know that applying to so many would be the definition of insanity.
Here is a list of eight things I wish I had known when my daughter was applying to schools last year. A version of this appeared previously on The Huffington Post.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US building up to pension crisis
Robin Wigglesworth & Barney Jopson
Many are self-employed or work in smaller companies, which in many cases do not have the organisational heft to set up a 401(k) plan. Big companies in low-wage industries are also less likely to offer a retirement plan. And on modest wages, it becomes harder to set aside money for an IRA.
“We have a crisis unfolding here,” says Russ Kamp, a pensions consultant. “We’re asking people to set aside precious resources they don’t have . . . For millions and millions of Americans, the only thing they’ll have is Social Security.”
Social Security is a federal system originally set up by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935 and financed through payroll taxes. Together with the Supplement Security Income programme, it accounts for over 90 per cent of the income for the bottom quarter of retirees, according to the NIRS.
But Social Security only provides about 35 per cent of a typical household’s pre-retirement income. This is inadequate for most retirees, and especially so for those without some other savings to fall back on. “Because Social Security is so limited, we are far more dependent on 401(k) plans,” Mr Hunt points out. “In an era where people change jobs often and do more gig type jobs, this is a huge challenge.”
US business schools hit by weaker demand for two-year MBA
In the US, 53 per cent of schools running full-time two-year MBA courses reported a decline in application numbers in 2016, while 40 per cent reported growth.
The drop suggests a shift in attitudes to business education due to increased job insecurity and the opportunity to study overseas or online, with prospective students opting for courses that take less time to complete and the highest-ranked schools seeing an increase in applications.
Meanwhile, the percentage of business schools worldwide reporting growth in applications declined for a third straight year, from 61 per cent in 2014 to 57 per cent in 2015 to 43 per cent this year.
Smaller courses tended to be worst hit while those with larger student intakes experienced growth.
Good News Liberal-Arts Majors: Your Peers Probably Won’t Outearn You Forever
Six years ago, Andy Anderegg’s decision to major in English looked like an economic sacrifice. When she left academia in 2010, with a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Kansas, the first job she landed was a Groupon Inc. writing gig paying all of $33,000 a year.
Now, however, Ms. Anderegg is riding high. She rose rapidly as Groupon expanded, becoming managing editor of the shopping-coupon site in 2012; by the time she left in 2014, she was earning more than $100,000. Today, at age 30, she is executive editor at Soda Media Inc., a Seattle creator of online content, and building up her own digital-media consulting practice. She won’t disclose her aggregate income but says: “It’s better than what I made at Groupon.”
The 5,000-Year Government Debt Bubble
Politicians playing by their own rules is an old story. But it should count as news that politicians have lately been rewriting a rule in place since 3,000 B.C.
This rule of history is that savers deserve to be compensated when they loan money. Not anymore. In much of the developed world lenders are the ones paying for the privilege of letting governments borrow their cash. Through the magic of modern central banking, countries in Europe and elsewhere have managed to drive their borrowing rates not just to historic lows but all the way into negative territory. As of Monday almost $16 trillion of government bonds world-wide were offering yields below zero.
Amazingly, governments have managed this feat even as they have become more indebted and even as slow economic growth undermines their ability to repay. Such conditions normally suggest a less creditworthy borrower and therefore a higher interest rate to compensate investors for the risk. But sovereign debt has become more expensive. Governments have succeeded in making their bonds more expensive in part by printing money and buying the bonds themselves via their central banks. Commercial banks are all but required to buy them too.
Teenagers oppose gay marriage and shun tattoos
Teenagers born since the turn of the millennium are the most socially conservative and thrifty generation since the Second World War.
The newly classified Generation Z are much less likely to approve of gay marriage, transgender rights or the legalisation of cannabis than Baby Boomers, Millennials or Generation X, a study has found. They also have a much more prudent approach to saving and spending than any generation, except those born in 1945 or before.
Madison School Board proposes contract with opt-out for school police officers
Seeking flexibility to respond to community dialog over use of school-based police officers, the Madison School Board has proposed a so-called “compromise” to city officials that would keep officers in Madison’s four main high schools, at least for now.
The School Board on Tuesday unveiled a proposal intended to meet the city’s demands for contract length but also offer the district an opt-out should officials eventually decide to remove police from schools.
Contract length has been the sticking point in negotiations between the city and school district, with the School Board favoring one year and city leaders favoring three.
City officials, including Mayor Paul Soglin and Police Chief Mike Koval, have advocated for the longer contract to provide more certainty in budgeting, recruitment and planning. But amid a national conversation over law enforcement tactics, especially during interactions with minorities, opponents have lobbied the School Board to remove police from schools. Heeding those concerns, the School Board has pushed for a one-year deal while an expert hired by the City Council examines Madison Police Department’s policies, procedures, training and culture.
The latest proposal offers the city its desired three-year deal, but includes what the School Board called “a meaningful termination clause responsive to the city’s budget and hiring timeline.”
The Long Island University lockout is over. A rank-and-file librarian explains how faculty won and why it matters for public education around the country.
Edna Bonhomme & Emily Drabinski:
On August 31, the Long Island University Faculty Federation Union contract expired. Faculty and management began negotiations over a new contract, and on September 6, the faculty met to discuss a proposed agreement.
Faculty voted 226 to 10 not to accept the contract that was provided by the administration. Rather than renegotiate the agreement, however, management decided to lock out the university’s four hundred professors.
Lockouts are often confused with strikes — under both, workers aren’t working. But whereas strikes are offensive measures taken by workers against bosses, lockouts are a boss’s tool used to break unions. Such was the case in this lockout.
After Texas high school builds $60-million stadium, rival district plans one for nearly $70 million
The school district just up the street in McKinney plans to break ground within a month on a nearly $70-million stadium — the newest competitor in a spend-off critics call a stadium arms race.
“Oh, it’s a rivalry,” said Adam Blanchet, a junior at McKinney North, one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. “I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country.”
In McKinney, a booming Dallas suburb of about 162,000 residents where the the median household income is $83,000, many seem to share a similar stance on the stadium — sure it’s expensive, but the students deserve it. But one group has fiercely opposed the new project: Grassroots McKinney, an offshoot of the local tea party.
Chicago Teachers Union helping charter teachers in contract fight
With the Chicago Teachers Union mulling a possible walkout as early as next month, another school contract fight is unfolding outside the spotlight that could result in a strike at one of the city’s largest charter school networks.
Educators at the UNO Charter School Network, a chain of campuses that’s enrolled about 8,000 students and was once run by the clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization, are careful to say they’re not sure if they’ll schedule a strike authorization vote, much less a walkout. But United Educators of UCSN leaders have scheduled what a bargaining team’s spokeswoman described as an informational meeting.
Udacity plans to build its own open-source self-driving car
Sebastian Thrun’s online education startup Udacity recently created a self-driving car engineering nanodegree, and on stage at Disrupt today Thrun revealed that the company intends to build its own self-driving car as part of the program, and that it also intends to open source the technology that results, so that “anyone” can try to build their own self-driving vehicle, according to Thrun.
Strings are making a comeback for fifth-graders at Sandburg Elementary
Fifth-graders will soon be coming out of Sandburg Elementary fiddling happy tunes thanks to a major instrument donation making it possible for strings to be part of the fifth-grade curriculum.
The VH1 Save the Music Foundation and Madison-based Musicnotes.com teamed up to provide Sandburg with 36 new instruments, worth about $35,000, to fill gaps in an aged instrument inventory and to provide enough instruments to suit the needs of the children.
The foundation has already been working with the Madison School District to create 12 keyboard labs in various elementary schools.
“We are really fortunate that we began a relationship with VH1 Save the Music six years ago,” said Laurie Fellenz, fine arts coordinator for the district.
The Strings Program has a rather fascinating history, including numerous attempts to abort it.
Civics: Printing Money Goes Haywire in Venezuela
Venezuela seems to be hovering on the edge of tipping into hyperinflation. Or perhaps it has already fallen into the abyss. Given the paucity of official data — the none-too-believable official figures were last published in February — it’s a little hard to tell. The best guess we have at the value of a Venezuelan bolivar comes from the Colombian village of Cucuta, where people go to buy currency so they can smuggle subsidized fuel and other price-controlled goods out of Venezuela. As The Economist notes: “Transactions are few; the dollar rate is calculated indirectly, from the value of the Colombian peso. The result is erratic, but more realistic than the three official rates.”
Using those rates, economist Steve Hanke recently told Bloomberg that annual cost-of-living increases are running at about 722 percent. To put that in some perspective, it means that a $400 monthly grocery bill would climb to $2,888 in a year. That may not approach the legendary status of Hungary’s postwar inflation, which reached 41.9 quadrillion percent in a single month, but it’s devastating for savers, or for people like pensioners whose incomes consist of fixed payments. It’s also pretty bad for the economy.
Related: US Debt Clock.
Berkeley Bans a Palestine Class
Universities should never suspend courses in the middle of a semester except under the most dire circumstances, where a course has been proven to violate university policies and cannot be fixed, or some kind of extraordinary fraud has occurred.
Nothing like that exists in this case. In fact, nothing like that has even been alleged by the administration, which relies upon bureaucratic snafus to justify suspending this course.
Commentary on Federal Higher Education Regulation
The federal government happily subsidizes inferior state colleges that graduate few if any of their students. That includes Chicago State University, which has a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate.
The Obama administration has rewritten federal student loan rules in a way that encourages colleges to raise tuition and effectively subsidizes the worst colleges the most. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that each additional dollar in government financial aid results in a tuition hike of about 65 cents.
The federal government also subsidizes expensive, low-quality third-tier law schools whose graduates are often unemployed. It does so even though many of their graduates will never pay back their student loans because of their low graduating salaries, and the huge amount of money law students are allowed to borrow from the government.
An Open Letter to the UC Berkeley Administration Regarding Academic Freedom
Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Executive Dean of Letters and Sciences Carla Hesse, et al.,
We, the undersigned, are the students of Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis, the student-designed Decal course that was suspended yesterday, Tuesday, September 13th.
We are a diverse group of students that includes Christians, Muslims, and Jews; we are white, Black, Latin@, Asian, North American indigenous, Middle Eastern, and more; we study Peace and Conflict Studies, Ethnic Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, Media Studies, Economics and Engineering. In short, we are a sample of some of the wide and varied backgrounds, beliefs, and interests that compose the campus community. One characteristic we all possess in common, however, is a genuine interest in the academic discussion surrounding Israel and Palestine.
University of California debt soars to $17 billion; regents consider new borrowing policy
The University of California’s debt has ballooned to $17.2 billion since the start of the recession, more than doubling as the system borrowed to repair buildings, fund pensions, and build medical centers and student housing.
In the past decade, as states have cut support for capital projects, public universities across the U.S. have piled on debt to repair old buildings and build new ones. But some, including Gov. Jerry Brown, have expressed wariness about all the borrowing. Along with access to needed cash, UC is locking itself into more costs — and is fast approaching its limit for borrowing cheaply from the market.
But with the board of regents this week considering UC’s first-ever debt policy, university leaders insist the borrowing spree is strategic, given unusually low interest rates and federal tax exemptions on university financing.
“If we had not taken advantage of that and had to build buildings out of our operating budget, it would have been a risky or foolish way of doing it,” university CFO Nathan Brostrom said in an interview this week.
On Not Reading
I refuse to read books. Coming from a critic, this confession sounds both imperious and ignorant, but, truth be told, all of us, especially scholars of literature, refuse to read books every day. I remember someone telling me at a party in graduate school that my adviser — a famous Americanist — had never read Moby-Dick. Was it true? I did not dare ask him. Did the very idea amplify his bad-boy critical aura? Of course. (Recently, I did ask him. “For a while it was true,” he said; “and then, forever after, it wasn’t.”)
The activity of nonreading is something that scholars rarely discuss. When they — or others whose identities are bound up with books — do so, the discussions tend to have a shamefaced quality. Blame “cultural capital” — the sense of superiority associated with laying claim to books that mark one’s high social status. More entertainingly, blame Humiliation, the delicious game that a diabolical English professor invents in David Lodge’s 1975 academic satire, Changing Places. In a game of Humiliation, players win points for not having read canonical books that everyone else in the game has read. One hapless junior faculty member in the novel wins a departmental round but loses his tenure case. In real life, the game has been most happily played by the tenured professor secure in his reputation. Changing Places had apparently inspired my adviser’s confession to someone at some point, and the information then wound through the gossip mill to reach me, standing around in the mid-1990s with a beer, trying to hide my own growing list of unread books.
Dabrowski’s Theory and Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults
When people undergo a great trauma or other unsettling event—they have lost a job or a loved one dies, for example—their understanding of themselves or of their place in the world often disintegrates, and they temporarily “fall apart,” experiencing a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Their ordeal highlights for them the transient nature of life and the lack of control that we have over so many events, and it raises questions about the meaning of our lives and our behaviors. For other people, the experience of existential depression seemingly arises spontaneously; it stems from their own perception of life, their thoughts about the world and their place in it, as well as the meaning of their life. While not universal, the experience of existential depression can challenge an individual’s very survival and represents both a great challenge and at the same time an opportunity—an opportunity to seize control over one’s life and turn the experience into a positive life lesson—an experience leading to personality growth.
It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely than those who are less gifted to experience spontaneous existential depression as an outgrowth of their mental and emotional abilities and interactions with others. People who are bright are usually more intense, sensitive, and idealistic, and they can see the inconsistencies and absurdities in the values and behaviors of others (Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007). This kind of sensitive awareness and idealism makes them more likely to ask themselves difficult questions about the nature and purpose of their lives and the lives of those around them. They become keenly aware of their smallness in the larger picture of existence, and they feel helpless to fix the many problems that trouble them. As a result, they become depressed.
Wisconsin Superintendent Tony Evers: Stop bad-mouthing teachers
Wisconsin can slow a growing shortage of teachers if people stop bad-mouthing educators and pay them more, the state’s schools superintendent said Thursday.
Superintendent Tony Evers warned during his annual State of Education speech in the state Capitol rotunda that fewer young people are entering the teaching profession and districts are having a harder time filling high-demand positions in special, bilingual and technical education.
He offered almost no specifics on anything he spoke about, but he told the Wisconsin State Journal in an interview this week that he will propose to “level the playing field” among school districts by giving more money to schools in rural areas that have trouble matching salaries offered by wealthier districts.
Teacher shortage is payback for anti-teacher attitudes
Many in Wisconsin are convinced that the teacher shortage here stems from Gov. Scott Walker’s and the Republican Legislature’s Act 10, the 2011 legislation that not only made it illegal for teachers’ unions to bargain, but required them to shoulder part of the load for their benefits, which resulted in take home pay reductions of up to 17 percent.
Balderdash, counter Walker’s fans, who believe it’s perfectly fine to denude unions and make public employees pay more of the bills. Rightie talk radio host Jerry Bader wrote on Right Wisconsin a few days ago that the teacher shortage is a national phenomenon, not confined to Wisconsin and, therefore, has nothing to do with Act 10.
I’d dispute that cause and effect comparison since many of the other states experiencing teacher shortages have also adopted legislation that has hurt teachers, including Indiana, Ohio and Arizona, where Republicans of like mind rule the roost.
Much more on Act 10, here.
Digital literacy classes scheduled in Allied Drive, Kennedy Heights
Digital literacy education courses are scheduled in the Allied Drive and Kennedy Heights neighborhoods as part of Madison’s Connecting Madison initiative.
Connecting Madison is an internet pilot project meant to close the digital divide by making affordable internet access available for as little as $10 per month to residents in Allied Drive, Darbo-Worthington, Brentwood and Kennedy Heights apartments.
DANEnet is partnering with the city as the project’s digital literacy partner and have scheduled classes in the coming months at the Boys and Girls Club in Allied Drive and at the Kennedy Heights Community Center.
Checking out: Drug users take advantage of public libraries
The same qualities that make libraries ideal for studying and reading — unfettered public access, quiet corners and nooks, minimal interaction with other people — also make them appealing places to shoot up heroin, librarians are finding.
In Norfolk, Virginia, a 47-year-old man died after a patron found him in a library restroom. In Batesville, Indiana, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, police revived others in library restrooms using a popular overdose antidote.
The body of a homeless man who frequented the Oak Park Public Library in suburban Chicago might have been there for days, fully clothed and slumped on the toilet in a restroom on the quiet third floor, before a maintenance worker unlocked it on a Monday morning in April and discovered his inglorious demise. The empty syringe and lighter in his pockets and the cut soda can in the trash pointed to the cause, an accidental heroin overdose.
“On both a personal and a professional level, we were all very shocked and of course worried about how this could happen in our spaces,” said executive director David Seleb, who fired the security company responsible for clearing the library before closing.
Mike Lynch’s Invoke Aims to Replace M&A Lawyers With Robots
Could the armies of lawyers needed to close billion-dollar deals soon be a thing of the past?
That’s what Invoke Capital, the London-based venture firm run by former Autonomy Plc Chief Executive Officer Mike Lynch, is betting with its latest project financing. Invoke said Wednesday that it’s making an investment in Luminance, a U.K. startup using artificial intelligence to process legal documents and automate due diligence in mergers and acquisitions. While the amount of the investment was not disclosed, Lynch said in an interview that the figure was “in the low millions.”
Luminance says its software can read and understand hundreds of pages of legal documents a minute, enabling lawyers to carry out due diligence far faster than previously. Sally Wokes, a partner at Slaughter and May who works on large company mergers and who helped trial Luminance, said the firm found that completing due diligence while using the system was as much as 50 percent faster than doing the same document reviews using only humans.
A statement on online course content and accessibility
The department’s findings do not implicate the accessibility of educational opportunities provided to our enrolled students.
In response, the university has moved swiftly to engage our campus experts to evaluate the best course of action. We look forward to continued dialog with the Department of Justice regarding the requirements of the ADA and options for compliance. Yet we do so with the realization that, due to our current financial constraints, we might not be able to continue to provide free public content under the conditions laid out by the Department of Justice to the extent we have in the past.
Is High School Hard Enough
Four years of English and three years of math, science and social studies. That sounds like a fairly solid high school career, but not one that demands a super amount of effort.
In fact, that’s what Wisconsin’s graduation requirements call for, starting with the Class of 2017, which is to say, this year’s seniors. Until this year, requirements under state law were actually lighter, including only two years of math and science.
So it got me wondering when the annual report on the performance of Wisconsin students on the ACT college entrance test came out recently. Included was this: Only 55% of students in the Class of 2016 said they were taking what ACT defines as a “core curriculum” in high school. And the ACT definition is: four years of English and three years of math, science and social studies, the same thing Wisconsin is now requiring as a matter of law.
Is there that big a gap between what many students in the state are studying in high school and what they ought to be studying? Nationwide, 69% of students who took the ACT said they were taking at least the core curriculum. That’s 14 percentage points higher than Wisconsin. Is Wisconsin going easier on high school students than other states?
Furthermore, the average ACT score for Wisconsin’s Class of 2016 was down from the scores in a long line of prior years, and the percentage of kids scoring at levels ACT associates with likely success in college was also down (only a quarter of the Class of 2016 hit the benchmarks in all four ACT areas, English, reading, math, and science).
Time to worry? A range of educators I talked to last week generally assured me otherwise.
Nearly 500 immigrant children arrive at Fort Bliss
A crucifix necklace hangs from a boy’s neck as he sits on his bed occupied with an art project inside a Fort Bliss complex on Thursday.
Faith seems to be a driving force here, as unaccompanied child migrants seek to get to a better place, leaving behind their culture and homes. Inside the dinner hall of the complex, a drawing of the Costa Rican flag had writing in Spanish that read, “A country of many beautiful women.”
Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Range Complex, near Chaparral, N.M., is temporarily a shelter to nearly 500 unaccompanied children. The children made the dangerous journey from Central America; primarily El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to either escape violence in their home country, seek better economic opportunities or reunite with family already in the U.S. Central American countries have some of the highest murder rates in the world. The journey puts children at risk of human trafficking, exploitation and abuse.
Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low
Gallup began asking this question in 1972, and on a yearly basis since 1997. Over the history of the entire trend, Americans’ trust and confidence hit its highest point in 1976, at 72%, in the wake of widely lauded examples of investigative journalism regarding Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. After staying in the low to mid-50s through the late 1990s and into the early years of the new century, Americans’ trust in the media has fallen slowly and steadily. It has consistently been below a majority level since 2007.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Economic Liberty Has Been Sinking for Sixteen Years
When Economic Freedom of the World is released every September, it’s like an early Christmas present. This comprehensive yearly publication is a great summary of whether nations have policies that allow people economic liberty.
I eagerly peruse this annual survey every year (here’s what I wrote in 2015 and 2014 if you’re curious about a couple of recent examples). And this year is no different.
Let’s start with the table that gets the most attention. Here’s a look at the top nations, led (as is almost always the case) by Hong Kong and Singapore. Switzerland also deserves some recognition since it has always been in the top 5.
Rules for trusting “black boxes” in algorithmic control systems
O’Reilly proposes four tests to determine whether a black box is trustable:
1. Its creators have made clear what outcome they are seeking, and it is possible for external observers to verify that outcome.
2. Success is measurable.
3. The goals of the algorithm’s creators are aligned with the goals of the algorithm’s consumers.
4. Does the algorithm lead its creators and its users to make better longer term decisions?
O’Reilly goes on to test these assumptions against some of the existing black boxes that we trust every day, like aviation autopilot systems, and shows that this is a very good framework for evaluating algorithmic systems.
Genes, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study
Nicholas W. Papageorge &Kevin Thom
Recent advances have led to the discovery of specific genetic variants that predict educational attainment. We study how these variants, summarized as a genetic score variable, are associated with human capital accumulation and labor market outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We demonstrate that the same genetic score that predicts education is also associated with higher wages, but only among individuals with a college education. Moreover, the genetic gradient in wages has grown in more recent birth cohorts, consistent with interactions between technological change and labor market ability. We also show that individuals who grew up in economically disadvantaged households are less likely to go to college when compared to individuals with the same genetic score, but from higher-SES households. Our findings provide support for the idea that childhood SES is an important moderator of the economic returns to genetic endowments. Moreover, the finding that childhood poverty limits the educational attainment of high-ability individuals suggests the existence of unrealized human potential.
How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math
was a wayward kid who grew up on the literary side of life, treating math and science as if they were pustules from the plague. So it’s a little strange how I’ve ended up now—someone who dances daily with triple integrals, Fourier transforms, and that crown jewel of mathematics, Euler’s equation. It’s hard to believe I’ve flipped from a virtually congenital math-phobe to a professor of engineering.
One day, one of my students asked me how I did it—how I changed my brain. I wanted to answer Hell—with lots of difficulty! After all, I’d flunked my way through elementary, middle, and high school math and science. In fact, I didn’t start studying remedial math until I left the Army at age 26. If there were a textbook example of the potential for adult neural plasticity, I’d be Exhibit A.
Learning math and then science as an adult gave me passage into the empowering world of engineering. But these hard-won, adult-age changes in my brain have also given me an insider’s perspective on the neuroplasticity that underlies adult learning. Fortunately, my doctoral training in systems engineering—tying together the big picture of different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines—and then my later research and writing focusing on how humans think have helped me make sense of recent advances in neuroscience and cognitive psychology related to learning.
Sure Signs of an Outsourced College Essay
Between now and Thanksgiving, high-school seniors face the daunting task of writing riveting, revelatory personal essays that will make college admissions officers look more favorably on their applications.
Less-verbal students—and plenty of smart ones—routinely seek help preparing these essays. And sometimes, it is more than “help” that they’re looking for; they get their parents or moonlighting academics or impoverished poets or unexpectedly articulate classmates to crank out the essays for them.
Colleges insist that they can spot bogus essays because of anachronistic turns of phrases like “hoist with one’s own petard,” suggesting that a Shakespeare lecturer was trying to pay the rent, or because the entire 1,000-word essay lacks a single use of the words “awesome” or “sketchy.”
Spectacular discovery of drawings by Frans Post
The thirty-four drawings, all studies of animals, came from a 17th-century album that once contained 160 drawings of birds by the father and son artists Pieter Holsteijn the Elder and the Younger. The album was donated to the Noord-Hollands Archief in 1888, but the drawings by Frans Post had probably been part of it for centuries. The Brazilian animal studies were completely overlooked until De Bruin found them in 2010.
Dallas Is Regulating “Little Free Libraries” For Some Reason
The complications that come with Little Free Libraries tend to be minimal. Dallas City Council expressed concern that they might become havens for pornography, a concern rebutted by the point that the owners of the libraries’ collections tend to be curated by the residents on a daily basis—if someone leaves smut in the box, it’s not going to be there long. In Austin, meanwhile, a rash of robberies hit a few Little Free Libraries earlier this summer, which Austin police declined to pursue because the libraries have the word “free” in the name. (Dallas-based Half Price Books refuses to buy books stamped with the organization’s “always a gift; never for sale” slogan, so library owners can remove the incentive for theft in that way.)
There’s still time for the Dallas City Council to walk back the vote, according to Wilonsky. The regulation that passed out of the committee has yet to be voted on by the full council, so Dallas can decide if it’s really a problem to tackle with such urgency.
Congress to allow special restrictions on speech ‘inappropriate with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic’?
. On Monday the House of Representatives passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which would invalidate most form contracts that limit consumer reviews of businesses. If a business purports to require consumers not to criticize the business (see the KlearGear controversy), that contract would be unenforceable, and the Federal Trade Commission and state enforcement agencies would be able to take action against such a business even if it didn’t try to sue for breach of the contract. The Senate passed a similar bill last year.
There are plausible arguments both for and against the law; the law undermines the ability to agree on certain kinds of contracts, but it also provides more information (of varying quality) to consumers. I won’t engage that debate here.
2. Rather, what struck me about the law is its exemption of certain kinds of contracts (see subsection (b)(3)): The law “shall not apply to the extent that a provision of a form contract prohibits . . . submission of,” among other things, material that “contains the personal information or likeness of another person, or is libelous, harassing, abusive, obscene, vulgar, sexually explicit, or is inappropriate with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic” (emphasis added).
So speech on all sorts of viewpoints would be protected by the proposed law, even against private contractual restrictions. A business couldn’t require users to agree to a contract that forbids critical reviews. A fur store couldn’t do the same as to anti-fur reviews; a restaurant couldn’t do the same to reviews that faulted it for serving foie gras. A business whose owner was pro-Donald Trump, and who was afraid that clients would learn this and would then publicly excoriate him for it, couldn’t do the same as to anti-Trump reviews. But contracts barring speech that “is inappropriate” (whatever that is) “with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic” would remain perfectly legal.
Deans: How To Avoid Sinking Your Ship
You didn’t listen. A dean’s ability to avoid catastrophe is in large part due to the dean’s ability to listen and know what’s going on at the law school. For example, say you have a problem child in one of your departments, and everyone knows that but you. Let’s suppose this person is friends with your most trusted advisor, so you never get to hear about it. You’ve got a serious problem. Especially when you promote him or her and you’re left wondering why half your department staff quit. Why is everyone so mad at you? Because you didn’t listen. The reason you couldn’t listen is because you didn’t ask the right people. People need to feel as though they are being heard, even if you do decide in a way they didn’t want.
You built an atmosphere in which people are afraid to tell you the truth. Ask yourself, do you listen? Of course you do, say your closest confidants. They all agree with you. No problem, right? HUGE PROBLEM, dean. You have been surrounded by “yes staff,” who aren’t necessarily giving you all the information you need to make a decision. How on earth did that happen? It might be that the staff senses, for better or worse, that you don’t listen. Perhaps you dismiss their concerns too easily, without much thought. Regardless, you’re on your way to a complete and total disaster, one that could have been avoided by surrounding yourself with a group of people with sufficiently diverse opinions you’re willing to hear.
The FBI’s Own Watchdog Signs Off on Agents Impersonating Journalists
A new report from the Justice Department’s inspector general concludes that FBI agents can go undercover and impersonate journalists, as long as they sufficiently consult FBI headquarters.
The inspector general’s office investigated a case from 2007 where undercover FBI agents impersonated a journalist from the Associated Press. FBI regulations at the time “did not prohibit agents from impersonating journalists or from posing as a member of a news organization,” the report concluded.
Refugee High School: Media Coverage of Recent Arrivals In American Schools
This past weekend, the NYT Sunday Magazine presented a package of words and images about refugee students in American schools, titled The New High-School Outsiders. Focused some of the roughly 1,300 refugees attending Boise, Idaho schools, it includes an overview essay, photographs, and profiles of a handful of Boise students who graduated high school last spring.
It’s not the first story focused on refugees in American schools — and, given the arrival of unaccompanied minors from Central America and refugees from the war in Syria, it’s unlikely to be the last. As the Times story notes, roughly 85,000 more refugees will be resettled this coming year, in 190 cities. Many of them will be school-age children who are legally entitled to a free public education. An August story from the Times showed the 231 towns where 10,000 Syrian refugees have already been settled over the past four years — many of them in mid-sized cities like Boise, rather than large hubs for immigration.
The combination of novelty, fear, and curiosity all but ensures that there will be many more refugee student stories during 2016-2017. The two main questions consider as the school year unfolds are (1) whether districts are providing refugee children an education that’s at least as good as the one they’re providing longtime students, and (2) are media outlets producing nuanced and accurate coverage of the experience?
Why Oakland Students Leave for Public Schools in Other Cities
John Foster and Sara Diamond didn’t leave the Oakland Unified School District because they were unhappy with their school choices.
They say they wanted an alternative to Oakland schools for practical reasons. Foster worked in San Francisco, where his daughter Claire’s day care was also located. So father and daughter had a routine of commuting together from East Oakland.
“I would take her with a baby carrier and I would read to her on BART, and for several years that’s how we did it,” said Foster.
Fancy Dorms Aren’t The Main Reason Tuition Is Skyrocketing
In 2000, Temple University was primarily a commuter school. On-campus dorms could house fewer than 4,000 students out of a total student body of more than 30,000. Most facilities were badly outdated, and the average student paid $12,800 a year (in 2016 dollars) in tuition to attend.
Today, Temple, where I work, looks very different. Beautiful new buildings are the norm rather than the exception. A recently built 24-story dorm and adjoining dining center highlights the university’s transition to a residential campus. Each of the dorm’s apartment-style suites comes equipped with a flat-screen TV and other amenities. The number of administrators in management and executive positions has grown by 40 percent to over 900. Oh, and tuition now runs $19,000 for the typical student after accounting for scholarships and other aid.
18 Year-Old Chicago Student Killed in Drive-by When School Sends Him Home for Not Wearing a Bow Tie
The teen was rushed to Northwestern Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after.
“It’s getting senseless out here. That could have been my son, that could’ve been me, that could’ve been my aunty, that could’ve been me, that could’ve been anybody today,” Doss says. “It’s time to go. I love this city that I live in, but it’s time to go. The violence ain’t getting no better.”
Now, police are investigating the shooting.