Tech firm tries to pull back curtain on surveillance efforts in Washington

By Ashkan Soltani and Craig Timberg

As a black sedan pulled into downtown Washington traffic earlier this week, a man in the back seat with a specially outfitted smartphone in each hand was watching for signs of surveillance in action. “Whoa, we’ve just been hit twice on this block,” he said, excitement rising in his voice, not far from FBI headquarters.

Then as the car passed the Federal Trade Commission’s limestone edifice, “Okay, we just got probed.” Then again, just a few minutes later, as the car moved between the Supreme Court and the Capitol, he said, “That’s the beginning of an interception.”

Semifinalists for 2017 National Merit Scholarship awards announced

Logan Wroge:

Ninety-five Madison area students have been named semifinalists for the 2017 National Merit Scholarships.

They are among approximately 16,000 high school seniors across the country who have qualified as semifinalists. Of these students, about 7,500 will eventually be offered the prestigious scholarship in spring 2017.

Entering its 62nd year, the National Merit Scholarship Program will have about $33 million available for college-bound students. The money is provided by hundreds of businesses and higher education institutions across the country.

Here are the seniors in area high schools that have qualified as semifinalists:

Much more, here.

2017 National Merit cut scores:

Illinois 219
Minnesota 219
Iowa 215
Massachusetts 222
Michigan 216
Texas 220
Wisconsin 215

Massachusetts charter cap holds back disadvantaged students

Sarah Cohodes and Susan M. Dynarski:

This November, Massachusetts voters will go to the polls to decide whether to expand the state’s quota on charter schools. The ballot initiative would allow 12 new, approved charters over the current limit to open each year.

Would the ballot proposal be good for students in Massachusetts? To address this question, we need to know whether charter schools are doing a better job than the traditional public schools in districts where the cap currently limits additional charter school seats.

There is a deep well of rigorous, relevant research on the performance of charter schools in Massachusetts. This research exploits random assignment and student-level, longitudinal data to examine the effect of charter schools in Massachusetts.

This research shows that charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes. The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.

Why I Majored in Philosophy Despite Everyone Telling Me Not to

WEAC is selling its headquarters

Molly Beck

She said the union has shifted staffing to a “new regional structure,” creating 10 regions to which members belong instead of a centralized location in Madison. Brey would not say how many members are in the union.

“After all, our union isn’t a building. Our union is teachers and support professionals who work in public schools,” she said. “Our strength is in parents, communities and educators who unite around the shared value of public education — not around brick and mortar.”

According to federal tax records from 2013 — the latest year available, the organization had $52,435 in cash and $126,246 in savings. Total assets, including their property, totaled $3.7 million while the organization’s liabilities totaled $1.6 million.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

How to raise a genius: lessons from a 45-year study of super-smart children

Tom Clynes

On a summer day in 1968, professor Julian Stanley met a brilliant but bored 12-year-old named Joseph Bates. The Baltimore student was so far ahead of his classmates in mathematics that his parents had arranged for him to take a computer-science course at Johns Hopkins University, where Stanley taught. Even that wasn’t enough. Having leapfrogged ahead of the adults in the class, the child kept himself busy by teaching the FORTRAN programming language to graduate students.

Unsure of what to do with Bates, his computer instructor introduced him to Stanley, a researcher well known for his work in psychometrics — the study of cognitive performance. To discover more about the young prodigy’s talent, Stanley gave Bates a battery of tests that included the SAT college-admissions exam, normally taken by university-bound 16- to 18-year-olds in the United States.

A thought-provoking experiment showed what happens when children don’t have the internet for a whole day


Child psychologist Yekaterina Murashova describes an unusual experiment in her book showing what happened when a group of teenagers were deprived of access to the internet and modern technology for a single day. We think it’s well worth checking out — you can consider the implications for yourself.

Children and teenagers aged between 12 and 18 years voluntarily spent eight hours alone without access to any means of communication (mobile phones; the internet, etc.). They were also forbidden to turn on the computer, any other electronic gadgets, the radio and the TV. But they were allowed to engage in a number of ’classic’ activities by themselves: writing, reading, playing musical instruments, painting, needlework, singing, walking, and so on.

LA’s School Diversity Expansion; Compare To Madison…

Joy Resmovits

XQ officials, in announcing the winners on Wednesday, described RISE as a “completely new” model. The idea is to have three to four physical sites sharing space with existing nonprofits as well as an online learning system. A bus also be turned into a “mobile resource center,” to bring Wi-Fi, a washer/dryer and homework help to the neediest students.

That way, if a student suddenly moves or can’t get to school, he or she will have various options to get tutoring or the day’s lesson.

“The model exists outside the traditional confines of space and time,” Croft said.

RISE, which stands for Revolutionary Individualized Student Experience, is in its preliminary stages. It will be a charter school, but the staff is still figuring out governance structure, facilities and partnerships. As of now, the plan is to open with a small group of students next fall, but eventually to serve between 500 and 550.

Los Angeles parents have many charter choices while Madison continues it’s none-diverse K-12 structure.

Education, Georgia school reform heat up as political issues

Christopher Quinn

Gov. Nathan Deal proposes a statewide school district to take over chronically failing schools

There will be a vote on constitutional amendment 1 on Nov. 7 on Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to let the state take over chronically failing schools. This issue has attracted a lot of passion as those on both sides argue about how best to address the issue of helping children for whom education may be the one door out of poverty, failure and the “prison pipeline.”

Deal says failing schools are now a generational problem and local districts have already taken to long to fix this serious problem. It’s time for action.

Lawsuit Targets Detroit Public Schools for Failing Students Seven student plaintiffs say system violates constitutional right to literacy, Madison?

Tawnell Hobbs

“Plaintiffs sit in classrooms where not even the pretense of education takes place, in schools that are functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of students who attend several schools run by the Detroit Public School Community District, formerly Detroit Public Schools; charter operators; and the Education Achievement Authority state-controlled reform school district.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Poverty in America

Robert Rector, Rachel Sheffield

Here are 15 facts about poverty in America that may surprise you. (All statistics are taken from U.S. government surveys.)

Poor households routinely report spending $2.40 for every $1 of income the Census says they have.

The average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and has more living space than the average nonpoor person in France, Germany, or England.

Eighty-five percent of poor households have air conditioning.

Nearly three-fourths of poor households have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

Nearly two-thirds of poor households have cable or satellite TV.

Half have a personal computer; 43 percent have internet access.

Two-thirds have at least one DVD player

More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

(The above data on electronic appliances owned by poor households come from a 2009 government survey so the ownership rates among the poor today are most likely higher.)

New Videos Show How Yale Betrayed Itself By Favoring Cry-Bullies

James Kirchick:

Around this time last year, a short video depicting an angry confrontation between a Yale professor and student came to symbolize the nationwide debate over campus political correctness. Four days before Halloween, a university organ called the Intercultural Affairs Council released an email to the entire student body warning them not to wear costumes that “threaten our sense of community.” In the absence of any recent incidents on Yale’s campus involving racist or culturally insensitive Halloween outfits, however, the missive struck many students as patronizing, if not entirely misplaced. Indeed, the email was nearly identical to one Yale’s associate vice president of student life had written to students at Northwestern University five years earlier when he held a similar job at that school. As one Yale professor would later tell me about the message, it “had no applicability to the culture and the actual history here at Yale.”

Sensing this incongruity between their own lived experiences and the prophylactic admonishments of a glorified residential adviser, some students brought their concerns to Erika Christakis, a professor of child developmental psychology and the associate master of Silliman College, one of Yale’s 12 residential houses. In a rejoinder email sent only to Silliman students, Christakis took umbrage with what she portrayed as a cosseting administration, asking, “Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity—in your capacity—to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?”

On Academic Diversity

Karen Herzog:

Campuses in the University of Wisconsin System have been abuzz since last week, when Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos cited data he obtained through an open records request to support his claim that campuses “more times than not” seek “a liberal-minded individual to disperse information to the young, developing minds who pay them thousands of dollars for their education.”

While many professors disputed his claim, and others said it was a valid point to keep in mind, they uniformly took issue with the methodology of data analysis and assumptions behind the politician’s provocative statements in his op-ed piece, “A Free Speech Challenge to the UW System” on

The open records request yielded hundreds of speakers on campuses, and Vos focused on the 50 top-paid speakers of 2015 across the system. His raw data included only names and titles of speakers, the campus group or event to which they spoke, and how much they were paid. It did not include speakers who were invited but declined to make appearances. It did not include the speaker’s topic.

“Any reader of Assembly Speaker Vos’ summary of UW honorary expenditures and his estimation of their political slant would like to know much more,” said David Hoeveler, a professor of history at UW-Milwaukee. “By what measures did he and his team decide whether the recipients were ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’? At my university, those from the list with whom I am familiar balance pretty evenly; the list even includes one prominent neoconservative.”

By their very nature, college campuses are “places for open and progressive thought,” said Scott Adams, a UWM associate professor of economics and department chair. “(Vos) has a fundamental misunderstanding of how college campuses work.”

Adams said the vast majority of campus speakers “aren’t speaking about something political. … Science, the arts, aren’t inherently liberal in a political sense.”

Some may consider social and economic inequality to be liberal issues, but colleges invite speakers to talk about them because they’re important, Adams said.

Suggesting that Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, is political because he’s gay “is repressing free speech in and of itself,” Adams said. “That’s reducing him to a political viewpoint. He’s a human being who has a story.”

Sam’s speaking engagement at UW-La Crosse late last year is an example Vos raises in his commentary.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL,

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, had a speaking engagement at UW-La Crosse late last year. (Photo: Associated Press)

Whether it is a liberal position or not, universities try to err on the side of inclusiveness and tolerance, said UWM political science professor and department chair Kathleen Dolan.

Cashing in on the Culture Wars

Maximillian Alvarez:

The University of Chicago’s Dean of Students, Jay Ellison, recently became a folk hero of sorts on the right flank of the culture wars after sending out a blunt warning to the incoming U of C freshman class. To the hand-wringers worried about creeping “political correctness” on the American campus, Ellison’s letter was sweet sauce. Laying out the U of C’s pedagogical mission, he pointedly stipulated that the school’s long-standing “commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces.’” Within hours of the letter’s publication, the familiar tropes of our academic culture wars were once more engaged. Trigger warnings and safe spaces were hotly derided or righteously defended, depending on which side of the ideological railing disputants were on.

And just as predictably, these familiar set-tos missed the larger point. Once more, the anxious reading public was marched through a litany of formulaic questions: Are students being “coddled”? Are things like trigger warnings and safe spaces a threat to open academic inquiry? Is political correctness stifling higher education? But in the overheated climate of PC warmongering, the most important questions tend to go unasked. Many, for instance, like Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Beth McMurtrie, seem to take for granted that Ellison “very likely had no idea his words would add fuel to the national debate over academic freedom and the use of safe spaces and trigger warnings in higher education.” Of course he did. That was the point. The far more momentous, and dispassionate, question we should be asking in the wake of Ellison’s anti-PC broadside is this: How was it deliberately calculated to enhance the value of the University of Chicago brand?

Civics: Long-Secret Stingray Manuals Detail How Police Can Spy on Phones

Sam Biddle

The documents also make clear just how easy it is to execute a bulk surveillance regime from the trunk of a car: A Gemini “Quick Start Guide,” which runs to 54 pages, contains an entire chapter on logging, which “enables the user to listen and log over the air messages that are being transmitted between the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) and the Mobile Subscriber (MS).” It’s not clear exactly what sort of metadata or content would be captured in such logging. The “user” here, of course, is a police officer.

“While this device is being discussed in the context of U.S. law enforcement,” said Tynan, “this could be used by foreign agents against the U.S. public and administration. It is no longer acceptable for our phones and mobile networks to be exploited in such an invasive and indiscriminate way.”

Politics, rhetoric, Achievement And Charter Schools

Thomas Sowell

The one bright spot in black ghettos around the country are the schools that parents are free to choose for their own children. Some are Catholic schools, some are secular private schools and some are charter schools financed by public school systems but operating without the suffocating rules that apply to other public schools.

Not all of these kinds of schools are successes. But where there are academic successes in black ghettos, they come disproportionately from schools outside the iron grip of the education establishment and the teachers’ unions.

Some of these academic successes have been spectacular — especially among students in ghetto schools operated by the KIPP (Knowledge IS Power Program) chain of schools and the Success Academy schools.

Despite all the dire social problems in many black ghettos across the country — problems which are used to excuse widespread academic failures in ghetto schools — somehow ghetto schools run by KIPP and Success Academy turn out students whose academic performances match or exceed the performances in suburban schools whose kids come from high-income families.

A majority of the Madison school board voted to abort the proposed Madison preparatory Academy IB charter school.


Glenn Smith & Andrew Knapp:

Police forces across the United States are stockpiling massive databases with personal information from millions of Americans who crossed paths with officers but were not charged with a crime.

A person can end up in one of these databases by doing nothing more than sitting on a public park bench or chatting with an officer on the street. Once there, these records can linger forever and be used by police agencies to track movements, habits, acquaintances and associations – even a person’s marital and job status, The Post and Courier found in an investigation of police practices around the nation.

What began as a method for linking suspicious behavior to crime has morphed into a practice that threatens to turn local police departments into miniature versions of the National Security Agency. In the process, critics contend, police risk trampling constitutional rights, tarnishing innocent people and further eroding public trust.

Analysis: Unions Have Cash But Not Partners In Fight Against MA Charter Proposal

Mike Antonucci:

Save Our Public Schools, the Massachusetts campaign fighting to retain the state’s cap on charter schools, describes itself as “a grassroots organization of families, parents, educators and students.”

But a glance at its campaign finance disclosure shows it to be almost devoid of families, parents, and students, and includes educators only to the extent that their dues money is being spent by the teachers union they belong to.

Of the more than $7.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions received by Save Our Public Schools so far, 99.86 percent came from the nation’s two largest unions: the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and their affiliates. But even that percentage is slightly misleading.

Boston parents have many charter choices while Madison continues it’s none-diverse K-12 structure.

As Lockout Continues at Long Island U., Students Report Meager Classroom Instruction

Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz:

When Kiyonda Hester started the final year of her master’s program in social work, on Wednesday at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, an instructor began a course by acknowledging he was unqualified to teach it.

The temporary instructor, who is an administrator, told the students that he had to be there so he wouldn’t be fired, Ms. Hester said. He took attendance and noted that the syllabus had been posted online.

When students asked why the syllabus bore a date from another year, Ms. Hester said, the administrator responded by saying he hoped things would get back to normal next week.

“They would literally outright let us know that they were not equipped to teach,” said Ms. Hester, who declined to name the administrator.

Some Rules for Teachers

Anne Boyer:

1. only ask the questions to which you really need answers

2. demonstrate uncertainty

3. reconstruct for your students your own previous errors of thought and elucidate to your students what factors lead to a changed mind

4. do not let the terms with which you understand the world get in the way of understanding it

5. give up any desire to be the smartest person in the room

6. remember that students have bodies and that bodies require movement, sustenance, rest, and relief

7. leave an inheritance of dialectic

8. preserve and sustain whatever delusions you’ve found necessary to behave in good faith

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning

Paul Ibbotson, Michael Tomasello:

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

This conclusion is important because the study of language plays a central role in diverse disciplines—from poetry to artificial intelligence to linguistics itself; misguided methods lead to questionable results. Further, language is used by humans in ways no animal can match; if you understand what language is, you comprehend a little bit more about human nature.

Chomsky’s first version of his theory, put forward in the mid-20th century, meshed with two emerging trends in Western intellectual life. First, he posited that the languages people use to communicate in everyday life behaved like mathematically based languages of the newly emerging field of computer science. His research looked for the underlying computational structure of language and proposed a set of procedures that would create “well-formed” sentences. The revolutionary idea was that a computerlike program could produce sentences real people thought were grammatical. That program could also purportedly explain as well the way people generated their sentences. This way of talking about language resonated with many scholars eager to em­­brace a computational approach to … well … everything.

As Chomsky was developing his computational theories, he was simultaneously proposing that they were rooted in human biology. In the second half of the 20th century, it was becoming ever clearer that our unique evolutionary history was responsible for many aspects of our unique human psychology, and so the theory resonated on that level as well. His universal grammar was put forward as an innate component of the human mind—and it promised to reveal the deep biological underpinnings of the world’s 6,000-plus human languages. The most powerful, not to mention the most beautiful, theories in science reveal hidden unity underneath surface diversity, and so this theory held immediate appeal.

But evidence has overtaken Chomsky’s theory, which has been inching toward a slow death for years. It is dying so slowly because, as physicist Max Planck once noted, older scholars tend to hang on to the old ways: “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

An Unprecedented Faculty Lockout

Alana Semuels:

Locking out a university’s faculty right before the start of classes seems like a drastic step, but that is just what Long Island University (LIU) did this weekend, when it barred all 400 members of its faculty union from its Brooklyn campus, cut off their email accounts and health insurance, and told them they would be replaced. The move came three days after the union’s contract expired. Now, the faculty is furious, and planning rallies and pickets with support from the American Federation of Teachers. On Tuesday, faculty voted 226 to 10 to reject a proposed contract from LIU, and the faculty senate voiced their support for a vote of no-confidence in the university’s president Kimberly Cline, 135 to 10. Faculty rallied outside the university’s Brooklyn campus Wednesday with a giant inflatable rat as classes began, taught by non-union members.

Labor historians say they can’t recall an example of a university using a lockout against faculty members. Kate Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell professor of labor relations, says they’re particularly unwise in the service sector, or any sector where a company has clients such as students and donors to placate. More typically, she says, lockouts are used in the industrial sector, where customers are removed from labor practices.

Even so, she said, such a move rarely works. “Historically, lockouts are bad PR in every industry,” she said. When an employer locks out workers, the media and the public are typically on the side of the workers, she explained, because workers are available for work but employers aren’t allowing them to. “Lockouts normally backfire,” she said.

‘Policing what people think or say’ doesn’t work, Mizzou students told at mandatory forum

Mark Schierbecker:

You can learn a lot from ‘Sausage Party’

Given the politically correct invective of the university’s racial protests last fall, new University of Missouri students were surprised to hear a professor celebrate a crude animated movie with “the most offensive stereotypes you could possibly imagine.”

Yet that’s exactly what happened at the mandatory student program Aug. 19, as shown by a recording obtained by The College Fix. A student also said that Islam is a particularly harmful religion – and he was not rebuked.

Free speech advocates at Mizzou who had written off the university as a lost cause for political pluralism shouldn’t get too excited, however: Another professor said some ideas are still unacceptable because they aren’t “respectful.”

Don’t Leave Your Kids Near Judgmental Strangers

Virginia Postrel:

As a child, Ashley Thomas loved to go by herself to a meadow about a 10-minute walk from her house in Ojai, California. Playing on her own let her imagination soar. “You can pretend you’re the Queen of Sheba,” she says. Exploring made her feel independent and grown up. Once, when she was in about the first grade, she even found a snake. “There’s no way I would have picked up a snake in front of my parents,” she says. “The reason I knew it was OK was I had also gone by myself to the library to take a snake safety class.” (Yes, a snake safety class.)

Ah, the olde-time memories of the days when kids could play on their own without someone posting a video online to shame their parents — or calling the police to have mom arrested and the children seized by social services. But Thomas isn’t an aging baby boomer telling tales to her grandkids. She’s just 30.

Civics – DNA Dragnet: In Some Cities, Police Go From Stop-and-Frisk to Stop-and-Spit

Lauren Kirchner

The five teenage boys were sitting in a parked car in a gated community in Melbourne, Florida, when a police officer pulled up behind them.

Officer Justin Valutsky closed one of the rear doors, which had been ajar, and told them to stay in the car. He peered into the drivers’ side window of the white Hyundai SUV and asked what the teens were doing there. It was a Saturday night in March 2015 and they told Valutsky they were visiting a friend for a sleepover.

Valutsky told them there had been a string of car break-ins recently in the area. Then, after questioning them some more, he made an unexpected demand: He asked which one of them wanted to give him a DNA sample.

After a long pause, Adam, a slight 15-year-old with curly hair and braces, said, “Okay, I guess I’ll do it.” Valutsky showed Adam how to rub a long cotton swab around the inside of his cheek, then gave him a consent form to sign and took his thumbprint. He sealed Adam’s swab in an envelope. Then he let the boys go.

Soaring Student Debt Prompts Calls for Relief

Josh Mitchell:

The industry warnings are urgent and often dire: The housing market could stall. Marriages are being postponed. Workers won’t have the savings to retire. The nation’s food supply will be disrupted.

They point to one threat: soaring student debt.

A tripling of student debt over the past decade to more than $1.3 trillion has unleashed a torrent of Washington lobbying from outside the education sector, with various industries describing a “crisis” requiring federal intervention.

Real-estate agents, farmers, architects, startup lenders, lawyers, tech companies, benefits administrators—even podiatrists—have sent lobbyists to Capitol Hill over the past two years to push for legislation to forgive or at least reduce what workers and consumers owe on their student loans.

Google Program to Deradicalize Jihadis Will Be Used for Right-Wing American Extremists Next

Naomi LaChance

A Google-incubated program that has been targeting potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America, a designer of the program said at an event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda.

In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. Collectively, the targets watched more than half a million minutes of videos.

The event at Brookings was primarily about the existing program aimed at undermining ISIS recruiting. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” said Richard Stengel, U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Related: The stealthy, (Google Chairman) Eric Schmidt-backed startup that’s working to put Hillary Clinton in the White House.

i, a former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton.

Google voice search records and keeps conversations people have around their phones – but the files can be deleted

Andrew Griffin

Google could have a record of everything you have said around it for years, and you can listen to it yourself.
 The company quietly records many of the conversations that people have around its products.
 The feature works as a way of letting people search with their voice, and storing those recordings presumably lets Google improve its language recognition tools as well as the results that it gives to people.

Two possible cases of leprosy reported at Riverside County elementary school

Soumya Karlamangla

Two elementary school children in Riverside County could have Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, according to health officials.

Nursing staff at Indian Hills Elementary School in Jurupa Valley notified county officials Friday of the suspected infections, which will take several weeks to officially confirm, said Barbara Cole, director for disease control for the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

“We have to keep stressing it’s not confirmed,” Cole said. “We’re just at the beginning of the investigation.”

Jurupa Unified School District officials sent a letter home to parents Friday to inform them about the unconfirmed cases and provide resources to learn more about the rare disease, said district Supt. Elliott Duchon.

Duchon said a parent notified the school’s nursing staff of a preliminary diagnosis of Hansen’s disease for a student at the school. He would not say whether the two suspected cases were in the same family.

Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education

Brian M. Rosenthal:

During the first week of school at Shadow Forest Elementary, a frail kindergartner named Roanin Walker had a meltdown at recess. Overwhelmed by the shrieking and giggling, he hid by the swings and then tried to escape the playground, hitting a classmate and biting a teacher before being restrained.

The principal called Roanin’s mother.

“There’s been an incident.”

Heidi Walker was frightened, but as she hurried to the Humble school that day in 2014, she felt strangely relieved.

She had warned school administrators months earlier that her 5-year-old had been diagnosed with a disability similar to autism. Now they would understand, she thought. Surely they would give him the therapy and counseling he needed.

Black defendants punished harsher after a judge’s favorite football team loses

Lindsay Gibbs:

Sports fandom is a powerful force, and it seems even judges aren’t immune from its effects.

In a study titled “Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles,” Ozkan Eren and Naci Mocan, researches at the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that after LSU football suffered an upset loss, judges in Louisiana routinely doled out harsher sentences to juveniles.

These longer sentences disproportionately impacted black offenders.

Black juveniles received an extra 46 days of sentencing after an unexpected loss, an increase of almost nine percent. Meanwhile, white juveniles received an additional eight days.

The correlation was even stronger if the judge received an undergraduate degree from LSU. In that case, the sentences were 74 days longer than usual.

MIT And Georgia Tech Develop System To Read Closed Books Using Terahertz Radiation

Mary Masculine:

Researchers have devised a way to read books when they’re closed. No, you didn’t read it wrong. Researchers from MIT and Georgia Tech are designing an imaging system that can read closed books.

A paper published Friday in the journal Nature Communications describes a prototype for this ingenious system that correctly identified the letters on the top nine sheets of a stack in which each sheet had one letter printed on it.

“The Metropolitan Museum in New York showed a lot of interest in this, because they want to, for example, look into some antique books that they don’t even want to touch,” Barmak Heshmat, co-author of the paper and a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab, said in a statement. He added that the new system can analyze materials organized in thin layers.

Passing My Disability To My Children

Sheila Black

When I was pregnant with my first child, my ob-gyn referred me to a genetic counselor “just in case.”

I have a condition called X-linked hypophosphatemia, or XLH, which results in a form of dwarfism. I was a spontaneous case; there had no been no history of XLH in my family before me. No road map.

The counselor did not seem too worried. “Don’t sweat it,” he said. “Frankly, this is so rare, you’d have to marry a guy from the rickets clinic to pass it on.” I gave birth to my first child — my daughter Annabelle — seven months later. She did not have XLH.

Commentary On The Curve

Adam Grant

Ask people what’s wrong in American higher education, and you’ll hear about grade inflation. At Harvard a few years ago, a professor complained that the most common grade was an A-. He was quickly corrected: The most common grade at Harvard was an A.

Across 200 colleges and universities, over 40 percent of grades were in the A realm. At both four-year and two-year schools, more students receive A’s than any other grade — a percentage that has grown over the past three decades.

Among older graduates, figures like these usually elicit a comment involving the words “coddled,” “damn” and “millennials.” But the opposite problem worries me even more: grade deflation. It happens whenever teachers use a forced grading curve: The top 10 percent of students receive A’s, the next 30 percent get B’s, and so on. Sometimes it’s mandated by institutions; sometimes it’s chosen by teachers.

The importance of being there

Marco Longari

When I got to Gabon to cover the recent election, I found myself the only photographer from a major global news organization in the country. People ask — why bother covering yet another election and unrest in yet another African country? I tell them – how can we not? This is where Africa’s modern history is unfolding. If we are going to tell the story of Africa, of the narratives that are taking place on the continent, then we cannot back off from coming to places like these.

I take pride in the fact that I’m here and telling the story and that we’re not passing on these kind of events.

Technological progress won’t create mass unemployment…

John Lewis

Technology can lead to workers being displaced in one particular industry, but this doesn’t hold for the economy as a whole. In Krugman’s celebrated example, imagine there are two goods, sausages and bread rolls, which are then combined one for one to make hot dogs. 120 million workers are divided equally between the two industries: 60 million producing sausages, the other 60 million producing rolls, and both taking two days to produce one unit of output. Now suppose technology doubles productivity in bakeries. Fewer workers are required to make rolls, but this increased productivity will mean that consumers get 33% more hot dogs. Eventually the economy has 40 million workers making rolls, and 80 million making sausages. In the interim, the transition might lead to unemployment, particularly if skills are very specific to the baking industry. But in the long run, a change in relative productivity reallocates rather than destroys employment, even if the distributional impacts of that reallocation can be complicated and significant.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: State Migration Patterns

Joel Kotkin & Wendell Cox

The Big Winners: The Sunbelt And Texas

To measure the states that are most attractive to Americans on the move, we developed an “attraction” ratio that measures the number of domestic in-migrants per 100 out-migrants. A state that has a rating of 100 would be perfectly balanced between those leaving and coming.

Overall, the biggest winner — both in absolute numbers and in our ranking — is Texas. In 2014 the Lone Star State posted a remarkable 156 attraction ratio, gaining 229,000 more migrants than it lost, roughly twice as many as went to No. 3 Florida, which clocked an impressive 126.7 attraction ratio.

When Your Boss Is An Algorithm

Sarah O’Connor

UberEats launched in London in June, promising “the food you want, from the London restaurants you love, delivered at Uber speed”. In a bid to recruit self-employed couriers to ferry food from restaurants to customers, UberEats initially offered to pay £20 an hour. But as customer demand increased, the company began to reduce pay. By August, the couriers were on a piece rate with a fiddly formula: £3.30 a delivery plus £1 a mile, minus a 25 per cent “Uber service fee”, plus a £5 “trip reward”. Then, one day, the couriers woke up to find the app had been updated again. The “trip reward” had been cut to £4 for weekday lunch and weekend dinner times, and to £3 for weekday dinner and weekend lunch times. Outside those periods, it had been cut altogether.

“They tricked us,” roars a man called Manou over the din, hunching over the handlebars of his motorbike. Like many experienced couriers, he left his job with a different delivery company because Uber was offering better pay. Not any more. “They make us feel like they can just use us and destroy us and create new tools,” he says. Imran Siddiqui, one of the leaders of the protest, says he feels bad because he had encouraged other couriers to sign up for UberEats before they changed the pay. “If they don’t resolve this strike it’s going to spread like a fire.”

How Kids Around the World Get to School

Katy Schneider

In the U.S. at least, the late-summer season marks the beginning of the school year. How kids commute to class might seem like the least of parents’ educational concerns, but the solutions reflect a daunting matrix of values and opportunities. In the U.S., where 25 million kids pile into golden-yellow buses each morning, new initiatives are encouraging biking and walking to school as important ways to foster independence, overall health, and cognitive development. Meanwhile, parents in some communities have faced censure for letting their kids walk at all. Last school year, a Tennessee mother was charged with neglect after making her daughters walk as punishment for misbehaving on the bus (she was driving slowly near them in a gold Cadillac). “Smartbuses” in Singapore aim to reassure anxious parents with app updates when their kids make it to school, while safety concerns have raised questions in India over the common practice of piling children into autorickshaws.

“We’ve got to change from the cartographer’s view of the world to the mercantilist view of the world, and start to reshape the structures of government to respond to where the opportunities arise and the size of markets.”

Liam Fox:

And when I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and pointed out that the Los Angeles greater metropolitan area has a higher GDP than Saudi Arabia, it makes you understand why we have to start to think about that in a totally different way.

We’ve got to change from the cartographer’s view of the world to the mercantilist view of the world, and start to reshape the structures of government to respond to where the opportunities arise and the size of markets.

And if the US states were countries about six of them would be in the G20, so the idea we regard it as one trading partner is ludicrous. So we are in the process at the moment of moving our UKTI personnel round the world so we match better our footprint on the ground to the markets for British companies. And then we’ll encourage them to export into those countries.

And one other change. We’ve made a fundamental shift in British policy that has not yet been noticed. Up till recently, until the change of government, the government’s policy was to get as much foreign direct investment into the United Kingdom as possible, but to largely ignore overseas direct investment elsewhere. And let me tell you why that’s a problem. Because it’s great the year we get the FDI and we get jobs created, but every year after that all their income flows that go to their parent companies or their parent countries are outward flows in our current account. And unless we have counterbalancing overseas development, overseas investment, we are unable to get those income flows to counterbalance that.

Public Schools Brace For Likely Reforms After Connecticut Court Decision

A sweeping ruling from a superior court judge in Connecticut could mean historic changes for the state’s schools, including how it funds its poorest districts.

Now a court ruling in Connecticut that could lead to some big changes in the state’s schools. A superior court judge wrote yesterday that Connecticut has left rich school districts to flourish and poor school districts to flounder. Cory Turner of the NPR Ed team has more on the ruling.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: The case, like so many legal fights over school money, is older than many of the kids in Connecticut schools. It was brought back in 2005, with the plaintiffs arguing that school funding isn’t spread fairly. Poor schools, they said, in cities like Bridgeport and Waterbury can’t begin to compete with property-rich places like Greenwich. Yesterday, Judge Thomas Moukawsher largely agreed, saying too little money is chasing too many needs.

THOMAS MOUKAWSHER: The state would rather be a little less directly responsible. It points to a tradition of local control that it almost never brings up except to get itself out of a jam.

A NYC Teacher Gets Up Close and Personal

Vivett Dukes:

Let me get personal and tell you a little bit about me: in particular, what sparked my passion for educational equity and commitment to giving disenfranchised children a shot at success.

When I took 11th grade English with Mr. Frank McHugh at Elmont Memorial Senior High and we read D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers,” I knew that being an English teacher was my professional heart’s desire. In 2010, after many twists and turns of life (children, marriage, divorce), that dream became my reality when I graduated from Long Island University – CW Post with my Bachelor of Science in English/Secondary Education.

The Politics and Ecology of Zero Population Growth

Paul Robbins:

This, the owners of coffee and rubber estates in Karnataka, India, told us, was why they would tear out dense canopies of trees harboring wild hornbills and critically endangered frogs and replace them with more intensive and less wildlife-friendly crops. Compared to the days when their fathers ran these estates, and the workers required for the back-breaking tasks of weeding, coppicing, and harvesting were more pliable, today’s workers had become defiant and demanding. Laborers now insisted on smoke breaks, higher wages, and even electricity. Worse, farmers told us, they had little choice but to either give up labor-demanding crops or to comply with worker demands, lest their laborers vanish.

The shift in labor relations is striking given the locale. Karnataka is a place where the bargaining power of workers has always been notoriously poor, where rural poverty is crushing, and where generations of people have lived without access to modern amenities and education.1

Many factors have contributed to the shift: urbanization, labor outmigration, globalization, and an unprecedented aspirational culture that eschews rural farm labor where other opportunities exist. But one central reason, contributing to and accelerating all the others, is far more surprising: Karnataka is shrinking. As in most states throughout southern India, the fertility rate in the state has fallen to 1.8, and for many years has been well below the rate at which new births can replace those who naturally pass away.2 Population is getting smaller, influencing wages, farming practices, and habitat. Zero population growth has arrived in southern India: a Baby Bust.

As growth has ceased throughout Karnataka, across southern India, and in many other parts of the world3, new social arrangements are evolving, new ecologies are coming into being, and new political and economic conflicts are emerging. What happens to an economy, anywhere in the world, when population stalls or declines? How are relationships between workers and owners reconfigured? What happens in families, when the demands for women’s labor and demands for reproduction come into conflict, especially in historically patriarchal contexts? When labor becomes scarce, do regions shift to land abandonment and incidental rewilding, or instead to increasingly mechanized and intensive agricultural systems?

11,285 teachers suspended over PKK links

Turkish Minute:

The Education Ministry has suspended 11,285 teachers for supporting the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

It is also reported that the number of teachers suspended is expected to rise to 14,000 after an investigation is completed with contributions from local governors’ offices.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters at a meeting in Diyarbakır on Sept. 4 that there are nearly 14,000 teachers who are somehow affiliated with the PKK and that the Education Ministry is working on a list of probable suspects to suspend prior to the beginning of the new academic year.

School informed parents of low-performing students they could opt out of state tests

Moriah Balingt:

As schools were busy readying students for state exams, teachers at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, a high-poverty school in Alexandria, were poring over data to determine which students would probably not do well on the tests.

But according to a school district investigation, the effort wasn’t aimed at giving those students extra help. Instead, Principal Brandon Davis allegedly told teachers this spring to call the parents of students who appeared on the brink of failing the exams to inform them of their right to opt out of the tests, according to the investigation. Three dozen parents decided to pull their children from the state Standards of Learning exams; no parents at the school had done so the previous year.

Academic Work Is Labor, Not Romance

Sara Matthiesen

he National Labor Relations Board delivered a win for labor this month, ruling that graduate students at private colleges are also employees. The action overturned a 2004 decision involving Brown University that until now allowed administrations to insist that collective bargaining would imperil students’ academic pursuits. A number of media outlets have helped circulate a particularly damning quote that describes the Brown decision as having “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the Act, without a convincing justification.” If you haven’t read the decision in full, you should. The quote is just one of many statements that will resonate with any academic who sees herself as a worker.

But one sentence in particular is especially relevant to the coming inevitable struggles between precarious academic laborers and administrators. “Labor disputes,” the board notes simply, “are a fact of economic life.” Such an unequivocal statement about the academy as a place of labor is a surprising and rare admission; far more common are descriptors of academic work as a “labor of love,” “an intellectual pursuit,” and “a life of the mind.” Unlike many academics, the NLRB decision refuses to romanticize academe. This romanticization of academic labor is one of the most effective ways to obscure its actual costs. In contrast, the NLRB posits the equivalent of: “Hello! Would you please treat the academy as just another realm of economic life?!” This is exactly what we should do.

Let’s start with the subject of the NLRB decision: graduate student workers at private colleges. What would it mean to treat graduate students’ working conditions as “facts of economic life”? For starters, it would mean calling graduate students’ “stipends” what they actually are — paychecks. It would mean attaching actual terms to these paychecks, so that if graduate students work more hours in the lab or teach beyond their class load, they are compensated for their additional labor. It would mean approaching things like health insurance, dental care, and family leave as benefits that should be available to all employees rather than as benevolent gifts that the administration can give or take away depending on the political climate.

Chicago’s “Trigger Warning” Letter Is very un-Chicago


Jay Ellison’s recent letter on trigger warnings made the rounds of social media late last week, and this week the story continues to circulate. It’s a topic that hits close to home for me. I have two degrees (MA and Ph.D.) from Chicago. As a student, I worked part time in the Social Sciences and Humanities division and full time in Physical Sciences, punching down cross connects in building basements and visiting faculty offices to explain what ‘the web’ was. I sang the Sunday service in Rockefeller chapel, was married at Hillel, and had the reception at Ida Noyes (long story). At one point when I was writing up my Ph.D., working part time, and serving as the Starr Lecturer in anthropology, I joked that I was student, staff, faculty, and alum — simultaneously. I’ve been told that my latest book is featured on the front table of the Seminary Coop. What could be more Chicago then that?

Number of youngsters in private tuition up by a third

Helen Warren:

The most common reason given for requesting extra support was general assistance with core schoolwork. More than a third said they had tutoring to help with a specific GCSE exam and nearly a fifth were seeking better results for a grammar school entrance exam. The most popular subjects are, in order, maths, English, chemistry, physics, biology, Spanish and French.

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust, said that with costs of at least £25 per session, many parents could not afford the benefits of specialist teaching outside school hours.

“No one wants to limit parents doing their best for their children but we need to ensure that extra tuition is as widely available as possible,” he said. “Otherwise, it will continue to widen the attainment gap.”

Federal/State Tax Dollars & Madison Youth Employment Programs

Abigail Becker

Mary O’Donnell, the city’s youth services coordinator, said in her 21 years with the city, she has seen funding for youth employment increase along with a greater prioritization from the City Council and mayor on providing jobs to youth.

“I would say the uptick really started in the last 10 years with the increased focus on gangs and delinquency and low income neighborhoods,” O’Donnell said. “From the municipal side, we’re really looking at high needs situations, high needs neighborhoods.”

A recent study of a summer jobs program called One Summer Plus, open to at-risk students in high-violence Chicago public high schools, showed a 43 percent reduction in arrests for violent crime among participants over a 16-month period.

Via Chan Stroman.

Computing the Social Value of Uber. (It’s High.)

Tyler Cowen

How much is really at stake? A new paper by Peter Cohen, Robert Hahn, Jonathan Hall, Steven Levitt (of “Freakonomics” fame) and Robert Metcalfe comes up with a pretty good, dollars-and-cents measure of how much UberX, the main Uber service, is improving the lives of its users.
 Based on their study, here are a few ways of framing the value of Uber ride services to Americans:
 For a typical dollar spent by consumers on UberX, they receive $1.60 worth of gain.
 That’s an unusually high amount of “consumer surplus,” as it is called by economists. It means there aren’t that many close substitutes for Uber at prevailing prices, as moving people around is something the U.S. does not do especially well.

Mixed fortunes of the digital education business suggest hits are elusive

Jonathan A Knee

The now-ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone is widely credited with popularising the phrase “content is king”. The intuitive appeal of this aphorism has separated investors from their money across a wide range of media businesses.
The basic fallacy inherent in the sentiment, however, has ensured that these stories have ended unhappily from a financial point of view, and not just in movie making. In particular, pursuit of the content dream has been behind many disastrous forays into the business of education by some of the world’s most sophisticated investors.

A Turning Point for the Charter School Movement

Molly Knefel:

A political battle is being waged over charter schools in Massachusetts right now, and it’s a microcosm of the state of the charter debate across the country. In the lead-up to a November ballot measure in which voters will decide whether or not to lift the state’s cap on charter schools, known as Question 2, Democrats passed a resolution this month opposing charter school expansion. The resolution states that the pro-charter campaign is “funded and governed by hidden money provided by Wall Street executives and hedge fund managers.” In response, the pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform drafted a letter to the coalition behind the resolution, called the “No on 2” campaign, claiming that they misrepresented Democrats’ attitude towards charters. “There is great Democratic support for public charter schools,” wrote Liam Kerr, Massachusetts State Director of Democrats for Education Reform.

College degree – worthwhile or just a piece of paper?

Jason Wordie:

Mass inflation’s headlong “race to the bottom” occurs when – seemingly without warning – the general public realises that the over-issued, poorly backed currency they possess is, ultimately, just coloured paper.

Recent news reports that local asso­ciate degree holders earn – after two years of self-funded study – about the same as secondary-school leavers have caused academic soul-searching. A senior official from one leading institutional provider of these courses opined – with unintended irony – that Hong Kong’s employment market has readjusted itself to the large number of sub-degree graduates.

Excerpt from There is Only Here: “Lessons Learned”

Michael Copperman:

On a blinding September afternoon three weeks after the start of school, Assistant Principal Winston met me in his office. He stood behind his desk as if keeping it between us.

“Son, what’s your approach to classroom management?” He bared his teeth when he spoke, and seemed perpetually about to say something simultaneously cruel and amusing. I wasn’t sure about being called “son,” baby-faced as I was, by a man also in his twenties, but there seemed little choice but to accept his terms of address. I thought about how to answer the question. According to the notebook we received in training, classroom management cannot be separated from student interest. Children who were learning behaved well. Children not learning behaved poorly. Teach well, and you’d succeed, for as one particularly inspired passage had noted, “Children incline toward the light.” I wanted to be prepared, and had read the materials several times.:=

Your Parental Rights Don’t Exist When You Send Your Kid To Public School

Matt Walsh:

A week or two ago I received a message from a notorious fugitive named Julie Giles. She complained that she’d recently been arrested, shackled, and cuffed for barbaric and shocking crimes against humanity. The courts determined that she was a threat to herself, her family, and her community, therefore she was seized and charged like the scurrilous criminal she so clearly is.

What were these depraved acts, you ask? What sort of atrocities had she committed? What kind of vile transgressions led to her being chained and perp-walked like Charles Manson? Why does this previously law abiding middle aged woman now have her very own mugshot on file over at central booking?

Well, her son missed class a few times.


You see, according to the compulsory attendance policy at her kid’s public school in Georgia, the district will magnanimously allow a parent to keep their kid home from school up to five times in a year without a doctor’s note. Once they exceed that magically arbitrary fifth “unexcused” absence, every succeeding incident must be specifically prescribed by a medical professional. Even if the parent feels the child should stay home, the school will not allow it unless a doctor agrees. Otherwise, the parent could be thrown in jail, which is a totally reasonable response.
Want more from Matt Walsh?

Julie’s son unfortunately made the mistake of getting sick more times than the school allows, and so a warrant was issued for his mom’s arrest.

Review: Weapons of Math Destruction In an important new book, Cathy O’Neil warns us that algorithms can and do perpetuate inequality

Evelyn Lamb:

“The technology already exists. It’s only the will we’re lacking.” These sentences from Cathy O’Neil’s new book Weapons of Math Destruction have been haunting me since I read it. They come from the last chapter of a book in which she has illustrated again and again how, in the words of her subtitle, “big data increases inequality and threatens democracy.” With Facebook’s new trending topics algorithm and data-driven policing in the news, the book is certainly timely.

Weapons of math destruction, which O’Neil refers to throughout the book as WMDs, are mathematical models or algorithms that claim to quantify important traits: teacher quality, recidivism risk, creditworthiness but have harmful outcomes and often reinforce inequality, keeping the poor poor and the rich rich. They have three things in common: opacity, scale, and damage. They are often proprietary or otherwise shielded from prying eyes, so they have the effect of being a black box. They affect large numbers of people, increasing the chances that they get it wrong for some of them. And they have a negative effect on people, perhaps by encoding racism or other biases into an algorithm or enabling predatory companies to advertise selectively to vulnerable people, or even by causing a global financial crisis.

Civics: Leaked Catalogue Reveals a Vast Array of Military Spy Gear Offered to U.S. Police

Sam Biddle

A confidential, 120-page catalogue of spy equipment, originating from British defense firm Cobham and circulated to U.S. law enforcement, touts gear that can intercept wireless calls and text messages, locate people via their mobile phones, and jam cellular communications in a particular area.

The catalogue was obtained by The Intercept as part of a large trove of documents originating within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where spokesperson Molly Best confirmed Cobham wares have been purchased but did not provide further information. The document provides a rare look at the wide range of electronic surveillance tactics used by police and militaries in the U.S. and abroad, offering equipment ranging from black boxes that can monitor an entire town’s cellular signals to microphones hidden in lighters and cameras hidden in trashcans. Markings date it to 2014.

University of California hires India-based IT outsourcer, lays off tech workers

Patrick Thibodeau

The University of California is laying off a group of IT workers at its San Francisco campus as part of a plan to move work offshore.

The layoffs will happen at the end of February, but before the final day arrives the IT employees expect to train foreign replacements from India-based IT services firm HCL. The firm is working under a university contract valued at $50 million over five years.

Students at Berlin University Build Chess Game on Top of Ethereum

Jamie Redman:

students chessThe blockchain-based chess game took place during TU’s last semester, according to a recent Medium blog post written by student Paul Grau. It was deployed using Solidity and Ethereum developmental tools while students evaluated both positive and negative aspects of the platform.

The project was mentored by Christian Reitwiessner from the Ethereum foundation and the TU Department of Information Systems Engineering.

The team grew out of a group of students with programming skills and who chose the game chess due to its popularity in the computer science field. With a game that consists of 64 squares and two players controlling 16 pieces, the students had to apply “data structures for all of these, plus logic for making and verifying moves and end game conditions.” To demonstrate the attributes of an Ethereum distributed application, they also added methods for betting.

U of Iowa looking to create social justice bachelor’s degree

Anthony Gockowski

The University of Iowa could become the first school in the state to add a bachelor’s program in social justice to its list of degrees, provided its Board of Regents approves the motion.

Currently, the school already offers a first-year seminar on social justice as well as a “Justice for All” living learning community where students can live and “learn about systemic problems in our society.”

Are Cities Too Complicated?

Richard Florida

In the book, you make a distinction between the complicated and the complex. What systems in cities do you think demonstrate that today?
 When something is complicated, it is intricate but often lacks the dynamics that makes a system hard to understand. On the other hand, a complex system implies feedback, a sensitive dependence on the initial conditions, and emergent phenomena that are hard to predict.
 At the level of urban infrastructure, we can see evidence of complex systems when things go wrong. When a water main breaks and vast portions of a city’s population receive water from a backup system (and have to boil their water, just in case), or when an outage can cause a city to be without power, we see the sensitivity of a city’s infrastructure and the vast complex system that operates for its population, which most of us are normally blissfully unaware of. Similarly, transportation networks, from a subway to the road networks, are also complex technological constructions that are difficult to fully grasp.

Who’s Behind the Right-Wing Assault on Public Universities?

Eric Alderman:

he conservative movement in the United States has long been wary of higher education. This is understandable given the fact that survey after survey demonstrates a positive correlation between education and progressive values. Conservatives tend to attribute this phenomenon to mass brainwashing by elite liberal professors coupled with a conspiracy to blacklist anyone who tells what they consider to be the truth. Indeed, educated hucksters like David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes have made a tidy fortune from their gullible funders by hawking exactly this silly idea: smearing academics with McCarthyite tactics as they simultaneously complain about the communities of competence that struggle to maintain the integrity of their disciplines.

In addition to these mini-crusades, right-wing foundations and funders have enjoyed considerable dividends from the program of long-term investments they made in private universities beginning in the 1970s, when a bunch of them decided that the entire edifice of public knowledge was titled against their worldview. More recently, however, the far right has turned its attention away from these elite-oriented universities to public ones. Instead of seeking to change the minds—and hiring practices—of the Harvards and Stanfords of the world, they are now seeking to undermine the intellectual standards of state universities across America. They are doing this by persuading Republican-controlled state legislatures and governorships to pass massive cuts in funding while attacking the very foundations of higher education. The new demand is that public universities should be treated as any corporate entity, to be judged not as a social good but exclusively on its bottom line. (I should probably mention that I teach in a public university and that my daughter is beginning her freshman year at another this fall.)

Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature

Steven Pearlstein:

When I assigned an 800-page biography of Andrew Carnegie for a new undergraduate course on wealth and poverty at George Mason University a few years ago, I wasn’t sure the students would actually read it. Not only did most of them make it to the end, however, but many thanked me for giving them the chance to read a popular work of history. Curious, I inquired how many were history majors. Of the 24 honors students in the seminar, there were none. English? Philosophy? Fine arts? Only one. How was this possible? I asked. Almost in unison, half a dozen replied: “Our parents wouldn’t let us.”

The results were similar when I surveyed freshmen in another honors seminar this spring. This time, I asked how many would have been humanities majors if the only criteria were what they were interested in and what they were good at. Ten of the 24 raised their hands.

I was aware, of course, of the drift toward pre-professionalism on college campuses, of widespread concern over student debt, of stories about college-educated baristas living in basements, of governors threatening to cut off state funding for French literature and anthropology. Even so, I found it shocking that some of the brightest students in Virginia had been misled — by parents, the media, politicians and, alas, each other — into thinking that choosing English or history as a major would doom them to lives as impecunious schoolteachers.

What happens when a funding crunch turns a high school into a recruitment complex for arms manufacturers?

Malcolm Harris:

Imagine you run a public high school with a middling reputation. You struggle with getting poor kids to engage and graduate as well as convincing rich families not to make use of private alternatives. It’s either come up with a low-cost gimmick or risk being labeled an unemployment factory and expose your belly to the talons of charter school “reformers.” Staying the course is not an option.

At one high school just outside of Washington, D.C., they chose the gimmick — a theme for the school that’s buzzy and also represents the only category of federal jobs still growing: terrorism and the prevention thereof. For her book A Curriculum of Fear: Homeland Security in U.S. Public Schools, University of Illinois–Chicago education professor Nicole Nguyen embedded in the school’s homeland security program, chatting up administrators, teachers, and students under the guise of studying their innovative approach (rather than their scary warmongering, which is closer to the truth). Nguyen didn’t expect to like what she found, but I can’t imagine there’s any critic of American education or the United States military who wouldn’t still be surprised by what’s happening at the school Nguyen pseudonymously refers to as Milton.

Rutgers: to avoid microaggressions, only speak when ‘necessary’

Amber Athey:

The “Language Matters” website includes a presentation similar in nature to the flyer, outlining the “big impact” of “little things” and providing examples of the three types of microaggressions.

A microassault may include “avoiding someone,” for instance, while an example of a microinsult is telling someone they are strong for a girl. A microinvalidation, meanwhile, could involve asking an Asian or Latino person where they are from.

Simply avoiding offensive language, however, is not enough according to Rutgers, which claims that microaggressions can also be “nonverbal” and “environmental,” but fails to elaborate further.

Rutgers also has a Bias Prevention Education Team that handles reports of microaggressions and other “bias incidents,” which experienced a surge of reports after alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos visited campus last semester, the anonymous student claimed. Liberal students memorably protested the event by covering themselves in fake blood, but still complained vehemently that the university had tolerated what they deemed “hate speech.”

In St. Louis schools, water fountains are symbols of inequality again

Tony Messenger

Yellow tape marks the drinking fountains in 30 St. Louis Public Schools as off-limits, denying students even a sip of water.

In the wake of the lead-poisoning crisis in Flint, Mich., this summer, officials here tested the water at their schools, many of them decades-old buildings in need of repair. Some, like Mann Elementary and Patrick Henry Downtown Academy, had results bad enough to necessitate an immediate shut-off of the drinking fountains; more than a dozen schools had at least one reading four or five times the readings recorded in Flint homes. The district shipped in bottled water. At other schools, like Gateway Middle, there was at least one test that exceeded the 10-parts-per-billion threshold set by the district, but administrators determined that there was enough clean water available elsewhere in the school to keep most of the taps running. At Gateway, teachers took matters into their own hands and are bringing bottled water in on their own.

[Watch: Flint mayor says city’s infrastructure is ‘broken’]

About 19 minutes away, at Reed Elementary School in Ladue, in the 63124 Zip code that often ranks as one of the wealthiest in the country, the water will be cold and clean. In fact, thanks to a “naming opportunities” initiative, the drinking fountain there might soon find itself inscribed with a generous donor’s name — a reminder to thirsty students that they live in a place where clean water is a privilege.

RFP 14843 – Management Oversight of City of Milwaukee Charter Schools

City of Milwaukee:

The City of Milwaukee is seeking proposals from qualified consultants to provide management oversight services to the Charter School Review Committee (CSRC) as specified in Chapter 330-27 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances, including but not limited to board meeting attendance, school visits/monitoring, drafting reports to the CSRC, and review and administration services.

Before the computer, there was something almost as complex: the Chinese typewriter

Julie Makinen

For more than a century, Chinese typewriters have been objects of curiosity, confusion and even a fair bit of ridicule — after all, how do you type a language that has no alphabet?

On “The Simpsons,” smarty-pants Lisa was confounded by an imaginary one that featured countless buttons covered in complicated-looking characters. One of hip-hop artist MC Hammer’s frenetic, high-stepping dance routines was nicknamed the “Chinese Typewriter” because its furious moves supposedly mimicked the flailing that would be required of a Chinese typist trying to quickly hop about a massive keyboard.

How to Learn Advanced Mathematics Without Heading to University

Michael Halls-Moore

In the first year we discussed the basics – Linear Algebra, Ordinary Differential Equations, Real Analysis and Probability. In the second year we built on those basics, studying Metric Spaces, the Riemann Integral, Group Theory and calculus on Vector Spaces.

In the third year of a four-year masters-level course, especially one with an applied focus that will be of interest to quants, we need to begin thinking about more abstract concepts that will prepare us for study of Stochastic Calculus, Probabilistic Machine Learning and Bayesian Econometrics.

With that in mind it is essential that we study topics such as Measure Theory and Linear Functional Analysis.

Both of these courses contain ideas that underlie Probability Theory, Time Series Analysis and some aspects of Machine Learning. Measure Theory teaches us about generalising the Riemann Integral to the Lebesgue Integral, while Linear Functional Analysis discusses function spaces, many of which are necessary for solutions to certain Partial Differential Equations.

The ever-expanding college football coaching staff and how Nick Saban started it all

Alex Scarborough:

A Florida support staff member paces near the 50-yard line, staring across the field of the Georgia Dome. It’s December and the SEC Championship Game will begin in an hour — No. 18 Florida vs. No. 2 Alabama. Players from both teams warm up, yet it’s not an athlete who has this young, up-and-coming coach’s attention. He looks over at the opposing sideline and marvels at the size of the crimson-clad throng of coaches at Nick Saban’s beck and call. (The size of Saban’s armada grew again this week with the hiring of former USC coach Steve Sarkisian as an analyst.)

College Has Been Oversold

Alex Tabarrok:

Educated people have higher wages and lower unemployment rates than the less educated so why are college students at Occupy Wall Street protests around the country demanding forgiveness for crushing student debt? The sluggish economy is tough on everyone but the students are also learning a hard lesson, going to college is not enough. You also have to study the right subjects. And American students are not studying the fields with the greatest economic potential.

Over the past 25 years the total number of students in college has increased by about 50 percent. But the number of students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (the so-called STEM fields) has remained more or less constant. Moreover, many of today’s STEM graduates are foreign born and are taking their knowledge and skills back to their native countries.

MOOCs no longer massive, still attract millions

Dhawal Shah

But as course providers learned more about student behavior in online courses, MOOCs have evolved to meet the needs of the student. These needs include shorter courses with soft deadlines (i.e making it possible to submit assignments anytime before the end of the course, rather than having weekly hard deadlines).

Kadenze, a MOOC platform optimized for arts education, made such a switch recently. After the switch, the platform got more submissions in one month than in the whole of 2015 (Kadenze launched in mid June 2015), according to CEO Ajay Kapur.

But the biggest change to MOOCs in recent times has been that they have become more available. In other words, the number of courses that users can start immediately has risen significantly, as you can see in the graph below. (The graph shows the number of courses that a learner could start in September of each year. I chose September because it’s usually the biggest month for MOOCs.)

Are American universities approaching “Peak Administrative Bloat”?

The Lighthouse

Are American universities approaching “Peak Administrative Bloat”? Some might think so. Consider the following job titles and salary estimates: “Principal Assistant Chancellor of the Office of Strategic Dining Technology, $180,317”; “Associate Executive for the Task Force on Donor Climate, $368,186”; “Assistant Provost for Athletic Maintenance to the Subcommittee for Neighborhood Outreach, $415,314.” Fortunately, those are just make-believe cases taken from the University Title Generator, but you get the point. The joke sounds plausible because it reflects the perception of an underlying reality: administrative bureaucracies and salaries have grown significantly, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, author of Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.

Administrative bloat is one reason that college tuitions have climbed. Research costs are another—and reducing them would ease the student-debt burden. “Shrinking the ranks of nonteaching research faculty and putting professors back to work teaching would help undergraduates access the courses they need while saving them $2,000 to $3,000,” Alger writes.

Are universities worth it?

Tim Harford

Tast week the British university system offered a record number of places. That sounds like good news — but do we really need more people to go to university? For that matter, does the world need more universities?

The answer feels like it should be yes. Education is good, is it not? But everything has a cost. Education takes time. We could insist that everyone study full-time until the age of 45 but that would surely be too much. And if that’s too much, perhaps half the population studying until they’re 21 is also too much. As for universities, they consume financial and intellectual resources — perhaps those resources might be better spent elsewhere.

My own personal bias is strongly in favour both of going to university, and of simply having universities around. Since the main skill I learnt at university was to write about economics, and I use that skill every day of my professional life, even an abstract education seems practical to me.

Graduate Students, the Laborers of Academia

Mark Oppenheimer:

Twenty years ago, when I was a senior at Yale, the graduate students embarked on a two-week “grade strike,” during which they refused to hand in the fall grades of the undergraduates they were teaching. Grades were due on January 2, 1996, but the grad students, then as now agitating for union recognition, withheld the grades until two weeks later, when it became clear that they were losing the battle on all fronts. The dean of the graduate school brought three union leaders up on disciplinary charges (one was dismissed, though the other two had their punishments overturned); some faculty members threatened graduate students with reprisals, like poor letters of recommendation; and the Yale undergraduates, for whom a transcript without grades was like a scull without oarsmen, turned viciously on their teaching assistants.

That spring, a writer for the late, great small magazine Lingua Franca went to Yale and found that even campus liberals hated the grad-student-union movement. “They undertook an obligation and reneged,” the president of the Yale College Democrats told the reporter. “They’re holding the grades hostage of people they have no beef with.” Farther down in the article, the same student was in high snark mode: “It’s hard to tell an undergraduate who’s in debt $27,000 a year that your $10,000 stipend and full-tuition waiver isn’t enough,” he said. “You could argue that there is no one more privileged than the graduate students.”

Professors Locked Out of LIU Brooklyn Amid Contract Fight for More Pay

Alexandra Leon

Faculty members at Long Island University’s campus will be locked out of the school starting Friday night after their contract with the university expired — as the school plans to borrow staff from other campuses to teach upcoming classes, the union says.

Starting at midnight, unionized members of the LIU Faculty Federation (LIUFF) won’t be allowed on campus after the university refused to accept terms of a new contract that would have increased pay to match that of their Long Island colleagues.

When classes start on Sept. 7, staff members from LIU’s Brooklyn campus and Post campus on Long Island will be taking over classes for full-time and part-time faculty members, according to LIUFF Vice President Ralph Engelman.

The University of Chicago is made of safe spaces


There’s something basically right with the idea that universities (in the social sciences and humanities) should be in the business of making their students uncomfortable with their preconceptions, obligng them to examine their own and others’ ideas forcefully, and getting them to acknowledge a la Max Weber that there are awkward facts for every political position. But there’s also something fundamentally wrong with the claim that the ideal of academic freedom and the idea of the safe space are opposed to each other.

One of these days, we may see Susanne Lohmann’s book on how universities think. But in the meantime, there are some helpful insights in the essays that are supposed to provide one bit or another of her argument. In particular, this piece, which argued, a decade ago, that the university was nothing more and nothing less than a congeries of safe spaces for faculty, who otherwise would be at each others’ throats.

Cameron Okeke:

The University of Chicago sent a dizzying letter to its freshman class last week, pledging its allegiance to two principles: academic freedom and freedom of expression. The letter expressed this commitment by denouncing “so-called trigger warnings” and “intellectual ‘safe spaces.’” To those unfamiliar with the UChicago’s abysmal campus climate, a strong stance against echo chambers may seem reasonable. But marginalized students know that this declaration ignores the real problems on campus: sexual assault, racial profiling, and other troubling issues.

I would know. During my four years as an undergraduate at UChicago from 2011 to 2015, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with the university’s willful ignorance of students’ concerns, especially students of color. As a first-generation black student, I needed safe spaces like the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs — not to “hide from ideas and perspectives at odds with my own,” but to heal from relentless hate and ignorance, to hear and be heard. My ideas were always challenged, but never my humanity. I mattered.

Full of robust dialogue, safe spaces are not a bubbled-wrapped echo chamber, but a places where “civility and mutual respect” actually matter. Though spacious, the multicultural student affairs office was always full of students sharing their struggles and grappling with oppression. Underfunded and understaffed, it was a house-turned-sanctuary for students and student groups alike. I even slept there during a particularly brutal finals week. I, like many other students, wouldn’t have survived UChicago without this place to call my home.

Erika Price:

Today, news broke that the University of Chicago had issued a letter to all incoming Freshmen warning that the school is not a “safe space” and that students should expect to be “challenged”. Most notably, UofC came out against the use of “trigger warnings”, brief content advisories that sometimes are placed on syllabi or lecture slides to alert students to potentially upsetting material.

Duke University Has a Safe Space Room. For ‘Healing.’

Robby Soave

It’s called the Sanford Safe Space, and it will be a special room on campus where students can come when they need to “heal.” A social worker will be present.

That’s according to The Duke Chronicle, which notes that the room was conceived of by the Duke public policy school’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Kathryn Whetten, a global health professor and co-chair of the committee, offered her own office as the physical location of the safe space. The idea is to provide a safe, healing space where all sorts of people can feel good about themselves, including students of color, military members, and even conservatives.

Inside Bill Clinton’s nearly $18 million job as ‘honorary chancellor’ of a for-profit college

Rosalind S. Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee

The guest list for a private State Department dinner on higher- education policy was taking shape when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a suggestion.

In addition to recommending invitations for leaders from a community college and a church-funded institution, Clinton wanted a representative from a for-profit college company called Laureate International Universities, which, she explained in an email to her chief of staff that was released last year, was “the fastest growing college network in the world.”

There was another reason Clinton favored setting a seat aside for Laureate at the August 2009 event: The company was started by a businessman, Doug Becker, “who Bill likes a lot,” the secretary wrote, referring to her husband, the former president.

Nine months later, Laureate signed Bill Clinton to a lucrative deal as a consultant and “honorary chancellor,” paying him $17.6 million over five years until the contract ended in 2015 as Hillary Clinton launched her campaign for president.

Countries where you can buy citizenship

Joe Myers

At the top of the table are countries that offer an “economic citizenship” programme, which confer citizenship after a minimal qualifying period. Although many of these have been in place for some time, there has been a recent surge in applicants and capital inflow, according to the IMF.

The cheapest option is Dominica, where you can become a citizen for a US$100,000 investment (plus fees) and an in-person interview, according to the BBC.

The rest of the table is devoted to the residency programmes in place around the world. Many of these have been adopted in recent years by larger European nations (though the United States and United Kingdom have had systems in place since the early 1990s).

There’s a New Round of Concussion-Related Lawsuits, Just in Time for the Start of College Football

Edwin Rios

During his four years as a football player at the University of Miami, Ryan Hill remembers getting several concussions. Six years later, Hill says he still feels the consequences—acute headaches, depression, mood swings, and more. So do at least 23 other former players across the country, according to a growing batch of lawsuits filed since May against major football conferences, the NCAA, and, in some cases, the schools themselves.

The 24 lawsuits allege that before 2010—when the NCAA approved legislation forcing schools to create guidelines for dealing with concussions—universities, athletic conferences, and the NCAA knew or should have known the risks associated with playing football but failed to inform student-athletes and implement policies to protect them. They “actively concealed this information to protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football,” the lawsuits allege.

Newark public school officials handed out $1.7 million in bonuses to 283 top teachers

Leslie Brody

Newark public school officials said Friday they handed out $1.7 million in bonuses to 283 top teachers, part of a groundbreaking contract for performance pay.

Merit pay began in the city schools as part of a 2012 contract that was funded in part by a $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who said he hoped to make Newark a model for turning around a troubled school system.

The contract’s provision to give financial incentives for strong classroom performance was unusual: Teachers unions often balk at bonuses, saying they cause dissension and competition among colleagues who need to collaborate. Teachers typically get increases for longevity and other accomplishments, such as earning advanced degrees.

In Newark, where teachers deemed effective get raises for longevity and other factors, this year’s bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $12,500. The highest ones went to three teachers who worked in hard-to-staff subject areas in the most struggling schools. Officials in the state-operated district said these bonuses helped with its efforts to retain talent, and this year they were funded from the district’s budget.

It is unclear whether the merit pay plan will continue. The Newark Teachers Union and district are in negotiations over a new contract to replace the one that expired in June 2015. Union president John Abeigon said merit pay remained in the draft language, but in order for it to remain he wanted the district to say where the money would come from. Mr. Abeigon said his priority was getting raises across the board and retroactive increases for the past year.

“Don’t talk poverty to me with one mouth and then tell me with a separate tongue we will have millions to give” on performance bonuses, he said.

A spokesman said the district didn’t discuss contract negotiations, rewarding top teachers is a priority, and the bonuses represent just a small piece of a nearly $1 billion budget.

Why We Should Teach About the FBI’s War on the Civil Rights Movement

Ursula Wolfe-Rocco:

This month marks the 45th anniversary of a dramatic moment in U.S. history. On March 8, 1971—while Muhammad Ali was fighting Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden, and as millions sat glued to their TVs watching the bout unfold—a group of peace activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they could find.

Keith Forsyth, one of the people who broke in, explained on Democracy Now!:

I was spending as much time as I could with organizing against the war, but I had become very frustrated with legal protest. The war was escalating and not de-escalating. And I think what really pushed me over the edge was, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia, there were four students killed at Kent State and two more killed at Jackson State. And that really pushed me over the edge, that it was time to do more than just protest.

Delivered to the press, these documents revealed an FBI conspiracy—known as COINTELPRO—to disrupt and destroy a wide range of protest groups, including the Black freedom movement. The break-in, and the government treachery it revealed, is a chapter of our not-so-distant past that all high school students—and all the rest of us—should learn, yet one that history textbooks continue to ignore.

Elementary School Bans Homework Amid Growing Debate

Morgan Winsor

Kelly Elementary School in Holyoke has banned homework for the year with the intention of giving students all the instruction and extra help they may need during the school day.

“We want kids to go home tired; we want their brains to be tired,” Jackie Glasheen, principal of the school, whose kindergarten through 8th-grade students are nearly all poor and Hispanic, told ABC News. At home, she said, “we want them to engage with their families, talk about their school days and go to bed.”

Black Teachers Matter

Kristina Rizga

One spring morning this year, Darlene Lomax was driving to her father’s house in northwest Philadelphia. She took a right onto Germantown Avenue, one of the city’s oldest streets, and pulled up to Germantown High School, a stately brick-and-stone building. Empty whiskey bottles and candy cartons were piled around the benches in the school’s front yard. Posters of the mascot, a green and white bear, had browned and curled. In what was once the teachers’ parking lot, spindly weeds shot up through the concrete. Across the street, above the front door of the also-shuttered Robert Fulton Elementary School, a banner read, “Welcome, President Barack Obama, October 10, 2010.”

What’s the Future of Jobs?

John Hagel:

What better time to reflect on the future of work and jobs than Labor Day? I’ve written about this extensively with my latest foray on a recent blog post.

Is STEM our future?

Today, I want to be a contrarian. The conventional wisdom is that the best way to prepare students for the future of work is through a STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), although a few might recommend STEAM (adding art as a token concession to the quantitative basket). Let me challenge this on several levels.

First, it maintains a disciplinary focus to education at a time when our disciplinary boundaries are becoming prisons that prevent us from fully understanding the rapidly changing world around us.

Second, it suggests kids should go into disciplines that are particularly vulnerable to automation, especially if we focus on the quantitative and systemic dimensions of these disciplines. Sure, data analysts are in hot demand now, but how long will it be before artificial intelligence automates much of this activity? Robots are already designing and building their compatriots.

5.6 Million Reasons to Stop Ignoring the Skills Gap

Mike Rowe

Last week, my personal toilet at mikeroweWORKS Headquarters coughed up a disgusting clog of bad advice, noxious bromides, and odorous stereotypes, leaving my entire office awash in the horrific stench of myth and nonsense. With no licensed plumbers on hand, I was forced to address the problem myself, pulling each offending fallacy from it’s cardboard tube of allegorical poo, and confronting it with a mix of government statistics and righteous indignation. As always, my objective was twofold – to shine a light on America’s widening skills gap, and debunk the growing perception that “all the good jobs are gone.” This latest effort is called “Hot Under the Blue Collar,” and it was sponsored by One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, and Mister Sparky Electric. Like so many other companies who rely on a skilled workforce, the people who own home service businesses are struggling to find the next generation of tradespeople who will keep our lights on and our pipes clear. Right now, thousands of good jobs – literally thousands – exist within these three companies alone. But no one seems to want them, and the reasons have nothing to do with low pay, poor benefits, or a lack of available training. They have more to do with the metaphorical miasma of misinformation currently clogging my commode. Consider:”>Mike Rowe

What Free Won’t Fix: Too Many Public Colleges are Dropout Factories

Tamara Hiler and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky:

Public colleges and universities play an essential role in unlocking the doors of higher education for many Americans. Today, more than 6.8 million students attend four-year public institutions, making up nearly two-thirds of the entire bachelor’s degree-seeking population in the United States.1 Close to two-thirds of all students attending these schools take out student loans in order to finance their education, with the average loan-holding student finding themselves more than $20,000 in debt four years later.2 And American taxpayers spend more than $10 billion dollars a year on federal Pell grants to help more than 2.7 million low- and moderate-income students attending these institutions afford a postsecondary education.3

This investment is one most Americans are willing to make—in part because of the irrefutable economic benefits gained in our modern economy by those who earn a college degree.4 But our analysis of the Department of Education’s College Scorecard data reveals that not all four-year public schools are giving students, or taxpayers, a good return on their investment. In fact, at many of these institutions, first-time, full-time students are not graduating, a large number are unable to earn wages higher than the typical high school graduate, and many cannot pay back the loans they’ve taken out.

While rising costs continue to drive the conversation around higher education in our country, this report and our previous analysis of four-year private, non-profit colleges raise much more fundamental questions beyond sticker price. With outcomes like these, it is clear that simply addressing the rising cost of college isn’t sufficient to ensure students are being equipped with the degrees and skills they need to succeed.

Among our key findings:

The Campus Left and the Alt-Right Are Natural Allies

Jason Willick:

s the Obama era comes to a close, two political movements that were once confined to the margins of public discourse are elbowing their way further and further into the mainstream.

The first, a type of aggressive identity politics on the left that can be loosely described as political correctness, had been incubated in academic gender and ethnic studies departments for decades, but burst into the public consciousness like never before in 2015 as college students started shouting down speakers, demanding protection from disagreeable ideas, and otherwise engaging in illiberal antics that earned widespread coverage in the mainstream press.
PC is making its mark in elite culture outside of the Ivory Tower, too. As Jonathan Chait wrote in his blockbuster essay on the phenomenon early last year:

Civics: Cronyism puts democracies and markets at risk

Dr Emmanuel Martin

In October 2008, when United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson bailed out several large financial companies, including his former employer Goldman Sachs, with taxpayers’ money, many raised their eyebrows and spoke of crony capitalism. There have been many such instances in recent years.
Cronyism is not straightforward corruption – although it can easily slip into it. It can be defined as the private use of personal connections to obtain favors from politicians and powerful officials, who receive benefits in return and become cronies. The incestuous relationship between economic and political power is made of “revolving doors” and favors exchanged between the private and public sectors.

Math biographies for my kids

MJ Lawler:

My older son came home from day 2 of 7th grade today. As we chatted about his day at school he told me that they wrote “math biographies” in math class today. I didn’t press him on what he talked about in his bio, instead I thought it would be fun to use the same idea for a short set of math videos tonight.

Here’s what my older son had to say about his “math biography”

Favorite topics he’s learned about so far: higher dimensions and 3d printing

Topic he’s excited to learn: trigonometry (which he thinks is advanced geometry)

Fun sort of one-off project we’ve done: Creating the 120-cell

Cornell University welcomes 12-year-old college freshman

Mary Esch

Jeremy is the home-schooled child of two aerospace engineers who were living in Grand Prairie, Texas, when he applied to Cornell. While Jeremy’s elite-level SAT and Advanced Placement test scores in math and science at age 10 showed he was intellectually ready for college, Collins said what sealed the deal was his parents’ willingness to move to Ithaca. Jeremy’s father, Andy Shuler, transferred from Lockheed Martin in Texas to its location in upstate New York.

“I wanted to make sure he had a nice, safe environment in terms of growing up,” Collins said.

Milwaukee Schools’ Superintendent Commentary

Alan Borsuk:

I once sort of believed in miracle school superintendents. If you just got a spectacular person to head a school system, there would be real improvement.

I’m more jaded now. I’ve seen superintendents come and go in Milwaukee Public Schools and I’ve followed what has happened in school districts across the nation. Superintendents rarely spark much improvement. A great one is valuable, but, as a rule, no one person has that much impact.

This said, I suggest that Darienne Driver is very important to MPS, and if MPS is to navigate with reasonable success some difficult waters ahead, Driver’s work will be crucial. That includes her potential role in dealing with Republicans in the Legislature who are likely to have proposals to change MPS, come next spring.

After two years as superintendent and four years in Milwaukee, Driver is the one person connected to MPS who just about everyone praises. From left to right, from union leaders to civic and business leaders to politicians of both parties, people speak highly of Driver. Lip service? In some cases. But it’s better than what most anyone else connected to MPS gets.