Revealed: life inside China’s ‘Red Army’ schools

Agence France-Press:

In 2008, it was designated a “Red Army primary school” – funded by China’s “red nobility” of revolution-era Communist commanders and their families – one of many such institutions that have been established across the country.

Why are so many Chinese nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution?

The schools are an extreme example of the “patriotic education” which China’s ruling Communist party promotes to boost its legitimacy, but which critics condemn as little more than brainwashing.

“The Red Army spirit is a real asset for children. It teaches them to be hardworking and thrifty from a young age,” said school manager Mu Chunyong, who oversees the 136 pupils in first to fourth grades.

Guizhou province is one of China’s poorest, but even there, most families are now able to afford relatively comfortable lives, making it important to remind students of the hardships of the past, he said.

“If you don’t instil kids these days with a sense of the evolution of history, the kids won’t cherish their current living conditions.”

40% of foreign students in the US have no close friends on campus: The culture shock of loneliness

Andrea van Niekirk:

Foreign students are flocking to the higher education system in the US. A recent study found that in 2011-2012, the number of international students in the US increased by 6.5% over the last year to a record high of 764,495 students. Of these, 56% came from only five countries: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
The reasons for the shift and the consequences of this massive migration have been discussed at great length within universities, in papers with titles such as “The Chinese are Coming.” When the students arrive on American campuses, however, they have to wrestle with social and educational experiences that are fundamentally foreign to them. Most anticipate their American adventure as an exciting opportunity laced with some inevitable adjustments, caught off guard by the extent and nature of the obstacles they encounter, in the classroom and on campus.

How the Anti-Vaxxers Are Winning

Peter Hotez:

It’s looking as if 2017 could become the year when the anti-vaccination movement gains ascendancy in the United States and we begin to see a reversal of several decades in steady public health gains. The first blow will be measles outbreaks in America.

Measles is one of the most contagious and most lethal of all human diseases. A single person infected with the virus can infect more than a dozen unvaccinated people, typically infants too young to have received their first measles shot. Such high levels of transmissibility mean that when the percentage of children in a community who have received the measles vaccine falls below 90 percent to 95 percent, we can start to see major outbreaks, as in the 1950s when four million Americans a year were infected and 450 died. Worldwide, measles still kills around 100,000 children each year.

The myth that vaccines like the one that prevents measles are connected to autism has persisted despite rock-solid proof to the contrary. Donald Trump has given credence to such views in tweets and during a Republican debate, but as president he has said nothing to support vaccination opponents, so there is reason to hope that his views are changing.

America’s spies anonymously took down Michael Flynn. That is deeply worrying.

Damon Linker:

Those cheering the deep state torpedoing of Flynn are saying, in effect, that a police state is perfectly fine so long as it helps to bring down Trump.

It is the role of Congress to investigate the president and those who work for him. If Congress resists doing its duty, out of a mixture of self-interest and cowardice, the American people have no choice but to try and hold the government’s feet to the fire, demanding action with phone calls, protests, and, ultimately, votes. That is a democratic response to the failure of democracy.

Sitting back and letting shadowy, unaccountable agents of espionage do the job for us simply isn’t an acceptable alternative.

Examining College Endowments per Pell Recipient

Robert Kelchen:

One of the most-discussed higher education policy proposals from President Donald Trump has been a proposal to tax the endowments of wealthy colleges that are seen as not using enough money on financial aid. Key Trump supporter Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) has introduced legislation requiring colleges with endowments over $1 billion to spend at least 25% of all investment returns on financial aid, much to the chagrin of wealthy colleges.

This proposal does not take into account the size of a college—which means that colleges with similar endowment levels can have vastly different levels of resources. For example, Vassar College and North Carolina State University had endowments just under $1 billion as of June 2015, but the sizes of the institutions are far different. Vassar has about 2,500 undergraduate students, while NC State has nearly ten times as many.

Another important factor is the financial need of students. Colleges can have similar sizes and similar endowment levels, but differ substantially in their number of Pell recipients (a proxy for low-income status). Washington State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia both have endowments around $900 million, but Washington State enrolled 3,000 more Pell recipients than Mizzou in spite of enrolling 4,000 fewer undergraduates. This means that Mizzou has the ability to target more aid to their Pell recipients should they choose to do so.

The Fight to Fix Symplectic Geometry

Kevin Hartnett:

In the 1830s, the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton reformulated Newton’s laws of motion, finding deep mathematical symmetries between an object’s position and its momentum. Then in the mid-1980s the mathematician Mikhail Gromov developed a set of techniques that transformed Hamilton’s idea into a full-blown area of mathematical research. Within a decade, mathematicians from a broad range of backgrounds had converged to explore the possibilities in a field that came to be known as “symplectic geometry.”

The result was something like the opening of a gold-rush town. People from many different areas of mathematics hurried to establish the field and lay claim to its fruits. Research developed rapidly, but without the shared background knowledge typically found in mature areas of mathematics. This made it hard for mathematicians to tell when new results were completely correct. By the start of the 21st century it was evident to close observers that significant errors had been built into the foundations of symplectic geometry.

Drug resistant bacteria are rampant in China’s poultry products, study shows

Stephen Chen:

Drug resistant bacteria can be found easily in China’s poultry production chain – from hatcheries to supermarkets – according to recent research by scientists from China, the US and Europe, underscoring the need for Beijing to control the use of antibiotics.

Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic drugs. A British government report last year estimated that antibiotic resistance would kill 10 million people yearly around the globe by 2050, more than cancer.

But the new study suggests a grimmer picture.

College endowment returns sink to their lowest level since the financial crisis

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

University endowments posted the lowest investment returns since the 2008 financial crisis, yet schools upped their spending in fiscal 2016, according to a survey released Tuesday by CommonFund and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Endowments have been on shaky ground coming out of the recession. Average annual returns have volleyed since plummeting 18.7 percent in 2009. In the 12 months ending June 30, endowments at 805 colleges and universities recorded a negative 1.9 percent return, compared to 2.4 percent growth the prior fiscal year, according to the survey.

Trump should pity the poor PhD: Glenn Reynolds

Glenn Reynolds::

We’ve heard a lot about the problem of inequality in America over recent years. But most of that talk has ignored one of the very worst pockets of inequality in American society. I speak, of course, of the American university system and its treatment of adjunct professors and graduate students.

Academics seem to think that the business world is a feudal environment characterized by huge status differentials and abusive treatment of underlings. They think that because, to be honest, that’s a pretty good characterization of . . . the modern university, where serfs in the form of adjunct professors toil in the vineyards.

As a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports: “Tenured faculty represent only 17% of college instructors. Part-time adjuncts are now the majority of the professoriate and its fastest-growing segment. From 1975 to 2011, the number of part-time adjuncts quadrupled. And the so-called part-time designation is misleading because most of them are piecing together teaching jobs at multiple institutions simultaneously. A 2014 congressional report suggests that 89% of adjuncts work at more than one institution; 13% work at four or more. The need for several appointments becomes obvious when we realize how little any one of them pays. In 2013, The Chronicle began collecting data on salary and benefits from adjuncts across the country. An English- department adjunct at Berkeley, for example, received $6,500 to teach a full-semester course. It’s easy to lose sight of all the people struggling beneath the data points. $7,000 at Duke. $6,000 at Columbia. $5,950 at the University of Iowa.”

This is how American health care kills people

Ryan Cooper:

Matthew Stewart owes $62,668.78 for drugs, surgeries, and other treatment. With both bankruptcy and possibly fatal liver failure looming, he doesn’t even bother opening his bills anymore, he told The Week. “There was no point. They just upset everyone,” he says.

Stewart is 29 years old, and was pursuing his Ph.D in American history at Texas Christian University until ill health forced him to withdraw. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, with his wife of six years, who is a junior high school teacher in a low-income district. They own their home. Before he came down with complications from cirrhosis caused by autoimmune hepatitis, he says he led a scrupulously healthy lifestyle — he does not drink or do any other non-medical drugs, he says, and was a devoted hiker before disaster struck. And he was insured — indeed, he had a gold plan from the ObamaCare exchanges, the second-best level of plan that you can get.

Think Asia Will Dominate the 21st Century? Think Again.

Dev S. Zakheim:

MICHAEL R. Auslin opens his book with a preface entitled “The Asia that Nobody Sees.” He might better have entitled it “Hiding in Plain Sight.” For far too long, but especially during the Obama years, policymakers chose to focus on Asia’s remarkable economic growth, coupled with an era of relative peace. Too often they overlooked economic, demographic, social, political and military tensions that did not lurk all that far below Asia’s shiny surface.

Barack Obama, who spent part of his formative years in Indonesia, was a leading cheerleader for the concept of the Asian century. He seemed to care little about Europe and preferred to avoid the troubles of the Middle East as much as possible. He embraced the notion of a rising Asia that soon would constitute America’s most vital interests. It was in that spirit, too, that Hillary Clinton announced the “pivot to Asia,” which was meant to refocus American military power and political and economic priorities away from Europe and the Middle East and instead underscore Asia’s importance to the United States.

DeVos and the ‘Third Way’ Opportunity for Democratic Education Reformers

Matthew Frankel, via a kind email::

Democratic education reformers, like many parents throughout the country, passionately believe that our public education system is struggling and needs to get better. But the DeVos appointment has left some of us in a state of confusion.

Some in the Democratic Party, with strong ties to the teachers unions, have outwardly blamed reform-minded Democrats for “helping pave the road for the DeVos nomination.” In addition, those who have advocated against a potentially extreme DeVos agenda believe the only way to fight her is through a traditionalist education agenda, based on the policies of special interests.

While many of us in the Democratic reform space share concerns regarding the DeVos appointment, such extreme tactics do not represent the will of parents. Up until recent years, working across the aisle to find common ground and bring compromise and develop needed results was once considered a patriotic endeavor. And it is clear that blindly following decades-old policy advocated by the teachers unions will certainly not address the current needs of our public school system.

Lost in this debate is the new opportunity provided to the Democratic party—to build on the Obama legacy and create a united, modern, “third-way” when it comes to the Democrat’s values on education.

“check your privilege as a literate person”

Amelia Hamilton:

It seems impossible these days to discuss any issue without being asked to check your privilege. Heaven forbid you have an opinion about something that has nothing to do with race; the privilege police want to ensure that you are made to care. Of course, it is important to consider the positions of others and the privileges that may influence the way we think (be they race, gender, class, the kind of family you were raised in, etc.) but this impulse has devolved into the absurd. Evidently the only way for a white person to check one’s privilege to an acceptable degree in 2017, for example, is to feel ashamed.

Recently, DNC chair candidate Sally Boynton Brown called on this shame to pitch herself for the job—a job she described as removing other white people from the conversation. “My job is to listen and be a voice. And my job is to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt. My job is to shut other white people down when they want to say, “Oh no, I’m not prejudiced. I’m a Democrat. I’m accepting.’” Sorry, Ms. Boynton, but none of that sounds very “accepting.”

Indeed. Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is attempting to further weaken our thin teacher standards.

Campus Rhetoric Lessons:

Josh Horwitz:

Chinese students are joining their peers on American campuses in getting woke. Their cause? Defending the official line of the Communist Party.

On Feb. 2, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) formally announced that the Dalai Lama would make a keynote speech at the June commencement ceremony.

The announcement triggered outrage among Chinese students who view the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as an oppressive figure threatening to divide a unified China. A group of them now plans to meet with the university chancellor to discuss the content of the upcoming speech.

Vouchers kept Milwaukee Catholic parishes open, but at a cost to religious activity

Erin Richards:

Hungerman said he can’t fully explain the reasons behind the numbers.

Maybe, he surmised, parishes that begin to accept vouchers experience leadership change and new priorities. Maybe vouchers caused parishioners to change churches. Maybe parishioners, knowing that their parish has a public funding stream, are less likely to donate, or perhaps they don’t want to donate to help voucher students who may not already be a part of the parish community.

Topczewski, from the archbishop’s office, said declining church revenue caused by fewer Catholics per capita does not necessarily mean declining parish and religious activity.

“Instead, the parish mission shifts to an evangelical mission in a neighborhood that is no longer predominantly Catholic, but whose families still seek out the quality and reputation of a Catholic school,” he said. “The survey misses that schools are a ministry for us.”


Simon Tilford:

Globalisation did not force governments to adopt policies that divided their countries, exacerbated inequality and hit social mobility. Many of them did those things by choice.

Donald Trump, Brexit, serious populist pressures in other EU countries: are we entering a full-blown crisis of international liberal capitalism? There is no doubt that globalisation poses policy challenges for governments. But globalisation by itself did not force governments to adopt policies that have divided their countries, exacerbated inequality and hit social mobility. Many of them did those things by choice.

The problem is not that we have allowed an increased role for markets, as many on the left (and increasingly on the populist right) argue. Open markets remain the best way of generating wealth and opportunities, of challenging vested interests and of expanding people’s freedom. We are in this mess because we’ve forgotten the lessons of the post-war period. Basically, we have a crisis of distribution and opportunity.

Now sites can fingerprint you online even when you use multiple browsers

Dan Goodin:

Researchers have recently developed the first reliable technique for websites to track visitors even when they use two or more different browsers. This shatters a key defense against sites that identify visitors based on the digital fingerprint their browsers leave behind.

State-of-the-art fingerprinting techniques are highly effective at identifying users when they use browsers with default or commonly used settings. For instance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s privacy tool, known as Panopticlick, found that only one in about 77,691 browsers had the same characteristics as the one commonly used by this reporter. Such fingerprints are the result of specific settings and customizations found in a specific browser installation, including the list of plugins, the selected time zone, whether a “do not track” option is turned on, and whether an adblocker is being used.

Global Surveillance: The Public Must Fight for its Right to Privacy

Christian Stöcker:

The term, “information superhighway” has always been insufficient to describe the Internet. In reality, the Web is a global communication space containing the private information of a large part of the population of every developed country. If someone were able to train an all-seeing eye onto the Internet, the blackmail potential would be almost limitless.

It is precisely this all-seeing eye that the British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the American National Security Agency (NSA) have developed under the name Tempora. An appropriate real-world metaphor for the program might be something like this: In every room of every house and every apartment, cameras and microphones are installed, every letter is opened and copied, every telephone tapped. Everything that happens is recorded and can be accessed as needed.

San Diego Police Targets African San Diego Police Targets African American Children for Unlawful DNA Collection

Jamie Williams:

Specifically targeting black children for unlawful DNA collection is a gross abuse of technology by law enforcement. But it’s exactly what the San Diego Police Department is doing, according to a lawsuit just filed by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties on behalf of one of the families affected. SDPD’s actions, as alleged in the complaint, illustrate the severe and very real threats to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights presented by granting law enforcement access to our DNA. SDPD must stop its discriminatory abuse of DNA collection technology.


According to the ACLU’s complaint, on March 30, 2016, police officers stopped five African American minors as they were walking through a park in southeast San Diego. There was no legal basis for the stop. As an officer admitted at a hearing in June 2016, they stopped the boys simply because they were black and wearing blue on what the officers believed to be a gang “holiday.”

Despite having no valid basis for the stop, and having determined that none of the boys had any gang affiliation or criminal record, the officers handcuffed at least some of the boys and searched all of their pockets. They found nothing but still proceeded to search the bag of one of the boys—P.D., a plaintiff in the ACLU’s case. (It’s standard to use minors’ initials, rather than their full names, in court documents.) The officers found an unloaded revolver, which was lawfully registered to the father of one of the boys, and arrested P.D.

Deep NLP Course


This repository contains the lecture slides and course description for the Deep Natural Language Processing course offered in Hilary Term 2017 at the University of Oxford.

This is an advanced course on natural language processing. Automatically processing natural language inputs and producing language outputs is a key component of Artificial General Intelligence. The ambiguities and noise inherent in human communication render traditional symbolic AI techniques ineffective for representing and analysing language data. Recently statistical techniques based on neural networks have achieved a number of remarkable successes in natural language processing leading to a great deal of commercial and academic interest in the field

This is an applied course focussing on recent advances in analysing and generating speech and text using recurrent neural networks. We introduce the mathematical definitions of the relevant machine learning models and derive their associated optimisation algorithms. The course covers a range of applications of neural networks in NLP including analysing latent dimensions in text, transcribing speech to text, translating between languages, and answering questions. These topics are organised into three high level themes forming a progression from understanding the use of neural networks for sequential language modelling, to understanding their use as conditional language models for transduction tasks, and finally to approaches employing these techniques in combination with other mechanisms for advanced applications. Throughout the course the practical implementation of such models on CPU and GPU hardware is also discussed.

Grammar isn’t merely part of language

David Mumford

This post is inspired by reading the latest Tom Wolfe diatribe, “The Kingdom of Speech”. While the book sets off to discuss the issues of what were the origins and evolution of speech in early man, the largest part of this book is devoted to a juicy recounting of the feud between Noam Chomsky and Daniel Everett over whether recursion and other grammatical structures must be present in all languages. Chomsky famously holds that some mutation endowed early man with a “language organ” that forces all languages to share some form of its built-in “universal grammar”. Everett, on the other hand, was the first to thoroughly learn the vastly simplified language spoken by the Amazonian Piraha (pronounced peedahan) that possesses very little of Chomsky’s grammar and, in particular, appears to lack any recursive constructions (aka embedded clauses). What I want to claim in this blog is that both are wrong and that grammar in language is merely a recent extension of much older grammars that are built into the brains of all intelligent animals to analyze sensory input, to structure their actions and even formulate their thoughts. All of these abilities, beyond the simplest level, are structured in hierarchical patterns built up from interchangeable units but obeying constraints, just as speech is.

Autism detectable in brain long before symptoms appear

James Gallagher:

The earliest that children tend to be diagnosed at present is at the age of two, although it is often later.

The study, published in the journal Nature, showed the origins of autism are much earlier than that – in the first year of life.

The findings could lead to an early test and even therapies that work while the brain is more malleable.

One in every 100 people has autism, which affects behaviour and particularly social interaction.

The study looked at 148 children including those at high risk of autism because they had older siblings with the disorder.

All had brain scans at six, 12 and 24 months old.

The bureaucratic ‘skim’ of federal school funding

Dan Benson & Dave Daley:

It takes more than $50 million a year for hundreds of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction staff to manage the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds that flow to local school districts around the state, budget figures indicate.

The figures — which don’t include spending or staff devoted to grant administration in either Washington, D.C., or in local school districts — bolster arguments by those who say the state educational system is too burdened by paperwork and diverts resources that could be better used to help students and to assist their teachers.

For the 2015-’16 school year, $877.63 million in federal money flowed from Washington to the DPI, according to a September 2015 Legislative Fiscal Bureau memorandum to state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis). Of that, more than $823.8 million was passed through DPI to “subrecipients,” mostly the state’s school districts, in the form of federal grants such as Title I for disadvantaged students, school lunches, teacher training and other programs.

The rest of the money — nearly $53.7 million — went to “administration,” or, as DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said in an email, “the operations budget of administering federal programs.”

Ted Neitzke, the former superintendent of the West Bend School District with more than 22 years in the education field and now head of a regional education agency, said the paperwork to administer federal grants in Wisconsin is overwhelming.

“DPI — they got a jillion people working there that are just checking boxes,” Neitzke said. “The paperwork — it needs to be checked 52 ways to Sunday.

“I can’t even imagine how many personnel they (DPI) have whose sole job is just checking boxes,” Neitzke continued. “The unfortunate fact is that cash does not move to the classroom as fast as it should. We should be results-driven, not compliance-driven.”

Why would a tenure-track professor find himself selling his plasma to make rent? A story about debt in the academic world.

Josh Roiland:

“Who’s sticking today?” the man asked.

He wore tan work boots and rough jeans. He told a friend in the waiting room that he had a couple hours off work and thought he’d stop in for some extra cash. The receptionist told him the names of that day’s phlebotomists. He paused. Sliding a 16-gauge needle into someone’s arm is tricky, and the man reconsidered. Instead of signing in, he announced to the room that he’d come back tomorrow and try his luck.

I’d driven 107 miles from my home in Bangor, Maine to the BPL Plasma Center in Lewiston to collect $50 for having my arm punctured and a liter of my plasma sucked out. The actual donation takes about 35 minutes, but the drive and its attendant wait makes for an eight-hour day. I clocked in for that trip five times this summer.

I’m a professor at the University of Maine. My salary is $52,000, and I am a year away from tenure. But like everyone else in that room, I was desperate for money.

Biometrics, real-time data poised to change dating

Marissa Lang and Dominic Fracassa:

“I can see a day where people take a swab of their cheek to get a DNA-level analysis of what they would be attracted to,” he said. “There’s a biological component to all of this that is largely unexplored and it would make this business very different.”

Genetic matchmaking remains nascent, but a few companies have already launched products that claim to use DNA to aid romance.

Genepartner, a Swiss company, offers a $249 DNA compatibility test that it bills as a “complementary service for matchmakers and online dating sites.”

Canadian startup DNA Romance will release a more comprehensive matchmaking service on Valentine’s Day, based on biological compatibility by using the results of already-available DNA tests, such as that offered by Mountain View genetics startup 23andMe.

Offering services that go beyond the current swipe-left, swipe-right trend may be a boon to the industry, too, as investors seem reticent to bankroll dating startups in an already crowded space.

Civics: Coming technology will likely destroy millions of jobs

Ed Hess:

American manufacturing job losses to China and Mexico were a major theme of the presidential campaign, and President Trump has followed up on his promise to pressure manufacturers to keep jobs here rather than send them abroad. Already, he has jawboned automakers Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler and heating and cooling manufacturer Carrier into keeping and creating jobs in the United States.

What he hasn’t yet addressed — but should — is the looming technology tsunami that will hit the U.S. job market over the next five to 15 years and likely destroy tens of millions of jobs due to automation by artificial intelligence, 3-D manufacturing, advanced robotics and driverless vehicles — among other emerging technologies. The best research to date indicates that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are likely to be replaced by technology over the next 10 to 15 years, more than 80 million in all, according to the Bank of England.

UMass-Amherst’s Mandatory Social Justice Classes Denounce ‘White Privilege’, ‘Cultural Imperialism’

Ian Miles Cheong:

Colleges are institutions of learning, not centers for indoctrination. But some schools are making “social justice” classes mandatory for students who want to acquire their degrees and diplomas.

A student in one such program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has given a long interview detailing what actually happens in the classroom day to day—revealing some of the exercises that students are put through and the “facts” that are pushed on them.

The premise of “Education 115: Embracing Diversity” at UMass- Amherst is that the U.S. is a nation of racism and bigotry. In the class, students were told to act out examples of racism to prove America is racist “from A to Z,” recognize the existence of “white privilege,” the dominion of men over women, and come up with ways to fight these societal ills.

The class taught students terms like “privilege,” “internalized classism,” and “cultural imperialism,” and asked students what they could do to end classism on campus.

Civics: PRC Religious Policy: Serving the Gods of the CCP

Jesdica Batke:

Beijing’s update of national-level religious regulations is part and parcel of a larger governance effort. This effort is designed to construct a latticework of legislation for managing citizens’ activities and minimizing international influences. If these regulations are implemented uniformly—which is always a big if in the PRC—in some cases they will offer greater certainty about what is allowed under the law. In others, they will restrict activities that previously had not been clearly regulated. Beijing’s negotiations with the Vatican over bishop ordinations reflect the same desires: to cement the party’s role in defining the permissible in Chinese religious life, to check foreign influence, and to continue to regularize social-management efforts.

Civics: The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious — and Wholly Justified — Felonies

Glenn Greenwald:

Moreover, Gen. Flynn has many enemies throughout the intelligence and defense community. The same is true, of course, of Donald Trump; recall that just a few weeks ago, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer warned Trump that he was being “really dumb” to criticize the intelligence community because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

It’s very possible — I’d say likely — that the motive here was vindictive rather than noble. Whatever else is true, this is a case where the intelligence community, through strategic (and illegal) leaks, destroyed one of its primary adversaries in the Trump White House.

But no matter. What matters is not the motive of the leaker but the effects of the leak. Any leak that results in the exposure of high-level wrongdoing — as this one did — should be praised, not scorned and punished.

It is, of course, bizarre to watch this principle now so widely celebrated. Over the last eight years, President Obama implemented the most vindictive and aggressive war on whistleblowers in all of U.S. history. As Leonard Downie, one of the editors at the Washington Post during the Watergate investigation, put it in a special report: “The [Obama] administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.”

Advocating Governance Diversity

Joel Kotkin:

When the founders crafted the Constitution, they confronted a country with deep divisions — rural and urban, slave and free, immigrant and nativist, manufacturing and commodity producing. The solution they came up with had its shortcomings, notably the tolerance of the truly deplorable institution of slavery, but without these built-in restraints the republic likely would not have survived its first decades.

Even after the Civil War settled control of the central government, the country largely followed the founders’ vision of separating and restraining power. Education, zoning, laws and the governing of morality were handled largely at the local level. The federal government focused on things that were its natural purview — interstate transportation, immigration, foreign and defense policy.

Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances

Daniel M. Hungerman, Kevin J. Rinz, Jay Frymark

Governments have used vouchers to spend billions of dollars on private education; much of this spending has gone to religiously-affiliated schools. We explore the possibility that vouchers could create a financial windfall for religious organizations operating private schools and in doing so impact the spiritual, moral, and social fabric of communities. We use a dataset of Catholic-parish finances from Milwaukee that includes information on both Catholic schools and the parishes that run them. We show that vouchers are now a dominant source of funding for many churches; parishes in our sample running voucher-accepting schools get more revenue from vouchers than from worshipers. We also find that voucher expansion prevents church closures and mergers. Despite these results, we fail to find evidence that vouchers promote religious behavior: voucher expansion causes significant declines in church donations and church spending on non-educational religious purposes. The meteoric growth of vouchers appears to offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.

America Is Losing Its Grip

Tom Vanderbilt:

Unlike most findings in the sleepy field of occupational therapy, her findings, which were published last year in the Journal of Hand Therapy, touched off a media firestorm, as the revelation seemed to encapsulate any number of smoldering fears in one handy conflagration: The loss of human potential in the face of automation, of our increasing time spent on smartphones and other devices, the erosion of our masculine norms,2 of the fragility and general shiftlessness of millennials. Even taking into account the cautionary statistical notes—that the sample sizes of the 1980s studies were not huge, that Fain’s study was mostly college students—the idea of a loss in human strength, expressed through a statistical measure hardly anyone had previously heard of, seemed to hint at some latter-day version of degeneration.

‘The Great Shame of Our Profession’ How the humanities survive on exploitation

Kevin Birmingham:

If it’s worth coining a term for the sort of work that a few other scholars and I are doing, we might call it “Narrative Historicism.” Narrative Historicism is like any other historicism in that it assumes a text’s significance is not immanent but rather radiates outward from the author to the author’s family, influences, preoccupations, and further outward to friends and allies, editors and publishers, and still further outward to cultural habits and biases, to legal, political, and economic institutions. Historicists think all of these ghosts are hovering nearby whenever a reader picks up a book.

Historicism imposes order upon chaos. It finds patterns in the boggling immensity of the past. What fascinates the historicist is how a book ripples out across the wide surface of a culture, how literary intentions end up serving unforeseen interests, how meanings get warped, how people may grow rich or suffer, how what was an expression of freedom now becomes a trap, how what was virtuous now becomes immoral.

Could Frisco ISD soon use students as janitors? It’s just one cost-cutting idea under consideration

Valerie Wigglesworth:

Soon, Frisco ISD students may not be cleaning just their bedrooms. They could be sprucing up their classrooms, too.
That’s one of several suggestions from volunteers trying to help the nearly 60,000-student school district deal with a budget shortfall brought on by a loss of state funding combined with voters’ rejection last August of a tax rate hike. Frisco ISD leaders and community members recently got their first look at the bevy of possible cost-saving strategies.

In addition to having students empty trash cans to cut back on janitorial staff hours, recommendations included charging students — up to $200 in high school — to participate in athletics, establishing a minimum number of students per course and consolidating courses with small enrollments.

Microsoft Allowed to Sue U.S. Government Over E-mail Surveillance

Kartikay Mehrotra:

Microsoft Corp. persuaded a judge not to let the U.S. government out of a lawsuit alleging the company’s free-speech rights are violated by a law that blocks it from alerting users to the clandestine interception of their e-mails.

The judge said Microsoft has at least made a plausible argument that federal law muzzles its right to speak about government investigations, while not ruling on the merits of the case.

“The public debate has intensified as people increasingly store their information in the cloud and on devices with significant storage capacity,” U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in Thursday’s ruling. “Government surveillance aided by service providers creates unique considerations because of the vast amount of data service providers have about their customers.”

How being replaced by a machine turned this graphic artist into an activist

Christine Ro:

Philippe Chabot, a French Canadian from Montreal, is the force behind @HumanVSMachine, and he knows something about being replaced. He used to be a graphic artist, first in the video industry and then as a freelancer. At one point, he had plenty of contracts and plenty of work. But increasing competition for fewer assignments made this an unstable profession. Eventually, Chabot was bidding against people who would churn out a logo for $5, and he found that game studios were increasingly outsourcing their artwork. Software and chatbots were created that could automatically design avatars and websites. So Chabot left the field and now works in a kitchen.

He’s not the only one of his friends and family whose work has been outsourced, whether to people in other countries or to non-humans.

Chabot said to Ars, “There seems to be stigma about this happening to someone, as if it is shameful. I think if more people would speak about this reality, we’d already be having a nicer transition with all these changes happening.”

Freedom of Speech is Now Largely an Illusion

Scott Adams:

Here’s a fresh example (today) of how Twitter throttles back my free speech when it doesn’t fit their political views. This only happens for Trump-related content, as far as I can tell. I haven’t seen an exception yet. Notice the referenced tweet shows as “unavailable” but it actually is available when users click the link. Twitter does this trick so my followers will think the link is gone and they won’t bother to click. This Twitter censorship method is well-documented by others.

Civics: UK Government advisers accused of ‘full-frontal attack’ on whistleblowers

Rob Evans, Ian Cobain and Nicola Slawson:

The government’s legal advisers have been accused of launching a “full-frontal attack” on whistleblowers over proposals to radically increase prison sentences for revealing state secrets and prosecute journalists.

Downing Street believes a major overhaul of existing secrecy legislation is necessary because it has become outdated in a digital age when government employees can easily disclose vast amounts of sensitive information.

Draft recommendations from the legal advisers say the maximum prison sentence for leakers should be raised, potentially from two to 14 years, and the definition of espionage should be expanded to include obtaining sensitive information, as well as passing it on.

The Curse Of Smart People


A bit over 3 years ago, after working for many years at a series of startups (most of which I co-founded), I disappeared through a Certain Vortex to start working at a Certain Large Company which I won’t mention here. But it’s not really a secret; you can probably figure it out if you bing around a bit for my name.

Anyway, this big company that now employs me is rumoured to hire the smartest people in the world.

Question number one: how true is that?

Answer: I think it’s really true. A suprisingly large fraction of the smartest programmers in the world *do* work here. In very large quantities. In fact, quantities so large that I wouldn’t have thought that so many really smart people existed or could be centralized in one place, but trust me, they do and they can. That’s pretty amazing.

Question number two: but I’m sure they hired some non-smart people too, right?

Which business schools are up or down, plus trends and profiles

Laurent Ortmans:

Insead is top of the 2017 Financial Times Global MBA Ranking of the best 100 programmes. It is the second year that the multi-campus international business school has taken the number one spot, after claiming it for the first time last year.

Stanford Graduate School of Business in California rises from fifth place in 2016 to second, a position it last held in 2014. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is in third place.

Harvard Business School, London Business School (LBS) and MIT Sloan School of Management, three of the MBA ranking’s longstanding heavyweights, all lost ground to their competitors. Harvard drops two places to fourth, the first time in nine years that the Boston school has been outside the top three. London Business School falls three places to sixth, its lowest position in 14 years. MIT Sloan School of Management falls to 13th place, the first time in 10 years that it has been outside the top 10.

Civics: How Online Competition Affects Offline Democracy

Ariel Ezrachi & Maurice Stucke:

We are witnessing the growth of online markets and a change in our purchasing patterns. People are opting for the convenience of online shopping. Advances in technology have seemingly increased our choices and opened markets to competition. We get more of what we desire at better prices and lower quality.

While the technological innovations have benefited us, we explore in Virtual Competition several emerging threats, namely algorithm-driven collusion, behavioural discrimination and abuses by dominant super-platforms.

One interesting characteristic of an online dystopia is its stealth. Granted in the brick-and-mortar world, we seldom knew when manufacturers colluded. But we did know of cruder forms of price discrimination (e.g. adults paying more than children and seniors), and we put up with monopolies’ inferior service and high prices. In the algorithm-driven world, we will often be unaware of camouflaged abuses. We will unlikely know when the digitised hand displaces the invisible hand of competition. What appears competitive may be nothing more than a controlled and manipulated personalised environment – much like in the movie The Truman Show where ignorance is bliss.

The purge turns Turkish academia into a slaughterhouse; Turkey into an ‘intellectual desert’

Yavuz Baydar:

When I heard the news on late Tuesday night, I did not know who to pity more than the other. I knew a few of the victims, but the first one I thought was a soft-spoken, elderly gentleman; Prof İbrahim Kaboğlu, from Marmara University, a top Turkish expert on constitution and law.

His civil courage has remained a contrast with his mild manners: he is one of the flag bearers of those who against all odds defend the value of the rule of law. Tuesday night, this senior scholar from Istanbul was ‘awarded’ by being fired, in a most arbitrary way.

With every new decree, tragedy of the dissident elite of Turkey widens, deepens, as it also exposes the underlying intention of those hold power: to maximize efforts for a ‘negative selection’ – as it happened once upon a time in Germany. Decree after decree, what we observe is the victory of intolerant mediocrity over hard-earned merit, and civil courage.

Reading Roadmap for Wisconsin

Wisconsin reading coalition, via email:

John Humphries, candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, will discuss his Reading Roadmap for Wisconsin on Wednesday, February 15, at 11:30 AM in Milwaukee. The free event will be held in the Juneau Room of the Knickerbocker Hotel, 1028 E. Juneau, with street parking available. The public is invited to listen and ask questions.

Related: Madison’s long-term disastrous reading results.

Where School Dollars Go to Waste

Terrance Ross:

America spends tons of money on education even though the final product isn’t very impressive. If children are indeed the future, then they’re certainly an expensive one: Of the $3.2 trillion in total expenditures for local and state governments in 2012, education accounted for nearly 28 percent, or $869.2 billion, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. That figure topped government spending in any other sector, almost doubling the second-largest recipient of taxpayer dollars—public welfare.

Madison spends about $18k/student annually, despite its long term, disastrous reading results.

I know they are going to die.’ This foster father takes in only terminally ill children – LA Times

Hailey Branson-Potts:

Of the 35,000 children monitored by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, there are about 600 children at any given time who fall under the care of the department’s Medical Case Management Services, which serves those with the most severe medical needs, said Rosella Yousef, an assistant regional administrator for the unit.

There is a dire need for foster parents to care for such children.

And there is only one person like Bzeek.

“If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of,” said Melissa Testerman, a DCFS intake coordinator who finds placements for sick children. “He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”

Typically, she said, children with complex conditions are placed in medical facilities or with nurses who have opted to become foster parents.

But Bzeek is the only foster parent in the county known to take in terminally ill children, Yousef said. Though she knows the single father is stretched thin caring for the girl, who requires around-the-clock care, Yousef still approached him at a department Christmas party in December and asked if he could possibly take in another sick child.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: $1,084,840,000,000: Taxes Set Record Through January; $7,133 Per Worker; Feds Still Run Deficit of $156,939,000,000

Terence P. Jeffrey:

The U.S. Treasury hauled in a record of approximately $1,084,840,000,000 in tax revenues in the first four months of fiscal 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2017), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

That is up about $5,616,000,000 in constant 2016 dollars from the approximately $1,079,224,000,000 in constant 2016 dollars that the Treasury collected in the first four months of fiscal 2016.

Tax revenues from previous years, as reported in the Monthly Treasury Statement for January of each year, were adjusted to 2016 dollars using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator.

Fakebook Has No First Amendment Right to Send Unauthorized Texts, Says Court

Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

“Today is Jim Stewart’s birthday. Reply to post a wish on his Timeline or reply with 1 to post ‘Happy Birthday!'” That’s the text, from Facebook to Colin Brickman, that launched a legal battle between Brickman and the social-media giant.

You see, Brickman had opted out of receiving texts from Facebook via the platform’s notification settings. In response to the unwanted birthday reminder, Brickman filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, representing “all individuals who received one or more Birthday Announcement Texts from [Facebook] to a cell phone through the use of an automated telephone dialing system at any time without their consent.”

SIDS: Many Deaths No Longer A Mystery

Andrea Hsu:

The thought of a baby dying suddenly and unexpectedly is one that keeps parents awake at night, fearing the worst. For years, little was known about sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Babies would die in their sleep, and it was presumed that little could be done to prevent those deaths.

Today in the U.S., more than 2,000 babies die of SIDS every year, according to government figures.

But the mystery surrounding SIDS is not what it once was. Many SIDS deaths are now believed to be accidents caused by unsafe sleep practices. And some are questioning whether the term SIDS remains relevant at all.

How technology is encouraging society to be stupid

Lauren Gilmore:

You can’t go a minute without checking your texts or see who’s favorited your most recent tweet. I, myself, have checked my social media accounts four times while writing this. Being always connected has become almost as habitual as breathing. And yet we can’t remember how we got to this point.
As Roman philosopher Seneca put it: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

It’s not the internet that’s to blame, however, but our own craving for distraction.

When we’re constantly distracted and interrupted, our brains can’t forge the neural connections that give distinctiveness and depth to our thinking.

Most Americans don’t pay extra to support worker-friendly businesses

Aaron Smith & Monica Anderson:

The relationship between businesses and their employees is back in the news, with low-wage laborers recently protesting and striking for a higher minimum wage and independent contractors in the sharing economy suing for expanded rights. But for consumers, how important is it to know about working conditions at the businesses they frequent, and what impact does this knowledge have on their shopping decisions?

UC Berkeley Student Paper Publishes Five Op-Eds Defending Violent Riots

Alex Griseold:

Cal BerkeleyThe major student-run paper of UC Berkeley ran five op-eds Tuesday defending the riots on campus, and arguing that violence was an acceptable response to a speech from Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

The Daily Californian editorial board published five op-eds from five students and former students, who uniformly believed the riot was justified. Nisa Dang demanded critics “check their privilege” before condemning the riots, blaming the violence on the appearance of the police. “I don’t care what Breitbart article or liberal bullshit listicle you’ve read, or what your experiences in white suburbia might have taught you — police are violent agents of the state.”

America’s youngest children most likely to live in poor economic conditions

Out of all age groups, children are still most likely to live in poverty, according to new research from the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Using the latest available data from the American Community Survey, NCCP researchers found that in 2015, while 30 percent of adults have low incomes, more than 40 percent of all children live in low-income families—including 5.2 million infants and toddlers under 3. Despite significant gains in household income and reductions in the overall poverty rate in recent years, 43 percent (30.6 million) of America’s children are living in families barely able to afford their most basic needs, according to Basic Facts about Low-Income Children, the center’s annual series of profiles on child poverty in America.

“While food assistance, public health insurance, and other programs have certainly had a mitigating effect on poverty for many families, the fact remains that in the United States young children have close to a one in two chance of living on the brink of poverty,” said Renée Wilson-Simmons, DrPH, NCCP director. “But being a child in a low-income or poor family doesn’t happen by chance, and neither should our approach to alleviating child poverty. In the coming weeks, hundreds of new leaders will take the helm at agencies responsible for implementing policies that touch the lives of poor children and affect their odds of success in life. It’s imperative that they do so with a real understanding of the disadvantages millions of Americans face from very young ages and what growing up poor looks like in America.”

Seven Ways You Can Support Academics in Turkey

Chad Kautzer:

The situation for academics in Turkey has dramatically worsened since the failed coup on July 15, a matter of increasing importance given the investigations, firings, deportations, trials, and detentions of academics even prior to the coup. In January of this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had already stretched the term “terrorist” enough to apply it to over one thousand members of Academics for Peace for publishing a petition. This threat to academics was foreshadowed in previous attacks on journalists and opposition lawmakers.

Civics: House Passes Bill to End Warrantless Email Surveillance

Sam Adler-Bell:

In a rare win for privacy, the House of Representatives voted unanimously today to close a loophole in an existing law that allows the government to access emails stored in the cloud without a warrant. The vote sets up a fight in the Senate that may presage other battles over the proper limits on surveillance to come later in the year.

The new legislation reforms a thirty-year-old statute called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Under ECPA, if an email has been stored for at least 180 days, the government can access that message with no more than a subpoena or court order. That means, if for some reason the FBI wanted to read the email you sent your mother on her birthday in August, they could do so without probable cause.

The “180-day rule” is a relic. ECPA passed in 1986, three years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Email was done in terminals at big research universities. The first commercial email services, MCI Mail (’88) and Compuserve (’89), were still years away. Electronic storage was prohibitively expensive. Email providers rarely held on to messages for more than a few months. Emails over 180 days old, to the extent they existed, were considered “abandoned property.” Congress didn’t contemplate a future in which our email inboxes stretched back years. Today, people store hundreds of thousands of emails in the cloud, amounting to an intimately detailed portrait of a person’s life and thoughts. And under ECPA, the vast majority of them are fair game.

Edgewood College and One City Partner to Train Educators

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

Today, One City Early Learning Centers of Madison and Edgewood College’s School of Education announced a new partnership they have formed to provide preschool teachers-in-training with significant hands-on experience in early childhood education in a community setting.

Beginning this month, Edgewood College will teach its Pre-student Teaching Practicum Course, Ed 381: Pre-reading and Literature for the Young Child, at One City’s preschool located at 2012 Fisher Street in South Madison. The course engages pre-service teachers in the analysis and investigation of literature written for young children. It also addresses the relationships between language development, reading and early childhood experiences in school and home settings.

Edgewood’s students will work with One City teachers to identify quality reading materials for young children from diverse backgrounds, and engage One City’s children in the classroom in pre-reading and literacy development activities. Storytelling, bookmaking and writing children’s books will be explored in the course as well.

One City’s Founder and CEO, Kaleem Caire, hailed the partnership as “a huge win for One City, its children and the City of Madison”, and “a great opportunity for pre-service teachers to enhance their professional knowledge, cultural awareness and dexterity in a diverse school and community setting in South Madison”. Caire further shared that, “Having one of the state’s leading schools of education working in our preschool and neighborhood provides the bridge we need to attract more young people into the teaching profession. Emerging teachers want to do hands-on work throughout their training, and this partnership gives them the opportunity to do so.”

Tim Slekar, Dean of Edgewood’s School of Education said, “Our partnership with One City directly reflects our commitment to the short and long-term success of the thousands of children and adults that our graduates will impact in the future. It also supports our desire to provide the most relevant and high quality educational experience possible to our teachers-in-training. This is a win for everyone involved.”

Edgewood’s course will be taught by Dr. Cynthia Perry, professor of early childhood education. The practicum course will take place from 8:30am – 11:30am every Wednesday during the Spring 2017 semester. One City will also serve as a host site for Edgewood’s student teachers during the summer of 2017.

For more information, contact:

Tim Slekar, PhD
Dean, School of Education
Edgewood College
Phone: 608.663.4861

Kaleem Caire
Founder, President & CEO
One City Early Learning Centers
Phone: 608.268.8004

North Dakota Law School Eliminates Its Only Clinic In Face Of Possible 15% Budget Cut; Faculty, Staff Offer Voluntary Pay Cuts To Stem 11% Tuition Increase

Andrew Hazzard:

The UND School of Law will put its student law clinic on hiatus for at least two years and is beginning to discuss tuition increases because of higher education budget cuts proposed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

In a meeting with about 80 law students Thursday afternoon, UND School of Law Dean Kathryn Rand told students the program would need to begin making hard cuts. Those cuts will include no longer operating the law clinic, which provides pro bono legal service primarily in immigration and employment law fields. The clinic allows law students to get some of the hands-on credits they need to earn their juris doctorates.

Rand said the law school also has decided to eliminate the summer term, which she said was well-liked by students but was not cost-effective for the university.

Yale will rename Calhoun College to honor ‘trailblazing’ alum Grace Murray Hopper

Ed Stannard:

NEW HAVEN >> Yale University’s Calhoun College will be renamed to honor Grace Murray Hopper, a Yale alumna who was a “trailblazing computer scientist, brilliant mathematician and teacher, and dedicated public servant,” Yale President Peter Salovey announced Saturday.

The decision, made Friday by the 19-member Yale Corporation, reverses the trustees’ decision in April not to rename Calhoun, at the end of an academic year in which debates and discussions were held across campus.

Total recall: the people who never forget

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie::

If you ask Jill Price to remember any day of her life, she can come up with an answer in a heartbeat. What was she doing on 29 August 1980? “It was a Friday, I went to Palm Springs with my friends, twins, Nina and Michelle, and their family for Labour Day weekend,” she says. “And before we went to Palm Springs, we went to get them bikini waxes. They were screaming through the whole thing.” Price was 14 years and eight months old.

What about the third time she drove a car? “The third time I drove a car was January 10 1981. Saturday. Teen Auto. That’s where we used to get our driving lessons from.” She was 15 years and two weeks old.

The first time she heard the Rick Springfield song Jessie’s Girl? “March 7 1981.” She was driving in a car with her mother, who was yelling at her. She was 16 years and two months old.

Price was born on 30 December 1965 in New York City. Her first clear memories start from around the age of 18 months. Back then, she lived with her parents in an apartment across the street from Roosevelt Hospital in Midtown Manhattan. She remembers the screaming ambulances and traffic, how she used to love climbing on the living room couch and staring out of the window down 9th Avenue.

Civics: On Corrupt Journalism

Erik Wemple:

Former Atlantic contributing editor* Marc Ambinder is showing appropriate contrition for having participated in some dubious journalistic practices back in July 2009. As exposed by some Freedom Of Information Act documents secured by J.K. Trotter of Gawker, Ambinder was pursuing a copy of the speech that then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to make at the Council on Foreign Relations. So he emailed renowned Clinton advocate and spokesperson Philippe Reines.

The back-and-forth confirms anyone’s worst suspicions about access journalism. The transaction went like this:

Ambinder asks for a copy of the speech;
Reines says he’ll send it, with conditions;
Ambinder writes back, “ok”;
Reines lays out the conditions:

1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!

Ambinder writes, “got it.”

The story, it turns out, rated Clinton’s speech “muscular” and indeed made reference to the seating thing: “The staging gives a clue to its purpose: seated in front of Clinton, subordinate to Clinton, in the first row, will be three potentially rival power centers: envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, and National Security Council senior director Dennis Ross,” wrote Ambinder, completing his compliance with Reines’s conditions.

Wisconsin Superintendent candidates share goals, but differ on solutions

Jenny Peek:

When it comes to selecting a leader of the public school system, Wisconsin is the only state in the country that calls on “qualified electors” to make the choice.

The state superintendent of public instruction, a position established by the Wisconsin constitution, lasts four years and is housed within the executive branch of state government. In most states, superintendents are appointed by a state school board or governor.

John Witte, UW-Madison professor emeritus of public affairs and political science, says while the post is meant to be nonpartisan, it has always toed the political line.

“Everybody knows which party they’re in and who is supporting them,” Witte says.

The superintendent runs the administrative apparatus of the state’s schools — across 424 school districts — overseeing teacher licensing, curriculum standards and student aid, and implementing educational programs, some of which are mandated by state law. The superintendent also sits on the Wisconsin Technical College System Board and the UW Board of Regents.

“Around the 1980s things began to change throughout the U.S., and they changed dramatically here in Wisconsin. Superintendents became much more proactive for education, and as the roles of the states increased, so did the roles of state superintendents,” says Witte, referring to state oversight of curriculum and testing standards. “The state superintendent is like a governor for the state school system.”

This spring, Wisconsinites will vote for the next school “governor.” The Feb. 21 primary includes three candidates on the ballot: incumbent Tony Evers; John Humphries, a school administration consultant; and Lowell Holtz, a retired district superintendent. Rick Melcher, who teaches math at Park High School in Racine, is running a write-in campaign. The two candidates with the most votes in the primary will face off in the April 4 general election.

Commentary on Wisconsin Teacher Licensing

Jessie Opoien:

Under Walker’s budget, teachers and school administrators would no longer have to renew their licenses every five years, which the governor’s office said would save faculty more than $750 over a 30-year career. Teachers could still be fired for misconduct and school districts would still be required to perform background checks.

“I’m not sure why the governor did it, I guess,” Fitzgerald said. “If he thinks it’s going to bring all the teachers back into the fold for the Republicans he’s probably wrong.”

Much more on Wisconsin’s weak teacher licensing requirements (and a proposal to further water them down), here.

Parents of young children are more ‘vaccine hesitant’

Cary Funk:

A solid majority of Americans believe vaccinating their children against measles, mumps and rubella has high preventive health benefits. But several groups – particularly parents of young children – are less convinced of the benefits and more concerned about the safety of the MMR vaccine.

They stand apart from the 73% of Americans who see the MMR vaccine as a benefit, the 66% who say there is a low risk of side effects and the 88% who say the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Further, some 82% of Americans support requiring children attending public school to be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella because of the potential health risk to others. By contrast, 17% of Americans say parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate and 10% believe the risks outweigh the benefits.

Digital Divides

Lee Rainie

Lee Rainie, director of Internet, Science and Technology research at the Pew Research Center, discussed the Center’s latest findings on digital divides based a survey conducted from Sept. 29 to Nov. 6, 2016. The presentation was to the board of Feeding America. Rainie looked at differences tied to internet access, home broadband ownership, and smartphone ownership by several demographic measures, including household income, educational attainment, race and ethnicity, age, and community type. He also discussed the Center’s research related to “digital readiness gaps” among technology users.

On Education Cost Disease

Scott Alexander:

There was some argument about the style of this graph, but as per Politifact the basic claim is true. Per student spending has increased about 2.5x in the past forty years even after adjusting for inflation.

At the same time, test scores have stayed relatively stagnant. You can see the full numbers here, but in short, high school students’ reading scores went from 285 in 1971 to 287 today – a difference of 0.7%.

There is some heterogenity across races – white students’ test scores increased 1.4% and minority students’ scores by about 20%. But it is hard to credit school spending for the minority students’ improvement, which occurred almost entirely during the period from 1975-1985. School spending has been on exactly the same trajectory before and after that time, and in white and minority areas, suggesting that there was something specific about that decade which improved minority (but not white) scores. Most likely this was the general improvement in minorities’ conditions around that time, giving them better nutrition and a more stable family life. It’s hard to construct a narrative where it was school spending that did it – and even if it did, note that the majority of the increase in school spending happened from 1985 on, and demonstrably helped neither whites nor minorities.

I discuss this phenomenon more here and here, but the summary is: no, it’s not just because of special ed; no, it’s not just a factor of how you measure test scores; no, there’s not a “ceiling effect”. Costs really did more-or-less double without any concomitant increase in measurable quality.

So, imagine you’re a poor person. White, minority, whatever. Which would you prefer? Sending your child to a 2016 school? Or sending your child to a 1975 school, and getting a check for $5,000 every year?

I’m proposing that choice because as far as I can tell that is the stakes here. 2016 schools have whatever tiny test score advantage they have over 1975 schools, and cost $5000/year more, inflation adjusted. That $5000 comes out of the pocket of somebody – either taxpayers, or other people who could be helped by government programs.

Locally, Madison spends about $18k/student annually. This, despite its long term disastrous reading results.

Commentary On Education Policies

Thomas Edsall

While the polarized belief systems that exploded in the battle between Trump and Clinton are driving both policymaking and an invigorated opposition, researchers continue to provide empirical evidence on the difficult issues of race, poverty and intergenerational mobility.

Rucker C. Johnson, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, has followed two generations of black families and concluded that integration has been an effective tool for raising educational levels and living standards.

“Equal opportunity education policies generally are motivated to try to break the cycle of poverty, to break the vicious cycle of disadvantage from one generation to the next, and create a virtuous cycle where being born poor isn’t a life sentence,” Johnson told the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in 2016. “We have a very rare opportunity where a major intervention” — desegregation — “has been shown to be very effective on one generation’s lifetime outcomes, and then to be able to show that those beneficial effects extend into the next generation – particularly the black children whose parents went to desegregated schools.”

Twitter notes.

Pew Datasets

Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project is pleased to offer scholars access to raw data sets from our research. All uses of this data should reference the Pew Research Center as the source of the data and acknowledge that the Pew Research bears no responsibility for interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.

Our data sets are made available as single compressed archive files (.zip file). Pew Research is interested in learning about other ways that scholars use our data. If you publish something based on our data, please let us know by sending us an email. Individuals will need to fill out a brief registration before downloading data. Questions concerning the data sets may be directed to the Pew Research Center.

A secret of many urban 20-somethings: Their parents help with the rent

Quoctrung Bui

Almost half of people in their early 20s have a secret, one they don’t usually share even with friends: Their parents help them pay the rent.

Moving into adulthood has never been easy, but America’s rapidly changing labor market is making it harder to find economic security at a young age. Skilled work is increasingly concentrated in high-rent metropolitan areas, so more young people are tapping into their parents’ bank accounts.

According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, about 40 percent of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses. Among those who get help, the average amount is about $3,000 a year.

Detained Katy ISD student returns to Texas

Shelby Webb:

After a week and a half in immigration custody, 16-year-old Katy High School student and Jordanian national Mohammad Abu Khadra is back in Texas.

Mohammad flew from Chicago and landed in Houston late Wednesday morning, where his brother, Rami, picked him up. Mohammad’s arrival marked the end of a chapter in a case that has raised questions about President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive order on immigration and how it affects travelers from Muslim-majority countries, including those not explicitly listed in the order.

Ali Zakaria, an attorney representing Mohammad and his family, said he was relieved Mohammad was reunited with his brother.

“I have a 16-year-old myself at home, I couldn’t imagine if something like that happened to my son,” Zakaria said. “It’s a happy day, and we want to let it sink in so they can enjoy the moment now. Then we’ll come up with legal strategy and address legal issues at that time.”

Mohammad was flagged by Customs and Border Protection agents at a Houston airport on Jan. 28, the day after Trump signed an executive order barring all refugees for 120 days and banning all travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, including Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Iran. It included an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees entering the U.S.

Commentary On The Madison School District’s Benefit Spending (achievement Benefits?)

Chris Rickert, using facts:

For context, Wisconsin employees who get health insurance through their work pay about 22 percent of the annual premium, on average, or about $1,345 a year for single coverage, according to 2015 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average salary for a private- sector worker in Wisconsin was $45,230 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Madison teachers made, on average, $55,600 a year last school year and contribute 3 percent of premium costs, or about $205 a year for single coverage. Bringing that contribution up to 12 percent would mean the average teacher contributing about $600 more per year for single coverage.

While spending more than most ($18k/student), Madison’s benefit spending is substantial. This, despite its long term, disastrous reading results.

Related: an emphasis on adult enployment.

District Of Columbia Charter Schools: Multi-Agency Plan Needed to Continue Progress Addressing High and Disproportionate Discipline Rates

United States Government Accountability Office:

Discipline rates (out-of-school suspension and expulsion rates) at District of Columbia (D.C.) charter schools dropped from school years 2011-12 through 2013-14 (the most recent years of national Department of Education data available). However, these rates remained about double the rates of charter schools nationally and slightly higher than D.C. traditional public schools and were also disproportionately high for some student groups and schools. Specifically, during this period, suspension rates in D.C. charter schools dropped from about 16 percent of all students to about 13 percent, and expulsions, which were relatively rare, went down by about a half percent, according to GAO’s analysis. However, D.C. Black students and students with disabilities were disproportionately suspended and expelled. For example, Black students represented 80 percent of students in D.C. charter schools, but 93 percent of those suspended and 92 percent of those expelled. Further, 16 of D.C.’s 105 charter schools suspended over a fifth of their students over the course of school year 2015-16, according to D.C. data.

Stop Using the Phrase Creative Writing

Cydney Alexis:

I know that is the image in most people’s brains because it is the one I’ve read or heard described hundreds of times by the news media, in popular culture, by writers themselves, in books written by writers on writing, by my students and by friends. It is also the image most strangers (or distant family members) produce when I tell them my field is writing studies, a discipline dedicated to the academic study of writing of all kinds: college writing, digital writing, and workplace writing, just to name a few examples.

Will You Graduate? Ask Big Data

Joseph Treaster:

At Georgia State’s nursing school, the faculty used to believe that students who got a poor grade in “Conceptual Foundations of Nursing” probably wouldn’t go on to graduation. So they were surprised, after an analysis of student records stretching back a decade, to discover what really made a difference for nursing students: their performance in introductory math.

“You could get a C or an A in that first nursing class and still be successful,” said Timothy M. Renick, the vice provost. “But if you got a low grade in your math courses, by the time you were in your junior and senior years, you were doing very poorly.”

The analysis showed that fewer than 10 percent of nursing students with a C in math graduated, compared with about 80 percent of students with at least a B+. Algebra and statistics, it seems, were providing an essential foundation for later classes in biology, microbiology, physiology and pharmacology.

Protecting Your Data at a Border Crossing

Jonathan Zdziarski:

With the current US administration pondering the possibility of forcing foreign travelers to give up their social media passwords at the border, a lot of recent and justifiable concern has been raised about data privacy. The first mistake you could make is presuming that such a policy won’t affect US citizens. For decades, JTTFs (Joint Terrorism Task Forces) have engaged in intelligence sharing around the world, allowing foreign governments to spy on you on behalf of your home country, passing that information along through various databases. What few protections citizens have in their home countries end at the border, and when an ally spies on you, that data is usually fair game to share with your home country. Think of it as a backdoor built into your constitutional rights. To underscore the significance of this, consider that the president signed an executive order just today stepping up efforts at fighting international crime, which will likely result in the strengthening of resources to a JTTFs to expand this practice of “spying on my brother’s brother for him”.

K-12 Governance Diversity In Lawrence Massachusetts

Josh Kenworthy :

But today, Lawrence is home to one of the most remarkable turnaround stories in the country, thanks in no small part to a program that got high school dropouts like Difo reengaged.

Now in its sixth year, that turnaround approach is seen by some as a first of its kind – both for its academic results and, education experts say, for the inclusive and pragmatic way it got traditional public schools, charters, nonprofits, and families to work together. During that time, Lawrence – once the third-worst ranked district in the state – has climbed out of the bottom 10 percent.

“When you look at the annals of state intervention in local school districts across the country … there’s virtually no track record, nor extant examples of states effectively turning around academic performance in local school districts until Lawrence arrived on the scene,” says Paul Reville, a professor of education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

The Map of Mathematics: Animation Shows How All the Different Fields in Math Fit Together

Open Culture:

Back in December, you hopefully thoroughly immersed yourself in The Map of Physics, an animated video–a visual aid for the modern age–that mapped out the field of physics, explaining all the connections between classical physics, quantum physics, and relativity.

You can’t do physics without math. Hence we now have The Map of Mathematics. Created by physicist Dominic Walliman, this new video explains “how pure mathematics and applied mathematics relate to each other and all of the sub-topics they are made from.” Watch the new video above. You can buy a poster of the map here. And you can download a version for educational use here.

The Next Big Blue-Collar Job Is Coding

Clive Thompson:

WHEN I ASK people to picture a coder, they usually imagine someone like Mark Zuckerberg: a hoodied college dropout who builds an app in a feverish 72-hour programming jag—with the goal of getting insanely rich and, as they say, “changing the world.”

But this Silicon Valley stereotype isn’t even geographically accurate. The Valley employs only 8 percent of the nation’s coders. All the other millions? They’re more like Devon, a programmer I met who helps maintain a ­security-software service in Portland, Oregon. He isn’t going to get fabulously rich, but his job is stable and rewarding: It’s 40 hours a week, well paid, and intellectually challenging. “My dad was a blue-­collar guy,” he tells me—and in many ways, Devon is too.

Almost all development projects focus on alleviating poverty rather than creating prosperity. This is a fundamental flaw

Efosa Ojomo:

How can we alleviate extreme poverty? It’s the question that underpins the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), and almost all development projects.

Because poverty almost always shows itself as a lack of resources in poor communities – food, safe water, sanitation, education, healthcare – it’s reasonable to theorise that poverty is a resource problem. So, based on that assumption, we execute a push strategy of development – pushing the resources poor communities lack in order to solve the issue. But while we might alleviate poverty, we don’t do much else.

Our strategies will not create sustained growth that leads to prosperity because we are solving the wrong problem.

Consider this example. To achieve SDG 6 – ensure water and sanitation for all – the Indian government in 2014 created the Clean India campaign, committing to provide toilets to more than 60m Indian households by 2019. More than two years and over 10m toilets later, India’s government is finding many Indians are not using the toilets and is now considering paying people to do so. The government’s assessment suggested a lack of toilets was the problem, leading to a push strategy – which is failing.

How Technology Is Besting My Blindness

Michael Schuman:

I was hurtling through Shanghai in a cigarette-scented taxi, not quite sure where I was headed. Cab jaunts through unfamiliar places can be a bit stressful for anybody. You feel vulnerable and too dependent on a driver you don’t know and can’t necessarily trust. But for me, such trips in rickety taxis rattle my nerves even more than my spine—because I’m almost blind.

I have a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which is causing my sight to deteriorate over time until there will be little, or possibly nothing, left. Even now I can’t see in the dark and have almost no peripheral vision. As my taxi sped through Shanghai, I couldn’t read the street signs or building numbers. After the sun began to set, it became difficult to tell one street from the next. And I couldn’t read the taxi meter. I’ve gotten ripped off before by unscrupulous cabbies, and I prefer not to rely on them to tell me how much I owe.

Civics: U.S. Visitors May Have to Hand Over Social Media Passwords: DHS

Alexander Smith:

People who want to visit the United States could be asked to hand over their social-media passwords to officials as part of enhanced security checks, the country’s top domestic security chief said.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress on Tuesday the measure was one of several being considered to vet refugees and visa applicants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” he told the House Homeland Security Committee. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

Madison School District’s advanced learner program is still a work in progress

Amber Walker:

Though the Madison Metropolitan School District revised its advanced learner program in recent years, some schools are still struggling to provide tailored classroom instruction for qualified students.

The district defines advanced learners as students who demonstrate, or have the potential to demonstrate, high performance in one or more areas.

MMSD contracted with the consulting firm RMC Research to evaluate its advanced learner program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade during the 2015-2016 school year. That included surveying teachers, advanced learners and their parents about the effectiveness of the program.

Laurie Fellenz, interim director of advanced learning, and Lisa Kvistad, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, presented survey findings to the Madison School Board on Monday night.

The evaluation found that the district’s new process for identifying advanced learners decreased the number of students eligible for the program but provided enrolled students a more tailored experience. At the same time, the survey found an increase in the percentage of advanced learners from underrepresented populations, including African-American and Latino students.

Related: TAG Complaint, English 10 and Small Learning Communities.

Survey: College ‘bias response teams’ threaten free speech

Ashe Schow:

Across the country, colleges and universities have been setting up “bias response teams” that allow students to report, often anonymously, incidents of alleged bias on campus. As one might expect, incidents of “bias” typically only refer to conservative viewpoints.

For example, two professors at the University of Northern Colorado were reported for relaying conservative viewpoints. The professors made no indication that they themselves believed the viewpoints discussed, but still they were investigated by the teams. One professor had his students read an article in the Atlantic about hiding from controversial ideas. The professor then instructed his students to address controversial topics, including abortion, gay marriage and transgenderism. A student who identified as transgender reported the professor for saying transgenderism is controversial.

In their own words: Wisconsin school superintendent candidates make their cases to voters

The spring elections are right around the corner. The primary election on Feb. 21 will take the number of candidates in any given race down to two, and the voters will choose the winner April 4.

This election features races for state superintendent of public instruction, some court seats, Madison City Council and Madison School Board. There are primaries for the state superintendent of public instruction post as well as for two Madison School Board seats.

The Capital Times invited candidates with primaries to write columns making their cases to voters.

Today we are running the columns by candidates for state superintendent of public instruction. Next Tuesday and Wednesday we will run columns by Madison School Board candidates.

Commentary on Redistributed State Tax Dollars and Madison’s $450M+ School Budget ($18k/student)

Molly Beck:

The law, known as Act 10, required local governments who offer a state health insurance plan to their employees to pay no more than 88 percent of the average premiums. Walker’s 2017-19 state budget will now require the same of all school districts, regardless of which health insurance plans they offer.

That spells trouble for the Madison School District, which for years after Act 10 was enacted didn’t require staff to pay any portion of their health insurance costs.

The district does now require employees to pay something toward their monthly health insurance premiums, but the contributions do not reach the 12 percent threshold proposed by Walker. The contribution levels in Madison range from 1.5 percent for lower-paid staff to 10 percent for school district administrators.

“While we have not done an exhaustive review, we are only aware of the Madison School District that did not capture the reform savings,” said Walker’s spokesman Jack Jablonski.

Much more on the Madison School District’s healthcare costs (a long term issue, including WPS coverage).

The District spent 25.62% of its budget on benefits (!) in 2014.

Threats prompt extra safety precautions at West High School, officials say

Sandy Cullen:

Madison police and school district officials are taking extra safety precautions following what the principal of West High School described as messages “threatening violence against our school.”

In an email sent to families Tuesday evening, West Principal Beth Thompson said, “We plan to continue our safety precautions tomorrow, including a full search of our building before school begins and additional security personnel and police presence at school throughout the day.”

Madison police Lt. Kelly Donahue said extra officers were at the school Tuesday and will be again on Wednesday.

Related: Police calls to area schools, including data.

Gangs and school violence forum.

Civics: Privacy is Power

Mo Bitar:

Privacy isn’t about you. It’s about all of us. To worry about privacy today, even though you may have no compelling reason to, is one of the largest contributions you can make to the future of humankind and the nature of governance.
Privacy is about power. Many of us have taken a middle school course on civics, and the functioning of the U.S government. You know, three branches of government and checks and balances, or you may remember it as, like that’s ever going to come up.

Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age

Lee Rainie & Janna Anderson:

Algorithms are instructions for solving a problem or completing a task. Recipes are algorithms, as are math equations. Computer code is algorithmic. The internet runs on algorithms and all online searching is accomplished through them. Email knows where to go thanks to algorithms. Smartphone apps are nothing but algorithms. Computer and video games are algorithmic storytelling. Online dating and book-recommendation and travel websites would not function without algorithms. GPS mapping systems get people from point A to point B via algorithms. Artificial intelligence (AI) is naught but algorithms. The material people see on social media is brought to them by algorithms. In fact, everything people see and do on the web is a product of algorithms. Every time someone sorts a column in a spreadsheet, algorithms are at play, and most financial transactions today are accomplished by algorithms. Algorithms help gadgets respond to voice commands, recognize faces, sort photos and build and drive cars. Hacking, cyberattacks and cryptographic code-breaking exploit algorithms. Self-learning and self-programming algorithms are now emerging, so it is possible that in the future algorithms will write many if not most algorithms.

Algorithms are often elegant and incredibly useful tools used to accomplish tasks. They are mostly invisible aids, augmenting human lives in increasingly incredible ways. However, sometimes the application of algorithms created with good intentions leads to unintended consequences. Recent news items tie to these concerns:

Civics: What Steve Bannon Wants You to Read


Many political onlookers described Trump’s election as a “black swan” event: unexpected but enormously consequential. The term was popularized by Nassim Taleb, the best-selling author whose 2014 book Antifragile—which has been read and circulated by Bannon and his aides—reads like a user’s guide to the Trump insurgency.

It’s a broadside against big government, which Taleb faults for suppressing the randomness, volatility and stress that keep institutions and people healthy. “As with neurotically overprotective parents, those who are trying to help us are hurting us the most,” he writes. Taleb also offers a withering critique of global elites, whom he describes as a corrupt class of risk-averse insiders immune to the consequences of their actions: “We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.”

It might as well have been the mission statement of the Trump campaign. Asked in a phone interview this week whether he’s had meetings with Bannon or his associates, Taleb said he could not comment. “Anything about private meetings would need to come from them,” he said, though he noted cryptically he’s had “coffee with friends.” He has been supportive of Trump but does not define himself as a supporter per se, though he said he would “be on the first train” to Washington were he invited to the White House.

K-12 Federalism

Thomas Sowell:

An opportunity has arisen — belatedly — that may not come again in this generation. That is an opportunity to greatly expand the kinds of schools that have successfully educated, to a high level, inner-city youngsters whom the great bulk of public schools fail to educate to even minimally adequate levels.

What may seem on the surface to be merely a matter of whether the U.S. Senate confirms or rejects the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be head of the U.S. Department of Education involves far bigger stakes.

The teachers’ unions and the education establishment in general know how big those stakes are, and have mounted an all-out smear campaign to prevent her from being confirmed.

What makes Mrs. DeVos seem so threatening to the teachers’ unions and their political allies?

She has, for more than 20 years, been promoting programs, laws and policies that enable parents to choose which schools their children will attend — whether these are charter schools, voucher schools or parochial schools.

Why so many Texas teachers accused of improprieties are never charged

Julie Chang:

Hundreds of Texas primary and secondary teachers lost or surrendered their teaching licenses since 2010 after being investigated for improper relationships with a student. More than half were never criminally charged. In all of those cases, information about the alleged misconduct isn’t easily accessible from the Texas Education Agency and in many instances is kept secret by school districts, allowing those teachers to move on to other teaching jobs or jobs involving contact with children.

The American-Statesman reviewed the cases of 686 teachers who surrendered their teaching licenses or whose teaching licenses were revoked by the Texas Education Agency between 2010 and 2016, after the TEA launched investigations for possible improper teacher-student relationships. Allegations ran the gamut, including sending flirtatious text messages, kissing students and having sex with students in their classrooms.

Collective Intelligence and Swarms in the Red Church


I’ve been thinking about some of the features of the Red Church Collective Intelligence (CI) that made it cohere independently of the idologies, values and feelings of its congregation. This was written in response to Jordan Greenhall’s excellent Situational Assessment 2017: Trump Edition , accepting his characterisation of Blue Church and Red Church CI for the sake of discussion. Specifically this is about Front One: Communications Infrastructure
What is collective intelligence?

As Goldman Embraces Automation, Even the Masters of the Universe Are Threatened

Nanette Byrnes:

Automated trading programs have taken over the rest of the work, supported by 200 computer engineers. Marty Chavez, the company’s deputy chief financial officer and former chief information officer, explained all this to attendees at a symposium on computing’s impact on economic activity held by Harvard’s Institute for Applied Computational Science last month.

The experience of its New York traders is just one early example of a transformation of Goldman Sachs, and increasingly other Wall Street firms, that began with the rise in computerized trading, but has accelerated over the past five years, moving into more fields of finance that humans once dominated. Chavez, who will become chief financial officer in April, says areas of trading like currencies and even parts of business lines like investment banking are moving in the same automated direction that equities have already traveled.

Was Buffalo mom jailed over homeschooling decision?

Hannah Buehler:

Harris says she filed documents at Buffalo City Hall, following all the steps, informing the district of her intent to homeschool her children. According to documents she provided to 7 Eyewitness News, they’re dated December 7th and the district says it received her paperwork.

“I spoke directly to the homeschool coordinator and she told me from this point on my children were officially un-enrolled from school.”

Things took a turn when she says a week later, Child Protective Services called, wondering why her kids weren’t in school.

Money, Politics, K-12 Governance and Teacher Unions

Kevin Williamson:

During the 2008 Democratic primary, Obama gave an off-the-record speech to a group of Wall Street financial executives in which he shared his frustration with the sclerotic and bureaucratic state of American education, and declared that he was close to publicly endorsing a nationwide school-choice program. (This is according to one of those in attendance.) The moneymen were enthused by this, but nothing ever came of it. In fact, Obama went hard in the opposite direction, working to gut the school-choice program in Washington, D.C., a popular program, which benefited urban black families almost exclusively. You don’t have to be a hard-boiled cynic to suspect that this has to do with the manpower and money-power of the teachers’ unions, who could have done a great deal more than they did to elevate Hillary Rodham Clinton over Barack Obama that year.

Related: WEAC: $1.57M for four senators.

2017 Madison School Board Candidate Forum Video

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Much more on the candidates, here: Seat 6 and Seat 7.

Nostalgic visitors might find past school board election links and videos of interest.

I’m glad that we’re blessed with choice. I’m also glad that several candidates mentioned our abundance of resources (we spend far more than most) and our longstanding disastrous reading results.

I appreciated seat 6 candidate Cris Carusi’s statement that she does not support relaxing teacher standards and Matt Andrzejewski’s comment on phonics and the District’s long term, disastrous reading results.


I was somewhat surprised to read current Madison Superintendent Cheatham’s words (I assume that she wrote this…) lamenting this or that:

It is absurd to me that some policymakers believe that the solution is simply to give parents “choice” — or in other words, drain more and more resources from public schools.

My key question to our legislators is this: What is your agenda for helping our public schools better serve the vast majority of students in the United States and in Wisconsin? How can you help us do more of what we know works in education?

What can you do to help us address gaps in students’ health and well-being, making it possible for every child to attend school daily and be fully attentive and ready to learn? Even if our academic strategies are perfect, if a child is not ready to learn, we won’t see better results. We have to find ways for our system to ensure those needs are met so that children are ready to excel.

Here in Madison, we are embracing the community school model. Community schools take our support of students and families to the next level through power sharing and integration of coordinated services into schools, where our students and families are every day.

Madison has “plenty of resources” (18k/student budget background), yet our long term disastrous reading issues continue…. I am surprised that the Superintendent, in light of these issues, spent time focusing on state and national rhetoric, rather than the real issues we face.

2013: Superintendent Cheatham: “What’s different, this time?” More, here.

2015: “Reverting to the mean“.

Nearly 12 years ago, on then Superintendent Rainwater’s achievement gap rhetoric.

Amber Walker’s event summary

The Price Of The K-12 Status Quo

David Harsanyi:

Actually, teachers unions are the only organizations in America that openly support segregated schools. In districts across the country — even ones in cities with some form of limited movement for kids — poor parents, most typically black or Hispanic, are forced to enroll their kids in underperforming schools when there are good ones nearby, sometimes just blocks away.

The National Education Association spent $23 million last cycle alone working to elect politicians to keep low-income Americans right where they are. Public service unions use tax dollars to fund politicians who then turn around and vote for more funding. The worse the schools perform, the more money they demand. In the real world we call this racketeering.

Yet according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, it is people like DeVos who are “a grave threat” to the public schools “that made America great.”

Well, for starters, studies consistently show that minority groups in America’s largest cities are lagging in proficiency in reading and math. Most of them are at the bottom 5 percent of schools in their own state. There is only so much an education secretary can accomplish, but being accused of being a “grave threat” to this system is a magnificent endorsement.

How Tech’s Gender Gap Influences a Country’s Computing Power

Karis Hustad:

If you want to know the consequences of tech’s gender gap, look no further than Britain after World War II, says Marie Hicks, assistant history professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Hicks is the author of “Programmed Inequality,” a book just published from MIT Press, that explores why Britain’s computing industry, which was among the best in the world after World War II was nearly gone by the 1970s. Hicks argues that discriminatory hiring practices against women after World War II, who were a critical part of the computing’s industry’s labor force during and after the war, crippled innovation in the public and private sector.

While this is an example from across the pond, Hicks notes this story can shed light on conversations around diversity in tech in the United States and around the world: What are the long term consequences of having a tech industry that doesn’t draw talent from all available pools?

Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would shift Wisconsin’s approach to school funding

Jason Stein and Erin Richards:

Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would do more than just increase state aid to schools — it would also double down on a significant change to how that aid gets divvied up among districts.

Under the GOP governor’s two-year budget bill, the state would put $509 million more into a relatively new form of school aid that doesn’t account for the poverty of school districts or their students.

Walker wants the money to go to districts in the form of a flat per pupil payment that in 2011 he and Republican lawmakers added to the state’s main form of school aid. As proposed, the per student payment would rise from $250 this year to $450 in the 2017-’18 school year and $654 in the 2018-’19 school year.

Each district gets the same amount per student regardless of how much district residents could afford to pay for schools through the property tax. That’s different from the state’s general aid formula, which takes into account local property values in districts when determining how much state aid they’ll get.