Why Singapore’s kids are so good at maths

aJeevan Vasagar:

The classrooms at Admiralty are sparsely decorated. When I visit a class of 13-year-olds, there’s a single artwork on the back wall; a paper cut-out of a cherry tree scattering blossom. At the front, where the teacher stands, is a whiteboard, a projector, a Singapore flag and a clock. I am later told that other decorations had been removed to avoid distracting or aiding students during a round of tests.

The subject is English, a second language for most of the children here, who speak either Malay or Chinese at home. At the front of the class, the teacher, Wendy Chen, is showing a film of migrant workers responding to racist comments. It’s a controversial subject: foreign labourers who work in construction, manufacturing and domestic service are often targets of racial prejudice in Singapore. Chen strips the language down to its constituent parts, asking the 13-year-old students to look at the use of the pronouns “we” and “they”. She hands out a newspaper cutting, again about migrant workers, and asks them to analyse it. “Underline who, what, when, where, how,” she instructs briskly.

The atmosphere is industrious. Throughout the day, the children work quietly at their tasks with relatively little chatter. Corporal punishment is permitted as a last resort — for boys only — at Singapore schools. When the teachers need to command attention, they strike an insistent note rather than raising their voices. One teacher, as she senses her class flagging, begins to pepper her instructions with the phrase “my dears”. Further absorbing discipline, many of the children join police or military cadet organisations, and can be seen dressed in uniform and standing to attention in the schoolyard after class. For the boys, who face two years’ national service after graduating from high school, it’s a particularly useful preparation.

Singapore Math.

Math Forum Audio and Video

New Glarus School Board Candidate Q & A

Wisconsin State Journal:


What is the main challenge facing the district and how would you address it?

Elliott:I believe space for increased enrollment will become an issue. Will we need to put a cap on open enrollment? This is a conversation the School Board has already started and one I hope to continue to seek answers to as a board member.

Stuessy:Expanding current facilities and adding staff to meet the educational needs of a growing school district. We have been very fortunate to have a supportive community that has stepped up to fund the needs to date.

In what ways can the district improve, and how would you do that?

Elliott:I would love to add my voice to the conversations and advocate for other parents to continue to move our school in a positive direction. I also feel strongly that we will see challenges trickle down from the national and state level into the local level with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education and our current election for state superintendent.

Stuessy:Our schools continue to improve through the efforts of our outstanding superintendent, outstanding teaching staff and outstanding support staff. They have the knowledge to continuously make the changes needed to keep improving the students’ educations.

Unfair Madison schools election system elicits yawn from liberal leaders

Chris Rickert:

Instead, candidates are forced to choose which seat to run for, meaning that if there are two seats up for election and three candidates are interested in serving on the board, two of them end up vying for one seat and the third runs unopposed.

This year, two people, incumbent Ed Hughes and Nicki Vander Meulen, filed to run for Seat 7, and Kate Toews and Ali Muldrow filed to run for Seat 6. Then Hughes dropped out (although too late to remove his name from the ballot).

A similar situation happened in 2013, when Sarah Manski dropped out, leaving T.J. Mertz a shoo-in and four other candidates vying for two seats.

But what if voters prefer Toews and Muldrow over Vander Meulen? Or preferred two of the other candidates in 2013 to Mertz? Too bad; Madison’s unusual electoral system has chosen for them.

The School Board’s response to a flawed elections process has basically been: Meh, fair schmare.

“It’s just not that big a deal to me at this time,” board president James Howard said.

Attempts to reach Vander Meulen and Toews were not successful, and Muldrow said she is “willing to talk about the election process after the election.”

2017 Madison School Board Election: Seat 6 and Seat 7.

On Political Correctness

William Deresiewicz:

Let us eschew the familiar examples: the disinvited speakers, the Title IX tribunals, the safe zones stocked with Play-Doh, the crusades against banh mi. The flesh-eating bacterium of political correctness, which feeds preferentially on brain tissue, and which has become endemic on elite college campuses, reveals its true virulence not in the sorts of high-profile outbreaks that reach the national consciousness, but in the myriad of ordinary cases—the everyday business-as-usual at institutions around the country—that are rarely even talked about.

A clarification, before I continue (since deliberate misconstrual is itself a tactic of the phenomenon in question). By political correctness, I do not mean the term as it has come to be employed on the right—that is, the expectation of adherence to the norms of basic decency, like refraining from derogatory epithets. I mean its older, intramural denotation: the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas.

I recently spent a semester at Scripps, a selective women’s college in Southern California. I had one student, from a Chinese-American family, who informed me that the first thing she learned when she got to college was to keep quiet about her Christian faith and her non-feminist views about marriage. I had another student, a self-described “strong feminist,” who told me that she tends to keep quiet about everything, because she never knows when she might say something that you’re not supposed to. I had a third student, a junior, who wrote about a friend whom she had known since the beginning of college and who, she’d just discovered, went to church every Sunday. My student hadn’t even been aware that her friend was religious. When she asked her why she had concealed this essential fact about herself, her friend replied, “Because I don’t feel comfortable being out as a religious person here.”

How to reinvent yourself as a business school academic

Jonathan Moules

Rupert Merson fell into lecturing at London Business School after a colleague bottled out of giving a talk. “He said he had double booked with a client meeting, but I think he had lost his nerve,” Mr Merson, who at the time was a partner at accounting firm BDO, says. “He knew I was a sucker for getting up in front of an audience.”

The topic was financing start-ups, something Mr Merson felt confident explaining to a class of MBA students given his experience advising clients and was invited back as a guest speaker several times. A couple of years later he was approached to jointly teach a course on managing growth.

Mr Merson revelled in the lecturing role so after being made redundant from BDO and starting his own advisory firm, he became an adjunct associate professor — a purely teaching role —of strategy and entrepreneurship. He has an office on the top floor of the main LBS campus building, close to Regent’s Park.

Demand University programs educate our teachers about Dyslexia!


Have you ever wondered why teachers could not recognize the signs and symptoms of dyslexia in your child, or could not provide appropriate instruction?
Most Universities across the nation do not prepare their teacher graduates to understand, and successfully teach students with dyslexia. Often school personnel tell parents that dyslexia does not exist. Parents who can afford the expense – hire private tutors, send their children to specialized private school or home school. This is an hidden equity issue.

Superintended Evers’ Debate Remarks


“Our study compared outcomes between all K-12 schools in Wisconsin – traditional public, public charter, and private schools in the choice programs. In doing so, it controlled for a variety of socioeconomic factors such as race, poverty, etc. As we acknowledged, we did not control for special needs or learning disabilities because the data simply do not exist for an accurate comparison of the two populations. An academic study found that reported disability rates in MPCP schools were lower than actual disability rates because MPCP schools lack the financial incentives to report disabilities that are available to public schools. Our study does control for socioeconomic status – something which may be correlated with special needs status, but we cannot control for what we cannot measure.

“We hope that someday it will be possible to do such a comparison and we have made a request to DPI for such data. This request has, thus far, been ignored. There are reforms that could enhance the likelihood that special needs students will participate in the choice program – such as expanding access to the Special Needs Scholarship Program and increased voucher funding – but, unfortunately Superintendent Evers is not an advocate for that.

Minnesota’s teacher shortage: real, complicated

Solvejg Wastvedt:

It’s always been a challenge convincing young teachers to put down roots in remote northwestern Minnesota. But these days it’s an especially hard sell.

The northland schools have struggled like never before to fill open jobs the past few years, said Bob Jaszczak, superintendent of the Kittson Central district. “I’d be talking to area superintendents,” he said, “and they’d be saying, ‘Oh my God, I cannot find a ‘blank’ teacher.'”

Jaszczak’s kept a file on every teacher job opening the past three years in the region’s schools, how many people applied and how many of those who applied were actually qualified for the job. The numbers are bleak. Places like Hallock — a town of fewer than 1,000 within walking distance to the Canadian border — aren’t the first choice of most teachers looking for work.

Amid release of hazing scandal details, La Vernia attempts to heal

Lauren Caruba:

What came next — the 16-year-old being pinned facedown on a bed and sexually assaulted with the threaded end of a carbon dioxide tank — put a haunting image to a host of allegations of sexual assault and hazing that have emerged at La Vernia High School over the past few days.

Since Thursday, nine high school students, seven of them still minors, have been charged with sexual assault in relation to alleged hazing within the school’s football, basketball and baseball teams, police say.

The Non-Technical Guide to Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence

Sam DeBrule:

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML and AI) have seized Tech mindshare in a way few topics have in recent memory. A couple months ago I noticed people talking about artificial intelligence everywhere I looked. According to AI experts, everything from our jobs, to the wars we wage, to the food we eat, to the beer we drink, to the software we write will be affected.

Not being one to enjoy surprises, I decided to spend my free time learning as much about the space (and what the future holds) as possible. ML and AI are having a huge impact on our lives, and their roles are only increasing. The better informed you are, the better prepared you’ll be to handle these changes as they happen.

Civics: DEA Seized $4 Billion From People Since 2007. Most Were Never Charged with a Crime

A new government watchdog report finds the DEA grabs cash just for the sake of grabbing cash, raising civil liberties concerns.

A report by the Justice Department Inspector General released Wednesday found that the DEA’s gargantuan amount of cash seizures often didn’t relate to any ongoing criminal investigations, and 82 percent of seizures it reviewed ended up being settled administratively—that is, without any judicial review—raising civil liberties concerns.

In total, the Inspector General reports the DEA seized $4.15 billion in cash since 2007, accounting for 80 percent of all Justice Department cash seizures. Those figures do not include other property, such as cars and electronics, which are favorite targets for seizure by law enforcement.

All of this is possible through civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize property if they suspect it’s connected to criminal activity, without having to file criminal charges against the owner. While law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug traffickers and organized crime, the Inspector General’s findings echo the concerns of many civil liberties groups, which say asset forfeiture creates perverse incentives for law enforcement to seize property.

Students: You Take the Test; Don’t Let the Test Take You!

Vivett Dukes:

Today is day two of of the three-day New York State English Language Arts Exam and in my ten-plus years of proctoring and scoring these exams, it never ceases to amaze me when, just a few minutes into the tests, students’ eyes start to glaze over and their bladders and throats go into overdrive, causing a mass exodus to either the bathroom or the water fountain. What are such behaviors really about? Why am I constantly witnessing students who just don’t have the wherewithal or fortitude to take these annual standardized assessments? By the time they get to me in middle school, they’ve sat for their State ELA exam for at least four years so it’s not like the test is new to them. What’s going on? What’s the problem?

Before you begin with the whole “standardized tests are biased and unnecessary” argument, just pause. That’s not what this post is about and unless there is a radical (and I mean RADICAL) shift in the way this capitalist country educates our children, standardized tests aren’t going anywhere. Are we clear? Okay, good.

2016-17 Mid-Year Report

Schools That Can – Milwaukee (PDF)

The latest Wisconsin School Report Cards indicate the schools we support outperformed their peers, citywide, on every measure. What’s more: students at these schools are growing more and closing achievement gaps faster than average schools anywhere in the state.

Put another way: A student who is behind in his or her studies is better off in the average STCM school than at a typical school anywhere in Wisconsin.

Much more on Schools That Can, here.

The Madison Administrative view: “Van Hise’s Special Sauce“.

New Jersey Teacher “Last in First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Lawsuit Update

Friends –

Please note the very latest on the NJ LIFO Lawsuit – the big piece of information is that the oral arguments on the motions to dismiss have been moved – and are scheduled for 2pm on May 3 before the Mercer County Superior Court.

Hope you are well – and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.


Newark Parents Oppose Teachers Unions’ Motions to Dismiss LIFO Lawsuit

Oral arguments before a Mercer County Superior Court judge are scheduled for May 3

Trenton, New Jersey — Six Newark parents yesterday opposed motions to dismiss HG v. Harrington, the lawsuit they filed last November challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s quality-blind “last in, first out” (LIFO) teacher layoff law. The motions to dismiss the case were filed earlier this month by local and national teachers unions, who intervened as defendants in the case last December. Oral arguments on the motions to dismiss are scheduled for 2pm on May 3 before the Mercer County Superior Court. Defendants from Newark Public Schools and the New Jersey Department of Education did not move to dismiss the case.

“The teachers unions clearly are not looking out for students’ best interests,” said Kathleen Reilly, attorney with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, one of the law firms representing the Newark parents pro bono. “With education budget deficits in the tens of millions of dollars, the court urgently needs to hear these parents’ concerns about laws that require schools to keep ineffective teachers while letting effective ones go. If students’ educational rights are valued, these laws cannot stand.”

In their answer to the lawsuit, defendants from the Newark Public Schools overwhelmingly conceded that the LIFO law harms students, acknowledging that enforcement of LIFO in Newark will remove quality teachers, which leads to lower test scores, lower high school graduation rates, lower college attendance rates, and sharply reduced lifetime earnings. They also admit that the current practice of keeping ineffective teachers on the district payroll, including those in a pool of “educators without placement sites” (EWPS) is harmful and unsustainable, and that the EWPS pool would be wholly unnecessary were it not for LIFO.

To learn more about the parent-led lawsuit to end LIFO in New Jersey, please go to edjustice.org/nj. All legal filings related to HG v. Harrington are available online here.


Matthew Frankel
MDF Strategies
41 Watchung Plaza, Suite 355
Montclair NJ 07042

Much more on the lawsuit, here.

The Academic Home of Trumpism

Jon Boskin:

Did the Motley regulars know that, less than 400 yards away, the academic vanguard of the Trump administration had been provided with office space and tenure?

Charles R. Kesler, whose class on The Federalist Papers I would be attending that afternoon, is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, and presiding chieftain of an obscure (until recently) tribe of political philosophers known as the “West Coast Straussians” — named for the émigré philosopher Leo Strauss. Kesler is also the editor of The Claremont Review of Books, the conservative magazine that The New York Times says is “being hailed as the bible of highbrow Trumpism.” “Like Richard Nixon in ’68,” Kesler wrote in May 2016, in one of his many prescient columns, “Trump felt that this election might test whether the center could hold, whether a silent majority could be mobilized on behalf of the country itself. The issue was not so much a showdown over liberal or conservative policies, but the simpler, more elementary question of whether a majority still wanted America to be great again.”

Noting the virulence of the opposition to Trump on his own liberal-arts campus, Kesler also predicted that, if Trump were to win, “the next four years may be one long demonstration,” as had been the case after the election of 1968. That prediction may yet bear out, but, beyond the fliers, I saw little evidence of unrest as I made my way from the coffee shop to a nondescript basement classroom in the Claremont Graduate University.

Mineral Point’s Alternative Program

Pamela Cotant:

When financial concerns threatened to derail an alternative school that draws students from several school districts in southwest Wisconsin, the Mineral Point School District took the program under its own wing.

It was a leap of faith that some viewed as a risky move, said Joelle Doye, spokeswoman for the district. But the program is now run by the school district, which receives fees from other school districts that send students there. The Mineral Point Alternative Program, formerly called the Renaissance School, was run for 10 years by Cooperative Educational Service Agency District 3, which received the fees. The program was and continues to be housed at the old Mineral Point high school building.

School choice programs aren’t in conflict with public education

Jim Bender:

There have been a number of conflict-based education stories on the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) recently. In that mold, a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looked at expansion of the WPCP in a piece titled “Tensions rise as vouchers pick up traction across Wisconsin.

Pitting one school type against another creates the structure for this narrative. Unfortunately, to maximize impact, a great deal of context was omitted from the story and positive collaboration was overlooked.

The story begins by painting a wonderful picture of the Chilton school district. However, an ominous, dark cloud is approaching — the WPCP. Cue the dramatic music.

The column insinuates that athletics and theater at Chilton are at risk now that a local Catholic school has joined the WPCP. Allegedly, pending enrollment declines will impose great harm or inflict higher property taxes.

Five maps that will change how you see the world

Donald Houston:

This is what happens with the more commonly used Mercator projection, which exaggerates the size of the Earth around the poles and shrinks it around the equator. So the developed “global North” appears bigger than reality, and equatorial regions, which tend to be less developed, appear smaller. It’s especially problematic given that the first world maps based on the Mercator projection were produced by European colonialists.

Why does this problem occur? Simply put, the world is round and a map is flat. Imagine drawing a world map on an orange, peeling the skin to leave a single piece and then flattening it. It would, of course, rip. But imagine you could stretch it. As you did so, the map drawn on its surface would distort.


Kevin Gosztola:

A student group hosting an event at Oregon State University on Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, has received requests to disinvite two Arab journalists scheduled to speak. However, the student group immediately took a stand and refuses to cancel the event scheduled for April 11.

The event is called “Independent Journalism: Perspectives On Palestine, Syria, and Yemen.” It will feature three journalists: Abby Martin, Rania Khalek, and Mnar Muhawesh of Mintpressnews.com.

“We want to make it clear that this event will not be canceled, and we advise that everyone who has these concerns show up or address their questions on the live feed at the event,” the group, Students United For Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), declared on the Facebook page for the event.

How Are Youth in Special Education Faring


A new multivolume report provides a national picture of secondary school students in special education and examines how they compare with their peers. The research sheds light on challenges youth can face in socioeconomic status, health, communication, and social functioning at school. It also looks at other areas, such as academic supports and preparation for life after high school.

“This study provides a comprehensive, updated picture of students who receive special education services in the United States,” said Mathematica Policy Research Senior Researcher Stephen Lipscomb, who led the analysis for these two reports. “The findings can help schools address the challenges these youth face given our nation’s changing educational, social, and economic landscape.”

Policymakers have long recognized the importance of addressing the needs of these students, who today account for 12 percent of all youth in the United States. Mathematica is conducting the research, called the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012, for the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to examine the characteristics and experiences of secondary school students who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

National Corruption Breeds Personal Dishonesty

Simon Makin:

One bad apple spoils the barrel, so the saying goes. But what if the barrel itself is rotten?

A number of studies have shown that seeing a peer behave unethically increases people’s dishonesty in laboratory tests. What is much harder to investigate is how this kind of influence operates at a societal level. But that is exactly what behavioral economists Simon Gächter of the University of Nottingham in England and Jonathan Schulz of Yale University set out to do in a study published in March 2016 in Nature. Their findings suggest that corruption not only harms a nation’s prosperity but also shapes the moral behavior of its citizens. The results have implications for interventions aimed at tackling corruption.

The researchers developed a measure of corruption by combining three widely used metrics that capture levels of political fraud, tax evasion and corruption in a given country. “We wanted to get a really broad index, including many different aspects of rule violations,” Schulz says. They then conducted an experiment involving 2,568 participants from 23 nations. Participants were asked to roll a die twice and report the outcome of only the first roll. They received a sum of money proportional to the number reported but got nothing for rolling a six. Nobody else saw the die, so participants were free to lie about the outcome.

Ivy League Summary: Tax Break Subsidies And Government Payments

Open the books:

1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.

2. The Ivy League was the recipient of $25.73 billion worth of federal payments during this period: contracts ($1.37 billion), grants ($23.9 billion) and direct payments – student assistance ($460 million).

3. In monetary terms, the ‘government contracting’ business of the Ivy League ($25.27 billion – federal contracts and grants) exceeded their educational mission ($22 billion in student tuition) FY2010-FY2015.

4. The eight colleges of the Ivy League received more money ($4.31 billion) – on average – annually from the federal government than sixteen states: see report.

5. The Ivy League endowment funds (2015) exceeded $119 billion, which is equivalent to nearly $2 million per undergraduate student.

6. As a non-profit, educational institution, the Ivy League pays no tax on investment gains. Between FY2011-FY2015, the Ivy League schools received a $9.6 billion tax break on the $27.3 billion growth of their endowment funds. In FY2014, the tax-free subsidy on endowment gains amounted to $3.4 billion, or nearly $60,000 per student.

7. With continued gifts at present rates, the $119 billion endowment fund provides free tuition to the entire student body in perpetuity. Without new gifts, the endowment is equivalent to a full-ride scholarship for all Ivy League undergraduate students for 51-years, or until 2068.

8. In FY2014, the balance sheet for all Ivy League colleges showed $194,332,115,120 in accumulated gross assets. This is equivalent to $3.35 million per undergraduate student.

9. The Ivy League employs 47 administrators who each earn more than $1 million per year. Two executives each earned $20 million between 2010-2014. Ivy League employees earned $62 billion in compensation.
10. In a five-year period (2010-2014) the Ivy League spent $17.8 million on lobbying, which included issues mostly related to their endowment, federal contracting, immigration and student aid.

NoHo school budget cuts due to high white student percentage sparks outrage

John Gregory:

Outrage has grown at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, as the school faces layoffs and increased class sizes due to a law limiting funds for schools with a higher white student body.

The Los Angeles Unified School District provides more funding for schools where the white population is below 30 percent.

In a letter to parents, the district noted the highly regarded middle school had been above the percentage for the past couple years.

The racial formula was a condition imposed by court decisions dealing with desegregation in the 1970s.

Parents, however, remain frustrated with what the cuts might mean for their children.

“When your class sizes are getting larger and you’re taking resources away from students, I mean ss parents, you do want your kid to go out to college,” one parent, Rosemary Estrada, said.

Free College (online)

Scott Adams::

At the moment, the in-person college experience is superior to taking classes online. Today, online teaching is mostly simple videos of people talking and pointing at things. But that advantage of in-person college over online classes won’t last forever. The in-person experience will stay largely as it is, but online lessons will evolve indefinitely toward better techniques, more content, and more scientifically-proven methods. Best practices will propagate quickly online.

Only three things are missing to make this vision of universal free online college a reality:

1. You need an open online platform on which anyone can post a lesson plan, and anyone else can use it or improve it.

2. You need a law that says copyrights are suspended for the online education platform (only), so anyone can copy and improve the work that came before.

Metro Nashville Teachers Union Hosts Organizational Meeting For Progressive Activist Group

Wendy Wilson:

Pronounced “sock-em,” SOCM is an activist group that has been working for “social, economic, and environmental justice” for more than 40 years, according to the group’s website. The group was known for many years by its original name, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, which reflected its early mission of helping in poor coalfield communities in five northern counties in the Cumberland Mountains.

The group continues to be heavily involved in environmental issues with its opposition to mountaintop removal mining and fracking and its promotion of “water quality justice.” However, it has also expanded its reach into other areas. It lists the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) as one of its partner organizations.

The Trickle-Down Effect of Lowering Teacher Standards

Alima Adams:

“I read that New York teachers don’t have to be literate, anymore. Is that true, Mom?,” my seventh-grader asked last week. He’s recently become determined to “fix all education in America” (I have no idea where a son of mine could have picked up such an interest), and was on the Internet doing research. He’d already expressed his surprise at New York City’s less than 50% college readiness graduation rate and the fact that the most frequently failed college course was Algebra.

Now, he wanted to know about the NY Board of Regents decision to eliminate the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) for prospective teachers.

My thirteen year-old son isn’t the only one puzzled by the ruling. I am, too.

Among the move’s supporters are deans of Education Schools. Michael Middleton of Hunter College was quoted by The New York Times as saying, “We already know that our licensure candidates have a bachelor’s degree, which in my mind means they have basic literacy and communication skills.”

First of all, is “basic” really where we want to set the bar for those who educate our children? Don’t we all hope our children progress beyond “basic” themselves?

Related: relaxing Wisconsin’s K-12 teacher licensing requirements.

And, Madison’s long-term disastrous reading results.

Documentary on Yale Reveals How Scary U.S. Campuses Have Become

Jon Miltimore:

But I have seen nothing better on this front than the 12-minute YouTube video I watched this morning, We the Internet TV’s short documentary “Silence U Part 2: What has Yale Become?” It’s the follow-up to its 2016 viral hit “Silence U: Is the University Killing Free Speech and Open Debate?

According to our friends at FEE, “We the Internet TV is a comedy news channel that has earned millions of views, started important conversations about the role of government in society, received press coverage in major publications, and won two honorable mentions in the online video category from the prestigious Webbys.”

The new documentary explores Yale’s infamous attempt to tell students what types of Halloween costumes were appropriate for students, and the fallout that ensued when one faculty member asked if such a policy was really necessary.

May a college expel a student for ‘unprofessional speech’ in Facebook posts?

Eugene Volokh:

Say a student is in a professional education program at a college — law school, medical school, nursing school, business school, school of education or the like. May the college expel him from the program, on the grounds that certain speech of his is “unprofessional” and therefore casts doubt on his professional temperament and likely future behavior?

We’re not talking here about speech within a curricular assignment — a thesis, a term paper, a practicum client counseling session or even a seminar discussion in which participation is graded. Colleges have to evaluate the content of such curricular speech, though even there they may be constrained. (If I grade class participation at UCLA, for instance, I can only count it as part of the final grade, and I’m supposed to grade it in a way that’s as ideologically neutral as possible.) Rather, we’re talking about speech outside such graded discussions, often outside class and sometimes even outside school.

The ‘Postmodern’ Intellectual Roots of Today’s Campus Mobs

Crispin Sartwell:

We are witnessing the second great era of speech repression in academia, the first coming during the “culture wars” of the late 1980s and early ’90s. One force behind the new wave is a theory of truth, or a picture of reality, developed the first time around. This theory, which we might call “linguistic constructivism,” holds that we don’t merely describe or represent the world in language; language creates the world and ourselves. A favorite slogan of our moment, “Words have power,” reflects that view.

Back in the day,…

Anti-voucher candidate is a good advertisement for vouchers

Chris Rickert:

Madison School Board candidate Ali Muldrow might be Republicans’ best advertisement for school vouchers in a part of the state that opposes them.

Whether Muldrow and her supporters realize that, though, is not entirely clear.

At a candidates forum last week, Muldrow seemed to endorse the use of vouchers, although she said public dollars shouldn’t go to religious schools.

Vouchers are a source of consternation in liberal, Democratic, teachers-union-friendly Madison. While “school choice”-advocating Republicans have repeatedly made more of them available in more places, Democrats see them as a way to strip funding from public education and undermine one of their main political supporters.

So it wasn’t terribly surprising that the day after the forum, Muldrow sought to clarify her stance. Turns out, she doesn’t support vouchers.

Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears

Olivia Solon:

Approximately half of adult Americans’ photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals. About 80% of photos in the FBI’s network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver’s licenses and passports. The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are more likely to misidentify black people than white people.

These are just some of the damning facts presented at last week’s House oversight committee hearing, where politicians and privacy campaigners criticized the FBI and called for stricter regulation of facial recognition technology at a time when it is creeping into law enforcement and business.

Explaining The Inexplicable

Leila Abboud:

It took 25 pages of its annual report for educational publisher Pearson Plc to explain the inexplicable: its decision to award CEO John Fallon a 20 percent pay increase for a year’s work that led to a profit warning, dividend cut and plunge in the stock.It’s a less than auspicious start for new chairman Sidney Taurel, the former CEO of drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co.Shareholders would be right to vent their outrage at the company’s annual general meeting in May — even if their vote will be merely symbolic.

Good Gig

Pearson CEO’s pay increased in 2016, even as the shares have fallen

The Concord Review: Author Letter

Via Will Fitzhugh:

Mr. William Fitzhugh
Editor and Publisher, The Concord Review
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776, USA

Sunday, March 12, 2017
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

Intellectual ruminations frequently take place within the minds of those exposed to history, philosophy, art, science, mathematics, and other fields of scholarly pursuits. Yet, it is the systematic process of examination, classification, and composition that produces from these ruminations fruitful and insightful contributions to individual and shared learning. I would like to thank you, sir, for giving to high school students the opportunity to share their thoughts about the world around them. Thank you for giving me the honour of sharing my thoughts in The Concord Review.

The Concord Review gave me an outlet to conduct a formal research enquiry into an area of historical study that had always interested me—late imperial Chinese history. Although I am fortunate enough to attend a school where I am given an abundance of learning resources in helping me develop my writing, critical thinking, and argumentative skills, as well as being guided by the aid of superb teachers, this research enquiry was the first time I had formally delved deep into an academic interest outside of school curriculum, out of my own accord. Without the scaffolding provided by a course of study, I had to independently formulate thoughts, define my research parameters, and reevaluate my findings and deductions.

Writing my paper was doubtlessly one of the most academically challenging, but nonetheless one of the most formative and empowering experiences of my high school career. Mr. Fitzhugh, thank you for providing an opportunity where the driven, the curious, and the audacious may dare to think, question, and discover.

Respectfully Yours,

Jason Qu

St. George’s School, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Class of 2017
Author of China’s Self-Strengthening Movement: A Noble Plan Detached from Reality,
[13,760 words] published in the Spring 2017 Edition of The Concord Review.

Mr. Qu’s paper [PDF].

TCR 30th Anniversary Remarks

Will Fitzhugh:

Will Fitzhugh, Founder, The Concord Review, Inc.
23 March 2017, Harvard Faculty Club

Thanks, Bill, [Bill Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Harvard College] for the kind introduction, and for decades of encouragement and support. You know, in addition to managing 40,000 applications, he also runs marathons…

Thanks also to our High School string quartet, [for playing Mozart], organized by the violinist Elizabeth Kim, whose interesting paper on the career of Leni Riefenstahl was published in our Winter issue this year. [She is headed for a gap year at the Sorbonne.]

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thanks for coming to this 30th Anniversary Dinner for The Concord Review.

I would like to talk to you about college readiness, about History and academic writing in the schools, and about The Concord Review’s three decades of work to promote the idea to: “Teach with Examples.”

A few years ago, I went to a dinner at the Harvard Club of Boston, and the president welcomed us all and then said: “None of you would get in now.”

I loved my boarding school in California, but when I arrived at Harvard, 61 years ago, I had never been asked to read one history book or to write one term paper, so I arrived unprepared for the academic reading and writing Harvard offered.

Then 30 years ago, during a sabbatical from teaching at the High School in Concord, Massachusetts, I got the idea for The Concord Review.

I had a couple of questions. Were there secondary students in the English-speaking world who were writing good History papers and would they send them to me? And could we use those exemplary papers to inspire some of their peers to read more History and to work on serious papers of their own, so they would be more ready for college than I had been?

In August 1987, I sent a four-page brochure calling for papers to every Secondary School in the United States and Canada and 1,500 overseas, and the answer to the first questions was yes.

The serious papers started to come in. We have now published 112 issues, with 1,230 exemplary History research papers by students from 44 states and 40 other countries.

As to using those papers to inspire other students, we have had much less success, in spite of support from many wonderful people, such as Steven Graubard, Theodore Sizer, Diane Ravitch, Harold Howe, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Albert Shanker, Bill Fitzsimmons, John Silber, and others. Most donors and foundations turned us down, either because they believed that publications all fail, or because they saw both History and this journal as elitist.

School and public libraries have Young Adult Sections, but librarians would not put The Concord Review in those, even though the essays were written by Young Adults and for Young Adults. It just didn’t fit in with the Teen Romances and the Vampire Fiction.

David Brooks, in a review of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers in the New York Times, wrote: “As the classical philosophers understood, examples of individual greatness inspire achievement more reliably than any other form of education.”

To give you an idea of the reaction to this among some educational leaders, I sent that comment to the Dean of the School of Education at Boston University, and he replied with this email: “The myth of individual greatness is a myth.” (sic).

There are too many reasons to go into now, but History and academic writing are in big trouble in our schools. Social Studies has taken over History, and some Massachusetts high schools are suggesting that History courses be folded into a Humanities department and taught by English teachers.

When it comes to writing, that has always been the property of the English department, and the vast majority of American public High School students now graduate without ever having been asked to read one nonfiction book or to write one term paper.

There are consequences for students: on the last NAEP test of U.S History, only 12% of our HS Seniors passed, leading some to suggest that perhaps 88% of them would not be able to pass the U.S. citizenship exam.

Permit me one anecdote: Last December 7, The Boston Globe reported that a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor had asked a HS girl what she knew about Pearl Harbor? And the girl said: “Who is she?”

Enrollments in History courses in colleges are falling off, even at Harvard, and most universities, including Harvard, have remedial writing courses for first-year students. The courses are not called that, but they exist, because, as one of our HS authors wrote me: “We are told we will learn to write in college.” In High School they are doing personal and creative writing, five-paragraph essays, and the 500-word college “essay.”

We are now sending most of our students to college unprepared. In Texas, recent estimates suggest 65% of their HS graduates are not ready for college. And there are consequences beyond college. There are constant complaints in the workplace about employees who can’t write. A few years ago, the Business Roundtable did a survey of its member companies and they reported spending $3.1 Billion every single year on remedial writing courses for their employees, evenly distributed among new hourly, new salaried, current hourly and current salaried employees.

There are also consequences for their lack of experience in reading nonfiction books and for their ignorance of History. Many of our High School graduates are entering college with their reading ability at the 7th grade level.

The Concord Review has, so far, been a small effort, but the History papers we have published have been longer, more serious, more interesting, and better-written than I had imagined would be possible when I started. We don’t tell students what to write about. We say we are interested in papers on any historical topic, ancient or modern, domestic or foreign, and, naturally, papers on topics the authors are interested in are better than those on assigned topics.

It has been a wonderful privilege for me to read so many serious and interesting History research papers by secondary students over these last 30 years.

Could I have a show of hands of those published in The Concord Review? Including those now with a Ph.D. in History?

Professor Ferguson may remind us that History is probably more important for us now than it has ever been, but I must say I am deeply grateful for the thousands of good strong student history papers that have kept The Concord Review going for the last thirty years.

Now, thanks to support from John Thornton and David Rubenstein, it looks like The Concord Review and its efforts will continue to encourage many more students to read History and work on serious papers of their own in the future.

Of the many good stories about these efforts over the last three decades, permit me to mention one. When Robert Nasson and I started the National History Club 15 years ago to encourage the reading, writing, discussion and enjoyment of History—the first chapter was at a girls’ school in Memphis, Tennessee.

They called their chapter: “The Cliosophic Society,” and they chose as their symbol a flower: The Forget-Me-Not…When it comes to History, that strikes me as perfect.

Thanks again for coming, and I hope you enjoy the dinner, after which we will have the privilege of hearing some of the thoughts of historian Niall Ferguson.


“Teach with Examples”
Will Fitzhugh [Founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Academic Coaches [2014]
TCR Summer Program [2014]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®

The collapse of academic standards

Chester E. Finn:

While ersatz “credit recovery” and grade inflation devalue the high school diploma by boosting graduation rates even as NAEP, PISA, PARCC, SAT, and sundry other measures show that no true gains are being made in student achievement, forces are at work to do essentially the same thing to the college diploma.

Observe the new move by CalState to do away with “remediation” upon entry to its institutions and instead to confer degree credit for what used to be the kinds of high-school-level content and skills that one had to master before gaining access to “credit-bearing” college courses.

The new term for these bridge classes for entering college students is “corequisite” and California isn’t the only place that’s using them. One study at CUNY—dealing with community colleges, not four-year institutions—says greater success was achieved when ill-prepared students were placed in “regular” college classes but given “extra support” than when they were shunted into “remediation.” Perhaps so. Perhaps placement tests aren’t the best way to determine who is actually prepared to succeed in “college level” work. But that’s not the same as saying—as CalState seems to be saying—that anyone emerging from high school, regardless of what they did or didn’t learn there, deserves entry into “regular” college classes.

That essentially erases the boundary between high school and college, and not in the good way being undertaken by sundry “early college” and “Advanced Placement” courses, the purpose of which is to bring college-level work into high schools. Now we’re seeing high-school-level work being brought into college, there to count for credit toward bachelor’s degrees.

This will surely cause an upward tick in college completions and degrees conferred (much as credit recovery has done for high school diplomas) but it will also devalue those degrees and cause any employer seeking evidence of true proficiency to look for other indicators. In the end, it will put pressure on many more people to earn post-graduate degrees and other kinds of credentials, thus adding to the length of time spent preparing for the “real world” and adding to the costs—whether born by students, families, or taxpayers—of that preparation.

All this is, of course, a consequence of misguided notions of equity and opportunity. But what it really does is perpetuate the illusion of success in the absence of true achievement and weaken all versions of academic standards at the very moment most states have been taking steps to strengthen them.

Related: Foreign students say US high school classes are absurdly easy.

High school principal accused of keeping Catholic school kids off admission list

Aaron Short & Susan Edelman:

“I’m working two jobs as it is,” Guarneri said. “His first choice was to go to Maspeth.”

More than 4,000 eighth-graders applied ​to the school, ​including 500​ Catholic-school kids,​ the city Department of Education said. But the principal failed to “mark for priority” 207 Catholic-school ​​students who had attended a Maspeth information session. None got offered seats.

The school sent acceptance letters to 370 students — all from public schools.

Maspeth HS is a “limited unscreened” school — one of 225 in the city — which gives admission priority to students who live nearby and attend its information sessions or open houses.

The Art of Paying Attention

Michelle Dean:

Paying attention is the only thing that guarantees insight. It is the only real weapon we have against power, too. You can’t fight things you can’t actually see. The power a writer has is the power to make things visible, and they are the things that we don’t typically look at or think about. Telling a story about someone has enormous power. People forget a headline. They remember a story.

A Tale of Two Bell Curves

Bo Winegard and Ben Winegard:

To paraphrase Mark Twain, an infamous book is one that people castigate but do not read. Perhaps no modern work better fits this description than The Bell Curve by political scientist Charles Murray and the late psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein. Published in 1994, the book is a sprawling (872 pages) but surprisingly entertaining analysis of the increasing importance of cognitive ability in the United States. It also included two chapters that addressed well-known racial differences in IQ scores (chapters 13-14). After a few cautious and thoughtful reviews, the book was excoriated by academics and popular science writers alike. A kind of grotesque mythology grew around it. It was depicted as a tome of racial antipathy; a thinly veiled expression of its authors’ bigotry; an epic scientific fraud, full of slipshod scholarship and outright lies. As hostile reviews piled up, the real Bell Curve, a sober and judiciously argued book, was eclipsed by a fictitious alternative. This fictitious Bell Curve still inspires enmity; and its surviving co-author is still caricatured as a racist, a classist, an elitist, and a white nationalist.

Myths have consequences. At Middlebury college, a crowd of disgruntled students, inspired by the fictitious Bell Curve — it is doubtful that many had bothered to read the actual book — interrupted Charles Murray’s March 2nd speech with chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho, Charles Murray has got to go,” and “racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!” After Murray and moderator Allison Stanger were moved to a “secret location” to finish their conversation, protesters began to grab at Murray, who was shielded by Stanger. Stanger suffered a concussion and neck injuries that required hospital treatment.

It is easy to dismiss this outburst as an ill-informed spasm of overzealous college students, but their ignorance of The Bell Curve and its author is widely shared among social scientists, journalists, and the intelligentsia more broadly. Even media outlets that later lamented the Middlebury debacle had published – and continue to publish – opinion pieces that promoted the fictitious Bell Curve, a pseudoscientific manifesto of bigotry. In a fairly typical but exceptionally reckless 1994 review, Bob Hebert asserted, “Murray can protest all he wants, his book is just a genteel way of calling somebody a n*gger.” And Peter Beinart, in a defense of free speech published after the Middlebury incident, wrote, “critics called Murray’s argument intellectually shoddy, racist, and dangerous, and I agree.”

The Bell Curve and its authors have been unfairly maligned for over twenty years. And many journalists and academics have penned intellectually embarrassing and indefensible reviews and opinions of them without actually opening the first few pages of the book they claim to loathe. The truth, surprising as it may seem today, is this: The Bell Curve is not pseudoscience. Most of its contentions are, in fact, perfectly mainstream and accepted by most relevant experts. And those that are not are quite reasonable, even if they ultimately prove incorrect. In what follows, we will defend three of the most prominent and controversial claims made in The Bell Curve and note that the most controversial of all its assertions, namely that there are genetically caused race differences in intelligence, is a perfectly plausible hypothesis that is held by many experts in the field. Even if wrong, Herrnstein and Murray were responsible and cautious in their discussion of race differences, and certainly did not deserve the obloquy they received.

Populism is the result of global economic failure

Larry Elliott:

The answer seems pretty simple. Populism is the result of economic failure. The 10 years since the financial crisis have shown that the system of economic governance which has held sway for the past four decades is broken. Some call this approach neoliberalism. Perhaps a better description would be unpopulism.

Unpopulism meant tilting the balance of power in the workplace in favour of management and treating people like wage slaves. Unpopulism was rigged to ensure that the fruits of growth went to the few not to the many. Unpopulism decreed that those responsible for the global financial crisis got away with it while those who were innocent bore the brunt of austerity.

White families with children drawn to less diverse neighborhoods, schools

Science Daily:

Racial segregation is declining, but it remains higher for families with children than those without, a new study shows. Race appears to be a ‘proxy’ for school quality for many white families with children as they decide where and in which school districts they want to live, suggests a new report.

“Neighborhood racial segregation has been in decline since the 1970s, but my findings show it declined more slowly among families with kids,” said USC Assistant Professor Ann Owens, who analyzed 2010 and 2000 U.S. Census data to examine racial segregation trends.

“This means that children are surrounded by greater racial homogeneity in their neighborhoods than adults,” added Owens, a sociologist at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “A lack of diversity could have a significant effect on the development of their racial attitudes and future education and employment.”

In neighborhoods, housing and urban policies have been key for curbing segregation, she said. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule of 2015, for example, reiterated the aims of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, requiring municipalities that receive federal housing funds to conduct fair housing assessments.

Why College Graduates Still Can’t Think

Rob Martin:

I wrote about all this in a recent post on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae website, mostly as background for a larger point I was trying to make. I assumed that virtually all the readers would agree with this definition of critical thinking—the definition I was taught as a student in the 1980s and which I continue to use with my own students.

To my surprise, that turned out not to be the case. Several readers took me to task for being “cold” and “emotionless,” suggesting that my understanding of critical thinking, which I had always taken to be almost universal, was mistaken.

I found that puzzling, until one helpful reader clued me in: “I share your view of what critical thinking should mean,” he wrote. “But a quite different operative definition has a strong hold in academia. In this view, the key characteristic of critical thinking is opposition to the existing ‘system,’ encompassing political, economic, and social orders, deemed to privilege some and penalize others. In essence, critical thinking is equated with political, economic, and social critique.”

Black kids across Dallas are getting ‘the talk’ their white friends won’t hear FILED UNDERDALLAS AMBUSH ATJUL 28 SHARE FACEBOOK TWITTER EMAIL Print This Story Written byProfile image for Sarah Mervosh Sarah Mervosh

Sarah Mervosh:

It’s a conversation parents of black boys wish they never had to have — and one their white counterparts typically never will.

In the aftermath of the Dallas police shooting this month, many black parents have had “the talk” with their kids — a discussion about how to rise above perceptions about race and how to respond if confronted by police.

This conversation, happening across town with children of all ages, from first-graders to grown men, is just one example of how race divides our experience on a daily basis.

American College of Trial Lawyers on campus sexual assault investigations: ‘Under the current system everyone loses.’

American College of Trial Lawyers:

ACTL, an organization that “seeks to improve the standards of trial practice, professionalism, ethics, and the administration of justice” and selects only members who have demonstrated “the very highest standards of trial advocacy, ethical conduct, integrity, professionalism and collegiality,” acknowledges that colleges and universities are “in a double bind” when it comes to addressing sexual misconduct claims. Institutions risk both the loss of federal funding if the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights proceeds with an enforcement action under Title IX, and lawsuits from accused students who say they were “railroaded” through unfair campus proceedings.

Madison School District Healthcare Cost Summary

Tap for a larger version.

March, 2017 School Board Presentation (PDF).

Notes and links: health insurance.

2015: Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the Madison School District budget

MMSD will spend $61 million on health insurance this year.

One of Every Six Dollars is Spent on Health Insurance in the MMSD budget.

Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the MMSD budget.

Over 3,900 employees are enrolled in the MMSD plan

New Madison School District Magnet School Policy

Dylan Pauly:

We are currently working through the final steps of transitioning James C. Wright Middle School from a charter school to a magnet school. As part of that process, we have developed a draft magnet school policy. The purpose of the policy is to provide a common, local definition of the terms “magnet school” and “magnet program.” The draft policy also sets forth the basic methods for developing magnet schools and program.

It is recommended that the Board approve Board Policy 10,100 (Magnet Schools and/or Programs) as set forth in the materials prepared for the March 27, 2017 Regular Meeting, effective immediately.

Following approval of the policy, the Board is also being asked to formally recognize Spring Harbor as a magnet school pursuant to and in accordance with Policy 10100. Given Spring Harbor’s history, we do not believe it is necessary or appropriate for a new proposal process. Essentially, the school would be grandfathered into the policy.

Madison School District Proposed Magnet School Policy.

Much more on Wright Middle School, here.

21 Industries Other Than Auto That Driverless Cars Could Turn Upside Down

CB Insights:

It’s all but a certainty that autonomous or driverless vehicles will be widely used in the United States at some point over the next two decades. Already, over two dozen major corporates including Google, Apple and Mercedes Benz are hard at work building their own self-driving vehicles. Tesla’s Model S already includes an autopilot mode where the car drives itself on highways.
 Clearly tech and auto companies stand to gain, but many other industries could face serious upheavals unless they are able to adapt to the many changes self-driving cars will bring to the market.

The Academy’s Assault on Intellectual Diversity

Robert Boyers:

t is tempting to describe the battles convulsing American campuses with epithets like “the politics of hysteria.” More than a bit of hysteria was unleashed at Middlebury College this month, when protesters prevented Charles Murray from delivering a scheduled lecture. In spite of eloquent rebukes delivered by the college president and several prominent faculty members, some on the Middlebury campus defended the protest by citing the poisonous views expressed by Murray in his ugly and notorious book, The Bell Curve. Though it’s a violent instance of so-called free-speech controversies lately ignited on the nation’s campuses, the Middlebury incident doesn’t begin to reveal the depth or virulence of the opposition to robust discussion within the American professoriate, where many self-described liberals continue to believe that they remain committed to “difference” and debate, even as they countenance a full-scale assault on diversity of outlook and opinion.

Confront contemporary left-liberal academics — I continue to regard myself as a member of that deeply troubled cohort — with a familiar passage from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, and they will be moved at once to proclaim that Mill espouses what virtually all of us have long taken for granted. Of course we understand that “the tyranny of the majority” must be guarded against — even when it is our majority. Of course we understand that “the peculiar evil of silencing”— or attempting to silence — “the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing … posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: If wrong, they lose … the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

Survey Finds Foreign Students Aren’t Applying to American Colleges

Ron Allen:

Educators, recruiters and school officials report that the perception of America has changed for international students, and it just doesn’t seem to be as welcoming a place anymore. Officials point to the Trump administration’s rhetoric surrounding immigration and the issuing of a travel ban as having an effect.

“Yes, we definitely are sounding the warning,” said Melanie Gottlieb, deputy director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, adding, “We would hope that the [Trump] administration would say [to] cool the rhetoric a bit around immigration.”

Former and potential foreign exchange students told NBC News that they’re leery of what might happen to them once they step foot into the United States.

Google’s AI Explosion in One Chart Surging investment in machine learning is vaulting Google into the scientific stratosphere.

Antonio Regalado:

Behind the surge is Google’s growing investment in artificial intelligence, particularly “deep learning,” a technique whose ability to make sense of images and other data is enhancing services like search and translation (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Deep Learning”).

According to the tally Google provided to MIT Technology Review, it published 218 journal or conference papers on machine learning in 2016, nearly twice as many as it did two years ago.

Despite pushback, education panel votes to close five schools in de Blasio’s turnaround program

Alex Zimmerman:

“They buried us while we were breathing,” said Deidre Walker, a math teacher at J.H.S. 145, a Bronx middle school that will now close at the end of the school year. “The resources weren’t given.”

All five schools are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal initiative, a program designed to flood them with additional academic resources and social services to help sow improvements rather than closing them outright — the approach favored by the Bloomberg administration.

Given previous mergers and closures, the education panel’s vote will mean that, starting next school year, 78 schools will remain in the program, down from an original 94.

Kansas City’s spending explosion.

DPI race between Tony Evers, Lowell Holtz centers on future of education in Wisconsin

Annysa Johnson:

“Wisconsin is the worst in the nation for achievement gaps and graduation gaps,” said Holtz, who believes public charter and private voucher schools could do a better job than some public schools. “We’re leaving a generation of students behind.”

Evers says Wisconsin schools have raised standards, increased graduation rates and expanded career and technical education programs during his tenure. He characterized Holtz as a political opportunist who would expand the state’s voucher program at the expense of public schools and shepherd in the massive cuts proposed by President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that would eliminate before- and after-school programs, teacher training grants and a host of other programs that benefit Wisconsin students.

Edgewood seventh grader Martius Bautista is Wisconsin’s top speller

Judy Newman:

The fourth time proved to be the charm for Madison seventh-grader Martius Bautista.

Bautista, 12, a student at Edgewood Campus School, outspelled 45 competitors from around Wisconsin to win the first-place prize at the Badger State Spelling Bee on Saturday after correctly spelling “rhizograph,” a device that traces the movement of roots in the soil.

As other students stumbled over words more popular a few decades ago — such as “kahuna” (an important person), “nosh” (snack) and “gestapo” (a reference to the Nazi secret police), Bautista soldiered on, mastering esoteric words such as “jacamar,” a type of tropical bird; “serdab,” an ancient Egyptian tomb; and “benzoin,” a balsamic resin.

In the 25th round at Madison Area Technical College’s Mitby Theater, only Bautista and Hanna Ghouse, a Kenosha seventh-grader, remained on stage. Ghouse tripped on the word “apteryx,” a flightless kiwi bird. Bautista spelled it correctly and took on the next word, rhizograph, to win the top award.

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance rows against hyperpartisan current

Patricia Simms:

Q. How has your role in the Wisconsin political landscape changed in the last five to 10 years? Is there more or less of a hunger for “impartial” data?

A. In Wisconsin, the political landscape has evolved over the past 30 to 40 years with the advent of the full-time professional legislature, the centralization of power in the offices of legislative party leaders and the governor, and the increasingly take-no-prisoners partisanship that has developed among activists on the far left and far right. Respect, kindness, polite behavior, decorum are much less evident in capitol buildings today.

This has resulted in the last five to 10 years in the increasing inability of government at state and federal levels to work through and solve difficult problems. That gridlock and dysfunction has led to increased citizen alienation from public institutions. Regardless of party or ideology, both the 2008 and 2016 presidential elections were really protest elections with voters begging for problem-solving, for results, and willing to take a chance on anyone who might deliver that.

Q. Are you experiencing a decline in financial support for what you do?

A. We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and like all charitable organizations, every year presents new challenges. The irony is that “white-hat” truth-telling and fact-finding are not what most easily motivate financial giving in the public arena. Reflecting our politics today, it is anger and emotion and simplistic answers that move many donors to act.

For us, this is complicated by the fact that what we offer is a public good. Anyone can request most of our work for free: our civic and community lectures are free, part of our public service mission; serving as a resource to media reporters and editors is free; answering inquiries from citizens and local officials is free. People can benefit from much of our work without having to pay for it.

And although our research, writing, and speaking remain mostly free as part of our commitment to public service, it costs to provide all those services.

Another challenge for many local charities is the business mergers and acquisitions that strip the state of company headquarters, civic leadership and a commitment to finance state and local nonprofits.

Teachers More Likely to Use Private Schools for their Own Kids

Paul E. Peterson and Samuel Barrows:

The Supreme Court, in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), is now considering whether all teachers should be required to pay union-determined “agency fees” for collective bargaining services, whether or not the teacher wants them. When making their case, unions would have the public believe that school teachers stand solidly behind them. When it comes to school choice, for example, CTA insists that “Teachers do not support school voucher programs, because they hurt students and schools by draining scarce resources away from public education.” But facts on the ground tell a different story.

A fifth of all school teachers with school-age children has placed a child in a private school, and nearly three out of ten have used one or more of the main alternatives to the traditional public school— private school, charter school, and homeschooling. What is more, the teachers who exercise choice are more likely to support school choice for others, avoid union membership, and oppose agency fees.

We discovered this when we asked, as part of a nationally representative survey of the general public and of school teachers, whether those with school age children have sent them to public, private, or charter schools, or homeschooled them. The survey was conducted in June 2015 by Knowledge Networks under the auspices of Education Next, a journal for which one of us serves as editor. Altogether, we surveyed approximately 4,000 adults, including 851 parents of school-age children, 206 of whom were school teachers. Polling details and overall results are available online at educationnext.org.

The chilling effect of a McGill University tweet on its scholars

Emmett MacFarlane:

Controversy erupted over an opinion piece authored by Andrew Potter, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, published on the Maclean’s website Monday. Potter connected a winter storm stranding hundreds of commuters on a Montreal highway to what he argued was the “almost pathologically alienated and low-trust society” in Quebec. The next day, Potter posted an apology on Facebook, stating that he went too far in some of his analysis and that he extrapolated too much from personal anecdotes with respect to some of his claims.

But the real scandal came at about the same time, in the form of a statement from McGill University’s official Twitter account that distanced the university from Potter’s op-ed. “The views expressed by @JAndrewPotter in the @MacleansMag article do not represent those of #McGill,” it read.

This may seem, on the surface, a relatively innocuous statement. But it is in fact a reprehensible attack on the core of the academic mission, and specifically on academic freedom.

Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap?

Elizabeth Raleigh and Grace Kao:

In one of the first longitudinal population-based studies examining adopted children’s educational achievement, we analyze whether there is a test-score gap between children in adoptive families and children in biological families. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we find in aggregate adopted children have lower reading and math scores than their counterparts living in biological families. Yet there is significant variation among adoptive families by their race and health status. On one hand adoptive parents tend to be White and have more economic capital than their non-adoptive counterparts potentially contributing to educational advantages. However adopted children are also more likely to have special educational needs, contributing to greater educational disadvantages. Untangling these variables through a multivariate regression analysis, we find that transracially adopted children have similar test scores to White children living with biological parents. We point to the interaction between race, family resources and children’s health status and how these characteristics differentially shape achievement outcomes for adopted children.


A national benchmark of educational performance of adopted children.

We untangle the effects of adoption from family resources and child characteristics.

Through a longitudinal analysis, we examine how the achievement gap widens over time.

We find adopted children have lower test scores than children in biological families.

But transracial adoptees have higher test scores than White non-adopted children.

There were hopes that the flood of Chinese students into America would bring the countries closer. But a week at the University of Iowa suggested to Brook Larmer that the opposite may have happened

Brook Larmer:

As the plane descended over Iowa, Fan Yijia could see a quilt of green and yellow cornfields extending to the horizon. It had taken more than 24 hours – and one missed flight – for the first-year University of Iowa student to travel from Jiaxing in eastern China to the American Midwest. To her weary eyes, accustomed to the crowded streets of her home city of 4m people, the cornfields looked not comforting but disorienting. “I had no idea if I could fit in.”

Before the missed flight, Fan – who goes by the English name Sophie – had arranged online to get a lift from the airport to the campus from the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, a student-run group partially funded by the Chinese government. Her delayed arrival forced her to cancel the reservation. So she turned to the only other group offering a helping hand at the airport, Bridges International, an evangelical Christian outreach group. “It might be a little confusing and you’re probably really tired,” the Christian group’s online ad says. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone there to greet you? We would love the privilege of getting to welcome you into the US from the moment you arrive.”

Foreign Students Say U.S. High School Classes Are Absurdly Easy

Tom Loveless:

The survey asked students the following: Compared to students in your home country, do you think U.S. students spend more, less, or about the same amount of time on schoolwork? … In 2001, 34.0% said much less, a figure that grew to 44.0% in 2016.

In the 2001 survey, foreign exchange students reported that high school classes in the U.S. seemed easier than classes in their home countries. When asked to rate the relative difficulty of U.S. classes, 56% replied “a lot easier” and 29% said “a little easier.” Only 6% said “a little harder” and 5% said “much harder.” […]

Students from abroad are even more likely today to describe U.S. classes as easier than they were in 2001. The combined “much easier” and “a little easier” responses grew from 85.2% in 2001 to 90.0% in 2016. The change in the “much easier” rating, increasing from 55.9% to 66.4%, is statistically significant.

Related: English 10, small learning communities, TAG complaint and Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

Neil Irwin:

Walk half a city block in downtown Washington, and there is a good chance that you will pass an economist. People with advanced training in the field shape policy on subjects as varied as how health care is provided, broadcast licenses auctioned or air pollution regulated.

Turn on cable news, and the guests who opine on the weighty public policy questions of the day quite often have some title like “chief economist” underneath their name. And there are economists sprinkled throughout the government — there is an entire council of them advising the president in most administrations, if not yet in this one.

Lowell Holtz says graduation rates soared for minority students when he ran the Beloit schools

Dave Umhoefer:

In his bid to unseat Tony Evers as state school superintendent, self-described “kidservative” Lowell Holtz criticizes Wisconsin’s dubious distinction of graduating white high school students at much higher rates than minority students.

On his campaign blog, Holtz says his attention to safety and discipline as Beloit school superintendent from 2006 to 2009 improved the completion rate among high school students of color.

Specifically, he claimed: “Our minority graduation rate went from levels below Milwaukee and Madison, to above 80%.”

Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century

Anne Case and Sir Angus Deaton:

In “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st Century,” Princeton Professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton follow up on their groundbreaking 2015 paper that revealed a shocking increase in midlife mortality among white non-Hispanic Americans, exploring patterns and contributing factors to the troubling trend.

Case and Deaton find that while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s. This is due to both rises in the number of “deaths of despair”—death by drugs, alcohol and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age.

Reclaiming the conversation: new rules for the ed reform debate

Citizen Stewart:

he narrative of people who oppose ‘school choice’ is well documented. The same talking points are brought up again and again and usually dominate the conversation. It’s time to re-frame the narrative, get real about the misinformation being spread and lead these conversations with a children-first line of thought. Here are Citizen Stewart‘s 26 new rules for the education reform debate:

1. If you’ve never agonized about selecting a school for your kid, don’t oppose choice.

2. If you aren’t currently responsible for closing the achievement gap, shut up about those who are – you are not an expert. Just listen.

3. If you don’t believe that poor children and children of color can learn at high levels, don’t teach in their schools.

4. If you benefited from a private school education, don’t come up with fancy reasons to deny others the same.

5. If your only experience in teaching low-income students is bad experience, don’t write a book about education.

Why did McGill fail to defend Andrew Potter’s academic freedom?

Globe and Mail:

McGill University’s decision to accept the resignation of a staff member whose published opinion displeased Quebec’s political and chattering classes is extremely troubling. It is only made worse by the university’s refusal to explain itself properly.

Suzanne Fortier, president and vice-chancellor, says the school accepted Andrew Potter’s resignation as director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada on the grounds that he failed to uphold MISC’s vague mission “to promote a better understanding of Canada.” That is unconvincing, to say the least.

Did Mr. Potter, a professor of philosophy and former newspaper editor, truly resign voluntarily from his “dream job,” as he described it? Or did someone inside or outside the school apply undue pressure? Why didn’t the university defend his academic freedom?


We need to know. The right of university professors to speak their minds without fear of sanction is critical in a free society.

It matters not a whit that the online Maclean’s column that got Mr. Potter in trouble was poorly thought out – something he acknowledged when he apologized for its content this week.

Mr. Potter tried to argue that a breakdown in communications that left hundreds of people stranded overnight in their cars on a highway during a snowstorm was connected to an “essential malaise” in Quebec. “It is close to inconceivable that this could happen anywhere else in the country,” he wrote.

Politicians and commentators denounced his contention. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said it was “based on prejudices.” Mr. Potter apologized. It should have ended there. But suddenly, on Thursday, he resigned as director of MISC, while staying on as a contract professor.

Let’s be perfectly clear: In a liberal democracy, the writing of an ill-considered magazine column is a trifling concern compared to the possible sanctioning of a university professor for writing the column in question.

Texas can’t improve special education without data

Carl & Suzanne Shepherd:

A child’s academic progress is every parent’s concern; tracking that progress is a fundamental responsibility of our schools. Good educational data and metrics, with evidence-based instruction, can change the outcome of a child’s life.

For a child like our son, who has Down syndrome and does not take Texas’s suite of standardized tests, that data is largely missing. If it exists at all, it’s defined one student at a time, in a special education student’s Individual Education Plan, or IEP. Objective data on the academic progress of groups of special education students, if they don’t take standardized tests, doesn’t seem to exist at all. Without it, evidence-based choices about instruction, services and materials can’t be made.

Until recently we thought the lack of data was due to a lack of funding. Now, we’re pretty sure it’s not.

In November 2015, we began meeting with the superintendent of our local school system to discuss how our proposed donation of $500,000 might be used to collect this data and improve the outcomes for kids in special education. We weren’t naïve enough to expect instant acceptance and implementation of the proposal, but we did hope the district would move quickly to embrace the idea and the money. It didn’t work out that way.

Student Aid Tool Held Key for Tax Fraudsters

Brian Krebs:

Citing concerns over criminal activity and fraud, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has disabled an automated tool on its Web site that was used to help students and their families apply for federal financial aid. The removal of the tool has created unexpected hurdles for many families hoping to qualify for financial aid, but the action also eliminated a key source of data that fraudsters could use to conduct tax refund fraud.

Last week, the IRS and the Department of Education said in a joint statement that they were temporarily shutting down the IRS’s Data Retrieval Tool. The service was designed to make it easier to complete the Education Department’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — a lengthy form that serves as the starting point for students seeking federal financial assistance to pay for college or career school.

Stanford researchers show we’re sending many children to school way too early

Jenny Anderson:

Parents wondering whether to wait a year to send their kids to kindergarten, take note: A new study from Stanford University shows that Danish kids who postponed kindergarten for up to one year showed dramatically higher levels of self-control.

“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73% for an average child at age 11,” Thomas Dee, one of the co-authors and a Stanford Graduate School of Education professor, said in a release.

Commentary On New York City’s Elite High Schools

Damon Hewitt:

If the administration is truly committed to admitting black and Latino students who deserve to be in specialized high schools, it must find the courage to disrupt the status quo and ask the harder questions. For example, why not ask how the schools could do a better job — not of expanding or improving the applicant pool, but of recognizing the talent we know exists among black and Latino students? What if the school district (still under significant mayoral control) and the State Legislature (which mandates a test-only policy for three of the schools) started from scratch to create an admissions process that rewards those who do well in middle school? What if school officials and the public actually believed there are many talented black and Latino students who can succeed in an elite setting? What if they were willing to create a process that recognized their merit?

These are the big questions. Asking these types of questions will help to shift the false, prevailing narrative that only a few black and Latino students are good enough for the city’s best high schools. It will help New Yorkers get to some real solutions and a fairer process — not only for those students, but for everyone.

Texas Senate panel OKs bill requiring schools to teach teens about interacting with police

Jonathan Silver:

Texas would require high school students, drivers-in-training and police officers to be taught how law enforcement and civilians should interact under a measure approved by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday. The proposal now heads to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 30 is a bipartisan response to deadly encounters between law enforcement and civilians seen in recent years throughout the country. In Texas, it comes after the high-profile case of Sandra Bland, an Illinois woman arrested in Waller County after a traffic stop whose videotaped argument with an officer became national news after she was found hanged to death in her jail cell three days later.

Monasteries Of The Mind

Victor Davis Hanson:

An increasing number of American don’t take all this seriously. And that’s not new. In reaction to the growing globalization of the Roman Empire, elite corruption, the banality of bread-and-circuses, and the end of the agrarian Italian Republic, the Stoics opted out, choosing instead a reasoned detachment from contemporary life. Some, like the worldly court philosopher Seneca, seemed hypocritical; others, such as the later emperor Marcus Aurelius, lived a double life of imperial engagement and mental detachment. Classical impassiveness established the foundations for the later monastic Christians, who in more dangerous times increasingly saw the world around them as incompatible with the world to come — and therefore they saw engagement as an impediment to their own Christian belief. More and more Americans today are becoming Stoic dropouts. They are not illiberal, and certainly not reactionaries, racists, xenophobes, or homophobes. They’re simply exhausted by our frenzied culture.

America’s 100 Richest Places

Vincent del Giudice and Wei Lu:

Cities and towns with ties to Wall Street and the Silicon Valley, and a smattering of communities in between, boasted the highest U.S. household incomes in 2015, according to a Bloomberg analysis of census data.

Atherton, California, in the technology corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, topped the list as America’s wealthiest town, while more than one-third of the nation’s 100 richest households were located within 50 miles of New York City.

Warfare helps explain why American welfare is different

The Economist:

Pushing against Adolph Wagner’s law is another, newer tendency. Americans who recalled the Depression and the second world war tended to look more favourably on the redistribution of income. Ilyana Kuziemko of Princeton and Vivekinan Ashok and Ebonya Washington, both of Yale, have found that support for redistribution has dropped among retired people over the past few decades (see chart). One explanation for this is that people retiring now have no memory of the two big, unifying events of the 20th century. It may be no coincidence that this reluctance to redistribute, which comes out particularly strongly in the opposition among current pensioners to extending health insurance, followed a surge in immigration at the end of the 20th century. In the 1950s, immigration to America averaged 250,000 people a year; in the 1990s, it reached 1m a year.

Should Parents of Children With Severe Disabilities Be Allowed to Stop Their Growth?

Genevieve Field:

icky gazed up toward the pine trees as his mother, Cindy Preslar, pushed him along the village road in an orange jogging stroller. She was marking the route for the Summer 2014 Run Through the Clouds 10K, a fund-raiser for the public schools in Cloudcroft, N.M. “You’ll run with Dad and Max tomorrow,” she said. “Right, Ricky?” She ruffled his fine blond hair. By “run” she meant “ride” — Ricky was 7, but his legs were unable to bear his full weight. As a result of a complication during pregnancy, Cindy says, he was born with a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic quadriplegia with static encephalopathy, which meant permanent brain damage and severely limited eyesight because of cortical vision impairment.

Ricky’s problems were not recognized immediately. He was a fussy eater but an otherwise genial baby; the Preslars’ friends commented on the twinkle in his eyes. Then, at about 3 months, he began to jolt awake at night, the back of his pajamas soaked with sweat. One afternoon, when Cindy laid him on his changing table, he arched and crossed his arms, and his eyes rolled back in his head as if he were in the throes of a seizure. A CT scan taken soon after that revealed a scarred, atypically small, or microcephalic, brain. The Preslars don’t know how much Ricky understands, but based on medical assessments, he is thought to have the developmental age of a 6-month-old infant.

In Latest Court Filing, Newark Public School District and Superintendent Christopher Cerf Concede “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Hurts Students

Matthew Frankel, via a kind email:

In Latest Court Filing, Newark Public School District and Superintendent Christopher Cerf Concede “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Hurts Students

Trenton, New Jersey — The Newark Public School (NPS) district and NPS Superintendent Christopher Cerf, defendants in HG v. Harrington, yesterday submitted an answer to the lawsuit filed in November 2016 by six Newark mothers challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s quality-blind “last in, first out” (LIFO) teacher layoff law. Newark’s answer includes admissions that overwhelmingly concede the allegations put forward by the plaintiffs. This filing is significant for two reasons: 1) the district admits that New Jersey’s LIFO law causes harm to students and 2) these admissions undermine the credibility of motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the teachers’ unions, who intervened as defendants in the case in December 2016.

Newark’s court filing is attached to this email. In the filing, the district defends strides it has made to better serve students, and also makes the following selected admissions:

NPS admits that laying off teachers without any consideration of their quality prohibits children from being educated in the constitutionally mandated manner (paragraph 14)

NPS admits that enforcement of LIFO in Newark will remove quality teachers, which leads to lower test scores, lower high school grad rates, lower college attendance rates, and sharply reduced lifetime earnings (paragraph 104)

NPS admits that its current practice of keeping ineffective teachers on the district payroll, including those in a pool of “educators without placement schools” (EWPS), is harmful and unsustainable (paragraphs 80-81) and that the EWPS pool would be wholly unnecessary were it not for LIFO (paragraph 89)

NPS admits that LIFO undermines its ability to attract and retain effective teachers (paragraphs 96-103)

NPS notes that the statutes governing termination proceedings for tenured teachers do not address the impact of quality-blind layoffs on students through the retention of low-performing teachers in times of budget cuts (paragraph 93)

In response to Newark’s answer, Partnership for Educational Justice Executive Director Ralia Polechronis said:

“Instead of battling over procedural issues, NPS has taken a stand in favor of students’ best interests. The district admits that NJ’s LIFO law ‘protects the interests of adults over the rights of the children of Newark’ and forces the district into an impossible dilemma: either divert increasingly limited resources to avoid layoffs or deny high-performing teachers to 8,000 students per year. These admissions are a giant step forward for the HG plaintiffs to prove their constitutional claims in a court of law.”

This is the first case of its kind in which all original defendants submitted an answer to the lawsuit, rather than moving to dismiss the case, signaling that these cases can and should be heard by a court of law. Earlier this month, the New Jersey Department of Education and New Jersey’s Acting Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington submitted an answer to the parents’ complaint. All legal filings related to HG v. Harrington are available online here, including the answers filed by Newark and the State, and motions to dismiss the case filed by national and local teachers’ unions.

Click to download the plaintiffs’ complaint [PDF].

To learn more about the parent-led lawsuit to end LIFO in New Jersey, please go to edjustice.org/nj.


Matthew Frankel
MDF Strategies
41 Watchung Plaza, Suite 355
Montclair NJ 07042

Abolish women’s studies

New Criterion:

So-called “women’s studies” programs began cropping up on campuses across the country in the 1970s. Although they started largely in imitation of the militant black studies programs that had swept the country’s colleges and universities in the late Sixties, they soon vastly outstripped black and other minority studies programs in size and influence. Today, there is hardly a college campus that doesn’t sport a women’s studies program or department. At many institutions, it is even possible to major in women’s studies.

The very familiarity of these developments has lulled many people into forgetting how odd they are. For what “women’s studies” describes is not an academic discipline but rather a knot of grievances searching for recognition. Like black studies and—a more recent phenomenon—homosexual (“gay”) studies, women’s studies exists primarily to promote a species of political solidarity. Intellectually, women’s studies has always been a terrible embarrassment. That is one reason its advocates are so truculent: like the Wizard of Oz, they must work overtime to keep up the illusion that their subject even exists. Comparing what goes on in the name of women’s studies to genuine scholarship is like comparing the “space program” said to have been undertaken by a small African country to compete with America’s Apollo missions: there were plenty of rockets, but, being made of wood, they didn’t get very far.

Harvard Professors Sign Statement Endorsing ‘Freedom of Expression’

Mia C. Karr and William L. Wang:

Eleven Harvard professors and one fellow have signed a statement affirming a commitment to engaging with—and opposing efforts to “silence”—those with opposing views.

The statement, entitled “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression” is co-authored by African and African-American Studies Professor Cornel West and Robert P. George, a Princeton professor. It was published on the program’s website on March 14, and over 600 professors, students, and college affiliates have signed the statement as of Sunday.

“The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth,” the statement reads.“That’s why all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views. And we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses,” it continues.

Although the statement does not mention any one institution or incident, its publication follows a recent highly-publicized confrontation between Middlebury College students and controversial social scientist Charles Murray. Student protesters repeatedly disupted Murray, who had been invited by a conservative student group, pulling fire alarms during his talk, throwing objects at his car when he left, and ultimately injuring a Middlebury professor accompanying Murray.

Populism: The Phenomenon


This report is an examination of populism, the phenomenon—how it typically germinates, grows, and runs its course.
Populism is not well understood because, over the past several decades, it has been infrequent in emerging countries (e.g., Chávez’s Venezuela, Duterte’s Philippines, etc.) and virtually nonexistent in developed countries. It is one of those phenomena that comes along in a big way about once a lifetime—like pandemics, depressions, or wars. The last time that it existed as a major force in the world was in the 1930s, when most countries became populist. Over the last year, it has again emerged as a major force.

To help get a sense of how the level of populist support today compares to populism in the past, we created an index of the share of votes received by populist/anti-establishment parties or candidates in national elections, for all the major developed countries (covering the US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain) all the way back to 1900, weighting the countries by their population shares. We sought to identify parties/candidates who made attacking the political/corporate establishment their key political cause. Obviously, the exercise is inherently rough, so don’t squint too much at particular wiggles. But the broad trends are clear. Populism has surged in recent years and is currently at its highest level since the late 1930s (though the ideology of the populists today is much less extreme compared to the 1930s).

Why Americans have come to worship their own ignorance

Brian Bethune:

A five-time undefeated Jeopardy! champion and a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, Tom Nichols is the author of several books on international relations, Russian affairs and nuclear weapons—as well as a former adviser on foreign and defence affairs for the late senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania. In short, an expert in his field. He’s also a staunch conservative of the Never Trump persuasion, a man deeply worried about the state of public discourse in his country and the author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. He spoke with Senior Writer Brian Bethune about his new book, the unprecedented way in which “sullen and narcissistic” Americans “worship their own ignorance,” and what everyone from students to journalists and experts themselves should do about it.

Commentary On Wisconsin K-12 Governance Options

Erin Richards:

To qualify for a voucher in the statewide program, students have to come from families earning no more than 185% of the federal poverty level, or about $45,000 for a family of four or about $52,000 if the parents are married. The income limit for the Racine and Milwaukee programs is 300% of the federal poverty level.

Vouchers are different than charter schools, which are fully public schools that are privately operated, often by nonprofits. Charter schools receive freedom from some state rules and school district oversight in exchange for demonstrating higher-than-average student achievement, the terms of which are outlined in their charters, or contracts.

“School choice” refers to vouchers and charters and other options parents can choose outside their assigned neighborhood school. But vouchers are the most controversial because they usually support religious schools that don’t have to follow all the same rules as public schools. Private schools that accept vouchers are not legally obligated to serve all children with special needs, and they do not have to disclose all the same data as public schools.

Madison’s non diverse government K-12 system has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

This, despite spending more than most, now around $18,000 per student. .

An ancient memorization strategy might cause lasting changes to the brain

Rachel Becker:

There’s been a long-standing debate about whether memory athletes are born with superior memories, or whether their abilities are due to their training regimens. These tend to include an ancient memorization strategy called the method of loci, which involves visualizing important pieces of information placed at key stops along a mental journey. This journey can be an imaginary walk through your house or a local park, or your drive to work. The important thing is that you can mentally move back through it to retrieve the pieces of information you stored. (The ancient Greeks are said to have used it to remember important texts.)

Jonah and the Whale, Call me Ishmael.

Laura Waters:

Excuse the melodrama but right now my husband and I feel like we’re about to embark on a dark, god-less, soul-crushing journey. Our son Jonah (whom I’ve written about before) just turned 21 and will age out of the school system this year. Parents of children with disabilities call this milestone “falling off a cliff.”

The cliff in question is the cessation of Jonah’s rights, inscribed in federal law, for services that nurture his development, education, and relative independence. For eighteen years he’s been cradled within the sheltering arms of laws and regulations that protect children with disabilities: the right to a free education within the least restrictive environment, the right to therapies that foster his ability to learn, and the right to “transition” services, like the job-training program he attends right now.


Supreme Court:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) offers States federal funds to assist in educating children with disabilities. The Act conditions that funding on compliance with certain statutory re- quirements, including the requirement that States provide every eli- gible child a “free appropriate public education,” or FAPE, by means of a uniquely tailored “individualized education program,” or IEP. 20 U. S. C. §§1401(9)(D), 1412(a)(1).
This Court first addressed the FAPE requirement in Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist., Westchester Cty. v. Rowley, 458 U. S. 176. The Court held that the Act guarantees a substantive- ly adequate program of education to all eligible children, and that this requirement is satisfied if the child’s IEP sets out an educational program that is “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.” Id., at 207. For children fully integrated in the regular classroom, this would typically require an IEP “reasona- bly calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and ad- vance from grade to grade.” Id., at 204. Because the IEP challenged in Rowley plainly met this standard, the Court declined “to establish any one test for determining the adequacy of educational benefits conferred upon all children covered by the Act,” instead “confin[ing] its analysis” to the facts of the case before it. Id., at 202.

Stanford researchers show we’re sending many children to school way too early

Jenny Anderson:

Parents wondering whether to wait a year to send their kids to kindergarten, take note: A new study from Stanford University shows that Danish kids who postponed kindergarten for up to one year showed dramatically higher levels of self-control.

“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73% for an average child at age 11,” Thomas Dee, one of the co-authors and a Stanford Graduate School of Education professor, said in a release.

Dee did his research with Hans Henrik Sievertsen of the Danish National Centre for Social Research, who told Quartz that the impact was strong and lasted a long time: “We were a bit surprised at how persistent the effect was.” The effect of delaying school on hyperactivity and inattention didn’t diminish over time, as they expected, but increased: in fact, waiting one year virtually eliminated the chance that an average kid at age 11 would have higher-than-normal scores on those measures.

K-12 Financial Literacy

American Banker (PDF):

ankers believe that cultivating financial literacy within their communities, particularly among school-age children, is a fundamental part of their mission. A public with good saving, budgeting and financial planning skills and habits dovetails
with financial institutions’ core civic role in safekeeping deposits, providing credit to households and building wealth. With financial literacy education mostly absent from standard school curriculums, it is often up to the industry to provide it, a responsibility it welcomes both out of a sense of duty and a recognition of the opportunity to shape a reputation that has been damaged by periodic scandals and bailouts.

Financial institutions often struggle with establishing a direct business case for supporting K-12 financial literacy, however, and frequently fail to optimize the funds they devote toward educational initiatives.

Experienced partners with proven records of quality school programming can be decisive in achieving positive outcomes among students and enhancing sponsors’ images in the community, and programs can be tailored to drive and measure return on investment.

To better understand the industry’s convictions about financial education; its level and modes of involvement; and its challenges, pain points and objectives, NTC Corporate commissioned the research unit of SourceMedia, the publisher of American Banker, to survey 235 executives at financial institutions with K-12 financial literacy programs. All respondents lead, manage or are otherwise involved in the K-12 initiatives at their institutions, which are headquartered across the United States, range the asset-size spectrum and include retail banks, thrifts, credit unions and investment banks (see Figures 1 and 2)

How do Unschoolers Turn Out?

Peter Gray has studied how learning happens without any academic requirements at a democratic school. The Boston College research professor also wrote about the long history and benefits of age-mixed, self-directed education in his book Free to Learn. Over the years, as he encountered more and more families who had adopted this approach at home (these so-called “unschoolers” are estimated to represent about 10 percent of the more than two million homeschooled children), he began to wonder about its outcomes in that setting. Finding no academic studies that adequately answered his question, he decided to conduct his own.

Green Bay Voucher Opportunities

Will Flanders:

Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal was big on money for K-12 public education – to the tune of more than $600 million over 2 years – but small on expanding education options for Wisconsin families. Fortunately the Governor isn’t the only one with a say on this matter. A day after Walker’s budget address, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said lifting the caps on enrollment for the statewide school voucher program, Wisconsin Parental Choice Program was “absolutely” something the Senate Republicans would consider.

This is promising news. The current unfair enrollment caps and income limitations placed on the choice program are arbitrarily hindering growth and shutting the schoolhouse door on Green Bay families looking for education options.

The Green Bay Area Public School District is failing their most vulnerable students—those from economically disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. Only 19.7% of students from low-income families are proficient in English. A staggeringly low 11.4% of African American students are proficient in English. Even among the general student population, proficiency rates in these subjects are only in the low 30s. These problems are not unique to public schools in Green Bay but it is painfully obvious that something else needs to be tried.

Suicides in Rural America Increased More than 40% in 16 Years

Alex Berezow:

Rural America is facing an existential crisis. As cities continue to grow and prosper, small towns are shrinking. That fundamental divide played itself out in the recent presidential election.

Consider this shocking chart produced by the Brookings Institution. It shows that, in 2000, George W. Bush won 2,397 counties (compared to Al Gore’s 659), and those counties represented 46% of America’s GDP. Fast forward to 2016. Donald Trump won an even larger share: 2,584 counties (compared to Hillary Clinton’s 472). Yet, counties that voted for Trump accounted for only 36% of the nation’s GDP. Since most Bush counties also voted for Trump, that means — in a span of just 16 years — economic productivity shifted by 10 percentage points, away from small town America and toward the big cities.

A new “Mathematician’s Apology”

Jesse Johnson:

In the two and a half years (or so) since I left academia for industry, I’ve worked with a number of math majors and math PhDs outside of academia and talked to a number of current grad students who were considering going into industry. As a result, my perspective on the role of the math research community within the larger world has changed quite a bit from what it was in the early days of may academic career. In the post below, I explore this new perspective.

In “A Mathematician’s Apology”, published in 1940, G. H. Hardy argued that the study of pure mathematics could be justified entirely by its aesthetic value, independent of any applications. (He used the word “apology” in the sense of Plato’s Apology, i.e. a defense.) Of course, Hardy never had to apply for an NSF grant and his relatives probably never asked him why someone would pay him to solve problems without applications.

High anxiety as SF public school assignments run late

Nanette Asimov:

A school district glitch has parents biting their nails in San Francisco this week.

Thousands of dollars are on the line for families that are prepared to lay out hefty deposits for private schools by this week’s deadlines — but hope they won’t have to if they can get into a public school of their choice.

The trouble is, the San Francisco Unified School District may not be able to tell them about their public school options, from elementary through high school, before private-school down payments are due Wednesday through Friday. The district missed its March 17 deadline for sending out school-assignment letters because of “unforeseen staffing emergencies,” said spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Candidate Event

Lisa Speckhard::

Common Core educational standards may not seem like a subject asking for fiery debate, but the candidates for the April 4 election for Wisconsin state superintendent proved their passion for the issue on TV Sunday.

Incumbent Tony Evers, running for his third term, and Dr. Lowell Holtz, former district superintendent for Beloit and Whitnall schools, appeared on this week’s installment of “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” and ended a joint appearance on a rocky note.

The candidates talked over each other while debating the Common Core State Standards, which Holtz argued was a mandatory “federal intrusion.”

“We had no choice, Tony,” Holtz said.

“This is not federal intrusion. If you’re worried about federal intrusion, you should be worried what Betsy DeVos is doing to us with the new budget,” Evers said. “We’re cutting our after-school programs. That is federal intrusion, my friend.”

Duke Reports a Sexual Assault Rate 5 X as High as Our Most Dangerous City

KC Johnson:

Over the last few years, we have become all but immune to what, under any other circumstances, would be a fantastic claim—that one in five female undergraduates will be victims of sexual assault. This rate would translate to several hundreds of thousands of violent crime victims (with almost all of the incidents unnoticed) annually, and, as Emily Yoffe has pointed out, implies that about the same percentage of female college students are sexually assaulted as women in the Congo where rape was used as a war crime in the nation’s civil war.

Even within this environment of pie-in-the-sky statistics, a recent survey from Duke stands out. According to the survey, 40 percent of Duke’s female undergraduates (and 10 percent of Duke’s male undergraduates) describe themselves as victims of sexual assault. This data would mean that each year, a female undergraduate at Duke is 5.5 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than a resident of St. Louis, which FBI statistics listed as the nation’s most dangerous city in 2016. And yet, incredibly, parents still spend around $280,000 to send their daughters into this den of crime for four years.

Student Loan Federalization


President Obama had a great idea back in 2010: nationalize the student loan program, and its problems would soon go away. It didn’t happen. Instead, more people are refusing to pay their student loans than ever before.

In a study released last week, the Consumer Federation of America found that millions of people were in arrears on $137 billion in federal student loans in the first nine months of 2016, an increase of 14% from 2015. All told, the federal government’s portfolio of student loans now stands at a whopping $1.3 trillion.

As the Washington Post notes, “What’s striking about the findings is that Americans have a variety of repayment options to avoid default. The Obama administration expanded programs that cap monthly payments to a percentage of earnings, but even though millions of people

America may miss out on the next industrial revolution

Nick Statt:

Robots are inevitably going to automate millions of jobs in the US and around the world, but there’s an even more complex scenario on the horizon, said roboticist Matt Rendall. In a talk Tuesday at SXSW, Rendall painted a picture of the future of robotic job displacement that focused less on automation and more on the realistic ways in which the robotics industry will reshape global manufacturing.

The takeaway was that America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, may miss out on the world’s next radical shift in how goods are produced. That’s because the robot makers — as in, the robots that make the robots — could play a key role in determining how automation expands across the globe.

Danielle Steel Loves the Weather and Elmore Leonard Hates Exclamation Points: Literature by the Numbers

Ben Blatt:

The first literary mystery to be solved by numbers was a 150-year-old whodunit finally put to rest in 1963. Two statistics professors learned of the long-running debate over a dozen contested essays from The Federalist Papers, and they saw that they might succeed where historians had failed. Both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison claimed to have written the same 12 essays, but who was right?

The answer lay in how each writer used hundreds of small words like but and what, which altogether formed a kind of literary fingerprint. The statisticians painstakingly cut up each essay and counted the words by hand—a process during which “a deep breath created a storm of confetti and a permanent enemy.” And by comparing hundreds of word frequencies, they came up with a clear answer after so many years of speculation: the contested essays were distinctly the work of James Madison.

Mothers Who Regret Having Children – “I Wish I’d Never Had Kids”

Sarah Treleaven:

Here’s the thing about realizing that you shouldn’t have had kids,” says Laura*, 37, a journalist based in Los Angeles. “You can’t take the decision back.”

Laura once believed that she wanted to be a mother. She had little direct experience with children—no siblings young enough to need tending to, no babysitting jobs—and when she and her husband decided to start a family, she wondered if she knew enough about what that meant. “I asked some friends if we could get the basics from them and they ran us through the general infant care stuff in maybe 45 minutes,” she says. “In retrospect, it was laughably insufficient. I really didn’t know what I was in for.”