China Charges Labor Activist for ‘Picking Quarrels’

Chun Han Wong and Josh Chin

A Chinese activist who for years has documented worker unrest faced charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on Friday, in a trial seen as a bellwether of Beijing’s approach to containing labor tensions.

A former migrant worker, Lu Yuyu roamed around China with his girlfriend, collecting information about public protests that he then tallied online. The detention of the couple last year closed a rare window on social unrest in China by putting a key provider of such data out of commission.

Mr. Lu’s one-day trial in the southwestern city of Dali concluded at 9 p.m. on Friday, with prosecutors recommending he be sentenced to between three and five years in prison, one of Mr. Lu’s lawyers, Xiao Yunyang, told The Wall Street Journal.

Civics: What’s Worse: Trump’s Campaign Agenda or Empowering Generals and CIA Operatives to Subvert it?

Glenn Greenwald:

During his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, for better and for worse, advocated a slew of policies that attacked the most sacred prongs of long-standing bipartisan Washington consensus. As a result, he was (and continues to be) viewed as uniquely repellent by the neoliberal and neoconservative guardians of that consensus, along with their sprawling network of agencies, think tanks, financial policy organs, and media outlets used to implement their agenda (CIA, NSA, the Brookings/AEI think tank axis, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, etc.).

Whatever else there is to say about Trump, it is simply a fact that the 2016 election saw elite circles in the U.S., with very few exceptions, lining up with remarkable fervor behind his Democratic opponent. Top CIA officials openly declared war on Trump in the nation’s op-ed pages and one of their operatives (now an MSNBC favorite) was tasked with stopping him in Utah, while Time Magazine reported, just a week before the election, that “the banking industry has supported Clinton with buckets of cash . . . . what bankers most like about Clinton is that she is not Donald Trump.”

America’s amnesia

Thomas Bass:

Everything wrong with the new ten-part PBS documentary on the Vietnam War is apparent in the first five minutes. A voice from nowhere intones about a war “begun in good faith” that somehow ran off the rails and killed millions of people. We see a firefight and a dead soldier in a body bag being winched into a helicopter, as the rotor goes thump, thump, thump, like a scene from Apocalypse Now. Then we cut to a funeral on Main Street and a coffin covered in Stars and Stripes, which multiply, as the camera zooms out, into dozens and then hundreds of flags, waving like a hex against warmongers who might be inclined to think that this film is insufficiently patriotic.

Everything right with the documentary is apparent in the next few minutes, as the film rolls back (literally running several scenes backward) into a trove of archival footage and music from the times and introduces the voices — many of them Vietnamese — that will narrate this history. The film relies heavily on writers and poets, including Americans Tim O’Brien and Karl Marlantes and the Vietnamese writers Le Minh Khue, and Bao Ninh, whose Sorrow of War ranks as one of the great novels about Vietnam or any war.

What Sets Thrivers and Divers Apart in College?

Liz Stucke:

Is your daughter or son ready to head off to college? You (and they) may have conflicting feelings—relieved that the application process is over and yet somewhat apprehensive about whether they will thrive in college. After all, if the university mostly admits students in the top ten percent of their high school class, most of these students, once in college, will no longer be in the top ten percent. As Maurice’s former dean said to the entering law students, it is simple math. Only 10 percent can be in the top 10 percent.

So, what sets thrivers and divers apart in college? Fours economists sought to answer that question. Graham Beattie, Jean-William P. Laliberté, Catherine Michaud-Leclerc, and Philip Oreopoulos surveyed approximately 6,0000 first-year economics students at the University of Toronto in the 2016-2017 academic year. They then compared the top ten percent (the Thrivers) and bottom ten percent (the Divers) in terms of academic performance. How did they differ in terms of study habits, attitudes, and personal experiences?

Their study had some interesting findings.

First, as expected, the students’ high school grades were a strong predictor of their academic performance at college.

Some Top U.S. Educators Went to Finland. Their Big Takeaway: Empower Teachers

Madeline Will:

After their time in Finland, the U.S. teachers traveled to Milan, Italy, for Education First’s Global Leadership Summit, which was focused on the future of food and had celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as one of the speakers. The teachers’ travels were funded through scholarships by EF, an international educational tours company, and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers—recipients were chosen for their essays on becoming globally minded educators.

I spoke to two teachers—Jitka Nelson from Indiana and Amber Vlasnik from Nebraska—about their takeaways from their trip. You can also read the lessons learned from last year’s cohort of teachers who traveled to Finland.

The Secret Key: Empowering Teachers

Nelson and Vlasnik said the teachers left with the impression that Finnish schools are doing a lot of the same things U.S. schools are: The major difference is that teachers are held in higher regard.

Teacher preparation programs are rigorous and selective, and there’s only about a 10 percent acceptance rate, Nelson said. Because of that, teachers are not evaluated through standardized test scores.

I asked Madison’s 2008 candidates if they preferred a top down approach to teachers or simply sought to hire the best and let them do their job (assuming we measure student and teacher content knowledge, of course).

UW System office seeks charter school proposals; Milwaukee market may be tapped out

Annysa Johnson:

Bennett said he has had some interest in the Madison, though he declined to identify schools or individuals. If a school is authorized there, it would be the first in the city not chartered by the Madison Metropolitan School District, and only one of three independent charters — those not authorized by a school district — outside of Milwaukee.

Bennett’s office and post were created by the Republican-led Legislature to authorize charter schools in districts with 25,000 students or more — Milwaukee and Madison, effectively. The 2015-’17 budget plan proposed by Senate Republicans last month would expand that authority beyond those two cities.

Charters are publicly funded schools that allow for greater flexibility in the way they operate in areas such as staffing and curriculum. As of January, Wisconsin had 237charter schools serving about 44,000 students, the vast majority of those authorized by local public school districts. Twenty-two others were independently chartered — all but two of those in Milwaukee — by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the UW-Parkside.

Though they are growing nationally, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, interest has waned in Wisconsin in recent years. Only one new school, Pathways High, is slated to open in Milwaukee this fall. And independent chartershave been slow to catch on outside of Milwaukee, in part because of a lack of funding and a push by parents for public school alternatives.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results. This, despite spending far more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Demonizing School Choice Won’t Help Education

Megan McArdle:

Katherine Stewart doesn’t like Donald Trump’s language about “failing government schools.” School choice, she suggests, has some unsavory ancestors. Libertarianism, for one, “for which all government is big and bad.” And (presumably) even worse: “American slavery, Jim Crow-era segregation, anti-Catholic sentiment and a particular form of Christian fundamentalism.”

One could quibble with some of Stewart’s summation 1 . But it’s certainly fair to note that people opposed to desegregation decided that one way to solve the problem was to get rid of public schools, allowing racists to choose a lily-white educational environment for their children. Maintaining Jim Crow is a vile motive, and it can’t be denied that that was one historical reason some people had for supporting school choice.

Only the proper answer to this is, So what? You cannot stop terrible people from promoting sound ideas for bad reasons. Liberals who think that ad hominem is a sufficient rebuttal to a policy proposal should first stop to consider the role of Hitler’s Germany in spreading national health insurance programs to the countries they invaded. If you think “But Hitler” does not really constitute a useful argument about universal health coverage, then you should probably not resort to “But Jim Crow” in a disagreement over school funding.

Evergreen College pledges to train students not to discriminate against white people

Jennifer Kabbany:

After a white Evergreen State College student filed a formal complaint citing claims of “racially driven violence and harassment” from peers of color, a campus official has pledged that future training topics for student leaders will include preventing bias based on race.

The complaint had been filed by student Steve Coffman*, a junior and history major at the embattled university, who stated that at a heated campus meeting in late May organized by students who claimed the campus is racist and attended by President George Bridges, Coffman was told to get out of the seat he was sitting in and move to the back of the room because he is white.

Back to School Nashville: Parents Got 99 Problems…The Type of School Ain’t One

Velia Hawkins:

Parents, you know we’ve got all kinds of problems to worry about. But feeling judged for the kind of school we choose for our children shouldn’t be one of them.

Just last week I had an issue that sucked up my time and attention for the better part of the week.

It was the third day that week my eldest child claimed sickness so she didn’t have to go to her summer program. She is a talented actress, I should say—so good that I was doubting myself. Maybe she actually was sick? Maybe I should keep her home?

The program she is in seems like it should be perfect — academically stellar, beautiful setting. But for some reason that week she had been struggling and claiming to be sick for much of it.

By day 3 of this parenting fiasco I was enlisting help — asking the person I was meeting with at 10 am for his wisdom on the subject as the father of three. Should I make her go to school? How should we handle this?

Engineering Education: Social Engineering Rather than Actual Engineering

Indrek Wichman:

We engineers like to solve technical problems. That’s the way we think, that’s why we chose our major, that’s why we got into and stayed in engineering.

There are several other reasons why we got into engineering. One of them was the absence of what I describe here as “social engineering,” where the professor/instructor is interested not so much in solving technical problems as in setting the world right—in his or her opinion.

A second and related reason is that engineering (and the sciences generally) should be, like the scales of justice, blind. Engineering does not care about your color, sexual orientation, or your other personal and private attributes. All it takes to succeed is to do the work well.

Attacking dissent at Google


An anonymous Googler is providing evidence at Gab that various employees at Google are openly attacking James Damore, the author of the document dissenting from the SJW diversity doctrine there, and actively lobbying the executives to fire him, despite the fact that more than one-third of Googlers surveyed tend to agree with his dissent.

From the document:

De-emphasize empathy.

I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.

Yonitan Junger:

3. That brings us, however, to point (3), the most serious point of all. I’m going to be even blunter than usual here, because I’m not subject to the usual maze of HR laws right now, and so I can say openly what I would normally only be allowed to say in very restricted fora. And this is addressed specifically to the author of this manifesto.

What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas. And worse than simply thinking these things or saying them in private, you’ve said them in a way that’s tried to legitimize this kind of thing across the company, causing other people to get up and say “wait, is that right?”

I need to be very clear here: not only was nearly everything you said in that document wrong, the fact that you did that has caused significant harm to people across this company, and to the company’s entire ability to function. And being aware of that kind of consequence is also part of your job, as in fact it would be at pretty much any other job. I am no longer even at the company and I’ve had to spend half of the past day talking to people and cleaning up the mess you’ve made. I can’t even imagine how much time and emotional energy has been sunk into this, not to mention reputational harm more broadly.

Commentary: Cathy Young and Dan Eaton.

Madison “four (out of five) of them are not proficient in reading in elementary school”

Just, wow: “…if you take five African-American children in this district, four of them are not proficient in reading in elementary school”


& if you take one hundred…ninety-three of them are not proficient in reading at the end of middle school:

Madison School District reading data 2012-2017.

Background on Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results, here, and, perhaps a bit of hope to address our lack of governance diversity.

What is privilege and what do we do with it?

Dan Williams:

Last week, colleague Laura Townsend wrote about the reality of white privilege. Her column relays the experiences of three college-age individuals who feel they have been affected by white privilege. This is an important topic that deserves a public discussion, because, as Townsend’s column illustrates, there’s some confusion about what white privilege is.

Not only is talking about race difficult, which makes talking about white privilege difficult, but it is necessary to understand the notion of privilege before we can understand the notion of white privilege. Therefore, when talking about white privilege, it is prudent to at least mention the wider concept contained therein: that of privilege itself.

The relevant notion of privilege I define as the receipt of certain benefits wholly through accident of birth. It is undeniable that privilege itself is a reality. Any of us could have been born the unluckiest person on the planet, which, by definition, picks out precisely one person. But we all have the privilege of not being that person. We are all privileged by comparison.

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.

College journalist nabs $2k award for reporting on campus sexual harassment

Haley Samsel:

Co-sponsored by the Student Press Law Center, which supports the First Amendment rights of student media and student journalists, the award spotlights stories that utilize open records laws and encourage public dialogue on campus. The award includes a $2,000 cash prize — $1,000 for Ares and $1,000 for the College Heights Herald, which published the story.

“I literally spent so many hours on this story that if you probably divided up all the money, I probably got paid like 10 cents an hour,” Ares tells USA TODAY College with a laugh. “So it wasn’t for the money.”

Ares first became interested in how universities handled faculty sexual misconduct cases in 2016, when the University of Kentucky sued its independent student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, over requests for documents involving a professor accused of sexual harassment.

Related: U Kentucky is suing its own student newspaper over a sexual assault investigation
As news editor of the Herald at the time, Ares was curious about what documents she could get if she asked for personnel records from universities across the state. In November, she requested Title IX investigation documents from eight public universities in Kentucky. Only two refused her request: Kentucky State and WKU.

Ares decided to pursue WKU’s denial a “little more vigourously,” she says, and wrote an appeal to Kentucky’s attorney general, Andy Beshear. He ultimately sided with Ares and the Herald, stating that WKU was responsible for releasing Title IX records about the university’s final actions in sexual harassment investigations involving university employees.

As Ares pored over Title IX investigation documents she had received from other universities, WKU filed a lawsuit against the Herald and the Kentucky Kernel, UK’s student newspaper, in efforts to turn over the attorney general’s decision.

Ares took a backseat to the lawsuit to focus on her larger project. “I’m not going to see the records anytime soon, I’ve already graduated,” she says. “But I would be interested to see them eventually.”

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

John Twenge:

Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Following 20% Decline In UNLV Bar Pass Rate (To 63%), Nevada Lowers Cut Score By 2 Points (To 138)

Paul Carron:

In 2016, only 63 percent of first-time test-takers from UNLV’s Boyd School of Law — the state’s only public law school — received a passing score. Aside from an uptick in 2015, the passage rate among Boyd graduates has steadily declined since 2011, when 83 percent of first-timers passed. …

Efforts to make the Nevada bar exam more user-friendly began with the decision in June to lower the “cut score,” the figure required to pass the multistate bar exam, from 140 to 138. …

Nevada’s legal community may take a cue from California on whether to further lower the bar. Hamilton, the Boyd Law School dean, said he is eagerly awaiting results of a study that California is conducting, which includes a review of state bar exam content and cut scores and an overall examination of the falling passage rates. “They’ve got the schools to do it, they’ve got the numbers to do it,” Hamilton said. “Based on that data, that will go a long way for us.” …

We Survived Spreadsheets, and We’ll Survive AI

Greg Ip:

Whether truck drivers or marketing executives, all workers consider intelligence intrinsic to how they do their jobs. No wonder the rise of “artificial intelligence” is uniquely terrifying. From Stephen Hawking to Elon Musk, we are told almost daily our jobs will soon be done more cheaply by AI.

Yet AI is too amorphous a label to actually convey anything useful about what, precisely, it’s supposed to displace. Instead, think of it as a technology that does one thing particularly well: predictions. Such as, will that mark on the X-ray prove to be a tumor? Is the object in the road a paper bag or a child? Which headline will get the most readers to click on an article?

Treating prediction as an input into an economic process makes it much easier to map AI’s impact. History and economics show that when an input such as energy, communication or calculation becomes cheaper, we find many more uses for it. Some jobs become superfluous, but others more valuable, and brand new ones spring into existence. Why should AI be different?

Slight Street Sign Modifications Can Completely Fool Machine Learning Algorithms

Evan Ackerman

It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for us humans to understand how robots see the world. Their cameras work like our eyes do, but the space between the image that a camera captures and actionable information about that image is filled with a black box of machine learning algorithms that are trying to translate patterns of features into something that they’re familiar with. Training these algorithms usually involves showing them a set of different pictures of something (like a stop sign), and then seeing if they can extract enough common features from those pictures to reliably identify stop signs that aren’t in their training set.
 This works pretty well, but the common features that machine learning algorithms come up with generally are not “red octagons with the letters S-T-O-P on them.” Rather, they’re looking features that all stop signs share, but would not be in the least bit comprehensible to a human looking at them. If this seems hard to visualize, that’s because it reflects a fundamental disconnect between the way our brains and artificial neural networks interpret the world.

School Vouchers For Broad Swath of Families On The Table In Illinois School Funding Fight

Linda Lutton:

Under the draft proposal reviewed by WBEZ, individual taxpayers could choose to send up to $1 million annually to scholarship organizations rather than to the state Department of Revenue. Those diverted taxpayer dollars would fund scholarships to pay tuition cost at private or parochial schools, or to pay the cost for a public school education in a district outside a child’s community.

All told, the state could dole out $100 million annually in tax credits to finance this scholarship program. If the scholarship fund attracts at least $90 million in donations in any year, it would grow to $125 million. It could continue to grow by 25 percent annually, with no cap, as long as taxpayers send at least 90 percent of the maximum allowed to the fund. Donors could direct their money to a specific school, rather than a specific student, and some eligible students could be turned away.

The proposal is striking in its reach. Any family of four earning up to $113,775 annually would be eligible. In Illinois, 67 percent of families of two or more people earn up to $100,000 a year, according to U.S. Census data.

Another 18 percent of Illinois families earn up to $150,000. The median income is $71,500 for an Illinois family of at least two people, which is how the federal government defines a family.

The confusing way Mexicans tell time


Mexicans are famous in the Spanish-speaking world for their extensive use of the diminutive. While in most Spanish-speaking countries the addition of the diminutive ‘ita’ to an adverb like ahora (meaning ‘now’) would strengthen it to indicate immediacy (i.e. ‘right now’), this is not the case in Mexico. Dr Company explained that Mexicans instead use the diminutive form to break down the space between the speaker and the listener and lessen formality. In this case of ‘ahorita’, the addition of the diminutive reduces urgency rather than increasing it – a difference that can be extremely confusing for foreigners.

Subtle adjustments to the pronunciation of the word also affect the way ‘ahorita’ is interpreted. “The stretch in the ‘i’ sound in the word ‘ahorita’ is a demonstration of the stretching of time,” Dr Company informed me, implying that the longer the sound, the longer one can expect to wait. Equally, “if you want to imply that you really mean right now, you would say ‘ahorititita’,” she explained, noting the short, sharp sounds represent the idea that something needs to happen at once.

Sweden Accidentally Leaks Personal Details of Nearly All Citizens

Swati Khandelwal:

This time sensitive and personal data of millions of transporters in Sweden, along with the nation’s military secrets, have been exposed, putting every individual’s as well as national security at risk.

Who exposed the sensitive data? The Swedish government itself.

Swedish media is reporting of a massive data breach in the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) after the agency mishandled an outsourcing deal with IBM, which led to the leak of the private data about every vehicle in the country, including those used by both police and military.

Commentary On K-12 Governance Rhetoric

Mike Antonucci:

In the past two weeks, both support and criticism of Weingarten have centered on whether or not school vouchers actually increase segregation. A different question is whether or not Weingarten’s broadsides against vouchers, privatization, and disinvestment have anything to do with fighting segregation.

Elsewhere in the speech Weingarten recounted her joint visit to the public schools in Van Wert, Ohio, with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Weingarten chose that particular district because “these are the schools I wanted Betsy DeVos to see — public schools in the heart of the heart of America.”

“The people of Van Wert are proud of their public schools,” she said. “They’ve invested in pre-K and project-based learning. They have a nationally recognized robotics team and a community school program that helps at-risk kids graduate. Ninety-six percent of students in the district graduate from high school.”

Those are things to be proud of. But in a speech condemning segregation, Weingarten failed to mention another facet of Van Wert public schools: Out of 1,991 students, just 18 are African Americans. Not 18 percent — 18 students.

Madison recently expanded its Least diverse school.

“it is here that stretched agencies are most likely to hand over the analytics to private vendors”

Robert Brauneis & Ellen P. Goodman

We set out to test the limits of transparency around governmental deployment of big data analytics, focusing our investigation on local and state government use of predictive algorithms. It is here, in local government, that algorithmically-determined decisions can be most directly impactful. And it is here that stretched agencies are most likely to hand over the analytics to private vendors, which may make design and policy choices out of the sight of the client agencies, the public, or both. To see just how impenetrable the resulting “black box” algorithms are, we filed 42 open records requests in 23 states seeking essential information about six predictive algorithm programs. We selected the most widely-used and well-reviewed programs, including those developed by for-profit companies, nonprofits, and academic/private sector partnerships. The goal was to see if, using the open records process, we could discover what policy judgments these algorithms embody, and could evaluate their utility and fairness.

NAACP’s attack on charter schools hurts black students

Howard Fuller:

“A bad school is our common enemy.” Those words from Cristina de Jesus of Green Dot Public Schools rang true for me the first time I read them — and they obviously had an impact on the NAACP, too. Members of the NAACP’s public education task force included this phrase in their recent report calling for major reform in the charter school movement.

The report was the latest step in the NAACP’s journey to undermine and destabilize the same charter schools that serve so many students of color.

I was pleased to see that the report, debuted at the NAACP’s national convention in Baltimore, was somewhat more nuanced and, in fact, acknowledged that high-quality charter public schools have been successful for many students of color. This acknowledgement was long overdue but the substance of the report is, once again, waging the same senseless war on charter schools the NAACP started with its call for a charter school moratorium in 2016.

Locally, Madison lacks K-12 Governance diversity.

Much more on Howard Fuller.

UNC’s arrogance over academic scandal has tainted the school’s once-great image

Harry Minium:

If you grew up rooting for Virginia, North Carolina State or anyone else in the ACC, you may have despised the University of North Carolina.

But go ahead and admit it: Even if you hated the Tar Heels outwardly, deep down inside, you also admired them.

Carolina did things the right way. The Tar Heels played hard, respected opponents and adhered to high academic standards.

Longtime basketball coach Dean Smith called it “The Carolina Way” in a book he wrote a few years before he passed away.

Of course, we now have much different outlook on the Tar Heels, thanks largely to Raleigh News & Observer reporter Dan Kane, who used the Freedom of Information Act and plain old shoe leather journalism to shatter our illusions.

In 2011, the newspaper obtained a transcript of UNC football star Marvin Austin showing a B-plus grade in a senior level African studies class he took before his freshman year began. UNC officials were at a loss to explain how he got into a high-level course before his first football practice.

California Considers Lowering Passing Score On July Bar Exam

Paul Carron:

Today the State Bar of California released a standard setting study of the pass line for the California Bar Exam. The study, along with options presented by staff, will be discussed at a joint meeting of the Committee of Bar Examiners and Board of Trustees’ Admissions and Education Committee on Monday, July 31, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public meeting will be held at the State Bar’s Los Angeles office, and will be webcast.

A memo from staff to the Committee of Bar Examiners presents two potential options, based on an analysis of a Standard Setting Study conducted by Chad Buckendahl, Ph.D. One option, drawing from findings in the study which validate the current pass line of 1440, is to make no change to the bar exam passing score at this time. A second option is to consider an interim passing score of 1414 (or 141.4 on the commonly-used 200-point scale) to be applied to grading the July 2017 bar exam.

Justice Dept. to Take On Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Charlie Savage:

The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.

Busting the Myth of Successful CEOs

By Bryan Borzykowski 4 August 2017

Myth 5: CEOs should have a top-tier education
 Another myth is that you need to graduate from Harvard or Oxford to become a successful CEO. In fact, only 7% of the high-performing CEOs that The Genome Project studies had an Ivy League undergraduate education, while 8% didn’t even graduate from university.
 Only 7% of the high-performing CEOs in the studies had an Ivy League undergraduate education
 Jill Wight, a principal at private equity company The Carlyle Group, has hired many CEOs for the companies her firm invests in and agrees that a degree from a top school doesn’t by itself determine performance. “Strong intellectual horsepower” is a pre-requisite for success, she says, not the school you came from. “The presence of a degree is positive, but the absence of one isn’t by itself a negative,” she says.
 A degree from a top school is even less of an issue in the UK, says Ryan, where social class, not intelligence, would typically determine who went to the best universities. People know that where you graduate from doesn’t reflect how smart or savvy you may be.
 “It’s never a given in the UK that just because you have a certain level of intelligence that you would follow a particular route into higher education,” she says. “There a lot of other factors that determine where people go.”

Dallas Is at the Tipping Point; All We Need To Do Is Give it One Good Kick

Jim Schutze:

One way Price has won votes and loyalty over the decades has been by promising economic development and opportunity to his constituents. In April, Price and an aide-de-camp were acquitted of multiple charges of bribery and fraud in a long, locally high-profile federal trial.

During that trial, multiple executives from a company owned by a powerful Dallas family gave testimony, unchallenged by the defense, that they had sought Price’s help sabotaging an enormous economic development project in Price’s district. Interests associated with the Perot family of Dallas said under oath they had sought Price’s help slowing down a shipping and warehousing project that promised 65,000 new jobs.

The Perot people told the jury under oath they wanted to hobble the Southern Dallas Logistics Center, sometimes called the Inland Port, because they believed it would hurt their Alliance Global Logistics Hub, near Fort Worth in one of the nation’s fastest growing and most affluent new suburban areas, 35 miles northwest of Price’s district.

Price did what they asked. He opposed the Dallas project’s bid for a free trade zone. He threw a monkey wrench into a key bridge project. He demanded redundant and time-consuming studies. He got the job done. The Inland Port project went into bankruptcy.

When I read the Morning News editorial Friday, I wondered, “Where’s the paragraph about Price and the Perots? Where’s the part where the Morning News calls for rich, white Dallas families and black Dallas politicians to stop sticking big knives in poor people’s backs?”

Psychologists say more and more young people are entitled

Greg Evans:

Research has discovered that large amounts of young people are developing an entitlement complex.

The psychological trend comes from the belief that you are superior to others and are more deserving of certain things.

This form of narcissism has some significant consequences such as disappointment and a tendency to lash out.

Pschology Today reports that some examples of entitlement range from the disregard of rules, freeloading, causing inconveniences and like to assume the role of leader when working in groups.

So called Millennials, who were born roughly between 1988 and 1994, tend to have this characteristic as a 2016 study found.

The University of Hampshire found that youngsters who were studied on issues of entitlement scored 25 percent higher than people aged 40 to 60 and 50 per cent higher than those over that age bracket.

A Wakeup Call on Writing Instruction (Now, What’s an Adverb?)

Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress. And 40 percent of those who took the ACT writing exam in the high school class of 2016 lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to successfully complete a college-level English composition class, according to the company’s data… The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves. – Will Fitzhugh, via a kind email: Dana Goldstein:

So far, however, six years after its rollout, the Core hasn’t led to much measurable improvement on the page. Students continue to arrive on college campuses needing remediation in basic writing skills.

The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves. According to Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a scan of course syllabuses from 2,400 teacher preparation programs turned up little evidence that the teaching of writing was being covered in a widespread or systematic way.

A separate 2016 study of nearly 500 teachers in grades three through eight across the country, conducted by Gary Troia of Michigan State University and Steve Graham of Arizona State University, found that fewer than half had taken a college class that devoted significant time to the teaching of writing, while fewer than a third had taken a class solely devoted to how children learn to write. Unsurprisingly, given their lack of preparation, only 55 percent of respondents said they enjoyed teaching the subject.

“Most teachers are great readers,” Dr. Troia said. “They’ve been successful in college, maybe even graduate school. But when you ask most teachers about their comfort with writing and their writing experiences, they don’t do very much or feel comfortable with it.”

There is virulent debate about what approach is best. So-called “process writing,” like the lesson Lyse experienced in Long Island, emphasizes activities like brainstorming, freewriting, journaling about one’s personal experiences and peer-to-peer revision. Adherents worry that focusing too much on grammar or citing sources will stifle the writerly voice and prevent children from falling in love with writing as an activity.

That ideology goes back to the 1930s, when progressive educators began to shift the writing curriculum away from penmanship and spelling and toward diary entries and personal letters as a psychologically liberating activity. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, this movement took on the language of civil rights, with teachers striving to empower nonwhite and poor children by encouraging them to narrate their own lived experiences.

The Broadband Gap

Clare Malone:

The FCC now defines broadband internet as the ability to download information at 25 megabits per second and to upload it at 3 megabits per second. This sort of connection enables a person to do the things that most Americans with home internet like to do — watch Netflix, play video games, and browse online without interruption even if a couple of devices are on the same connection. For around $30 a month, New York City internet providers offer basic packages of 100 Mbps service. In Saguache County, such a connection is rare; if a household wants a download speed of 12 Mbps with an upload speed of 2 Mbps, they can expect to pay a whopping $90.

This would be less of an issue if the internet weren’t so central to modern life. But taxes, job applications, payroll operations, banking, newspapers, shopping, college courses and video chats all are ubiquitous online. Saguache County’s students are expected to take their state assessments online even though an administrator at one school that houses K-12 students told me that until last year, the internet often went down for a couple of hours or even all day in the building.

We have spent hundreds of billions in tax dollars on broadband “subsidies”…..

Sci-Hub’s cache of pirated papers is so big, subscription journals are doomed, data analyst suggests

Lindsay McKenzie:

There is no doubt that Sci-Hub, the infamous—and, according to a U.S. court, illegal—online repository of pirated research papers, is enormously popular. (See Science’s investigation last year of who is downloading papers from Sci-Hub.) But just how enormous is its repository? That is the question biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues recently set out to answer, after an assist from Sci-Hub.

Their findings, published in a preprint on the PeerJ journal site on 20 July, indicate that Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles, an amount that Himmelstein says is “even higher” than he anticipated. For research papers protected by a paywall, the study found Sci-Hub’s reach is greater still, with instant access to 85% of all papers published in subscription journals. For some major publishers, such as Elsevier, more than 97% of their catalog of journal articles is being stored on Sci-Hub’s servers—meaning they can be accessed there for free.

The Great Stagnation: Americans stopped moving to find work

Christopher Matthews:

From the first, Americans have been on the move in “Great Migrations” for a better life, like those of the last century that saw poor blacks and whites go from the south for higher-paying work in northern cities. But no longer. Starting around 1980, working class Americans have largely stood still, and a primary reason is real estate prices, according to new research.

In a new paper, the University of Chicago’s Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag say high rent in America’s most economically vibrant areas make these moves a money loser for lower-skilled workers.

In Cambridge I began to learn that you can’t learn everything

Clive James

In Cambridge I began to learn that you can’t learn everything. Other people are clever too and some of them actually read the set books instead of sitting around writing poems. Attendance at a university can save you – or should save you: the prophylactic effect has grown less certain in recent times – from the tendency of the autodidact to overrate himself. As Camus argued, a functioning democracy depends on those people who know that they don’t know everything.

But I would probably have found that out even if I hadn’t gone back to school. I would have found it out in Florence, to which, in the vacations, I would fly in junkyard airliners on a continuous mission to disperse the scrum of suave Italian men that formed around the woman I would one day marry. I didn’t yet know that last part but I knew exactly how it felt when I had to listen to my lovely girlfriend being chatted up in a language that she spoke fluently and of which I spoke not a word. With no motivation other than screaming jealousy, I began to learn my first foreign language. French I am still learning now, but Italian I learned to make a fair fist of because I was fighting for my life.

Explaining Programming to 6 Years Old Kids 

Tomek Kaczanowski:

Many people shared their ideas of such “lectures” – you can find some really interesting examples on Stack Overflow (e.g. here). Many of them are based on the idea of presenting how computers are stupid and that you need to tell them very precisely what and how to do things to succeed. Fun guaranteed, but I seriously doubt if afterward kids understand anything about programming.

My ideas for a successful presentation were:

Justice Department to take on affirmative action in college admissions

Charlie Savage:

The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.

In Minnesota — and School Districts Commentary on Last In, First Out Rule for Teacher Layoffs

Mark Keierleber:

Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year in 2014, Rademacher had taught for six years at a Minnesota middle school before heading off to openings in other districts. He returned to that middle school last year, but his stay was short-lived. When budgets were cut and layoffs were announced, Rademacher was among the educators who were let go — a casualty of last in, first out (LIFO), which prioritizes seniority in teacher layoff decisions.

For Rademacher, things could’ve ended a lot differently had state lawmakers worked more swiftly. After years of debate, legislators approved new rules this spring that remove LIFO from state statute, effective July 2019. Current law requires LIFO as a fallback if teachers and school administrators cannot reach a consensus on how to conduct layoffs.

Accountability In Action

School Choice Wisconsin and Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty:

After 27 years of school choice in Milwaukee, the debate over private school vouchers has shifted away from their mere existence towards whether – and how – accountability provisions should impact the ability of private schools to participate in the program. The education community is divided over this question. Some argue that test-based accountability should sanction poor-performing schools of all types, others argue that parental school choice, fiscal, and market forces are the strongest forms of accountability and are the measures that should be utilized.
Yet despite the amount of ink spilled on the topic, there has been little quantifiable research conducted. This study addresses that research gap. It comprehensively reviews the extent and impact of accountability regulations affecting the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) and also analyzes the role of parental accountability. This pioneering report describes the scope of the accountability regime and presents a statistical analysis that estimates its impact. We find, through the use of a rigorous econometric model, that the accountability system culls poor- performing and unsafe schools from the program and allows high quality schools to grow. The system anticipates factors associated with poor-performing schools and their eventual failure. Specifically, we find:

A Different Story from the Middle East: Entrepreneurs Building an Arab Tech Economy

Christopher Schroeder:

At the end of March, it was announced that the largest e-commerce company in the Middle East and North Africa,, would be acquired by Amazon for nearly $600 million. This was unusual: when Amazon enters a new geographic market, it typically does so by launching its existing platform and investing a lot of money to grow it. Instead, Amazon—apparently impressed by’s management team, its technology, and its ability to navigate a complicated region—decided on a different strategy.
 A week after the announcement, at the Step Conference in Dubai, one of the most popular startup gatherings in the region, it felt as if lightning had struck. Over 2,000 aspiring entrepreneurs filled the arena, standing room only, for a panel with founder ­Ronaldo ­Mouchawar. Mouchawar, a native of Aleppo, Syria, spent over an hour onstage with his cofounders and lead investor, explaining in painstaking detail what it was like to build an e-commerce giant. In 2005, when launched, few in the Arab world were shopping digitally, fewer still were willing to use a credit card online, and examples of successful tech startups were hard to find. Now, ­Mouchawar underscored to his rapt audience, things were different.

After trying to build self-driving tractors for more than 20 years, John Deere has learned a hard truth about autonomy

Dave Gershgorn:

“As a human you have senses, you have your eyes, you have your ears, and sometimes you have the sense of touch. You are feeling the road,” Nvidia self-driving car head Danny Shapiro told Business Insider. “So those are your inputs and then those senses feed into your brain and your brain makes a decision on how to control your feet and your hands in terms of braking and pressing the gas and steering. So on an autonomous car you have to replace those senses.”
 Both pursuits have their challenges. John Deere doesn’t need to contend with hundreds of other vehicles on its path, but a collision with other equipment or a misadjusted piece of equipment could mean disaster for an entire season. Cars and trucks carry precious cargo—humans—but benefit from signs, lines, and established infrastructure to help guide cars on the correct paths.
 A vexing problem that inhibits John Deere and self-driving carmakers from an easy path to autonomy is dust and other weather conditions. Not only does weather change how the vehicle should act in its environment, but it also reduces the accuracy of the sensors, Leibfried said. He says the solution might come in redundancy—more sensors that could be used as backup, or to infer information not directly able to be seen.

Request for proposals open for Wisconsin’s first recovery charter school

“Everyone always asks, ‘Why are you so small?’ Well, there are not very many teenagers who want to admit that they have a drug or alcohol problem, or mental health issues. Parents don’t want to brag about that (either),” she said.

“We are trying to break the stigma by having students feel good about themselves so they will want to get help and see that they are worthy of being happy and healthy.”

In order to break the stigma, Goll works hard to build close bonds with her students so they stay dedicated to recovery.

“Not only do our students struggle with alcohol and drug issues, they also have mental health issues. So, our school needs to be a safe and secure place where you can educate them,” she said. “We have to have a lot of trust, which takes time to build.”

Much more, here including RFP links for an independent Madison or Milwaukee Charter School.

The NAACP finally acknowledges the ‘nightmare’ public education has been for working-class Black families

Citizen Stewart

The NAACP report finally acknowledges the education nightmare many parents and their children face in our public education system. For far too long, low-income and working-class Black families have been ill-served by a system that, from the very beginning, was never created with the interest of Black children in mind. We also agree that all public schools—traditional district and charter—should be accountable and transparent to the communities they serve.

Still, I find it ironic and troubling that a storied organization like the NAACP, which led a powerful movement to tear down barriers for Black people, is working to create new ones in education. Working to develop “model legislation” to implement a 10-year moratorium on new charter schools and place existing ones under the control of traditional school districts is ill-advised and irrational at best, and does nothing to advance the educational interest of Black children.
We don’t see the NAACP pushing traditional school districts to innovate their curriculum; or hold teachers and administrators more accountable; or increase quality; or provide more flexibility to our most vulnerable families. These are all areas charter schools are currently engaged, and despite the tenor of the report, will continue to be.

Is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) Driving Up Consumer Debt?


Consumer debt rose to $12.7 trillion in the first quarter of 2017. That is more debt than at the height of the credit bubble in 2008. A study by researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of Southern California shows that while the amount of debt is increasing, what consumers are spending the money on is very different. More people are buying experiences rather than stuff. Eesha Sharma, a professor of business administration at Dartmouth, and Stephanie Tully, a professor of marketing at USC, are the authors of the study, “Drivers of Discretionary Debt Decisions: Explaining Willingness to Borrow for Experiential and Material Purchases,” which was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research. They recently appeared on Knowledge@Wharton’s SiriusXM show to discuss what’s causing this shift in what consumers’ value. (Listen to the podcast using the player above.)

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: Let’s start with the research. Take us deeper into what you were trying to examine?

Eesha Sharma: Consumer debt levels have been increasing, and Stephanie and I were really interested in understanding what is contributing to why people are taking on more and more debt. We had known some about different characteristics of individuals, like their age and their income, that might contribute

How Canada became an education superpower

Sean Coughlan:

When there are debates about the world’s top performing education systems, the names that usually get mentioned are the Asian powerhouses such as Singapore and South Korea or the Nordic know-alls, such as Finland or Norway.

But with much less recognition, Canada has climbed into the top tier of international rankings.

In the most recent round of international Pisa tests, Canada was one of a handful of countries to appear in the top 10 for maths, science and reading.

The tests, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), are a major study of educational performance and show Canada’s teenagers as among the best educated in the world.


Civics: Get a Speeding Ticket, Pay the DA for Better Treatment

Ed Krayewski:

“This is a complete failure by the Louisiana legislature and court system to instill an accountability or control on prosecutors or sheriffs,” New Orleans criminal defense attorney C.J. Mordock, of the Mordock Law Group, tells Reason. “Had an individual assistant district attorney offered this deal, he could be prosecuted. But if a faceless unaccountable bureaucracy does it, life goes on.”

Pre-trial diversion programs were created as a way to keep first-time offenders out of the courts, “diverting” them from a trial and offering them a second chance. Some Louisiana parishes don’t even bother to require traffic violators to attend online driving schools—so long as they are willing to write a check to the DA’s office.

The fact that some moving violations can be downgraded so easily to non-moving violations suggests that they were not moving violations in the first place—that they were always primarily revenue-raising endeavors. The district attorney’s website in Caddo Parish illustrates this when it notes that no one ticketed “for any speed which is deemed excessive” would be eligible for the program. But if a speed is not excessive, what reason is there to issue a ticket other than to make money off the motorist?

What makes the situation in Louisiana worse is that it’s the only state where public defenders are largely funded through traffic tickets.

Angry White Teachers On The Internet (And Their Colored Friends)

Citizen Stewart:

In all my writing about public schools you’ll find a consistent claim that public schools are insufficient to the task of educating black children. That message angers people, especially those working in district public schools who feel under “attack” by big money school reformers who want to “privatize” public education.

Often I publish a blog post and a special brand of internet activist comes for my head.

To be frank, the loudest voices depositing electronic sharts into my inboxes are Angry White Teachers. Some I know because they are repeat offenders, others I come across randomly, like Steven Singer.

Yesterday I read Professor Julian Vasquez-Heilig’s blog post intended to calm fears that the NAACP has backed off its horribly misguided call for a 10 year moratorium on charter schools.

Whose fears?

In the post Heilig says he had a phone call “with blogger Steven Singer today assuring him that the moratorium has not been rolled back.”

Steven who?

He must be important if he can demand assurances that our colored civil rights elders have not gone off-script?

This below the blogger, teacher, activist, union ride-or-die dude, Steven Singer…

Steven Singer, a white teacher doing what they do best: fighting for the rights of white teachers.

He looks like a nice guy.

Kidding. He looks loud, aggressive, and angry.

Background on Independent Madison Charter School RFP

Karen Rivedal:

In April 2017, Bennett told the State Journal he wanted to cast a wide net for possible ideas for independent charter schools, which under state law will have to be tuition-free and be open to all students in the school district.

He also had planned to consult a variety of community voices in developing the request for proposals, including UW-Madison faculty members, state lawmakers, parents, organizations and other experts to develop criteria.

On Wednesday, he said he’d done just that, singling out UW-Madison professor Julie Mead, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis who has done research on charter schools, as being particularly helpful in the process of developing the RFP.

He described Mead as having a “healthy skepticism” about charters and said her input was helpful in determining what sort of questions should be included in the RFP.

“Her feedback has been really instrumental on what’s controllable within the (school) model,” he said. “Getting feedback from both supporters and critics of charters has improved the RFP and will continue to improve this office.”

Bennett wouldn’t share any ideas he’s been pitched for schools in Madison so far, though he acknowledged being approached by many groups and individuals with ideas over the past year as he developed the RFP process.

Much more on the RFP along with previous (aborted) independent Charter School proposals.

For decades, Western culture touted self-esteem. It got the most important thing wrong

Melody Wilding:

The key to cracking the confidence may lie in tackling those uncomfortable emotions head on, as entrepreneur Steph Crowder did live on her podcast. She candidly shared how a recent bad review from a listener had blindsided her, ruining her day. But how she handled it made all the difference.

A lot of people might be tempted to follow the conventional wisdom “fake it till you make it” and try to cover up her reaction with false positivity. However, research shows that keeping up appearances is stressful—and can actively undermine well-being. Instead, Steph took her listeners through the process of listening to bad feedback and learning from it. Studies show people who deal effectively with their emotions in this way, an active coping skill called emotional regulation, have higher resilience and greater self-esteem. Steph’s example illustrates the face that the only way to build self-worth is through behavior. You have to put yourself in difficult situations, so that you can learn how to survive them.
Do the work

We would all do better if we understood, as Mindy Kaling has put it, that confidence isn’t something that ought to come to us naturally. Rather, as she writes in her book Why Not Me?, “confidence is like respect: it’s something you have to earn.” Kaling recalls:

Text of Letter from Unabomber to Dr. David Gelernter


The text of the letter sent by the Ted Kazinski (a.k.a the Unabomber) to one of his victims, Dr. David Gelernter of Yale University. Gelernter suffered extensive wounds to his abdomen, chest, face and hands in the June 1993 bombing.

Dr. Gelernter:

People with advanced degrees aren’t as smart as they think they are. If you’d had any brains you would have realized that there are a lot of people out there who resent bitterly the way techno-nerds like you are changing the world and you wouldn’t have been dumb enough to open an unexpected package from an unknown source.

In the epilog of your book, “Mirror Worlds,” you tried to justify your research by claiming that the developments you describe are inevitable, and that any college person can learn enough about computers to compete in a computer-dominated world. Apparently, people without a college degree don’t count. In any case, being informed about computers won’t enable anyone to prevent invasion of privacy (through computers), genetic engineering (to which computers make an important contribution), environmental degradation through excessive economic growth (computers make an important contribution to economic growth) and so forth.

Psychographic targeting is allowed on Facebook

Alex Hern

Psychographic targeting is allowed on Facebook, and the company advertises the platform to politicians as the perfect way to “persuade voters” and “influence online and offline outcomes”.

But the ability for campaigns to perfectly target different messages to different groups has been described by some as a concern for democracy itself, allowing politicians to appeal to the worst side of voters in an almost undiscoverable manner.

Do vouchers actually expand school choice? Not necessarily — it depends on how they’re designed

Matt Barnum:

This is a hotly debated question among supporters and critics of school vouchers, and is especially relevant as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has vowed to allow more families to use public dollars to pay for private school tuition.

A 2016 study considers this question and comes back with an answer: It depends. Programs targeted at certain students, like low-income ones, lead to an increase in private school enrollment; but universal choice programs with few if any eligibility requirements don’t cause more students to enter private schools, with schools instead raising tuition.

That’s the conclusion of the research, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Public Economics, which examined eight private school choice initiatives, including both voucher programs and tax credit subsidies, which offer generous tax breaks for private school fees.

The researchers, Daniel Hungerman of Notre Dame and Kevin Rinz then at the National Bureau of Economic Research, divide the programs into two categories: what they refer to as restricted and unrestricted. Restricted programs limit availability to certain students, such as those who are low-income or have a disability; unrestricted programs are open to everyone.

The leader of a powerful national teachers’ union links school-choice supporters to old-time segregationists.

Larry Sand:

It’s hardly news that teachers’ union honchos oppose any type of school choice, especially the kind that lets public money follow a child to a public school. But while making her case recently, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten descended down a rabbit hole.

It started with an event on “school vouchers and racism” hosted by the AFT and the Center for American Progress, a leftist research and advocacy organization financially supported by both the AFT and the National Education Association. CAP had just released a report claiming that educational vouchers were born in the effort by Southern states to resist racial integration after the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling. In what segregationists termed “massive resistance,” Virginia’s Prince Edward County closed its public schools in 1959, and then gave vouchers to white families, which were used to pay tuition at segregated private schools. This ugly case represents the “sordid history of school vouchers,” as CAP sees it—conveniently overlooking the G.I. Bill, the country’s first significant voucher program, which was signed into law in 1944, 15 years before Prince Edward County’s gambit.

Commentary On Voucher academic outcomes

Corey DeAngelis:

The Actual Test Score Results – and Their Implications

Even the latest experimental results, which show that voucher students in Louisiana and Indiana caught up with or did better than their public school peers on test scores, are less optimistic than prior voucher studies. However, there is not a clear theory for why voucher programs ought to be less-effective now than they used to be, all else equal.

I suspect that the regulatory environment may have something to do with the recent lackluster experimental results. For example, private schools participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) must administer the state standardized test, prohibit parental copay for families using vouchers, report finances to the government, and surrender their admissions process over to the state. As the recent study by me and my colleagues at the University of Arkansas finds, only a third of the private schools chose to participate in the LSP, and those schools were less likely to be the higher quality institutions.

Meanwhile, Madison, now spending nearly $20k/student has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Voucher schools typically spend far less per student.

How representative are 1000 Genomes samples?

Top Pseudo Science/

1000 Genomes made an effort to collect representative samples of several (as of today, 26) ethnic groups. A typical condition is that 3 or 4 of the grandparents share the same ancestral origin or come from the same geographical region as the participant. However, an emphasis on genetic/ancestral “purity” has been achieved by focusing on rural areas in some instances, which may or may not be representative of the entire population, particularly for some traits. It has been shown by several studies that city dwellers have an intellectual advantage over rural folks, in terms of IQ. Moreover, city dwellers also tend to be better educated. This would introduce bias when 1000 Genomes samples are used to compare populations on frequencies of alleles related to educational attainment or intelligence.

Unfortunately, detailed sample information for 1000 Genomes is (to the best of my knowledge) not reported on the 1000 Genomes website and I found it through the Wikipedia link to the Corriell Institute for Medical research. This is a body whose existence I ignored, but day after day I realize that population genetics information is scattered all over the web and not as well organized as I used to believe.

Madison’s Growing Violence Problem

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

TODAY ON THE RADIO: Please listen to a very important segment of the Mike Heller Show today at 2pm CDT on WIBA Radio 1070AM (iHeart Media) when University of Wisconsin Men’s Assistant Basketball Coach, Howard Moore, former Wisconsin Men’s and professional basketball player Rashard Griffith, and One City Early Learning Centers Founder and CEO, Kaleem Caire, discuss the growing gun violence in the City of Madison, Dane County and nationally, and what we can and should do to address this tragic problem.

Many have heard that Coach Moore’s 70-years old uncle Leroy Moore was killed by a stray bullet two weeks ago as he was leaving a convenience store in Chicago. Coach Moore and Mr. Griffith have worked on violence prevention efforts in their native Chicago together for several years. Kaleem’s son Jabari Caire was nearly killed three years ago in an unprovoked attack by a stranger on the same sidewalk in suburban Fitchburg, Wisconsin where another shooting took place this week.

Please tune-in TODAY to hear what these men have to say about the growing violence that is ending lives, destroying families and undermining peace and safety in our capital city, and in other communities across the USA.

Click Here to listen in at 2pm CDT.

Also, Click Below to watch a video where Kaleem discusses the causes of violence and what needs to be done to address it, in our homes and city.

Madison School Board Continues Non Diverse Governance Practices with Proposed Montessori Academy School

Amber Walker:

In a 5-2 decision on Monday, the Madison School Board voted to postpone the charter approval of Isthmus Montessori Academy.

The board wanted more clarity around the school’s proposed attendance area, financial and academic accountability standards at their three-year mark, and language in the proposal that asks for waivers that apply to early release and lesson planning time promised to all Madison Metropolitan School District teachers via the employee handbook.

IMA has until Aug. 21 to finish negotiations with the district to iron out the details. The board is expected to take up the vote again at its next regular meeting on Aug. 28.

If the board approves the charter, IMA, which is currently a private school, would cease operation and reopen as Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School in the fall of 2018 serving students in 4K through ninth grade.

IMACS would be a free public charter school, operating under the authority of the Madison School Board.

Some history on (aborted) independent charter schools in Madison, including:

the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School and

the Studio School.

2009: “An emphasis on adult employment“.

Unfortunately, Madison continues to support a non diverse K-12 Governance model, this despite spending far more per student than most districts and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Related: an Independent (!) Charter School RFP for Madison or Milwaukee.

Why Has Regional Income Convergence in the U.S. Declined?

Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag:

The past thirty years have seen a dramatic decline in the rate of income convergence across states and in population flows to high-income places. These changes coincide with a disproportionate increase in housing prices in high-income places, a divergence in the skill-specific returns to moving to high-income places, and a redirection of low-skill migration away from high-income places. We develop a model in which rising housing prices in high-income areas deter low-skill migration and slow income convergence. Using a new panel measure of housing supply regulations, we demonstrate the importance of this channel in the data.

200 Terabyte Proof Demonstrates the Potential of Brute-Force Math

Michael Byrne:

In computer science, the “brute force” solution is usually the suboptimal solution. It gets there eventually, but also inefficiently and without cleverness. The existence of a brute force solution to a problem usually implies the existence of a more elegant but perhaps less obvious solution.

You could take a basic algebra problem as an example: 2x + 100 = 500. To solve this with brute force, we simply check every possible value of x until one works. We know, however, that it is far more efficient to rearrange the given equation using algebraic rules and in just two computations we get an answer.

Computer scientists are giving brute force another look, however. In a paper published in the current Communications of the ACM, Marijn Heule and Oliver Kullmann argue that we’re entering a new era where brute force may have a key role to play after all, particularly when it comes to security- and safety-critical systems. This is thanks to a newish technology called Satisfiability (SAT) solving, which is a method of generating proofs in propositional logic.

Independent (!) Charter School RFP: Madison OR Milwaukee (!)

University of Wisconsin System Office of Educational Opportunity, via a kind email:

As home to the nation’s first public kindergarten, Wisconsin has a proud history of visionary educators incubating innovative educational opportunities for students, families, and their communities.

The Office of Educational Opportunity is proud to be a partner in the Badger State’s living legacy of educational innovations. Our role is to connect students, families, professional educators, and community leaders with an opportunity to create a school that meets their needs and interests.

If you have an idea for a school, then we invite you to review and respond to our Request for Proposal (RFP). Details about how we will score applications are provided in the linked rubrics, but for us to “green light” any proposal, it must provide access to new educational innovations, incubate existing educational practices in new ways, and/or increase educational equity.

Selection Process

The Office of Educational Opportunity will begin seeking proposals for public charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee on August 2, 2017.

Phase 1 submissions will be scored on a rolling basis using the reviewer guide shared below.

Applicants with approved Phase 1 applications will be invited to submit a Phase II application (Phase II applications that are submitted without an approved Phase 1 will be returned to the applicant without being reviewed).

The School Selection Committee will score Phase 2 submissions using the reviewer guide provided below. The Committee will make authorization recommendations to OEO’s Director.

Applicants who receive a recommendation for authorization from the School Selection Committee may commence contract negotiations with OEO’s Director – subject to the Director accepting the Committee’s recommendation for authorization.

If mutually agreeable contract terms are reached, then the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents must approve of the contract for any school to be officially authorized by OEO.

Some history on (aborted) independent charter schools in Madison, including:

the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School and

the Studio School.

2009: “An emphasis on adult employment“.

Unfortunately, Madison continues to support a non diverse K-12 Governance model, this despite spending far more per student than most districts and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Much more on Gary Bennett’s office of Educational Opportunity.

The RFP respondents need not conform to Madison or Milwaukee’s legacy organization structure – that is, they would be a “non instrumentality” school.

This is positive. I hope and pray that we see interesting proposals and schools.

ProPublica editor Daniel Golden wrote a book a decade ago about how the rich buy their children access to elite colleges. One student he covered is now poised to become one of the most powerful figures in the country.

Daniel Golden:

I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

School Construction Bond Watchdogs

You may not realize it, but you (taxpayers) pay for every district election. So, when McFarland Unified put on a ballot measure in November 2016, it cost you money that may have otherwise gone to educate your children. The same goes for yesterday’s election. You paid for it.

You also paid for the parasites, a.k.a., the school bonds cartel. Just like the Duke brothers in Trading Places, whether the ballot measure passes or not, they take a cut of the action. Take a look at what else the district spent that went right down the drain. Measure D Info.

Of course, none of the alleged information that the district put up on its web site was actually specified in the measure. Nevertheless, the district prohibited “all sides on an equitable basis” from providing information on “a forum under the control of the governing board,” in direct violation of Education Code 7058. The whole kit and caboodle are just a gang of thieves violating every law that doesn’t suit its interests.

The war between Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

Will Chang:

Vail built AT&T’s network as a public service to improve the lives of its customers. Yet, AT&T eventually used its monopolistic advantages to tax customers without adding value. A public company must report to shareholders who care about short-term profit. It’s structurally impossible for Vail’s successors to have a founder’s idealism and authority to ignore their demands.
 Though Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Bezos are still on their thrones, the founders of Apple and Google have passed on their scepters. The FCC is repealing net neutrality. Our Four Pharaohs will utterly control your Nile while you build their pyramids. Could the Internet be closed and predatory in the next 10 years?



The Equity Task Force encourages the Board of Education to seek wide and extensive community input in reviewing this proposed Equity policy, systematically including key community stakeholder groups while reaching out to constituents potentially unlikely to participate in traditional feedback forums.

Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education (BOE) Equity Task Force (2005-2007), Final Report (March 28, 2007).

Equity at the highest level, not simply equity, is something that we should always strive for in education. Every student should have the best opportunities to learn in ways that will help them now and in the future.

George Couros, “Equity At the Highest Level,” The Principal of Change blog (July 30, 2017).

Some definitions:

MMSD Board Policy 9001, as adopted June 6, 1994:
“Equity is defined as providing each student with an equal educational opportunity to achieve the District’s 100% success objectives.” ….
“100% success objectives is defined as students who graduate, students who complete their individual academic program, students who enroll in a post-secondary educational program, or students who are self-sufficient in other endeavors.”

MMSD BOE Equity Task Report Final Report, issued March 28, 2007:
“Equity assures full access to opportunities for each MMSD student to achieve educational excellence and social responsibility.”

MMSD Board Policy 9001, as adopted June 2, 2008:
“Equity means the deliberate distribution of resources to provide full and meaningful access to comparable educational opportunity to assure that all MMSD students have the academic and interpersonal skills to be successful adults.”

90% of Parents Think Their Kids Are on Track in Math & Reading. The Real Number? Just 1 in 3, Survey Shows

Kate Stringer

One parent thought teachers with emergency certificates had CPR training. Another heard the phrase “school climate” and thought her child’s school had a broken air-conditioning system.

These are just a few of the misconceptions the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit Learning Heroes has heard while trying to help parents understand the jargon-heavy education landscape at their children’s schools. And though they may be amusing examples, they reveal a concerning communication gap between schools and parents.

“The education community continues to use a language that parents don’t speak,” said Bibb Hubbard, Learning Heroes founder and president.

This communication gap creates a significant disconnect in how parents think their children are doing in school versus reality. In its second national survey, Learning Heroes found that 9 in 10 parents think their children are performing at or above grade level in math and reading — but results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, shows that only 1 in 3 U.S. eighth-graders are proficient in math and reading.

“a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion”

Jesse Walker:

Since Hodge is supposed to be Stewart’s example of “anti-Catholic sentiment,” I should note that his article actually speaks rather respectfully of Catholics. If you’re looking for a cause with a special appeal to anti-Catholic bigots, look not to the critics of consolidated public education but at the public schools themselves: In that era they were often deliberately used as tools of Protestantization.

So what about those quotes in Stewart’s op-ed? They appear to come from a lecture Hodge wrote around the same time, titled “The Kingly Office of Christ.” The phrase “government schools” appears in it precisely once: “The Protestants object to the government schools being used for the purpose of inculcating the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and Romanists object to the use of the Protestant version of the Bible and to the inculcation of the peculiar doctrines of the Protestant churches.” The other phrase that Stewart quotes comes several pages later:

I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, would be the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.
So it’s not government schools per se that he thinks are the problem; it’s “a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion.” He’s not criticizing the idea of public schools; he’s criticizing centralized, secularized schools. If you’re searching for someone who said “government schools” in a sneering way, this is a dead end.

As it happens, I do know of a 19th-century figure who used the phrase “governmental schools” sneeringly. What’s more, he did it in 1858, three decades before the lecture that Stewart called “one of the first usages of the phrase ‘government schools.'” Here’s what he said:

Question.—Are you in favor of common schools being supported by government?

Answer.—I am opposed to all governmental schools. Compulsory schools are absurd and oppressive. Government should have no concern with education or religion. I would upset the system of governmental schools entirely, if I could. Schools should be supported voluntarily, as churches and ministers are. Compulsory schools are especially oppressive to Catholics.

Civics: Influence Building In Washington, DC

Said Jilani & Alex Emmons

Last month, hackers began releasing screenshots of emails from a Hotmail account that Otaiba used for official business. The hackers have sent the screenshots to various news websites, including the The Intercept, the Daily Beast, Al Jazeera, and HuffPost. The hackers refer to themselves as “GlobalLeaks,” and have previously claimed to be affiliated with the website “DCLeaks.” The U.S. intelligence community has accused the Russia government of operating DCLeaks, and it’s unclear if the “GlobalLeaks” hackers are affiliated with Russia or just trying to give that impression. When asked about their motivations for an earlier Intercept story, the hackers responded in broken English by email that they were “not affiliated with any country or religion,” but added that their goal was to “make America great again.”

The latest batch of hacked emails passed to The Intercept and other outlets by “GlobalLeaks” provide insight into how Otaiba manages to find — or buy — so many friends in D.C. think tanks. The documents offer a glimpse into how a small, oil-rich monarchy can obtain such an outsized influence on U.S. foreign policy, showing the ambassador obtaining favors from Obama administration veterans — including Hillary Clinton’s presumptive Defense Secretary — and making large payments in return.

Don’t Let Content Area Reading Experts Confuse You About Disciplinary Literacy


What does the paper get wrong? Well, for starters it evidences almost a total lack of understanding of the disciplinary literacy project. Beyond that its analytic framework is either inappropriate to the purpose set for it or it is so badly implemented that the “results” are laughable, the analysis is biased, and the conclusion that disciplinary literacy is really just content area reading is a position maintainable only if one ignores the sources of the research, the purposes of the research, the nature of the research, and the research findings themselves—and this paper manages to do all of that. (Other than that the two concepts are almost identical!)

Keyboards are overrated. Cursive is back and it’s making us smarter

Ephrat Livni:

The proliferation of devices in daily life has led to an international handwriting crisis. Teachers, parents, and politicians around the world are debating why they should bother spending time teaching what some say is a dated skill. Accustomed as we are to speedy, wifi-connected devices, we’ve come to prize the efficiency of typing and there seems to be no point to picking up a pen and scribbling on paper when keyboarding is so convenient, neat, and easy to copy-and-send.

Yet print and its squiggly cousin cursive are making a comeback in some US schools after scientific studies have proven their cognitive utility and because parents are clamoring for the preservation of the practical skill. For example, starting this fall in Louisiana, third to 12th graders will again study penmanship after a law was passed making it a requirement in 2016 (teachers got one year to prepare). Fourteen states in total are now including cursive in curricula after a decade where it seemed doomed to become an abandoned and outdated art.

Silicon Valley Censorship

Sam Westrop:

Google’s latest project is an application called Perspective, which, as Wired reports, brings the tech company “a step closer to its goal of helping to foster troll-free discussion online, and filtering out the abusive comments that silence vulnerable voices.” In other words, Google is teaching computers how to censor.

If Google’s plans are not quite Orwellian enough for you, the practical results are rather more frightening. Released in February, Perspective’s partners include the New York Times, the Guardian, Wikipedia and the Economist. Google, whose motto is “Do the Right Thing,” is aiming its bowdlerism at public comment sections on newspaper websites, but the potential is far broader.

Perspective works by identifying the “toxicity level” of comments published online. Google states that Perspective will enable companies to “sort comments more effectively, or allow readers to more easily find relevant information.” Perspective’s demonstration website currently allows anyone to measure the “toxicity” of a word or phrase, according to its algorithm. What, then, constitutes a “toxic” comment?

Princeton’s new ‘men’s engagement manager’ to combat aggressive masculinity on campus

Toni Airaksinen:

Are young men at Princeton University violent, aggressive, hyper-masculine, stalkers, or rapists?

A new position at the Ivy League institution indicates campus officials apparently think enough of its male students grapple with such problems that it warrants hiring a certified clinician dedicated to combating them.

The university is in the process of hiring an “Interpersonal Violence Clinician and Men’s Engagement Manager” who will work with a campus office called SHARE that’s dedicated to “survivors” of sexual harassment, assault, dating violence and stalking.

An update on Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Amber Walker

For math, the numbers were 46 percent for proficiency and 65 percent for growth. Over the past four years, students’ reading proficiency increased 10 percentage points in reading and 8 percentage points in math.

The largest achievement gap in elementary school reading exists between African-American and white students, with 18 percent of black third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders passing their reading MAP test in the last school year compared to 70 percent of their white peers. The numbers increased by 11 and 13 percentage points, respectively, over four years.

At the middle school level, 38 percent of eighth-graders passed the MAP reading exam, and 44 percent were proficient in math. The numbers represent a 4- and 5-percentage point increase, respectively, in the last four years.

Overall, eighth-grade students’ growth in both subject areas decreased over a four year period, with 48 percent of students reaching their individualized growth goals in reading, and 58 percent in math.

Karen Rivedal:

Black students and Hispanic students saw increases of 9 percentage points in reading proficiency for grades 3-5 over four years, white students and English language learners saw a 13 percentage-point rise, and multiracial students saw an 11 percentage-point increase.

But only white students and advanced learners of all races were more than 50 percent reading-proficient in grades 3-5, at 70 percent and 93 percent, respectively. Eighteen percent of black students in those grades were reading-proficient, as were 17 percent of special education students, 28 percent of English language learners and 23 percent of Hispanic students.

Math, graduation rates
Less progress was made in middle school math scores. For eighth-graders across the district, the report showed a four-year gain of 4 percentage points to 38 percent in reading proficiency, and a 5 percentage-point gain to 44 percent in math proficiency.

For grades 6-8, overall math proficiency was up 4 percentage points to 45 percent.

By student group, though, progress was far less strong and some groups saw drops. The four-year trend included 1 percentage-point gains in math proficiency for multiracial and white students and for English language learners, to 44 percent, 69 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Much more on Madison’s reading challenges, here.

Applying Legacy, non diverse policies to a proposed Madison “charter” school

Logan Wroge:

The Madison School Board delayed a decision Monday on whether to turn a private Montessori school on the North Side into a public charter school.

Over concerns on a handful of issues, the board voted to refer a five-year contract to bring the tuition-based, private Isthmus Montessori Academy (IMA) into the school district next year as a public, tuition-free school serving children grades 3K through nine.

Members voted 5-2 to refer the contract, asking the school district and IMA to re-examine the attendance area and transportation options, clarify accountability measures and have any waivers to the Madison School District handbook follow the appropriate process.

Some history on aborted independent charter schools in Madison.

The Evolution of Trust


During World War I, peace broke out.
 It was Christmas 1914 on the Western Front.
 Despite strict orders not to chillax with the enemy, British and German soldiers left their trenches, crossed No Man’s Land,
 and gathered to bury their dead, exchange gifts, and play games.
 Meanwhile: it’s 2017, the West has been at peace for decades, and wow, we suck at trust. Surveys show that, over the past forty years, fewer and fewer people say they trust each other. So here’s our puzzle:

State instructs schools to ‘segregate’ students who feel uncomfortable with transgender bathrooms

Justin Haskins:

A recently approved Minnesota Department of Education “toolkit” instructs schools to isolate students who are concerned about sharing bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender students.

On Wednesday, an advisory council for the Minnesota DOE approved a new toolkit, titled “Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” which provides public schools with advice for how schools should interact with and protect transgender and “gender-noncomforming” students.

Conference teaches K-12 educators how to combat ‘whiteness in schools’

Nathan Rubbelke:

A recent conference hosted by an Ivy League university focused on integration and inclusion in K-12 education and included workshops on how educators should face white privilege in their classrooms, challenge microaggressions and address “Eurocentric pedagogical approaches.”

The “Reimagining Education Summer Institute” conference, organized by Columbia University’s Teachers College, was held in mid-July and concentrated on “opportunities and challenges of creating and sustaining racially, ethnically and socio-economically integrated schools,” according to its website.

Is the world really better than ever?

Oliver Burkeman:

The loose but growing collection of pundits, academics and thinktank operatives who endorse this stubbornly cheerful, handbasket-free account of our situation have occasionally been labelled “the New Optimists”, a name intended to evoke the rebellious scepticism of the New Atheists led by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. And from their perspective, our prevailing mood of despair is irrational, and frankly a bit self-indulgent. They argue that it says more about us than it does about how things really are – illustrating a certain tendency toward collective self-flagellation, and an unwillingness to believe in the power of human ingenuity. And that it is best explained as the result of various psychological biases that served a purpose on the prehistoric savannah – but now, in a media-saturated era, constantly mislead us.

“Once upon a time, it was of great survival value to be worried about everything that could go wrong,” says Johan Norberg, a Swedish historian and self-declared New Optimist whose book Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future was published just before Trump won the presidency last year. This is what makes bad news especially compelling: in our evolutionary past, it was a very good thing that your attention could be easily seized by negative information, since it might well indicate an imminent risk to your own survival. (The cave-dweller who always assumed there was a lion behind the next rock would usually be wrong – but he’d be much more likely to survive and reproduce than one who always assumed the opposite.) But that was all before newspapers, television and the internet: in these hyper-connected times, our addiction to bad news just leads us to vacuum up depressing or enraging stories from across the globe, whether they threaten us or not, and therefore to conclude that things are much worse than they are.

For Computers, Too, It’s Hard to Learn to Speak Chinese

Yiting Sun:

Researchers often call 2017 the year of the conversational computer in China. Leveraging recent advances in voice recognition and natural-language processing, e-commerce giant Alibaba and search giant Baidu have both been developing technology to crack voice-based communication (see 10 Breakthrough Technologies: Conversational Interfaces.) Now voice-operated products derived from Baidu and Alibaba’s technology are coming to the Chinese market.

The Tmall Genie, which has Alibaba’s voice assistant, AliGenie, built in, is akin to the Amazon Echo. It can place online orders, check the weather, play your favorite music, and control other smart devices in your home through voice commands.

Students will defend due process of their accused peers in new national program

Jeremiah Poff:

With growing concerns about due process on college campuses, a civil-liberties group is rolling out a new program intended to help students advocate for each other in campus judicial proceedings.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education plans to start 10 campus organizations this fall under the banner “FIRE Student Defenders,” FIRE Student Network Director Molly Nocheck told The College Fix in a phone interview.

Student Defenders is similar to a 41-year-old nonprofit at Ohio University, Students Defending Students, that defends students accused of disciplinable offenses, where Nocheck served as director as an OU student.

Apple removes VPN Apps from China App Store

express VPN:

We received notification from Apple today, July 29, 2017, at roughly 04:00 GMT, that the ExpressVPN iOS app was removed from the China App Store. Our preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS have been removed.

Users in China accessing a different territory’s App Store (i.e. they have indicated their billing address to be outside of China) are not impacted; they can download the iOS app and continue to receive updates as before.

While Apple’s decision is surprising and unfortunate, it does not change ExpressVPN’s commitment to keeping you securely and reliably connected. Our support team stands ready 24/7, including via live chat, to help any impacted users.

The problem with meritocracy

Scott Alexander:

Prospect Magazine writes about the problem with meritocracy. First Things thinks meritocracy is killing America. Feminist Philosophers comes out against meritocracy. The Guardian says “down with meritocracy”. Vox calls for an atack on the false god of meritocracy. There’s even an Against Meritocracy book. Given that meritocracy seems almost tautologically good (doesn’t it just mean positions going to those who deserve them?), there sure do seem to be a lot of people against it.

Some of these people are just being pointlessly edgy. The third article seem to admit that a true meritocracy would be a good thing, but argues that we don’t have one right now. This hardly seems “against meritocracy”, any more than saying we don’t have full racial equality right now means you’re “against racial equality”, but whatever, I guess you’ve got to get clicks somehow.

The other articles actually mean it. Their argument seems to be gesturing at the idea that elites send their kids to private schools, where they get all A+s and end up as president of the Junior Strivers Club. Then they go to Harvard and dazzle their professors with their sparkling wit and dapper suits. Then they get hired right out of college to high-paying management positions at Chase-Bear-Goldman-Sallie-Manhattan-Stearns-Sachs-Mae-FEDGOV. Then they eat truffle-flavored caviar all day and tell each other “Unlike past generations of elites, we are meritocrats who truly deserve our positions, on account of our merit”, as the poor gnash their teeth outside.

42% of California’s STEM Workforce Hails From Outside the U.S.

Tekla Perry:

The proportion of U.S. STEM jobs held by people born outside of the country has grown dramatically since 1990, and California and New Jersey are leading the trend. So says a study by the American Immigration Council. The organization looked at data from 2015 and earlier, excluding STEM careers in higher education.

The council calls its STEM definition narrow; it includes computer and mathematics, engineering and surveying, physical and life sciences, and managerial careers, and it excludes health care and social sciences. Here are a few key takeaways: