Serious quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them?

Will Knight:

Inside a small laboratory in lush countryside about 50 miles north of New York City, an elaborate tangle of tubes and electronics dangles from the ceiling. This mess of equipment is a computer. Not just any computer, but one on the verge of passing what may, perhaps, go down as one of the most important milestones in the history of the field.

Quantum computers promise to run calculations far beyond the reach of any conventional supercomputer. They might revolutionize the discovery of new materials by making it possible to simulate the behavior of matter down to the atomic level. Or they could upend cryptography and security by cracking otherwise invincible codes. There is even hope they will supercharge artificial intelligence by crunching through data more efficiently.

Yet only now, after decades of gradual progress, are researchers finally close to building quantum computers powerful enough to do things that conventional computers cannot. It’s a landmark somewhat theatrically dubbed “quantum supremacy.” Google has been leading the charge toward this milestone, while Intel and Microsoft also have significant quantum efforts. And then there are well-funded startups including Rigetti Computing, IonQ, and Quantum Circuits.

Overconfident Students, Dubious Employers

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf:

College students may believe they’re ready for a job, but employers think otherwise.

At least, that’s according to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which surveyed graduating college seniors and employers and found a significant difference in the groups’ perceptions.

The association surveyed 4,213 graduating seniors and 201 employers on eight “competencies” that it considers necessary to be prepared to enter the workplace. This information comes from the association’s 2018 Job Outlook Survey.

For the most part, a high percentage of students indicated in almost every category they thought they were proficient. Employers disagreed.

“This can be problematic because it suggests that employers see skills gaps in key areas where college students don’t believe gaps exist,” a statement from the association reads.

Security upgrades, behavior fixes pledged by Madison School District

Karen Rivedal:

Police also were sent to West on Feb. 19, when a small group of students “engaged in a loud verbal altercation” in front of the school library, Boran said, even as the “vast majority” of students acted appropriately.

Disturbances like that happen dozens of times a year across the four high schools, according to Madison police call records, but the pattern isn’t very clear. Totals ranged from 68 in 2013 to 54 in 2017, topping out at 94 in 2014, and with 15 so far in 2018.

Fights leading to police calls, however, have shown a steady annual rise, from one in 2013 to 18 in 2017, with six so far this year, for about 12 annually on average.


Gangs and school violence forum.

Police calls to Madison Schools: 1996-2006

A Guide to Law Enforcement Spying Technology


EFF’s “Street-Level Surveillance” project shines light on the advanced surveillance technologies that law enforcement agencies routinely deploy in our communities. These resources are designed for members of the public, advocacy organizations, journalists, defense attorneys, and policymakers who often are not getting the straight story from police representatives or the vendors marketing this equipment.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: State Finance and Mandatory Union Agency Fees

Daniel DiSalvo and Stephen Eide:

Blue-state Democrats have denounced last year’s tax reform as a partisan attack. Thanks to the new $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes, households in places like California and New York will soon feel the stinging cost of big government. This will make raising taxes more difficult, which is why politicians are lamenting that the cap will limit their fiscal flexibility.

The U.S. Supreme Court may soon ride to the rescue. On Monday the justices will hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. If the court rules against government labor unions, as most observers expect, state and local politicians will gain much more control over their budgets, and they will be under less pressure to toe the union line.

The question in Janus is whether it is constitutional that government employees who have decided not to join a union are still required to pay “agency fees.” Under federal law, workers cannot be forced to join a union. But laws in 22 states say that nonmembers must nonetheless pay unions a fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining and contract administration. The difference usually isn’t much. The agency fee at issue in Janus totals 78% of full union dues.

Related: Act 10.

One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings—and It’s Not About Guns

Glennon Doyle Melton:

Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who can’t think of anyone to request?

Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children, I think this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold—the gold being those children who need a little help, who need adults to step in and teach them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside her eyeshot and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But, as she said, the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.

Why data science is simply the new astrology

Karthik Shashidhar:

I’ve spent most of the last six years playing around with data and drawing insights from it (a lot of those insights have been published in Mint). A lot of work that I’ve done can fall under the (rather large) umbrella of “data science”, and some of it can be classified as “machine learning”. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve been rather disappointed by what goes on in the name of data science.

Stripped to its bare essentials, machine learning is an exercise in pattern recognition. Given a set of inputs and outputs, the system tunes a set of parameters in a mathematical formula such that the outputs can be predicted with as much accuracy as possible given the inputs (I’m massively oversimplifying here, but this captures sufficient essence for this discussion).

One big advantage with machine learning is that algorithms can sometimes recognize patterns that are not easily visible to the human eye. The most spectacular application of this has been in the field of medical imaging, where time and again algorithms have been shown to outperform human experts while analysing images.

In February last year, a team of researchers from Stanford University showed that a deep learning algorithm they had built performed on par against a team of expert doctors in detecting skin cancer. In July, another team from Stanford built an algorithm to detect heart arrhythmia by analysing electrocardiograms, and showed that it outperformed the average cardiologist. More recently, algorithms to detect pneumonia and breast cancer have been shown to perform better than expert doctors.

Digital nomads are hiring and firing their governments

Danny Crichton:

The nation state has survived wars, plagues, and upheaval, but it won’t survive digital nomads, not if people like Karoli Hindriks have something to say about it. Hindriks is the founder of Jobbatical, a platform that allows digital nomads to find work in other countries and helps with the logistics of getting there.

The company also embodies a new world of highly-skilled, global migratory workers who work wherever they please. “Our own team today is forty people and they have flown in from sixteen different countries,” Hindriks explained about a recent all-hands gathering. “One of our engineers is from Colombia, and living in Talinn, and he was hosting a Couchsurfer who flew in from Malaysia and he was our engineer in Mexico, and he was now moving to Denmark. This is the perfect example of how the world should be, and how it will be in five or ten years.”

Benedict Anderson famously called the population of a nation state an “imagined community,” but today’s global workers have a very different community that they are imagining.

Dynamic word embeddings for evolving semantic discovery

morning paper:

Consider the trajectory of ‘apple’: in 1994 it’s most closely associated with fruits, and by 2000 changing dietary associations can be seen, and apple is associated with the less healthy ‘cake,’ ‘tart,’ and ‘cream.’ From 2005 through 2016 though, the word is strongly associated with Apple the company, and moreover you can see the changing associations with Apple over time, from ‘iTunes’ to Google, Microsoft, Samsung et al..

Likewise ‘amazon’ moves from a river to the company Amazon, and ‘Obama’ moves from his pre-presidential roles to president, as does ‘Trump.’

These embeddings are learned from articles in The New York Times between 1990 and 2016. The results are really interesting (we’ll see more fun things you can do with them shortly), but you might be wondering why this is hard to do. Why not simply divide up the articles in the corpus (e.g., by year), learn word embeddings for each partition (which we know how to do), and then compare them?

What makes this complicated is that when you learn an embedding for a word in one time window (e.g., ‘bank’), there’s no guarantee that the embedding will match that in another time window, even if there is no semantic change in the meaning of the word across the two. So the meaning of ‘bank’ in 1990 and 1995 could be substantially the same, and yet the learned embeddings might not be. This is known as the alignment problem.

The Next 200 Years: A New EdChoice Series

Michael McShane:

Almost any article on Catholic schooling today will have at least one paragraph in it describing the last five decades’ decline in both the number of Catholic schools and the number of students attending them. At this point, the factors are well known: fewer priests and religious staff working in schools, Catholics becoming wealthier and moving to the suburbs for better schools, less overt discrimination against Catholics in the public school system, yada yada yada.

Now, this is not true everywhere. In states that have embraced private school choice programs, like Florida, Catholic schools are seeing a renaissance. New networks of Catholic schools like the Notre Dame ACE Academies are taking advantage of private school choice programs. There are now 15 ACE Academies in three states that are leveraging school choice programs to deliver high-quality Catholic education to children who need it.

The truth of the matter is that if Catholic education is going to continue in America, it is going to be a fight. Traditional public schools are not going to give up market share willingly. Charter schools will offer an easier option, with almost always more money and in many places more political support. Closed schools will make pastors’ lives easier and parish budgets easier to sustain.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Entitlements are driving deficits and debt. Absent reform, the problem will soon become a crisis.

John Logan:

The federal deficit is big and getting bigger. President Trump’s budget estimates a deficit of nearly $900 billion for 2018 and nearly $1 trillion (with total spending of $4.4 trillion) for 2019. Its balance sheet reveals that the public debt will reach $15.7 trillion by October. This works out to $48,081.61 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. That doesn’t count unfunded liabilities, reported by the Social Security and Medicare Trustees, that are four times the current public debt.

How did the federal government’s finances degenerate this far? It didn’t happen overnight. For seven decades, high tax rates and a growing economy have produced record revenue, but not enough to keep pace with Congress’s voracious appetite for spending. Since the end of World War II, federal tax revenue has grown 15% faster than national income—while federal spending has grown 50% faster.

While most Americans are aware of the budgetary importance of entitlements, the accompanying chart clarifies the magnitude of the problem. It shows the importance of entitlements in determining past and present budget trends, and where they will take us if Congress fails to reform them.

Wisconsin labor unions file lawsuit over Act 10, saying it violates free speech

Sarah Hauer:

The filing argues that Act 10 is “a content-based restriction infringing on (the unions’) rights to free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” It says the law infringes upon association rights “to organize as a collective bargaining unit by increasing costs and penalties through its recertification and fair share provisions.”

Under Act 10, public-sector unions must win, every year, support from a majority of employees in the bargaining unit, not just a majority of those voting in the certification election.

“Act 10 is constitutional and it will be upheld as it has been in the past, regardless of the outcome in Janus,” Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said.

Local 139 comprises people who perform construction, maintenance and repair work for public employers within Wisconsin. It’s headquartered in Pewaukee with other offices in Madison, Altoona and Appleton. Engineers in Local 420 operate and maintain physical plant systems and buildings in the state for public utilities and schools. Local 420 has offices in Green Bay and Oak Creek.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Trump Administration Looking at Bankruptcy Options for Student Debt

Josh Mitchell and Katy Stech Ferek:

The Trump administration indicated Tuesday it is considering allowing more Americans to erase student debt in bankruptcy.

A decades-old federal law prevents Americans from discharging student debt in bankruptcy court unless they prove to a judge’s satisfaction that they face an “undue hardship,” such a stringent standard that few borrowers even try.

The Trump administration can’t change the law without congressional approval. But it can decide how aggressively to fight a borrower’s request to cancel loans in court. The government, the nation’s primary student lender, has traditionally fought such efforts, since any failure to repay loans comes at a cost to taxpayers.

The Education Department said Tuesday it would seek public input on whether the government should clarify when borrowers can discharge loans, a sign the government might ease its stance. The agency pointed to concerns that many student borrowers are being “inadvertently discouraged” from requesting cancellations or getting unequal treatment from judges who use two prevailing methods to define hardship.

Student debt more than doubled over the past decade to nearly $1.4 trillion, and millions of Americans have fallen into default on their loans.

The American Experience of Frederick Douglass

Andrew Delbanco:

February is Black History Month, which happens to coincide this year with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, the most distinguished and influential African-American public figure in the first century of our country. A reformer and writer who thought deeply about the place of African-Americans in the broader American experience, he demands attention today as much as he did in the ominous years leading up to the Civil War and the period of unresolved racial conflict in its aftermath. As he admonished students of American history, “we have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.”

Douglass was born in Maryland in February 1818 to an enslaved black woman and a white father. With the help of his owner’s wife, he learned to read; and at the age of 20, he escaped by train and boat to New England, where he was recruited to the abolitionist lecture circuit.

An imposing man with a booming voice, he had the explosive force, in the words of a contemporary, of a “tornado in a forest.” His experience under slavery had made him an angry man, but he did not confine his anger to the South. Aboard ship on Long Island Sound, he found himself forced to sleep on the freezing deck, and while traveling by railroad through New England, he was “dragged from the cars for the crime of being colored.”

Ohio among top states in education funding for districts with poor and minority students, study finds

Shannon Gilchrist:

Ohio does better than almost all other states in directing school funding to poor and minority students, according to a national report released Tuesday.

According to The Education Trust, a nonprofit education policy group in Washington, D.C. run by former Education Secretary John B. King, Ohio ranks near the top in making sure school districts with high poverty and high concentrations of minority students are getting a bigger piece of the state funding pie.

That might come as a surprise to anyone who is aware of Ohio’s decades-long struggle with how to fund its schools fairly. Complaints are perennial. School funding was even the subject of four Ohio Supreme Court decisions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, ruling the system unconstitutional.

“This sounds like good news,” said John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. “A lot of the things that the Kasich administration has tried to do … is to direct funds to areas of the most need.”

Madison La Follette parents urge Madison School Board to act on school safety

Amber Walker:

Several dozen parents, students and community members from La Follette High School showed up to Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting to address mounting concerns about safety at the school.

The outcry follows the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, earlier this month. In the last two weeks, Madison Police have responded to high profile incidents at La Follette, including disarming a student who brought a handgun to campus.

Parents like Jose Pacheco urged the School Board to do more to make students feel safe at school.


Gangs and school violence forum.

Police calls to Madison Schools: 1996-2006

Widespread signatures of positive selection in common risk alleles associated to autism spectrum disorder

Renato Polimanti , Joel Gelernter:

The human brain is the outcome of innumerable evolutionary processes; the systems genetics of psychiatric disorders could bear their signatures. On this basis, we analyzed five psychiatric disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia (SCZ), using GWAS summary statistics from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Machine learning-derived scores were used to investigate two natural-selection scenarios: complete selection.

Inching closer to a DNA-based file system

John Timmer:

When it comes to data storage, efforts to get faster access grab most of the attention. But long-term archiving of data is equally important, and it generally requires a completely different set of properties. To get a sense of why getting this right is important, just take the recently revived NASA satellite as an example—extracting anything from the satellite’s data will rely on the fact that a separate NASA mission had an antiquated tape drive that could read the satellite’s communication software.

NASA confirms: Its undead satellite is operational
One of the more unexpected technologies to receive some attention as an archival storage medium is DNA. While it is incredibly slow to store and retrieve data from DNA, we know that information can be pulled out of DNA that’s tens of thousands of years old. And there have been some impressive demonstrations of the approach, like an operating system being stored in DNA at a density of 215 Petabytes a gram.

But that method treated DNA as a glob of unorganized bits—you had to sequence all of it in order to get at any of the data. Now, a team of researchers has figured out how to add something like a filesystem to DNA storage, allowing random access to specific data within a large collection of DNA. While doing this, the team also tested a recently developed method for sequencing DNA that can be done using a compact USB device.

Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis is a national disgrace

LA Times:

There are few sights in the world like nighttime in skid row, the teeming Dickensian dystopia in downtown Los Angeles where homeless and destitute people have been concentrated for more than a century.

Here, men and women sleep in rows, lined up one after another for block after block in makeshift tents or on cardboard mats on the sidewalks — the mad, the afflicted and the disabled alongside those who are merely down on their luck. Criminals prey on them, drugs such as heroin and crystal meth are easily available, sexual assault and physical violence are common and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis and AIDS are constant threats.

Skid row is — and long has been — a national disgrace, a grim reminder of man’s ability to turn his back on his fellow man. But these days it is only the ugly epicenter of a staggering homelessness problem that radiates outward for more than 100 miles throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. There are now more than 57,000 people who lack a “fixed, regular or adequate place to sleep” on any given night in the county, and fewer than 1 in 10 of them are in skid row.

Homelessness burst its traditional borders several years ago, spreading first to gloomy underpasses and dim side streets, and then to public parks and library reading rooms and subway platforms. No matter where you live in L.A. County, from Long Beach to Beverly Hills to Lancaster, you cannot credibly claim today to be unaware of the squalid tent cities, the sprawling encampments, or the despair and misery on display there.

The Misguided Drive To Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’

Bryan Camp:

Here at Texas Tech University School of Law we are gearing up for our ABA site inspection. In the past few years the ABA has required law schools to create “Learning Outcomes.” Here’s the language from Section 3.02:

A law school shall establish learning outcomes that shall, at a minimum, include competency in the following:
(a) Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law;
(b) Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context;
(c) Exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system; and
(d) Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.

This is the first year that the site teams will be evaluating a law school’s compliance with the new standard. We knew it was coming and I have been on a committee for the past three years that has been trying to translate this standard into operation. While I believe we have done a good job with it, I also believe the standard to be of questionable value.

How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads

Antonio García Martínez:

(Speaking of Manhattan vs. Detroit prices, there are some (very nonmetaphorical) differences in media costs across the country that also impacted Trump’s ability to reach voters. Broadly, advertising costs in rural, out-of-the-way areas are considerably less than in hotly contested, dense urban areas. As each campaign tried to mobilize its base, largely rural Trump voters were probably cheaper to reach than Clinton’s urban voters. Consider Germantown, Pa. (a Philly suburb Clinton won by a landslide) vs. Belmont County, Ohio (a rural county Trump comfortably won). Actual media costs are closely guarded secrets, but Facebook’s own advertiser tools can give us some ballpark estimates. For zip code 43950 (covering the county seat of St. Clairsville, Ohio), Facebook estimates an advertiser can show an ad to about 83 people per dollar. For zip code 19144 in the Philly suburbs, that number sinks to 50 people an ad for every dollar of ad spend. Averaged over lots of time and space, the impacts on media budgets can be sizable. Anyway …)

The Teens Will Save Us

Dina Leygerman:

Every year, before I teach 1984 to my seniors, I run a simulation. Under the guise of “the common good,” I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime; I become a dictator. I tell my seniors that in order to battle “Senioritis,” the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has “been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success.” I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is “Senioritis.” I tell the students that in order to help them succeed, I must implement strict classroom rules. They must raise their hand before doing anything at all, even when asking another student for a pencil. They lose points each time they don’t behave as expected. They gain points by reporting other students. If someone breaks the rule and I don’t see it, it is the responsibility of the other students to let me know. Those students earn bonus points. I tell students that in order for this plan to work they must “trust the process and not question their teachers.” This becomes a school-wide effort. The other teachers and admin join.

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

The best example I know that gives insights into the functioning of a complex system is with the following situation. It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority. If it seems absurd, it is because our scientific intuitions aren’t calibrated for that (fughedabout scientific and academic intuitions and snap judgments; they don’t work and your standard intellectualization fails with complex systems, though not your grandmothers’ wisdom).

The main idea behind complex systems is that the ensemble behaves in way not predicted by the components. The interactions matter more than the nature of the units. Studying individual ants will never (one can safely say never for most such situations), never give us an idea on how the ant colony operates. For that, one needs to understand an ant colony as an ant colony, no less, no more, not a collection of ants. This is called an “emergent” property of the whole, by which parts and whole differ because what matters is the interactions between such parts. And interactions can obey very simple rules. The rule we discuss in this chapter is the minority rule.

The Robots Are Coming for Garment Workers. That’s Good for the U.S., Bad for Poor Countries


At the Mohammadi Fashion Sweaters Ltd. factory in Bangladesh’s capital, a few dozen workers stand watching as 173 German-made machines knit black sweaters for overseas buyers. Occasionally the workers step in to program designs or clean the machines, but otherwise there is little for humans to do.

It’s a big change from a few years ago, when hundreds of employees could be found standing over manual knitting stations for up to 10 hours a day. Mohammadi’s owners began phasing out such work in 2012, and by last year, the…

Students Ratcheting Up Anti-Gun Protests After School Shooting

Cameron McWhirter:

High-school students are planning marches and school walkouts across the country in the coming weeks and months as the number of protesters on social media grows, galvanized by last week’s school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.—using various social-media platforms and hashtags such as #NeverAgain and #Enough—have encouraged students and antigun activists to organize. A nationwide walkout by teachers and students is planned for March 14, marches for March 24, and a day of protests on April 20, the anniversary of the deadly 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

Smaller events are popping up as well. Students at Douglas High School plan to visit politicians in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, on Tuesday and Wednesday to urge them to tighten gun laws. On Tuesday, Florida officials will hold workshops in Tallahassee focused on safety and security measures at schools, on mental health and child-welfare services, and how police can keep guns from those with mental-health problems, Republican Gov. Rick Scott said.

Inside the OED: can the world’s biggest dictionary survive the internet?

Andrew Dickson:

In February 2009, a Twitter user called @popelizbet issued an apparently historic challenge to someone called Colin: she asked if he could “mansplain” a concept to her. History has not recorded if he did, indeed, proceed to mansplain. But the lexicographer Bernadette Paton, who excavated this exchange last summer, believed it was the first time anyone had used the word in recorded form. “It’s been deleted since, but we caught it,” Paton told me, with quiet satisfaction.

In her office at Oxford University Press, Paton was drafting a brand new entry for the Oxford English Dictionary. Also in her in-tray when I visited were the millennial-tinged usage of “snowflake”, which she had hunted down to a Christian text from 1983 (“You are a snowflake. There are no two of you alike”), and new shadings of the compound “self-made woman”. Around 30,000 such items are on the OED master list; another 7,000 more pile up annually. “Everyone thinks we’re very slow, but it’s actually rather fast,” Paton said. “Though admittedly a colleague did spend a year revising ‘go’”.

Spending 12 months tracing the history of a two-letter word seems dangerously close to folly. But the purpose of a historical dictionary such as the OED is to give such questions the solemnity they deserve. An Oxford lexicographer might need to snoop on Twitter spats from a decade ago; or they might have to piece together a painstaking biography of one of the oldest verbs in the language (the revised entry for “go” traces 537 separate senses over 1,000 years). “Well, we have to get things right,” the dictionary’s current chief editor, Michael Proffitt, told me.

At one level, few things are simpler than a dictionary: a list of the words people use or have used, with an explanation of what those words mean, or have meant. At the level that matters, though – the level that lexicographers fret and obsess about – few things could be more complex. Who used those words, where and when? How do you know? Which words do you include, and on what basis? How do you tease apart this sense from that? And what is “English” anyway?

Read My Lips: No New Administrators

Berber Jin:

Stanford’s bureaucracy has snowballed out of control. Accompanying the increase in university administrators, tuition has risen, student traditions from Full Moon on the Quad to the Stanford Band have been strangled, and accountability in the bureaucracy has decreased. Perhaps most egregiously, over the past few months, FoHo exposed corruption within Stanford’s Office of Community Standards (OCS), charged with implementing the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard.

We should be enraged that the office responsible for enforcing students’ moral standards cannot even follow basic ethics. Only through the investigative reporting of an anonymous newspaper did we learn the full scope of its bureaucratic incompetence: the office has operated without a director for almost a year, and its entire staff vanished at the end of last August, even while it was embroiled in multiple campus probes. The OCS’s investigation of a student’s concussion at “Blood Bath,” a Sigma Nu–Alpha Phi event, was laden with medical privacy violations and poor evidentiary standards.

Though the FoHo’s assiduous coverage of these events was admirable, it raises a much larger question: who is charged with holding the OCS accountable for its hiring and investigative mishaps? The answer is not clear. The recent OCS debacle reveals a much more worrying trend: the rise of an unaccountable, ballooning university bureaucracy that threatens Stanford’s academic commitment to teaching and learning.

Sex and drugs and self-control: how the teen brain navigates risk

Kei Smith:

Science has often looked at risk-taking among adolescents as a monolithic problem for parents and the public to manage or endure. When Eva Telzer, a neuroscientist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, asks family, friends, undergraduates or researchers in related fields about their perception of teenagers, “there’s almost never anything positive”, she says. “It’s a pervasive stereotype.” But how Alex and Cole dabble with risk — considering its social value alongside other pros and cons — is in keeping with a more complex picture emerging from neuroscience. Adolescent behaviour goes beyond impetuous rebellion or uncontrollable hormones, says Adriana Galván, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “How we define risk-taking is going through a shift.”

Wisconsin Association of School Boards: Conversation about arming teachers should start at local level

Lisa Speckhard Pasque:

In an often passionate debate that can become a battle between extremes, Robert Butler, associate executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, doesn’t think there’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution. On an episode of the Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” Butler suggested asking local police, liability carriers and teachers for input at a local level to make plans for stronger school security.

“Each of our members has unique facilities, a unique location, and what may not be a prudent course of action for a district that has law enforcement nearby, may be a strategy and a tactic that a rural school district with law enforcement available contemplates,” Butler said.


Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Police Calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006.

Research to Practice Symposium on Reading Proficiency; March 12, 2018

AIM institute:

Join us for this FREE unique professional experience! Hear from the experts, reflect on connections to your own work with students, and explore the benefits and challenges of bridging the gap between the latest literacy research and best practices in the classroom.

Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan: Differentiated Language and Literacy Instruction for English Learners

Mark S. Seidenberg: What Can Reading Science Contribute to Better Reading?

Julie Washington: Growth of Language and Literacy in Low-Income African American First through Fifth Graders

Plus, a Panel Discussion on Best Practices for Literacy Development for At-Risk Readers

Madison has long tolerated distrous reading results.

Kansas Has 4 Of 10 Most ‘Middle Of Nowhere’ Towns In U.S., Says Big East Coast Paper

Sam Zeff:

This is just not the kind of news Kansans want to hear, but: Four of the ten most isolated towns in all of the United States are in Kansas.

The Washington Post, using data from something called the Malaria Atlas Project, wanted to know what the middle of nowhere looks like. A 22-member team from Oxford’s Big Data Institute spent years building a global map showing how long it takes to get anywhere on Earth based on roads, elevation and a lot of other things.

The Post scraped the data because (this is such an East Coast thing) it wanted to find the spot in the United States that “best represents the middle of nowhere.” Hint: none of the places it found is on Eastern Time.

The Post used simple criteria: “towns that are farthest from any metro with more than 75,000 people, ranked by travel time in hours.”

The Man Who Saved the World

Maria Michael D’Alessandro:

The Man Who Saved the World” is the gripping true story of a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, Stanislav Petrov, who refused to order the launch of nuclear weapons when the warning system showed — erroneously — incoming U.S.missiles.

The Danish-made film, directed by Peter Anthony, is half-documentary and half-reconstruction.It was released in October 2014 at the Woodstock Film Festival and since then, Anthony, who wrote and directed the movie, has been on the road bringing Stanislav Petrov’s story to audiences all around the world.

“It cannot be called only a feature film or only a documentary,” Anthony told The Moscow Times at a press screening in Moscow earlier this month. “It has its own style and universe.”

Who’s Missing From America’s Colleges? Rural High School Graduates

John Marcus and Matt Krupnik:

When Dustin Gordon’s high school invited juniors and seniors to meet with recruiters from colleges and universities, a handful of students showed up.

A few were serious about the prospect of continuing their educations, he said, “But I think some of them went just to get out of class.”

In his sparsely settled community in the agricultural countryside of southern Iowa, “there’s just no motivation for people to go” to college, says Gordon, who’s now a senior at the University of Iowa.

“When they’re ready to be done with high school, they think, ‘That’s all the school I need, and I’m just going to go and find a job.’ ” That job, Gordon explains, might be on the family farm or at the egg-packaging plant or the factory that makes pulleys and conveyor belts, or driving trucks that haul grain.

Variations of this mindset, among many other reasons, have given rise to a reality that has gotten lost in the impassioned debate over who gets to go to college, which often focuses on racial and ethnic minorities and students from low-income families: The high school graduates who head off to campus in the lowest proportions in America are the ones from rural places.

The Perverse Power of the Prosecutor

John Pfaff:

One of the more important shifts in criminal justice reform over the past five or so years has been a growing awareness of just how powerful and influential prosecutors truly are. Perhaps startled to find themselves under such attention after decades of little to no scrutiny, prosecutors are now pushing back. One common rebuttal prosecutors make is that they don’t actually have that much power. It is the legislature, they argue, which passes the laws and thus really calls the shots. Prosecutors simply impose what the legislature enacts.
Such claims, however, are quite disingenuous, since they conveniently overlook one of the most important sources of prosecutors’ power: their oversized influence over the legislative process. District attorneys are not passive players in the politics of crime, sitting idly by awaiting their orders from on high. In states from Pennsylvania to Louisiana to California, district attorneys aggressively, and effectively, lobby against reforms they dislike and for new laws that they do. Louisiana recently adopted an expansive criminal justice reform bill, but the final version was significantly watered down from the original proposal, almost entirely due to aggressive and effective lobbying by the state’s district attorneys. And in Pennsylvania the House of Representatives recently passed a bill (which still languishes in the Senate) reinstating drug-focused mandatory minimums that had been invalidated by the state’s supreme court; despite a majority of voters of all ideological stripes opposing the bill, it passed unanimously thanks to the concerted efforts of the state’s prosecutors.

Iowa bill aims to protect belief-based student groups

Adam Sabes:

As previously reported by Campus Reform, a University of Iowa student group called Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) had its status revoked after a student accused the group of unfairly denying him a leadership position because he is “openly gay,” though BLinC maintains that the student was rejected because he refused to endorse the group’s “Statement of Faith.” A judge subsequently sided with the student group, ordering the university to restore its status.

If passed, the bill would require all Iowa institutions of higher education to formally recognize student organizations that have religious requirements for leadership positions.

Schools that do fail to recognize belief-based organizations are subject to legal action, allowing students organizations to “seek appropriate relief, including but not limited to injunctive relief, monetary damages, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs.”

Under Sinclair’s proposed legislation, all outdoor areas of Iowa’s public colleges and universities would also be designated “traditional public forums,” thus eliminating the possibility of confining expressive activity to a “free speech zone.”

Additionally, the bill would mandate that state institutions are transparent in their compliance with the bill, requiring that they publish a report on their websites and provide a copy to the governor and elected officials.

Public Unions vs. the First Amendment

Wall Street Journal:

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear the landmark First Amendment case Janus v. Afscme that challenges whether public employees can be compelled to subsidize union advocacy. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, requiring “a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical”—and unconstitutional.

Janus gives the Supreme Court another crack at its flawed Abood (1977) precedent that let governments force nonunion public employees to pay “agency fees.” A 4-4 Court split in Friedrichs v. CTA (2016) after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left Abood standing, but perhaps not for long.

In 2015 Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner sued to overturn a state agency-fee law. Child support specialist Mark Janus and two other state workers later joined the case, arguing that they shouldn’t be required to support collective-bargaining positions with which they disagree. Mr. Janus must fork over $44.58 of each paycheck to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme).

In Abood, the Supreme Court mistakenly concluded that there’s no practical difference between collective bargaining by public and private unions since both negotiate over wages, pensions and work conditions. But collective bargaining in government is intrinsically different because it implicates public policy and political issues.

Powerless on the Bench

Kevin Sharp:

Early on, I sentenced a young man, Antonio, who was 27. He was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm. He had been convicted of two armed robberies at 17 years old. At 27, Antonio is doing what we all hope a criminal defendant does after being convicted: he gets a job. He is in contact with his family. He does not do drugs. He does not drink. But Antonio had been doing one thing that he should not have been.

Antonio was driving down the street and, without being too graphic, he and his girlfriend were engaged in an activity that caused him to cross slightly over the double-yellow line. The police saw it and pulled him over. The police suspected his girlfriend was a prostitute, so they split Antonio and his girlfriend up and asked them questions. The police realized based on her answers that she in fact was Antonio’s girlfriend. Then, the police said, “OK, we are going to let you go. Oh, by the way, do you mind if we search your car?” Antonio, forgetting that he had an unloaded pistol under the front seat of his car, responded, “No, go ahead.”

Antonio was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Because he was convicted as an adult in his prior crimes, his mandatory minimum sentence was 15 years. I read his case and thought this could not be right. Fifteen years? What are “mandatory minimums”? I did not fully understand what they were at the time. I spent the next several days trying to figure out how to get around the minimum sentence — it cannot be done.

Regrettably, I did what I had to do. I sentenced Antonio to 15 years. I thought to myself, “What in the world are we doing? Why would the government take away my ability to fashion a fair sentence? I know what a judge is supposed to consider in determining how to fashion a sufficient sentence. What I have done is in no way, shape, or form an appropriate sentence.”

Several years later, I had the same conversation with myself. This time, the case involved a 22-year-old kid, Chris Young. He was caught up with a group of members of the Vice Lords, a gang known for running cocaine and crack through middle Tennessee. Chris was not a member of this gang. He was an aspiring rapper who would hang out with members of the Vice Lords because one of the gang members had a studio. He was occasionally asked to make crack, but he did not know how.

Chris was arrested as part of a 30-person indictment for drug conspiracy. Chris was such a minor player in the drug conspiracy — he did not even know how to make crack. I think the only reason the DEA arrested him was because he happened to be at a gas station when they took down the Vice Lords’ leader. He was at the wrong place with the wrong group at the wrong time. The only evidence showing Chris’s connection to the gang were tapes from their wiretaps where Chris is talking to the gang’s leader about how he cannot figure out why the crack he has cooked did not turn out right. The leader gets frustrated and finally says, “I’ll just come over and do it myself.” That was basically the extent of it.

The prosecutor told Chris, “You can plead guilty, and we will give you twelve years.” Chris is 22 and thinks, “12 years, no! I’m so minor in all of this, I will go to and win at trial.” His lawyer convinces him that he should not go to trial, given his two prior drug convictions (one for less than half a gram of crack, which is about a sugar packet of crack) and the penalty he could face if convicted again — a mandatory life sentence. At this point, the prosecutor changes his mind and says, “12 years was last week’s price — this week’s price is 22 years, and if you turn this down, next week’s price may be higher.” A 22-year-old, Chris thought, “22 years is life! I’ll take my chances at trial.” Only three people of this 30-person group arrested, by the way, went to trial. Everybody else pled guilty. At trial, these three people, who happened to also be the lowest members of this conspiracy, all got life in prison. Every single one of them. Yes, the Vice Lords were selling a lot of drugs, but not Chris, and not the other two defendants who also decided to go to trial. They all are behind bars for life.

The Rise of Virtual Citizenship

James Bridle:

“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means,” the British prime minister, Theresa May, declared in October 2016. Not long after, at his first postelection rally, Donald Trump asserted, “There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.” And in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has increased his national-conservative party’s popularity with statements like “all the terrorists are basically migrants” and “the best migrant is the migrant who does not come.”
 Citizenship and its varying legal definition has become one of the key battlegrounds of the 21st century, as nations attempt to stake out their power in a G-Zero, globalized world, one increasingly defined by transnational, borderless trade and liquid, virtual finance. In a climate of pervasive nationalism, jingoism, xenophobia, and ever-building resentment toward those who move, it’s tempting to think that doing so would become more difficult. But alongside the rise of populist, identitarian movements across the globe, identity itself is being virtualized, too. It no longer needs to be tied to place or nation to function in the global marketplace.

Menomonee Falls Schools Superintendent Pat Greco announces her upcoming retirement

Christopher Kuhagen:

“We are fundamentally a stronger system than we were seven years ago when our board hired me and committed to improving the full system. Students at all levels are growing, their performance is strong, and they are positioning themselves for remarkable futures.

“Our staff members are leaders in the nation. Our schools are recognized for improving culture and outcomes at all levels. We are also blessed to have parents and community members who are true partners with us.”

Greco was named the state’s 2018 superintendent of the year by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.

During Greco’s time in charge in Menomonee Falls, the school district has won a Journal Sentinel Top Workplace award three straight years. U.S. News & World Report has also given Menomonee Falls High School a silver-rank, with 130 of its students earning Advanced Placement Scholars honors. The school has earned $2.3 million in scholarships, as well as four WIAA Sportsmanship Awards in three years.

You Can’t Have Denmark Without Danes What a small, happy country can teach a huge and fractious one. And what it can’t.

Megan McArdle:

Danish social cohesion works great for Danes. It’s not so great, though, at doing another thing modern advanced economies need: Absorbing outsiders.

In the U.S., the unemployment rate of foreign-born workers is almost a percentage point lower than that of native-born citizens. In Denmark, it’s almost 6 percentage points higher, more than double the native-born rate. And many first-generation immigrants also seem to be having difficulty integrating themselves into the Danish economy.

There are many possible explanations for this, including discrimination. But the most prevalent is that Denmark’s system, so functional for Danes, throws up a lot of barriers to assimilation.

“In a Danish shop you expect a shop assistant to be highly trained,” said Agerup, the think-tank liberal. “In the U.S. you expect a lower level of knowledge.” To give one small example, every restaurant server I encountered in Denmark spoke English.

Some of the low-skilled jobs that immigrants often do in the U.S. either have been eliminated in Denmark, or made more productive and better compensated by requiring a higher level of skill. Or they’re being done by workers from poorer EU countries who don’t qualify for Danish benefits. And the Danish re-employment system has so far proved poor at adapting to deal with the country’s now-sizable immigrant population.

West Virginia teachers stage walkout over wages and benefits


“We gotta keep the blood moving,” said union leader Kim Martin as she revved up a picket line of 50 teachers dancing in the freezing rain to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.

Teachers in West Virginia, who are the 48th lowest paid in the nation, quit school for a two-day illegal wildcat strike on Thursday, the first time they have taken such action since 1990.

They are demanding that state legislature vote to increase their wages, health care, and stop the proposed elimination of traditional teachers seniority.

With starting salaries set at $31,000 a year, union leaders say that after deducting for health care costs, many teachers in the state make less than $15 an hour.

Now, the Republican lead state legislature is proposing to give teachers only a 2% raise while drastically increasing healthcare costs so high that some teacher’s deductibles would more than triple.

The Girl Who Told the Truth

Michael Hall:

When Gabby Sones was fifteen, she would often lie awake at night, restless, replaying memories in her head, watching them roll by like scenes from a movie. Many involved her father, Jimmy. The two were inseparable when she was little. He was a tall, burly, redheaded good ol’ boy who loved to hunt and fish. She was a strawberry-blond tomboy with baby blue eyes, and when she got old enough to hold a fishing pole, he would take her to Lake Tawakoni or Lake Holbrook, where she once caught two dozen sand bass, pulling them out of the cool water one after another.

Jimmy liked to work with his hands, and when he would crawl under his Buick Electra to tinker with the engine, she’d scoot beside him and pass him tools. He drove a big rig for a living, and on short trips to Oklahoma or Louisiana, he’d sometimes take her along. She would sit high in the seat, chattering into the CB radio, watching the world as it sped by. “I can see everything!” she’d cry.

But that was years ago. She hadn’t seen Jimmy or her mom, Sheila, since 2005, when she was seven and Child Protective Services took her from her parents. After that, her memories weren’t as pleasant.

She spent a couple of months with a foster family in Frankston. Then she was transferred to a large family in Tyler, who later adopted her. She liked them all right. The biological children had welcomed her, even if they mostly kept to themselves. They were Mormons, and she often clashed with her foster mother over things like wearing tank tops, putting posters on the walls of her room, or trying out for the cheerleading squad. Gabby missed her parents’ church, where she and the other kids sang and danced to a live band. She spent a lot of time in her room reading; Harry Potter books were her favorite. Sometimes her well-meaning foster mother would knock on the door and ask awkward questions about the circumstances that had led Gabby to live with her. “Do you want to talk about what happened?” she’d ask.

Gabby never did. It wasn’t that she was aloof. The truth was, she couldn’t recall any of the details. Strangely enough, the entire ordeal was a big blank in her mind.

It shouldn’t have been. Gabby, along with a nephew and two nieces—all of them between the ages of four and eight—had made a series of accusations that rocked their community. They’d claimed that Gabby’s parents, Jimmy and Sheila, as well as five other local adults, had committed a series of depraved, almost incomprehensible sex crimes. The defendants, the children testified, had set up a “sex kindergarten” in a trailer outside Tyler. Then the adults had put the children on a stage at a swingers club in nearby Mineola, where the kids were drugged and forced to dance and have sex with one another.

The Enlightenment of Steven Pinker

Peter Harrison:

(As an aside, my own prediction is that future historians, if they haven’t all been replaced by cognitive psychologists, will regard misplaced faith in data, metrics and statistical analysis as the curse of the twenty-first century. Consider, for a start, the “replicability crisis” sweeping the social and medical sciences. And for those in academe, think also of the incessant and increasing demand that we measure and metricize every aspect of intellectual life. It is one of the saving graces of the humanities that it hasn’t fallen for this line, notwithstanding the undoubted insights yielded by some aspects of the digital humanities.)

With these unpromising starting points in mind, we turn to some of the themes of the new book. I say some because this is not intended as a comprehensive book review; not least because the bulk of the book is not really about the historical Enlightenment at all. That said, there is enough material on the Enlightenment to talk about, and it is certainly worth reflecting on one of two of the book’s more contentious characterisations of the period.

An Age of Reason?

We can start with “reason.” Pinker is an advocate of reason. As the subtitle announces, the book presents “the case for reason, science, humanism, and progress.” Pinker frequently refers to the Enlightenment as the “Age of Reason” (a rather old-fashioned label that seems to have been drawn from Will and Ariel Durant’s 1961 Story of Civilization).

But throughout the book reason is treated as an unproblematic given, as if we all know what it is and are happy to sign up to Pinker’s version of it. Alas, reason is a notoriously slippery notion. Problematizing it and challenging its authority turns out to be one of the signal achievements of the Enlightenment. Pinker seems blissfully unaware of this.

The most cursory sampling of just some of the key figures of the period helps establish the point. If we go back to the beginning of the scientific revolution – which Pinker routinely conflates with the Enlightenment – we find the seminal figure Francis Bacon observing that “the human intellect left to its own course is not to be trusted.” Following in his wake, leading experimentalists of the seventeenth century explicitly distinguished what they were doing from rational speculation, which they regarded as the primary source of error in the natural sciences.

K-12 Governance: Parkland shooter always in trouble, never expelled. Could school system have done more?

Carol Marbin Miller and Kyra Gurney:

At times, Nikolas Cruz’s behavior could be a school administrator’s nightmare: Teachers and other students said he kicked doors, cursed at teachers, fought with and threatened classmates and brought a backpack with bullets to school. He collected a string of discipline for profanity, disobedience, insubordination, and disruption.

In 2014, administrators transferred Cruz to an alternative school for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities — only to change course two years later and return him to a traditional neighborhood school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz was banished from Douglas a year later for other disciplinary violations — then toggled between three other alternative placements, school records obtained by the Miami Herald show.

If the frequent transfers — records show there were six in three years — did little to stanch Cruz’s disruptive behavior, they eventually became the only option left in the school district’s toolbox. Contrary to early reports, Cruz was never expelled from Broward schools. Legally, he couldn’t be.

Under federal law, Nikolas Cruz had a right to a “free and appropriate” education at a public school near him. His classmates had a right to an education free of fear.

Students at Harvard, Yale, Cornell and other wealthy colleges have a new target for their divestment protests: hedge fund Baupost Group.

Janet Lorin and Michelle Kaske:

They’re asking university endowments to shed investments related to Puerto Rico’s debt, and Baupost is one of the largest holders of the U.S. territory’s bonds backed by sales-tax receipts. Activists say the debt burden is hindering an economy struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria in September.

A few protests have already taken place on campuses including Harvard and Yale, and advocates are expected to gather at Rutgers University starting Thursday for a three-day conference scheduled to include a presentation on Wall Street’s growing influence in higher education, highlighting Baupost. At Cornell last week, the student council passed a resolution calling for the school to divest from Puerto Rican debt.

“Cornell is invested in a hedge fund which is holding Puerto Rico’s national interest hostage,” said Zachary Schmetterer, 21, a senior at the university studying policy analysis and management, who introduced the resolution.

Ivy League tax breaks and federal taxpayer subsidies.

NJEA Shows Phil Murphy Who’s Boss: The Short Tenureship of Paula White

Laura Waters:

If Gov. Murphy fired Paula White because NJEA leaders told him to — when asked, the Governor’s office “would neither confirm nor deny” — then New Jersey has problems that go beyond the ousting of an eminently-qualified educational leader hand-selected by Repollet. (She worked with him in Asbury Park.) What else will Murphy’s allegiance to NJEA provoke him to do? After all, he may feel like he owes them big-time.

Why? During the campaign he promised the union that he’d get rid of PARCC on “Day One”; he promised he’d fully fund pensions; he promised he’d fully fund a broken school funding formula.

But the truth is that he can’t keep those promises. (See here.) And so, perhaps, when NJEA leaders objected to the selection of Paula White because of her association with DFER, Murphy, who had breached his contract with them, made a promise he could keep, even though that decision makes Repollet look far removed from the loop of state educational leadership, makes Murphy look like Pavlov’s dog when confronted with a whiff of dissension from his patron, and makes NJEA look like Pavlov himself, a metamorphosis it may welcome after a humiliating defeat of the $5 million campaign to unseat Senate President Steve Sweeney by replacing him with a Trump-supporting climate-change-denying immigration-foe.

The British Academic Strike is a Crucial Struggle that Must Be Won: Part I, Pensions; Madison spent 25% of 2014-2015 budget on benefits

Benjamin Studebaker:

The University and College Union (UCU)–Britain’s trade union for academics–has gone on strike. The strike is about the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)’s decision to switch academics from “defined benefit” pension plans to “defined contribution” plans. As a PhD student at Cambridge I write this piece at home, having skipped a couple events I really wanted to go to today, because this strike is so important, both to academia and to the cause of working people more generally. My hope is that I can explain the strike to those who don’t know much about it and defend it to any who doubt its necessity.

There are three broad reasons this strike is important:

The contribution it makes to defending the right of all working people to retire comfortably.
The contribution it makes to defending the quality and standing of British universities.
The contribution it makes to defending and extending the capacity of working people in western democracies to protect their interests effectively through collective bargaining.

Related: 25% of Madison’s K-12 budget was spent on benefits in 2014-2015. Spending has increased substantially since then, now approaching $20,000 per student.

The image of Mrs. McMurray armed in her first-grade classroom is a little daunting; “Proud of Our Nation”

Alan Borsuk:

But look at other aspects of all this.

Mental health for students, running the spectrum from more routine problems to the extremes of the Florida shooter, have been getting more attention recently than in previous years. The bad news is that the overall problem appears to have grown. The good news is that more help might be in the offing. Shouldn’t that be an urgent goal?

There were many indications that the Florida shooter was unhinged, dangerous and open about wanting to shoot up a school. There were specific calls to authorities about him. They brought no helpful response. Wouldn’t improving the effectiveness of systems for dealing with people such as him be a good investment, better than putting more guns into schools?

How about more effort to stabilize the lives of the many children who live in very troubled circumstances? Moving all the time, unsure where food or shelter is coming from, shifting from one family setting to another or lacking stable adult connections. The Florida shooter (yes, I’m intentionally not using his name) fit some of that description.

At the risk of alienating just about everybody, permit me to say a few words about our general culture. What do kids take in every day? They learn from the world around them, starting from the earliest days after birth and never stopping. How do people around them talk to each other? What’s life like at home? What are they seeing on television, on all their different screens, in the recreation activities they choose, in the social interactions around them?

If it’s rude, crude, violent and more, what surprise is it that some kids lean in those directions?

Related Satire – “Proud of Our Nation”, via “Anonymous”:

I am very proud of you all and our great nation that understands so well the need for GUNS in our American life! We have now learned to accept a ritual after each mass killing that goes from shock to prayers to outrage to intense introspection/national soul searching to debate in Congress to forgetting until the next incident. Whether the victims are grade schoolers, high schoolers, adult concert or movie goers and or minority gang members in places like Chicago i.e. irrespective of demographics or geography …from ‘sea to shining sea’, the format is now fortunately securely in place. Nor does it matter whether the victims are Congress members or gang members or the 60% of suicide victims who used a firearm…No matter, we patriots ARE secure!

And does the media ever profit from the killings along with ourselves from all of the increased viewers. When fellow Americans hear that overall crime rates in the USA are indeed down, we convince them that it is because of our guns. Instead of GUN regulations, we are fortunate that often more guns are accepted after each of these killings. Look at the attempts now to get guns into the hands of 10 year old hunters in WI, and access to every churchgoer in certain Southern states…perhaps in the future to all school teachers as well. After Vegas and Texas, the House Judiciary Committee then passed another gun owners rights bill to allow owners with state issued concealed weapons to carry them to any state that allows such weapons. We are sailing, brothers with now some 265 million guns in our nation, half of all of the civilian guns in the entire world….and growing. Well done, brothers & sisters!

Even with some 80% of the public wanting gun controls, our increasing bribes to Congressmen, even some Democrats ..over $50 million to Senators and last year alone the $31 million to Trumps campaign, has sure paid off! No worry about stopping our gun flow. Senator Richard Burr for example said after Las Vegas that “ tragic violence has absolutely no place in America”. Yet no worry. He has already received $6.986 million from us at NRA. Uh, huh! And the Supreme Court after a recent killing turned away two appeals from firearm advocates on banning assault weapons (And even if some day, real comprehensive gun control laws were passed, it would take our great country some 20 years to really see an impact on mass killings. No fear, brothers. By then another GOP administration would be in place to reverse any such legislation.)

True, we have convinced these Congressmen that we Americans are indeed a unique species of Homo sapiens. That even if nations like Canada and & Japan with so little gun violence have as many real mental health , domestic violence, suicide, isolated troubled youth and wealthy middle class crazies as we in America, our good propaganda (& $$) has convinced them that only in America do our people need weapons essentially available to all for protection AND to express publicly their illnesses and anger… And thank God, our DC leaders have committed their loyalty, not to their constituents, but first to us at NRA and our contributions!

And even a surprise to us faithful, assault weapons like AR-15s , and it appears even bump stocks, much less 100 round clips to turn them into full automatics, continue to be allowed and are circulating rapidly. We are looking now at some diversification for the future as we study the Second Amendment. Though many scholars believe it references only state militias, our good Supreme Court is convinced that any ordinary citizen has the ‘right to bear arms’. Why then would this not allow hand grenades & bazookas in our hands? Some day perhaps even nuclear devices in each home to protect ourselves?

It is indeed good times for us. Despite heavy human costs, we Americans are uniquely the most free in the world with our rightful many and growing number of ‘arms’. And we at NRA are highly profitable, and my annual compensation of $4 million as well as yours will continue to grow and grow! God bless America!

Goodbye, Heraclitus

R R Reno:

Our universities favor the left, but that’s not decisive. Far more important is the fact that they are establishment institutions dominated by the Heraclitean consensus. Deregulatory conservatism may not be warmly welcomed by liberals who control the universities, but it is not anathematized. Meanwhile, positions that contradict the Heraclitean consensus are denounced as profound threats to human decency. To speak against “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “openness” gets you in trouble. It’s quite simply impossible to get a job in mainstream academia if you are known to hold the view that sodomy is a sin.

It is inconvenient for today’s establishment to face the contradiction that they must exclude those who are not advocates of inclusion. But we make a mistake if we imagine this contradiction to be a serious flaw. A social consensus is not a political philosophy. It seeks to establish all-things-considered priorities, not first principles. The Heraclitean consensus has always admitted of exceptions. We need openness and diversity—except when we don’t. The inconsistencies in the postwar consensus were always there. The problem is that the consensus isn’t working well. What made sense in 1965 and 1980 no longer does. Efforts to create still greater openness and dynamism now undermine the common good.

The bipartisan project of opening up our economy so that companies and investors can operate globally has eroded the American middle class and exacerbated a social divide. Well-educated urban workers flourish, while middle Americans with middling skills lose out. This divide characterizes most of the West. A more open global economy, less constrained by borders, has led to dramatic increases in wealth for tens of millions in the developing world. It has brought tremendous rewards to the top 1 or 2 percent in the developed world, some of which trickle down to the professional classes. But by many measures, middle-income workers in the West have seen little benefit, aside from cheaper consumer goods. This growing disparity has erod

One Texas Board of Education primary result could spell a return to culture wars

Aliyya Swaby:

Over her 16 years on the State Board of Education, Pat Hardy has rallied for her share of socially conservative measures. She’s endorsed keeping “pro-American” values in history textbooks. She’s backed emphasizing “states’ rights” instead of slavery as the cause of the Civil War. And she’s supported teaching “both sides” of arguments around climate change.

But her Republican challengers in the March 6 primaries — Feyi Obamehinti and Cheryl Surber— are telling voters that they’re even further to the right. (Surber’s campaign Facebook page even refers to her as the “Donald Trump of the Texas State Board of Education” candidate.)

“It’s probably true!” Hardy said. “Which is funny because I’m very conservative. But they are to the right of me.”

The Fort Worth representative, a retired public school social studies teacher, is fighting to keep her seat in one of the most anticipated State Board of Education contests this year. Hardy’s District 11 seat is one of seven up in the 2018 midterms, including three other seats where incumbents are also fending off challengers. Three other incumbents are stepping down, prompting open races.

The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation

Peter Eckersley, Bobby Filar, Jacob Steinhardt Haydn Beleld, Owain Evans, Dario Amodei, Miles Brundage, Ben Garnkel, Hyrum Anderson, Carrick Flynn, Sebastian Farquhar, Clare Lyle, Michael Page, Joanna Bryson, Roman Yampolskiy, Shahar, Avin Jack, Clark Allan Dafoe, Paul Scharre, Helen Toner, Thomas Zeitzoff, Heather Roff, Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh,
Gregory C. Allen, Simon Beard and Rebecca Crootof

Arti cial intelligence and machine learning capabilities are growing
at an unprecedented rate. These technologies have many widely bene cial applications, ranging from machine translation to medical image analysis. Countless more such applications are being developed and can be expected over the long term. Less attention has historically been paid to the ways in which arti cial intelligence can be used maliciously. This report surveys the landscape of potential security threats from malicious uses of arti cial intelligence technologies, and proposes ways to better forecast, prevent, and mitigate these threats. We analyze, but do not conclusively resolve, the question of what the long-term equilibrium between attackers and defenders will be. We focus instead on what sorts of attacks we are likely to see soon if adequate defenses are not developed

School Shooting Death Wish

Anthony Esolen, via Rod Dreher:

And this goes under the heading for that ever-bulging file, I Knew It Was Bad; I Had No Idea How Bad It Was.

One thing the author says here jibes with another datum I found some years ago. She says that seventy or eighty years ago — I cannot remember the year she cites — there were twice as many public schools as there are now. That was for one third of the population. The upshot is that each school is now SIX TIMES as large, take it all in all, as the typical school was in the past. We insist on viewing human beings as functionally interchangeable, and as no different en masse than in small and personal groups. That is a profound error, and one that only a post-industrial “culture” would make. A mansion with sixty people in it is not the same as ten homes with six people in each. My college, Princeton, was relatively small for the sort of thing it was, and there were features in it that retained something of the human intimacy of a small school; most notably, the construction of the old dormitories and the large rooms and suites in them brought small groups of people together in ways that high-rise dormitories with single cells for two roommates cannot. But if they multiplied Princeton’s enrollment by SIX, resulting in a mega-school of 25,000 undergraduates, it would be an entirely different kind of place, and would, I think, breed plenty of dysfunctions.

As I said, her datum fits with another: there used to be SEVEN TIMES as many school boards, at roughly the same time that she cites, as there are now. That means that TWENTY ONE times as many ordinary citizens were responsible for the oversight of the public schools. Parents, pillars of the community (businessmen, clergymen, the leaders of all the women’s charitable organizations, college educated persons), and former teachers would be involved, and that must have resulted in a close relationship between the school and the neighborhood. Sure, sometimes it would have grated on a teacher’s nerves, but against that we must place the feeling of belonging, of order, that everyone would have taken for granted.

UChicago criticized for promoting ‘white supremacy ideology’

Ema Gavrilovic:

“Bannon’s invitation to speak at the University of Chicago is not just an invitation to the university, but an invitation to Chicago, particularly the South side communities that surround the university,” a Facebook event page states. “This isn’t the first time the University of Chicago has made decisions that benefit the administration, increase their endowment, but negatively impact students, staff, and poor communities that surround the university.”

U.S. Colleges Are Separating Into Winners and Losers Schools that struggle to prepare students for success losing ground; ‘The shake-out is coming’

Douglas Belkin:

Concord University in West Virginia and Clemson University in South Carolina were both founded shortly after the Civil War. During the 20th century, each grew rapidly. Now, the two public universities that sit just 300 miles apart face very different circumstances.

Clemson, a large research university, enrolled its largest-ever freshman class in 2017 and in December broke ground on an $87 million building for the college of business.

The Journal ranking, which includes most major public and private colleges with more than 1,000 students, focused on how well a college prepares students for life after graduation. The analysis found that the closer to the bottom of the ranking a school was, the more likely its enrollment was shrinking. . . .

“In the same way the bookstores fell when Amazon took over, now it’s higher education’s turn and it’s been coming for a while,” said Charles Becker, Concord’s vice president for business and finance. “The shake-out is coming. It’s already here.”

Demographics and geography have some influence on which side of the fault line a school lands, but quality is also a big factor. The Journal uses 15 metrics to determine quality and rank. They include return on investment, student engagement and academic resources.

At Clemson University, the Journal found, graduates on average earn $50,000 a year 10 years after entering college and the default rate on student loans is 3%; the average Concord graduate earned $32,000 and the default rate is 15%.

Richard Vedder, the director of Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a teacher at Ohio University, believes dark days are ahead for the nation’s poorest ranked schools.

Teachers Unions Think 2020 Is When They Will Defeat The Charter School Democrats

Molly Hensley-Clancy:

Five years ago, the debate over charter schools loomed over the Democratic Party, pitting some of the party’s most prominent members and biggest donors against teachers unions. But those days could be over.

Opponents of charter schools and school choice believe the next two years could be a “tipping point” for their cause: a moment where voters soundly reject policies that have, in the past, been moving closer to the party’s mainstream, and to bipartisan consensus.

The prospect is causing anxiety for some school choice advocates and donors, who have, until recently, seen many liberal leaders embrace issues like expanding charter schools. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are both charter school advocates, and school choice is an issue that is close to the hearts of many major Democratic donors, especially business leaders. But some charter school advocates have begun to despair that their cause could be a losing one as Democrats move toward what promises to be a divisive presidential primary.

Like everything else, both sides say, it’s all about Donald Trump.

Parent hands cardboard with ‘gun’ written on it to teacher at Madison school, police say

Logan Wroge:

A Madison man has been arrested and banned from Shorewood Hills Elementary School after he handed a piece of cardboard with “gun” written on it to a teacher Thursday morning.

Police said there was no danger to the school and didn’t speculate on what the parent’s motive was.

Shorewood Hills Police Chief Aaron Chapin said Jonathan M. Fitzgerald, 35, activated a front door buzzer at the school, 1105 Shorewood Blvd., around 10 a.m., requesting access to the building. When he was allowed in, he walked past the school office where visitors are required to check in, Chapin said.

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

What’s Behind One of the Biggest Financial Scams in History


David Enrich: That’s right. The mastermind of the LIBOR scandal was a guy named Tom Hayes, a mildly autistic mathematician who was a star trader at some of the world’s biggest banks. He was accused, at the end of 2012, of being the central figure in this scandal by both American prosecutors and British prosecutors. Right around that time, I started to get to know Tom Hayes really well personally. I first interviewed him for an article that I was doing in The Wall Street Journal. Over the ensuing months and years, I’ve spent an enormous amount of time talking on the phone with him, having coffee with him, drinking beers with him. I got to know him really well, his wife really well, and the rest of his family as well. And that gave me this really interesting glimpse into the world in which Hayes was operating.

Knowledge@Wharton: Was it surprising to you that you had such free access to the guy who essentially started this whole scam?

Enrich: That’s what I thought at first. I was really stunned by the serendipity of the thing. This all got started because Hayes was the central person who had been accused by prosecutors. Not a whole lot was known about him, so I started talking to some of his friends and former business school classmates. One of them turned out to be pretty helpful, and offered to pass on my phone number to him, with the caveat that, obviously, this guy is facing criminal charges — the last thing he’s going to do is call a reporter to talk to him.

Facebook’s next project: American inequality

Nancy Scola:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is quietly cracking open his company’s vast trove of user data for a study on economic inequality in the U.S. — the latest sign of his efforts to reckon with divisions in American society that the social network is accused of making worse.

The study, which hasn’t previously been reported, is mining the social connections among Facebook’s American users to shed light on the growing income disparity in the U.S., where the top 1 percent of households is said to control 40 percent of the country’s wealth. Facebook is an incomparably rich source of information for that kind of research: By one estimate, about three of five American adults use the social network.

The Naked Mathematician


Arriving in Cambridge in 2012 to begin my PhD, I was certain that it was the beginning of a long academic career – I’d even bought myself a tweed jacket for the occasion! Leaving five years later, I find myself diving head first into the world of science communication and this time without any clothes, literally…

I’ve loved maths for as long as I can remember and studying undergraduate mathematics at Oxford only strengthened further my passion for the subject. As the years progressed, I found myself straying further and further into the territory of applied maths, culminating in a fourth-year course in fluid mechanics – the study of how fluids such as water, air and ice move around – which ultimately led to my PhD topic at Cambridge. This was: where does river water go when it enters the ocean? (If you’re interested in finding out more, I’ve written a series of articles on my website explaining my thesis in simple terms). My research consisted of the triumvirate of experiments, theory and fieldwork. Experiments were conducted in the underground laboratory at the Cambridge maths department, theory in my office and fieldwork in the Southern Ocean. It was on my return from six weeks at sea that I had my first taste of science communication with a two-month internship with the Naked Scientists public engagement team. I would spend each day searching out the most interesting breaking science research, before arranging an interview with the author for BBC radio; it felt like anything but a job and for the first time I felt that I had found the career for me.

Apple Should Buy a University

Alex Tabarrok:

Apple has more than $205 billion in cash. What should they do with the money? Apple should buy a university and rebuild it from the ground up.

In recent years, some private equity firms have bought universities and turned them into for-profits. The for-profit model, however, has yet to produce a world-class university. But consider Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, it was only established in 1984 and yet today with its online students it’s the largest private, non-profit university in the United States. Liberty University doesn’t get accolades but it is a technology leader and it shows what is possible starting from a small budget.

This Is Your Brain on Silence

Daniel Gross:

One icy night in March 2010, 100 marketing experts piled into the Sea Horse Restaurant in Helsinki, with the modest goal of making a remote and medium-sized country a world-famous tourist destination. The problem was that Finland was known as a rather quiet country, and since 2008, the Country Brand Delegation had been looking for a national brand that would make some noise.

Over drinks at the Sea Horse, the experts puzzled over the various strengths of their nation. Here was a country with exceptional teachers, an abundance of wild berries and mushrooms, and a vibrant cultural capital the size of Nashville, Tennessee. These things fell a bit short of a compelling national identity. Someone jokingly suggested that nudity could be named a national theme—it would emphasize the honesty of Finns. Someone else, less jokingly, proposed that perhaps quiet wasn’t such a bad thing. That got them thinking.

A few months later, the delegation issued a slick “Country Brand Report.” It highlighted a host of marketable themes, including Finland’s renowned educational system and school of functional design. One key theme was brand new: silence. As the report explained, modern society often seems intolerably loud and busy. “Silence is a resource,” it said. It could be marketed just like clean water or wild mushrooms. “In the future, people will be prepared to pay for the experience of silence.”

School board knew of Parkland shooter’s obsession with guns and violence, documents show

Bob Norman:

The education plan shows that, even as Cruz was making progress at the Cross Creek School for emotionally and behaviorally disabled students in late 2015, but that he was known by administrators to have an obsession with guns and violence. Here are some passages from the plan:

“Nikolas at times, will be distracted by inappropriate conversations of his peers if the topic is about guns, people being killed or the armed forces,” wrote Cross Creek educators.
“He is fascinated by the use of guns and often speaks of weapons and the importance of ‘having weapons to remain safe in this world.'”
“He becomes preoccupied with things such as current events regarding wars and terrorist [sic].”
Provenzano said that in 42 years of dealing with exceptional students she never saw a document with such obvious signs that a student might resort to violence.

“These are significant red flags that this is a very troubled young man,” she said.

The plan also noted that Cruz had been involved in two serious incidents, recent at the time: “He is very easily influenced and was coerced to jump off the back of the school bus by a peer. Nikolas has difficulty with wanting to have friends and engaging in following the negative behaviors of those peers.

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

Students in Poverty Less Likely to be Identified as Gifted

Kenneth Best:

UConn gifted education specialists have published the first study to demonstrate a link between student poverty, institutional poverty, and the lower identification rate of gifted low-income students.

The study, “Disentangling the Roles of Institutional and Individual Poverty in the Identification of Gifted Students,” was published in the journal Gifted Child Quarterly. Researchers found that students eligible for free or reduced lunch programs are less likely to be identified for gifted education services even after controlling for prior math and reading achievement scores. In addition, the findings indicated that students in low-income schools have a further reduced possibility of being identified for gifted services.

“This is the first look at this issue in a significant way,” says Rashea Hamilton, a research associate in the National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), part of UConn’s Neag School of Education. “We were able to make connections between higher proportions of free or reduced lunch students and availability of gifted programs and percentage of gifted students.”

Related: They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine – NOT.

The mark of vegetation change on Earth’s surface energy balance

Gregory Duveiller, Josh Hooker & Alessandro Cescatti:

Changing vegetation cover alters the radiative and non-radiative properties of the surface. The result of competing biophysical processes on Earth’s surface energy balance varies spatially and seasonally, and can lead to warming or cooling depending on the specific vegetation change and background climate. Here we provide the first data-driven assessment of the potential effect on the full surface energy balance of multiple vegetation transitions at global scale. For this purpose we developed a novel methodology that is optimized to disentangle the effect of mixed vegetation cover on the surface climate. We show that perturbations in the surface energy balance generated by vegetation change from 2000 to 2015 have led to an average increase of 0.23 ± 0.03 °C in local surface temperature where those vegetation changes occurred. Vegetation transitions behind this warming effect mainly relate to agricultural expansion in the tropics, where surface brightening and consequent reduction of net radiation does not counter-balance the increase in temperature associated with reduction in transpiration. This assessment will help the evaluation of land-based climate change mitigation plans.

When School-Voucher Foes Called in the Feds … and Called the Shots

James Varney:

It was a prolonged mystery that struck Wisconsin education reformers as more akin to a Kafka novel than American due process: Who was behind cryptic demand letters sent under the aegis of the Obama Justice Department, intimating without specific evidence that Milwaukee’s school-choice program was illegally discriminating against disabled kids?

Now, after a six-year bureaucratic and legal tangle in which school voucher advocates said they were stonewalled by Washington, the mystery has been solved. And the answer, they say, is alarming: The federal operation was sparked and practically run behind the scenes by liberal opponents of the program.

Documents released in December through litigation by school-choice advocates showed that lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Wisconsin had prodded federal prosecutors to go after the program, which enables low- and moderate-income Milwaukee parents to use taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools. Nearly 30,000 students participate in the program.

According to the documents, the liberal groups opposing vouchers coordinated media strategy with the feds and submitted questions that Justice turned around and posed nearly verbatim to Wisconsin education officials. In addition to suggesting that the program was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying access to disabled kids, the groups promised to drum up additional complaints. Their efforts appear to be why Justice kept the inquiry open for four years even though federal and state officials asserted from the start that, even if the unproven charges were true, they were not legally empowered to remedy them in private schools.

Much more on vouchers, here.

A New Zealand City the Size of Berkeley, CA, Has Been Studying Aging for 45 Years. Here’s What They Discovered.

Elysium Health:

Some 45 years later, Silva’s project, The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, or the Dunedin Study, has far outpaced his goals, and even his participation. He retired as its director in 2000, but the study is still running, with a stunning 95 percent of its original 1,093 participants from a range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds still involved. Its data has been used in the publication of some 1,200 scientific papers, two-thirds of which have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Several have provided landmark findings and have been cited thousands of times across scientific fields.
The Dunedin Project has used raw data to cut through the noise of everyday life, giving researchers across the world the chance to observe the implications and consequences of developmental, genetic, and social influences on its subjects’ health, wealth, and happiness. The end result offers one of the clearest pictures of what makes us who we are, and why. It’s proof that we can learn from a single study over an incredibly long period of time. And in some ways, 45 years in, the study has only just begun.

Blame IQ Tests for the Student Debt Problem

Patrick Watson:

Student debt should be productive—after all, it buys education that enhances your income. Yet for millions of Americans, that’s not what has happened, and the reason may surprise you.

Before we get into the details, let me quickly suggest you invest (debt-free) in another kind of education: a Virtual Pass to next month’s Strategic Investment Conference. For the first time ever, the Virtual Pass will include video recordings of every presentation and panel from the SIC 2018.

Even better, if you have some free time when the conference is happening, March 6-9, you can watch it live on your computer or mobile device.

The Virtual Pass includes some other nice benefits too. It’s the next best thing to being with us in San Diego, so check it out here.

Unpayable Debt
The New York Federal Reserve Bank publishes an always-interesting Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. The Q4 2017 version came out last week.

Collectively, Americans carried $13.15 trillion in debt as of year-end 2017.

Does GMO corn increase crop yields? 21 years of data confirm it does—and provides substantial health benefits

Paul McDivitt:

hile many studies show that genetically modified crops contribute to yield gains, GMO critics say that they don’t. Such claims, they say, are industry talking points drawn from industry-funded studies.

Most recently and notably, the New York Times’ Danny Hakim asserted in a 2016 front-page analysis that “genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields.”

Organic food advocates, from Michael Pollan to the Environmental Working Group, often cite media articles or single studies to back up their views, as well as unpublished reports from groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists. A widely disseminated ‘white paper’ written in 2009 and still on the UCS website claims, “For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields. That promise has proven to be empty.”

Waking up to China’s infiltration of American colleges

Josh Rogin:

China’s massive foreign influence campaign in the United States takes a long view, sowing seeds in American institutions meant to blossom over years or even decades. That’s why the problem of Chinese financial infusions into U.S. higher education is so difficult to grasp and so crucial to combat.

At last, the community of U.S. officials, lawmakers and academics focused on resisting Chinese efforts to subvert free societies is beginning to respond to Beijing’s presence on America’s campuses. One part of that is compelling public and private universities to reconsider hosting Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government-sponsored outposts of culture and language training.

With more than 100 universities in the United States now in direct partnership with the Chinese government through Confucius Institutes, the U.S. intelligence community is warning about their potential as spying outposts. But the more important challenge is the threat the institutes pose to the ability of the next generation of American leaders to learn, think and speak about realities in China and the true nature of the Communist Party regime.

“Their goal is to exploit America’s academic freedom to instill in the minds of future leaders a pro-China viewpoint,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “It’s smart. It’s a long-term, patient approach.”

Three Madison high schools erupt in chaos Monday noon

David Blaska:

From what we can determine, the misbehaving students were not peacefully protesting for gun control, social justice, or better cafeteria food. They were just fighting.

Let’s start with Chief Koval’s bare bones police blotter:

MIDTOWN: Disturbance – 12:12 p.m. MPD Educational Resource Officer (ERO) requested back-up to assist with a large disturbance in the cafeteria of Madison Memorial High School. Multiple officers responded to de-escalate the situation. Investigation continuing.

MIDTOWN: Disturbance – 12:27 p.m. MPD Educational Resource Officer’s (ERO) radio alarm was activated during a large disturbance at West High School. Additional officers responded to assist with the situation. Investigation continuing.

NORTH: Disturbance – 12:38 p.m. MPD Educational Resource Officer (ERO) requested multiple officers respond to East High School regarding a disturbance and an attempt to apprehend a couple of subjects. A juvenile (15 year old AAF) arrived at school (she was suspended) with two other subjects (20 year old AAF and 15 year old AAF) and started a disturbance. The 20 year old AAF was arrested and conveyed to the jail for trespassing and disorderly conduct. Investigation continuing with respect to the juveniles.

We have a little bit more on the situation at West H.S.. First, the notice to parents from the principal, Karen Boran:

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

La Follette High School student found with handgun at school, principal says

Logan Wroge:

A La Follette High School student brought a handgun to school on Wednesday, Principal Sean Storch said in an email to parents.

Storch said officials received a report that a student was possibly in possession of a weapon. La Follette’s educational resource officer, a Madison police officer assigned to the school, made contact with the student, who initially resisted being taken into custody, Storch said.

Related: Gangs and school violence forum.

Madison School Board member Kate Toews wants interior locks on every MMSD classroom doorway

Amber Walker:

Madison School Board member Kate Toews had a suggestion for the district at Monday night’s board meeting: an interior lock on every classroom door.

Toews’ idea came towards the end of a board discussion about the 2018-2019 school district budget. Toews said the Madison Metropolitan School District should install locks on all classrooms that teachers can secure from the inside of their rooms as a safety tool in case an emergency occurs on campus.

“I don’t want to derail the meeting, but I do feel the need to address (what happened) last week in Florida. I think families have a right to expect when they send their kids to schools here, we’ve done everything we possibly can to keep their kids safe,” Toews said.

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

To play is to learn. Time to step back and let kids be kids

John Goodwin, Paul Polman, Jesper Brodin and Gary Knell:

Real play is the freedom for children to engage with and learn from the world that surrounds them. By mentally and physically connecting children to the world, play empowers them to create and grow for the rest of their lives. It is a fundamental right for all children.

Research shows that play is vital to a child’s development, equipping them with the skills necessary to tackle humanity’s future, such as emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving. To be a superhero is to lead; to host a teddy for tea is to organise; to build a fort is to innovate: to play is to learn.

We, Unilever through its Dirt is Good brands including OMO and Persil, the LEGO Foundation and IKEA Group, the founding members of the Real Play Coalition in partnership with National Geographic, are committed to create a movement that prioritises the importance of play as not only something that lets kids be kids, but as something that sparks the fire for a child’s development and learning. Partnering with children, parents, teachers, business, NGOs, stakeholders and society, our Real Play Coalition will empower and facilitate children’s opportunities to grow and learn through play.

La Follette High parents discuss school security, fights with Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham

Karen Rivedal:

More than 150 people — most of them parents, many of them worried and frustrated — filled the cafeteria at La Follette High School Tuesday night to share their concerns about school safety, security, students fighting and the student behavior code with Madison School District Superintendent Jen Cheatham and Principal Sean Storch.

“It’s not being addressed quickly enough,” said Scott Schmidt, to loud applause, about increasing trouble at the school, noting many La Follette parents like him have children who were now worried about coming to class because of a small group of sometimes violent troublemakers causing problems for everyone else. “It’s kind of like a hurricane has hit. We need triage.”

Cheatham and Storch acknowledged the problems and promised some quick remedies, including posting more staff to supervise school exits and entrances and coming up with more alternative, project-based work to better engage the estimated 6 percent of students that Storch said were responsible for a rise in disciplinary problems.

Related: Gangs and School Violence forum audio and video.

Civics: Elections and Postcards

Dustin Volz:

The postcard verification is Facebook’s latest effort to respond to criticism from lawmakers, security experts and election integrity watchdog groups that it and other social media companies failed to detect and later responded slowly to Russia’s use of their platforms to spread divisive political content, including disinformation, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Facebook revealed the plans a day after U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed an indictment accusing 13 Russians and three Russian companies of conducting a criminal and espionage conspiracy using social media to interfere in the election by boosting Republican Donald Trump and denigrating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The process of using postcards containing a specific code will be required for advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office, Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global director of policy programs, said. The requirement will not apply to issue-based political ads, she said.

“If you run an ad mentioning a candidate, we are going to mail you a postcard and you will have to use that code to prove you are in the United States,” Harbath said at a weekend conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State, where executives from Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google also spoke.

“It won’t solve everything,” Harbath said in a brief interview with Reuters following her remarks.

But sending codes through old-fashioned mail was the most effective method the tech company could come up with to prevent Russians and other bad actors from purchasing ads while posing as someone else, Harbath said.

In Wisconsin, new voters are sent a postcard to verify addresses. If the postcards are returned, voter records are now inactivated, according to this City of Madison blog post.

Here’s What It’s Like At The Headquarters Of The Teens Working To Stop Mass Shootings

Remy Schmidt:

At dusk on Sunday night, Cameron Kasky was taking a brief, quiet moment for himself. He lay on a picnic table in a park not far from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where a gunman opened fire Wednesday, killing 17 of his classmates and teachers, and wounding 14 others.

Kasky was exhausted. He estimated that he’d done more than 50 interviews since the shooting, all to promote a movement against gun violence that he and his young friends have spearheaded in the wake of their school’s tragedy.

“We, as a community, needed one thing,” he said of his desire to form the group to give his friends a purpose amid the tragedy.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Here Is Goldman’s Chart Showing Why The US Is Headed For “Banana Republic” Status

Tyler Durden:

Earlier today we discussed a report by Goldman Sachs which, when summarized, suggested that unless something significant changes in the coming years, the current US fiscal policy will lead to a debt catastrophe. In an unprecedented warning, the bank which spawned Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, ironically the architect behind Trump’s fiscal strategy, warned that “the continued growth of public debt raises eventual sustainability questions if left unchecked.”

It is worth highlighting that for Goldman to warn that the US fiscal and debt trajectory is unsustainable is quite unprecedented, especially since it is the bank’s former President and COO who has put the US on that path.

And while we urge readers to get acquainted with Goldman’s list of concerns, all of which are very troubling, there is one specific chart which lays out clearly why the US is now headed for “banana republic” status amid developed economies when it comes to US debt sustainability, or in this case lack thereof.

That chart is below, and it shows total projected US Federal Debt on one axis, and US interest expense as a % of GDP on the other. The result is the red dot in the top right.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student, far more than most taxpayer funded K-12 organizations.

Just teach my kid the math

James Tanton:

It is astounding to me that mathematics – of all school subjects – elicits such potent emotional reaction when “reform” is in the air. We’ve seen the community response to the Common Core State Standards in the U.S., the potency of the Back to Basics movement in Alberta, Canada, and the myriad of internet examples of the absolute absurdity of “new math.”

At face value, the strong reactions we see can be interpreted as paradoxical. Parents might openly admit they themselves did not understand mathematics, that they actively hate mathematics even, but insist that we don’t dare do anything different for their child in math class! Parents’ befuddlement over their child’s third-grade homework might be seen as a wrong of the new curriculum, not as evidence of the failing of their own mathematics education, that they weren’t provided the flexibility and agility of thought to see simple arithmetic in multiple lights.

It seems that previous generations were seduced to equate familiarity with understanding. For instance, our standard arithmetic algorithms are somewhat bizarre – they are the end result of a human process of codifying arithmetical thinking, designed with the extra goal of using as little of precious 17th-century ink as possible. But if one does them often enough, their routine begins to feel comfortable and familiar.

Related: Math Forum

Connected math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

The march of the technocrats

John Thornhill:

The historian William E Akin identified three wellsprings for budding technocrats: a growing fashion for centralised planning among progressive reformers; the popular mythology of the engineer as the saviour of American society; and the scientific management theories of Frederick W Taylor.

Abolishing the price mechanism and maximising production had some obvious parallels with what was happening in the Soviet Union. In his brilliant dystopian novel We, the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin savaged such technocratic thinking, foreseeing a society in which people had numbers, not names, and operated like cogs in a vast industrial machine. The North American technocracy movement, though, argued fiercely against both communism and fascism and claimed to be much more humane.

In spite of the media interest, the technocracy movement never succeeded in the US, largely because its leaders were hopeless politicians. President Franklin D Roosevelt was the one to salvage capitalism through his New Deal. Perhaps the movement’s greatest failing was that it never spelt out practical solutions that ordinary voters could understand. Disappointed that pure reason had not swept all before it, the movement eventually split, with one splinter group ending up as a quasi-fascist fan club.

Germany set out to delete hate speech online. Instead, it made things worse.

Bernhard Rohleder:

The German government’s Network Enforcement Act, which came into effect on Jan. 1, aims to improve law enforcement on the Internet and more effectively fight hate crime. The law targets criminal online offenses including defamation, incitement and sharing unconstitutional symbols, such as the swastika.

But within just a few days of coming into effect, the inevitable has become apparent: legitimate expressions of opinion are being deleted. The law is achieving the opposite of what it intended: it is actually hampering the fight against crime.

The operators of social networks that are subject to the law now have to delete “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours of being notified. Other illegal content must be reviewed by social networks within seven days of being reported and then deleted. If the complaint management requirements are not met, fines of up to 50 million euros may be imposed. This puts companies under tremendous time pressure to check reported content.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Says He ‘Got It Wrong’ On Daughter’s Transfer

Martin Austermuhle:

Facing increasing calls for his ouster, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson apologized Monday for a decision he said was prompted by seeing his daughter struggle in her new school.

“I was really struggling personally, and our family felt that there was a very real crisis related to our daughter and I got a great deal of tunnel vision and made a mistake,” he said in an interview with WAMU. “I reached out and asked for help and got it wrong.”

Justice Ginsburg Criticizes Lack of Due Process on Campus

Jonathan Adler:

Rosen: There is a debate both among women and among men about what sort of behavior should be sanctionable, and one group is saying that it’s wrong to lump together violent behavior like Harvey Weinstein with less dramatic forms of sexual misconduct, and others say that all misconduct is wrong and should be sanctioned.

Ginsburg: Well, there are degrees of conduct, yes. But any time a woman is put in a position where she is inferior, subordinate, there should be—she should complain, she should not be afraid.

Rosen: What about due process for the accused?

Ginsburg: Well, that must not be ignored and it goes beyond sexual harassment. The person who is accused has a right to defend herself or himself, and we certainly should not lose sight of that. Recognizing that these are complaints that should be heard. There’s been criticism of some college codes of conduct for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard, and that’s one of the basic tenants of our system, as you know, everyone deserves a fair hearing.

Rosen: Are some of those criticisms of the college codes valid?

Ginsburg: Do I think they are? Yes.

Witnessing the Collapse of the Global Elite

Eliot Cohen:

What has happened here is the same phenomenon that explains so many of the ills of the last couple of decades: the algae-like bloom of elites and their simultaneous loss of substance. A younger John McCain would not have been unique for his qualities of wisdom and character at the earlier iterations of this conference. He would have been met by acute thinkers like Thérèse Delpech of France, staunch public servants like Manfred Wörner, a German defense minister and secretary general of NATO in the 1980s, or politicians like Dennis Healey of Britain. Their successors are cautious functionaries, pallid experts, and colorless politicians who think carefully about domestic audiences before speaking up abroad.

This political entropy seems to be a near-universal phenomenon in the Western world; why this is so is unclear, and probably has many explanations. But the nicely tailored generation represented in Munich this year seemed baffled by the re-entry into history of today’s authoritarians and fanatics. One wonders whether the attendees possess the steel of the earlier generation that took part in World War II, and in the subsequent struggle with Communism. Attempted Russian subversion of democratic elections in the United States and Europe elicited concern from some at the conference, but few were willing to call for a punitive response sufficient to inflict real pain on Moscow. Meanwhile, Russian oligarchs happily hobnobbed with Europeans looking to do business on the side.

Perhaps this is the inevitable price of the success of the West in creating societies prosperous beyond the dreams of 100 years ago. Perhaps it is the result of a culture that admires military courage but only from a safe distance, that makes democratic political life such a course of humiliation that few sane people will endure it, that has replaced intellectual brilliance with a Henry Ford-style industrialization of the life of the mind. Whatever it is, it hung over the conference like the February fog rising from the city’s slushy streets. This was not the Munich of Neville Chamberlain, but it was surely a long, long way from that of Ewald von Kleist, too.

The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM

Olga Khazan:

Though their numbers are growing, only 27 percent of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female. The gender gap only grows worse from there: Just 18 percent of American computer-science college degrees go to women. This is in the United States, where many college men proudly describe themselves as “male feminists” and girls are taught they can be anything they want to be.

Meanwhile, in Algeria, 41 percent of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math—or “stem,” as its known—are female. There, employment discrimination against women is rife and women are often pressured to make amends with their abusive husbands.

According to a report I covered a few years ago, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates were the only three countries in which boys are significantly less likely to feel comfortable working on math problems than girls are. In all of the other nations surveyed, girls were more likely to say they feel “helpless while performing a math problem.”

Civics and The First Amendment: Quinn Norton and the New York Times

Adam Rogers:

Arguably one of the world’s experts on the ebb and flow of online communities, Norton didn’t exactly try to defend herself. The use of—oy, find me a better way to say this than “the N-word,” but OK—was part of an ill-conceived retweet of John Perry Barlow, who was trying to make a point about racists. Those similarly foreclosed-upon words referring to gay people were sometimes, Norton said, because she herself has been active in the queer community and were covered by in-group privilege, and sometimes because she was code-switching to the language of 4chan and other online groups that use vile epithets like cooks use salt.

Complicated. And, as Norton is a journalist covering free-speech and privacy issues online, maybe this kind of language isn’t just allowed but appropriate. She’s speaking the language of the people she writes about.

But what about the friends-with-Nazis thing?

In particular, Norton had defended Andrew Auernheimer, a hacker (who wrote an opinion piece for WIRED in 2012) and went to prison in 2013. Upon his release about a year later, Auernheimer said that he was also a white supremacist and anti-Semite.

Everyone is redeemable, Norton explained, and silence or disengagement make racism worse. She pointed to an article she posted on Medium about talking to racists as part of fighting the good fight against them, but also keeping open the lines of communication—as opposed to just, you know, punching Nazis.

Anyway, the Times compounded its apparent lack of due diligence with surrender to the mob, and fired her. Here’s the official statement from James Bennet, the editor of the editorial page: “Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us. Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways.”

Fat, unhealthy Americans threaten Trump’s defense surge

Bryan Bender:

The Trump administration’s ambitious new military buildup is at risk of being hobbled before it even starts — by a dwindling pool of young Americans who are fit to serve.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans age 17 to 24 are ineligible for the military due to obesity, other health problems, criminal backgrounds or lack of education, according to government data. That’s a harsh reality check for the Pentagon’s plan to recruit tens of thousands of new soldiers, sailors, pilots and cyber specialists over the next five years.

“We all have this image in our mind of this hearty American citizen, scrappy, that can do anything,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, co-author of a new Heritage Foundation paper on the military recruiting challenge titled The Looming National Security Crisis. “That image we keep in our heads is no longer accurate.”

“Obesity and the percentage of people overweight in the country has just skyrocketed in the last 10 to 15 years,” he added in an interview. “Asthma is going up. High school graduation rates are still just barely acceptable and in some big cities they are miserable. Criminality is also not going away. We have to face the reality that these things in some cases are getting worse, not better.”

AI May Have Just Decoded a Mystical 600-Year-Old Manuscript That Baffled Humans for Decades

Sarah Cascone:

One of the world’s most infamous mysteries may have just been solved, thanks not to human genius, but to artificial intelligence. Named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who purchased it in 1912, the 240-page Voynich manuscript is written in an unknown script and an unknown language that no one has been able to interpret—until now.

Computing scientists at the University of Alberta claim to have cracked the code to the inscrutable handwritten 15th-century codex, which has baffled cryptologists, historians, and linguists for decades. Stymied by the seemingly unbreakable code, some have speculated it was written by aliens. Experts have even posited that the whole thing is a hoax with no hidden meaning. Today, housed at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, Connecticut, the manuscript’s delicate vellum pages are illustrated with botanical drawings, astronomical diagrams, and naked female figures.

When it came to tackling the centuries-old mystery, professor Greg Kondrak and grad student Bradley Hauer put their expertise in natural language processing to good use, running algorithms that compared the document’s text to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” in no less than 380 different languages. According to the computer, the Voynich manuscript was written in Hebrew.

The Story of Toothpaste. How It Became a Mainstream Product

Capital and growth:

The Pulitzer-award winning reporter Charles Duhigg presents to us an interesting read about a subject that often defines our daily routine- habit. In his 2012 New York bestseller, The Power of Habit, we see a ubiquitous read that has been recommended by readers across the divide. Duhigg presents to us truths and techniques on how habits form and even goes out of his way to give us insight on how to change them.

The Power of Habit examines and recounts some important illustrations on the role played by habits in individuals, societies, and organizations. The book further goes out of way to provide practical techniques to identify and subsequently direct the cues that actually control our behaviors as well as results. A read between the lines of this book will definitely illuminate your perspectives and understanding of habit formation and a blueprint to changing them.

The book uses various stories and cases to give its readers an in-depth look into the concept of habit formation and how the characters in the story struggle to change them. The book can therefore be broadly classified in three parts: The Habits of Individuals, The Habits of Organizations and The Habits of Societies.

The Case Against Google Critics say the search giant is squelching competition before it begins. Should the government step in?

Charles Duhigg:

Once was available to everyone, the company’s honeymoon lasted precisely two days. During its first 48 hours, the Raffs saw a rush of traffic from users typing product queries into Google and other search engines. But then, suddenly, the traffic stopped. Alarmed, Adam and Shivaun began running diagnostics. They quickly discovered that their site, which until then had been appearing near the top of search results, was now languishing on Google, mired 12 or 15 or 64 or 170 pages down. On other search engines, like MSN Search and Yahoo, Foundem still ranked high. But on Google, Foundem had effectively disappeared. And Google, of course, was where a vast majority of people searched online.
 The Raffs wondered if this could be some kind of technical error, so they began checking their coding and sending email to Google executives, begging them to fix whatever was causing Foundem to vanish. Figuring out whom to write, and how to contact them, was a challenge in itself. Although Google’s parent company bills itself as a diversified firm with about 80,000 employees, almost 90 percent of the company’s revenues derive from advertisements, like the ones that show up in search. As a result, there are few things more important to Google’s executives than protecting the firm’s search dominance, particularly among the most profitable kinds of queries, such as those of users looking to buy things online. In fact, at about the same time the Raffs were starting, Google executives were growing increasingly concerned about the threats that vertical-search engines posed to Google’s business.

Civics: Finland and information veracity; “strong public education”

Reid Standish:

But unlike its neighbors, Helsinki reckons it has the tools to effectively resist any information attack from its eastern neighbor. Finnish officials believe their country’s strong public education system, long history of balancing Russia, and a comprehensive government strategy allow it to deflect coordinated propaganda and disinformation.

“The best way to respond is less by correcting the information, and more about having your own positive narrative and sticking to it,” Jed Willard, director of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Center for Global Engagement at Harvard, told Foreign Policy.

Madison, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

How My Next Academic Article Begins

Reform Club:

United States: each action alleged that the President has and continues to violate the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause. The Foreign Emoluments Clause provides:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Why is data hard?

Helen Kupp:

One of the types of projects that Strategy gets pulled into is the difficult project. The very cross-functional, complex, hairy project. Data and getting to metrics that matter is one of those projects.
Wait, data is hard?!

When most organizations think about data, they think about metrics and using these metrics to surface insights, make data-driven decisions, and continue to monitor the health of the business. This sounds like we should be able to hire smart and capable analysts, create some visual dashboards, and be off to the races!

“Every second of every day, our senses bring in way [more] data than we can possibly process in our brains.”- Peter Diamandis, Founder of the X-Prize

Having lots of data doesn’t make it immediately valuable. And when you’re scaling as fast as Slack, not only is leveraging data and metrics well critical to effective scaling, but it is also that much harder because you are “building the plane as it is flying”.

Tulip mania: the classic story of a Dutch financial bubble is mostly wrong

Anne Goldgar:

Right now, it’s Bitcoin. But in the past we’ve had dotcom stocks, the 1929 crash, 19th-century railways and the South Sea Bubble of 1720. All these were compared by contemporaries to “tulip mania”, the Dutch financial craze for tulip bulbs in the 1630s. Bitcoin, according some sceptics, is “tulip mania 2.0”.

Why this lasting fixation on tulip mania? It certainly makes an exciting story, one that has become a byword for insanity in the markets. The same aspects of it are constantly repeated, whether by casual tweeters or in widely read economics textbooks by luminaries such as John Kenneth Galbraith.

Tulip mania was irrational, the story goes. Tulip mania was a frenzy. Everyone in the Netherlands was involved, from chimney-sweeps to aristocrats. The same tulip bulb, or rather tulip future, was traded sometimes 10 times a day. No one wanted the bulbs, only the profits – it was a phenomenon of pure greed. Tulips were sold for crazy prices – the price of houses – and fortunes were won and lost. It was the foolishness of newcomers to the market that set off the crash in February 1637. Desperate bankrupts threw themselves in canals. The government finally stepped in and ceased the trade, but not before the economy of Holland was ruined.

Yes, it makes an exciting story. The trouble is, most of it is untrue.

Teachers: St. Paul schools are violating federal law with special ed kids

Susan Du:

Over the past few months, Humboldt High teacher Rachel Wannarka started noticing a lot of kids being transferred to her special education math class after failing out of regular math.

While regular math takes place daily, special ed math is every other day, taught at a level several grades lower than what many of these students were used to. Wannarka knew the kids were smart enough to succeed in the mainstream class, so she started looking for an explanation why they couldn’t keep up.

Special ed students all have unique learning disabilities – autism, cognitive difficulties, emotional behavioral disorders. But federal law stresses students with disabilities are entitled to be taught alongside students without them. It’s the school’s job to provide the extra support to make that possible.

That’s why all special ed students have a custom Individualized Education Program (IEP), a legal document that spells out when an aide is needed at their side to help them focus, get their work done, and make it through the day without incident.

Suspecting that Humboldt wasn’t giving students the extra support they needed, Wannarka cross-referenced students’ IEPs with staff schedules. She found that dozens of kids weren’t getting the time with aides that the law requires.

As a result, they’re failing out of the less restrictive mainstream classes and squandering their potential in special ed classes, where they just keep falling further behind, says Wannarka.

Who’s Missing From America’s Colleges? Rural High School Graduates

Jon Marcus and Matt Krupnick:

When Dustin Gordon’s high school invited juniors and seniors to meet with recruiters from colleges and universities, a handful of students showed up.

A few were serious about the prospect of continuing their educations, he said, “But I think some of them went just to get out of class.”

In his sparsely settled community in the agricultural countryside of southern Iowa, “there’s just no motivation for people to go” to college, says Gordon, who’s now a senior at the University of Iowa.

“When they’re ready to be done with high school, they think, ‘That’s all the school I need, and I’m just going to go and find a job.’ ” That job, Gordon explains, might be on the family farm or at the egg-packaging plant or the factory that makes pulleys and conveyor belts, or driving trucks that haul grain.

Variations of this mindset, among many other reasons, have given rise to a reality that has gotten lost in the impassioned debate over who gets to go to college, which often focuses on racial and ethnic minorities and students from low-income families: The high school graduates who head off to campus in the lowest proportions in America are the ones from rural places.

How Protein Conquered America

Casey Johnston:

My bodega is only a little bigger than my studio apartment, and sells no fewer than 10 kinds of Muscle Milk. In the drink cases, crowded with bottled water, Snapple, and Arizona iced tea, Muscle Milk occupies prime, eye-level real estate, protein counts splashed across the front of the bottles in black, bold lettering: 15, 20, 35 grams. Inside the bottles are creamy shakes in flavors like Chocolate, Strawberries ‘n Crème, and Mango Tangerine. The branding is literally protein-themed, and the higher the number, the greater the halo: protein is the reason for its central location and fluorescent spotlight.

We all need more protein, even if few of us know why. Protein has emerged as an undisputed Good Choice over the past 50 years of warring scientific studies slagging fat and carbs, endless opportunistic fad diets, and skyrocketing obesity in America. Just as one might look at all the world’s religions and decide that, while none is correct, there must be “something out there,” one might look at all the world’s weight-loss diets and note that, while they contradict each other in many ways, they all seem to preach protein, so protein must be good.

West Virginia Statewide walkout announced for school teachers, employees on Thursday and Friday

Caity Coyne:

School teachers and service personnel from all 55 counties will participate in West Virginia’s first statewide walkout Thursday and Friday, union leaders announced Saturday.

The announcement came at the end of a rally featuring thousands of teachers and others at the state Capitol, and follows weeks of growing tension between public employees, educators and the state Legislature regarding concerns with pay and health care.

“The entire state of West Virginia will be shut down,” said Dale Lee, president of West Virginia Education Association. “We are standing united — all 55. Will you stand with us?”

The American Museum of Exploding Cars and Toys That Kill You

J Nathan Matias:

To find out the answer, Nikki Bourassa (@nikkiboura) and I organized a road trip from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society to visit the American Museum of Tort Law in Winchester Connecticut– the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to any part of the law.

(I am deeply grateful to Berkman-Klein Fellow and lawyer Salome Viljoen for reviewing this post and suggesting edits to make the legal information more accurate)
On the drive, we listened to a podcast by 99% invisible that told the fifty-year story of research and activism on the idea that car design influences people’s safety. I learned that the Egg Drop science fair project has its origin in the safety crusade of engineering professor Hugh DeHaven, who used the stunt to show that engineers were better at protecting eggs than protecting human bodies. DeHaven also pioneered crash testing, invented the three-point seatbelt, and laid the groundwork for today’s focus on vehicle safety.

research can’t change the world on its own; we need activists, lawyers, and courageous citizens who work for the public good
As a researcher, I’ve tended to focus on people like DeHaven, who changed how we understand, measure, and improve societal problems. I’ve written about the science behind public-interest environmental safety, food safety, and digital safety. But research can’t change the world on its own; for that, we need activists, lawyers, and courageous citizens who work for the public good. Our trip to the Museum of Tort Law gave me an introduction to the legal systems that make research meaningful to people’s lives.

Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth

Paul Lewis:

It was one of January’s most viral videos. Logan Paul, a YouTube celebrity, stumbles across a dead man hanging from a tree. The 22-year-old, who is in a Japanese forest famous as a suicide spot, is visibly shocked, then amused. “Dude, his hands are purple,” he says, before turning to his friends and giggling. “You never stand next to a dead guy?”

Paul, who has 16 million mostly teen subscribers to his YouTube channel, removed the video from YouTube 24 hours later amid a furious backlash. It was still long enough for the footage to receive 6m views and a spot on YouTube’s coveted list of trending videos.

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

The next day, I watched a copy of the video on YouTube. Then I clicked on the “Up next” thumbnails of recommended videos that YouTube showcases on the right-hand side of the video player. This conveyor belt of clips, which auto-play by default, are designed to seduce us to spend more time on Google’s video broadcasting platform. I was curious where they might lead.

The answer was a slew of videos of men mocking distraught teenage fans of Logan Paul, followed by CCTV footage of children stealing things and, a few clicks later, a video of children having their teeth pulled out with bizarre, homemade contraptions.