How the Enlightenment Ends

Henry Kissinger:

As I listened to the speaker celebrate this technical progress, my experience as a historian and occasional practicing statesman gave me pause. What would be the impact on history of self-learning machines—machines that acquired knowledge by processes particular to themselves, and applied that knowledge to ends for which there may be no category of human understanding? Would these machines learn to communicate with one another? How would choices be made among emerging options? Was it possible that human history might go the way of the Incas, faced with a Spanish culture incomprehensible and even awe-inspiring to them? Were we at the edge of a new phase of human history?

Aware of my lack of technical competence in this field, I organized a number of informal dialogues on the subject, with the advice and cooperation of acquaintances in technology and the humanities. These discussions have caused my concerns to grow.

Heretofore, the technological advance that most altered the course of modern history was the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, which allowed the search for empirical knowledge to supplant liturgical doctrine, and the Age of Reason to gradually supersede the Age of Religion. Individual insight and scientific knowledge replaced faith as the principal criterion of human consciousness. Information was stored and systematized in expanding libraries. The Age of Reason originated the thoughts and actions that shaped the contemporary world order.

The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation


As 1968 began, Paul Ehrlich was an entomologist at Stanford University, known to his peers for his groundbreaking studies of the co-evolution of flowering plants and butterflies but almost unknown to the average person. That was about to change. In May, Ehrlich released a quickly written, cheaply bound paperback, The Population Bomb. Initially it was ignored. But over time Ehrlich’s tract would sell millions of copies and turn its author into a celebrity. It would become one of the most influential books of the 20th century—and one of the most heatedly attacked.

The first sentence set the tone: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” And humanity had lost. In the 1970s, the book promised, “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” No matter what people do, “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

Published at a time of tremendous conflict and social upheaval, Ehrlich’s book argued that many of the day’s most alarming events had a single, underlying cause: Too many people, packed into too-tight spaces, taking too much from the earth. Unless humanity cut down its numbers—soon—all of us would face “mass starvation” on “a dying planet.”

Ehrlich, now 85, told me recently that the book’s main contribution was to make population control “acceptable” as “a topic to debate.” But the book did far more than that. It gave a huge jolt to the nascent environmental movement and fueled an anti-population-growth crusade that led to human rights abuses around the world.

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“Among high school graduates in New Jersey who seek to enlist, more than one in four cannot score highly enough on the military’s exam for math, literacy, and problem solving to join.” #HonestyGap

Steve Hashem and Douglas Satterfield:

To address these challenges, we must start early. Children’s earliest years are a critical time during which the most rapid brain development happens. This foundation informs their cognition, health, and behavior throughout life.

Research shows that high-quality early education programs deliver real, measurable results in improving outcomes for kids. Such programs can prepare children to start school with critical early math and reading skills, improve student performance, boost graduation rates, deter youth from crime, and even reduce obesity rates by instilling healthy eating and exercise habits at a young age.

For example, a long-term study of the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan found that children who participated in the program were 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school than children left out of the program. A similar study of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers showed that children who did not participate in the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.

A growing body of research also shows that state early education programs, if they are of high enough quality, can deliver solid results.

A new, national study from the Upjohn Institute analyzes thousands of public school district pre-K programs and finds that in states with high-quality programs, there are benefits persisting to at least fourth grade, with significant boosts to math scores.

Here in New Jersey, our state-funded preschool program has followed children through the fourth and fifth grades and found that, compared with a control group, the children served were three-fourths of a year ahead in math and two-thirds of a year ahead in literacy. They were also 31 percent less likely to be placed in special education and were held back 40 percent less often.

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: In North Carolina, Teacher Protest Exposes Rural-Urban Divide

Valerie Bauerlein:

North Carolina is a right-to-work state, and teachers typically must request permission to take a personal day off for this type of action, and be willing to cover the cost of hiring a substitute. The state’s big school boards canceled classes after more teachers requested personal time off than there were substitutes available.

Keith Poston, executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, which isn’t affiliated with the march but advocates increased state spending, said he sees the rally as teachers reacting to a decade of declining overall spending, from fewer school nurses and teaching assistants to less money for supplies and professional development.

“They have a front-row seat for the disinvestment in public education,” Mr. Poston said. “Our elected officials, whatever party they’re in, should listen to what they’re saying.”

The one-day rally is expected to tie up traffic in downtown Raleigh for most of the day, as teachers and other protesters travel from the North Carolina Association of Educators headquarters to the General Assembly on its opening legislative day.

Terry Stoops, a former public-school teacher who researches education for Raleigh’s libertarian-leaning John Locke Foundation, said the North Carolina rally is different from those in other states because it is unlikely to change public policy.

“People will harden their positions,” Mr. Stoops said. “The real motive here is to replace the Republican majority in the General Assembly.”

State Strips CPS Of Control Of Special Education

Sarah Karp:

Chicago Public Schools — the nation’s third largest school system — must turn over control of nearly every aspect of its special education program to the state, the Illinois State Board of Education said Wednesday. The board voted to appoint a monitor who will have final say on all policies and budget plans related to special education.

It’s a major blow to CPS’ autonomy and a rare and aggressive move by the state. CPS spends $900 million, or more than 16 percent of its total budget, on special education annually to serve more than 52,000 children with a broad range of special needs, including learning issues and behavioral and physical disabilities.

The board voted to appoint the monitor for at least three years and 40 other “corrective actions” for CPS after accepting the findings of a state investigation that found CPS had violated federal special education laws when it made sweeping changes to its program for disabled students two years ago.

The investigation found “systemic problems” with special education in CPS that “delayed and denied” services to children. That inquiry was prompted by complaints from advocates and a WBEZ report that mirrored the state’s findings.

Scott Walker vs. Tony Evers: The governor and a Democratic challenger go before the Supreme Court

Patrick Marley:

Attorneys for Evers contended Schimel and his aides were violating ethics rules for lawyers because they were not pursuing the case in the way Evers wanted, were not conferring with him and did not honor his decision to fire them.

Past court rulings have determined the schools superintendent has broad authority and that includes the ability to direct litigation strategy, Evers attorney Ben Jones contended.

But Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin argued decisions about litigation belong to the attorney general, not Evers.

“With respect, independent litigation is not the supervision of education,” he said.

Both sides heard comments from the justices they liked.

“There’s nothing specific in Article 10 (of the state constitution) that says you have the power to litigate,” conservative Justice Daniel Kelly told Evers’ attorney.

But Justice Annette Ziegler, also a conservative, noted a recent high court ruling concluded Evers has vast powers. Ziegler dissented in that case, but acknowledged what her colleagues had ruled.

“Coyne set forth fairly strongly that Mr. Evers … is a constitutional officer and certain things cannot be taken away from him by the Legislature or elsewhere because it’s given to him by the constitution,” Zeigler said

She was referring to Coyne v. Walker, the 2016 state Supreme Court decision that handed a victory to Evers’ allies after a yearslong legal fight. That legal battle is being revived with the latest lawsuit.

Much more on Tony Evers, here.

Gödel and the unreality of time

Edward Feser:

In 1949, in a festschrift devoted to Einstein, Kurt Gödel published a very short but profound paper titled “A Remark About the Relationship Between Relativity Theory and Idealistic Philosophy.” It has since become well-known as a defense of the possibility in principle of time travel in a relativistic universe. But in fact that is not exactly what Gödel was trying to show. He was trying to show instead that time is illusory. He was using Einstein to revive the timeless conception of reality defended historically by thinkers like Parmenides and McTaggart.

Gödel had discovered solutions for the field equations of the general theory of relativity (GTR) that allow for the possibility of closed causal chains in a rotating universe, where the “backward” part of such a chain can be interpreted as an object’s revisiting its earlier self. As Einstein acknowledged in his response to Gödel in the festschrift, in such a causal chain – in which an apparently earlier event E leads to an apparently later event L, but where L in turn leads back to E – you may with equal justice regard L as the earlier event and E the later. The relations “earlier than” and “later than” cease to be objective features of the situation. Now, as even the B-theory of time acknowledges, the objective reality of the relations “earlier than” and “later than” is essential to the reality of time. Hence Gödel concluded that in a universe of the sort he describes, time is illusory.

Wisconsin’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates are out of step on school choice

Christian Schneider:

The last line of the Sentinel article added one final bullet point, almost as an afterthought. The day before, Thompson had signed a “parental choice” program which would soon allow 930 Milwaukee students to attend a private, non-sectarian school for free.

In the ensuing 28 years, Milwaukee’s school choice program has been fiercely debated both statewide and nationally. In 1995, the voucher program was extended to private, religious schools; during Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure, vouchers have been expanded statewide, drawing harsh criticism from Democrats sympathetic to teachers’ unions.

In a story by the Wisconsin State Journal’s Molly Beck on Sunday, seven of the top nine Democratic candidates said they would eliminate all four private school voucher programs in Wisconsin, with most vowing to phase the program out over a period of time.

Clearly, the days of bipartisan support for choice are a remnant of history. The program that passed in 1990 was part of a bill introduced by Democrats (choice was most notably championed by Milwaukee Assemblywoman Annette “Polly” Williams) and passed each Democrat-controlled house of the Legislature overwhelmingly (26-7 in the Senate, 86-8 in the Assembly.)

At the time, Williams thought the program would help low-income blacks break free from the paternalistic liberals who wanted to run their lives. “At some point, we want to make our own decisions, whether our friends like it or not,” said Williams, who the Wisconsin chair for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988.

But now, promising to end school choice in Wisconsin has become to state Democrats what Donald’s Trump’s Mexican border wall became to Republicans — an impossible task that nonetheless allows a candidate to signal false bravado in order to pacify the party’s base.

Looking for Bigotry? Try Public Schooling History

Neal McCluskey:

Polling reveals that parents, especially African Americans, want school choice. Studies show choice students pulling even with public school kids even in laggard programs, and often surpassing them. And states keep expanding choice initiatives as families flock to them.

Perhaps because of all this good news, opponents of expanding the options available to parents and their children have launched a new strategy, one employing grossly cherry-picked history to imply that school choice is fueled by bigotry. It is both hugely inaccurate history, and hugely ironic, because if any education system has been shot-through with bigotry, it is public schooling.

The new assault started with “The Racist Origins of Private School Vouchers,” a report from the leftist Center for American Progress, focused on southern districts that, after Brown v. Board of Education,implemented school choice plans to dodge integration. Soon after the report’s release, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten declared in a speech to her union’s annual convention that choice and proposed federal education budget cuts were the “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” And just this week, TheNew York Times ran a piece by journalist Katherine Stewart stating that choice supporters’ objections to “government schools” have their lineage in racism and anti-Catholicism.

The most glaring omission in these choice-smearing histories is that Jim Crow laws segregated African Americans in public schools for decades
These are not totally without historical bases. Some segregationists, for instance, did try to employ choice to escape integration. But just because some people had ugly motives does not mean most supporters of school choice do. And these hyper-politicized versions of history have ignored that the far bigger, much more devastating story of bigotry has been in the public schools that were supposed to serve everyone.

The most glaring omission in these choice-smearing histories is that Jim Crow laws segregated African Americans in public schools for decades. Meanwhile, private schools sometimes integrated in open defiance of the law. And segregation did not occur only with African Americans or in the South. It was practiced in Boston through the mid-1850s, and Asians and Mexican Americans were segregated in other parts of the country.

Who should hold the keys to our data?

Nigel Shadbolt and Roger Hampson:

In March 2007, Nick Pearce was running the thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research. That month, one of his young interns, Amelia Zollner, was killed by a lorry while cycling in London. Amelia was a bright, energetic Cambridge graduate, who worked at University College London. She was waiting at traffic lights when a lorry crushed her against a fence and dragged her under its wheels.

Two years later, in March 2009, Pearce was head of prime minister Gordon Brown’s Number 10 policy unit. He had not forgotten Amelia and wondered to a colleague if the publication of raw data on bicycle accidents would help. Perhaps someone might then build a website that would help cyclists stay safe?

The first dataset was put up on 10 March. Events then moved quickly. The file was promptly translated by helpful web users who came across it online, making it compatible with mapping applications.

A day later, a developer emailed to say that he had “mashed up” the data on Google Maps. (Mashing means the mixing together of two or more sets of data.) The resulting website allowed anyone to look up a journey and instantly see any accident spots along the way.

Within 48 hours, the data had been turned from a pile of figures into a resource that could save lives and that could help people to pressure government to deal with black spots.

Now, imagine if the government had produced a bicycle accident website in the conventional way. Progress would have been glacial. The government would have drawn up requirements, put it out to tender and eventually gone for the lowest bidder. Instead, within two days, raw data had been transformed into a powerful public service.

Politicians, entrepreneurs, academics, even bureaucrats spend an awful lot of time these days lecturing each other about data. There is big data, personal data, open data, aggregate data and anonymised data. Each variety has issues: where does it originate? Who owns it? What it is worth?

Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Gail Heriot in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Report on Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation

Gail Heriot:

In January of 2018, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report entitled Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing concentration of Poverty and Resegregation. This Statement was part of that report. It critiques the report on the ground that, contrary to the what the report attempts to establish, the evidence shows that, while pockets of underfunding exist, on average, school districts that serve large numbers of minority or low-income students get somewhat more money than average. That shouldn’t end the matter though. As Commissioner Heriot’s dissent states, the biggest problem is that schools serving low-income students arguable need more money. She asks, “Is there some reason the Commission can’t be more clear and upfront about that?”

Keywords: education finance, school finance, civil rights

How a “location API” allows cops to figure out where we all are in real-time

Cyrus Farivar:

The digital privacy world was rocked late Thursday evening when The New York Times reported on Securus, a prison telecom company that has a service enabling law enforcement officers to locate most American cell phones within seconds. The company does this via a basic Web interface leveraging a location API—creating a way to effectively access a massive real-time database of cell-site records.
Securus’ location ability relies on other data brokers and location aggregators that obtain that information directly from mobile providers, usually for the purposes of providing some commercial service like an opt-in product discount triggered by being near a certain location. (“You’re near a Carl’s Jr.! Stop in now for a free order of fries with purchase!”)

DNA of every baby born in California is stored. Who has access to it?


State law requires that parents are informed of their right to request the child’s sample be destroyed, but the state does not confirm parents actually get that information before storing or selling their child’s DNA.

KPIX has learned that most parents are not getting the required notification. We’ve also discovered the DNA may be used for more than just research.

In light of the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal and the use of unidentified DNA to catch the Golden State Killer suspect, there are new concerns about law enforcement access, and what private researchers could do with access to the DNA from every child born in the state.

Jails are replacing visits with video calls—inmates and families hate it

Timothy Lee:

When Rebecca Parr visited her nephew Justin Harker recently at the Knox County Jail in Tennessee, she didn’t get the opportunity to see him face to face—or even through glass. Instead, she was ushered into a cramped, crowded room for a “video visitation.” She talked to him on a telephone handset while watching a grainy video feed of his face.

“I have experienced prison visitation a lot in my life,” she told Ars—her father spent some time in prison when she was a child. “This was the most dehumanizing and impersonal that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve visited through glass before and that broke my heart when that happened. This was even worse.”

On the kiosks Parr and Harker used, the video camera was several inches above the screen. As a result, “when you look at the person on the screen, you cannot look them in the eye,” Parr said. “There’s no eye contact whatsoever.”

In recent years, more and more jails have introduced video-calling services. Theoretically, these products could make it easier for inmates to maintain their relationships with family and friends outside. But many jails have moved in the opposite direction, using the advent of these “video visitation” services as an excuse to restrict or eliminate traditional in-person visits.

The Paradise Papers leak exposes how university foundations across the country hide money in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda

Matt Neuman:

More than 100 other universities and university-associated foundations appear in the Paradise Papers leak, showing that offshore investing is far from an isolated incident at UM. While the offshore investing by the UM Foundation appears to be completely legal, the practices of offshore investing have been criticized by the public and scrutinized by the federal government.

The law firm at the center of the Paradise Papers leak, Bermuda-based Appleby, has been repeatedly criticised by inspectors for “failures in the way it applies regulations designed to thwart money laundering and terrorist financing,” according to reporting by the Guardian, which collaborated on the leak investigation.

Jane Gravelle, a senior specialist in economic policy for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, said the only reason anyone would invest through offshore companies is to hide their money from tax collectors or public scrutiny.

“It’s just a way to avoid taxes,” Gravelle said. “There’s nothing in the Cayman Islands, for example, except a bunch of tourists and a couple of buildings with filing cabinets. Some of these offshore companies are nothing more than a file folder.”

The Internal Revenue Service cracked down in 2009 on investors in offshore hedge funds and private equity firms in an attempt to uncover undisclosed investments that dodged taxes.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal during the 2009 IRS crackdown, hedge-fund investments in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda represent more than two-thirds of the roughly $1.3 trillion hedge-fund industry, with around $250 billion of that coming from tax-exempt foundations, endowments and pension funds.

Related: Ivy League Taxpayer Subsidies: 2010-2015:

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

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

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

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

Academia and Politics

Alice Lloyd:

“A lot of [the core curriculum] touches on questions essential to how people organize in society,” said one recent graduate, now working in the Trump administration. As a Hillsdale student reading Aristotle’s Politics, “It’s natural that you’d be thinking about how good government works”—and that you might wind up working in government yourself.

The Hillsdale-D.C. pipeline runs both ways. Last month, Michael Anton announced his new professional and political home would be the Kirby Center. In September 2016, under the pen name “Publius Decius Mus,” Anton authored a much-discussed essay for The Claremont Review of Books in support of Trump: “The Flight 93 Election.” After serving in the administration, he leaped for the emergency exit upon John Bolton’s appointment, but he’d also been seriously eyeing a spot at the Kirby Center for several months, said Spalding in a recent interview.

In three conjoined townhouses across Massachusetts Avenue from The Heritage Foundation, Kirby hosts caucus retreats and regular dinners with members of Congress and staff to discuss finer points of constitutional governance. It’s also home to several schlocky paintings of Churchill and the founding fathers, a glass-encased first edition of the Federalist Papers donated by conservative radio host Mark Levin, and two dozen or so interns each semester—most, but not all, of whom work on Capitol Hill or in conservative media—and a studio where The Federalist founder Ben Domenech records his daily podcast.

Kirby is not a think-tank and not yet a graduate school, though Spalding confirmed plans to start a Kirby-based master‘s program in government. It’s not a locus for lobbying efforts, either. “I brief chiefs of staff a lot,” Spalding says, but not as a lobbyist: “You don’t have Hillsdale in because they have something to say about the tax bill,” he clarified. “But because they’re smart and they’re thinking broadly about constitutional questions and American political thought in ways that might help us grapple with our work.”

He deflected a question about Trump, and when I asked whether Ryan would retire to Hillsdale, he told me that he was more focused on forming future leaders than appealing to current ones: “What I’m actually most interested in are the people that will become those people. What I’m interested in is who’s going to be the Paul Ryan of the future.”

At this rate, it’ll be someone who’s gone to Hillsdale, I said. “Or, they will have been shaped by us in some way,” he added, by an online course they took, a classical charter school they attended, or the words of a presidential speech they heard that was penned by a Hillsdale graduate. “That’s how we help save the country.”

Related: Ivy League Federal Taxpayer Subsidies: 2010-2015:

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

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

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

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

Arizona Teachers Gain 20% Pay Raise, Expected to Return to Work

Tawnell Hobbs:

Arizona teachers are expected to return to school Friday, ending a six-day strike that shut down schools, after Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation that meets some of their demands.

Teachers wanted a 20% pay increase for themselves and support staff, such as librarians and counselors, among other requests. The plan approved Thursday grants the 20% raise to teachers by 2020, but some teacher association leaders are upset that it doesn’t include the support employees.

The bill also boosts education funding by $371 million over five years to restore money cut during the recession—far short of the $1 billion requested by the teachers.

“Even though the economy has recovered, they’re refusing to give us the restoration of our yearly funding,” said Ralph Quintana, president of the Arizona American Federation of Teachers. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not going to fix the problem.”

Despite some unhappiness with the deal, Mr. Quintana said he expects that teachers will return to school Friday.

Mr. Ducey, a Republican, lauded the budget in an online video Thursday.

“The evidence base is too limited to effectively inform policymakers on the implementation of life skill development in school curricula.”

Stefanie Schurer

Life skills, sometimes referred to as noncognitive skills or personality traits (e.g. conscientiousness or locus of control—the belief to influence events and their outcomes), affect labor market productivity. Policy makers and academics are thus exploring whether such skills should be taught at the high school or college level. A small portfolio of recent studies shows encouraging evidence that education could strengthen life skills in adolescence. However, as no uniform approach exists on which life skills are most important and how to best measure them, many important questions must be answered before life skill development can become an integral part of school curricula.

Carnegie Mellon Launches Undergraduate Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Byron Spice:

Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science will offer a new undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence beginning this fall, providing students with in-depth knowledge of how to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.

SCS has created the new AI degree, the first offered by a U.S. university, in response to extraordinary technical breakthroughs in AI and the growing demand by students and employers for training that prepares people for careers in AI.

“Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers,” said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science. “Carnegie Mellon has an unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people.”

This spring, U.S. News and World Report ranked SCS as the No. 1 graduate school for artificial intelligence.

The bachelor’s degree program in computer science teaches students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program. The bachelor’s degree in AI will focus more on how complex inputs — such as vision, language and huge databases — are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities, he added. AI majors will receive the same solid grounding in computer science and math courses as other computer science students. In addition, they will have additional course work in AI-related subjects such as statistics and probability, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation.

Why falling demand for college hasn’t brought down sticker prices

Hechinger Report:

Many institutions boasted, in the admission season just ended, that they had received record numbers of applications. What most very carefully didn’t say was that record numbers of applicants are lining up to be accepted.

That’s because the number of students is actually down by 2.6 million since the last peak in 2011.

Economics 101 suggests that declining demand results in lower prices.

In one sense, that’s happened. A study released last month by the National Association for College and University Business Officers shows that colleges and universities now give away a record half of their tuition in the form of discounts and financial aid for freshmen.

But advertised prices continue to outpace inflation. And colleges have been careful to avoid talking about their enrollment woes, meaning only the savviest consumers know they can negotiate to lower their bills.

Meanwhile, they have struggled to reduce their costs, something higher-education institutions generally never had to do when they enjoyed a seemingly unending supply of customers.

Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries:

Thousands of jails and prisons across the United States use a company called Securus Technologies to provide and monitor calls to inmates. But the former sheriff of Mississippi County, Mo., used a lesser-known Securus service to track people’s cellphones, including those of other officers, without court orders, according to charges filed against him in state and federal court.

The service can find the whereabouts of almost any cellphone in the country within seconds. It does this by going through a system typically used by marketers and other companies to get location data from major cellphone carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, documents show.

Between 2014 and 2017, the sheriff, Cory Hutcheson, used the service at least 11 times, prosecutors said. His alleged targets included a judge and members of the State Highway Patrol. Mr. Hutcheson, who was dismissed last year in an unrelated matter, has pleaded not guilty in the surveillance cases.

As location tracking has become more accurate, and as more people carry their phones at every waking moment, the ability of law enforcement officers and companies like Securus to get that data has become an ever greater privacy concern.

Minnesota spends an average of $12,666 per student, about 42% less than Madison

Greta Kaul:

Nearly half of U.S. states have not seen education spending recover to pre-recession levels, but Minnesota’s has recovered at a faster clip than districts average nationally. Before the recession, in 2008, Minnesota districts spent $11,864 per student. In 2015, the most recent data available, they spent $12,666. Note: Data shown in 2018 dollars, adjusted using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Inflation Calculator.

While Minnesota districts’ spending has come back after it lost ground during the recession, many states’, including Oklahoma and Arizona, have not.

In Oklahoma, inflation-adjusted per-pupil student spending declined by 5 percent between 2008 and 2015. Oklahoma spent $8,567 in per student in 2015, earning it a ranking of 48th among U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Declining oil revenue and income tax cuts both figure into declining education spending here, according to Governing. In Oklahoma, one in five districts has cut classes to four days a week, and educators’ minimum base salaries haven’t increased in almost a decade. The state is offering emergency credentials to a record number of teachers to fill classrooms.

Arizona schools have long had less per-pupil resources than other states, ranking near the bottom in the early 2000s. In 2015, the Grand Canyon State ranked 49th among the U.S. states and the District of Columbia in education spending, at $7,938 per student. Total spending per student was down 11 percent between 2008 and 2015.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student, yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

We need to change how maths is taught in schools

Bobby Seagull:

Being good at maths does not necessarily make you good at managing money. You might be able to use Pythagoras’ theorem, but can you compare the merits of a fixed-rate mortgage with a floating one? And while you can handle quadratic inequalities, how confident would you feel working out credit card interest?

Finishing GCSE maths exams aged 16, most of us never again encounter trigonometry and the Sohcahtoa mnemonic, the joy of simultaneous equations or how to work out the volume of a sphere (4/3πr³). So we might ask, “What was the point of school maths?”

As a maths teacher, I love my subject. I find beauty in the way that patterns in the world can be explained by maths — whether it is the insect cicadas emerging in prime number cycles to evade predators or how fractal patterns permeate snowflakes. However, you can achieve the top grade in GCSE Maths (A* in old money, but now a shiny new grade 9) and still not be practically proficient with numbers in the real world, especially when it comes to money.

This is why I am supporting the first National Numeracy Day next Wednesday (I am an ambassador for the charity behind it, which focuses on improving numeracy for adults). Their headline statistic is that just under half of UK working-age adults have the numeracy skills numeracy skills of a primary schoolchild.

This is bad for the individuals concerned and for the companies they work for. The charity has developed “the essentials of numeracy” to test the skills and attitudes needed to use numbers and data to make good decisions at work and home.

Related: Math Forum.

Why Winners Keep Winning On Cumulative Advantage and How to Think About Luck

Nick Maggiulli:

In the late 1970s the view in the publishing world was that an author should never produce more than one book a year. The thinking was that publishing more than one book a year would dilute the brand name of the author. However, this was a bit of a problem for Stephen King, who was writing books at a rate of two per year. Instead of slowing down, King decided to publish his additional works under the pen name of Richard Bachman.

Over the next few years, every book King published sold millions, while Richard Bachman remained relatively unknown. King was a legend. Bachman a nobody. However, this all changed when a book store clerk in Washington, D.C. named Steve Brown noticed the similarity of writing styles between King and Bachman. After being confronted with the evidence, King confessed and agreed to an interview with Brown a few weeks later. The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World tells the story of what happened next:

Wisconsin Reading Corp tutors combat literacy crisis one child at a time

Alan Borsuk:

As someone recently put it to me, improving Wisconsin’s overall results in reading will not come from pushing one button. It will require pushing maybe 10 buttons. A lot needs to be done.

Some of the buttons that should be pushed connect to what goes on in school. Some connect to things beyond school, including what happens at home and what happens in a child’s earliest years. Some may not be so hard to push; others are enormous challenges.

I hope — I even expect — that the Wisconsin Reading Corps will be a button that brings good results.

I have no regrets about being revved up recently in this space about Wisconsin’s disgraceful record on teaching children to read.

To review, Wisconsin kids of every race and economic category underperform students of the corresponding category nationwide when it comes to reading proficiency, according to new results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The gap between white and black kids in Wisconsin is among the largest in the countr

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Foundations of Reading teacher content knowledge examination.

UW Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg

Amazon’s Alexa will reward children for saying please and thank you

Nick B.:

Alexa, the virtual assistant created by Amazon, has been modified so that it can offer positive feedback to children who speak politely.

The new function, ‘Magic Word’, addresses some parents’ concerns that use of the technology was teaching their offspring to sound officious or even rude.

The feature has been developed to promote more interaction between Alexa and children and to reinforce good manners. When a child questions the Alexa device and says “please”, it will respond: “Thanks for asking so nicely.” When they say “thank you”, the device will reply “you’re welcome” or “no worries”.

In January, research agency Childwise published a report that implied that use of voice-recognition gadgets was teaching children to become more demanding, with 42% of children aged between nine and 16 in the UK using such devices at home.

“As there is a surge in children’s use of gadgets that respond to verbal commands we may see them learning ways of communicating that then slip into their interactions with humans,” said Simon Leggett, research director at Childwise.

“Will children become accustomed to saying and doing whatever they want to a digital assistant ‘do this, do that’ – talking as aggressively or rudely as they like without any consequences?

What is it, Really?

Rusty Guinn:

You may have seen that Steven Pinker, cognitive pyschologist scientist at Harvard, published a new book called Enlightenment Now. Now, the reality is that the book doesn’t really undertake much discussion of the specifics of schools of enlightenment thought per se, but rather tells the story of human progress over the last 200 years. It makes the argument that these improvements are vastly underestimated and underappreciated. It also connects those achievements to specific influences of science and reason, sometimes very compellingly and sometimes somewhat less so. It is an encouraging and energizing read, even where its contentions are less well supported. I, for one, think there’s rather a lot in the 20th century alone that a purely scientific approach to curing society’s ills has to answer for. But much of the criticism has little to say about that, instead grousing that the science and reason the book discusses aren’t really about THE Enlightenment, but about principles of the Scottish Enlightenment specifically, and even then only about a subset of principles that Pinker particularly likes. After all, Marx was just a natural extension of the French Enlightenment!

Are you detecting a pattern here?

There are a lot of different kinds of talk about Enlightenment Principles right now. Ben and I write about them a lot. Ben wrote about them back in 2016 in Magical Thinking, and later in Virtue Signaling, or…why Clinton is in Trouble. I wrote about them in short last year in Gandalf, GZA and Granovetter. The remarkable new web publication Quillette provides a platform for writers who are thinking about them. The Heterodox Academy is building a strong core of support for them in universities. Pinker is talking about them. Chomsky has been speaking about them for decades. Hitchens, too, before he passed. In his own way, Taleb is talking about them (although he’d dislike the company I’ve chosen for him thus far). Peterson won’t shut up about them. Many of these same people — and some others — are simultaneously issuing criticisms of what is purported to be a diametrically opposed philosophy. In the early 2000s, the scandalous moniker applied was “Cultural Marxism.” Today this opposition is usually generalized into references to “Neo-Marxism” and “Postmodernism.”

But here’s the biggest shocker. Get out the fainting couch: they’re not all saying the exact same thing.

These are thinkers focused on many different areas, and so there are all sorts of topics where they disagree, sometimes vehemently. All would say that they believe in logic, truth and rationality, I think, but would define those things very differently. Most of the folks in the list above, for example, believe in a rationalism that inherently excludes faith. They are among the most prominent atheists of our time. They typically adhere to empiricism and the scientific method as the primary — even sole — method for transforming observations about the world into predictions. For two of them, Taleb and Peterson, rational thought means also incorporating evolved heuristics, intuition, instinct and long-surviving human traditions. This is not fringe stuff, but the logical conclusion of any serious consideration of Hayek and spontaneous order. It also means particular sensitivity to scientific techniques that end up equating absence of evidence with evidence of absence. All this means when you see many of the above names together, it’s…not always friendly. Like, stuff you can’t really walk back. Even among the two primary authors of this blog there are differences in how we see these things. I haven’t talked to Ben about it, but if I gave him the list of the above, I’d guess he’d hitch his wagon to Hitchens. Me? I’m probably closer to Taleb or Peterson.

Teaching Programming Languages by Experimental and Adversarial Thinking

Justin Pombrio, Shriram Krishnamurthi, Kathi Fisler:

We present a new approach to teaching programming language courses. Its essence is to view programming language learning as a natural science activity, where students probe languages experimentally to understand both the normal and extreme behaviors of their features. This has natural parallels to the ‘‘security mindset’’ of computer security, with languages taking the place of servers and other systems. The approach is modular (with minimal dependencies), incremental (it can be introduced slowly into existing classes), interoperable (it does not need to push out other, existing methods), and complementary (since it introduces a new mode of thinking).

People who are short on relatives can hire a husband, a mother, a grandson. The resulting relationships can be more real than you’d expect.

Elif Batuman:

Two years ago, Kazushige Nishida, a Tokyo salaryman in his sixties, started renting a part-time wife and daughter. His real wife had recently died. Six months before that, their daughter, who was twenty-two, had left home after an argument and never returned.

“I thought I was a strong person,” Nishida told me, when we met one night in February, at a restaurant near a train station in the suburbs. “But when you end up alone you feel very lonely.” Tall and slightly stooped, Nishida was wearing a suit and a gray tie. He had a deep voice and a gentle, self-deprecating demeanor.

Of course, he said, he still went to work every day, in the sales division of a manufacturing company, and he had friends with whom he could go out for drinks or play golf. But at night he was completely alone. He thought he would feel better over time. Instead, he felt worse. He tried going to hostess clubs. Talking to the ladies was fun, but at the end of the night you were alone again, feeling stupid for having spent so much money.

Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance

Sam Levin:

Rakem Balogun thought he was dreaming when armed agents in tactical gear stormed his apartment. Startled awake by a large crash and officers screaming commands, he soon realized his nightmare was real, and he and his 15-year-old son were forced outside of their Dallas home, wearing only underwear.

Handcuffed and shaking in the cold wind, Balogun thought a misunderstanding must have led the FBI to his door on 12 December 2017. The father of three said he was shocked to later learn that agents investigating “domestic terrorism” had been monitoring him for years and were arresting him that day in part because of his Facebook posts criticizing police.

“It’s tyranny at its finest,” said Balogun, 34. “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”

Microbes are savvy investors when contributing to the common good

University of Bath:

Scientists investigating the fundamental question in biology as to why individuals have evolved to cooperate rather than simply exploiting the contributions of their rivals, have found that microbes vary their contribution to maximise the return of investment.

A collaboration between the Milner Centre for Evolution and University College London has revealed that microbes act like shrewd economists when cooperating. When they find themselves in groups with mostly relatives they contribute heavily to cooperation, which benefits the group. In contrast, when they are in a group outnumbered by unrelated individuals, they exploit the contributions of the others.

The team studied the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum or slime mould. Slime moulds live in the soil as single-celled organisms, but come together to form a slug-like creature when they run out of food. The newly formed slug will eventually form a fruiting body composed of a stem and spores. This process requires cooperation between the individual amoebae to form a successful fruiting body.

Why So Many Gifted Yet Struggling Students Are Hidden In Plain Sight

Anya Kamenetz:

Scott Barry Kaufman was placed in special education classes as a kid. He struggled with auditory information processing and with anxiety.

But with the support of his mother, and some teachers who saw his creativity and intellectual curiosity, Kaufman ended up with degrees from Yale and Cambridge.

Now he’s a psychologist who cares passionately about a holistic approach to education, one that recognizes the capacity within each child. He recently edited a volume of experts writing about how to reach students like himself: Twice Exceptional: Supporting And Educating Bright And Creative Students With Learning Difficulties.

I spoke with him about ways schools and teachers can help these twice exceptional, or “2E,” students thrive. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

2006: “They’re all rich white kids, and they’ll do just fine – NOT!”

2018: But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Even Privacy Advocates Are Tracking You Online

Joshua Brustein:

The primary purpose of Californians for Consumer Privacy, an advocacy group formed by San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, is to push for a ballot initiative adding restrictions on companies that profit from the collection of personal data. Last week, it gave state officials a petition with over 600,000 signatures, which should be enough to get it in front of voters in November.

Its website,, is pretty much what you’d expect. There are creepy fictional videos portraying people’s birth date, physical location, and potentially embarrassing info about their online purchases (hair loss prevention shampoo) and the apps they use (online poker). Below the videos, there’s a motivating message: “It’s your personal information. Take back control!”

There is one surprising aspect, though. Each time someone visits, software gleans what information it can about her, then sends that information to Facebook, including her IP address, what web pages she was on before and after visiting, and so on. At this point, both the visitor and the website have basically lost control of what happens with that information.

There’s nothing particularly unusual going on here. At least 79 percent of websites globally have one or more trackers that collect data on their users’ online behavior, according to a 2017 study by Ghostery, a company that makes ad blockers and privacy software. Over 21 percent have more than 10 trackers. Google trackers run 60 percent of the time any web page loads; Facebook’s run 27 percent of the time. Both companies have trackers running on, because the group put them there. It may be hard to find a clearer testament to how entrenched such tracking has become as the default setting of the entire internet.

Teacher Appreciation

Dale Coulter:

This week is the time to show appreciation for the teachers in our lives. The official Teacher Appreciation Day is May 8, but the entire week may be set aside. Given the challenges we face in education at all levels, it is important to acknowledge those persons central to the process. Despite administrative bloat and the rise of the online university with its master course models and other mechanisms for automating learning, the teacher remains pivotal.

Classical and medieval education centered on the tutorial. This mentoring model worked with small cohorts of students who were guided through multiple disciplines over the course of years, sometimes by the same person. At the Abbey of St. Victor in the twelfth century, students went through the seven liberal arts under the steady hand of a single master, most likely Hugh of St. Victor until his death in 1144.

The teacher was to embody virtue as well as communicate it, and students traveled thousands of miles to study with the best. Bernard of Clairvaux sent a letter to Hugh of St. Victor recommending a promising Italian named Peter as a student. After studying with Hugh and probably also Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard went on to become bishop of Paris and write the standard textbook for theology.

With the rise of mass education, the tutorial model has been replaced by models that accommodate higher numbers of students. The classroom lecture became the standard way to automate the educational process for most of the twentieth century. This was especially the case in colleges after the explosion of enrollments in the wake of the G.I. Bill. In the classroom, the teacher became the expert whose task was to distill a body of knowledge through interaction with primary sources or by communicating the contents of the curriculum and its texts. The teacher as mentor was woven into the teacher as expert.

After the emergence of developmental psychology in the 1960s, public schools entered the age of self-actualization, with the teacher forming part of a team that included the school counselor. Under this model, the teacher became a social worker who facilitated holistic growth. The mentor model did not go away entirely; rather, it remained in the form of “individualized learning plans” in the context of larger class settings. Class sizes rose steadily, with some teachers facing more than thirty students in a high school class while at the same time being required to individualize assignments so as to accommodate diverse learning styles.

Anyone who has worked in education for any length of time knows that the models keep changing. And yet, the more they change, the more they stay the same. The educational process may have one of two goals: to produce citizens, or to produce workers. America has never decided which goal is the more important. Do we want to turn out citizens who understand the history of the nation and can function as a morally responsible electorate? Or do we want to turn out workers who can enter the workforce immediately and contribute to economic development? The answer is always “yes” to both. In practice, we swing between one pole and the other. Currently, we are swinging away from the citizen pole, which is grounded in the humanities, and toward the worker pole, which is invested in STEM and vocational education.

Graduates of Elite Universities Dominate the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Study Finds

Said Jilani:

Authors Jonathan Wai, a research fellow at Geisinger Health System at the Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute, and Kaja Perina, the editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, collected a sample of 1,979 employees working at two of America’s most prominent and influential newspapers, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, during 2016.

They set out with a simple question: How many of those employees attended elite schools for college (if they attended college)? The researchers sought to address the question of whether journalism, at the highest level, “is a profession only of the culturally elite,” or it is also “a profession of the cognitively elite.” They did not have access to individual employees’ SAT scores or academic performance, so, pulling information from staffers’ LinkedIn profiles, they looked at schools as a proxy for cognitive ability — with the assumption that highly selective schools mostly admit people with very high academic achievement.

There are, of course, problems with using SAT scores to define a “cognitive elite.” Factors such as race and class have been shown to affect performance on standardized tests, as well as admissions to elite schools.

Perina acknowledged that their study is not all-encompassing. “There are cognitively elite students at many schools; they just cluster in numbers in the ones we identified obviously,” she told The Intercept. “The fact is the combination of social networks plus high ability tends to get these people out of the Ivy Leagues and into these top papers with much more frequency.”

A $24 million New York City program was supposed to prepare more black and Latino men for college. But a new study found it

Alex Zimmerman:

With just 10 percent of male students of color graduating “college ready” at the time, city officials hoped to boost that number by giving extra money and support to schools that already made strides getting those students to graduation. With extra resources, the theory went, those same schools might be able to nudge young men of color into college while the city studied and replicated their approaches.

But after four years and $24 million, the program has not lived up to its promise, according to a report released Wednesday by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. Schools in the program turned out to be no better at preparing young men of color for college or helping them enroll than a group of similar schools that didn’t receive extra support.

“The aspirations were very high,” said Adriana Villavicencio, the lead author of the study, which, like the initiative itself, was funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. “[The initiative] was not able to move the needle on a number of student outcomes — in particular college readiness and coll

They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine – NOT!

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

On Britain’s intellectual decline

Stumbling & Bumbling:

The commemorations of Marx’s 200th birthday have done at least one thing: they’ve reminded me of Britain’s abject intellectual decline.

Listen, for example, to this debate about Marx (34 min in); Paul Mason’s interlocutor couldn’t tell the difference between Marx and a bucket of fish.

Contrast this with a few decades ago. Then, if you wanted a critical assessment of Marx, you might reasonably have asked Leszek Kolakowski, Samuel Hollander or Isaiah Berlin – men who, agree with them or not, knew what they were talking about. Today, his most high-profile critics are ignorant gobshites.

This, however, is but one example of the intellectual decline of public life. For me, the BBC’s recent series, Civilisations, contrasted horribly with Clark’s version. Most programmes seemed to be random observations with no narrative flow – and directors who lacked the courage to have the camera linger on the art as Clark’s did.

In the same vein, compare Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man to, say, Brian Cox.

Ditching the satnav: the lost secrets of natural navigation

Stuart Heritage:

Tristan Gooley has got me lost in the middle of London – which, I’ll admit, isn’t a terribly huge achievement. I’m routinely lost in the middle of London. My journeys tend to consist of a hard stare at a map app, 50 paces in the wrong direction and then a kind of abject sustained fumble until I arrive at wherever I’m supposed to be 10 minutes after I’m supposed to be there. And that’s me with Google Maps. Without Google Maps, I’m 80% sure I would have given up and moved into a ditch some years ago.

However, this time is different. Gooley, often known as the Natural Navigator, has got me lost on purpose. He’s covered my eyes and led me by the arm through the backstreets of central London, taking time to spin me around every now and again for maximum disorientation. And now, right in the middle of nowhere, he’s asked me to take him to one specific Oxford Street branch of Wasabi.

“Remember what I said,” he tells me. I look up. The sun is directly in front of me, throwing all manner of shadows in my direction. It’s lunchtime, so that means I must be facing south. The clouds, too, are lazily drifting from west to east, just as they were last time my eyes were open. I tentatively make my way towards the sun and, miraculously, I find myself on Oxford Street. Then I follow the clouds eastwards and, bingo, I’ve got to where I need to be.

Warren Buffett Says All But 3 American Newspapers Are Doomed (Video)

Jon Levine:

During a Q&A session at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, company chief Warren Buffett said he only saw longterm success for three American newspapers.

“No one except the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and now probably the Washington Post has come up with a digital product that really in any significant way will replace the revenue that is being lost as print newspapers lose both circulation and advertising,” said Buffett as he fielded questions alongside longtime colleague Charlie Munger. “‘It is very difficult to see — with a lack of success in terms of important dollars rising from digital — it’s difficult to see how the print product survives over time.”

The legendary investor was quick to minimalize the financial impacts to his company, but said the bigger loss was for the United States.

Federal prisons abruptly cancel policy that made it harder, costlier for inmates to get books

Ann Marimow:

Federal prison officials abruptly reversed a controversial policy Thursday that had made it harder and more expensive for thousands of inmates to receive books by banning direct delivery through the mail from publishers, bookstores and book clubs.

The restrictions were already in place in facilities in Virginia and California and were set to start this month at a prison in Florida.

Under the rules, inmates in at least four facilities were required to order books only through a prison-approved vendor and, at three of the prisons, to pay an extra 30 percent markup.

The reversal came after two days’ of inquiries from The Washington Post asking about the vendor, the markup and the rationale for the restriction.

Math from Three to Seven

Math from Three to Seven:

A question of culture

When I was a grad student at UC Berkeley (in the late 1980s), it was under- stood, among my American classmates, that the Eastern Europeans were simply better. They weren’t genetically superior; indeed, many of my Amer- ican classmates, myself included, were themselves descended from Eastern European immigrants. And we knew that we weren’t stupid. Many of us had excelled at mathematical olympiads, even at the international level. But at Berkeley, the Eastern Europeans — students and faculty alike — were known for their intensity.

American-dominated seminars might last for one polite hour; in contrast, a Russian or Rumanian seminar would go on for an entire argumentative evening. Some of us joked that the Russians really came from the planet Krypton, attaining super powers when they came to live among us.

All joking aside, we fledgling mathematicians understood that the single most important thing was not raw intelligence or knowledge (Americans tend to lag behind in the latter compared to all international students). What mattered was passion. The way to become successful in mathematics, like almost every endeavor, is to care about it, to love it, to obsess over it. And in this, Eastern Europeans had a clear superiority, a cultural advantage. They had been trained, from an early age, to love mathematics more intensely.

For many years, dating from at least the Sputnik era, America has suf- fered from an educational inferiority complex. We try to catch up, hunting for the secret ingredients that other nations use. Should we adopt the Sin- gapore curriculum? Put our kids in after-school Kumon programs? Teach them meditation? Yoga?

There’s nothing wrong with any of this; examining the practices of oth- ers’ is bound to be enriching. But it’s not the ingredients that really matter.

There is no single magical special sauce. What you need is a culture of in- tellectual inquiry, and one that fits.

Related: Math Forum.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

How high school sports made me a better person

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

Going through high school can feel like walking around with a severe sunburn where every touch can be a painful reminder of our vulnerability. Some students deal with it by joining social cliques or bands, or by becoming bullies or loners. Some deal by joining sports teams. That’s what I did and it changed not only my high school experience for the better, but also my future as an adult.

For most high school athletes, the sport we play isn’t just about winning the game, it’s also about defining our individuality among the hundreds of other students in our school. Sure, we want to be heroes on the court or field by winning games, but we also want to win the admiration of classmates and teachers. At the same time, sports allow us to build an insular world of teammates that have our backs off the court during those exposed teenage years in which no amount of padding, blocking or setting screens can protect the fragile heart from all the insecurities we face.

West High senior Charles Hua named presidential scholar

Amber Walker:

Nearly 7,500 students have earned the presidential scholar title since 1964. The other Wisconsin honorees this year are Xavier Lightfoot from Pius XI Catholic High School, Nabeel J. Quryshi from the University School of Milwaukee, Julian Rhee from Brookfield East High School and Sophia F. Sun from Brookfield Central High School.

The most recent presidential scholar from Dane County was Gabriel A. Saiz, also from West High School, who received the honor in 2016. In 2013, Hua’s sister Amy was also named a presidential scholar.

One City CEO Selected to Participate in Distinguished Fellowship Program

One City Schools, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

On Monday May 7, the Pahara and Aspen Institutes announced a new class of leaders that were selected to participate in the distinguished Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship. One City’s Founder and CEO, Kaleem Caire, will join 23 other leaders in this highly prized two-year fellowship program.

The Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship is a two-year, cohort-based program that identifies exceptional leaders in the educational excellence and equity movement, facilitates their dynamic growth, and strengthens their collective efforts to dramatically improve public schools, especially those serving low-income children and communities.

The Fellowship is a partnership between the Pahara and Aspen Institutes. The Aspen Institute has created a leadership development model through its renowned Henry Crown Fellowship program, which focuses on inspiring Fellows to make a lasting difference in their spheres of influence through the application of effective and enlightened leadership. Pahara-Aspen Fellows become part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, which currently includes more than 2,500 Fellows from over 50 countries who are collectively making tremendous positive change in the world. Click here to review the full press release and learn more about the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship.

Donna Hurd and Joseph Krupp to Lead One City’s Board of Directors

At its annual retreat on May 5, 2018, One City’s Board of Directors elected Madison business and civic leaders Donna Hurd and Joe Krupp to lead the Board. Donna will serve a two-year term as One City’s Board Chair and Joseph Krupp will serve a two-year term as Vice Chair. Torrey Jaeckle of Jaeckle Distributors, was also elected to continue as Board Treasurer.

Donna has served as the Director of Administration for Perkins Coie LLP since September 2013, where she manages the Madison Office, supervises all non-attorney staff, maintains positive contact with internal and external clients and is responsible for the fiscal management of the office. Prior to Perkins Coie, Donna was the Executive Director for Boardman & Clark law firm of Madison. She currently serves as President of the Rotary Club of Madison, President of Board of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools and is a member of the Literacy Network’s Board of Directors. Her term as Rotary President expires this summer. When she’s not volunteering her services to the community, Donna enjoys spending time with her grandchildren.

Joe is currently the owner of Prime Urban Properties, a local real estate development and management company involved in both commercial and multi-family projects. He founded Krupp General Contractors in 1976 and served as the CEO for 35 years until retirement in 2006. In addition, Joe is a founding partner in the local restaurant group Food Fight Inc. and continues to serve on its Board of Directors. He is also a proud University of Wisconsin-Madison alum who has been active in industry organizations and has served on numerous community boards of directors. He and his wife Diana Grove were early supporters of One City’s first capital campaign and he served as the campaign’s co-chair.

Torrey is vice president and co-owner of Jaeckle Distributors, a business started by his grandfather in 1958. Jaeckle Distributors is based in Madison and employees 115 people (50 in Dane County), with branches in Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Louis. They distribute floor coverings and countertop surfacing materials throughout the Midwest to floor covering retailers, contractors, and countertop fabricators.

Torrey is a native Madisonian. He attended Edgewood High School and later the University of Wisconsin Madison where he received his BBA in Finance and Marketing in 1995. After college, he joined his family’s business. He and his brother now run the business full time and are the third generation of Jaeckles to lead the company. For six years, Torrey served on the board of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors, holding the position of president in 2016. On a personal level, Mr. Jaeckle first and foremost enjoys spending time with his wife Stephanie and their two daughters. He also enjoys the outdoors, reading, writing, his hometown and state sports teams, and playing poker.

Click here for more information on One City’s Board of Directors.

Notes and links:

One City Schools

Kaleem Caire

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

“But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.”

Hilde Kahn, via Will Fitzhugh:

One of few bright spots in the just-released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results was an increase in the number of students reaching “advanced” level in both math and reading at the 4th- and 8th-grades.

But the results masked large racial and economic disparities. While 30 percent of Asian students and 13 percent of white students scored advanced on the 8th-grade math test, for example, just 2 percent of blacks, 4 percent of Hispanics, and 3 percent of low-income students reached that level.

The highly selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in suburban Washington, D.C., known as TJ, offers a window into a significant source of the disparity, and suggests a solution to the problem.

A recent survey of TJ parents revealed that Asian-American students, who make up a disproportionate percentage of students admitted to elite public STEM schools like TJ, are spending their afternoons, weekends, and breaks learning math.

Most of them enroll in advanced math classes as early as possible in their school careers, even though by their parents’ admission fewer than one third of them are highly gifted in math. But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.

Instead, they make sure that at every step of the way their children have access to high-quality extra-curricular math that prepares them for, clarifies, complements, and extends the instruction they’re obtaining in their accelerated public school programs.

If we’re really serious about increasing the number of low-income students and students from underrepresented groups who are learning math at the level required to contribute to our increasingly computational world, we should take a page from the playbook of those who are already successful: We should provide high-quality math enrichment for many more kids, as early in their educational lives as possible.

In focusing in recent years on raising the bottom of the learning curve, the nation has neglected those at the top, essentially ignoring the growing “excellence gap” between groups of high-performing students. But this is not the only reason that the gap has been growing.

Even when policymakers and administrators have made closing the excellence gap a priority, they have had little success because they have focused almost exclusively on expanding access to public school advanced programs. Unfortunately, increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups in advanced programs has not automatically led to increased achievement. That’s because, as the families of the most successful students recognize, even the most advanced programs at the best public schools are insufficient to prepare students to achieve at the highest levels.

In focusing in recent years on raising the bottom of the learning curve, the nation has neglected those at the top, essentially ignoring the growing “excellence gap” between groups of high-performing students. But this is not the only reason that the gap has been growing.

Even when policymakers and administrators have made closing the excellence gap a priority, they have had little success because they have focused almost exclusively on expanding access to public school advanced programs. Unfortunately, increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups in advanced programs has not automatically led to increased achievement. That’s because, as the families of the most successful students recognize, even the most advanced programs at the best public schools are insufficient to prepare students to achieve at the highest levels.

Nor are the families of successful students the only ones who know the secret to STEM success. Education experts have long been aware that extra-curricular math is essential for high-level math achievement.

Almost 20 years ago, a College Board task force found that “some of the most academically successful groups in our society have created a network of supplementary opportunities for their children that may best be described as a parallel educational system.” The panel recommended that “a much more extensive set of supplementary education institutions and programs…for minority students should be deliberately designed to provide the breadth of supplementary opportunities available to many youngsters from more educationally advantaged and successful groups.”

The reason we haven’t implemented the suggested programs is because providing students from underrepresented groups with years of quality math enrichment takes time, money, faith in the ability of students to prevail against all odds, and a willingness to acknowledge the limits of our educational system—all of which are in short supply. It is far more politically expedient to heed repeated calls for quick-fix measures such as admission quotas for exam schools like TJ that alter the numbers while doing nothing to provide students with needed skills.

In addition to the above challenges, misguided beliefs about the causes of the excellence gap hinder our ability to reverse it.

Myth 1: The excellence gap is primarily a result of socioeconomic disparities.

At New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School, the school with the City’s most competitive admissions process, 68 percent of students admitted to the Class of 2022 were Asian; and at TJ, 65 percent of students admitted to this fall’s class were Asian. In both cases, most of these Asian students were the children of immigrants.

But the similarities end there. At TJ, 61 percent of families with two Asian immigrant parents have incomes over $200,000 per year and 76 percent have advanced degrees. In fact, only seven of the 485 students admitted to this fall’s class were eligible for free or reduced lunch. At Stuyvesant, however, Asian students make up the overwhelming majority of the 45 percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Yet, despite financial and other constraints, Stuyvesant’s low-income Asian students obtain high-quality math enrichment, and it is perhaps even more critical to their success than it is to the success of TJ’s upper-middle-class Asian students.

Myth 2: The excellence gap is primarily a result of cultural, or even innate, differences.

Asian immigrant parents have high expectations for their children’s academic performance and believe hard work matters more than natural ability. They prioritize education, sacrificing time, money, and other goals in order to give their children the best chance at a better future. And they bring a competitive approach to education from their home countries.

These factors undoubtedly contribute to their children’s academic success. But cultural norms do not automatically lead to learning. Whatever the bright children of Asian immigrant parents are doing to master challenging math topics at younger and younger ages, other bright children can do as well.

Every diverse urban and suburban school district in this country would benefit from an intensive STEM enrichment program that targets capable students from underrepresented groups and begins as early as possible. Such programs should also embrace features of successful extra-curricular academies that serve low-income Asian students, including outreach to parents and an emphasis on fostering an environment where it’s not only OK to be good at math but where students are admired for their genuine interest, aptitude, and perseverance. Sadly, very few such programs exist, and most of them are underfunded.

One is Boston’s well-financed Steppingstone Academy, which provides summer, after-school, and weekend enrichment to low-income students, beginning in 5th- or 6th-grade. It has been phenomenally successful in increasing opportunities for students, 90 percent of whom gain admission to their schools of choice, including competitive public magnet schools.

Another promising program is New York City’s BEAM (Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics) program, which identifies 6th grade students from low-income neighborhoods and provides intensive math instruction, relying heavily on curriculum from Art of Problem Solving (AoPS). Thanks to a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation grant, BEAM recently expanded to Los Angeles.

In a pilot program intended to test the benefits of reaching students at younger ages, an AoPS academy recently partnered with the foundation that supports the STEM magnet at Montgomery Blair High School (Blair Magnet) located across the river from TJ in Montgomery County, Maryland. The program, the Magnet Pipeline Project, aims to provide three years of after-school or weekend math enrichment to select students, beginning in 3rd grade, with the goal of increasing the number of underrepresented students admitted to the middle-school program that feeds into the Blair Magnet. The foundation has raised about $20,000 toward the cost of the program, largely from Blair Magnet alumni.

For its part, TJ provides summer STEM courses, mentorships, and test-prep for underrepresented 7th- and 8th-graders through a program launched with Cooke Foundation funding. And a company run by a TJ alum provides free test-prep for 8th-graders applying to the school. But these programs have had limited effect because they aren’t reaching students early enough with the kind of math enrichment that makes a real difference.

We’re going to need a lot more leadership and significantly more funding to ensure that programs like these succeed, and to spread the most successful ones to other school districts. We’ll need the support of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who know very well what it takes to achieve at the highest levels and who constantly complain of the lack of diversity in their applicant pool.

We’ll also need buy-in from other STEM industry leaders who consider themselves stewards of their communities and likewise suffer from a lack of available talent. Closing the excellence gap should be the highest philanthropic priority of all who value what is most precious about this country, the unlimited opportunities it provides to those willing to put in the hard work.

Thirty-five years ago, A Nation at Risk linked the end of America’s industrial dominance to a scarcity of workers with sufficient technological training and blamed both on our educational system, which it recognized as the institution responsible for ensuring that all children fulfill their potential. The report’s warning is no less compelling today.

It is both a moral and political imperative that every student be able to reach his or her potential. In an era when Americans compete for jobs against, as well as work alongside, the graduates of educational systems from around the world, it is no longer enough that our strongest students graduate from college; they must enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed in a global economy.

Now that technology is available to do much of the easy work, our best graduates must be prepared for the complex work of building, training, and working with existing technologies, inventing new ones, and mastering any number of unknown and unpredictable challenges. Eliminating excellence gaps is therefore nothing less than “an issue of equity and social justice, community development, economic advancement, and national security.”

Instead of viewing the excellence gap as a symbol of systemic failure, we should follow the lead of parents of the most successful students and aim to provide students from underrepresented groups with the most powerful extra-curricular interventions money can buy—even as we redouble our efforts to ensure that schools provide advanced course work for talented students of every background.

Hilde Kahn is the parent of three Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology graduates and served for nine years on the board of the school’s private foundation.


“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!.

English 10

TAG Complaint

Small Learning Communities

Round and round and round and round we go.

One college finally designed a liberal arts education fit for the future of work

Jenny Anderson:

But Spencer also has firsthand experience with the importance of purposeful work. She pursued ambition, not purpose, when she became an assistant United States attorney in Boston, prosecuting drug rings, arson, and embezzlement. But it didn’t quite fit: she didn’t see the world in black and white, as a prosecutor must, and she wanted to fix problems with a team by looking forward, not try cases looking back. “Being a trial lawyer — and particularly a criminal prosecutor — was the wrong fit for me at a very fundamental level,” she said.

She then spent 15 years at Harvard working with four different presidents, thinking a lot about what, exactly, a liberal arts education is, and should be. She enjoyed staying in the background, until Bates called. If Harvard was an ocean liner, Bates is a Laser sailboat, small and nimble, with a rich history of bucking trends. And now she’s in charge.

New tell-all budget document details how much the Denver school district spends on libraries, lawyers, and more (Madison spends nearly double)

Melanie Asmar:

The document, called the Budget Transparency Guidebook, details how the state’s largest school district spends the $10,806 it budgets for each of its 92,600 students. Most of that money – $6,854 per student – goes directly to schools to spend as they see fit.

The rest – $3,952 per student – is spent on services that benefit schools but are budgeted centrally. The document provides a description of each service and what it costs.

It’s a bold move, but perhaps not a surprising one from a district unafraid to experiment with new and controversial ideas, such as giving all district-run schools the flexibility to choose their own curriculum, or encouraging all students to request to attend any school in the district.

The goal, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said, is to be more upfront with taxpayers about how Denver Public Schools spends its money. The district has asked Denver voters three times in the past decade to approve tax increases to benefit schools. Their willingness to do so is one of the reasons Denver can afford to spend about $10,000 per student although the state sends less than that. Colorado ranks nearer to the bottom than the top in the country for education spending.

The citizens budget is now long forgotten.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student.

Stoneman Douglas Shooter Was Assigned To Controversial Broward Discipline Program, Officials Now Say

Jessica Bakeman:

Broward school district officials admitted Sunday that the confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman was assigned to a controversial disciplinary program, after the superintendent repeatedly claimed Nikolas Cruz had “no connection” to the alternative punishment designed to limit on-campus arrests.

Two sources with knowledge of Cruz’s discipline records told WLRN he was referred to the so-called PROMISE Program for a three-day stint after committing vandalism at Westglades Middle School in 2013.

When asked for a response, a spokeswoman for Superintendent Robert Runcie stated on Friday that district administrators were aggressively analyzing Cruz’s records. Then Tracy Clark said on Sunday afternoon the district had “confirmed” Cruz’s referral to PROMISE after he vandalized a bathroom at the middle school on Nov. 25, 2013.

However, it’s unclear if Cruz ever attended the program.

Clark said he appeared at Pine Ridge Education Center in Fort Lauderdale — an alternative school facility where PROMISE is housed — for an intake interview the day after the vandalism incident.

But, she said, “It does not appear that Cruz completed the recommended three-day assignment/placement.” She said she did not want to “speculate” as to why.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office has also said Cruz didn’t attend PROMISE.

Facebook is using Instagram photos to train its image recognition AI

Lars Rehm:

At its F8 developers conference Facebook not only revealed a number of new Instagram features, the company also talked about how it is using the billions of images on Instagram to train the world’s most accurate image recognition systems.

Training deep learning models for image and object recognition is typically a very labor-intensive task, as each training image has to be looked at and labeled by human workers. This is a serious limitation to the size of training image databases; however, Facebook has found a way to reduce human supervision in the training process by using images that are already labeled… with Instagram hashtags.

‘Forget the Facebook leak’: China is mining data directly from workers’ brains on an industrial scale

Ste-hen Chen:

Workers outfitted in uniforms staff lines producing sophisticated equipment for telecommunication and other industrial sectors.

But there’s one big difference – the workers wear caps to monitor their brainwaves, data that management then uses to adjust the pace of production and redesign workflows, according to the company.

The company said it could increase the overall efficiency of the workers by manipulating the frequency and length of break times to reduce mental stress.
Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric is just one example of the large-scale application of brain surveillance devices to monitor people’s emotions and other mental activities in the workplace, according to scientists and companies involved in the government-backed projects.
Concealed in regular safety helmets or uniform hats, these lightweight, wireless sensors constantly monitor the wearer’s brainwaves and stream the data to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes such as depression, anxiety or rage.

Dear Humanities Profs: We Are the Problem

Eric Bennett:

Can the average humanities professor be blamed if she rises in the morning, checks the headlines, shivers, looks in the mirror, and beholds a countenance of righteous and powerless innocence? Whatever has happened politically to the United States, it’s happened in stark opposition to the values so many philosophers and English professors, historians and art historians, creative writers and interdisciplinary scholars of race, class, and gender hold dear.

We are, after all, the ones to include diverse voices on the syllabus, use inclusive language in the classroom, teach stories of minority triumph, and, in our conference papers, articles, and monographs, lay bare the ideological mechanisms that move the cranks and offices of a neoliberal economy. Since the Reagan era our classrooms have mustered their might against thoughtless bigotry, taught critical thinking, framed the plight and extolled the humanity of the disadvantaged, and denounced all patriotism that curdles into chauvinism.

We’ve published books like Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s The Signifying Monkey, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Ethics of Identity — treatises that marshal humane nuance against prejudice, essentialism, propaganda, and demagogic charisma.

We’ve cast out Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Steve Bannon, but also Allan Bloom, Jordan Peterson, Richard J. Herrnstein, and Charles Murray. Our manner has been academic, but our matter has been political, and we have fought hard. So how have we ended up in these ominous political straits?

Civics: NSA collected 500 million U.S. call records in 2017, a sharp rise: official report

Duston Volz:

The sharp increase to 534 million call records from 151 million occurred during the second full year of a new surveillance system established at the spy agency after U.S. lawmakers passed a law in 2015 that sought to limit its ability to collect such records in bulk. The reason for the spike was not immediately clear.

The tally remained far less than an estimated billions of records collected per day under the NSA’s old bulk surveillance system, which was exposed by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

The metadata records collected by the NSA include the numbers and time of a call, but not its content.

Teacher turnover in relation to comparable professions: Evidence from a repeated cross-sectional design

Thomas Goldring:

An important issue in education policy is whether the national rate of teacher turnover in the U.S. is higher than expected. A study by Harris and Adams [Harris, D. N. and Adams, S. J. (2007). Understanding the level and causes of teacher turnover: A comparison with other professions. Economics of Education Review] compares teach- ers to arguably similar vocational professions, including nursing, social work, and accounting. In this paper I build upon Harris and Adams (2007) by conducting a repeated cross-sectional analysis of teacher turnover in relation to other professions. I find that the rate of teacher turnover has remained strikingly stable over time at around 8 percent and exhibits less variation than comparable professions. Teachers and nurses share similar rates of turnover. A decline in the labor force leaver rate among older teachers approaching retirement explains a small decrease in the overall turnover rate between 2001 and 2017.

It’s COBOL All the Way Down

Glenn Fleishman:

Sixty years later, you’d expect COBOL to be the stuff of looping narrative videos at computer-history museums (in fact, there’s part of a floor devoted to mainframes at Seattle’s Living Computers museum, where you can see the old giants in action); maybe you’d hear the name COBOL used in an introductory lecture on computer science to explain how far we’ve come, and chuckle.

Instead, COBOL remains widely and actively used across the financial system, with no good plan for transitioning to modern codebases, nor for keeping a viable coder workforce active. That’s a problem, because while some schools still teach COBOL and many outsourcing firms train employees in it to meet their employers’ needs, it’s not enough. Someone has to maintain an estimated hundreds of billions of lines of COBOL that remain in use, with billions more being written each year for maintenance and new features.

Civics: The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper

BJ Campbell:

If we look at raw dialectic alone, we reach dismal conclusions. “Do you think the United States will exist forever and until the end of time?” Clearly any reasonable answer must be “no.” So at that point, we’re not talking “if,” but “when.” If you don’t believe my presumed probability, cook up your own, based on whatever givens and data pool you’d like, and plug it in. The equations are right up there. Steelman my argument in whatever way you like, and the answer will still probably scare you.

Eyes on the Horizon
In 2010, 8.5 million tourists visited Syria, accounting for 14% of their entire GDP. Eight years later, they have almost half a million dead citizens, and ten million more displaced into Europe. They didn’t see this coming, because if they did, they would have fled sooner. Nobody notices the signs of impending doom unless they’re looking carefully.

Further, the elites of a nation rarely take it on the chin. They can hop on a plane. The poor, disenfranchised, and defenseless experience the preponderance of the suffering, violence, and death. They’re the ones that should be worried.

Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy.

Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon. Someone with disproportionate faith in the state is naturally inclined to disregard these sorts of events as a cognitive bias, while someone with little faith in the state might take these signs to mean they should buy a few more boxes of ammunition.

Why Silicon Valley can’t fix itself

Ben Tarnoff and Moira Weigel:

The hub of the new tech humanism is the Center for Humane Technology in San Francisco. Founded earlier this year, the nonprofit has assembled an impressive roster of advisers, including investor Roger McNamee, Lyft president John Zimmer, and Rosenstein. But its most prominent spokesman is executive director Tristan Harris, a former “design ethicist” at Google who has been hailed by the Atlantic magazine as “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”. Harris has spent years trying to persuade the industry of the dangers of tech addiction. In February, Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, launched a related initiative: the Tech and Society Solutions Lab, which aims to “maximise the tech industry’s contributions to a healthy society”.

As suspicion of Silicon Valley grows, the tech humanists are making a bid to become tech’s loyal opposition. They are using their insider credentials to promote a particular diagnosis of where tech went wrong and of how to get it back on track. For this, they have been getting a lot of attention. As the backlash against tech has grown, so too has the appeal of techies repenting for their sins. The Center for Humane Technology has been profiled – and praised by – the New York Times, the Atlantic, Wired and others.

But tech humanism’s influence cannot be measured solely by the positive media coverage it has received. The real reason tech humanism matters is because some of the most powerful people in the industry are starting to speak its idiom. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has warned about social media’s role in encouraging “mindless scrambles for friends or unworthy distractions”, and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey recently claimed he wants to improve the platform’s “conversational health”.

In just 7 months, the US public domain will get its first infusion since 1998

Boing Boing:

In 1998, the US Congress retroactively extended the copyright on US works, placing public domain works back into copyright and forestalling the entry into the public domain of a great mass of works that were soon to become public domain; now, 20 years later with no copyright term extension in sight, the US public domain is about to receive the first of many annual infusions to come, a great mass of works that will be free for all to use.

Included in the 2019 tranche: William Carlos Williams’s The Great American Novel; Charlie Chaplain’s The Pilgrim, and Cecil B DeMille’s 10 Commandments.

Discussing less than 1% of the Milwaukee School District’s $1,170,000,000 budget

Annysa Johnson:

“Eighty-eight cents of every dollar we spend is in the schools, so every reduction we make will impact schools directly,” said Driver, who had brought forward a number of potential cost-saving measures, including changes to employee benefits and busing, that were rejected by board members.

“It’s very difficult to make those choices. But when you are trying to preserve music and art and small class sizes, and trying to make sure programs continue, these are the tough choices that need to be made.”

The teachers union criticized the proposal, saying it disproportionately affects students in the classroom rather than central-office administrators and that it fails to adequately compensate teachers and others who have the greatest impact on the daily lives of students.

“We’re looking at class sizes for 4-year-olds that are nearing 40 children in a classroom … and we’re nearing 50 in high schools,” said Amy Mizialko, vice president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. “We need as many capable staff as we can get inside schools and interfacing with children in classrooms every single day. That’s where we make a difference.”

Spending increases annually. Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student.

Khan Academy And LSAC To Offer Free LSAT Prep, Beginning In June

ABA Journal:

A free online LSAT prep program from Khan Academy and the Law School Admission Council, announced in 2017, will be available to the public starting June 1.

The collaboration between the LSAC and the nonprofit online platform, known for its large library of interactive math courses, includes two practice tests. One assesses skills, and the other determines the taker’s progress toward his or her goal LSAT score. The product also develops practice plans based on the user’s desired score, and offers practice questions with step-by-step explanations. Beta testing, with 7,600 people, starts April 30. A video about the offering can be seen here.

Khan Academy already offers test prep materials for the GMAT, the MCAT and the SAT. For the SAT, 20 hours of practice with the Khan Academy product is associated with an average 115-point score increase from the PSAT to the SAT, says Salman Khan, a former hedge-fund analyst who started Khan Academy in 2008.

On Inequality

Daniel Shaviro:

NYU Law Professor Daniel Shaviro shares his thoughts on how luck relates to inequality, using “Moneyball” and “The Big Short” author Michael Lewis as an example. Learn more about Professor Daniel Shaviro’s views on income inequality:

TCR Academy Pilot

Will Fitzhugh, via a kind email:

Many secondary teachers of History either do not have or do not take the opportunity to do serious research on a History topic of their own. The TCR Academy, modeled after the TCR Summer Program for secondary students, offers teachers a two-week workshop where they will receive encouragement, guidance, and mentoring as they work on a 6,000-word (or more) History research paper on a topic which they have chosen to examine.

This Historical research will allow them to refresh their research and writing skills, and to learn more about a Historical topic which they may be teaching to students in the year(s) to come. They will recover the satisfactions that come from deepening their knowledge of History. There is a good chance that they will also be better History teachers as a result of this experience, and they will be much more likely to ask their students to work on a History research paper when they return to their schools.

The TCR Academy in 2019 will be in Chicago, and the cost is $4,500 for the two-week residential program. A few scholarships are available for this Pilot Program, but if teachers can bring professional development funds with them, that will be a big help. For more information, contact Will Fitzhugh, founder, The Concord Review, at

The Concord Review.



Since the 1956 Dartmouth conference, artificial intelligence has alternated between periods of great enthusiasm and disillusionment, impressive progress and frustrating failures. Yet, it has relentlessly pushed back the limits of what was only thought to be achievable by human beings. Along the way, AI research has achieved significant successes: outperforming human beings in complex games (chess, Go), understanding natural language, etc. It has also played a critical role in the history of mathematics and information technology. Consider how many softwares that we now take for granted once represented a major breakthrough in AI: chess game apps, online translation programmes, etc.
Its visionary nature makes AI one of the most fascinating scientific endeavors of our time; and as such its development has always been accompanied by the wildest, most alarming and far-fetched fantasies that have deeply colored the general population’s ideas about AI and the way researchers themselves relate to their own discipline. (Science) fiction, fantasy and mass projections have accompanied the development of artificial intelligence and sometimes influence its long-term objectives: evidence of this can be seen in the wealth of works of fiction on the subject, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Her, Blade Runner and a significant proportion of literary science fiction. Finally, it is probably this relationship between fictional projections and scientific research which constitutes the essence of what is known as AI. Fantasies—often ethnocentric and based on underlying political ideologies—thus play a major role, albeit frequently disregarded, in the direction this discipline is evolving in.

Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty

Mitchell Langbert:

In this article I offer new evidence about something readers of Academic Questions already know: The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, faculty political affiliations at 39 percent of the colleges in my sample are Republican free—having zero Republicans. The political registration in most of the remaining 61 percent, with a few important exceptions, is slightly more than zero percent but nevertheless absurdly skewed against Republican affiliation and in favor of Democratic affiliation. Thus, 78.2 percent of the academic departments in my sample have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.
My sample of 8,688 tenure track, Ph.D.–holding professors from fifty-one of the sixty-six top ranked liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News 2017 report consists of 5,197, or 59.8 percent, who are registered either Republican or Democrat. The mean Democratic-to-Republican ratio (D:R) across the sample is 10.4:1, but because of an anomaly in the definition of what constitutes a liberal arts college in the U.S. News survey, I include two military colleges, West Point and Annapolis.1 If these are excluded, the D:R ratio is a whopping 12.7:1.

Karachi becoming a killing field for newborn girls

Fakhar Durrani :

In February this year, an anonymous caller rang at Edhi Center in Karachi. He informed about a dead body dumped in garbage. As the staffers reached at the venue, they were aghast at the barbarity.

They found a dead body of a new born. It was a four-day girl whose throat was slit with a sharp knife. While girls were buried in pre-Islamic period as unwanted creature, cruel souls in Karachi are a step ahead: they kill and throw them at garbage. This nameless girl is not the only victim of barbarity. From January 2017 to April 2018, Edhi foundation and Chhipa Welfare organisation have found 345 such new born babies dumped in garbage in Karachi only and 99 percent of them were girls.

Rural Kansas is dying. I drove 1,800 miles to find out why

Corie Brown:

Most Americans experience Kansas from inside their cars, eight hours of cruise-controlled tedium on their way to someplace else. Even residents of the state’s eastern power centers glimpse its vast rural spaces at 85 mph, if at all.

But on recent trips back, I wanted to really see my home state—so I avoided I-70, the zippy east/west thoroughfare. The slower pace paid off in moments of heart-stopping beauty. At dawn, outside Courtland, wisps of morning mist floated above the patchwork of farms that gently rolled out all around me. Driving up a slight incline, I had a 360-degree panorama to a distant horizon. And that is when I realized what was missing. As far as I could see, there was an utter lack of people. The only other sign of human life was a farm truck roaring down a string-straight road toward the edge of the earth.

Contributing to a ‘More Perfect Union’: Mathematica Study of Civic Engagement of Students at Democracy Prep Is Encouraging but Only a Beginning

Robert Pondisco:

“The effectiveness of public schools in developing engaged citizens has rarely been examined empirically,” notes a new Mathematica report on the impact on civic participation of Democracy Prep, a network of charter schools that educates more than 5,000 students, mostly in New York City. Perhaps not, but it’s certainly been assumed. We remain sentimentally attached to a gauzy myth of the American common school ideal and its presumed role in citizen-making, even without evidence of its effectiveness.

The number of Democracy Prep alumni who are of voting age is relatively small. Founded in 2006, and with 22 schools in five cities, the network only graduated its first class in 2013. But Mathematica’s study, using the most conservative interpretation of its data, found that “Democracy Prep increases the voter registration rates of its students by about 16 percentage points and increases the voting rates of its students by about 12 percentage points.” As a summary from the American Enterprise Institute notes, “the raw numbers were even stronger, a 24-point increase in both, which suggest Democracy Prep doubled its students’ likelihood to register and vote.”

UK Home Office told thousands of foreign students to leave UK in error

Robert Wright:

The Home Office may have falsely accused as many as 7,000 foreign students of faking their proficiency in English and ordered them to leave the country, with some of them saying they were detained and made homeless as a result.

A large majority of the students who were accused of cheating have not been allowed to appeal against the Home Office decision, obtain the evidence against them, or meet officials face-to-face so the quality of their English can be assessed.

The harsh treatment of the foreign students, who were in the UK legally, showed the extent to which the “hostile environment” policy, introduced by Theresa May, the prime minister, during her time as home secretary had taken root at the department, according to Patrick Lewis, an immigration barrister.

Von Neumann’s First Computer Program

Donald Knuth:

An analysis of the two earliest sets of instruction codes planned for stored program computers, and the earliest extant program for such a computer, gives insight into the thoughts of John yon Neumann, the man who designed the
instruction sets and wrote the program, and shows how several important aspects of computing have evolved. The paper is based on previously unpubhshed documents from the files of Herman H. Goldstine.

Key words and phrases:
electronic computers, computer history, stored program computers, machine organization and architecture, sorting, latency time, ENIAC,
EDVAC, order code, programming techniqu

How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley

Corey Pein:

Indeed, to overhear the baby-faced billionaire wannabes exchanging boastful inanities in public could be enraging. Their inevitable first question was: “What’s your space?” Not “How’s it going?” Not “Where are you from?” But: “What’s your space?”

This was perhaps the most insufferable bit of tech jargon I heard. “What’s your space?” meant “What does your company do?” This was not quite the same as asking: “What do you do for a living?” because one’s company may well produce no living at all. A “space” had an aspirational quality a day job never would. If you were a writer, you would never say “I’m a writer”. You would say “I’m in the content space”, or, if you were more ambitious, “I’m in the media space”. But if you were really ambitious you would know that “media” was out and “platforms” were in, and that the measure – excuse me, the “metric” – that investors used to judge platform companies was attention, because this ephemeral thing, attention, could be sold to advertisers for cash. So if someone asked “What’s your space?” and you had a deeply unfashionable job like, say, writer, it behooved you to say “I deliver eyeballs like a fucking ninja”.

In my former life I would have sooner gouged out my own eyeballs than describe myself in such a way, but in post-recession, post-boom, post-work, post-shame San Francisco, we all did what we had to do to survive.

I was beginning to become acquainted with the infinite solipsism of my new milieu. We were grown men who lived like captive gerbils, pressing one lever to make food appear and another for some fleeting entertainment – everything on demand. Airbnb and Foodpanda served the flesh, Netflix and Lifehacker nourished the soul.

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete

James Somers:

The scientific paper—the actual form of it—was one of the enabling inventions of modernity. Before it was developed in the 1600s, results were communicated privately in letters, ephemerally in lectures, or all at once in books. There was no public forum for incremental advances. By making room for reports of single experiments or minor technical advances, journals made the chaos of science accretive. Scientists from that point forward became like the social insects: They made their progress steadily, as a buzzing mass.

The earliest papers were in some ways more readable than papers are today. They were less specialized, more direct, shorter, and far less formal. Calculus had only just been invented. Entire data sets could fit in a table on a single page. What little “computation” contributed to the results was done by hand and could be verified in the same way.

The more sophisticated science becomes, the harder it is to communicate results. Papers today are longer than ever and full of jargon and symbols. They depend on chains of computer programs that generate data, and clean up data, and plot data, and run statistical models on data. These programs tend to be both so sloppily written and so central to the results that it’s contributed to a replication crisis, or put another way, a failure of the paper to perform its most basic task: to report what you’ve actually discovered, clearly enough that someone else can discover it for themselves.

East High culinary team ‘poised and professional’ during national competition

Samara Kalk Derby:

A team of four East High School students finished 26th out of 46 teams competing in a national culinary competition over the weekend.

The Madison students — twins Gabe Wasserman and Isaac Wasserman, Casey McCabe and Hayden Cohan — represented Wisconsin Saturday morning in the National ProStart Invitational in Providence, Rhode Island. The competition ended Sunday.

“The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is so proud of our culinary team,” said Alex Newman, ProStart coordinator for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. “They were so poised, professional and full of talent and great representatives of our state in front of a national audience.”

How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online

Alec MacGillis:

The real driver of growth at Liberty, it turns out, is not the students who attend classes in Lynchburg but the far greater number of students who are paying for credentials and classes that are delivered remotely, as many as 95,000 in a given year. By 2015, Liberty had quietly become the second-largest provider of online education in the United States, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, its student population surpassed only by that of University of Phoenix, as it tapped into the same hunger for self-advancement that Trump had with his own pricey Trump University seminars. Yet there was a crucial distinction: Trump’s university was a for-profit venture. (This month, a judge finalized a $25 million settlement for fraud claims against the defunct operation.) Liberty, in contrast, is classified as a nonprofit, which means it faces less regulatory scrutiny even as it enjoys greater access to various federal handouts.

By 2017, Liberty students were receiving more than $772 million in total aid from the U.S. Department of Education — nearly $100 million of it in the form of Pell grants and the rest in federal student loans. Among universities nationwide, it ranked sixth in federal aid. Liberty students also received Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, some $42 million in 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available. Although some of that money went to textbooks and nontuition expenses, a vast majority of Liberty’s total revenue that year, which was just above $1 billion, came from taxpayer-funded sources.

And it was no secret which part of the university was generating most of that revenue, said Chris Gaumer, a Liberty graduate and former professor of English there. “When I was there, at faculty meetings the commentary was that online was funding the school, while they were trying to just break even on the residential side,” he said. “It was understood that on the online side, they were making a killing.” …

Ivy League Summary: Tax Break Subsidies and Government (Taxpayer) Payments:

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

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

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

Charter Schools, Segregation, and Anxiety About Social Cohesion


A new book on charter schools and segregation, whose senior editor, Iris Rotberg, I first worked with in 1970 on the War on Poverty, has reminded me how tribally divided the policy research field has become. The book is worth reading as a step toward a still-needed non-tribal discussion of schooling for democracy.

Choosing Charters: Better Schools or More Segregation? (Rotberg and Glazer, 2018) is a collected volume with chapters by 24 authors and coauthors. Many of the concerns it raises—the narrowness of the population served by charter schools, limitations of “no excuses” schools, challenges of equity in admissions and discipline and special education, financial challenges to districts with big fixed cost structures, performance and equity problems of online charter schools—are well documented, clearly important, and the focus of a great deal of problem-solving and research within the charter community.

There is a lot good in the book. Some of the chapters are original, carefully argued, and nuanced, particularly Jeffrey Henig’s “Charter Schools in a Changing Political Landscape,” and Adam Gamoran and Christine Fernandez’ “Do Charter Schools Strengthen Education in High-Poverty Urban Districts?”

Make School is hiring a Dean to run our college


Make School is redesigning college for the 21st century. Our education combines liberal arts, computer science, software development, and character development with a strong emphasis on fully preparing students for successful careers as software engineers, product managers, or entrepreneurs. Our alumni work at Facebook, Google, Apple, Snap, LinkedIn, Lyft and more.

Our college is accessible to students of all backgrounds, 40% are underrepresented minority students and 50% come from low income families. Students pay tuition as a percentage of earnings once they are employed, directly aligning their incentives with ours. Make School is funded by Learn Capital, Y Combinator, Mitch Kapor, Alexis Ohanian, Tim Draper and others.

Mathematics I use

Fan Cross:

Recently, on an online forum, a question was posed: How much, and what kind, of mathematics does a working programmer actually use? Here is my answer.

First, I and almost all programmers use a lot of boolean logic, from evaluating boolean expressions for conditionals and loop exit criteria, to rearranging the terms of such expressions according to, e.g., De Morgan’s laws. Much of our work borders on the first-order predicate calculus and other predicate logics in the guise of analysis of preconditions, invariants, etc (though it may not always be presented as such).

Next, I do a lot of performance analysis. The kind of data sets we process these days are massive. In 2010, Eric Schmidt made a comment at the Techonomy conference that we (humans) produce as much data in two days as ever existed world-wide in 2003. I want to be able to process large chunks of that and infer things from it, and understanding the space and time complexity of the operations we apply to the data is critical to determining whether the computations are even feasible. Further, unlike in much traditional big-O or theta analysis, the constant factors matter very much at that kind of scale: a factor of 2 will not change the asymptotic time complexity of an algorithm, but if it means the difference between running it over 10,000 or 20,000 processors, now we are talking about real resources. The calculations tend to be much more intricate as a result. Examples: can I take some linear computation and reduce it in strength to a logarithmic computation? Can I reduce memory usage by a factor of three? Etc.

Business must step up and help fix American education

Rana Foroohar:

State funding for education hit a peak in the 1980s, and has been falling ever since, a decline that has of course created a huge class and skills gap. While the cost of a degree has risen for everyone, it has hit families in the lower quartile of the socio-economic spectrum the hardest. They paid 44.6 per cent of their income for a degree in 1990, compared with 84 per cent today. No wonder so many drop out with no diploma but huge amounts of debt — a situation that has become a “headwind” to economic growth, according to the US Federal Reserve.

This, combined with the fact that US education has not been retooled in decades and does not churn out graduates equipped to compete in the digital economy, means that there is a large class of under-employed and under-skilled American workers. According to many chief executives, economists and civil society leaders, this has become the most pressing single problem for business — bigger than China, the North American Free Trade Association or the erratic behaviour of President Donald Trump.


What are the graduation rates for students obtaining a bachelor’s degree?


The 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2009 was 59 percent. That is, 59 percent had completed a bachelor’s degree by 2015 at the same institution where they started in 2009. The 6-year graduation rate was 59 percent at public institutions, 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 23 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 62 percent for females and 56 percent for males; it was higher for females than for males at both public (61 vs. 55 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (68 vs. 62 percent). However, at private for-profit institutions, males had a higher 6-year graduation rate than females (24 vs. 22 percent).

School climate commentary

McLean Bennett:

Gun policy has become an increasingly debated topic following a deadly mass shooting this year at a school in South Florida. But a question about the senator’s views on firearms took on particular poignancy in Kiel, where police in March evacuated schools following a report of gunfire heard near the high school’s front entrance. (Nobody was injured in the incident and police later reported finding no evidence of gunfire.)

Johnson touched on a broad range of subjects led by students’ and teachers’ questioning on Tuesday, though issues surrounding school safety and education policy featured prominently early in the roughly 45-minute discussion.

Responding to one person’s question about standardized testing — the questioner pointed out that students in Kiel had recently endured a battery of exams over the previous few days — Johnson said the tests were aimed at holding the “teaching profession and schools accountable.”

Still, he said he’d prefer to reduce the government’s involvement to simply funding schools and ensuring students aren’t “left behind.” Otherwise, he said, he’d rather schools operated in the sorts of open markets that his past businesses worked in.

“Take a look at the rest of our economy,” he said. “Whether it’s cellphones or just about anything else, the free market competitive system, by and large, guarantees the best possible quality, the best level of customer service and the lowest possible price.

“The marketplace is a brutal dictator — evaluator — of how you perform,” he said, before opining that America’s outdated educational system — “we still are operating pretty much on a 19th-century model” — was leaving U.S. students ill-prepared for the modern economy.

The five ways we read online (and what publishers can do to encourage the “good” ones)

Laura Hazard Owen:

From skimming and scanning to (the ultimate) reading, a new paper by Nir Grinberg looks at the ways we read online and introduces a novel measure for predicting how long readers will stick with an article.

Grinberg, a research fellow at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science jointly with the Northeastern’s Lazer Lab, looked at Chartbeat data for seven different publishers’ sites — a dataset of more than 7.7 million pageviews, on both mobile and desktop, of 66,821 news articles from the sites. (To protect the publishers’ privacy, they aren’t named in the paper, but Grinberg looked at a financial news site, a how-to site, a tech news site, a science news site, a site aimed at women, a sports site, and a magazine site.)

Chartbeat, Grinberg said, already offers publishers pretty good tracking. “It’s one of the few companies that track what happens with a user after they click on a news article,” he told me. “Still, the actual measures it provides are kind of raw. It’ll tell you how much time a person has spent on a page, how far down the page they got, even something called ‘engaged time,’ which is the number of page interactions — mouse clicks, cursor movement, etc. But all of these are not particularly tailored to news; they could work on any web page.” Grinberg tailored these raw measures to create new metrics specifically for news articles.

65% of Public School 8th Graders Not Proficient in Reading; 67% Not Proficient in Math

Terence Jeffrey:

Sixty-five percent of the eighth graders in American public schools in 2017 were not proficient in reading and 67 percent were not proficient in mathematics, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress test results released by the U.S. Department of Education.

The results are far worse for students enrolled in some urban districts.

Among the 27 large urban districts for which the Department of Education published 2017 NAEP test scores, the Detroit public schools had the lowest percentage of students who scored proficient or better in math and the lowest percentage who scored proficient or better in reading.

Only 5 percent of Detroit public-school eighth graders were proficient or better in math. Only 7 percent were proficient or better in reading.

Nobel Laureate Economist Says American Inequality Didn’t Just Happen. It Was Created.

Joseph Stiglitz:

American inequality didn’t just happen. It was created. Market forces played a role, but it was not market forces alone. In a sense, that should be obvious: economic laws are universal, but our growing inequality— especially the amounts seized by the upper 1 percent—is a distinctly American “achievement.” That outsize inequality is not predestined offers reason for hope, but in reality it is likely to get worse. The forces that have been at play in creating these outcomes are self-reinforcing.

America’s current level of inequality is unusual. Compared with other countries and compared with what it was in the past even in the United States, it’s unusually large, and it has been increasing unusually fast. It used to be said that watching for changes in inequality was like watching grass grow: it’s hard to see the changes in any short span of time. But that’s not true now.

Kids Don’t Have Equal Access to Great Teachers. Research Suggests That Hurts Their Learning

Kevin Mahnken:

Goldhaber has published multiple studies and briefs trying to get at the importance of teachers’ performance in the classroom and how that performance ought to be calculated. He says that the development of teacher quality gaps isn’t particularly surprising, since states and school boards tend to view teacher job assignments as fungible — even if it’s actually much harder to teach in a high-poverty district or school than a more affluent one.

“You’d expect that there would be teacher quality gaps because there’s very little differentiation between teacher salaries within a school system,” he told The 74 in an interview. “Teachers don’t have quality measures stamped on their forehead, but you could imagine that the better teachers would have some advantages in that kind of labor market, and would get the choice teacher assignments.”

Related: Wisconsin’s thin teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading.

Beyond the hashtag: Saving student newsrooms

Frank LoMonte:

You haven’t read about it because the occasional — and they are occasional — overzealous acts of social-justice activists who cross the line from walking out on a commencement speaker (perfectly legal) to throwing rocks at the speaker’s car (not at all legal) feed the popular narrative that drives clicks to news sites and donors to free-expression organizations.

But the piece of First Amendment turf over which these battles are being fought is a small and peripheral one: Whether “hate speech” is constitutionally protected (undeniably yes) or should continue to be constitutionally protected (open to reasonable debate) against government regulation on a college campus.

Burning Widows and Other Things That Even “Multicultural” Americans Shouldn’t Tolerate

Gail Heriot:

Charles Napier, a 19th century official of the British Empire in India, well understood the limits of cross-cultural tolerance. When told by Hindu leaders that it would be inappropriate for him to interfere with the “national custom” of burning widows alive on their husband’s funeral pyre, he responded:

Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.

Napier, by the way, was no Anglo-chauvinist. To the contrary, he was considered an Indophile. But he knew where to draw the line.

Here in the United States, we have a longstanding custom concerning female genital mutilation: We abhor it. Indeed, it is a federal offense to perform it on minors. But when the Maine Legislature had the opportunity to criminalize such behavior under state law as well, the bill failed on essentially a party-line vote. Some of the arguments against it make me wonder if Maine Democrats haven’t taken cross-cultural tolerance—if that’s what it is—a step too far.

After the Facebook scandal it’s time to base the digital economy on public v private ownership of data

Evgeny Morozov:

The continuing collapse of public trust in Facebook is welcome news to those of us who have been warning about the perils of “data extractivism” for years.

It’s reassuring to have final, definitive proof that beneath Facebook’s highfalutin rhetoric of “building a global community that works for all of us” lies a cynical, aggressive project – of building a global data vacuum cleaner that sucks from all of us. Like others in this industry, Facebook makes money by drilling deep into our data selves – pokes and likes is simply how our data comes to the surface – much like energy firms drill deep into the oil wells: profits first, social and individual consequences later.

Furthermore, the rosy digital future – where cleverly customised ads subsidise the provision of what even Mark Zuckerberg calls “social infrastructure” – is no longer something that many of us will be taking for granted. While the monetary costs of building and operating this “social infrastructure” might be zero – for taxpayers anyway – its social and political costs are, perhaps, even harder to account for than the costs of cheap petroleum in the 1970s.

The Last Slave


Their Eyes Were Watching God is required reading in high schools and colleges and cited as a formative influence by Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. It’s been canonized by Harold Bloom — even credited for inspiring the tableau in Lemonade where Beyoncé and a clutch of other women regally occupy a wooden porch — but Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel was eviscerated by critics when it was published in 1937. The hater-in-chief was no less than Richard Wright, who recoiled as much at the book’s depiction of lush female sexuality and (supposedly) apolitical themes as its use of black dialect, “the minstrel technique that makes the ‘white folks’ laugh.”

Six years earlier, Hurston had tried to publish another book in dialect, this one a work of nonfiction called Barracoon. Before she turned to writing novels, she’d trained as a cultural anthropologist at Barnard under the famed father of the field, Franz Boas. He sent his student back south to interview people of African descent. (Hurston was raised in Eatonville, Florida, which wasn’t the “black backside” of a white town, she once observed, but a place wholly inhabited and run by black people — her father was a three-term mayor.) She proved adept at the task, but, as she noted in her collection of folklore, Mules and Men, the job wasn’t always straightforward: “The best source is where there are the least outside influences and these people, usually underprivileged, are the shyest. They are most reluctant at times to reveal that which the soul lives by. And the Negro, in spite of his open-faced laughter, his seeming acquiescence, is particularly evasive … The Negro offers a feather-bed resistance, that is, we let the probe enter, but it never comes out.”

Barracoon is testament to her patient fieldwork. The book is based on three months of periodic interviews with a man named Cudjo Lewis — or Kossula, his original name — the last survivor of the last slave ship to land on American shores. Plying him with peaches and Virginia hams, watermelon and Bee Brand insect powder, Hurston drew out his story. Kossula had been captured at age 19 in an area now known as the country Benin by warriors from the neighboring Dahomian tribe, then marched to a stockade, or barracoon, on the West African coast. There, he and some 120 others were purchased and herded onto the Clotilda, captained by William Foster and commissioned by three Alabama brothers to make the 1860 voyage.

Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte need more charter schools in poor areas, report says

T Keung Hui and Ann Doss Helms:

Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte are home to many charter schools, but a new national report says those three areas are filled with places where lower-income families don’t have access to these non-traditional public schools.

A new report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute says there are hundreds of “charter school deserts” in the U.S., which it defines as three or more contiguous census tracts that have poverty rates greater than 20 percent but that have no charter schools.

The report, released Thursday, found 14 charter school deserts in North Carolina, including nine in the Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte metro areas. The other five are in rural areas.

“We think there are plenty of cities that are saturated with charters, but when you can zoom in at the census track level, you can see census tracks that are pretty poor and they have no other option than their traditional school,” said Amber Northern, senior vice president for research at the Fordham Institute.

Madison lacks K-12 governance diversity. A majority of the School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school in 2011.

Rethinking High School Math

Joanne Jacobs:

But what will happen to math achievers who do want to take calculus and pursue STEM majors in college? Will they get what they need in untracked classes?

Black students are more likely to wait until 11th or 12th grade to take Algebra 1, according to the U.S. Education Department, he reports in an earlier story. Native Americans have similar patterns.

“Research indicates that forcing students to take Algebra I before they’re ready can be harmful,” writes Sawchuk. “Is it because they’ve correctly assessed students’ ability and put them in the appropriate course?” said Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Or is it because there’s some amount of discrimination going on?”

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

Review of Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education

Scott Aaronson:

If ever a book existed that I’d judge harshly by its cover—and for which nothing inside could possibly make me reverse my harsh judgment—Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education would seem like it. The title is not a gimmick; the book’s argument is exactly what it says on the tin. Caplan—an economist at George Mason University, home of perhaps the most notoriously libertarian economics department on the planet—holds that most of the benefit of education to students (he estimates around 80%, but certainly more than half) is about signalling the students’ preexisting abilities, rather than teaching or improving the students in any way. He includes the entire educational spectrum in his indictment, from elementary school all the way through college and graduate programs. He does have a soft spot for education that can be shown empirically to improve worker productivity, such as technical and vocational training and apprenticeships. In other words, precisely the kind of education that many readers of this blog may have spent their lives trying to avoid.

I’ve spent almost my whole conscious existence in academia, as a student and postdoc and then as a computer science professor. CS is spared the full wrath that Caplan unleashes on majors like English and history: it does, after all, impart some undeniable real-world skills. Alas, I’m not one of the CS professors who teaches anything obviously useful, like how to code or manage a project. When I teach undergrads headed for industry, my only role is to help them understand concepts that they probably won’t need in their day jobs, such as which problems are impossible or intractable for today’s computers; among those, which might be efficiently solved by quantum computers decades in the future; and which parts of our understanding of all this can be mathematically proven.

Granted, my teaching evaluations have been [clears throat] consistently excellent. And the courses I teach aren’t major requirements, so the students come—presumably?—because they actually want to know the stuff. And my former students who went into industry have emailed me, or cornered me, to tell me how much my courses helped them with their careers. OK, but how? Often, it’s something about my class having helped them land their dream job, by impressing the recruiters with their depth of theoretical understanding. As we’ll see, this is an “application” that would make Caplan smile knowingly.

The aging mind: neuroplasticity in response to cognitive training

Denise C. Park, PhD and Gérard N. Bischof:

Is it possible to enhance neural and cognitive function with cognitive training techniques? Can we delay age-related decline in cognitive function with interventions and stave off Alzheimer’s disease? Does an aged brain really have the capacity to change in response to stimulation? In the present paper, we consider the neuroplasticity of the aging brain, that is, the brain’s ability to increase capacity in response to sustained experience. We argue that, although there is some neural deterioration that occurs with age, the brain has the capacity to increase neural activity and develop neural scaffolding to regulate cognitive function. We suggest that increase in neural volume in response to cognitive training or experience is a clear indicator of change, but that changes in activation in response to cognitive training may be evidence of strategy change rather than indicative of neural plasticity. We note that the effect of cognitive training is surprisingly durable over time, but that the evidence that training effects transfer to other cognitive domains is relatively limited. We review evidence which suggests that engagement in an environment that requires sustained cognitive effort may facilitate cognitive function.

The YouTube stars being paid to sell cheating

Branwen Jeffreys and Edward Main:

YouTube stars are being paid to sell academic cheating, a BBC investigation has found.

More than 250 channels are promoting EduBirdie, based in Ukraine, which allows students to buy essays, rather than doing the work themselves.

YouTube said it would help creators understand they cannot promote dishonest behaviour.
Sam Gyimah, Universities Minister for England, says YouTube has a moral responsibility to act.
He said he was shocked by the nature and scale of the videos uncovered by the BBC: “It’s clearly wrong because it is enabling and normalising cheating potentially on an industrial scale.”

The BBC Trending investigation uncovered more than 1,400 videos with a total of more than 700 million views containing EduBirdie adverts selling cheating to students and school pupils.
EduBirdie is based in Ukraine, but aims its services at pupils and students across the globe.

Columbia University MFA Students Demand Tuition Refunds

Benjamion Sutton:

Almost all the students in Columbia University’s MFA Visual Arts program have demanded full tuition refunds due to decrepit facilities and absentee instructors. As the Columbia Spectator reported, 51 of the 54 students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and David Madigan, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, on April 5 and asked that their tuition — $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year — be refunded. Though Coatsworth reportedly concurred that the program is a “disgrace,” he told the students that the university could not provide them with refunds.

Columbia’s MFA visual arts program is consistently ranked among the 10 best in the US and the world, both by general interest college ranking sites and by arts publications. Meanwhile, one rubric where it often comes first is the cost of tuition. It has far and away the highest tuition rate of the schools on College Choice’s list of the “25 Best MFA Degrees for 2018,” and its fees page notes: “Historically, tuition and fees have risen each year.” Columbia University’s Lee Bollinger is the highest-paid president of a private university; in 2013, his compensation totaled $4.6 million.

People are exiting “blue” states and the reason isn’t the weather. The Trump tax cuts will accelerate the exodus.

Mich Mish Shedlock:

A Chicago Tribune commentary says Hello, exodus deniers: No, it isn’t Illinois’ weather.

For four years in a row, Illinois has lost population in alarming numbers. In 2017, Illinois lost a net 33,703 residents, the largest numerical population decline of any state. That’s the size of St. Charles or Woodridge or Galesburg. Wiped off the map. In one year.

Asked why they were leaving people overwhelming said taxes or the illinois budget mess.

“We could handle the cold, avoid the crime and pay the tax. But the government turned on us (property, income, sales, parking, red-light/speed cameras, bags, soda). Never-ending. Tired of paying for everyone else’s retirement before mine,” said one respondent.

No, Teachers Are Not Underpaid Salaries lag in some states, but nationally, wages and benefits outpace the private sector.

Andrew G. Biggs and Jason Richwine:

Recent protests across the country have reinforced the perception that public school teachers are dramatically underpaid. They’re not: the average teacher already enjoys market-level wages plus retirement benefits vastly exceeding those of private-sector workers. Across-the-board salary increases, such as those enacted in Arizona, West Virginia, and Kentucky, are the wrong solution to a non-problem.

Most commentary on teacher pay begins and ends with the observation that public school teachers earn lower salaries than the average college graduate. This is true, but in what other context do we assume that every occupation requiring a college degree should get paid the same? Engineers make about 25 percent more than accountants, but “underpaid” accountants are not demonstrating in the streets.