California just replaced cash bail with algorithms

Dave Gershgorn:

But algorithmic risk assessment makes the details of how this new legislation is implemented all the more important—while some activists say that cash bail created a predatory industry around keeping people tied to the criminal justice system, others point to the biases against people of color documented in algorithmic risk assessment tools used in the past.

“It is a tremendous setback,” Raj Jayadev, a coordinator at civil rights activist organization Silicon Valley Debug, told Quartz. “This will, in our analysis, lead to an increase in pretrial detention.”

That’s because the machine learning systems used to calculate these riskscores throughout the criminal justice system, have been shown to hold severe racial biases, scoring people of color more likely to commit future crimes. Furthermore, since private companies have been typically contracted to offer these services, the formulas derived by machine learning algorithms to calculate these scores are generally withheld as intellectually property that would tip competitors to the company’s technology.

9.18.2018 @ 11:00a.m. Event: Reporting on Arts Education Data—Wisconsin’s Journey

Julie Palkowski and Susan Rose-Adametz:

Join representatives from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction who have created an arts education data dashboard using data from their statewide longitudinal data system. Their experience holds lessons for states that seek to report on new indicators of access or quality.

Wisconsin’s dashboard visualizes access to and participation in state arts educational programming over a three-year period. For the first time, educators, policymakers, and parents have information on the condition of arts education at the state, district, and school levels. Next steps in Wisconsin’s journey offer multiple possibilities for increasing arts education opportunities for the state’s learners.

The webinar will describe how the Wisconsin Arts Education Data Project created this new resource, and it will invite participants to share the challenges and opportunities they face in reporting data on areas that have not traditionally figured in states’ reporting systems. Further discussions will address how the process for arts education can inform states’ broader efforts to report on indicators of “well-rounded education.”

“We know best”, Disastrous Reading Results and a bit of history with Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond:

these stories of isolated societies illustrate two general principles about relations between human group size and innovation or creativity. First, in any society except a totally isolated society, most innovations come in from the outside, rather than being conceived within that society. And secondly, any society undergoes local fads. By fads I mean a custom that does not make economic sense. Societies either adopt practices that are not profitable or for whatever reasons abandon practices that are profitable. But usually those fads are reversed, as a result of the societies next door without the fads out-competing the society with the fad, or else as a result of the society with the fad, like those European princes who gave up the guns, realizing they’re making a big mistake and reacquiring the fad. In short, competition between human societies that are in contact with each other is what drives the invention of new technology and the continued availability of technology. Only in an isolated society, where there’s no competition and no source of reintroduction, can one of these fads result in the permanent loss of a valuable technology. So that’s one of the two sets of lessons that I want to draw from history, about what happens in a really isolated society and group.

The other lesson that I would like to draw from history concerns what is called the optimal fragmentation principle. Namely, if you’ve got a human group, whether the human group is the staff of this museum, or your business, or the German beer industry, or Route 128, is that group best organized as a single large unit, or is it best organized as a number of small units, or is it best fragmented into a lot of small units? What’s the most effective organization of the groups?

I propose to get some empirical information about this question by comparing the histories of China and Europe. Why is it that China in the Renaissance fell behind Europe in technology? Often people assume that it has something to do with the Confucian tradition in China supposedly making the Chinese ultra-conservative, whereas the Judeo-Christian tradition in Europe supposedly stimulated science and innovation. Well, first of all, just ask Galileo about the simulating effects of the Judeo-Christian tradition on science. Then, secondly, just consider the state of technology in medieval Confucian China. China led the world in innovation and technology in the early Renaissance. Chinese inventions include canal lock gates, cast iron, compasses, deep drilling, gun powder, kites, paper, porcelain, printing, stern-post rudders, and wheelbarrows — all of those innovations are Chinese innovations. So the real question is, why did Renaissance China lose its enormous technological lead to late-starter Europe?

We can get insight by seeing why China lost its lead in ocean-going ships. As of the year 1400, China had by far the best, the biggest, and the largest number of, ocean-going ships in the world. Between 1405 and 1432 the Chinese sent 7 ocean-going fleets, the so-called treasure fleets, out from China. Those fleets comprised hundreds of ships; they had total crews of 20,000 men; each of those ships dwarfed the tiny ships of Columbus; and those gigantic fleets sailed from China to Indonesia, to India, to Arabia, to the east coast of Africa, and down the east coast of Africa. It looked as if the Chinese were on the verge of rounding the Cape of Good Hope, coming up the west side of Africa, and colonizing Europe.

Well, China’s tremendous fleets came to an end through a typical episode of isolationism, such as one finds in the histories of many countries. There was a new emperor in China in 1432. In China there had been a Navy faction and an anti-Navy faction. In 1432, with the new emperor, the anti-Navy faction gained ascendancy. The new emperor decided that spending all this money on ships is a waste of money. Okay, there’s nothing unusual about that in China; there was also isolationism in the United States in the 1930’s, and Britain did not want anything to do with electric lighting until the 1920s. The difference, though, is that this abandoning of fleets in China was final, because China was unified under one emperor. When that one emperor gave the order to dismantle the shipyards and stop sending out the ships, that order applied to all of China, and China’s tradition of building ocean-going ships was lost because of the decision by one person. China was a virtual gigantic island, like Tasmania.

Now contrast that with what happened with ocean-going fleets in Europe. Columbus was an Italian, and he wanted an ocean-going fleet to sail across the Atlantic. Everybody in Italy considered this a stupid idea and wouldn’t support it. So Columbus went to the next country, France, where everybody considered it a stupid idea and wouldn’t support it. So Columbus went to Portugal, where the king of Portugal considered it a stupid idea and wouldn’t support it. So Columbus went across the border to a duke of Spain who considered this stupid. And Columbus then went to another duke of Spain who also considered it a waste of money. On his sixth try Columbus went to the king and queen of Spain, who said this is stupid. Finally, on the seventh try, Columbus went back to the king and queen of Spain, who said, all right, you can have three ships, but they were small ships. Columbus sailed across the Atlantic and, as we all know, discovered the New World, came back, and brought the news to Europe. Cortez and Pizarro followed him and brought back huge quantities of wealth. Within a short time, as a result of Columbus having shown the way, 11 European countries jumped into the colonial game and got into fierce competition with each other. The essence of these events is that Europe was fragmented, so Columbus had many different chances.

It’s interesting to ponder history in light of Madison’s (and Wisconsin’s) disastrous reading results:

1. The Wisconsin DPI (currently lead by Tony Evers, who is running for Governor) ongoing efforts to kill the “Foundations of Reading“; our one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement, and

2. Madison’s tortured and disastrous reading history.

3. A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).

4. 2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Recovery Threw the Middle-Class Dream Under a Benz

Nelson Schwartz:

Once a year or so, the economist Diane Swonk ventures into the basement of her 1891 Victorian house outside Chicago and opens a plastic box containing the items that mean the most to her: awards, wedding pictures, the clothes she was wearing at the World Trade Center on the day it was attacked. But what she seeks out again and again is a bound diary of the events of the financial crisis and their aftermath.

“It’s useful to go back and see what a chaotic time it was and how terrifying it was,” she said. “That time is seared in my mind. I looked at it again recently, and all the pain came flooding back.”

A decade later, things are eerily calm. The economy, by nearly any official measure, is robust. Wall Street is flirting with new highs. And the housing market, the epicenter of the crash, has recovered in many places. But like the diary stored in Ms. Swonk’s basement, the scars of the financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession are still with us, just below the surface.

The most profound of these is that the uneven nature of the recovery compounded a long-term imbalance in the accumulation of wealth. As a consequence, what it means to be secure has changed. Wealth, real wealth, now comes from investment portfolios, not salaries. Fortunes are made through an initial public offering, a grant of stock options, a buyout or another form of what high-net-worth individuals call a liquidity event.

Related: Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 District’s recent tax and spending practices.

Despite spending far more than most, we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Parents’ Jobs Increasingly Shape How Far Kids Get in Life

Paul Kiernan:

The American Dream of upward social mobility is less common than once thought, and it has become increasingly difficult for workers to achieve in recent decades, according to new study.

Just over half of Americans born in the 1980s have ended up with better jobs than their parents, according to an article by New York University sociology professor Michael Hout in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” That’s down from two-thirds of people born in the 1940s.

“Your circumstances at birth—specifically, what your parents do for a living—are an even bigger factor in how far you get in life than we had previously realized,” Mr. Hout said in statement.

The study approached social mobility by assigning scores to occupations ranging from housekeeper to surgeon, based on the idea that people’s jobs provide a reliable indicator of their socioeconomic standing.

In many cases, upward mobility as defined by Mr. Hout would hardly be noticed by a layperson. One point on the author’s scale corresponds to the difference between a receptionist (26 points) and a hairdresser (25 points). A 15-point improvement—from food-preparation worker to medical assistant, for example—is more perceptible but has also become considerably rarer. So-called “long-distance mobility” from one generation to the next declined from 37% of men born in 1945 to 22% born in 1985.

Americans Aren’t Practicing Democracy Anymore; As participation in civic life has dwindled, so has public faith in the country’s system of government.

Yoni Applebam:

The results have been catastrophic. As the procedures that once conferred legitimacy on organizations have grown alien to many Americans, contempt for democratic institutions has risen. In 2016, a presidential candidate who scorned established norms rode that contempt to the Republican nomination, drawing his core support from Americans who seldom participate in the rituals of democracy.

American government’s most obvious problems—from its dysfunctional legislature to Donald Trump himself—are merely signs of this underlying decay. The political system’s previous strength and resilience flowed from Americans’ anomalously high rates of participation in democratically governed organizations, most of them apolitical. There is no easy fix for our current predicament; simply voting Trump out of office won’t suffice. To stop the rot afflicting American government, Americans are going to have to get back in the habit of democracy.

In the early years of the United States, Europeans made pilgrimages to the young republic to study its success. How could such a diverse and sprawling nation flourish under a system of government that originated in small, homogeneous city-states?

One after another, they seized upon the most unfamiliar aspect of American culture: its obsession with associations. To almost every challenge in their lives, Americans applied a common solution. They voluntarily bound themselves together, adopting written rules, electing officers, and making decisions by majority vote. This way of life started early. “Children in their games are wont to submit to rules which they have themselves established, and to punish misdemeanors which they have themselves defined,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. “The same spirit pervades every act of social life.”

Why Is College in America So Expensive?

Amanda Ripley:

Before the automobile, before the Statue of Liberty, before the vast majority of contemporary colleges existed, the rising cost of higher education was shocking the American conscience: “Gentlemen have to pay for their sons in one year more than they spent themselves in the whole four years of their course,” The New York Times lamented in 1875.

Decadence was to blame, the writer argued: fancy student apartments, expensive meals, and “the mania for athletic sports.”

Today, the U.S. spends more on college than almost any other country, according to the 2018 Education at a Glance report, released this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

All told, including the contributions of individual families and the government (in the form of student loans, grants, and other assistance), Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year—nearly twice as much as the average developed country. “The U.S. is in a class of its own,” says Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, and he does not mean this as a compliment. “Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange.”

Only one country spends more per student, and that country is Luxembourg—where tuition is nevertheless free for students, thanks to government outlays. In fact, a third of developed countries offer college free of charge to their citizens. (And another third keep tuition very cheap—less than $2,400 a year.) Finland makes college free even to foreign students from other European Union countries. The farther away you get from the United States, the more baffling it looks.

This back-to-school season, The Atlantic is investigating a classic American mystery: Why does college cost so much? And is it worth it?

Civics: GCHQ (part of “five eyes”) data collection regime violated human rights, court rules

Owen Bowcott:

GCHQ’s methods in carrying out bulk interception of online communications violated privacy and failed to provide sufficient surveillance safeguards, the European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled in a test case judgment.

But the Strasbourg court found that GCHQ’s regime for sharing sensitive digital intelligence with foreign governments was not illegal.

It is the first major challenge to the legality of UK intelligence agencies intercepting private communications in bulk, following Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations.

The long-awaited ruling is one of the most comprehensive assessments by the ECHR of the legality of the interception operations operated by UK intelligence agencies.

The claims, which had already been heard by the UK’s investigatory powers tribunal, were brought by a coalition of 14 human rights groups, privacy organisations and journalists, including Amnesty International, Liberty, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch.

The judges considered three aspects of digital surveillance: bulk interception of communications, intelligence sharing and obtaining of communications data from communications service providers.

Related: Five Eyes and Snowden and the future.

Many lawmakers and aides who crafted financial regulations after the 2008 crisis now work for Wall Street

Jeff Stein:

Ten years after the financial crisis brought the U.S. economy to its knees, about 30 percent of the lawmakers and 40 percent of the senior staff who crafted Congress’ response have gone to work for or on behalf of the financial industry, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The pattern, which applies about equally to both parties, is a stark illustration of how policymakers sought to profit from the financial sector after dealing with one of the worst financial episodes in U.S. history.

Critics of the revolving door say it helps explain why Congress — even as it deployed hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out Wall Street — didn’t take tougher steps to rein it in.

“Some folks that softened Congress’ crackdown on Wall Street shortly after went to work for the companies that benefited from the softening,” said former congressman Brad Miller (D-N.C.), who served on the House Financial Services Committee and now works for a law firm that represents whistleblowers.

Former lawmakers and staffers who went to work for Wall Street say they are taking part in a long tradition of entering the private sector after playing a role in significant legislation.

In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law that established new rules for Wall Street, including requiring banks to hold more capital in reserve and creating a new federal agency to protect consumers.

Senior Google Scientist Resigns Over “Forfeiture of Our Values” in China

Ryan Gllagher:

He said that he was concerned not just about the censorship itself, but also the ramifications of hosting customer data on the Chinese mainland, where it would be accessible to Chinese security agencies that are well-known for targeting political activists and journalists.

In his resignation letter, Poulson told his bosses: “Due to my conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies, I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents.”

“I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe,” he wrote, adding: “There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands.”

“I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents.”
In the six weeks since the revelations about Dragonfly, Google has still not publicly addressed concerns about the project, despite facing a major backlash internally and externally. Earlier this month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai refused to appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where he would have been asked questions about the China censorship. The company has ignored dozens of questions from journalists about the plan and it has stonewalled leading human rights groups, who say that the censored search engine could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.” (Google also did not respond to an inquiry for this story.)

Poulson, 32, who began working for Google in May 2016, told The Intercept that the company’s public silence fueled his sense of frustration. “There are serious worldwide repercussions to this,” he said. “What are Google’s ethical red lines? We already wrote some down, but now we seem to be crossing those. I would really like to see statements about what Google’s commitments are.”

Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but stopped operating the service in the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack people’s Gmail accounts. At that time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin made clear that he was strongly opposed to the censorship. Brin had spent part of his childhood in the Soviet Union, and said that he was “particularly sensitive to the stifling of individual liberties” due to his family’s experiences there. In 2010, after the company pulled its search engine out of China, Brin told the Wall Street Journal that “with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents” he saw “earmarks of totalitarianism [in China], and I find that personally quite troubling.”

Jeff Bezos wants to fix preschools by treating them like Amazon

Annabelle Timsit:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is launching a $2 billion “Day One Fund” to help homeless families in the US and create a series of innovative preschools.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Bezos said that he asked for suggestions on where to direct his philanthropy efforts last year, and that the Day One Fund was born out of those conversations. “Where’s the good in the world, and how can we spread it? Where are the opportunities to make things better?” he wrote. Bezos currently ranks as the world’s richest person, and has to date been less active in philanthropy than some other top billionaires.

The Amazon CEO announced his new organization would be “creating a network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities,” inspired by the Montessori School model, a child-centered educational method that relies on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. The Montessori method has been shown to be beneficial for children’s cognitive and social skills, and helpful in developing kids’ early literacy and mathematics skills.

The Bezos Family Foundation, established by Bezos’s parents Jackie and Mike, currently runs two early childhood development programs: Mind in the Making (MITM), a national research-sharing and training initiative, and Vroom, a creative platform based on neuroscience, that gives families the tools to build their babies’ brains.

Related: commentary on 4K’s effectiveness.

The inevitable Los Angeles teachers strike — does Chicago hold the key to a solution?

Mike Antonucci:

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles continued their preparations for a strike by approving the transfer of up to $3 million from the union’s strike fund to its general fund in order to be ready for immediate use.

The first mediation session is scheduled for Sept. 27, with neither the Los Angeles Unified School District nor the union expressing optimism about prospects for success.

There have been no new proposals reported since UTLA submitted a 69-page “last, best and final” offer on July 24.

This leaves most of us wondering what it will take to settle the dispute. Naturally, we are all focused on the disparity in wage proposals, with the district offering a 2 percent increase and a 2 percent one-time payment, and the union demanding a 6.5 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2016.

China move points to possible end of birth limits

Associated Press:

China is eliminating a trio of agencies responsible for enforcing family planning policies in a further sign the government may be planning to scrap long-standing limits on the number of children its citizens can have.

The move was part of a reorganization of the National Health Commission announced Monday that creates a new single department called the Division of Population Monitoring and Family Development responsible for “establishing and perfecting a specialized system for supporting families.”

Expectations of an end to birth limits were also raised by the appearance of a postage stamp last month featuring smiling mother and father pigs with three piglets.

Alarmed by the rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce, China abandoned its notorious one-child policy two years ago to allow two children, producing a nearly 8 percent increase in births in 2016, with nearly half of the babies born to couples who already had a child.

However, that appeared to have been a one-time increase, with 17.2 million births in the country last year, down from 17.9 million in 2016. Meanwhile, the proportion of the population aged 60 or older increased last year to 17.3 percent.

Related: Choose Life.

Are assessments like the Myers-Briggs more self-help than science?

Louis Menand:

It was a long descent. Briggs and Myers were a mother-and-daughter team. To call them “mildly eccentric” would be indulging in a gender stereotype, but it seems fair to say that they were a little O.C.D. They devoted their lives to their system, and they kept the faith for a very long time. If they had not, there would be no MBTI today.

The mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, was born in 1875. When she died, in 1968, the test she inspired was all but forgotten. The daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, was born in 1897. She codified her mother’s method of categorizing personalities, copyrighted it (in 1943), and spent the rest of her life trying to find a permanent home for the product. She died in 1980, just as the test’s popularity was taking off.

Since Katharine began studying personality differences when Isabel was four, this means that the two women persisted for almost eighty years before the MBTI became the commercial bonanza it is today. According to Emre, personality testing has become a two-billion-dollar industry. But Briggs and Myers were not in the personality game for the money. They truly believed that they had discovered a way to make work more efficient and human beings less unhappy.

The Education System Isn’t Designed for Smart Kids

Daniel Lattier:

Sometimes, something that’s right in front of you can escape your attention.

Over the past five years I’ve looked at countless student performance numbers, and almost always, my attention goes to the large percentages of students who are performing below grade level in reading, math, history, etc. I see these numbers as evidence of the failure of the current education system.

But a recent policy brief (titled “How Can So Many Students Be Invisible?) has brought something else to my attention—something equally, if not more, damning of the education system. It’s the fact that large percentages of American students are performing ABOVE grade level.

After looking at data from five different, nationally-respected assessments of student performance, the researchers found that “20-40% of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, with 11-30% scoring at least one grade level above in math.”

Most would read that and think it’s evidence to the contrary: that it means that our education system is doing a good job. But not me, and not the professors who put together the brief.

China to regulate online religious activity amid crackdown


China is rolling out new rules on religious activity on the internet amid an ongoing crackdown on churches, mosques and other institutions by the officially atheist Communist Party.

Anyone wishing to provide religious instruction or similar services online must apply by name and be judged morally fit and politically reliable, according to draft regulations posted online late Monday by the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

Organizations and schools that receive licenses can operate only on their internal networks that require users to be registered and are barred from seeking converts or distributing texts or other religious materials, the rules said.

They also impose tight limits on what can be said or posted, including a ban on criticism of the party’s leadership and official religious policies, promoting religious participation by minors, and “using religion to … overthrow the socialist system.”

Livestreaming of religious activities, including praying, preaching or even burning incense, is also forbidden.

Lenore Blum shocked the community with her sudden resignation from CMU. Here she tells us why.

Tracy Carto:

But when the CIE morphed to the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, the management structure changed completely. The equitable balance became one that, I’ve come to understand, is inherently sexist. This corporate model, with a CEO-like position holding almost complete control and being the face of the Center and CMU’s entrepreneurship on and off campus, enables wanton abuse of power given bad actors at the helm. This management structure has no place in an academic setting. And yet I’ve come to understand from the many responses I have received to my email about resigning, this sexist structure is often subtly inherent in many areas of our academic community.

With this change in management structure, my role was noticeably marginalized, while ironically, Project Olympus, and all its programs, became a major part of the new Center. What might have previously been considered unconscious sexism became blatant.

Just one example: The LaunchCMU conferences, initiated under the CIE, continue. But while I helped plan the six earlier launches (all with women on the program), under the auspices of the new Center I was given a copy of the Fall 2016 program for the seventh launch a single day before it was to go to press. After I complained to the Provost that it was an all-male program, I was given one day to recruit some female speakers. One day to confirm that accomplished, busy people could attend and speak.

Google has been quietly collaborating with the Chinese government on a new, censored search engine—and abandoning its own ideals in the process.

Suzanne Nossel:

In May, Google quietly removed “Don’t be evil” from the text of its corporate code of conduct, deleting a catchphrase that had been associated with the company since 2000. Amid startling revelations of how social media and internet platforms can enable political interference and new forms of stealthy cyberwarfare, avoiding evil in Silicon Valley has turned out to be harder than it looks. In a world where Twitter’s terrorist may be Facebook’s freedom fighter, decisions over what content to algorithmically uplift or suppress can involve agonizing questions of interpretation, intent, and cultural context.

But amid all the moral ambiguity and uncharted terrain of running an internet platform that controls vast swaths of global discourse and reaps commensurate revenues, some dilemmas are more straightforward than others. That’s why word of Google’s plans to substantially expand its currently minimal role in the Chinese market—through the potential launch of a censored search engine code-named Dragonfly—has provoked such uproar.

The plans were revealed through documents leaked to the Intercept, which reported that prototypes and negotiations with the Chinese government were far along, laying the groundwork for the potential service to launch as soon as early 2019. In late August, a group of free expression and human rights organizations published a joint letter proclaiming that the launch of a Chinese search application would represent “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights.” Six U.S. senators, led by Marco Rubio and Mark Warner, sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding answers to a series of queries about the company’s intentions. Last week, PEN America sent a detailed letter to Google executives spelling out specific human rights issues and subjects that, per Chinese censorship rules, would be treated repressively and deceptively by any information platform operating in the country. Google’s own employees are also up in arms: More than 1,400 signed a letter to management saying the floated China project “raise[s] urgent moral and ethical issues” and demanding greater transparency before any plans are implemented.

Many K-12 taxpayer funded school districts use Google services.

Oakland Schools, Teachers Enter Mediation as Contract Negotiations Stall

Ken Epstein:

Oakland educators say they have reached a “bargaining showdown” with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as contract negotiations enter their second year.

The Oakland Education Association (OEA), along with parent, labor and student supporters, held a news conference last Friday at the end of the first day of state-assisted mediation, a process designed to kick-start the negotiating process.

Mediation is the second-to-last step before a potential district-wide strike, according to the union. Oakland teachers have been working without a contract since July 1, 2017.

“The school board has voted again and again to strip resources from our students in order to support a budget bloated with central office administrators and private vendors,” said Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Keith Brown, a Bret Harte Middle School teacher.

A look at K-12 Tax & Spending Practices

Citizen Stewart:

When we talk dollars and cents in public education, there are a few truisms: teachers are paid too little, schools are underfunded, private and charter schools “drain” funds from traditional districts, and when schools can’t make ends meet it is the result of things done to them and never stuff they do.

The public buys that story and many in the education industry eager to supply endless examples to multiply the trope. Those of us saying school spending is at least equal to school funding as an issue are forced to wear t-shirts that say “I am the day after Christmas.”

If raising concerns about lax controls on public spending makes me December 26th, I’m okay with it.

There are two ways to say we need more money in education. The first is to demand taxpayers give more, and the second is to require elected officials to stop squandering what they already get.

Almost everyone has the former covered, but the latter gets crickets.

I’ve blogged and Tweeted, and begged and pleaded, about the repeating instances of poor stewardship of public dollars. I’ve talked about the millions of public dollars misspent for unneeded technology; a $72 million high school football stadium; the $152 million bill New York pays for teachers that don’t teach; the $300 million Los Angeles Unified School District paid out in sex abuse settlements; the school board that signed an irresponsible decade-long teachers’ contract with 4% raises locked in; the high school rebuild that started at $30 million for a 1,600 seat school but ballooned to $250 million due to poor planning and limp oversight; or the school district under scrutiny for waste and “cronyism” in its $300 million bonding program.

State data to be used to limit child gamers in China


Chinese technology giant Tencent is introducing tough new rules to identify under-age gamers, amid a crackdown on gaming addiction in the country.

From mid-September it will introduce a real-name registration system for its Honour of Kings games, which will be linked to China’s public security database.
It will identify children and restrict the time they spend on the game.

The move is the first of its kind in the world’s largest gaming market.

Tencent, which also operates the Chinese social network WeChat, posted its first profit decline since 2005 this summer, blaming the drop on tighter regulation, specifically around the approval of licences that allow companies to make money from new mobile games.

How the Platform Economy Gives Superpowers to Freelancers

Marco Torregrossa:

Once the number of freelancers increases on the platform, a subscription model comes handy. The firm gives a menu for customers to choose from and charges them per month or year according to a subscription plan based on frequency, specific services or number of freelancers needed. The basic plan is usually free, which is the so-called freemium model that combines well with the subscription.

The firm again acts as the enabler. It collects the subscription fee from the customer and then releases the money to the freelancer. In this model it is the customer which is usually charged and not the freelancer.

What if a big study is done and nobody reports it?


As of our publishing this article — two days after the British study was published — coverage of this “largest-ever” trial remains scant. Is it because it’s a European study? Unlikely — the results were featured prominently in one of the most prestigious US medical journals and promoted with an embargoed news release. Or, because it represents a so-called ‘negative’ or non-dramatic finding? (That is, no increase in prostate cancer deaths between the two groups found.) Who knows.

But it stands in stark contrast to the mega-coverage we’ve documented for many years on other prostate cancer screening studies that are typically much less rigorous — and which often trumpet an imbalanced, pro-screening message about prostate cancer. . . .

It’s an interesting issue of selection bias in what gets reported, what is considered to be news.

Justice Department Says Harvard Hurts Asian Americans’ Admissions Prospects With ‘Personal Rating’

Melissa Korn and Nicole Hong:

The U.S. Department of Justice says Harvard University puts Asian-American applicants at a disadvantage through the school’s use of a subjective “personal rating” in the admissions process, according to a new court filing in a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of affirmative action.

The statement of interest filed Thursday by the Justice Department supported the claims made by the plaintiffs, who have sued Harvard for allegedly limiting the number of Asian-American students it admits and holding them to a higher standard than students of other races.

The lawsuit against Harvard was filed in Boston federal court in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit whose members include Asian-American students who were denied admission to Harvard. It has become a closely watched battle over how one of the nation’s most selective colleges chooses who gets admitted, and whether the process illegally discriminates on the basis of race.

In criticizing the personal rating, the Justice Department was referring to one component of Harvard’s undergraduate admissions process that evaluates applicants based, in part, on a subjective assessment of character traits.

The plaintiffs have said in earlier court filings that their analysis found Asian-American applicants have the highest academic and extracurricular ratings of any other racial group, but the lowest score on the personal rating, which includes an evaluation of the applicant’s personality. The rating is also based on teacher recommendations, personal essays and admissions interviews, according to Harvard.

To Heal Wounds, Cells Time-Travel Back to a Fetal State

Jordana Cepelewicz:

The discovery of the first stem cells came about indirectly from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Medical workers observed that exposure to radiation caused a precipitous drop in the survivors’ white blood cell counts, and experiments in mice showed that bone marrow transplants could offset those losses. Work over the following decades gradually revealed why: A population of cells in the marrow could both self-renew and differentiate into various, more specialized blood cell lineages. These were the blood-making stem cells.

They departed from the behavior of more specialized cells in several key ways. When a differentiated cell divided, it produced two copies of itself — and depending on the cell type, the number of times it could do so was limited. That wasn’t the case with the stem cells isolated from the bone marrow. When they divided, they did so over extremely long periods of time, in a process known as proliferation. Moreover, those divisions were asymmetric: Each stem cell produced not only a copy of itself but also a daughter cell fated to become a specific type of blood cell. For those daughter cells that gained a differentiated identity, there was generally no going back.

Merit-based admissions ‘reproduce inequality’

Toni Airaksinen:

But Warikoo seems concerned with students’ responses. Analyzing data from these interviews years later, Warikoo points out that students’ approaches to diversity suggest that they’ve “internalized” the tokenistic rhetoric of the school admissions office, even if they had disagreed with policies like athletic recruitment or legacy admissions before coming to campus.

“Unlike in other campus domains in which there is a history of social protest among college students, in the realm of admissions, students seem to agree quite strongly with their universities, and come to even more agreement rather than critique upon arriving to campus,” she writes. “They suggest that most actors in elite institutions espouse views that reproduce their elite status, rather than engaging in symbolic politics or protest.”

According to Warikoo, “US students espouse a collective understanding of merit,” but only “value collective merit for its impact on themselves, not for social justice, or for the collective good of society.”

“They are not espousing, for example, a vision of multiculturalism that emphasizes group identities and the need to support ethnic and racial groups in society, as many scholars define multicultural state policies,” she elaborates.

Bending to the law of supply and demand, some colleges are dropping their prices

Matt Krupnick:

Tuition is being cut by about $25,000 this year to attract more students to Mills College in Oakland, California, one of several colleges and universities freezing or reducing tuition this fall in the face of an enrollment decline and consumer backlash. Photo: John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images

It may have been one of the biggest back-to-school sales ever: a 36 percent drop in the advertised cost of a college education.

That’s what awaited students this fall at Mills College, one of a growing number of higher-education institutions that have started freezing or dropping their prices in the face of a years-long enrollment decline and heightened price sensitivity.

The 1,300-student private college in Oakland, California, which like many private colleges has been having trouble attracting students, dropped its sticker price from $45,000 to $29,000 a year.

Financial Aid Leveraging.

Civics: He Was the Resistance Inside the Obama Administration; Timothy Geithner’s refusal to obey his boss has had long-term political and economic consequences.

David Dayen:

Any objective look at Geithner’s actions in response to the financial crisis confirms that he would maximize his power on behalf of big banks, even if it meant going around his colleagues and his president. That included paying off AIG’s investment bank counter-parties at 100 percent instead of forcing a discount, or blocking Bair, the FDIC chair, from forcing higher capital rules on banks. Every action fit Geithner’s worldview: The financial system must be stabilized at all costs, as the only way to heal the economy so real people benefit. “We do not need to imagine that he was in the pocket of any one bank,” Adam Tooze wrote in the new book Crashed. “It was his commitment to the system that dictated that Citigroup should not be broken up.”

But this neglects the political implications of deploying massive resources to save Citigroup and Wall Street more broadly. Failing to hold anyone accountable for causing the Great Recession as the economy struggled to regain its footing generated significant public resentment, from the Tea Party on the right to Occupy Wall Street on the left. The same urgency and ingenuity was simply not adopted to save homeowners drowning in mortgage debt, which weighed down the overall recovery. Obama fired the CEO of GM, but no bank executive suffered for a moment. And people noticed.

Is the public library obsolete?

Eric Klinenberg:

A lot of powerful forces in society seem to think so. In recent years, declines in the circulation of bound books in some parts of the country have led prominent critics to argue that libraries are no longer serving their historical function. Countless elected officials insist that in the 21st century — when so many books are digitized, so much public culture exists online and so often people interact virtually — libraries no longer need the support they once commanded.

Libraries are already starved for resources. In some cities, even affluent ones like Atlanta, entire branches are being shut down. In San Jose, Calif., just down the road from Facebook, Google and Apple, the public library budget is so tight that users with overdue fees above $10 aren’t allowed to borrow books or use computers.

But the problem that libraries face today isn’t irrelevance. Indeed, in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community.”

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? “The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program”

Emily Hanford:

Balanced literacy was a way to defuse the wars over reading,” said Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book “Language at the Speed of Sight.” “It succeeded in keeping the science at bay, and it allowed things to continue as before.”

He says the reading wars are over, and science lost.

Seidenberg knows of a child who was struggling so much with reading that her mother paid for a private tutor. “The tutor taught her some of the basic skills that the child wasn’t getting in her whole language classroom,” he said. “At the end of the school year the teacher was proud that the child had made so much progress, and the parent said, ‘Well, why didn’t you teach phonics and other basic skills related to print in class?’ And the teacher said ‘Oh, I did. Your child was absent that day.'”

For scientists like Seidenberg, the problem with teaching just a little bit of phonics is that according to all the research, phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read. Surrounding kids with good books is a great idea, but it’s not the same as teaching children to read.

Experts say that in a whole-language classroom, some kids will learn to read despite the lack of effective instruction. But without explicit and systematic phonics instruction, many children won’t ever learn to read very well.

In 2016, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, reviewed the syllabi of teacher preparation programs across the country and found that only 39 percent of them appeared to be teaching the components of effective reading instruction.

Seidenberg says the scientific research has had relatively little impact on what happens in classrooms because the science isn’t very highly valued in schools of education. “Prospective teachers aren’t exposed to it or they’re led to believe that it’s only one of several perspectives,” he said. “In a class on reading, prospective teachers will be exposed to a menu in which they have 10 or 12 different approaches to reading, and they’re encouraged to pick the one that will fit their personal teaching style best.”

Education as a practice has placed a much higher value on observation and hands-on experience than on scientific evidence, Seidenberg said. “We have to change the culture of education from one based on beliefs to one based on facts.”

Kelly Butler has been trying to do just that for nearly two decades in Mississippi.

The Wisconsin DPI, lead by Mr. Evers, has largely killed our one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading.

Related: MTEL

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

2006: They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!

2011: A Capitol conversation.

On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

2018: The Simpson Street Free Press (!) digs: Are Rising MMSD Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?, and digs deeper: Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap.

The state of journalism, 2018.

Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

Molly Beck:

But Walker and his campaign accused Evers of flip-flopping on the issue of school funding because Evers once said in an interview with WisconsinEye that improving academic outcomes for students struggling the most could still be achieved even if the state didn’t provide a significant funding increase.

Evers in the interview did say schools needed more funding overall, however.

Four years ago, Walker leveled similar criticism when he was running against another education official: Madison School Board member Mary Burke.

He blasted Burke for the Madison School District’s massive gap in academic performance between black and white students.

The Wisconsin DPI, lead by Mr. Evers, has largely killed our one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading.

Related: MTEL

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

2006: They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!

2011: A Capitol conversation.

On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

2014: Wisconsin DPI Superintendent’s Task force on the Achievement Gap.

2018: The Simpson Street Free Press (!) digs: Are Rising MMSD Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?, and digs deeper: Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap.

Wisconsin Legislative Council Committee on Dyslexia.

The state of journalism, 2018.

Jessie Opoien, has more.

Dick Cavett in the Digital Age

Alex Williams:

Everyone wants to ask Dick Cavett the same question, and it is a question that he never wants to answer: Of all today’s talk-show hosts, who is the “next Dick Cavett”?

“Well, that’s an awkward subject matter for me, because I know all of them,” Mr. Cavett, 81, said on a recent sunny Thursday afternoon at his sprawling country house in Connecticut. “I’m not addicted to talk shows. God knows, I’ve spent enough time on them.”

As in Mr. Cavett’s 1960s and ’70s heyday, the country is in a period of turbulence, with racial tensions flaring, protests in the streets, and a fundamental ideological fissure. The hosts who have emphasized substance, who have “gone political,” have been praised and nominated for Emmys.

But “the next Cavett”? Is such a thing possible?

On Point: The Population Threat to China’s Prosperity

Austin Bay:

It’s highly probable China will face the same “geriatric” economic conditions that already threaten Japan and several Western European countries: too few workers paying the pensions of retirees as well as shouldering their medical costs. By 2030, the median age in China will rise to 43. In 1980, the median was 23. In 2011, China had 925 million workers. By 2050, China’s working-age population will fall by 225 million, about 23 percent of the projected population. Between 2040 and 2050, 25 percent of the population will be over 65 years old, retired and drawing pensions. The “squeezed” worker cohort must then support both pensioners and dependent young.

Technologists theorize increased automation may mitigate the worker shortage, but it won’t solve it.

Wealth exacerbates China’s government-inflicted conundrum. Worldwide, prosperous and educated couples tend to have fewer children. This trend applies to China.

Increasing wealth and personal lifestyle preferences played key roles in the fertility rate decline in Japan and highly developed Western countries. Japan’s fertility rate is 1.4 children per woman. A recent study suggested that circa 2080 the Italian and German populations could decline by 50 percent. The same trend has begun to affect wealthy South Korea.

Choice is one thing. However, China’s dictatorship relied on government intimidation and physical coercion to cut the birthrate. Concerned about overpopulation, Beijing used political stigmatization, stiff fines, compulsory sterilizations, abortions and infanticide to enforce the one-child policy.

Related: Choose Life.

Ten Things They Didn’t Tell You at Freshman Orientation

David Gelernter:

Welcome to Yale. Please disregard what you’ve been told so far, and follow these instructions.

1. Understand that you’re here to learn how to be good citizens of the United States. Many of you come from Japan or Ghana or France, and we’re glad to have you. But Yale can’t teach you to be a good Japanese citizen; we don’t know how. Nor can we teach you to be a “global citizen” or “citizen of the world,” because there is no such thing. The “globe” has no citizens, because the globe, as such, has no art, religion, music, literature, theater, traditions, folk songs, heroes, traumas or TV stations; no tastes, fads, styles, treasures or shared experience. So you might as well learn to be good Americans for now.

Like all nations, America is defined by its shared experience, and by the enemies it’s made: the Kaiser, the Nazis, the Japanese imperialists and the Soviet Union, among others—in just the past century or so. We are the one nation that always marks itself “C-minus: room for improvement!” Americans work constantly to clarify, concentrate and distill our principles and become more like ourselves—more like the luminous city on a hill to which all nations look up.

2. You are now a part-owner of Western civilization. This should be no surprise: You have come, after all, to one of the country’s leading schools for training Western leaders. You can tell this and other American colleges are Western because they are dedicated to noisy public argument about the truth, to the teaching of history without chauvinism, factionalism or (theoretically) self-hatred, and to competition among everyone over everything. Furthermore, we love sports more every year, starting at age 2, until at last we die of sheer boredom.

3. Now that you are a college student, learn skills. Everything else can wait. Learning science, mathematics or engineering centers on learning skills. Much of the arts, letters and history is centered on skills too. Learn as much music as you can. Master at least one foreign language completely. Reading and writing English are the most important skills of all.

4. Listen skeptically. Grade-school education is built on the myth that the teacher knows what he’s doing. Here, things are different. Never close your mind to the possibility that your teacher—despite his authoritative tone, his many books, papers, patents, theorems or epic poems, his international reputation and his world-wide following—might not know what he’s talking about.

Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole

Theodore Hill:

First, the National Science Foundation wrote to Sergei requesting that acknowledgment of NSF funding be removed from our paper with immediate effect. I was astonished. I had never before heard of the NSF requesting removal of acknowledgement of funding for any reason. On the contrary, they are usually delighted to have public recognition of their support for science.

The ostensible reason for this request was that our paper was unrelated to Sergei’s funded proposal. However, a Freedom of Information request subsequently revealed that Penn State WIM administrator Diane Henderson (“Professor and Chair of the Climate and Diversity Committee”) and Nate Brown (“Professor and Associate Head for Diversity and Equity”) had secretly co-signed a letter to the NSF that same morning. “Our concern,” they explained, “is that [this] paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.” Unaware of this at the time, and eager to err on the side of compromise, Sergei and I agreed to remove the acknowledgement as requested. At least, we thought, the paper was still on track to be published.

But, that same day, the Mathematical Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief Marjorie Senechal notified us that, with “deep regret,” she was rescinding her previous acceptance of our paper. “Several colleagues,” she wrote, had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” For the second time in a single day I was left flabbergasted. Working mathematicians are usually thrilled if even five people in the world read our latest article. Now some progressive faction was worried that a fairly straightforward logical argument about male variability might encourage the conservative press to actually read and cite a science paper?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Golden retirement — seven ex-Milwaukee County prosecutors gets $1 million-plus cash payouts

Daniel Bice:

Along with Martin and Shelton, the other three were former Deputy District Attorney Patrick Kenney and Gary Makhorn and David Robles, both ex-senior assistant district attorneys.

Records show Kenney got a backdrop of $1.34 million, Makhorn $1.09 million and Robles $811,000.

Three other former senior assistant district attorneys — Thomas Schulz, Donald Jackson and William Molitor — apparently benefited from the same provision in the 1989 statute. The trio each got backdrops of slightly more than $1 million but retired before the 2015 memo was drafted.

Coyne said he did not know how all of these individuals would have fared had they opted to join the state’s retirement system.

But one thing is clear: They hit the jackpot in Milwaukee County.

Challenge to Ban on “Literature with Offensive Content” at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Eugene Volokh:

Richard Esenberg, Tom Kamenick and Clyde Taylor at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty have just filed a lawsuit challenging the policy; you can read the Complaint, which lays out the facts and some of the Institute’s legal arguments.

The ban on “offensive” speech is clearly unconstitutionally vague and likely viewpoint-based; and, even setting that aside, the rule limiting leafletting to a narrow zone would be unconstitutional even if it were content-neutral. A university does have power to limit speech that is loud enough to cause a disruption, or to limit large demonstrations that can block pedestrian traffic; that is particularly so within university buildings. But the policy here is much broader than that.

Sacramento School District Spending and Budget Commentary

Michael McGough:

The district now has one month to file a revised budget for 2018-19 to replace the $555 million budget it had submitted, as announced during the district’s Thursday night board meeting.

In an Aug. 22 budget report letter addressed to district Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, county Superintendent David Gordon said the district will meet its 2018-19 minimum reserve requirements, but will fall short by $22.1 million the next year and by $40 million in 2020-21.

“The 2019-2020 shortfall leaves the district with a negative fund balance. Therefore, the district’s Adopted Budget is disapproved,” the letter reads.

Sacramento City Unified has until Oct. 8 to file a revised budget to the county, according to Gordon’s letter.

In further explanation of the disapproval, the letter says “unrestricted expenditures” for 2018-19 and 2019-20 have increased significantly, “even though the district has been asked to solve its structural deficit problem.”

“It’s not like we told them the day before yesterday that this was a problem,” Gordon said Friday in an interview. “We tried to warn them over and over and over.”

The expenditures increased by $23 million for 2018-19 and by $16 million for the following fiscal year, the letter says.

Sacrament plans to spend $555,000,000 for 42,776 students, while Madison spends nearly $500,000,000 (all budgets, including construction) for 27,009 (includes 1,797 4K) students.

The Strange Numbers That Birthed Modern Algebra

Jason Hise:

Everything you could do with the real and complex numbers, you could do with the quaternions, except for one jarring difference. Whereas 2 × 3 and 3 × 2 both equal 6, order matters for quaternion multiplication. Mathematicians had never encountered this behavior in numbers before, even though it reflects how everyday objects rotate. Place your phone face-up on a flat surface, for example. Spin it 90 degrees to the left, and then flip it away from you. Note which way the camera points. Returning to the original position, flip it away from you first and then turn it to the left second. See how the camera points to the right instead? This initially alarming property, known as non-commutativity, turns out to be a feature the quaternions share with reality.

But a bug lurked within the new number system too. While a phone or arrow turns all the way around in 360 degrees, the quaternion describing this 360-degree rotation only turns 180 degrees up in four-dimensional space. You need two full rotations of the phone or arrow to bring the associated quaternion back to its initial state. (Stopping after one turn leaves the quaternion inverted, because of the way imaginary numbers square to –1.) For a bit of intuition about how this works, take a look at the rotating cube above. One turn puts a twist in the attached belts while the second smooths them out again. Quaternions behave somewhat similarly.

Upside-down arrows produce spurious negative signs that can wreak havoc in physics, so nearly 40 years after Hamilton’s bridge vandalism, physicists went to war with one another to keep the quaternion system from becoming standard. Hostilities broke out when a Yale professor named Josiah Gibbs defined the modern vector. Deciding the fourth dimension was entirely too much trouble, Gibbs decapitated Hamilton’s creation by lopping off the a term altogether: Gibbs’ quaternion-spinoff kept the i, j, k notation, but split the unwieldy rule for multiplying quaternions into separate operations for multiplying vectors that every math and physics undergraduate learns today: the dot product and the cross product. Hamilton’s disciples labeled the new system a “monster,” while vector fans disparaged the quaternions as “vexatious” and an “unmixed evil.” The debate raged for years in the pages of journals and pamphlets, but ease of use eventually carried vectors to victory.

IBM secretly used New York’s CCTV cameras to train its surveillance software

James Vincent:

IBM secretly used footage from NYPD CCTV cameras to develop surveillance technology that could search for individuals based on bodily characteristics like age and skin tone. This is according to a report from The Intercept that cites confidential company documents, as well as interviews with former IBM researchers and NYPD officials.

Although IBM advertises its video analytics software’s ability to search for individuals using traits like age and ethnicity, the company has not previously disclosed its use of New York surveillance footage to develop this technology. The extent to which IBM worked with the NYPD, and the secrecy with which it did so, is a worrying example of tech companies partnering with governments to build surveillance systems without public oversight.

Should surveillance technology be developed and deployed in secret?
The ability of new technology like AI to supercharge surveillance has been worrying privacy advocates for years. Not only do we know that such systems can be racially biased (meaning they’re prone to making more errors when identifying individuals with particular skin colors), but there’s no clear legislation in place to regulate their use.

15 More Companies That No Longer Require a Degree

Glass Door:

With college tuition soaring nationwide, many Americans don’t have the time or money to earn a college degree. However, that doesn’t mean your job prospects are diminished. Increasingly, there are many companies offering well-paying jobs to those with non-traditional education or a high-school diploma.

“When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people,” said Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock.

“Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door,” added Maggie Stilwell, Ernst and Young’s managing partner for talent.

5 Uncomfortable Truths About Waste in School Spending

procure 12:

2. Higher spending does not always translate to higher achievement.

Local and state spending on education is nearing $870 billion annually (for K-12 and higher education)–and it increases every year. Yet, relative achievement has flatlined. WalletHub looked at the most populous US cities, dividing test scores in 4th and 8th grade reading and math by the city’s total per-capita education spending. They also adjusted for socioeconomic factors, including poverty rate and home language. The researchers found that many cities display very inefficient spending. For example, in 2015 Rochester, New York was second in total spending, but had the lowest test scores. Rochester’s average standardized test score was only 24% (Rank), but per capita expenditures were $3,176. Compare that to Grand Rapids, Michigan at 84.99% and $1,237.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 Districts.

A maintenance spending audit was floated locally several years ago, but I’ve seen no followup reports.

College Football’s Growing Problem: Empty Seats

Rachel Bachman:

When Minnesota hosted Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium last year, the game featured charismatic new Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, a home team fighting for a bowl berth and a big-name opponent. The announced attendance was 39,933—an OK crowd for a crisp November day in Minneapolis—but it didn’t tell the whole story.

Only 25,493 ticketed fans were counted at the gates, 36% lower than the announced attendance and about half of the stadium’s capacity. More than 14,000 people who bought tickets or got them free didn’t show up.

College football has an attendance problem. Average announced attendance in football’s top division dropped for the fourth consecutive year last year, declining 7.6% in four years. But schools’ internal records show that the sport’s attendance woes go far beyond that.

The average count of tickets scanned at home games—the number of fans who actually show up—is about 71% of the attendance you see in a box score, according to data from the 2017 season collected by The Wall Street Journal. In the Mid-American Conference, with less-prominent programs like Central Michigan and Toledo, teams’ scanned attendance numbers were 45% of announced attendance.

How Colleges Are Ripping Off a Generation of Ill-Prepared Students

Walter Williams:

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka the nation’s “report card,” was released. It’s not a pretty story.

Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math.

The atrocious National Assessment of Educational Progress performance is only a fraction of the bad news. Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that these students can read and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math.

For blacks, the news is worse. Roughly 75 percent of black students received high school diplomas attesting that they could read and compute at the 12th-grade level. However, 83 percent could not read at that level, and 93 percent could not do math at that level.

It’s grossly dishonest for the education establishment and politicians to boast about unprecedented graduation rates when the high school diplomas, for the most part, do not represent academic achievement. At best, they certify attendance.

Fraudulent high school diplomas aren’t the worst part of the fraud. Some of the greatest fraud occurs at the higher education levels—colleges and universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of white high school graduates in 2016 enrolled in college, and 58 percent of black high school graduates enrolled in college.

How social-media platforms dispense justice

The Economist:

EVERY other Tuesday at Facebook, and every Friday at YouTube, executives convene to debate the latest problems with hate speech, misinformation and other disturbing content on their platforms, and decide what should be removed or left alone. In San Bruno, Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s boss, personally oversees the exercise. In Menlo Park, lower-level execs run Facebook’s “Content Standards Forum”.

The forum has become a frequent stop on the company’s publicity circuit for journalists. Its working groups recommend new guidelines on what to do about, say, a photo showing Hindu women being beaten in Bangladesh that may be inciting violence offline (take it down), a video of police brutality when race riots are taking place (leave it up), or a photo alleging that Donald Trump wore a Ku Klux Klan uniform in the 1990s (leave it up but reduce distribution of it, and inform users it’s a fake). Decisions made at these meetings eventually filter down into instructions for thousands of content reviewers around the world.

Protest Turns Violent Over Plan to Relocate Students

Tang Peilan, Shi Mingyu, Huang Shulun and Denise Jia:

Hundreds of parents gathered Saturday in front of local schools and government buildings in the city of Leiyang in Central China’s Hunan province to protest the city’s order to relocate some students from public schools to a private boarding school.

The protests turned violent, leading to dozens of arrests. Some protestors threw water and beer bottles, bricks and firecrackers at police officers and local officials, and more than 30 police were wounded in the clash, police said (link in Chinese).

Parents complained of sharply higher school fees and protested that unsafe levels of formaldehyde had been detected in the private school’s classrooms and dormitories after incomplete renovations. Pictures and videos posted on social media showed protestors holding banners saying things like: “No private schools and give me back nine-year compulsory education” and “We will not live in toxic dormitories, and we will not enter toxic classrooms.”

Civics: How That Magical Jack Dorsey–Alex Jones Photo Happened

Laura Mallone:

His photograph records a tight web of figures, their gestures and expressions so intense as to seem exaggerated, like those of characters in a play. A no-nonsense cop looks askance over his shoulder; Dorsey steels himself; the tall man at center juts his lower jaw out, apparently hindering Jones from getting any closer. It isn’t a technically perfect photo: The most prominent figure is a bulwark against the brewing conflict. But it sucks you in. “It’s a place to click in, like ‘What the hell is going on here?'” says Karen Marshall, chair of the photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography. “It makes you want to keep clicking.”

And in doing so, it reminds you that, even amid today’s always-streaming political theater, the weirdest moments still unfold just out of the spotlight.

I found the photo to be a useful reflection on our first amendment rights, in the context of data mining (“social”) platforms.

Civics: Strengthened safeguards against foreign influence on Danish elections and democracy


The Government seeks to strengthen Danish resilience against foreign attempts to influence our democracy and society. Uncovering influence campaigns, a high level of preparedness and a closer dialogue with media and political parties on how to manage the threat posed by influence campaigns; these are some of the elements from the Government’s new action plan.

Certain countries use influence campaigns targeting the domestic political environments in Western countries as a tool to reach their own foreign policy goals. In recent years, a number of examples of Russian attempts to influence elections and referendums in both Europe and the United States have been uncovered. According to the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, it is very likely that foreign states will also have the ability to conduct influence campaigns targeting Denmark, for instance relating to the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Repressive Experiences ‘Rare but Real’ in China Studies

Elizabeth Redden:

Anecdotes abound of scholars who write on controversial subjects being denied visas to enter China, having difficulty accessing archives on the mainland or being “taken for tea” by Chinese police or security officials during the course of their fieldwork. But just how common are these kinds of experiences?

A survey of more than 500 China scholars discussed Saturday at the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting in Boston finds that such “repressive research experiences are a rare but real phenomenon” in the China studies field and “collectively present a barrier to the conduct of research in China.” Researchers found that about 9 percent of China scholars report having been “taken for tea” by Chinese government authorities within the past 10 years, to be interviewed or warned about their research; 26 percent of scholars who conduct archival research report being denied access; and 5 percent report difficulties obtaining a visa.

A majority of researchers believe their research is either somewhat sensitive (53 percent) or very sensitive (14 percent). Sixty-eight percent of scholars say that self-censorship is a problem for the China studies field.

The Chip That Changed the World

Andy Kessler:

Sixty years. But how much longer? In 1958 Jack St. Clair Kilby —from Great Bend, Kan.—created one of the greatest inventions, a great bend, in the history of mankind. Kilby recently had started at Texas Instruments as an electrical engineer. Most everyone left on a mandated summer break, but he stayed in the lab and worked on combining a transistor, capacitor and three resistors on a single piece of germanium. On Sept. 12, he showed his boss his integrated circuit. At a half-inch long and not very wide, it had ugly wires sticking out, resembling an upside-down cockroach glued to a glass slide.

In January 1959 Bob Noyce, another Midwesterner, was keeping busy at Fairchild Semiconductor in Palo Alto, Calif. He deployed a photographic printing technique—the planar process, which uses glass as insulation—to deposit aluminum wires above silicon transistors. Without the messy cockroach-leg wires, the integrated circuit, or chip, became manufacturable.

In March 1960, TI introduced the Type 502 Flip Flop—basically one bit of memory for $450. A few weeks later, Fairchild announced its own. The U.S. Air Force used them in 1961. So did new computer companies and even NASA in its Apollo rockets. One bit turned into four, then 16, then 64. This started the shrink, integrate, shrink, integrate, rinse, repeat motion that’s still going strong today. This relentless cost decline creates new markets out of nothing.

Why Kids Want Things

Joe Pinsker:

When Marsha Richins started researching materialism in the early 1990s, it was a subject that had mostly been left to philosophers and religious thinkers. In the intervening decades, Richins, a professor of marketing at the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business, and others have contributed a good deal of academic research that backs up some of the wariness people have, for millennia, expressed about the pursuit of worldly things.

One focus of Richins’s research has been how that pursuit begins in childhood, and in particular accelerates in middle school. That’s the time when kids, on average, give the most materialistic responses to the question of what makes them happy. In a paper published last year, Richins described how the social dynamics of middle school can lead children to place more importance on owning and having things. (Movies, TV, the internet, media, advertising, and parents’ own habits, of course, can have similar effects.)

I recently spoke with Richins about this process, as well as the challenges, for parents, of providing counter-programming to middle school’s codes of behavior. The conversation that follows has been edited for length and clarity.

An Intensive Introduction to Cryptography

Boaz Barak:

These are lecture notes for lecture notes for an introductory but fast-paced undergraduate/beginning graduate course on cryptography. I am using these notes for Harvard CS 127.

You can also download all lecture notes in a single PDF file.

If you have any comments, suggestions, typo fixes, etc.. I would be very grateful if you post them as an issue or pull request in the GitHub repository where I am maintaining the source files for these notes.

Civics: Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea


Ms. Khan was born in London to Pakistani parents who emigrated to the United States when she was 11. She is now 29, an Amazon critic whose Amazon account is largely inactive, newly married to a Texas doctor who uses his Amazon Prime account all the time. Ms. Khan was supposed to move this summer to Los Angeles, where she had a clerkship with Stephen Reinhardt, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge and liberal icon, but he suddenly died in March. Instead, Ms. Khan is set to start a fellowship at Columbia this fall, and is considering other projects as well. There is no shortage of parties that want her advice on how to reckon with Big Tech.

“As consumers, as users, we love these tech companies,” she said. “But as citizens, as workers, and as entrepreneurs, we recognize that their power is troubling. We need a new framework, a new vocabulary for how to assess and address their dominance.”

At the S.M.U. library in Dallas, Ms. Khan was finding that vocabulary. These dead books, many from an era that predated the price-based era of monopoly law, were an influence and an inspiration. She was planning to expand her essay into a book, she said in an interview here in June.

Then her life shifted, and she abruptly went from an outsider proposing reform to an insider formulating policy. Rohit Chopra, a new Democratic commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, pulled her in as a temporary adviser in July, at a time when urgent questions about privacy, data, competition and antitrust were suddenly in the air. The F.T.C. is holding a series of hearings this fall, the first of their type since 1995, on whether a changing economy requires changing enforcement attitudes.

The hearings will begin on Sept. 13 at Georgetown University Law Center. Two panels will debate whether antitrust should keep its narrow focus or, as Ms. Khan urges, expand its range.

Is College Worth It?

Peter McPherson and Philip Trostel:

If students across the country judged the value of college by headlines alone, they would come away with a bleak view of higher education. Rising costs. Diminishing value. Questionable career prospects. It’s a small miracle students enroll in college at all. Yet despite the widespread cynicism about higher education, more people are going to college than ever before.

They know investing in their future offers something far more promising than headlines suggest. Students who enroll cite increased earning potential and improved job prospects as their top reasons for pursuing a degree. The value of a college education has never been higher. The close link between college attainment and wages, employment prospects, and job satisfaction is as strong as ever. Even many of the most strident critics of higher education still strongly encourage their own children to pursue a college education. But we need to widen our view beyond individuals to gauge the full value of higher education.

By framing college as an individual benefit alone, we risk omitting the immense societal benefits of college-educated residents and citizens. Compared with individuals whose highest degree is a high school diploma, college graduates are 3.5 times less likely to be impoverished, nearly five times less likely to be imprisoned and almost four times less likely to smoke tobacco regularly. Working-age Americans with bachelor’s degrees are 44 percent more likely to report being in good or excellent health. In 2012, life expectancy at age 25 was an astonishing decade longer for those going to college.

What Spurred a 98% Strike Vote by LA Teachers? Plutocrats Pushing Charter Schools

Bruce Vail:

Public school teachers in Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly in late August to authorize a strike over stalled contract negotiations, but the issues really energizing the union membership go far beyond a new contract. Instead, say union leaders and rank-and-file members, the teachers are growing increasingly alarmed at a small clique of billionaires that has won considerable sway over the L.A. school board and is aggressively promoting charter schools as a replacement for public education.

In a stunning display of solidarity, 98 percent of some 28,000 union members voted to authorize strike action. Arlene Inouye, co-chair of the contract bargaining committee of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) union, tells In These Times that the vote reflects the dismay of the teachers and other education professionals at the actions of the school board.

Via Citizen Stewart:

Read this piece and realize teacher unions almost NEVER talk about improving teaching, learning, or outcomes. 33% of their agenda is preventing students from having other options, 33% it fighting any accountability for results, and 33% is demanding cash.

Classics v coding: what should we be teaching our kids? Reading?

Lucy Kellaway:

If they master the latter they will emerge into the world better prepared than some of my own children, who took more “rigorous” subjects at school. After receiving her first payslip, one of my daughters called me to say she had been cheated: she had received less money than she’d been promised. When I explained to her about the taxation system, she was outraged at what she saw as a colossal swindle.

If any students this year ask “why are we doing this, Miss?”, I will tell them they are learning how businesses function, how the economy works and what role they might play in it. If the point of school is to prepare kids for the world, I can think of nothing more worthwhile to teach them.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

More from the 2006 Math Forum.

Fake K-12 achievement rhetoric.

Students should, imho, learn sufficient skills to navigate a world where cronyism leads to price and service confusion.

Examples include: cell phone fees, student loans, and general financial system practices.

What We Have Here Is Failure To Educate

Francis Turner:

The argument for public education is that it is good for society as a whole to have its children educated so that they can successfully take their place in it, contribute to it and so on. This has historically been understood to mean that we expect our children to learn the 3Rs, get some sort of idea of history/culture and then study something that helps them get a decent job and thence a house, spouse and 2.2 children. The logic behind public provision of it is that this levels the playing field and that it helps most the poorest children whose families otherwise could not afford it. Given that in the modern world there isn’t a single job that doesn’t require some literacy/numeracy the logic that says that education is a public good is quite plausible because uneducated people won’t be able to get a job and thus can’t pay taxes etc. (not to mention that in a democracy where everyone has the franchise, everyone should be able to make an informed choice).

You can now compare that theory with the actual result.

The majority of students do in fact learn to read at some minimal level. Some learn to read more, some learn to do sums in their head, but neither is guaranteed. That seems to be about it for useful results and even that minimal level is pretty poor, particularly for minorities:

Madison, 2005:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.


They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”


On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)


Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.


The Simpson Street Free Press (!) digs: Are Rising MMSD Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?, and digs deeper: Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap.

UCLA’s infatuation with diversity is a costly diversion from its true mission

Heather Mac Donald:

If Albert Einstein applied for a professorship at UCLA today, would he be hired? The answer is not clear. Starting this fall, all faculty applicants to UCLA must document their contributions to “equity, diversity and inclusion.” (Next year, existing UCLA faculty will also have to submit an “equity, diversity and inclusion statement” in order to be considered for promotion, following the lead of five other UC campuses.) The mandatory statements will be credited in the same manner as the rest of an applicant’s portfolio, according to UCLA’s equity, diversity and inclusion office.

A contemporary Einstein may not meet the suggested evaluation criteria. Would his “job talk” — a presentation of one’s scholarly accomplishments — reflect his contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion? Unlikely. Would his research show, in the words of the evaluation template, the “potential to understand the barriers facing women and racial/ethnic minorities?” Also unlikely. Would he have participated in “service that applies up-to-date knowledge to problems, issues and concerns of groups historically underrepresented in higher education?” Sadly, he may have been focusing on the theory of general relativity instead. What about “utilizing pedagogies addressing different learning styles” or demonstrating the ability to “effectively teach and attract students from underrepresented communities”? Again, not at all guaranteed.

As the new mandate suggests, UCLA and the rest of the University of California have been engulfed by the diversity obsession. The campuses are infatuated with group identity and difference. Science and the empirical method, however, transcend just those trivialities of identity that UC now deems so crucial: “race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and socioeconomic status,” to quote from the university’s Diversity Statement. The results of that transcendence speak for themselves: an astounding conquest of disease and an ever-increasing understanding of the physical environment. Unlocking the secrets of nature is challenge enough; scientists (and other faculty) should not also be tasked with a “social justice” mission.

For Brandon: How One Family’s Struggle Can Help Us Imagine an Education System That Does Better by Exceptional Children

Travis Pillow, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Twenty-five years ago CRPE was founded on the idea of the school as the locus of change. Today we are reexamining our old assumptions in light of new technical possibilities, changes in the economy, and a recognition that even the most effective schools may need to develop new approaches to better serve students whose needs warrant more individualized learning pathways or supports. This post is part of a series on what the school or learning system of the next 25 years might look like.

Beginning in third grade, Brandon Berman got kicked out of school or pulled out by his mother almost every year. Autism, a rare form of muscular dystrophy, and a range of other complications that triggered seizures and required him to eat through a feeding tube made him a difficult fit for the public school system in Volusia County, Florida.

Ironically, each time another frustrated team of educators said their best efforts didn’t seem to be working, and his mother threw up her hands and pulled him out of school, he started making actual progress. Donna Berman took time away from her job as a nurse to teach him at home, full-time. The school district’s hospital/homebound program provided four hours of instruction per week with a certified teacher. With one-on-one attention, Donna started seeing signs of real progress. Brandon started learning to read. His instructor set up a mock grocery store in the family’s pantry where Brandon learned to compute change, making some headway in math.

Repressive Experiences among China Scholars: New Evidence from Survey Data

Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Rory Truex:

This paper examines the nature of China’s current research climate and its effects on foreign scholarship. Drawing on an original survey of over 500 China scholars, we find that repressive research experiences are a rare but real phenomenon, and collectively present a barrier to the conduct of research in China. Roughly 9% of China scholars report having been “taken for tea” by authorities within the past ten years; 26% of scholars who conduct archival research report being denied access; and 5% of researchers report some difficulty obtaining a visa. The paper provides descriptive information on the nature of these experiences and their determinants. It concludes with a discussion of self-censorship and strategies for conducting research on China.

Ohio State employs 88 diversity-related staffers at a cost of $7.3M annually

Derek Draplin:

Ohio State University employs nearly 90 diversity-related administrative employees, which costs taxpayers in the Buckeye State about $7.3 million in salaries and benefits annually, according to an analysis by The College Fix.

The 88 administrators receive an estimated $7.3 million in total compensation, which includes $5.38 million in salaries and an estimated $1.89 million in fringe benefits.

“To put that administrative expense into perspective, about 750 in-state students could get a full scholarship for tuition and fees if those dollars were directed to student financial aid. Stated differently, it takes the entire tuition dollars from 750 in-state students to pay for those 88 diversicrats,” economics Professor Mark Perry told The College Fix.

This preemie was born at less than a pound. He just ‘graduated’ from intensive care in a cap and gown.

Cathy Free:

“Can you help me?” he pleaded, explaining that his wife, Molli, was 22 weeks pregnant, and her life was at risk. Their baby was probably in danger, as well. His son needed to be born — soon.

Again, the answer was no, so he kept dialing, calling 16 hospitals in three states, he said, until somebody at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital, 70 miles from his home in Milton, Fla., gave him good news.

Not only would the hospital admit his wife and deliver their son by emergency C-section, but they also had experience treating preemies younger than 24 weeks.

A few hours later, the Potters, both 32, asked a relative to watch their other son, Kayden, 7, and set out for the hospital in Mobile.

Their baby was teensy — 13.9 ounces at birth. They named him Cullen, and hospital staff said they would do what they could for him.

Now, almost six months later, Molli Potter is in good health, Cullen is a healthy preemie — and a video of him “graduating” from the Alabama hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit in a miniature Build-A-Bear cap and gown has been viewed on the Internet more than 18 million times.

“I never saw it coming, but I have an inbox full of messages, and I’m glad that Cullen’s story gives others hope,” Molli Potter told The Washington Post.

More here on choosing life.

New insights on pesticide exposure and autism

Sheena Scruggs:

Pregnant women with high levels of DDE, a metabolite of the insecticide DDT, in their blood are more likely to have children who develop autism, NIEHS grantees reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. In contrast, they found no association between mothers’ exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and autism development in their children. Lead author Alan Brown, M.D., is from the Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

The study is the first to use maternal biomarkers during pregnancy to connect exposure to an insecticide with the risk for a clinical diagnosis of autism,” said Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., chief of the Genes, Environment, and Health Branch at NIEHS. “Along with genetic susceptibility, our environment is important in the risk for developing autism.”

Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art to Open New Seaside Museum

Art Forum:

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing has announced that it will open a new museum along the coast of the Bohai Sea in Hebei province’s Beidaihe District, a popular resort town located on the outskirts of Qinhuangdao in northeast China, later this year. The roughly 10,000-square-foot institution was designed by Li Hu of the firm Open Architecture and built by the Aranya Gold Coast Community, which enlisted the UCCA to run its programming and operations.

“UCCA is excited to move beyond its flagship location in Beijing with a permanent presence in this stunning building in a gorgeous natural setting,” UCCA director Philip Tinari said in a statement. “We look forward to working with great artists to show their work in this new context, and to offering our members and visitors the chance for an unforgettable art experience by the sea.”

The Numbers Behind a Fields Medalist’s Math

Evelyn Lamb:

Peter Scholze, one of the four Fields Medalists recognized at the International Congress of Mathematicians at the beginning of August, studies algebraic geometry. One of the motivating questions in that field is when there are whole number or rational number solutions to polynomial equations. For example, the equation x^2+y^2+z^2=1, which defines a sphere in three-dimensional space, has the point (3/13,4/13, 12/13) as a solution.
In his Fields Medal lecture, Scholze talked about his work in p-adic geometry. (You can read a survey article he wrote to accompany the lecture here, though frankly if you can read that, you don’t need to be reading my post about it because you’re well ahead of me in your understanding of the p-adics.) The p-adics are an alternative number system, sometimes more useful than the real numbers for tackling problems in algebraic geometry and number theory.
There are several roads that lead to the p-adics. One way to get there is to start with absolute values. We’re used to the standard absolute value, which measures a number’s distance from 0. If a number is greater than 0, its absolute value is just itself, and if a number is less than 0, its absolute value is the opposite of itself. So |1|=1 and |-1|=1.

The Politics of Admissions in California

Gail Heriot:

This essay discusses the aftermath of Proposition 209, which prohibits (among other things) discrimination and preferential treatment based on race or ethnicity in public education. As its proponents predicted, when campuses of the University of California stopped engaging in race-preferential admissions, the number of African-American and Hispanic students decreased at the most-highly ranked campuses in the system, but they increased on many of the other campuses. The essay discusses in particular results from the University of California at San Diego, where the performance of under-represented minority students improved dramatically following the implementation of Proposition 209. For example, immediately prior to the implementation of Proposition 209, only one black student had a freshman-year GPA of 3.5 or better — a single black honor student in a freshman class of 3,268. In contrast, 20 percent of the white students in the class had such a GPA. The next year, with Proposition 209, a full 20 percent of black students could boast a GPA of 3.5 or better after their first year. Similarly, immediately prior to Proposition 209, 15 percent of black students and 17 percent of American Indian were in academic jeopardy (defined as a GPA of less than 2.0), while only 4% of white students were. Immediately after Proposition 209’s implementation, the under-represented minority failure rate collapsed. The difference between racial groups all but evaporated, with the black and American Indian rate falling to 6 percent.

District blames ex-employee for Nashville schools’ failure to report teacher-misconduct cases

Jason Gonzales:

Neither case was reported to the state.

The district regularly withholds information about its most serious allegations of teacher misconduct, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee review of human resources investigations in the last year.

Nineteen teachers were suspended, fired or resigned after investigations, according to a list of complaint investigations provided by the district. Two other teachers were recommended for review of termination by Metro Legal, according to the list.

Only one case was reported to the state by Director of Schools Shawn Joseph, a Tennessee State Board of Education spokeswoman said.

Election and K-12 Governance Commentary

Jessie Opoien:

Two Republican leaders in the state Legislature said Wednesday that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers — a Democrat challenging Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November — didn’t take the lead on urging lawmakers to pass legislation making it easier to revoke the licenses of teachers who behave inappropriately.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, told reporters there is no evidence that Evers made an effort to change the standards for license revocation, as Evers has said he did. The lawmakers’ phone call with reporters followed the release of a statewide TV ad by Walker’s campaign attacking Evers on the issue.

Evers’ campaign manager, Maggie Gau, said the attacks from Walker and his legislative colleagues are “gross lies.”

“Without any ability to run on his record and troubling poll numbers, Walker’s re-election strategy is clear: rely on disgusting, dishonest and increasingly desperate attacks to try and distract from his eight years of failure in Wisconsin,” Gau said in an email. “The people of Wisconsin know Tony has spent his lifetime doing what is best for our kids, that he followed the law, and when a loophole in the law on teacher licenses needed to be changed, he worked with both parties to toughen the law so any offending teacher now would lose their license to teach.”

The Walker ad, launched Wednesday, revisits a 2009 case involving a middle school teacher who viewed sexually explicit images on his school computer and, according to a report compiled by the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, made comments about the bodies of female students and co-workers.

How to teach yourself hard things

Julia Evans:

Identifying what you do understand is IMO just as important as identifying what you don’t understand. For example, I don’t know everything about networking. One thing I do 100% know is that there are 65535 TCP ports. That is definitely true. The src/dest port fields in the TCP header are 16 bits (2^16=65536), so there is no room for more ports.

Having pieces of knowledge that I’m really confident about is really important when trying to figure out a tricky problem. For example, imagine a program printed out “port 1823832” in a log. That is not because there are secretly port numbers can be bigger than 65535 and I’ve just misunderstood! That’s because there’s a bug in the program, there’s no port 1823832. That’s kind of a silly example, but I need to debug complicated issues all the time and it would be a huge waste of time to second guess things that I do actually know.

Taking a bit of extra time to take a piece of knowledge that you’re pretty sure of (“there are 65535 ports, Wikipedia said so”) and make it totally ironclad (“that’s because the port field in the TCP header is only 16 bits”) is super useful because there is a big difference between “I’m 97% sure this is true” and “I am 100% sure about this and I never need to question it again”. Things I know are 100% true are way easier to rely on.

Do Charter Schools Take Districts’ Money? Only If You Think Children, and the Funding That Comes With Them, Are District Property

James Shuls:

ow would you respond if you stumbled across a headline that asked, “How much do farmers markets cost Walmart?” It’s a ridiculous question. It presupposes that the customer belongs to Walmart; that any time the individual chooses to buy cucumbers from a local grower or salsa from an aspiring entrepreneur, he or she is “robbing” the dominant grocer. That’s just absurd. Yet this is the standard frame we use when talking about education. We blithely assume that education is wholly different from any other field.

Consider, for example, a recent headline on the Education Writers Association’s website: “How Much Do Charter Schools Cost Districts?” It’s the same question, and it is just as absurd as when talking about groceries. Worse, it is unethical, because it dehumanizes children, reducing them to economic units. In this formulation, neither they nor their parents are individuals with aspirations, endowed with free will and the ability to act in their own self-interest; they are a mere funding stream for public school districts.

This type of headline is all too common. Most people wouldn’t even bat an eye at it. But this isn’t just semantics. It gets at the heart of the way many people view public education.

Welcome to the metadata society — and beware

Adrian Lobe:

Using the accelerometers built into smartphones, Google can tell if someone is cycling, driving or walking. If you click on the algorithmically generated search prediction Google proposes when you type “Merkel”, for instance, the probability increases that the autocomplete mechanism will also display this for other users. The mathematical models produce a new reality. The behaviour of millions of users is conditioned in a continuous feedback loop. Continuous, and controlled.

The Italian philosopher and media theorist, Matteo Pasquinelli, who teaches at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, has put forward the hypothesis that this explosion of data exploitation makes a new form of control possible: A “metadata society”. With metadata, new forms of biopolitical control could be used to establish mass and behavioural control, such as online activities in social media channels or passenger flows in public transport.

“Data,” Pasquinelli writes, “are not numbers, but diagrams of surfaces, new landscapes of knowledge that inaugurated a vertiginous perspective over the world and society as a whole: The eye of the algorithm, or algorithmic vision.”

The accumulation of figures and numbers through the information society has reached a point where they become a space and create a new topology. The metadata society can be understood as an extension of the cybernetic control society, writes Pasquinelli: “Today it is no longer a matter of determining the position of an individual (the data), but of recognising the general trend of the mass (the metadata).”

Deadly deductions

Alternative schools bear the brunt of student deaths in Chicago

Kalyn Belsha and Cayla Clements:

While many CPS students have lost a classmate to gun violence, staff say it’s especially common in alternative high schools.

Some 425 Chicago public school students died between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 school years, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of student transfer records. One in four attended an alternative high school, though these schools accounted for only around 2 percent of the district’s enrollment in that time period. Most of the alternative high schools where students died had a student body that was nearly all African-American.

CPS recorded 160 student deaths by gunfire in those years. It’s unclear if this is a comprehensive count, as district officials didn’t explain how they tracked shooting deaths. In response to a public records request, officials declined to say how many of these students attended alternative schools, saying doing so “has the potential to re-traumatize students and the community.”

These numbers don’t come close to capturing the damage wrought to families by gun violence, or the magnitude of loss felt by staff and students when a schoolmate is killed. They don’t include shooting deaths of recent graduates or dropouts. They don’t include students who were shot but survived.

Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years

Abigail Hess:

This fall, 19.9 million college students will be traveling to college campuses across the United States to start a new school year. There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Christensen is known for coining the theory of disruptive innovation in his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Since then, he has applied his theory of disruption to a wide range of industries, including education.

In his recent book, “The Innovative University,” Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

Loneliness is pervasive and rising, particularly among the young


DOCTORS and policymakers in the rich world are increasingly worried about loneliness. Researchers define loneliness as perceived social isolation, a feeling of not having the social contacts one would like. To find out how many people feel this way, The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), an American non-profit group focused on health, surveyed nationally representative samples of people in three rich countries. The study found that over 9% of adults in Japan, 22% in America and 23% in Britain always or often feel lonely, or lack companionship, or else feel left out or isolated.

One villain in the contemporary debate is technology. Smartphones and social media are blamed for a rise in loneliness in young people. This is plausible. Data from the OECD club of mostly rich countries suggest that in nearly every member country the share of 15-year-olds saying that they feel lonely at school rose between 2003 and 2015.

Valedictory: Analyzing the Chinese Leadership in an Era of Sex, Money, and Power

Alice Miller:

A long time ago, deep in remote spacetime, the China-watching universe was inhabited by wizened sages and their apprentices who applied the same analytical method to a small body of information from a single source open to all on the road to truth. That method rested on a set of premises and a logic that culture heroes in the even more remote past originally had derived to analyze the politics and foreign policy of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. As later extended and applied to affairs in the PRC, that analytical approach had its shortcomings. But it also scored signal successes in an era when no other method or significant body of information was available.
Then a lot of stuff happened. The United States established diplomatic relations with Beijing, opening up to a broad range of interactions, permitting access to previously denied sources, and providing new avenues of research in understanding current trends in Chinese politics and foreign policy. Meanwhile, the fount of the old wisdom–PRC media–evolved. They abandoned the staid, stupefying uniformities that made the old analytical ways feasible in favor of splashy advertising, racy stories, and sensationalist reporting. In this new era, the old ways were set aside and, with the passing eons, are now only dimly remembered by a few elderly sages. The result has been a degraded age of analytical disorder populated by all sorts of cow ghosts and snake spirits, an outcome that, surely, Confucius himself would have lamented as paralleling his own. Regrettably, in these days tender analysts have lost sight of the eternal Way of media analysis and so succumb to the irresistible charms of the sirens of uncertain insight, the Beijing rumor mill and the Hong Kong China-watching press.
This is surely an analytical tragedy. But, heeding the example of past worthies such as Han Yu and Ouyang Xiu, it is also one that a new movement to “restore the ancient ways” may repair. Despite the sweeping changes in PRC media, the premises that enabled the ancient logic of China-watching still hold. Therefore, the old analytical ways may still reward those who have the patience, diligence, and insight required to apply them. Thus again may the Way ascend into view and an age of enlightenment prevail.

A school choice classic, revisited

John E. Coons:

The second book, “Family Choice in Education” (Institute of Government Studies, 1971), was essentially the text of a model statute for parental choice with substantial comment by Steve and myself upon each section. The model presupposed the participation of public as well as private schools in the market created by vouchers.

The question of subsidized choice was, by then, in the academic air. What remained to be written, we supposed, was a more accessible display and critique of the various arguments for and against choice, one addressed to all serious readers. The existing literature was good but remote, academic and largely unread. The possible exception was Friedman’s brief but classic portrayal of an unregulated system that would bestow vouchers of the same dollar value upon parents of every income level. The idea was simple, clear and attractive – but a bit too much so.

I had known Friedman rather well in Chicago. He had been an oft-repeated guest on my half-hour weekly radio show – later I appeared on his television show. Both of us had, in the late ‘60s, moved west to the Bay – he to San Francisco, I to Berkeley, where Steve was soon to be my colleague. About 1973, the latter and I concluded that the market of serious readers deserved a more complete and accessible argument for a form of parental choice more inviting than that of the “libertarians,” a system that would take a form more engaging for political centrists. It would describe a form of governmental engagement that would in practice empower those parents of low or modest income who had for so long suffered de facto conscription of their child by the public system – literally segregation by wealth.

So at last came EBC in 1978; and at long last I have re-read it. I feel the satisfaction typical of geezers who rediscover, then relive, something to be proud of, some deed or artifact that is still in the game. EBC now appears to me sufficient as a battle plan for beginning the rescue of the conscripted parent and child, not trying to exterminate public education but, rather, inviting it to become truly public. This just might be a time and place where interested parties can join freely in common cause – the enhancement of young lives, the professionalization of education, the strengthening of families and the good of the civil order.

Civics: China’s Afrika debt trap

Grant Harris:

Because in Afrika and elsewhere, governments have secured massive loans from Beijing using strategic assets—such as oil, minerals, and land rights— as collateral. If borrower nations find themselves unable to repay the loan, China can claim the strategic asset. Sri Lanka recently learned this the hard way and handed over control of the port of Hambantota, giving China a strategic foothold along a busy trade waterway.

According to Professor Brahma Chellaney at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, “several other countries, from Argentina to Namibia to Laos, have been ensnared in a Chinese debt trap, forcing them to confront agonizing choices in order to stave off default.”

While Chinese debt diplomacy may not seem relevant to most Americans, it is a serious threat to the USA’s national security. Most directly, China’s crafty negotiations and seizure of strategic assets can limit the USA’s influence and access overseas. For instance, the tiny country of Djibouti is home to the most significant American military base in Afrika. Thanks to Chinese loans, Djibouti’s debt-to-GDP ratio surged from 50 to 85 percent between 2014 and 2016. If Djibouti were to default and relinquish the port that resupplies the U.S. base, American military capability in Africa and the Middle East could be seriously threatened.

Why Large Organizations Squander Good Ideas

Tim Harford:

Internal politics soon asserted itself. A case study co-authored by Henderson describes the PC division as “smothered by support from the parent company”. Eventually, the IBM PC business was sold off to a Chinese company, Lenovo. What had flummoxed IBM was not the pace of technological change — it had long coped with that — but the fact that its old organisational structures had ceased to be an advantage.

Rather than talk of radical or disruptive innovations, Henderson and Clark used the term “architectural innovation”.

“An architectural innovation is an innovation that changes the relationship between the pieces of the problem,” Henderson tells me. “It can be hard to perceive, because many of the pieces remain the same. But they fit together differently.”

An architectural innovation challenges an old organisation because it demands that the organisation remake itself. And who wants to do that?

The armies of the late 19th century were organised — as armies had long been — around cavalry and infantry. Cavalry units offered mobility. Infantry offered strength in numbers and the ability to dig in defensively.

Three technologies emerged to define the first world war: artillery, barbed wire and the machine gun. They profoundly shaped the battlefield, but also slipped easily into the existing decision-making structures. Barbed wire and machine guns were used to reinforce infantry positions. Artillery could support either cavalry or infantry from a distance.

Tanks, however, were different. In some ways they were like cavalry, since their strength lay partly in their ability to move quickly. In other ways, they fitted with the infantry, fighting alongside foot soldiers. Or perhaps tanks were a new kind of military capability entirely; this was the view taken by J F C Fuller.

These discussions might seem philosophical — but in the light of Henderson’s ideas, they are intensely practical. “You have to find an organisation that will accept the new bit of technology,” says Andrew Mackay. Mackay runs an advisory firm, Complexas, but was also the commander of British and coalition forces in Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2008. “The organisational question is deeply unsexy, but it’s fundamental.”

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

The High Price for a Free Education

Ni Dandan:

It’s been an exhausting summer for Yu Xi and her son, Fengfeng, but ultimately a successful one. The 6-year-old will start his first year at one of Shanghai’s best public primary schools this month — to the relief of his parents, for whom securing Fengfeng’s seat in the classroom has cost them sleepless nights and millions of yuan. “It’s been driving me crazy,” says Yu.

Like many middle-class parents in China’s big cities, Yu and her husband prepared for this summer years in advance. In 2015, they paid 2.6 million yuan (then around $400,000) for a 30-square-meter apartment in Lujiazui, an area of Shanghai better known for its glitzy waterfront skyscrapers than for its decades-old housing. It was an extortionate fee for a small, dilapidated property; a few streets away, more comfortable apartments sold for much less money. But Yu’s flat boasted one crucial advantage: It was located in the school district where the family hoped to enroll Fengfeng.

China’s middle class is expected to rise from 430 million people today to 780 million people by the mid-2020s. A substantial proportion of them are young, urban families anxious to guarantee a bright future for their children. A good education is key to realizing that dream, but the quality of public education in even the most developed Chinese cities remains highly variable. Consequently, reasonably wealthy parents are spending huge sums of money on xuequfang — school-district homes — in urban areas renowned for educational prowess. Children registered as residents of such homes are more likely to be placed in nearby schools.

Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, which happen to reside among the more expensive real estate in the city.

Ontario Says Colleges Must Adopt UChicago Free Speech Principles Or Lose Funding

Euirim Choi:

The Ontario government is requiring the province’s publicly funded colleges and universities to develop a public free speech policy that adheres to the Chicago Principles by January 1, 2019. Institutions that fail to meet this requirement may suffer funding cuts.

The move fulfills a promise that Ontario premier Doug Ford—a conservative who is often compared to President Donald Trump—made during the provincial election earlier this year. In that election, Ford promised to ensure that free speech was protected in educational institutions across the province, following several conservatives being disinvited from or harassed at speaking events on Ontario campuses in the past decade.

The University adopted the Chicago Principles, formally titled the University of Chicago Statement of Principles of Free Expression, in 2014, following a report issued by a committee chaired by Law School professor Geoffrey Stone. The Chicago Principles were soon adopted by other universities, most notably Purdue and Princeton.

However, the move would be the largest-scale application of the Chicago Principles so far—Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, with a population of 13.6 million according to a 2014 census. Early last year, California’s legislature passed a bill urging the state’s universities to draft free speech policies in line with the Chicago principles, but the resolution was nonbinding.

Franken-algorithms: the deadly consequences of unpredictable code

Andrew Smith:

If these words sound shocking, they should, not least because Ellen Ullman, in addition to having been a distinguished professional programmer since the 1970s, is one of the few people to write revealingly about the process of coding. There’s not much she doesn’t know about software in the wild.

“People say, ‘Well, what about Facebook – they create and use algorithms and they can change them.’ But that’s not how it works. They set the algorithms off and they learn and change and run themselves. Facebook intervene in their running periodically, but they really don’t control them. And particular programs don’t just run on their own, they call on libraries, deep operating systems and so on …”

Why Read the Classics?

Italo Calvino:

Let us begin with a few suggested definitions.

1) The classics are the books of which we usually hear people say: “I am rereading…” and never “I am reading….”

This at least happens among those who consider themselves “very well read.” It does not hold good for young people at the age when they first encounter the world, and the classics as a part of that world.

The reiterative prefix before the verb “read” may be a small hypocrisy on the part of people ashamed to admit they have not read a famous book. To reassure them, we need only observe that, however vast any person’s basic reading may be, there still remain an enormous number of fundamental works that he has not read.

Hands up, anyone who has read the whole of Herodotus and the whole of Thucydides! And Saint-Simon? And Cardinal de Retz? But even the great nineteenth-century cycles of novels are more often talked about than read. In France they begin to read Balzac in school, and judging by the number of copies in circulation, one may suppose that they go on reading him even after that, but if a Gallup poll were taken in Italy, I’m afraid that Balzac would come in practically last. Dickens fans in Italy form a tiny elite; as soon as its members meet, they begin to chatter about characters and episodes as if they were discussing people and things of their own acquaintance. Years ago, while teaching in America, Michel Butor got fed up with being asked about Emile Zola, whom he had never read, so he made up his mind to read the entire Rougon-Macquart cycle. He found it was completely different from what he had thought: a fabulous mythological and cosmogonical family tree, which he went on to describe in a wonderful essay.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: To Be, or to Disband? A Question Facing Shrinking Towns

Daniel Vock:

Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, has about 1.2 million residents, nearly 400,000 fewer than it had in 1970. Pittsburgh itself has enjoyed a recent resurgence in its reputation and economy, but the larger county region still has many relics of a more crowded municipal past. Towns such as Duquesne, Clairton, McKeesport and Wilkinsburg have all seen big drops in their population, which make it hard to afford all the government they still have in place. Some smaller jurisdictions are approaching the vanishing point. In Allegheny County as a whole, 40 of the 130 municipalities have fewer than 2,000 residents.

That raises a troubling question for county officials in the Keystone State: What happens if and when a municipality decides it no longer has the means to support itself and wants to disband? Municipalities in Pennsylvania are allowed to merge with each other, but that‘s often impractical. Towns and cities that are struggling to hang on don’t want to assume the debt or budget problems of a community that’s in worse shape than they are. That’s one reason there have been only five municipal mergers in the whole state since 2000.

Thirty-eight states allow for towns to disincorporate, but the only option for Pennsylvania cities to do so is to enter the state’s Act 47 program for financially distressed municipalities. Disincorporation is seen as a last resort in that process, and it’s one that can take years of bureaucratic maneuvering.

The Chinese were solving 14th degree polynomials in 1303, why?


Reading through the wikipedia on Chinese Mathematics, I came across a myriad of surprises including:

“Si-yüan yü-jian (《四元玉鑒》), or Jade Mirror of the Four Unknowns, was written by Zhu Shijie in 1303 AD and marks the peak in the development of Chinese algebra. The four elements, called heaven, earth, man and matter, represented the four unknown quantities in his algebraic equations. It deals with simultaneous equations and with equations of degrees as high as fourteen.”

A main takeaway I get from this article is that Chinese mathematics was not motivated by the beauty of mathematics or its theory (most things were left unproven), but by purely practical concerns of astronomy and engineering. What practical problem warranted a 14th degree equation?

China launches platform to stamp out ‘online rumours’


China has launched a platform, which includes a mobile app, that lets the public report “online rumours” and even uses artificial intelligence to identify reports that are false, as Beijing cracks down on what it views as socially destabilising content.

The platform, launched on Wednesday, comes as Beijing steps up efforts to police the internet, especially social media used by people to discuss politics and other sensitive subjects, despite stringent censorship.

Besides a website, the platform Piyao – which means “refuting rumours” – also has a mobile app and social media accounts with social media giants Weibo and WeChat.

Via those channels, Piyao will broadcast “real” news, sourcing reports from state-owned media, party-controlled local newspapers, and various government agencies.

The Unreachables

Joshua Brown:

But why would people do that?
It’s because tribal affiliation has completely taken over their lives and their identities are totally wrapped up in it. They tune into their cable news channel each evening to receive their marching orders and direct instruction on what to believe and what to forget they’ve heard about. In other aspects of their lives, they demonstrate the same blind loyalty and unquestioning faith, so why not in the culture wars too?

There are people who choose to have others do the thinking for them. There are people who decide what team they’re on first, before considering any individual issue or question. There are people who are so swept up by the emotional reward from feeling like they’re a part of one side, that even the mere suggestion of the other side having a point becomes a sort of sacrilege unto itself.
These are the Unreachables.

Chinese University Hires ‘Patriotic,’ ‘Politically Educated’ Mentors For Foreign Students

Radio Free Asia:

A university in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin is recruiting patriotic and “politically sensitive” students to act as “buddies” for new foreign students arriving on campus this fall, RFA has learned.

Jilin University’s international institute, which runs the curriculum offered to foreign students, many of whom are studying Chinese, last week issued a recruitment notice.

Many universities around the world run similar mentoring or “buddy” programs to help international students settle in to an unfamiliar environment.

But in China, the job comes with a few additional requirements.

Those who act as mentors, or “buddies,” to incoming foreign students must “passionately love the motherland and this college, and be well-educated in what is politically sensitive,” the Aug. 23 notice reads.

“Most notably, 44% of younger users (those ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year”

Andrew Perrin:

Most notably, 44% of younger users (those ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year, nearly four times the share of users ages 65 and older (12%) who have done so. Similarly, older users are much less likely to say they have adjusted their Facebook privacy settings in the past 12 months: Only a third of Facebook users 65 and older have done this, compared with 64% of younger users. In earlier research, Pew Research Center has found that a larger share of younger than older adults use Facebook. Still, similar shares of older and younger users have taken a break from Facebook for a period of several weeks or more.

Affirmative action should be based on class, not race

Richard Kahlenberg:

Many Americans are of two minds on the issue of affirmative action in college admissions. On the one hand, they recognise that the United States has an egregious history of racial discrimination that needs to be addressed. They also believe that all students learn more—and society benefits—when colleges bring together people of diverse backgrounds.

On the other hand, many Americans are uncomfortable with the idea that the racial box an applicant checks has a large impact on his or her chances of admission. They worry that racial preferences stigmatise beneficiaries, breed resentment, and encourage everyone— including whites—to identify by race. And many other Americans—among them, former President Barack Obama—think it’s unfair when a wealthy African American or Latino applicant receives a preference over a low-income white or Asian student.

As MeToo unnerves China, a student fights to tell her story

Yanan Wang:

The sight of five burly guards blocking the way out of her dorm filled Ren Liping with rage.

It was 3 a.m. on a recent Saturday and the thin, bespectacled 26-year-old Chinese graduate student was exhausted. Her mind raced back to earlier in the day when she had tried once again to publicly protest her alleged rape. Again, the police had stopped her and held her at a station for hours. Again, she was escorted back to campus.

Now this.

Class and acculturation also need to be examined

Janice Rashhed:

My prior experience (and observation) as a parent of two former OPRF High School teens is that black kids’ experience at OPRF is mediated by several factors: prior academic preparation, parental involvement, and social class and acculturation.

Specifically, black kids transferring from (under-performing) inner-city CPS elementary and/or CPS high schools have had a hard time catching up, academically, when they transfer into Oak Park schools. One of my good friends, whose daughter is now a senior at OPRF and an “A” honor roll student and already being recruited by top colleges all over the country, attended Providence-St. Mel School (nationally known for its superior academics on the West Side of Chicago) for her elementary education. Her parents are also very involved and are an integral part of the OPRF sports team she plays on.

Now for the ugly part: Social class and acculturation are like neon signs. Teachers and students alike can tell the difference of these “within group” variations. How are teachers and fellow students (black and white) able to discern the social class and acculturation of any given student? It’s pretty obvious — the students’ speech, dress and other behaviors.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

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

Schools Crack Down as More Students Cut Class

Tawnell Hobbs:

The growing problem of children skipping school has districts across the country experimenting with solutions, from punishments to rewards.

Educators are divided about what approach works. Students who miss school are more likely to fall behind and are at greater risk of dropping out. Paterson Public Schools in New Jersey and other districts are sending specialists into homes to determine if hardships—such as not having clean clothes—are keeping students from showing up.

Districts in Washington state and Arkansas have set up truancy boards with students, parents, community members and mental-health professionals who interview students to find out why they are no-shows. Dothan City Schools in Alabama is withdrawing habitually truant students and charging their parents a re-enrollment fee.

For perks, districts in Texas, Florida and elsewhere are raffling off cars, televisions and gift cards for perfect attendance. Students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District get robocall reminders to wake up and go to school by members of the Cleveland Browns football team.

Is Education a Fundamental Right?

Jill LePore:

Before sunrise on a morning just after Labor Day, 1977, Humberto and Jackeline Alvarez, Felix Hernandez, Rosario and Jose Robles, and Lidia and Jose Lopez huddled together in the basement of the United States Courthouse in Tyler, Texas, the Rose City, to decide just how much they were willing to risk for the sake of their children, for the sake of other people’s children, and for the sake, really, of everyone. Among them, the Alvarezes, Hernandez, the Robleses, and the Lopezes had sixteen children who, the week before, had been barred from entering Tyler’s public schools by order of James Plyler, Tyler’s school superintendent. On the first day of school, Rosario Robles had walked her five children to Bonner Elementary, where she was met by the principal, who asked her for the children’s birth certificates, and, when she couldn’t provide them, put her and the kids in his car and drove them home.

This hadn’t been the principal’s idea, or even Plyler’s. In 1975, when Texas passed a law allowing public schools to bar undocumented immigrants, Plyler ignored it. “I guess I was soft-hearted and concerned about the kids,” he said. Also, there weren’t many of them. About sixteen thousand children went to the schools in the East Texas city of Tyler, which considered itself the rose-growing capital of America and was named for John Tyler, the President of the United States who had pushed for the annexation of Texas in 1844, which led to a war with Mexico in 1846. Of those sixteen thousand students, fewer than sixty were the children of parents who had, without anyone’s permission, entered the United States from Mexico by crossing a border established in 1848, when the war ended with a treaty that turned the top half of Mexico into the bottom third of the United States. Jose Robles worked in a pipe factory. Humberto Alvarez worked in a meatpacking plant. They paid rent. They owned cars. They paid taxes. They grew roses.

Nevertheless, in July of 1977 Tyler’s school board, worried that Tyler would become a haven for immigrants driven away from other towns, insisted that undocumented children be kicked out of the city’s schools unless their parents paid a thousand dollars a year, per child, which few of them could afford, not even the Robleses, who owned their own home. Turned away from Bonner Elementary, the Robleses sent some of their kids to a local Catholic school—Jose did yard work in exchange for tuition—but they were put in touch with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which sent an attorney, Peter Roos, who filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Texas. It was presided over by a judge whose name was Justice. “There were two judges in Tyler,” Roos liked to say. “You got Justice, or no justice.”

Participating in a lawsuit as an undocumented immigrant is a very risky proposition. In a closed-door meeting, Roos asked that the parents be allowed to testify in chambers and so avoid revealing their identities, which could lead to deportation. They had come to the courthouse knowing that, at any moment, they could be arrested, and driven to Mexico, without so much as a goodbye. Judge William Wayne Justice refused to grant the protective order. “I am a United States magistrate and if I learn of a violation of the law, it’s my sworn duty to disclose it to the authorities,” he said. Roos went down to the basement, near the holding cells, to inform the families and give them a chance to think it over. They decided to go ahead with the suit, come what may. Justice did make efforts to protect them from publicity, and from harassment, decreeing that the proceeding would start before dawn, to keep the press and the public at bay, and that the plaintiffs’ names would be withheld.

Roos filed a motion requesting that the children be allowed to attend school, without paying tuition, while the case unfolded, which was expected to take years. “An educated populace is the basis of our democratic institutions,” his brief argued, citing Brown v. Board of Education. “A denial of educational opportunities is repugnant to our notions that an informed and educated citizenry is necessary to our society.” The case was docketed as Doe v. Plyler. “This is one that’s headed for the United States Supreme Court,” Justice told his clerk. Five years later, the appeal, Plyler v. Doe, went to Washington.

Fewer Americans Uproot Themselves for a New Job

Rachel Feintzeig and Lauren Weber:

Fewer U.S. workers are moving around the country to seek new job opportunities, as changing family ties and more openings near home make people less willing to uproot their lives for work.

About 3.5 million people relocated for a new job last year, according to U.S. census data, a 10% drop from 3.8 million in 2015. The numbers have fluctuated between 2.8 million and 4.5 million since the government started tracking annual job-related relocations in 1999—but have been trending lower overall, even as the U.S. population grew by nearly 20% over that stretch.

Experts cite a number of factors that in some periods have kept people in one place, including a depressed value for their home or limited job openings. In the current strong economy, real-estate values have rebounded, but that has made housing costs prohibitively high in some regions where jobs are abundant, such as major East and West Coast cities.

Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years

Abigail Hess:

This fall, 19.9 million college students will be traveling to college campuses across the United States to start a new school year. There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Christensen is known for coining the theory of disruptive innovation in his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Since then, he has applied his theory of disruption to a wide range of industries, including education.

In his recent book, “The Innovative University,” Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

America’s Elite Universities Are Censoring Themselves on China

Isaac Stone Fish:

There is an epidemic of self-censorship at U.S. universities on the subject of China, one that limits debate and funnels students and academics away from topics likely to offend the Chinese Communist Party. This epidemic stems less from the hundreds of millions of dollars Chinese individuals and the Chinese Communist Party spend in U.S. universities, or the influx of students from mainland China—roughly 350,000 in the United States, up more than fivefold from a decade ago. Rather, it is that some people in American academia, too eager to please Beijing or too fearful of offending China and the Chinese people, have submitted to a sophisticated global censorship regime. This weakens not only their scholarship and integrity, but also their negotiating power with Beijing over issues such as access for research, conferences and other academic collaborations, and joint programs between American and Chinese institutions.

More than 100 interviews over the last six months with professors, students, administrators, and alumni at U.S. universities reveal a worrying prevalence of self-censorship regarding China. In a previously unreported incident, Columbia University’s Global Center in Beijing canceled several talks it feared would upset Chinese officials, according to a person familiar with the matter. Some graduate students admitted to regularly censoring themselves. “It has gotten to the point where I don’t engage with anything overly political relating to the Chinese state,” said a white graduate student at a top American university, who described her views as “middle of the road” for those studying China. “I would not willfully do anything that would endanger my ability to get a visa to China in the future,” she added. (Like many of the people I spoke to for this article, the student asked to remain anonymous, because of the real and perceived risks of openly discussing self-censorship. She also asked that I identify her race because she believes there is even less freedom for people of color and Chinese-Americans to speak openly about China.

6. Can Taiwan semiconductor expertise close Ch