White liberals dumb themselves down when they speak to black people, a new study contends

Isaac Stanley-Becker:

This racial and political disparity is among the discoveries made by a pair of social psychologists in a paper forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Psychological Association. Cydney Dupree, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, and Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton, documented what they call a “competence downshift” exhibited by white liberals in interactions with racial minorities, and with black people in particular.

The findings, based on what the authors stress is “preliminary evidence,” raise difficult questions about aspirations for a so-called post-racial society. The results reveal how subtle forms of discrimination may coincide with progress toward equal treatment, or what the paper identifies as “a significant reduction in the expression of explicit prejudice and endorsement of negative stereotypes.”

The psychologists further discovered that white liberals rarely admit to the goal of appearing less competent, a fact that highlights the role of implicit bias and “the covert nature of the competence downshift strategy.”

“White liberals may unwittingly draw on negative stereotypes, dumbing themselves down in a likely well-meaning, ‘folksy,’ but ultimately patronizing, attempt to connect with the outgroup,” argues the paper, titled “Self-Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift by White Liberals.”

The findings could provide a new arrow in the quiver of those who decry identity politics practiced by liberals, and yet the paper hardly applauds conservatives for their approach, reasoning that they are simply “less motivated to affiliate with racial minorities.” In other words, the paper states, white conservatives “would not bother.”

“It’s somewhat counterintuitive,” said Dupree, who is the lead author and whose research was supported by the National Science Foundation as well as by Princeton’s Joint Degree Program in Social Policy. “The idea that people who are most well-intentioned toward racial minorities, the people actually showing up and wanting to forge these connections, they’re the ones who seem to be drawing on stereotypes to do so.”

Perhaps fittingly, Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, yet we have simultaneously tolerated long term, disastrous reading results.


Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.

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

“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT! (2006)

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 (2005)

Ofsted considers using social media to monitor schools


Ofsted has raised the prospect of using Facebook and Twitter posts to analyse how schools are performing.

The schools watchdog said it was exploring “the possibility of using near-real-time data and information from social media and other sources to predict and prevent decline in school performance”.

The organisation said the frequency and content of social media posts about a particular school could help it decide whether an inspector should visit sooner than planned.

Schools ranked “outstanding” do not have routine inspections unless there are concerns that standards may be slipping, while “good” schools have short inspections every three years.

Mark Orchison, the managing director of 9ine Consulting, which advises schools on everything from safeguarding to cybersecurity, said it seemed likely the exercise would involve gathering real-time data about what people were saying about individual schools.

He said it could be useful in terms of supporting work that Ofsted already does looking into parental perceptions of their children’s schools, but it was also potentially dangerous.

Trans groups under fire for huge rise in child referrals

<a href=”https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trans-groups-under-fire-for-huge-rise-in-child-referrals-2ttm8c0fr”>Andrew Gilligan</a>:<blockquote> At Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton, the wind of gender change is blowing hard. Hailed by Tatler magazine as the coolest state secondary in town, with a “liberal vibe” to fit its progressive catchment area, Dorothy Stringer is at the forefront of something very cool indeed.

According to the school’s “equality information report” this spring, no fewer than 40 pupils — children aged between 11 and 16 — “do not identify as [the] gender presented at birth”. A further 36 are gender-fluid, not identifying with their birth gender “all the time”.

The head teacher, Richard Bradford, said the figures, the highest yet revealed in any school in the country, were from a survey of his students by the local council. The number of “openly trans… </blockquote> 

Facebook flagged a University of Georgia teaching assistant after a post in which he bashed “crappy white people.”

<a href=”https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=11553″>Andrew Lawrence</a>:<blockquote> A University of Georgia teaching assistant was flagged by Facebook  after a post in which he slammed “crappy white people.”

The social media platform suspended UGA graduate student and TA Irami Osei-Frimpong, claiming a post from his personal account violated community standards policy, according to a tweet from the TA.

“What I don’t understand is OF COURSE we make crappy white people. Georgia has always made crappy white people.   

“We can talk about voter suppression,” Osei-Frimpong had said in the Facebook post following the Nov. 6 midterm election. “We can talk about ID laws. But all of this begins and ends with the fact that we make crappy White people. So if we are serious, we have to dismantle the institutions that make crappy white people. Their churches, their schools, their families.” </blockquote> 

A Simple Formula to Increase Learning: Read, Write, Read More, Write More

Robert Holland:

The never-ending quest for magic formulae that universally educate all children brings to mind this lyrical lament from a 1980 Johnny Lee country tune: “I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.”

Rarely does anything loveable, or even merely useful, come from wandering the maze of government agencies, huge foundations, textbook publishers, and assorted ed-tech or pedagogical soothsayers. A reviewer of a century’s worth of grandiose schemes, designs, and boondoggles—Common Core being the latest—would be hard-pressed to identify more than a few that have succeeded.

By contrast, a spark of inspiration for helping children can emanate from an individual who has no institutional axe to grind and is willing to sacrifice for the cause.

Will Fitzhugh fits that mold perfectly.

Three decades ago, Fitzhugh quit his job as a history teacher in Concord, Massachusetts, cashed in his small pension, and put all his energies into creating a quarterly journal to be filled with the finest history essays written by high school students. His mission was to show students—and the rest of the world—what they are capable of producing.

Operating without the gargantuan grants that fuel the merchants of ed-biz faddism, The Concord Review has published 1,307 scholarly articles under the bylines of student authors from 45 states and 40 countries. Fitzhugh imposes no arbitrary word limit on submissions. Published essays average 7,500 words, complete with endnotes and bibliography.

The Concord Review is the only quarterly journal in the United States [in the world] devoted exclusively to publishing secondary students’ writing about history. The range of topics is eclectic and the writing is engaging. Here is a small sampling of topics over the past year: “Machine Politics,” “Black-Jewish Relations,” “The Scopes Trial,” “Food Guide Pyramid,” “Coups in Pakistan,” “Sino-Soviet Split,” “Roaring Twenties,” “Chinese Feminism,” “Abraham Lincoln’s Brigade,” “Mussolini’s Vision,” and “Habermas in Korea.”

Fitzhugh’s blog makes plain how The Review’s essayists have justified his confidence in them. Many students have written him to say they reached a point in reading about history that they strongly felt a need to tell people what they had discovered.

In short, as Fitzhugh put it, “reading and writing are inseparable partners.” When motivation springs from knowledge gained, writing can follow a natural progression of writing, reviewing a draft, revising for clarity and correcting omissions, reading for additional content, and rewriting again.

In other words, The Review’s authors exhibit “all the natural things that have always led to good academic writing, whether in history or any other subject.”

Unfortunately, in most high schools, writing is a heavily regulated and restricted process far removed from the ideal of students being able to express something they have learned. Fitzhugh describes the current practice:

“When teaching our students to write, not only are standards set very low in most high schools, limiting students to the five-paragraph essay, responses to a document-based question, or the personal (or college) essay about matters which are often no one else’s business, but we often so load up students with formulae and guidelines that the importance of writing when the author has something to say gets lost in the maze of processes.”

Learn something then write about it. Now there is a novel concept.

Fitzhugh has developed a Page Per Year Plan© (and even copyrighted it) that, if ever implemented widely, could lead to substantially increased time devoted to student reading and writing.

His idea is that all public high school seniors would be expected to write a 12-page history research paper. However, that requirement would not just be plopped on them. They would have written an 11-page paper as juniors, a 10-pager as sophomores, and so back down the year-by-year ladder to a 5-page paper in fifth grade, and even a one-pager on a topic other than themselves in the first grade.

With a Page Per Year Plan© in place, Fitzhugh figures that “every senior in high school will have learned, for that 12-page paper, more about some topic probably than anyone else in their class knows, perhaps even more than any of their teachers knows about that subject. They will have had in the course of writing longer papers each year, that first taste of being a scholar which will serve them so well in higher education and beyond.”

It is highly doubtful that a government-run school system would ever adopt anything as rigorous, yet sensible, as this page-per-year ladder to writing success. Perhaps there are private-sector innovators including homeschoolers bold enough to give it a try.

Meanwhile, anyone looking to find evidence of a love of writing by inspired students will continue to find it every three months in the pages of The Concord Review.

Madison Memorial High School students set to publish book about immigration experiences

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Students at Memorial got a chance to reflect on their immigration experiences for about a month prior to the recordings this week. They then will work with teachers to turn their stories into personalized essays that eventually make it into the books, whose proceeds go entirely toward funding the next set of books.

Getting a chance to talk about her own experiences was empowering, Salgado said.

“I thought it was an amazing opportunity to tell kids that there are people like you, and that we should empower our fellow people of color,” Salgado said.

Salgado has been extremely busy as a student since arriving in Madison. She’s been involved in a slew of sports including soccer, basketball and cross country, as well as leading AVID Student Council and Scholars of Color, a club for students of color who are taking Advanced Placement or honors classes.

Salgado has applied to seven colleges, and is still waiting to hear back from two of her top choices. During her recording session, she explained how she wants to pursue a degree in environmental science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and eventually go to law school to work on environmental policy issues.

The writer does not address achievement data.

Cortical control of a tablet computer by people with paralysis

<a href=”https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0204566″>Paul Nuyujukian, Jose Albites Sanabria, Jad Saab, Chethan Pandarinath, Beata Jarosiewicz, Christine H. Blabe, Brian Franco, Stephen T. Mernoff, Emad N. Eskandar, John D. Simeral, Leigh R. Hochberg, Krishna V. Shenoy, Jaimie M. Henderson</a>:<blockquote> General-purpose computers have become ubiquitous and important for everyday life, but they are difficult for people with paralysis to use. Specialized software and personalized input devices can improve access, but often provide only limited functionality. In this study, three research participants with tetraplegia who had multielectrode arrays implanted in motor cortex as part of the BrainGate2 clinical trial used an intracortical brain-computer interface (iBCI) to control an unmodified commercial tablet computer. Neural activity was decoded in real time as a point-and-click wireless Bluetooth mouse, allowing participants to use common and recreational applications (web browsing, email, chatting, playing music on a piano application, sending text messages, etc.). Two of the participants also used the iBCI to “chat” with each other in real time. This study demonstrates, for the first time, high-performance iBCI control of an unmodified, commercially available, general-purpose mobile computing device by people with tetraplegia. </blockquote> 

W.E.B. Du Bois’ Visionary Infographics Come Together for the First Time in Full Color

<a href=”https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/first-time-together-and-color-book-displays-web-du-bois-visionary-infographics-180970826/”>Jackie Mansky</a>:<blockquote>

After graduating with a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, W.E.B. Du Bois, the prominent African-American intellectual, sought a way to process all this information showing why the African disapora in America was being held back in a tangible, contextualized form. ”It is not one problem,” as Du Bois wrote in 1898, “but rather a plexus of social problems, some new, some old, some simple, some complex; and these problems have their one bond of unity in the act that they group themselves above those Africans whom two centuries of slave-trading brought into the land.”

To accomplish this goal, Du Bois turned to the burgeoning field of sociology. Sociology’s scope in history, statistics, and demographics held the potential to quantifiably reveal “life within the Veil,” as Du Bois called the structural forces of oppressions that separated black and white populations, whether that came to educational attainment, voting rights or land ownership.

And so, almost two decades before Robert E. Park and the Chicago school were conducting ethnographic field work and statistical analysis, Du Bois pioneered a new way to use sociology: to use those methodologies to contextualize the historical realities resonating among African-Americans. </blockquote>  (more…)

Mental health programs help Madison-area schools address behavior causes

<a href=”https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/health-med-fit/mental-health-programs-help-madison-area-schools-address-behavior-causes/article_4a55309a-fc7a-5132-b84b-84ee3daedb44.html”>David Wahlberg</a>:<blockquote> Catholic Charities of Madison operates both programs, and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin also started to help run Behavioral Health in Schools this year. 

While Building Bridges doesn’t provide therapy in schools, the 90-day program helps families secure proper food and housing, navigate insurance plans, get transportation to therapy appointments and advocate for themselves during and after appointments, among other support services, said Jerilyn Robinson, director of family programs at Catholic Charities.

“We break down all of those barriers,” Robinson said.

Through Building Bridges, four two-person therapist teams work in the Madison School District, with each team serving one of the district’s four high school attendance areas. Dane County is spending nearly $1 million this year on the program, with matching funds contributed by the school districts. </blockquote> 

Future-proofing your child’s education

<a href=”https://valueofknowledge.ft.com/videos/future-proofing/?utm_source=FT&utm_medium=PP&utm_content=future”>The Financial Times</a>:<blockquote>Theoretical neuroscientist Vivienne Ming explains why, when it comes to learning, many parents are taking the wrong approach if they want to future-proof their children’s education.</blockquote>

Who Will Fix Facebook?

<a href=”https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/who-will-fix-facebook-759916/”>Matt Taibbi</a>:<blockquote> James Reader tried to do everything right. No fake news, no sloppiness, no spam. The 54-year-old teamster and San Diego resident with a progressive bent had a history of activism, but itched to get more involved. So a few years ago he tinkered with a blog called the Everlasting GOP Stoppers, and it did well enough to persuade some friends and investors to take a bigger step.

“We got together and became Reverb Press,” he recalls. “I didn’t start it for the money. I did it because I care about my country.”

In 2014, he launched Reverb, a site that shared news from a pro-Democratic stance but also, Reader says, took great care to be correct and factual. The independent watchdog site mediabiasfactcheck.com would declare it strongly slanted left but rated it “high for factual reporting, as all news is sourced to credible media outlets.”

The site took off, especially during the 2015-16 election season. “We had 30 writers contributing, four full-time editors and an IT worker,” Reader says. “At our peak, we had 4 million to 5 million unique visitors a month.” </blockquote>  (more…)

Another IRS Free Speech Scandal

<a href=”https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2018/11/another-irs-free-speech-scandal.html”>David Rickin and Randal John Meter</a>:<blockquote>

The Internal Revenue Service infamously targeted dissenters during President Obama’s re-election campaign. Now the IRS is at it again. Earlier this year it issued a rule suppressing huge swaths of First Amendment protected speech. The regulation appears designed to hamper the marijuana industry, which is still illegal under federal law although many states have enacted decriminalization measures. But it goes far beyond that.

The innocuously named Revenue Procedure 2018-5 contains a well-hidden provision enabling the Service to withhold tax-exempt status from organizations seeking to improve “business conditions . . . relating to an activity involving controlled substances (within the meaning of Schedule I and II of the Controlled Substances Act) which is prohibited by federal law.” That means that to obtain tax-exempt status under any provision of the Internal Revenue Code’s Section 501—whether as a charity, social-welfare advocacy group or other type of nonprofit—an organization may not advocate for altering the legal regime applicable to any Schedule I or II substance.

Marijuana is a Schedule I substance, meaning the Food and Drug Administration has found it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Schedule II drugs include such widely prescribed medications as Adderall, Vyvanse, codeine and oxycodone. The IRS can deny tax-exempt status to any organization that seeks to improve the “business conditions” of a currently prohibited activity involving these medications. That could include simply advocating for a change in the law or regulation forbidding the possession, sale or use of marijuana or other Schedule I substances. It would also encompass advocacy for relaxing the regulatory regime currently governing the production, distribution or prescription of Schedule II medications. </blockquote> 

K-12 Tax & Spending Policy Commentary

Michael Lechman, Kathleen Masterson and Eric Figueroa:

The data in this paper on state “formula” funding for K-12 education through the current school year come from a review of state budget documents CBPP conducted in the summer of 2017. An education funding expert in each state, often a budget expert with the state’s education department, reviewed our figures and edited them when necessary.

The figures on both total state and local education funding reflect all state and local revenues dedicated to K-12 education, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. The enrollment figures used to analyze total state and total local education funding were taken from the National Center for Education Statistics. Additional adjustments were made to reflect the following state-specific policies or data limitations:

Locally, Madison spending grows annually. We spend around $20,000 per K-12 student, far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results, while substantive questions have been raised about increasing graduation rates combined with decreasing achievement data.

The Vanishing History Major

Colleen Flaherty:

History has seen the steepest decline in majors of all disciplines since the 2008 recession, according to a new analysis published in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History.

“The drop in history’s share of undergraduate majors in the last decade has put us below the discipline’s previous low point in the 1980s,” reads the analysis, written by Benjamin M. Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University.

Some numbers: there were 34,642 history degrees conferred in 2008, according to federal data. In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 24,266. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, there was a 1,500 major drop-off. And even as overall university enrollments have grown, “history has seen its raw numbers erode heavily,” Schmidt wrote, especially since 2011-12.

“Of all the fields I’ve looked at, history has fallen more than any other in the last six years,” he says. The 2012 time frame is significant, according to the analysis, because it’s the first period in which students who experienced the financial crisis could easily change their majors.

How Surveillance Inhibits Freedom of Expression

<a href=”https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/11/how_surveillanc_1.html”>Bruce Schneier</a>:<blockquote> In my book Data and Goliath, I write about the value of privacy. I talk about how it is essential for political liberty and justice, and for commercial fairness and equality. I talk about how it increases personal freedom and individual autonomy, and how the lack of it makes us all less secure. But this is probably the most important argument as to why society as a whole must protect privacy: it allows society to progress.

We know that surveillance has a chilling effect on freedom. People change their behavior when they live their lives under surveillance. They are less likely to speak freely and act individually. They self-censor. They become conformist. This is obviously true for government surveillance, but is true for corporate surveillance as well. We simply aren’t as willing to be our individual selves when others are watching.

Let’s take an example: hearing that parents and children are being separated as they cross the US border, you want to learn more. You visit the website of an international immigrants’ rights group, a fact that is available to the government through mass Internet surveillance. You sign up for the group’s mailing list, another fact that is potentially available to the government. The group then calls or e-mails to invite you to a local meeting. Same. Your license plates can be collected as you drive to the meeting; your face can be scanned and identified as you walk into and out of the meeting. If, instead of visiting the website, you visit the group’s Facebook page, Facebook knows that you did and that feeds into its profile of you, available to advertisers and political activists alike. Ditto if you like their page, share a link with your friends, or just post about the issue.</blockquote> 

Without Standards and Accountability, There Can Be No Innovation, Personalization, Flexibility — or Education Reform

<a href=”https://www.the74million.org/article/kress-without-standards-and-accountability-there-can-be-no-innovation-personalization-flexibility-or-education-reform/”>Sandy Kress</a>:<blockquote> I think I got a peek last week into why student achievement has turned stagnant in America.

It was, ironically, at a conference sponsored by a fine education policy organization. Indeed, many of the attendees were solid policymakers and practitioners. Yet to my considerable surprise, several participants made worrisome comments that received little pushback.

I want here to describe and rebut those comments. Further, I want to suggest the hypothesis that when such comments are made in an ed reform setting without serious opposition, it’s no wonder reform itself is on the wane. Finally, I want to challenge those who are truly committed to improvement to get fully back on track with standards-based reform so we can return to the days of steady gains in student achievement.

The first surprise at the conference came when it became clear that some folks have become mushy about the meaning of high learning standards for all. Most still agree standards are important. But some now seem to believe that standards can vary and be set by providers in each community. </blockquote> 

How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross The NPR host offers eight spicy tips for having better conversations.

Jolie Kerr:

It all started in the early 1970s, when, floundering a bit in her post-college life, she landed a gig at WBFO, a radio station in Buffalo. There she would call subjects and interview them for the program she hosted, “This Is Radio.” She moved to Philadelphia in 1975 to host “Fresh Air,” the brainchild of a colleague from WBFO.

Ms. Gross brings a combination of empathy and rigorous preparation to the job. “I read, watch or listen to as much of the person’s work as possible, so I have an understanding of what makes them, or their story, important,” she said. “I try to clarify in my own mind why this person matters, and why it’s worthy of our listeners’ time.”

One thing she does not allow of her interview subjects, however, is input on the edit. “When the interview is over, you don’t have a chance to call back and say, ‘Well I like my answer to this, I don’t like my answer to that, can you edit that out,” she said. (As someone who has been interviewed by Ms. Gross, I would like to say that I wish I hadn’t insisted that her cats hate her. That said, I never asked for my comment to be removed from that particular episode of “Fresh Air.”)

In a subsequent chat, our roles reversed, Ms. Gross offered her thoughts on how to have a good conversation.

HS Graduation Rates Go Up Even as Students and Teachers Fail to Show Up

Max Diamond

Phelps reflects a national trend in which high schools across the country have both high absenteeism and high graduation rates. A recent national study by the U.S. Department of Education showed that about one in sevenstudents missed 15 days or more during the 2013-14 school year – the year before the national high school graduation rate hit an all-time high of 84 percent.

Students aren’t the only ones not showing up – absenteeism is also common among teachers. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank, foundthat in 2013-2014, at least one-fifth of traditional public-school teachers missed more than 10 days in 32 of the 35 states studied. According to federal data, in 2015, more than 41 percent of Rhode Island’s teachers were absent more than 10 days of the year. That was an increase from under 40 percent in 2013, but Rhode Island’s graduation rate nevertheless has hit an all-time high.

“It’s really easy to graduate more kids,” said David Griffith, a policy associate at the Fordham Institute. “You just graduate them.”

RealClearInvestigations contacted departments of education in all 50 states seeking to compare their school attendance rates with their graduation rates. Eleven provided comparable school-by-school data for 2016-2017, and in almost all of them, the same trend was present: Many schools had high rates of chronic absenteeism – students missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason – while still reporting high rates of students who graduated from high school in four years.

Among those states – California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee – it wasn’t hard to find schools where roughly a third of the students were chronically absent:

Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Retirement in America? Too Expensive.

Max Holleran:

The new book Gringolandia: Lifestyle Migration Under Late Capitalism by Matthew Hayes explores the little-discussed phenomenon of migration from North to South by retirees, focusing on the historic city of Cuenca, Ecuador. In this city, as many as 12,000 North Americans have arrived in recent years to enjoy the colonial Spanish architecture and low cost of living. The movement of “snowbird” pensioners from cold Northern countries to warmer, Southern ones, illustrates that maintaining middle-classness into one’s golden years is getting more and more difficult. It is also the story of the stark inequality between wealthy countries that produce “expats” and poorer countries that send “migrants.”

Hayes, a Canadian sociologist, explores what makes people leave their communities at the end of their lives, when relocating to a place with a different culture and language is a daunting undertaking. Half a million social security checks are mailed internationally each month but far more elderly Americans live abroad than that. Some of Hayes’s informants, like Mary from Australia, moved to Cuenca because “life seems to be narrowing” at home as friends pass away. “By contrast, she saw a potential move to Cuenca,” Hayes writes, “as an ‘expansionary thing to do.’” Others felt that they had been deprived of travel during their working years and wanted to go all out now by relocating and immersing themselves in a new culture.

Adventure is often the story that expats tell about themselves to assuage the embarrassment of outsourcing their own retirement to a cheaper place. Many of the Americans interviewed by Hayes moved because of divorce, job loss, and inadequate pensions. Particularly women, who entered the labor market in the 1970s but accumulated far less wealth due to unequal pay, liked the option of an offshore retirement. Many international retirees say they’re seeking a late-in-life challenge, in order to show that they still have agency and can navigate their own lives. Yet, in an era in which worker insecurity is heralded as flexibility and freedom, “challenges,” “agency,” and “optimization” have become less-than-reassuring neoliberal buzzwords for making do with less.

Locally, Madison spends far more than most, now around $20,000 per K-12 student, annually. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Israeli intervention in US elections ‘vastly overwhelms’ anything Russia has done, claims Noam Chomsky

<a href=”https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/israel-us-elections-intervention-russia-noam-chomsky-donald-trump-a8470481.html”>Andrew Buncombe</a>:<blockquote> Veteran activist Noam Chomsky has accused Israel of “brazenly” interfering in US electoral politics in a way that vastly outweighs any efforts that may have been carried out by Russia.

In comments in which he accused much of the media of concentrating on stories he considered marginal and ignoring issues such as the “existential threat” of climate change, the 89-year-old linguist said in much of the world, the US media’s focus with Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 was “a joke”. 

“First of all, if you’re interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly and with enormous support,” he said. 

Speaking to Democracy Now, Mr Chomsky added: “Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done, I mean, even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies – what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015.” </blockquote> 

Too big to fail: FT editor Lionel Barber on the future of financial journalism

Lionel Barber:

And finally let’s look at the growth of PR compared to the decline of newsrooms.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2000 there were 65,900 news reporters and 128,600 public relations people.

In 2015: 45,800 news reporters, and 218,000 public relations people

So, 15 years ago, there were two PR people for every reporter in the country. Now there are 4.8 PR people for every reporter.

David Simon, former Baltimore Sun staffer and creator of the HBO series The Wire offered his own perspective on the stats. “This is how a republic dies. Not with a bang, but a reprinted press release.”

How the World Learned About the Pentagon’s Sky-High Nuclear Testing

<a href=”https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/operation-argus-how-cold-war-secret-new-york-times/575983/”>Mark Wolverton</a>:<blockquote> Sometime in the summer of 1958, Hanson Baldwin, a longtime military correspondent for The New York Times, uncovered the Pentagon’s latest, biggest secret. Dubbed Operation Argus, it was the brainchild of the eccentric Greek-American physicist Nicholas Christofilos, a response to the fears of a possible Soviet missile attack that gripped the United States in the wake of Sputnik the previous autumn. Argus would detonate atomic weapons in outer space, creating an artificial radiation belt in Earth’s magnetic field that would supposedly fry incoming Soviet warheads in flight. Already, in utmost secrecy, an enormous naval task force was assembling in the remotest spot on the planet, the frigid South Atlantic, to launch nuclear missiles from the rolling deck of a ship in a crazily ambitious Cold War gamble.


The Case for Dropping Out of College

Samuel Knoche:

During the summer, my father asked me whether the money he’d spent to finance my first few years at Fordham University in New York City, one of the more expensive private colleges in the United States, had been well spent. I said yes, which was a lie.

I majored in computer science, a field with good career prospects, and involved myself in several extracurricular clubs. Since I managed to test out of some introductory classes, I might even have been able to graduate a year early—thereby producing a substantial cost savings for my family. But the more I learned about the relationship between formal education and actual learning, the more I wondered why I’d come to Fordham in the first place.

* * *

According to the not-for-profit College Board, the average cost of a school year at a private American university was almost $35,000 in 2017—a figure I will use for purposes of rough cost-benefit analysis. (While public universities are less expensive thanks to government subsidies, the total economic cost per student-year, including the cost borne by taxpayers, typically is similar.) The average student takes about 32 credits worth of classes per year (with a bachelor’s degree typically requiring at least 120 credits in total). So a 3-credit class costs just above $3,000, and a 4-credit class costs a little more than $4,000.

Civics: The poisonous double standard over ‘stolen election’ complaints

<a href=”https://nypost.com/2018/11/22/the-poisonous-double-standard-over-stolen-election-complaints/”>Jonah Goldberg</a>:<blockquote> Now that all of the controversial elections, recounts and re-recounts are over, let us review some of our lessons learned.

Florida is the Jaguar of vote-counting, and I’m not referring to the animal or the Jacksonville NFL franchise. I mean the car. For decades, part of the “charm” of having a Jaguar was how often it broke down. (That’s no longer the case.) It was the kind of conspicuous consumption that economist Thorstein Veblen used to write about, with owners bragging about how much they paid for repairs.

 Jonah Goldberg

The spectacle of sweaty election officials poring over provisional ballots — 18 years after the state became infamous for such things — has now cemented election incompetence into the montage of images we associate with the Sunshine State: beaches, rocket launches, Mickey Mouse and the human menagerie of freaks, weirdos, moperers, villains and perverts that fall under the omnibus internet meme “Florida Man.”

We learned (relearned, actually) that a lot of people are very, very tense about politics and quick to jump the gun. President Trump, no doubt a bit insecure that his “red wave” failed to materialize, immediately claimed that voter fraud was rampant and that elections in Arizona and Florida were being “stolen.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott followed Trump’s lead and made similar allegations, as did a host of Republican pundits.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Democrats led by Stacey Abrams and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, as well as a chorus of liberal pundits, insisted that the governor’s race there had been “stolen” by Georgia’s Republican secretary of state (and gubernatorial candidate), Brian Kemp.

We also learned that the actual evidence for all of these allegations fell far short of the rhetoric.


Wedge Issues: Rick Esenberg on the past and future of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty

Jessie Opoien:

Shortly after Democrat Tony Evers was elected Wisconsin’s next governor, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty released a statement announcing that the conservative law firm and think tank “stands ready to fight.”

“In Wisconsin, we now face an executive that will be hostile to the principles of individual freedom, limited government, free markets and civil society to which we have dedicated ourselves,” WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg wrote. “If we have to fight to defend school choice, worker freedom, free speech and control of the administrative state, so be it. We’re ready.”

Evidence on student loan debt and community college attainment

Benjamin M. Marx and Lesley J. Turner:

Many of those students are attending open-access community colleges, where tuition is relatively low, helped by substantial support from federal and state grant aid. Still, the remaining costs associated with college attendance—such as books and supplies and living expenses—may be important determinants of students’ success. For these students, the resources provided by student loans could mean the difference between working longer hours and having additional time to spend in class or on coursework.

Although the federal student-loan program exists to provide such resources, the growth in student loan debt is often described as a “crisis,” and many colleges and universities have implemented policies designed to reduce student borrowing. However, there is little rigorous evidence on the causal effect of loans on educational outcomes. As a result, it is not clear whether efforts to reduce borrowing will benefit or harm students.

We address this question through a randomized experiment at a large community college. Colleges that participate in the federal student-loan program must make loans available to all of their students, and the amount that each student can borrow is determined by his or her class standing and dependence on parental support. However, colleges have discretion over how much loan aid, if any, to list on students’ annual financial-aid award letters. Depending on the school’s approach, a letter might provide a loan “offer” equal to the maximum dollar amount a student could borrow, zero, or anything in between.

Going to university does not broaden the mind

The Economist:

GOING TO UNIVERSITY is supposed to be a mind-broadening experience. That assertion is presumably made in contradistinction to training for work straight after school, which might not be so stimulating. But is it actually true? Jessika Golle of the University of Tübingen, in Germany, thought she would try to find out. Her result, however, is not quite what might be expected. As she reports in Psychological Science this week, she found that those who have been to university do indeed seem to leave with broader and more inquiring minds than those who have spent their immediate post-school years in vocational training for work.

However, it was not the case that university broadened minds. Rather, work seemed to narrow them.
Dr Golle came to this conclusion after she and a team of colleagues studied the early careers of 2,095 German youngsters. During the period under investigation (the system was modified slightly this year), Germany had three tracks in its schools: a low one for pupils who would most probably leave school early and enter vocational training; a high one for those almost certain to enter university; and an intermediate one, from which there was a choice between the academic and vocational routes

States are turning to civics education in an effort to produce informed and active students.

Lauren Camera:

Among other things, the law requires eighth-graders to complete at least one student-led civics project and it establishes a Civics Project Trust Fund, which schools can use for teacher training, curriculum development and to partner with institutions of higher education on projects related to civics. It also creates a nonpartisan high school voter challenge program to raise awareness for eligible students to register or pre-register to vote.

“I’m proud to see this important civics education bill signed into law,” Massachusetts state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Democrat who heads the Joint Committee on Education, said during the signing. “In light of recent reports of voter suppression and the perilous state of our country’s civic and political life today, this legislation is especially critical.”

Indeed, the legislation comes on the heels of a midterm election marked by “fake news,” gerrymandered districts, close contests that demanded recounts, and claims of voter fraud and suppression. Its passage is in many ways a direct response to elected officials, principals, teachers and others in public service careers who lament how little of a role civics plays in classrooms today and how it’s urgently needed so that students are prepared to understand and participate in an increasingly complicated electoral system.

Resding is job one, yet….

Wake County schools: OCR closes investigation into student discipline

T Keung Hui :

The federal government has agreed to close its long-running investigation into how the Wake County school system handles school discipline, following changes that have reduced how many students are suspended.

In 2010, the state NAACP and several other groups filed a federal civil rights complaint accusing the Wake school system of discrimination because of how black students are suspended at such high rates compared to their share of the student population.

In a voluntary settlement announced Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has agreed to close the case by 2021 if the district continues with the changes it has adopted since the investigation began and make further revisions.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights in these areas and look forward to continued improvement in suspension rates,” school board chairwoman Monika Johnston-Hostler said in a written statement. “We are grateful OCR recognized the work already underway and the district’s efforts to ensure future progress.”

In the 2016-17 school year, African-American students accounted for 60 percent of Wake’s suspensions while only representing 23.5 percent of the total enrollment. But the number of out-of-school suspensions in Wake dropped 25 percent between the 2012-13 and 2016-17 school years, even as enrollment went up 9 percent.

Related: The Madison School District and the Office of Civil Rights.

How Millennials Can Maximize Savings for Retirement

Anne Tergesen:

Retirement may be decades away for people in their 20s and 30s, but rarely has it been more important—or more difficult—to establish habits that lead to long-term financial success.

Thanks to the financial crisis, millennials are behind where their parents stood at similar ages, said Alicia Munnell, director of Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. People between 25 and 35, for example, have less wealth compared to their income and millennial men have lower earnings as a percentage of median national pay than their baby boomer and Gen X counterparts did at those ages.

With higher debt and longer life expectancies, millennials also have less margin for error when it comes to saving for the future. In an era in which Social Security is underfunded and old-fashioned pension plans are falling by the wayside, they are also likely to bear a greater share of the responsibility for creating their own retirement security than prior generations.

This Fascinating New Ivy League Study Shows the ‘Clear Causal Link’ Between Facebook, Instagam and Snapchat and ‘Loneliness and Depression’ The Ivy League made Facebook. Now its science could be destroying it.

Bill Murphy, Jr.:

Facebook would be nothing without its Ivy League roots. But now a new Ivy League study could mean big trouble for Facebook, along with Instagram and Snapchat for that matter.

That’s because this is the first study to show a “clear causal link” between using these three sites and being lonely and depressed.

Other studies have certainly found that heavy users of Facebook and other social media sites suffered mental health issues.

But that was about correlation, not causation. Those studies mostly found that it could simply be that people who are depressed and lonely to begin with wind up using Facebook and similar sites more often–as opposed to the sites themselves causing the issues.

This new study from the psychology department at the University of Pennsylvania, however, says it’s made the crucial link.

Civics: Americans don’t trust their government, its institutions, or each other. This is not a good place to be: Madison – Graduation Rate vs Achievement

<a href=”https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-welch-low-trust-20181122-story.html”>Mat Welch</a>:<blockquote> So let’s not talk about Kat, let’s talk about you. You who pivoted before I did to the whataboutism in the paragraph above. You who were already irritated at reading yet again about a non-Democrat being inconvenienced in public. You who are saying to yourself, “Fox News is toxic. It’s poisoning my dad’s brain. All collaborators are fair game to be shunned.”

Here’s the question for you: Do you think this ends well? Because it doesn’t.

As it happens, Timpf is one of very few Trump-skeptical libertarians working at 1211 Avenue of the Americas. When we were both on the libertarian-leaning “Kennedy” program on Fox Business recently, she said stuff like, “Oh, I’m personally not scared of the [immigrant] caravan. I think that Trump’s done an excellent job of making people scared.” Hound her from the building, and that’s one less non-#MAGA commentator on dad’s TV.</blockquote>  <A href=”https://www.schoolinfosystem.org/2018/09/01/seeing-the-forest-unpacking-the-relationship-between-madison-school-district-wi-graduation-rates-and-student-achievement/”>Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement</a>  

Civics: Why You Should Care About the Julian Assange Case

Matt Taibbi:

“Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case,” prosecutors wrote, “no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack told Rolling Stone he had “not been informed that Mr. Assange has been charged, or the nature of any charges.”

Pollock and other sources could not be sure, but within the Wikileaks camp it’s believed that this charge, if it exists, is not connected to the last election.

“I would think it is not related to the 2016 election since that would seem to fall within the purview of the Office of Special Counsel,” Pollack said.

If you hate Assange because of his role in the 2016 race, please take a deep breath and consider what a criminal charge that does not involve the 2016 election might mean. An Assange prosecution could give the Trump presidency broad new powers to put Trump’s media “enemies” in jail, instead of just yanking a credential or two. The Jim Acosta business is a minor flap in comparison.

Although Assange may not be a traditional journalist in terms of motive, what he does is essentially indistinguishable from what news agencies do, and what happens to him will profoundly impact journalism.

Charter school backers spent millions on statewide California races in 2018. They still lost twice.

Sophia Bollag:

When former charter school executive Marshall Tuck called Assemblyman Tony Thurmond to concede over the weekend, it marked another defeat for charter-school advocates in California.

Thurmond was elected California’s top education official in the wave that led more liberal-leaning voters to cast ballots. Although both are Democrats, Thurmond had the party’s endorsement.

He also was backed by teachers unions, who were outspent more than two-to-one.

Independent groups supporting Tuck spent more than $36 million this cycle. Prominent education reform supporters, including frequent political donor Bill Bloomfield, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and philanthropist Eli Broad were among the biggest contributors to those efforts. Tuck’s official campaign raised another $5 million.

Civics: Former New York Times Chief Lawyer: Rally to Support Julian Assange

Trevor Timm:

James Goodale: When I wrote the book pointing out the dangers to the First Amendment if Assange was prosecuted, I made it my business to see if I could gin up support within the media/press community to stick up for his rights, since his rights would affect everyone else’s. I had occasion to speak to many groups in connection with the promotion of my book. Every time I mentioned the fact that establishment press should advocate for Assange’s rights, I heard hoots of laughter or people shouting at me that I didn’t understand the journalism profession.

I was dismayed that I got very few converts in the journalistic community that would take my position that it was necessary to support Assange — not for Assange himself, but for the First Amendment.

To that point, you don’t need to like Assange — or you could even actively hate him — to support his First Amendment rights and realize the danger prosecution poses to all journalists, or journalists at the New York Times, for example.

At the time, the facts concerning Assange with respect to publication of material that he made with the New York Times, Guardian, etc, presented a classic First Amendment case of someone who was very unpopular, disliked, but nonetheless has First Amendment rights. It’s classic First Amendment theory that you separate the First Amendment from the personality and the activities and rights of the person you’re defending.

Tony Thurmond is the new California schools chief. Now what?

Richard Cano:

The apparent victory—some 2 million ballots still remain to be counted—marked a high-profile setback for wealthy supporters of education reform in California’s sprawling system of public schools. The defeat was Tuck’s second competitive loss in a row to a candidate endorsed by the powerful California Teachers Association. In 2014, he lost the school chief post to Tom Torlakson, who, like Thurmond, was backed by the teachers’ unions.

For pro-charter donors, the outcome was the dispiriting second half of a 2018 double-header: In addition to the tens of millions they injected into the school chief race, which generated an estimated $60 million in combined campaign spending, the wealthy school reform cadre also threw $25 million during the primary into an unsuccessful attempt to get Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villargoisa elected governor.

Ive on “Teetering toward the absurd”

David Phelan:

“We designers create tools, tools that you can live in, sit on, eat with, tools that enable communication and support learning, creating and mending. Our tools can be powerful, they can be beautiful, and on many occasions they’re not motivated by understood or articulated needs.”

But though Ive works in the world of technology, he recognises it can be challenging.

“As an aside, it’s interesting, isn’t it, when we struggle with technology, we assume the issue is actually with us. If you eat something that tastes dreadful, you don’t assume that the issue is with you. I just thought I’d mention that.”

Madison’s teachers union wins re-certification election

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Propelled by an 80 percent turnout rate, Madison Teachers Inc. won its annual re-certification election Monday, according to results released by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

Most public sector unions in the state are required under Act 10 to participate in annual certification elections in order to retain their standing as labor representatives for public employees. Unlike political elections, however, unions must have 51 percent of all eligible employees vote to recertify the union. Because of this set up, eligible employees that do not cast a ballot are counted essentially as votes against re-certification.

More than 80 percent of employees represented by MTI voted, with 99 percent of ballots supporting MTI.

“The huge turnout and large margin of victory is a testament to the value that Madison teachers, educational support employees and substitute teachers continue to place in their union,” Doug Keillor, MTI’s executive director, said in a Tuesday statement. “Our members are committed to standing together to advocate for their profession, their students and for public education, regardless of the hurdles thrown our way by the governor and Legislature.”

Madison has long spent far more than most K-12 taxpayer funded school districts, yet we have tolerated disastrous reading results and curious graduation rates.

‘Cultural Marxism’ might sound postmodern but it’s got a long, toxic history.

Samuel Moyn:

At the chilling climax of William S. Lind’s 2014 novel “Victoria,” knights wearing crusader’s crosses and singing Christian hymns brutally slay the politically correct faculty at Dartmouth College, the main character’s (and Mr. Lind’s) alma mater. “The work of slaughter went quickly,” the narrator says. “In less than five minutes of screams, shrieks and howls, it was all over. The floor ran deep with the bowels of cultural Marxism.”

What is “cultural Marxism”? And why does Mr. Lind fantasize about its slaughter?

Nothing of the kind actually exists. But it is increasingly popular to indict cultural Marxism’s baleful effects on society — and to dream of its violent extermination. With a spate of recent violence in the United States and elsewhere, calling out the runaway alt-right imagination is more urgent than ever.

K-12 Tax and spending growth commentary amidst a time of local assessment growth

Madison’s property tax levy growth:

Details, here.

Jessie Opoien:

Wisconsin voters approved record levels of additional spending on K-12 schools by passing 90 percent of the referendum questions on ballots throughout the state in 2018.

More than $2 billion worth of referendum initiatives were approved over the course of the year, according to a report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The number of referendum efforts to raise local property taxes in exchange for more spending on schools was the largest seen since 2001, at 157. Voters approved 90 percent of those questions, according to the Policy Forum analysis.

According to unofficial election results, a large chunk of the new spending — $1.37 billion — was approved on Nov. 6, when voters turned out in record numbers to vote in the state’s midterm elections. Nearly 80 referendum questions across 57 school districts were approved on midterm ballots.

Taxpayer funded k-12 school district tax base assessments have grown in recent years, somewhat “hiding” spending increases. Expanding assessments create more room for spending growth.

Spending far more than most, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Public Attitudes Toward Computer Algorithms

Aaron Smith:

Real-world examples of the scenarios in this survey

All four of the concepts discussed in the survey are based on real-life applications of algorithmic decision-making and artificial intelligence (AI):

Numerous firms now offer nontraditional credit scores that build their ratings using thousands of data points about customers’ activities and behaviors, under the premise that “all data is credit data.”

States across the country use criminal risk assessments to estimate the likelihood that someone convicted of a crime will reoffend in the future.

Several multinational companies are currently using AI-based systems during job interviews to evaluate the honesty, emotional state and overall personality of applicants.

Computerized resume screening is a longstanding and common HR practice for eliminating candidates who do not meet the requirements for a job posting.

Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People


Today we’re building another world-changing technology, machine intelligence. We know that it will affect the world in profound ways, change how the economy works, and have knock-on effects we can’t predict.

But there’s also the risk of a runaway reaction, where a machine intelligence reaches and exceeds human levels of intelligence in a very short span of time.

At that point, social and economic problems would be the least of our worries. Any hyperintelligent machine (the argument goes) would have its own hypergoals, and would work to achieve them by manipulating humans, or simply using their bodies as a handy source of raw materials.

Last year, the philosopher Nick Bostrom published Superintelligence, a book that synthesizes the alarmist view of AI and makes a case that such an intelligence explosion is both dangerous and inevitable given a set of modest assumptions.

The computer that takes over the world is a staple scifi trope. But enough people take this scenario seriously that we have to take them seriously. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and a whole raft of Silicon Valley investors and billionaires find this argument persuasive.

Let me start by laying out the premises you need for Bostrom’s argument to go through:

The Middle East’s travelling storytellers


A low, throaty voice worked its way through the city of Diyarbakır, reaching further than it had any right to. Even without understanding a word of Kurdish, I had no doubt about the sorrow it expressed through its mournful tones.

Regarded as the capital of Turkish Kurdistan, Diyarbakır (Amed in Kurdish) is perched on a bluff overlooking the turbulent Tigris River in south-eastern Turkey. I visited in summer when the heat was stifling, the surrounding countryside scorched yellow. The sun fell heavy on the city’s foreboding black basalt walls, which absorbed its warmth and radiated it back out again.

Good Grief: The Beguiling philosophy of the Peanuts

Cameron Laux:

Who was its creator? Schulz seems to have been Protestant to the core, in the old-fashioned sense. He was quiet, decent, thoughtful, modest and so hard-working that he didn’t like holidays. He grew up in Minnesota in the US: one of those states with hot summers and cryogenic winters, which doesn’t have many dots on it when you see it on a map. He served with the US Army in Europe during World War Two (“the army taught me all I needed to know about loneliness”). He loved hockey and ice skating so much that when he moved to California later in life he built a skating arena in his town. For a prophet of self-doubt, he formulated and drew his strips with remarkable decisiveness, preferring to put ink directly to paper as he went. Oh, and when he was young he had a dog called Spike who became the immortal god Snoopy. Blessed be his name.

Explore the Tokyo’s Snoopy Museum in the amuz app (amuzapp.com):

Best futurists ever: The predictions of Robert A. Heinlein, from the Cold War to the waterbed

Martin Anderson:

Among the most influential and prescient science-fiction authors of the twentieth century, Robert A. Heinlein’s contributions to culture extend from linguistics and social theory through to innovations in furniture.

His prognostications about the destiny of mankind are informed as much by our history as our potential, with a depth of understanding that makes classic novels such as Stranger In a Strange Land works of enduring world literature.

Heinlein preferred to call his output “speculative fiction.” to distinguish it from the exploitative “space opera” fare which he considered to have tarnished the SF literary genre.

Though many of his themes were broad, his interest in the technological and political future of humanity nonetheless brought up some fascinating as well as accurate predictions about the coming decades.

The Fleeting Magic of Scholastic Book Fairs

Marina Koren:

It is with this high in mind that I walked into a Scholastic book fair at Woodfield Elementary, a school of about 300 students in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. When my tour guides, a pair of regional Scholastic sales representatives, arrived, they led me from the main office, down hallways covered in posters and drawings, to the library. As we approached, my heartbeat quickened in anticipation, just as it did so many years ago. We turned a corner and stepped inside.

For a split second, it felt as if someone had sucked all the air out of the room. This was not the Scholastic book fair I remembered.

It certainly looked like one. Metal bookshelves lined the room, topped with brightly colored banners designating genres—science, adventure, animals. Schoolchildren flitted from section to section, giggling as they went. A person dressed from head to toe as Clifford the Big Red Dog, the star of a well-known Scholastic-made book series, waved his fluffy red paws enthusiastically.

Civics: 2018 Campaign Digital advertising and data mining notes

Scott Bauert:

Baldwin’s digital ads got 40 million impressions, Spector said. On social media platforms there were 15 million impressions, he said.

Those ads were either 15-second versions of 30-second TV spots, or separate pieces made exclusively for digital platforms, Spector said. Some touted Baldwin’s work with the dairy industry and were targeted to dairy farmers, ads that Spector said led to Baldwin winning Trempealeau and Jackson counties while Evers lost there.

Other digital ads, aimed at voters who were likely to support legalizing marijuana, attacked Vukmir over her opposition to that. They also had ads targeting African-American voters in Milwaukee, which Spector said helped bolster turnout there.

As part of Baldwin’s get-out-the-vote effort the campaign ran a digital ad that got 8 million impressions hitting Vukmir over her allegiance to Trump.

Tests Showed Children Were Exposed to Lead. The New York’s Official Response: Challenge the Tests

J. David Goodman, Al Baker and James Glanz:

Mikaila Bonaparte has spent her entire life under the roof of the New York City Housing Authority, the oldest and largest public housing system in the country, where as a toddler she nibbled on paint chips that flaked to the floor. In the summer of 2016, when she was not quite 3 years old, a test by her doctor showed she had lead in her blood at levels rarely seen in modern New York. A retest two days later revealed an even higher level, one

Pretentious, impenetrable, hard work … better? Why we need difficult books

Sam Leith:

This year’s Booker-winner Milkman has been criticised for being challenging. But are we confusing readability with literary value?

“The fascination of what’s difficult,” wrote WB Yeats, “has dried the sap out of my veins … ” In the press coverage of this year’s Man Booker prize winner, Anna Burns’s Milkman, we’ve read a good many commentators presenting with sapless veins – but a dismaying lack of any sense that what’s difficult might be fascinating.

“Odd”, “impenetrable”, “hard work”, “challenging” and “brain-kneading” have been some of the epithets chosen. They have not been meant, I think, as compliments. The chair of the judges, Kwame Anthony Appiah, perhaps unhelpfully, humblebragged that: “I spend my time reading articles in the Journal of Philosophy, so by my standards this is not too hard.” But he added that Milkman is “challenging […] the way a walk up Snowdon is challenging. It is definitely worth it because the view is terrific when you get to the top.”

That’s at least a useful starting point. Appiah defends the idea – which, nearly a century after modernism really kicked off, probably shouldn’t need defending – that ease of consumption isn’t the main criterion by which literary value should be assessed. We like to see sportsmen and women doing difficult things. We tend to recognise in music, film, television and the plastic arts that good stuff often asks for a bit of work from its audience. And we’re all on board with “difficult” material as long as it’s a literary classic – we read The Waste Land for our A-levels and we scratched our heads as we puzzled it out, and now we recognise that it is like it is because it has to be that way. So why is “difficult” a problem when it comes to new fiction?

Update: Chickenpox Outbreak Grows to 36 Students at Asheville Waldorf School

Buncombe County:

The varicella (chickenpox) outbreak at Asheville Waldorf School has grown to 36 students. Health officials continue to monitor the situation and strongly encourage everyone in the community to do their part to reduce the spread of this outbreak.

The best way to prevent becoming infected with chickenpox is to be fully immunized.

Chickenpox is easily passed from one person to another through the air by coughing or sneezing or through the fluid from a blister of a person who has chickenpox. Although it is usually not a serious illness, it often causes children and their parents to miss days at school and work. Most cases of chickenpox in healthy children are treated with bed rest, fluids, and fever control.

When this high school volleyball team lost everything in the California fires, their opponents bought them new uniforms

Christina Maxouris and Brandon Griggs:

When he learned that Paradise would still be coming to play, Forest Lake Christian Athletic Director LaRon Gordon wasted no time. He set up a meeting with school administrators to see what they could do to help.

First, they called the California Interscholastic Federation and persuaded them to waive the fans’ entrance fee for the game. Then they contacted everyone they knew and asked for donations.

The Forest Lake Christian School volleyball team.

“We got out and called our friends, community, got on social media,” Gordon said. “And we set up three little bins outside the school (for donations).”

By the next day, the bins were overflowing.

“The whole front of the school was jam-packed full of donations,” he said. “You couldn’t even walk into the school from the front. You can’t imagine it.”

The night before the game, Gordon had another idea. He called a close friend and located a company that agreed to work overnight to make jerseys for the Paradise team.

Tsinghua University may soon top the world league in science research

The Economist:

TSINGHUA UNIVERSITY was born out of national humiliation. It was founded in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion—an anti-foreign uprising in 1900—and paid for with the reparations exacted from China by America. Now Tsinghua is a major source of Chinese pride as it contends for accolades for research in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). In 2013-16 it produced more of the top 1% most highly cited papers in maths and computing, and more of the 10% most highly cited papers in STEM, than any other university in the world, reckons Simon Marginson of Oxford University (see chart). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) still leads in the top 1% of STEM papers, but Mr Marginson says Tsinghua is on track to be “number one in five years or less”.

American Civil Liberties Union, RIP: The ACLU no longer even pretends to believe in civil liberties.

David Bernstein:

In the late 1960s, the ACLU was a small but powerful liberal organization devoted to a civil libertarian agenda composed primarily of devotion to freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and the rights of accused criminals. In the early 1970s, the ACLU’s membership rose from around 70,000 to almost 300,000. Many new members were attracted by the organization’s opposition to the Vietnam War and its high-profile battles with President Nixon, but such members were not committed to the ACLU’s broader civil libertarian agenda. However, the organization’s defense of the KKK’s right to march in Skokie, Illinois, in the late 1970s weeded out some of these fair-weather supporters and attracted some new free speech devotees. But George H. W. Bush’s criticisms of the ACLU during the 1988 presidential campaign again attracted many liberal members not especially devoted to civil liberties.

To maintain its large membership base, the ACLU recruited new members by directing mass mailings to mailing lists rented from a broad range of liberal groups. The result of the shift of the ACLU to a mass membership organization was that it gradually transformed itself from a civil libertarian organization into a liberal organization with an interest in civil liberties. This problem was exacerbated by the growth within the ACLU of autonomous, liberal, special interest cliques known as “projects.” These projects have included an AIDS Project, a Capital Punishment Project, a Children’s Rights Project, an Immigrants’ Rights Project, a Lesbian and Gay Project, a National Prison Project, a Women’s Rights Project, a Civil Liberties in the Workplace Project, a Privacy and Technology Project, and an Arts Censorship Project. This loss of focus led Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz to waggishly suggest that “perhaps the Civil Liberties Union needs a civil liberties project.”

Since the George W. Bush administration, the ACLU’s dedication to its traditional civil libertarian mission has waned ever further. With the election of Donald Trump, its membership rolls have grown to almost two million, almost all of them liberal politically, few of whom are devoted to civil liberties as such. Meanwhile, the left in general has become less interested in, and in some cases opposed to, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the rights of the accused.

‘The Academy Is Largely Itself Responsible for Its Own Peril’

Evan Goldstein:

The book was supposed to end with the inauguration of Barack Obama. That was Jill Lepore’s plan when she began work in 2015 on her new history of America, These Truths (W.W. Norton). She had arrived at the Civil War when Donald J. Trump was elected. Not to alter the ending, she has said, would have felt like “a dereliction of duty as a historian.”

These Truths clocks in at 789 pages (nearly 1,000 if you include the notes and index). It begins with Christopher Columbus and concludes with you-know-who. But the book isn’t a compendium; it’s an argument. The American Revolution, Lepore shows, was also an epistemological revolution. The country was built on truths that are self-evident and empirical, not sacred and God-given. “Let facts be submitted to a candid world,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence. Now, it seems, our faith in facts has been shaken. These Truths traces how we got here.

Lepore occupies a rarefied perch in American letters. She is a professor at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. She has written books about King Philip’s War, Wonder Woman, and Jane Franklin, sister of Benjamin Franklin. She even co-wrote an entire novel in mock 18th-century prose. The Princeton historian Sean Wilentz has said of Lepore: “More successfully than any other American historian of her generation, she has gained a wide general readership without compromising her academic standing.”

Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology by Adrienne Mayor reviewed

Peter Stothard:

Among the myths of Ancient Greece the Cyclops has become forever famous, the Talos not so much. While both were monsters who hurled giant boulders at Mediterranean shipping, the Cyclops, who attacked Odysseus on his way home from Troy was a monster like us, the son of a god, an eater, a drinker, a sub-human with feelings. The Talos was more alien, by some accounts a mere machine, manufactured in metal by a god and pre-programmed only to sink ships and roast invaders alive, a cross between a Cruise missile launcher and an automatic oven.

Talos began its existence just as early as the Cyclops. But it was only described with drama in the epic poem the Argonautica, by Apollonius of Rhodes some 500 years later. Homer’s readers have always been the more numerous. Only a few fans now read how Jason’s Argonauts overcame Talos with the help of the princess Medea, using thought-rays and her knowledge of Talos’s one weak mechanical spot.

In Gods and Robots, Adrienne Mayor, an American historian best known for her work on Amazons, aims to rescue the neglected automata of antiquity from the fleshy allure of goddesses and nymphs. For anyone probing the history of biotechnology and artificial intelligence, she suggests that Talos, defender of Crete for the famed King Minos, should be the star of Chapter One.

Title IX regulation would mandate cross-examination, use same evidence standard for students and faculty

Greg Piper:

Colleges would no longer be allowed to run sexual-misconduct proceedings through a single investigator, under the Department of Education’s long-awaited proposed Title IX regulation released Friday.

That in turn would require colleges to allow accusers and accused students to cross-examine each other in “live” hearings through their lawyers or other advocates.

And in a major change that could set off fights with faculty and their unions, colleges would be required to use the same evidence standard in both student and faculty disciplinary proceedings.

In order to preserve the low evidence standard of “preponderance” for students, mandated by the Obama administration, colleges would be forced to lower the higher standard of evidence commonly used for faculty.

Who made key mistakes in Parkland school shooting? Nine months later, no one held accountable

David Fleshler and Megan O’Matz:

Despite an extraordinary series of governmental failures leading to the bloodshed in Parkland, just a few low-level employees have faced consequences over errors that may have cost lives.

But not the school administrators who failed to act on warnings of weak security at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, or the ones who mismanaged gunman Nikolas Cruz’s special education needs when he was a student there. Not the sheriff’s deputies who took cover while children were shot, or their supervisors. And, by all indications, no one at the FBI, which fumbled compelling, back-to-back tips about Cruz in the months before his rampage.

“There were so many mistakes,” said Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, whose district includes Stoneman Douglas. “I don’t feel there’s been sufficient accountability. But more importantly, the people that live in northwest Broward, my neighbors and friends, don’t feel there’s been accountability.”

Cruz, who has confessed, clearly deserves the most blame for the Feb. 14 shooting. And the easy availability of firearms in Florida played a role in an attack in which the gunman stalked the halls with a high-capacity rifle and fired into classrooms, killing 17 and wounding 17.

But at the agencies charged with keeping Broward County’s schools safe, where leaders have been quick to pat themselves on the back for their work, few people have suffered consequences for multiple errors that have come to light since the shooting.

Students protest Zuckerberg-backed digital learning program and ask him: ‘What gives you this right?’

Valerie Strauss:

Though there is no consensus definition of “personalized learning,” and though it seems to make intuitive sense to enable students to move at their own pace, in practice, this has amounted to computer-based learning programs of varying quality that require kids to sit in front of screens for a good part of the school day.

Kelly Hernandez, 17, a senior at the Secondary School for Journalism, said she helped organize the protest because students felt their complaints about Summit were not being heard. She said students began using it at the beginning of the school year without background information.

“We weren’t asked for an opinion about whether we would want to do Summit Learning,” she said. “ ‘Just use the computer. Here’s your name and password. Enjoy.’ ”

Akila Robinson, 17, another protest leader at the school, said she had problems logging on to Summit for two months and couldn’t get help. Another student, she said, had the same sign-on information.

School officials declined to comment on the protest or issues with Summit.

After the protest, school officials told students the program would no longer be used for juniors and seniors, but that ninth- and 10th-graders would continue using it.

Spending on California schools chief race expected to set records again

Nico Savidge:

Spending in the campaign for state superintendent of public instruction in California is expected to break records once again this fall, as charter school advocates and labor organizations focus on the race.

Although the Nov. 6 ballot will include races for governor and U.S. Senate, it is the nonpartisan contest between Democrats — Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive — for an office with limited power that is expected to attract the most money during the general election.

With seven weeks to go before Election Day, fundraising for Tuck has already surpassed what his supporters raised in the former school administrator’s unsuccessful run for superintendent four years ago.

“This is going to be the most expensive election, period,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes.

Michael Sances:

Alongside the Black Lives Matter movement in the past several years, civil rights advocates have begun pointing out that the way municipalities collect fees and fines often disproportionately affects low-income communities of color, especially when those communities aren’t well represented in local governments. In 2015, as a follow-up to investigations of police bias in Ferguson, Mo., the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department released the Ferguson report, which painstakingly documents how the police department in that city relied overwhelmingly on fees and fines collected from people in ways that “both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias.”

But here’s another result of fee and fine enforcement that has never before been measured: Police departments that collect more in fees and fines are less effective at solving crimes.

Missing the Lead: “We’re trying to build a pipeline:’ Largest-ever gift to Literacy Network will help send students to Madison College”

Lisa Speckhard Pasque:

“Many of our students came to us and said, ‘We really want to go to Madison College, but we need this skill first, and mostly it’s English language skills,” Burkhart said. “It’s feeling more confident, it’s feeling better about your ability to succeed at the college.”

On Thursday, the Literacy Network announced that the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation has granted $300,000 over three years to expand classes and support services for adults looking to study at Madison College. That will help more non-native speakers earn degrees, Burkhart said.

“We’re trying to build a pipeline,” said Jennifer Peterson, senior director of tutoring.

Madison College will open a South Campus at 801 W. Badger Road in 2019, further strengthening the Literacy Network-Madison College connection.

The Literacy Network, founded in 1974, hosts programs for native English speakers as well as English as a Second Language courses for non-native speakers like immigrant and refugee students

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most.

Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.

Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results:

Here’s my data from this year and this is why I’m here:

Of the 65 students plus or minus it kind of changes this year 24 of them are regular ed students.

Another way to say they don’t have an IEP so there is no excuse for that reading intervention in (that group).

12 of those 24 have been enrolled in Madison School since Pre-K kindergarten or kindergarden. 12 students have been in Madison Schools.

They have High attendance. They have been in the same (you know) feeder school they have not had high mobility. There is no excuse for 12 of my students to be reading at the first second or third grade level and that’s where they’re at and I’m angry and I’m not the only one that’s angry.

The teachers are angry because we are being held accountable for things that we didn’t do at the high school level. Of those 24 students, 21 of them have been enrolled in Madison for four or more years.

Of those 24 students one is Caucasian the rest of them identify as some other ethnic group.

I am tired of the district playing what I called whack-a-mole, (in) another words a problem happens at Cherokee boom we bop it down and we we fix it temporarily and then something at Sherman or something at Toki or something at Faulk and we bop it down and its quiet for awhile but it has not been fixed on a system-wide level and that’s what has to change.

Wisconsin has a serious case of the blahs when it comes to education

Alan Borsuk:

To set the context briefly: Comparing three years ago to last year, the percentage of students statewide who are rated as proficient or advanced in language arts, math and science has gone down. Just above 40% of Wisconsin kids are proficient or better in each subject, which means close to 60% are not. This includes students using vouchers to attend private schools.

Statewide, less than 40% of high school students who took the ACT test scored at levels considered to show proficiency in English language arts, math and scienc

There are nine large Milwaukee high schools where more than 75% of ninth- and 10th-grade students either did not take the ACT Aspire test that is part of the state assessment system or scored in the lowest category of performance (“in need of support”). At eight of them, fewer than 5% were rated as on track for readiness for college-level work.

Much more on Scott Walker and Tony Evers.

The Wisconsin DPI, lead by Tony Evers has aborted our one attempt at teacher content knowledge requirements: Foundations of Reading.

On Madison: “It was a lot of talk”

Cathleen Draper:

“It was a lot of talk,” Johnson said. “[There’s] a lot of good people doing a lot of good things, but systemically, when you look at the data, things are not getting better. Systemically, we’re still operating in silos.”

Before leaving Madison, Johnson called for greater funding and committed community leadership. He cited divisions throughout the city – between politicians and the public, between nonprofit leaders, and between black and white community leaders – and a lack of people of color in leadership positions as reasons for Madison’s poor track record on racial equity.

Addressing the audience at the Cap Times Idea Fest, Johnson didn’t paint a positive picture of Madison’s equity issues almost four months after leaving the city.

Madison, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.


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.

In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade. 

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

2011: 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.

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

Voucher Regulation Reduces Quality of Private School Options

Corey A. DeAngelis:

If only it were that easy.

My just-released study — co-authored with George Mason University graduate student Blake Hoarty — suggests that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in two of the most highly regulated voucher programs in the country, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program.

The data suggest that school choice regulations reduce the quality of private schools participating in voucher programs, with quality measured by tuition and customer reviews. Specifically, we find that an increase in tuition of $1000 is associated with a 3 to 4 percent decrease in the likelihood of participation in a voucher program. We also find that a one-point increase (out of five points) in a school’s GreatSchools review score is associated with around a 15 percent decrease in the chance that a school participates in the Milwaukee voucher program.

But this isn’t the first study to find that voucher regulations could inadvertently reduce the quality of options available to families in need. A recent peer-reviewed evaluation I conducted with colleagues at the University of Arkansas also finds that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in voucher programs in three other locations: Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Louisiana. And another recent peer-reviewed evaluation I conducted with the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke finds that voucher program regulation likely leads to less private school specialization.

Why does regulation reduce the quality of private schools that participate in voucher programs?

The Deliberate Awfulness of Social Media

Mark O’Connell:

The problem, for Lanier, is not technology, per se. The problem is the business model based on the manipulation of individual behavior. Social-media platforms know what you’re seeing, and they know how you acted in the immediate aftermath of seeing it, and they can decide what you will see next in order to further determine how you act—a feedback loop that gets progressively tighter until it becomes a binding force on an individual’s free will. One of the more insidious aspects of this model is the extent to which we, as social-media users, replicate its logic at the level of our own activity: we perform market analysis of our own utterances, calculating the reaction a particular post will generate and adjusting our output accordingly. Negative emotions like outrage and contempt and anxiety tend to drive significantly more engagement than positive ones. This toxic miasma of bad vibes—of masochistic pleasures—is not, in Lanier’s view, an epiphenomenon of social media, but rather the fuel on which it has been engineered to run.
Lanier has coined a term for this process: he calls it BUMMER, which stands for “Behaviours of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent.” (Sample BUMMER-based sentence: “Your identity is packified by BUMMER.” Sample marginalia, scrawled by this reviewer with sufficient desperate emphasis to literally tear the page: “Please stop saying BUMMER!”) In Lanier’s view, BUMMER is responsible, in whole or in part, for a disproportionate number of our contemporary ailments, from the election of Donald Trump to the late-career resurgence of measles due to online anti-vaccine paranoia.

Decline of Global Extreme Poverty Continues but Has Slowed

World Bank:

Fewer people are living in extreme poverty around the world, but the decline in poverty rates has slowed, raising concerns about achieving the goal of ending poverty by 2030 and pointing to the need for increased pro-poor investments, the World Bank finds.

The percentage of people living in extreme poverty globally fell to a new low of 10 percent in 2015 — the latest number available — down from 11 percent in 2013, reflecting steady but slowing progress, World Bank data show. The number of people living on less than $1.90 a day fell during this period by 68 million to 736 million.

“Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “But if we are going to end poverty by 2030, we need much more investment, particularly in building human capital, to help promote the inclusive growth it will take to reach the remaining poor. For their sake, we cannot fail.”

College without remediation

Joanne Jacobs:

If remedial classes don’t help college students succeed — and there’s lots of evidence for that — what’s the alternative? California State University needs to develop better supports for poorly prepared students and help high schools improve academic rigor, writes Michael Kurlaender, professor of education policy at University of California Davis, in Education Next.

Academic Preparedness on 2015 NAEP Mathematics and Reading, Grade 12
“Only 30 percent of California 11th graders are deemed ready for college-level work in both mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA),” based on the state’s Common Core-aligned exam, he writes. “Another 30 percent meet standards in ELA but not in math, while 2 percent meet standards in math but not in ELA.” That leaves almost 40 percent of 11th graders who don’t meet either standard.

Test scores and high school grades correlate with college grades and persistence, he writes. However, students from low-poverty high schools are likely to be college-ready, even with a 2.5 GPA, while “even high-performing students are unlikely to be college ready” if they attend a high-poverty school.

Figure 1a: College Readiness in English and High School GPA in California Public Schools by School Composition of Socioeconomic Disadvantage

Grade Inflation Commentary

Cory Koedel:

I enjoyed reading Fordham’s recent study by Seth Gershenson on a topic that has always been high on my list of interests: grade inflation.

Grade inflation has a number of important implications for education policy at the K–12 and postsecondary levels, but is notoriously difficult to measure. Some of the more compelling evidence on the consequences of grade inflation include (a) Philip Babcock’s 2010 study showing that students with higher grade expectations give less effort, and (b) Kristin Butcher, Patrick McEwan, and Akila Weerapana’s 2014 study showing that students choose college majors based in part on differences in the grades awarded across departments. These studies show that grade inflation has important implications for how much and what type of human capital is produced in our society.

Gershenson performs a clever analysis to help us better understand grade inflation in K–12 schools. The basic idea of his research design is to benchmark course grades against scores on end-of-course exams (EOCs) in Algebra I. While neither the EOC nor the course grade is a complete measure of performance, both provide useful information.

Course grades are assigned by teachers, whereas the Algebra I EOC is independently scored. Noting that grades are a specific type of performance evaluation, we can draw on the larger performance evaluation literature for insight into the factors that drive grade inflation (e.g., see Kevin Murphy and Jeanette Cleveland’s 1991 book, Performance Appraisal). A prime factor in my view is that human nature pushes us to inflate performance evaluations in socially proximal settings. Another is that teachers likely view grades as a reflection of their own performance, rightly or wrongly.

Related: Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.

Harvard Raised $9.6 Billion in Its Latest Campaign. Here’s What You Could Do With That

Cailin Crowe:

Harvard University concluded a five-year capital campaign on Thursday that shattered higher-education fund-raising records, according to The Harvard Crimson, by bringing in more than $9.6 billion. The total was well above the university’s original goal, $6.5 billion. The campaign began under the leadership of former President Drew G. Faust and ended in June. The next-most-lucrative fund-raising campaign was Stanford University’s most recent, which raised $6.2 billion in five years.
“As new challenges and opportunities arise in higher education and beyond, Harvard is well positioned to respond and adapt thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends,” said President Larry Bacow, according to The Harvard Gazette.

Of the money raised, Harvard plans to spend $1.3 billion on financial aid; donors are also funding 142 endowed professorships, the university said.

Here’s what else the university could buy with the $9.6-billion chunk of change:

More, from Matt Reed.

News Site to Investigate Big Tech, Helped by Craigslist Founder

Nellie Bowles:

Now, with a $20 million gift from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, she and her partner at ProPublica, data journalist Jeff Larson, are starting The Markup, a news site dedicated to investigating technology and its effect on society. Sue Gardner, former head of the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia, will be The Markup’s executive director. Angwin and Larson said that they would hire two dozen journalists for its New York office and that stories would start going up on the website in early 2019. The group has also raised $2 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and $1 million collectively from the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative.

Angwin compares tech to canned food, an innovation that took some time to be seen with more scrutiny.

“When canned food came out, it was amazing,” said Angwin, who will be the site’s editor-in-chief. “You could have peaches when they were out of season. There was a whole period of America where every recipe called for canned soup. People went crazy for canned food. And after 30 years, 40 years, people were like, ‘Huh, wait.’

“That is what’s happened with technology,” Angwin said, calling the 2016 election a tipping point. “And I’m so glad we’ve woken up.”

Civics: Facebook and Elections

Wisbusiness: [34MB mp3 audio transcript]

The harder task, she said, was finding the fake accounts that weren’t created with some automated code. There were “rooms full of people” creating fake accounts individually and trying to make them seem like real people, she said. Some started doing this as far back as 2014, and they followed some patterns of their own.

Many would add hundreds of loosely connected people as friends very soon after creating the account, while liking many pages and joining groups to spread their content as much as possible. Over time, she says her team got better at detecting these behaviors and taking down the accounts.

“When you think about right after 2016, the topic wasn’t foreign interference; the topic was false news,” she said. “Then it became, what did the Trump campaign do on Facebook? What did they do online? How did they beat the best Obama brains who had been working for Hillary?”

From there, the national conversation shifted to the Russian ads on Facebook, which drove the company to pursue ways to make advertising on the platform more transparent.

“We were far from perfect this time,” she admitted, but said the company’s efforts still deterred at least some of the dishonest political advertisers.

Some of the new advertising requirements include having to provide official identification like a Social Security number and respond to a postcard sent to a physical address, “to make sure you live in the states.”

She says some of these requirements have been added over the past several weeks, and Facebook will be “getting stricter” and adding more by 2020.

With regards to fighting misinformation itself — the actual content many of these fake accounts are spreading — Harbath says the company’s policy is to “root it in free speech as much as possible.”

Facebook’s Katie Harbath

Related: Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and Facebook.

[34MB mp3 audio transcript]

The Unintended Consequences of the ‘Free’ Internet

Greg Ip:

If executives at his unnamed targets— Facebook Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. —rolled their eyes, you can understand why. Mr. Cook is, after all, talking his book: Apple makes its money by charging premium prices for its products. Google and Facebook make theirs by giving away their products and then selling ads.

Yet this is not just some internecine battle of billionaires. The zero-price business model is a source of many of the problems plaguing the Internet. It’s no coincidence that Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc. —which garner more than 80% of their revenue from advertising—are the ones most often accused of propagating toxic content and eroding privacy, while Microsoft Corp. and Apple, whose revenue comes from selling software, hardware and services, fly under the radar.

Think about why price matters: It’s how the market rations precious resources. A price signals to suppliers how much to invest in a product. It’s how a consumer decides whether that product is the best use of her budget.

A price of zero cripples that rationing role. When it comes to generating volume, free is a dream; when it comes to quality control, it’s a nightmare.

Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Taxpayer Supported School “Report Cards”

Molly Beck and Kevin Crowe:

The state ratings are assigned by analyzing data related to academics, attendance and graduation rates from the 2017-’18 school year and reported through DPI’s state report card system, which assigns five-star ratings to public schools and private voucher schools.

Nearly 84 percent of the state’s public and private voucher schools are meeting or exceeding expectations, according to the new data, but Milwaukee and other large districts with high concentrations of students living in low-income households continue to flounder in state ratings.

“If a school or district has greater numbers of students who experience poverty it is more likely that their score is lower,” Laura Pinsonneault, director of DPI’s Office of Educational Accountability, said Monday. “That is the reality that exists.”

If we no longer seek virtue and salvation, we should blame the triumvirate of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Adam Smith.

John Gray:

According to David Wootton, we are living in a world created by an intellectual revolution initiated by three thinkers in the 16th to 18th centuries. “My title is, Power, Pleasure and Profit, in that order, because power was conceptualised first, in the 16th century, by Niccolò Machiavelli; in the 17th century Hobbes radically revised the concepts of pleasure and happiness; and the way in which profit works in the economy was first adequately theorised in the 18th century by Adam Smith.” Before these thinkers, life had been based on the idea of a summum bonum – an all-encompassing goal of human life. Christianity identified it with salvation, Greco-Roman philosophy with a condition in which happiness and virtue were one and the same. For both, human life was complete when the supreme good was achieved.

But for those who live in the world made by Machiavelli, Hobbes and Smith, there is no supreme good. Rather than salvation or virtue they want power, pleasure and profit – and they want them all without measure, limitlessly. Partly this is because these are scarce and highly unstable goods, craved by competitors and exposed to the accidents of fortune, hard to acquire and easily lost. A deeper reason is that for these thinkers human fulfilment is something that is pursued, not achieved. Human desire is insatiable and satisfaction an imaginary condition. Hobbes summarised this bleak view pithily: “So that in the first place I put for a general inclination of all mankind a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.” As Wootton notes, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards voiced a similar view of the human condition in their song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. Whether they knew it or not, the lyric captured the ruling world-view of modern times.

How Colleges Promote Psychological Frailty

Clay Routledge:

Administrators at the University of Florida recently notified students that a 24-hour counseling hotline is available to anyone who feels offended by Halloween costumes. Other colleges, in an attempt to pre-empt the psychological threat of offensive costumes, have created and distributed Halloween costume guidelines to help students make appropriate choices if they decide to dress up.

The University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse, for example, encouraged students to attend a special seminar titled “Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?” while Tufts University went a step further, sending a letter to students in fraternities and sororities indicating they could face investigation(by university police) and punishment for making the wrong costume choice.

Of course, this issue is not about Halloween. More and more colleges are creating “bias response teams” that students can contact if they feel they have been victimized by microaggressions. There is an increasing demand for safe spaces and trigger warnings to protect students not from physical danger, but from ideas, course material, and viewpoints they may find offensive. Conservative speakers are being banned from campus because students claim to find them threatening. Professors are being investigated for not being sufficiently politically correct in class, failing to predict what material might trigger students, or refusing to use gender neutral pronouns that are not even part of the English language.

Even more concerning perhaps are recent moves to create racially segregated student retreats, student unions, and campus housing in the service of offering marginalized groups places of refuge and healing.

How Universities Can Lead in Addressing Inequality

Urban Institute:

The 2018 Paul Offner Lecture

The Urban Institute, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin–Madison Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, hosted the 2018 Paul Offner Lecture, featuring Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, discussing inequality and higher education.

The twentieth-century growth of the college-educated workforce fueled US economic growth, but economic growth has lagged and benefits have become more unequal in recent decades. A college education has become more important for economic success, yet the economic gap between higher- and lower-skilled workers has widened political and social divides. In opening remarks and in conversation with Urban Institute President Sarah Rosen Wartell, Chancellor Blank will speak about how universities can be more accessible to a diverse population of students and help them acquire a college degree.

Why So Many Smart People Aren’t Happy

Joe Pinsker:

There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.

But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.

That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.

What’s Wrong with Science—and How to Fix It

Scientific American:

There are many ways to fight back, including improving education, outreach and political reform. But science must also tackle its own problems, from how we fund it to how we treat young scientists, ensure reproducible results, curb sexual harassment and encourage interdisciplinarity. Some creative solutions are already showing promise on these fronts, but science must fortify itself to withstand the current assault.

How Dad’s Stresses Get Passed Along to Offspring

Esther Landhuis:

A stressed-out and traumatized father can leave scars in his children. New research suggests this happens because sperm “learn” paternal experiences via a mysterious mode of intercellular communication in which small blebs break off one cell and fuse with another.

Carrying proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, these particles ejected from a cell act like a postal system that extends to all parts of the body, releasing little packages known as extracellular vesicles. Their contents seem carefully chosen. “The cargo inside the vesicle determines not just where it came from but where it’s going and what it’s doing when it gets there,” says Tracy Bale, a neurobiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Preliminary research Bale and others, announced this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, shows how extracellular vesicles can regulate brain circuits and help diagnose neurodegenerative diseases—in addition to altering sperm to disrupt the brain health of resulting offspring.

Mapping China’s ‘re-education’ camps: the power of open-source intelligence

Danielle Cave, Fergus Ryan and Nathan Ruser:

But what is intelligence?

For the answer, let’s go straight to the wisdom of the Middle Kingdom and poor, overused Sun Tzu, who said: ‘If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles.’ This tells us what we need intelligence to do for us, but what isn’t well understood is that much of the information we need isn’t ‘secret’ or ‘classified’. It is often by combining publicly available and hidden information that we can reveal covert or clandestine intent.

As demonstrated by the Bellingcat investigation into the Skripal poisoning and the revelations about Strava’s fitness heatmap (which one of us highlighted earlier this year), in the OSINT world, the devil is in the detail.

That detail lives in cyberspace, and cyberspace is an OSINT goldmine when you know how to use it and where to look.

Over the past few months, ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has leveraged its cyber, technical and Chinese-language skills to consolidate and expand on the rich and growing body of work that is shedding a brighter light on the Chinese state’s network of ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang province.

‘Remarkable’ decline in fertility rates

James Gallagher:

There has been a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having, say researchers.

Their report found fertility rate falls meant nearly half of countries were now facing a “baby bust” – meaning there are insufficient children to maintain their population size.

The researchers said the findings were a “huge surprise”.

And there would be profound consequences for societies with “more grandparents than grandchildren”.

190 universities just launched 600 free online courses. Here’s the full list.

Dhawal Shah:

If you haven’t heard, universities around the world are offering their courses online for free (or at least partially free). These courses are collectively called MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.

In the past six years or so, over 800 universities have created more than 10,000 of these MOOCs. And I’ve been keeping track of these MOOCs the entire time over at Class Central, ever since they rose to prominence.

In the past four months alone, 190 universities have announced 600 such free online courses. I’ve compiled a list of them and categorized them according to the following subjects: Computer Science, Mathematics, Programming, Data Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, Education & Teaching, Health & Medicine, Business, Personal Development, Engineering, Art & Design, and finally Science.

If you have trouble figuring out how to signup for Coursera courses for free, don’t worry — here’s an article on how to do that, too.

Many of these are completely self-paced, so you can start taking them at your convenience.

The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books

New York Times:

ince 1952, we’ve convened a rotating annual panel of three expert judges, who consider every illustrated children’s book published that year in the United States. They select the winners purely on the basis of artistic merit. The judges this time were Leonard Marcus, a children’s literature historian and critic; Jenny Rosenoff, a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library; and Bryan Collier, the author and illustrator of many acclaimed picture books and a past winner of the award.

Below you’ll find images from each winning book, with commentary from the judges.

Chinese ‘gait recognition’ tech IDs people by how they walk

Dake Kang:

Chinese authorities have begun deploying a new surveillance tool: “gait recognition” software that uses people’s body shapes and how they walk to identify them, even when their faces are hidden from cameras.

Already used by police on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai, “gait recognition” is part of a push across China to develop artificial-intelligence and data-driven surveillance that is raising concern about how far the technology will go.

Huang Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix, said that its system can identify people from up to 50 meters (165 feet) away, even with their back turned or face covered. This can fill a gap in facial recognition, which needs close-up, high-resolution images of a person’s face to work.

“You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity,” Huang said in an interview in his Beijing office. “Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

Watrix announced last month that it had raised 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) to accelerate the development and sale of its gait recognition technology, according to Chinese media reports.

Searching for the Next Bobby Fischer, the U.S. Finds Fabi

Pia Peterson:

The last American to win the world chess championship was a Brooklyn-bred grandmaster who stunned the world champion and took his title.

The next one may be, too.

Beginning this week, Fabiano Caruana, a 26-year-old grandmaster who has spent the last two decades fighting his way up the ranks to reach No. 2 in the world, is expected to lay serious claim to a title that has not been held by an American since Bobby Fischer won it from Boris Spassky in 1972.

Caruana will challenge the world’s best player, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, at the World Chess Championships in London. They will play 12 matches over the course of three weeks beginning Friday.

“I’ve had mediocre years, I’ve had good years,” Caruana said. “This year has been the best by far.”

A lot of people in the world of chess agree, and they are awaiting a Caruana-Carlsen showdown that could affirm a resurgence of American strength in international chess competitions.

UC Berkeley campus senator abstains from a vote. Now students want her out

Nanette Asimov:

The uproar began Oct. 31, when the Queer Alliance Resource Center asked the student Senate to pass a bill condemning the Trump administration for considering a legal definition of gender that would require it to match a person’s sex at birth. The proposal would change the federal Title IX civil rights law and potentially remove its protections from 1.4 million transgender people, according to a New York Times story last month, based on a leaked memo. At UC Berkeley, the students’ resolution also urged the university to step up support of “transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students” and the campus groups that help them.

Isabella Chow, 20, abstained.

Reading a five-paragraph statement explaining her decision, Chow told her 18 fellow senators, who all voted for the bill (another was absent), that discrimination “is never, ever OK.” She condemned bullies and bigots. She said she abhorred stereotypes. And she called the LGBT community valid and loved.

“That said,” Chow continued, voting for the bill would compromise her values and force her to promote groups and identities she disagrees with.

“As a Christian, I personally do believe that certain acts and lifestyles conflict with what is good, right and true,” she said. “I believe that God created male and female at the beginning of time, and designed sex for marriage between one man and one woman. For me, to love another person does not mean that I silently concur when, at the bottom of my heart, I do not believe that your choices are right or the best for you as an individual.”

Chow’s politely worded explanation has set in motion something different from the ideological debate over free speech that engulfed UC Berkeley last year, as left and right battled over whose speech was more worthy of protection.

How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds

Sarah Laskow:

One of life’s great treats, for a lover of books (especially fantasy books), is to open a cover to find a map secreted inside and filled with the details of a land about to be discovered. A writer’s map hints at a fully imagined world, and at the beginning of a book, it’s a promise. In the middle of a book, it’s a touchstone and a guide. And at the end, it’s a reminder of all the places the story has taken you.

A new book, The Writer’s Map, contains dozens of the magical maps writers have drawn or that have been made by others to illustrate the places they’ve created. “All maps are products of human imagination,” writes Huw Lewis-Jones, the book’s editor. “For some writers making a map is absolutely central to the craft of shaping and telling their tale.”

Learning to Read in Your 30s Profoundly Transforms the Brain

Max Planck:

Reading is such a new ability in human evolutionary history that the existence of a “reading area” could not be specified in our genes. A kind of recycling process has to take place in the brain while learning to read: Areas evolved for the recognition of complex objects, such as faces, become engaged in translating letters into language. Some regions of our visual system thereby turn into interfaces between the visual and language systems.

“Until now it was assumed that these changes are limited to the outer layer of the brain, the cortex, which is known to adapt quickly to new challenges,” says project leader Falk Huettig from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. The Max Planck researchers together with Indian scientists from the Centre of Bio-Medical Research (CBMR) Lucknow and the University of Hyderabad have now discovered what changes occur in the adult brain when completely illiterate people learn to read and write. In contrast to previous assumptions, the learning process leads to a reorganization that extends to deep brain structures in the thalamus and the brainstem. The relatively young phenomenon of human writing, therefore, changes brain regions that are very old in evolutionary terms and already core parts of mice and other mammalian brains.

American Meritocracy Is Killing Youth Sports

Derek Thompson:

The state of youth sports in America is either booming or suffering, depending on which box score you’re checking.

You could follow the money. Kids’ sports is a nearly $17 billion industry, which makes it larger than the business of professional baseball and approximately the same size as the National Football League. Or you could follow the kids. The share of children ages 6 to 12 who play a team sport on a regular basis declined from 41.5 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2017, according to a recent report from the Aspen Institute. Going back to 2008, participation is lower across categories, including baseball, basketball, flag football, and soccer, in some cases by a lot: Baseball is down about 20 percent.

The decline of youth sports participation is the sort of phenomenon that seems exquisitely tailored to exacerbate fears about the state of American childhood. One might suspect that the falloff is the result of children gravitating to video games, television, and other electronic distractions that don’t require an open field or a court. Perhaps athletics is just another legacy institution that can’t compete for attention anymore, like church, community centers, and bowling leagues.

But dig into the numbers, and a more complex, two-track story emerges. Among richer families, youth sports participation is actually rising. Among the poorest households, it’s trending down. Just 34 percent of children from families earning less than $25,000 played a team sport at least one day in 2017, versus 69 percent from homes earning more than $100,000. In 2011, those numbers were roughly 42 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Northwestern Law Dean Cites School’s ‘Difficult Time’ As Reason For Faculty Cuts


Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law is cutting staff and teaching positions amid a financial shortfall.

Dean Kimberly Yuracko informed the Chicago school’s faculty of the downsizing plan and budget problems in a message to its internal listserv, saying the school is in a “challenging financial position.” In an interview Monday, Yuracko, who sent the message to the school’s faculty in late September, said that the law school is not in dire financial straits. She said that a directive from the central university to reduce expenses and her new deanship—she took over in September—spurred her to take a close look at how and where the law school was spending its funds. …

Northwestern Law’s situation is notable for several reasons. It dispels the notion that elite law schools—Northwestern is ranked No. 11 by U.S. News & World Report—are immune or at least buffered from the fiscal woes that have plagued many law schools since 2010, when enrollment and the national applicant pool shrunk significantly. Second, it demonstrates aggressive fundraising is no cure-all for financial pressures in a fiercely competitive law school environment. …

Mapping Xinjiang’s ‘re-education’ camps

Fergus Ryan, Danielle Cave, Nathan Ruser:

Last month, Global Times editor Hu Xijin visited what he referred to as a ‘vocational training center’ in Kashgar. He posted a two-minute video 13 of the trip on his Twitter account.13

Hu visited Middle School No. 4 located to the east of Kashgar City. This school, as well as Middle Schools 5 and 6, were under construction across the first half of 2017. Over the summer break, ovals at Middle Schools 5 and 6 were turfed with grass. These schools were being built adjacent to two other schools—the Kashgar City High School and the Huka Experimental Middle School (沪喀实验中学).

But by July 2017, when construction was complete, every ‘school’ building in the southwest of the facility (previously Middle School No. 5) was surrounded by tall fencing that had been painted green and topped with razor wire. By August, much of School No. 6 was enclosed with similar fencing. Upon completion in around November 2017, School No. 4 was also highly securitised and a tender was released calling for bidders to oversee and install new equipment, including a new surveillance camera system. 14

Generation Z Is Choosing Trade School over College


For decades, technical and vocational schools have been falling out of favor, as more and more people opt for getting advanced degrees at four-year colleges. But recently, with the job market over-promising and underpaying, the trend has begun to reverse: States have started to reinvest in trade schools. And the generation inheriting volatile job prospects, a gig economy, and contract pay is following suit.

Generation Z—those who were born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s—are more often turning to trade schools to avoid the skyrocketing student debt crisis and hone skills that translate directly into jobs, from electrical engineering to cosmetology. While the power of trade unions has dwindled, and societal value still favors more elite professions, young students are finding themselves drawn to stable paychecks in fields where there’s an obvious need.

We spoke to reporter Allie Conti about the trend, which she detailed in her piece for the Power and Privilege issue of VICE Magazine.

More people left California in 2017 than moved here. Who they are and where they went

Phillip Reese:

About 130,000 more residents left California for other states last year than came here from them, as high costs left many residents without a college degree looking for an exit, according to a Bee review of the latest census estimates.

They most often went to cheaper, nearby states – and Texas. Since 2001, about 410,000 more people have left California for Texas than arrived from there. That’s roughly equivalent to the population of Oakland.

The Problem With Being Perfect

Olga Khazan:

When the psychologist Jessica Pryor lived near an internationally renowned university, she once saw a student walking into a library holding a sleeping bag and a coffee maker.

She’s heard of grad students spending 12 to 18 hours at a time in the lab. Their schedules are meant to be literally punishing: If they’re scientists-in-training, they won’t allow themselves to watch Netflix until their experiments start generating results. “Relationships become estranged—people stop inviting them to things, which leads them to spend even more time in the lab,” Pryor told me.

Along with other therapists, Pryor, who is now with the Family Institute at Northwestern University, is trying to sound the alarm about a tendency among young adults and college students to strive for perfection in their work—sometimes at any cost. Though it is often portrayed as a positive trait—a clever response to the “greatest weaknesses” question during job interviews, for instance—Pryor and others say extreme perfectionism can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.

Group pushing for free tuition at Southern Illinois

Taylor Clark:

A new proposal from the SIUC Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Southern Illinois Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America is aiming to make tuition at the school free.

The two groups met at the Morris Library Rotunda on Thursday, Nov. 1 to announce a petition to get signatures in support of the change.

Layne Ellingsworth is a student at SIUC and treasurer of their YDSA chapter, he claims that by making SIUC free to attend it will help Carbondale by bringing more students to the school and stimulate local business.

“More jobs and more students means more money circulating in the local economy,” he said.

Sam Smucker co-chairs the Southern Illinois chapter of the DSA, and says that the enrollment problem at the school comes from tuition being too high.

He said at the announcement that the DSA groups have received a lot of criticism on the big issue with free education; how do you pay for it?

“We think that it’s really the job of politicians to take this on as a priority and then come up with ways to pay for it that does not burden the people of Illinois,” Smucker said.

What Happened to Our Universities?


As extensively documented, our universities have been swept up into a new cultural movement, the so-called “social justice” movement. “Social justice” ideology is based on the Marxist vision that the world is divided into oppressor classes and oppressed classes. Unlike classical Marxism that divides the world into a bourgeois oppressor class and a proletarian oppressed class — that is capitalists oppressing workers — neo-Marxist “social justice” theory divides the world into gender, racial, sexual, and religious classes: male oppressors and female victims; white oppressors and people of color victims; heterosexual oppressors and gay, lesbian, transsexual, etc. etc. victims; Christian and Jewish oppressors and Muslim victims.

“Social justice” ideology leads to the rejection of oppressive institutions such as capitalism and Western Civilization. Universalistic criteria such as merit, achievement, and excellence are rejected today in universities and beyond because they allegedly disadvantage members of victim categories. Preferential measures on behalf of victims have been adopted as the overriding and primary purpose of universities today. Course topics, course substance, course references, recruitment of students, provision of special facilities and events for “victim” categories, hiring of academic and administrative staff, all are aimed to benefit members of “victim” categories and to exclude and marginalize members of “oppressor” categories.

Older and Wiser? Integrating Results on the Relationship between Age and Wisdom-related Performance

Ursula M. Staudinger:

Evidence from a psychological approach to the study of wisdom is reviewed with regard to the relationship between age and wisdom. Between 20 and 75 years, age has been demonstrated to show a zero relation with wisdom-related knowledge and judgement. A complex pattern of person characteristics and experiential features have to coalesce in order for wisdom to emerge. However, it is not only growing experience that (on average) comes with age but also decreases in basic intellectual functioning and changes in the personality make-up that seem to undermine rather than facilitate the development of wisdom-related knowledge and judgement. However, there is also some evidence indicating that under certain supportive conditions it may indeed be older people who hold the greatest potential for wisdom.

China’s Surveillance Laboratory

Darren Byler and Timothy Grose:

Muslims in northwest China’s Xinjiang, the Uyghur homeland, endure a constant barrage of state-sanctioned violence. For hundreds of thousands of people, that violence comes in the form of incarceration in “reeducation” centers for which officials just recently attempted to provide legal justification. Those who have been spared this fate have not escaped the state’s assault on their freedoms. Although they are not confined to the reeducation compounds lined with razor wire, they are nonetheless subjected to institutionalized Islamophobia and omnipresent surveillance.

At night, Ürümchi, the region’s capital, pulses with red and blue lights. In the city’s Uyghur districts, “Convenience Police Stations” bristling with face-recognition cameras stand sentinel every 200 meters. Checkpoints are everywhere. Cameras, gates, face-scanning machines, and metal detectors at the entrance of every residential area, shopping center, and large place of business have turned the city into a high-tech labyrinth where only people with the right faces and passbooks can move without running into walls. The city is a giant police lab where Muslim minorities are treated as test subjects in an anti-religious experiment. The walls, gates, and police are part of an attempt to eliminate unwanted forms of Islamic practice.

Commentary on Arizona School Choice

Matt Beienburg:

Most recently, for example, The Republic’s October 25 exposé on ESA usage cast a damning light on the program. Unfortunately, it’s The Republic’s analysis, not the ESA program, that needs to be drawn into the light.

The Republic’s story makes two key assertions: 1) that ESAs are disproportionately used by and serve the wealthy, and 2) that kids from rich areas get bigger ESA awards than more disadvantaged peers.

Both assertions are false.

In particular, the paper opened its story by claiming:

“Arizona students who use public money to go to private schools are still disproportionately leaving wealthier and higher-performing school districts….Nearly 70 percent of the money from the voucher-like Empowerment Scholarship Accounts is being used by students leaving A- or B-rated districts to attend private schools.”

This is hugely misleading on several grounds: First, about 70 percent of the state’s K-12 population attends schools in A and B-rated districts, so you’d expect that number in the ESA program. But you’d have to read 34 paragraphs down in the Republic analysis to find even a veiled reference to this slightly noteworthy bit of context.

Second, students from A and B districts actually make up less than 70 percent of the students receiving an ESA, despite being 70 percent of the overall K-12 population. This is because students who left mediocre C districts, or failing D and F districts are over-represented in the ESA program. (Now, as the Republic correctly points out, students from D & F schools or districts can qualify for an ESA without meeting additional eligibility criteria, so this is exactly what we would anticipate.)