Madison Partnership for Advanced Learning 2019 School Board Candidate Q & A

Christina Gomez Schmidt, via a kind email:

In March 2019 after the primary election, we asked each candidate six questions about education issues and Advanced Learning topics. We hope the answers will help voters to better understand candidate viewpoints and how they see Advanced Learning fitting into district priorities.

Below are links to their answers from March 2019. The election will be held on April 2, 2019.

Seat 3:
Kaleem Caire
Cris Carusi

Seat 4:
David Blaska
Ali Muldrow

Seat 5:
TJ Mertz (incumbent)
Ananda Mirilli

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board Election, here.

Teens have less face time with their friends – and are lonelier than ever

Jean Twenge:

It’s not because they are spending more time on work, homework or extracurricular activities. Today’s teens hold fewer paid jobs, homework time is either unchanged or down since the 1990s, and time spent on extracurricular activities is about the same.

Yet they’re spending less time with their friends in person – and by large margins. In the late 1970s, 52 percent of 12th-graders got together with their friends almost every day. By 2017, only 28 percent did. The drop was especially pronounced after 2010.

Today’s 10th-graders go to about 17 fewer parties a year than 10th-graders in the 1980s did. Overall, 12th-graders now spend an hour less on in-person social interaction on an average day than their Gen X predecessors did.

We wondered if these trends would have implications for feelings of loneliness, which are also measured in one of the surveys. Sure enough, just as the drop in face-to-face time accelerated after 2010, teens’ feelings of loneliness shot upward.

China Holds Vaccine Parent-Turned-Activist Detained At Beijing Protest

Radio Free Asia:

Authorities in China are holding a prominent parent campaigner under criminal detention after she helped to organized protests over faulty vaccines last month.

He Fangmei, the mother of a baby made sick by a faulty vaccine, was initially detained by police from her home province of Henan on Feb. 25 during a protest by parents of children affected by faulty vaccines outside the National Health Commission in Beijing, rights groups said.

She was taken to an unofficial detention center at Majialou on the outskirts of the capital, before being sent back to her home city of Xinjiang on March 5 under escort.

He, who is also known by her online nickname Shisanmei, was handed a 15-day administrative sentence on her arrival in Xinxiang.

But instead of releasing her, the authorities issued a notice of criminal detention dated March 20, and are continuing to hold her on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network.

She is currently being held at Xinxiang Detention Center.

How to Teach Students Historical Inquiry Through Media Literacy And Critical Thinking

Katrina Schwartz:

Many students are not good at evaluating the credibility of what they see and read online according to a now-famous Stanford study that was released just after the 2016 election. And while it’s true that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t tell the difference between a native advertisement and a news article, neither could 59 percent of adults in a study conducted by the advertising industry.

Sam Wineburg, the Stanford professor who led the middle school study, is worried that everyone is “profoundly confused” right now and that schools aren’t doing enough to teach students the skills they need to be effective citizens and digital consumers.

“We blame our kids for not knowing the difference between ads and news stories, but the kinds of skills we are talking about are not widely taught in schools,” Wineburg said on KQED’s Forum program while discussing his new book Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone). “So we can’t blame young people for not knowing things they haven’t been taught.”

He thinks the most logical place to insert more digital media literacy is in the history curriculum, where students already should be learning to question dominant narratives, find good evidence and practice strong research skills. To do that, Wineburg said teachers need to ditch textbooks.

Forget Bribery. The Real Scam Is Pretending That Degrees Have Value.

Elaine Ou::

As any remaining illusion of a college meritocracy swirls down the drain, there remains one school where students are still admitted based on unadulterated academic aptitude: Caltech.

No bonus points for legacy applicants, nor for star athletes. Even if an underqualified student does happen to slip in, they don’t have an easy way out. The California Institute of Technology does not engage in grade inflation, and the four-year graduation rate stands at 79 percent, well below that of its elite peers.

Quick, name a famous Caltech alum! Maybe Sheldon Cooper? Jean-Luc Picard? No, those are fictional characters. Truly devoted nerds might be able to name Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, or Hal Finney, Bitcoin pioneer.

Despite being an intellectually rigorous institution, Caltech does not graduate many future elites. Alumni go on to be successful in their academic fields, but don’t tend to dominate finance, tech or politics. An academic meritocracy does not reflect how the world actually works.

How Database Works: Frontend Architecture

Madush and Hanushka:

In a computer program, the database is the heart of handling data. It provides an efficient way of storing and retrieving data fast. Learning Database internal architecture in code level is not that so easy since Database has complex architecture. Looking into a complex database is not that easy because of the complexity. But, SQLite is a nice little compact database that used in millions of devices and operating systems. Interesting fact about the SQLite database is that, code is highly readable. All most all of the codes are well commented and architecture is highly layered. This post is to look at the high-level architecture of the SQLite database.

As I early mentioned, SQLite has a highly layered architecture and that can be separated into seven layers. We will go through each of the layers one by one.

Facebook Will Ban White Nationalist And White Supremacist Content

Ryan Broderick and Ryan Mac:

Facebook will begin banning white nationalist, white separatist, and white supremacist content, and direct users who attempt to post such content to the website of the nonprofit Life After Hate, which works to de-radicalize people drawn into hate groups.

The change, first reported Wednesday by Vice’s Motherboard, comes less than two weeks after Facebook was heavily criticized for its role in the Christchurch mosque attack. The gunman went live on the platform for several minutes before the attack began, showing off his guns and at one point ironically said, “Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie,” referring to the Swedish YouTuber connected to a number of racist and anti-Semitic controversies.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Facebook for more information on how the ban will work. In a blog post titled “Standing Against Hate,” Facebook published Wednesday, the company said the ban takes effect next week. As of midday Wednesday, the feature did not yet appear to be live, based on searches by BuzzFeed News for terms like “white nationalist,” “white nationalist groups,” and “blood and soil.”

“It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services,” the blog post reads. “Over the past three months our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups.”

Related: The First Amendment.

Most Americans say colleges should not consider race or ethnicity in admissions

Nikki Graf:

hen asked about eight admissions criteria that colleges may consider, high school grades top the list. About two-thirds of Americans (67%) say this should be a major factor; 26% say it should be a minor factor. And while many colleges have stopped requiring standardized test scores as part of the application process, 47% of Americans say these scores should play a major role, while an additional 41% say they should play a minor role. Most Americans also think colleges should take into account community service involvement.

The public is more divided, however, over whether being the first person in the family to go to college should factor into admissions decisions. Some 47% say this should be considered, while 53% say it should not be a factor.

In addition to race or ethnicity, majorities also say that colleges should not consider an applicant’s gender (81%), whether a relative attended the school (68%) – a practice known as legacy admissions – or athletic ability (57%) when making decisions.

Across several of these items, views vary by education, with those holding at least a bachelor’s degree generally more likely than those with less education to say they should be at least a minor factor in college admissions. For example, college graduates are more likely than those with less education to say colleges should consider race (38% say it should be a major or minor factor vs. 22% among those without a bachelor’s degree) or being a first-generation college student (57% vs. 43%) in admissions decisions.

In interview, former Madison Whitehorse staffer speaks publicly for the first time since altercation with student

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Whether Mueller-Owens will be able to find a place in the community remains to be seen, as he has kept a low profile since media reports surfaced last month about the Feb. 13 incident and sparked a flurry of outrage in the community.

Mikiea Price, the girl’s mother, has said she believed Mueller-Owens snapped when he attempted to escort her daughter out of a classroom after she had repeatedly disrupted it.

“I have been in several situations where students have kicked me, spit on me, broke my ankle, and I still did not conduct myself in that kind of manner,” Price said when no criminal charges were filed against Mueller-Owens.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham penned an open letter to the Madison community in which she described the altercation as “especially horrific.”

“Jennifer Cheatham has known me ever since she came to Madison and has grown to respect me and trust me,” Mueller-Owens said. “She invited me to the White House with her because of the restorative work I’ve done in the district and my commitment to kids in this city.”

The irony of the incident is that Mueller-Owens served as a positive behavior coach. He traveled to Washington D.C. with Cheatham to attend a conference in 2015 at the White House to talk about reforming school discipline.

“E tu Brute? That’s how I felt. You’re going to stab me in the back, too, Ms. Cheatham?” Mueller-Owens said in response to the superintendent’s open letter.

Mueller-Owens and his attorney, Jordan Loeb, said MMSD’s handling of the incident and his employment with the district was unfair.

Related: Gangs and school
Violence forum

How did we decide that professors don’t deserve job security or a decent salary?

Herb Childress:

Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Part of me still wants it. That kind of faith is in my bones, and reason can only bleach it away somewhat. The imprint is still there, faint, hauntingly imprecise, all the more venerable for its openness to dreams. I worked as a college administrator for seven years after that postdoc, because I couldn’t bear to be away from my beloved community even after it had set me aside. Because I couldn’t walk away.

All cults, all abusers, work the same way, taking us away from friends and family, demanding more effort and more sacrifice and more devotion, only to find that we remain the same tantalizing distance from the next promised level. And the sacrifice normalizes itself into more sacrifice, the devotion becomes its own reward, the burn of the hunger as good as the meal.

Related: US Higher Education spending data.

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

DNA Computer Shows Programmable Chemical Machines Are Possible

Samuel Moore:

Probably the most masterful and mysterious act of chemical computation is when a single cell uses its DNA to divide, multiply, and specialize to produce a fully developed organism. In research reported this week in Nature, computer scientists took a small but important step toward harnessing the potential of chemical computation by constructing the first broadly programmable DNA computer.

The system executes a wide variety of 6-bit programs using a set of instructions written in DNA. The researchers used it to perform 21 test programs, though the system is capable of many more. Previous DNA computer schemes were essentially bespoke systems, only capable of solving the single problem they were designed for.

The new system, which is made of just DNA and salt water, is unlikely to find a technological application itself. But it is a step toward developing self-assembling programmable matter, where chemical software automatically directs the construction of materials with complex, programmable nanometer-scale features. Its creators were “trying to understand how to embed computational behaviors within chemistry in order control what chemistry does,” explains Erik Winfree, the professor of computer science and bioengineering who led the research, which was mostly conducted at Caltech.

Tsinghua University suspends Xu Zhangrun, Chinese law professor who criticised Xi Jinping

Echo Xie:

A liberal law professor at Tsinghua University who openly criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping has been suspended and placed under investigation by the university, according to one of his colleagues and several academics familiar with the situation.

Xu Zhangrun, 56, was suspended this month after he wrote several articles criticising Beijing over political and social issues, his colleague Guo Yuhua, a sociology professor at the university, told the South China Morning Post.

In one opinion piece last year, Xu questioned the personality cult surrounding Xi and the decision by the National People’s Congress to scrap the term limit on the Chinese presidency. The article, and others written by Xu critical of the president, were widely circulated online.

The Most Wonderful Map in the World: Urbano Monte’s Planisphere of 1587

Res Obscura:

Perhaps the most striking thing about the map is the elaborate organizational schema of the 60 sheets that comprise it. Monte intended for each of these sheets to be assembled into a vast, 9-foot-square circular world map that had a markedly different projection than the more famous style that had been adopted by Mercator some two decades earlier. As an excellent recent essay about the map explains, Monte used an innovative “polar azimuthal projection; that is, a portrayal of the globe as radiating from a central North Pole, with the degrees of latitude shown at equidistant intervals.”

“Strategic Lawfare”, administrative rule making, the administrative state – and reading

Jessie Opoien:

WILL’s most likely battle with Evers, Esenberg said, is over administrative rules — a “fight that only a wonk could love.” As Evers seeks to implement policies with a Republican Legislature opposed to most of his goals, he could direct state agencies to implement administrative rules — most of which WILL would be likely to oppose.

“To the extent that there are more regulations enacted by a new administration, they would have more targets to shoot at, although they were not lacking for targets in the ‘old world,’” Tseytlin said.

As Evers seeks to freeze enrollment in the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher schools and halt the creation of new charter schools, WILL will push back.

Sobic contends those programs offer alternatives to improve student achievement, while Evers has said the freezes are needed so officials can reexamine the state’s education system and the way each portion of it is funded. Evers has argued the state currently has two parallel systems.

Related: Repeated Wisconsin DPI elementary reading teacher mulligans – this despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Half of Older Americans Have Nothing in Retirement Savings

Ben Steverman:

The bad news is that almost half of Americans approaching retirement have nothing saved in a 401(k) or other individual account. The good news is that the new estimate, from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, is slightly better than a few years earlier.

Of those 55 and older, 48 percent had nothing put away in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan or an individual retirement account, according to a GAO estimate for 2016 that was released Tuesday. That’s an improvement from the 52 percent without retirement money in 2013.

Two in five of such households did have access to a traditional pension, also known as a defined benefit plan. However, 29 percent of older Americans had neither a pension nor any assets in a 401(k) or IRA account.

The estimate from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is a brief update to a more comprehensive 2015 report on retirement savings in the U.S. Both are based on the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district spends nearly $20,000 per student, far more than most.

Mao goes to high schools: a new front in the war on boys

Larry Kummer:

Here is a typical news story in New America. It is unusual only because this event occurred in high school – not college. Boys are guilty of unauthorized thoughts and non-politically correct speech to friends. Then comes the government crackdown and a Maoist-like struggle session – culminating in confession and self-criticism by the guilty. Followed by new programs for indoctrination using authoritarian pressure plus intensive social pressure to conform. It is America’s new education, since teaching about reading and math is so boring. School officials find political activism more fulfilling!

What If Elite Colleges Switched To A Lottery For Admissions?

Anya Kamanetz:

Better standards than test scores

For a subset of privileged and striving Americans, this would come as a huge shock. They have a lot riding on the current arduous process of finding the “dream school” for each student and, even more so, on the lifelong work of shaping their kids into being the “dream student” for a particular group of elite schools. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute is among those pointing out that an admissions lottery would be a “huge blow” to the prestige of elite colleges, not to mention hiring practices in the corporate world.

But let’s put aside for a moment how feasible the idea is. Would it even work as advertised?

The Other LA College Cheating Scandal — The One You Might Have Missed

Josie Huang:

UCLA is at the center of a cheating scandal that federal authorities say involved former and current students impersonating dozens of Chinese nationals who needed good scores on English tests to get into college in the U.S.

The six defendants, five with ties to UCLA, allegedly used fake passports, doctored with their own photos, to pass themselves off as the Chinese nationals at testing centers in and around Los Angeles as recently as 2016.

They were paid about $400 to $1,000 each time they sat for an exam, said Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Ryan. [Compared to $10,000 to $75,000 allegedly charged per test in that other college cheating scandal that broke this week.]

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

Chan Stroman tracks the frequent Foundations of Reading (FoRT) mulligans:

DPI Rhetoric: “We set a high bar for achievement”.

Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken the Foundations of Reading Test for elementary teachers

Foundations of Reading Elementary Reading Teacher Exam Results.

December, 2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

2011: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges.

K-12 attempts to address learning include the implementation – and abandonment – of “one size fits all” courses, such as English 10 and “small learning communities“.

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

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

2005: Lowering the bar – 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:

Yet, spending continues to grow, substantially. Governor Evers has proposed a double digit increase in K-12 tax and spending for the next two years. Once in a great while, a courageous soul dives in and evaluates spending effectiveness: a proposed (not heard from again) Madison maintenance referendum audit.

“Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” – Former Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman.

2011: A majority of the Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. Curiously, former school board member Ed Hughes, who voted against Madison Prep, is supporting Kaleem Caire for school board, 8 years hence. Yet, how many students have we failed as time marches on?

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

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.


What happens after rich kids bribe their way into college? I teach them


If you think corruption in elite US college admissions is bad, what happens once those students are in the classroom is even worse.

I know, because I teach at an elite American university – one of the oldest and best-known, which rejects about 90% of applicants each year for the small number of places it can offer to undergraduates.

In this setting, where teaching quality is at a premium and students expect faculty to give them extensive personal attention, the presence of unqualified students admitted through corrupt practices is an unmitigated disaster for education and research. While such students have long been present in the form of legacy admits, top sports recruits and the kids of multimillion-dollar donors, the latest scandal represents a new tier of Americans elbowing their way into elite universities: unqualified students from families too poor to fund new buildings, but rich enough to pay six-figure bribes to coaches and admissions advisers. This increase in the proportion of students who can’t do the work that elite universities expect of them has – at least to me and my colleagues – begun to create a palpable strain on the system, threatening the quality of education and research we are expected to deliver.

Students who can’t get into elite schools through the front door based on academic merit don’t change once they’re in class. They can’t do the work, and are generally uninterested in gaining the skills they need in order to do well. Exhibit A from the recent admissions corruption scandal is “social media celebrity” Olivia Jade Gianulli, whose parents bought her a place at the University of Southern California, and who announced last August to her huge YouTube following that “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying … I don’t really care about school.”

Every unqualified student admitted to an elite university ends up devouring hugely disproportionate amounts of faculty time and resources that rightfully belong to all the students in class. By monopolizing faculty time to help compensate for their lack of necessary academic skills, unqualified students can also derail faculty research that could benefit everyone, outside the university as well as within it. To save themselves and their careers, many of my colleagues have decided that it is no longer worth it to uphold high expectations in the classroom. “Lower your standards,” they advise new colleagues. “The fight isn’t worth it, and the administration won’t back you up if you try.”

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Mistakes, we’ve drawn a few

Sarah Leo:

At The Economist, we take data visualisation seriously. Every week we publish around 40 charts across print, the website and our apps. With every single one, we try our best to visualise the numbers accurately and in a way that best supports the story. But sometimes we get it wrong. We can do better in future if we learn from our mistakes — and other people may be able to learn from them, too.

After a deep dive into our archive, I found several instructive examples. I grouped our crimes against data visualisation into three categories: charts that are (1) misleading, (2) confusing and (3) failing to make a point. For each, I suggest an improved version that requires a similar amount of space — an important consideration when drawing charts to be published in print.

The Feynman Technique: The Best Way to Learn Anything

Shane Parrish:

There are two types of knowledge and most of us focus on the wrong one. The first type of knowledge focuses on knowing the name of something. The second focuses on knowing something. These are not the same thing. The famous Nobel winning physicist Richard Feynman understood the difference between knowing something and knowing the name of something and it’s one of the most important reasons for his success. In fact, he created a formula for learning that ensured he understood something better than everyone else.

It’s called the Feynman Technique and it will help you learn anything faster and with greater understanding. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to implement.

‘‘You Got Your High School Diploma?’’

Elizabeth Weil:

Five Keys’ official policy is to try to slow students down. “We’ve had folks over the years say we need to get people high school diplomas because that’s their ticket for a job and they can’t spend a lot of time with us,” Steve Good said. “That’s great, but the high school diploma still needs to mean something. It needs to be a benchmark for something — minimum qualifications and skill set. If we’re graduating people who can’t read and aren’t numerate, what’s the point? We’re no better than a diploma mill.” To protect against this, Five Keys students must perform at a seventh- to ninth-grade level, depending on the class, before they can take the core curriculum required to graduate. Five Keys also tries to steer students away from using the AB-167/216 exception if they’re making normal progress.

“I don’t want him thinking he needs five credits and he needs 30 credits,” John said to Shelia, hoping to manage Raymon’s expectations. “I want him thinking he needs 30 credits and then needs five.”

Raymon strutted down the bus’s center aisle, pretending that he was walking across a stage, collecting a diploma.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

The fall of Rome and the retreat of European multiculturalism: A historical trope as a discourse of authority in public debate

Andrew Gillett and Knox Peden:

History, as the papers in this volume show, can be used as a discourse of authority in a variety of ways. Most obviously, past events are used as causal explanations of present conditions (e.g., the critique that the reduction of taxation rates because of “trickle-down economics” in the 1990s led to inadequate government revenues now). History can serve as a moral imperative urging change (such as the argument that occupation of indigenous peoples’ lands by colonial settler societies demands redress). And history can be an affective discourse: a historical phenomenon with no immediate connection to the present can be deployed to suggest that past conditions could be replicated now; past historical periods can serve as templates for the present not because of actual causation but because of the sense that patterns of history may be repeated. In the early twenty-first century, such affective use of history has been particularly apparent with the invocation of “Classical” history, the history of ancient Greece and Rome. As Classics, once a mainstay of European education systems, has become increasingly peripheral, Classical tropes have nevertheless maintained or perhaps increased their appeal for argumentation from simile, especially for conservative commentators. The year 2017 alone has seen popularisation of the “Thucydides Trap” as a model for predicting great power competition between China and the USA, and public debates between British Classicists and Brexit supporters over the implications of the end of the ancient Roman Republic for British immigration policy and Brexit (Allison, 2017 Allison, G. (2017, June 9). The thucydides trap. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from

The Thucydides Trap

[Google Scholar]
; “Mary Beard v Arron Banks”, 2017 Mary Beard v Arron Banks: ‘Your Vision of the EU is Like Mine of Rome – A Dream’. (2017, January 17). The Guardian. Retrieved from
[Google Scholar]
). This paper examines one recent incident of the use of a highly charged trope of Classical history, the Fall of the Roman Empire, as a discourse of authority in current public debates on western multicultural policies, in relation to the tragic events of the Paris terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015. The public debate over this incident involved the intersection of multiple political, cultural, and academic factors: neo-conservative critique of multicultural and immigration policies and liberal responses; “neo-medievalist” interpretation of Islamist terrorism; the cultural status of Classics and Euro-centric “grand narratives” in British education; popular history and its use in online venues; and academic revisionism and reaction.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: NJ Pension System Unlikely to Meet FY2019 7.5% Assumed Rate of Return

Laura Waters:

Without a big rally by the end of the fiscal year, New Jersey’s public-employee pension system doesn’t stand a chance of making its 7.5 percent assumed rate of return.

How far off track are the returns? For the first eight months of fiscal 2019 (which runs through the end of June), the pension system’s investments have generated just under 2 percent, according to the latest figures released yesterday at the New Jersey State Investment Council’s public meeting in Trenton.

The investment-performance figures are a little better for the calendar year, with the returns running a little above 6 percent. Meanwhile, long-term investment performance is still strong, with returns over the past 10 years coming in above 10 percent, easily beating the pension system’s annual assumed rate of return.

New Jersey’s $74.9 billion pension system covers nearly 800,000 current and retired government workers. Worker pensions are funded primarily through contributions from employees and government employers, but revenue derived from long-term investment gains also plays a role. And given New Jersey’s long history of underfunding its employer obligation — which has helped make the state pension system one of the worst funded in the country — there’s even more pressure on investment managers to generate strong returns.

Camera Above The Classroom

Xue Yujie:

Jason Todd first discovered his school’s secret on the internet.

It was late September 2018, less than a month after high school had started. Jason was idly scrolling through his news feed on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo when he saw a trending hashtag — #ThankGodIGraduatedAlready — and clicked it.

Under the hashtag, someone had posted a photo depicting a bird’s-eye view of a classroom. Around 30 students sat at their desks, facing the blackboard. Their backpacks lay discarded at their feet. It looked like a typical Chinese classroom.

Except for the colored rectangles superimposed on each student’s face. “ID: 000010, State 1: Focused,” read a line of text in a green rectangle around the face of a student looking directly at the blackboard. “ID: 000015, State 5: Distracted,” read the text in a red rectangle — this student had buried his head in his desk drawer. A blue rectangle hovered around a girl standing behind her desk. The text read: “ID: 00001, State 3: Answering Questions.”

Jason thought the photo was a scene from a sci-fi movie — until he noticed the blue school badges embroidered on the chest of the familiar white polos worn by the students. It was exactly the same as the one he was wearing.

Computational Mathematics with SageMath

Paul Zimmermann, Alexandre Casamayou, Nathann Cohen, Guillaume Connan, Thierry Dumont, Laurent Fousse, François Maltey, Matthias Meulien, Marc Mezzarobba, Clément Pernet, Nicolas M. Thiéry, Erik Bray, John Cremona, Marcelo Forets, Alexandru Ghitza, Hugh Thomas:

SageMath, or Sage for short, is an open-source mathematical software system based on the Python language. Sage is developed by an international community of hundreds of teachers and researchers, whose aim is to provide an alternative to the commercial products Magma, Maple, Mathematica and Matlab. To reach this goal, Sage relies on several open-source programs, including GAP, Maxima, PARI and various scientific libraries for Python, to which thousands of new functions are added. Sage is freely available and is supported by all modern operating systems.

For high school students, Sage provides a wonderful scientific and graphical calculator. It efficiently supports undergraduate students in their computations in analysis, linear algebra, calculus, etc. For graduate students, researchers and engineers, Sage provides the most recent algorithms and tools for many domains of mathematics. This is why several universities all around the world already use Sage at the undergraduate level, including for student internships.

Wisconsin Governor Proposes 10% K-12 Tax & Spending increase over the next two years

Bethany Blankely:

“Will massive increases in spending actually improve student outcomes?” WILL asks. According to an analysis of education spending and outcomes, WILL says, “probably not.”

WILL’s Truth in Spending: An Analysis of K-12 Spending in Wisconsin compares K-12 spending on Wisconsin public schools and student outcomes. Based on the most recent available data, Wisconsin’s K-12 education spending is comparable to the rest of the country, but it already spends more money, on average, than the majority of states, according to the report. Wisconsin spends $600 per pupil more than the median state spends.

Based on WILL’s econometric analysis, no relationship between higher spending and outcomes exists in Wisconsin. On average, high-spending districts perform the same or worse on state-mandated exams and the ACT relative to low-spending districts, the analysis found.

Slinger and Hartford school districts spend significantly less than the state average on education but their students’ Forward Exam performances are significantly higher than other districts, the report found. By comparison, White Lake and Bayfield districts have “woeful proficiency rates despite spending far more than the average district,” the report states.

In Evers’ budget address, he said, “more than one million Wisconsinites have raised their own property taxes to support local schools in their communities,” Matt Kittle at the MacIver Institute notes. “But they chose to do so,” Kittle says, “through the mechanism of referendum that offers school districts the ability to set their own priorities and not make taxpayers elsewhere pick up an ever-increasing portion of the tab.”

Evers’ budget plan calls for a return to the state picking up two-thirds of K-12 funding, but would put more money into the state’s long-failing schools, Kittle notes, “while he looks to punish Wisconsin’s school choice program.”

This is counterintuitive to the facts, WILL argues, as private choice schools and charter schools in Wisconsin achieve more with less. According to recent analysis, these schools achieve better academic outcomes despite spending thousands less per student than traditional public schools.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, now around $20,000 per student.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

New York county declares measles outbreak emergency


A county in New York state has declared a state of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles.

Rockland County, on the Hudson river north of New York City, has barred unvaccinated children from public spaces after 153 cases were confirmed.

Violating the order will be punishable by a fine of $500 (£378) and up to six months in prison.

The announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in Washington, California, Texas and Illinois.

Vaccination rates have dropped steadily in the US with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious reasons, or because they believe misleading information that vaccines cause autism in children.

Facebook to Fight Belgian Ban on Tracking Users (and Even Non-Users)

Stephanie Bodoni:

Facebook Inc. is attacking a Belgian court order forcing it to stop tracking local users’ surfing habits, including those of millions who aren’t signed up to the social network.

The U.S. tech giant will come face to face with the Belgian data protection authority in a Brussels appeals court for a two-day hearing starting on Wednesday. The company will challenge the 2018 court order and the threat of a daily fine of 250,000 euros ($281,625) should it fail to comply.

Armed with new powers since the introduction of stronger European Union data protection rules, Belgium’s privacy watchdog argues Facebook “still violates the fundamental rights of millions of residents of Belgium.” The Brussels Court of First Instance in February 2018 ruled that Facebook doesn’t provide people with enough information about how and why it collects data on their web use, or what it does with the information.

“Facebook then uses that information to profile your surfing behavior and uses that profile to show you targeted advertising, such as advertising about products and services from commercial companies, messages from political parties, etc,” the Belgian regulator said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

Civics: FEMA Did Not Safeguard Disaster Survivors’ Sensitive Personally Identifiable Information

Taxpayer supported US Department of Homeland Security:

A privacy incident occurred because FEMA did not ensure it shared with the contractor only the data elements the contractor requires to perform its official duties administering the TSA program. FEMA provided and continues to provide with more than 20 unnecessary data fields for survivors participating in the TSA program. Of the 20 unnecessary data fields, FEMA does not safeguard and improperly releases 6 that include SPII:

Iconoclastic history professor John Sharpless retires

Victoria Davis:

UW-Madison is a “liberal bubble,” according to long-time history professor John Sharpless.

“Openly disagreeing with people here is like pooping in the pool,” says Sharpless. “They turn around and give you this dagger look. I had Republican students in my classes who said they white-knuckled their way through discussions in other classes. They never felt they could say anything.”

For 43 years, Sharpless taught history to generations of UW students, some having experienced the first moon landing, Watergate and Ronald Reagan’s election. On March 26, UW’s Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy and the History Department will honor the recently retired professor, his teachings and his leadership, at a private party.

“We have much to learn from his multifaceted career,” Richard Avramenko, the center’s co-director, writes in an email.

Sharpless taught American history, specializing in statistical methods, comparative demography, and exploration. Political science was never part of his official syllabus, but since 1975, his classroom has been a space for safe political discussions between both left and right leaning students.

How Sears Lost the American Shopper

Suzanne Kapner:

It was the 1970s and Sears was at its peak. It dominated American retailing. Its corporate headquarters was the tallest building in the world. A job at Sears was a ticket to a long and lucrative career.

But rivals like Walmart were bearing down, shopping patterns were changing and Sears started making a series of wrong bets.

Over the last four decades, a succession of CEOs have tried to reinvent, reimagine and, finally, save Sears. One discussed merging with rivals Best Buy and Home Depot, talks not previously reported. Another opened the door to hedge-fund billionaire Eddie Lampert, who went on to slash spending with little investment in stores. Amid new consumer habits, technology shifts and Sears’s own missteps, customers fled.

What were the turning points when it lost its grip on the American shopper? Here is the story, told by eight people who lived it (edited from interviews). Mr. Lampert, who is poised to steer a vastly shrunken Sears out of bankruptcy, declined to be interviewed.

Some literary scholars would like to escape politics. But is that even possible?

Bruce Robbins:

On April 7, 2003, less than three weeks into America’s invasion of Iraq, Bruno Latour worried aloud, in a lecture at Stanford, that scholars and intellectuals had themselves become too combative. Under the circumstances, he asked, did it really help to take official accounts of reality as an enemy, aiming to expose the prejudice and ideology hidden behind supposedly objective facts? “Is it really the task of the humanities to add deconstruction to destruction?,” he wondered.

Latour’s name for this project of distrust was “critique.” Critique in his somewhat eccentric, “suspicion of everything” sense was not in fact what most progressive scholars and intellectuals thought of themselves as doing, whether in opposition to the war in Iraq or in general. When Latour’s lecture came out the following year under the title “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?,” it was an extremely influential bit of theater. Latour had made his career as a critic of science and purveyor of an all-purpose distrust. “I myself have spent some time in the past trying to show ‘the lack of scientific certainty’ inherent in the construction of facts,” he confessed in the essay. “Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said?” A famous intellectual revolutionary now seemed to be renouncing the revolution, and to many it seemed that the revolution itself was over. A number of other scholars came forward to testify that they too had had it up to here with critique. Postcritique was born.

Boredom and the British Empire

Erik Linstrum:

Was the British Empire boring? As Jeffrey Auerbach notes in his irreverent new book, it’s an unexpected question, largely because imperial culture was so conspicuously saturated with a sense of adventure. The exploits of explorers, soldiers and proconsuls – dramatised in Boys’ Own-style narratives – captured the imagination of contemporaries and coloured views of Empire for a long time after its end. Even latter-day historians committed to Marxist or postcolonial critiques of Empire tend to assume that the imperialists themselves mostly had a good time. Along with material opportunities for upward mobility, Empire offered what the Pan-Africanist W.E.B. DuBois called ‘the wages of whiteness’ – the psychological satisfactions of membership in a privileged caste – and an escape from the tedium of everyday life in a crowded, urbanised, ever less picturesque Britain.

As Auerbach argues here, however, the idea of Empire-as-adventure-story is a misleading one. For contemporaries, the promise of exotic thrills in distant lands built up expectations which inevitably collided with reality. For historians, the challenge is to look past the artifice of texts which conceal and compensate for long stretches of boredom to unravel the truth. Turning away from published memoirs and famous images, therefore, Auerbach trains his eye on the rough drafts of imperial culture: letters, diaries, drawings. He finds that Britons’ quests for novelty, variety and sensory delight in the embrace of 19th-century Empire very often ended in tears.

A Beginner’s Guide to MMT

Peter Coy, Katia Dmitrieva and Matthew Boesler:

There’s a lot of debate swirling around Modern Monetary Theory—some strident. Its critics call it a hot mess. “MMT has constructed such a bizarre, illogical, convoluted way of thinking about macro that it’s almost impervious to attack,” Bentley University economist Scott Sumner claimed recently on his blog. MMT’s proponents say it’s the critics who are impervious to reason—“part of a degenerative paradigm that has lost credibility,” says Australian MMTer William Mitchell.

This state of confusion isn’t good because Modern Monetary Theory, once confined to blogs and a handful of colleges including the University of Missouri at Kansas City, suddenly matters. In the U.S., the left wing of the Democratic Party is citing MMT to make the case for massive federal government spending on a Green New Deal to wean the U.S. off fossil fuels and fund Medicare for All. It’s virtually certain that MMT will be dragged into the debates of the 2020 presidential race. So the time is right for a semi-deep dive into Modern Monetary Theory—what it is, where it comes from, its pros and its cons.

Culture Explains Asians’ Educational Success; Black enrollment at New York’s elite public high schools was far higher in the 1930s than today.

Jason Riley via Will Fitzhugh:

Mr. de Blasio is a progressive Democrat, and like many on the left he is quick to equate racial disparities with racial bias. But black and Hispanic students of previous generations were accepted to the city’s exam schools at significantly higher rates than today. In 1989, Brooklyn Tech’s student body was 51% black and Hispanic. Today, it’s less than 12%.

Stuyvesant’s enrollment history tells a similar story, according to Stanford economist Thomas Sowell, who attended the school in the 1940s while growing up in Harlem. The proportion of blacks attending Stuyvesant as far back as the 1930s approximated the proportion of blacks living in the city at the time. That began to change in the latter part of the 20th century, when the socioeconomic status of blacks was rising and segregation was decreasing. Between 1979 and 1995, the school’s black enrollment dropped to 4.8% from 12.9%, and by 2012 it had fallen to 1.2%.

“In short, over a period of 33 years, the proportion of blacks gaining admission to Stuyvesant High School fell to just under one-tenth of what it had been before,” Mr. Sowell writes in Wealth, Poverty and Politics. “None of the usual explanations of racial disparities—racism, poverty or ‘a legacy of slavery’—can explain this major retrogression over time.”

It is not systemic racism but changes in black cultural behaviors in recent decades that offer the more plausible explanation for widening racial gaps in education and other areas. Telling blacks that white prejudice or Asian overachievement or some other external factor is primarily to blame for these outcomes may help the mayor and his party politically, but we shouldn’t pretend that lowering standards helps blacks or any group advance.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

California Education Chief Tony Thurmond

Commonwealth club:

Education Week magazine reported in 2017 that among all states, California’s K–12 public education ranked 41st in conditions that help children succeed, 39th in school finance and 30th in achievement. So what can we expect in 2019?

In a major upset against his opponent Marshall Tuck, Tony Thurmond was elected California State Superintendent of Public Instruction this past November. He was the endorsed candidate of the California Democratic Party and all five 2018 California Teachers of the Year. He previously represented the 15th Assembly District, which encompasses the northern East Bay. Thurmond became the second African-American to hold the office and fourth African-American to win statewide office in California following Wilson Riles. Prior to being elected to the Assembly in 2014, he was a member of the Richmond City Council, a board member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District and social services administrator. Come hear his plans for improving California’s schools.

“We know best”, continued

Ross Douthat:

Over the last three years, since Brexit and the Trumpening and the general rise of disreputable forces in Western politics, there has been a steadily boiling elite panic about the power of the paranoid fringe, the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories, the pull of fake news and the danger of alternative realities.

And yet over that same period, a good many members of the opposition to Donald Trump — a mix of serious journalists, cable television hosts, pop culture personalities, erstwhile government officials, professional activists and politicians — have been invested in what appears to be exactly the kind of conspiracy-laced alternative reality that they believed themselves to be resisting.

With the apparent “no collusion” conclusion to the Robert Mueller investigation, there will now be a retreat from this alternative reality to more defensible terrain — the terrain where Trump is a sordid figure who admires despots and surrounded himself with hacks and two-bit crooks while his campaign was buoyed by a foreign power’s hack of his opponent.

All of this is still true, in the same way that once the W.M.D. and Qaeda connections turned out to be illusory, Saddam Hussein was still a wicked dictator whose reign deserved to end. But as with the Iraq war, what has been sold, and often fervently believed, about l’affaire Russe has been something far more sweeping — a story about active collaboration and tacit treason and the subjection of United States policymaking to Vladimir Putin’s purposes, a story where the trail of kompromat and collusion supposedly went back decades, a story that was supposed to end with indictments in Trump’s inner circle, if not the jailing of the man himself.

Matt Taibbi:

How about because, authorities have been lying their faces off to reporters since before electricity! It doesn’t take much investigation to realize the main institutional sources in the Russiagate mess – the security services, mainly – have extensive records of deceiving the media.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good

Nellie Bowles:

All day long, Sox and Mr. Langlois, who is 68 and lives in a low-income senior housing complex in Lowell, Mass., chat. Mr. Langlois worked in machine operations, but now he is retired. With his wife out of the house most of the time, he has grown lonely.

Sox talks to him about his favorite team, the Red Sox, after which she is named. She plays his favorite songs and shows him pictures from his wedding. And because she has a video feed of him in his recliner, she chastises him when she catches him drinking soda instead of water.

Mr. Langlois knows that Sox is artifice, that she comes from a start-up called Care.Coach. He knows she is operated by workers around the world who are watching, listening and typing out her responses, which sound slow and robotic. But her consistent voice in his life has returned him to his faith.

“I found something so reliable and someone so caring, and it’s allowed me to go into my deep soul and remember how caring the Lord was,” Mr. Langlois said. “She’s brought my life back to life.”

New Study Reaffirms That STAAR Reading Tests Are Not on Grade Level

Mimi Swartz:

Opponents of the STAAR test have new evidence that the reading portion of the standardized exam given to all Texas schoolchildren remains flawed.

Professors Susan Szabo and Becky Barton Sinclair, both of Texas A&M University-Commerce, have just released a new report, “Readability of the STAAR Test is Still Misaligned,” that reaffirms what the two found in their similar 2012 study: that, for the most part, reading tests given to students in grades 3–8 are at a level of difficulty at least one year above grade level.

Szabo and Sinclair used eight different readability formulas to examine the reading portion of the STAAR, as opposed to the five they used in 2012. A careful reading of the paper shows what could be interpreted as an astounding lack of consistency: some test questions were written below grade level, while others were written far above. For instance, all five passages on the fourth-grade test were “misaligned,” with one question below grade level and four above. In sixth grade, one question was written at the appropriate grade level, three were above, and one was below.

College diversity office releases 40-page speech code – then rescinds

Christian Schneider:

Amherst College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion last week issued a 40-page glossary of terms officials said they had created to spell out a common agreement on how to define words and phrases often used at the small liberal arts campus.

The “Common Language Guide,” emailed to the roughly 1,900 undergrads at the private college, broke down pages of terms under categories such as “isms,” “race and ethnicity, “gender identity,” “class,” “politics and policy,” “global power and inequality” and “disability.”

“This project emerged out of a need to come to a common and shared understanding of language in order to foster opportunities for community building and effective communication within and across difference,” the guide states.

Social networks and pharma $

Christina Farr:

Throughout the presentation, Snap presented itself as the platform that doesn’t garner as much negativity in its culture and its comments as Facebook and Twitter. The idea is that Snap is a more comfortable place for users to talk about their sensitive health conditions, ranging from excessive sweating to sexually transmitted infections.

But the lack of negativity might also have another benefit: Unlike other advertisers on social media, pharma companies must report any adverse events about their drugs to federal agencies. That includes comments spread on social media. A more positive social media culture could mean fewer complaints to report, especially if the ads are set up in a format so that users don’t have a space to leave comments.

Snap also makes the pitch that its app is more likely to involve content that is shared between close friends, which opens up opportunities to talk about personal issues and serve them ads.

The company pointed to particular diseases that Snapchat users are “more likely to treat and diagnose,” including arthritis, asthma, diabetes and migraines, according to third-party survey data it cites from the marketing firm Global Web Index Insights. It’s unclear whether that’s in comparison to other social media tools or the general population. The company did point to its youth-focused audience and the parents who use it, saying that 34 percent of its 81 million daily North American users are between 18 and 24, and another 26 percent are 25 to 34.
Snap showed examples of previous ad campaigns. One ad to promote a drug from the pharma company Dermira that helps with excessive sweating through images of millennials jumping in the air wearing loose, summery clothing with revealing sweat patches. The slogan for that campaign, “you’re not alone,” was an attempt to reduce stigma related to the condition.

Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Michele Pridmore-Brown:

In Nazi Germany paediatric psychiatrists served as consultants to youth groups, welfare offices and schools. It was the form their ‘national service’ took. They tracked subjects through childhood, shaped what was considered normal behaviour, and identified and codified what was not. Ernst Illing claimed that he could make a call about a child at the age of three or four – he could spot what he called ‘Gemüt poverty’. Gemüt meant ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, but also gestured to a person’s capacity for tribal belonging: for feeling and emoting spirit, as in national or school spirit; and for social competence. None of these meanings was new, but how ‘Gemüt’ came to matter was. Gemüt-poverty was a medico-spiritual diagnosis that could send children to their death at a place like Spiegelgrund, a children’s killing centre in the outskirts of the Vienna Woods, part of the Steinhof mental hospital. Illing was the medical director of Spiegelgrund from 1942 till 1945. One of his predecessors was Erwin Jekelius, who claimed to have an aptitude for spotting teenagers with poor Gemüt. And he was a close associate of Hans Asperger, who developed a new label for classifying children, ‘autistic psychopathy’, which he couched in terms of poor or absent Gemüt (‘a qualitative otherness, a disharmony of feeling’), diagnosing them with ‘unfeeling malice’.

Asperger’s work was rediscovered in the English-speaking world in the 1990s, and ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ made its way into contemporary diagnostic manuals as well as colloquial ways of talking about each other. Autism is now believed to involve structural and functional abnormalities in a key brain circuit, which impede the experiencing of pleasure from social interaction; but that is a reading embedded in the fashionable sciences of our own time, brain imaging and neuroscience. Another fashionable science, genomics, has yielded new understanding about causes. ‘Refrigerator mothers’ used to be implicated; now the pesticide DDT is among the culprits.

Pure maths in crisis?

Marianne Freiberger:

Proof is the essence of mathematics. Any mathematical result should be derived from first principles using a watertight chain of logical reasoning. Proof is what separates mathematics from other intellectual endeavours, and it’s what makes it so elegant and pure.

It’s a high standard that is diligently applied in undergraduate maths courses — but not in the higher echelons of mathematical research, Kevin Buzzard, Professor of Pure Mathematics at Imperial College, said at a recent seminar talk in Cambridge. There are proofs with holes, proofs with mistakes, and proofs that are only understood by one or two people in the entire world. Something having been published in an academic journal doesn’t always mean it’s true. To know for sure which results to believe you need to be part of an in-crowd with access to experts who make the consensus. “Things are a bit out of control,” Buzzard says.

Buzzard is himself one of those experts. A professional research mathematician since 1998, he worked on some of the maths used in the proof of Fermat’s famous last theorem during his PhD. His unease with the standard of proof in academic maths only crept up on him over recent years, perhaps part of a mathematical mid-life crisis, he says, causing him to re-evaluate how things are done in his chosen line of work.”>:

Proof is the essence of mathematics. Any mathematical result should be derived from first principles using a watertight chain of logical reasoning. Proof is what separates mathematics from other intellectual endeavours, and it’s what makes it so elegant and pure.

It’s a high standard that is diligently applied in undergraduate maths courses — but not in the higher echelons of mathematical research, Kevin Buzzard, Professor of Pure Mathematics at Imperial College, said at a recent seminar talk in Cambridge. There are proofs with holes, proofs with mistakes, and proofs that are only understood by one or two people in the entire world. Something having been published in an academic journal doesn’t always mean it’s true. To know for sure which results to believe you need to be part of an in-crowd with access to experts who make the consensus. “Things are a bit out of control,” Buzzard says.

Buzzard is himself one of those experts. A professional research mathematician since 1998, he worked on some of the maths used in the proof of Fermat’s famous last theorem during his PhD. His unease with the standard of proof in academic maths only crept up on him over recent years, perhaps part of a mathematical mid-life crisis, he says, causing him to re-evaluate how things are done in his chosen line of work.

China: Government Threats to Academic Freedom Abroad

Human Rights Watch:

Institutions of higher learning around the world should resist the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine academic freedom abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. On March 21, 2019, Human Rights Watch published a 12-point Code of Conduct for colleges and universities to adopt to respond to Chinese government threats to the academic freedom of students, scholars, and educational institutions.

Many colleges and universities around the world with ties to the Chinese government, or with large student populations from China, are unprepared to address threats to academic freedom in a systematic way, Human Rights Watch said. Few have moved to protect academic freedom against longstanding problems, such as visa bans on scholars working on China or surveillance and self-censorship on their campuses.

“Colleges and universities that stand together are better equipped to resist Chinese government harassment and surveillance on campuses, visa denials, and pressures to censor or self-censor,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Most important, they will be better prepared to ensure academic freedom on their campuses for all students and scholars, particularly those from China.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Sullivan criticized “Hollywood” for regularly painting non-coastal elites in unflattering terms, which has only exacerbated America’s cultural divide.

Peter Kiefer:

“These people who are already insecure about losing their job switch on the TV, look at the newspaper and hear that they are being described as bigots, racists,” said Sullivan, who was speaking to a packed audience of industry professionals, including some of the town’s biggest names, at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. “And they resent it, and the one thing I would urge you people who do this type of content is try and complete the idea of ‘the other’ being in the room because they can hear what you are saying.”

Moments later, the author and New York magazine columnist doubled down on his idea, saying: “Don’t tell them everything is good. That you deserve it and that you are all basically slaveholders under their skin blah, blah, blah, which is what Hollywood is saying to them every second of the day.” Those comments, which were met with audible gasps, set the stage for an immensely tense 20-minute panel which ended in Sullivan being shouted at by an audience member, prompting the moderator to step in and end the panel.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter during the daylong event’s lunch break, Sullivan, who is no stranger to controversy, was not surprised. “I said what I wanted to say,” he said. “When you’re a struggling, white working-class person in say, Kentucky, and a Yale student says, ‘You have white privilege,’ what do you think happens? [Donald] Trump gets elected — that’s what happens. And they don’t seem to understand any of the lessons from the last time and I don’t want [Trump] to be re-elected, but I don’t think the left is helping and I don’t think Hollywood is helping.”

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Madison’s Taxpayer Supported K-12 School Superintendent Cheatham’s 2019 Rotary Talk

2013: What will be different, this time? Incoming Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Madison Rotary Talk.

December, 2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

2013: “Plenty of Resource$”.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, now around $20,000 per student.

More, here.

A machine generated transcript of Superintendent Cheatham’s 2019 Madison Rotary Club talk:

Thank you, Jason on this spring equinox. Our speaker is superintendent of Madison schools Jennifer Cheatham who has been in the role since 2013. She’s a graduate of Harvard who started her career as an eighth grade English teacher. She’s titled Her speech leading for equity. And will share her personal leadership Journey as an educator sure implications and Reflections on leading a school district for race racial equity. Join me in welcoming welcoming superintendent Cheatham to the podium.

Hi everyone. It’s good to be back at Rotary. I’m a little more nervous than usual because I have current board members and future for members of the audience. I feel like I’m interviewing today. It really is nice to be back. There is a lot happening in our city right now. There’s a lot to talk about.

I would like to recognize a couple of people before we dive in I want to recognize Gloria Reyes our newest board member who is in the audience. Can we give her a round of applause? She’s a phenomenal board member and I’m very lucky to have her as one of my seven bosses and I want to recognize James Howard. Who is here. He is our most senior board member. He only has a couple more weeks.

Find the board and I might shed a tear before I leave the podium today. He’s been the board president for five years during his nine years on the board and I pretty much talk to this guy every day for the last six years. So I just want to extend my heartfelt appreciation for your leadership. James couldn’t give him a round of applause.

I also want to recognize Reggie Cheatham who’s in the audience. Who’s my husband my rock? I love you, babe. Can we give him a round of applause? All right. So, you know, it seems right to reflect on one’s leadership at a major Milestone on April first. April fools day. I will have my 6 year anniversary in the district, which is surpassing the typical tenure for a female. Urban superintendent is want to put that out there. Thank you. Thank you. This fall we launched a brand new strategic framework that is more ambitious than ever that centers black student Excellence very proud of that. And on April 2nd as we all know.

We have a School Board Race that I believe will demonstrate the extent to which our community wants to follow through on that promise. And I want to personally thank everyone who’s running for school board. That’s a big deal. It matters to me a lot. Let’s give the candidates another round of applause. So rather than my typical update on progress that I know you guys really enjoy when I come here. I am going to do something a little different. I want to share with you a story of me. I want to share with you a story of us and the story of what I think it means for us right now. This will be my leadership story, which I do think demonstrates. How I’m becoming a stronger leader for Equity. It’s a story of confidence-building risk-taking personal identity development and teamwork. So this is me in kindergarten. I went to gray school in Chicago. I was an early reader reciting nursery rhymes for relatives begging to go to school as soon as I could talk. When asked by my neighbor’s I used to tell everyone how much I loved school and I was always surprised by the adults reaction because they were surprised by my response.

By fifth grade. I had already decided on a potential career path. I would sign all of my school papers. Dr. Jenny Perry. That’s my maiden name because I thought I wanted to be a doctor Someday My Teacher nicknamed me. Dr. J that Year little did I know I would become a doctor the first in my large extended family, but not the medical kind. Make sure I got this. These are my parents. That’s Wanda and skip my mom grew up in a humble Farm family and Whitewater, Wisconsin. She married my dad who grew up on the west side of Chicago with much without much financial means or family support but he was he was Scrappy and he was the first in our large extended family to go to college.

From their early days in Chicago and they lived in an apartment above a pet store. I live there too to their later days in the suburbs on a one-acre lot all that grass. I watched my parents grow up together. I watched them raise our family together. I watch them transform our lives together. It has been amazing for me to Bear witness to the positive impact these two people have had not just on my immediate family, but all of my cousins all of their children these this is the couple that opened the door to possibilities that hadn’t previously existed for any of us.

But what strikes me most about their parenting was their curiosity and me and my siblings the four of us, each of us were unique they expressed interest in each of our interests. They were curious about what we were curious about and they recognized our real talents and not the ones that they wished we had. Looking back for everything that they did for us. That was the greatest gift. My parents gave me their curiosity in me. This is an important lesson as a parent. I think their curiosity in me was this incredible confidence Builder from the from a young age?

I don’t actually remember them ever reading to me. I don’t remember them pushing me hard to excel which I think some people May Be Imagined happened to my family for me. It was just a blessing to be seen and that’s important. Because confidence is needed to take risks. And I’ve learned that. To teach requires risk-taking.

Well, I thought I’d be a doctor for their a while. They’re in elementary school. I changed my mind when I got to high school decided. I wanted to be a teacher. In graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where I trained to be a teacher I came to view teaching as a form of activism. This is me as a first-year teacher. I worshipped Paulo Freire e right this idea that teaching should be designed to liberate and never to oppress. I studied vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. I think Ali Mahdi. All right. We got it as a way to stretch my students thinking to their learning Edge. I remember forever being changed by reading the book Savage inequalities by.

Jonathan kozol and forever inspired by Gloria ladson-billings conception of culturally relevant teaching that was. Well over 20 years ago. I loved what I was learning about action research as a way to capture my own learning as an educator. I was absolutely convinced. This is what I wanted to do with my life. And then I started my student teaching at Wayne High School outside of Detroit where I was given three classes to teach for a full semester or two of those classes were called teen fact and fiction and it was an English class that was. For under credited Juniors and seniors essentially was the class to just get kids graduated that make sense.

I was given a poorly designed curriculum a set of Cortex that were dumbed-down inspiring. I remember one of the books was the boy who drank too much. It was turned into like some side kind of daytime movie that starred Scott Baio and was filmed here Kali. That’s right. I learned that. Yeah, it is interesting how these courses are given to the least experienced teachers, right? I was a student teacher.

Anyway, I decided that I would rework the entire curriculum with the students themselves. We took the first weeks to get to know one another and we laid out all the themes that we wanted to explore together things. That would be relevant to teenagers the group wanted to talk about race. They wanted to talk about gender. They wanted to talk about sexuality substance abuse depression. I think they were surprised when I agreed with them. I searched for high-quality literature as the focal point of our exploration. We read black literature even feminist literature. We read lgbtq literature that was before it was called that. Fine introduce a reading workshop to reignite students interest in reading right there identity as readers and I searched continually for things that I thought individual students would like based on my individual conferring with them all I did back in those days.

I had no life.

I don’t have much of what now, but outside all I did was planned my teaching teach and reflect on its Effectiveness all I did my mentor teacher. I almost let her know. I’m not going to say it. I loved her because she entrusted me with teaching this class and she sat in the lounge while all this was happening. I was crossing some boundaries you guys it was a good thing. She was in the lounge and yet students. Cooper regularly skipping school started coming back. They were sneaking into school to go to this class and I wouldn’t call it. My cousin was our class. There was a buzz about this class the kids and I were in some kind of solidarity with one another we felt like we were in cahoots, which is unfortunate, right?

It shouldn’t be like you’re having to sneak in really good high-quality instruction.

But we’ve become this community of Learners. They were learning so much. They were constructing knowledge. They were challenging each other. They were challenging me. I was learning a ton and then at the end of the semester I had a student tell me Miss Perry. I really want to recommend this class to a friend, but I know it’ll never be the same. leaving. That school was hard but fresh out of my experience with student teaching. I was just desperate to start my career.

Remember I’m from Chicago jobs were scarce at that time in Chicago and I had heard that there was a teacher shortage in California. I never planned on teaching at a junior high. No one ever. Does this just to be clear? Yeah. I never planned on leaving. Home. But I interviewed for this job over the phone as an 8th grade language arts teacher in Newark, California in the East Bay of San Francisco.

I drove 2,000 miles across the country without knowing so I arrived in California the day before school started that year my first day seeing my classroom like walking in the door was the first day of school. The kids came about 30 minutes later. It was the first major professional risk. I’ve ever taken but I was finally a teacher and my identity formed around him after a decade of teaching and teacher leadership in California working in partnership with amazing teachers amazing principles like the women in this picture. I thought I had some serious instructional jobs as what a lot of perspective on what it takes to support teachers and doing their best work passionate about our profession. I set out to take yet another professional risk and explore what it would take to lead instructional Improvement on a large scale.

Maybe even become a superintendent someday the kind that I had dreamed about someone who actually knew something about teaching. But if someone told me just recently sometimes you need to be stripped of your ego your confidence to become even stronger. I went back to graduate school this time as a member of the 16th cohort of the urban superintendents program at Harvard, which to me I got to tell you was some kind of Miracle there were Great Courses. Micro economics politics lot instruction and it was incredible. I loved it. I excelled in those courses, but I was also assigned a mentor to test and develop my thinking about leadership.

I would come to learn that that relationship with my mentor one that has lasted now well over a decade. Was more powerful than any book. I had ever read or any course I had ever taken. I was assigned to the renowned Carl cone. All right Collegiate. He’s wowing up here. Someone knows that I’m talking about. I was assigned to the renowned Carl cone Carl an African-American leader had left Seminary school to become a high school counselor in Compton at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He eventually became the superintendent in Long Beach California leading the district transformation into one of the highest performing urban districts in the country. And that is still true today. He was not an instructional leader. And he intimidated the hell out of me.

I just saw Carl this past summer and he recalled a familiar story. We’re really close till at the very start of our mentoring relationship. Carl said to me he’s got this low gravelly voice and very slow way of talking Jen white female instructional leaders. Like you are a dime a dozen. That’s what he told me a dime a dozen what makes you think you could ever gain the street credibility to lead in an urban District at this is like a weeks into my mentoring relationship with him. I think I cried when I got home did my rent. I was crushed. I remember the first wave of feelings. I felt misunderstood. I was actually kind of pissed at first right? I felt misunderstood undervalued. I felt stereotypes. I’ve felt sick to my stomach and unsettled. I felt like I was on a rocking boat. Now that feeling by the ground was not solid underneath my feet and it was because I felt that my identity as an educator does felt fundamentally threatened and that moment.

After I got over the good cry I realized the Carl was not criticizing me in that moment. He was trying to open a door to a new conversation about who I was about who I could become and what it would actually take for me to lead and it was the first time I’m a bit embarrassed to say this the first time I had to name out loud and I have been an educator for over a decade at that point the first time I did name out loud and begin to actually understand my privilege as a white woman. I would have to acknowledge that my parents success and economic Mobility which I was very proud of did not happen just because of their hard work. I would have to come to understand that my ability to pick up and pack my stuff and move across the country for my first job was not simply an act of my own bravery. I would have to see that my singular focus on instruction and instructional Improvement may have been a convenient way to avoid looking inward at my own bias or outward at the institution that was reproducing the outcomes that I said that I wanted to change all along.

I had been a beneficiary. My white privilege and Carl he was pushing me to try to figure out how to use it and uncompromising Alliance of people who didn’t have it which would mean taking real risks, right? Not the fake risks that I thought. I was taking real risks right to start risking failure my own personal failure. By the way, I hope that that song that we sing in the beginning wasn’t about me the ring of fire. So I took that a little personally I’m letting it go. Okay. Carl had I just I don’t doubt it Carl had a ton of respect for what I could do as an instructional leader.

He just knew that dramatically changing outcomes for students would require a totally new order of things and that’s when I started to begin a New Journey right to create a richer identity not just as a teacher not just as a champion for the profession, which I am. But as a faithful Ally to the children and families, we serve and someone dedicated to creating empowering spaces for teachers and students so they can change the world. I’ve learned other things too.

I’ve learned the importance of assembling talented teams. I’ve learned the importance of assembling talented and diverse teams. This is not about heroic leadership. It is about empowering capable people who have different points of view to work together towards a common goal. I’ve learned about quiet determinations and Steely resolve. I’ve learned about how to feel my way through complexity. I’ve learned about the trust and respect necessary for people to excel especially those who work most closely with children. I’ve learned about leading with more humanity and vulnerability. And most recently I’ve been learning about what it actually takes to Center the voices and experiences of the people who are most affected by the challenges.

And problems we face what it looks like to authorize the people the many people who are already out there doing the work and to pave the way for more work to be done. Now last year of this is animated this lag kind of drives me crazy you guys this is happened to me before there we go last year. I listened personally to over a thousand people in this community. In over 50 hours of meetings prioritizing listening to the voices of students staff and families of color. I wanted to know how we could build on the progress that we’ve made but more importantly what it would actually take to transform our schools into the places that we want them to be right the truly represent what we want for our community. And we use those discussions to inform the development of our new strategic framework, which I will say is on the back table if you want one on your way out. Well what I want you to know is what I heard.

When I talked to educators of color, which I did in depth over many hours, they told me that we needed to commit. Once and for all to being an anti-racist organization and learning what that actually means right to enact it from the Board Room all the way to the classroom. They told me that policy is budget Investments are long times wait ways of working. They all had to be tested deconstructed rebuilt. They also said that we had to make deep and long term investments in our staff as anti-racist Educators, right? If you sign up for this profession, that’s what you’re signing up for and then that is not just Technical Training that is about doing deep inside out work on your personal identity right for the lifetime that you’re in this career.

Students of color told me that they needed stronger more trusting relationships with staff. Right? And that’s because you can’t be in what is called the struggle of learning, right? If you’re not interesting relationship with the teachers in the the friends and colleagues that are in your learning community where you can’t actually struggle through learning without trust. They told me that they believed in their white staffs like their white teachers ability to do so they do they believe that and they need more teachers of color, right? They need more representation. They told me they needed more cultural. Well, not more they needed cultural representation and historically accurate curriculum for just fed up with it with it not being so. But not just because they wanted but it’s because they want to challenge the world around them, right? They want to understand that what they want to analyze that they want to challenge us right there desk. They’re seeking deep and Rich learning opportunities.

They want full participation in advanced coursework with their peers. Right, which is fully integrated into those courses and separate spaces to talk about racism and the micro aggressions that they’re experiencing everyday in this community. They need both. Parents of color told me that they wanted to share power with schools. Like we’re doing at our community schools. They wanted rich and deep learning experiences for their children as well. Not just more programs to support struggling students. This is important, right?

They see the path right to eliminating the achievement Gap is about rich and deep learning experiences. Not more intervention. I hope that makes sense. But that’s the only way you actually get there and they want aggressive execution of strategies and programs that ensure meaningful exploration of College and Career options for every child. The message was clear to me after all those discussions that the next level of transformation in our district would require a New Order of Things. Which is why? We’ve made such a strong commitment Central commitment to lifting up black excellence in our district. This is not a programs not an initiative, right? This is a good-sized central commitment. So we’ll learn together right about how to enact will learn with and alongside the black community that we serve because we.

And the Brilliance the creativity the capability and Bright Futures futures of black students in Madison and everywhere are measures of success is a school system have to be aimed at more than narrowing gaps.

I’m tired of that language but focused on cultivating the full potential of every child creating space for healthy identity development and new and more importantly true narratives about black youth. And this community that doesn’t mean that we diminish our commitment to other students right Latino students Latino Community ICU, right? I see you too, right? I see everyone. But that we recognize that all of our fates are linked. And of course this school year maybe that’s where the ring of fire song came from has been.

With all of its promise. It’s been trying right? That is an understatement. Yeah, it’s been trying it’s been testing our core values in our commitment. In a way that I predicted to some extent but didn’t understand until I’ve been in it. So I want to be real clear. I am extraordinarily proud of the progress. We’ve made we wouldn’t even be able to have this discussion right now without it.

But now we’re being asked by even more people to do even more and better right and we will. But we will only do so if as a community not just the school district, we are centering the lives of people of in color in a way that we’ve never done so before right. I’m going to tell you what I’ve been telling my staff all year. I have sort of a mantra that I just keep telling them. So I’m going to share it with you. I’ll try to not cry as I say it. I see the gifts and talents you bring to this work.

Let’s take more risks on behalf of the students and families we serve. Sorry, it’s been a rough few weeks. Let’s embrace our common identities as both proud Educators and consequential allies. We’ll work together as a team. remain faithful. You are enough you have to be. I know it is my honor and privilege to continue to serve alongside you especially when the boat is rocking.

Thanks everybody. Thank you superintendent Cheatham. Please take advantage to speak with our school board candidates that are with us today on your way out. We are adjourned.

Duke University Agrees to Pay U.S. $112.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Related to Scientific Research Misconduct

US Department of Justice:

Duke University has agreed to pay the government $112.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting applications and progress reports that contained falsified research on federal grants to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Justice Department announced today.

“The resources utilized by NIH and EPA to fund important research and clinical programs across the nation are limited,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Today’s settlement demonstrates that the Department of Justice will pursue grantees that knowingly falsify research and undermine the integrity of federal funding decisions.”

“Taxpayers expect and deserve that federal grant dollars will be used efficiently and honestly. Individuals and institutions that receive research funding from the federal government must be scrupulous in conducting research for the common good and rigorous in rooting out fraud,” said Matthew G.T. Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “May this serve as a lesson that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or reports is completely unacceptable.”

Duke is a private university located in Durham, North Carolina. Duke receives millions of dollars in funding from NIH and the EPA for hundreds of grants each year. The settlement resolves allegations that between 2006 and 2018, Duke knowingly submitted and caused to be submitted claims to the NIH and to the EPA that contained falsified or fabricated data or statements in thirty (30) grants, causing the NIH and EPA to pay out grants funds they otherwise would not have. Specifically, the United States contends that the results of certain research related to mice conducted by a Duke research technician in its Airway Physiology Laboratory, as well as statements based on those research results, were falsified and/or fabricated.

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

Elite Colleges Constantly Tell Low-Income Students That They Do Not Belong

Clint Smith:

Last Tuesday, the Justice Department charged 50 people with involvement in an elaborate scheme to purchase spots in some of the country’s top schools. The tactics described in the indictment were complex and multipronged, requiring multiple steps of deception and bribery by parents and their co-conspirators to secure their children’s admission to the schools of their choice. The plot purportedly included faking learning disabilities, using Photoshopped images to make it seem as if students played sports that they did not actually play, and pretending that students were of different ethnicities in an effort to exploit affirmative-action programs. The alleged scheme was led by a man named William Singer, who called his business venture a “side door” into college. On Tuesday, Singer pleaded guilty to all charges.

The case, rightfully, has set off a wave of conversations about how the wealthy are able to lie and manipulate their way into the country’s elite colleges and universities. But the scandal also provides an opportunity to interrogate how these universities are set up in ways that systematically amplify and exacerbate the class differences between their students. Students from low-income backgrounds receive daily reminders—interpersonal and institutional, symbolic and structural—that they are the ones who do not belong.

To understand the prevalence of wealth at top-tier schools, and how those schools often fail to adequately serve low-income students, it helps to turn to a book called The Privileged Poor, by the Harvard University professor Anthony Abraham Jack, published earlier this month. In the book, Jack combines his own journey as a low-income student from Miami who attended selective schools (Amherst College as an undergrad and Harvard for graduate school) and his two-year ethnographic research project, in which he interviewed and followed the lives of low-income students as they navigated life at an unidentified elite school he refers to as “Renowned University.”

A couple of wins for free speech

Adriana Cohen:

For far too long colleges and universities have been stifling free speech on campus, contrary to the notion that higher education is supposed to promote a free flow of ideas. Thanks to political correctness spreading like a noxious weed from one liberal campus to the next, free speech has been under assault.

The good guys — College Republicans and everyone else who values the free speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — notched a victory this week at Amherst College when its president shot down its own Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s “Common Language Guide” it emailed to students which laid out PC definitions for everything from capitalism to transgenderism to how to address illegal immigrants, or as they prefer it, “undocumented persons.”

Amherst College’s PC polemic frowned upon differentiating between legal and illegal immigration status, don’t like assimilation and derided capitalism as an “economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state. This system leads to exploitative labor practices which affect marginalized groups disproportionately.”

Never mind that under socialism in Venezuela right now, millions of poverty stricken citizens are starving and in desperate need of humanitarian relief. That reality doesn’t matter to the campus diversity police as they seek to indoctrinate impressionable students with far-left political and cultural themes and ideologies under the guise of being “inclusive.”

The Forgotten Minorities of Higher Education

Moriah Balingit:

If you are driving east on Florin Road toward Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, you will pass under a pedestrian bridge that has a message permanently affixed to it: “If you dream it, you can do it.”

It’s the kind of message I have seen in neighborhoods where aspirations far surpass resources — and in that way it is fitting. More than three-quarters of students at Burbank qualify for free lunches. A fifth of students come from households where Hmong is the primary language. The school has one of the highest concentrations of Hmong students in the city.

It was here, last year, that school counselor Janet Spilman and teacher Katherine Bell dreamed up a scheme: They would get every eligible senior to apply to college — any college. “It wasn’t just the 4.0s,” Bell told me in December, sitting in the light-filled front office. “It was the 2.0s and everyone who was within one year … of being eligible” to apply. In the end, they wrangled about 400 students into the school’s two computer labs, sat them down and walked them through the application process.

The massive undertaking taught Spilman and Bell a lot about what was keeping students from making post-high school plans: Many Hmong students had no idea they were “college material.” Some said they had thought about college but no adult had ever spoken to them about it. Others fretted about the finances and negotiating with parents who expected them to remain home.

When Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard in 2014 over its race-conscious admissions policies, only one member of the organization was described in detail, a young man who, according to the lawsuit, deserves a seat at the university. He is the son of Chinese immigrants, attended one of the nation’s top high schools, was captain of the tennis team and got a perfect score on the ACT. By contrast, Hmong students at Burbank come from a community with a childhood poverty rate of about 40 percent statewide.

The fate of the book review in the age of the algorithm

Christian Lorentzen:

Alex and Wendy love culture. It’s how they spend their free time. It’s what they talk about at dinner parties. When they go jogging or to the gym, they listen to podcasts on their phones. On Sunday nights they watch their favorite new shows. They go to the movies sometimes, but they were bummed out when ­MoviePass went south, so now they mostly stream things. They belong to book clubs that meet every couple of weeks. Alex and Wendy work hard at their jobs, but they always have a bit of time to check their feeds at work. What’s in their feeds? Their feeds tell them about culture. Their feeds are a form of comfort. Their feeds explain things to them that they already understand. Their feeds tell them that everyone else is watching, reading, listening to the same things. Their feeds tell them about the people who make their culture, people who aren’t so different from them, just maybe a bit more glistening. Alex and Wendy’s feeds assure them that they aren’t lonely. Their feeds give them permission to like what they already like. Their feeds let them know that their culture is winning.

Alex and Wendy believe in the algorithm. It’s the force that organizes their feeds, arranges their queues, and tells them that if they liked this song, video, or book, they might like that one too. They never have to think about the algorithm, and their feeds offer a kind of protection. Alex hates to waste his time. His time is so precious. It makes Wendy feel sad when she reads a book she doesn’t love. She might have read one of the books her friends loved. If their feeds lead them astray, Alex and Wendy adjust them. There’s only so much time, and when they have kids, there’ll be even less time. Alex and Wendy aren’t snobs. They don’t need to be told what not to like. They’d rather not know about it.

US computer science grads outperforming those in other key nations

John Timmer:

There’s a steady flow of reports regarding the failures of the US education system. Read the right things and you’ll come away convinced that early grades fail to teach basic skills, later grades fail to prepare students for college, and colleges students fail so much that they can’t cope with the world outside the campus walls. But this week brought a bit of good news for one particular area: college-level computer science programs appear to be graduating some very competitive students.

This comes despite the fact that US students enter colleges behind their peers in other countries.

The work, done by an international team of researchers, compares US college seniors to those of three countries where US companies have outsourced some of their work: China, India, and Russia. All of these countries have a reputation for first-rate computing talent, with India and China developing large internal markets as well. Many students from these countries also come to study in the US, while Russia and China have been involved in cyber attacks against the United States and/or companies based here.

Famous Prep School Runs Afoul of Government Crackdown

Ding Joe and REN Quiyu:

On March 18, the Shuimu Longhua Preparation School in Beijing’s northwestern Haidian district declared that it would close its doors this week due to “expired qualifications.” It had one of the most competitive extracurricular class packages available, and was one of the only ways primary school children could ensure a spot in the prestigious “experimental class” at the Tsinghua University Affiliated High School.

However, “expired qualifications” was not the real reason for the shutdown. According to a Feb. 27 punishment notice issued by the Haidian government, Shuimu Longhua was shut down for “disorderly management of private schools, which has adverse social impact.” After resisting the Ministry of Education’s broader crackdown on extracurricular studies, underway since 2013, the school’s closure could indicate that the government is really getting serious about “relieving the burden” on students.

Shuimu Longhua has been shut down before, last year. At that time, Yang Dongping, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute at the Beijing Institute of Technology, wrote that the center was a “black hole that must be removed” and a major problem. The closure gave people hope that the elementary education system would really see some reform — but that summer, Shuimu Longhua opened its doors again.

Stunning Survey Shows Half Of Americans Don’t Know All First Amendment Freedoms

Study Finds:

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe the First Amendment is under threat, according to a new survey, yet a large portion of respondents couldn’t correctly name what the amendment protects.

Of the 2,000 adults who took part in the poll, half thought that “liberty” is one of the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment, while nearly half (49 percent) believed “the pursuit of happiness” was included. Thankfully, only 3 percent named “life” as one of the protected freedoms.

What’s more, barely more than a quarter (26 percent) of participants knew how many amendments even comprise the Bill of Rights. In fact, 1 in 5 people wasn’t even familiar with the Bill of Rights when asked.

Despite the struggle with what should be common American knowledge, the survey — commissioned by the Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company — revealed that 57 percent of respondents feel the First Amendment is at risk in the nation’s current climate. Many people point to bias in the media and the rise of fake news as main reasons for their concern. One in seven admit they have trouble telling the difference between real and fake news, while 31 percent agree the mainstream media struggles to report the news of the day without inserting bias within their coverage.

An Unlikely Bargain: Why Charter School Teachers Unionize and What Happens When They Do

Ashley Jochim and Lesley Lavery:

For nearly two decades teachers unions and charter schools have formed an “us vs. them” narrative that pits one against the other. Unionization efforts by charter school teachers could scramble that narrative. With this report we set out to understand trends in charter school unionization, document teachers’ motivations for unionizing, and assess whether collective bargaining agreements in charter schools differ from those in traditional school districts.

We spoke to sixteen teachers at nine schools where teachers had either recently unionized or were undergoing campaigns to decertify their unions. We also compared the content of their collective bargaining agreements with those in local school districts and analyzed national data on charter school unionization. We learned:

Nationally, charter schools are no more likely to be unionized today than they were a decade ago. However, unionization is gaining traction in some localities and states like Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania

Chinese Education Startup Puts Western Teachers on Notice

Julie Steinberg and Shan Li:

VIPKid, one of China’s most valuable online education startups, has put hundreds of its mostly American teachers on notice for using certain maps in their classes with Chinese students, and has severed two teachers’ contracts for discussing Taiwan and Tiananmen Square in ways at odds with Chinese government preferences, people familiar with the company say. Since last fall, teachers’ contracts state that discussing “politically contentious” topics could be cause for dismissal, according to one reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The moves highlight the balance a Chinese company must strike in fulfilling global aspirations while toeing Beijing’s line. Five-year-old VIPKid is currently in talks to raise as much as $500 million in new funding from U.S. and other investors that could value the company at roughly $6 billion, people familiar with the fundraising said.

“A company must keep good relations with the government and ideology,” said Peter Fuhrman, chief executive of investment firm China First Capital . “But that can cause friction when you’re also courting foreign investors, expanding business overseas and employing a large American workforce.”

The college admissions scandal: a modest proposal

Jim Stovall:

The journalists and commentators have consistently used the terms elite colleges or elite universities. They have done without any critical assessment of the terms themselves, and therein lies a problem — possibly The Problem. We are in the habit of thinking about certain colleges or universities as “elite” or “better” or something that they are not. A student at one of these places is no more likely to get a good or an excellent education than a student at any state university or small liberal arts college.

My four decades of experience in academia, as well as my common sense, tells me that.

The faculty and facilities in the places we term as “elite” are no better — and sometimes much worse — than you would find at most large state universities. Many undergraduate courses in so-called elite universities are taught by graduate students — not by high-powered professors — as they are at state universities with good graduate programs.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Debt Crisis is Coming Soon

Martin Feldstein:

The most dangerous domestic problem facing America’s federal government is the rapid growth of its budget deficit and national debt.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit this year will be $900 billion, more than 4% of gross domestic product. It will surpass $1 trillion in 2022. The federal debt is now 78% of GDP. By 2028, it is projected to be nearly 100% of GDP and still rising. All this will have very serious economic consequences, and the CBO understates the problem. It has to base its projections on current law—in this case, the levels of spending and the future tax rules and rates that appear in law today.

Those levels don’t match realistic predictions. Current law projects that defense spending will decline as a share of GDP, from a very low 3.1% now to about 2.5% over the next 10 years. None of the military and civilian defense experts with whom I’ve spoken believe that will happen, given America’s global responsibilities and the need to modernize U.S. military equipment. It is likelier that defense spending will stay around 3% of GDP or even increase in the coming decade. And if the outlook for defense spending is increased, the Democratic House majority will insist that the nondefense discretionary spending should rise to match its trajectory

Locally, Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district’s spending has grown substantially over the last few decades. We now spend around $20,000 per student – far more than most.

The Cost and Risk of Regulations That Make Information ‘Own-able’

Sam Lessin:

The internet is forcing us to engage with a far broader definition of the economy than in the past. Instead of thinking of the economy primarily in terms of physical goods and services, the internet is putting front and center a fuller picture of the economy—including other forms of value and trade, such as information and social, moral and even sexual capital.

I believe you can trace many of the political and social challenges we face today back to our expanding awareness of—and ability to measure—the size of the broader economy. In particular, debates about who “owns” data, the right to be forgotten and privacy regulations can easily be seen effectively as a debate about how to value information and formally assign its ownership. So too can a lot of the consternation about the scale and size of internet companies that have large amounts of this previously under-appreciated data-as-asset.

The Takeaway
The information economy is putting increasing pressure on the physical economy, creating lots of debates about ownership of data and privacy. But it would be dangerous to write regulations for the information economy that are based in the physical economy.

More broadly, it is easy to view things like Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign narrative about the idea of “soft corruption” in Washington—where policy makers favor the rich over everyone else—as really a discussion about how power operates across different forms of capital. A lot of the unrest among people on the left is based on the idea that the deck is stacked against the working class. The reason that they feel that way has a lot to do with uneasiness about how these alternative unregulated economies function.

Remember, It’s Their College Years, Not Yours

Sue Shellenbarger:

But there are plenty of other, less damaging ways the college-admissions frenzy causes even conscientious parents to mess up by getting too involved in their child’s application process.

One mother became so immersed in her daughter’s college decision that she wrote her own name on an application, says Alyssa McCloud, vice president for enrollment management at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. Dr. McCloud detected the error after the mother called the admissions office repeatedly last year, asking why her daughter hadn’t gotten a response to her application. In fact, her daughter’s file was incomplete, because her transcripts and other documents didn’t match the name on the application.

“She said, ‘Oh, I must have written in my own name,’ ” Dr. McCloud says. While the student was well-qualified and eventually was admitted, she would have been a stronger applicant if her mother had kept her distance, she says.

Moms and dads sometimes place more importance than students on colleges’ status and prestige. Some recycle their own dreams through their children, pushing them to get into the Ivy League because they couldn’t, college admissions counselors say. This pattern, called projection, is common among parents whose identities are closely entwined with those of their children, according to a 2013 study in the journal PLOS One.

They often do this without realizing it, in hopes of feeling more successful themselves, the study reported. It analyzed 73 parents of 8- to 15-year-old children.

The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center

Bob Moser:

In the days since the stunning dismissal of Morris Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, on March 14th, I’ve been thinking about the jokes my S.P.L.C. colleagues and I used to tell to keep ourselves sane. Walking to lunch past the center’s Maya Lin–designed memorial to civil-rights martyrs, we’d cast a glance at the inscription from Martin Luther King, Jr., etched into the black marble—“Until justice rolls down like waters”—and intone, in our deepest voices, “Until justice rolls down like dollars.” The Law Center had a way of turning idealists into cynics; like most liberals, our view of the S.P.L.C. before we arrived had been shaped by its oft-cited listings of U.S. hate groups, its reputation for winning cases against the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations, and its stream of direct-mail pleas for money to keep the good work going. The mailers, in particular, painted a vivid picture of a scrappy band of intrepid attorneys and hate-group monitors, working under constant threat of death to fight hatred and injustice in the deepest heart of Dixie. When the S.P.L.C. hired me as a writer, in 2001, I figured I knew what to expect: long hours working with humble resources and a highly diverse bunch of super-dedicated colleagues. I felt self-righteous about the work before I’d even begun it.

The first surprise was the office itself. On a hill in downtown Montgomery, down the street from both Jefferson Davis’s Confederate White House and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where M.L.K. preached and organized, the center had recently built a massive modernist glass-and-steel structure that the social critic James Howard Kunstler would later liken to a “Darth Vader building” that made social justice “look despotic.” It was a cold place inside, too. The entrance was through an underground bunker, past multiple layers of human and electronic security. Cameras were everywhere in the open-plan office, which made me feel like a Pentagon staffer, both secure and insecure at once. But nothing was more uncomfortable than the racial dynamic that quickly became apparent: a fair number of what was then about a hundred employees were African-American, but almost all of them were administrative and support staff—“the help,” one of my black colleagues said pointedly.

More, here.

Concerned about reading instruction, state cracks down on teacher prep programs, starting with Colorado’s largest

Ann Schimke:

In a 15-page reauthorization report, state officials detail a number of specific problems with the university’s core literacy courses, including that they emphasize prospective teachers’ beliefs about reading rather than forcing them to draw science-based conclusions.

“A lower bar for education prep [candidates] versus the students they’ll be teaching is concerning,” the report states.

Obtained by Chalkbeat through an open records request, the report grants the usual five-year reauthorization term, but requires the prep program to meet five conditions by February 2020. They include aligning course syllabi to state standards and increasing science-based reading instruction. (Read the full report at the end of this story.)

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Evers, has granted thousands of waivers to elementary teachers who failed to pass our one content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading. Related: MTEL.

Syria’s broken schools will make it difficult to fix the country

The Economist:

AFTER EIGHT years of civil war, Syria’s education system is a wreck. Nearly 3m school-age children, a third of the total, do not attend classes. That is, in part, because 40% of schools are unusable. Some have been damaged in the fighting; others are being used by armed groups or the displaced. The schools that still function are crammed and there are fewer teachers to run them—around 150,000 have fled or been killed. Unsurprisingly, students are way behind. Ten-year-olds in Syria read like five-year-olds in developed countries, says Save the Children, an aid agency. The literacy rate has plummeted.
The consequences are stark. Syrians lack the skills needed to rebuild their country or to escape the grinding poverty in which 80% of them live. The uneducated are easier prey for jihadists and militiamen offering money and a bit of power, or for Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which will gladly give them a spot in the army. Shattered schools are yet another reason for more affluent Syrians to leave the country—and for those who have fled to stay abroad. “We’ll see the catastrophic results over the next decade as children become adults,” says Riyad al-Najem of Hurras, a charity that supports over 350 schools in Syria.

What Made Apollo A Success?


On July 20, 1969, man first set foot on another planet. This “giant leap for mankind” represented one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time. This artide and the others in this document describe and discuss some of the varied tasks behind this achievement.

We will limit ourselves to those tasks that were the direct responsibility of the

NASA Manned Spacecraft Center: spacecraft development, mission design and mission planning, flight crew operations, and flight operations. We will describe spacecraft design principles, the all-important spacecraft test activities, and the discipline that evolved in the control of spacecraft changes and the closeout of spacecraft anomalies; and we will discuss how we determined the best series of flights to lead to a lunar landing at the earliest possible time, how these flights were planned in detail, the techniques used in establishing flight procedures and carrying out flight operations, and, finally, crew training and simulation activities — the activities that led to a perfeet flight execution by the astronauts.

In short, we will describe three of the basic ingredients of the success of Apollo: spacecraft hardware that is most reliable, flight missions that are extremely well planned and executed, and flight crews that are superbly trained and skilled. (We will not discuss two equally important aspects of Apollo — the launch vehicles and launch operations. These elements, the responsibility of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the NASA Kennedy Space Center, go beyond the scope of this series of articles. )

The Needless Complexity of Academic Writing

Victoria Clayton:

“Persistence is one of the great characteristics of a pitbull, and I guess owners take after their dogs,” says Annetta Cheek, the co-founder of the D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Plain Language. Cheek, an anthropologist by training who left academia in the early 1980s to work for the Federal Aviation Commission, is responsible for something few people realize exists: the 2010 Plain Writing Act. In fact, Cheek was among the first government employees to champion the use of clear, concise language. Once she retired in 2007 from the FAA and gained the freedom to lobby, she leveraged her hatred for gobbledygook to create an actual law. Take a look at recent information put out by many government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—if it lacks needlessly complex sentences or bizarre bureaucratic jargon, it’s largely because of Cheek and her colleagues.

The idea that writing should be clear, concise, and low-jargon isn’t a new one—and it isn’t limited to government agencies, of course. The problem of needlessly complex writing—sometimes referred to as an “opaque writing style”—has been explored in fields ranging from law to science. Yet in academia, unwieldy writing has become something of a protected tradition. Take this example:

Key Ingredient in College-Admissions Scheme: A Harvard-Graduate Test Whiz

Jennifer Levitz and Brian Costa:

Mark Riddell, a 36-year-old Harvard University graduate, used his uncanny ability to boost scores fraudulently on college-entrance exams for teens of wealthy families participating in the scheme, according to federal filings.

“He did not have inside information about the correct answers,” the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, said after announcing Tuesday’s federal charges. “He was just smart enough to get a near-perfect score.”

Prosecutors say Mr. Riddell, who lives outside Tampa, Fla., was central to the cheating scheme. He has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud and a money-laundering-related charge, according to court documents, and is scheduled to appear in court in Boston in April.

After the charges, Mr. Riddell issued a statement apologizing for the damage and grief he caused. “I understand how my actions contributed to a loss of trust in the college admissions process,” he said.

Prosecutors said William Rick Singer’s testing scheme took place at least 30 times back as far as 2011. Of the 33 parents who were charged Tuesday, at least 16 are linked in court documents to Mr. Riddell, who was referred to as “Cooperating Witness 2.”

He has been helping with the investigation since February in hopes of leniency, federal filings say.

Statement on campus free speech executive order

Foundation on individual rights in education:

Since 1999, FIRE has defended freedom of expression on our nation’s campuses by fighting for public universities to honor the First Amendment and for private universities to fulfill their voluntary promises of free speech and academic freedom. Today’s executive order directs federal agencies to “take appropriate steps” to “promote free inquiry” at institutions that receive federal research and education grants, including through compliance with the First Amendment or fulfillment of their institutional promises. To the extent that today’s executive order asks colleges and universities to meet their existing legal obligations, it should be uncontroversial.

At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard

Associated Press:

Cost per prisoner has doubled since 2005

The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase.

The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation’s highest — and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard.

Since 2015, California’s per-inmate costs have surged nearly $10,000, or about 13%. New York is a distant second in overall costs at about $69,000.

Critics say with fewer inmates, the costs should be falling.

“Now that we’re incarcerating less, we haven’t ramped the system back down,” said Chris Hoene, executive director of the left-leaning California Budget & Policy Center.

For example, the corrections department has one employee for every two inmates, compared with one employee for roughly every four inmates in 1994.

why does it cost so much?

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

Bryan Caplan :

First and foremost: From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing? Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history? Trigonometry? Art? Music? Physics? Latin? The class clown who snarks “What does this have to do with real life?” is onto something.

The disconnect between college curricula and the job market has a banal explanation: Educators teach what they know—and most have as little firsthand knowledge of the modern workplace as I do. Yet this merely complicates the puzzle. If schools aim to boost students’ future income by teaching job skills, why do they entrust students’ education to people so detached from the real world? Because, despite the chasm between what students learn and what workers do, academic success is a strong signal of worker productivity.

Suppose your law firm wants a summer associate. A law student with a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford applies. What do you infer? The applicant is probably brilliant, diligent, and willing to tolerate serious boredom. If you’re looking for that kind of worker—and what employer isn’t?—you’ll make an offer, knowing full well that nothing the philosopher learned at Stanford will be relevant to this job.

The labor market doesn’t pay you for the useless subjects you master; it pays you for the preexisting traits you signal by mastering them. This is not a fringe idea. Michael Spence, Kenneth Arrow, and Joseph Stiglitz—all Nobel laureates in economics—made seminal contributions to the theory of educational signaling. Every college student who does the least work required to get good grades silently endorses the theory. But signaling plays almost no role in public discourse or policy making. As a society, we continue to push ever larger numbers of students into ever higher levels of education. The main effect is not better jobs or greater skill levels, but a credentialist arms race.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I emphatically affirm that education confers some marketable skills, namely literacy and numeracy. Nonetheless, I believe that signaling accounts for at least half of college’s financial reward, and probably more.

I know college admissions offices from the inside — schools basically sign off on scandal

Sara Haberson:

Schools and their admissions officials are not the target of the conspiracy investigation embroiling testing proctors, SAT/ACT tutors, college athletic coaches and parents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Admissions officers and deans of admissions appeared to be the victims in this case. That is hard to believe. After years of working in an Ivy League admissions office where I handled the recruited athletes’ applications and being a dean of admissions at a small liberal arts college, I know better.

No matter how much influence the indicted individuals had, we are overlooking the fact that none of them signed off on admissions decisions. Every single student who was admitted under false pretenses received their offer from the admissions office signed by the dean or another high-ranking member of the staff.

Let’s be clear: It is the responsibility of the admissions office to verify applicants, their applications and their viability to succeed at the institution.

Colleges Rethink Athletic Special Admissions in Wake of Indictments

Brian Costa, Melissa Korn and Rachel Bachman:

The largest college-admissions fraud ever prosecuted by federal authorities was engineered by a college-admissions consultant and a sprawling web of wealthy parents and allegedly corrupt coaches. But it was made easier by a system that is largely unpoliced and ripe for exploitation: the conferring of special admissions status to nonscholarship athletes.

The scandal is prompting a rethinking of this approach. On Friday, Yale President Peter Salovey said the school—whose former longtime women’s soccer coach, Rudy Meredith, was charged in the case—will ask outside advisers to recommend changes to “help us detect and prevent efforts to defraud our admissions process.”

Football and men’s basketball teams, which generate most of the revenue for athletic departments, are largely filled out with scholarship athletes. Division I men’s basketball teams, for instance, can have up to 13 scholarship players, enough for an entire roster. These athletes are far more valuable to schools and are more carefully evaluated than the phony athletes Mr. Singer put forward.

US consultants market the key to gates of the Ivy League

Joshua Chaffin:

The young woman was nearly hyperventilating 30 minutes later.

“So, it’s been like half an hour, and I’m like, semi-calmed down — to the point where I’m not shouting expletives any more . . .” she explained, addressing her camera phone. “But, yeah. I got into Yale. Oh, my God! I got into Yale!”

In the community of college admissions consultants, who help students snare closely fought-over places in US universities, this was the money shot. The selfie video appears on the website of one of the premiere practitioners of the art: Manhattan-based IvyWise.

Interlaced with the promise of Yale the company also offers what may be unnerving advice for anxious parents: they should start early — ideally signing their children up by the time they are in the eighth grade — and be prepared to spend upwards of $100,000.

“The reality is there is an ‘arms race’ in the admissions process but it was not created by our profession,” Katherine Cohen, who founded IvyWise 21 years ago and boasts degrees from Brown and Yale — as well as a certificate in college admission counselling from UCLA — wrote in an email from Asia.

The real culprit, Ms Cohen argued, was that US university places had remained stagnant even as applications surged in recent years, including from abroad. Many secondary schools have a single counsellor who is meant to guide hundreds of students through the minefield.

The role of admissions consultants and their place in the university ecosystem is attracting fresh attention with the revelation last week that dozens of parents had paid approximately $25m in bribes through a crooked California consultant, William “Rick” Singer, to secure places for their children at top schools.

The screen time debate is pitting parents against each other

Lauren Smiley:

Before the smartphone backlash, before apps were likened to cigarettes for kids or Facebook co-founder Sean Parker mused that “God knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains” or Tim Cook revealed he doesn’t let his nephew touch social media, and before the demands for studies and regulations and shutting down apps, Riddhi Shah was en route to a weekend trip to unplug from tech-ified San Francisco.

It was late 2015, and riding in the car with her husband and another couple, Riddhi, a friend of mine, was many months pregnant, and racked with questions about how she would inhabit her new role as a mom. That makes her the same as every first-time parent in the history of the world. However, the terms of parenthood changed abruptly back in 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the shiny object that many humans would either spend the next decade staring at or consciously telling themselves not to focus on. Now, parenting has gone, as one pediatrician told me, to “a 3.7 difficulty Olympic dive – up from a 2.8” a decade ago.

The Four Unspoken Rules for Getting Into College

Richard Vedder:

The recent college admissions scandal is spectacular in its size and scope, but hardly surprising. Let me make four major points.

Whenever there are scarce resources in much demand and a non-market solution is used to allocate those resources, there are bound to be problems.
At the schools involved in this admissions scandal, there are probably at least five applicants for every student admitted. In a competitive market, prices will be forced up to the point that the number of buyers equals the quantity supplied. Harvard has an Admissions Committee; McDonald’s does not. Selective universities gain prestige by turning away customers. Universities deliberately sell their services at below equilibrium prices, benefiting mainly relatively affluent kids who make up the bulk of the applicant pool. Admission to a top-ranked school may be worth one million dollars over four years, yet is sold by the school for dramatically less ($250,000 or less). Therefore, some parents think it makes good sense financially to use shady, morally reprehensible means of achieving admissions.

This is particularly true for those wanting in the very top schools. Raj Chetty and his team of researchers have estimated the average family income of students at many Ivy League schools is about $500,000 a year (the median is “only” around $200,000). Rich kids want to network and bond with other rich kids, and if necessary, using an unscrupulous “private admissions counselor” to bribe your child into Elite U is money well spent. It is unfair, immoral, and prevents admission of some more deserving kids – but it happens. And rich kids then network with other rich kids and get super jobs through family connections.

This problem has existed at some level for decades, probably as long as there have been selective admissions.

Is Elite College Worth It? Maybe Not

Greg Ip:

We’re told ad nauseam that college is the key to success. Is it any wonder that some parents broke the law to get their child into the best?

Of course, the parents accused by the FBI of bribing coaches and test administrators are an extreme case, but even some law abiding parents can relate: Some donate millions to their alma mater or hire $1,000-per-hour consultants to land a coveted spot at a top school.

And yet from an economic standpoint, this makes no sense. The evidence shows that a college degree delivers a large and sustained income premium over a high school diploma, but a selective college doesn’t make the premium bigger. There are exceptions, but most people who prosper after graduating from such a college would likely have prospered if they had attended a less prestigious institution as well. After all, the children whose parents were charged last week were born with wealth, connections, and devoted parents willing to do almost anything for them, a recipe for success no matter where they graduate from.

“ the shift from information scarcity to information abundance”

David Perell:

America’s biggest Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies are losing market share. Across consumer goods industries, brand loyalty is dying. The percentage of affluent consumers in the top 5% of household income who can identify their favorite brand is in sharp decline (see Figure 1).

The reason is simple: brands are about trust and signaling. They’re a substitute for incomplete information. When information is scarce and asymmetric, consumers flock to trusted brands. But in many parts of the economy, when consumers have reviews at their fingertips, they no longer defer to brands when they make a purchasing decision.

To be sure, the internet has made some brands stronger, particularly in domains of incomplete information where people don’t know each other very well. The more an industry is about signaling, the more brand matters. That’s why brands matter so much in industries like fashion and beauty. Signaling brands are context-dependent. Signaling brands thrive in environments with high geographic and social mobility. When mobility is high, information asymmetry is the norm. As a result, we use heuristics such as brand associations to gauge strangers. Just consider the differences in behavior between big cities and small towns. Big cities are full of strangers, but small towns are brightened by hugs and handshakes all the way down. In small cities, where everybody already knows each other, the utility of signaling brands is diminished.


One can see the tension playing out in school choice: the battle of legacy, taxpayer supported institutions vs. upstarts offering new models.

Meritocracy doesn’t exist, and believing it does is bad for you

Clifton Mark:

Although widely held, the belief that merit rather than luck determines success or failure in the world is demonstrably false. This is not least because merit itself is, in large part, the result of luck. Talent and the capacity for determined effort, sometimes called “grit,” depend a great deal on one’s genetic endowments and upbringing.

This is to say nothing of the fortuitous circumstances that figure into every success story. In his book Success and Luck, the U.S. economist Robert Frank recounts the long-shots and coincidences that led to Bill Gates’s stellar rise as Microsoft’s founder, as well as to Frank’s own success as an academic. Luck intervenes by granting people merit, and again by furnishing circumstances in which merit can translate into success. This is not to deny the industry and talent of successful people. However, it does demonstrate that the link between merit and outcome is tenuous and indirect at best.

According to Frank, this is especially true where the success in question is great, and where the context in which it is achieved is competitive. There are certainly programmers nearly as skilful as Gates who nonetheless failed to become the richest person on Earth. In competitive contexts, many have merit, but few succeed. What separates the two is luck.

Civics: Fremont Destroyed Decades of Police Misconduct Records Shortly Before Transparency Law Took Effect

Darwin BondGraham:

Last fall, Fremont’s city council also changed their police department’s records retention policy, reducing the amount of time that investigative files of officer-involved shootings must be saved from 25 years down to 10. (Darwin BondGraham/KQED)

Last year, while state lawmakers were considering a landmark bill to open up previously confidential police misconduct records to the public, the city of Fremont quietly destroyed a large archive of papers, cassettes and computer files documenting over four decades of internal affairs investigations and citizen complaints. It is not known if the destroyed records covered officer-involved shootings.

Last fall, Fremont’s City Council also changed the Police Department’s records retention policy, reducing the amount of time that investigative files of officer-involved shootings must be saved from 25 years to 10.

Fremont’s city attorney, city manager and Police Department did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment for this story.

There’s no evidence Fremont violated any state laws or its own policies, but few other Bay Area cities have been as aggressive in purging police files.

But some find the city’s actions troubling.

“Fremont’s decision is problematic because the Legislature made a decision, they made specific findings that transparency around police shootings, uses of force and incidents of serious misconduct is necessary to building public trust,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

Lawmakers passed SB 1421 in August. The law allows public access to previously confidential police records about use of force incidents resulting in great bodily harm and confirmed cases of sexual assault or dishonesty by an officer.

Civics: U.S. Firms Are Helping Build China’s Orwellian State

Lindsay Gorman & Matt Schrader:

When a Dutch cybersecurity researcher disclosed last month that Chinese security contractor SenseNets left a massive facial recognition database tracking the movements of over 2.5 million people in China’s Xinjiang province unsecured on the internet, it briefly shone a spotlight on the alarming scope of the Chinese surveillance state.

But SenseNets is a symptom of a much larger phenomenon: Tech firms in the United States are lending expertise, reputational credence, and even technology to Chinese surveillance companies, wittingly or otherwise.

The SenseNets database logged exact GPS coordinates on a 24-hour basis and, using facial recognition, associated that data with sensitive personal information, including national ID numbers, home addresses, personal photographs, and places of employment. Nearly one-third of the individuals tracked were from the Uighur minority ethnic group. In a bizarre juxtaposition of surveillance supremacy and security incompetence, SenseNets’ database was left open on the internet for six months before it was reported and, according to the researcher who discovered it, could have been “corrupted by a 12-year-old.”

The discovery suggests SenseNets is one of a number of Chinese companies participating in the construction of a technology-enabled totalitarian police state in Xinjiang, which has seen as many as 2 million Uighurs placed into “re-education camps” since early 2017. Eyewitness reports from inside the camps describe harsh living conditions, torture, and near constant political indoctrination meant to strip Uighurs of any attachment to their Islamic faith. Facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and speech monitoring enable and supercharge the Chinese Communist Party’s drive to “standardize” its Uighur population. Uighurs can be sent to re-education camps for a vast array of trivial offenses, many of which are benign expressions of faith. The party monitors compliance through unrelenting electronic surveillance of online and physical activities. This modern-day panopticon requires enormous amounts of labor, but is serving as a testing ground for new technologies of surveillance that might render this process cheaper and more efficient for the state.

A Few Simple Steps to Vastly Increase Your Privacy Online

Keith Axline:

Online privacy is important for everyone, not just tinfoil hat wearers. First, it’s more in line with what a user’s expectation is when they browse the internet. Not many people understand all the tracking that happens by default.

Second, it’s more how we operate in real life. You don’t have someone following you around from store to store writing down every product you touch or look at, and then block you from entering other stores until you watch an ad.

Third, the principled view of not giving away valuable data to companies for them to sell is beneficial for everyone. Yes, in some cases you happily give up your data to sites that you enjoy so that they can stay in business. But you can’t opt-in to the sites you choose until you put the tools in place to block every site.

By the end of this post, you’ll be leaving much lighter footprints in the internet forest. Certainly more so than your average web surfer. We’ll switch up your browser and search engine, add some plugins to block surveillance, and get a little technical with DNS servers.

Don’t worry, the faster browsing and smug satisfaction of being a savvy internet user will make up for the discomfort of changing your routines.

Is Elite College Worth It? Maybe Not

Greg IP:

High-end college consultant Allen Koh was shocked to learn his colleague and competitor Rick Singer pleaded guilty to crimes including conspiracy and racketeering. WSJ sat down with Koh for insight into the multimillion-dollar college-consulting industry and what is driving parents to such desperate measures.

We’re told ad nauseam that college is the key to success. Is it any wonder that some parents broke the law to get their child into the best?

Of course, the parents accused by the FBI of bribing coaches and test administrators are an extreme case, but even some law abiding parents can relate: Some donate millions to their alma mater or hire $1,000-per-hour consultants to land a coveted spot at a top school.

The College-Admissions Scandal and the Banality of Scamming

Naomi Fry:

For years, it’s been known that the college-admissions process itself is a kind of scam. In his book “The Price of Admission,” from 2006, the investigative journalist Daniel Golden reveals the ways in which wealthy parents secure their children’s acceptance to prestigious colleges through hefty donations. In one example, he describes how Charles and Seryl Kushner used a two-and-a-half-million-dollar donation to obtain an admission to Harvard for their son, Jared, who is now the President’s son-in-law. (The Kushners have denied that the gift was related to Jared’s admission.) In an interview with my colleague Isaac Chotiner, on Tuesday, Golden noted that, although participating in allegedly criminal activities, the parents involved in the current scandal were simply pushing an already corrupt system to its logical conclusion. There is no doubt of the continuity between the two types of admission schemes, and that the technically legal one isn’t any more ethical than the other.

This week’s exposure of the college-admissions scam is significant exactly because, in its trite ordinariness, it makes granular and concrete what is usually abstract and difficult to pin down. The parents who responded “I love it” to Singer’s criminal propositions reminded me, viscerally, of Donald Trump, Jr.,’s breezy e-mail reply when, in 2016, he was told of a Russian source’s ability to share dirt on Hillary Clinton: “If it’s what you say I love it.” When the e-mail was revealed, in 2017, I felt a similar satisfaction. In both cases, casual corruption, usually obscured by several layers of secrecy and legal trickery, was finally laid bare. The people involved were so self-satisfied and secure in their power that they greeted unethical, perhaps felonious proposals with complete nonchalance.

U.S. Students Have Achieved World Domination in Computer Science Skills—for Now

Tekla Perry:

When the researchers tabulated the results, the U.S. students came out ahead in every category. U.S. seniors outperformed their peers overall; students from elite U.S. schools outclassed their counterparts at the other countries’ elite institutions; and the same was true for students at non-elite universities. (The differences among the scores of students in China, India, and Russia were not statistically significant, the researchers indicated.)

The study sets in relief an important but rarely mentioned point with regard to the sheer numbers of computer science graduates. U.S. universities graduate about 65,000 computer science students annually, compared with an annual total of 417,000 for institutions in the other countries studied. But those figures don’t tell the story of who will fill the most coveted slots at the world’s premiere tech companies. Loyalka and his collaborators note that the number of graduates supplied by China’s elite programs is approximately half the total number of graduates supplied by those in the U.S. India’s elite programs turn out only one-eighth the total number of graduates supplied by comparable U.S. schools)

The skills gap between the U.S. and the other countries studied is not a huge surprise (though the gap in performance is smaller at the elite schools), Loyalka told IEEE Spectrum. “CS departments and CS education in general have a longer history and are much more established in the United States than in China or India especially. A lot more is spent per student in the U.S. than in the other three countries. [But] given time and resources, the other three countries could catch up to the United States.”

US college cheating scandal snares fund sector executives

Jennifer Thompson:

Hollywood actors grabbed the headlines but a clutch of big names in asset management featured in the group of wealthy parents accused of paying millions of dollars to buy places for their children at elite American universities.

Those charged as part of Operation Varsity Blues include Douglas Hodge, former chief executive of investment manager Pimco, John Wilson, former independent member at one of Franklin Templeton’s fund boards, and Bill McGlashan, a former top executive at private equity firm TPG and poster boy for the impact investing sector.

In a criminal complaint filed in Boston, the Department of Justice accused 50 individuals of engaging in a scheme to bribe college entrance-exam administrators and university coaches.

An FBI affidavit filed in support of the complaint listed Georgetown, Stanford and Yale among the eight institutions affected in one of the biggest cheating scandals in US higher education.

Mr Hodge, a Pimco veteran who led the $1.7tn California investment group between 2014 and 2016 before retiring, is alleged to have used bribery to get two of his children into college “as purported athletic recruits” and to have considered the use of bribery to help a third child into college.

US higher education crisis: lessons from the Chicago schools

Edward Luce:

Making college free is one of the biggest rallying cries among Democratic White House hopefuls. Given the lengths to which many wealthy parents go to game the system that is unsurprising. Last week’s FBI arrest of dozens of parents, coaches and college administrators shows just how valuable admission to the best universities has become. One Yale applicant’s parents lavished $1.2m in bribes and fake profiles to gain entry.

The contrast to how the other 99 per cent fares could hardly be starker. The price of US higher education has skyrocketed. A four-year college degree now costs anywhere between $80,000 and $300,000 for tuition alone, while America’s median household annual income is $61,000.

Meanwhile, a growing share of Americans have been dropping out. Less than half of students complete their degree within six years. Many are saddled with debts, now totalling more than $1.5tn, that take a generation to pay off.

Led by Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” who popularised the pledge when he first ran four years ago, free college has become a litmus test with the party’s base. Yet the Democrats are silent about the deepest problems in American education. Even if tuition were free, many Americans still do not want to go to college because other costs are steep and not everyone is cut out for four years of college. Many fail to complete high school because the sole purpose of doing so is to qualify for university.

The result is a stubbornly large precariat of semi-skilled and underemployed Americans. “We don’t have a person to waste in America,” says Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s outgoing mayor. “Too many kids are still slipping through the cracks.”

The solution, according to a growing number of governors and mayors, Republican and Democratic, is to reboot the antiquated system of technical education. Loosely speaking, America’s 1,332 community colleges are the equivalent of Germany’s vocational institutes. The biggest difference is that in Germany a trade is still highly valued. In America, the community college suffers from the “soft bigotry of low expectations”, says Bridget Gainer, a senior executive at Aon, the Chicago-based insurance company.

Admissions scandal hits ‘university of spoiled children’

Mark Vandevelde and Joshua Chaffin:

The University of Southern California’s campus was unusually quiet this week. As undergraduates took off for spring break, a group of high schoolers hoping to one day replace them toured the Gothic-inspired red-brick quadrants and manicured lawns near downtown Los Angeles.

But behind the scenes, USC was in the midst of a frantic damage-control exercise.

The school is at the centre of a $25m bribery scandal alleged by federal prosecutors on Tuesday in a criminal complaint that documents, in agonising detail, how dozens of wealthy US families bought places for their children in top universities with the help of a crooked admissions consultant, William “Rick” Singer.

USC admitted more of Mr Singer’s clients — many of them falsely depicted as student-athletes — than any other school mentioned in the complaint. This week, it fired a senior associate athletic director, Donna Heinel who, authorities allege, was on Mr Singer’s payroll at $20,000 a month, and its acclaimed water polo coach, Jovan Vavic. Two former USC coaches have also been charged by authorities.

USC on Thursday said it would toss out any current applicants tied to Mr Singer while beginning the messy business of determining what to do with those previously admitted. 

Why we should be honest about failure

Janan Ganesh:

On a long-haul flight, Can You Ever Forgive Me? becomes the first film I have ever watched twice in immediate succession. Released last month in Britain, it recounts the (true) story of Lee Israel, a once-admired, now-marginal writer who resorts to literary forgery to make the rent on her fetid New York hovel. Her one friend is himself a washout who, as per the English tradition, passes off his insolvency as bohemia. Lee pleads with her agent to answer her calls and, in the rawest scene, confesses her crime with a wistful pang for the success it brought her.

There are serviceable jokes (including the profane farewell between the two friends) but the film is ultimately about failure: social, financial, romantic, professional. Put it down to the lachrymose effects of air travel — a phenomenon that has no definitive explanation — but I found the film unusually affecting. Or perhaps it was the shock of seeing failure addressed so unsentimentally, and from so many angles.

Failure — not spectacular failure, but failure as gnawing disappointment — is the natural order of life. Most people will achieve at least a little bit less than they would have liked in their careers. Most marriages wind down from intense passion to a kind of elevated friendship, and even this does not count the roughly four in 10 that collapse entirely. Most businesses fail. Most books fail. Most films fail.

You would hope that something so endemic to the human experience would be constantly discussed and actively prepared for. Instead, what we hear about is failure as a great “teacher”, or as a staging post before eventual success. There are management books about “failing forward”. There are educational methods that teach children the uses of failure. Consult an anthology of quotations about the subject, and it is not just the Paulo Coelho types who sugar-coat it. Churchill, Edison, Capote, at least one Roosevelt: people who should know better almost deny the existence of failure as anything other than a character-building phase.

There are good intentions behind all this. There is also a lot of naivety and squeamishness. For many people, failure will be just that, not a nourishing experience or a bridge to something else. It will be a lasting condition, and it will sting a fair bit.

A modest proposal regarding college admissions

Frederick Hess:

Here’s another way to look at this: This isn’t an indictment of America but of the elite college cartel and the pathologies that it has enabled and exploited. It’s an indictment of the way elite colleges sell fast-passes to lucrative jobs on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, of the manufactured scarcity that they have cultivated, and of the way they have avidly marketed that scarcity. When colleges sell access, or are so inept that they make it easy for the rich to buy access, this isn’t an indictment of American parents who pay for tutors or who diligently use their 529s to save for their kids’ tuition. This is an indictment of elite colleges.

If admissions offices cannot detect even rudimentary corruption and institutions can’t stop themselves from selling access, it raises the question of whether we can trust them to make subtle distinctions when it comes to sensitive issues like race and merit. What we’ve learned this week can’t help but raise questions, for instance, about affirmative action and whether the courts can in good faith give admissions offices the latitude to make fraught decisions about how to incorporate consideration of race within the delicate bounds of constitutional propriety.

Given all this, here’s a modest proposal: Maybe elite colleges should put their money where their mouth is when they pontificate about the need to democratize opportunity, take a page out of the K-12 charter school book, and switch to lottery admissions.

Commentary on Madison’s Taxpayer Supported K-12 School Discipline and Achievement Climate

Kaleem Caire:

Our School District has an obligation to learn from these incidents and to ensure that our staff, students and parents have clear guidelines about how to address similar situations when they arise, and how they can also avoid such challenges as well.

After reading the police reports, it is clear to me that the student’s actions and behavior leading up to the confrontation was unacceptable. As a father, I would never support my children behaving that way in school, in the community, at home or anywhere. I am left wondering what MMSD and the child’s parents have done, or could have done, together, to proactively address the challenges this student might be having that led to her inappropriate conduct. At the same time, there are other ways Mr. Mueller-Owens could have handled this situation that would have avoided him putting his hands on the student.

No matter how we look at this, the incident has been a painful and unfortunate situation for everyone involved, and for our entire community as well. The worst thing we can do is avoid talking about this incident, or worse, fighting with each about who was right and who was wrong. Madison clearly has challenges. We have to address them, not avoid them.

David Blaska:

feel sorry for the lady, I really do. It’s tough to see someone’s closely held belief system come crashing down all around them.

Madison’s school superintendent broke down in tears today (03-20-19) addressing Madison Downtown Rotary.

God knows, Jennifer Cheatham has walked through the valley of disruption. Three of the last six monthly school board meetings have broken down in chaos — the school board and its administrators driven from the meeting auditorium by raucous social justice warriors wielding the race card. Again this Monday (03-18-19), school district leadership retreated behind closed doors. Main topic on the agenda (irony alert): the overly legalistic behavior education plan — a plan that is more cause than symptom.

The school board that can’t keep order at its own meetings? No wonder the school classrooms erupt in chaos. Then again, when you throw your specially trained “positive behavior coach” under the school bus when he tries to restore order, what do you expect? (Reaction to the Whitehorse middle school incident.)

Which must just tear at Dr. Cheatham’s heart because the lady lives and breathes identity politics, repents her white privilege, and focuses Madison’s taxpayer-supported education through the refractive prism of racial equity. As opposed to more productive goals such as personal responsibility and individual achievement.

More chaos at the school board:

Go figure. The Madison school board ONCE AGAIN retreats behind locked doors. Because it cannot keep order at its own meetings

To do what? To fine-tune its cadaverous Behavior Education Plan! Oh, the irony!

The school board can’t even control its own meetings! No wonder it cannot keep the classrooms from erupting in chaos. (More here.)

2013: What will be different, this time? Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Rotary Club talk.

December, 2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

Italy bans unvaccinated children from school


Parents risk being fined up to €500 (£425; $560) if they send their unvaccinated children to school. Children under six can be turned away.

The new law came amid a surge in measles cases – but Italian officials say vaccination rates have improved since it was introduced.

Under Italy’s so-called Lorenzin law – named after the former health minister who introduced it – children must receive a range of mandatory immunisations before attending school. They include vaccinations for chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella.

Children up to the age of six years will be excluded from nursery and kindergarten without proof of vaccination under the new rules.

What students know that experts don’t: School is all about signaling, not skill-building

Bryan Caplan:

Parents, teachers, politicians and researchers tirelessly warn today’s youths about the unforgiving job market that awaits them. If they want to succeed in tomorrow’s economy, they can’t just coast through school. They have to soak up precious knowledge like a sponge. But even as adulthood approaches, students rarely heed this advice. Most treat high school and college like a game, not an opportunity to build lifelong skills.

Is it possible that students are on to something? There is a massive gap between school and work, between learning and earning. While the labor market rewards good grades and fancy degrees, most of the subjects schools require simply aren’t relevant on the job. Literacy and numeracy are vital, but few of us use history, poetry, higher mathematics or foreign languages after graduation. The main reason firms reward education is because it certifies (or “signals”) brains, work ethic and conformity.

It’s therefore sensible, if unseemly, for students to focus more on going through the motions than acquiring knowledge.

The justifications for propping up universities, which often act as little more than elite sorting mechanisms as well as left-wing indoctrination centers, are growing thin.

Inez Feltscher Stepman:

Yesterday, 50 wealthy parents and university officials, among them actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were charged in the nation’s largest and most expensive college admissions corruption case ever prosecuted.

If it seems weird to most Americans to spend half a million bucks bribing the University of Southern California to admit your daughters as crew recruits, it’s because they haven’t spent much time in what Charles Murray calls Super ZIPs, the uber-wealthy coastal enclaves that increasingly measure self- and social worth according to placement on the U.S. News & World Report ranking.

The legal way to go about these things, of course, is to put up a campus building with your family name on it. Illegal new money bribery aside, the justifications for propping up universities, which often act as little more than elite sorting mechanisms as well as left-wing indoctrination centers, are growing thin.

The federal government spends $75 billion a year on higher education. Taxpayers also hold the ultimate dance card for the $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, much of which will likely not be fully repaid. For public universities, state-level funds also play a large role.

The Yale Dad Who Set Off the College-Admissions Scandal

Jennifer Levitz and Melissa Korn:

The Justice Department charged 50 people with participating in a fraudulent scheme to get undeserving students into elite colleges. This scandal could have political implications. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains.

The tipster who led federal authorities to the biggest college-admissions scam they have ever prosecuted was Morrie Tobin, a Los Angeles financial executive who was being investigated in a securities fraud case, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Mr. Tobin was being questioned in an alleged pump-and-dump investment scheme—in which people conspire to inflate the price of a stock so they can sell it at a profit—when he offered a tip to federal authorities in an effort to obtain leniency, according to people…

8 Alternatives to College Financially Strapped Families Should Consider

Kira Davis:

For parents (and students) who might be out there right now fretting over college tuition and applications and aren’t rich Hollywood players , here are some college alternatives to consider. Free yourself from the “labels” of elite institutions. If they’re thinking of becoming a lawyer (but seriously, how many more of those do we need??) or an engineer then obviously you’ll need to pursue institutional options. But if they’re just not sure about their paths and/or might have skills that are immediately marketable, here are some ideas to give some serious thought. I’ve seen plenty of parents and students take these paths, and almost to a person they are far, far ahead of their peers in terms of earning, achievement and job satisfaction.

Teach English in a foreign country. I headed straight to college from high school but I had a few friends who headed overseas to teach English to the students of hopeful and/or rich parents desiring to give their kids an advantage by learning Western culture. Typically, you don’t need any type of special training or education. Often times living expenses are paid for. It’s a great way to earn for a year or two and learn about different cultures and lifestyles firsthand. It’s basically getting paid to be educated!
The military. Somewhere in the last few decades the idea that the military was the “last resort” for people who are too dumb or too poor for college became pervasive. This idea couldn’t be further from the reality that military service can be a fantastic conduit to a successful and fulfilling career. Military life teaches discipline and teamwork, two extremely valuable skills in the civilian job market. They’ll also educate you for free and provide healthcare and housing subsidies. There are a plethora of non-combat tracks to pursue that can lead to incredibly elite and specialized careers, including information tech, health services and other support personnel. You can pursue a lifetime career or serve for a limited amount of time and leave with a degree, money in the bank and the very distinguished resume enhancer of having served your country. It is a legitimate career path that boasts some of our greatest minds.
Charitable service. The Peace Corps, missions work through a religious organization, volunteering with a UN or WHO organization that provide healthcare and sustenance in third world countries — if you’ve got a child with a heart for serving others and a thirst for new experiences, it might be a great idea to look at volunteering for a fixed time. Again, often the basics are paid for and you’re learning skills in an intense environment that could offer an invaluable advantage in the job market back home. Also, the quickest and best way to find contentment in your own life and a perspective that makes you flexible and resilient is to see firsthand how challenging life is for most of the rest of the world. Like military service it is also a fantastic resume-enhancer. Few things are more valuable to potential employers than an employee who can easily shift gears and refocus when things get tough.
Work on a cruise ship. This isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great option for those who endeavor for careers in the arts. Cruise lines need entertainers and often hold mass auditions once or twice a year in port-of-call regions like California or Orlando. They’re always in need of comedians, dancers, singers, musicians and also production staff…pretty much any position in stage entertainment. Not only are your accommodations paid for but you’re also earning a competitive salary, one that often ends up being far and above the yearly income for a struggling artist on land. It can be an adventure and an opportunity to intimately connect with other artists who will no doubt be the one to lead you to more work once your cruise stint is over.
Take a gap year…or two. The bourgeois fantasy of a gap year includes travel and adventure, but it doesn’t have to be that. A gap year can just be taking some time off to simply work and get a better feel for what you want to do in the future. It’s also a great way for parents to help their kids when they aren’t in a position to pay for college tuition. You may not be able to pay for four years of college, but you can allow your child to continue to live at home rent-free, get any job they can find and then save their money to pursue something more fulfilling once they’ve figured out what it is. Don’t turn your nose up at a year or two behind the counter at McDonald’s. Some of the wealthiest people in America started right there.
Instead of paying for four years of college, pay for a couple of years of living expenses. A young friend of mine decided that she would like to pursue a career in film production. Her parents had some means to pay for schooling but they made her an offer — they would pay for a few years of college or pay for two years of reasonable living expenses and she could move to L.A. and start working her way up the food chain. She chose the latter, found some less than ideal roommates in L.A. and began volunteering for every crap job on every indie film set she could get close to. By the time the two years were up she had worked her way into a steady job in the industry, earned enough money to get her own place and is now a working executive producer in Hollywood for the independent film scene. If you’ve got a child who is disciplined enough to take on the challenge of forging their own way, this is a great alternative to college. There’s no replacement for real-world experience and some career paths aren’t really enhanced by a degree. In some industries, employers only need to know you can do the job. If you can earn while you learn, you should!
Trade school. A Gender Studies degree might get you a job teaching Gender Studies to other Gender Studies students but more likely (statistically speaking) it will get you a minimum wage job to help pay the bills while you search for another career path. You know who does work steadily and lucratively? Plumbers. Electricians. Morticians. Mechanics. Even if you’re the type of snob who feels those jobs aren’t “elite” enough, don’t worry…there are actually elite positions in most trade jobs that can satisfy that perverse need. Someone has to fix the toilets at Buckingham Palace. The Queen poops too!
Nothing. Let your kid figure out how to pay for school or travel or whatever all by herself. Offer her advice on budgeting, living frugally, give her a timetable for complete independence and then back away. The notion that we parents are obligated to pay for our kids’ higher education is a big part of our debt problem in America. Your children are in the prime of their lives. They have energy to burn. They can go to school, work/party through the night and get up the next day to do it all over again. You remember the days! You (and I) on the other hand are nearing retirement age. Our window for earning enough money to carry us through our later years is closing quickly. There’s nothing wrong with just letting your child pay their own bills and choose their own path while they’re in the physical position to be able to work hard, work long and work smart. Let them take advantage of their youth and concentrate on padding your future so you don’t overly-burden them down the road with the financials of your care just as they’re incurring their own family financial burdens. I know it’s a shocking thought, but it’s really not that crazy to about 99% of the rest of planet Earth. The idea that we’re supposed to provide every single privilege for our kids no matter the cost is embarrassingly Western and relatively new. I’m not saying you have to choose this option, I’m just telling you it is an option and there’s nothing wrong with it.

Harvard President Bacow’s Speech to Peking University

Lawrence Bacow:

Turning to the role and values of higher education, Bacow then drew upon his Harvard installation address, last October, emphasizing that universities are venues for pursuing the hard work of finding the truth, by airing the most diverse opinions and insisting on excellence and opportunity. Lest anyone doubt that those principles have practical meaning, he said:

I have been president of Harvard for less than a year. In that short span of time, no less than half a dozen controversial issues have arisen on our campus, generating impassioned discussions—and even some spirited arguments and public protests—among students, faculty, and staff, as well as alumni and friends of the University. Such arguments can cause discomfort. But they are signs of a healthy community and of active and engaged citizenship. In fact, it would be unusual and, frankly, unsettling if a semester went by without any episode of disagreement. When conflict does arise, it forces us to ask: What kind of community do we want to be? And that question sustains and strengthens us—and enriches our search for truth.

In many circumstances, my role as president is not to define the “correct” position of the University but to keep the channels of discussion open. From a distance, Harvard can appear to be a place that speaks in one voice. It is, in fact, a place of many voices. And one of the most important—and most difficult—of our tasks is to ensure that all members of the community feel empowered to speak their minds.

Given current conditions in China, particularly during this year of politically charged anniversaries, many members of the Peking University community may recognize the principles Bacow elaborated more than they can now enjoy their own scope for local action, even on their country’s campuses.

He closed with a call both for continued scholarly ties between Harvard and Beida (and by implication their countries), and a resonant invocation of the spirit of intellectual exploration in a verse by the late Abdurehim Ötkür:

Along life’s road I have always sought truth,
In the search for verity, thought was always my guide.
My heart yearned without end for a chance of expression,
And longed to find words of meaning and grace.
Come, my friends, let our dialogue joyfully begin.

A Mild-Mannered Radical

Katherine Mangu-Ward:

A Mild-Mannered Radical
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ totally insane, very practical ideas about how to fix college debt, reform entitlements, and redefine social justice
Katherine Mangu-Ward from the April 2019 issue – view article in the Digital Edition
At first glance, Mitch Daniels seems rather bland. His hair is straight and tidy. His suits are understated but tasteful. He speaks slowly and in quiet tones. He gently declines to answer questions about the failings of other politicians. And he seems genuinely mortified when he accidentally refers to his interviewer as Meghan.

But Daniels’ record as governor of Indiana could best be described as radical. During his governorship, which ran from 2005 to 2013, he decertified all government employee unions on his first day in office, managed to defeat teachers unions in a pitched battle for school choice, imposed tough spending austerity and raised taxes to balance the books, and inspired the Democrats in Indiana’s legislature to walk out at the beginning of his second term over a right-to-work bill. In his previous gig as the head of George H.W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, his nickname was “the Blade.”

In his regular Washington Post column, Daniels seems to delight in triggering his readers. He has advocated relocating all the major federal agencies away from Washington, D.C., defended the morality of genetically modified foods, and most recently called for the abolition of the “tasteless, classless spectacle” of the State of the Union.

He also rides a motorcycle and was indicted for marijuana possession as an undergrad at Princeton.

In 2010, he told The Weekly Standard that the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues” in the face of a mounting fiscal crisis. Between the kerfuffle caused by those remarks and his desire for privacy about an unorthodox relationship history—he and his wife married each other twice, with a break in between—he ended up stepping back from politics.

Since 2013, Daniels has been running Purdue University. If you talk to one of the people on his team, they refer to him as “President Daniels.” On the phone, it’s all too easy to imagine he’s calling from an alternate dimension where he actually ran for president of the United States—as many of his associates and the national media believed he would in 2012—and won. And after a wide-ranging conversation in January, it’s hard not to think that might have been a better, freer, calmer timeline than our own.