Civics: An open letter to Google and Apple: Stop hindering Iranian entrepreneurs

Mike Davis:

To the executives of Google and Apple:

I am Persian. In 1979, when I was just two years old, revolution upended Iran and permanently altered the country’s foundation. His vocation as an academic made my father a direct target of the new regime, and so — like so many other families — we fled Iran and began again in the United States. That was exactly 40 years ago. Today, I am a father, a husband and an entrepreneur with a deep love of America, but I think often of the country to which I have still been unable to return.

Iran is a land of strong-willed people. It is a land of grit and of hard-earned success. I see that most clearly in its emergent generation of entrepreneurs, birthed from the country’s 30+% unemployment rates. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Iran’s entrepreneurship sector is skyrocketing; in 2018 alone, the country moved up 13 spots on the Global Entrepreneurship Index. And the goals driving these new businesses are equally as impressive — things like improving women’s education, sustainability, urban waste management, advocacy of the arts. Forbes has said that Iran could become an entrepreneurial powerhouse, “if nothing gets in the way.” Unfortunately, Google and Apple are doing just that.

Do the best academics fly more?

Seth Wynes:

Flying comes at a huge environmental cost, and yet many researchers view it as crucial to their success. Using the University of British Columbia as a case study, we investigated whether the faculty at our institution who flew the most were also the most successful. We found that beyond a small threshold there was no relationship between scholarly output and how much an individual academic flies.

These results are not intuitive. Networking, attending conferences and delivering lectures should give your ideas an edge, help you to disseminate your research, and result in higher quality papers that get more citations. And the fastest way to do all of these things in person is to fly. But even when accounting for department, position and gender, we found no relationship between how much academics travel and their total citation count or their hIa (a version of h-index adjusted for academic age).

The Geography of Racial/Ethnic Test Score Gaps

Sean F. Reardon, Demetra Kalogridesand Kenneth Shores:

The authors estimate racial/ethnic achievement gaps in several hundred metropolitan areas and several thousand school districts in the United States using the results of roughly 200 million standardized math and English language arts (ELA) tests administered to public school students from 2009 to 2013. They show that achievement gaps vary substantially, ranging from nearly zero in some places to larger than 1.5 standard deviations in others. Economic, demographic, segregation, and schooling characteristics explain 43%–72% of the geographic variation in these gaps. The strongest correlates of achievement gaps are local racial/ethnic differences in parental income and educational attainment, local average parental education levels, and patterns of racial/ethnic segregation, consistent with a theoretical model in which family socioeconomic factors affect educational opportunity partly through residential and school segregation patterns.

Due proceSs and higher education

John Banzhaf:

Several other courts had held that due process did not apply to cases of this type involving private colleges, but, as Judge John Fowlkes, Jr., noted in the cases involving Rhodes College, those cases were only based upon a “breach of contract claim against a private university”; i.e. that the university had promised in its policy statements to treat students fairly.

But this case is different, Fowlkes ruled: “These cases are distinguishable, however, from the present circumstance because although Defendant Rhodes is a private university, Plaintiff’s claim here, regarding cross-examination, invokes due process concerns under Title IX, not a breach of contract theory.”

Thus Banzhaf is repeating the suggestion that he had made earlier to attorneys for students charged with rape; argue violation of due process rather than simply unfairness, or that error occurred in the campus hearing, and do so based upon the important federal rights established by Title IX.

In other words, says Banzhaf, a simple change in pleadings by lawyers for the accused – the words used in the complaints to bring these campus rape cases to courts – can finally impose on all institutions of higher education, private as well as public, the obligation to conduct disciplinary proceedings which are fair and accord due process.

Busting the college-industrial complex

Frederick Hess and Grant Addison:

Obstacles to employment are a problem. They impede social mobility, disproportionately harm society’s most vulnerable citizens, and hinder the larger economy. That is why efforts to remove such barriers have become a bipartisan cause. It’s why more than two dozen states now ban public employers (and sometimes even private ones) from inquiring about applicants’ criminal history, due to concerns that capable job candidates will be turned away or otherwise deterred. A number of states and locales are going further: New York City, for example, prohibits public employers from asking about applicants’ prior-earnings history; in 2016, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit the practice for all employers.

Commentary on “progressive puritanism”, ”safe Spaces” and the San Francisco school board

Bari Weiss:

Arnautoff, who had assisted Diego Rivera in Mexico, was a committed Communist. “‘Art for art’s sake’ or art as perfume have never appealed to me,” he said in 1935. “The artist is a critic of society.”

This is why his freshly banned work, “Life of Washington,” does not show the clichéd image of our first president kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge. Instead, the 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural, which was painted in 1936 in the just-built George Washington High School, depicts his slaves picking cotton in the fields of Mount Vernon and a group of colonizers walking past the corpse of a Native American.

“At the time, high school history classes typically ignored the incongruity that Washington and others among the nation’s founders subscribed to the declaration that ‘all men are created equal’ and yet owned other human beings as chattel,” Robert W. Cherny writes in “Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art.”

In other words, Arnautoff’s purpose was to unsettle the viewer, to provoke young people into looking at American history from a different, darker perspective. Over the past months, art historians, New Deal scholars and even a group called the Congress of Russian Americans have tried to make exactly that point.

“This is a radical and critical work of art,” the school’s alumni association argued. “There are many New Deal murals depicting the founding of our country; very few even acknowledge slavery or the Native genocide. The Arnautoff murals should be preserved for their artistic, historical and educational value. Whitewashing them will simply result in another ‘whitewash’ of the full truth about American history.”

Such appeals to reason and history failed to sway the school board. On Tuesday, it dismissed the option to pull an Ashcroft and simply cover the murals, instead voting unanimously to paint them over.

One of the commissioners, Faauuga Moliga, said before the vote on Tuesday that his chief concern was that “kids are mentally and emotionally feeling safe at their schools.” Thus he wanted “the murals to be painted down.” Mark Sanchez, the school board’s vice president, later told me that simply concealing the murals wasn’t an option because it would “allow for the possibility of them being uncovered in the future.” Destroying them was worth it regardless of the cost, he argued at the hearing, saying, “This is reparations.”

These and other explanations from the board’s members reflected the logic of the Reflection and Action Working Group, a committee of activists, students, artists and others put together last year by the district. Arnautoff’s work, the group concluded in February, “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, Manifest Destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.” The art does not reflect “social justice,” the group said, and it “is not student-centered if it’s focused on the legacy of artists, rather than the experience of the students.”

And yet many of the school’s actual students seemed to disagree. Of 49 freshmen asked to write about the murals, according to The Times, only four supported their removal. John M. Strain, an English teacher, told The Times’s Carol Pogash that his students “feel bad about offending people but they almost universally don’t think the answer is to erase it.”

Which makes one wonder who these bureaucrats actually seek to protect. Is it the students? Or could it also be their reputations, given that those in favor of preserving the murals are being smeared as racists?

Civics: Trump officials weigh encryption crackdown

Eric Geller:

Senior Trump administration officials met on Wednesday to discuss whether to seek legislation prohibiting tech companies from using forms of encryption that law enforcement can’t break — a provocative step that would reopen a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.

The encryption challenge, which the government calls “going dark,” was the focus of a National Security Council meeting Wednesday morning that included the No. 2 officials from several key agencies, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Senior officials debated whether to ask Congress to effectively outlaw end-to-end encryption, which scrambles data so that only its sender and recipient can read it, these people told POLITICO. Tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have increasingly built end-to-end encryption into their products and software in recent years — billing it as a privacy and security feature but frustrating authorities investigating terrorism, drug trafficking and child pornography.

“The two paths were to either put out a statement or a general position on encryption, and [say] that they would continue to work on a solution, or to ask Congress for legislation,” said one of the people.

The Providence school report is devastating. What’s next?


Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Mayor Jorge Elorza was quick to describe the report as “accurate,” a sign, he believes, that changes need to be made. Behind the scenes, he has begun exploring what it might mean if the state took advantage of an existing law that allows for a failing school district to be “reconstituted.”

The law is vague about how much power the state has to take over a school system – especially when it comes to altering a union contract – but Elorza’s aides say giving the state more power may create leverage against the teachers.

“I’ve been very vocal that one thing that makes it very difficult is we have a very thick contract, and that’s spelled out very clearly in the report,” the second-term Democrat said. “And the legal environment, the rules of contract arbitration, are such that it’s very difficult to move from the status quo.”

Elorza attended the first public forum hosted by Infante-Green Wednesday night, but he left the state to attend a conference in Hawaii Thursday. A spokesperson for the mayor said city leaders expect to continue meeting with the commissioner in July.

But for any changes to be successful, the community needs to be front and center, researchers say.

Additional coverage.

Public forums to discuss the report.

The John’s Hopkin’s School of Education Report (PDF) Snapshots: Madison | Providence.

Madison spends $18 to 20K per student, more than Providence. Yet, we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Two-thirds of American employees regret their college degrees

Sarah Min:

A college education is still considered a pathway to higher lifetime earnings and gainful employment for Americans. Nevertheless, two-thirds of employees report having regrets when it comes to their advanced degrees, according to a PayScale survey of 248,000 respondents this past spring that was released Tuesday.

Student loan debt, which has ballooned to nearly $1.6 trillion nationwide in 2019, was the No. 1 regret among workers with college degrees. About 27% of survey respondents listed student loans as their top misgiving, PayScale said.

The findings illustrate why education loans burdening millions of Americans have become a hot-button issue among some Democratic presidential candidates. Most recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday proposed a plan to impose a tax on Wall Street trading and use the proceeds to erase that $1.6 trillion of debt.

About 70% of college students graduated with student loan debt this year, averaging about $33,000 per student. And as younger grads pay off student loan balances, they’re struggling to accumulate wealth or are putting off purchasing homes — some millennials are even struggling to purchase groceries.

How information is like snacks, money, and drugs—to your brain

Laura Counts:

The paper, “Common neural code for reward and information value,” was published this month by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Authored by Hsu and graduate student Kenji Kobayashi, now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, it demonstrates that the brain converts information into the same common scale as it does for money. It also lays the groundwork for unraveling the neuroscience behind how we consume information—and perhaps even digital addiction.

“We were able to demonstrate for the first time the existence of a common neural code for information and money, which opens the door to a number of exciting questions about how people consume, and sometimes over-consume, information,” Hsu says.

Rooted in the study of curiosity

The paper is rooted in the study of curiosity and what it looks like inside the brain. While economists have tended to view curiosity as a means to an end, valuable when it can help us get information to gain an edge in making decisions, psychologists have long seen curiosity as an innate motivation that can spur actions by itself. For example, sports fans might check the odds on a game even if they have no intention of ever betting.

Civics: Google and Free Speech

Debra Heine:

James O’Keefe’s explosive video exposing Google’s political agenda appears to have ruffled some feathers in the media world.

Jen Gennai, the Google executive seen talking to Project Veritas undercover journalists about Google’s plans to prevent “the next Trump situation,” has already published a response complaining that she was taken out of context.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Google Chrome has become surveillance software. It’s time to switch.

Geoffrey Fowler:

You open your browser to look at the web. Do you know who is looking back at you?

Over a recent week of web surfing, I peered under the hood of Google Chrome and found it brought along a few thousand friends. Shopping, news and even government sites quietly tagged my browser to let ad and data companies ride shotgun while I clicked around the web.

This was made possible by the web’s biggest snoop of all: Google. Seen from the inside, its Chrome browser looks a lot like surveillance software.

Lately I’ve been investigating the secret life of my data, running experiments to see what technology really is up to under the cover of privacy policies that nobody reads. It turns out, having the world’s biggest advertising company make the most-popular web browser was about as smart as letting kids run a candy shop.

It made me decide to ditch Chrome for a new version of nonprofit Mozilla’s Firefox, which has default privacy protections. Switching involved less inconvenience than you might imagine.

My tests of Chrome versus Firefox unearthed a personal data caper of absurd proportions. In a week of web surfing on my desktop, I discovered 11,189 requests for tracker “cookies” that Chrome would have ushered right onto my computer, but were automatically blocked by Firefox. These little files are the hooks that data firms, including Google itself, use to follow what websites you visit so they can build profiles of your interests, income and personality.

Civics: The Red Decade, Redux Journalist Eugene Lyons’s chronicle of the 1930s Left remains startlingly relevant today


It may be that the best book that will ever be written about today’s progressive mind-set was published in 1941. That in The Red Decade author Eugene Lyons was, in fact, describing the Communist-dominated American Left of the Depression-wracked 1930s and 1940s makes his observations even more meaningful, for it is sobering to be confronted with how little has been gained by hard experience. The celebration of feelings over reason? The certainty of moral virtue? The disdain for tradition and the revising of history for ideological ends? The embrace of the latest definition of correct thought? Lyons was one of the most gifted reporters of his time, and among the bravest, and his story of the spell cast by Stalinist-tinged social-justice activism over that day’s purported best and brightest—literary titans, Hollywood celebrities, leading academics, religious leaders, media heavies—would be jaw-dropping if it weren’t so eerily familiar.

Indeed, looking backward from a time when, according to surveys, more millennials would rather live under socialism than capitalism, it’s apparent that Lyons was documenting not just a historical moment but also a species of historical illiteracy as unchanging as it is poisonous, its utopianism able to flourish only at the expense of independent thought. On a range of issues, alternative views were defined as not merely mistaken but morally reprehensible; and among the elites who dominated the cultural sphere, deviants from approved opinion were subject to special abuse. Of course, having lived and worked in Soviet Russia, Lyons made distinctions about relative abuses of power. Under Stalinism, dissidents were liquidated, or vanished into the gulag; the American Left could only liquidate careers and disappear reputations.

It’s not surprising that during those desperate Depression years, the program of the Communist Party USA would have held such wide appeal, especially among the young. Who else stood up so adamantly—or at all—against Jim Crow? Who stood so fearlessly on the front lines with labor against the power of rapacious big-business capitalism? What other party spoke so passionately for peace and justice? Soviet Russia was nothing less than the future of humanity! There, all were free and equal, poverty and oppression banished, and food, lodging, and health care guaranteed! As screenwriter Richard Collins would later recall of his time in the party, Communism was, for its devotees, “a cause, a faith, and a viewpoint on all phenomena. A one-shot solution to all the world’s ills and inequities.”

Liberals and the Looming Big Money Problem Facing Higher Education

John Rosenberg:

Today’s liberals not only tolerate but encourage colleges and universities to give preferences based on race (see affirmative action and the College Board’s new “adversity” score). Now they want to prohibit giving preferential admissions treatment based on … well, it’s not completely clear, but family wealth comes pretty close. As a result, many defenders of academic freedom — at least many occasional defenders of academic freedom — are forced to choose among inconsistency, hypocrisy, or embarrassing silence.

Responding to the recent bribery and cheating admissions scandal, last week, Senator Ron Wyden (D, OR) introduced the College Admissions Fairness Act. It would “cover situations where a child’s family makes large donations to the university the child attends. For donations to a university to be fully tax deductible, the institution must establish a policy that bars consideration of family members’ donations or ability to donate as a factor in admissions.”

Specifically, the legislation would in effect require colleges and universities to have a written policy that “prohibits as a factor in admissions decisions the consideration of direct or indirect donations from an applicant or family member of an applicant, and the financial ability of an applicant or family member of an applicant to make a donation.” [Emphasis added]

How Tech Bias Became A Kitchen Table Issue

Ben Domenech:

This is not a conversation limited to activists or media members when families are talking about mom losing her income and her friends.

Yesterday, many of the major media figures on the right were talking about another insider whistleblower who was the source of a Project Veritas report on Google’s plans to prevent another “Trump situation” in 2020, including footage of an executive making some troublesome comments. The executive’s comments defending herself are here.

It was yet another example of the problems these large Silicon Valley entities are facing as we enter into 2020 campaign season in earnest, and deserves attention in the broader context of accusations of partisan bias. But the more important story, believe it or not, was about a knitting website.

Don’t laugh. Ravelry, a crochet- and knitting-focused site that boasts millions of users, is not just an online network built around the practice, but a source for patterns, a place knitting groups can share their work, and more. It is a combination of a community and a sales platform, one where users of all political walks of life have invested time and effort, and where many stay-at-home moms and hobbyists have developed work — some over more than a decade — and depend on the side income.

In the past, it had allowed all sorts of material that was political. Where do you think all those pink p-ssy hats came from? Tens of thousands of them came from Ravelry.

America’s Most Educated, Engaged Citizens Are Making Politics Worse

David French:

It turns out that most Americans have fundamentally mistaken notions about their political opponents, consistently believing that they are substantially more extreme than they really are. For example, Democrats are far less likely to support open borders, far more likely to support private ownership of firearms, and far more friendly to police than Republicans believe they are. Republicans support controlled immigration far more than Democrats believe, and an overwhelming majority believe that racism and sexism still exist in the United States.

At one level, these conclusions are hardly surprising. After all, previous research has shown that Democrats and Republicans have wildly false notions of the demographic make-up of the opposing party. Democrats think Republicans are older, richer, and more Evangelical than they really are. Republicans think Democrats are more secular, black, and gay than they really are.

And more broadly, surveys showing civic ignorance are squarely in the dog-bites-man category. Spend nine seconds on Google, and you can find depressing studies that show “more than half of Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice” or more Americans know that Randy Jackson was a judge on American Idol than know John Roberts is the chief justice of the United States.

The Simple Genius of Checklists, from B-17 to the Apollo Missions


The year is 1935, and the U.S. Army Air Corps is holding a competition for airplane manufacturers vying to secure a contract to build the military’s next long-range bomber.

Boeing unveils their state-of-the-art airplane B-299, later known as the B-17 Flying Fortress. A stunning design, in perfect working order. The test pilots are experienced and well-trained. They add power for takeoff, become airborne…

And then abruptly crash after climbing only a few hundred feet.

The checklist that started it all

The crash wasn’t caused by a design flaw, but rather a pilot error. While the new bomber could fly faster and further than any other, it was also very complex to operate. The pilot had to keep track of four different engines, the wing flaps, the landing gear, and much more. Preoccupied, he simply forgot to disengage a new locking mechanism on the elevator and rudder controls.

Instead of making the pilots undergo further training, however, Boeing came up with a simple yet ingenious solution – a pilot checklist.

Language wars: the 19 greatest linguistic spats of all time

David Shariatmadari:

What is it about language that gets people so hot under the collar? That drives them to spend hours arguing with strangers on the internet, to go around correcting misspelt signs in the dead of night, or even to threaten acts of violence? The languages we speak are central to our sense of self, so it is not surprising that their finer points can become a battleground. Passionate feelings about what’s right and wrong extend from the use of “disinterested” to what gay people are allowed to call themselves. Here are some of the most memorable rows, spats and controversies.
Apostrophe catastrophe
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A so-called “grammar vigilante” has been correcting shop fronts in Bristol, England, for more than a decade. His pet peeve is the confusion of plain old plurals with possessives, which in English are usually marked by an apostrophe followed by an S. Confronted with a sign advertising “Amy’s Nail’s”, he will obliterate the second apostrophe with a sticker. Addressing the potentially illegal nature of his mission in a BBC report, he said: “It’s more of a crime that the apostrophe is wrong in the first place”. Linguist Rob Drummond disagrees: “Fetishising the apostrophe as if its rules are set in stone,” he writes, “and then fostering an environment in which it is acceptable to take pleasure in uncovering other people’s linguistic insecurities is not OK.”

New guideline to improve high school education in China


A newly-published guideline on senior high school education reform aims to improve education quality with expanded enrollment, said a senior official with the Ministry of Education Thursday.

China’s high school education has expanded fast, but education at this level has outstanding problems such as being exam-oriented and neglecting students’ development in aspects other than academic performance, said Lyu Yugang at a press conference.

He added that the problems should be addressed through reforms.

According to the guideline, unveiled by the General Office of the State Council on Wednesday, reform goals by 2022 include the establishment of improved systems for nurturing students with an all-round moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetic grounding in addition to hard-working spirit.

The government plans to introduce a new syllabus and corresponding textbooks nationwide by 2022, according to the document.

Plutocrat donors are shaping the agenda at our elite universities

Brooke Masters:

Back when I attended Harvard University, one of the odder graduation requirements I faced was a mandatory swim test. We were told the demand was a legacy of Eleanor Widener, who had donated the school’s main library in honour of her son, class of 1907, who drowned on the Titanic.

The story turns out be apocryphal, but we believed it. Our lives were shaped by the hands of dead donors. We slept and ate in halls built to realise Edward Harkness’s dream of replicating Oxford in America. We took classes in a science building funded by Polaroid camera inventor Edwin Land, that resembled his creation. We even swam the required 50 yards in a pool named after donor John Blodgett.

Since then the influence of plutocrats on US universities has only grown and it is expanding to the UK. This week, Blackstone boss Steve Schwarzman gave £150m to Oxford university not long after quant investor David Harding handed £100m to Cambridge.

A new study suggests that distorted media reporting and academic instruction are encouraging Americans to dislike each other.

James Freeman:

Americans on each side imagine that almost twice as many people on the other side hold extreme views than actually do, scholars Daniel Yudkin, Stephen Hawkins and Tim Dixon explain in a new report, “The Perception Gap.” The survey, conducted by the nonpartisan organization More in Common and the polling firm YouGov, was taken just after the 2018 midterms.

Real and consequential differences separate Americans, but the more divided we get, the more mistakes we make. For example, Democrats estimate that about half of Republicans would admit that racism is still a problem in the United States, when in reality 79 percent of Republicans say so. Republicans, meanwhile, think fully half of Democrats would say that “most police are bad people.” The actual percentage is 15 percent.

Some amount of the time, we are fighting ghosts, not real people. And the more inaccurate our perceptions, the more likely we are to describe our opponents as “hateful” and “brainwashed,” the study found.

Death by algorithm: the age of killer robots is closer than you think

Kelsey Piper:

A conquering army wants to take a major city but doesn’t want troops to get bogged down in door-to-door fighting as they fan out across the urban area. Instead, it sends in a flock of thousands of small drones, with simple instructions: Shoot everyone holding a weapon. A few hours later, the city is safe for the invaders to enter.

This sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. But the technology to make it happen is mostly available today — and militaries worldwide seem interested in developing it.

Experts in machine learning and military technology say it would be technologically straightforward to build robots that make decisions about whom to target and kill without a “human in the loop” — that is, with no person involved at any point between identifying a target and killing them. And as facial recognition and decision-making algorithms become more powerful, it will only get easier.

Called “lethal autonomous weapons” — but “killer robots” isn’t an unreasonable moniker — the proposed weapons would mostly be drones, not humanoid robots, which are still really hard to build and move. But they could be built much smaller than existing military drones, and they could potentially be much cheaper.

We Tried to Publish a Replication of a Science Paper in Science. The Journal Refused.

Kevin Arceneaux, Bert N. Bakker, Claire Gothreau, Gijs Schumacher:

Our story starts in 2008, when a group of researchers published an article (here it is without a paywall) that found political conservatives have stronger physiological reactions to threatening images than liberals do. The article was published in Science, which is one of the most prestigious general science journals around. It’s the kind of journal that can make a career in academia.

It was a path-breaking and provocative study. For decades, political scientists and psychologists have tried to understand the psychological roots of ideological differences. The piece published in Science offered some clues as to why liberals and conservatives differ in their worldviews. Perhaps it has to do with how the brain is wired, the researchers suggested—specifically, perhaps it’s because conservatives’ brains are more attuned to threats than liberals’. It was an exciting finding, it helped usher in a new wave of psychophysiological work in the study of politics, and it generated extensive coverage in popular media. In 2018, 10 years after the publication of the study, the findings were featured on an episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast.

Fast forward to 2014. All four of us were studying the physiological basis of political attitudes, two of us in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Bakker and Schumacher at the University of Amsterdam), and two of us in Philadelphia (Arceneaux and Gothreau at Temple University). We had raised funds to create labs with expensive equipment for measuring physiological reactions, because we were excited by the possibilities that the 2008 research opened for us.

Appeal court overturns forced abortion ruling

Harriett Sherwood:

On Friday, the court of protection in London decided an abortion was in the best interests of the woman, who is in her 20s, and is 22 weeks pregnant. She has the mental capacity of a six- to nine-year-old child.

Justice Nathalie Lieven, who made the original ruling, described it as “heartbreaking”, saying: “I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion.”

But, she added, she had to act in the woman’s “best interests, not on society’s views of termination”.

The NHS trust that is caring for the woman had sought the court’s permission for doctors to terminate the pregnancy. Three specialists, an obstetrician and two psychiatrists, said a termination was the best option because of the risk to the woman’s psychiatric health if pregnancy continued.

Both the woman and her mother were opposed to the abortion, and the woman’s mother had offered to care for the child. A social worker who works with the woman said the pregnancy should continue.

The court was told last week that the woman had a “moderately severe” learning disorder and a mood disorder.

The Chalk Market: Where Mathematicians Go to Get the Good Stuff

Coby McDonald:

On her next trip to Japan, she paid a visit to Hagoromo Bungu, the small factory that had produced the chalk since 1965 (an earlier incarnation of the business was destroyed in WWII). There she met with the company president, Takayasu Watanabe, who showed her how the chalk was made. “It’s complete craftsmanship,” she says. “They change the portion of ingredients constantly, like they were experimenting with it. It is a good product.” Watanabe told her that Hagoromo Bungu had never extended its market beyond Japan and Korea, in part because he was uncomfortable doing business in English. Lee left with more than sixty cases of Hagoromo chalk, poised to become the only source for the precious stuff in the United States.

Her first customer was Eisenbud. The rest were mathematicians he sent her way. In America, chalk is cheap. Lee’s went for around $18 a box. Nonetheless, when she kicked off her small operation in 2012, grad students, post docs, and professors from all over the country flocked to her because they had nowhere else to turn to get their fix.

Busting the college-industrial complex

Frederick Hess:

Obstacles to employment are a problem. They impede social mobility, disproportionately harm society’s most vulnerable citizens, and hinder the larger economy. That is why efforts to remove such barriers have become a bipartisan cause. It’s why more than two dozen states now ban public employers (and sometimes even private ones) from inquiring about applicants’ criminal history, due to concerns that capable job candidates will be turned away or otherwise deterred. A number of states and locales are going further: New York City, for example, prohibits public employers from asking about applicants’ prior-earnings history; in 2016, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit the practice for all employers.

A “Devastating Look at Providence’s Taxpayer Supported K-12 School District”; “Not Enough Learning Going On”

Steph Machado:

The 93-page report, conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Education Policy, describes a school district that is struggling to support many of its students academically, socially and emotionally, and is bogged down by an organizational structure and red tape that impedes progress.

“My initial reaction was devastation,” Angélica Infante-Green, Rhode Island’s new educational commissioner, told WPRI 12. “It was tough to read without feeling the pain. I actually was sick after I finished reading the report.”

Infante-Green said the review was conducted at her request in reaction to abysmal test scores on the RICAS exam, the state’s new assessment that mirrors Massachusetts. The Partnership for Rhode Island, an organization made up of the CEOs of major Rhode Island employers like CVS Health and Brown University, paid for the $50,000 review.

In the report released Tuesday evening, the authors said they interviewed scores of people involved in Providence’s public schools, including teachers, students, parents, administrators, district employees, city councilors, school board members, the outgoing superintendent and the mayor of Providence.

Here are 12 key takeaways from the report. You can read the full report here, and find a schedule of public follow-up forums here.

There’s not enough learning going on

The review team made a stunning observation: “very little visible student learning was going on in the majority of classrooms and schools we visited.”

The report almost never names individual schools, but does give specific examples, including an English language arts class in one school where reviewers observed “almost no authentic reading.” During a French lesson at another school, the researchers report, “No French was spoken by anyone in the room.”

Only one of the 12 schools visited had “no substantial challenges.” Researchers said that school, which was not named, “seemed to be using blended learning successfully with high student engagement and teacher monitoring.”

The report also described a “large number of classrooms” where students were on their phones watching YouTube videos, taking phone calls and chatting with other students during the lesson. The authors said some teachers even arranged their classrooms so that the off-task students were in the back or facing a wall, rather than attempting to engage them in the lesson.

Test scores drop off in 8th grade

Test scores show fewer than one in five Providence Public School District students are proficient in English language arts and math across all grades, and the rates get worse as students get older.

“The proficiency rates of PPSD students start low and decline in middle and high school,” according to the researchers.

RICAS scores from 2018 showed 17% of 3rd grade students achieved proficiency in math, compared with about 6% for 8th grade students. While that was the first year of the RICAS exam, the researchers said a similar drop-off was seen on the results of other tests since 2015.

In fact, only 3% of Providence 8th graders achieved proficiency in math on the 2017 PARCC test.

Students in Providence also scored lower than their peers in Newark, New Jersey, and Worcester – both cities with comparable standardized testing – in English language arts and math across all grades and years examined. The gap between those communities and Providence was even larger among racial and ethnic minorities.

“Black and Hispanic students in Providence experienced a serious drop in performance in 8th grade English language arts that was nowhere near as evident in Worcester, and these minority students performed substantially lower than their white peers in Providence across all grades,” according to the researchers.

The dismal results are coming even though the Providence schools spend more per pupil than the state average: $17,273 in Providence, compared with $16,558 statewide, as of the 2015-16 academic year.

Additional coverage.

Public forums to discuss the report.

The John’s Hopkin’s School of Education Report (PDF) Snapshots: Madison | Providence.

Madison spends $18 to 20K per student, more than Providence. Yet, we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Via Chan Stroman.

Policing Madison schools: Are the days numbered for school resource officers?


During the 1995-96 school year, a pilot program placed police officers at West and La Follette for most of each school day.

At West, the idea to bring officers into schools — instead of having detectives assigned to schools on an as-needed basis — came after a group of students in student government did an exchange with Janesville Craig High School.

“We took about 50 kids to Janesville Craig,” said Mike Lipp, a former West High teacher who was the staff adviser for student government at the time. “(Officers) were not in uniform, but were in a blazer and were armed. They were oftentimes in classrooms such as social studies classes and discussed things like the rights of citizens.”

Lipp and then-West principal Libby Burmaster thought the Janesville model could work in Madison.

“Libby and I agreed that an officer assigned to the school on a regular basis who interacts with the students during good times as well as during times of stress was a better model,” Lipp said in an email.

The Janesville reference is rather ironic. A recent Madison school executive responded to my question on learning from other, more budget constrained districts with a “I would never do that”.

California state UNIVERSITY hid a $1.5 billion surplus while raising tuition. Where is the accountability?

Sacramento Bee:

Here we go again: Another scandal involving a state-funded entity hoarding a secret stockpile of money. This time, an investigation by California State Auditor Elaine Howle discovered $1.5 billion in surplus funds hidden in outside accounts controlled by the California State University system.

Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” While CSU was squirreling away this massive fortune, it was simultaneously raising tuition costs for students and begging the California State Legislature for more money.

“CSU put the money, which primarily came from student tuition, in outside accounts rather than in the state Treasury,” according to a story by The Sacramento Bee’s Sawsan Morrar.

We’ve seen this story before. In 2017, Howle’s office busted the University of California Chancellor’s Office for hiding a $175 million slush fund from public view – while also hiking tuition on students. And in 2012, California state parks Director Ruth Coleman was forced to step down when it became public that the parks department had been shielding $54 million in “hidden assets” from the state Department of Finance.

The University of Wisconsin also was found to have substantial reserves, amidst ongoing tuition, fee and spending increases.

The Anti-Vaxxer Movement Isn’t Really Growing

Daniel Engber:

On June 5, the number of measles cases in the U.S. this year passed 1,000, a milestone the country last reached in 1992. There’s little doubt, in most circles, about the source of this resurgence: It’s the anti-vaxxers’ fault. “Federal health officials attribute this year’s outbreak to U.S. parents who refuse to vaccinate their children,” noted Reuters in a recent update on the crisis.

That much seems self-evident: Measles spreads most readily through undervaccinated populations, so if the disease is newly spreading, then there must also be a major outbreak of vaccine refusal. The numbers tell a different story, though. As I’ve noted here in Slate, U.S. vaccination rates for measles aren’t really plummeting. In fact, they’ve been very stable over many years, at around 91 or 92 percent of the population. While it’s possible that local hotspots of refusal have gotten slightly bigger over time, or that more of these communities are cropping up, hard evidence in support of this idea has been rather modest.

More Wisconsin colleges dropping ACT/SAT requirement. What about UW campuses?

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Regent President Drew Petersen said in an interview last week that his “sense right now” is that the System is “committed to test scores.” But he also said he would like feedback from others and a chance to look at what the research says.

A 2018 study examining more than 950,000 applicants to 28 test-optional institutions found high school grades and first-year college GPAs were lower in students who did not submit test scores, but those students graduated at equal or slightly higher rates than those who submitted scores. And all but one of the institutions saw substantial increases in minority, low-income and first-generation students applying.

But skeptics of the practice — which includes the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT — defend standardized tests as a good predictor of college readiness. They also say that relying entirely on high school performance can be problematic with growing grade inflation, where teachers award higher grades than they did in the past or that students deserve.

What Made American Academia Great (and How It Was Destroyed)

Garrett Ward Sheldon:

Since retiring from the university, several people have asked if I miss it. I tell them I miss what it was, but not what it has become. Higher education in America has gone from being the best in the world to one of the most pathetic. Why? It’s hard to describe what academia was to me and to millions in the past. It was not just a job, but a way of life, and of Western Civilization; and I’m so close to it, that it’s hard to describe—like trying to describe one’s own mother (hence alma mater!).

But let me try. University life at its best was both the most serious, difficult, challenging and maddening existence; and yet, it was also the most exciting, lively, rewarding, and fun experience.

It was deadly serious because we constantly examined the most intense human issues: historical and personal tragedies; ethical dilemmas, philosophical complexities; theological mysteries; and scientific wonders. It was hard because it stretched you intellectually and emotionally, made you question everything and be changed by that knowledge. And it was difficult, because of the enormous workload and demands; assignments, exams, papers, presentations and seminars. I don’t know of another situation, except possibly the military during a war, where one could be tested so much.

Yet this academic rigor was so exciting, lively, and fun because it developed and fulfilled the most essential part of the human soul, what the Bible calls “Logos” and Aristotle “reasoned speech” of a naturally social being. It was exciting because that individual development occurred within a discipline, but free, intellectual and social environment—full of debate, discussion, argument, and questioning in a community of tolerance and respect, but also laughter, joking, flirting, fighting, explaining, and learning. That “community of scholars”—open, searching, teachers and students—changed one’s life and prepared one for whatever came one’s way. Socrates’ dictum “Know Thyself” and “The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living” underlay the traditional liberal arts education: to learn something of every subject (“Renaissance Man”) and all perspectives on every subject and thereby to learn how to think, reason, and analyze: and then be able to handle anything in life and adapt to change.

I realize that this “life of the mind” within a rigorous but friendly community is an ideal; there were plenty of dull classes and mediocre professors at every university. But the “system” of academic freedom and its attendant experiences of intellectual growth prevailed.

‘Affirmative Action Is Not About Equality. It’s About Covering Ass.’

Evan Goldstein:

A month later, when I reach Loury at his office at Brown University, where he is a professor of the social sciences, he’s genial and excitable. Ask him a question and you get a litany of names, dates, and book titles. These conversational chops are put to work on his internet chat program, The Glenn Show, where academics and intellectuals discuss race, politics, economics, and whatever else is on Loury’s mind.

He has spent decades studying the black experience in America. His books include The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2002) and Race, Incarceration, and American Values (MIT Press, 2008). He has migrated back and forth across the ideological spectrum, from foot soldier in the Reagan revolution to center-left apostate and back again, with the scars and fractured friendships to show for it. He’s at work now on a memoir titled Changing My Mind.

I spoke with Loury about the closely watched legal challenge to affirmative action filed against Harvard, why becoming the first-ever tenured African-American in the Harvard economics department was a disaster, and how a crack addiction nearly killed him.

Q: How would you characterize the quality of discourse on affirmative action?

A: Dishonest.

We’re sliding into a dispensation where we concede that blacks can’t compete academically, so we configure things to achieve titular representation.

Equality is the only legitimate long-term goal — racial equality, not head-counting. I’m talking about equality of dignity, respect, standing, accomplishment, achievement, honor. People have to earn these things. What do I want to do? I want to reorient the discussion around the development of African-American capacities to compete.

Bernie Sanders’ Old Free College Try

Wall Street Journal:

Don’t forget that when Democrats nationalized student lending in 2010, they promised it would make money for the government. The Congressional Budget Office estimated $87 billion in savings over a decade. From the start this was fiction, and now Mr. Sanders is admitting it was off by a mere $1.5 trillion.

As for ending tuition, that won’t address the real troubles in higher education. Thanks to creeping credentialism, many jobs that once didn’t require a bachelor’s degree now do. College-funding mechanisms make little distinction between studying nuclear engineering and pursuing contemporary dance. Administration buildings teem with associate deputy deans for diversificlusion, and schools compete to have the most climbing walls per capita. The fix isn’t to promise taxpayer-funded diplomas for everybody.

Mr. Sanders said his plan would cost $2.2 trillion over 10 years and would be “fully paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation.” A fact sheet from his office lays out a financial-transactions tax of 0.5% on stocks, 0.1% on bonds and 0.005% on derivatives. To exempt investors of modest means, he would create an offsetting tax credit for people with incomes under $50,000 or couples under $75,000.

There’s no way a financial-transactions tax would pay for this. It could make America’s capital markets less liquid or push traders overseas. By lowering asset values, it would dent every 401(k) and public pension, while raising costs for institutional investors. Mr. Sanders says it would raise $2.4 trillion over a decade, but France’s version failed to meet revenue targets.

Civics: “that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”

China Tribunal:

In December 2018 The Tribunal issued an interim judgement:

“The Tribunal’s members are certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”

Since then, the Tribunal has contended with a pervasive culture of secrecy, silence and obfuscation by the PRC relating to much material that could have helped in the determination of whether forced organ harvesting has occurred in China. The Tribunal is neither deterred nor disabled from reaching a proper conclusion on the evidence that is available.

China’s reputation as a gross human rights abuser has not had a bearing on the Tribunal in reaching a proper conclusion. The Tribunal has adopted a process for its work that safeguards an even-handed approach to the Peoples Republic of China’s (PRC) interests. The Tribunal has requested contributions from the PRC at every stage.

The Tribunal has considered evidence, in its many forms, and dealt with individual issues according to the evidence relating to each issue and nothing else and thereby reached a series of conclusions that are free of any influence caused by the PRC’s reputation or other potential causes of prejudice.

These were as follows;

Force colleges to commit to free speech

John Altman:

The University of Chicago’s Principles of Freedom of Expression ought to be standard operating procedure at every college and university. And it is time for the philanthropic community to make it their own operating procedure that there will be no money for any university without its official commitment to a comprehensive policy protecting and fostering freedom of expression.

For this reason, the Altman Charitable Foundation offered $1 million to Miami University of Ohio for its Humanities Center, conditional upon the university first adopting the Chicago Principles of Freedom of Expression. In fact, that operational rule for higher education philanthropy is now written into the Foundation’s bylaws.

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, a major higher education donor, has stated that it will be taking colleges’ track records on academic freedom into account for future grants. President Diana Davis Spencer has made the policy direction clear: “Colleges and universities must allow free speech on campuses and encourage students to inquire and question all sides of an issue. Otherwise, democracy is doomed.”

For those who love and support higher education – and that should be everyone – it will seem hard to padlock our wallets. Until colleges embrace basic principles of academic integrity, however, it is the way forward. Admittedly, the gifts of a few foundations cannot change the entire system. But an overdue revolution is gathering momentum.

6.2 to 7% Taxpayer Supported Madison Schools Property Tax increase Looms

Negassi Tesfamichael:

The budget currently relies on a 6.2% increase in the tax levy, which would mean an increase of about $86 on the average value home at $295,000. Depending on how much of an increase the state budget allows, the tax levy could see an increase of closer to 7%.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts: around $18.5 to 20K per student, depending on the documents used.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

What If Colleges Used Only Test Scores to Fill Campuses?

Douglas Belkin:

More than half the students now enrolled at the top 200 colleges and universities would lose their seats to students who performed better on the test—and the median SAT score would rise by 70 points to 1320, the study found.

The biggest losers in this reshuffling were black and Latino students, whose numbers would be cut nearly in half, to 11% of all students from 19%. The share of Asian students would slip to 10% from 11%. The principal winners were wealthy white male students, whose ranks would increase. But a large number of white students would lose their seats and be replaced with other white students.

“The affluent have extraordinary advantages in college admissions,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which performed the analysis. Until 2005, Mr. Carnevale was a vice president at Educational Testing Service, which is a client of The College Board and administers the SAT.

Many elite colleges consider a range of factors such as grades, extracurricular activities and teacher recommendations in what they call a holistic admissions approach. They also try to build a diverse student body and might look for students from underrepresented ethnic or racial backgrounds or geographical regions.

“Rule Making”, achievement, adult employment, mulligans and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Molly Beck:

Tuesday’s decision overturns the court’s own ruling just three years ago when a split panel of justices said in Coyne v. Walker that Evers could write rules and regulations related to education policy on his own — without permission from then-Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature — because the state constitution provides him with the power to do so

The Wisconsin DPI, long led by our new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements.

The Price of Teacher Mulligans:


This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results

K-12 $pending Inequality (Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools)

Darrel Burnette II:

Several Massachusetts superintendents are spending more money on schools that enroll mostly wealthy students than they are on schools that educate mostly poor students, even though the state designed its funding formula to do the exact opposite. And some schools are outperforming other schools even though they’re receiving significantly less money.

That’s according to a new report by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, which analyzed school-spending data now provided by the state’s department of education under a new ESSA provision.

The data dump comes amid a tense debate at the state capital over how to overhaul the state’s funding formula. Three bills under consideration in the state legislature could provide significantly more money to districts. But the distribution methods and amounts vary widely. All are tangled up in a politically contentious process that’s spurred protests and a lawsuit.

MBAE found that under the current system, districts such as Brockton, Chelmsford and New Bedford, distribute their money between schools in an inconsistent way that often is not targeted toward the state’s neediest students.

“Money isn’t always getting to the students who need it the most,” Edward Lambert Jr., the group’s executive director said in a press release.

Madison recently expanded Hamilton Middle and Van Hise elementary school, our two least diverse organizations.

Commentary in our three branch government systeM

David Blaska:

Nichols is in a dither because the Legislature — meeting after the 2018 election in which Democrat Tony Evers defeated Scott Walker — passed legislation curbing the new governor’s powers. (Among other things: to prevent the new governor from rescinding Medicaid work requirements without legislative approval and to withdraw Wisconsin from multi-state lawsuit against ObamaCare. The legislature also ratified 82 last-minute Walker appointments.)

Democrats descended on the capitol to make noise but it was short-lived and anemic, a shadow of the Act 10 intifada. So, a number of groups brought suit, including (lamentably) the once-nonpartisan League of [Liberal] Women Voters. Of course, they won in Dane County (Wisconsin’s version of the federal system’s 9th circuit) but lost when the high court affirmed the legality of the legislature’s action by a 4-3 vote Friday (06-21-19). Hence Nichols’ alliterative tantrum

Legislature is always in session

It may well be that John’s readers suffer short-term memories. He can only hope because just two months ago one of those right-wing Republican legislators explained the law about as well as it can be explained. Oh wait a minute!!! Tom Loftus is no Republican and is hardly “right wing” but the former Democratic speaker of the state Assembly and the Democratic nominee for governor in 1990. How embarrassing!

How Oberlin Played the Race Card and Lost

Peter Wood:

The suit would have amounted to very little if, in fact, Gibson’s Bakery had indeed engaged in racial profiling or any other form of racism. Those claims, however, were demonstrably false. Gibson’s Bakery in recent years had been victimized by a great deal of shoplifting, mostly by Oberlin students. We know this because police records show 40 instances of shoplifting in which the perpetrators were arrested from 2011 through 2016. More than four out of five of those arrested (82.5 percent) were Oberlin students. Thirty-two of those arrested (80 percent) were white, six were black, and two were Asian.

The College fought (unsuccessfully) to exclude this information from the trial. Plainly, Gibson’s Bakery had a problem with Oberlin students shoplifting, but it was a problem that had nothing to do with race. Students at Oberlin generally understood the situation. The student newspaper, the Oberlin Grape, reported in a December 2017 article about Oberlin College’s student “Culture of Theft.” The article reports the insouciance of students towards pilfering local businesses. As one student put it, describing her multiple thefts from Gibson’s: “It wasn’t expensive, and I felt like it…I just preferred not paying for it, but I could have.”

Stealing from local businesses is, in the eyes of many Oberlin students, a quasi-right or privilege. They don’t feel guilty about it. They feel cool, or to put in today’s language, entitled.

They also feel uninhibited about making up stories and flinging accusations without any need for evidence or any sense of simple fairness. How widely are attitudes like this spread among Oberlin’s 2,800-some students? Plainly there is no way of knowing. But perhaps it is a factor employers should consider when an Oberlin graduate applies for a job. Honesty isn’t high on the list of values that Oberlin cultivates in its students

Trump’s Trade War With China Could Squeeze U.S. Colleges Next

Janet Lorin:

Kirk Brennan, director of undergraduate admission at the University of Southern California, was on a bus in Baotou earlier this month, part of a multi-school recruiting trip in Inner Mongolia, when he heard the news: The Chinese Education Ministry had issued a warning to students studying in the U.S. to be vigilant about restrictions on academic visas.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of international students in general — and Chinese students in particular — to U.S. colleges and universities. Second only to New York University in its international student population, USC draws about 12% of its 47,000 students from China. Its 1,000 Chinese undergraduates alone could bring in more than $50 million in annual tuition revenue.

But the increasingly fraught relationship over trade between the U.S. and China threatens that pipeline. Orientations for incoming USC first-years in Beijing and Shanghai went off without a hitch last week, Brennan said, and as of now, the school has yet to confront “these kinds of road blocks.’’

The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong For Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law

Gail Heriot and Alison Somin:

On March 8, 2010, one year into the Obama Administration, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a passionate speech in which he asserted (correctly) that African-American students are the subjects of school discipline at higher rates than white students. Although he did not mention it, it is also true that white students are the subjects of school discipline at higher rates than Asian American students and that male students are disciplined at higher rates than female students.

In response to the racial disparity he identified, Duncan promised that the Department of Education would be stepping up its enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the years that followed, the Department of Education made good on that promise by opening numerous investigations based on statistical disparities. On January 18, 2014, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice jointly issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” on school discipline in which they asserted that the law prohibits not only actual discrimination in discipline on the basis of race, but also what they called “unjustified” disparate impact.

In Part I of this article, we point out that there are two sides to the “disparate impact” coin. The Department of Education has focused only upon the fact that, as a group, African-American students are suspended and expelled more often than other students. By failing to consider the other side of the coin — that African-American students may be disproportionately victimized by disorderly classrooms — its policy threatens to do more harm than good even for the group Secretary Duncan was trying to help. In Part II, we discuss the Department of Education’s enforcement policy toward school discipline in greater detail, its over-reliance on racial disparate impact, and how that over-reliance pushes some schools to violate Title VI’s ban on race discrimination rather than honor it. In Part III, we elaborate on why school discipline is important and present evidence that the Department of Education’s policy has contributed to the problem of disorderly classrooms, especially in schools with high minority student enrollment. In Part IV, we discuss how aggregate racial disparities in discipline do not in themselves show the discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians that some proponents of the Department of Education’s policy claim. Rather, the evidence shows that they are the result of differences in behavior. In Part V, we explain why the Department of Education’s disparate impact policy is not just wrong-headed, but also unauthorized by law.

When Chinese students were given the uncensored internet

Qin Chen:

They measured changes in the subjects’ desire for uncensored information throughout the 18-month experiment.
The duo followed more than 1,800 college students in Beijing. The subjects were randomly assigned either the censored internet or the uncensored one.
Even when given free tools to access anything they wanted, less than 5% of the subjects actually accessed uncensored content. The number of students seeking uncensored content rose only after they were given incentives and instructions.
Chen and Yang found that students who were consistently exposed to uncensored foreign media outlets became more informed of events that are usually unreported in Chinese media, such as President Donald Trump’s businesses in China and surveillance in Xinjiang.
They were also more pessimistic about China’s economic outlook and skeptical of the Chinese government. These changes were limited to people who had seen the uncensored internet for themselves.
For example, the roommate of a student accessing uncensored content is, on average, only 13% more likely to be informed about the same events, the study found. That means the “social transmission” of information was relatively small.

How an industry helps Chinese students cheat their way into and through U.S. colleges

Koh Gui Qing, Alexandra Harney, Steve Stecklow and James Pomfret:

The University of Iowa suspects at least 30 Chinese students of having used ringers to take their exams. The case offers a look inside a thriving underground economy of cheating services aimed at the hundreds of thousands of Chinese kids applying to and attending foreign colleges.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The advertisements were tailored for Chinese college students far from home, struggling with the English language and an unfamiliar culture.

Coaching services peppered the students with emails and chat messages in Chinese, offering to help foreign students at U.S. colleges do much of the work necessary for a university degree. The companies would author essays for clients. Handle their homework. Even take their exams. All for about a $1,000 a course.

For dozens of Chinese nationals at the University of Iowa, the offers proved irresistible.

“Test-taking services. Paper-writing. Take Online Courses for you,” says the social-messaging profile of one Chinese coaching outfit used by Iowa students, UI International Student Services. A pitch emailed by another business ended with this reassuring claim: “Your friends are all using us.”

Today, the University of Iowa, one of the largest state universities in the American Midwest, says it is investigating at least 30 students suspected of cheating. Three sources familiar with the inquiry say the number under investigation may be two or three times higher.

University spokespeople declined to name the students or comment on their nationality, citing academic privacy laws.

Amid Racial Divisions, Mayor’s Plan to Scrap Elite School Exam Fails

Eliza Shapiro and Vivian Wang:

Mr. de Blasio and others have argued that the only way to increase the number of black and Hispanic students in the schools is to eliminate the exam. This year, only seven black students received offers to Stuyvesant High School, the most selective of the specialized schools, out of 895 seats. Albany has controlled the exam since 1971. Mr. de Blasio wanted to replace the test with a system that offered seats to top performers at every city middle school.

Some black and Hispanic students have said they did not even know the exam existed or could not afford preparation for the test, which quizzes students on concepts they may not learn in middle school.

Civics: A Different Kind of Prison: Mass Surveillance in Xinjiang and Its Global Implications


The Human Rights Initiative at CSIS invites you to a public event on the mass detention and surveillance of Muslims in Xinjiang, China and the risks such technologies may pose as they are implemented in other areas of China and globally.

Over one million Uyghurs and Muslims from other ethnic minority groups have been detained by the Chinese government and sent to “re-education” internment camps. Sources indicate that detainees are psychologically and physically abused. Uyghurs outside the camps in Xinjiang are also not free, as they are kept under constant surveillance, often using advanced technology. The Chinese government is increasingly testing this technology in Xinjiang and exporting it nationally and globally, with concerning implications for democracy and human rights.

At Work, Expertise Is Falling Out of Favor

Jerry Useem:

Most obvious is the ship’s lower contour. Built in 2014 from 30 million cans’ worth of Alcoa aluminum, Littoral Combat Ship 10, the USS Gabrielle Giffords, rides high in the water on three separate hulls and is powered like a jet ski—that is, by water-breathing jets instead of propellers. This lets it move swiftly in the coastal shallows (or “littorals,” in seagoing parlance), where it’s meant to dominate. Unlike the older ships now gliding past—guided-missile cruisers, destroyers, amphibious transports—the littoral combat ship was built on the concept of “modularity.” There’s a voluminous hollow in the ship’s belly, and its insides can be swapped out in port, allowing it to set sail as a submarine hunter, minesweeper, or surface combatant, depending on the mission.

The ship’s most futuristic aspect, though, is its crew. The LCS was the first class of Navy ship that, because of technological change and the high cost of personnel, turned away from specialists in favor of “hybrid sailors” who have the ability to acquire skills rapidly. It was designed to operate with a mere 40 souls on board—one-fifth the number aboard comparably sized “legacy” ships and a far cry from the 350 aboard a World War II destroyer. The small size of the crew means that each sailor must be like the ship itself: a jack of many trades and not, as 240 years of tradition have prescribed, a master of just one.

On most Navy ships, only a boatswain’s mate—the oldest of the Navy’s 60-odd occupations—would handle the ropes, which can quickly remove a finger or foot. But none of the three sailors heaving on the Giffords’s ropes is a line-handling professional. One is an information-systems technician. The second is a gunner’s mate. And the third is a chef. “We wear a lot of hats here,” Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Damontrae Butler says. After the ropes are put away, he reports to the ship’s galley, picks up a basting brush, and starts readying a tray of garlic bread for the oven.

Two boatswain’s mates are on hand, but only to instruct and oversee—and they too wear lots of hats, between them: fire-team leader, search-and-rescue swimmer, crane operator, deck patroller, helicopter-salvage coordinator. The operative concept is “minimal manning.” On the bridge, five crew members do the jobs usually done by 12, thanks to high-tech display screens and the ship’s several thousand remote sensors. And belowdecks, once-distinct engineering roles—electrician’s mate, engine man, machinist, gas-turbine technician—fall to the same handful of sailors.

Barry Alvarez, Alan Fish wanted sculpture to project ‘strength, power, virility’

Erik Sateren:

For thousands of University of Wisconsin students and Wisconsin natives, Camp Randall Stadium is like a home. It’s a familiar place that manages to yield great experiences for nearly everyone, even football skeptics. There’s “Varsity,” tailgates on Lathrop Street, “Jump Around,” section O, Bucky’s push-ups, Mike Leckrone and that somehow always exciting part where the animated section letters race each other on the newly-installed, 170-foot-wide video screen. But there’s one thing that makes nearly everyone uncomfortable.

It’s the sculpture that looks kind of like a penis.

The looming, phallus-like piece of artwork hulks over the intersection of Regent Street and Breese Terrace. It’s 48-feet-tall and can be seen from blocks away. In the nine years since it was created, the sculpture has managed to raise thousands of eyebrows and sparked considerable controversy.

The man behind the phallus is Donald Lipski, a New York City-based sculptor who attended UW-Madison between 1965 and 1970. In his time at UW, Lipski was passionately involved in the anti-war movement. He took place in a protest on the UW campus against Dow Chemical Company, which was involved in the production of napalm for the Vietnam War. The protest ended in police officers breaking through the glass doors of the Commerce Building, hitting protestors with billy clubs, dispersing the crowd with tear gas and sending dozens of people to the hospital. In those same years at Picnic Point, he recalls “everyone was smoking pot, taking LSD, flying kites, blowing bubbles and bouncing babies on their knees.”

And the football team was terrible.

“Because of the militaristic nature of football, football wasn’t that popular during those years. It may have also been linked to the fact that there was just a horrible team,” Lipski said. “Being asked to make a sculpture for Camp Randall Stadium had a note of irony right from the start.”

Civics and Google

Jen Gennai:

“@ewarren is saying we should break up @Google. And like, I love her but she’s very misguided . . . all these smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation, it’s like a small company cannot do that.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Thursday, June 20, 2019 Low-Tax States Are Adding Jobs 80% Faster Than High-Tax States Due To GOP Tax Law

Chuck DeVore:

Job growth has been running 80% stronger in low-tax states than in high-tax states since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 in December 2017. Understanding why holds important lessons for policy, economics, and politics.


Since taxpayers in 27 states, led by Texas and Florida (neither of which has a state income tax), have average SALT deductions under the $10,000 cap, it’s unlikely there will be much of a political appetite in Congress to restore the full federal subsidy for high-tax states. Rather, if political leaders in states accustomed to taxing and spending far more than their more frugal peers wish to participate in higher rates of job creation, they should reform their own fiscal houses, rather than expect their neighbors to subsidize their high-spending ways.

Hong Kong protests: How tensions have spread to US

Zhaoyin Feng:

“I am from a city owned by a country that I don’t belong to.”

So began a column written by a 19-year-old Hong Kong student at a university in Boston. The piece, entitled “I am from Hong Kong, not China”, in a student paper at Emerson College placed its author Frances Hui at the centre of a storm.

Soon after publication in April, well before the protests in Hong Kong erupted, Hui’s social media accounts were on fire. She received overwhelming support, including from Joshua Wong , Hong Kong’s most prominent student activist who liked Hui’s post.

But the support was joined by a wave of criticism from mainland Chinese students at Emerson.

One called Hui “ignorant and arrogant”. Some commented that she and her parents should be ashamed. Another said Hui grew up enjoying electricity and fresh water supplied by the mainland, “but now you claim you are Hongkonger, not Chinese?”

Portland K-12 Governance: Such willingness to cut deals behind closed doors shows an alarming lack of understanding

By The Oregonian Editorial Board:

These surreptitious deals and PPS’ reluctance to disclose them tarnish the progress that the district has made in the contract. Under the new contract language, which was ratified by teachers earlier this month, any allegations of teacher sexual misconduct are to be investigated by someone with expertise. Other documents normally purged after three years will be kept for six. In addition, investigations, findings and outcomes are to be retained in the district’s investigations file. While the contract language still needs improvements, the amendments – along with new training, legislative fixes and other efforts – show the district’s progress in implementing recommendations to shore up student safety.

One thing to change: Anecdotes aren’t data

Steven Pinker, via a kind reader:

What is one thing wrong with the world that you would change, and why?

Too many leaders and influencers, including politicians, journalists, intellectuals, and academics, surrender to the cognitive bias of assessing the world through anecdotes and images rather than data and facts.

Our president assumed office with a dystopian vision of American “carnage” in an era in which violent crime rates were close to historical lows. His Republican predecessor created a massive new federal department and launched two destructive wars to protect Americans against a hazard, terrorism, that most years kills fewer people than bee stings and lightning strikes. In the year after the 9/11 attacks, 1,500 Americans who were scared away from flying perished in car crashes, unaware that a Boston-LA air trip has the same risk as driving 12 miles.

“How do we change this destructive statistical illiteracy and disdain for data?”
One death from a self-driving Tesla makes worldwide headlines, but the 1.25 million deaths each year from human-driven vehicles don’t. Small children are traumatized by school drills that teach them how to hide from rampage shooters, who have an infinitesimal chance of killing them compared with car crashes, drownings, or, for that matter, non-rampage killers, who slay the equivalent of a Sandy Hook and a half every day. Several heavily publicized police shootings have persuaded activists that minorities are in mortal danger from racist cops, whereas three analyses (two by Harvard faculty, Sendhil Mullainathan and Roland Fryer) have shown no racial bias in police shootings.

Many people are convinced that the country is irredeemably racist, sexist, homophobic, and sexually assaultive, whereas all of these scourges are in steady decline (albeit not quickly enough). People on both the right and left have become cynical about global institutions because they think that the world is becoming poorer and more war-torn, whereas in recent decades global measures of extreme poverty and battle deaths have plummeted.

Teaching Race at School

Livia Gershon:

Today, many teachers agree that antiracist lessons are an important part of a good education, but most will concede that it can be difficult to craft these lessons well. That was also true during World War II, when American teachers embarked on an ambitious effort to fight racism, as education historian Zoë Burkholder writes.

In the late 1930s, an increased focus on national unity, along with concerns about Nazi propaganda, encouraged teachers to embrace “tolerance education.” Burkholder writes that for many teachers and students, standing up against racism was an obvious part of the fight against the Nazis. In most of the country, when teachers talked about race they were mostly discussing different ethnic groups that we would now lump together as white. One Indiana teacher, for example, focused on teaching her students about the scientific and artistic “gifts” brought to America “even from those countries whose political policies we condemn or whose sons and daughters we call wops and dagoes and hunkies.”

Simpson Street Free Press deserves investment

LOUISE S. ROBBINS, via a kind reader:

As the Madison School District decides which organizations and partners to fund, it should embrace — and support — the Simpson Street Free Press.

The Simpson Street student newspaper, unlike some of the district’s attempts to bridge the achievement gap between students of color and white students, has a long record of success.

I was a Schools of Hope volunteer for a short time and have been a Simpson Street volunteer for about six years. The intentions of Schools of Hope tutors are admirable, and it is important that citizens who may not have school-age children connect with the schools.

Much more on the Simpson Street free press, here.

Why brilliant people lose their touch

Tim Harford:

Mr Woodford isn’t the only star to fade. Fund manager Anthony Bolton is an obvious parallel. He enjoyed almost three decades of superb performance, retired, then returned to blemish his record with a few miserable years investing in China.

The story of triumph followed by disappointment is not limited to investment. Think of Arsène Wenger, for a few years the most brilliant manager in football, and then an eternal runner-up. Or all the bands who have struggled with “difficult second-album syndrome”.

There is even a legend that athletes who appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated are doomed to suffer the “SI jinx”. The rise to the top is followed by the fall from grace.

There are three broad explanations for these tragic career arcs. Our instinct is to blame the individual. We assume that Mr Woodford lost his touch and that Mr Wenger stopped learning. That is possible. Successful people can become overconfident, or isolated from feedback, or lazy.

But an alternative possibility is that the world changed. Mr Wenger’s emphasis on diet, data and the global transfer market was once unusual, but when his rivals noticed and began to follow suit, his edge disappeared. In the investment world — and indeed, the business world more broadly — good ideas don’t work forever because the competition catches on.

Putting the Political Back in Politically Correct

Jonny Thakkar:

Debates about political correctness on college campuses can be extremely frustrating. On one side you have those, like New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who claim to detect “a system of left-wing ideological repression” that operates both within the academy and beyond. On the other you have those, like Moira Weigel, in The Guardian, for whom “PC was a useful invention for the Republican right,” “a phantom enemy” that allowed it to scare voters, rebrand racism, and defund universities. The gap between those views is so large that each side seems bound to accuse the other of bad faith — not least since the one thing they agree on is that the future of higher education is at stake. In the face of such disagreement, the way forward is to take a step back. We must think philosophically — by defining terms, breaking down arguments, and interpreting others charitably while questioning ourselves.

A lot depends on what we mean by political correctness. Chait thinks of it as a whole “style of politics” that is intolerant of dissent and obsessed with identity. That analysis packs in too much, threatening to turn political correctness into a floating signifier whose real referent is “stuff that annoys me.” Weigel offers a fascinating history of the term’s origins within the left, where it was once used as a label for “excessive orthodoxy,” but thinks people now use it to accuse others of “hiding the truth in order to advance an agenda or to signal moral superiority.” That seems right as a general tendency — as Weigel points out, we never seem to hear people speaking of their own political correctness — but it is a mistake to confuse the social rules governing when we use a term with that term’s actual meaning. We would not normally say of people that they are “sober now” unless they are often drunk, yet most people in the world are in fact sober now.

Civics: FBI agent accidentally reveals own 8chan posts; attempts to redirect white supremacist rage against Russia

Henry Krinkie:

The unsealing of an application for a search warrant by the federal government on 8chan’s servers has unintentionally revealed that a federal agent has been trolling the site and attempting to redirect the users’ conspiracy theories against the Russian government instead of the CIA or Mossad.

The legal case stems from the April 27th shooting at a California synagogue by white supremacist and 8chan user John Earnest. The day of the shooting, Earnest is believed to have posted to 8chan a link to an anti-Semitic Pastebin manifesto and a not-so-cryptic suggestion that he was about to commit a murderous act of violence to back up his beliefs. In the accompanying affidavit to the search warrant application, FBI Special Agent Michael J. Rod requests the “IP address and metadata information about Earnest’s original posting and the postings of all of the individuals who responded to the subject posting and/or commented about it. Additionally, agents seek information about any other posting coming from the IP address used by Earnest to post the subject posting.”


Mika Aaltola:

Social media platforms enable a strategically motivated and harmful set of practices that leverage both their scalability and targeting potentials.

The wider vulnerabilities of digitalized democracies have been much discussed in connection with election meddling and disinformation campaigning. However, the emphasis here is on the more direct vulnerability of mass spy recruitment.

The ongoing LinkedIn-based mass recruitment provides a case in point, representing a dangerous vulnerability that can lead to the theft of intellectual property and confidential materials, as well as to the setting up of influence networks.

This Briefing Paper details the Chinese co-option of LinkedIn for gaining operatives in and confidential information from Western states and enterprises.

Exposing the emerging adversary techniques used by resourceful state actors is the first counter-step. Moreover, preparedness needs to be highlighted, counter- measures modernized, and laws updated to address the new vulnerabilities.

Commentary on Freedom, Inc and Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district

Chris Rickert:

Leaders of Freedom Inc. declined to speak with the Wisconsin State Journal or allow a reporter to observe the group’s social services work, making it difficult to describe the group’s current activities beyond protesting at public meetings.

Among the programs listed on its website are an anti-violence Black Girls Matter program and the Lotus Youth Group, a program for Cambodian youth that “helps educate and build healthy relationships with families and communities through dance and cultural arts.”

This year, the group is receiving grants through the state Department of Children and Family Services totaling $542,040 to pay for domestic violence and victim services for black and Southeast Asian populations, including “case management, advocacy (and) support groups,” and “education about health, economic and social issues.”

Madison Hmong leaders split over city funding for elders

From Oct. 1, 2016, to the end of 2017, the state Department of Justice has awarded the group $670,237 through two federal grant programs created under the Violence Against Women and Victims of Crime acts.

And from 2014 through the first quarter of this year, the city of Madison has provided the group with $64,334 for programs for Hmong girls and women and black girls aimed at improving self perceptions, building leadership skills, “raising awareness about the challenges within their communities” and encouraging “action to address barriers to success,” according to a summary put together by the city’s Community Development Division.

The summary shows more than 300 people participated in the city-funded programs over that time.

Laurel Bastian, a Freedom Inc. donor, said that “while their actions at the School Board meeting are an important part of their work, it also exists in a broader context of Freedom Inc.’s goals and (years) of direct service work.”

As for its approach to political advocacy, Bastian said, “in every major modern social movement, locally and globally, asking without causing disruption has been ineffective. … Active disruption, in every single case, was necessary to end violence and shift towards justice.”

Federal tax records show that Freedom Inc.’s revenue more than tripled from 2015 to 2016, from about $450,000 to $1.5 million. In 2017, the most recent year for which its tax filings were available, Freedom Inc. collected some $1.57 million in 15 contributions ranging from $5,000 to $348,038, with a total of $1.72 million in revenue. The group’s co-executive directors, Adams and Kazbuag Vaj, were paid $95,002 and $100,232 in 2017.

The group blacked out the names of its 15 major donors that year, but among those listed in its 2017 annual report are the state departments of Justice and Children and Families, the city of Madison, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, The Wallace H Coulter Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy.

Under federal tax law, tax-exempt charitable organizations such as Freedom Inc. are allowed to engage in lobbying elected officials, as long as “no substantial part of the activities“ may be for “carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation,” according to the National Council of Nonprofits.

The statutes do not clearly define what constitutes “substantial.”

Related: Notes and links on Freedom, Inc.


Why are Madison’s students struggling to read?

Is a low-grade high school diploma better than no diploma at all?

Alan Borsuk:

But others are concerned that the value of a high school diploma has been lessened by using less rigorous routes to graduation.

A recently released study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Vanderbilt University offers a thought-provoking and somewhat unsettling look into the realities of how some students get credits that they need for graduation. Since 2011, “credit recovery” courses in MPS and many other school districts serving low-income kids have boomed. These courses aren’t all done online, but many are. They generally involve students who have not passed conventional courses required for graduation. And they are generally done in rooms with a lot of computers where a teacher oversees students as they work (or, often, don’t work).

The study reports that in 2016-’17, about 20% of all credits accrued in middle and high schools in MPS were completed online, and 40% of 2016-’17 graduating seniors had completed at least one course online.

Gmail confidential mode is not secure or private

Ben Wolford:

Gmail’s confidential mode does not mean your messages are end-to-end encrypted. Google can still read them. Expiring messages aren’t erased for good, and the recipient can always take a screenshot of your message. Let’s take a closer look at how confidential mode works and why it isn’t so confidential after all.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Why are we so pessimistic?

Wolfgang Fengler:

This summer, I will return to Kenya for a family vacation before my older children leave for college. When I was living in Nairobi from 2009-2013, people sometimes said they liked my articles and presentations, because I was “so much more optimistic” than everyone else. While I welcomed the compliments, I didn’t fully endorse them either, because I felt that my team and I were just doing our best to look factually at the numbers and explain them as objectively as possible: no spin, just the facts. Indeed the trends we saw were at odds with the widely held perception of Africa as a “Hopeless continent,” a vision conveyed by The Economist in an article of 20 years ago (on which the magazine later backtracked).

These thoughts came back to my mind when I was reading three books that recently came out: “Sapiens” (Yuval Noah Harari), “Factfulness” (Hans Rosling) and “Enlightenment Now” (Steven Pinker). Despite their differences in focus and historical perspective, they all strive to make us better understand the world we live in. All three books present refreshing counterpoints to the general pessimism that underpins the ambient populism and dystopian fears.

Surely, not everything is getting better. People still die too early, often from communicable and avoidable diseases. Man-made disasters also strike too often. However, as Steven Pinker notes: “Development is not that every aspect of life is getting better all the time. This would not be development. This would be a miracle.”

Oberlin bakery owner: Gibson’s Bakery paid a high cost for an unfairly damaged reputation

David Gibson:

What few understand is that this situation not only affected our business; it touched every aspect of our lives.

In the end, the words of my father inspired me to continue the fight. He said, “In my life, I’ve done everything I could to treat all people with dignity and respect. And now, nearing the end of my life, I’m going to die being labeled as a racist.”

There wasn’t enough time, he feared, to set the record straight. His legacy had been tarnished and he felt powerless to stop it. I had to see this case through.

This experience has taught me that reputations are a fragile thing. They take a lifetime to build, but only moments to destroy.

Ultimately, the jury sent a clear message in our case — that truth still matters. They awarded us $33 million in punitive damages and $11 million in compensatory damages for libel, tortious interference with business relationships and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

It’s my hope that the jury’s verdict against Oberlin College is a wake-up call. In an age where social media can spread lies at an alarming rate, what happened to Gibson’s Bakery could happen to anyone.

In the wake of the verdict, we’ve gone back to work — on our business and on rebuilding our family’s damaged reputation. Grandpa Gibson has resumed his favorite spot at a patio table outside our bakery. Before the protests, his time there was filled by conversations with passersby. But now, he often sits alone.

Our name has been cleared in a court of law. But rebuilding our reputation in the court of opinion will take time.

Civics: I’m a Journalist but I Didn’t Fully Realize the Terrible Power of U.S. Border Officials Until They Violated My Rights and Privacy

Seth Harp:

In retrospect, I was naive about the kind of agency CBP has become in the Trump era. Though I’ve reported several magazine stories in Mexico, none have been about immigration. Of course, I knew these were the guys putting kids in cages, separating refugee children from their parents, and that Trump’s whole shtick is vilifying immigrants, leading to many sad and ugly scenes at the border, including the farcical deployment of U.S. troops. But I complacently assumed that wouldn’t affect me directly, least of all in Austin. Later, I did remember reading a report in February about CBP targeting journalists, activists, and lawyers for scrutiny at ports of entry south of California, but I had never had a problem before, not in a lifetime of crossing the Texas-Mexico border scores of times on foot, by car, by plane, in a canoe, even swimming. This was the first time CBP had ever pulled me aside.

When asked to comment on specific details in this story, a CBP spokesperson responded with a canned statement replete with the sort of pseudo-military terminology that betrays the agency’s sense of itself not as a civil customs service but as some kind of counterterrorism strike force. “CBP has adapted and adjusted our actions to align with current threat information, which is based on intelligence,” the statement reads in part. “As the threat landscape changes, so does CBP.” The agency declined to put me in touch with Moncivias and the other officers named in this account or to make an official available for an interview, but a CBP source mentioned that the “port director” had reviewed “the tape” of the encounter. I found that very interesting, because I had specifically asked Moncivias and the other officers if I was being videotaped or recorded, and they had categorically denied it.

Most Americans say ‘Arabic numerals’ should not be taught in school, finds survey (!)

Chris Baynes:

More than half of Americans believe “Arabic numerals” – the standard symbols used across much of the world to denote numbers – should not be taught in school, according to a survey.

Fifty-six per cent of people say the numerals should not be part of the curriculum for US pupils, according to research designed to explore the bias and prejudice of poll respondents.

The digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are referred to as Arabic numerals. The system was first developed by Indian mathematicians before spreading through the Arab world to Europe and becoming popularised around the globe.

Civics: America’s First Third-World State

Victor Davis Hanson:

If someone predicted half a century ago that a Los Angeles police station or indeed L.A. City Hall would be in danger of periodic, flea-borne infectious typhus outbreaks, he would have been considered unhinged. After all, the city that gave us the modern freeway system is not supposed to resemble Justinian’s sixth-century Constantinople. Yet typhus, along with outbreaks of infectious hepatitis A, are in the news on California streets. The sidewalks of the state’s major cities are homes to piles of used needles, feces, and refuse. Hygienists warn that permissive municipal governments are setting the stage — through spiking populations of history’s banes of fleas, lice, and rats — for possible dark-age outbreaks of plague or worse.

High tech does its part not to clean the streets but to create defecation apps that electronically warn tourists and hoi polloi how to avoid walking blindly into piles of sidewalk excrement. In Californian logic, public defecation butts up against progressive tolerance, so it is exempt from the law. Yet for a suburbanite to build a patio without a permit, for example, costs one dearly in fines. Indeed, a new patio without a permit can be deemed more dangerous to the public health than piles of excrement in the public workplace.

One out of three Californians who enters a hospital for any cause is now found to be suffering from either diabetes or pre-diabetes, an epidemic that hits the Hispanic community especially hard but for a variety of reasons has not led to effective public-health efforts and sufficient publicity. State-run dialysis clinics now dot the towns and communities of the Central Valley — a tragic symptom of dietary culture, massive illegal immigration, and poor public-health educatio

China moves to suspend some history tests for U.S. college credit by 2020

Cate Cadell:

Beijing on Thursday ordered a suspension of history exams run by a U.S. non-profit for students seeking credit at American colleges, as the ruling Communist Party cracks down on educational material it deems unfriendly.

The suspension of Advanced Placement (AP) tests will hit secondary school students looking to ease the academic workload at U.S. universities by earning credit for some college courses, enabling them to graduate faster.

Five testing centres across the cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai confirmed to Reuters that they would suspend the tests by 2020, after a directive from China’s education ministry.

Reaching and Grasping – Learning fine motor coordination changes the brain

University of Basel:

When we train the reaching for and grasping of objects, we also train our brain. In other words, this action brings about changes in the connections of a certain neuronal population in the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain. Researchers at the University of Basel’s Biozentrum have discovered this group of nerve cells in the red nucleus. They have also shown how fine motor tasks promote plastic reorganization of this brain region. The results of the study have been published recently in “Nature Communications”.

Simply grasping a coffee cup needs fine motor coordination with the highest precision. This required performance of the brain is an ability that can also be learned and trained. Prof. Kelly Tan’s research group at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has investigated the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain that controls fine motor movement, and identified a new population of nerve cells which changes when fine motor coordination is trained. The more that grasping is practiced, the more the connections between the neurons of this group of nerve cells are strengthened.

Commentary in IDEOLOGY and JoUrnalism

Jonathan Kay:

Ideological polarization has become a growing problem in many sectors of society. But it is especially corrosive to public discourse when it infects organizations whose traditional role has been to hold everyone else to account for the integrity of their reporting. We need those organizations to act as a sort of referee when journalists of any description—including those at Quillette—fail to exhibit high standards. This becomes impossible when they instead act as combatants in the culture wars.

Earlier this month, for example, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), which describes itself as “the national voice of Canadian journalists,” “committed to protecting the public’s right to know,” and “dedicated to promoting excellence in journalism,” signed on to the claim that Canada is perpetuating an ongoing “genocide” against Indigenous people, and encouraged journalists to take on an activist role by promoting “decolonizing approaches to their work [and] publications in order to educate all Canadians about Indigenous women, girls & 2SLGBTQQIA people.” It hardly needs pointing out that this sort of explicit activist agenda—however well-intentioned—is completely incompatible with the project of objective journalism.

Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) now is apparently in the business of deplatforming mainstream pundits such as Christina Hoff Sommers. And an insider account of SPLC operations recently published in The New Yorker explains how the group has a built-in incentive to inflate the scope of “hate and bigotry” its researchers discover. “Though the center claimed to be effective in fighting extremism, ‘hate’ always continued to be on the rise, more dangerous than ever, with each year’s report on hate groups,” Bob Moser writes of his tenure at the organization. “‘The SPLC—making hate pay,’ we’d say.”

In recent years, this trend has come to infect the Columbia Journalism Review, which presents itself as “the intellectual leader in the rapidly changing world of journalism.” In the past, this self-branding was credible. And the CJR still publishes plenty of valuable articles about the world of journalism (such as this interesting survey of publicists’ opinions of journalists, by Andrew McCormick). But in some cases, the CJR has succumbed to the above-described trend, by which watchdog organizations that once prized themselves on fastidious neutrality now lend their voice to fashionable ideological postures.

Civics: Alphabet Tries to Silence Conservative Investors As they Question Why Google’s Parent Company Silences Conservative Voices

Free Enterprise Project:

Google, and its parent company Alphabet, continued its campaign to silence conservative speech today when it repeatedly cut off conservative speakers at its annual shareholder meeting while allowing liberal activists to violate meeting rules and decorum with impunity.

Alphabet executives tried to squash a question from Free Enterprise Project (FEP) Director Justin Danhof, Esq., at today’s annual meeting of Alphabet shareholders held in Sunnyvale, California, but their disrespectful actions only served to highlight the free speech concerns that Danhof raised.

“In nearly every way imaginable, Google works to limit conservative speech. And its attempts to silence me today, while liberal agitators were allowed unlimited time to air their progressive whining, only served to prove my point,” said Danhof.

At the meeting, Danhof said:

Why is this woke company so afraid of viewpoint diversity? When I filed a shareholder proposal asking the company to consider the idea of expanding viewpoint diversity on the board, the company scoffed.

Many taxpayers supported K – 12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Madison School District taps Jane Belmore (again) to serve as interim superintendent

Negassi Tesfamichael:

A familiar face will serve at the helm of the Madison Metropolitan School District for the upcoming school year. The Madison School Board on Friday named Jane Belmore, a retired MMSD teacher and administrator, to serve as the interim superintendent.

Belmore will take over once current Superintendent Jen Cheatham steps down at the end of August. Belmore will serve in the interim role until the board appoints a permanent superintendent, which she said will likely be in June 2020.

“I’m excited to be back,” Belmore said in an interview Friday. “As I’ve watched from afar, I think there’s a really strong leadership team here. They’ve got a great new strategic plan and framework that they’re working from. And I really just wanted to come in and be able to support the teachers and principals as they move forward and support the board as they start the process of searching for a new superintendent.”

Notes and links on Madison Superintendent searches

Jane Belmore notes and links

On the Pitch, You Are Never Alone

Wang Shuan:

I have never liked the word goodbye.

Whenever I hear it, painful memories appear. One of the worst took place on a train station in my hometown of Wuhan when I was 12 years old. It was a bitterly cold February night, and we were in the middle of the Chinese New Year, which is basically like an XXL version of Christmas. For one glorious week, you go home, you eat delicious food, you see your friends and family.

For me, that week is heaven. I never want it to end.

The holiday was particularly important to me that year because I was living away from home for the first time. I was attending a boarding school in Beijing run by the Chinese national team and Renmin University High School. It was so tough. The school was for the Chinese under-17 team, so I was several years younger than most of the players there. I was lonely. I was missing my parents so much that I’d often break down in tears.

So you can imagine how horrible it was for me when, having just come home for the holiday, I had to go back to the school after only three days. They didn’t give us more time off. Just when I needed my family the most, I had to board a sleeper train to Beijing — alone.

Oberlin College case shows how universities are losing their way

Jonathan Turley:

This week, however, the bill came due for Oberlin when a jury awarded over $11 million in damages to a family bakery for being defamed as racist by its college students and officials. That motion was later followed by a whopping $33 million punitive award. It is only the latest example of how faculty members and officials are driving their institutions toward financial and intellectual bankruptcy, thanks to their advocacy or acquiescence.

The latest controversy began with a shoplifting case. In 2016, an African American student named Jonathan Aladin was caught trying to steal a bottle of wine from Gibson’s Bakery, which was established in 1885 and has been closely tied to the college for over a century. When the grandson of the owner tried to stop Aladin, a fight ensued and police were called. Aladin and two other students, Cecilia Whettstone and Endia Lawrence, were arrested. Students, professors, and administrators held protests, charging that the bakery was racist and profiled the three students.

Oberlin maintains in court filings that the son and grandson of the owners of Gibson’s Bakery “violently and unreasonably attacked” an unarmed student, but that is not how the police viewed it. Aladin was charged with robbery, which is a second degree felony, and Whettstone and Lawrence were charged with first degree misdemeanor assault. Police rejected claims of a racial motive and noted that, over a period of five years, 40 adults were arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s Bakery, but only six were African American. It also is not how the court viewed it. When prosecutors cut a plea deal to reduce the charge to attempted theft, a local judge refused. He said the plea deal appeared to be the result of a permanent “economic sanction” by the college in which the victim had little choice but to relent. Ultimately, all three students pleaded guilty.

The merits of the case did not seem to bother Oberlin officials or student protesters. Dean of students Meredith Raimondo reportedly joined the massive protests and even handed out a flier denouncing the bakery as a racist business. When some people contacted Oberlin to object that the students admitted guilt, special assistant to the president for community and government relations Tita Reed wrote that it did not change a “damn thing” for her. Reed also reportedly participated in the campus protests.

Other faculty members encouraged students who denounced the bakery. The chairman of Africana studies posted, “Very proud of our students!” Oberlin barred purchases from the bakery, pending its investigation into whether this was “a pattern and not an isolated incident.” Raimondo also pressured Bon Appetit, a major contractor with the college, to cease business with the bakery. Reed even suggested that “once charges are dropped, orders will resume” and added that she was “baffled by their combined audacity and arrogance to assume the position of victim.”

How much are professors paid?


The Washington State employee salary archive that I featured in my last post is a fascinating dataset to explore… including 432k entries for more than 244k people (actually unique names, so likely many more!). There is much you could do with this data, e.g. exploring gender distributions, infer the age distribution by matching the names to the US “Baby Names” data, comparing salaries for similar jobs around the state…

Last time we were looking at salaries for people with the job I have, and comparing them to expectations one might reasonably infer from reading the University’s HR website.

Today I’m going to look at the job (notionally) I want: University Professor.

There are 5 publicly funded universities in Washington State. Here is how the 2017 salaries for people whose job contains the word “Professor” compare:

K-12 Tax & Spending climate: Who Cares About the National Debt?

Brian Riedl:

The national debt currently stands at $22 trillion dollars. That’s trillion – with a ‘T.’ Ten years ago, it was $10 trillion dollars. Ten years from now, it’s projected to be $34 trillion.
The interest payment on our debt is currently $300 billion dollars per year, heading towards a projected $1 trillion dollars within a decade. At that point, a fifth of all federal taxes will go towards the interest on the debt, not education, infrastructure, and defense – you know, the stuff government is supposed to do. And that’s with historically low interest rates. Imagine if those rates normalized. Well, maybe you don’t want to imagine it because that picture is very dark.
In a better world, voters would be marching on Washington, demanding that our politicians dig us out of this hole before we’re buried in it.
In the real world… almost no one cares. But we should care. And any thinking person, left or right, understands why. No individual and no nation can accumulate debt indefinitely. Europe was able to bail out Greece with some loans a few years ago. But Greece is a small country. If the US goes ‘boom,’ there’s going to be no one to bail us out. So what’s driving the debt? And, more importantly, how do we drive ourselves out of it?
The debt has been growing for decades. It got supercharged by the 2008 recession. Revenues fell while spending soared. Under President Obama, the debt doubled from $10 trillion dollars to $20 trillion. In the first two years of the Trump Administration, we’ve added another $2 trillion dollars.
So what are we to do?
First, we need to identify the primary source of the problem. It’s pretty basic. You can talk about defense spending, welfare spending, or bloated budgets all you want, but it really comes down to two programs: Social Security and Medicare. Unless we get a handle on these monsters, the debt blob will continue to expand until it overwhelms us.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Two centuries of rapid global population growth will come to an end

Max Royer:

One of the big lessons from the demographic history of countries is that population explosions are temporary. For many countries the demographic transition has already ended, and as the global fertility rate has now halved we know that the world as a whole is approaching the end of rapid population growth.

The visualization below presents this big overview of the global demographic transition – with the very latest data from the UN Population Division just published.

As we explore at the beginning of the entry on population growth, the global population grew only very slowly up to 1700 – only 0.04% per year. In the many millennia up to that point in history very high mortality of children counteracted high fertility. The world was in the first stage of the demographic transition.

Once health improved and mortality declined things changed quickly. Particularly over the course of the 20th century: Over the last 100 years global population more than quadrupled. As we see in the chart, the rise of the global population got steeper and steeper and you have just lived through the steepest increase of that curve. This also means that your existence is a tiny part of the reason why that curve is so steep.

Doublethink Is Stronger Than Orwell Imagined

George Packer:

No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984. The title, the adjectival form of the author’s last name, the vocabulary of the all-powerful Party that rules the superstate Oceania with the ideology of Ingsoc—doublethink, memory hole, unperson, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Thought Police, Room 101, Big Brother—they’ve all entered the English language as instantly recognizable signs of a nightmare future. It’s almost impossible to talk about propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics, or perversions of truth without dropping a reference to 1984. Throughout the Cold War, the novel found avid underground readers behind the Iron Curtain who wondered, How did he know?

It was also assigned reading for several generations of American high-school students. I first encountered 1984 in 10th-grade English class. Orwell’s novel was paired with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, whose hedonistic and pharmaceutical dystopia seemed more relevant to a California teenager in the 1970s than did the bleak sadism of Oceania. I was too young and historically ignorant to understand where 1984 came from and exactly what it was warning against. Neither the book nor its author stuck with me. In my 20s, I discovered Orwell’s essays and nonfiction books and reread them so many times that my copies started to disintegrate, but I didn’t go back to 1984. Since high school, I’d lived through another decade of the 20th century, including the calendar year of the title, and I assumed I already “knew” the book. It was too familiar to revisit.

Mixed Results From New NEA Membership Numbers Pre-Janus Ruling, Post 2018 Teacher Walkouts in W. Va., Okla. and Ariz.

Mike Antonucci:

NEA had 2,626,216 active members working in the public school system in 2018 — an increase of 0.5 percent from the year before — plus an additional 372,000 retired and student members. The spread among state affiliates again demonstrates the advantage that agency fee laws provided to NEA.

In states where NEA represented fee payers, the union gained 28,180 members. In right-to-work states, it lost 13,991 members.

I culled the figures from the NEA Secretary-Treasurer/Independent Auditors 2019 Financial Reports and constructed a table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Along with the numbers are the one-year and five-year changes in those figures.

“Do Your Job:’ Pittsburgh Public Administrators Face Criticism Over School Performance (!)

Andy Sheehan:

The hallways of the predominantly African American University Prep are lined with pennants and banners of colleges and universities — but the promise of a college education has gone mostly unfulfilled.

Students at the 6-12 public school in the Hill District have struggled academically, with less than 17% of its middle schoolers achieving proficiency in reading and none in math.

On top of that, the school has been the site of several melees that have required a police response. In fact, the school’s principal is currently on medical leave after being injured trying to break up one such fight.

“We have not been successful in turning this school around,” said school board member Sala Udin. “The administration has not been successful.”

Distressed over the performance of U Prep, the school board is set to vote Wednesday evening on a proposal to move the middle school students to Arsenal Middle School in Lawrenceville.

But Udin argues that the administration of Superintendent Anthony Hamlet must fix the school rather than close a large section of it.

“You need to do your job. Come up with a formula that works and make this school work,” Udin said.

Related: What will be different, this time?

Lawfare & Commentary on Police presence in taxpayer supported Madison Schools

David Blaska:

An E. Lakeside St. homeowner looked out of his window shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday (06-18-19) to see a teenager behind the wheel of his parked car. There were three other young people leaning into the driver’s side window.

The victim ran outside, inquiring: “Can I help you guys?” The teens began moving quickly away and the man followed. “Did you take anything?” The three girls said nothing, but the boy pulled out, what appeared to be, a box cutter indicating he would stab the victim if he did not back off.

The man, while frightened, tried to reason with the boy, saying he had a kid and just wanted the group to give back anything they might have taken. Neighbors were witnessing the confrontation and police were called.

The teens were located walking on area railroad tracks and taken to the Juvenile Reception Center. Arrested were one 16-year-old boy and three girls, ages 15, 15, and 16.

We previously reported that Progressive Dane co-chair Brenda Konkel was vetting an ethics complaint against Madison Metro school board president Gloria Reyes for voting to keep cops in Madison’s four troubled high schools.

Late Tuesday (06-18-19) she followed through by filing that complaint with the school district. She was joined by two other anti-cop hot heads, Andy Heidt and Andy Olson. They allege that:

The Surreal End of an American College

Alia Wong:

Like most other colleges across the country, Newbury College, a small, private liberal-arts school in Brookline, Massachusetts, held classes through the end of this past spring semester and then bid farewell to cap-and-gown-wearing seniors. But unlike almost every other college, those classes, and that farewell, were the school’s last: Newbury officially ceased operations at the end of May.

One of the first sources to publicly confirm the long-rumored closure was the president’s blog, where the news was shared last December. “It is with a heavy heart,” the school’s president, Joseph Chillo, wrote, “that I announce our intention to commence the closing of Newbury College, this institution we love so dearly.”

After that announcement, which was also blasted out in an email, about 25 percent of the student body decided to not even come back to campus for the spring semester, according to Chillo. But for the students who did—as well as their professors who stuck around—life on campus had already flatlined by the time they returned in January. As the light-pink blossoms began to sprout from the campus’s weeping cherry trees, Newbury’s nearly eight acres of Georgian-style buildings felt like a shadow of the school it’d been just a few months prior. It was no longer the college that Deborah Mael, an English professor who taught at the institution for most of its existence, remembered; the benches where her now-adult daughters had sat as kids remained empty, as did the dorms where they had relished the opportunity to hang out with older girls.

Ethics violation alleged in Madison School Board president’s vote to keep police in schools

Logan Wroge:

Three former elected officials are alleging Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes violated the body’s ethics policy when she voted in favor of a contract that would keep Madison police officers in the district’s high schools.

On Tuesday, former City Council members Andy Heidt, Brenda Konkel and Andy Olsen, who also served on the Dane County Board, sent a letter to the district calling on the School Board to vote again on the school resource officer, or SRO, contract. They claim that Reyes, a former Madison police officer and deputy city mayor, should not have been allowed to vote on it last week.

The letter, which was sent to the seven board members, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and the district’s legal counsel, claims that Reyes now works in the city’s Community Development Division.

The student loan crisis is really an underemployment catastrophe

Eric Seufert:

Student loan debt is fundamentally different than all other types of consumer debt. If someone buys a car with a loan and then loses their job, they can sell the car and use the proceeds to pay at least some of the loan down. That can’t happen with a student loan: the asset that the loan paid for is (ostensibly) knowledge, and that can’t be repossessed by a University or sold secondhand. Student loans are also almost impossible to discharge in a bankruptcy, and interest starts accruing on some types of student loans even while the borrower is in school.

But what caused the student loan debt load to get to the level of “crisis” in the United States? In cursory depictions of the student loan situation, many of the same explanations for the sharp increase in the cost of postsecondary education are often offered, from the pedestrian (“University campuses look like the palace of Versailles these days!”, “College kids are majoring in underwater basketweaving!”) to the conspiratorial (the endowments of the most prestigious universities are essentially hedge funds, and by charging tuition that isn’t generally affordable, universities can provide generous financial aid and maintain charity status for their endowment gains). But rapidly rising costs don’t necessarily create bubbles or crises. That the cost of tuition rises doesn’t mean that it must be unaffordable relative to earlier periods, per se.

More, here.

You Care More About Your Privacy Than You Think

Charlie Warzel:

I hear this all the time: “This all sounds pretty troubling, but how much do we really, truly care about our privacy? After all, we don’t seem willing to stop using our phones or Facebook or Google.”

This idea is popular enough to have a name: the privacy paradox. It’s also the argument I hear from most tech evangelists and defenders of our data-guzzling platforms and services. There’s widespread public outcry about how much of our personal data is collected. And yet most of us can’t be bothered to change the default settings on our phones (which you should do and can learn about here). It’s a fair point, even if it does remind me of this excellent Matt Bors “Gotcha” cartoon lampooning a certain brand of reflexive contrarianism. There’s plenty that’s unexplored about how much we really care about giving away our personal information in exchange for free services.



But only months after Zuckerberg first outlined his “privacy-focused vision for social networking” in a 3,000-word post on the social network he founded, his lawyers were explaining to a California judge that privacy on Facebook is nonexistent.

The courtroom debate, first reported by Law360, took place as Facebook tried to scuttle litigation from users upset that their personal data was shared without their knowledge with the consultancy Cambridge Analytica and later with advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign. The full transcript of the proceedings — which has been quoted from only briefly — reveal one of the most stunning examples of corporate doublespeak certainly in Facebook’s history.

Representing Facebook before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria was Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, who claimed that the plaintiffs’ charges of privacy invasion were invalid because Facebook users have no expectation of privacy on Facebook. The simple act of using Facebook, Snyder claimed, negated any user’s expectation of privacy:

Commentary On the recent $44M Oberlin verdict


The court coverage of the Oberlin College case by a reporter for Legal Insurrection has revealed some stunning — but not so surprising — details about what transpired in that small Ohio college town.

An Ohio jury recently ordered Oberlin College to pay $33 million in punitive damages (capped at $22 million) to the family-owned grocery store Gibson’s Bakery near campus, a store that has done business with the institution for a century. That amount was added to the $11.2 million in compensatory damages it awarded Gibson’s as well.

Civics: “Content Moderation” and Facebook

Casey Newton:

For the six months after he was hired, Speagle would moderate 100 to 200 posts a day. He watched people throw puppies into a raging river, and put lit fireworks in dogs’ mouths. He watched people mutilate the genitals of a live mouse, and chop off a cat’s face with a hatchet. He watched videos of people playing with human fetuses, and says he learned that they are allowed on Facebook “as long as the skin is translucent.” He found that he could no longer sleep for more than two or three hours a night. He would frequently wake up in a cold sweat, crying.

Early on, Speagle came across a video of two women in North Carolina encouraging toddlers to smoke marijuana, and helped to notify the authorities. (Moderator tools have a mechanism for escalating issues to law enforcement, and the women were eventually convicted of misdemeanor child abuse.) To Speagle’s knowledge, though, the crimes he saw every day never resulted in legal action being taken against the perpetrators. The work came to feel pointless, never more so than when he had to watch footage of a murder or child pornography case that he had already removed from Facebook.

In June 2018, a month into his job, Facebook began seeing a rash of videos that depicted organs being harvested from children. So many graphic videos were reported that they could not be contained in Speagle’s queue.

Related: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances.

“When Harvard stumbles”

Robert Shibley:

Let’s be clear: it was my willingness to represent Mr. Weinstein in the first place that prompted a furor, and ultimately Harvard’s decision to dismiss us as faculty deans. We know this to be true, as does the Harvard community, including its most senior leaders.

America’s Epidemic of Empty Churches

Jonathan Merritt:

Three blocks from my Brooklyn apartment, a large brick structure stretches toward heaven. Tourists recognize it as a church—the building’s bell tower and stained-glass windows give it away—but worshippers haven’t gathered here in years.

The 19th-century building was once known as St. Vincent De Paul Church and housed a vibrant congregation for more than a century. But attendance dwindled and coffers ran dry by the early 2000s. Rain leaked through holes left by missing shingles, a tree sprouted in the bell tower, and the Brooklyn diocese decided to sell the building to developers. Today, the Spire Lofts boasts 40 luxury apartments, with one-bedroom units renting for as much as $4,812 per month. It takes serious cash to make God’s house your own, apparently.

Many of our nation’s churches can no longer afford to maintain their structures—6,000 to 10,000 churches die each year in America—and that number will likely grow. Though more than 70 percent of our citizens still claim to be Christian, congregational participation is less central to many Americans’ faith than it once was. Most denominations are declining as a share of the overall population, and donations to congregations have been falling for decades. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated Americans, nicknamed the “nones,” are growing as a share of the U.S. population.

Many books aren’t fact-checked, and we’re increasingly realizing they’re full of errors.

Kelsey Piper:

The problem? That finding is the result of a grievous misunderstanding on Dolan’s part of how the American Time Use Survey works. The people conducting the survey didn’t ask married people how happy they were, shoo their spouses out of the room, and then ask again. Dolan had misinterpreted one of the categories in the survey, “spouse absent,” which refers to married people whose partner is no longer living in their household, as meaning the spouse stepped out of the room.


The error was caught by Gray Kimbrough, an economist at American University’s School of Public Affairs, who uses the survey data — and realized that Dolan must have gotten it wrong. “I’ve done a lot with time-use data,” Kimbrough told me. “It’s a phone survey.” The survey didn’t even ask if a respondent’s spouse was in the room.

Why Some of Us Are Shy

Sarah Keating:

Does the idea of mingling at a party send cold fingers of dread creeping up your spine? Or the thought of giving a presentation in front of a room full of people make you feel physically sick?

If so, then you are not alone.

Akindele Michael was a shy kid. Growing up in Nigeria he spent a lot of time indoors at his parents’ house. His parents, incidentally, are not shy. He believes that his sheltered upbringing is linked to his shyness – but is he right?

Partly, says Thalia Eley, professor of developmental behavioural genetics at Kings College London.

“We think of shyness as a temperamental trait and temperament is like a precursor to personality,” she says. “When very young children are starting to engage with other people you see variation in how comfortable [they] are in speaking to an adult that they don’t know.”

Civics: The CIA Spied on People Through Their Smart TVs, Leaked Documents Reveal

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

The CIA and MI5 called the project to spy on Samsung Smart TVs “Weeping Angel,” perhaps a reference to Doctor Who, where weeping angels are “the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life-form ever produced.” The malware was designed to keep the smart TVs on even when they were turned off. This was dubbed “Fake-Off mode,” according to the documents. The CIA hackers even developed a way to “suppress” the TVs LED indicators to improve the “Fake-Off” mode.

“Weeping Angel already hooks key presses from the remote (or TV goes to sleep) to cause the system to enter Fake-Off rather than Off,” one of the leaked document reads. “Since the implant is already hooking these events, the implant knows when the TV will be entering Fake-Off mode.”

After this article was published, Samsung reacted with a statement.

“Protecting consumers’ privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority at Samsung,” read the statement sent via email. “We are aware of the report in question and are urgently looking into the matter.”

The New York Times has a course to teach its reporters data skills, and now they’ve open-sourced it

Joshua Benton:

“Should journalists learn to code?” is an old question that has always had only unsatisfying answers. (That was true even back before it became a useful heuristic for identifying Twitter jackasses.) Some should! Some shouldn’t! Helpful, right?

One way the question gets derailed involves what, exactly, the question-asker means by “code.” It’s unlikely a city hall reporter will ever have occasion to build an iPhone app in Swift, or construct a machine learning model on deadline. But there is definitely a more basic and straightforward set of technical skills — around data analysis — that can be of use to nearly anyone in a newsroom. It ain’t coding, but it’s also not a skillset every reporter has.

The New York Times wants more of its journalists to have those basic data skills, and now it’s releasing the curriculum they’ve built in-house out into the world, where it can be of use to reporters, newsrooms, and lots of other people too.

Here’s Lindsey Rogers Cook, an editor for digital storytelling and training at the Times, and the sort of person who is willing to have “spreadsheets make my heart sing” appear under her byline:

Facebook reveals Libra, its momentous new crypto, to the world

Ben Munster:

Unlike previous stablecoins, Libra will not be issued by a central party. Instead, Facebook has enlisted 27 fellow Silicon Valley titans—among them PayPal, Visa, Spotify, Mastercard, Uber, and eBay—to operate as preliminary “validator nodes” who will each share a transparent copy of a vast ledger of transactions reflecting all the activity on the network.

These collaborators, each of which pitched in $10 million for the privilege of joining the network, are the so-called “Founding Members” of the Libra Association, a Switzerland-based not-for-profit that will govern the development of the Libra network. A Byzantine system of “governance”—with each node participating in regular votes on key proposals—is intended to hold them accountable.

Facebook hopes that the system will be able to onboard billions of users, over the next five years, into a more efficient monetary system, accessible to anyone, without rent-seeking middlemen.

Some Students Get Extra Time for New York’s Elite High School Entrance Exam. 42% Are White.

Kevin Quealy and Eliza Shapiro:

Every fall, tens of thousands of New York City students sit for a high-pressure exam that determines their admission into the city’s most selective public high schools. Those students have three hours, a race against the clock to answer questions on subjects like trigonometry and to analyze reading passages.

But a few hundred students have double the time to take the exam, and there appears to be a racial disparity in who is receiving this special accommodation, which is covered under a federal designation known as a 504. The designation is meant to give students with mental and physical disabilities — whether attention deficit disorder or a broken arm — a fair shot in public education.

What is social justice?

Joel Kotkin:

Perhaps no issue more motivates progressive activists than social justice. Good intentions may motivate the social justice warriors, albeit sometimes sprinkled with a dollop of self-hatred. But good intentions do not necessarily produce good results. Indeed, often the policies favored by progressive idealists hinder the economic and social progress of the very people they seek to rescue.

They do this in many ways, emphasizing subsidies and preferences based on race while undermining the economic growth that most poor people, of any race, according to a recent You Gov poll, believe would be more effective than entitlement spending in reducing poverty.

In the real world — where most people live — intentions do not necessarily produce results. Opposition to charter schools may please progressives’ allies in the teachers’ unions but removes from poor and minority communities one proven way to achieve better results. Lowering standards might allow some of these students to emerge from under-performing public schools and enter elite colleges, but the evidence is that such students do poorly in these environments, often dropping out and, if they stay, segregating into departments, like ethnic or women’s studies, devoted to, you guessed it, social justice.

Indeed the emphasis on social justice, which is now filtering into the younger grades, seems destined to lower the actual achievement of those who so indoctrinated. The emphasis on race, gender and — horror of horrors, white privilege — is no substitute for the proficiency in math, science or literacy, things actually valued in the real world.

Social class in the wokest places

In California and other progressive states, woke policies are clearly not helping the poor. Indeed despite all the progressive rhetoric, African Americans and Latinos suffer considerably higher rates of poverty in California than in the rest of the nation; the Golden State already suffers the highest percentage of poor people among the states. The twin pillars of woke politics, California and New York, also suffer both the highest rates of inequality in the nation.

Many policies embraced by progressives also hamper minority aspirations to enter the middle class. California policies that restrict peripheral development, for example, have made home ownership all but impossible, and rents unsustainably high, for most minorities and working class families. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, for example, 37% of Latinos and 33% of African Americans own their own home; in much dissed and less rigorously progressive places like Houston (51% & 42%) or Atlanta (44% & 45%), the percentages are much higher.