How to Get a World-Class Education for Free on the Internet

Amy Wang:

As crucial as a university degree has become for working in the modern economy, it is not the only route forward into a wildly lucrative and satisfying career—just ask famous dropouts Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg.

In the future, a single bachelor’s degree in a particular subject will no longer suffice for many of us anyway. As robots and automation sweep the global workforce, hundreds of millions of people—the majority of whom do not have the time or money to go pick up a brand-new four-year degree—will have to “re-skill” in order to land new jobs. The question that employees and employers alike face is how to get that done quickly, efficiently, and, most importantly to many, cheaply.

The internet, luckily, is already a booming resource. Whether you find yourself seeking new employment mid-career, curious about alternatives to a college education, or simply are interested in learning for learning’s sake, Quartz At Work has compiled some of the most dependable, high-quality materials you can access to learn anything on the internet.

UNH Law School Budget Deficit Exceeds 100% Of Revenues


In the 2018-19 year, the law school’s total operating budget was $5.5 million, but it spent $11.9 million. That’s more than double its operating budget, with a total loss of $6.4 million in that year alone.

The most dramatic year to date was the 2017-18 year, with a total loss of $6.7 million, and an operating margin of negative 130 percent. …

Enrollment did increase this academic year, up to 145 students in the incoming class. But in 2016, there were only 71 incoming students, according to numbers provided by current UNH Law Dean Megan Carpenter.

In fact, the law school is losing millions of dollars in an era when the state’s university system is receiving some of the lowest state funding in the country. UNH doesn’t see these losses as a barrier, but rather, as an investment.

M Is Not For Picture Clues


You may be familiar with “The Reading Wars,” a global literacy teaching conversation which seemingly pits the simple view of reading against the complex view of reading.

The simple view of reading maintains that accurate decoding leads to comprehension. Therefore, in instructional models based on this theory, students are first systematically taught phonics through a series of explicit lessons beginning with the smallest word units to the largest. Teaching often includes decodable texts with controlled vocabulary and an isolated focus on phonemes.

Congressional Ignorance Leaves the U.S. Vulnerable to Cyberthreats

Jackson Barnett:

In the last U.S. presidential election, Russian hackers penetrated Illinois’s voter-registration database, viewing voters’ addresses and parts of their social security numbers. Election results were not affected, but the attack put intruders in the position to alter voter data, according to a report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The incursion was part of hacking attempts against all 50 states, and intruders will try even more vigorously in 2020, yet experts say Congress is doing little to improve defenses. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University says states will need just more than $2.1 billion to upgrade election computer systems, yet last month the Senate approved only a fraction of that amount: $250 million.
One reason for the inadequate response is that elected representatives and their staffs are not tech savvy enough to understand the scope of the problems, says Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center and co-author of the cost analysis. His sentiments are echoed by other cybersecurity specialists. “I just didn’t have the tools,” recalls Meg King, director of the Digital Futures Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who worked on a cyberdefense bill a decade ago as a senior staff member on a House homeland security subcommittee. She now describes that bill as “too little, too late.” Today her think tank has begun to offer staffers short courses in cybersecurity issues, but security researchers worry that step will not be enough.

While substantially changing the outcome of an election by hacking into voting machines is extremely unlikely because those machines and the ballot counting process are very decentralized, altering voter rolls could block people from voting. If the system is even slightly exploited, says David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, it could trigger public distrust in elections. “I think the greatest challenge that we do have is to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our election system,” said Joseph Maguire, the U.S. acting director of national intelligence, during recent congressional testimony.

Elizabeth Warren Pledges To Crack Down On School Choice, Despite Sending Her Own Son To Elite Private School

Peter Hasson:

“I do not blame Alex one bit for attending a private school in 5th grade. Good for him,” said Reason Foundation director of school choice Corey DeAngelis, who first flagged Alexander’s private schooling Monday. “This is about Warren exercising school choice for her own kids while fighting hard to prevent other families from having that option.”

It’s unclear whether 1987 was the only year Warren sent any of her children to private school. Warren’s campaign didn’t return emailed questions by press time. (RELATED: Dem Senator Bashing Betsy Devos Had No Problem Personally Profiting From Charter Schools)

Warren praised charter schools as recently as 2016, when she said charter schools “are producing extraordinary results for our students” in Massachusetts. Warren’s crackdown on elite charter schools would leave elite private schools like Kirby Hall unscathed, while greatly eliminating charter schools as a parallel option for lower-income families.

The senator’s plan to crack down on charter schools drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, including from The Washington Post’s editorial board, which described Warren’s reversal as transparent catering to teacher’s unions.

“The losers in these political calculations are the children whom charters help,” the Post’s editorial stated. “Charters at their best offer options to parents whose children would have been consigned to failing traditional schools. They spur reform in public school systems in such places as the District and Chicago. And high-quality charters lift the achievement of students of color, children from low-income families and English language learners.”

Medical librarian talks about rare books, spooky subject matter, and Halloween plans

Sallyann Price:

How do you manage all these projects, both practically and psychologically?

I think having a therapist is a great idea; I recommend that for everyone who can manage it. I am also the mother of a toddler, and that experience completely changed the way I look at my projects. Having a toddler is a super intense circle-of-life experience. There is big joy, but it also brings up a ton of mortality questions.

Part of death positivity—I don’t know if it’s a side effect or maybe the whole point—is that when you engage in mortality and know that life is finite, you tend to value your life more, because you know how precious it is.

Google CEO, in leaked video, says company is ‘genuinely struggling’ with employee trust


Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged the tech giant is struggling with how to deal with internal debate over controversial topics and the company defended hiring a former government official who backed the Trump administration’s travel ban, according to video of an all-hands meeting obtained by The Washington Post.

At the closed-door meeting Thursday, a weekly gathering known as TGIF, Pichai and other top executives sought to quell employee discontent and defended the hiring of Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security official, while chastising employees for airing their gripes publicly.
Pichai acknowledged the company had violated some employees’ trust. “We are genuinely struggling with some issues — transparency at scale,” he said, according to the video.

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

Will cursive become a lost art form? Not if these Wisconsin lawmakers can help it

Sharon Roznik:

The Nesvacil sisters of Ashwaubenon take their handwriting seriously.

Grace Nesvacil, now a freshman in high school, was named the nation’s top fifth grade hand-writer in the 2016 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. Her sister Evelyn was a semifinalist as a third grader, and another sister, Claire, earned a state award in the competition.

All three of the siblings attend Ashwaubenon schools, where curriculum instructor Jill Kieslich says they still teach cursive to students in second through fifth grade, although it’s not required as part of Wisconsin’s Academic Standards.

The sponsor of the contest, Ohio-based Zaner-Bloser company, is a longtime producer of writing, penmanship and grammar materials for schools. During the 1800s, founders Charles Zaner and Elmer Bloser developed a cursive style that dominated classrooms for decades.

But cursive has been on the decline since the rise of personal computers. In 2010, when most states adopted Common Core curriculum standards meant to equalize education in America, nothing about cursive was mentioned. Today, teaching cursive has declined to the point that it’s not unusual to find teens and twenty-somethings barely able to decipher it. Often, children master typing on a computer, tablet or mobile phone before they feel comfortable writing by hand.

The price of teacher Mulligans, continued: Wisconsin Proficiency Rates Flat Despite Spending Increases

Will Flanders:

While DPI is willing to acknowledge the gravity of the achievement gap, the agency remains stubbornly opposed to proven solutions. Year after year and study after study reveal that public charter schools, freed from the mandates of bureaucracy and unionization, do a better job educating exactly the type of students that need the most help. Giving lie to the claims that public schools are starved for cash, charters accomplish this task with thousands of dollars less per student. If those on the left are truly concerned about improving academic outcomes for minority students, they must stop demonizing the charter and private schools that get the job done.

The Price of Wisconsin’s Elementary Reading Teacher Mulligans


My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results.

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

“36 people” on madison’s 2020 superinteNdent search

Logan Wroge:

“The challenges of the district are actually not completely known because of a lack of transparency in how the district is doing with respect to several critical and urgent matters,” Chan Stroman, a West Side resident and education advocate said, adding she wants to see honesty and competence in the next leader of the state’s second-largest school district.

The input session was facilitated by BWP and Associates — an Illinois-based, education-focused search firm contracted by the School Board to help solicit feedback, advertise the position and vet candidates, among other responsibilities.

A second community input session is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at La Follette High School, and a survey on the superintendent position is available online until Nov. 5.

While in town Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives of BWP also had a marathon of meetings planned with elected officials, community groups, advocacy organizations, business leaders and others.

Among those scheduled to meet with the BWP consultants are black student unions, social justice advocacy organization Freedom Inc., the heads of American Family Insurance and Exact Sciences Corp., school principals, Disability Rights Wisconsin and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

Debra Hill, a managing director for BWP, said throughout nearly 20 meetings held Tuesday, a theme of trust was already emerging.

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

Former Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham; what will be different, this time?

Mayor Lightfoot’s 2020 budget requires Chicago Public schools repay $60 million for pensions

Fran Spielman:

The historic about-face is buried in the mayor’s budget overview.

It states: “In 2020, an additional $60 million is expected from Chicago Public Schools to cover a portion of its share of the city’s annual contribution to the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund.”

For years, City Hall has covered the school system’s annual contribution to the largest of four city employee pension funds.

This year, Lightfoot needs the money to chip away at the city’s $838 million shortfall triggered, in part, by the city’s own rising pension payments.

And, according to a Chicago Teachers Union official, Lightfoot also wants CPS to repay the city for $33 million in security costs, although the city says that’s not a new demand this year.

The dark and white flours of ideology

Nicolaia Rips:

Bread as a symbol of material and physical fulfillment was also invoked in the US suffrage movement, but there the opposition between bread and freedom was dismissed as a false choice. A rallying cry of suffragists was “Bread and Roses,” a slogan coined by Helen Todd in the early 1910s for speeches that she would give while traveling through Illinois advocating for women’s rights. In an essay published in The American Magazine in September 1911, Todd, a factory inspector, further explained the phrase, adding that women’s suffrage “will go toward helping forward the time when life’s Bread, which is home, shelter and security, and the Roses of life, music, education, nature and books, shall be the heritage of every child that is born in the country, in the government of which she has a voice.”9 Simply put, Todd acknowledges that while bread may be the staff of life, freedom and the pleasures it entails are just as critical.

And how do I like my bread? I prefer it sliced thick and slathered with butter, and as free as possible of political symbolism. But even that, sadly, cannot be, as it turns out that I am gluten- and lactose-intolerant.

Money, Politics and Adult Employment/School Choice

Collin Anderson:

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren raked in tens of thousands of dollars from teachers’ unions before reversing her past support for student vouchers and education reform.

In 2004, Warren argued that vouchers “relieve parents” from relying on failing public schools. Her campaign’s newly-released education plan attacks charter schools and school choice. Warren’s reversal comes after the Massachusetts senator took more than $2.5 million in campaign cash from the education industry throughout her political career, including nearly $70,000 from the country’s most powerful teachers’ unions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Civics: Comcast is Lobbying Against Encryption that Improves Privacy

Joseph Cox:

Internet giant Comcast is lobbying U.S. lawmakers against plans to encrypt web traffic that would make it harder for internet service providers (ISPs) to determine your browsing history, according to a lobbying presentation obtained by Motherboard.

The plan, which Google intends to implement soon, would enforce the encryption of DNS data made using Chrome, meaning the sites you visit. Privacy activists have praised Google’s move. But ISPs are pushing back as part of a wider lobbying effort against encrypted DNS, according to the presentation. Technologists and activists say this encryption would make it harder for ISPs to leverage data for things such as targeted advertising, as well as block some forms of censorship by authoritarian regimes.

Harvard Admits Its Preferences

Heather Mac Donald:

Students for Fair Admissions’s suit against Harvard presented a new twist on anti-preference litigation: rather than arguing that Harvard’s preferences discriminate against whites in favor of blacks, sffa argued that Harvard discriminates against Asians in favor of whites. This shift reflected both reality and legal strategy. Asian students everywhere are the most penalized when meritocratic admissions are scrapped for a race-based system, since their academic qualifications surpass those of all other racial and ethnic groups.

But litigation calculus also influenced the changed focus. SFFA v. Harvard was filed in 2014, when Justice Anthony Kennedy was still on the Supreme Court. Kennedy had been a pivotal vote for upholding racial preferences. If sffa’s attorneys could convince him that his pro-preference jurisprudence was now harming Asians—themselves a minority and thus part of the student “diversity” that preferences were supposed to enable—they would have a better chance of persuading him to reverse that jurisprudence, their thinking went. And using whites, rather than blacks, as the benchmark for anti-Asian discrimination avoided the appearance of pitting one minority group against another, a charge which left-wing preference supporters routinely make.

Majority of Americans Say Parents Are Doing Too Much for Their Young Adult Children

Amanda Barroso, Kim Parker & Richard Fry:

The share of young adults who could be considered “financially independent” from their parents by their early 20s – an assessment based on their annual income – has gone down somewhat in recent decades. A new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds that, in 2018, 24% of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared with 32% in 1980.

Looking more broadly at young adults ages 18 to 29, the share who are financially independent has been largely stable in recent decades. Overall, young men are more likely than young women to be financially independent, but this gender gap has diminished significantly.

The new survey findings underscore the extent to which many young adults are financially reliant on their parents. Some 45% of adults ages 18 to 29 (with at least one living parent) say they have received a lot of or some financial help from their parents in the past 12 months.1 According to parents of young adults, those shares may be even higher. About six-in-ten parents with children ages 18 to 29 (59%) say they have given their kids at least some financial help in the past year. The study is based on two nationally representative surveys. The first survey of 9,834 adults was conducted online from June 25 to July 8, 2019, using Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. The second survey of 1,015 adults was conducted on the telephone June 25-30, 2019.2

‘Toxic’ lab lasted for years. UW-Madison had little idea until a student died by suicide

Kelly Meyerhofer:

University officials said the circumstances surrounding Brady’s suicide three years ago this month were an extreme and isolated incident that does not represent the daily work conditions of the nearly 5,000 graduate students employed as teaching assistants, research assistants and project assistants, many of whom develop positive lifelong relationships with their mentors.

Mental health also played an important role in the case, university officials said, an area in which UW-Madison has invested significant resources in recent years.

Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan to Hurt Wisconsin Schools

CZ Szafir Libby Sobic:

Presidential candidate — and 2020 Democrat frontrunner — U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her vision for K-12 education in America this week. While the document contains plenty of hyperbolic language (combating the “corruption” associated with charter schools), Warren, who likes to say “she has a plan for that”, does offer policy details on what she would do as President. At a minimum, it shows what her priorities will be.

In short, her plan calls for massive spending increases to the tune of $800 billion over ten years (funded by her wealth tax), more federal intrusion into the classroom, an all-out assault on school choice, and overturning collective bargaining reform laws.
We breakdown what it could mean for Wisconsin:

Overturning Walker’s Act 10 collective bargaining reform law
Warren pledges to “make it easier for teachers to join a union, bargain collectively or strike” and work to pass legislation that would “ensure that public employees like teachers can organize and bargain collectively in each state and authorize voluntary deduction of fees to support a union.” In other words, she wants the federal government to overturn collective bargaining reform laws — like Governor Walker’s 2011 Act 10 law that limits collective bargaining for public employee unions.

This would be a major set-back to Wisconsin students, teachers, and school district administrators. A reminder:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Home Affordability; Property Tax Growth

Ryan Dezember, Laura Kusisto and Shane Shifflett:

“Houses are the democratic assets, roughly half of housing wealth is owned by the middle class,” said Moritz Schularick, a professor of economics at the University of Bonn and one of the authors.

It isn’t unusual for high-earners to rent in pricey coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, where sky-high real-estate prices have long limited homeownership. Yet these markets account for less than 20% of the new six-figure renters, according to the Journal’s analysis.

The Vanishing Library

Johnny Rodgers

The library at Glasgow School of Art has—or had—special status for connoisseurs of the work of architect-artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Its ineffably graceful timbers garnered a totemic value as a symbol of the workaday genius of their creator. It was said that this exquisite room could be created by any competent craftsman under instruction from the architect’s drawings; no special craft skills were needed. Indeed in the aftermath of the fires that destroyed Mackintosh’s masterwork and all its contents in 2014, and again in 2018, the School authorities claimed, evidently by way of reassuring those connoisseurs and others, that the Library would be rebuilt ‘as Mackintosh designed it, to the millimetre’—‘It is absolutely coming back.’footnote1

The implicit suggestion—and indeed often the explicit claim at the time—was thus that Mackintosh’s conceptions, or in other words, his models in the form of architectural drawings, are the real art, and the physical manifestation of that graphical genius in the timbers of the Library can be recreated by any joiner the School cares to appoint. We might then begin to wonder about that relationship between the drawings and the materially constructed Library, whereby Mackintosh’s very plans seem to operate like some type of magical incantation, and take possession of the hands of a dayjobbing tradesman to conjure them into the execution of a work of supreme artistic merit. This might in turn bring us to ask if, in the post-fires era of destruction, the Library does, in fact, still exist? The actual timbers of the room are gone, but those plans, the original prime movers in the creation of the space, and the formulae that will be used to put the material version back into place—they still exist. So what is the relative ontological status of these two components, which both have some evident claim to be Mackintosh’s Library? Can the Library still exist after it has been destroyed by fire? Does its putative totemic status indeed entail something of a magical, or fantasy, ideal or utopic quality, something beyond those everyday material qualities already annihilated twice in the fires?

Civics: Lack of transparency may keep public from knowing truth about campaign spending

Sherry Peif:

Under Colorado campaign finance laws candidates cannot use their funds for “personal purposes not reasonably related to the election of the candidate except that a candidate committee may make expenditures to reimburse the candidate for reasonable and necessary child or dependent care expenses the candidate incurs in connection with their campaign during the election cycle.”

Although recall expenses could be considered an allowed expense, Matt Arnold, director of Campaign Integrity Watchdog sees problems with Galindo’s filing

Parenting & Panic

Agnes Callard:

Parenting starts out lonely, because newborn babies do not know that you exist. No one in my social circle—grad students in their twenties—had children, so I joined a new moms group at my local hospital. You know the drill: sit in a circle, tell birth stories, swap sleep advice, etc. I quit the group after a few sessions, because everyone there was boring. So I started my own group, via Craigslist. But everyone there was boring, too. So I started another one. Were all the mothers in Berkeley boring? It was around the time I abandoned my third or fourth new moms group that I began to consider the possibility that I might be the problem.

The women in these groups had bent over backwards to be welcoming. They validated my childbirth choices; they praised my babywearing skillz; they made touching and concerted efforts to embrace my parenting idiosyncrasies. Let me give just one example. It was inevitable, in that world, that I would be asked why I was feeding my baby formula. My answer was not that I was unable to breastfeed, or that I was on some necessary medication that would taint the breast milk, but simply that breastfeeding didn’t appeal to me: “And there’s this other food available, so…” If you know something about the earth-mother babyculture of Berkeley in the early 2000s, you know that that should not have been an acceptable answer. And yet they accepted it, and me. (One woman praised me for having the “courage” to bottle feed in public, confessing she did not dare do the same!)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: More deaths than births in Wisconsin? It could happen within 15 years

Riley Vetterkind:

That comes as the fertility rate for women in their childbearing years has fallen to the lowest level since 2002, prompting concerns Wisconsin within the next decade could see an unprecedented natural population decline, in which the number of deaths in the state exceeds births.

It’s unclear whether a natural population decline is certain to lead to a loss in Wisconsin’s total numeric population, which stood at about 5.7 million after the 2010 U.S. Census.

But because Wisconsin already faces difficulty attracting immigrants and new residents, the state is at risk of seeing its total population fall if more out-of-state residents and immigrants don’t move into the state.

A population decline could have significant implications for economic growth, Wisconsin’s political representation and revenue for key state programs.

Related: abortion data.

KCLS boycotts Macmillan Publishers’ eBook embargo

Effective November 1, 2019, the King County Library System (KCLS) will no longer purchase newly released eBooks from Macmillan Publishers, one of five major publishers in the U.S. This decision comes after months of discussion and advocacy to urge Macmillan to reconsider instituting a new library eBook embargo, set to go into effect on November 1. Under Macmillan’s new lending model, public libraries of any size will only be allowed to purchase one copy of a newly released eBook for the first eight weeks after publication.

As a large library system, KCLS maintains a “Holds to Copy” ratio of 5-to-1 to minimize wait times for popular titles. This means that for every five holds on a title, KCLS purchases one copy to ensure a maximum wait time of only three months. If KCLS is limited to one digital copy of each new title, and then has to wait eight weeks before being able to purchase more, patrons could conceivably wait years rather than months for their eBook.

“Digital equity and access to information is at stake,” states KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum. “KCLS’ central mission is to provide free and equal access to information, and libraries must be able to perform this essential role in the digital realm as well. We do not want other publishers to follow the example of Macmillan and embargo books. To do so profoundly changes the public library.”

For KCLS, a library system with 50 libraries, serving more than one million residents, the new embargo hits King County patrons particularly hard. KCLS has been the top digital-circulating library in the U.S. for the last five years and third worldwide. According to Rakuten OverDrive, KCLS patrons downloaded nearly five million eBooks and audiobooks last year.

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind

Costica Bradatan:

Do you know what happened in Lyon in AD 177? Or in Milan in 1300? Or in Baroda in 1825? You probably don’t, but you shouldn’t worry: few do. Whatever happened, it was, by ordinary standards, something quite humble. In Dominion, Tom Holland explores such happenings for precisely that reason. Yet in his telling, the humbleness disguises something more consequential. For all their seeming insignificance, these events – the persecution of Christians in Lyon, a case of heresy in Milan, an instance of suttee in Baroda – proved to be shapers of things to come. In the great scheme of history, they put grander happenings to shame. Holland uses such events (twenty-one in all, one for each chapter) as entry points into the complex narrative of his book, which examines the role of Christianity in shaping the Western mind.

This device reveals one of this book’s finest accomplishments. What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holland’s an all-absorbing story. He did something similar in his earlier books Rubicon, Persian Fire, Dynasty, Millennium. But whereas those works were primarily about events, people and movements, which lend themselves naturally to storytelling, Dominion is concerned with things that normally resist simple narration: philosophical ideas and religious doctrines, theological controversies and intellectual debates, the dissemination and transformation of beliefs. It takes a master storyteller to translate the development of a philosophical notion into a captivating story, and Holland proves to be one.

An expert on the classical world, Holland has a good sense of the fundamental historicity that structures and shapes his subject matter. For all their commonly shared ‘human nature’, people do change in space and time, and it would be wrong to judge behaviour in the ancient past by 21st-century norms. And yet Holland can recognise a meaningful historical connection when he sees one: ‘For a self-professed materialist,’ he writes, Karl Marx was ‘oddly prone to seeing the world as the Church Fathers had once done: as a battleground between cosmic forces of good and evil’. He also has a keen feeling for human psychology. Like Abelard, he notes at one point, Luther was ‘a theologian whose capacity for daring speculation was combined with a quite exceptional talent for self-publicity’. In general, Holland has a knack for making the most of the sheer ludicrousness of the human material he is working with. To give one example, in his assessment, Galileo ‘was no Luther’. The astronomer was a compromiser, a self-aggrandiser and, ultimately, a very worldly man. His ‘instincts were those of a social climber, not a rebel’. It takes a gifted writer to detect dark spots like these from such distance.

Inside the “Most Incarcerated” Zip Code in the Country

Caleb Gayle:

Keisha Robinson’s family came to Milwaukee from Chicago in the 1980s because, as Robinson put it, “Chicago was getting out of pocket.” With crime rising and jobs disappearing in the Windy City, she told me, “my mom wanted a better place for us to live.” But Robinson’s mother could never have anticipated the crucibles awaiting her daughter in Wisconsin—the array of social and political deficits associated with the five numbers that came at the end of her listed address: 53206, now notoriously known as the most incarcerated zip code in the country.

The neighborhood’s rectangular outline sits like a brick just north of the Fiserv Forum, home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks in downtown Milwaukee, where the 2020 Democratic National Convention will be held next summer. In addition to its high incarceration rates, 53206, a heavily African American district, suffers from every manner of social ill, from socioeconomic stagnation to poor health. The Democratic primary field is teeming with proposals to address these ingrained injustices, and the party’s eventual candidate will also have a personal incentive to pay attention to what is happening in 53206: Its residents, among others in Milwaukee, may well prove to be the key to Democrats’ hopes of winning the battleground state of Wisconsin and unseating Donald Trump in the presidential election.

The transition to electric and autonomous vehicles is leaving a generation of workers behind.


Amanda Kalhous and Rebecca Keetch joined General Motors Canada within a year of each other. Over the past 15 years, they’ve survived layoffs, a government bailout, and the company’s bankruptcy. Today, they’re living through something more fundamental: the biggest shift the auto industry has seen since the invention of the assembly line.

This time, only one of them has a future in it.

In any other generation, the thousands of employees being laid off by GM in Oshawa, Ontario, could easily be retrained for work elsewhere in the sector. But hard work and a solid education are no longer enough to hold onto a job in an industry that technology is upending.

GM knows what it needs to secure its future, and it’s not Rebecca, a production operator at the Oshawa factory with a community college diploma, plus 18 months of university, who places two belts on an engine every 108 seconds. It’s Amanda, an electrical engineer with two university degrees and 24 patents to her name who oversees a team that designs software for the next generation of vehicles.

Can controversial entrepreneur Chris Whittle create a new model for private schools?

Jim Rendon:

It’s opening day at the Whittle School and Studios, a brand-new pre-K-through-12 private school in Northwest Washington founded by Chris Whittle, the Coca-Cola-sipping man at the curb. Four years in the making, the school and its 185 enrollees represent the first phase of a global institution that Whittle plans to expand over the next decade into more than 30 campuses worldwide, serving more than 2,000 students each, with 150 to 180 in each grade. Two days before the scene in Washington, he was in Shenzhen, China, at the opening of the sister inaugural campus there. Rain came down in sheets like a monsoon, “but in China,” Whittle says, “it’s auspicious for it to rain.”

The Whittle School can use the auspicious sign. The school is the latest iteration of its founder’s long-standing vision of a new paradigm for education: international, individualized, experiential — and unabashedly for-profit. At 72, Whittle has a lifetime of these types of projects behind him, as well as a lifetime of not quite fulfilling the grand expectations that launched them. Like the Whittle School, his previous ventures — the Edison Schools, a for-profit charter school company; and Avenues: The World School in New York, a private institution — were begun with great fanfare and enthusiasm. But they never achieved their loudly trumpeted ambitions.

Now Whittle wants to reinvent private education from the ground up — to throw out old assumptions and build a private school that’s bigger, better and more in tune with contemporary life than any in the world. Students, Whittle believes, need a global education, so he has created a school where students will collaborate on projects with peers in other countries. Teachers will be able to transfer from continent to continent, bringing their lessons and experiences to the classroom. Students will be encouraged to spend about two years boarding at Whittle Schools overseas, immersing themselves in new cultures. “If all our students are not highly proficient in at least a second and hopefully a third language, that is really what we’d call a failure,” he told me. The company has offices and staff not just in the United States and China, but in India, the Middle East and the United Kingdom as well.

Perhaps Whittle’s biggest innovation is his business model. Like his previous educational ventures, and unlike the vast majority of American independent schools, the Whittle School will be run for a profit. Whittle insists it won’t affect the education. It’s simply, he says, the only way to raise the huge sums of capital needed to build and staff so many schools so quickly. So far, he has raised more than $900 million in direct investments and development costs borne by the real estate firms that will build and own his campuses. Yet that’s just a fraction of what this new network is projected to cost. Whittle has already been spending for years, recruiting top administrators and staff from the best private schools in the United States, China and the United Kingdom. Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano’s firm is designing every building (sophisticated — and expensive — architecture is another Whittle obsession).

Chris Whittle interview.

America’s Delusional Elite Is Done

Bronze Age Pervert:

The purpose of my book is to provide samizdat in the tradition of what Solzhenitsyn was doing in the Soviet Union and to bring into view, unapologetically, the reality of nature that is denied by our regime; a reality that it seeks to repress, increasingly with coercion and violence. If you fail to see that you live in the Soviet Union of the 1970’s or 1980’s, or rather something slightly even more repressive than the Eastern Bloc of that time, it may be you don’t know about the threats, financial ruin, and mob violence that Trump supporters and anyone really who steps out of line has been subject to since at least 2016—but actually since some time before that. To give just one egregious example, there is a group, Hamilton 68, that is a plain front for the American security state establishment, dedicated to calling Americans who criticize the state of things Russian agents, and to forcing their identities to be revealed so as to subject them to violent harassment and physical attacks. This is the same function that the figure of the sycophant had in ancient Greece. These attacks are carried out by so-called “antifa,” but what in fact appears to be the establishment’s paramilitary force—the last Democrat vice presidential candidate’s son was a violent member (an impossibility as a “coincidence” for anyone remotely familiar with how Washington DC works)—abetted by police “stand-downs,” as at San Jose in 2016.

A New Aristocracy

Daniel Markovits:

Thanks, Robert, for that introduction; and thank you enormously to the Yale Law School class of 2015 for inviting me to speak here. It’s been a pleasure to teach you; and it’s a privilege to address you now.
Countless conversations with you have made vivid that although this is a marvelous occasion, your mood is not triumphalist. You’ve seemed to me not simply celebratory, but also contemplative. I’ll therefore take this opportunity—this point of inflection in your lives— to offer a diagnosis of your (and our collective) condition, not to propose a cure but, more modestly, in the hope that it shines a new light on your own introspection.

Now, the Dean has just observed, that you are “by acclimation the finest new law graduates in the world.” I don’t rehearse this praise just as a bromide, to set a mood and swell a speech’s emotional progress. Rather, I’ll take the fact of your excellence as my starting point today and then recover its causes and pursue its consequences. Some of these are bright and happy; others lower more darkly, both over the broader world and over your distinctive futures. It will be the task of your generation to disperse these clouds and to reclaim the sunshine, including for yourselves.

When I say that you are the country’s best new lawyers, I assert a concrete, determinate, and determinable fact; and a fact whose demonstration has dominated a large portion of your lives for a very long time.

Consider how you got to Yale. In the Autumn of 2011 perhaps 75,000 candidates applied to American law schools. Perhaps 3000 of these applied to Yale Law School. The law school takes admissions very seriously—three faculty members independently evaluate each file— and following this process, Yale admitted about 8 percent of JD applicants. Our LLM program similarly admits only about 9 percent of those who apply. Finally, almost 9 out of every 10 people whom we admit eventually enroll. In other words, you are sitting here today because you ranked among the top 3/10ths of one percent of a massive, meritocratic competition; and one in which all the competitors conspicuously agree about which is the biggest prize.

Data is a poor judge of opportunity

Lincoln Wilcox:

In 2018 Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company. Had the executives at Hewlett-Packard not made a critical mistake a few decades earlier, that title might have belonged to them.

It’s well known that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in a tiny garage in Los Altos, California. However, what many people don’t know is that when Wozniak designed the first prototype of the Apple I personal computer, he wasn’t working for Apple, but for HP. In fact, Wozniak proposed the idea for the Apple I to executives at HP and was rejected not once, not twice, but five separate times.

As painful as it must be for the executives at HP to look back on the episode with Wozniak, their experience isn’t an anomaly. In fact, history is full of examples of companies that overlooked or even rejected what turned out to be lucrative business ventures. Just look at how Blockbuster passed on an opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000, how AT&T decided it wasn’t worth investing in personal cellphones in the early 1980s, or how telecommunications executives laughed at Mo Ibrahim in the late 1990s when he proposed building a cellular network in Africa. The list goes on.

“You win some and you lose some,” HP cofounder Bill Hewlett later remarked about the company’s missed opportunity with the personal computer. But were HP’s executives simply unlucky? Or did something actually prevent them from seeing the opportunity in front of them, causing them to repeatedly pass on the idea?

Richard Askey


Richard Allen “Dick” Askey, of Madison, passed away on Oct. 9, 2019, at age 86. He was born to Philip E. Askey and Bessie May Askey on June 4, 1933, in St. Louis, Mo. Dick devoted his life’s work to mathematics and improving K-12 math education. He joined the University of Wisconsin Mathematics department in 1963 and retired in 2003. Dick was the world’s foremost authority on Special Functions. He traveled the world giving talks on mathematics and teaching the work of the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. In the 1968/69 academic year, Dick worked in Amsterdam and brought his family. Dick helped many mathematicians around the world with their careers. He was a man of integrity and lived his life to help others and share knowledge.

My first meeting with Dick began with these words: “there are some things you should know”.

Notes and links on Dick Askey.

The cautionary tale of Hampshire College and the broken business model of American higher education

Eliza Gray:

Two days before classes started at Hampshire College in September, the school’s incoming first-year students — all 13 of them — attended a welcome reception in the campus’s new R.W. Kern Center. A motley mix of plaids, khakis and combat boots, the group lined up to shake hands with the college president and receive small bells — symbols of the large brass bell they’ll ring upon completing their “Division III,” the epic independent project required to graduate. If, that is, Hampshire survives long enough for them to graduate.

Nine months earlier, the Massachusetts college — mired in financial trouble — had launched a search for a partner to merge with and announced that it might not admit a new freshman class in the fall. Coming after a series of mergers and closures of New England schools, the announcement provoked alarm in the world of higher ed. Eventually, Hampshire offered a place to 70-odd students it had accepted early or who had taken a gap year before enrolling — but warned that there was no guarantee it would stay open.

Judge: District Wrongly Put Student In Special Needs Program To Avoid State Testing

Ryan McKinnon:

An administrative law judge ruled this week that the School District of Sarasota denied a student of a “free and appropriate public education” by forcing him into a specialized program for students with the lowest IQ’s for the majority of his time in elementary and middle school.

The judge also ruled that the school district must cover the cost of intensive tutoring and private school to help “DJ,” the student in question, make up for more than six years of lost time.

“The district failed to provide an appropriate education to the student for over six years,” administrative law judge Diane Cleavinger wrote in her findings.

“The Internet of creation disappeared. Now we have the Internet of surveillance and control”

Karma Peiro:

Three decades ago, the Internet promised to be a democratising place to be turned to in the flight from the inequalities of the analogue world. It was presented to us a field in which to find freedoms, boundless creation, communication that transcended frontiers and free education for all. “We were promised an open Internet – and it was a trap”, says Renata Ávila, annoyed. “We believed that we were building something collective, but we ended up being the unsalaried slaves of the new digital world”. We take advantage of the awarding of the CCCB III Cultural Innovation International Prize, to talk with one of the most influential and lucid voices in the world of technology and human rights.

Melee at Oakland school board meeting as teachers jump barrier, clash with cops

Victor Skinner:

Teachers and parents in Oakland are crying police brutality after they stormed a recent school board meeting to protest privatization and charter schools in the district.

Oakland Unified School District officials erected metal barriers between the public and school board members ahead of a meeting Wednesday after several prior protests, but the temporary structures weren’t enough to hold back the mob of parents, teachers, and union members who easily blasted past and stormed the stage, the East Bay Times reports.

More than dozen police officers and security guards attempted to keep the crowd under control with billy clubs and pepper spray. Officers eventually arrested six of the protestors, including some who are now alleging police attacked unprovoked and left them with serious injuries.

Federal Prosecutors Are Punishing Actor Lori Loughlin for Exercising Her Right To Defend Herself

Scott Shackford:

Department of Justice attorneys turned the screws on actor Lori Loughlin and 10 other parents this week by bringing new charges against them for attempting to use their wealth to buy their kids spots at selective colleges.

The new charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering, filed Tuesday, came just a day after four other parents caught up in the “Varsity Blues” scandal accepted plea deals in Boston. This is not a coincidence. As USA Today’s reporting makes abundantly clear, the parents who pleaded guilty did so because prosecutors had threatened them with these additional charges. Loughlin and the other parents face harsher criminal punishment now entirely because they are insisting on their innocence:

How meritocracy harms everyone — even the winners

Sean Illing:

Here’s a clarifying stat: At two Ivy League schools that Markovits surveyed, “the share of students from households in the top quintile of the income distribution exceeds the share from the bottom two quintiles combined by a ratio of about three and a half to one.” The point: Meritocracy is a mechanism for transferring wealth from one generation to the next. Call that what you want, but you can’t call it fair or impartial.

What makes Markovits’s book so interesting is that he doesn’t just condemn meritocracy as unfair for non-elites; he argues that it’s actually bad for the people benefiting from it. The “trap” of meritocracy ensnares all of us, he says, in ways that make life less satisfying for everyone.

I spoke to Markovits about how meritocracy works, what it’s doing to us, and what a post-meritocratic society might look like. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Americans Need to Get Over Their Fear of Math

Siam Beilock:

In a competitive global market, careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are continuing their meteoric rise in strategic importance, making America’s long-documented math phobia more of a liability than ever. If math-capable students shy away from careers involving calculation and computation, that weakens the U.S. workforce and hurts its position in a global economy.

Math anxiety is a nagging fear of or apprehension about math, and it affects the classes college students select and the careers they pursue. As a cognitive scientist, I am concerned that it prevents students who otherwise have the ability to succeed in STEM from doing so. And as president of Barnard College, a school focused on empowering young women, I also worry about the fact that girls and women tend to have more math anxiety and are less confident in their math abilities than boys, which probably helps explain why they continue to be underrepresented in many STEM fields.

Math anxiety starts at a young age for both sexes. My research team and I found that as early as first and second grade, nearly half of students indicate they are “moderately nervous” to “very, very nervous” about math. In the United States, it is estimated that a quarter of students attending four-year colleges experience moderate or high levels of math anxiety. And one study found that, for 11% of American university students, the anxiety is severe enough to warrant counseling.

The subversive practice of a canonical composer.

Ted Gigi’s:

You can hardly find a more sanctioned and orthodox insider than Johann Sebastian Bach, at least as he is typically presented. He is commemorated as the sober bewigged Lutheran who labored for church authorities and nobility, offering up hundreds of cantatas, fugues, orchestral works, and other compositions for the glory of God. Yet the real-life Bach was very different from this cardboard figure. In fact, he provides a striking case study in how prickly dissidents in the history of classical music get transformed into conformist establishment figures by posterity.

“Suppose instead we start to view him as an unlikely rebel,” suggests conductor John Eliot Gardiner in his revisionist study Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven. Musicologist Laurence Dreyfus, in a spirited 2011 lecture, even goes so far as to label our stolid church composer “Bach the Subversive.” Yet there is tremendous pushback to those who dare taint the atmosphere of respectability and propriety attached to this towering figure, a cultural icon who remains, even today, the poster boy for “serious music.” Amidst the celebrations linked to the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death in 2000, Bach scholar Robert L. Marshall sounded a cautionary tone when admitting that the availability of new information demands a reinterpretation of the composer’s life and works, but he and his fellow experts were “avoiding this challenge and we knew it.” As Dreyfus has pointed out, much of the current writing on Bach comes across as if it is “modeled on the lives of saints.”

Math Breakthrough Speeds Supercomputer Simulations


Simulated virus
Simulation of a virus particle created with LAMMPS molecular dynamics software. New work from UC Davis will allow faster and more accurate simulations of atoms and molecules. (Image by Eindhoven University of Technology via Sandia National Lab.)
One of the new algorithms has been incorporated into the Sandia National Laboratory molecular dynamics suite, LAMMPS, which is used worldwide for studies in biochemistry, materials science and other fields.

Newton’s equations describe how systems change over time. In the early twentieth century, physicist Paul Langevin developed equations that add friction and noise to Newton’s equations in order to describe a system in thermal balance. But it was only with the development of computers that it became practical to use these equations to study how large ensembles of atoms and molecules behave. That methodology, called molecular dynamics, was pioneered by, among others, Edward Teller and Bernie Alder of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the UC Davis Department of Applied Science.

Molecular dynamics simulations are now widely used in applications such as materials science and pharmaceutical research.

Biological male wins women’s cycling world championship for 2nd consecutive year


Transgender athlete Rachel McKinnon defended her sprint title at the Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester.

The 37-year-old, competing in the female 35-39 sprint category, had set a new world best time in qualifying.

The Canadian beat American Dawn Orwick for the gold, with Denmark’s Kirsten Herup Sovang claiming the bronze.

McKinnon’s victory adds to the silver she won in the 500m time trial earlier this week.

On “Quantum Supremacy”

Edwin Pednault, John Gunnels, and Jay Gambetta:

Quantum computers are starting to approach the limit of classical simulation and it is important that we continue to benchmark progress and to ask how difficult they are to simulate. This is a fascinating scientific question.

Recent advances in quantum computing have resulted in two 53-qubit processors: one from our group in IBM and a device described in the leaked preprint from Google. In the preprint, it is argued that their device reached “quantum supremacy” and that “a state-of-the-art supercomputer would require approximately 10,000 years to perform the equivalent task.” We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity. This is in fact a conservative, worst-case estimate, and we expect that with additional refinements the classical cost of the simulation can be further reduced.

Because the original meaning of the term “quantum supremacy,” as proposed by John Preskill in 2012, was to describe the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers can’t, this threshold has not been met.
This particular notion of “quantum supremacy” is based on executing a random quantum circuit of a size infeasible for simulation with any available classical computer.

Specifically, the preprint shows a computational experiment over a 53-qubit quantum processor that implements an impressively large two-qubit gate quantum circuit of depth 20, with 430 two-qubit and 1,113 single-qubit gates, and with predicted total fidelity of 0.2%. Their classical simulation estimate of 10,000 years is based on the observation that the RAM memory requirement to store the full state vector in a Schrödinger-type simulation would be prohibitive, and thus one needs to resort to a Schrödinger-Feynman simulation that trades off space for time.

The concept of “quantum supremacy” showcases the resources unique to quantum computers, such as direct access to entanglement and superposition. However, classical computers have resources of their own such as a hierarchy of memories and high-precision computations in hardware, various software assets, and a vast knowledge base of algorithms, and it is important to leverage all such capabilities when comparing quantum to classical.

Geometry, Algebra, and Intuition

Jason Merrill:

I have a confession to make: I have always found symbolic algebra more intuitive than geometric pictures. I think you’re supposed to feel the opposite way, and I greatly admire people who think and communicate in pictures, but for me, it’s usually a struggle.

For example, I have seen many pictorial “proofs without words” of the Pythagorean Theorem. I find some of them to be quite beautiful, but I also often find them difficult to unpack, and I never really think “oh, I could have come up with that myself.”

Here’s Pythagoras’ own proofImage by William B. Faulk, lifted from the Pythagorean Theorem Wikipedia Page. It’s worth looking at some of the many other visual proofs given there.:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

Derek Thompson:

T The idea that companies like Uber and WeWork and DoorDash don’t make a profit might come as a shock to the many people who spend a fair amount of their take-home pay each month on ride-hailing, shared office space, or meal delivery.

There is a simple explanation for why they’re not making money. The answer, for finance people, has to do with something called “unit economics.” Normal people should think of it like this: Am I getting ripped off by these companies, or am I kinda-sorta ripping them off? In many cases, the answer is the latter.
Let’s say you buy a subscription to a meal-kit company, which sends you fresh ingredients and recipes to cook at home. You pay $100 a month. The ingredients are tasty, so you renew for the second month. And the third. But by the fourth month, you’ve decided that you’ve learned enough basic tricks around the kitchen to handle roasted chicken or sautéed cod by yourself. You cancel the subscription.

Your lifetime value to this company is $400—or $100 for four months. Since you quit, the meal-kit company has to find the next “you” to keep growing. So they advertise on podcasts. Let’s say that, on average, this company can expect to add 100 new users if it spends $50,000 on podcast advertising—or $500 per new user.

If the company spends millions on podcast ads, its user base and revenue base will grow and grow. Outside analysts will gasp and marvel: This meal-kit thing is on fire! But look closer: If it costs $500 to add a new user, and the typical marginal user—like you—only spends $400 on meal kits, there is no path to profitability. The road leads to the red.

Madison’s $500M taxpayer supported school district plans a substantial tax increase via 2020 referendum.

Politifact joins the Wisconsin Reading mulligan party

Wisconsin’s new Governor, Democrat Tony Evers, recently acknowledged his support for thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge exam mulligans.

Now comes Politifact:

As proof, Thiesfeldt’s staff pointed to the most recent Wisconsin Student Assessment System results. The annual tests include the Forward Exam for grades three to eight and ACT-related tests for grades nine to 11.

In the 2018-19 tests, 39.3% of students were rated as proficient or advanced in English Language Arts, and 40.1% reached those levels for math, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

For starters, calling 60% the “vast majority” is overstating things quite a bit.

But let’s focus on the “grade level” part of Thiesfeldt’s claim. Is it reasonable to say anyone below proficient is also below grade level?

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Politifact is correct to say that proficiency on state txams don not necessarily align with grade level performance, a nebulous term which means different things at different times in different contexts. This means Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt was technically incorrect when he equated the two during a radio interview.


But Thiesfeldt was not being technical. He was not having a conversation about psychometrics and cut-scores, how to set them and how to anchor them from one year to the next so scores can be compared over time. He was making the point that we’re not doing very well. He was pointing to the bar and making sure we know how few students get over it. We can forgive him If that complex story is hard to tell in the kind of one sentence sound bites the media both requires and then dissects.

It might help to know that before 2013, before we were required to set our categorical cut-scores for proficient. advanced, etc., at new, more rigorous levels aligned with national standards.

Wisconsin set them at laughably low levels. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel missed this part of the story when it reviewed

The Wisconsin Department of Public instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements (Foundations of Reading, based on Massachusetts’ best in the States MTEL requirement)

“the majority of ALL 11th-grade students in Madison read and write below basic proficiency. Translated: they are functionally illiterate.

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

More on our long term, disastrous reading results, here.

“an emphasis on adult employment”.

‘We have a blind spot about how the pill influences women’s brains’

Zoe Corbyn:

We know a lot about the small but serious health risks associated with the pill – things like stroke and blood clots. Why have we been kept in the dark about the effects on the brain?
Until very recently, there has been little research. And the research that is out there doctors often aren’t aware of because it isn’t being published in the medical journals they look at, but rather in psychology and neuroscience journals. Then society has taboos about talking about it. The best defence against the sexist notion that women’s hormones make them less rational than men seemed to be to deny hormonal involvement in the brain. And the pill is so useful, no one is motivated to examine it too critically. But our hormones, especially our sex hormones, are a key part of what creates the experience of feeling like ourselves. And talking critically about the pill doesn’t mean that the benefits aren’t going to outweigh the cost. It’s not antithetical to women’s rights to talk about this stuff.

A record number of colleges drop SAT/ACT admissions requirement amid growing disenchantment with standardized tests

Valerie Strauss:

For students who fear they can’t get into college with mediocre SAT or ACT scores, the tide is turning at a record number of schools that have decided to accept all or most of their freshmen without requiring test results.

Meanwhile, two Ivy League schools have decided that many of their graduate school programs do not need a test score for admissions, fresh evidence of growing disenchantment among educational institutions with using high-stakes tests as a factor in accepting and rejecting students.

Seattle Public Schools Will Start Teaching That Math Is Oppressive

Robby Soave:

Math is a deeply frustrating subject for many elementary and high school students. But Seattle public schools are gearing up to accuse math of a litany of more serious crimes: imperialism, dehumanization, and oppression of marginalized persons.

The district has proposed a new social justice-infused curriculum that would focus on “power and oppression” and “history of resistance and liberation” within the field of mathematics. The curriculum isn’t mandatory, but provides a resource for teachers who want to introduce ethnic studies into the classroom vis a vis math. According to Education Week:

Discovery Math and the Seattle Public Schools.

New Jersey Plans to Reduce Standardized Testing

Raven Santana:

In an almost unanimous vote, the New Jersey State Board of Education advanced a proposal that would reduce the number of standardized tests and graduation requirements for high school students.

Under the measure, math and English exams would be eliminated for 10th graders starting for the class of 2023, and instead of 11th graders taking two tests, which they do currently, the state would create one test that would include English 10, algebra 1 and geometry.

The proposal received a mixed reaction yesterday from board members, including board president Kathy Goldenberg, who said that while adding geometry is a compromise, she is concerned that without certain requirements some skills could fall by the wayside.

“This assessment that we just agreed to eliminate is a three-hour test in mathematics and an end-of-course assessment and a three-hour test in language arts,” said Goldenberg. “I find it interesting that six hours of a student’s life within their junior year is too much to look as a state, which is our responsibility on the state board, to see how we’re doing delivering information.”

The Harvard Crimson on Journalism

Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume:

A few days after the event, Act on a Dream and others expressed disagreement with The Crimson’s request for comment to ICE. It is our practice to meet with student groups whenever they have questions or concerns about our coverage, and — as a result — we contacted Act on a Dream shortly after seeing their criticisms on social media. We met with them to listen to their concerns and share our perspective by explaining our policies and the fundamental journalistic principles behind them.

A week later, Act on a Dream published a petition calling on The Crimson to change its policies so that it never contacts ICE for comment again and apologize for the “harm [it] inflicted on the undocumented community.” In this, the organization has called on other student groups to boycott speaking to The Crimson until the paper complies with their demands.

At stake here, we believe, is one of the core tenets that defines America’s free and independent press: the right — and prerogative — of reporters to contact any person or organization relevant to a story to seek that entity’s comment and view of what transpired. This ensures the article is as thorough, balanced, and unbiased toward any particular viewpoint as possible. A world where news outlets categorically refuse to contact certain kinds of sources — a world where news outlets let third-party groups dictate the terms of their coverage — is a less informed, less accurate, and ultimately less democratic world.

School inclusion failed 15-year-old Jayden Moore, but he has finally found a place he belongs

Vanessa Blanch:

When Jayden was in Grade 5, Roberts said, she had no choice but to quit her job to stay home with her son. He was spending most of his school day in a seclusion room, or else the principal was calling her to pick him up because of his poor behaviour​​​​​​.

Roberts explained that while her son scored in the 98th percentile in testing for block design, which measures your ability to mentally manipulate both two and three-dimensional figures, his overall processing speed was so slow it couldn’t be measured.

Parents stand up to the failing education establishment and win

Will Swaim:

State testing shows that Palm Lane Elementary School students are performing at levels unthinkable just one year ago. In 13 of 14 learning categories, students showed improvement for the first time in more than 10 years. In many cases, these gains were significant, with up to 41 percent increases in academic achievement.

There’s a simple reason for this radical turnaround. A little more than a year ago, Palm Lane transformed from a neighborhood school, under the influence of the powerful California Teachers Association, into a non-union, independent public charter school.

Unlike traditional schools, charter schools aren’t straitjacketed by union work rules. They’re accountable to just one constituency, parents — not district staff, teachers unions, activists, or district trustees who do the unions’ bidding.

Restoring ancient text using deep learning: a case study on Greek epigraphy

Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield, Jonathan Prag:

Ancient history relies on disciplines such as epigraphy, the study of ancient inscribed texts, for evidence of the recorded past. However, these texts, “inscriptions”, are often damaged over the centuries, and illegible parts of the text must be restored by specialists, known as epigraphists. This work presents Pythia, the first ancient text restoration model that recovers missing characters from a damaged text input using deep neural networks. Its architecture is carefully designed to handle long-term context information, and deal efficiently with missing or corrupted character and word representations. To train it, we wrote a non-trivial pipeline to convert PHI, the largest digital corpus of ancient Greek inscriptions, to machine actionable text, which we call PHI-ML. On PHI-ML, Pythia’s predictions achieve a 30.1% character error rate, compared to the 57.3% of human epigraphists. Moreover, in 73.5% of cases the ground-truth sequence was among the Top-20 hypotheses of Pythia, which effectively demonstrates the impact of this assistive method on the field of digital epigraphy, and sets the state-of-the-art in ancient text restoration.


Under digital surveillance: how American schools spy on millions of kids

Lois Beckett:

The new school surveillance technology doesn’t turn off when the school day is over: anything students type in official school email accounts, chats or documents is monitored 24 hours a day, whether students are in their classrooms or their bedrooms.

Tech companies are also working with schools to monitor students’ web searches and internet usage, and, in some cases, to track what they are writing on public social media accounts.

Parents and students are still largely unaware of the scope and intensity of school surveillance, privacy experts say, even as the market for these technologies has grown rapidly, fueled by fears of school shootings, particularly in the wake of the Parkland shooting in February 2018, which left 17 people dead.

Digital surveillance is just one part of a booming, nearly $3bn-a-year school security industry in the United States, where Republican lawmakers have blocked any substantial gun control legislation for a quarter century.

“Schools feel massive pressure to demonstrate that they’re doing something to keep kids safe. This is something they can spend money on, roll out and tell parents, this is what we’re doing,” said Chad Marlow, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Unlike gun control, Marlow said, “Surveillance is politically palatable, and so they’re pursuing surveillance as a way you can demonstrate action, even though there’s no evidence that it will positively impact the problem.”

Civics: Catalonia has created a new kind of online activism. Everyone should pay attention

Laurie Clark:

Getting access to the app isn’t the most straight forward. It isn’t available through Android’s Play Store or on Apple’s App Store. Instead, you have to download an APK file (an Android Package file used to distribute applications on Google’s Android operating system) from the website, and manually install it on your phone. The software doesn’t work on iPhones because Apple’s iOS has stricter safeguards in place.

The installation process may be used to avoid the chance that big tech firms remove it from app stores following pressure from the government, the exact fate that befell a Hong Kong protest organising app. It also allowed whoever developed the app to keep their identity more private than if they had published their creation through an official app store.

There’s more. To ensure the app remains in the hands of genuine protestors, rather than police or other infiltrators, users can only access it through a QR code from someone who is already a member of the network. Each person who joins receives ten QR codes to invite others.

Civics: Elections and political class rhetoric

Matt Taibbi:

Less than a week before Clinton’s outburst, the New York Times — once a symbol of stodgy, hyper-cautious reporting — ran a feature called, “What, Exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?” The piece speculated about the “suspicious activity” surrounding Gabbard’s campaign, using quotes from the neoconservative think-tank, the Alliance For Securing Democracy, to speculate about Gabbard’s Russian support.

This was the second such article the Times had written. An August piece, “Tulsi Gabbard thinks we’re doomed,“ hit nearly all the same talking points, quoting Clint Watts, an ex-spook from the same think-tank, calling Gabbard “the Kremlin’s preferred Democrat” and a “useful agent of influence.” The Times article echoed earlier pieces by the Daily Beast and that said many of the same things.

After Clinton gave the “Russian asset” interview, it seemed for a moment like America’s commentariat might tiptoe away from the topic. Hillary Clinton has been through a lot over the course of a career, and even detractors would say she’s earned latitude to go loonybiscuits every now and then. A few of the Democratic presidential candidates, like Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang, gently chided Clinton for her remarks. But when Gabbard (who’s similarly been through a brutal media ordeal) snapped back and called Hillary “Queen of the warmongers,” and Donald Trump followed by calling Clinton “crazy,” most pundits doubled down on the “asset” idea.

Reason Won’t Save Us

Robert Burton:

n wondering what can be done to steer civilization away from the abyss, I confess to being increasingly puzzled by the central enigma of contemporary cognitive psychology: To what degree are we consciously capable of changing our minds? I don’t mean changing our minds as to who is the best NFL quarterback, but changing our convictions about major personal and social issues that should unite but invariably divide us. As a senior neurologist whose career began before CAT and MRI scans, I have come to feel that conscious reasoning, the commonly believed remedy for our social ills, is an illusion, an epiphenomenon supported by age-old mythology rather than convincing scientific evidence.

If so, it’s time for us to consider alternate ways of thinking about thinking that are more consistent with what little we do understand about brain function. I’m no apologist for artificial intelligence, but if we are going to solve the world’s greatest problems, there are several major advantages in abandoning the notion of conscious reason in favor of seeing humans as having an AI-like “black-box” intelligence.

Facebook and Speech: It’s All About Power


Here we are again in 2019 debating speech online and specifically the case of Facebook. Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown trying to invoke the civil rights movement and to draw a sharp distinction to China. Warren quickly fires back on Twitter. Pundits everywhere weigh in. And yet hardly anyone gets to the heart of the matter: power. And those who are mostly stuck in industrial age thinking recommending a traditional antitrust approach to limiting power.

Here are the two big traps people appear to be caught in, both of which are a result of applying the past to the future. The first trap is the publisher versus carrier dichotomy. This made sense in the age of the printed newspaper and the telephone network of yesteryear. Facebook is a different animal and trying to put it into one of these boxes will always result in some ridiculous conclusion and yet people persist in doing so.

The second trap is misunderstanding network effects. Yes, one absolutely could split Facebook into Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook proper. And yes that would on the margin reduce Facebook’s power. But each of these three separate networks would still be ridiculously powerful in its own right and so would be Twitter and whatever new networks are yet to come. Network effects are endemic to the digital realm.

Chicago Teachers Strike Should Be a Warning


The city of Chicago offered the teachers union a 16% base-pay raise extending over five years, but that wasn’t enough for the CTU. No, they want a 15% raise over three years. They also want every school to have nurses, social workers, and librarians, along with more special education paras and personnel.

But it’s not about the money. No, these purer-than-the-driven-snow professionals care only about the children. Said one striking teacher:

“This strike is not about money. This strike is over better schools for our own children and our students.”

Right. And if you believe that, let me give you a sweet deal on the Willis Tower. I’ll even throw in Wrigley Field, too.

Chicago taxpayers spend 15 to 25% less per student than Madison, depending on the district documents reviewed.

Madison K-12 Achievement Data @ LaFollette 2020 Referendum Presentation

The presentation included assertions on redistributed state taxpayer dollars sent to Madison (2010 – 2019 data available here).

The presentation did not mention total Madison K-12 spending , nor the implications of spending increase referendums on local property taxes and redistributed state taxpayer funds. In essence, the more a local school district exceeds state revenue limits, the less statewide funds they receive. Nonetheless, redistributed state taxpayer funds have grown over the past decade (note that there has been a reduction in Madison’s increase due to our tax and spending growth practices, via a number of referendums).

Notes on the above from Kelly Ruppel, the Madison School District CFO:

We are a -15% aid loss district, primarily driven by Madison’s equalized property value growth impact on the equalization aid formula. -15% loss is the maximum allowable; therefore, the referendum would not likely cause us to lose any more state aid funding, rather in either scenario we are quite likely to still be -15% loss.

I appreciate Ms. Ruppel’s words. I wonder how much the property value growth has contributed to this vs. previous referenda?

Presentation handouts (PDF).

Total 2019 – 2020 taxpayer spending is “around $500,000,000” (About $18,500 per student) according to the District’s Chief Financial Officer’s [bio] response to a question.

Madison supports 13,573 elementary, 5,479 middle and 7,862 high school students (26,914 total).

A presenter [org chart] further mentioned that Madison spends about $1 per square foot in annual budget maintenance while Milwaukee is about $2.

Milwaukee taxpayers plan to spend $1.2B for 75,234 students, or $15,950 per student, about 16% less than Madison.

The referendum website.

Mission vs organization notes:

Commentary and Data on Madison’s High School Graduation Data.

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


invent Caruso:

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson earns the baseline $85,000 salary each county board member receives. On top of that, Johnson, whose county district covers areas of the west side of Chicago, has simultaneously collected a second full-time income of at least $103,000 from the Chicago Teachers Union, according to federal filings. Between the union and county, Johnson collects at least $188,000 annually.

CTU’s most recent federal filing, covering the period from July 2018 through June 2019, lists Johnson as a “legislative” employee. The filing shows 94% of his duties involved “representational activities.”

Johnson’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Illinois Policy Institute.

Status Quo Vs “The Democratization of Education“

Jonathan Siddharth:

And there’s another reason, also technology-driven, why boundaryless teams are possible now — the democratization of education for software engineers.

Almost every university that matters now allows exclusively online education. You can attend Stanford from Nigeria or Oxford from El Salvador. The smartest companies have expanded their recruiting pool to the planet; institutions of higher learning have done the same. They’re leading the revolution. They’ve not only leveraged the same technologies that we do; in some areas, they’ve jumped well ahead.

And there are technology startups that have focused on disrupting and democratizing education. A number of these, like Lambda School, have focused exclusively on preparing students for careers in software development. In other words, highly qualified people are distributed more broadly than ever. Provided you know how to find and then manage them — a topic we’ll be digging into in detail in an upcoming post.

MOOCs like Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy have unbundled university content to make education more accessible on a global scale.

Meanwhile taxpayer supported Madison K-12 school district spends more than most despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Civics: money, influence, Policy And spending more in Madison

Matt Stoller:

And all the time, whether in farm country or steel country, the closed independent shop and the collapsed bank were as much monuments to the new political order as the sprouting number of Walmarts and the blizzard of junk-mail credit cards from Citibank. As Terkel put it, “In the thirties, an Administration recognized a need and lent a hand. Today, an Administration recognizes an image and lends a smile.”

Regional inequality widened, as airlines cut routes to rural, small, and even medium-sized cities. So did income inequality, the emptying farm towns, the hollowing of manufacturing as executives began searching for any way to be in any business but one that made things in America. It wasn’t just the smog and the poverty, the consumerism, the debt, and the shop-till-you-drop ethos. It was the profound hopelessness.

Within academic and political institutions, Americans were taught to believe their longing for freedom was immoral. Power was re-centralizing on Wall Street, in corporate monopolies, in shopping malls, in the way they paid for the new consumer goods made abroad, in where they worked and shopped. Yet policymakers, reading from the scripts prepared by Chicago School of Economics “experts,” spoke of these changes as natural, “scientific,” a result of consumer preferences, not the concentration of power.

Madison’s property tax base has benefited enormously from influence (Obama stimulus) and federal taxpayer largesse through a nearly $40 billion electronic medical records back door subsidy.

Our taxpayer supported K-12 school district spends far more than most, yet we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

It appears that the property tax base will be further leveraged.

Coalition alleges Taxpayer supported Racine school district ‘completely left out’ community in planning


A local education coalition is planning to file a complaint with the state alleging that the Racine Unified School District failed to include the community in its planning processes and didn’t follow federal requirements as a result.

Representatives of the group planning to file the complaint, the Racine Community Coalition for Public Schools — which is comprised of teachers, retired educators, the local teachers union, the National Education Association, parents and community members — said that the district is required to use community input when crafting its Every Student Succeeds Act-Local Educational Agency plan; that 24-page plan is essentially the outline of objectives and educational methodology intended to guide the whole district.

“We know best” is

Anatomy of the city’s rampant educational fraud

Bob McManus:

Edelman reports that, according to the rules, students must “meet class standards” to earn graduation credits, never mind that “standards” in city schools are notoriously undemanding. And when an actual classroom presence is not among them, you get the idea.

In practice, kids who miss weeks, sometimes months, of classes can sashay in at the last minute, do some perfunctory makeup work and then they are good to go for graduation.

Where they go from there is an open question. Some might go to Harvard or other elite colleges and universities, of course, but damned few do. Most go on to sad lives — functionally illiterate, innumerate and pretty much incapable of meaningful participation in the modern economy.

Stop helicoptering other people’s kids

Larol Markowicz:

By the time I was 9, growing up in a far more dangerous Brooklyn than is home to my children, I was going to the movies alone — and sometimes taking my 4-year-old brother with me.

My daughter spent days planning her mostly rainbow outfit. They were going to one of those fancy new theaters, the Nitehawk in Prospect Park, the kind where they take your ticket at your seat and you can eat a meal while you watch a film. She had perused the menu online and concluded she wanted a burger. I taught her about tipping and how to calculate 20 percent off the ­total. I walked the girls to their seats and left. She was ready.

“Multiculturalism has failed”

Sabine Siebold:

She said too little had been required of immigrants in the past and repeated her usual line that they should learn German in order to get by in school and have opportunities on the labor market.

The debate over foreigners in Germany has shifted since former central banker Thilo Sarrazin published a book accusing Muslim immigrants of lowering the intelligence of German society.

Sarrazin was censured for his views and dismissed from the Bundesbank, but his book proved highly popular and polls showed a majority of Germans agreed with the thrust of his arguments.

Regulatory Environment: State Mandated Entrepreneurship

Christian Britschgi:

Companies in San Francisco might soon to be required to get a permission slip from the city before rolling out their new innovations in public spaces.

On Tuesday, Norman Yee, president of the city’s Board of Supervisors, introduced a bill that would create the Office of Emerging Technology (OET). Entrepreneurs looking to deploy any emerging technology “upon, above, or below” city properties or public rights-of-way would need to first obtain a pilot permit from the OET’s director.

“As a city, we must ensure that such technologies ultimately result in a net common good and that we evaluate the costs and benefits so that our residents, workers and visitors are not unwittingly made guinea pigs of new tech,” said Yee in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Over the years San Francisco’s tech companies have deployed all kinds of inventions in public spaces, including package delivery robots and dockless electric scooters. But because these innovations were, well, innovative, no specific rules initially existed to govern their use.

That has irritated city residents and officials who’ve resented new vehicles popping up in public space without specific rules governing their operation.

Naturally, city officials have scrambled to create what they consider to be appropriate regulations, which has proved chaotic and heavy-handed. To smooth out this process, Yee has proposed the OET as a sort of regulatory catchall department that will tailor regulations for each new innovation before they hit city streets.

NYU Shanghai campus ‘self-censoring, politically neutral’ on Hong Kong: faculty

Jay Levine:

School is back in session for NYU students in Shanghai, China, but one subject that won’t be on the syllabus is pro-democracy protests sweeping Hong Kong.

NYU faculty in China and New York say the issue is a third rail, particularly after the international imbroglio caused by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the demonstrators.

“Everyone is under a bit of a cloud of fear,” one faculty member who teaches at NYU’s sprawling 600,000-square-foot Shanghai campus told The Post. “We don’t walk around trembling like rodents, but there is a general idea that there are certain topics you don’t discuss.

“Most of us are on guard about what we say even when we talk about the weather,” the faculty member continued, saying that student protests at the Shanghai campus would be unthinkable.

How big a deal was the Industrial Revolution?

Luke Muehlhauser:

The gains in human well-being observed since the industrial revolution are vastly larger than pre-industrial fluctuations in human well-being. No other transitions in recorded history, either positive or negative, are remotely similar in magnitude. When thinking about which future developments might be most important, we should not forget that the size of their likely impact may differ by orders of magnitude. For example, a universal cure for cancer would bring a huge benefit to human well-being, but its expected impact seems likely to be vastly smaller than (for example) the likely impact of AI systems capable of automating most human labor, or the counterfactual benefit of preventing large-scale nuclear war.

‘Dream Bus’ brings library to Madison schools

Scott Girard:

It’s also a good lesson in responsibility, Schwab said, as students have to remember to bring their library card on the day the bus is coming.

Herold noted the availability of bilingual books on the bus, whose staffers speak Spanish. That allows the staff and bus to be a resource for the families of the more than 450 English Learner students at the three Madison schools.

It’s a great example of what opportunities a community school can create, Gittens said, and it was quickly appreciated by the students who have used it so far.

“Rather than families having to go and hunt for resources, we try to bring those resources here,” she said. “For a lot of them, it was just this sense of feeling lucky that this was for them.”

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Literacy: The Forgotten Social Justice Issue

Jasmine Lane:

In 2017, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that sixty percent of children nationwide are not reading proficiently. If we look to the disaggregated data by race, it becomes even more stark. Though these levels of proficiency have not improved in the last 30 years, we’ve been made to believe that tests don’t matter. That tests are racist and cannot accurately measure what our students know. We can call tests racist (the people making them might be), and inaccurate measures of achievement (they actually measure general knowledge), but overall, what has this amounted to? A lowering of expectations across the board.

A school can earn a designation of *high-performing with just 60% of its students on grade level. This means that 40% of the school is not reading and comprehending texts proficiently. Which 40% of our children don’t deserve to read?

A public school in my neighborhood has approximately 34% of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading, yet is categorized as “changing the odds” for African-American students. 70% of Black children in this school are still struggling to read, but this is the best choice that parents have for instruction in the area.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Tik tok app, Data Mining, PrivaCy and ChIna

John Robb:

The things @tiktok_us does and will be doing with your kids data would make @facebook blush.

You have to be insane to let your kids use that app.

Taylor Lorenz fails to address the global privacy issues for students and parents.

The push to improve teacher effectiveness has cooled off. That’s not necessarily bad.

Alan Borsuk:

The council on teacher quality is clearly correct that there’s been a national retreat from once-touted ways of improving teachers. Is that good or bad? The answer might lie in states such as Wisconsin and in finding out whether easing up on high-stakes judging of teachers brings more cooperation and success — or not much real change.

Related: The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands Of elementary reading teacher mulligans.

This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

Machines Beat Humans on a Reading Test. But Do They Understand?

Jon Fox:

“That was definitely the ‘oh, crap’ moment,” Bowman recalled, using a more colorful interjection. “The general reaction in the field was incredulity. BERT was getting numbers on many of the tasks that were close to what we thought would be the limit of how well you could do.” Indeed, GLUE didn’t even bother to include human baseline scores before BERT; by the time Bowman and one of his Ph.D. students added them to GLUE in February 2019, they lasted just a few months before a BERT-based system from Microsoft beat them.

As of this writing, nearly every position on the GLUE leaderboard is occupied by a system that incorporates, extends or optimizes BERT. Five of these systems outrank human performance.

But is AI actually starting to understand our language — or is it just getting better at gaming our systems? As BERT-based neural networks have taken benchmarks like GLUE by storm, new evaluation methods have emerged that seem to paint these powerful NLP systems as computational versions of Clever Hans, the early 20th-century horse who seemed smart enough to do arithmetic, but who was actually just following unconscious cues from his trainer.

“We know we’re somewhere in the gray area between solving language in a very boring, narrow sense, and solving AI,” Bowman said. “The general reaction of the field was: Why did this happen? What does this mean? What do we do now?”

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

Commentary on facebook and fRee speech

Siva Vaidhyanathan:

However, Zuckerberg himself argued against free speech in his own speech. He defended Facebook’s practice of removing or impeding the circulation of material he considers noxious, such as pornography and hate speech.

Now, that’s a fine policy (even if it fails in practice) because a company should do what’s good for the company and its users. No advertiser wants to see its brand associated with the worst that human beings can produce.

Baltimore County Schools Destroyed Accounting Records Amid High Profile Procurement Audit and Directive to Stop all Record Destruction

Ann Constantino:

In the midst of a high profile and widely anticipated procurement audit last year, employees from Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) had over 53,000 lbs. of accounting documents from its fiscal services file room destroyed, a windowless storage-room-turned-office in its Business Administration building.

This, according to information provided by BCPS in response to a direct request, specifically seeking a log detailing which records had been removed from the room, purportedly first scanned and then destroyed.

Last fall, the school board directed then-interim Superintendent Verletta White to direct all staff to cease the destruction of all documents after roughly 2,600 financial disclosure statements were found to have been destroyed months earlier, which included some records needed for the procurement audit.

Two floors above the meeting room, where school board members convene for bimonthly public meetings in Building E of BCPS’ Greenwood campus headquarters, the file room was emptied to make room for a new office. Certificates from a shredding company show that the records were destroyed in November and December 2018, a few months before an April 2019 report was delivered to the school board, at the conclusion of what was supposed to be a comprehensive procurement audit which looked into the system’s procurement practices for years 2012 through 2017.

More than 1,000 protest Madison School District in support of fired school staffer (Reading?)

Logan Wroge:

The zero-tolerance approach to employees using a racial slur took effect last year under then-Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, who resigned this summer for a job at Harvard University. Reyes has said it is based on adopted policies such as one on non-discrimination.

That policy doesn’t expressly forbid the use of the N-word or other slurs by staff. But it does define harassment against a student as “behavior … based, in whole or in part, on their protected class(es) which substantially interferes with a student’s school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive school environment.”

Reyes said the district was taking a “strong stance” on the use of slurs by employees last year when it implemented zero tolerance but acknowledged the context of the Oct. 9 situation involving Anderson is different from previous incidents of white staff members using racial slurs in front of students. At least seven employees were fired or resigned after they were accused of using slurs last year.

Noah Anderson said there is a difference between using the N-word as a slur and as a statement that can lead to understanding.

“What my father did, he took a teaching moment of an African American male to a younger African American male on why you shouldn’t use the word and not to refer to himself that way,” Noah Anderson said.

Notes and links, here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Lines of Code That Changed Everything

Future Tense:

Culturally, code exists in a nether zone. We can feel its gnostic effects on our everyday reality, but we rarely see it, and it’s quite inscrutable to non-initiates. (The folks in Silicon Valley like it that way; it helps them self-mythologize as wizards.) We construct top-10 lists for movies, games, TV—pieces of work that shape our souls. But we don’t sit around compiling lists of the world’s most consequential bits of code, even though they arguably inform the zeitgeist just as much.

So Slate decided to do precisely that. To shed light on the software that has tilted the world on its axis, the editors polled computer scientists, software developers, historians, policymakers, and journalists. They were asked to pick: Which pieces of code had a huge influence? Which ones warped our lives? About 75 responded with all sorts of ideas, and Slate has selected 36. It’s not a comprehensive list—it couldn’t be, given the massive welter of influential code that’s been written. (One fave of mine that didn’t make the cut: “Quicksort”! Or maybe Ada Lovelace’s Bernoulli algorithm.) Like all lists, it’s meant to provoke thought—to help us ponder anew how code undergirds our lives and how decisions made by programmers ripple into the future.

Excessive brain activity linked to a shorter life

Carolyn Johnson:

One key to a longer life could be a quieter brain without too much neural activity, according to a new study that examined postmortem brain tissue from extremely long-lived people for clues about what made them different from people who died in their 60s and 70s.
“Use it or lose it” has dominated thinking on how to protect the aging brain, and extensive research shows there are many benefits to remaining physically and mentally active as people get older. But the study, published in the journal Nature, suggests more isn’t always better. Excessive activity — at least at the level of brain cells — could be harmful.
“The completely shocking and puzzling thing about this new paper is … [brain activity] is what you think of as keeping you cognitively normal. There’s the idea that you want to keep your brain active in later life,” said Michael McConnell, a neuroscientist at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, who was not involved in the study. “The thing that is super unexpected is … limiting neural activity is a good thing in healthy aging. It’s very counterintuitive.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless

Heather MacDonald:

For the last three decades, San Francisco has conducted a real-life experiment in what happens when a society stops enforcing bourgeois norms of behavior. The city has done so in the name of compassion toward the homeless. The results have been the opposite: street squalor and misery have increased, even as government expenditures have ballooned. Yet the principles that have guided the city’s homelessness policy remain inviolate: homelessness is a housing problem; it is involuntary; and its persistence is the result of inadequate public spending. These propositions are readily disproved by talking to people living on the streets.
Shaku’s assessment of drug use among the homeless is widely shared. Asked if she does drugs, a formerly homeless woman, just placed in a city-subsidized single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotel, responds incredulously: “Is that a trick question?” A 33-year-old woman from Alabama, who now lives in a tent in an industrial area outside downtown, says: “Everyone out here has done something—drugs, you name it.” On Sutter Avenue, a wizened 50-year-old named Jeff slumps over his coffee cup at 7:30 AM, one hand holding a sweet roll, the other playing with his beard. A half-eaten muffin sits next to him on a filthy blanket. “I use drugs, alcohol, all of it,” he tells me, his eyes closed, as a pair of smiling German tourists deposit a peach on his blanket. Last night it was speed, he says, which has left him just a “little bit high” this morning. “The whole Tenderloin is for drugs,” Jeff observes, before nodding off again.

San Francisco spends $15,700 per student, at least 20% less than Madison.

The Pioneering Maps of Alexander von Humboldt

Greg Miller:

The German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt was one of the most celebrated scientists of the 19th century. In 1869, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, 25,000 people gathered in New York’s Central Park to listen to speeches extolling his accomplishments and witness the unveiling of a large bronze bust of Humboldt, who had died ten years earlier. Flags and enormous posters showing Humboldt’s face lined the streets of Manhattan. Similar celebrations took place around the world—in Berlin, Humboldt’s birthplace, 80,000 admirers gathered in the chilly rain to listen to eulogies and songs sung in his honor.

It’s hard to imagine any modern scientist achieving such celebrity, and now, 250 years after his birth, Humboldt himself has largely been forgotten by the general public. But as historian Andrea Wulf wrote in her 2015 biography of Humboldt, The Invention of Nature, his scientific legacy lives on in scores of geographic features and place names, from a glacier in Greenland to a mountain range in Antarctica. (The state of Nevada was almost named Humboldt, Wulf writes.) The Latin names of nearly 300 plants and more than 100 animals pay homage to him, including the aggressive, predatory Humboldt squid, which can grow up to eight feet long and weigh 100 pounds.

Academic Freedom and China

Jennifer Ruth and Yu Xiao:

It is a tricky time for faculty in the United States who work on China. The American president initiated a trade war with the People’s Republic of China that, whatever its merits, creates a fertile climate for China-bashing. Many of us hesitate to appear to contribute to this climate or to seem to side with a president hostile to values most faculty hold paramount, such as the rule of law or the importance of independent science. The enemy of my enemy is only occasionally my friend, though. We cannot lose sight of those trends, unrelated to trade, that point to the increasingly repressive impact of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on both its institutions of higher education and our own. This article sketches some of the major issues involving China and academic freedom.

Restrictions under Xi Jinping
Pundits point out that the current attitude toward China’s ascendancy among many in the United States resembles the attitude held in the 1980s toward Japan and that, as with Japan, we are beginning to scapegoat China for a myriad of problems. For scholars and teachers, one crucial difference stands out between Japan and China: Japan is a democratic country and China is not. Real doubts exist about whether academic freedom, as understood by many intellectuals throughout the world, is possible in a one-party state. Certainly, the February 2018 change in the Chinese constitution allowing unlimited presidential terms resulted in a tightening of restrictions on academic freedom at all universities and colleges in China, including overseas campuses of American universities. Stability (both of the country and of its ruling regime) remains the Communist Party’s first concern, and ideas or movements that might jeopardize party authority are subject to crackdown. Xi Jinping has consolidated and centralized power and reasserted the party’s control over information, education, and the media.

Commentary on Religious Liberty in the United States

William Barr:

Today, I would like to share some thoughts with you about religious liberty in America. It’s an important priority in this Administration and for this Department of Justice.

We have set up a task force within the Department with different components that have equities in this area, including the Solicitor General’s Office, the Civil Division, the Office of Legal Counsel, and other offices. We have regular meetings. We keep an eye out for cases or events around the country where states are misapplying the Establishment Clause in a way that discriminates against people of faith, or cases where states adopt laws that impinge upon the free exercise of religion.

From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”

It has been over 230 years since that small group of colonial lawyers led a revolution and launched what they viewed as a great experiment, establishing a society fundamentally different than those that had gone before.

They crafted a magnificent charter of freedom – the United States Constitution – which provides for limited government, while leaving “the People” broadly at liberty to pursue our lives both as individuals and through free associations.

This quantum leap in liberty has been the mainspring of unprecedented human progress, not only for Americans, but for people around the world.

In the 20th century, our form of free society faced a severe test.

There had always been the question whether a democracy so solicitous of individual freedom could stand up against a regimented totalitarian state.

That question was answered with a resounding “yes” as the United States stood up against and defeated, first fascism, and then communism.

Black Madison school staffer appeals firing for repeating student’s racial slur

Logan Wroge:

On Oct. 9, Anderson, who had worked at West for three years and at East High School for eight years before that, said he responded to a call about a disruptive student who was being escorted out of the school by an assistant principal.

When the situation with the male student escalated, Anderson said the student, who is also black, started calling him the N-word along with other obscene words.

In response, Anderson said he repeatedly told the student to stop saying the word with phrases like, “do not call me that,” “do not call me that word,” and “do not call me a N-word,” although he used the actual word at the time.

Throughout the exchange with the student, Anderson said the assistant principal, Jennifer Talarczyk, did not try to get the student to stop saying the slur, which Anderson said administrators have done when he has been called the N-word by students before.

He also said Talarczyk turned on the microphone on her radio and moved it close to him, causing his comments to be broadcast to other staff with radios, which he said made him feel “targeted.”

Attempts to reach Talarczyk Thursday were unsuccessful.

Scott Girard:

Board president Gloria Reyes said in a statement via MMSD spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson that the board would “allow for that (grievance) process to play out so we can ensure the outcome is right for all involved.” Reyes has requested a review of the approach to racial slurs be placed on a board agenda as soon as possible.

“We’ve taken a tough stance on racial slurs, and we believe that language has no place in schools,” Reyes said. “We have also heard from the community about the complexity involved – and our duty to examine it. As a board, we plan to review our approach, the underlying policies, and examine them with a racial equity lens understanding that universal policies can often deepen inequities. We will ask the community for help in that process.”

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

Notes and comments, here.

Kaleem Caire:

Why are we continuing to pass children through our school system who have not yet achieved an adequate level of proficiency to succeed academically in future grades? High school senior? Five credits? Really? SMH.


The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University

Adrianna Kezar, Tom DePaola, and Daniel T. Scott:

Over the past two decades, higher education employment has undergone a radical transformation with faculty becoming contingent, staff being outsourced, and postdocs and graduate students becoming a larger share of the workforce. For example, the faculty has shifted from one composed mostly of tenure-track, full-time employees to one made up of contingent, part-time teachers. Non-tenure-track instructors now make up 70 percent of college faculty. Their pay for teaching eight courses averages $22,400 a year—less than the annual salary of most fast-food workers.

School Choice Programs Continue Rapid Growth

School Choice Wisconsin:

“Year over year, the Parental Choice Programs continue to grow across Wisconsin,” Jim Bender said. “Combined with public school open enrollment and independent charters, more than 12% of students are educated with public dollars outside their resident district. That number continues to increase every year.”

WPCP – District limits are at 4% of enrollment for 2019-20. There are currently waiting lists generated within five public school districts across the state.

The data sheets found on DPI’s website list prior year enrollment in a manner that perpetuates a myth about the WPCP having a high percentage of students who were already in private school. They do not list the status of a student when they entered the program, just where they attended in the prior year. So, a student that transferred from a public school two years ago is listed on the DPI sheet as previously being a private school student. This egregious misrepresentation is not done by accident. It is meant to mislead.

Elite M.B.A. Programs Report Steep Drop in Applications

Chip Cutter:

Applications to some of America’s most elite business schools fell at a steeper rate this year, as universities struggled to attract international students amid changes to immigration policies and political tensions between the U.S. and China.

The declines affected some of the nation’s top-rated programs, with Harvard University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others, all reporting larger year-over-year drops in business-school applications. Some, such as Dartmouth College’s Tuck School…

Civics: After 184 years, Cherokees seek House delegate seat promised in treaty

Stephanie Akin:

Kim Teehee was an intern combing through dusty archives when she first learned of a largely forgotten agreement between her Cherokee tribe and the federal government.

More than 25 years later, that document has placed Teehee at the center of a historic reckoning of the way Congress treats Native Americans, while raising questions about what representation in Washington really means.

It was a treaty, ratified by the Senate and signed by President Andrew Jackson in 1835, granting the Cherokee Nation a delegate to Congress.

Digital dystopia: how algorithms punish the poor

Ed Pilkington:

Their dispatches reveal how unemployment benefits, child support, housing and food subsidies and much more are being scrambled online. Vast sums are being spent by governments across the industrialized and developing worlds on automating poverty and in the process, turning the needs of vulnerable citizens into numbers, replacing the judgment of human caseworkers with the cold, bloodless decision-making of machines.

At its most forbidding, Guardian reporters paint a picture of a 21st-century Dickensian dystopia that is taking shape with breakneck speed. The American political scientist Virginia Eubanks has a phrase for it: “The digital poorhouse.”

The Looming Chicago Teacher Strike May Be As Much About Membership As It Is About Money

Mike Antonucci:

The Chicago Teachers Union seems to be marching inexorably toward a strike beginning Oct. 17. The union struck for a single day in 2016 and for seven days in 2012, which many credit as being the launching point for a later wave of teacher strikes across the country.

While CTU continues to be lauded within the labor movement for its militancy, the actual collective bargaining agreements that came out of its strikes are not exactly celebrated. CTU President Jesse Sharkey himself stated that the years since the 2012 strike resulted in “nearly a decade of austerity and cuts for Chicago’s teachers and other school staff.”

Well, he’s half right.

That there have been staff cuts in the Chicago Public Schools since 2012 is undeniable. The district is exemplary in publishing monthly statistics on finances, staffing and enrollment.

Bad News for the Highly Intelligent

David Z. Hambrick, Madeline Marquardt:

There are advantages to being smart. People who do well on standardized tests of intelligence—IQ tests—tend to be more successful in the classroom and the workplace. Although the reasons are not fully understood, they also tend to live longer, healthier lives, and are less likely to experience negative life events such as bankruptcy.
Now there’s some bad news for people in the right tail of the IQ bell curve. In a study just published in the journal Intelligence, Pitzer College researcher Ruth Karpinski and her colleagues emailed a survey with questions about psychological and physiological disorders to members of Mensa. A “high IQ society,” Mensa requires that its members have an IQ in the top 2 percent. For most intelligence tests, this corresponds to an IQ of about 132 or higher. (The average IQ of the general population is 100.) The survey of Mensa’s highly intelligent members found that they were more likely to suffer from a range of serious disorders.
The survey covered mood disorders (depression, dysthymia and bipolar), anxiety disorders (generalized, social and obsessive-compulsive), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism. It also covered environmental allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders. Respondents were asked to report whether they had ever been formally diagnosed with each disorder or suspected they suffered from it. With a return rate of nearly 75 percent, Karpinski and her colleagues compared the percentage of the 3,715 respondents who reported each disorder to the national average.

I Attend, Therefore I Am You are only as strong as your powers of attention, and other uncomfortable truths about the self.

Carolyn Dicey Jennings:

You have thoughts, feelings and desires. You remember your past and imagine your future. Sometimes you make a special effort, other times you are content to simply relax. All of these things are true about you. But do you exist? Is your sense of self an illusion, or is there something in the world that we can point to and say: ‘Ah, yes – that is you’? If you are familiar with the contemporary science of mind, you will know that the concept of a substantive self, separate from the mere experience of self, is unpopular. But this stance is unwarranted. Research on attention points to a self beyond experience, with its own powers and properties.

So what is attention? Attention is what you use to drown out distracting sights and sounds, to focus on whatever it is you need to focus on. You are using attention to read this, right now. It is something that you can control and maintain but it is also strongly influenced by the world around you, which encourages you to focus on new and different stimuli. Sometimes being encouraged to change focus can be good – it is good that you look up from your cellphone when a bike comes barrelling down the sidewalk, for example. But this encouragement can also keep you from completing tasks, as when you get caught in a spiral of mindless clickbait. You might think of your powers of attention as what you use to control the focus of your attention, away from distractions and toward your favoured point of focus.