Army Combat Fitness Test Fiasco! Slides Reveal 84% of Women Failing ACFT

David Brown:

In previous articles for ClearanceJobs, I’ve thrown rocks at the Army’s catastrophically ill-considered Army Combat Fitness Test—the planned successor to the proven and successful Army Physical Fitness Test. I will admit, however, that my arguments against it emerged strictly from experience and logic. I am a fan of the original APFT because I watched soldiers in my platoon take the challenge to raise their scores, and watched pounds melt away and recruiting poster paratroopers emerge. As for logic, the APFT essentially costs a unit ten bucks and two hours to run through an entire company of soldiers, whereas the ACFT costs… more. Tens of millions of dollars more.

But, dear reader, I was willing to admit that I might be wrong! I lost many a night of sleep wondering: is the ACFT the salvation of American freedom? The greatest thing to happen to the Army since the black beret the blue service dress uniform the retro World War II-era pinks and greens! What if the ACFT produced one million hooah-shouting, Ironman-winning, CrossFit-teaching soldiers with the physiques of Greek gods and goddesses? What if we went to war with China and the enemy just dropped their weapons and ran the opposite direction, so intimidating were the American men and women on the front lines? What if, so musclebound and terrifying were our soldiers, that the Army stopped issuing rifles just to make it a fair fight when we went to war?

I really put myself out there by coming out so strongly against the ACFT, and, because no Army leader has ever been wrong, from General George Washington himself through to General James C. McConville, the present Army chief of staff—well, it was inevitable that I would have to eat my words.

But then last week, someone leaked the analytics slides presenting the pass/fail rate for the eleven battalions taking the ACFT. The short version: oh man was I right. The slightly longer version: the Army Combat Fitness Test is an unbridled, unparalleled, unimaginable disaster. The bottom line: the raw numbers reveal a test absurdly biased against women in uniform, but frankly, no one wearing a green uniform really comes out ahead in this thing.

The ‘Glass Floor’ Is Keeping America’s Richest Idiots At The Top


And yet, despite helming two failed ventures and having little work experience beyond an internship at a financial services company created to manage his father’s fortune, things seem to be working out for Zach Dell. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is now an analyst for the private equity firm Blackstone. He is 22.

America has a social mobility problem. Children born in 1940 had a 90% chance of earning more than their parents. For children born in 1984, the odds were 50-50.

Most accounts of this trend focus on the breakdown of upward mobility: It’s getting harder for the poor to become rich. But equally important is the decline of downward mobility: The rich, regardless of their intelligence, are becoming more likely to stay that way.

Educational disparities still plague Minnesota students

Neel Kashkari:

This commentary was first published in the Star Tribune.
Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis released a comprehensive report on the performance of Minnesota K-12 schools in preparing our children for their futures.
On average Minnesota schools perform well compared with other states. Unfortunately, those averages mask some of the worst educational disparities in the nation. If you are a low income white Minnesotan or a Minnesotan of color, whether your children attend a traditional or a charter school, chances are high that they are not getting the education they deserve.
These disparities are deeply unfair to those left behind. We all have a stake in closing these educational gaps: they affect rural and urban school districts equally. Minnesota will not remain economically strong without a well-educated workforce.
There have been many good faith efforts over the last two decades to close these gaps. Minnesotans care about one another; we want our neighbors to succeed, not just our own families. Yet, despite targeted policy initiatives to give parents more choices, to increase and equalize school funding and to change how teachers are evaluated, our education gaps haven’t closed at all — if anything they are growing.

We find that only 37% of low income Minnesota students of all races are proficient in math and reading compared with 68% of their higher income peers. On those same assessments, only 30% of African-American students perform at grade level, compared with 65% of white students. And, when it is time to enter college or the workforce, large disparities remain. Only 25% of African-American students are college ready compared to 69% for their white peers. Similarly, students from low income families are far less ready than their higher income counterparts.

As these gaps have persisted, some policymakers seem to be changing the measure of success from actual student achievement to things that are easier to control. For example, Minnesota’s education leaders point to progress in reducing graduation gaps. In 2003, only 36% of African-American students graduated high school, while 79% of whites did. In 2018, the gap had narrowed, with 67% of African-American students graduating, compared to 88% of white students.

Sounds like progress, right? On the contrary, tests of college readiness show zero progress in closing the gaps in terms of what students are actually learning. It looks like we’re graduating students who aren’t prepared for success.

Some policymakers have suggested turning away from test scores. While we agree that high test scores themselves are not the ultimate goal, testing is a necessary tool to help teachers and parents ensure that each child reaches his or her highest potential.

A band saw, a drill press and $2.3 million. College celebrates largest donation ever as ‘transformative’

Maria L La Ganga:

The lucky school is Cerritos College, one of California’s 115 educational workhorses, a two-year campus where nearly two-thirds of the student body lives at or below the poverty line, 82% receive financial aid and 70% attend part time, largely so they can hold down jobs.

The program? Woodworking, vocational education at its most beautiful and sweet smelling.

The donor is the late John B. Smith Jr. of Paso Robles, Calif. Chances are you’ve never heard of him. College officials hadn’t until recently. But just consider this generous alum’s example.

No disrespect to the Ivy League or other elite institutions, but if you want your legacy to really matter, said Cerritos College President Jose Fierro, a community college bequest is the way to go.

Open the Books:

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

The doublethink of the campus free speech debate

Rick Esenberg & Luke Berg:


Rick Esenberg and Luke Berg: The doublethink of the campus free speech debate
By Rick Esenberg and Luke Berg | president and deputy counsel, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty Aug 30, 2019
3 min to read
ben shapiro speech (copy)
UW-Madison student Cody Fearing, center, leads a protest of the appearance of conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro (at right in blue shirt) on campus in November 2017.
In the book “1984,” George Orwell coined the term “doublethink” to refer to “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

The evil genius of doublethink is that it does not require its practitioners to navigate any sense of cognitive dissonance or explain away hypocrisy. Rather, it allows them to deny that there’s a problem. As Orwell put it, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

And free speech is the suppression of speech.

A recent hearing on a proposed rule by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents regarding campus free speech was rife with doublethink. A group of students and faculty argued the new rule would serve to stifle free speech, not protect it. A left-wing group claimed the policy would provide “protection to provocateurs and their hateful speech” and somehow empower “white nationalism.” Student speakers said that the proposed rule would stifle dissent and protest. The problem, apparently, is with the Regents’ prohibition of activity that would “materially and substantially disrupt the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity.”

There is ample reason for the Regents’ concern. When conservative pundit Ben Shapiro came to UW-Madison in 2016, a group of about 20 students shouted, heckled and stood up to disrupt the speech. At Middlebury College in Vermont, a progressive faculty member was sent to the hospital when students and others protested an appearance by social scientist Charles Murray. At William & Mary, a speech by the executive director of the Virginia ACLU was shut down by protesters from the campus chapter of Black Lives Matter. At campuses from CUNY Law School in Queens to Claremont McKenna in Orange County, California, university students have interpreted their right of free speech to include the physical disruption of the speech of others.

For many of those commenting at the hearing, this is as it should be. Free speech, in the view of the Regents’ critics, requires the ability to physically disrupt the speech of others. Public discourse, in their view, operates at the level of roller derby and pro wrestling. No holds are barred and let the devil take the hindmost.


Will Fitzhugh:

The Concord Review, Inc. was founded in March 1987, to promote History, nonfiction reading, and academic expository writing at the high school level in the English-speaking world.

We have now published 122 issues of the quarterly journal, The Concord Review, and we are looking for a new Editor.

The job includes soliciting, reviewing and selecting outstanding History research papers by secondary students (from 41 countries so far), and preparing them for publication, including some typesetting, proofreading, etc.

The job also entails efforts to expand the reach of the organization through writing articles, attending conferences, giving interviews, and speaking, when the opportunity arises.

The successful candidate will have a long-term interest in History, a commitment to fostering and celebrating exemplary academic expository writing by high school students, and an interest in arguing for higher academic standards in History, nonfiction reading and in academic expository writing at the secondary level.

The new Editor must have a persistent interest in working to find new sources of support for these efforts, through fundraising, increasing subscriptions, and working for an endowment. We need an evangelist/entrepreneur Editor.

Successful experience with exceptional humanities students at the high school level will be most welcome. Pay will be commensurate with experience.

Contact: Will Fitzhugh, Founder, The Concord Review, Inc., 730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA;;


Should we feel optimistic or pessimistic about American K-12 education’s future?

Matthew Ladner:

Americans thus seem to see their public education system as falling short in a variety of ways and aren’t especially optimistic about future improvement. Republicans exhibited the greatest amount of optimism, with 24 percent forecasting that the American public school system would be a “model of excellence around the world” in 20 years. Only 13 percent of Democrats and 3 percent of Independents were similarly optimistic. You, as a regular RedefinED reader are more aware of looming challenges lying ahead in the next two decades than most.

Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of public education? Mixed results across states seems like the most likely outcome and “a model of excellence around the world” is not as far off as it may sound.

Massachusetts, the highest scoring state on NAEP, compares well to Asian and European systems on international exams. Stanford scholar Sean F. Reardon’s new data source, for instance, equates state scores to NAEP. When I ran the numbers for my home state of Arizona, I found far more variation within my state than between states. I also, however, found several Arizona districts (and the charter schools operating within their boundaries) that compare favorably to the average performance in Massachusetts:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of elementary reading teacher mulligans to those who failed to pass the “Foundations of Reading” content knowledge exam.

Based on Massachusetts’ successful MTEL teacher content knowledge requirements, the Foundations of Reading was intended to reverse our long term, disastrous reading results.

Short note about Network of Public Education’s (NOPE) focus on education fraud

Citizen Stewart:

My friends at the Network of Public Education (NOPE) have an ongoing series under the hashtag #AnotherDayAnotherCharterSchool that aims to keep your eyes trained on the supposed never-ending abuses and fraud case in charter schools.

I applaud their commitment to public integrity and I share their vigilance in rooting out grift in public systems. Yet, their myopic focus on a small subset of public schools, in this case charters, is suspicious.

Why not expose all fraud, especially in the bigger system?

Well, you’ll have to ask them. They’ve mostly blocked me on twitter for asking such questions.

I guess their unionist funders and the privileged parents they cater to in America’s suburban hoarding schools want a clean message. Traditional schools with union teachers that work with privileged parents to rig the system in favor of white, middle-class, pampered children, well, that’s good.

Schools built for, by, or in favor of children so unfortunate as not to have suburban, white, progressive, college-educated families capable of obtaining mortgages for houses near the best hoarding schools, well, you know the drill, they must be stopped.

Thus, the campaign to turn public opinion against the most popular competitor to sputtering state-run schools that employ more people than they educate, and drown in so much pension debt that they can ill-afford parents choosing anything other than district failure farms.

In the interest of truth I should tell you that fraud in public education is indeed every bit the problem that NOPE says it is, but it’s much broader than they admit.

A discussion occurred – some of it public – about a Madison taxpayer supported maintenance referendum spending audit.

Capitalism isn’t broken, but the US education system is

Julie LaRoche:

What’s been broken is our educational system.”

The 72-year-old is also the product of a public school education at Abington High School in Pennsylvania, who later attended Yale for his undergraduate degree, then Harvard Business School.

When he was growing up as a public school student, the U.S. educational system was ranked among the best globally. Since that time, it’s dropped significantly in the rankings compared to other countries, especially in mathematics.

“If you’re producing a workforce that is dramatically inferior to competitors on the global scale, we’re going to have a lot of trouble,” he told Yahoo Finance.

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

Education RHETORIC vs reading

Daniel Willingham:

Believing something because someone else believes it rather than demanding and evaluating evidence makes you sound either lazy or gullible. But we yield to the authority of others all the time. When I see my doctor I don’t ask for evidence that the treatments he prescribes are effective, and when an architect designed a new deck for my house I didn’t ask for proof that it could support the weight of my grill and outdoor furniture. I believed what they told me because of their authority.

I think education researchers don’t speak with that kind of authority and (apparently unlike Sanden) I don’t think we deserve it. I can point to two key differences between a doctor (or architect, or accountant, or electrician, etc) and education researchers.

First, I yield authority to someone who has been vetted by a credible entity. I know that, unless you break the law, you cannot practice medicine (or follow the other professions named) without being licensed by the state of Virginia. I haven’t looked into the matter, but I have no reason to think that the accrediting agencies aren’t doing an acceptable job. For one thing, most of the professionals I hire achieve what I expect them to achieve.
Education researchers, in contrast, are not licensed by a credible authority.

Why Hong Kong’s protesters fly the Stars and Stripes

Jeff Jacoby, via a kind Will Fitzhugh email:

MUCH OF central Hong Kong was awash in American flags on Sunday, as tens of thousands of prodemocracy protesters marched peacefully past the US consulate, imploring Congress and President Trump to support their struggle to keep Hong Kong free. Thousands of demonstrators sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” Many held placards promoting the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bipartisan measure on Capitol Hill to authorize sanctions on Chinese officials who suppress democracy and the rule of law in the city. Other signs directly addressed the US president: “Please liberate Hong Kong,” they pleaded. “Defend our Constitution.”

The Hong Kong protests have so far yielded few concessions from China, which has reneged on its 1997 vow to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy for 50 years. Whether Washington is willing to get more directly involved is an open question. Trump himself has sent mixed signals. Last month, echoing the Beijing party line, he referred to the marches as “riots,” and said it was up to China to deal with them. Yet he has also warned Chinese ruler Xi Jinping against quelling the protests with a violent crackdown.

In my view, the United States should be unambiguous in its support for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. There is room for reasonable debate about how far to go in backing the protesters or confronting Beijing. But when liberty is being choked off by a dictatorship, US policy should never be one of neutrality.

“cleaning time is part of students’ daily schedule”

Steve John Powell & Angeles Marin Cabello:

The students sit with their satchels on their desks, eager to get home after another long day of seven 50-minute classes. They listen patiently as their teacher makes a few announcements about tomorrow’s timetable. Then, as every day, the teacher’s final words: “OK everybody, today’s cleaning roster. Lines one and two will clean the classroom. Lines three and four, the corridor and stairs. And line five will clean the toilets.”
A few groans arise from line five, but the children stand up, grab the mops, cloths and buckets from the broom cupboard at the back of the classroom, and trot off to the toilets. Similar scenes are happening at schools across the country.
Most first-time visitors to Japan are struck by how clean the country is. Then they notice the absence of litter bins. And street sweepers. So they’re left with the question: how does Japan stay so clean?

Japan ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink


Eimi Haga followed the ninja technique of “aburidashi”, spending hours soaking and crushing soybeans to make the ink.

The words appeared when her professor heated the paper over his gas stove.

“It is something I learned through a book when I was little,” Ms Haga told the BBC. “I just hoped that no-one would come up with the same idea.”

Ms Haga has been interested in ninjas – covert agents and assassins in medieval Japan – since watching an animated TV show as a child.

After enrolling at Mie University in Japan, the first-year student took a class in ninja history, and was asked to write about a visit to the Ninja Museum of Igaryu.

“When the professor said in class that he would give a high mark for creativity, I decided that I would make my essay stand out from others,” she said.

K-12 Tax & SPENDING Climate: US income DatA

Aaron Brown:

Income in the bottom 80% of households was up significantly, only the top 20% of households saw an income decline, as a result, the Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality, higher numbers mean more inequality) fell from 0.489 to 0.486

· Usually when the Gini index falls, incomes go down for everyone; it’s been 20 years since we’ve seen this big a decline in the Gini index when incomes went up

The news coverage didn’t seem to jibe with the numbers. The real good news about income, earnings, employment and poverty was overlooked entirely to focus on the more abstract Gini coefficient. When income and employment go up, and poverty goes down, that’s unalloyed good. The Gini coefficient is more complicated. It mainly fluctuates based on how financial markets are doing, because top earners depend largely on investments, and those are more volatile than the salaries that underpin middle-class incomes. Moreover many top earners compensation is dependent on financial markets—executives with stock options and profit shares, Wall Street professionals with market-dependent bonuses, business owners paid out of profits.

My University Is Dying; Soon Yours Will Be, Too

Sheila Liming:

I live in a land of austerity, and I’m not just talking about the scenery. When most people think about North Dakota — if, indeed, they ever do — they probably imagine bare, ice-crusted prairies swept clean by wind. They see the clichés, in other words, not the reality — the towns that are, in fact, aesthetically identical to so many in America, with all the usual houses and shopping malls and parks and freeways. On the campus where I work, though, austerity has many meanings and many guises. Some of them you can see, like the swaths of new grass that grow where historic buildings stood just last year, before they were demolished in the name of maintenance backlogs. Most, though, are invisible.

Starting in 2016, our state university system endured three successive rounds of annual budget cuts, with average 10-percent reductions resulting in a loss of more than a third of the system’s overall funding. Additional cuts, even, were on the table this past year. And while our state legislators ultimately avoided taking yet one more stab at the dismembered body of higher education, there has been no discussion of restoring any of those funds.

US live birth and abortion data >800k US abortions in 2017. Global data.

Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University

Vouces of Protest and resistance (XXXI):

Apart from his career as an educator, Xu was also a prominent editor, essayist and public intellectual who actively participated in the long term and broad-based professional effort to nudge the People’s Republic in the direction of constitutional rule and legal probity. The incisive critiques of the Xi Jinping era (December 2012-) that Xu Zhangrun published from early 2016, and in particular the powerful warning he had issued in late July 2018 regarding the nation’s direction under its new Chairman For Life (see his Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes 我們當下的恐懼與期待, China Heritage, 1 August 2018), had made him the most famous, and most outspoken internal critic.

On the fateful day of 21 March 2019, the personnel department of Tsinghua University notified Xu Zhangrun that he was suspended from all duties effective immediately pending the results of a global investigation into his ‘case’. Apart from being banned from teaching and any contact with students, Xu’s income was radically reduced; he was also required to refrain from all public engagements, from publishing anything and from contact with the media, be it in China or internationally. Xu was also informed that he was obliged to cooperate fully with the task force appointed to investigate him. Until further notice, his life was on hold; he was required to attend on the university’s eventual adjudication regarding his fate.

We have chronicled the outraged response to Xu Zhangrun’s suspension in China Heritage by publishing a multipart series titled ‘Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University — Voices of Protest & Resistance’. After six months and as this round of persecution reaches a new stage, and to mark the 10th of October 2019 celebration of the original Chinese revolution and the founding of the Republic of China, we offer the following translation as an homage to the professor’s undaunted spirit.

Civics, Politics and Campus Free Speech

Associated Press:

MADISON – Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will kill a contentious plan to punish students who disrupt free speech on University of Wisconsin System campuses, his spokeswoman said Friday as system regents took another step toward implementing the policy.

The regents in 2017 adopted a Republican-backed policy declaring students who twice disrupt others’ free speech would be suspended for at least a semester. Three-time offenders would be expelled.

The policy mirrors a bill Republicans introduced that legislative session after protests disrupted conservative speakers on college campuses around the country, including conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s appearance at UW-Madison in November 2016.

The measure died in the Senate, but the regents pushed ahead with the concept as a policy. Evers, serving as a regent in 2017 due to his position then as state schools superintendent, cast the lone dissenting vote against the policy, warning it would have a chilling effect on free speech.

The policy hasn’t gone into effect because the regents haven’t updated system rules to incorporate it. The regents took a step closer on Friday, voting during a meeting at UW-Superior to authorize a scope statement outlining the changes. The move authorizes system staff to update the rules to incorporate the policy.

The final rule language likely won’t be ready until spring. The regents plan to hold a public hearing on the terminology before signing off and sending the language to Evers for his approval. The governor’s spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, said that the governor would kill the proposal and that there’s no mechanism for Republican legislators to override him.

“His position hasn’t changed on it,” Baldauff said. “He didn’t approve of it when he was on the Board of Regents, and he still disagrees with the policy.”

Related: Governor Evers on Wisconsin DPI Teacher Mulligans.

China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments

Li Yuan:

Hong Kong’s protests have disrupted Yang Yang’s family life. Though the 29-year-old lives in mainland China, he was inspired by the demonstrations to write a song about freedom and upload it to the internet. When censors deleted it, he complained to his family.

They weren’t sympathetic. “How can you support Hong Kong separatists?” they asked. “How can you be anti-China?” His mother threatened to disown him. Before Mr. Yang left on a trip to Japan in August, his father said he hoped his son would die there.

Hong Kong’s protests have inflamed tensions in the semiautonomous Chinese city, but passions in the mainland have been just as heated — and, seemingly, almost exclusively against the demonstrators.

A pro-protest tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, Daryl Morey, ignited a firestorm of anger against the N.B.A., demonstrating the depth of feeling. Joe Tsai, the only N.B.A. owner of Chinese descent, said all of China — yes, more than one billion people — felt the same way.

Under Red Skies.

How Photos of Your Kids Are Powering Surveillance Technology

Kashmir Hill and Aaron Krolik:

The pictures of Chloe and Jasper Papa as kids are typically goofy fare: grinning with their parents; sticking their tongues out; costumed for Halloween. Their mother, Dominique Allman Papa, uploaded them to Flickr after joining the photo-sharing site in 2005.

None of them could have foreseen that 14 years later, those images would reside in an unprecedentedly huge facial-recognition database called MegaFace. Containing the likenesses of nearly 700,000 individuals, it has been downloaded by dozens of companies to train a new generation of face-identification algorithms, used to track protesters, surveil terrorists, spot problem gamblers and spy on the public at large. The average age of the people in the database, its creators have said, is 16.

“It’s gross and uncomfortable,” said Mx. Papa, who is now 19 and attending college in Oregon. “I wish they would have asked me first if I wanted to be part of it. I think artificial intelligence is cool and I want it to be smarter, but generally you ask people to participate in research. I learned that in high school biology.”

This is the best answer I ever received to ‘Tell me about yourself’—after 20 years of interviewing

Gary Burnison:

Too many people respond to “Tell me about yourself” by essentially giving a recital of their resume.

This candidate, however, shared something that showed who she really was beyond a piece of paper: a person who was adventurous, curious, goal-oriented and disciplined. More importantly, it was clear that she had the ability to apply lessons learned from past experiences to new challenges.

But that’s not all. When I then asked about the first thought that ran through her head upon reaching the summit of Mount Everest, she didn’t wax philosophical or go off about how she’d done something most of us can’t even contemplate.

Instead, she laughed and said, “How the heck am I going to get down?” This showed her ability to engage others with humor and humility.

I knew right then and there that she was a highly-qualified person anyone would want on their team — and the realization came through an exchange that lasted less than a minute.

Shackleton’s Medical Kit

Gavin Francis:

Back in England I had been involved in decisions about what would go into these boxes – what was really necessary to provide basic medical care at the end of the earth. Each was designed to fit on a sledge. Pulled by skidoos now rather than dogs or men, these sledges were the same ash-framed models that Scott and Shackleton had hauled over a century ago. Space on each was limited, and weight was to be kept down to twenty kilogrammes. I stocked the boxes to deal with tonsillitis and tooth-rot, piles and the consequences of unprotected sex (the days of all-male Antarctica are over, thank goodness). I packed laxatives and local anaesthetics, elastoplasts and eye drops. A bottle of vitamin pills to prevent scurvy. Scalpels, catheters and a collar should anyone break his or her neck. Some of the most useful items, considering the risk of falling into a crevasse, were the few rolls of Plaster of Paris. Each box was like the distillation of all that we have learned as a species about our bodies and their infirmities, a time capsule of medicine at the start of the twenty-first century. They spoke of our communications (with question grids for use over radio static), our sexual mores (condoms, the Pill, and the morning-after pill), and even the ozone hole (tubes of factor thirty sun block).

Ours is a nervous age, we’re often told, and the heroes of exploration are all gone. What, I had wondered, did our predecessors like Scott or Shackleton take when they set out into the blank spaces on the map?

Former WEAC leader and longtime teachers advocate Morris Andrews dies

Mitchell Schmidt:

Andrews became executive director of WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union, in 1972. At the time, the association of 40,000 teachers had little involvement in state politics or lobbying efforts.

But that soon changed. Andrews was considered a force to be reckoned with in the statehouse halls and advocated for teachers, bus drivers, aides and other unionized staff.

When Andrews retired for health reasons in 1992, WEAC had grown to 62,000 members, a 175-person staff and a $10 million-a-year budget.

Scott Girard:

John Matthews, the head of Madison Teachers Inc. from 1968 to January 2016, worked closely with Andrews and called him “a very knowledgeable, very skillful labor leader.”

“Every teacher since 1970 owes him a debt of gratitude because of their employment being much more enjoyable and much more profitable,” Matthews said. “Their employment security was in great part a result of his work.”

On Friday, Thompson called him “by far the best executive director of any teachers’ union, any teachers movement in the United States, before or now.”

Notes and links: WEAC, Mo Andrews and John Matthews.

A 2013 interview with Mo Andrews

Can We Guarantee That Colleges Are Intellectually Diverse?

Molly Worthen:

Matthew Garcia, a historian at Dartmouth who left Arizona State partly because of the controversy there, noted the shrewdness of the conservative strategy to cultivate like-minded faculty and programs in the humanities. “They want to invest in these disciplines that administrators, especially at public institutions, have left for dead. The Kochs and these conservative entities see that these are the folks who can actually remake government. Tenure is a magical thing — it’s like appointments to the Supreme Court,” he told me. “Once these people are in, they’re in for a long time and can shape institutions, shape the curriculum and steal hearts and minds to create a different future.”

Skeptics are right to watch for threats to academic freedom and transparent governance in initiatives like this. But we owe it to our students to take a serious look at them. What, exactly, is so different about classes in a “conservative” program — and can they offer clues to how all teachers might encourage students to hear out worldviews other than their own?

Students in the Arizona State program praised the trust and candor that become possible in seminars with a low student-teacher ratio — something any program can achieve, if it has generous resources. They appreciated the program’s explicit call to disagree, civilly. “S.C.E.T.L. hammers you over the head with the idea that it’s O.K. to have disagreements,” Mr. Doebbeling said.

The True Cost of a PhD: Giving Up a Family for Academia

Ben Cohen:

In 2012, CBS noted the bleak future that awaited PhD graduates. From 2005 to 2009, American universities graduated 100,000 new PhDs but only created 16,000 new professorships. The average PhD student spends 8 years in graduate school and turns 33 years old before they graduate.

Unfortunately, the outlook for PhDs hasn’t improved since 2012. More and more, doctoral students sacrifice family, wealth, and their mental health to earn a degree with terrible job prospects.

In the United States, PhD students work as researchers, teaching assistants, and instructors as they study. In return, they earn a cash stipend, which varies and can be anywhere from $17,100 for a chemistry student at Clark University in Atlanta to $42,000 for a civil and environmental engineering student at Stanford University.

The size of the stipend can determine whether a student can start or support a family. Graduate students are at the stage of their life when the average person would start a family, and postdocs are at the stage where it might be their last chance to have kids. Pursuing a PhD will have an outsized impact on whether a grad student achieves their basic life goals.

Two News Stories From Abroad Suggest American Education Is On The Wrong Track

Natalie Wexler:

It can be risky to look to other countries’ education systems for models. Nevertheless, two recent news stories from abroad raise doubts about prevailing American views on how students learn.

Too often, American education reformers and policymakers have called for emulating other seemingly successful systems without taking into account the myriad differences between any two countries. An approach that has worked in one place won’t necessarily produce the same results in another.

Still, cognitive science has revealed certain principles that underlie the basic human learning process. For example, it’s well established that, especially when students don’t know much about a topic, the most effective pedagogical approach is explicit instruction—having the teacher directly provide basic information.

Meet the Researchers Fighting Back Against Rogue Peer Reviewers and ‘Citation Cartels’

Megan Zahneis:

Eric A. Fong’s manuscript had been conditionally accepted. The editor said Fong needed to ensure it conformed with the journal’s style and to shorten it to meet the word limit. That was easy enough. But the third condition gave Fong pause.

He’d cited only one source from the journal he’d submitted the article to. The editor wrote in an email that that was “unacceptable,” and told him to “please add at least five more.”

Adding citations to articles in the same journal, as the editor had requested, would inflate the journal’s impact factor, which often dictates a journal’s importance. It’s a phenomenon some scholars call “coercive citation,” but Fong, then an assistant professor of management at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, had never heard that term.

Still, he felt what he was being asked to do was wrong. And yet publishing this paper would be an important part of his case for tenure. Conflicted, Fong printed out the email and headed to Allen Wilhite’s office. Wilhite, Fong’s mentor and an economics professor, was stunned. Most of their colleagues were, too. A few, though, said they had received a similar request from an editor.

The Land and Expand Strategy for Reading

Cedric Chin:

I’m currently on my 37th book of the year, and I think I’ve stumbled on a reading technique that works really well when it comes to reading in service of career goals. As far as reading techniques go, this one is remarkably easy to do — which is more than can be said for most reading strategies.

And it’s also remarkably easy to explain. Which makes it seem a tad ridiculous … but here goes:

When you want to learn something new from reading, read the stories around that thing before you read the thing itself.

Want to learn the Kelly Criterion? Read Fortune’s Formula first — William Poundstone’s fantastic book about the history of the gambling strategy, and its applications in Vegas, horse betting, and equity investing.

Want to ease yourself into the cognitive biases and heuristics literature? Read The Undoing Project — Michael Lewis’s fantastic accounting of Kahneman and Tversky and the research they did together. Then read Thinking: Fast and Slow.

Want to understand the nuances behind the consulting business model? Read a history of McKinsey (I recommend The Firm, though others say nice things about The Lords of Strategy) before reading Maisters’s Managing the Professional Service Firm (my summary here).

Civics: Governments breaking encryption is bad, and ‘will get worse once breaking encryption means people can die’, says one of the world’s leading security experts.

Stilgherrian :

We are now living in a world where governments — your government and my government — are desperately trying to break encryption. This is bad, and this will get worse once breaking encryption means people can die,” he said.

“The way to think of it is as one world, one network, and one answer.”

Schneier placed the government urge to weaken encryption onto an historical context dating back to the 1950s and the founding of the US National Security Agency (NSA). It had two missions.

“One of them was to defend US military communications from eavesdropping, and the other was to eavesdrop on foreign military communications,” Schneier said.

“The reason that worked is that our stuff and their stuff were different. Everything about them was different. And that’s no longer true,” he said.

Civics: The Secretive “Discipline” Process for Federal Prosecutors

Brooke Williams:

Seykora retired as a prosecutor in 2012 and currently is a municipal judge in Hardin, Montana, a small town of about 3,500 people and a short drive from Billings. He did not return phone calls seeking an interview.

In 2014, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility began looking into Seykora. The OPR was established after the Watergate scandal “to ensure that Department attorneys perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards,” according to its website.

Two years later, in 2016, while OPR was apparently still investigating Seykora’s actions, Michael Cotter, then U.S. attorney for Billings and current chief of the state’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, apparently decided to take matters into his own hands. In a highly unusual move, Johnson’s attorney Colin Stephens said, Cotter sent letters to the defense attorneys of people Seykora had convicted to let them know about the prosecutor’s history of repeated misconduct.

Stephens said the letters essentially reopened any case Seykora had prosecuted. “We just opened Pandora’s box,” he said. “It’s a big deal when the government cheats.”

Cotter declined to discuss the case.

Given his experience, Johnson said, he wonders if it really is a big deal when a prosecutor breaks the rules. “He still gets to sit on the bench and practice his crooked law,” he said.

Still Life

Skip Hollandsworth:

Compared with the glistening two-story mansions that surrounded it, the house looked like something from another time. It was only 2,180 square feet. Its redbrick exterior was crumbling, and its gutters were clogged with leaves. Faded, paint-chipped blinds sagged behind the front windows. Next to the concrete steps leading to the front door, a scraggly banana plant clung to life.

Built in 1950, it was one of the last of the original single-story homes on Northport Drive, in Dallas’s Preston Hollow neighborhood. The newer residents, almost all of them affluent baby boomers, had no idea who lived there. Over the years, they’d see an ambulance pull up to the front of the house, and they’d watch as paramedics carried out someone covered in a blanket. A few days later, they’d see the paramedics return to carry that person back inside. But they’d never learned who it was or what had happened. Some of the local kids were convinced that the house was haunted. They’d ride their bikes by the lot at dusk, daring one another to ring the doorbell or run across the unwatered lawn.

Yale Law School Establishes Religious-Liberty Clinic

Ed Whelan:

Free Exercise Clinic: Seminar (30143) and Fieldwork(30144). 2 units for seminar, 1 unit for fieldwork (3 units total). The seminar and the fieldwork must be taken simultaneously. The freedom to practice one’s religion has been a cherished and controverted right since the Founding. Indeed, religious beliefs matter enormously to their adherents, yet are often invisible or unintelligible to others. This duality is especially salient today, in our religiously diverse society. Although the federal constitution and many other laws offer protection for individuals and groups of faith, majoritarian policymakers and government actors sometimes fail to consider – and occasionally target – religious minorities and their interests. This clinic will provide an opportunity for students to defend the free exercise of politically vulnerable religious minorities. Students will learn about and advocate for the rights of inmates seeking religious accommodations, houses of worship challenging zoning decisions, and employees facing discrimination at work.

Much more on Yale, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Michigan Governor vetoes Taxpayer Charter funds

Alyssa Burr:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used a line-item veto to strike $35 million out of the School Aid budget that was slated to go to per-pupil increases for charter schools.

Traditional public schools will get a $120 to $240 per-pupil increase. Charter schools, which are also public schools, do not get the increase.

Groups that support charter schools say this could hurt the school systems.

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said not increasing the budget will eliminate pay increases for teachers at charter schools and services the schools provide to students.

Hong Kong school week kicks off with citywide student protests against anti-mask law arrests

Chan Ho-him, Brian Wong, Kelley Ho and Joanne Ma:

Hundreds of secondary school students protested against Hong Kong’s anti-mask law on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with schoolmates arrested during the ongoing citywide protests.

Forming human chains and staging sit-ins, students across the city voiced support for peers ­arrested under the law since its introduction on Saturday.

Stoking students’ anger and prompting calls for a boycott of classes, the city’s Education Bureau demanded schools to provide a “rough impression” of the number of students wearing masks to school. The bureau on Tuesday night said most of the 440 schools they contacted said a minority of students wore masks today.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor introduced the law in a bid to quell violent protests, which were triggered by the now-withrdrawn extradition bill and have gripped the city for almost four months. Breaking the new law would carry a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of HK$25,000 (US$3,187).

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Does state government deserve more of your money?

Colorado Senator Jerry Sonnemberg:

The politicians hope that you don’t remember that when Referendum C passed in 2005, it was to go to education and highways. Funny how, now, Proposition CC is to go for basically the same things.

So where did that money go? Who knows. As the non-partisan state staff will tell you, it is impossible to know how the money was spent. What we do know is that education and highway funding did not increase by the amount of increased revenue to the state. Why? Because politicians can change the rules by just passing a bill – and they do every budget cycle.

Do you remember the games at sporting events where they hide a ball under one of three caps and you have to try and figure out where the ball is? That was the legislative budget process with Referendum C dollars – a shell game that replaced existing spending with supposedly new dollars.

The legislature did such a poor job managing those promises for highways and bridges that in 2009 they passed another bill called FASTER that created new fees and raised current fees in the name of transportation. Where did that go and why are we running another ballot question for more funding?

Bad Administrator Field Guide


Bad Administrator Field Guide

Is there a lousier job in the world than that of a school administrator. For the past twenty years, it has been all of the responsibility and none of the power. Yet a building principal (and to some extent a superintendent) have enormous control over a teacher’s workplace– how miserable is it, how safe is it, and how hard is it for teachers to do the job they signed up to do?

Administrators come in all shapes and sizes these days (though they are still mostly men), especially since the last twenty years of reformy baloney has done some bad things to the hiring pool. But there are still good ones out there who somehow find a way to fulfill the basic function of an administrator– that is, to provide the tools, setting and processes that encourage your people to do their best work.

But there are other admins out there. Bad ones. This taxonomy is by no means complete, but here’s a quick introduction to some of the species you might find yourself dealing with:

Preferences in Virginia Higher Education

Althea Nagai:

The study compares college admissions data from five Virginia
universities: the University of Virginia (UVA), the College of William & Mary (WM), Virginia Tech (VT), James Madison University (JMU), and George Mason University (GMU).
College Admission Rates by Race

At UVA and WM, black applicants were admitted at higher rates than whites and Asian Americans. WM also admitted Hispanics at a higher rate than Asian American and white applicants.

• 35% of black applicants were admitted to UVA, as were 32% of Hispanics, 32% of Asian Americans, and 30% of whites.

• At WM, 41% of blacks were admitted, as were 50% of Hispanics, 37% of Asian Americans, and 35% of whites.

The opposite was the case for the other schools, which admitted Asian Americans and whites at a higher rate than blacks and Hispanics.

• VT admitted 68% of Asian Americans and 74% of whites, compared to 61% of Hispanics and 50% of blacks.

• JMU admitted 79% of whites, 72% of Asian Americans, 60% of Hispanics, and 53% of blacks.

• GMU admitted 87% of whites and Asian Americans, 75% of Hispanics and 68% of blacks.

Test Score Gaps but Not Much of a GPA Gap
Test scores were generally lower for black and Hispanic admittees compared to whites and Asian Americans.

• At UVA, the black-white SAT gap in median scores was 180 points.

A Separate Kind of Intelligence

Alison Gopnik:

It looks as if there’s a general relationship between the very fact of childhood and the fact of intelligence. That might be informative if one of the things that we’re trying to do is create artificial intelligences or understand artificial intelligences. In neuroscience, you see this pattern of development where you start out with this very plastic system with lots of local connection, and then you have a tipping point where that turns into a system that has fewer connections but much stronger, more long-distance connections. It isn’t just a continuous process of development. So, you start out with a system that’s very plastic but not very efficient, and that turns into a system that’s very efficient and not very plastic and flexible.

It’s interesting that that isn’t an architecture that’s typically been used in AI. But it’s an architecture that biology seems to use over and over again to implement intelligent systems. One of the questions you could ask is, how come? Why would you see this relationship? Why would you see this characteristic neural architecture, especially for highly intelligent species?

Meet Open Up Resources: partner to MVP math and funded by Bill Gates.

Cheri Kiesecker:

Does it feel like this MVP lawsuit is trying to silence a parent from speaking about his own child’s education? As this EdWeek article points out, this lawsuit would set a precedent against parents:

“It’s a surprising move that some say could have broad implications for parent advocacy around curriculum and instruction. A win by the company “would certainly cast a shadow on the idea that parents have a right to participate in their own children’s education, to criticize schools for buying particular textbooks, to voice their concerns about instruction and curriculum,” said Tom Loveless, an education researcher formerly at the Brookings Institution, who is not involved in the case.

The Mathematics Vision Project, a publisher of open source math curricula, filed a complaint this summer against Blain Dillard, a parent in the Wake County public school system. MVP has accused Dillard, an outspoken opponent of the math program, of libel, slander, and “tortious interference with business relations.”

…In a written statement to Education Week, Jeffrey Hunt, Dillard’s lawyer, wrote that the lawsuit “has no legal merit.”

Google vs freedom of speech and the press

Nico Hines:

Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, claims that Sophie Schmidt, the daughter of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, successfully campaigned for The Guardian to scrub her name from one of their bombshell data-abuse stories.

In a memoir that will be published Tuesday, he says that The Guardian’s willingness to back down in the face of Schmidt’s legal threats—and “water down” a story that had already been published—convinced him that he could no longer trust the British newspaper alone to publish his allegations about Cambridge Analytica.

The reporter who wrote the story, Carole Cadwalladr, said it was incredibly difficult for British media organizations to stand up to well-resourced legal threats.

“Schmidt bullied a British newspaper using British privacy laws. It’s extraordinary that the daughter of Eric Schmidt—the man who says that privacy is dead—would be using U.K. privacy laws to get herself taken out of the piece,” she told The Daily Beast.

“News organizations have difficult choices to make, don’t have an endless pot of money, and have to make hard choices. It’s a measure of the difficulty of publishing this work that The Guardian decided they couldn’t defend that one.”

Schmidt was an intern at SCL when Wylie writes that she “introduced Alexander to some of the executives at Palantir.” The New York Times later reported on Schmidt’s alleged suggestion. Palantir, a secretive tech company, was co-founded by Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire and major Trump donor, who also sits on the board of Facebook.

Many taxpayer supported school
Districts, including Madison, use Google services.

Adventures in parametric textile pattern design


This project started with a pattern design idea based on tilings, which I’ve been fascinated by since forever. The idea turned out to work pretty well and generated some patterns suitable for printing on fabric.

The basic idea
In case you didn’t know, a tiling is a set of one or more geometrical shapes filling a plane with no gaps. In other words, a tiling describes how to densely pack tiles of certain shapes. This means that if you draw an object inside each tile, and the object has roughly the same shape as the tile, you get a visually pleasing, dense-ish distribution of whatever objects you are drawing.

Chavez Elementary students spread ‘Kindness in Chalk’

Pamela Cotant:

The “Kindness in Chalk” movement was started by Nicki Brunner, who lives in a Minneapolis suburb. It was sparked when Brunner and a toddler daughter were drawing with chalk outside their home and saw the reaction of neighbors when they saw a smiley face and a “Have a happy day!” message on the sidewalk. It then occurred to her that she could replicate the idea at her kindergartner son’s school.

The event is officially held Monday around this time of the year because October is National Bullying Awareness Month.

“There’s a lot that happens in our schools and our society that could benefit from a little kindness,” Brunner states on her MinneMama Adventures website. “Bullying awareness is crucial and important — we need to talk to our kids about how to handle situations, we need to intervene, we need to stand up for what is right. The goal of the Kindness in Chalk Movement is to combat bullying with the most valuable virtue of all.”

Teacher Strikes and Legacy K-12 (benefit) Costs

Daniel DiSalvo:

This report argues that underfunded defined-benefit pension plans and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) are the hidden drivers of labor unrest in the public sector. As these legacy costs have risen, teacher salaries have flatlined or even declined in value.
Policy recommendations:
In the name of equity and affordability, states should move away from defined-benefit pensions and toward defined-contribution plans.
More of the money currently spent on education should show up in the paychecks of working teachers.
States should consider eliminating retiree health-care benefits for newly hired teachers—indeed, for most government employees. These kinds of benefits have been sharply pared or eliminated throughout the private sector.
To implement these reforms, states could offer teachers a deal wherein raises in salary are matched with switching to a defined-contribution plan. This would have the double benefit of giving younger teachers, with lots of time to save for retirement, a bigger raise in the here-and-now, as well as reducing the government employers’ long-term pension liability.

Madison taxpayers, while spending far more than most K – 12 school districts, supported 25% benefit expenditures of the 2014-2015 budget.

Cursive (and reAdIng) instruction)

Logan Wroge:

The reasons for the proposal go “beyond nostalgia” for the writing style, he said.

Thiesfeldt, chairman of the Assembly’s Education Committee, said research suggests taking notes by hand, as opposed to typing, can lead to better comprehension and understanding of material, and cursive has long been billed as a faster method of note-taking compared to print handwriting.

The use of cursive also requires a higher level of hand-eye coordination, which can be particularly helpful for younger children, he said.

“It’s not just a nostalgic sort of skill that we want to maintain it just because people used to do it,” said Thiesfeldt, adding he’s had staffers in his office that have had difficulties reading his notes written in cursive.

In recent years, a push to return to cursive instruction has taken hold across the country.

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

“The Child Is Made to Study Far, Far Beyond His Physical Strength”

Rebecca Onion:

If you find yourself stressed, annoyed, and furious about your child’s homework this fall, it might help to know that you are participating in a great American tradition. In January 1900, Edward Bok wrote a scathing editorial in Ladies’ Home Journal about homework in America, with the headline “A National Crime at the Feet of American Parents.” “The child is made to study far, far beyond his physical strength, and consequently his mental good,” Bok pronounced. The elementary and junior high school student, Bok wrote, shouldn’t even need to tote books home from school, because he should be outside with his friends between dismissal and dinner—and after that, he should be asleep. “To rob a child of the playtime which belongs to him is a rank injustice,” Bok argued. “No child under fifteen years of age should be given any home study whatever by his teachers.”

Why so few teenagers have jobs anymore

Jessica Dickler:

Most people remember their first summer or after-school job, which provided cash to help pay for college or a car.

Today, vehicles and higher education — among other expenses — cost significantly more. Yet fewer teenagers are working.

The share of teens participating in the labor force peaked 40 years ago and has declined ever since. In 1979, nearly 60% of American teenagers were employed, an all-time high. Today, just over one-third, or 35%, of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are part of the workforce.

Teens are less likely to work part-time while in school and also less likely to work over the summer, according to a study by the Hamilton Project and Brookings Institution.

“High school has become more intense,” said Lauren Bauer, a co-author of the study

The Dangerous Life of an Anthropologist

Matthew Blackwell:

Limping in crutches, his broken leg shielded in plaster following a jogging accident, the distinguished biologist Edward O. Wilson made his way slowly toward the stage at a convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1978. Climbing the stairs, taking his seat, and shuffling his notes, a sudden burst of activity punctuated the silence as the entire front row of the audience leapt onto the stage hurling insults. They jostled Wilson and then poured iced water over his head. The protesters would turn out to be Marxists, incensed by the publication of Wilson’s book Sociobiology.

This story has become a familiar feature of the nature/nurture debate, used to illustrate the vitriolic hostility expressed by ideological groups scrambling to silence what most people already take to be an incontrovertible fact: that humans, just like every other species on earth, have a nature. As crowds abandoned Wilson to evacuate the auditorium that day, one man at the back of the room tried to push his way forward against the multitude heading towards the exits. “It was the most hateful, frightening, and disgusting behavior I’ve ever witnessed at an academic assembly,” the famed anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon would later recall. He didn’t know it then, but the events of that day were an omen of things to come for Chagnon himself, whose Wilsonian worldview would help to bring about one of anthropology’s greatest controversies.

Kevin Kelly’s Letter to Children About the Glory of Books and the Superpower of Reading in an Image-Based Digital Culture

Maria Popova:

In his epoch-making 1632 book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican, Galileo made a subtle case for how reading gives us super-human powers. Printed books were a young medium then, still in many ways a luxury for the privileged. But as the cogs of culture continued to turn, revolutionizing ideologies and technologies, making books common as daylight, the written word never lost this power. 350 years later, Carl Sagan — another patron saint of cosmic truth — echoed Galileo in his insistence that “a book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” Hermann Hesse, too, knew this when he considered why we read and always will, no matter how technology may change, in his prescient 1930 essay “The Magic of the Book.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public Sector Taxpayer Compensation

Monica Potts:

There was general agreement among the Facebook commenters that no one in the area was paid that much — the librarian’s wages would have worked out to be about $42,200 a year — and the people who do actually earn incomes that are similar — teachers and many county officials — largely remained quiet. (Clinton has a median income of $34,764 and a poverty rate of 22.6 percent.) When a few of us, including me, pointed out that the candidate for the library job had a master’s degree, more people commented on the uselessness of education. “Call me narrow-minded but I’ve never understood why a librarian needs a four-year degree,” someone wrote. “We were taught Dewey decimal system in grade school. Never sounded like anything too tough.”

Many rural counties are also experiencing declines in whatever industries were once the major employers. In Appalachia, this is coal; in much of the Midwest, it is heavy manufacturing; and in my county, and many other counties, it’s natural gas and other extractive industries.

This part of Arkansas sits on the Fayetteville Shale, which brought in natural gas exploration in the early 2000s. For about a decade, the gas companies paid local taxes on their property, equipment and the money they made from extracting natural gas, and landowners paid property taxes on the royalties they earned. It was a boom. Many people at the time, here and elsewhere, expected that the money would last longer than it did.

Instead, the price of natural gas plummeted in 2009 and profits declined. Production slowed. One of the biggest natural gas companies in the area, Houston-based Southwestern Energy, stopped paying taxes to the counties here, arguing that the rates were unfair. The company and five Arkansas counties, including mine, are still locked in litigation over some of the money it owes (it recently paid a portion of it).


To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

WEAC $1,570,000 for Four Wisconsin Senators:

How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.

Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.

Additional Commentary.

China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits

Carl Miller:

“A state”, they will answer, “in East Asia”.

But earlier in September, it would have been a “province in the People’s Republic of China”.

For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed.

The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that – as far as the encyclopedia was concerned – caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day.

“This year is a very crazy year,” sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan.

Due process on campus

Greg Piper:

Lawyers for “John Doe” wanted Pomona College to pay at least $250,000 in attorney’s fees for repeatedly violating its own policies to find the accused student responsible for sexual assault.

They got about half that from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel, who said Pomona’s conduct was so egregious that she couldn’t “conclude that the factual scenario was unique and unlikely to recur.” (Pomona attempted to retry Doe with the same approach Strobel struck down.)

The private college appealed. The result? More money for Doe.

A California appeals court upheld the $130,000 judgment against Pomona in a ruling Thursday and awarded Doe “his costs on appeal,” concluding “there was no abuse of discretion” by Judge Strobel.

The trial judge had found that Pomona denied Doe a “fair hearing” by refusing to let him submit followup questions for his female accuser in writing and then letting her skip the hearing so he couldn’t question her in person.

The Sterile, Efficient Life of a Millennial

Rainesford Stauffer:

I was covered in a layer of sweat, and my iPhone charger was dangling out of a bag that contained the after-hours work I still needed to do along with a Lara bar, crushed under the weight of my laptop. It should have been obvious: I’d been stressed, and moving way too fast. But, as usual, I didn’t realize it until I was on the train. I poked my head out of my inbox long enough to play peek-a-boo with a toddler clutching her snack, and chat with an older couple en route to vacation. I felt joy, and a familiar pang of shame that comes from realizing you’ve moved too fast to cherish what’s in front of you.

Deja vu: 2008 – 2019 Credit for non MadIson School District Courses and Adult Employment

Logan Wroge:

To help students make the transition to a higher-intensity setting, two Madison School District teachers spend time at Goodman South instructing courses with solely STEM Academy students and some with a mix of traditional college and high school students.

“We thought it was really important to have high school teachers be part of the program, teachers that kind of know 16-year-olds well and may already have relationships with students,” Green said.

MATC also has two resource specialists working with the students at Goodman South, acting as academic and career advisers.

Green said the district and college have been intentional about structuring the student schedules so they are on campus between about 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This is designed so students can continue to participate in sports or after-school, extra-curricular activities, she said.

“We felt it was important for them to still have a connection to their home school,” Green said.

Miranda, the La Follette High School student, makes it back to the Southeast Side school three days a week to participate in three different clubs.

“I just felt like I left part of my high school experience or teenage experience back there, even though I have friends here,” Miranda said. “At the same time, I really do like this environment because it does fit with being mature and having your own independence.”

2008 (!) A
history of parent attempts to implement credit for non taxpayer supported Madison School District credit.

“The district and the union also have quarreled over the role of MTI members in online learning for seven years. Under the new agreement, ANY (my emphasis) instruction of district students will be supervised by Madison teachers. The deal doesn’t change existing practice but confirms that that practice will continue.”

You are quite new to the MMSD. I am EXTREMELY disappointed that you would “cave in” to MTI regarding a long-standing quarrel it has had with the MMSD without first taking the time to get input from ALL affected parties, i.e., students and their parents as well as teachers who might not agree with Matthews on this issue. Does this agreement deal only with online learning or ALL non-MMSD courses (e.g., correspondence ones done by mail; UW and MATC courses not taken via the YOP)? Given we have been waiting 7 years to resolve this issue, there was clearly no urgent need for you to do so this rapidly and so soon after coming on board. The reality is that it is an outright LIE that the deal you just struck with MTI is not a change from the practice that existed 7 years ago when MTI first demanded a change in unofficial policy. I have copies of student transcripts that can unequivocally PROVE that some MMSD students used to be able to receive high school credit for courses they took elsewhere even when the MMSD offered a comparable course. These courses include high school biology and history courses taken via UW-Extension, high school chemistry taken via Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, and mathematics, computer science, and history courses taken at UW-Madison outside of the YOP. One of these transcripts shows credit for a course taken as recently as fall, 2005; without this particular 1/2 course credit, this student would have been lacking a course in modern US history, a requirement for a high school diploma from the State of Wisconsin.
The MMSD BOE was well aware that they had never written and approved a clear policy regarding this matter, leaving each school in the district deciding for themselves whether or not to approve for credit non-MMSD courses. They were well aware that Madison West HAD been giving many students credit in the past for non-MMSD courses. The fact is that the BOE voted in January, 2007 to “freeze” policy at whatever each school had been doing until such time as they approved an official policy. Rainwater then chose to ignore this official vote of the BOE, telling the guidance departments to stop giving students credit for such courses regardless of whether they had in the past. The fact is that the BOE was in the process of working to create a uniform policy regarding non-MMSD courses last spring. As an employee of the BOE, you should not have signed an agreement with MTI until AFTER the BOE had determined official MMSD policy on this topic. By doing so, you pre-empted the process.

An emphasis on adult employment

Getting a new mobile number in China will involve a facial-recognition test

Jane Li:

China is taking every measure it can to verify the identities of its over 850 million mobile internet users.

From Dec. 1, people applying for new mobile and data services will have to have their faces scanned by telecom providers, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a Sept. 27 statement (link in Chinese).

MIIT said the step was part of its efforts to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace” and to control phone and internet fraud. In addition to the facial-recognition test, phone users are also banned from passing their mobile phone numbers to others, and encouraged to check if numbers are registered under their name without their consent.

Civics: Free sPeech and the legacy media

Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson :

Today, The New York Times continued its mission of trying to eliminate free expression for everyone that isn’t part of the elite media family. In an authoritarian and dangerous article called “Free Speech Is Killing Us,” Andrew Marantz argues that free speech is not, in fact, for just anybody. Forgetting, of course, that it’s for everyone.

After all, Marantz has spent “the past few years embedding as a reporter with the trolls and bigots and propagandists who are experts at converting fanatical memes into national policy.” So he “no longer [has] any doubt that the brutality that germinates on the internet can leap into the world of flesh and blood.”

You see, Marantz is basically a hero. It’s a miracle that he managed to make it out alive. He actually had to hold his nose and spend social time with unwashed, uncivilized people he thinks are deplorable. He’s basically the 2019 version of a SCUD stud.

Marantz boldly explains to us regular folk why we should be okay with the erosion of our rights to expression and why corporate censorship is a “good thing”:

Using “free speech” as a cop-out is just as intellectually dishonest and just as morally bankrupt. For one thing, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private companies. Even the most creative reader of the Constitution will not find a provision guaranteeing Richard Spencer a Twitter account. But even if you see social media platforms as something more akin to a public utility, not all speech is protected under the First Amendment anyway. Libel, incitement of violence and child pornography are all forms of speech. Yet we censor all of them, and no one calls it the death knell of the Enlightenment.

‘The way universities are run is making us ill’: inside the student mental health crisis

Samira Shackle:

When he started working at Brunel University London 19 years ago, Terry Vass, who is now head of security, recalls that most of his work involved breaking up drunken fights outside the bars and nightclub on campus. Over the two decades he has been in the job, he has noticed a shift. Now, an increasing number of calls are for mental health incidents.

The worst times are at the start of term, when students are adjusting to being away from home, or over the holidays, when the small number who remain on campus may feel lonely and isolated. Increasingly, Vass’s security team are called out to mental health emergencies, sometimes accompanying suicidal students to A&E and staying with them. “We spend as much time as it takes,” says Vass. On occasion, he has spent six hours with a student in distress.

In his own words: Gary Kildall

Leonard J. Shustek:

“Our father, Gary Kildall, was one of the founders of the personal computer industry, but you probably don’t know his name. Those who have heard of him may recall the myth that he ‘missed’ the opportunity to become Bill Gates by going flying instead of meeting with IBM. Unfortunately, this tall tale paints Gary as a ‘could-have-been,’ ignores his deep contributions, and overshadows his role as an inventor of key technologies that define how computer platforms run today.

Gary viewed computers as learning tools rather than profit engines. His career choices reflect a different definition of success, where innovation means sharing ideas, letting passion drive your work and making source code available for others to build upon. His work ethic during the 1970s resembles that of the open-source community today.

With this perspective, we offer a portion of our father’s unpublished memoirs so that you can read about his experiences and reflections on the early days of the computer industry, directly in his own voice.

In this excerpt Gary writes about his vision for bringing the new microprocessors into homes and businesses. In 1974, he invented CP/M, the first operating system that could run on these new desktop platforms. Soon after, he created the BIOS, which enabled CP/M to easily interface with different computer hardware.

Cheap smartphones have a disturbing secret

Michael Grothaus:

But there’s a problem: low-cost smartphones are privacy nightmares.

According to an analysis by the advocacy group Privacy International, a $17 Android smartphone called MYA2 MyPhone, which was launched in December 2017, has a host of privacy problems that make its owner vulnerable to hackers and to data-hungry tech companies.

First, it comes with an outdated version of Android with known security vulnerabilities that can’t be updated or patched. The MYA2 also has apps that can’t be updated or deleted, and those apps contain multiple security and privacy flaws. One of those pre-installed apps that can’t be removed, Facebook Lite, gets default permission to track everywhere you go, upload all your contacts, and read your phone’s calendar. The fact that Facebook Lite can’t be removed is especially worrying because the app suffered a major privacy snafu earlier this year when hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users had their passwords exposed. Facebook did not respond to request for comment.

College Students Just Want Normal Libraries

Alia Wong:

Back in the 1940s, college libraries had something of an existential crisis. Charles Gosnell, a prominent library-sciences scholar and college librarian in New York, suggested that shifting academic priorities and space constraints threatened to deplete certain book collections, particularly those in highly technical fields such as chemistry, economics, and education. By phasing out the seemingly antiquated books, perhaps libraries would also be divesting themselves of the titles’ particular perspectives or scientific frameworks, many of which could be invaluable. New books had begun to far outnumber older titles in libraries’ collections, a trend that Gosnell described in his article as “book mortality.”

Charter Schools Ace Another Test

Wall Street Journal:

Is the success of charter schools an illusion? Critics claim charters merely skim the best students, whose parents care enough to apply, while pushing out troublemakers. So it’s worth noting a new study showing that often test scores improve for all students when charters increase their market share.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute examined 21 urban school districts with at least 2,500 black students per grade from 2009-2015. As the “black charter market share” rises in the study to 50% from zero, the associated educational gain is 0.8 grade level in English and 0.7 in math. This bump is for all black students in the district, whether they attend a charter or not.

On Whining

Dan Kois:

The pitch of the average whine is a B above middle C, but played on an oboe that’s a quarter-step flat.

Research shows that whining peaks in children between the ages of 2 and 4, but every parent knows that it continues well into tweenhood. In adolescence the whine is sometimes replaced by the sulk or the simmer, the dissatisfaction swallowed or, more likely, tucked away for later use. This is part of becoming an adult.

Our family spent a year traveling around the world, and during that year I learned that children whine nearly everywhere. New Zealand children whine. Costa Rican children whine in Spanish. Dutch children whine, but in a country built on comity and compromise, whining is accepted as part of the endless negotiation every family decision must undergo. And our American children, ages 11 and 9, whined everywhere: hiking on the beautiful coastline of New Zealand’s South Island, swimming in a water park in Dubai, watching a homecoming parade down Main Street of a small Kansas town. (“They’re throwing more candy to the other kids!”) As we rode horses through the Costa Rican jungle, the sound of howler monkeys expressing their discontent failed to drown out the sound of our children expressing theirs. I now consider myself a keen amateur scholar of whining.

Elites against western civilization

Joel Kotkin:

The intellectual class across the West—encompassing its universities, media, and arts—is striving to dismantle the values that paced its ascendancy. Europe, the source of Western civilization, now faces a campaign, in academia and elite media, to replace its cultural and religious traditions with what one author describes as a “multicultural and post-racial republic” supportive of separate identities. “The European ‘we’ does not exist,” writes French philosopher Pierre Manent, assessing the damage. “European culture is in hiding, disappearing, without a soul.”
The increasingly “woke” values of the educated upper classes reflect, as Alvin Toffler predicted almost half a century ago, the inevitable consequence of mass affluence, corporate concentration, and the shift to a service economy. The new elite, Toffler foresaw, would abandon traditional bourgeois values of hard work and family for “more aesthetic goals, self-fulfillment as well as unbridled hedonism.” Affluence, he observed, “serves as a base from which men begin to strive for post economic goals.”
The driving force for these changes has been the ascendant clerisy, which, reprising the role that the Church played in medieval times, sees itself as anointed to direct human society, a modern version of the “oligarchy of priests and monks whose task it was to propitiate heaven,” in the words of the great French historian of the Middle Ages, Marc Bloch. Traditional clerics remained part of this class but were joined by others—university professors, scientists, public intellectuals, and heads of charitable foundations. This secular portion of society has now essentially replaced the clergy, serving as what German sociologist Max Weber once called society’s “new legitimizers.” The clerisy spans an ever-growing section of the workforce that largely works outside the market economy—teachers, consultants, lawyers, government workers, and medical professionals. Meantime, positions common among the traditional middle class—small-business owners, workers in basic industries and construction—have dwindled as a share of the job market.

Letter from a Pakistani Homeschooler

Bryan Caplan:

I recently received this email from Pakistani homeschooler Fasih Zulfiqar. I advised him to seek out econ professors at the nearest universities, but he’d likely appreciate further advice. Reprinted with his permission.

Hello Prof Bryan, Fasih here. Perhaps Prof Cowen informed you about me, but in case he did not, let me introduce myself.

I’m a student from Pakistan who has self-studied through secondary education. I decided to quit schooling when I was in grade 6, much to the consternation of my relatives. They dinned into me that schooling is the only avenue for success, and that I would certainly fail if I go solo.

There were days when I would come back to home from school – completly exhausted – and ask myself if I truly learned anything. Sure I had friends and all, but school was not serving the purpose it was meant to. Moreover, it wasn’t cheap. My father could hardly afford sending me and my sister to school, let alone pay the prohibitive rent. More and more often, I found myself considering whether it was all even worth it. So in the summer of 2012, I decided it was enough and quit school.

Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard

Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler, Tyler Ransom:

The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an unprecedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as white non-ALDCs. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.

Nearly half of white Harvard students are athletes or children of alumni or donors


A recent study found that between 2009 and 2014, nearly half of caucasian students admitted to Harvard University were either athletes, legacy, or children of faculty and donors.

Researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Oklahoma, found that 43% of Harvard’s white admits had one of these admissions advantages. The study, published on Sept. 11, concluded that only one-quarter of these students would have received admission had it not been for their advantageous circumstances.

How Home Equity Impacts College Aid

Beth DeCarbo:

Fall is hunting season across the U.S., a time when high-school seniors target their favorite colleges and their parents aim for financial aid.

One factor to consider when applying: the impact of your home’s equity on financial aid. But prepare yourself. It seemingly takes an advanced degree to calculate eligibility, since formulas vary widely from school to school.

“I wish it weren’t so complicated. I study this day and night,” says Paula Bishop, a college financial-aid adviser in Bellevue, Wash.

Almost all U.S. colleges and universities require financial-aid applicants to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which doesn’t ask parents about home equity. However, several hundred other schools—many of them elite, private institutions—also require the College Scholarship Service Profile (or CSS Profile), an application created by the College Board for nonfederal financial aid. It asks applicants for the home’s purchase price, purchase year, current value and current debt and determines the home’s equity (value minus debt).

Here’s the catch: Schools that require the CSS profile handle the home-equity information differently. Boston College, for example, looks at 100% of home equity. Stanford University announced last year that it won’t consider home equity all. Cornell University will limit home equity to 1½-times the family’s adjusted gross income. So for a household with $800,000 in home equity making $200,000 a year, home equity is capped at $300,000 (200,000 x 1.5).

Libel Lawsuit Over University Rape Allegations Can Proceed

Eugene Volokh:

Reddington moved to dismiss, but the court allowed Goldman’s claim to go forward:

First, Reddington argues that the complaint fails to adequately allege that her statements were false. While plaintiffs must offer more than a conclusory statement of falsity, Reddington attempts to impose a heightened standard contrary to New York law. Goldman unambiguously disavows the accusation of rape as “utterly unfounded,” and presents specific facts through the OCDA report to plausibly allege that Reddington’s claims are not true….

Reddington cautions the Court against the use of the OCDA report, noting that the District Attorney’s decision not to bring criminal charges “does not conclusively establish that no sexual assault occurred.” However, the criminal standard of proof is immaterial here…. While the Court is sensitive to the exceedingly difficult task of corroborating claims of sexual assault, and has questions about the SANE examination and Title IX investigation, a motion to dismiss is an inappropriate forum to deal with these concerns. Reddington is free to renew her arguments regarding falsity in a motion for summary judgment following discovery.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Seven-Year Auto Loan: America’s Middle Class Can’t Afford Its Cars [Math Education…]

Ben Eisen & Adrienne Roberts:

Mr. Jones, now 22 years old, walked out with a gray Accord sedan with heated leather seats. He also took home a 72-month car loan that cost him and his then-girlfriend more than $500 a month. When they split last year and the monthly payment fell solely to him, it suddenly took up more than a quarter of his take-home pay.

He paid $27,000 for the car, less than the sticker price, but took out a $36,000 loan with an interest rate of 1.9% to cover the purchase price and unpaid debt on two vehicles he bought as a teenager. It was particularly burdensome when combined with his other debt, including credit cards, he said.

Just 18% of U.S. households had enough liquid assets to cover the cost of a new car, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of 2016 data from the Fed’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances, a proportion that hasn’t changed much in recent years.

Even a conservative car loan often won’t do it. The median-income U.S. household with a four-year loan, 20% down and a payment under 10% of gross income—a standard budget—could afford a car worth $18,390, excluding taxes, according to an analysis by personal-finance website

Related: Discovery, Connected and Singapore Math.

Madison’s math task force.

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Commentary on possible Full Day 4K in Wisconsin

Scott Girard:

According to a fiscal estimate attached to the bill, 32 of the state’s 421 school districts currently offer full-day 4K Monday through Friday.

The estimate acknowledges the incentive for districts to move to full-day 4K if the bill is approved, but also points out some caveats and states that DPI does not have data on how many districts would expand if the bill were approved.

“Other factors would have to be considered, such as available space and the wishes of the local community to expand the 4K program,” the narrative states.

Madison Teachers Inc. executive director Doug Keillor wrote in an email that MTI had not reviewed all of the details of the proposal, but was generally in support.

“MTI strongly supports legislation which would allow school districts to expand the delivery of 4K services, including the ability for school districts to offer full-day 4K programs,” Keillor wrote. “Any and all investments in early childhood education produce dividends down the road and help us close gaps.”

Much more on 4K spending and effectiveness, here..

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

Data as a Property Right

Andrew Yang:

Each of us generates a significant amount of data each day during the normal course of our activities. Our phones and computers track our movement and actions, while our browsers and websites track our online activities. As we’ve seen, some of the largest tech companies can know more about us and our lives than our families and those closest to us.

As of now, that data is owned by the people who collect it, and they’re allowed to do anything they want with it. They’ve sold it, used it to target us with advertisements, and have analyzed the vast quantity of data to draw conclusions on whole populations, allowing them to monetize it.

We’ve also seen it abused. Some companies haven’t done enough to protect our data, resulting in breaches that have made our private information insecure. Others have sold it to disreputable companies, allowing them to target us for everything from marketing fraudulent services to influencing elections. Companies themselves have asked for better and clearer rules.

This needs to stop. Data generated by each individual needs to be owned by them, with certain rights conveyed that will allow them to know how it’s used and protect it. These rights include:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans Spent More on Taxes in 2018 Than on Food, Clothing and Health Care Combined

Terence Jeffrey:

In 2018, according to Table R-1, American consumer units spent an average of $9,031.93 on federal income taxes; $5,023.73 on Social Security taxes (which the table calls “deductions”); $2,284.62 on state and local income taxes; $2,199.80 on property taxes; and $77.85 on what BLS calls “other taxes.”

The combined payments the average American consumer unit made for these five categories of taxes was $18,617.93.

At the same time the average American consumer unit was paying these taxes, it was spending $7,923.19 on food; $4,968.44 on health care; and $1,866.48 on “apparel and services.”

These combined expenditures equaled $14,758.11.

So, the $14,758.11 that the average American consumer unit paid for food, clothing and health care was $3,859.82 less than the $18,617.93 it paid in federal, state and local income taxes, property taxes, Social Security taxes and “other taxes.”

California Governor Signs Bill Allowing College Athletes To Profit From Endorsements

Colin Dwyer:

In a move that puts California on a collision course with the NCAA, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill effectively allowing college athletes in the state to earn compensation for the use of their likeness, sign endorsement deals and hire agents to represent them.

The governor signed the measure in a segment released Monday by Uninterrupted, a sports programming company co-founded by LeBron James.

Newsom proclaimed the move as “the beginning of a national movement — one that transcends geographic and partisan lines.”

“Collegiate student athletes put everything on the line — their physical health, future career prospects and years of their lives to compete. Colleges reap billions from these student athletes’ sacrifices and success but, in the same breath, block them from earning a single dollar,” he said in a statement. “That’s a bankrupt model — one that puts institutions ahead of the students they are supposed to serve. It needs to be disrupted.”

Civics: Secret F.B.I. Subpoenas Scoop Up Personal Data From Scores of Companies

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries:

The F.B.I. has used secret subpoenas to obtain personal data from far more companies than previously disclosed, newly released documents show.

The requests, which the F.B.I. says are critical to its counterterrorism efforts, have raised privacy concerns for years but have been associated mainly with tech companies. Now, records show how far beyond Silicon Valley the practice extends — encompassing scores of banks, credit agencies, cellphone carriers and even universities.

The demands can scoop up a variety of information, including usernames, locations, IP addresses and records of purchases. They don’t require a judge’s approval and usually come with a gag order, leaving them shrouded in secrecy. Fewer than 20 entities, most of them tech companies, have ever revealed that they’ve received the subpoenas, known as national security letters.

The documents, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shed light on the scope of the demands — more than 120 companies and other entities were included in the filing — and raise questions about the effectiveness of a 2015 law that was intended to increase transparency around them.

ANother Lost Decade: Madison’s Reading Crisis Continues

Simpson Street Free Press:

On the wall at Simpson Street is a feature editorial from the Wisconsin State Journal. The headline reads “Support State Reading Initiatives” and announces the launch of a bipartisan effort co-chaired by Tony Evers and Scott Walker. The editorial is dated September 12, 2012.

Local News and Numbers

Recent reports by Wisconsin State Journal, The Capital Times, Channel 3 News, Isthmus, and other news outlets paint a new, more tragic picture. Nothing has changed. Achievement gaps are worse.

Reporting on the latest round of Forward Exams, Logan Wroge of the Wisconsin State Journal points out that fewer than half of Wisconsin students are proficient or advanced in English/language arts or math, and that those numbers are going down. About 543,000 Wisconsin students in grades 3-8 took part in Forward Exams last school year.

Forward Exam results, as in previous years, show Madison students trailing state-wide averages.

“In grades 3-8, 34.8% of Madison students are proficient or advanced in English on the Forward Exam and 38.2% in Math,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal .

In the Madison school district, the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced was stagnant or slightly down from 2017-18. Language arts dropped from “36.6% in 2017-18 to 34.9% last year. In math, the percentage went from 38.2% to 38.4%, and in social studies from 46.7% to 45.5%” according to The Capital Times.

Wisconsin DPI reports almost 60% of African-American students in Madison scored “below basic” in language arts on recent Forward exams. About 47% of Hispanic students scored below basic in English-Language Arts. Only 10.1% of black students and 16% of Hispanic students scored in one of the two highest categories (proficient or advanced) The Capital Times reported.

What’s more, students in the state of Mississippi continue to outperform kids living in Madison, Wisconsin.

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

Civics: Six U.S. Cities Make the List of Most Surveilled Places in the World

Emma Coleman:

Conversations about privacy concerns in recent years have often focused on the online space, given high profile data breaches and repeated revelations of tech companies’ misuse of personal information. But the private sector isn’t alone in surveilling people, and invasions of privacy aren’t just threats online.

Offline surveillance by the government has grown exponentially in the past few years. One estimate found that the number of security cameras in the U.S. grew from 33 million in 2012 to 62 million in 2016. Now, a new report from Comparitech, a technology research firm, takes a count of the number of closed-circuit television cameras owned by both government and private sources in cities around the world and compares that with the city’s population to find the density of cameras.

Atlanta was the only place in the U.S. to crack the top ten, with 15.56 cameras per thousand residents. That may seem low compared to cities higher on the list, most of which are in China and have 39 to 168 cameras per thousand residents, but Atlanta’s rate is high by U.S. standards. The five other municipalities that made the list of the top 50 most surveilled cities in the world included Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, San Diego, and Boston.

When Colleges Defraud Donors

Richard Vedder:

Colleges rarely sue one another, so when little Hillsdale College in Michigan sued the much larger University of Missouri a couple of years ago, it raised some eyebrows. Hillsdale alleges that Mizzou blatantly violated the terms of Wall Street financier Sherlock Hibbs’ will, who left $5 million to his alma mater upon his death to create multiple chairs to be held by “disciples” of the Austrian school of economics. Hibbs, who died in 2002, was a strong adherent of that approach to economics, led in the 20th century by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, asserting, among many other things, that market-based solutions to problems are generally superior to those imposed by governments. Austrian economists are generally libertarians or at least market-oriented conservatives.

Last week’s Wall Street Journal’s account of the current brouhaha by Hillsdale alum Nicole Ault revealed the published vitae of about two dozen members of the Department of Economics (the logical home of Austrian economists) at Mizzou. None had a remotely Austrian orientation. I then learned the names of the alleged Austrian disciples holding Hibbs financed positions, all teaching management or marketing courses unrelated, as far as I could tell from published vitae and course offerings, in any important way to Austrian economics. To be fair, Mizzou once did have a genuine (and good) Austrian economist, Peter Klein —but he left in 2015 to go to Baylor, and I do not believe he was funded with Hibbs money.

The myth of the golden age of reading

Sameer Rahim:

Attention spans are getting shorter. We no longer have the patience to read properly. The printed codex is a dead technology and the future is browsing ebooks and hyperlinked webpages. Listening to an audiobook isn’t as good as reading a proper book. These are some common arguments you hear. But are they right? Leah Price, an English scholar at Harvard, says we’re too quick to assume that there was a golden age of reading from which we have declined. Prospect’s Sameer Rahim talked to Price about her new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Books, down the line from America. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

The Hedge Fund Billionaire’s Guide to Buying Your Kids a Better Shot at Not Just One Elite College, but Lots of Them

Ava Kofman and Daniel Golden:

Starting in 2011, when the oldest of their three children was about two years away from applying to college, the Shaw Family Endowment Fund donated $1 million annually to Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford and at least $500,000 each to Columbia and Brown. The pattern persisted through 2017, the most recent year for which public filings are available, with a bump in giving to Columbia to $1 million a year in 2016 and 2017. The foundation, which lists Kobliner as president and Shaw as treasurer and secretary, has also contributed $200,000 annually to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2013.

The total donations for “general” purposes across seven years and seven elite schools are $37.3 million, which represents 62% of the foundation’s giving over that period. At minimum, experts in higher-education fundraising say, Shaw and Kobliner’s strategy improved their children’s chances of getting into at least one of the country’s top universities. At best, it would allow them to choose whichever blue-chip school they preferred, making selecting a college as easy as ordering from a takeout menu.

Wanna Impress an Engineer at a Career Fair?

Nas Reilly:

Hey, engineering student. Thanks for coming to talk to me at your school’s career fair.

Want to impress me, and work with me at my shiny big tech company? Of course you do!

But how?

Here’s how.

Being good at your discipline is the easiest way to get noticed.

That’s a lousy platitude to spit out first thing, but it’s true. The good ones have taken what they’ve learned, and internalized it. Typically, they go one step farther. They don’t stop at what they’re fed in class. They take the stuff they learn in class and apply it. As a result – they learn outside of class. That’s a bitchin’ signal to send to a prospective employer.

How do you show that? Project work.

Google Achieves Quantum Supremacy. Is Encryption Safe?

Lucian Armasu:

There has been a discussion about quantum computers being able to break encryption almost since the beginning of their history. One of the very first “quantum algorithms” that were developed for quantum computers many years before anyone even started building a quantum computer was actually encryption-breaking algorithms.

One algorithm, called Shor’s algorithm, quantum can completely break RSA and elliptic curve cryptography as soon as the quantum computer has enough (logical) qubits to do that. The other, called Grover’s algorithm, can drastically reduce AES encryption from 128-bits to 64-bits, which can then be broken by run-of-the-mill PCs.

You can attempt to increase the bits on each encryption algorithm and try to defend yourself that way against quantum computers, but once quantum computers can break the lowest levels of encryption, we should be only years away before they break the strongest versions of these encryption algorithms, too.
The good news is that thousands of logical qubits will be needed to achieve break what are currently the most common encryption algorithms in use.

Researchers from Canadian company Krypterra believe that we’d need 2,953 logical qubits to break AES-128 and 6,681 logical qubits to break AES-256. Similarly, we’d need 4096 logical qubits to break RSA-2048.

But what are logical qubits anyway? Here comes the even “better” news in regards to encryption — Krypterra researchers say that to get thousands of logical qubits we’d need millions of physical qubits, or the same type of qubits Google, IBM, Intel, and others currently claim to have. Google itself has said before that quantum computers get truly interesting when we reach somewhere between 100,000 and 1 million qubits.

Will getting a PhD lead to a more interesting life?

Hacker News:

I’m at the end of my MSc. studies in CS. At the moment, I can choose to graduate in a month or two, or stay-on for another 9 months doing research in interactive theorem proving that will potentially lead to a PhD opportunity.

I’m doing my MSc in a foreign country and I’m very unhappy here. Another ~9 months seems like a huge hurdle to me. The current situation is if I choose to graduate soon, I will likely surrender my chance for a PhD.

I don’t particularly love studying. I think interactive theorem proving is quite cool, but the actual practice of studying/research hasn’t been that enjoyable to me, but I enjoy having the knowledge once I’ve acquired it. In many ways it seems like “the future” to me, and it’d be really neat to be one of the first passengers on that train, so to say.

I have no desire to become a professor/researcher. After I acquire my PhD, I surmise that I would go to industry.

The issue here is one of bad information: I don’t have industry experience and I don’t really know how any of this stuff plays out. I’m worried that if I chose to forego the PhD, I’ll really regret it in a number of years. I’m afraid I won’t be able to find interesting work with just a MSc, and I’m really afraid of getting a boring software engineering gig.

A professor mentioned some years ago that when getting your PhD, you try to save the world and then after you have it you try to save yourself.