Commentary on software generated writing and human learning

John Symons:

Three or four months into the COVID pandemic, depending on how one counts such things, the OpenAI corporation released their GPT-3 language model. GPT-3 is an automated system for generating texts that are difficult to distinguish from those from a human being in response to prompts and questions. It consists of a machine learning model with 175 billion parameters built on a vast corpus of data including petabytes of information stored by Common Crawl, a non-profit that provides a free archive of the contents of the public internet. 

Alan Turing had originally conceived of a text-based imitation game as a way of thinking about our criteria for assigning intelligence to candidate machines. If something can pass what we now call the Turing Test; if it can consistently and sustainably convince us that we are texting with an intelligent being, then we have no good reason to deny that it counts as intelligent. It shouldn’t matter that it doesn’t have a body like ours or that it wasn’t born of a human mother.  If it passes, it is entitled to the kind of value and moral consideration that we would assign to any other intelligent being. Turing’s test was intended to remove irrelevant conditions on our judgments regarding the physical features, material composition, etc. of the interlocutors. Large language models (LLM) like GPT-3 are likely to be a central part of projects to build artificial general intelligence systems for reasons that Turing had foreseen. While many philosophers were correctly impressed by the power of GPT-3 in the summer of 2020; they focused on its consequences for traditional philosophical questions about intelligence, cognition, and the like, for me, GPT-3 represented a hack that potentially undermined the kind of writing intensive course that had served as the backbone of my teaching for two decades. I was less worried about whether GPT-3 is genuinely intelligent and more worried about whether the development of these tools would make us less intelligent. 

GPT-3 is impressive and has impressed the media. While it’s difficult to know how much contemporary media coverage of a new technology is shaped by clever public relations efforts, there is something important about these systems independent of the usual Californian hype. The effects of LLMs of this kind are potentially significant, with implications in a range of contexts from obvious commercial applications to the less obvious effects on our psychological well-being, relationships, political discourse, social inequality, child development, care for the elderly, and education. We are becoming increasingly sensitive to the ways that technology changes society. 

The philosopher Bruno Latour argued that technology is “society made robust.” But rather than being simply the projection of culture onto the physical world, technology has reshaped culture, society, and politics. Whereas mobile telephony had unexpected effects on love, friendships, and politics, LLMs will change the traditional relationship between writing and thinking. The initial effects will be obvious to teachers as we head into the coming school year. AI is looming over the education system and while LLMs have received relatively little attention, classroom teachers will soon see the early stages of what promises to be a transformation in our relationship to writing.


Notes on Taxpayer supported school term and censorship policies

Alec Johnson:

A recent decision by the Kettle Moraine School District to ban pride flags and prohibit the use of pronouns in emails and email signatures has drawn strong opposition.

The district posted about the decision July 27 on its Facebook page. It also posted video from the July 26 School Board meeting, in which the decision was shared as part of Superintendent Stephen Plum’s update to the board. 

Plum said district policy prohibits staff from using their positions to promote partisan politics, sectarian religious views, selfish propaganda for personal, monetary or nonmonetary gain.

A Progress Studies History of Early MIT — Part 1: Training the engineers who built the country

Eric Gilliam:

Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen opened their 2019 Atlantic piece that helped jump-start the progress studies movement with the following passage:

In 1861, the American scientist and educator William Barton Rogers published a manifesto calling for a new kind of research institution. Recognizing the “daily increasing proofs of the happy influence of scientific culture on the industry and the civilization of the nations,” and the growing importance of what he called “Industrial Arts,” he proposed a new organization dedicated to practical knowledge. He named it the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In my eyes, MIT is entirely deserving of this honor: being used as the authors’ first example of an organization that generated progress. Yet, despite how well-known this article has become and MIT’s prominent placement in it, many in the progress studies community still don’t appreciate just how different the Institute was in its early years — arguably the Institute’s most productive years.

Early MIT was a remarkably differentiated product from the other elite, Ivy League universities. It was an experimental school focused on training a new kind of technical man, and a remarkably successful one. It helped train many elite engineers who helped build the country in America’s era of peak economic growth, an era whose growth is largely credited to engineering and technical feats. And its faculty contributed to this growth in an even more direct way, undertaking courses of research that bordered on being so practical that many in modern times wouldn’t even call it real academic research — not to mention its extremely close Industry partnerships that the school saw as vital to its mission. MIT was a place that saw itself as existing in service to industry, and it thrived in that role.

“The central plank of Newsom’s education transformation has been, in essence, to leave poor kids behind”

Michael Lucci:

California ranked last of all states in reopening schools after the pandemic, and the poor suffered the most. A study by Harvard economists finds that in states like California, where remote instruction was more common during the pandemic, high-poverty schools spent an additional nine weeks in remote instruction compared with low-poverty schools. In contrast, states like Florida and Texas had much lower rates of remote instruction, and smaller differences in its overall use between high- and low-poverty districts.

Brookings researchers have also demonstrated how school closings and remote learning hurt poor students. They showed that national “test-score gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by approximately 20% in math and 15% in reading.” The gap grew fastest in California.

Instead of a national model, Newsom’s California is a national warning of what happens when the progressive education establishment captures a state.

The political ads Newsom ran in Florida reveal perhaps an even greater disconnect between his rhetoric and California’s reality. Newsom warned Floridians that freedom “is under attack in your state,” and urged Florida residents to “join the fight, or join us in California where we still believe in freedom.” Newsom’s messaging turns gaslighting into a political strategy. If California believes in freedom, it has an odd way of showing it. After years of mask mandates, school closures, and pervasive lockdowns, Californians must be wondering what limits exist on state government intrusion into their lives. Nonetheless, they can’t help but notice the newfound freedoms that criminals and street homeless have enjoyed in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the rule of law has eroded at the hands of activist district attorneys.

“It is hard to convince people that religious liberty is worth defending if they don’t think that religion is a good thing that deserves protection.”

Samuel Alito:

“The challenge for those who want to protect religious liberty in the United States, Europe, and other similar places is to convince people who are not religious that religious liberty is worth special protection…. If religious liberty is protected, religious leaders and other men and women of faith will be able to speak out on social issues. People with deep religious convictions may be less likely to succumb to dominating ideologies or trends, and more likely to act in accordance with what they see as true and right. Civil society can count on them as engines of reform…. The Cultural Revolution [in China] did its best to destroy religion, but it was not successful. It could not extinguish the religious impulse. Our hearts are restless until we rest in God. And, therefore, the champions of religious liberty who go out as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves can expect to find hearts that are open to their message.”

US School District Population and Poverty estimates

US Census:

The files below contain estimates of population and poverty. The school districts for which we have estimates were identified in the 2021 school district mapping survey, which asked about all school districts as of January 1, 2021 and used school district boundaries for the 2020-2021 school year. The 2020 estimates are consistent with the population controls and income concepts used in the American Community Survey single-year estimates.

There is uncertainty associated with all estimates in this program. For a discussion of estimating the relative magnitude of this uncertainty in SAIPE school district estimates, please see Quantifying Relative Error in the School District Estimates.

Harm and hegemony: the decline of free speech in the United States

Jonathan Turley:

Throughout its history, the United States has struggled with movements that aim to silence others through state or private ac- tion. These periods have been pendulous, with acute suppression followed by relative tolerance for free speech. This boom–or-bust pattern for free speech may well continue. However, the United States is arguably living through one of its most serious anti-free speech periods, and there are signs that the current period could result in lasting damage for free speech due to a rising orthodoxy and intolerance on our campuses and in our public debate. Where fighting for freedom of speech was once a near-universal rallying cry, opposing free speech has now become an article of faith for some in our society. This has led to a rising movement that justifies silencing opposing views, often on the grounds that stopping oth- ers from speaking is, in fact, an exercise in free speech. This move- ment has both public and private components, but it is different from any prior period due to new technological, political, and eco- nomic pressures on the exercise of free speech.

The struggle for free speech in the United States is interwoven with our history, from the colonial period to the present day. From the outset, there was a clear concept of free speech, but not a clear commitment to protecting it. Indeed, figures like Thomas Paine and John Peter Zenger raised many issues against the English Crown that are still debated today in conflicts over free speech and the free press.2 Anti-free speech movements tend to rise from deep fractures in our society in periods of unrest. The sense of great injury felt by many can be translated into a license to silence those who are seen as causing or exacerbating that injury. These periods provide an opportunity not only for government abuses but also for extremist groups to feed on social unrest. In recent years, various extremist groups have emerged on both ends of the ideological spectrum, from the Boogaloo movement on the far right to the Antifa move- ment on the far left. However, the greatest threat to free speech to- day is the growing support for censorship and speech codes in the mainstream of political and academic thought.

The intolerance for dissenting speech recurs across countries and historical periods. Orthodoxy is the enemy of free speech, and orthodox views are often the result of religious or social values. He- retical and immoral speech has long been the target of majoritarian anger, combining speech intolerance with religious dogma. At one time or another, virtually every religion has tried to compel outsid- ers to adhere to orthodox views, and blasphemy prosecutions con- tinue in many countries today.3 Even after the adoption of the Con- stitution and the Bill of Rights, dominant faiths continued to use social or governmental controls to perpetuate their values, includ- ing abuses directed at other faiths. Yet the most damaging anti-free speech movements in our history tended to be secular efforts in- volving government-mandated or government-encouraged speech controls. That is true of the current threats against free speech, in- volving private groups and companies that have imposed unprec- edented levels of speech controls across digital and educational platforms.

Civics: IRS Tells Senators No Political Influence in Comey Audit:


IRS officials at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday expressed confidence that audits of two former FBI leaders were not politically motivated, senators said.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig “was pretty clear that there was no political interference,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said following the meeting between the Senate Finance Committee and IRS officials. …

During the meeting, Rettig walked senators and their aides through the process that the IRS uses to select people for the audits Comey and McCabe were subject to, senators said. Comey and McCabe were audited under a program that conducts tax-compliance research. …

After 5 incumbents jump ship, dozens file to run for school board in Wake County (spends about $12k/student, far less tha Madison’s $22k!)

AP Dillon:

Wake County is the largest school district in the state and the fifteenth largest nationwide. WCPSS has tens of thousands of employees and a current operating budget of $1.94 billion. The district has 198 schools and an estimated158,761 students.

Jim Martin, Christine Kushner, Karen Carter, Roxie Cash, and Heather Scott are the five incumbents not seeking another term. Martin and Kushner are the longest-serving board members having been first elected in 2011. Carter is the newest member, elected for the first time in 2020.

During the pandemic, parents held protests outside of the district headquarters over the board’s continued forced use of masks in schools as districts across the state ended their use. Parents and citizens also protested inappropriate materials, books critics deemed pornographic, as well as teacher training in Critical Race Theory and use of the controversial theory in classroom lessons.

The WCPSS board also faced controversy over the replacement of former Board Chairman Keith Sutton after it was revealed that the candidate preferred by the majority of the board, Craston Artis, did not live in the district he sought to serve. Parents criticized Mahaffey over a lack of transparency on the matter.

The most recent taxpayer supported Madison school District budget spends $561.3M for 25,497 students or 22,014 per student!

A Teacher Triumphs Over the Woke Educational Establishment

James Freeman:

Back on July 14, 2021, this column welcomed the news of Ms. Bessinger’s brave and lonely battle against the destructive ideology embraced by the educational establishment and noted:

The conceit at the heart of the campaign to embed critical race theory in American education is that U.S. schools have been teaching a whitewashed version of our nation’s history, a nationalistic rendering that ignores the country’s flaws. But of course anyone educated in the U.S. knows that left-leaning academics who are highly skeptical of American tradition have been dominating the field for generations. The current battle is really about whether largely factual critiques of America written by liberals will now be replaced by anti-American screeds written by propagandists who aren’t particularly concerned with accuracy.

This column has been hoping that the mostly liberal teachers who stand at the front of America’s classrooms will be roused to declare—loudly— that they are not Marxists or racialists and do not endorse the fact-challenged radicalism now being promoted by their union leadership. Today brings some cause for optimism…

Ms. Bessinger’s victory brings even more—the hope that more teachers will go from quiet anguish to open defiance of a false and destructive rendering of U.S. history.

Notes on Wisconsin’s voter system (and laws)…

Patrick Marley and Emma Brown:

MyVote allows anyone to look up a voter using their name and birth date. The person can then request an absentee ballot under that person’s name and have it sent anywhere — a function that’s in place so that voters who are temporarily away from home have a way to vote.

Wait said he logged onto MyVote Wisconsin on Tuesday and entered the names and birth dates of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Racine Mayor Cory Mason (D) — two officials with whom he has repeatedly clashed, especially on voting-related issues. Posing as them, he asked to have their ballots sent to his own home.
Wait said he received Mason’s ballot on Friday, three days after requesting it, and he provided a photo of it. He said he planned to return it to the city clerk unopened.


truth is often more complex than people realize and looks different from different angles

El Gato Malo:

all medicine everywhere and always is a cost/benefit calculation.

the covid vaccines appear to be terrible risk reward.

the flu vaccine looks basically worthless despite being low risk and is almost certainly a net negative.

i would certainly not want to defend gardasil.

but some vaccines are excellent, pose very low risk, and generate real, well established clinical benefit that saves and improves lives.

i know some of you dispute this, but maybe you should hear the other side of the cases you’re calling “blue pills.” i suspect many of you have not.

so perhaps consider the possibility that i did not just lose all suspicion, ability to assess and parse complex data, and become blindly credulous and hear me out here.

Why is Critical Race Theory so threatening to white people?

Kimberle Crenshaw:

“But for parents of color, Black parents in particular, they practice Critical Race Theory all the time. You sit your kids down for ‘the talk,’ you’re talking about Critical Race Theory. It means you’re aware of the legacies of racism. We continue to shape our lives based on it and you’d be crazy to act as though we don’t. If you didn’t, you’d be totally ill-prepared to navigate life in this country as a Black or brown person. So our objective is to allow people to see that Critical Race Theory isn’t some alien abstraction; it’s the sum total of our experiences. Critical Race Theory came out of us coming into these institutions and saying the problem isn’t just racist people. The problem is in the law and the problem is in sociology and education. It’s all of these institutions that were created when we were not part of them and they justified us not being a part of them. So now, we’re going after the structures of justification.”

Civics: declining legacy media confidence


Gallup has tracked Americans’ confidence in newspapers since 1973 and television news since 1993 as part of its annual polling about major U.S. institutions. The latest readings are from a June 1-20 poll that saw declines in confidence ratings for 11 of the 16 institutions measured and no improvements for any.

Television news and newspapers rank nearly at the bottom of that list of institutions, with only Congress garnering less confidence from the public than TV news. While these two news institutions have never earned high confidence ratings, they have fallen in the rankings in recent years.

A majority of Americans have expressed confidence in newspapers only once — in 1979, when 51% did. But there is a wide margin between that and the second-highest readings of 39% in 1973 and 1990. The trend average for newspapers is 30%, well above the latest reading of 16%, which is the first time the measure has fallen below 20%. The percentage of Americans who say they have “very little” or volunteer that they have no confidence is currently the highest on record, at 46%.

Confidence in television news has never been higher than its initial 46% reading in 1993 and has averaged 27%, considerably higher than the current 11%. This is the fourth consecutive year that confidence in TV news is below 20%. And for just the second time in the trend, a majority of Americans, 53%, now say they have very little or no confidence at all in TV news.

Glenn Reynolds:

Why don’t Americans trust the government and other institutions? Maybe it’s because the government and other institutions aren’t trustworthy.

There’s certainly plenty of evidence for both the lack of trust and the lack of trustworthiness. And if the trend continues, it bodes poorly for America.

The news is bad on the lack of trust. A recent University of Chicago Institute of Politics poll found that a majority of Americans think that the government is “corrupt and rigged against people like me.” Two-thirds of Republicans and independents felt that way, but things weren’t much better among liberals, 51% of whom agreed. So this isn’t the usual sour grapes from the party out of power — it’s a general sentiment.

Civics: What Is the FBI Trying To Hide About Its Raid on Innocent Americans’ Safe Deposit Boxes?

Eric Boehm:

First, the FBI raided a private business to seize safe deposit boxes and assets belonging to hundreds of people who were not suspected of having committed any crimes.

Now, prosecutors are trying to keep the public in the dark about why the brazen forfeiture effort was undertaken in the first place—and are offering little justification for why such secrecy is necessary.

Four depositions that could be crucial to understanding the motivations and intentions behind the FBI’s March 2021 raid of U.S. Private Vaults, a Beverly Hills–based safe deposit box storage business, are being kept confidential at the request of federal prosecutors. Attorneys representing some victims of the raid say the depositions could contain important information about how and why the FBI decided to seize and catalog the private belongings of U.S. Private Vault’s customers. They have asked the federal judge handling the case to allow the transcripts of those depositions—including one interview with Lynn Zellhart, the FBI’s lead agent in the case—to be filed in their entirety.

Explicit “Misinformation” and Facebook Policies

Alex Hern:

“We are requesting an advisory opinion from the oversight board on whether Meta’s current measures to address Covid-19 misinformation under our harmful health misinformation policy continue to be appropriate,” Clegg said, “or whether we should address this misinformation through other means, like labeling or demoting it either directly or through our third-party fact-checking program.”

Related: Facebook “minimizes” Hunter Biden laptop story in October, 2020.

Shaping CDC PR with taxpayer funds

Alex Thompson, Adam Cancryn and Max Tani:

The Biden administration spent $25,750 and authorized an additional $30,500 for media training and executive coaching for the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ROCHELLE WALENSKY, according to internal CDC expense authorization filings obtained by West Wing Playbook.

Starting in October 2021, Walensky enlisted longtime Democratic political consultant MANDY GRUNWALD for media training, conducted virtually, at a cost of about $500 per hour, according to the filings. In total, the CDC has paid Grunwald’s firm $16,000, with authorization to spend $14,000 more.

In addition, Walensky has also regularly seen a coach to improve her management skills. The CDC haspaid Boston-based TIM SULLIVAN’sfirm, Wellesley Partners, $9,750 beginning in March 2021 with authorization to pay $16,500 more. Those sessions also run at $500 an hour.

The spending is allowed under the Government Employees Training Act (GETA) which gives agencies discretion on paying for employee training.

The Last Leg Universities Stand On Is Collapsing

Isaac Morehouse:

The final leg universities stand on is the mythology of social status. That’s it. That’s what gives them what waning power they have.

I can’t count the number of parents I’ve talked with who recognize that college is one of the worst places to learn and degrees are one of the weakest ways to try to get hired, but who still needlessly bite the bullet and send their kid anyway.

Often, they shackle themselves or their children to tens of thousands in debt along the way. They despise the infantilizing policies on campus and bitter ideas in the classroom. They see the waste, corruption, stupidity, warped worldview, and bad habits cultivated and rewarded by the system.

But they still send their kids.


Because they value the decaying social status indicator of a degree. They want a shortcut to communicate to the world that they are good parents and their kids are better than most.

Even when they know the college experience is not good for their kids, many go through with it because they panic. They don’t know how to face other parents who ask what their kids are doing. They don’t know how to deal with the social expectation among the masses that college is somehow respectable.

The Beverly Hills, California, City Council voted unanimously not to enforce a Los Angeles County mask mandate should one be adopted.

Michael Lee:

“I feel it is our job to lead and I support the power of choice,” Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse said after the vote Monday evening, according to reporting from Fox 11.

The comments come as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has publicly weighed the possibility of adopting an indoor mask mandate in the county, which has seen a steady rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. The mandate was reportedly set to go into effect Friday, but Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters cases in the country may be leveling off and “we are likely to want to take a pause on moving too quickly on universal indoor masking.”

But Beverly Hills, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, decided not to wait around for a decision from the health department.

Civics: notes on taxpayer supported government transparency

Mitchell Schmidt:

The court’s decision “made clear that the statutory language might not allow fee recovery in such instances — as a result, government actors potentially now have a reason not to turn records over promptly,” WILL wrote in its brief.

Transparency advocates blast Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling for adding barriers to public records
Transparency advocates blast Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling for adding barriers to public records
Mitchell Schmidt | Wisconsin State Journal
Open records advocates, including the Wisconsin Transparency Project and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, blasted the court’s ruling earlier this month, with Tim Kamenick, president and founder of the Transparency Project and a former WILL attorney, calling it “a dark day for transparency in Wisconsin.”

“The law doesn’t say a plaintiff has to get a court order, it says a plaintiff has to ‘prevail,’” Kamenick said at the time. “When you get the records you sued to obtain, you’ve prevailed — you’ve obtained the result you wanted.”

Lawfare on the rate of growth in K-12 taxpayer spending

Mark Scalforo:

A decision about whether Pennsylvania’s method of funding public education meets the state constitutional requirement that lawmakers provide “a thorough and efficient system” was left in the hands of a state judge Tuesday when argument wrapped up in the long-running case.

Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer did not indicate when she will rule but said lawyers have left her with a massive record to review.

The case could result in substantial changes, as the plaintiffs are challenging whether the amounts and method of distribution of the annual education subsidies issued by the General Assembly comport with the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The defendants, Republican leaders in the state House and Senate, argue that funding has been growing and is adequate. 

State education funding was boosted in the state budget that passed earlier this month and has increased by billions of dollars during Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s nearly eight years in office.

Google, Privacy & Schools


Danish schools must stop using Google’s email and cloud services due to concerns or violating the high European privacy standards defined by the GDPR. According to Denmark’s data protection authority, Google’s cloud-based Workspace software suite “does not meet the requirements” of the European Union’s GDPR data privacy regulations.

Google’s email and cloud “does not meet requirements”

Pupil’s privacy must be protected

In a statement published mid July, the Danish data protection agency expresses “serious criticism and bans … the use of Google Workspace”.

National Security Search Engine: Google’s Ranks are Filled with CIA Agents

Mint Press News:

Google – one of the largest and most influential organizations in the modern world – is filled with ex-CIA agents. Studying employment websites and databases, MintPress has ascertained that the Silicon Valley giant has recently hired dozens of professionals from the Central Intelligence Agency in recent years. Moreover, an inordinate number of these recruits work in highly politically sensitive fields, wielding considerable control over how its products work and what the world sees on its screens and in its search results.

Chief amongst these is the trust and safety department, whose staff, in the words of then Google trust and safety vice president Kristie Canegallo, “[d]ecide what content is allowed on our platform” – in other words, setting the rules of the internet, determining what billions see and what they do not see. Before Google, Canegallo had been President Obama’s Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Implementation and is currently Chief of Staff at the Department of Homeland Security.

“We lied, we cheated, we stole”

Many of the team helping Canegallo make calls on what content should be allowed in Google searches and on platforms like YouTube were former CIA employees. For example:

  • Jacqueline Lopour spent more than ten years at the CIA, where she served as “a leading U.S. Government expert on security challenges in South Asia and the Middle East and the go-to writer of quickly needed papers for the U.S. President.” She joined Google in 2017 and is currently a senior intelligence collection and trust and safety manager.

Notes on teacher compensation amidst Madison K-12 tax & spending growth

Elizabeth Beyer:

The Madison School Board voted 6-1 in June to adopt the district’s $561.3 million preliminary budget for next school year, which included the 3% base wage increase.

Negotiations began in May with MTI requesting the 4.7% increase — the annual inflationary amount and the maximum allowed in bargaining under state law. The district offered a 2% increase — not including additional wage increases tied to experience and educational attainment, known as steps and lanes.

In the budget adopted by the district in June, that base wage increase offered by the district had grown to 3% for all staff through bargaining, along with a 2% increase specifically tied to experience and educational attainment for teachers.

Scott Girard:

The salary schedule change must occur through the Employee Handbook revision process, which is technically a unilateral decision by the School Board. The district and MTI have a committee to “meet and confer” on potential Handbook changes, but it is not considered a bargaining session, and therefore allowed under Act 10.

“Since Act 10, MMSD has voluntarily participated in meet-and-confer collaboration with MTI,” Oppenheimer wrote. “Only in the last few years has MMSD begun to circumvent the meet-and-confer process for resolving issues outside the scope of legal bargaining.”

LeMonds said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that the district believed it needs to finalize the base wage increase to avoid “bargaining” on the Employee Handbook change as the two wage changes become conflated.

“​​We can’t do those simultaneously because it gets pulled into the negotiation,” LeMonds said. “The negotiated piece, which is base wage, has to be finalized before we can move on to that.”

District general legal counsel Sherry Terrell-Webb told board members that Wednesday’s vote “officially closes out negotiations on base wage,” and suggested that the administration could now prepare a recommendation for the board on the salary schedules.

“I know some believe that we should have continued negotiating with MTI,” Terrell-Webb said. “However, because the board has indicated that 3% was its best and final offer, to continue to negotiate knowing that we would not be able to make a change to this offer could be considered negotiating in bad faith.”

The board also approved the “steps and lanes” increases at Wednesday’s meeting, which reward staff for longevity and educational attainment. That amounts to a 2% increase for the average employee, the district says, but MTI has pointed out that it means zero increase for some.

In recent years, the district has either agreed to the maximum increase early or waited until closer to the final budget approval to get board approval for the change.

In 2019, the district included an increase up to 1.5% in its preliminary budget in June but continued negotiating with MTI. In a September vote ahead of the final budget approval in October, the board increased it to the maximum 2.44%.

In 2020 and 2021, the final base wage increase offer vote took place in October and September, respectively. In three prior years — 2016, 2017 and 2018 — base wage approval came earlier, but it was at the maximum allowed percentage under law.

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

A rather curious article on K-12 COVID era health policies

Sharon Luyre and Collin Binkley:

The Verona School District plans to start its school year in the same manner the last year ended. Its 2021-22 goal was to remain open for in-person instruction five days a week, district spokesperson Marcie Pfeifer-Soderbloom said.

“We were able to meet that goal, and that will continue to be our goal,” she said. “We have learned from past years that our students, staff and community share this goal.”

Related: mandates and Dane county Madison public health.

More than three-quarters of districts have increased their number of teaching and nonteaching staff above prepandemic levels.



  • To address unfinished instruction, districts should identify the extent of the learning gaps for different subsets of their students to figure out where to target the most-intensive responses. Districts should then invest time and resources into effectively implementing the academic interventions they have already adopted, such as tutoring, summer learning, and SEL.
  • Professional associations of districts, regional education service centers, and state education agencies can play an important role in creating forums for district leaders to disseminate their valuable knowledge with peers working in similar contexts.
  • Superintendents should rally their mayors, representatives of local hospital and health care systems, and legislators to discuss and implement a coordinated set of mental health services for their students and staff.
  • State education agencies should seek to get out ahead of a fiscal cliff by working with districts to closely examine finances, staff levels, and enrollment projections to understand which districts have the greatest risk of facing a fiscal cliff and work to minimize or avoid such risk.

Engineers on the brink of extinction threaten entire tech ecosystems

Rupert Goodwins:

The graph the company showed at the latest VLSI Symposium, however, was a real shocker.

While computer science course take-up had gone up by over 90 percent in the past 50 years, electrical engineering (EE) had declined by the same amount. The electronics graduate has become rarer than an Intel-based smartphone.

That part of the technology industry which makes actual things has always been divided between hardies and softies, soldering iron versus compiler, oscilloscope versus debugger. But the balance is lost. Something is very wrong at the heart of our technology creation supply chain. Where have all the hardies gone?

Engineering degree courses are a lot of work across a lot of disciplines, with electronic engineering being particularly diverse. The theoretical side covers signal, information, semiconductor devices, optical and electromagnetic theory, so your math better be good. There’s any amount of building-block knowledge needed, analogue and digital, across the spectrum from millimetric RF to high-energy power engineering. And then you have to know how to apply it all to real-world problems.

School Choice, Sorry I Underrated You

Bryan Caplan:

Researching and writing The Case Against Education did much to dull my enthusiasm for private schooling. Part of the reason was pure theory: If most education is socially wasteful signaling, private spending doesn’t offset government inefficiency. It amplifies it. 

Yet most of the reason was empirical. When I looked at curricula, what private school taught seemed very similar to what public schools taught. Furthermore, when researchers measured student learning – with proper corrections for pre-existing knowledge – most found weak evidence that private schooling was better.

None of this turned me against school choice. But since two big arguments in favor of this reform – different curricula and better learning – were weak, I almost stopped talking about it. 

Until COVID came along and changed my mind. Here’s how.

Initially, all schools, public and private, stopped in-person education. Yet by the Fall of 2020, I started to notice a huge public-private disparity. All of the public schools in my area stayed closed… while all of the private schools I knew about reopened. 

While this was only my superficial impression, I saw it confirmed over and over. Recently, I decided to hunt down the actual numbers. Straight from the National Center for Education Statistics:

NIH Tries Sealing Name of Chinese Researcher Attached to Discredited Pandemic Origin Study

Paul Thacker:

In the October 12, 2021, email that the NIH now wants to censor, virologist Jesse Bloom asked the NIH’s Steve Sherry about coronavirus sequences that Kangpeng Xiao requested Rick Lapoint to remove from the NIH SRA database. Bloom pointed out that the virus sequences disappeared but then reappeared over a year later around June 16, 2021.

NIH rules state that sequences can only be restored at the submitter’s request, yet there is no evidence that Kangpeng Xiao asked the NIH to restore the sequences. Bloom then asked several questions to understand why the sequences were deleted and then restored.

“Mandatory thought reform efforts”

Aaron Sibarium:

It was just two months after the death of George Floyd that one of the largest domestic violence nonprofits in the United States, Women Against Abuse, brought in several diversity consultants to conduct a racial-equity audit. The goal of the audit, Women Against Abuse told staffers, was to become “a fully inclusive, multicultural, and antiracist institution.”

By November 2020, the organization, which is ostensibly devoted to “serving all survivors,” was offering to pay “BIPOC” employees more than their white counterparts and discouraging black abuse victims from calling the police. Its employees were also at war with each other, bickering over whether Jews are a persecuted minority group and whether there is such a thing as a non-racist white person.

Those events prompted Nicole Levitt, an attorney with the group’s legal center, to file a discrimination complaint against her employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that it “berated, humiliated, and subjected” her to “mandatory thought reform efforts.”

“Women Against Abuse used to be liberal,” Levitt told the Washington Free Beacon. “Now it’s illiberal.”

This story is based on Levitt’s discrimination complaint, Women Against Abuse’s response to it, and materials from the equity audit that Levitt shared with the Free Beacon. It reveals how the leading domestic violence nonprofit in Philadelphia descended into dogmatism and infighting, obsessing over identity as domestic homicides in the city reached an all-time high of 43 in 2021—more than double the previous year.

That obsession manifested in avant garde policies that led the group far astray from its core mission. The policies weren’t just the product of employee activism, but of outside consultants—including Ragina Arrington, now the chief executive officer of the Clinton Foundation’s Global Initiative University, who since July 2020 has been helping Women Against Abuse conduct its equity audit.

Universal school choice would help all Wisconsin families

Shannon Whitworth:

Nowhere can you see self-proclaimed “progressives” more in opposition to progress than on the issue of school choice in the state of Wisconsin.

Over 30 years ago, Wisconsin created the first school choice program in the nation, liberating thousands of families from failing public schools and giving many children, particularly those in our blighted inner cities, their first true chance at a quality education. But Wisconsin has fallen behind states around the nation in pushing educational innovation. Earlier this month, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona signed a universal school choice bill into law that provides families with $6,500 per student to put toward their education, whether that’s a public, private, parochial or even home school. If Wisconsin wants to lead in school choice again, the Badger State must implement radical reform like universal school choice.

Not too long ago, universal school choice was only a dream for education reformers. But it has now become a reality in Arizona due to a growing cascade of support for school choice nationally. According to a recent Real Clear Opinion Research poll, school choice enjoys a 72% favorability rating, with only 18% truly opposed. Notably, this favorability rating includes 68% of Democrats and 67% of Independents, along with 82% of Republicans. If those numbers aren’t evidence of common ground in our nation, I don’t know what is.

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Prohibit DIE Statements for College Faculty

Max Eden & Scott Yenor:

At least one out of five job candidates in academia are formally evaluated based on their commitment to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI). Faculty departments, sometimes at the behest of university administrators, are formalizing an ideological litmus test for hiring. State and federal legislators can, and should, stop them.

The words “Diversity,” “Equity,” and “Inclusion” are all immensely slippery, as we show in a recent report. Taken individually, each carries the connotation of a cardinal social virtue. Diversity appears to mean appreciating and respecting differences; equity appears to mean giving individuals what they need to succeed; and inclusion appears to mean making people feel welcome. The inherent probity of these virtues should mean that everyone respects them, but “DEI” is enforced through mechanisms typically used to curb disgraceful vices: mandatory trainings, legal threats, and socially-sanctioned stigmatization.

Academic positions increasingly require candidates to show their commitment to DEI when they apply for jobs or when they seek promotion. At Boise State University, for instance, most academic jobs required a diversity statement last year. A Clinical Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering had to submit a “one page statement on diversity, equity and inclusion.” Candidates for an Assistant Professor of Cell, Molecular or Developmental Biology had to show “evidence of a commitment to create a diverse and inclusive working environment” as a job qualification and provide “a description of how the candidate’s research program and teaching philosophy would address BSU’s diversity and inclusion goals.”

The End of School Reform?

Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Frederick M. Hess

In 2021, amid a grim pandemic that had already brought American education to a standstill, the nation’s schools were again assaulted, this time by fierce arguments about critical race theory (CRT) — a term that few outside of academia had previously encountered. According to some pundits, the brouhaha was just another instance of the right-wing media complex manufacturing controversy. But the CRT fight is more accurately seen as a product of decades of tensions lurking within the school-reform enterprise itself, coupled with dramatic shifts in progressive dogma. It sounded the death knell for a reform coalition that traced its roots back to A Nation at Risk — the famed Reagan-era blue-ribbon commission report on America’s looming education catastrophe.

The report declared the country to be imperiled by a “rising tide of mediocrity” driven by low standards, poor teaching, and lousy schools. In their most quoted line, the commissioners who issued the report claimed that if “an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

That 1983 clarion call would go on to launch an education-reform movement that would bestride both sides of the political aisle for most of the ensuing 40 years, only to come unglued in the face of polarization and populist backlash. A look at the history of that saga can clarify how today’s great school-reform crack-up was likely inevitable, help explain why it matters, and perhaps signal what lies ahead.

As the Pandemic Waned, So Did Faculty’s Use of Digital Course Materials

Audrey Williams June

As the fall term approaches, faculty members are finalizing which course materials — books or articles and the ways to find them — to include in their syllabi. To do so, professors sort through their preferences about what format course materials should take, whether they should be optional, and how many materials to assign per course.

Those choices are captured annually in the “Faculty Watch” survey, conducted by the research arm of the National Association of College Stores. The latest version of the survey provides data on nearly 1,700 faculty members at 19 two- and four-year colleges during the fall of 2021, which kicked off an academic year that was generally conducted in person more than had been the case in the previous year.

Civics: Ukraine Government Blacklists


The “Center for Countering Disinformation,” established in 2021 under Volodymyr Zelensky and headed by former lawyer Polina Lysenko, sits within the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. Its stated aim is to detect and counter “propaganda” and “destructive disinformation” and to prevent the “manipulation of public opinion.”

On July 14th it published on its website a list of politicians, academics, activists that are “promoting Russian propaganda” — including several high-profile Western intellectuals and politicians. Republican Senator Rand Paul, former Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, military and geopolitical analyst Edward N. Luttwak, realist political scientist John Mearsheimer and heterodox journalist Glenn Greenwald were all included on the list. The list does not explain what the consequences are for anyone mentioned.

The exact criteria for inclusion are also unclear, although next to each name the report lists the “pro Russian” opinions the individual promotes. For example, Edward Luttwak’s breach was to suggest that “referendums should be held in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”; Mearsheimer’s breach is recorded as him saying that “NATO has been in Ukraine since 2014” and that “NATO provoked Putin.”

The relevant intellectuals were surprised and concerned to be included on a government blacklist in this way. UnHerd contacted Luttwak (an occasional contributor), Mearsheimer and Greenwald for comment.

“Do nothing, Get Something”

Joanne Jacobs:

Teachers are complaining to Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews about grading reforms, he writes. A teacher in the high-performing Montgomery County, Maryland district fears that students are learning they can get good or good enough grades without doing the work.

Teachers can’t give a zero for a missed assignment, unless they document their efforts to contact a parent about the problem. It takes a lot of time to send multiple emails, the teacher says. So he just gives students the required minimum — 50 percent — even if they did nothing.

In addition, students no longer get a lower grade if their performance slides from one semester to the next.

Before, if a student got a C one marking period and a B the next, the grade for the semester would be a B because the student was showing progress. If the student got a B the first marking period and a C the next, the final semester grade would be a C. Under the new policy, if a student gets a B in either marking period the final grade is a B.

“We’re deluding ourselves and the students into the idea that they’re something they’re not,” the teacher said. Students are learning that “you can do nothing and still get something.” That will not serve them well in college — or life.

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Some majors pay off more than others do. Tuition prices should acknowledge that.

Anthony P. Carnevale:

Conversations in Washington about higher education have long been dominated by concerns over rising costs for students. And for good reason. Since 1980, average college costs have risen almost 170 percent, while earnings for young people ages 22 to 27 have increased less than 20 percent. Not surprisingly, student debt has ballooned, up 75 percent over the last 10 years to a collective $1.75 trillion.

Most proposed reforms have focused on subsidizing college costs. More recently, the debate has shifted to one over canceling debt for some borrowers. Those are important conversations to have; investing in higher education is an investment in the public good. But we also need to ensure that government funding for higher education goes into a system that is transparent, accountable, and equitable.

Professor Amy Wax Is Crowdfunding Her Legal Defense


University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax is seeking to crowdfund her legal defense against the university’s charges that she repeatedly violated its non-discrimination rules.

Wax this week launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $300,000 and had raised more than [$125,000 as of this morning. Over 800] people have made donations ranging from $5 to $10,000 from an anonymous donor.

Two decades of Alzheimer’s research was based on deliberate fraud by 2 scientists that has cost billions of dollars and millions of lives


Last month, drug company Genentech reported on the first clinical trials of the drug crenezumab, a drug targeting amyloid proteins that form sticky plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. The drug had been particularly effective in animal models, and the trial results were eagerly awaited as one of the most promising treatments in years. It did not work. “Crenezumab did not slow or prevent cognitive decline” in people with a predisposition toward Alzheimer’s.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) narrowly approved the use of Aduhelm, a new drug from Biogen that the company has priced so highly that it’s expected to drive up the price of Medicare for everyone in America, even those who never need this drug. Aduhelm was the first drug to be approved that fights the accumulation of those “amyloid plaques” in the brain. What makes the approval of the $56,000-a-dose drug so controversial is that while it does decrease plaques, it doesn’t actually slow Alzheimer’s. In fact, clinical trials were suspended in 2019 after the treatment showed “no clinical benefits.” (Which did not keep Biogen from seeking the drug’s approval or pricing it astronomically.)

How well do the COVID vaccines work? (and why has this been so confusing?)

Kristen Panthagani, MD, PhD

So that was the bar: 50% efficacy. And that’s not just talking about efficacy against infection. Even if a vaccine didn’t reduce the risk of infection at all, but reduced the risk of severe disease or death by 50%, it would have met the FDA’s threshold for efficacy.

Isn’t 50% efficacy kind of low?

If you’re thinking this seems low compared to other vaccines, you’re both right and wrong. The flu vaccine, which is updated every year to match circulating flu strains, has an efficacy of 40-60%, so fairly similar to the minimum bar set by the FDA for COVID vaccines.  But if we compare to many of the vaccines we get in childhood, then 50% is quite a bit lower. The two dose MMR vaccine series is 97% effective against measles, and 88% effective against mumps. At least 3 doses of the polio vaccine is 99-100% effective against polio. That’s much higher than 50%. 

But if you consider that we were at the beginning of a global pandemic that was killing thousands of people every day, then reducing the risk of death by 50% would be a major win. It may seem low relative to the efficacy of many of our childhood vaccinations, but even a vaccine that reduced disease severity by half would save thousands of lives.

So the bar was set. And the scientists and doctors who were following vaccine development had their expectations managed: anything above 50% efficacy would be considered by the FDA, and if authorized, we would have a new major tool to help us fight SARS-CoV-2.

Dutch schools must stop using Google’s email and cloud services due to privacy concerns.


Dutch education ministers Robbert Dijkgraaf and Dennis Wiersma have just reported in a parliamentary letter that there are many privacy concerns about current Google services. Consequently, the Dutch education sector will not be able to use modified versions of the Chrome browser and Chrome OS in its current state. 

Already last summer, the Dutch Personal Data Authority advised schools and universities to stop using Google’s email and cloud services. The watchdog had concerns about compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

According to the watchdog, educational institutions do not know how and where the personal data of pupils and students are processed and stored. As a result, the processing of the information would be “not lawful.”

Reading and Prisons

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Protesting Property “Mind Blowing” property taxes in Texas

Forrest Wilder:

Some of the panel members I spoke to said most homeowners would be wise to hire tax professionals to handle their cases. “Very few over sixty-five have agents,” one panel chairman told me. “They should.” Another panelist chimed in: “You have the odd person who is an engineer or someone who’s analytical. They know what they’re talking about. The rest don’t.”

1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities


Take online courses from the world’s top universities for free. Below, you will find 1,700 free online courses from universities like YaleMITHarvardOxford and more. Our site also features collections of Online Certificate Programs and Online Degree & Mini-Degree Programs.

Note: This page includes a lot of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If you want to enroll in a free version of a MOOC, please select the “Full Course, No Certificate” (edX) or “Audit” (Coursera) option. If you take the course for a certificate/credential, you’ll be charged a fee, and we will receive a commission from our affiliate partners–Coursera, FutureLearn and edX.

Why Books Don’t Work: Constructivism Over Transmissionism

Master How To Learn:

This is essentially the transition from Transmissionism to Constructivism: from re-reading thinking he’ll “soak up” the information to constructing the knowledge through self-explaining and self-testing.

Learning as a Generative Activity

Generative learning is helping learners to actively make sense of the material so they can build meaningful learning outcomes that allow them to transfer what they have learned to solving new problems.

Learning is a generative activity when learners actively generate their own learning outcomes by interpreting what is presented to them rather than by simply receiving it as presented.

Suppose you sit down to read a book chapter, you attend a PowerPoint lecture, or you view an online multimedia presentation. You are proficient at reading and listening, so you can easily understand all the words. Yet, when you are finished with the lesson, you are not able to apply what you have learned to new situations or to use the material to solve problems. What could you have done to help you understand the material rather than simply to process every word?

Our proposed solution is that you could engage in generative learning strategies during learning – activities that are intended to prime appropriate cognitive processing during learning (such as paying attention to the relevant information, mentally organizing it, and integrating it with your relevant prior knowledge).

Internet Archive Seeks Summary Judgment in Federal Lawsuit Filed By Publishing Companies

Chris Freeland:

Should we stop libraries from owning and lending books? No,” said Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder and digital librarian. “We need libraries to be independent and strong, now more than ever, in a time of misinformation and challenges to democracy. That’s why we are defending the rights of libraries to serve our patrons where they are, online.”

Through CDL, the Internet Archive and other libraries make and lend out digital scans of print books in our collections, subject to strict technical controls. Each book loaned via CDL has already been bought and paid for, so authors and publishers have already been fully compensated for those books. Nonetheless, publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House sued the Archive in 2020, claiming incorrectly that CDL violates their copyrights.

“The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right foreign to American copyright law: the right to control how libraries may lend the books they own,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “They should not succeed. The Internet Archive and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it are not pirates or thieves. They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of a library’s right to lend its books to its patrons, one at a time.”

Civics – War on Society: Baltimore Edition

Sean Kennedy:

Baltimore isn’t the country’s murder capital—that distinction belongs to St. Louis—but it’s close. Charm City has recorded more than 2,500 homicides since 2015. Many of these killings could have been prevented, my analysis of court records and police data suggests, if the justice system had worked as intended. 

Look no further than the case of Deonte Walker, convicted of the January 2020 murder of Justin Antonio Johnson. Less than three years before the killing, Mr. Walker was charged with at least 10 counts, and possibly more. (Under a 2020 Maryland law, criminal charges that don’t result in a conviction are suppressed from the state’s judiciary case search tool.) The office of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby cut him a deal in exchange for a guilty plea to two charges: robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Although Mr. Walker faced a maximum sentence of 15 years for each count, he received only two years and was freed months before he killed Johnson. He was found guilty in December 2021 of second-degree murder and firearms offenses and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Using a database of homicide defendants provided by the transparency nonprofit Baltimore Witness, I analyzed the criminal histories of 110 suspects charged with homicide in Baltimore between January 2019 and July 2020. My analysis indicates that the majority of the city’s murders didn’t have to happen. 

Ninety of the defendants whose histories I examined had previously been convicted of an offense carrying a sentence of three or more years in prison. Most didn’t serve anywhere near that time. They were back on the street when the homicides they are charged with were committed, but they should have been behind bars.

Merit, Fairness and Equality: My ‘lived experience’ tells me that diversity, inclusion and equity is antithetical to human liberty

Patanjali Kambhampati:

Diversity, inclusion and equity (DIE) — these are all seemingly innocent words; adhering to these principles may even improve humanity. Yet an unquestioning devotion to these principles from the social justice crowd have turned the movement from a push to be more open and inclusive to the true diversity in our society, to one that is antithetical to classical liberal principles.

Because the current culture holds certain opinions up as undeniable truths, tragically, one must defend classical liberalism and the holding of different views. Indeed, those who question the modern religion of DIE are often cancelled and outcast as racist, sexist, colonialist dinosaurs.

Nowadays, the “lived experience” of marginalized communities stands as an unassailable point. But what if my lived experience renders me even more emphatically in support of the classical liberal principles that are the very foundation of democracy? My “lived experiences” as a Third World immigrant to the United States has in fact led me to be a lifelong defender of the practices of merit, fairness and equality — practices derived from classical liberal principles.

These are some of the reasons I am writing about DIE in science and in the broader society. As someone who has dealt with the “lived experience” of racism, I am here to make the case that we need to move beyond antiquated intellectual racism and inept modern anti-racism, and move instead toward a more individualistic approach.

The means of progress should be derived from humbly examining and advancing the principles of human liberty, rather than holding and defending beliefs in social justice. The only way to proceed is through the free exchange of ideas, which is currently impossible due to the religious-like behaviour of those who aim to shame others into silence. I hope that my experiences can play a role in enabling others to speak and think freely and add value to the never-ending drive for human progress and freedom.

Additional perspectives: what is diversity, inclusion and equity (DIE)?

Aggressive Measures, Rising Inequalities and Mass Formation During the COVID-19 Crisis: An Overview and Proposed Way Forward

Michaéla Schippers, John P. A. Ioannidis and Ari Joffe:

A series of aggressive restrictive measures around the world were adopted in 2020-2022 to attempt to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from spreading. However, it has become increasingly clear that an important negative side-effect of the most aggressive (lockdown) response strategies may involve a steep increase in poverty, hunger, and inequalities. Several economic, educational and health repercussions have not only fallen disproportionately on children, students, and young workers, but also and especially so on low-income families, ethnic minorities, and women, exacerbating existing inequalities. For several groups with pre-existing inequalities (gender, socio-economic and racial), the inequality gaps widened. Educational and financial security decreased, while domestic violence surged. Dysfunctional families were forced to spend more time with each other, and there has been growing unemployment and loss of purpose in life. This has led to a vicious cycle of rising inequalities and health issues. In the current narrative and scoping review, we describe macro-dynamics that are taking place as a result of aggressive public health policies and psychological tactics to influence public behavior, such as mass formation and crowd behavior. Coupled with the effect of inequalities, we describe how these factors can interact towards aggravating ripple effects. In light of evidence regarding the health, economic and social costs, that likely far outweigh potential benefits, the authors suggest that, first, where applicable, aggressive lockdown policies should be reversed and their re-adoption in the future should be avoided. If measures are needed, these should be non-disruptive. Second, it is important to assess dispassionately the damage done by aggressive measures and offer ways to alleviate the burden and long-term effects. Third, the structures in place that have led to counterproductive policies, should be assessed and ways should be sought to optimize decision-making, such as counteracting groupthink and increasing the level of reflexivity. Finally, a package of scalable positive psychology interventions is suggested to counteract the damage done and improve future prospects for humanity.

USDOE report found that an estimated 10% of K–12 students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate from high school and that a single offender can have up to 73 victims.

AP Dillon:

The USDOE’s “Aiding and Abetting” report looks at how provisions enacted in 2015 during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) are protecting students from sexual abuse in schools. Specifically, a look at the provisions in Section 8546 related to “aiding and abetting,” have been implemented in State Education Agencies (SEAs).

The report follows the actions earlier this year of U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). The lawmakers sent a letter to USDOE Secretary Miguel Cardona asking him to provide answers regarding states’ failure to comply with Section 8546 of ESEA. 

Key findings included:

• As of October 2020, all 51 states required criminal background checks, and 35 states had adopted at least one other provision that could help prevent school personnel who are known or believed with probable cause to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a student or minor from obtaining new employment in education. 

• Nineteen SEAs reported developing new or revising existing laws and policies in response to Section 8546, and 15 worked with other agencies and organizations to do so. These agencies and organizations include the state board of education and the state legislature. 

• Nearly half of SEAs reported providing guidance and support to help districts implement state laws and policies related to aiding and abetting.

Additionally, the report found that a little over half of states (27) have laws and policies requiring prospective employers to check an applicant’s employment history, certification status, employment eligibility, and/or disciplinary status.

Only 19 of those 27 states have laws or policies requiring employers to request information (e.g., personnel files, employment history) from an applicant’s current and former employers. Only 14 require employers to check an applicant’s eligibility for employment or certification in and across states.

The report also says that two-thirds of the SEAs (33) document district complaints and/or incidents of sexual misconduct, eight SEAs didn’t document it and seven SEAs didn’t know whether or not their SEA documented complaints and/or incidents of sexual misconduct.

When salary is listed as a contributing factor, 93.35% of Midwestern teachers claim that their resignation is due to student behavior and progressive political activity required in their classrooms.

Tony Kinnett:

Personally, I had assumed that teacher licensure and professional developments would be a greater share of the responses.

One of the teachers who responded they were resigning due to fear of school shootings submitted their response May 25—the day after the Uvalde, Texas shooting. 

One self-criticism of note is that I didn’t separate “Conservative/Republican education legislation” from “parental concerns.” Though the GOP legislative action was a direct derivative of parental distress beginning during the COVID-19 lockdowns, I should have split those. Also, I should have provided a text submission option for “If you selected ‘other’, why?” I’m rather curious as to what those responses represented. 

I also should have added resignation options like, “I’ve reached retirement-age” and “inter-personal staff disagreements.” There are several others which come to mind; the options listed were found in a major publication (NPR, NEA, AFT, ChalkbeatEdWeek, etc.) as a primary reason over the last 12 months.

I plan to coordinate with larger education groups in order to provide a larger, nationwide survey to assess teacher shortages in the fall. As always, all data and numerical information is checked and rechecked by our Data Analyst at Chalkboard Review, Daniel Elmore.

How classroom technology is holding students back

Natalie Wexler:

In fact, the evidence is equivocal at best. Some studies have found positive effects, at least from moderate amounts of computer use, especially in math. But much of the data shows a negative impact at a range of grade levels. A study of millions of high school students in the 36 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that those who used computers heavily at school “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.” According to other studies, college students in the US who used laptops or digital devices in their classes did worse on exams. Eighth graders who took Algebra I online did much worse than those who took the course in person. And fourth graders who used tablets in all or almost all their classes had, on average, reading scores 14 points lower than those who never used them—a differential equivalent to an entire grade level. In some states, the gap was significantly larger.

A 2019 report from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado on personalized learning—a loosely defined term that is largely synonymous with education technology—issued a sweeping condemnation. It found “questionable educational assumptions embedded in influential programs, self-interested advocacy by the technology industry, serious threats to student privacy, and a lack of research support.”

Judging from the evidence, the most vulnerable students can be harmed the most by a heavy dose of technology—or, at best, not helped. The OECD study found that “technology is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students.” In the United States, the test score gap between students who use technology frequently and those who don’t is largest among students from low-income families. A similar effect has been found for “flipped” courses, which have students watch lectures at home via technology and use class time for discussion and problem-solving. A flipped college math class resulted in short-term gains for white students, male students, and those who were already strong in math. Others saw no benefit, with the result that performance gaps became wider.

College students who used laptops or digital devices in their classes did worse on exams. Eighth graders who took Algebra I online did much worse than those who took the course in person.

Even more troubling, there’s evidence that vulnerable students are spending more time on digital devices than their more privileged counterparts. High school students in questionable online “credit recovery” courses are disproportionately likely to be poor or members of minority groups (or both). “Virtual” charter schools—which offer online classes and generally produce dismal results—often enroll struggling students. A national charter network called Rocketship Public Schools, which serves low-income communities, relies heavily on technology, with even students in kindergarten spending 80 to 100 minutes a day in front of screens. One study found that in schools serving relatively affluent populations, 44% of fourth graders never used computers, compared with 34% in poorer areas.

At least one education entrepreneur agrees. Larry Berger is CEO of Amplify, a company that develops digitally enhanced curricula in math, science, and literacy for kindergarten through eighth grade. Berger observes that while technology can do a credible job of imparting information, it’s not so good at demonstrating the “social usefulness” of knowledge. “For that,” he says, “you have to be getting that knowledge in a social context with other kids and a teacher, and ideally a teacher you want to be like someday.” While that may be a problem at schools that use a relatively modest amount of technology, it could be an even bigger one at schools like those in the Rocketship network, where one or two minimally trained supervisors oversee as many as 90 students during “Learning Lab” time. The schools have achieved impressive test results, especially in math, but an NPR investigation in 2016 found a repressive environment at many Rocketship schools. According to some parents and teachers, harsh discipline was used to keep students on task.

Who preserved Greek literature? (Part 2)

Peter Gainsford:

Back in December I wrote about the myth that ancient Greek texts only survived by being preserved in the mediaeval Islamic world. Some readers pointed out that I should have told the true story, as well as dismantling the myth. So here we go.

But first, I’d better repeat that it is a myth. Great Arab and Persian scholars like Averroes and Avicenna were proactive innovators, not passive pipelines for getting texts from A to B. Only in a tiny number of cases do we rely on translations for ancient Greek texts — and into a variety of languages, not just Arabic — and every now and then that number shrinks, when a Greek copy is found.

Recently I realised that, for many people, the Arabic transmission myth doesn’t just apply to Greek texts, but to Latin texts too! (Examples: 123.) So we’d better look at them too. We have a lot of ground to cover: make yourself a cup of tea.

For in-depth accounts, Reynolds and Wilson’s classic book Scribes and scholars(fourth edition 2013) and Pfeiffer’s History of classical scholarship (1968-1976) both cover ancient transmission up to the 1st century BCE very well; Reynolds and Wilson also tell a detailed story from then up to the 1300s. But after that date, things go a bit pear-shaped. They turn into histories of an academic field, of publication and scholarship within western Europe, rather than of the texts themselves. Pfeiffer in particular determinedly ignores any Greek people involved in the story, other than a couple of passing mentions of Manouel Chrysoloras and Ianos Laskaris — and them only for their role in ‘returning’ Greek books to Italy. Western eurocentrism is deeply ingrained in these histories.

Sexual Liberation in Public Schools

Christopher Rufo:

Los Angeles Unified School District has adopted a radical gender-theory curriculum encouraging teachers to work toward the “breakdown of the gender binary,” to experiment with gender pronouns such as “they,” “ze,” and “tree,” and to adopt “trans-affirming” programming to make their classrooms “queer all school year.”

I have obtained a trove of publicly accessible documentsfrom Los Angeles Unified that illustrates the extent to which gender ideology has entered the mainstream of the nation’s second-largest school district. Since 2020, the district’s Human Relations, Diversity, and Equity department has created an infrastructure to translate the basic tenets of academic queer theory into K-12 pedagogy. The materials include a wide range of conferences, presentations, curricula, teacher-training programs, adult-driven “gender and sexuality” clubs, and school-sponsored protests.

In a week-long conference last fall, titled “Standing with LGBTQ+ Students, Staff, and Families,” administrators hosted workshops with presentations on “breaking the [gender] binary,” providing children with “free gender affirming clothing,” understanding “what your queer middle schooler wants you to know,” and producing “counter narratives against the master narrative of mainstream white cis-heteropatriarchy society.” The narrative follows the standard academic slop: white, cisgender, heterosexual men have built a repressive social structure, divided the world into the false binary of man and woman, and used this myth to oppress racial and sexual minorities. Religion, too, is a mechanism of repression. During the conference, the district highlighted how teachers can “respond to religious objections” to gender ideology and promoted materials on how students can be “Muslim and Trans.”

Depression is ‘not caused by chemical imbalance

Sarah Knapton:

Depression is not a chemical imbalance in the brain and scientists have no idea how antidepressants work, a review by University College London has concluded.

Although one in six adults in England are currently prescribed antidepressants – most of which act by maintaining serotonin levels – the new analysis suggests depression is not actually caused by low levels of serotonin.

Instead, depression may be more strongly equated with negative life events which lower mood, the review found.

Since the 1990s, antidepressant use has grown alongside the theory that the drugs establish correct levels of chemicals in the brain but researchers say that is unfounded.

Bad news: COVID-19 numbers are pretty meaningless

Jeff Klausner:

Moving forward, we must improve our sentinel hospital surveillance to include only those cases likely to be a true COVID-19 hospitalization. Many experts suggest that can be easily done by counting those cases that required oxygen therapy or specific COVID-19 treatment. Population-based surveys would be very useful, albeit expensive and time-consuming, but conducted in an ongoing statistically meaningful fashion could be very informative.

The bottom line is that we must understand and accept the limitations of current COVID-19 numbers. We should not be responding out of proportion to the severity of the epidemic. We should be focused on making sure vulnerable people have easy and timely access to effective treatment and investing in new vaccines that can truly prevent future infections.

Negative incentives in academic research

Daniel Lemire:

In the first half of the XXth century, there were relatively few scientists, and these scientists were generally not lavishly funded. Yet it has been convincingly argued that these scientists were massively more productive. We face a major replication crisiswhere important results in fields such as psychology and medicine cannot be reproduced independently. Academic researchers routinely fail to even fill out the results from clinical trials. We have entered a ‘dark age’ where we are mostly stagnant. It is not that there is no progress per se, but progress is slow, uncommon and expensive.

Why might that be? I believe that it has to do with important ‘negative incentives’ that we have introduced. In effect, we have made scientists less productive. We probably did so through several means, but two effects are probably important: the widespread introduction of research competitions and the addition of extrinsic motivations.

Commentary on schools of education

Joanne Jacobs:

“Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges said Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, at an event with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

He’s not the first to criticize education schools, points out Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. “The average ed school . . . is nothing more than a politically correct fad factory that gloms onto the latest good-sounding tripe and forces it down the throats of its students.”

Schools of education represent the academic slums of most any college,” said Walter E. Williams, a George Mason economics professor in 2012. “American education can benefit from slum removal.”

Arnn stands by his statement, while claiming a “deep and abiding affection for teachers.”

Notes on family politics and the (latest) California indoor mask mandate

KJ Hiramoto:

According to Jennifer Van Laar, managing editor of conservative news site, a study showing that masking and other mitigation efforts in Los Angeles County schools were “highly effective” in slowing the spread of COVID-19 was written by Barnes and four other authors, but Barnes’ relationship with her mother was never disclosed – even though Ferrer was listed in the acknowledgments section of the study.

Van Laar also questioned Barnes’ credibility in the study, citing that she does not have a scientific background “or a Ph.D. in any field.” 

Van Laar’s report comes just days before Los Angeles County is on the verge of becoming the only California County to reinstate its indoor mask mandate. If LA County remains in the “high” transmission category, the universal indoor mask mandate could return as early as July 29.

If the indoor mask mandate returns to LA County, Ferrer would be the only county health director in the state to reinstate the requirement.

Civics: “It is as anti-first amendment as it can get”

The spear of lugh:

Articulating ideas and reality has always been complex but at least words and swords were geographically in the same place. The striking example is how french “départements” (administrative subdivision of French state) were defined under Napoleon’s ruling: it is the set of places that can be reached from the “chef-lieu” (main city) with less than 1 day by horse ride. Now that a tweet can be read instantaneously at the other part of the globe, we see that the “horse ride” condition makes little sense. Now a new question arises: how do you enforce a smart contract (very much an idea) in Kabul when it is overrun by Talibans?

There is an inherent elegance in the “freedom convoys” (in Canada, the US, France etc.) we are experiencing now. This movement unmasks the power that be in an unstoppable way. This movement forces politicians to denounce out loud their own previous decisions. Irony is not lost on anyone when hearing Canada’s premier Trudeau explaining that hindering freedom of movement is detrimental to everyone. No kidding sunshine! Doesn’t it remind you something? Even more ironic were the effort of various police forces to block convoys to avoid the convoys to block. You see there is blocking and blocking. There are good and bad blockers you know…

Civics: Taxpayer supported Federal Government Personal tracking policies

Carly Page:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used mobile location data to track people’s movements on a much larger scale than previously known, according to new documents unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

It’s no secret that U.S. government agencies have been obtaining and using location data collected by Americans’ smartphones. In early 2020, a Wall Street Journal report revealed that both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bought access to millions of smartphone users’ location data to track undocumented immigrants and suspected tax dodgers.

However, new documents obtained by the ACLU through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit now reveal the extent of this warrantless data collection. The 6,000-plus records reviewed by the civil rights organization contained approximately 336,000 location points across North America obtained from people’s phones. They also reveal that in just three days in 2018, CBP obtained records containing around 113,654 location points in the southwestern United States — more than 26 location points per minute.

Abortion, Adoption and Parenthood

Janice Goldwater:

In a 2016 analysis as part of the five-year Turnaway Study… UCSF researchers… found that one week after being denied an abortion due to a late-term pregnancy just 14 percent of 171 study participants reported plans to place the baby for adoption or considered it as an option. Only nine percent of those who went on to give birth – 15 women — actually placed their newborns for adoption…. 

In interviews with researchers, Turnaway participants gave several reasons for deciding to parent, including finding relatives were more willing to help than they anticipated and the bond they felt with their infants after birth. Lastly, they said they would feel guilty if they chose adoption “either because they believed adoption was an abjuration of responsibility, or because they believed it meant they’d have no ongoing knowledge of their child,” the report summarized. 

Those who chose adoption expressed strong satisfaction with their decisions, but follow-up interviews “revealed mixed emotions,” the report said. The 2016 analysis concluded: “Political promotion of adoption as an alternative to abortion is likely not grounded in the reality of women’s decision making.”…

Choose life.


My son is 15. He is also an autistic boy with Down syndrome.

David Perry:

Tech is just a tool or a plaything for him like any other. But we were promised more than that — we were promised a future in which technology would mediate between my disabled son and an ableist world. Instead, what is available to my son is driven more by arbitrary systems than by his needs and his personality. 

My son’s most significant needs relate to speech. By the time he was three, it was clear he was not going to predominantly use verbal speech, though he was learning to communicate in a wide variety of ways. His speech therapist at the time quickly sent us to a world-class facility to assess the best way for him to use tech to talk. At the time, Nico’s healthcare and education costs were covered by the “early intervention” programs in Illinois — statewide systems funded by federal, state, and local dollars intended to help children under three years of age meet “developmental milestones.” 

We tried a wide variety of devices, but because he had the manual dexterity to operate the simplest one, that’s the one the state would pay for. Within a few weeks after having it prescribed, we had a plastic box where you could literally cut and paste pieces of paper with words and pictures on it, and then use your voice to record sounds that then my son could press to play out loud. It was over a foot long. It cost over $3,000. 

There were much better, and much more expensive, dedicated speech devices on the market, many of which are in fact a marvel of engineering, and do not require exhausted parents to do arts and crafts. But what we needed, we thought, was a speech app; they were just becoming available on mobile platforms like iPads. We wanted Proloquo2go, one of a number of programs that can reproduce words or phrases by selecting from an infinitely customizable menu. It cost $250, which we didn’t have, and needed to be on an iPad, which we also couldn’t afford. The price would have been much lower than our state-funded arts and crafts box, but at the time the system wouldn’t pay for medical programs on non-medical devices. We ultimately got both the tablet and the app thanks to a donor.

Staving off the ‘summer slide’ through year-round learning at One City Schools

Rhonda Foxx:

Some education experts and parents fear the “summer slide” may be more troublesome due to the lasting impacts the pandemic has had on learning.

For students at One City Schools, the learning doesn’t stop.

Students at One City Schools eagerly don pajamas for spirit week in July because for them, it’s a regular day of class.

Kaleem Caire, founder and CEO of One City Schools said, “We really asked our parents what type of school do you want and having something for their children to do during the summer was important.”

Even the students seem to enjoy going to school in the summer.

Caydence, a 3rd grader said, “My favorite thing is about school is like that, like we stay all year to get like smart.”

Brandyn, a 2nd grader said, “My favorite subject is recess. Why? Because I get to play basketball, and play with my friends.”

“And we shall not betray the now politically incorrect Ernest Hemingway”

Sergey Karaganov:

Confrontation is narrowing the room for political freedom, and I am concerned about that. I am reiterating in most of my writings and public appearances that we should preserve freedom of thinking and intellectual discussion, which is still much wider than in many other countries. We do not have the cancel culture or impose the deafening political correctness. I am concerned about the freedom of thought in the future. But I am even more concerned about the growing probability of a global thermonuclear conflict ending the history of humanity. We are living through a prolonged Cuban missile crisis. And I do not see people of the caliber of Kennedy and his entourage on the other side. I do not know whether we have responsible interlocutors. But we are looking for them.

I am sympathetic toward my compatriots who will have less possibilities to continue normal lives due to Western sanctions, aimed at inflicting of as much pain on normal Russians as possible in hope that they would revolt. The effect is predictably opposite. But there is one bright spot in the generally sad picture. Belligerent Western policies, which are almost welcome, are cleaning our society, our elites, of the remains of pro-Western elements, compradors and “useful idiots.” So, “Make my day.” I love Clint Eastwood movies. But, of course, we are not closing ourselves to European culture. Moreover, I suspect that with cancel culture now on the rise in the West, we could remain one of the few places that will preserve the treasure of the European, Western culture and spiritual values.

She lamented that, as a result,“journalists lost the gate-keeping powers.”

Audrey Unverferth and Evita Duffy

Many of the conference speakers argued that the government should regulate the algorithms of social media platforms, which would effectively diminish the reach of people and ideas they don’t like. Meanwhile, none of them entertained the idea that a large portion of the country might just be justified in distrusting the narratives of woke academicsdishonest journalists, and criminal government officials and agencies

Our team recognizes the stakes: if Ressa and her friends successfully entrench themselves as information gate-keepers, genuine truth-seeking will be forced underground or stopped completely. We can’t let them get away with this power grab.

We Respectfully Posed Tough Questions

Unlike our leftist peers at the University of Buffalo (who this week forced a conservative speaker to be escorted out by police from his campus lecture), Chicago Thinker student journalists respectfully posed hard-hitting but genuine questions. 

On Wednesday, Senior Editor Daniel Schmidt asked The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum about the corporate-media and Big-Tech suppression of the New York Post story on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, zeroing in on Applebaum’s rejection of the laptop’s importance. 

“Now, of course, we know a few weeks ago The New York Times confirmed that the [laptop] content is real. Do you think the media acted inappropriately when they instantly dismissed Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation?” asked Schmidt. “And what can we learn from that in ensuring that what we label as disinformation is truly disinformation and not reality?”

Applebaum dismissed the laptop story, explaining, “My problem with Hunter Biden’s laptop is, I think, [it’s] totally irrelevant. I mean it’s not whether it’s disinformation — I don’t think Hunter Biden’s business relationships have anything to do with who should be president of the United States. So, I don’t find it to be interesting.” Moderator David Axelrod quickly jumped in, ending the discussion.

State censorship: China edition

Zeyi Yang:

Imagine you are working on your novel on your home computer. It’s nearly finished; you have already written approximately one million words. All of a sudden, the online word processing software tells you that you can no longer open the draft because it contains illegal information. Within an instant, all your words are lost.

This is what happened in June to a Chinese novelist writing under the alias Mitu. She had been working with WPS, a domestic version of cloud-based word processing software such as Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365. In the Chinese literature forum Lkong on June 25, Mitu accused WPS of “spying on and locking my draft,” citing the presence of illegal content. 

The news blew up on social media on July 11 after a few prominent influencer accounts belatedly picked it up. It became the top trending topic on Weibo that day, with users questioning whether WPS is infringing on their privacy. Since then, The Economic Observer, a Chinese publication, has reported that several other online novelists have had their drafts locked for unclear reasons in the past. 

Mitu’s complaint triggered a social media discussion in China about censorship and tech platform responsibility. It has also highlighted the tension between Chinese users’ increasing awareness of privacy and tech companies’ obligation to censor on behalf of the government. “This is a case where perhaps we are seeing that these two things indeed might collide,” says Tom Nunlist, an analyst on China’s cyber and data policy at the Beijing-based research group Trivium China 

While Mitu’s document has been saved online and was previously shared with an editor in 2021, she says she had been the only person editing it this year, when it was suddenly locked. “The content is all clean and can even be published on a [literature] website, but WPS decided it should be locked. Who gave it the right to look into users’ private documents and decide what to do with them arbitrarily?” she wrote.

Related: Google Censorship.

How the Colosseum Was Built—and Why It Was an Architectural Marvel


After Vespasian became Roman Emperor in 69 A.D., his Flavian Dynasty— which included his sons, Titus and Domitian—launched a vast building program to restore Rome, which had been ravaged by fire, plague and civil war. During the Flavian Dynasty’s 27-year reign, it renovated buildings, statues and monuments throughout the city. In 70 A.D., Vespasian ordered the construction of the new amphitheater in the city center, funded with the spoils from the Roman siege of Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War. The Colosseum, dedicated 10 years later, served as a dramatic political symbol of the city’s resurgence. 

It was also an innovative architectural and engineering wonder, the largest and most complex permanent amphitheater of the ancient world. Made primarily of concrete, 3.5 million cubic feet of travertine, and similar amounts of marble, stone and timber, the Colosseum rose to 157 feet (roughly the height of a 15-story building), with capacity for an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 people. 

“The Colosseum…was part of an entire complex of buildings that Vespasian and his sons were building throughout Rome as part of a bigger program to erase [their predecessor] Nero’s mark on the city—and to champion their own achievements,” says Nathan Elkins, deputy director of the American Numismatic Society and author of Monument to Dynasty and Death: The Story of Rome’s Colosseum and the Emperors Who Built It. At its dedication, Titus presided over 100 days of games, which included gladiatorial combat and animal entertainments.

Notes on Wisconsin Governor Evers’ 2022 K-12 Education Campaign Advertisement


Claim 1: Tony Evers has Taken Wisconsin Schools into the Top 10 in the U.S.

The ad repeats a brag Evers has been making for months.  The top 10 ranking issued by US News, shows Wisconsin’s rank improved 10 places since the 2018 list.  Evers has been taking credit for the improvement although the current ranking uses data largely from the years when Scott Walker was governor, and the lower 2018 ranking was after nearly a decade of Evers’ leadership as DPI Superintendent.

First, let’s start with the obvious. K12 student achievement numbers are trending the wrong way in Wisconsin and the most recent proficiency scores were abysmal.

Despite $2.6 billion additional federal dollars to prevent learning loss and to keep our kids on track academically, Fs increased dramatically during COVID. School funding increases every year – the most recent budget sends $2.5 billion more state aid to K12 schools than the 2015-17 budget, yet more than two-thirds of our children are not proficient in math or English language arts.

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Notes on confidence in taxpayer supported K-12 schools

Hannah Cox:

A new Gallup Poll shows that only 28% of Americans hold a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in our public school system, and given the state of that system, one can only assume those people work for teachers’ unions.

This is the second lowest percentage since Gallup first started tracking the issue in the 1970s, and it isn’t hard to understand why. The failings of our government school system were put on full display during COVID as schools shut down and the classroom moved to Zoom. 

Parents were, often for the first time, presentedwith the materials their kids were actually being taught and many realized just how much time their kid wasted on a day-to-day basis.

Couple that with the egregious actions of the teachers’ unions—unions that leech off the taxpayers’ dime like a fat tick—who worked to unnecessarily keep schools shut down or enforced ridiculous COVID protocols despite parents’ wishes. They basically held the education system hostage for two years and left us with the bill—which was bound to anger anyone paying even passing attention to the situation.

And this is just the backlash against the policies found in public schools over the past two years, it doesn’t even touch on the abysmal testing resultsand outcomes for those who go through government schools.

Lawfare over school district policies: Maine Edition

Elizabeth Troutman:

“This government entity believes that it can shut a citizen out of public life entirely if he challenges them, their decisions, or their authority,” Randazza told the Free Beacon. “It shouldn’t matter what he’s advocating for. If you can’t advocate your position before the government without being told you’re now locked out of public life, because you challenged us, well, that’s not what freedom is.”

In the recording McBreairty played at the April board meeting, Miller justified pornographic excerpts of a library book in the Hampden High School library, saying, “If you were to read it in the context of the whole book, it would have a different meaning.” The board cited the incident to justify the criminal trespass notice, but no official policy against playing a video or recording during a school board meeting exists, the lawsuit states. Randazza said the board tried to add limitations to its policies to stop McBreairty from criticizing the library books.

The library at the district’s Reeds Brook Middle School offers The Other Boy, a book about a 12-year-old boy who was born a girl and tries to conceal that he is transgender when his family moves towns; Middle School’s A Drag: You Better Werk, the story of a young gay entrepreneur who starts his own junior talent agency with a 13-year-old aspiring drag queen as his first client; and Rick, a book about a boy who joins a “Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities can express themselves.” It also offers It’s Perfectly Normal: A Book About Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, which McBreairty read at a different school board meeting.

Seizing the Means of Knowledge Production

Musa al-Gharbi

One would be forgiven for believing this was an essay riffing on the recent ‘Grievance Studies’ hoax. In fact, the term (victim studies), and the debate surrounding these lines of research, long predated Pluckrose, Boghossian and Lindsay’s stunt. This particular passage is from Richard Rorty’s 1998 classic Achieving Our Country (published roughly 20 years prior to the ‘Sokal Squared’ affair).  

Similarly, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning’s 2014 paper “Microaggression and Moral Cultures” was met with great fanfare (and expanded into a book, The Rise of Victimhood Culturein 2018) — in large part because it ostensibly explained the sudden surge of student protests in the months that preceded (and the years that followed) its publication, as well as the new language and strategies that seemed to define these demonstrations.

Yet well before these transformations in student protests, others had identified a change in both the valence and salience of victimhood in American culture more broadly. For instance, in 1992 conservative author Charles Skyes wrote an entire book lamenting how the United States was becoming, in his words, a “nation of victims.” In 2009, two sociologists (Fassin & Rechtman) chronicled the emergence of what Campbell & Manning would later describe as ‘victimhood culture’ in The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry Into the Condition of Victimhood.

Here is their story in a nutshell:

Stuart Reges placed a land acknowledgment in his syllabus. Just not the one his university wanted.

Emma Camp:

Seeing an opportunity, Reges wrote his own land acknowledgment. He wrote, “I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.”

Administrators quickly retaliated, calling the statement “offensive” and arguing that it would create a “toxic environment.” Administrators removed the land acknowledgment from the syllabus posted on Reges’ course website. When Reges replaced the new file with his original syllabus, university officials “set the file protection so that I could not change it [back].” Administrators also created an alternative “shadow” section of his course, taught by another professor using recorded lectures. Approximately 30 percent of Reges’ students switched into this alternative section.

DeSantis’ education message is winning in battleground states, teacher union poll finds

NBC News:

A major set of red flags in the poll for Democrats and teacher unions was a series of questions that look like they were ripped from DeSantis’s Friday speech on “critical race theory” and teaching kids about sexuality and gender identity. While the survey didn’t mention DeSantis by name, it tested education messages he popularized nationally — more so than Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who won in a Democratic-leaning state last year on a parental-rights education platform that was far less provocative than DeSantis’.

One poll question found that voters, by a 32 percentage-point margin, said they were more likely to vote for candidates who believe public schools should focus less on teaching race and more on core subjects. By 27 points, they said schools should be banned from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to kids in kindergarten through third grade. By 28 points, they said transgender athletes should be banned from competing in girls’ sports.

The same poll suggests DeSantis has been smart about where to draw the line. Most voters said they would be less likely to back candidates who want to prosecute teachers for instructing students on critical race theory and gender identity. The same goes for candidates who want books removed from school libraries, although DeSantis on Friday bashed some books as being too sexualized, and some Florida schools are banning books.

“DeSantis has been reasonably shrewd in choosing his culture war initiatives, avoiding toxic ideas like criminally prosecuting teachers,” Guy Molyneux, one of the pollsters who conducted the survey, said in an email to NBC News.

“BUT, going forward I think he will struggle to distinguish his approach from general Republican efforts to enflame political wars in school systems, which voters really don’t want,” Molyneux said. “And [the Supreme Court’s abortion] decision, with Clarence Thomas openly threatening same-sex marriage, has made it much harder for DeSantis to avoid being lumped in with a party that wants to turn back the clock on rights that Americans now take for granted.”

Pennsbury school board officials used unconstitutional policies and bullying tactics to silence criticism of diversity, inclusion and equity agenda


“School boards across the country should take note. Rules for public comments must respect the First Amendment rights of speakers. If you are limiting which opinions may be shared, you’ll be held liable for violating First Amendment rights,” said Alan Gura, Vice President for Litigation at the Institute for Free Speech.

A federal court ruled in November that several Pennsbury policies governing speech at school board meetings were unconstitutional. Those policies, modeled after a template recommended by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), allowed the meeting’s presiding officer to stop speakers whose comments were deemed “personally directed,” “personal attacks,” “abusive,” “verbally abusive,” “irrelevant,” “disruptive,” “offensive,” “inappropriate,” or “otherwise inappropriate.” After an evidentiary hearing in Philadelphia, Judge Gene Pratter found ample evidence that the Board selectively enforced the rules to stifle criticism of its actions and members.

The plaintiffs in the case were censored for attempting to criticize district policies, including efforts to promote contested ideas about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Marshall was once interrupted mere seconds into speaking because the solicitor objected to his use of the term “critical race theory” to describe the district’s initiatives. Critics of the board were cut off for addressing their comments to board members, while other speakers were permitted to directly praise board members and school employees.

“Rules for public comment periods are meant to maintain time limits and protect each speaker’s right to be heard, not police which viewpoints are expressed. Pennsbury’s rules were so vague and subjective that the board could effectively shut down any speech they didn’t like, and that’s exactly what they did,” said Del Kolde, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Free Speech.

After the injunction was issued, Pennsbury abolished one of the two policies challenged in the lawsuit and rewrote the other to comply with the First Amendment. The court also ruled against a board requirement that speakers publicly announce their home address before beginning their remarks. According to a spokesperson for the PSBA, the model policy was put under review after the court’s ruling.

“Unsurprisingly, the share of those who are lonely also rose” – the price of lockdown policies

Sarah O’Connor:

The survey contained six questions about loneliness at school such as “I feel like an outsider (or left out of things) at school” and “I feel lonely at school”. In a sample of 1mn teenagers, school loneliness increased between 2012 and 2018 in 36 out of 37 countries. Nearly twice as many teenagers felt high levels of loneliness in 2018 than in 2012. The researchers found that school loneliness was higher when more students had access to smartphones and used the internet more hours per weekday. If the internet makes young people feel lonely, it’s no wonder the pandemic made them lonelier still.

Loneliness is bad for your health: researchers have found connections between chronic loneliness and heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety. It can also change your perception of the world around you. One UK study asked young people about the friendliness of their neighbourhoods: it found that lonely youngsters ranked their neighbourhoods as worse than their non-lonely siblings.

If anyone is in a social recession, it is the young. As well as helping them to catch up with missed school work, we should think urgently about how to help them feel more connected to each other — crucially, in ways that don’t involve their phones.

a comprehensive argument that education cannot close academic gaps

Freddie deBoer:

We can express the static nature of relative educational outcomes quantitatively, in a variety of ways. The simplest is to observe that by far the most consistently effective predictor of future academic performance is prior performance. This paper summarizes the reality simply:

The present study shows that individual differences in educational achievement are highly stable across the years of compulsory schooling from primary through secondary school. Children who do well at the beginning of primary school also tend to do well at the end of compulsory education for much the same reasons.

This is the finding of all such research. At essentially any point along a given student’s educational journey you can take their outcomes relative to peers and enjoy strong predictive ability about their performance at later stages. (Past performance predicts future performance so well that it seems most education researchers don’t seem to think of it as a predictor at all.) If you’d like to go short-term, student performance in third grade predicts student performance in fifth grade very well, as you would imagine. If you prefer long-term, academic skills assessed the summer after kindergarten offer useful predictive information about academic outcomes throughout K-12 schooling and even into college. Similarly, third-grade reading group, a very coarsely gradated predictor, provides useful information about how well a student will be doing at the end of high school. The kids in the top reading group at age 8 are probably going to college. The kids in the bottom reading group probably aren’t. This offends people’s sense of freedom and justice, but it is the reality in which we live.

There’s even evidence that as students age the stability of their relative performance grows over time. In reading comprehension specifically, for example, “the strength of the relation between Reading Comprehension from grade to grade tended to increase over time.”

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Worst backslide in global vaccinations ‘in a generation,’ U.N. says

Adam Taylor

Requejo said that even before the pandemic, coverage rates of vaccination for DTP had stagnated in part because of rapidly increasing population numbers in key countries. “There are some regions, like Africa, where you have an increasing birth cohort. So 85 percent coverage in 2008 is X number of people, but its X plus a couple of million more that you need to deliver just to maintain that level,” Requejo said.

The U.N. Population Division estimated Monday that the world’s population will reach 8 billion later this year. Some of the countries expected to see their population increase dramatically, such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, already have millions of unvaccinated children. Both are expected to see their population grow by well over 100 million by 2050.

“what a big mistake it was to let academia and media institutions turn into left-wing monocultures”

Megan McArdle:

Yet outside those circles, Bridges’s answers don’t really sound so convincing. In most of America, “Does a late-term fetus have value?” is a softball. And when Hawley leaped in to ask whether women are the ones who give birth — a question few Americans today would struggle with — she resorted to extended question-begging. That might be fine for a Berkeley classroom. But it just won’t do for a political debate in which the majority of voters disagree with you.

Anyone who has ever tried to convince anyone of anything should be able to see that Bridges’s approach was counterproductive. Why, then, did so many articles and tweets cheer the way she “SHUT DOWN” Hawley?

Because there is one place that snickering, eye-rolling and so forth are very effective: within an insular group, where they help delineate the lines of acceptable belief. A sufficiently incredulous “Are you suggesting … ?” effectively signals a silent corollary: “… because if you are, we’ll shun you.” It tells people that this topic is not up for discussion.

Within progressive institutions, “that’s transphobic” is another such signal, and it works … within progressive institutions. In fact, it works too well; it leaves them unprepared to argue with outsiders.

When I was reporting on the story of transgender college swimmer Lia Thomas, I noticed a curious disconnect. If you read newspapers, watched television or listened to academic experts, you might have thought that most people supported Thomas, with some dissent from a few reactionaries or jealous competitors. Yet the overwhelming majority of people I actually spoke to thought it was unfairfor her to compete in women’s events, even though most of them were liberals who would never dream of voting Republican.

Harvard Asian Admissions litigation

PDF filing:

Amicus brief of Asian American Coalition for Education explains how Harvard admissions office manipulates impersonal “Personal rating” to discriminate against Asian American applicants. Contrast with in-person alumni interviewer ratings is striking.

Notes on the Current School Climate

Wesley Yang:

The summer program where I’m currently teaching enrolls about seventy students between the ages of six and twelve. Classes are technically open to any child in the district, but only a few parents actually sign their children up themselves; instead, the vast majority of kids are registered for the program by a teacher who was concerned with their academic performance the previous year. Parents can choose to accept or reject the enrollment, but the acceptance rate is something like 90% – it’s free, after all, and plenty of these parents are already looking for a safe place to send their children while they work during the day.

This “enroll first, ask questions later” approach removes many of the obstacles that keep struggling students from engaging with other summer programs, many of which have complicated application processes and require children to meet certain academic standards. However, it also means many families aren’t particularly invested in the program itself and, as a consequence, both parent and student engagement is lower than it might otherwise be.

Early on, an administrator confessed that this sort of setup could lead to “attendance issues,” which I took to mean some kids showing up late or even skipping class once in a while. Nine of the eleven students in my grade level were absent the first day. The next day, it was ten. By the end of the week, I had one student consistently attending and a few who had been officially withdrawn by their parents – but there were still eight children on my roster who were technically enrolled while having never once shown up.

Civics: Prison visitor Administrative rule making struck down


The News: Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge William Hue issued a summary judgment decision that holds the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WIDOC) violated state law and the state constitution when the agency barred Catholic clergy from ministering in-person to the spiritual needs of inmates under a COVID-19 visitor policy. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) sued the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in May 2021 on behalf of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee seeking invalidation of the visitor policy. That policy, in effect for over a year, contained no exceptions for vaccinated clergy or instances where religious services could not be conducted virtually, yet WIDOC simultaneously granted institutional access to lawyers, public officials, and members of the press, among many others.

Judge Hue wrote, in part, “Religious interests (guaranteed by the Wisconsin Constitution) and the privilege to clergy (granted by the Wisconsin Legislature through statute) were not given consideration by [WIDOC] in denying them access to state correctional institutions for over 450 days. [WIDOC’s] acts in that regard were not tailored narrowly to meet competing state interests and [the Archdiocese’s] rights. They were not tailored at all.”

Taxpayer funded COVID Governance

Jeffrey Tucker:

So it was all a sleight-of-hand: she was staying home; it’s just that she has several homes! This is how the power elite comply, one supposes. 

The BBC then quoted her defense, which echo the pain experienced by hundreds of millions: 

“My daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months. They’ve become deeply depressed as I’m sure many elderly have as they’ve not been able to see their sons, their granddaughters. My parents have not been able to see their surviving son for over a year. These are all very difficult things.”

Indeed. However, she was the major voice for the better part of 2020 for requiring exactly that. No one should blame her for wanting to get together with family; that she worked so hard for so long to prevent others from doing so is what is at issue. 

The press piled on and she announced that she would be leaving her post and not seeking a position at the Biden White House. Trump tweeted that she will be missed. It was the final discrediting – or should have been – of a person that many in the White House and many around the country had come to see as an obvious fanatic and fake, a person whose influence wrecked the liberties and health of an entire country.


In what may be the most damning quote of the entire US response to Covid, in one paragraph, Birx tells us that she’d always intended “two weeks to slow the spread” as a lie and immediately wanted those two weeks extended, despite having no data to show why that was necessary.

No sooner had we convinced the Trump administration to implement our version of a two-week shutdown than I was trying to figure out how to extend it. Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread was a start, but I knew it would be just that. I didn’t have the numbers in front of me yet to make the case for extending it longer, but I had two weeks to get them. However hard it had been to get the fifteen-day shutdown approved, getting another one would be more difficult by many orders of magnitude.

This is one of several quotes in which Birx refers to “our version” of a lockdown, though she never makes it clear what the original “version” of a lockdown is. As a matter of fact, though Birx spends hundreds of pages boasting about her scorched-earth crusade for lockdowns across America, she never once explains why she wanted this or why she felt it was a good idea, other than some brief asides about China’s supposed success using social distancing during SARS-1.

Birx’s apparent plan to almost singlehandedly destroy the world’s primary democratic superpower is going swimmingly until she meets the book’s leading antagonist: Dr. Scott Atlas. To Birx’s disgust, Atlas takes a strong stand for all the things she loathes most—things like human rights, democratic governance, and, most of all, freedom.

University of Washington Professor Sues School Over Alleged Free-Speech Violation

Melissa Korn:

A University of Washington computer science professor is suing his school, claiming a violation of his First Amendment rights as he faces punishment for his take on a university statement that the campus is located on Native American land, the latest clash over speech rights for college faculty.

Stuart Reges, who has taught at the university since 2004, claims in the suit that administrators are discriminating against him because of his viewpoint challenging Native Americans’ historic ownership of the land, and are using an unconstitutionally broad speech policy to pursue disciplinary action against him.

The university in 2020 included on a list of best practices for diversity a suggestion that faculty add a “land acknowledgment” to their course syllabi and offered recommended language: “The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.”

College Board Will Not Make Public AP Data by Race

Scott Jaschik

The College Board will no longer make public data on race and the scores of those who take Advanced Placement exams.

The change was first noted by Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University, who wrote on Twitter that the change was “the most 1984-esque example of College Board-speak I’ve seen in a while” because the College Board says “withholding data is now called ‘streamlined reporting.’”

Jaslee Carayol, director of communications at the College Board, said the data are available to some. “AP provides demographic data to schools, districts, and state departments of education. Schools and districts have already received their AP data for the 2022 AP Exam Administration and, later this month, AP data will be delivered to state departments of education. Researchers who would like access to AP data can make requests via online form,” she said.

The data from 2018 show that Asian students excelled on the exams in biology, calculus (advanced), computer science, English language and composition, and U.S. history.

“One simply cannot “follow the science; Many people find it difficult to accept that a published finding may just be false”

Francois Balloux:

A common misunderstanding is that “the science” is a set of absolute, immutable, indisputable and verifiable facts. Rather, science is a messy process eventually converging towards the truth in a process of trial and error.

Many scientific publications are false – because they relied on inadequate data or analyses, but more often the results are just false-positives, picking up a statistically significant association when they shouldn’t. Indeed, each time a statistical test is performed, there is a small chance it will pick up a pattern even when there is none. Such false-positive findings are particularly likely to arise in studies with small sample sizes, as those are inherently noisier.

The problem is made worse because studies reporting positive findings are more likely to be written up and publicised. (Those failing to detect a statistically significant effect often tend to remain unpublished.) Publications reporting false-positive results are also more common among the first studies, a pattern known as the “winner’s curse”.

There have been several instances during the pandemic where the first studies pointed to results that could not be replicated by other, often larger, studies. One example was the anti-parasite drug ivermectin. Several early studies on a small number of patients reported promising results, which led many to believe that it was a miracle cure for Covid-19. It was only once data from large clinical trials became available that ivermectin could be confidently ruled out as a useful drug against the virus.

More recently, a preprint reported that current Omicron lineages in circulation (BA.1.12, BA.4 and BA.5) may have reverted to a level of virulence comparable to the previous Delta variant, mostly on the basis of experimental infections in hamsters. Those early results caused considerable alarm but could not be replicated in other hamster experiments. They were also at variance with the massive body of real-world evidence from many countries showing no increase in hospitalisation or death rates for infections caused by current strains in circulation.

Of the myriad doomsday Covid-19 variants that have been anticipated on the basis of early and often poor evidence, few did in fact sweep the world. Though some did: the Alpha and Delta variants were both more transmissible and associated with higher hospitalisation and death rates than any lineage in circulation before them. And the Omicron variant spread globally very rapidly, mainly because it could largely bypass existing population immunity conferred by vaccines and prior infections, but luckily, its severity lies well below that of the early pandemic lineages and any subsequent variant.

I remember chuckling a bit when politicians would confidently state that they were/are “following the science”.….

Ethan Ennals:

Infectious diseases expert and former presidential Covid adviser Dr Deborah Birx told The Mail on Sunday that coronavirus ‘came out of the box ready to infect’ when it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2020. 

The adviser said most viruses take months or years to become highly infectious to humans. But, Dr Birx said, Covid ‘was already more infectious than flu when it first arrived’.

She said that meant Covid was either an ‘abnormal thing of nature’ or that Chinese scientists were ‘working on coronavirus vaccines’ and became infected.

‘It happens, labs aren’t perfect, people aren’t perfect, we make mistakes and there can be contamination,’ she said.

The performance of the James Webb Space Telescope


During the six-month commissioning period of JWST, the mission team worked with dedication and focus to prepare the observatory for science operations. A key part of commissioning activities was characterizing the on-orbit performance of the observatory. This document summarizes those results, drawn from many activities and analyses over the past six months.

The design and architecture of JWST, and pre-launch predicted performance, are described elsewhere. This document summarizes what was actually delivered, and how the actual performance differs from pre-launch expectations. We summarize in turn the performance of the spacecraft, telescope, science instruments, and ground system. Further details will appear in a planned series of papers in a PASP special issue on JWST.

The key outcome of six months of commissioning is this: JWST is fully capable of achieving the discoveries for which it was built. JWST was envisioned “to enable fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems” (Gardner et al. 2006) — we now know with certainty that it will. The telescope and instrument suite have demonstrated the sensitivity, stability, image quality, and spectral range that are necessary to transform our understanding of the cosmos through observations spanning from near-earth asteroids to the most distant galaxies.

Moreover, almost across the board, the science performance of JWST is better than expected. The optics are better aligned, the point spread function is sharper with higher encircled energy, and the optical performance is more time-stable than requirements. The fine guidance system points the observatory several times more accurately and precisely than required. The mirrors are cleaner than requirements, which translates into lower-than-expected levels of near-infrared stray light, meaning that the <5 μm sky background will be darker for JWST than expected. The science instruments have generally higher total system throughput than pre-launch expectations. Detector noise properties are similar to ground tests, albeit with higher rates of cosmic rays, as expected in deep space. Collectively, these factors translate into substantially better sensitivity for most instrument modes than was assumed in the exposure time calculator for Cycle 1 observation planning, in many cases by tens of percent. In most cases, JWST will go deeper faster than expected. In addition, JWST has enough propellant onboard to last at least 20 years.

Civics: With censorship soaring and real reporting all but taboo, the major dailies have just one important function left: being a political signaling system

Matt Taibbi:

Biden’s descent was obvious six years ago. Following the candidate in places like Nevada, Iowa, and New Hampshire, I listened to traveling press joke about his general lack of awareness and discuss new precautions his aides seemed to be taking to prevent him engaging audience members at events. Biden at the time was earning negative headlines for doing things like jamming a forefinger into the sternum of a black activist named Tracye Redd in Waterloo, Iowa, one of several such incidents just on that trip. 

My former editor at Rolling Stone John Hendrickson, a genial, patient person whom I like a great deal, insisted from afar that Biden’s problems were due to continuing difficulties with a childhood stutter, something John had also overcome. He went on to write a piece for the Atlantic called “Joe Biden’s Stutter, and Mine” that became a viral phenomenon, abetting a common explanation for Biden’s stump behavior: he was dealing with a disability. The Times added op-eds from heroes like airline pilot Captain “Sully” Sullenberger with titles like, “Like Joe Biden, I Once Stuttered, Too. I Dare You to Mock Me.”

But I’d covered a much sharper Biden in 2008 and felt that even if the drain of overcoming a stutter had some effect, the problems were cognitive, not speech-related. He struggled to remember where he was and veered constantly into inappropriateness, challenging people physically, telling crazy-ass stories, and angering instantly. He’d move to inch-close face range of undecideds like Cedar Rapids resident Jaimee Warbasse and grab her hand (“we’re talking minutes,” she said) before saying, “If I haven’t swayed you today, then I can’t.” I called the mental health professionals who were all too happy to diagnose Donald Trump from afar for a story about the effort to remove Trump under the 25th amendment, and all declined to discuss Biden even off the record for “ethical” reasons. 

This week, all that changed. Add stories like “Biden Promised to Stay Above the Fray, but Democrats Want a Fighter” and Michelle Goldberg’s “Joe Biden is Too Old to Be President Again,” and what we’ve got is a newspaper that catches real history spasmodically and often years late, but has the accuracy of an atomic clock when it comes to recording the shifting attitudes of elite opinion. 

Whether through Emily Bazelon’s Times Magazine piece “The Battle Over Gender Therapy,” or Michael Powell’s “A Vanishing Word in the Abortion Debate: Women,” or even the Editorial Board argument from late May, “The War in Ukraine is Getting Complicated, and America Isn’t Ready,” the Times has become a place where the public often learns about key facts, pressing international controversies, or trends in American thought only once these have been deemed suitable for public consumption by an unseen higher audience. An all time effort in this direction was “Hunter Biden Paid Tax Bill, but Broad Federal Investigation Continues,” in whichthe paper allowed some of its better reporters to quietly confirm a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop two years after keeping more or less mum as the story was tabbed Russian disinformation.

U.S. Transition to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Begins Saturday

On Saturday, the United States will transition the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to 988 – an easy-to-remember three-digit number for 24/7 crisis care. The lifeline, which also links to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need. This initiative is part of President Biden’s comprehensive strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis, and is identified by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra as a top priority at HHS. Since January 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration has made unprecedented investments to support the 988 transition, investing $432 million to scale crisis center capacity and ensure all Americans have access to help during mental health crises.

Move over ACLU, FIRE is the New Champion of Free Speech

Matt Tabby:

After years of planning, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, better known as FIREannounced a major expansion Monday, moving “beyond college campuses to protect free speech — for all Americans.”

FIRE was the brainchild of University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Charles Kors and Boston civil liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate, who co-authored the 1999 book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses. To the modern reader the book reads like a collection of eccentric cases of students and teachers caught up in speech code issues, most (but not all) being conservative. 

To take just one of countless nut-bar examples, Kors and Silverglate told the story of a professor in San Bernardino reprimanded for violating sexual harassment policies because, among other things, “he assigns provocative essays such as Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal,” as the court case later put it. This was apparently the “cannibalism” portion of the accusation that he delved into such subjects as “obscenity, cannibalism, and consensual sex with children.”

The book triggered such an overwhelming number of responses from other faculty members and students that the pair decided to set up an organization to defend people who found themselves in tricky speech controversies on campuses. They soon found they had plenty of work and, by 2022, enough of a mandate to expand beyond colleges and universities into America at large. According to FIRE CEO Greg Lukianoff, as quoted in a Politico story, the group has already raised over $28 million toward a $75 million “litigation, opinion research and public education campaign aimed at boosting and solidifying support for free-speech values.”

Gov. Youngkin gets funds for new schools in a state that restricts charters.

Wall Street Journal:

Virginia Republicans hope that lab schools will replicate the success of charters, which face an unusual barrier in the state. The Virginia constitution requires each new charter to gain sign-off from the local school board, most of which are politically aligned with the unions. The fast-growing state had a mere seven charter schools in 2021, serving about 1,300 students out of more than 1.2 million.

Laying the foundation for non-union schools is in keeping with Mr. Youngkin’s campaign promise to grant more options and control to parents. Debates over Covid restrictions and critical-race theory helped push education to the forefront of last year’s gubernatorial election, with dissatisfied parents driving an unexpected GOP vote surge.

Public pressure has enabled a breakthrough. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell, who led the state from 2010 to 2013, tried to work around the edges of charter-school restrictions but failed to get lab-school funding through a Democratic Senate. The Governor before Mr. Youngkin, Democrat Ralph Northam, opposed the idea, with his education secretary calling lab schools “an underhanded way of getting to charter schools.” But this year, after his election victory in November, Gov. Youngkin was able to win support from 32 of 40 state Senators.

Proposals for lab schools are already open. “We’ve already had universities and school boards come to me,” Gov. Youngkin said at the signing ceremony. The $100 million in the budget will provide “start-up capital” for at least five new schools, along with grants for entities planning to open them. George Mason University has discussed with neighboring public-school and community-college systems opening one of the first lab schools, according to Virginia radio station VPM.

Wrong Again: 50 Years of Failed Eco-pocalyptic Predictions

Myron Ebell & Steven Milloy:

Modern doomsayers have been predicting climate and environmental disaster since the 1960s. They continue to do so today.

None of the apocalyptic predictions with due dates as of today have come true.

What follows is a collection of notably wild predictions from notable people in government and science.

More than merely spotlighting the failed predictions, this collection shows that the makers of failed apocalyptic predictions often are individuals holding respected positions in government and science.

While such predictions have been and continue to be enthusiastically reported by a media eager for sensational headlines, the failures are typically not revisited.