Researchers Found Puberty Blockers And Hormones Didn’t Improve Trans Kids’ Mental Health At Their Clinic. Then They Published A Study Claiming The Opposite. (Updated)

Jesse Signal:

An article called “Mental Health Outcomes in Transgender and Nonbinary Youths Receiving Gender-Affirming Care” was published in JAMA Network Open late in February. The authors, listed as Diana M. Tordoff, Jonathon W. Wanta, Arin Collin, Cesalie Stepney, David J. Inwards-Breland, and Kym Ahrens, are mostly based at the University of Washington–Seattle or Seattle Children’s Hospital. 

In their study, the researchers examined a cohort of kids who came through Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic. They simply followed the kids over time as some of them went on puberty blockers and/or hormones, administering self-report surveys tracking their mental health. There were four waves of data collection: when they first arrived at the clinic, three months later, six months later, and 12 months later.

The study was propelled into the national discourse by a big PR push on the part of UW–Seattle. It was successful — Diana Tordoff discussed her and her colleagues’ findings on Science Friday, a very popular weekly public radio science show, not long after the study was published.

All the publicity materials the university released tell a very straightforward, exciting story: The kids in this study who accessed puberty blockers or hormones (henceforth GAM, for “gender-affirming medicine”) had better mental health outcomes at the end of the study than they did at its beginning. 

The headline of the emailed version of the press release, for example, reads, “Gender-affirming care dramatically reduces depression for transgender teens, study finds.” The first sentence reads, “UW Medicine researchers recently found that gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary adolescents caused rates of depression to plummet.” All of this is straightforwardly causal language, with “dramatically reduces” and “caused rates… to plummet” clearly communicating improvement over time.

Misunderstanding Law: Undergraduates’ Analysis of Campus Title IX Policies

Kat Albrecht, Laura Beth Nielsen, Lydia Wuorinen:

Colleges and universities are legally required to attempt to prevent and redress sexual violations on campus. Neo-institutional theory suggests that the implementation of law by compliance professionals rarely achieves law’s goals. It is critical in claims-based systems that those who are potential claimants understand the law. This article demonstrates that (a) intended subjects of the law (colleges and universities) interpret and frame the law in very similar ways; (b) resultant policies are complex and difficult to navigate; and (c) university undergraduates in an experimental setting are not able to comprehend the Title IX policies designed to protect them. These findings suggest that current implementations of Title IX policies leave them structurally ineffective to combat sexual assaults on campus.

Elections and school choice

Chuck Ross:

Pennsylvania Senate hopeful John Fetterman (D.) opposes vouchers that let children in failing public school districts attend private and charter schools. But the progressive champion, who lives in one of Pennsylvania’s worst performing school districts, sends his kids to an elite prep school.

Fetterman’s kids attend the Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh, where parents pay up to $34,250 for a “dynamic” learning environment and an “innovative” approach to teaching. They would otherwise go to schools in Woodland Hills School District, where graduation rates are far below the state average. The local elementary school that serves Fetterman’s town of Braddock is in the bottom 15 percent of the state in academic performance. Fetterman and his wife Gisele have sent at least one of their three kids to Winchester Thurston for the past seven years. A 2018 news article mentioned that Fetterman sends his kids to a private school in Pittsburgh, though the school was not identified. Gisele Fetterman has been a “WT parent” since at least 2015. Last year, Winchester Thurston praisedGisele, a “WT Mom,” for her help on an art project.

Fetterman’s embrace of school choice for his own family opens him up to allegations of hypocrisy on several fronts. Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, has made his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz’s wealth a centerpiece of his campaign. He has also called for increased funding for public schools, though by sending his kids to private school he is diverting funds from Woodland Hills under a state funding formula that awards money to districts based on enrollment.

GitHub for English Teachers

Jon Udell:

This week I tried a different approach when editing a document written by a colleague. Again the goal was not only to produce an edited version, but also to narrate the edits in a didactic way. In this case I tried bending GitHub to my purpose. I put the original doc in a repository, made step-by-step edits in a branch, and created a pull request. We were then able to review the pull request, step through the changes, and review each as a color-coded diff with an explanation. No screenshots had to be made, named, organized, or linked to the narration. I could focus all my attention on doing and narrating the edits. Perfect!

Well, perfect for someone like me who uses GitHub every day. If that’s not you, could this technique possibly work?

In GitHub for the rest of us I argued that GitHub’s superpowers could serve everyone, not just programmers. In retrospect I felt that I’d overstated the case. GitHub was, and remains, a tool that’s deeply optimized for programmers who create and review versioned source code. Other uses are possible, but awkward.

Madison School Board approves $2-per-hour wage increase for education assistants

Elizabeth Beyer:

Legislative Republicans have defended their decision to keep revenue limits flat by noting Wisconsin schools will be getting $2.3 billion in federal COVID relief aid, known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER funds. Madison is anticipating its share will be roughly $66.7 million.

School officials have not laid out how they plan to spend that money but say using it for ongoing expenses, such as hiring more staff or increasing wages, could create a fiscal cliff once the one-time dollars run out.

Monday’s vote came one month after the board approved a 3% base wage increase for all staff for the coming school year, two-thirds of what was sought by MTI for teachers at the start of negotiations. Teachers also get automatic raises for seniority and degree-attainment on top of that.

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?

“As a general rule, a discharge of indebtedness counts as income and is taxable”

Jared Walczak:

Here’s one more question to add to the mix: will states consider student loan debt forgiveness a taxable event? In many states, the answer could be yes.

As a general rule, a discharge of indebtedness counts as income and is taxable, as my colleague Will McBride explains. Under § 9675 of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), however, the forgiveness of student loan debt between 2021 and 2025 does not count toward federal taxable income. States which follow the federal treatment here will likewise exclude debt forgiveness from their own state income tax bases. But, for a variety of reasons, not every state does that. There are at least six relevant interactions with the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) for purposes of the treatment of student loan debt cancelation. States can:

Notes on Google and Censorship

Callan Goldeneye:

How can the most widely used search engine in the world only have 438 total results about one of the most widely discussed issues in the world? How can there only be 438 results including duplicates — about an issue that stands to “impact the entire world and all of humanity?

Civics: Notes on the middle class and “elite” perspectives

Victor Davis Hanson

T]here was a third catalyst that explained the mutual animosity in the pre-Trump years. The masses increasingly could not see any reason for elite status other than expertise in navigating the system for lucrative compensation. 

In short, money and education certification were no longer synonymous with any sense of competency or expertise. Just the opposite often became true. Those who thought up some of the most destructive, crackpot, and dangerous policies in American history were precisely those who were degreed and well-off and careful to ensure they were never subject to the destructive consequences of their own pernicious ideologies.

Does Homeschooling Improve Social Competencies and Creative Thinking among Children?

Brian Ray:

Homeschooling has grown phenomenally during the past 30 years around the world, and especially during the past two years. For example, the number of home-educated children in grades K-12 in the United States grew from an estimated 2.65 million during 2019-2020 to 3.72 million during 2020-2021 (Ray, 2021). In the eastern hemisphere, as another example, “The number of homeschooling families approved by the Israel Ministry of Education increased by 700% from 2005 through 2019” (Madara & BenDavid-Hadar, 2021).

Numerous studies have examined the demographics and academic achievement of home-educating families and the students (e.g., Ray, 2017). An increasing number of scholars have become focused on an increasingly wider variety of topics with respect to homeschooling. Recently, Michal Unger Madara and Iris BenDavid-Hadar probed the social competencies and creative thinking of home-educated children. This brief review will touch upon only the former topic in the study.

Civics: Prosecutors, warrants, “case law” and the courts

Jim Riccioli

Prosecutors argued that case law supports that investigators had the right to access to Brooks’ jail cell, and also felt that the search qualified for a warrant. The defense disagreed, citing other case law that limited access to jail cells to certain circumstances only, particularly jail security.

But Dorow cited a U.S. Supreme Court case in which justices summarized that “society is not prepared to recognize” privacy in a jail cell, especially when investigators sought a warrant to conduct the search.

Biden’s student loan ‘fix’ will likely make the problem worse

Megan McArdle:

There are so many things wrong with President Biden’s newly unveiled policy on student loans that one hardly knows where to begin. So I might as well start with … the Medicare doc fix.

In 1997, Congress became alarmed by the rising cost of health care, which was particularly concerning because it was amping up the cost of Medicare. So when Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act, it created something called the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which was supposed to keep physician reimbursements from growing faster than gross domestic product.

That was all well and good until 2003, when the federal government realized it would need to actually impose significant cuts on those reimbursements. Physicians squealed, and a wincing Congress passed the first “doc fix,” temporarily suspending the caps. Freed from the constraints of the SGR, physician reimbursements continued to grow faster than GDP — which meant that every year, the cost of actually imposing the SGR got bigger.

The “doc fix” became a regular ritual in Washington, because the alternative became increasingly unthinkable: By January 2013, doctors were facing a potential pay cut of 26.5 percent. Unwilling to anger doctors, or to anger seniors whose doctors stopped taking Medicare, Congress kept granting reprieves, until the Obama administration finally bit the bullet and pushed through a (now very expensive) reform in 2015.

Notes and links, here.

Taxpayer supported Disinformation

Naomi Nix:

Facebook and Twitter disrupted a web of accounts that were covertly seeking to influence users in the Middle East and Asia with pro-western perspectives about international politics, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a new report from social media analytics firm Graphika and Stanford University.

The covert influence operation used accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media giants to promote narratives supporting the interests of the United States and its allies while opposing countries, including Russia, China, and Iran, according to the report.

Covert influence campaigns run out of Russia and Iran have repeatedly have been targeted by social media platforms over the years. This crackdown is the rare instance in which a U.S-sponsored campaign targeting foreign audiences was found to violate the companies’ rules.

The accounts are being taken down at a time when social media giants have been trying to crack down on disinformation campaigns about the war in Ukraine. But much of that work has been focused on fighting efforts by Russian authorities to promote propaganda about the war, including false claims about Ukrainian military aggression in the region or blaming Western nations’ complicity in the war.

Margarita Franklin, a spokeswoman for Facebook’s parent company, Meta, confirmed in a statement that the company a recently removed a network of accounts that originated in the United States for violating the platforms’ rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior. Franklin said it’s the first time the company has removed a foreign-focused influence network promoting the United States’ position.

Dr. Fauci and the Covid Rule of Experts

Wall Street Journal:

He and a passel of public-health experts used their authority to lobby for broad economic lockdowns that we now know were far more destructive than they needed to be. He also lobbied for mask and vaccine mandates that were far less protective than his assertions to the public. Dr. Fauci’s influence was all the greater because he had an echo chamber in the press corps and among public elites who disdained and ostracized dissenters.

A flagrant example was Dr. Fauci’s refusal even to consider that the novel coronavirus had originated in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. This may have been because the NIH had provided grant money to the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, which helped fund “gain of function” virus research at the Wuhan lab. In a semantic battle with Republicans, Dr. Fauci denied that the NIH funded such research. But his refusal even to consider the possibility that the virus started in a Wuhan lab showed that Dr. Fauci was as much a politician as a scientist.

Worse, Dr. Fauci smeared the few brave scientists who opposed blanket lockdowns and endorsed a strategy of “focused protection” on the elderly and those at high risk. This was the message of the Great Barrington Declaration authors, and emails later surfaced showing that Dr. Fauci worked with others in government to deride that alternative so it never got a truly fair public hearing.

Lower Black and Latino Pass Rates Don’t Make a Test Racist

John McWhorter

The Association of Social Work Boards administers tests typically required for the licensure of social workers. Apparently, this amounts to a kind of racism that must be reckoned with.

There is a petition circulating saying just that, based on the claim that the association’s clinical exam is biased because from 2018 to 2021 84 percent of white test-takers passed it the first time while only 45 percent of Black test-takers and 65 percent of Latino test-takers did. “These numbers are grossly disproportionate and demonstrate a failure in the exam’s design,” the petition states, adding that an “assertion that the problem lies with test-takers only reinforces the racism inherent to the test.” The petitioners add that the exam is administered only in English and its questions are based on survey responses from a disproportionately white pool of social workers.

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?

Student loan forgiveness advocates muddy the waters with false analogies


A common argument I read from proponents of student debt cancellation is that cancelling student debt is essentially destroying money. Some amount was sitting in a ledger somewhere as an asset in a government agency and now poof, it’s gone. Essentially, it’s an accounting gimmick not impacting much of anything else apart from benefiting borrowers.

But this is opposite of what’s really happening. When the loan was made, money was sent to the school and the student promised to pay it back. Had the student went on to pay back the principal, no money would have been created. It would only have been money transferred through time. Take money from the future and use it today; basically an investment.

What happens when debt is cancelled is the money doesn’t have to be paid back. But the school still got paid. So cancelling debt is money creation.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Official audits show a record of incompetence. Democrats are still giving the tax agency an $80 billion raise.

Wall Street Journal:

Consider the agency’s chronic mishandling of tax credits. By the IRS’s own admission, some $19 billion—or 28%—of earned-income tax credit payments in fiscal 2021 were “improper.” The amount hasn’t improved despite years of IRS promises to do better.

• A January Tigta audit found that an estimated 67,000 claims—totaling $15.6 billion—for the low-income housing tax credit from 2015 to 2019 “lacked or did not match supporting documentation due to potential reporting errors or noncompliance.”

• A May audit found that 26% ($1.9 billion) of its American opportunity tax credits for education expenses were improper in fiscal 2021, and 27% ($541 million) of its net premium tax credits (ObamaCare) were improper in fiscal 2019 (the most recent year it estimated). The same May audit said the IRS acknowledged that 13% ($5.2 billion) of its enhanced child tax credit payments were improper.

• How did it handle $1,200 stimulus checks, the sick and paid family leave credit, or the employee retention tax credit? Unknown, since the agency didn’t estimate failure rates—for which Tigta rapped its knuckles.

“these programs are likely to be very expensive and the resulting increase in the price of tuition will lead to calls either to end the program or for price controls on education”

Alex Tabarrok:

Wiping out 10k in student debt is not the most expensive part of the Biden student loan program. Most Federal student loans are now eligible for an income based repayment plan, under these plans you pay a small percentage of your “discretionary” income, say 10%, and then after a fixed number of years the debt is wiped off the student’s books. At first glance these plans don’t seem crazy, but as Matt Bruenig points out they create perverse incentives.

Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, law graduates that go on to work in the public sector, which is a lot of them as the public sector employs many lawyers, only have to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years in order to have their debt forgiven.

Law schools figured out many years ago that, for a student who is planning to enroll in PSLF upon graduation, prices and debt loads don’t matter. Ten percent of your discretionary income is ten percent of your discretionary income regardless of what the law school charges you and how much debt you nominally have to take on.

Law schools also realized that they could make the deal even sweeter by setting up LRAPs [repayment programs, AT] that give graduates money to cover the the modest repayments required by the PSLF.

Civics: taxpayer funding and Pharma patents: Moderna and Pfizer edition

Jeffrey Tucker:

None of this pertains in the case of the Covid shots. Moderna received fast-track regulatory approval and $10 billion in tax subsidies for its mRNA innovation. Even then, it claimed the right to demand exclusive rights to its formulas. During the pandemic – during which time the company also enlisted governments and private business into forcing consumers to accept its product – it agreed to forego its claims.

Now that the pandemic is over, and the demand for the shots has plummeted worldwide and vaccine mandates scrapped, Moderns is suing Pfizer for stealing its intellectual property. The court fight could last years, at the end of which they will likely settle and redistribute their loot. 

On top of that, both are publicly-traded corporations that made enormous profits off the pandemic, while the jury is still out on whether and to what extent their product proved to be a net benefit in terms of reducing disease severity. It certainly did not stop infection or spread.

To top it off, the actual patent holder for mRNA has opposed these vaccines all along. His name is Robert Malone and he just wrote the following:

President Biden fails to recognize that the root causes of high college costs are federal-loan and student-aid subsidies.

Wall Street Journal:

Like other Great So­ci­ety pro­grams, fed­eral stu­dent loans and grants were ini­tially aimed at help­ing low-in­come Amer­i­cans. They have since be­come an­other all-you-can-eat en­ti­tle­ment. Its costs grow on au­topi­lot as law­mak­ers boost sub­si­dies in the name of mak­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion more af­ford­able, but in re­al­ity do­ing the op­po­site.

The public health risk of putting America’s fate in the hands of one doctor.

Marty Makary:

Very early on in this pandemic, we knew that there was an extremely stratified risk from Covid. The elderly and those with co-morbidities were especially vulnerable, while children were extremely unlikely to get dangerously ill. 

Instead of acting on the good news for children—or drawing on the ample experience in Scandinavian and European countries where schools were open and students were without masks—American kids were seen as vectors of disease. Young children were forced to wear masks inside school and out, affecting the language and social development of many. The effects of school closures will play out for decades, but we already know that children suffered major learning loss, and many left school never to return. Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Fauci supported the most oppressive restrictions for children, including school closures and mandatory cloth masking. 

Yesterday on Fox Neil Cavuto asked Dr. Fauci whether Covid restrictions “went too far” and if they “forever damaged” the children “who couldn’t go to school except remotely.” Dr. Fauci replied: “I don’t think it’s forever irreparably damaged anyone.”

Parents know otherwise. 

A generation is coping with learning loss, and the impact has been the worst in poor and minority communities. According to the Brookings Institute, test-score gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by approximately 20 percent in math and 15 percent in reading over the pandemic. Meantime, anxiety and depression have hit record highs among young Americans, and the surgeon general has described a youth mental health crisis. Of all of Dr. Fauci’s legacies, this might be the gravest.

Our long, vulnerable childhoods may be the key to our success

Sam Leith

The central question in Brenna Hassett’s book, put simply, is: why are our children so very useless for so very long? Or: ‘What is the possible adaptive value of teenagers?’ If we consider maturity, or adulthood, to be the point at which an animal can play its own role in the evolutionary process – i.e. have its own babies – why is it that we have evolved to mature so slowly; and, even when mature, to delay having children until many years after we’re first physically capable of doing so? 

The framework in which Hassett sets out to answer this is one to do with investment and return on investment. An animal invests energy in growing its young. Sometimes that energy is front-loaded in gestation: infant giraffes come out more or less fully baked, or precocial, and are making their knock-kneed way across the savannah soon after birth. In other species, infants are altricial: they come out like baby rats or baby humans, helpless. They need care and feeding. They can’t be trusted to cross busy roads, sweep chimneys or hunt mammoths for ages. They’re sitting ducks for sabre-toothed tigers. Considerable investment of time and energy in growing them to physical maturity (not to mention the opportunity cost of not being able to procreate for a bit) is made by the parents after birth. 

Some animals spread their bets – giving birth to very many infants in the hopes that enough survive to breed. Some, like us, tend to bet the farm on a relatively small number. Seasonal scarcity of food, the presence of predators and all sorts of other factors affect when and how animals mate and give birth, how long they care for their children, and when those children start making children of their own. With a wide range of reference, Hassett sets out to put our human investment strategies in their evolutionary context.

“performing hysterectomies on transgender children”

Ann Althouse:

The removal of healthy, functioning organs from children is shocking. True threats of violence are wrong, but they don’t cancel out the wrongs that provoked the death threats. But did the hospital do wrong? We’re told the recording was real — “not disputed” — but “employees provided inaccurate information.” How inaccurate?

Civics: George Gascón recall effort had good chance to win had it made the ballot….. poll finds

David Lauter:

Countywide, voters disapprove of Gascón’s performance in office by a large margin, 46% to 21%, with about a third of voters saying they strongly disapprove of him. An additional third of voters said they don’t have an opinion. Disapproval was strongest among the county’s Republican minority, but even among Democrats, about a third of voters said they disapproved of Gascón’s work.

As district attorney, Gascón has pursued progressive policies that have aimed to reduce the number of people imprisoned, especially for nonviolent offenses.

The AI startup erasing call center worker accents: is it fighting bias – or perpetuating it?

Wilfred Chan:

“Hi, good morning. I’m calling in from Bangalore, India.” I’m talking on speakerphone to a man with an obvious Indian accent. He pauses. “Now I have enabled the accent translation,” he says. It’s the same person, but he sounds completely different: loud and slightly nasal, impossible to distinguish from the accents of my friends in Brooklyn.

Only after he had spoken a few more sentences did I notice a hint of the software changing his voice: it rendered the word “technology” with an unnatural cadence and stress on the wrong syllable. Still, it was hard not to be impressed – and disturbed.

The man calling me was a product manager from Sanas, a Silicon Valley startup that’s building real-time voice-altering technology that aims to help call center workers around the world sound like westerners. It’s an idea that calls to mind the 2018 dark comedy film Sorry to Bother You, in which Cassius, a Black man hired to be a telemarketer, is advised by an older colleague to “use your white voice”. The idea is that mimicking the accent will smooth interactions with customers, “like being pulled over by the police”, the older worker says. In the film, Cassius quickly acquires a “white voice”, and his sales numbers shoot up, leaving an uncomfortable feeling.

Accents are a constant hurdle for millions of call center workers, especially in countries like the Philippines and India, where an entire “accent neutralization” industry tries to train workers to sound more like the western customers they’re calling – often unsuccessfully.

Reading, writing, arithmetic — and social justice!

David Blaska:

But you’re a Loony Toons cartoon if you believe critical race theory is not taught in the public schools (as does WI State Journal education reporter Elizabeth Beyer). The unionized teachers in Madison WI are obsessed with corrosive identity politics and taxpayers are helping pay for it!

Their militant-left labor union, Madison Teachers Inc., has seeded over 60 “equity-centered leadership positions” through the Madison Metropolitan School District. They’ve posted a “guaranteed representative for staff of color” at each of the four main high schools. All part of MTI’s jihad for “education justice.” You’ve heard of “economic justice” (the politically correct term for socialism). MTI explains that “Education justice is racial justice.”

Video: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison describes Oracle’s 5 billion person database.

Oracle is an important part of the tracking and data industry.[1] It has claimed to have amassed detailed dossiers on 5 billion people,[2] and generates $42.4 billion in annual revenue.[3]

Oracle’s dossiers about people include names, home addresses, emails, purchases online and in the real world, physical movements in the real world, income, interests and political views, and a detailed account of online activity: [4] for example, one Oracle database included a record of a German man who used a prepaid debit card to place a €10 bet on an esports betting site.[5]

Oracle also coordinates a global trade in dossiers about people through the Oracle Data Marketplace.

The Stolen Year acknowledges the public schools’ COVID failures but refuses to hold anyone responsible.

Mary Katherine Ham:

Twelve years after he was acquitted of murder, O.J. Simpson and a ghostwriter penned a book called If I Did It. I was reminded of that when The Stolen Year arrived on my doorstep. A chronicling of the horrors wrought by COVID policies that kept American kids from their school buildings and childhood milestones for more than a year, this book was written by someone at the scene of the crime, intimate with the gory details, and ultimately uninterested in reckoning with who was responsible for it. This is a whodunnit without a culprit.

As The Stolen Year‘s title implies, a crime was perpetrated on U.S. children during the pandemic—one that “increase[d] inequality and destroy[ed] individual hopes and dreams,” one whose “impact can be measured for a generation,” in author Anya Kamenetz’s words.

Kamenetz, an NPR education reporter, is highly credentialed and well-informed. But if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that degrees and area expertise don’t necessarily lead people to good decisions or sound interpretations of data. Knowing the facts was not synonymous with having the courage to buck the pressure to padlock playgrounds.

There were signs in Kamenetz’s reporting that she understood that the risks of opening schools were being exaggerated and the harms of closures downplayed. (I frequently shared her early reporting on YMCAs safely opening for children of essential workers.) Despite that, she admits that she and her colleagues largely missed the biggest story in the modern education beat’s history.

“It was all easy to predict,” she told The Grade. “So we could have been a lot louder.”

59% of Americans worry student loan forgiveness will make inflation worse, CNBC survey finds

Sharon Epperson & Stephanie Dhue:

Yet, a new poll finds Americans worry that debt forgiveness could have unintended consequences. 

Already battling higher prices, 59% of Americans are concerned that student loan forgiveness will make inflation worse, according to a new CNBC survey,conducted online by Momentive among a national sample of 5,142 adults from Aug. 4 to 15.

Still, the concern that canceling student debt would give borrowers more money to spend and therefore increase inflation may not hold true for many borrowers. Some say they would not change their spending habits if their college debt — or a portion of it — is canceled. Also, others haven’t made many changes during the payment pause.

The nation’s political and intellectual leaders go from one failure to another. James Hankins, a historian of the Italian Renaissance, blames a lack of virtue.

Barton Swaim::

It’s hard to contemplate American public life in the 21st century and not arrive at the unhappy conclusion that we are led by idiots. The political class has lately produced an impressive string of debacles: the Afghanistan pullout, urban crime waves, easily foreseen inflation, mayhem at the southern border, a self-generated energy crisis, a pandemic response that wrought little good and vast ruin. Then there are the perennial national embarrassments: a mind-bogglingly expensive welfare state that doesn’t work, public schools that make kids dumber, universities that nurture destructive grievances and noxious ideologies, and a news media nobody trusts.

Readers may object to parts of this list, but few will deny feeling that the country’s government and major institutions are run by people who don’t know what they’re doing. A similar situation obtained seven centuries ago in Europe, as I learned recently from “Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy.” The 2019 book, by Harvard historian James Hankins, is a study of Italian humanist writers and statesmen beginning with Francesco Petrarca (1304-74), known to English speakers as Petrarch. Fourteenth-century humanism arose, Mr. Hankins writes, from a widespread disgust with the venality and incompetence of political and ecclesiastical leaders in late-medieval Italy.

Notes on taxpayer supported Madison High School Construction projects

Elizabeth Beyer:

Here are highlights of the work being done currently at Madison’s four main high schools, according to the Madison School District.

Notes and links on the recent Madison tax and spending increase referendum

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?

Calling for an end to mandatory diversity statements


The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today released a statement urging institutions of higher education to desist from demanding “diversity statements” as conditions of employment or promotion. The AFA’s statement responds to the rising trend of academic institutions requiring members or prospective members of faculties to sign pledges or make statements committing themselves to advance “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) or to detail the ways in which they have done or will do so.

“Academics seeking employment or promotion will almost inescapably feel pressured to say things that accommodate the perceived ideological preferences of an institution demanding a diversity statement, notwithstanding the actual beliefs or commitments of those forced to speak” said Janet Halley, co-chair of the AFA Academic Committee and Eli Goldston Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.*

Civics: “In the notorious words of the World Economic Forum, “You will own nothing, and love it.” Well, you may not love it, but the first part is coming true”

Joel Kotkin:

Housing is an industry, but it is also where people live, raise families, and stake their future. Yet increasingly, all around the world, housing has increasingly become just a commodity to be traded, often by foreigner investors, notably from China, as well as by large well-capitalized financial institutions who plan to cultivate a generation of lifelong renters. In the notorious words of the World Economic Forum, “You will own nothing, and love it.” Well, you may not love it, but the first part is coming true.

This shift has been taking place for decades, as the superrich and large investment companies buy up much of the land. In the United States, the proportion of land owned by the one hundred largest private landowners, reports the New York Times grew by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2017. In 2007, this group owned a total of 27 million acres of land, equivalent to the area of Maine and New Hampshire combined; a decade later, the one hundred largest landowners held 40.2 million acres, more than the entire area of New England.

In much of the American West, billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Ted Turner have created vast estates that systematically make the local population land-poor. Landownership in Europe, too, is becoming more concentrated in fewer hands. In Great Britain, where land prices have risen dramatically over the past decade, less than 1 percent of the population owns half of all the land. On the continent, farmland is being consolidated into larger holdings, while urban real estate has been falling into the hands of a small number of corporate owners and the mega-wealthy. Amidst instability in commodity and stock markets, this trend of big capital investment in housing may be expected to accelerate.

Of Boys and Men

Tyler Cowen Summary

…I was shocked to discover that many social policy interventions, including some of the most touted, don’t help boys and men. The one that first caught my eye was a free college program in Kalamazoo, Michigan. According to its evaluation team, “women experienced large gains,” in terms of college completion (increasing by 50%), “while men seem to experience zero benefit.” This is an astonishing finding. Making college free had no impact on men…So not only are many boys and men struggling, they are less likely to be helped by policy interventions.

Lessons on Teaching Differential Equations

Gian-Carlo Rota

One of many mistakes of my youth was writing a textbook in ordinary differential equations. It set me back several years in my career in mathematics. However, it had a redeeming feature: it led me to realize that I had no idea what a differential equation is. The more I teach differential equations, the less I understand the mystery of differential equations.

One of several unpleasant consequences of writing such a textbook is my being called upon to teach the sophomore differential equations course at MIT. This course is justly viewed as the most unpleasant undergraduate course in mathematics, by both teachers and students. Some of my colleagues have publicly announced that they would rather resign from MIT than lecture in sophomore differential equations. No such threat is available to me, since I am incorrectly labeled as the one member of the department who is supposed to have some expertise in the subject, guilty of writing an elementary textbook still in print.

The Administrative Director of the MIT mathematics department, who exercises supreme au- thority upon the faculty’s teaching, has only to wave a copy of my book at me, while staring at me in silence. At her prompting, I bow and fall into line; I will be the lecturer in the dreaded course for one more year, and I will repeat the mistakes I have been making every year since I first taught differential equations in 1958.

Why Do Schools Send So Many Emails? They Don’t Have To

Julie Jargon:

The Remind app was studied in a school in North Dakota and shown to be most effective when the communication was concise. There was a higher response rate from parents when they replied to a short prompt from a teacher than when they were asked to give more thought to a reply.

A study of another such app’s implementation in 132 New York City schools found that buy-in from all sides is necessary. Without training from the app developer, assistance in signing up parents, and incentives for teachers to use it as a primary communication tool, adoption and engagement were low.

Getting everyone to use a new app isn’t always easy. Administrators and parents say once schools adopt and get into the habit of using a singular app, the streamlined communication is worth it. The apps are also more equitable, say their advocates, because built-in translation tools can bridge communication gaps with parents who aren’t fluent in English.

Cost of Student Debt Cancelation Could Average $2,000 Per Taxpayer

Andrew Lautz:

Public reporting indicates President Biden may soon announce executive action canceling federal student loan debt for a large set of borrowers. Though parameters of the student debt cancellation have yet to be announced, the Biden administration may cancel $10,000 of debt per borrower for borrowers making $125,000 in income per year or less.

Based on projections from the Penn Wharton Budget Model for the total cost of such cancellation, we estimate President Biden’s plan would cost the average taxpayer over $2,000.

The Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) released a policy report on Tuesday that estimated the total cost of $10,000 in debt cancellation for borrowers making less than $125,000 per year would be $329.1 billion over 10 years. There were just under 158 million taxpayers in 2019 according to the IRS, meaning that the average cost of debt cancellation is $2,085.59 per taxpayer.

This is not a perfect proxy for cost, however, given the U.S. tax code is progressive and tax burdens are not evenly distributed across households. Accounting for the share of taxes paid by low- and middle-income households, we estimate that:

Analysis of the policy’s taxpayer costs.

Dave Cieslewicz

Biden probably balked at this because he understands the bad politics for Democrats. Two out of three American adults didn’t complete a four year degree. They have every right to question why people who did, and who on average make about twice as much as they do, should get this big government handout. 

And then, of course, there are the millions of us who did go to college, did take out a loan and did, in fact, do what we promised to do: pay it back. 

This is bad politics for Democrats because it should be. Asking taxpayers to pay off the student loans of people who were irresponsible or careless in taking on debt they couldn’t afford is horrible public policy. And worse, Biden’s plan does nothing about the real problem: the skyrocketing cost of higher education. What’s going to happen next year when a new crop of college grads starts demanding that they get the same handout that last year’s grads got? 

This could well stop the progress Democrats have made in this election cycle. It was beginning to look like a combination of legislative wins, the abortion issue, public concern over gun violence and the easing of gas prices might result in a better November than had been predicted for Biden’s party. Now this policy will remind voters without a college degree just how much disdain the Democrats have for them.

Additional commentary:

Of the 43 million people with federal loans, 15 million owe less than $10,000. Another 9 million owe between $10,000 and $20,000. By eliminating a minority of outstanding debt, Biden would forgive most or all balances for the majority of student debtors, disproportionately those who are at the highest risk of default.

Is this even legal? Is there anything Biden’s political opponents can do to stop him?

Maybe? And, maybe? The Higher Education Act is almost 60 years old, and no president has ever done anything like this before. The Trump administration’s 2020 decision to suspend all federal student loan payments, which Biden has extended multiple times, came from a separate law granting the president powers during a national emergency like a pandemic. Biden is citing that authority for the new loan forgiveness plan. 

There are a host of constitutional provisions, federal laws, and legal precedents that obligate federal agencies to collect on outstanding debts. Skeptics also point out that Congress has enacted a number of specific student loan forgiveness programs, including plans that eliminate remaining debt after 20 years of payments or 10 years of public service. The administration’s recent decision to wipe out debt for students who attended the notorious for-profit Corinthian Colleges was based on a discrete legal provision meant to protect students who were defrauded by their college.

Related: the moral cost of student loan policies.

Commentary on Madison Police taxpayer spending

Allison Garfield:

Three police funding grants are working their way through committees to eventually go before the Madison City Council, none of which would require taxpayer dollars but could add hundreds of thousands to the police department’s operating budget.

Police funding has been a controversial topic in recent years, heightening after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. In response, Madison erupted with looting, tear gas and fire after hours of peaceful protesting; local activists called on elected leaders to defund the city’s own police department.

Later that summer in 2020, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway slashed the department’s general fund by nearly $2 million as part of budget cuts. It was the largest decrease to the Madison Police Department’s budget in the last 10 years.

Taxpayer dollars toward the city’s police department have fluctuated since. But MPD might have a workaround to combat the cuts in the form of grants.

Over the past three decades, law enforcement and police spending have been top priorities for municipalities, according to a Wisconsin Policy Forum report, receiving one out of every five operating and capital dollars spent by cities in the state.

In the past year, Madison shifted $82,000 from MPD’s 2022 budget to the Madison Fire Department for the Community Alternative Response Emergency Services, or CARES. The program is an alternative to police addressing mental and behavioral health crises, with CARES teams deescalating, treating or referring people to behavioral health services in the community instead.

While MPD’s 2022 budget is approximately $80 million, the vast majority of spending goes to salaries, wages and benefits for department staff. With 2023 budget decisions ahead and a projected $13 million deficit in the city’s operating budget, cuts seem imminent

The three resolutions approving additional state and federal funds for MPD have already passed the Public Safety Review Committee and are moving to the Finance Committee for approval before heading to the City Council.

Related: Police and the Madison Schools.

Censorship at a Top College for Free Speech

Christopher Nadon:

I teach at Claremont McKenna College, the No. 1-ranked liberal-arts college for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. FIRE may need to consider its ratings.

On Oct. 4, 2021, my class discussed Plato’s “Republic” and his views about censorship. A student objected that Plato was mistaken about its necessity. Here in the U.S., she said, there is none. Someone brought up “Huckleberry Finn.” She replied, correctly, that removing a book from curriculums doesn’t constitute censorship. I pointed out that the case was more complicated. The book had also been removed from libraries and published in expurgated editions.

An international student asked me why. I told her, quoting Mark Twain’s precise language, which meant speaking the N-word. This caused the first student to change her mind and acknowledge the existence of censorship in America. Far from being harmed by hearing the word, she now saw that Plato’s views couldn’t be dismissed as outdated and merited more serious consideration. This liberation from her initial prejudice bore fruit. Later in the semester she raised a very thoughtful question about Socrates’ criticisms of the poets: “But isn’t Plato a poet?” A rare success.

Digitizing 55,000 pages of civic meetings

Phil Dini:

The second tool is something I’ve been working on recently: SQL-backed full text search of city meeting minutes. You can see this working for the cities of Alameda and Oakland right now. That’s 18,746 pages of city minutes for Alameda, and 37,172 pages of city minutes for Oakland, now fully searchable by anyone.

So let’s talk about how I did this, and how you can do this for your city, possibly with my help!

A proposed change in the law takes aim at unregistered schools in Britain

The Economist:

t the age of 18 Asher Friedman (not his real name) could still neither read nor speak English. His parents, both ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews, had sent him to an unregistered boys’ school in Stamford Hill, in east London, when he was three. Pupils studied scripture for up to 14 hours a day. Beatings with belts or sticks were common. Around 250 boys shared three toilets and there was no soap in the bathrooms—they were told it was a secular extravagance. His brother, who still attends the school, says little has changed.

Insider in College-Admissions Scandal Recalls Moody Boss, Demanding Parents

Melissa Korn:

In early 2013, Mikaela Sanford responded to a Craigslist job posting for a small Sacramento company with mundane-sounding responsibilities: communicating with contractors, overseeing data entry and handling client correspondence.

The job led to a felony conviction and a front-row seat to what became known as the Varsity Blues college-admissions cheating scandal.

Ms. Sanford worked for six years at the Key, the company run by William “Rick” Singer that provided standard college counseling and test prep—as well as a side menu of illicit services involving fraud and bribery. She pleaded guilty in 2020 to racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced in May to one year of supervised release and a $67,062 forfeiture order.

Ms. Sanford, 36, testified last fall at the Boston trial of two parents who worked with Mr. Singer, but she hadn’t spoken publicly about the case until a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Commentary on the current US teacher climate

Jessica Wildfire:

My university has partnered with a dozen major corporations to outline curricula for us. They believe a CEO is more qualified to decide what students should be learning than I am. They’ve hired a dozen consulting firms to decide everything down to when we should teach.

Almost every school does the same.

They love consultants.

They hate teachers.

Demoralization is what happens when you spend years becoming an expert in a subject area, and nobody cares. They’d rather hire another MBA to make all the important decisions, while they stick us on committees writing reports for ghosts. That’s when teachers start to withdraw from their jobs, when we realize it doesn’t matter what we think, and it definitely doesn’t matter how amazing we are at what we do.

So, we give up.

Dave Zweifel:

A number of factors are causing this crisis, including low pay and a lack of discipline in classrooms. But the biggest reason is that all too many teachers feel they aren’t getting the support they need to succeed in their jobs.

The world map that reboots your brain

Per Axbom:

By making this the default map in classrooms for centuries, with little context given to the reasons for its appearance, many people have necessarily had a truly twisted view of what the world looks like. There have been many different projections proposed and presented over these centuries, but none have really gained the same popularity as the Mercator one.

Given that the people who claim ownership and ensure distribution of this map have historically been white and rich representatives of the countries in the northern hemisphere, we may have a clue to the reason for its persistence. Why would any of these representatives and leaders have wanted their countries to suddenly appear smaller in favor of poorer countries?

Pandemic-Era Free School Meals Expire, Leaving Some Districts Seeking Solutions

Isabelle Sarraf:

Some federal pandemic-era provisions that allowed schools to serve universal free meals will expire when districts start school for the fall, leaving many districts unprepared to make up the difference and urging parents to apply for a free or reduced-price lunch. The expiration comes as supply-chain disruptions and rising food prices are pushing school-meal prices higher.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service in fiscal year 2020 suspended eligibility requirements for free and reduced-price meal applications and gave every student a free breakfast and lunch regardless of family income. The government pumped $26.8 billion from pandemic-related funds such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to provide universal free lunch in fiscal year 2021.

In 2019, 67.9% of students received free lunches through the National School Lunch Program, while 5.7% got reduced-price lunches.

No CRT in our K-12 schools?

David Blaska:

Daniel Buck’s Bottom Line: “Legislators should ease teacher licensing requirements and support any reforms that stop the flow of ideology from schools of education to America’s classrooms.”

The moral cost of student loan policies

Related: US debt clock


In 2010, Obama eliminated the federal guaranteed loan program, which let private lenders offer student loans at low interest rates. Now, the Department of Education is the only place to go for such loans.

Obama sold this government takeover as a way to save money — why bear the costs of guaranteeing private loans, he said, when the government could cut out the middleman and lend the money itself?

Ann Althouse:

The answer to the question in the post title is Paragraph 16. The answer to the question in boldface at the beginning of the post — What legal basis did President Biden cite for his power to cancel student debt? — is that this article never says whether he said anything at all about the need for power. 

I suspect the answer to that question is “none,” so I’m going to let go of my suspicion that “less than 1% of Americans, if surveyed now, could correctly answer the question.” I think a good chunk of Americans are savvy — or cynical — enough to say: NONE! 

But is that the correct answer? Must I comb through the President’s speech? 

ADDED: No, “none” is not correct. Here‘s an AP stating clearly what Biden is relying on:

[I]n a legal opinion released Wednesday, the Justice Department said that the HEROES Act of 2003 gives the administration “sweeping authority” to reduce or eliminate student debt during a national emergency, “when significant actions with potentially far-reaching consequences are often required.”

The law was adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support at a time when U.S. forces were fighting two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. It gives the Education secretary authority to waive rules relating to student financial aid programs in times or war or national emergency.

Houston Keene:

“Just at the White House, nearly 71% or 336 White House officials earn under the $125,000 threshold and potentially even more could be eligible under the household income cap. Counting the agencies, Inside Biden’s Basement has identified over 200 officials who may be eligible for this Biden handout on the backs of taxpayers,” Hollie continued.

“Knowing that hundreds of financial disclosures exposing potential student loan debt have yet to be made public by the White House and federal agencies, the number of Biden officials set to benefit from today’s EO is staggering,” he said. “And the people who will be footing the bill are those who scraped, saved, and sacrificed to pay off their debt, or avoided taking out loans altogether, and those who did not attend college but still have to deal with Biden’s record-high inflation and recession-laden economy.”

White House spokesman Andrew Bates told Fox News Digital he is “unfamiliar” with Inside Biden’s Basement, which he called a “club,” saying “the relief the President just delivered applies to millions of Americans regardless of workplace.”

“Whether they are employed by Fox News, another private business, or a Republican Senate office, 43 million eligible borrowers now have help available to them,” Bates said. “Almost 90 percent of the benefits will go to people earning under $75,000, and none will go to those earning over $125,000.”

political commentary.

Susan Dynarski:

This bureaucratic, government-created mess of a system has actively harmed student borrowers, driving many into default. Delinquency and default leave a longstanding blot on credit records, keeping borrowers from buying homes and cars, renting apartments and getting jobs. By allowing borrowers to once again get access to credit, housing and job markets, forgiving loans can therefore have a real effect on lives and the economy.

Some worry that debt forgiveness will drive up inflation. This strikes me as implausible, since borrowers have not had to make payments for more than two years. The planned resumption of loan payments will tend to reduce disposable income, which will cool inflation. All that said, I am not in favor of framing student-loan policy as a lever for managing inflation. Eliminating food subsidies for poor families — SNAP, as the food stamp program is known today — would definitely slow the economy, but that doesn’t mean we should do it. Loan forgiveness does nothing to repair fundamental weaknesses in postsecondary education: underfunded public schools, rising tuition and for-profit colleges that deny students a quality education.

A third of borrowers hold less than $10,000 in debt. An additional 20 percent have debts below $20,000. Mr. Biden’s plan could clear the debts of about half of borrowers. This will not only improve lives but also reduce stress on the loan system when the remaining borrowers restart paying in a few months.

I once thought forgiveness to be an expensive Band-Aid, a distraction from fundamental reform. But I have seen so little progress on these issues that I now think we must make amends to those we have harmed. It’s time to erase the debts of those millions who borrowed modestly for their education but wound up in financial distress because of our disjointed loan system.

Loan forgiveness is not just warranted; it’s fair: Government policy did harm, and it is government policy that should work to reverse it.

Google Racial and Gender Quotas

Aaron Sibarium:

Google is setting strict caps on the number of white and Asian students that universities can nominate for a prestigious fellowship program, a policy legal experts say likely violates civil rights law and could threaten the federal funding of nearly every elite university in the United States.

The Google Ph.D. Fellowship, which gives promising computer scientists nearly $100,000, allows each participating university—a group that includes most elite schools—to nominate four Ph.D. students annually. “If a university chooses to nominate more than two students,” Google says, “the third and fourth nominees must self-identify as a woman, Black / African descent, Hispanic / Latino / Latinx, Indigenous, and/or a person with a disability.”

That criterion, which an archived webpageshows has been in place since at least April 2020, is almost certainly illegal, civil rights lawyers told the Washington Free Beacon—both for Google and the universities.

Hong Kong head teacher launches unfair dismissal claim after school board fires her over complaints about management

Charmaine Choi and William Yiu

The head of a Hong Kong special education secondary school who was fired at the weekend has filed a complaint with the Labour Department claiming “unreasonable termination”.

The move came after principal Wong Lai-ting, who was sacked last Saturday, and about 10 teaching and administrative staff accused the board of Hong Kong Juvenile Care Centre Chan Nam Cheong Memorial School in Aberdeen of gross mismanagement at a press conference last Thursday and asked the government to step in.

The group said the board was trying to “paralyse the school operation” by “suppressing teachers”.

Wong spoke through a video link at the press conference and other staff involved attended in person.

An activist, writer, doctor and intellectual, James McCune Smith, born enslaved, directed his talents to the eradication of slavery

Bryan Greene:

John Stauffer, a Harvard English professor who edited The Works of James McCune Smith, says that Smith is one of the underappreciated literary lights of the 19th century, calling him “one of the best-read people that I’ve encountered.”

“The closest equivalent I really can say about [him] as a writer is [Herman] Melville,” adds Stauffer. “The subtlety and the intricacy and the nuance…and what he reveals about life and culture and society are truly extraordinary. Every sentence contains a huge amount.”

Smith was born enslaved in New York City, in 1813, to Lavinia Smith, a woman born in Charleston, South Carolina, who historians believe was brought to New York in bondage. While James McCune Smith never knew his father, a white man, university records indicate he was a merchant named Samuel Smith. (Amy Cools, a University of Edinburgh scholar who has conducted the most extensive research into Smith’s paternity, maintains, however, “Meticulous research has thus far failed to yield any records of [such] a Samuel Smith…indicating the name “Samuel” may possibly have been entered into [the] university records for convenience or respectability’s sake.”). Smith received his primary education at the African Free School #2 on Lower Manhattan’s Mulberry Street, an institution founded in 1787 by governing New York elites. Their aim was to prepare free and enslaved blacks “to the end that they may become good and useful Citizens of the State,” once the state granted full emancipation.

The school graduated a roster of boys who would fill the upper ranks of black intellectual and public life. Smith’s cohort alone included Ira Aldridge, the Shakespearean tragedian and first black actor to play Othello on the London stage; the abolitionist minister Henry Highland Garnet, the first African American to address Congress; Alexander Crummell, an early pan-Africanist minister and inspiration to W.E.B. DuBois; and brothers Charlesand Patrick Reason, the first African American to teach at a largely white college and a renowned illustrator-engraver, respectively. These men’s achievements would be exceptional by any standard, but even more so, for a group who were born enslaved or deprived basic rights as free blacks.

How can we develop transformative tools for thought?

Andy Matuschak & Michael Nielsen:

We believe now is a good time to work hard on this vision again. In this essay we sketch out a set of ideas we believe can be used to help develop transformative new tools for thought. In the first part of the essay we describe an experimental prototype system that we’ve built, a kind of mnemonic medium intended to augment human memory. This is a snapshot of an ongoing project, detailing both encouraging progress as well as many challenges and opportunities. In the second part of the essay, we broaden the focus. We sketch several other prototype systems. And we address the question: why is it that the technology industry has made comparatively little effort developing this vision of transformative tools for thought?

Proposed curriculum in the Wauwatosa School District would include information on sexual orientation and gender identity

Beck Andrew Salgado

Passionate debate defined the Aug. 8 Wauwatosa School Board meeting after a presentation on a more comprehensive sex education curriculum that would include information on sexual orientation and gender identity lessons.

The updated human growth and development curriculum is proposed for the 2022-23 school year.

As the line for public comment filed to the back of the room at the meeting, parents ardently argued for and against the new curriculum.

“I stand here to vigorously protest the sexual content of your special program. I would feel ashamed and humiliated if I just stood by and let it happen without my vigorous protest,” said one parent.

Others said the new curriculum was not comprehensive enough, saying, It is “beyond time” to update the curriculum and that even the proposed version “is not inclusive enough.”

“a rise in Ignorance”

Richard Vedder:

• A rise in ignorance. Despite having immediate access to more information than their parents could have dreamed of, today’s youth increasingly know less about the world around them. On the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment—an international evaluation in math, science and reading for 15-year-old students—Americans scored lower than their peers in Asian powerhouses such as China and Japan and in European allies from the U.K. to Germany.

American universities are subordinating academic achievement to ideology while constricting free expression—the lifeblood of intellectual advancement and prosperity. Teachers unions restrict competition. Knowledge of the past is particularly spotty as schools either down play or distort the nation’s history. The effect is a decline in patriotism and love of country, which loosens the glue of national unity embodied in the motto E pluribus unum.

Investing in Infants: The Lasting Effects of Cash Transfers to New Families

Andrew C. Barr, Jonathan Eggleston & Alexander A. Smith

We provide new evidence that cash transfers following the birth of a first child can have large and long-lasting effects on that child’s outcomes. We take advantage of the January 1 birthdate cutoff for U.S. child-related tax benefits, which results in families of otherwise similar children receiving substantially different refunds during the first year of life. For the average low-income single-child family in our sample this difference amounts to roughly $1,300, or 10 percent of income. Using the universe of administrative federal tax data in selected years, we show that this transfer in infancy increases young adult earnings by at least 1 to 2 percent, with larger effects for males. These effects show up at earlier ages in terms of improved math and reading test scores and a higher likelihood of high school graduation. The observed effects on shorter-run parental outcomes suggest that additional liquidity during the critical window following the birth of a first child leads to persistent increases in family income that likely contribute to the downstream effects on children’s outcomes. The longer-term effects on child earnings alone are large enough that the transfer pays for itself through subsequent increases in federal income tax revenue.

A Veteran Teacher Pens a Not-Your-Typical Novel About Schools. And That’s a Good Thing

Rick Hess:

There aren’t many good novels about K-12 schooling. I tend to think this is for the same reason there aren’t a lot of good novels about sports. With sports, the story usually comes down to a big game. Win or lose, the tropes are familiar. And the emphasis on cathartic victory or growth-inducing loss leaves little room for character depth, complexity, or whimsy.

Novels about schooling suffer from a similar problem. They’re usually about a teacher’s heroic journey or success in helping that hard-to-reach kid. The themes are worn-out, and the tales tend to feature the moral complexity of a grade-B Western.

Well, Class Dismissed ditches the familiar school novel formula, and it pays off nicely. Published last year by 30-year teaching veteran Kevin McIntosh, who has authored Pushcart Prize-nominated short stories, Class Dismissed traces the eventful journey of high school teacher Patrick Lynch from Minnesota to New York—and then back to Minnesota.

Civics: Ban on mandatory training of certain race topics “is a naked viewpoint-based regulation on speech.”

Scott Shackford:

The speech orientation of the law is clearly not neutral: It censors only one position on the controversy based on its viewpoint. Walker further rejects the state’s attempt to say that the act aims to regulate conduct, not speech. (This argument may be familiar to libertarians, who have seen states use it to try to unduly control who is and is not allowed to give advice.) Walker notes that laws against racist conduct at the workplace can be identified separately from speech. But IFA can only be understood through the lens of what is and is not said. It is entirely a regulation of speech, not conduct.

Walker then subjects the law to strict scrutiny, requiring the state to prove that it has a compelling interest to justify engaging in such censorship. To put it mildly, constitutional law is not on the state’s side here.

“The First Amendment does not give the state license to censor speech because it finds it ‘repugnant,’ no matter how captive the audience,” Walker writes. “And even assuming the IFA serves a compelling government interest—like prohibiting discrimination—it is not narrowly tailored. In large part, this is because the [Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992] already prohibited much of what Defendants claim the IFA aims to prohibit. For example, a diversity and inclusion training could be so offensive, and so hostile to White employees, that it could create a hostile work environment. That is already illegal—as both parties acknowledge.” Walker concludes that the IFA attacks ideas, not conduct, and so the plaintiffs are likely to win the case.

Walker also agrees with the plaintiffs that the IFA is “impermissibly vague” in how it defines the forbidden ideas, leaving it for the state to resolve and leaving employers unclear about what sort of discussion about race is and is not forbidden.

HBO Max Pulls Nearly 200 ‘Sesame Street’ Episodes


Nearly 200 episodes of “Sesame Street” have been pulled from HBO Max, the streaming platform that has been purging films and television shows in recent weeks as it prepares to combine with another streaming service, Discovery+.

Fans of “Sesame Street” were surprised on Friday to see that hundreds of episodes, most from the first 40 years of the show, had been removed from HBO Max.

It is the latest shift at HBO Max following the merger of its former parent company, WarnerMedia, with Discovery Inc. in April. Together, the companies formed Warner Bros. Discovery, which is aiming to find $3 billion in savings in an effort to reduce its $55 billion in debt.

This week, about 70 HBO Max staff members were laid off as a part of the reorganization, and HBO Max announced that 36 titles were being pulled from the platform. The pulled programming included the animated series “Infinity Train” and “The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo,” a “Sesame Street” spinoff.

David Zaslav, the company’s chief executive, also told investors this month that the company plans to offer a single paid subscription streaming service, bringing together content from HBO Max and Discovery+.

It was not clear what that means for the future of “Sesame Street” on HBO Max.

Taxpayer Supported School District Gender Counseling Litigation

On January 24, 2022, the Child & Parental Rights Campaign filed suit in federal court on behalf of parents who allege that Clay County schoolofficials hid their 12-year-old daughter’s (“A.P.”) mental health and gender identity issues for months – only informing them after the child attempted suicide in the school bathroom on two separate occasions. The lawsuit alleges violations of the parents’ custodial rights under the Florida Constitution and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The suit, which was filed in the Middle District of Florida against the Clay County Schools superintendent and three Paterson Elementary officials, alleges that the school counselor engaged in secret therapy sessions with A.P. over the course of several months last year regarding A.P.’s distress over being bullied and her confusion about her gender. Paterson Elementary is located in Fleming Island.

The suit claims that the counselor breached A.P.’s privacy by purporting to tell other teachers and students about A.P.’s new “male” name and gender identity without the child’s knowledge or approval and without informing her parents, leading to A.P.’s increased distress at school. As stated in the lawsuit, A.P.’s parents were not contacted about any bullying or mental health concerns until the child attempted suicide twice at the beginning of this year, and they were never informed that school officials were encouraging A.P. to “transition” to a male gender identity.

Discrimination is Now Legal at Ontario Universities


The first thing I did was reach out to Guelph University — but they ignored me. 

I then reached out to several employment lawyers. Five of them answered me.

Unfortunately I don’t think this will be a story that I want to participate in from a branding exercise for my business. Accordingly please attribute the following comment anonymously. I think an interesting arguments can be made that this policy is actually transphobic as only women can apply.

— Anonymous lawyer #1

Ha. Fair enough. I wouldn’t want to risk the reputation of my business on a non-politically-correct opinion either. 

I am curious, though, if this lawyer’s “transphobic” argument actually holds any water, or if he is just trolling. Let’s take another look at the wording in the job posting: “Candidates must be from one or more of the following equity-seeking groups to apply: women, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and racialized groups.”

According to Guelph, then, if you are a CIS female you are entitled to affirmative action, but if that same CIS female gets a buzzcut and chops off her boobs and changes her name to “George,” all of a sudden “George” is not entitled to affirmative action?

Can Tech Boost Reading? Literacy Tools Come to Classrooms

Sara Randazzo:

In one vision of classrooms of the near future, young children will put on headsets and read sentences aloud as they navigate computer programs powered by speech-recognition technology.

Behind the scenes, that technology will listen to each student and spit out dozens of lines of code, rating the pronunciation for each individual sound and word in the sentence and tracking the timing of every utterance.

By the time each student reads an entire passage aloud, the software will have mapped where they stand on a few hundred finite skills needed to be a fluent reader.

We need to consider ways to reverse or at least slow rapid depopulation

Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox:

We are entering an unanticipated reality—an era of slow population growth and, increasingly, demographic decline that will shape our future in profound and unpredictable ways. Globally, last year’s total population growth was the smallest in a half-century, and by 2050, some 61 countries are expected to see population declines while the world’s population is due to peak sometime later this century.

This kind of long-term global demographic stagnation has not been seen since the Middle Ages. World population has been growing for centuries, but the last century has dwarfed previous rises. About 75 percent of the world’s population growth has occurred in the last hundred years, more than 50 percent since 1970. But now, population growth rates are dropping, especially in more developed nations, according to the United Nations (all subsequent references to UN research in this essay are drawn from these data). 

It’s not a matter of if but when global populations will start to decline. Under the UN’s medium variant projection, the world’s population will peak in 2086, while under the low variant, the peak will occur in 2053, and by 2100, the population will be about a billion below today’s level. Demographer Wolfgang Lutz and colleagues project a global population of between 8.8 and 9.0 billion by 2050 falling to between 8.2 and 8.7 billion by 2100. The projected declines are concentrated in countries with high fertility rates, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In the process, we will inhabit a rapidly aging planet. In 1970, the median world age was 21.5 years. By 2020, it had increased to 30.9 years, and the UN projects that it will be 41.9 years in 2100.

We are well past the time when we need to concern ourselves with Paul Ehrlich’s long-standing prophecy that humanity will “breed ourselves to extinction.” On the contrary, we need to worry about the potential ill-effects of depopulation, including a declining workforce, torpid economic growth, and brewing generational conflict between a generally prosperous older generation and their more hard-pressed successors. The preponderance of low fertility in wealthier countries also presages a growing conflict between the child-poor wealthy countries and the child-rich poor countries.

Abortion links: choose life.

Improve public speaking

Automating Life:

Let’s see if we can build some micro-automation to monitor the Toastmasters website and alert me when I need to take action. This will save me time and remind me to always actively participating at meetings and thus improve my public speaking.

The threat to free expression goes well beyond high-profile cancellations.

Ted Balaker:

In a development which should hearten professionals whose speech has been chilled, there is evidence to suggest that many Americans believe cancel culture has gone too far. According to a recent Hill-HarrisX poll, strong majorities of all demographic groups share that sentiment, including 70 percent of Democrats. Recent polls from the likes of Politico and YouGov mostly tell versions of the same story.

Yet even neutral pollsters often define cancel culture so narrowly as to misrepresent its true nature. The Politico survey, for example, uses the definition: “the practice of withdrawing support for (or canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”

But none of the people in my examples were canceled in the traditional sense. Though fired, my comedian friend’s reputation hasn’t been smeared by a public trial on Twitter. Kmele Foster, John McWhorter, and Walter Williams weren’t disinvited from the television special—they were simply rejected at an earlier stage. Time will tell what happens to people like Karith Foster.

My handwriting is terrible. Should I be worried?

Pilot Clark:

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Last month, I went on holiday to a small town at the bottom of Spain that I have been visiting for more than 20 years, where a friend asked: “Why is your Spanish still so bad?”

“Er,” I said, struggling to remember how to say in Spanish that, after decades of fitful studies, there had in fact been times when I could speak as well as any local four-year-old.

This was not one of those times, unfortunately. So I went home, sat down and started writing out lists of verb conjugations by hand, which was when I discovered something worse. My handwriting, never good, had turned into barely legible scrawl. My words jerked across the page like the trails of a snail dunked in crystal meth. The very act of writing was a strain. Years of typing and texting had taken an unattractive toll.

I cannot be alone. Nearly 60 per cent of Britons say they write less by hand than they did five years ago, a survey found last year, and 12 per cent have never written even a shopping list. Children email Santa and some struggle to hold a pen.

The question is, does this really matter? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everything we wrote was as clear and unambiguous as the printed word? The medical world certainly would: a 42-year-old American once died after a pharmacist reading a cardiologist’s sloppily written prescription dispensed the wrong pills.

“That’s very different than what you’re peddling to a sixth or seventh or eighth grader, where a teacher’s word is law.”

Adam Wren:

“If you look down your nose at someone long enough, one day they will punch you in it.” And I think that’s what happened. I sat there that night — I don’t watch much television — but these national network commentators are talking to each other incredulously. What happened here? Well, these under-educated types, you know, these are non-high school graduates … Disdain is not too strong a word. It was condescending.”

That’s very different than what you’re peddling to a sixth or seventh or eighth grader, where a teacher’s word is law.

Misrepresentation of American history and American values has permeated much of — not all, but much of — education now for a good long time. And so the people who imbibed that growing up very often are the people who are now teaching, running school boards and so forth. And so I think that this wasn’t unforeseeable, but I do think it’s very unfortunate, and should be pushed back against.

There’s a lot about our K-12 system that needs improvement. And one reason it’s very hard is that the education establishment stays put in place. Parents come and go. So parents have, in many cases, effectively mobilized to give us more choice, give us more quality, give us more safety, and sometimes had some effect, but all too often, their kids either leave the system or graduate, and they go away. And I think that in some of these matters you’re asking about, we’ve seen parents mobilizing. “What are you peddling to my child?” That is citizen activism of the highest order. That has nothing to do with closing libraries.

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?

Commentary on Parents and School choice

Patrick Brown:

For much of the 1990s and 2000s, discussions around school choice focused narrowly on a bipartisan push to improve academic performance in inner-city schools. It was an era of charter schools, test scores, and “accountability.” 

But that movement stalled out, in no small part because the ultimate question about the purpose of education can only be avoided for so long. A school system cannot paper over profound disagreements over how society should teach about race, gender, and sex by pursuing an unattainable neutrality. And in recent years, people with advanced degrees from Schools of Education and professional administrators have increasingly seen neutrality as part of a system of oppression. 

Recent battles over “critical race theory,” gender theory, and eliminating academic tracking over concerns around “equity” lay bare what scholars like Charles Glenn and Ashley Rogers Berner have long argued—that a school system cannot be neutral when it comes to values. 

As J. Grant Addison recently wrote for the Washington Examiner, following other writers including Robert PondiscioJay P. Greene, and myself, the next generation of school choice advocacy is recognizing anew that there can be no such thing as value-neutral education. That realization should spur a new push for approaches to education that give parents and communities more choices. 

Some legislative efforts focus on setting guardrails on public schools, such as the recently-signed Florida law ensuring young children don’t receive classroom instruction on topics their parents might not want them exposed to. Some of these efforts will be more effective than others; would-be bans on so-called “critical race theory” are easily circumvented by avoiding that phrase while still teaching divisive concepts in the name of anti-racism.

Civics: “Everything was paid for by the FBI”

Julie Kelly:

None of his targets took the bait.

His main FBI handlers, Jayson Chambers and Henrik Impola, working out of the Detroit FBI field office, directed Chappel’s every move. In the summer of 2020, Chambers advised Chappel to lure a man in Virginia to plan a similar operation against Governor Ralph Northam. “Mission is to kill the governor specifically,” Chambers instructed Chappel.

Public school enrollment down for second consecutive year

Naaz Modan:

  • Public school enrollment remains down for a second consecutive year, at 49.5 million in fall 2021 compared to 49.4 million in fall 2020, according to preliminary federal counts from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Comparatively, pre-pandemic enrollment was at 50.8 million students in fall 2019.
  • However, when broken down by grade, fall 2021 enrollment data shows a 14% increase for pre-kindergarten and a 5% increase for kindergarten. Both grades experienced the steepest declinesimmediately following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Public school enrollment counts for grades 1-7 decreased year over year. White student enrollment also fell over the past year, from 22.6 million in fall 2020 to 22.4 million in fall 2021, while other student racial groups slightly increased or stayed the same.

Dive Insight:

Compared with fall 2020, total public school enrollment for Pre-K-12 “was unchanged” this past fall, said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr in a statement. 

However, enrollment changes varied by state, with most states experiencing less than 1% changes in enrollment. The largest enrollment increases — of more than 2% between fall 2020 and 2021 — were in Idaho, Montana and Pennsylvania. The largest decline was in New York, which reported a 2% decrease.

By comparison, some states experienced enrollment decreases as high as 5% in fall 2020.  

The overall drop in enrollment since fall 2020 marks the reversal of near steady enrollment increases over the past two decades. Last year, Carr called this trend “preliminary but concerning.”

If we don’t defend free speech, we live in tyranny: Salman Rushdie shows us that

Margaret Atwood:

A long time ago – 7 December 1992, to be exact – I was backstage at a Toronto theatre, taking off a Stetson. With two other writers, Timothy Findley and Paul Quarrington, I’d been performing a medley of 1950s country and western classics, rephrased for writers – Ghost Writers in the Sky, If I Had the Wings of an Agent, and other fatuous parodies of that nature. It was a PEN Canada benefit of that era: writers dressed up and made idiots of themselves in aid of writers persecuted by governments for things they’d written.

Just as the three of us were bemoaning how awful we’d been, there was a knock on the door. Backstage was locked down, we were told. Secret agents were talking into their sleeves. Salman Rushdie had been spirited into the country. He was about to appear on stage with Bob Rae, the premier of Ontario, the first head of government in the world to support him in public. “And you, Margaret, as past president of PEN Canada, are going to introduce him,” I was told.

Gulp. “Oh, OK,” I said. And so I did. It was a money-where-your-mouth-is moment.

And, with the recent attack on him, so is this.

Notes on fact checking WEF civic policies

Steven Hayward:

That Hillsdale College is in the crosshairs of the left is not breaking news, but it is curious to see social media and their “fact checkers” joining the leftist mob.

Hillsdale held a conference a few months back on “the great reset,” analyzing the opportunism of elite institutions in using COVID as an excuse to grab more power and “restructure” our economy and wider social order. It’s a variation of “never let a good crisis go to waste.” The conference featured figures such as David GoldmanBrian WesburyMark Mills, and Vivek Ramaswamy. These are not fringe figures.

Hillsdale decided to advertise the videos of the conference on Facebook. And here’s how it turned out:

Pre-Publication and Self-Plagiarism

Gregory Crespi:

Many law professors now post essentially complete drafts of their articles on SSRN and/or on university-sponsored working paper websites prior to submitting those articles for journal publication. This “pre-publication publication,” so to speak, is useful for both authors and their readers, but it raises some self-plagiarism issues, and there does not yet appear to be a broad consensus on how those issues should be addressed. 

I argue that this increasingly common practice of SSRN and working paper pre-publication of articles should be recognized as entirely appropriate, and that in light of this practice law journals should rather substantially change the way that they operate, moving to a wholly online format and providing only article abstracts and website links for the articles that they “accept,” rather than editing and providing the full text of the articles.

We should be smarter about how we use technology in schools and the workplace

Malcolm Moore:

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at

Do you remember how temperamental computers used to be? When they would crash for no reason, and you had to click “Save” every five minutes for fear they would wipe all your work?

I felt that old frustration recently on a visit to a London secondary school, where I was helping teach a class about fake news. The kids were all given laptops to fill in an online quiz. But most of them could not connect to the WiFi. Half an hour later, a teacher borrowed a set of newer-looking laptops from the maths department. They didn’t work either. I watched in dismay as the kids, bright and curious at the start, grew bored and fractious. “It’s always like this,” shrugged a member of staff.

For decades now, parents and educators have been told that they need to invest in computers to prepare kids for the modern world. In the UK, a significant increase in spending on tech began under Tony Blair’s government and, by 2019, there were 3.3 million computers across primary and secondary schools. During the pandemic, the government promised to deliver another 1.8 million laptops to disadvantaged kids so they could study from home.

I used to think that the most dysfunctional local public body in Madison was its School Board

Dave Cieslewicz:

Board members were aghast at the referendum proposal because they said they’d be shirking their duty to decide the issue… as they’ve done for the last year or more. Give Sups. Tim Kiefer and Maureen McCarville credit for being the only two members to realize that a referendum was the only way to break the impasse. Why the other 35 thought there was some other answer given the history of this issue is beyond me. 

It seems to me that what has to happen next is for County Executive Joe Parisi to put the needed money in his 2023 capital budget, which he should be introducing in a few weeks. That could work because adoption of the budget (as opposed to an amendment later on) only needs a simple majority and the Board apparently has that. 

But, of course, costs keep rising. So, it’s important that Parisi build in some added inflation to make sure that the 825 bed plan actually gets built. If he doesn’t, we may be back here having the same discussion a year from now.

Mandates, School Closures and Student Academic Outcomes: Virginia Edition

Moria Balingit:

While students saw across-the-board gains in the 2021-2022 school year compared to the previous academic year, state education officials said the progress was not enough, and pinned some of the good news on lowered standards — not on better student performance.

“Despite the scores being up from last year, they are down from pre-pandemic levels,” said Jillian Balow, state superintendent of public education, in a news conference Thursday.

The standards of learning data also showed that schools that returned to in-person instruction sooner fared considerably better than schools that remained virtual or hybrid longer.

“Students whose schools were closed suffered the most,” Balow said.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin tied the results to school closures, and pledged to address disparities.

“The SOL results released today demonstrate that prolonged school shutdowns undeniably exacerbated the learning loss experienced by Virginia’s students, and the very best [antidote] is in-person education,” Youngkin said.

The differences were particularly stark in mathematics. Two-thirds of students passed math exams last school year, compared to 82 percent before the pandemic. Racial and economic disparities also widened, with White and Asian students making more progress toward their pre-pandemic levels than Black and Hispanic students.

Passage rates remained more than 20 points behind pre-pandemic levels in math for Black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students, and among students learning English.

All groups fared better in reading than they did in math, but state officials said that was due to the fact that standards were lowered in 2021, and cautioned against optimism.

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?

History: A look back at Wisconsin Governor Tony Ever’s 1997 DPI campaign

Heather Smith:

During his rough and tumble 1997 campaign Evers directly criticized fellow Democrat Benson saying he had failed to call attention to the problems in our state’s education system, and that continual promotion of the good without sounding the alarm on the bad “wrecks our credibility.”  Evers said students and districts were in trouble and that “being a cheerleader has its place, but that place is not the superintendent’s chair.”

(Yes, this is the same guy who – in another ad we recently fact checked – is cheerleading a US News ranking putting Wisconsin schools as 8th in the nation while only about a quarter of students statewide can do English or math at grade level.)

But those are not the only striking political moves Evers made in the 1997 race.

He campaigned on recommendations in the Fish Commission that suggested breaking up MPS.  He accused Benson, who opposed charter schools, of trying to bury them in regulations. Evers supported statewide public school choice and said charter schools work, because they “provide local competition, innovation and research.” He called for clear, measurable standards in core academic areas to help districts improve. He said under Benson, “DPI has become a lackey for WEAC.”  Those are not the words of a guy without political aspirations.

And when Benson claimed that the crisis in public education had been “manufactured” Evers asked – again, in 1997, a quarter century ago:  “Is the 40% dropout rate in Milwaukee public schools a crisis or not?   Is the fact that most colleges remediate our graduates a crisis?” 

The 3.8% of MPS students who can do math at grade level and the 6.4% who can do English at grade level are a crisis today, and colleges are still remediating graduates from our “top 10 in the nation” schools. But while politically savvy Evers used school quality as a wedge issue when he wanted to defeat a fellow Democrat, today, he’s doing the same thing he accused Benson of: cheerleading while schools fail students.

During his time as Deputy, Wisconsin was called out for setting “cut scores” low to game accountability measures to make proficiency scores appear higher. DPI had set reading passing levels for 8th graders at the 14th percentile, while states like South Carolina set theirs at 71%. Evers defended the cut scores saying that the 14th percentile was proficient.

And when Education Sector, a national non-profit, ranked states on which used technicalities to be overly cheery about student performance, Wisconsin topped the list. Evers, who had decried this very habit in his run against Benson, defended DPI saying everything they did “had been approved.”

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?

University of Wisconsin campuses openly embrace a Marxist program called ‘critical pedagogy.’

Daniel Buck:

I studied for a master’s degree in education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015. My program was batty. We made Black Lives Matter friendship bracelets. We passed around a popsicle stick to designate whose turn it was to talk while professors compelled us to discuss our life’s traumas. We read poems through the “lenses” of Marxism and critical race theory in preparation for our students doing the same. Our final projects were acrostic poems or ironic rap videos.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has reviewed the required coursework for 14 programs for teachers-to-be in the Badger State. These programs produce about 80% of all teaching graduates in the state each year. What they found was shocking. Worldview building and ideological manipulation take precedence over teacher preparation.

On the syllabi, noticeably lacking are academic literature or manuals of classroom instruction. Instead, Hollywood movies like “Freedom Writers,” popular books like Jonathan Kozol’s “Letters to a Young Teacher,” and propaganda like “Anti-Racist Baby” abound. In place of academic essays, graduate students write personal poems or collect photographs. These kitschy activities infantilize what ought to be a rigorous pursuit of professional competency.

First Circuit Rules Taxpayers Can Indeed Take the IRS to Court


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has unanimously ruled in Harper v. Rettig that taxpayer James Harper can take the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to federal court for gathering private financial information about his use of virtual currency from third-party exchanges without a lawful subpoena.

IRS has, until now, successfully prevented federal courts from asserting jurisdiction over a significant constitutional challenge to the agency’s unlawful data-collection practices. The First Circuit ruled that the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire erred in its March 2021 decision granting IRS’s motion to dismiss Mr. Harper’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment challenge based on an alleged lack of jurisdiction. The district court did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court’s May 2021 decision in CIC Services, LLC v. IRS, which concluded that the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) does not prohibit a suit “seeking to set aside an information-reporting requirement that is backed by both civil tax penalties and criminal penalties.” Mr. Harper’s suit, which seeks to set aside IRS’s illegal information gathering, is likewise not a suit brought to enjoin a tax’s assessment or collection, so it is not subject to the AIA’s limits on court jurisdiction.

Google workers publicize concerns over search activity history (!)

Raquel Maria Dillon:

Concerns over the role of technology in such prosecutions have ratcheted up in recent days, especially after it was revealed that Facebook had handed over private messages between a young woman and her mother in Nebraska to local law enforcement agencies that were investigating the death of a fetus.

In-q-tel: the CIA and Google.

Google’s business model.

Related: Transcript of secret meeting between Julian Assange and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Friday April 19, 2013

More Than 1,830+ Schools Do Not Require ACT/SAT Scores From Current High School Seniors Applying For Fall 2022

Fair Test:

As many high school seniors work on their college applications due in early January, a new tally shows that nearly 80% of bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities are not requiring ACT or SAT scores from students seeking to enroll in fall 2022.

According to an updated list released today by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), more than 1,815 colleges and universities now practice test-optional or test-blind admissions, an all-time high. The list includes nearly all of the nation’s most selective colleges and universities.

FairTest also found that at least 1,400 institutions have already extended those policies at least through the fall 2023 admissions cycle. Among the schools that will not require ACT or SAT tests from current high school juniors are well-know private institutions, such as Amherst, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford and Tufts. In addition, many public university systems including those in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, and Washington will remain test-optional or test-blind.

FairTest Executive Director Bob Schaeffer explained, “Evaluating undergraduate applicants without test scores is here to stay. 80% of schools are ACT/SAT-optional or test-blind for current high school seniors. More than three-fifth of all colleges and universities in the nation have already committed to remaining test-optional or test-blind for fall 2023 applicants. We expect the final percentage to be substantial higher.”

Immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,070 schools were test-optional with only one test-blind. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics currently recognizes about 2,330 bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities which enroll first-year students

K-12 Governance Climate: Washington DC Vaccine Requirement

Christopher Fountain:

Per D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education website, “Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, the COVID-19 vaccine is required for school enrollment and attendance in the District of Columbia for all students who are of an age for which there is a COVID-19 vaccination fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).” 

As of right now, that means D.C. students aged 12 and up will have to be vaccinated or they will be unable to attend school in person.

The vaccine requirement makes D.C. an outlier in the nation, as many of the larger school districts recommend but do not require a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend school in person.

The Daily Signal then asked the mayor about whether or not it was appropriate to respond to kids who aren’t vaccinated by forcing them to attend school virtually.

“You’ve never heard me say that,” Bowser said.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: State Migration

Chloe Berger:

While some of this cohort moved out of Florida during this time frame, many more moved in, creating a net influx of 20,263 high-income households. That’s nearly four times the number of high-rollers the second most popular place attracted: Texas, which saw a net migration rate of 5,356 households.

Like Florida, Texas has warm weather and no state income tax. In fact, the majority of the top 10 states high-earners moved to are in the Sunbelt. And two others on the list—Tennessee and Nevada—also don’t have a state income tax. Both trends indicate that these high-earning migrants were looking for a more affordable cost of living.

Take a look at the top 10 list below, which includes net migration figures:

Sue the thought police

Jack Fowler:

Beyond the investigating (duties lustfully performed, at the University of Tennessee, by its “Bias Education and Response Team,” which sounds a smidge less scary than the University of Maryland’s “Hate-Bias Response Team”), there is the intimidating — inherent to the enterprise. Bias-reporting systems, by their existence, are institutional deep freezers that create those “chilling effects” on campus speech. They are the instigators of the cautionary thought Should I risk speaking up in the first place? Which is why the foes of BRS, including admirable organizations such as FIRE (newly reminted as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), charge that it prevents students and professors — from the non-woke to the surely conservatives to the leave-me-aloners — from voicing opinions, or even telling jokes, lest they get caught up in a crypto-Soviet dragnet (anonymous accusers, no due process) with an array of consequences: hostility, reprimands, suspensions, the boot, and finding themselves at the dangerous intersection of Here’s My Opinion and You’re Unhireable after Graduation.

In a paper for the American Enterprise Institute calling for the elimination of BRS from colleges, Cherise Trump, a George Mason University graduate who is Speech First’s impressive executive director, railed against its expansiveness and the consequence of its unsubtle silencing: “The fear of being anonymously reported to authorities and subjected to process-is-punishment investigations, diversity and anti-bias trainings, and public stigmatization is a present and powerful force on campuses nationwide.”

As it chills speech, from political to happenstantial, BRS also suppresses diversity — of thought. Which seems the point, after all: to do away with “on the other hand,” a thing central to academic debate and classroom exploration of thought, yet now intolerable and impermissible on many a campus.

Civics: Presidential Records and Public Access

Vía Judicial Watch:

“Since the President is completely entrusted with the management and even the disposal of Presidential records during his time in office, it would be difficult for this Court to conclude that Congress intended that he would have less authority to do what he pleases with what he considers to be his personal records,” she added.

59.9% of Black students in the Madison Metropolitan School District who were enrolled in an AP course in 2017-18 did not take the test.

Wisconsin Policy Forum:

Scott Girard:

That was the fourth-highest percentage among the 10 districts in the state with the most Black students enrolled in AP courses, behind only Beloit (83.7%), Wauwatosa (82%) and Racine (68.9%).

Milwaukee Public Schools, the only Wisconsin district larger than MMSD, saw all student groups have lower rates of opting out of AP exams than the state average.

“This is especially important as MPS serves large numbers of students of color and is the district with the highest AP enrollment for English Learners and students who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic, and is a very close second for students identifying as Asian,” WPF writes in its report.

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?

Improving Conversation

Sasha Chapin

But many conversations can be nudged in the direction of openness, spontaneous complexity, and shared emotionality. And a surprising number of conversations, thus encouraged, can become quite connective. These are the conversations where you’re likely to find yourself laughing, rambling excitedly, engaging in extended weird riffs, crystallizing old knowledge in new patterns, feeling comprehended, feeling loved, and, generally, having the sensation that you’ve temporarily stepped outside the walls around your being.

Good conversations can heal you effortlessly sometimes, too. I think this is at least 50% of the mechanism of action of talk therapy. So you can go around doing that whenever.

I’ve tried hard to figure out how this can be cultivated. It took effort since I’m naturally untalented in this respect. The method of conversation I had for a bunch of my life was babbling about whatever I was interested in until my interlocutor wandered away. That’s how I did things, until I noticed, after a decade, that people don’t like this, and, what’s more, didn’t like it. When, occasionally, I met people who managed to induce me to have a more connective conversation, I enjoyed myself much more than I would have if I’d set the tone. 

Eventually I realized that human connection is one of my favorite things, and thus I’ve tried really hard to override my prior instincts. And I think I’ve done a reasonably good job. I think I’ve gone from “terrible” to “at least better than average,” and my job depends on being able to induce conversational depth with reliability.

Civics: Open Records in King County, Washington

Daniel Beekman:

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has asked Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall to put together an investigation into the deletion of text messages from the phones of then-Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other city leaders in 2020.

“It wasn’t clear to me that anyone was going to start this investigation without prompting,” Satterberg said Thursday in an emailed statement. “Just like the public’s right to an open courtroom, people have a right to know what is in public documents — including text messages.”

Satterberg’s office requested the investigation July 28, spokesperson Casey McNerthney said.

“We are in the early stages of reviewing the matter,” said Cole-Tindall spokesperson Cynthia Sampson, giving no other information.

Last year, a whistleblower in Durkan’s office revealed that the mayor’s texts from a 10-month period — including tumultuous weeks in early summer 2020 when police deployed tear gas against Black Lives Matter protest crowds and vacated the East Precinct — were missing.

2020 events in Madison.

What’s Actually Being Taught in History Class

By Kassie Bracken, Mark Boyer, Jacey Fortin, Rebecca Lieberman and Noah Throop:

Schools across the country have been caught up in spirited debates over what students should learn about United States history. We talked to social studies teachers about how they run their classrooms, what they teach and why.

In the last two years, dozens of state legislatures have introduced bills that would limit what teachers can say about complicated subjects like race, gender and inequality.

The legislation is part of a larger debate over politics in public school education. Across the United States, parents have demanded more oversight over curriculums, and school board meetings have erupted into fiery discussions.

How have these debates affected the classroom?

In 2020, amid widespread protests over racial inequality, some conservative activists began using critical race theory, or C.R.T., as a catchphrase. They claimed that C.R.T., a decades-old scholarly framework that raised questions about structural racism and inequality, was infiltrating modern-day classrooms.

“They’re trying to rewrite history and redesign the future of the United States,” said Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, who last year signed legislation intended to ban C.R.T. in the state’s public schools. “But also, they’re undermining the very values and core of what America stands for.”

But until it became a headline, some of the teachers we talked to had never heard of critical race theory.

Guessing C For Every Answer Is Now Enough To Pass The New York State Algebra Exam

Ed Knight:

My student, River, spent more time in the courtroom than the classroom last year. One Friday night in September, a drunk friend called and asked for a ride home from a party. River obliged. That’s a problem when you’re 14 years old. On his excellent adventure with his drunk friend, River drove over the landscaping of several local businesses and ended with his car in the woods caught in a web of maple sugaring lines. Things spiralled from there.

All of which is to say that River didn’t learn algebra last year.

I mean it: zero algebra was learned. He wasn’t even present in my classroom for most of three marking periods. At the end of the year, he asked me how he was supposed to pass the state test.

“No problem,” I said. “Just pick all Cs.”


“Try it. I bet it will work.”

It worked.


Did I have special knowledge? No.

Or yes, if you count actually being able to do math. Apparently the whole “actually being able to do math” thing is special now. New York certainly doesn’t require it.

Now look, you’re probably saying Ed, come on, there must be something that you’re not telling me. There must be something you’re missing.

Civics: National news media and federal law enforcement are now as indistinguishable in America as in any autocratic country anywhere

Matt Taibbi:

Watching, I found myself wondering, “What is this?” There was no pretense of separateness between the CNN employees, and the spot’s purpose appeared to be to let a senior CIA/FBI counterintelligence official whine about the reaction to the Trump raid, stoke fear, and compare Americans to al-Qaeda. It felt less like news than something out of a dystopian novel like Fahrenheit 451 or We, and this is essentially on air round the clock. Dollars to doughnuts, if you turn on cable right now, you will find, somewhere, a former intelligence official yammering at you through your telescreen.

We’re a week into one of the biggest stories of our time, and the feds and media have spent most every minute acting as an unembarrassed unified front. One after another, national security “analysts” lined up to give breathless, hyperbolic, and and eerily synchronized commentary about the Mar-a-Lago raid. If the message on day 1 was about how they “must have” probable cause of a crime, that was the word up and down the dial. If by the weekend it was “I’ve never seen this level of threat,” you heard that in more or less the same words from the likes of Mudd, McCabe, and others on multiple channels. What’s the public supposed to see, other than an American analog to China Central TV or Rossiya-1, when they tuned in to all this?

Schoolchildren Are Not ‘Mere Creatures of the State’

Robert Pondisco:

In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon law requiring that parents or guardians send their children to public school in the districts where they lived. The Society of Sisters, which ran private academies, claimed that the law interfered with the right of parents to choose religious instruction for their children. The Court agreed, unanimously. States are permitted to run and regulate schools, even to require that all children receive an adequate education. But the Justices held that the state may not “unreasonably interfere with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”

The decision in Pierce v. the Society of Sisters featured one of the more memorable turns of phrase in Supreme Court history. “The child is not the mere creature of the State,” wrote Justice James C. McReynolds. “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.”

Notes on Government financial surveillance

By Jennifer J. Schulp and Norbert Michel

Modern life is full of sharing mundane information with others. Your cellphone company knows where you’ve been, your home security system knows your visitors, and your bank knows your spending habits.

And it’s often not just your service providers that know. Law enforcement has used many of these treasure troves of information without first obtaining a warrant. This warrantless surveillance — which prompted a recent hearing by the House Committee on the Judiciary — may be novel for technology and media companies, but it is nothing new when it comes to the government’s surveillance of Americans’ financial activity.

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA) requires financial institutions to assist federal agencies in detecting and preventing money laundering and other crimes. It does this in a number of ways, including by enlisting financial institutions to report certain customer activities to the government.

Identity Politics and Teleologies of the Present

James Sweet:

Twenty years ago, in these pages, Lynn Hunt argued “against presentism.” She lamented historians’ declining interest in topics prior to the 20th century, as well as our increasing tendency to interpret the past through the lens of the present. Hunt warned that this rising presentism threatened to “put us out of business as historians.” If history was little more than “short-term . . . identity politics defined by present concerns,” wouldn’t students be better served by taking degrees in sociology, political science, or ethnic studies instead?

The discipline did not heed Hunt’s warning. From 2003 to 2013, the number of PhDs awarded to students working on topics post-1800, across all fields, rose 18 percent. Meanwhile, those working on pre-1800 topics declined by 4 percent. During this time, the Wall Street meltdown was followed by plummeting undergraduate enrollments in history courses and increased professional interest in the history of contemporary socioeconomic topics. Then came Obama, and Twitter, and Trump. As the discipline has become more focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, historical analyses are contained within an increasingly constrained temporality. Our interpretations of the recent past collapse into the familiar terms of contemporary debates, leaving little room for the innovative, counterintuitive interpretations.

This trend toward presentism is not confined to historians of the recent past; the entire discipline is lurching in this direction, including a shrinking minority working in premodern fields. If we don’t read the past through the prism of contemporary social justice issues—race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, capitalism—are we doing history that matters? This new history often ignores the values and mores of people in their own times, as well as change over time, neutralizing the expertise that separates historians from those in other disciplines. The allure of political relevance, facilitated by social and other media, encourages a predictable sameness of the present in the past. This sameness is ahistorical, a proposition that might be acceptable if it produced positive political results. But it doesn’t.