All posts by Jim Zellmer

The Tragedy of Black Education Is New

Walter Williams:

Several years ago, Project Baltimore began an investigation of Baltimore’s school system. What it found was an utter disgrace.

In 19 of Baltimore’s 39 high schools, out of 3,804 students, only 14 of them, or less than 1%, were proficient in math.

In 13 of Baltimore’s high schools, not a single student scored proficient in math.

In five Baltimore City high schools, not a single student scored proficient in math or reading.

Despite these academic deficiencies, about 70% of the students graduate and are conferred a high school diploma—a fraudulent high school diploma.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District scored the lowest in the nation compared to 26 other urban districts for reading and mathematics at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels.

A recent video captures some of this miseducation in Milwaukee high schools: In two city high schools, only one student tested proficient in math and none are proficient in English.

Yet, the schools spent a full week learning about “systemic racism” and “Black Lives Matter activism.” By the way, a Nov. 19 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article asks: “How many Black teachers did you have? I’ve only had two.” The article concludes, “For future Black students, that number needs to go up.”

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Tiers and Fears: Illinois Is Ground Zero for the Public-Sector Pension Crisis

Adam Schuster:

Hundreds of billions of dollars in pension debt are dragging residents — and government at every level — under water.

It seems not only unfair, but also unreasonably costly, to force hundreds of millions of Americans to shoulder a burden that has nothing to do with them.

Only 4 percent of Americans working in the private sector have access to a defined-benefit pension plan as their sole form of retirement security. The rest of us must rely on some combination of 401(k)s, hybrid plans, or Social Security.

Yet the country is sitting on more than $4.7 trillion in public-pension debt at the state and local level.

To understand the problem, look no further than Illinois — Land of Lincoln and home to the nation’s worst state pension problem.

Here, politicians have made promises that they could never afford to keep. This has led to higher taxes, a constantly growing state debt load, diminished government services, and public-sector retirements that could run dry before many workers hang up their hats.

How DeVos May Have Started a Counterrevolution in Education

Jack Schneider and Jennifer C. Berkshire:

Together, led by federal policy elites, Republicans and Democrats espoused the logic of markets in the public sphere, expanding school choice through publicly funded charter schools. Competition, both sides agreed, would strengthen schools. And the introduction of charters, this contingent believed, would empower parents as consumers by even further untethering school enrollment from family residence.

The bipartisan consensus also elevated the role of student tests in evaluating schools. The first President Bush ushered in curricular standards in 1989 when he gathered the nation’s governors, including Bill Clinton of Arkansas, for a meeting in Charlottesville, Va. In a decade, George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation mandated accountability testing nationwide, tied to the standards that his father and Mr. Clinton had promoted.

The law was then modified under the Obama administration; still, the core logic of test-based accountability as a solution to closing the achievement gap was preserved. Arne Duncan, Mr. Obama’s education secretary, who was cool to teachers unions and spoke the language of markets, even threatened to withhold federal funds from California in 2013 if it didn’t test all its students.

Ms. DeVos, a critic of what she calls “the overreach of the federal government in education,” displayed no interest in this neoliberal compromise. Instead, she spent much of her time crusading for religious schools.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Teaching in the Pandemic: ‘This Is Not Sustainable’

Natasha Singer:

At Farmington Central Junior High in rural Illinois, classes still start at 8 a.m. But that’s about the only part of the school day that has not changed for Caitlyn Clayton, an eighth-grade English teacher tirelessly toggling between in-person and remote students.

At the start of the school day, Ms. Clayton stands in front of the classroom, reminding her students to properly pull their masks over their noses. Then she delves into a writing lesson, all the while scanning the room for possible virus threats. She stops students from sharing supplies. She keeps her distance when answering their questions. She disinfects the desks between classes.

Then in the afternoon, just as her in-person students head home, Ms. Clayton begins her second day: remote teaching. Sitting in her classroom, she checks in one-on-one via video with eighth graders who have opted for distance learning. To make sure they are not missing out, she spends hours more recording instructional videos that replicate her in-person classroom lessons.

Biden Plans to Roll Back Trump-Era Education Policies

Wall Street Journal:

As with environmental and immigration policy, President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to bring sweeping changes to education and to reverse some of the civil rights-related moves made under President Trump.

The current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, sought to bolster school-choice programs, proposed cuts to public-school funding and called for swift school reopenings during the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has said he wants to expand resources for public schools and has pledged to appoint a teacher to head the Education Department.

“The DeVos administration has basically chosen to side on the powerful and not the vulnerable, not the marginalized,” said Arne Duncan, former President Barack Obama’s education secretary. “That’s going to fundamentally change.”

A spokeswoman from the Education Department, Angela Morabito, defended the department’s current policies, especially on school choice, saying: “There is no one less powerful and more marginalized than the student trapped in a failing, government-assigned school with no way out.”

School chaos is why you should teach your kids the truth about politicians

Karol Markowicz:

“Why is my school closed, Mommy?” asks the sweet fictional child who has stopped going to school for no apparent reason. “I haaaaaaaaate Zoom,” screams the real child rolling on the floor, while his teacher repeatedly asks little Sally to mute herself and little Billy to put his shirt back on.

In-person school may be back for elementary students in the Big Apple beginning Dec. 7, but this remains a hard moment for parents and kids. While the media have published a slew of articles on how to talk to your kids about the election, racism and other tough topics, none has addressed how to help kids understand why school inexplicably opens and closes, on the whims of politicos beholden to teacher unions.

Let me take a shot at a sample “lesson plan.”

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

Madison co-chief of schools named finalist in Verona superintendent search

Elizabeth Beyer:

Madison School District’s Co-Chief of Schools for elementary education, Dr. Tremayne Clardy, was named a finalist in the Verona Area School District superintendent search Monday.

Clardy is one of four candidates that will participate in the next step in the interview process to become the new superintendent, according to a release by the Verona school district.

“Verona is a special area and a special place that I can see myself in, that feels like home. It’s a place I feel like I can lead and live and grow within the community,” Clardy said.

Biden’s Pick to Head Economic Advisors Seen as Sympathetic to Loan Borrowers

Kery Murakami:

While President-elect Biden’s choice to chair his Council of Economic Advisors, Cecilia Rouse, didn’t call for canceling student debt, she expressed awareness of the impact debt has on borrowers in a 2007 research paper.

Rouse, in a paper co-authored with Jesse Rothstein, now a public policy and economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, found that holding student debt made it more likely for students to choose high-paying careers and eschew lower-paying ones like teaching.

In the study, Rothstein and Rouse, who is now dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, examined students at an anonymous university that had stopped giving out loans and only gave students financial aid through grants.

They found that every $10,000 in debt reduces by 5 to 6 percent the chances that a student at the university would take a job at a nonprofit, in the government or in education.

“Overall, it appears that college debt affects post-graduation employment decisions: students with more debt are less likely to accept jobs in low-paying industries and accept higher paying jobs more generally,” the study found.

The reading wars are over – and phonics has won

Sarah Mitchell:

Of all the debates in education, none are quite as absurd as the reading wars. On the one hand there are those who advocate for a phonics-based approach to reading instruction in the early years – making sure children understand sound-letter relationships so they can read words accurately without guessing from the context or pictures.

On the other hand are those who advocate a “whole of language” approach, saying the best way for children to learn whole words is to encounter them in meaningful contexts – meaning kids should be immersed in authentic literature from the get-go.

The reading wars are bizarre because the evidence behind how reading should be taught is so one-sided. Overwhelmingly it tells us that phonics must be explicitly and systematically taught within a literacy program that also develops language and reading habits.

Study after study shows that if phonics is not taught properly, student outcomes suffer across the board. Students with additional learning needs – particularly dyslexia – are further disadvantaged.

Study after study highlights the ineffectiveness of whole-of-language programs such as Reading Recovery – which is why it is no longer supported by the NSW government.

This does not mean that phonics and authentic literature experiences are mutually exclusive. But it does mean they need to be sequential. Children won’t learn to read simply by being read to, or with only incidental teaching of letters and sounds. Phonics is the foundation upon which future literacy skills are built.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Civics: Anomalies in Vote Counts and Their Effects on Election 2020

Vote Pattern Analysis:

In the early hours of November 4th, 2020, Democratic candidate Joe Biden received several major “vote spikes” that substantially — and decisively — improved his electoral position in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Much skepticism and uncertainty surrounds these “vote spikes.” Critics point to suspicious vote counting practices, extreme differences between the two major candidates’ vote counts, and the timing of the vote updates, among other factors, to cast doubt on the legitimacy of some of these spikes. While data analysis cannot on its own demonstrate fraud or systemic issues, it can point us to statistically anomalous cases that invite further scrutiny. 

This is one such case: Our analysis finds that a few key vote updates in competitive states were unusually large in size and had an unusually high Biden-to-Trump ratio. We demonstrate the results differ enough from expected results to be cause for concern.

With this report, we rely only on publicly available data from the New York Times to identify and analyze statistical anomalies in key states. Looking at 8,954 individual vote updates (differences in vote totals for each candidate between successive changes to the running vote totals, colloquially also referred to as “dumps” or “batches”), we discover a remarkably consistent mathematical property: there is a clear inverse relationship between difference in candidates’ vote counts and and the ratio of the vote counts. (In other words, it’s not surprising to see vote updates with large margins, and it’s not surprising to see vote updates with very large ratios of support between the candidates, but it is surprising to see vote updates which are both). 

Is probability real? (Part 1)

Aram:

Today, I want to address an issue with statements involving chance. To demonstrate, let’s first consider a statement that doesn’t involve chance:

“A cubic die tossed onto a flat surface will come to rest on one of its six sides.”

This claim can be empirically tested, with various dice and surfaces. If any one of our experiments results in the die spinning endlessly on a corner, we will have disproven the claim. We may have to refine the claim’s conditions; for instance, by requiring the presence of gravity. Nonetheless, it’s fairly clear what it means for the statement to be true or false. Now let’s try to make a claim involving probability:

“If a pair of standard dice are thrown, the probability of their face-up sides summing to nine will be one in nine (about 0.11 or 11%).”

What does it mean for this statement to be true? Unlike the first statement, this one doesn’t specify which result we’ll actually see. How can we possibly hope to test it, or to make use of its information?

The mathematician’s multiverse

Within the realm of abstract mathematics, we’re free to model probability in a way that fits our intuitions. Imagine a multiverse containing an infinity of possible worlds, whose total measure is 100%. Define the probability of an event, such as that of rolling a nine, to be the measure assigned to the subset of worlds in which the event actually occurs.

Civics: Video captured by a secret police spy plane is now part of a civil rights lawsuit against West Allis police officers

Bruce Vielmetti:

A violent arrest of an unarmed man in West Allis — made possible by a secret police spy plane with night vision — is now the subject of a civil rights lawsuit on claims of excessive force.

Reynaldo Narvaez, 22, drove away from police early one morning in 2018 and thought he’d lost them when he parked the car in an alley and walked away.

But police were waiting for him, at rifle point. According to Narvaez, he was then beaten, stomped and Tased, despite immediately raising his hands and kneeling after the first command to do so. The attacks left him unconscious and he was taken to a hospital.

The same aerial surveillance that led police to Narvaez recorded his arrest, video that could become key evidence if the case ever goes to a ju

Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes Will Not Seek Re-election

Gloria Reyes:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2020

Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes Will Not Seek Re-election

Statement by Gloria Reyes

I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election to the Madison School Board. This has been a difficult decision. I’ve made it after much consideration, consultation with my family, and as always with the future of our Madison Schools and our students uppermost in my mind.

As a Board member, I have always felt that our MMSD community deserved every ounce of energy I have. I’ve given that. Now, I have taken on a big, important, new job. While my new employer is fully supportive of my public service, I believe my focus must turn completely to serving our Briarpatch youth and families.

It has been an honor to serve alongside my fellow board members, who have supported my leadership and who are steadfast and thoughtful public servants. We have accomplished a great deal together. Although there are challenges ahead, the District is in a strong place: a respected, effective leader as Superintendent and continued investment from our community thanks to two successful referenda this fall. This Board will lead us into a bright future.

During my three years on the Board, we have gone through significant changes, leaving us open for opportunities to make even more change happen. We have begun to build a new normal, where black excellence is not just words we say but is incorporated into all we do; where inclusion and equity brings justice to those most vulnerable in our communities; a new normal where we close achievement gaps. We must continue on this path.

I would like to thank all those who have supported me on this journey and who came together to elect the first Latina to the Madison School Board. It was your support and your commitment that kept me resilient and resolute in making decisions based on what was best for our students and school community.

Thank you for standing alongside me, holding me accountable, and pushing me as an elected leader to grow, to learn, and to have the courage to make tough decisions.

It is my firm belief that public schools are the foundation of a city’s success. Throughout this journey, I have learned that our Madison Public Schools are at the center of our City, an engine that drives excellence, that creates promise, and that highlights who we want to be as a community.

I will continue to support youth and our community in my new position, I will continue to work with the MMSD, and I will always be a champion for Madison Public Schools.

# # #

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Federal Data Reveals No Relationship Between Spending and Academic Outcomes in Wisconsin Schools

Will Flanders:

Flying under the radar amidst the continuing pandemic is the news that the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) finally released school-level spending data for Wisconsin’s public schools. Required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), DPI appears to have dragged its feet as long as possible before providing this information to families and taxpayers. The data shows us that contrary to popular belief, there is little correlation between spending and student outcomes.

The data is broken down into several bins. The most important are the federal and state/local bins. These show (appropriately enough) the amount of spending from each level of government that has been allocated to each school. The other bins are the same across schools. These are the amount of federal and state/local funds that are sent to the district office and the district’s Local Education Agency (LEA). An example of how this data looks from one Milwaukee School, the Milwaukee Sign Language Academy, is presented below.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Politics in Academia: A Case Study

Glenn Geher:

Academic publishing is famously brutal. You might have a great manuscript that is under review then is rejected based on comments of one anonymous reviewer who thinks that you use too many exclamation points. Or a reviewer who is bitter because you didn’t cite his particular work. Or a reviewer who didn’t really read the manuscript and who goes on to criticize your work for neglecting some important statistical process that you, in fact, implemented plainly and correctly. 

Racine still enforcing school closures under Safer Racine ordinance, despite Supreme Court pausing similar order

Adam Rogan:

The City of Racine is still banning schools from having students and teachers in their buildings within city limits through Jan. 15, despite a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision last week that put the local order closing schools on pause.

The legal reason the city is citing for continuing to enforce school closures is that the Safer Racine ordinance was updated on Nov. 23, and language overlapping with the school closures order was included within that ordinance.

Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox had issued an order on Nov. 12 that required schools within her department’s jurisdiction (which includes the City of Racine, as well as the villages of Elmwood Park and Wind Point) to close their buildings from Friday through Jan. 15. The requirement for schools to close their buildings was then codified in city ordinance, an ordinance that is still being enforced by the Public Health Department and Racine Police Department.

“We are not enforcing Dottie-Kay’s public health order at all,” Shannon Powell, spokesman for City of Racine, told The Journal Times. Powell explained that instead, the city is enforcing the ordinance, which he said is not affected by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision last week.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

To What Extent Do We See With Mathematics?

Joselle Kehoe:

When I first became fascinated with mathematics’ tightly knit abstract structures, its prominence in physics and engineering reassured me. Mathematics’ indisputable value in science made it clear that my preoccupation with its intangible expressions was not pathological. The captivating creative activity of doing mathematics has real consequences.

During my graduate school years, I began to consider that the appearance of reality actually depended on the kind of mathematics we use to see it. Was it possible that the use of mathematical ideas, like a lens, could bring some aspects of the world into sharp focus while blurring others to the point of invisibility? A new mathematics, whose development is being led by author and theoretical physicist David Deutsch, may actually highlight what mathematics can do to help us “see” our reality, and maybe even tell us something about how the process works. Deutsch is best known for his pioneering work on the quantum theory of computation, where some of the more mysterious quantum phenomena are harnessed to dramatically enhance computation. While his new mathematics is related to the quantum theory of computation, it is also distinct from it. He calls the new mathematics constructor theory: a theory designed to tell us, in the most general sense, what is and is not possible in the physical world.

Deutsch has discussed constructor theory before. An unexpected early success of the theory, he has said, has provided a new foundation for information theory. Information theory involves the quantification of information. But perhaps most relevant to this discussion is that information theory equates abstract things such as words, coded data and algorithms with physical things such as like electric signals, chemical exchanges and molecular coding. Since they are all information, the employment of information theory is transdisciplinary. Just a few of the disciplines included in its range of application are physics, electrical engineering, linguistics and neurobiology. The processing of information, expressed in the formalism of mathematics, captures the action of many kinds of systems.

College Students Are Learning Hard Lessons About Anti-Cheating Software

Kara Grant:

Even after his classes went online last spring, William Scott Molina, a 31-year-old student at San Diego State University, thought his remote learning experience was going just fine. As required in one of his online courses, he downloaded and began using the Respondus LockDown Browser, custom software that prevents students from venturing outside of their testing page to ward off cheating.

Molina didn’t think much of the company until he started using its monitoring software for a business administration course over the summer and his webcam became a device to observe, record and study him during an exam.

By the end of the semester, Molina was the subject of multiple cheating accusations that consumed his academic life.

In the swift and chaotic pivot to virtual test-taking, companies like Respondus — along with competitors including Honorlock, ProctorU and Proctorio — have stepped in to help schools keep watch on students. Because the new digital tools are required in certain courses, students are being forced to subject themselves to surveillance inside their own homes and open themselves up to disputes over “suspicious activities,” as defined by an algorithm.

COVID-19 and school exams

The Economist:

Around the world covid-19 has messed up children’s education. They began to be shut out of classrooms all the way back in February. Even in countries where schools have stayed open, lessons and tests have been disrupted. Some countries pressed ahead with national exams (see article) this year. A few others, including Britain, France and Ireland, cancelled them all. They came up with new ways of awarding grades instead. The fact that big exams have proved so vulnerable to disruption has led to new questions about their usefulness. Are there better ways of measuring what children have learned?

Exams have plenty of problems. They are often unreliable; a study in Israel found that test-takers’ performance can be affected by smog. Many children find them stressful. Plenty of places run them badly. School-leavers in China are often set questions that require them to parrot propaganda. Poorly written test papers in developing countries lead to wild swings in pass rates. Countries, including Algeria and Ethiopia, have resorted to shutting down the internet at exam time to prevent cheating.

Study links mindfulness and meditation to narcissism and “spiritual superiority”

Douglas Heingartner:

A new study has found that popular forms of spiritual training — such as mindfulness, meditation, and energy healing — correlate with both narcissism and “spiritual superiority.”

An implicit feature of spiritual training is that it allows its adherents to distance themselves from their egos, and thereby from things such as the need for social approval or success. By encouraging self-compassion and non-judgmental self-acceptance, spiritual training should presumably make people less concerned with such things.

But as a new paper explains, spiritual training may have the opposite effect. Namely, spiritual training might in fact enhance people’s need to feel “more successful, more respected or more loved,” as the authors Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser write.

Most Americans Object to Government Tracking of Their Activities Through Cellphones

Byron Tau:

A new survey found widespread concern among Americans about government tracking of their whereabouts through their digital devices, with an overwhelming majority saying that a warrant should be required to obtain such data.

A new Harris Poll survey indicated that 55% of American adults are worried that government agencies are tracking them through location data generated from their cellphones and other digital devices. The poll also found that 77% of Americans believe the government should get a warrant to buy the kind of detailed location information that is frequently purchased and sold on the commercial market by data brokers.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that several U.S. law-enforcement agencies are buying geolocation data from brokers for criminal-law enforcement and border-security purposes without any court oversight.

Federal agencies have concluded that they don’t require a warrant because the location data is available for purchase on the open market. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that a warrant is required to compel cellphone carriers to turn over location data to law enforcement, but it hasn’t addressed whether consumers have any expectation of privacy or due process in data generated from apps rather than carriers.

195 Million Chinese Students Are In School. Why Aren’t Our Kids?

Evita Duffy:

Right now in China, 195 million students K-12 are learning in-person in Chinese public schools. Meanwhile, millions of American public school students are learning in a failed remote system that can’t even keep track of thousands of students who haven’t shown up for class all year.  

In 2018, 15-year-olds in dozens of countries participated in the triennial Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The PISA test measures reading ability, math and science literacy, and other key skills. American scores are decidedly unimpressive, with students scoring in the middle of the pack for all categories. Most frighteningly, China beats the United States in every category.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

K-12 Governance, late 2020

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

The Purpose of Writing

Limitless Curiousity:

I, like many other people, have discovered that it is almost impossible to think seriously without writing. Writing clarifies and sharpens your thoughts in a way that is superior to merely articulating them in a conversation. It allows you to look at your ideas more objectively, almost as if they were from another person. You can then examine them and think about if what you have written down is really true.

However, more often than discovering that your ideas are wrong, you will discover something different: that you do not know what you think. Sure, you have some vague idea, and you believe that there is a chain of reasoning that leads to a certain conclusion. But what you will discover is that this chain of reasoning is mostly not existent. At best, it has many holes and maybe leads not where you think it does. This discovery is, of course, very unpleasant and sometimes even painful. In a sense, you have lied to yourself by thinking you have thought through this specific topic when, in reality, you have only copied the opinion of someone else.

This process requires an immense amount of honesty because nobody likes to feel stupid. Either you do not know what you think, in which case you feel stupid. Or it turns out that what you believed to be your opinion does not really make sense, is logically inconsistent, and mostly copied from someone else, in which case you feel stupid as well. However, the reward for all this exhausting work is clarity and simplicity. You now possess a chain of reasoning where you have looked as carefully as you can for holes and problems. The next step is to let others examine your reasoning—publishing.

Microsoft’s Creepy New ‘Productivity Score’ Gamifies Workplace Surveillance

Alyse Stanley:

Microsoft rolled out its new “Productivity Score” feature this month, which lets bosses track how their employees use Microsoft’s suite of tools. If that sounds like an Orwellian nightmare in the making to you, you’re not alone—privacy experts are criticizing the company for essentially gamifying workplace surveillance.

When Microsoft first announced the feature in October, the company billed it as a way to provide “insights that transform how work gets done” to employers. To do this, the tool gathers data on each employee’s behavior across 73 metrics and presents a handy-dandy breakdown to their bosses at the end of each month, Forbes reports.

These metrics include how often workers turn their cameras on during virtual meetings, how frequently they send emails (and how many contain @ mentions), whether they regularly contribute to shared documents or group chats, and the number of days they used Microsoft’s tools such as Word, Excel, Skype, Outlook, or Teams in the last month, just to name a few. Microsoft lays out all the ways it monitors you through its office suite in the company’s own documentation, though admittedly you’ll have to go digging through about a dozen web pages to find them.

Kentucky Religious Schools Have First Amendment Right to Reopen, Says Federal Judge

Eugene Volokh:

In Wednesday’s Danville Christian Academy, Inc. v. Beshear (E.D. Ky.), Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove’s granted a preliminary injunction that allowed religious schools to reopen in Kentucky; the governor’s closure order, the court concluded, violated the Free Exercise Clause. (The order was promptly appealed, and presumably Governor Beshear will ask the Sixth Circuit to hear the case on an expedited basis.)

[1.] The opinion concluded that there was sufficient evidence that the closure order burdened Danville Christian’s Free Exercise Clause rights:

To begin, the parties do not facially dispute that Danville Christian has a sincerely held religious belief in conducting in-person instruction. Nevertheless, the Governor argues that the fact Danville Christian halted in-person teaching earlier during the pandemic, when faced with an infected member of its community, seriously undermines the irreparable harm requirement of a preliminary injunction. By implication, this raises a challenge to the school’s sincerity. In response, Danville Christian argued that the halt in holding in-person instruction was a voluntary short-term act taken out of deference to the community, and now that more is known about the virus and other measures can be taken to allow classes to resume safely, it would violate Danville Christian’s First Amendment rights to force the school to hold virtual instead of in-person classes.

Exercising a judgment call to close for a short period of time when far less was known about the virus cannot now effectively counter its conviction. Danville Christian has presented evidence of the significance of in-person instruction, including the holding of weekly chapel services and corporate prayer throughout the day. The Court is also cognizant of the role of daily in-person mentorship of religious values that occur in religious schools that is simply not as feasible in a virtual setting. In extending the ministerial exception to private school teachers in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the Supreme Court expressed that in the First Amendment context, faith and education go hand in hand. “[E]ducating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of the mission of a private religious school.” Therefore, insofar as it relates to the irreparable harm prong, the Court finds this to be sufficient to demonstrate Danville Christian’s sincerely held belief.

[2.] The court then concluded that the closure order wasn’t neutral and generally applicable (and thus didn’t fall within Employment Division v. Smith) because it treated schools worse than preschools and universities:

K-12 Governance Rhetoric & Reality

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

Civics: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’, Class Conflict, & Mercy

Rod Dreher:

Educated middle class liberals talk a lot about “privilege,” but I believe their discourse — at least among white people — is mostly in bad faith. They keep it to matters of race as a way of avoiding class. Batya Ungar-Sargon made a similar observation in a recent interview:

So why does this view that erases equality and pushes oppression as the root of everything appeal so much to affluent liberals? To me, it seems like the answer is that despite the pieties they espouse, liberal elites don’t really believe in equality, either; no affluent person does. They know their prosperity comes at someone else’s expense, and a worldview that was actually invested in equality would insist they share more of their good fortune.

Still, they want to believe they are good people. They’re liberals! So just imagine the relief when they are told that the inequality that resulted in their having so much while so many Americans have so little is not the result of their failure to pay more taxes or to send their kids to public schools, but that it stems from something as immutable as the color of their skin. It totally relieves them of the responsibility of doing anything about it. All they can do is feel guilty. They get to keep all their money while feeling like heroes! How perfect.

Of course, there are still horrifying pockets of race-based inequality that persist in America, and they deserve our immediate attention. But there’s now bipartisan consensus about this—the need to end mass incarceration, for example, or for police reform. The totalizing view of America as a white supremacy seems to me a displacement exercise that comforts the wealthy, which you know is true because they can’t get enough of it.

Put more bluntly, I think the “privilege” discourse among middle class educated white liberals is mostly about rearranging prejudices to make lower class white people deserving of the scorn of the uppers. J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy powerfully challenged that view, though at the same time refusing to claim victim status for his people. The Left today has no idea what to do about that. After four years of Trump, I believe that the liberal overclass is just thrilled to be able to justify its fear and hatred of poor and working class white people.

Beliefs About Self-Compassion: Implications for Coping and Self-Improvement

Christina Chwyl, Patricia Chen & Jamil Zaki:

Self-compassion — treating oneself with care and understanding during difficult times — promotes adaptive coping and self-improvement. Nonetheless, many people are not self-compassionate. We examined a key barrier people face to treating themselves self-compassionately: their negative beliefs about self-compassion (i.e., that it leads to complacency, indulgence, or irresponsibility). Across three studies, the more people held these negative beliefs, the less self-compassionately they reported responding to a real-world event (Study 2) and hypothetical emotional challenges (Studies 1 and 3). Self-compassionate responding, in turn, predicted adaptive coping strategies and intentions for self-improvement. Experimentally inducing people to hold positive, as opposed to negative, beliefs about self-compassion predicted self-compassionate responding 5 to 7 days later (Study 3). By recognizing and targeting peoples’ beliefs, our findings highlight the importance of reducing such beliefs that are barriers to practicing self-compassion, as a means to improve the way people respond to difficult times.

“A SHORT COURSE IN THINKING ABOUT THINKING”

Daniel Kahneman:

Recently, I spent several months working closely with Danny Kahneman, the psychologist who is the co-creator of behavioral economics (with his late collaborator Amos Tversky), for which he won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.

My discussions with him inspired a 2-day “Master Class” given by Kahneman for a group of twenty leading American business/Internet/culture innovators—a microcosm of the recently dominant sector of American business—in Napa, California in July. They came to hear him lecture on his ideas and research in diverse fields such as human judgment, decision making and behavioral economics and well-being.

While Kahneman has a wide following among people who study risk, decision-making, and other aspects of human judgment, he is not exactly a household name. Yet among many of the top thinkers in psychology, he ranks at the top of the field.

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling on Happiness) writes: “Danny Kahneman is simply the most distinguished living psychologist in the world, bar none. Trying to say something smart about Danny’s contributions to science is like trying to say something smart about water: It is everywhere, in everything, and a world without it would be a world unimaginably different than this one.” And according to Harvard’s Steven Pinker (The Stuff of Thought): “It’s not an exaggeration to say that Kahneman is one of the most influential psychologists in history and certainly the most important psychologist alive today. He has made seminal contributions over a wide range of fields including social psychology, cognitive science, reasoning and thinking, and behavioral economics, a field he and his partner Amos Tversky invented.”

How to Memorize Faster With The Spaced Repetition Learning Technique

Productive Fish:

As many of us have experienced during school years, late-night learning is not the most effective technique. The information might have stuck around for a short period, but just after the day of the exam, it flew away with us unable to recall it. If you would like to remember more during and after your studies, forget the last-minute learning. Using spaced repetition, a method to rehearse educational material, you will not simply earn better grades, but studying would be an overall easier process and memorized information will be available to recall later in your life.

A New Theory of Western Civilization

Judith Shulevitz:

You might assume that this curious story of how the Church narrowed the criteria for marriageability would be relegated to a footnote—a very interesting footnote, to be sure—but Joseph Henrich puts the tale at the center of his ambitious theory-of-everything book, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous. Consider this the latest addition to the Big History category, popularized by best sellers such as Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. The outstanding feature of the genre is that it wrangles all of human existence into a volume or two, starting with the first hominids to rise up on their hind legs and concluding with us, cyborg-ish occupants of a networked globe. Big History asks Big Questions and offers quasi-monocausal answers. Why and how did humans conquer the world? Harari asks. Cooperation. What explains differences and inequalities among civilizations? Diamond asks. Environment, which is to say, geography, climate, flora and fauna. Henrich also wants to explain variation among societies, in particular to account for the Western, prosperous kind.

Henrich’s first cause is culture, a word meant to be taken very broadly rather than as referring to, say, opera. Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.”

One culture, however, is different from the others, and that’s modern WEIRD (“Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic”) culture. Dealing in the sweeping statistical generalizations that are the stock-in-trade of cultural evolutionary theorists—these are folks who say “people” but mean “populations”—Henrich draws the contrasts this way: Westerners are hyper-individualistic and hyper-mobile, whereas just about everyone else in the world was and still is enmeshed in family and more likely to stay put. Westerners obsess more about personal accomplishments and success than about meeting family obligations (which is not to say that other cultures don’t prize accomplishment, just that it comes with the package of family obligations). Westerners identify more as members of voluntary social groups—dentists, artists, Republicans, Democrats, supporters of a Green Party—than of extended clans.

Remote school is leaving children sad and angry

Hannah Natanson, Laura Meckler:

Sophia Sanchez, age 9 and stuck in perpetual Zoom school, is crying a lot lately.

Her mother and sister rush in and ask what went wrong. Did the Internet go out again? Is her computer plugged in? Is the math too confusing? Sophia can’t really answer. She’s too upset, wondering whether she’ll ever learn new things again, fearing she’ll fail the fourth grade and, more than anything, missing her friends. She hasn’t seen a single friend since March, when she was in third grade.

“So I just get really angry and frustrated,” she said. “I cry.”

Some children are doing fine with remote school; some even prefer it. But many others are like Sophia: They are suffering emotionally, mentally and even physically from so many hours, often alone, in front of a computer screen.\

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Unions, political affiliation more predictive of virtual learning decision than COVID cases. The report.

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

As China’s power waxes, the West’s study of it is waning

The Economist:

AMERICA’S PRESIDENT-ELECT, Joe Biden, says China is his country’s “biggest competitor”. Yet China’s centrality in the calculations of foreign-policy experts in Washington and throughout the West is hardly matched by the interest shown in academia. Despite China’s efforts to promote interest in the language—and a surge of attention to it in Western schools a few years ago—enthusiasm for China studies at university level remains lacklustre. Fear of China, and restrictions imposed by it, are in part to blame.

In Britain the number of people studying China at university has dipped each year since 2017. Last year it fell by 90 to 1,434, according to the Universities’ China Committee in London, which promotes China studies in Britain. In Australia a survey last year of 16 academics involved in China studies suggested a similar trend. One of the scholars said the number of Australians studying Chinese or China-related topics at university had “obviously decreased” in the past five years. Another lamented a “gradual hollowing out” of China expertise in Australia.

At American universities enrolments in Chinese-language programmes reached 60,000 in 2013. Three years later a follow-up survey found they had fallen by more than 8,000. Students with a serious academic interest in China usually spend time on a campus there. In 2011-12 almost 15,000 Americans did so. By 2018-19 the total number of Americans studying abroad had risen by 20%. But in China their ranks had shrunk by the same proportion, despite an effort by Barack Obama, when he was president, to encourage more American students to go there. This does not bode well for building expertise in a country that is so important to American interests.

Crony Capitalism: The Woke Patronage Program

Paul Brian:

Capitalism is getting all sorts of makeovers these days. There’s woke capitalism, crony capitalism and now there’s also the burgeoning industry of woke crony capitalism. Basically it’s a nexus of corporations, government bureaucrats, public universities, and lawyers working to push expensive mandated diversity and anti-racism training on as many workers and students as possible. With President Donald Trump recently calling critical race theory training “un-American propaganda” and blocking funding for it at any federal agency, the subject is more topical than ever. 

Anti-racist training generally consists of a day-long or multi-day session and focuses on combating implicit and explicit racial (and sometimes gender and sexual-orientation) bias at an organization. Themes like white privilege, unconscious bias, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and systemic racism loom large as topics for presentation and discussion. Much of the training rests on now scientifically discredited ideas such as “implicit bias,” developed decades ago by psychologists Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji. The theory argues that 90 to 95 percent of people are subconsciously biased and must be disentangled from the “unconscious roots of prejudice.” 

Although anti-racism training has rocketed to national prominence following the death of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter, it had already been surging for decades. The current moment is simply an intensification of what’s already been going on: the basic teaching that white people are inherent vessels of racial prejudice and oppression and that minority individuals are an inherent victim class. 

Civics & Censorship: Five books Penguin will have to ban along with Jordan Peterson

Spectator:

This year Jordan Peterson, the cult Canadian psychologist, meat-eater and lifestyle guru, will tentatively edge back into the public spotlight, after spending time reportedly recovering from drug addiction in Russia.

Readers may be familiar with Peterson’s self-help guide 12 Rules for Lifewhich sold over three million copies worldwide and topped the bestseller lists. So you would imagine that with the sequel out in March, most publishers would be clamoring to be the ones to sell it.

But it appears that Penguin Random House, which managed to snag the rights, is now having the opposite problem. According to VICE, its Canadian employees are in uproar about the company carrying the book.

At a packed ‘town hall’ meeting, staff were said to be in tears that Penguin were publishing the book, and over 70 have submitted anonymous complaints to the company’s ‘diversity and inclusion committee’.

Cockburn has to confess that he’s a little confused about the furore. After all, should you be really working for a publisher if you don’t believe in publishing things you don’t agree with?

But considering that PRH employees are now in the business of pulling books they object to, Cockburn has some suggestions for other books they publish, that should now probably be thrown on the pyre:

1. Mein Kampf

On the other side of the Atlantic, Penguin’s UK branch are still hawking copies of Mein Kampf, which outlines the anti-Semitic beliefs of Adolf Hitler.

While Cockburn is sure that Penguin’s Canadian employees believe that Herr Hitler is several degrees less evil than Mr Peterson, should they really be endorsing this hate speech?

Interestingly, Penguin UK appear to have the right idea when it comes to Mein Kampf. They note that:

‘Mein Kampf is an evil book, but it remains necessary reading for those who seek to understand the Holocaust, for students of totalitarian psychology and for all who care to safeguard democracy.

It appears though that Hitler gets more leeway than Peterson…

Amazon & censorship.

Politics in Academia: A Case Study

Glenn Geher:

Academic publishing is famously brutal. You might have a great manuscript that is under review that is rejected based on comments of one anonymous reviewer who thinks that you use too many exclamation points. Or a reviewer who is bitter because you didn’t cite his particular work. Or a reviewer who didn’t really read the manuscript and who goes on to criticize your work for neglecting some important statistical process that you, in fact, implemented plainly and correctly. 

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I know, because I have published more than 100 academic pieces in my career to date. I’ve pretty much been through it all. 

From this context, I will say that the most difficult paper that my team (the New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab) and I have ever tried to publish was a paper on the topic of political motivations that underlie academic values of academics. 

That paper, inspired by a visit to our campus from NYU’s Jonathan Haidt, founder of the Heterodox Academy, was, a bit surprisingly to us, so controversial that it was rejected by nearly 10 different academic journals. Each rejection came with a new set of reasons. After some point, it started to seem to us that maybe academics just found this topic and our results too threatening. Maybe this paper simply was not politically correct. I cannot guarantee that this is what was going on, but I can tell you that we put a ton of time into the research and, as someone who’s been around the block when it comes to publishing empirical work in the behavioral sciences, I truly believe that this research was generally well-thought-out, well-implemented, and well-presented. And it actually has something to say about the academic world that is of potential value. 

Civics: Google Censorship Examples

Matt Taibbi:

The IYSSE, a student movement affiliated with international Socialist parties, was suspended over an obscure technical violation (see explanation below). It was reinstated after nine days, which in a period of increasingly draconian tech penalties might have been a small surprise. 

Less surprising was that yet another organization associated with the World Socialist Web Site had been hit with a punitive content moderation decision. For much of the last four years, the WSWS has been a bit of a canary in the coal mine, when it comes to new forms of censorship and speech restrictions. 

Many Americans didn’t pay attention to new forms of content moderation until May, 2019, when a group of prominent tech platforms banned figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopolis. A legend quickly spread that such campaigns exclusively target the right. Long before then, however, the WSWS had been trying to sound the alarm about the impact of corporate speech moderation on dissenting voices on the progressive left. As far back as August of 2017, the WSWS sent an open letter to Google, demanding that it stop the “political blacklisting” of their site, as well as others.

Like many alternative news sites, WSWS noticed a steep decline in traffic in 2016-2017, after Donald Trump was elected and we began to hear calls for more regulation of “fake news.” Determined to search out the reason, the site conducted a series of analyses that proved crucial in helping convince outlets like the New York Times to cover the issue. In its open letter to Google, the WSWS described inexplicable changes to search results in their political bailiwick:

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

Why the data wobbles

Erin Kissane:

We compile and publish COVID-19 data organized by the date on which it’s reported, rather than by date of specimen collection, data of symptom onset, date of death, etc. To see how holiday delays affect this data, we can look at the way weekends and holidays have caused predictable dips and rises in the numbers we compile every day from US states and territories.

If you’ve been following the data we report, you’ll probably be familiar with the day-of-week effects that make many state-reported COVID-19 metrics so jagged on the charts. On Wednesday through Saturday, we tend to see peak reporting for tests, cases, and deaths. Sunday and Monday, on the other hand, are usually very low in comparison. (This is the main reason we use—and advocate for the use of—seven-day averages for most COVID-19 metrics.) 

The reasons for these effects are many, and extend from test administration all the way through to the process of getting the data onto an official website. On weekends, fewer doctors’ offices and other testing sites are open, so fewer people get tested, which means that fewer tests make it to labs. The reporting systems, too, are affected: Fewer results are reported to health departments, and fewer health department staff are at their desks to turn those results into the data points we eventually see under tests and cases. 

Radical Lives Matter An Old, Old Story

Scott Walter:

Are you surprised that as anarchists loot, a mainstream publisher issues, and National Public Radio boosts, a book that justifies looting?  Why? Property is theft, the anarchist Proudhon declared in the 1800s, echoing a sentiment of the Marquis de Sade from the 1700s.

Are you surprised Black Lives Matter leaders call for ending the nuclear family? Why? In 1848 Marx demanded Abolition of the family! in The Communist Manifesto.

Are you surprised the establishment press believes injuries in this year’s urban violence are always caused by “police brutality”? Why? As a Black Panther in 1968, Eldridge Cleaver invented a bogus martyrdom-by-police for his comrade Bobby Hutton and fed it into the media via a white radical who became a Los Angeles Times reporter.[1]

In short, the radical ideas and violence associated with the Black Lives Matter movement are simply the latest eruptions of a type of left-wing politics that goes back decades, at least. Indeed, current movement leaders are tied directly to radical leaders and groups from a half-century of failed movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Liberation, the Weathermen, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Black Panther Party. This unsavory political current also encompasses still more disturbing cases of extremism, including the Charles Manson cult and the Peoples Temple led by Jim Jones, notorious for a mass suicide in Guyana that took over 900 lives with poisoned Kool-Aid.

Some, like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his fellow Soviet dissident Igor Shafarevich, as well as the philosopher Eric Voegelin, would argue that this kind of fanaticism goes much further back, that it is rooted in a permanent temptation of the soul to rebel against the human condition.

If these claims seem far-fetched, let us test them against the youthful Black Lives Matter movement by considering first its organizational history, then the intellectual history of its most prominent leaders, and finally its place in the history of left-wing movements in America.

Several themes will recur in these interconnected stories: political extremism based on Manichaean dualisms (“No bad protestor, No good cop,” for instance); education in Marxist-Leninist theory and adoration of Marxist-Leninist tyrants around the world; hatred of law enforcement personnel and the country whose laws they enforce; non-traditional (to say the least) families and sexual lives; and a tendency to leap from one extreme to its opposite (from pacifism to murderous violence, for example).

Jan Morris, The Art of the Essay No. 2

Leo Lerman:

Jan Morris was born James Humphrey Morris on October 2, 1926, in Somerset, England. As she recalled in her memoir, Conundrum, “I was three or four when I realized that I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl.” First intimations. But she would live as a man for the next thirty-six years, mentioning her sexual confusion only to her wife Elizabeth, whom she married at twenty-two in Cairo, where she was working for the local Arab News Agency.

Morris left boarding school at the age of seventeen and served for the next five years in the 9th Queen’s Lancers, one of Britain’s best cavalry regiments. She then moved to Cairo, but soon returned to Britain, attending Oxford for two years before reentering journalism as a reporter for the Times, which assigned her, because no one else was available, to cover the Hillary and Tensing expedition to Mount Everest. At twenty-six, having never before climbed a mountain, she scaled three-quarters (twenty-two thousand feet) of Everest to report the first conquest of the mountain. It was a world scoop, and won her international renown. She went on to a distinguished career as a foreign correspondent, for both the Times and the Guardian.

Colleges Have Shed 10% Of Their Employees Since The Pandemic Began

Chronicle:

September, the traditional start of the fall semester, saw the continuation of historic job losses at America’s colleges just as they sought some return to normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Preliminary estimates suggest that a net 152,000 fewer workers were employed by America’s private (nonprofit and for-profit) and state-controlled institutions of higher education in September, compared with August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which calculates industry-specific employee figures. The net number of workers who left the industry from February to September now sits at around 484,000.

Why Is Scientific Illiteracy So Acceptable?

Lawrence Krauss:

In the mid-1980s, when I taught a Physics for Poets class at Yale University, I was dumbstruck when I gave the students a quiz problem to estimate the total amount of water flushed in all the toilets in the US in one 24-hour period and I started to grade the quiz. In order to estimate this, you have to first estimate the population of the US. I discovered that 35 percent of my Yale students, many of whom were history or American studies majors, thought the population of the US was less than 10 million! I went around campus interrogating students I met, asking them what they thought the population of the US was. Again, about one-third of the students thought it was less than 10 million and a few even thought it was greater than a few billion.

How was such ignorance so common in a community commonly felt to contain the cream of the crop of young US college students?

Then it dawned on me. It wasn’t that these students were ignorant about US society. It was that they were rather “innumerate,” as the mathematician John Allen Paulos had labeled it in a book he wrote in the 1980s. They had no concept whatsoever of what a million actually represented. For them, a million and a billion were merely both too large to comprehend.

Columbia University bans 70 students for Covid-19 travel violations

Rob Frehse and Sheena Jones:

Columbia University says it has temporarily banned at least 70 students for violating the New York City school’s Covid-19 travel policy.

The MBA students traveled to Turks and Caicos, according to Columbia University spokesman Christopher Cashman.

That violated the school’s Covid-19 health compact, a protocol which restricts any official or organized group travel until further notice, Cashman said.

The Incredibly True Story of Renting a Friend in Tokyo

Chris Colin:

It’s muggy and I’m confused. I don’t understand where I am, though it was only a short walk from my Airbnb studio to this little curry place. I don’t understand the lunch menu, or even if it is a lunch menu. Could be a religious tract or a laminated ransom note. I’m new in Tokyo, and sweaty, and jet-lagged. But I am entirely at ease. I owe this to my friend Miyabi. She’s one of those reassuring presences, warm and eternally nodding and unfailingly loyal, like she will never leave my side. At least not for another 90 minutes, which is how much of her friendship I’ve paid for.

Miyabi isn’t a prostitute, or an escort or an actor or a therapist. Or maybe she’s a little of each. For the past five years she has been a professional rent-a-friend, working for a company called Client Partners.

Civics: Why Is All COVID-19 News Bad News?

Bruce Sacerdote, Ranjan Sehgal & Molly Cook:

We analyze the tone of COVID-19 related English-language news articles written since January 1, 2020. Ninety one percent of stories by U.S. major media outlets are negative in tone versus fifty four percent for non-U.S. major sources and sixty five percent for scientific journals. The negativity of the U.S. major media is notable even in areas with positive scientific developments including school re-openings and vaccine trials. Media negativity is unresponsive to changing trends in new COVID-19 cases or the political leanings of the audience. U.S. major media readers strongly prefer negative stories about COVID-19, and negative stories in general. Stories of increasing COVID-19 cases outnumber stories of decreasing cases by a factor of 5.5 even during periods when new cases are declining. Among U.S. major media outlets, stories discussing President Donald Trump and hydroxychloroquine are more numerous than all stories combined that cover companies and individual researchers working on COVID-19 vaccines.

Police-free schools: Security staff step up as Madison strategizes safety

Editor’s note: This story came about through a partnership between the Cap Times, Local Voices Network and a University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism class. Students analyzed the Cap Times People’s Agenda and chose to report on non-police solutions for community issues, one of the topics readers identified as a priority. Specifically, the student journalists explored what safety will look like without police officers in Madison schools.

On weekday afternoons, Eddie “Coach” Singleton, a security assistant at Cherokee Middle School on Madison’s west side, can be found sitting at his computer, watching as students trickle into a virtual classroom established for their lunch period. Singleton spends the hour getting to know students, playing games and building community.

Since schools have been virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions, he and other school security assistants, or SSAs, have used time they typically would have spent surveying school grounds or bouncing from room to room as an opportunity to build relationships with students by offering a virtual “open door” during downtime periods. There has been such a large turnout for the SSA-led lunch sessions, Cherokee had to recruit staff to split up and take shifts.

“There are a lot of kids that are willing to hang out virtually during lunch, so that’s very telling,” Singleton said. “Some kids just light up like a light bulb. There’s an eighth grade group and a seventh grade group where I barely get a word in because they’re just so happy to tell me all these things that are going on.”

The right move?

Freedom Inc., a local organization whose “youth squad” was prominent in the push for police-free schools, will work with MMSD to re-plan what safety and security will look like. M. Adams, co-executive director of Freedom Inc., described the ending of MMSD’s contract with MPD as a “victory” and hopes to help the district rethink what safety and justice means, especially for students of color.

Ananda Mirilli, a School Board member, described Freedom Inc. as one of the district’s partners in figuring out what to do going forward and said a Freedom Inc. representative is currently serving on the district’s safety/security Ad Hoc committee.

Mirilli said the concept of safety, both in and out of schools, differs based on race.

“In this country we have created a framework to say who gets to be safe, and so it’s important to also say… what does safe look like for Black people and other people?” Mirilli said. “Education inherently says that we build community, that we learn together, and we haven’t experienced that yet, and I believe we can.”

Castro said the district hopes to shift “from punitive and exclusionary punishment for students into more restorative justice, holistic approaches to student behavior.” 

While MPD will no longer fill the SRO capacity, Singleton said MMSD will still work with MPD to preserve safety in schools, calling the relationship a “partnership.”

“In my experience, there was never any awkwardness or resentment with the police when it was time to work together, it was just where we were solving something as a team,” Singleton said.

Assad said students built relationships with the officers and removing SROs from the schools was a performative action. Assad and Singleton both described former La Follette SRO Roderick Johnson as a positive force in the school.

“He would be what you considered like a pillar of the community out there at Madison La Follette as an SRO,” Singleton said. “I know that he’ll be missed in the building. He made some kids smile every day, he made some people feel safe every day.”

Wayne Strong, a retired Madison police lieutenant who served as an SRO at West High School, said while students of color may feel safer without the presence of law enforcement, now police responding to calls from the schools won’t have any prior relationship with the students. Interactions between students and police that are less personal could result in harsher interactions, he said. 

Other school districts are facing the same challenge, including in Minneapolis, the epicenter of the reignited issue. After swiftly removing police officers from its schools’ hallways, the school district created 11 new positions referred to as “Public Safety Support Specialists,” according to reporting from The 74.

While more than half of the 24 finalists for those positions have experience in education and work with the district in some way, The 74 reported that 14 have experience as police officers, corrections officials or private security guards.

The move has caught backlash from activists and parents, as well as the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. Through a Facebook post, the district admitted the positions were filled in an “accelerated” process in order to train new hires before the start of the school year.

While the district would have saved $1.1 million after a year without the Minneapolis Police Department contract, City Pages reported that most of those funds, up to $944,000, would be used to hire the public safety support specialists.

Freedom, Inc along with Wayne Strong are part of Madison Schools’ Safety and Security Ad Hoc Committee (see documents, as well).

Civics: IRS Could Search Warrantless Location Database Over 10,000 Times

Joseph Cox:

The IRS was able to query a database of location data quietly harvested from ordinary smartphone apps over 10,000 times, according to a copy of the contract between IRS and the data provider obtained by Motherboard.

The document provides more insight into what exactly the IRS wanted to do with a tool purchased from Venntel, a government contractor that sells clients access to a database of smartphone movements. The Inspector General is currently investigating the IRS for using the data without a warrant to try to track the location of Americans.

Civics: Demanding Silicon Valley Suppress “Hyper-Partisan Sites” in Favor of “Mainstream News” (The NYT) is a Fraud

Glenn Greenwald:

Due in part to a self-interested desire to re-establish their monopoly on discourse by crushing any independent or dissenting voices, and in part by a censorious and arrogant mindset which convinces them that only those of their worldview and pedigree have a right to be heard, they largely devote themselves to complaining that Facebook, Google and Twitter are not suppressing enough speech. It is hall-monitor tattletale whining masquerading as journalism: petulantly complaining that tech platforms are permitting speech that, in their view, ought instead be silenced.

In Tuesday’s New York Times, three of those censorious tech reporters — Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac, and Sheera Frenkel — published an articleon Facebook’s post-election deliberations over how to alter its algorithms to prevent the spread of what they deem “misinformation” regarding the election. The most consequential change they implemented, The New York Times explained, was one in which “hyperpartisan pages” are repressed in favor of promoting “a spike in visibility for big, mainstream publishers like CNN, The New York Times and NPR” — a change the Paper of Record heralded as having fostered “a calmer, less divisive Facebook.” 

More alarmingly, the NYT suggested (i.e., prayed) that these changes, designed by Facebook as an election-related emergency measure, would instead become permanent. Marvel at these two paragraphs and all of tenuous and self-serving assumptions buried in them:

How 9 governors are handling the next coronavirus wave

Politico:

President Donald Trump hasn’t been leading on the coronavirus and governors are again in charge of the nation’s response. They’re reacting with a patchwork policy that’s unlikely to head off the long-warned “dark winter” in America.

Governors are balancing rising case numbers and pressure to keep schools, restaurants and bars at least partially open. They’re employing loosely defined “curfews” on all but essential workers, admonishments over holding Thanksgiving dinners and reductions in capacity limits on indoor spaces — and a .

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What they’re not doing: Returning to the all-or-nothing approach of the pandemic’s earliest month, sparing a disease-weary public another round of lockdowns.

“Governors are being very, very careful. They’re being surgical in some of their requirements,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who has battled Republicans over his containment efforts, in an interview. “The big ones are making sure people wear masks and facial coverings. I think they’re doing a good job.”

Here’s a look at how nine governors — from across the country and from across the political spectrum — are responding to what experts fear may become the deadliest coronavirus surge yet in the U.S.

Madison City Council could decide if Edgewood High School gets lights for athletic field

Dean Mosiman:

Under the proposal, the school could use lights for 15 games during the current school year through July 31, 30 games during the 2021-22 school year, and 40 games during the 2022-23 school year and thereafter. Games could start no later than 7:30 p.m., and lights would have to be turned off 30 minutes after games end and no later than 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday or 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“We’re trying to continue to work with the neighborhood and come up with options,” Edgewood High School president Michael Elliott said, noting that many residents support the lights.

The Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association, however, has proposed an agreement based on mitigating noise, not on the number of games.

University rankings need a rethink

Elizabeth Gadd:

Researchers often complain about the indicators that hiring and grant committees use to judge them. In the past ten years, initiatives such as the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment and the Leiden Manifesto have pushed universities to rethink how and when to use publications and citations to assess research and researchers.

The use of rankings to assess universities also needs a rethink. These league tables, produced by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and the Times Higher Education World University Ranking (THE WUR) and others, determine eligibility for scholarships and other income, and sway where scholars decide to work and study. Governments devise policies and divert funds to help institutions in their countries claw up these rankings. Researchers at many institutions, such as mine, miss out on opportunities owing to their placing.

Two years ago, the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS), a collective of research-management organizations, invited me to chair a new working group on research evaluation with members from a dozen countries. From our first meeting, we were unanimous about our top concern: the need for fairer and more responsible university rankings. When we drew up criteria on what those would entail and rated the rankers, their shortcomings became clear.

I should have loved biology

James Somers:

I should have loved biology but I found it to be a lifeless recitation of names: the Golgi apparatus and the Krebs cycle; mitosis, meiosis; DNA, RNA, mRNA, tRNA.

In the textbooks, astonishing facts were presented without astonishment. Someone probably told me that every cell in my body has the same DNA. But no one shook me by the shoulders, saying how crazy that was. I needed Lewis Thomas, who wrote in The Medusa and the Snail:

For the real amazement, if you wish to be amazed, is this process. You start out as a single cell derived from the coupling of a sperm and an egg; this divides in two, then four, then eight, and so on, and at a certain stage there emerges a single cell which has as all its progeny the human brain. The mere existence of such a cell should be one of the great astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing except that cell.

I wish my high school biology teacher had asked the class how an embryo could possibly differentiate—and then paused to let us really think about it. The whole subject is in the answer to that question. A chemical gradient in the embryonic fluid is enough of a signal to slightly alter the gene expression program of some cells, not others; now the embryo knows “up” from “down”; cells at one end begin producing different proteins than cells at the other, and these, in turn, release more refined chemical signals; …; soon, you have brain cells and foot cells.

The value of owning more books than you can read

Kevin Dickinson,

The problem is that my book-buying habit outpaces my ability to read them. This leads to FOMO and occasional pangs of guilt over the unread volumes spilling across my shelves. Sound familiar?

But it’s possible this guilt is entirely misplaced. According to statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, these unread volumes represent what he calls an “antilibrary,” and he believes our antilibraries aren’t signs of intellectual failings. Quite the opposite.

One of the most powerful ways to close the racial gap in academic performance: Black boys need to see more Black men reading

James E. Causey:

He read in the hallway. Over his lunch hour. After school. He did it first as assistant principal at John Early Magnet School and then in the same role at East Nashville Magnet High School.

Curious, students would approach him. “What are you reading?” they’d ask. “Must be a good book.”

Pratt used their curiosity to explain how reading is the cornerstone of everything they did in school. If students dismissed books as boring, he asked what subjects they liked, explaining there was a book for everything they were interested in.

Some students eventually asked Pratt for recommendations.

“What I liked the most is how boys were curious about what I was reading,” he said. “It was like planting a seed.”

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]

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

The Weirdest People in the World review – a theory-of-everything study

Nicholas Guyatt:

Why did Europe play such an outsized role in human history? A generation ago, the geographer Jared Diamond offered an elegant answer in his book Guns, Germs and Steel: Europeans weren’t smarter than non-Europeans, but geography and natural resources propelled Europe’s development in particular directions. Harvard professor Joseph Henrich is a fan of Diamond but his new book takes a different approach. Henrich was trained as an anthropologist but now describes himself as a “cultural evolutionist”. In the same way that Darwin’s theory explains how life follows pathways of adaptation via natural selection, cultural evolution proposes that human cultures develop and transmit deep understandings and values across generations. There are many pathways of cultural evolution, Henrich contends, and no single human culture. To better understand the world and Europe’s influence on it, we need to recognise that European culture is, in Henrich’s key acronym, “weird”: western, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic.

Henrich insists that “weird” values are culturally determined and specific rather than universal or natural. Specific doesn’t mean bad. As the book’s subtitle suggests, he credits the “firmware” of “weird” cultural evolution for many of the modern world’s core values: meritocracy, representative government, trust, innovation, even patience and restraint. These were the products not simply of Europe’s distinctive and highly unusual milieu, but of a narrow force many of us have forgotten: the prescriptions and hangups of the Christian church.

Failing grades spike in Virginia’s largest school system as online learning gap emerges nationwide

Hannah Natanson:

A report on student grades from one of the nation’s largest school districts offers some of the first concrete evidence that online learning is forcing a striking drop in students’ academic performance, and that the most vulnerable students — children with disabilities and English-language learners — are suffering the most.

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, which has been mostly online since March, published an internal analysis this week showing that, between the last academic year and this one, the percentage of middle school and high school students earning F’s in at least two classes jumped by 83 percent: from 6 percent to 11 percent. By the end of the first quarter of 2020-2021, nearly 10,000 Fairfax students had scored F’s in two or more classes — an increase of more than 4,300 students as compared with the group who received F’s by the same time last year.

Experts have warned since the beginning of the pandemic, and the unexpected national experiment in online learning, that remote schooling would take a serious academic toll on children.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19, by Age and Race and Ethnicity

CDC.gov:

What is already known about this topic?

As of October 15, 216,025 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the United States; however, this might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality.

What is added by this report?

Overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred from late January through October 3, 2020, with 198,081 (66%) excess deaths attributed to COVID-19. The largest percentage increases were seen among adults aged 25–44 years and among Hispanic or Latino persons.

What are the implications for public health practice?

These results inform efforts to prevent mortality directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as efforts to minimize disruptions to health care.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

Why do so few people share fake news? It hurts their reputation

Sacha Altay, Anne-Sophie Hacquin, Hugo Mercier:

In spite of the attractiveness of fake news stories, most people are reluctant to share them. Why? Four pre-registered experiments (N = 3,656) suggest that sharing fake news hurt one’s reputation in a way that is difficult to fix, even for politically congruent fake news. The decrease in trust a source (media outlet or individual) suffers when sharing one fake news story against a background of real news is larger than the increase in trust a source enjoys when sharing one real news story against a background of fake news. A comparison with real-world media outlets showed that only sources sharing no fake news at all had similar trust ratings to mainstream media. Finally, we found that the majority of people declare they would have to be paid to share fake news, even when the news is politically congruent, and more so when their reputation is at stake.

Recent research suggests that we live in a “post-truth” era (Lewandowsky et al., 2017; Peters, 2018), when ideology trumps facts (Van Bavel and Pereira, 2018), social media are infected by fake news (Del Vicario et al., 2016), and lies spread faster than (some) truths (Vosoughi et al., 2018). We might even come to believe in fake news—understood as “fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent” (Lazer et al., 2018, p. 1094; see also Tandoc et al., 2018a)—for reasons as superficial as having been repeatedly exposed to them (Balmas, 2014).

In fact, despite the popularity of the “post-truth” narrative (Lewandowsky et al., 2017; Peters, 2018), an interesting paradox emerges from the scientific literature on fake news: in spite of its cognitive salience and attractiveness (Acerbi, 2019), fake news is shared by only a small minority of Internet users (Grinberg et al., 2019; Guess et al., 2019; Nelson and Taneja, 2018; Osmundsen et al., 2020). In the present article, we suggest and test an explanation for this paradox: sharing fake news hurts the epistemic reputation of its source and reduces the attention the source will receive in the future, even when the fake news supports the audience’s political stance.

How much political news do people see on Facebook? I went inside 173 people’s feeds to find out by Laura Hazard Owen.

M.I.T. Comprehensive Theory Exams in Microeconomics, 1961

Irwin Collier:

From the 1961 Economics Graduate Program Broschure

[boldface emphasis added]

Major Program and General Examinations

Work taken in the Department of Economics and Social Science for the doctorate in economics is divided—broadly speaking—into two separate options: economics and industrial relations. But there is considerable overlap between the two.

All students in both options are examined five fields. Among the fields presently available are the following: economic theory, advanced economic theory, monetary and fiscal economics, industrial organization, economic development, international economics, economics of innovation, labor economics and labor relations, personnel administration, human relations in industry, statistical theory and method, and economic history. Each student selects one field as having primary importance for this professional career; ordinarily this is the field in which he writes his dissertation, though exceptions may be made. The remaining four fields are designated secondary fields. One of the five fields must be economic theory.

Students are also required to have at least a minimum knowledge of statistics and economic history. This minimum is presently interpreted to mean one semester of work in each at the graduate level. Candidates who present statistics or economic history as a primary or secondary field normally take two or three semester subjects in the field and automatically satisfy the requirements in that area.

Additional commentary.

The absence of information in today’s press

Turning Chaos:

We’re told we live in the information age. Statements like this often quote the mind-boggling amount of data produced on the internet using exotic-sounding words like zettabytes per day as proof. To function in this sea of data, we’re supposed to find signals in the noise and read from credible sources of news and other information. With news media taking political stances, it’s not that easy.

My assertion, paradoxically, is that polarization has greatly diminished the quantity of information being produced and consumed via today’s press despite the sea of content they produce. The result is a loss of the press’s effectiveness in their two functions within a healthy democracy, as a check on government and promoter of informed debate.

Post-George Floyd, a Wave of ‘Anti-Racist’ Teaching Sweeps K-12 Schools Targeting ‘Whiteness’

John Murawski:

The president of the Lower Merion School Board on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line declared to families: “We need to eradicate white supremacy and heteropatriarchy in all of our institutions.”

In Maine, a coastal public school district where 3.7% of the 2,100 students are African American or Hispanic, the superintendent declared war on “the intentional barriers white people have built to harm Black people.” The top administrator added: “We grieve for all of the Black lives taken by white supremacy.”

Educators at the prestigious Brentwood College School in Los Angeles, have made more changes to the curriculum this year than any other in the private school’s nearly five decade history. Teachers are introducing critical race theory, which views U.S. history through the prism of racial conflict, and assigning readings from Ibram X. Kendi, the academic and author who contends race-neutral policies are the bulwark of the “White ethnostate.”

As part of the makeover, Brentwood School leaders have rolled out a fresh theme this year for fifth graders: “Identity and Power.”

The Government’s Reckless Student Lending is Creating a Budget Hole Akin to the 2008 Crisis, New Analysis Shows

Brad Polumbo:

There’s no doubt that federal student loan programs were created with good intentions. Advocates wanted to help more young Americans pursue a college education and achieve social mobility. But the unintended consequences of short-sighted federal intervention into the higher education market are growing ever more apparent by the day.

Ample research already documents the way that federal subsidization of student loans has led to rampant tuition price inflation. 

Per CNBC, private colleges have seen 129 percent price inflation since 1988 in inflation-adjusted dollars. At public colleges, prices have more than doubled over the same period. By handing out student loans like candy on Halloween, the federal government artificially inflated demand—thus encouraging and enabling tuition hikes.

For instance, research published by the New York Federal Reserve found that every dollar the government gave out in subsidized loans led to a 60 cent rise in tuition rates. And a Harvard study comparing higher education programs that accepted federal aid to those that did not found that tuition at aid-accepting programs grew much faster.

Training Bias Out of Teachers: Research Shows Little Promise So Far

Sarah Sparks:

This summer, the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools held a series of anti-racist town hall meetings in the wake of the police-led killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on people of color in their community. But the conversation rapidly turned to inequalities within in the school system.

“I would describe it as a harsh look into the current realities of what our students and our families are saying to us around anti-racism in our schools,” said Goodrell Middle School Principal Peter LeBlanc, who noted the conversations are part of the district’s ongoing equity audit. “The foundational finding, which we call it, is our current school system is perpetuating systemic racism.”

More than 6 in 10 students in the Des Moines district are students of color, while more than 9 in 10 school employees are white, and both students and staff of color reported a lack of diversity in staffing and curriculum, as well as inequitable school policies and practices. Data backed them up; for example, Black and Hispanic graduation rates in Des Moines still trail those of white and Asian students.

The Democrats’ Push to ‘Cancel’ $50k in Student Loan Debt Completely Ignores the Real Reason College Is So Expensive

Brad Polumbo:

Calls are mounting among Democrats and progressives for a prospective Biden administration to make “canceling” student debt a top priority.

The loudest demands have come from progressive legislators such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar. Meanwhile, prominent senators such as Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer are imploring Biden to “cancel” $50,000 in student debt via executive order.

Student loan forgiveness is good, actually
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 16, 2020

Student loan debt is holding back a whole generation from buying homes, starting small businesses, and saving for retirement – all things we rely on to grow our economy. Executive action to #CancelStudentDebt would be a huge economic stimulus during and after this crisis.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) November 16, 2020

While this legally dubious use of executive authority is still a matter of debate in Democratic circles, most elected Democrats support “canceling” some student debt via legislation. For example, in May House Democrats passed the “HEROES Act,” a COVID-19 relief package that included $10,000 in taxpayer-financed student debt relief. (To be clear, student debt “cancelation” just means that taxpayers must pay it off.)

‘I’ll leave the city for my kids to get educated’

Joanne Jacobs:

Several parents noted that many private schools are teaching in person. City-funded preschool programs are operating if they’re in private schools, but closed if they’re in district buildings.

If the chaos and incompetence drives middle-class families out of the city or into private schools and students who remain have learned little but knock-knock jokes, New York City’s public schools will go into a death spiral.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Run for Office: Dane County Executive is on the Spring, 2021 ballot.

Why the DOJ Has a Strong Case Against Google

Federalist Society:

It is notable that this case has arisen at all , given the institutional power Google wields in Washington. As recently as 2013, the Federal Trade Commission closed an antitrust investigation into Google, despite staff recommendations finding that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”

But now, agencies and committees across the government and the nation seem to agree that some legal action should be taken against Google.

The suit also comes on the heels of a remarkable 16 month investigation into the Big Tech giants by the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, resulting in bipartisan agreement regarding evidence of anti-competitive actions taken by Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts use Google services, including Madison.

High family income, not SAT scores, is your real ticket to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton

Michael Sandel:

First, the SAT, it turns out, does not measure scholarly aptitude or native intelligence independent of social and educational background. To the contrary, SAT scores are highly correlated with wealth. The higher your family income, the higher your SAT score. At each successive rung on the income ladder, average SAT scores increase. For scores that put students in contention for the most selective colleges, the gap is especially stark. If you come from a family with an annual income greater than $200,000, your chance of scoring above 1400 (out of 1600) is one in five. If you come from a poor family (less than $20,000 per year), your chance is one in fifty. Those in high-scoring categories are also, overwhelmingly, children of parents with college degrees.

Beyond the general educational advantages well-off families can provide, the SAT scores of the privileged are boosted by the use of private test- prep courses and tutors. Some, in places like Manhattan, charge as much as $1,000 per hour for one-on-one tutoring. As meritocratic competition for college admission has intensified in recent decades, tutoring and test prep has become a billion-dollar industry.

The Inauthenticity Behind Black Lives Matter

Shelby Steele:

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina gave a remarkable speech at this year’s Republican National Convention. Yes, here was a black man at a GOP event, so there was a whiff of identity politics. When we see color these days, we expect ideology to follow. But Mr. Scott’s charisma that night was simply that he spoke as a person, not a spokesperson for his color.

Burgess Owens, Herschel Walker, Daniel Cameron and several others did the same. It was a parade of individuals. And in their speeches the human being stepped out from behind the identity, telling personal stories that reached for human connections with the American people—this rather than the usual posturing for leverage with tales of grievance. So they were all fresh and compelling.

Do these Republicans foretell a new racial order in America? Clearly they have pushed their way through an old racial order, as have—it could be argued—many black Trump voters in the recent election. I believe there is in fact a new racial order slowly and tenuously emerging, and that we blacks are swimming through rough seas to reach it. But to better see the new, it is necessary to know the old.

The old began in what might be called America’s Great Confession. In passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, America effectively confessed to a long and terrible collusion with the evil of racism. (President Kennedy was the first president to acknowledge that civil rights was a “moral issue.”) This triggered nothing less than a crisis of moral authority that threatened the very legitimacy of American democracy.

Kentucky AG joins legal challenge to governor’s order banning in-person learning at schools

Alex Nitsburg:

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Danville Christian Academy have filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order that all public and private K-12 schools must stop in-person learning and switch to remote learning starting Nov. 23. The legal challenge takes issue with the prohibition as it applies to religious institutions.

A complaint alleges violation of the federal and state constitutions and violation of the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The plaintiffs want the court to block the enforcement of the executive order against religious institutions such as Danville Christian Academy.

“The order allows schools to provide small group in-person targeted services as provided in Kentucky Department of Education guidance,” a complaint notes. “On information and belief, such services do not include in-person classroom instruction.”

Why Some Schools Close as Covid-19 Cases Rise When Others Stay Open

Leslie Brody and Yoree Koh:

In New York City, when 3% of tests for Covid-19 are positive, schools close. In Indianapolis, the trigger is 13%.

As the coronavirus pandemic surges, cities and school districts—even those located near each other—are making closure decisions based on differing criteria. Nationwide, the triggers for shutting classrooms vary widely, as do the sets of authorities who make the calls.

Complicating the decision: The understanding of the virus has been changing since schools across the country closed in the spring and sent more than 50 million students to remote learning. Since then, some studies show that schools aren’t major contributors to community spread. Some researchers say decisions to close often depend on a community’s density, transportation patterns, resources for safety steps, political atmosphere and local risk tolerance, as well as trends in the pandemic.

Wisconsin high court must rule on Racine’s power overreach

Racine Journal Times:

It’s one thing when an individual school district, such as Racine or Kenosha Unified, decide that they are going to go virtual. It’s another thing for the Racine health department to step in and rule that all schools, including private schools, in its jurisdiction must also shut their doors.

Yet that is exactly what Racine’s health director did when issuing an order saying that all schools within the department’s jurisdiction must switch to virtual learning from Nov. 27 through Jan. 15. That includes not just schools in private and public schools in Racine, but also Elmwood Park and Wind Point.

Now, local parents along with the assistance of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty are fighting the order, trying to stop it before it goes into effect.

And they are right to fight it. It’s an overreach by the City of Racine.

It’s exactly the type of order that the Wisconsin Supreme Court halted in September when Dane County and Public Health Madison tried to require virtual learning there for grades 3-12.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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]

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

Madison Schools’ Safety and Security Ad Hoc Committee November Meeting Documents

Administration slides:

1) Call to order
2) Approval of minutes dated Nov. 5, 2020
3) Review Charge Statement/Purpose & Timeline
4) Update of responses to questions & comments
5) What we heard from last meeting?
a) Successful Implementation of RJ Practices & MMSD- Critical Response Teams
6) Partnering with Law Enforcement- Flow and Guidance
7) Continue Discussion: RJ District-wide Implementation Best Practices-
Budget/Policy
8) Making Connections to Restorative Justice and Policy # 4147
a) Discuss Budget & Policy Recommendations: What do we need to continue the work?
What needs to be revised? Strengthened?
9) Confirm Next Meeting Dates/Times/Proposed Agenda Items
10) Adjournment

Freedom, Inc. Policy Proposal:

BACKGROUND

On July 21, 2020, Madison City Council took a historic near unanimous vote to terminate the contract between the Madison Police Department and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), which provided School Resource Officers for the city’s four high schools—the final step in formally removing police officers from Madison schools after the MMSD School Board voted to end the contract. This hard fought victory was the culmination of years long organizing by Black and Southeast Asian youth organizers of Freedom Inc’s “Freedom Youth Squad” who launched their “No Cops In Schools” campaign over four years ago. Removing the physical presence of police from schools is a crucial first step in prioritizing the health, safety, and well-being of Black youth and youth of color and protecting them from a system of policing that views them as threats and not as students. However, creating safe, nurturing, and liberatory learning environments for young people attending Madison schools demands much more than the physical removal of law enforcement from school campuses. It requires community control over school safety and discipline within MMSD, and a robust and transparent community-led accountability process for teachers, school administrators, and other school staff who continue to perpetuate the violent and harmful policing and criminalization of Black, Brown, LGTBQ, and differently abled students.

Template for Gathering Safety & Security Ad Hoc Committee Recommendations – Nov 19, 2020.

Committee Members:

Savion Castro (Madison School Board seat 2, appointed to fill Mary Burke’s incomplete term. Seat 2 is on the April, 2021 ballot). Run!

Gloria Reyes (Madison School Board seat 1, elected. This seat is on the April, 2021 ballot. Run!)

Kiesha Duncan (Madison student)

Vera Naputi (West High School Parent)

Stephanie Prewitt (LaFollette High School Parent)

Everett Mitchell (Dane County Circuit Judge)

Noble Wray (former Madison Police Chief)

Lorrie Hurckes-Dwyer (Dane County Time Bank)

Wayne Strong (Former Madison Police Officer and a candidate for the School Board)

Anthony Ward (School Security Staff)

Patrice Hutchins (East High Staff Member)

Corvonn Gaines (West High Staff Member)

Silvia Gomez (East High Staff Member)

Ed Sadlowski (Madison Teachers Union Executive Director)

Nadia Pearson (West High Student)

Bianca Gomez (Freedom, Inc.)

Martha Siravo (Madtown Mommas)

Marques Flowers (Memorial High Staff Member)

Ashzianna Alexander (LaFollette High Student)

Vanessa McDowell (YWCA)

Yanna Williams (Dear Diary)

(Member source document).

August 3 Capital Times post.

Brenda Konkel commentary.

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]

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

When Science Was the Best Show in America

Lee Alan Dugatkin:

On May 29, 1810, Katherine Fritsch, a sister in the Moravian Church, boarded a coach in Lititz, Pennsylvania, along with a group of her friends and began the 75-mile trek to Philadelphia. Fritsch noted in her diary the one city site she most wished to see: Peale’s Museum. On the grounds of the museum, whose two buildings sat on State House Square, with rows of trees and manicured lawns, Fritsch passed through a menagerie that included a large cage with a live eagle sitting “right majestically on his perch—above his head a placard with this petition on it: feed me daily for 100 years.”

THE MET OF ITS TIME: Charles Willson Peale painted this self-portrait to celebrate his pioneering museum. Its goal, he wrote his friend Thomas Jefferson, was to collect subjects in nature and “enlighten the minds of my countrymen.”Charles Willson Peale; The Artist in His Museum, 1822; Oil on canvas; Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Gift of Mrs. Sarah Harrison (The Joseph Harrison, Jr. Collection), 1878.1.2

From the yard, Fritsch went into the Peale Museum proper, through a door with “Whoso would learn Wisdom, let him enter here!” posted above. Fritsch walked past a turnstile that rang chimes to announce visitors. She walked up the stairs and into the Quadruped Room, which included a moose, llama, bear, bison, prong-horned antelope, hyena, and a jackal. She explored the Marine Room, overflowing with fish, amphibians, lizards, sponges, and corals. In the Long Room, glass cases were filled with hundreds of birds set against backdrops matching their natural environments; she saw insect cases in which the specimens could be rotated under a microscope. Fritsch didn’t get to see the museum’s mammoth skeleton, but noted in her diary that “all our talk was of how delightful had been our visit to the museum.”

Student Test Scores Drop in Math Since Covid-19 Pandemic

Leslie Brody and Yoree Koh:

American children started school this fall significantly behind expectations in math, and modestly behind in some grades in reading, according to one of the first reports on widely used tests since the coronavirus pandemic shut schools in March.

It would take students in grades five and six at least 12 weeks on average to catch up to where they were expected to be in the fall in math, compared with pre-pandemic skills, the report found. Children in grades two and three would need four to seven weeks to catch up in math, while those in grades four, seven and eight would need eight to 11 weeks.

The report was released by Renaissance Learning Inc., an online testing program used by thousands of U.S. schools to assess students several times yearly and track their progress.

Remote learning is here to stay — can we make it better?

Nilay Patel and Sophie Erickson:

Parents everywhere have had to quickly become experts in virtual learning and remote classrooms as the pandemic has shut down schools around the country — and the results haven’t been universally positive.

But there are some things that remote learning does better than classrooms: kids can learn at their own pace and rewatch lessons, they can interact with more of their peers, and they learn to set goals and achieve them. The challenge is balancing what online learning does well with what it can’t do — what we need classrooms to do.

For this week’s episode of Decoder with Nilay Patel, I talked to Sal Khan, the founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a nonprofit online learning platform for students in kindergarten through high school. Khan Academy is an organization that can only exist because of technology. Sal started tutoring his niece in math over video using off-the-shelf cameras and software, and Khan Academy has since grown into an organization with nearly 20 million users per month in 46 languages and more than 190 countries.

Some Math Problems Seem Impossible. That Can Be a Good Thing.

Patrick Honner:

It probably says a lot about me as a teacher that I assign problems like this. I watch as students try to arrange the right angles consecutively. When that doesn’t work, some try alternating the right angles. Failing again, they insert them randomly into the polygon. They scribble, erase and argue. The sound of productive struggle is music to a teacher’s ears.

Then they get suspicious and start asking questions. “You said four right angles. Did you really mean three?” “Are you sure you meant to say convex?” “Four right angles would basically make a rectangle. How can we get four more sides in our octagon?” I listen attentively, nodding along, acknowledging their insights.

Finally someone asks the question they’ve been tiptoeing around, the question I’ve been waiting for: “Wait, is this even possible?”

This question has the power to shift mindsets in math. Those thinking narrowly about specific conditions must now think broadly about how those conditions fit together. Those working inside the system must now take a step back and examine the system itself. It’s a question that’s been asked over and over in the history of math, by those working on problems ranging from squaring the circle to circumambulating the city of Königsberg. And it’s a question that helps us shape what mathematics is and how we understand it.

How anthologies help readers discover lost books

Jason Wordie::

Books, like everything else, have their own natural lifespans. Publishers of original material thought likely to be popular may choose to invest in a larger print run, which ensures more surviving copies. Conversely, marginal works might only merit a small initial outlay, with any reprint contingent on successful sales figures.

These can be significantly affected by capricious reviews; many a worthwhile book has been torpe­doed by a few unfortu­nate published remarks. Likewise, local-interest books produced in minority languages in relatively small, predominant­ly mono­lingual target markets – such as for English-reading audiences in Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan – result in even smaller print runs.

Unless serious biblio­philes in a parti­cular subject areas assiduously collect whatever newly appears, many titles sink without trace, becoming largely forgotten reference-library fossils. Eventually, some titles become of sufficient historical, cultural or literary interest to merit a full reprint, and find a new life.

School’s Out for Autumn in New York

Seth Barron:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that he was forced to close public schools—serving 1.1 million children—after the city’s coronavirus “positivity case” rate hit a seven-day rolling average of 3%. At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Mr. de Blasio cited a “data-driven, science-driven” decision-making process. The school system, which had opened for part-time, in-person classes only six weeks ago, shut its doors the next day.

The decision angered parents, as the virus hasn’t been spreading in schools. Tens of thousands of children and staff have been tested for Covid-19, with a reported case rate of only 0.19%. The school system is thus 15 times as safe as the city at large, so it makes little sense to close the schools to fight a rising second wave of infection. Most European countries have kept schools open even while businesses remain closed. The World Health Organization advises that there have been only limited cases of student-to-student transmission, and that school closures aren’t an effective means of reducing community transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has similarly concluded that the minor risks of keeping schools open for in-person learning are outweighed by the social and economic costs of closing them.

‘Mr Biden, the COVID task force said it’s safe for children to be back in class,’

“An emphasis on adult employment

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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]

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

Charter-school networks are outperforming traditional public schools

The Economist:

NEW YORK CITY’S schools may be closing, but the pupils at Success Academies, a network of charter schools which has placed all of its 20,000 pupils in remote learning, will still be wearing their uniform (vivid, pumpkin-orange shirts with navy trousers) every day of the week. Unlike traditional public schools in the city, which reopened eight weeks ago but are now closing as covid-19 cases spike, Success has remained all-virtual. Just as with their in-person offerings, high-performing charter networks have managed to create an exemplary virtual programme that other schools are starting to learn from.

Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success, compares the logistics of arranging high-quality remote learning to the D-Day operation. Children needed laptops, science kits, and noise-cancelling headphones. The 7% of her pupils who live in homeless shelters needed internet hotspots. “Remote 2.0’s” curriculum is continuously refined. Ms Moskowitz tweaked the school schedule, usually sacrosanct, to make more time for small-group learning. Unlike many schools, Success did not abandon learning standards or live teaching after closures started in the spring. It required pupils to snappily start school on time and in uniform. If a child is not at her screen by 9am, parents are called.

This approach has achieved “striking success in the face of the viral challenge,” notes a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think-tank. Like Success, Uncommon Schools, another high-performing network with 21,000 pupils, has now made much of its virtual curriculum available free online. At least 227,000 people from every state in America and 92 countries have used the materials. Anyone can log in to download lessons given by its best teachers. One family in Washington, DC, even sought to enroll their child virtually, despite being hundreds of miles from the nearest Uncommon school.

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]

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

Parental income as a marker for socioeconomic position during childhood and later risk of developing a secondary care-diagnosed mental disorder examined across the full diagnostic spectrum: a national cohort study

Christian Hakulinen, Pearl L. H. Mok, Henriette Thisted Horsdal, Carsten B. Pedersen, Preben B. Mortensen, Esben Agerbo & Roger T. Webb:

Links between parental socioeconomic position during childhood and subsequent risks of developing mental disorders have rarely been examined across the diagnostic spectrum. We conducted a comprehensive analysis of parental income level, including income mobility, during childhood and risks for developing mental disorders diagnosed in secondary care in young adulthood.

Is Our Workforce Overqualified?

Itxu Diaz:

We have a problem: there are too many smart people in the world. There are too many overqualified workers. There are too many college degrees. There are too many applicants for positions that rely on a particular kind of intelligence. Our modern labor markets have inflated to the extreme the appreciation of highly intellectual jobs, disregarding those that require craftsmanship or simply soul, delicacy, or empathy.

Hardly anyone wants to care for the elderly, or repair short-circuited sockets, or slice meat in a supermarket. Most young people are too busy trying to hack their way into some big consulting firm that promises a bright, bold future. And they’re willing to do just about anything to get there, including sacrificing their family life, their leisure, their friendships—selling their own mother at a flea market if necessary.

According to the OECD, 45% of young Americans have a lovely, shiny college degree under their arm. Of course, we should congratulate them on their efforts. But we should also tell them the truth: as the number of graduates expands, the value of the degree decreases. Much of young people’s frustration comes from the fact that a college degree no longer guarantees that they will find a job worthy of their high qualifications. There have come to be more economists than economy, more lawyers than lawsuits, more engineers than bridges.

So something disconcerting happens, as British essayist David Goodhart has realized. In many Western countries, while young graduates find themselves in a working hell that falls far short of expectations—wandering around scrounging for jobs with salaries far below what they thought their training was worth—workers with less glamorous reputations, such as electricians or plumbers, earn a far better living at a much lower cost.

Students for Life sues D.C. for ban on ‘Black preborn lives matter’ mural after allowing anti-police mural

Greg Piper:

City has turned a blind eye to all other political ‘defacement’ for months

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody in May, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel commissioned a two-block-long street mural reading BLACK LIVES MATTER just north of the White House.

She allowed Black Lives Matter activists to paint DEFUND THE POLICE right next to it – also in permanent paint.

Given this green light for political expression in favor of black lives, pro-life students started writing “Black preborn lives matter” in chalk on the public sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood facility in D.C. Police arrested them before they could even finish.

Students for Life of America, the black conservative Frederick Douglass Foundation and their staff members have now sued the city in federal court, with an “as-applied” constitutional challenge to D.C.’s so-called defacement code.

Why financial literacy matters more than ever

Patrick Jenkins::

Growing up in a just-about-managing former market town on the fringes of the south Wales valleys, with a music teacher dad and a psychologist mum, there weren’t many signs to suggest I would develop an interest in finance. Then, for my 16th birthday, my father gave me a present: £100-worth of BT shares on the occasion of the telecoms group’s Thatcherite privatisation. For months afterwards, I would check the share-price pages of The Daily Telegraph, my parents’ paper of choice. If the stock was up a ½ pence, I would rejoice that I was now £1 better off.

Primitive stuff. And yet that early interest has taken me to my current job as the Financial Times’ deputy editor. Financial literacy has been the cornerstone of my career.

The contrast between my professional life and my early years, as well as the stark gap between haves and have-nots in northeast London where I live, are among the factors that have encouraged me to try to make a difference. In the coming months, the FT is going to establish its first ever charitable foundation, the Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign.

We no longer live in a world of paternalistic employers, nanny states and friendly bank managers. The shift towards a myriad choice of financial products, self-determined retirement planning and sometimes unscrupulous companies that seek to exploit us has made it steadily more important for all of us to have a firm grasp of basic finance. Your mobile phone contract might be great value or a horrible rip-off. Your credit score can rule your life unless you understand its mysteries. These would be reasons enough for the FT to be launching this initiative.

Cancel student-loan debt? That’s making the working class subsidize the elite!

Jonah Goldberg:

One good rule of thumb is to judge parties and politicians by their priorities. Look at which things they actually work to achieve or spend political capital on. This will tell you not only what they’re really for, but which constituents they really care about.

By that metric, it will be very revealing if one of Joe Biden’s first actions as president will be to forgive student debt.

That’s an idea swirling around Democratic circles — particularly among the progressive base. The base turned out for Biden, and now they want their pay-off — literally so, in the case of massive debt forgiveness.

Last week, a coalition of 236 progressive groups led by teachers unions called on Biden to cancel student debt on his first days in office. Biden himself has already urged Congress to cancel $10,000 as part of a pandemic relief package.

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have called for even greater debt forgiveness. Sanders’ plan would cost an estimated $1.6 trillion dollars.

New York’s School Closure Sends Parents Scurrying for Backup

Kate King and Charles Passy:

New York City’s decision to switch back to fully remote learning in its public schools sent parents scrambling for backup.

Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered schools to temporarily end in-person instruction beginning Thursday due to rising coronavirus cases in the city. Companies that provide learning pods and tutoring services say they have had an increase in inquiries from parents looking for some kind of in-person or individualized instruction.

Hundreds of thousands of students were attending in-person classes this fall, according to the most recent data available, with another 541,000 students opting for fully remote learning. About one million students were enrolled in New York City public schools last year.

Staten Island resident Steve Stanulis said he is rushing to find child care or a pod-style setup for his three children in grade school. Learning pods, which can be organized by parents or private companies, offer in-person instruction to a small group of children who are taught by either a parent or professional teacher or tutor.

“It’s all fear and not enough fact”

Jessica Chasmar:

CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday slammed the closures of New York City schools amid the uptick in coronavirus cases, saying the decision is being based on “fear and not enough fact.”

During a discussion with Dr. Anthony Fauci on his show Thursday night, Mr. Cuomo, who is the brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to shut down in-person learning Thursday without revealing a plan for reopening after the city overall hit a 3% positive COVID-19 test rate.

“I am an antagonist, full disclosure, to the idea of how we’re handling schools,” CNN’s Mr. Cuomo told Dr. Fauci. “It doesn’t make sense to me, Doc, that one case closes down a whole school. They don’t have any real ways of getting you testing. They have different kinds of tests and different periods.

Parents Are Watching Like Never Before. ‘Trust Us’ Isn’t Enough

Sonja Brookins Santelises:

Since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools across the country, district leaders and educators have worked to navigate the challenges of this “new normal” in education. And nowhere have the challenges been steeper than in districts like the one I lead in Baltimore.

Like other districts already battling historic and systematic disinvestment in our schools and communities, Baltimore schools have advocated for everything that our educators and students need. We have zeroed in on the digital divide, using precious funds to connect students with devices and hotspots, while rallying for free internet for our students and families. We have called on our state leaders and Congress to pass legislation to ensure sorely needed emergency funding for public schools.

These efforts are critical. But if we focus all our attention outward, we educators will miss the real opportunity of our new reality: a once-in-a-generation chance to turn our attention aggressively inward, using the crisis upon us to accelerate the unfinished work of repairing the flaws and deep systemic inequities of the “old normal” in American education.

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]

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

Schools Don’t Spread Covid. Teachers’ Unions Don’t Care.

Joe Nocera:

My first boss in journalism was Charlie Peters of the Washington Monthly, whose way of mentoring his young staff writers was to assign us articles that took us well out of our comfort zones. Given that my parents were both public school teachers, it was inevitable that when the teachers’ union in Washington, D.C., called for a strike in the fall of 1978, Peters told me to write about it.

Working on that article turned me into a critic of teachers’ unions, as Peters knew it would. Sadly, nothing that has happened in the ensuing 42 years — including, most recently, the unions’ insistence that schools be shut down during the pandemic — has caused me to change my mind.

In the 1970s, when I first started writing about teachers’ unions, the main issues they fought with school districts about were work rules. After a series of strikes in the early 1960s, teachers won the right to collective bargaining, which allowed them to negotiate for higher pay; for limits on the number of hours they worked; for due process rights for teachers; and more. They also gained a great deal of political power by aligning themselves with the Democratic Party.

Without question, teachers deserved to make more money — they still do — but the work rules turned out to be terribly damaging to public education. Those “due process rights” made it impossible to fire bad teachers. Seniority rules put length of service over merit and talent — and often drove good young teachers out of the profession. Limiting the number of hours a teacher had to be in the building meant that students who needed extra help never got it.

Houston-area schools see surge in failing students as COVID wreaks havoc on grades

Jacob Carpenter:

Students across Greater Houston failed classes at unprecedented rates in the first marking period, with some districts reporting nearly half of their middle and high schoolers received at least two F grades because they routinely missed classes or neglected assignments.

The percentage of students failing at least one class has doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in several of the region’s largest school districts, education administrators reported in recent days, a reflection of the massive upheaval caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

If those trends keep up, districts expect to see a decline in graduation rates, an increase in summer school demand and a need for intensive support to accommodate students falling behind, among numerous other consequences.

Information Overload Helps Fake News Spread, and Social Media Knows It

Filippo Menczer and Thomas Hills:

Consider Andy, who is worried about contracting COVID-19. Unable to read all the articles he sees on it, he relies on trusted friends for tips. When one opines on Facebook that pandemic fears are overblown, Andy dismisses the idea at first. But then the hotel where he works closes its doors, and with his job at risk, Andy starts wondering how serious the threat from the new virus really is. No one he knows has died, after all. A colleague posts an article about the COVID “scare” having been created by Big Pharma in collusion with corrupt politicians, which jibes with Andy’s distrust of government. His Web search quickly takes him to articles claiming that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu. Andy joins an online group of people who have been or fear being laid off and soon finds himself asking, like many of them, “What pandemic?” When he learns that several of his new friends are planning to attend a rally demanding an end to lockdowns, he decides to join them. Almost no one at the massive protest, including him, wears a mask. When his sister asks about the rally, Andy shares the conviction that has now become part of his identity: COVID is a hoax.

This example illustrates a minefield of cognitive biases. We prefer information from people we trust, our in-group. We pay attention to and are more likely to share information about risks—for Andy, the risk of losing his job. We search for and remember things that fit well with what we already know and understand. These biases are products of our evolutionary past, and for tens of thousands of years, they served us well. People who behaved in accordance with them—for example, by staying away from the overgrown pond bank where someone said there was a viper—were more likely to survive than those who did not.

Modern technologies are amplifying these biases in harmful ways, however. Search engines direct Andy to sites that inflame his suspicions, and social media connects him with like-minded people, feeding his fears. Making matters worse, bots—automated social media accounts that impersonate humans—enable misguided or malevolent actors to take advantage of his vulnerabilities.

Ramanujan’s Easiest Formula

Azimuth:

A while ago I wanted to figure out how to prove one of Ramanujan’s formulas. I figure this is the sort of thing every mathematician should think about at least once.

I picked the easiest one I could find. Hardy called it one of the “least impressive”. Still, it was pretty interesting: it turned out to be a puzzle within a puzzle. It has an easy outer layer which one can solve using standard ideas in calculus, and a tougher inner core which requires more cleverness. This inner core was cracked first by Laplace and then by Cauchy. Not being clever enough to do it myself, I read Cauchy’s two-page paper on this subject to figure out the trick. It was in Latin, and full of mistakes, but still brilliant.

On Friday November 20th I’m giving a talk about this at the Whittier College Math Club, which is run by my former student Brandon Coya. Here are my slides:

When ‘tsunami’ was introduced to the English language, and what it means

Lisa Lim:

“On the evening of June 15, 1896, the northeast coast of Hondo, the main island of Japan, was struck by a great earthquake wave (tsunami), which was more destructive of life and property than any earthquake convulsion of this century in that empire.”

This was perhaps the first time the word “tsunami” was introduced to English users – in an article in the September 1896 issue of National Geographic magazine, given in parentheses and in italics as the Japanese word for “great earthquake wave”.

“Tsunami” is, in fact, composed of the Japanese tsu meaning “port, harbour”, and nami meaning “wave”, and pronounced with the initial “ts” as in the Japanese.

In spite of its appearance in National Geographic, the word did not, in fact, gain much traction in the English-speaking world in the 19th century, though its use is noted in geological articles in the early 20th century.

How to get good at chess

Stephen Moss:

The first thing to say about chess is that we are not all natural geniuses like Beth Harmon, the star of The Queen’s Gambit, who is taught the game by grumpy but lovable janitor Mr Shaibel at the age of nine and is very soon beating him.

The daughter of a maths PhD, she sees the patterns and movement in chess immediately, can visualise effortlessly – being able to memorise moves and play without a board is the sign of chess mastery – and sees whole games on the ceiling of her orphanage dormitory. She is a prodigy, just like world champion Bobby Fischer, on whom Walter Tevis based the novel from which the TV series is drawn. We are mere mortals. So how do we get good?

First, by loving chess. “You can only get good at chess if you love the game,” Fischer said. You need to be endlessly fascinated by it and see its infinite potential. Be willing to embrace the complexity; enjoy the adventure. Every game should be an education and teach us something. Losing doesn’t matter. Garry Kasparov, another former world champion, likes to say you learn far more from your defeats than your victories. Eventually you will start winning, but there will be a lot of losses on the way. Play people who are better than you, and be prepared to lose. Then you will learn.

Cuesta College trustee won’t resign despite calls from critics: ‘I will not be bullied’ Read more here:

MacKenzie Shuman:

Sysak’s fellow trustees — Mary Strobridge, Patrick Mullen, Barbara George, Angela Mitchell and student trustee Jesus Cendejas — were among those calling for Sysak’s resignation.

But Sysak said Thursday that he does not plan to step down.

With Sysak abstaining from the vote, Cuesta College’s board of trustees unanimously voted Thursday to form an ad hoc committee to investigate Sysak’s now-deleted Facebook posts and present their findings at the next board meeting on Dec. 9. The committee will consist of two board members — Strobridge and Mullen — with a Cuesta College human resources employee acting as the moderator for the committee.

That committee will also bring back recommendations for the Cuesta College board to form a broader committee to advise the board on equity and diversity matters.

During the Dec. 9 meeting, the board may choose to censure Sysak, which “is an official expression of disapproval of a board member’s actions by the board,” according to the board’s policies.

Teachers Should Get the Covid Vaccine First

Aaron Strong and Jonathan Welburn:

Two vaccine trials reported highly encouraging results in the past week, with both versions looking to be 95% effective or better. If one or both are approved for emergency use, the U.S. might have enough doses for 20 million people in early 2021. How should the initial supply be allocated? Should it be given to populations with a higher mortality risk, or to people who are most likely to spread disease at higher rates?

Most agree that America’s 18 million health-care workers should top the list. The 3.3 million teachers should come next.

Combating this pandemic has always been about saving lives while allowing the economy to function. The latter isn’t only about immediate business reopenings; it’s also about avoiding long-term harm to the economy and a generation of schoolchildren. That requires laying the groundwork to reopen schools for full-time in-person learning as soon as possible.