All posts by Jim Zellmer

“In your recent departmental emails you mentioned our pledge to diversity, but I am increasingly alarmed by the absence of diversity”

University of California – Berkeley Professor, written anonymously:

In the extended links and resources you provided, I could not find a single instance of substantial counter-argument or alternative narrative to explain the under-representation of

black individuals in academia or their over-representation in the criminal justice system. The explanation provided in your documentation, to the near exclusion of all others, is univariate: the problems of the black community are caused by whites, or, when whites are not

physically present, by the infiltration of white supremacy and white systemic racism into American brains, souls, and institutions.

Many cogent objections to this thesis have been raised by sober voices, including from within the black community itself, such as Thomas Sowell

and Wilfred Reilly. These people are not racists or ‘Uncle Toms’. They are intelligent scholars who reject a narrative that strips black people of agency and systematically externalizes the problems of the black community onto outsiders.

Their view is entirely absent from the departmental and UCB-wide communiques.

The claim that the difficulties that the black community faces are entirely causally explained by exogenous factors in the form of white systemic racism, white supremacy, and other forms of

white discrimination remains a problematic hypothesis that should be vigorously challenged by historians. Instead, it is being treated as an axiomatic and actionable truth without serious consideration of its profound flaws, or its worrying implication of total black impotence.

This hypothesis is transforming our institution and our culture, without any space for dissent outside of a tightly policed, narrow discourse.

A counternarrative exists. If you have time, please consider examining some of the documents I attach at the end of this email.

Overwhelmingly, the reasoning provided by BLM and allies is either primarily anecdotal (as in the case with the bulk of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ undeniably moving article) or it is transparently motivated. As an example of the latter problem, consider the proportion of

black incarcerated Americans. This proportion is often used to characterize the criminal justice system as anti-black. However, if we use the precise same methodology, we would have to conclude that the criminal justice system is even more anti-male than it is anti-black.

Would we characterize criminal justice as a systemically misandrist conspiracy against innocent American men? I hope you see that this type of reasoning is flawed, and requires a significant suspension of our rational faculties. Black people are not incarcerated at higher rates

Virtual schools see bump in interest as COVID-19 pandemic makes for uncertain fall

Logan Wroge:

In a normal week, Parr fields about five or six phone calls. But in recent weeks, he said he’s been answering easily 70 calls a week from across the region, including many from Madison.

Parr said he could see the online school’s enrollment, which was about 150 full-time students this year and a similar number part-time, double in the fall — if not grow by more.

When in-person classes were canceled in mid-March to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Parr said districts tried their best to transition students to digital learning. But he’s heard from parents about mixed results.

“The No. 1 complaint I hear is, ‘I don’t want to go back to what we were doing,’” Parr said. “I feel for those districts, because that kind of got sprung on them.”

For nearly two decades, virtual charter schools have been an option for Wisconsin students, acting as an outlet for students being severely bullied, children with health problems, expelled students and others seeking flexibility or a different learning environment.

But COVID-19 is a new cause for families to seek the safety of learning remotely as the public health crisis wraps the future of traditional schooling in unknowns.

Enrollment in virtual charters grew steadily in the past five years, with 8,696 students educated in 48 schools this school year — an all-time high on both counts. Four virtual charter schools enrolled 265 students during the 2002-03 academic year, when the model first emerged.

I wonder how the taxpayer supported Madison School District’s “infinite campus” online usage looks today, from the teacher, staff, student and parent perspective?

2012 Madison school district infinite campus usage report.

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

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Dane County school districts waive requirements for graduation

Chris Rickert:

All 16 of the school districts completely or partially within Dane County have waived or loosened at least two academic standards to help seniors graduate at a time when schools have been shut down since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Information from the districts and the state Department of Public Instruction also shows that the poorer and more diverse a district’s student body, the more likely the district’s leadership sought graduation requirement waivers from the state and lowered other standards.

The Wisconsin State Journal asked the districts to report whether they had:

• Changed grading standards after schools shut down;

• Reduced the number of credits needed to graduate;

• Sought waivers of the state’s civics exam, minimum instructional hours and educator effectiveness requirements;

• Made any other changes to help seniors graduate.

Every district had loosened requirements in at least two areas, and two districts — Middleton-Cross Plains and Sun Prairie — had loosened them in six, including waiving the requirement that students complete a certain number of community service hours to graduate.

The county’s largest district, Madison, reported reducing the number of credits needed to graduate from 22 to the state minimum of 15, moving to a pass/fail grading system and getting state waivers for the civics test and minimum number of instructional hours.

DPI had made clear at the beginning of school shutdowns that it would not seek to deny waivers of the civics, minimum instructional hours and educator effectiveness requirements. Some districts did not need waivers for the civics exam because it had already been administered by the time the schools were closed.

Linn Posey-Maddox, an associate professor of educational policy studies at UW-Madison, said the pandemic exacerbates existing racial inequities in education

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

As the Madison School district plans for more budget cuts, Evers hopeful no budget repair bill necessary

Briana Reilly:

While MMSD is heavily reliant on property taxes instead of state aid compared to other districts, a decrease to the revenue authority or other measures that would lower the levy limit would serve as a funding cut. The district already cut $8 million from the 2019-20 budget in the preliminary 2020-21 budget.

Contingencies could include cutting as many as 92 full-time staff positions or undoing much of the planned wage increases for staff, based on a survey the district sent to staff last week.

Ruppel wrote that the district will move forward with its “core values at the forefront” as it considers the 2020-21 budget.

“We aim with all of our decisions to put students at the center,” she wrote. “Through our standard budget feedback process, we’ve spoken to parents, community leaders, principals and staff about the uncertainty ahead of us. All feedback at the highest levels have been consistent: protect student programming, student mental health and social emotional supports first, as they are needed now and in the fall more than ever.”

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

Civics: The American Press Is Destroying Itself

Matt Taibbi:

Sometimes it seems life can’t get any worse in this country. Already in terror of a pandemic, Americans have lately been bombarded with images of grotesque state-sponsored violence, from the murder of George Floyd to countless scenes of police clubbing and brutalizingprotesters. 

Our president, Donald Trump, is a clown who makes a great reality-show villain but is uniquely toolless as the leader of a superpower nation. Watching him try to think through two society-imperiling crises is like waiting for a gerbil to solve Fermat’s theorem. Calls to “dominate” marchers and ad-libbed speculations about Floyd’s “great day” looking down from heaven at Trump’s crisis management and new unemployment numbers (“only” 21 million out of work!) were pure gasoline at a tinderbox moment. The man seems determined to talk us into civil war. 

But police violence, and Trump’s daily assaults on the presidential competence standard, are only part of the disaster. On the other side of the political aisle, among self-described liberals, we’re watching an intellectual revolution. It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.

“Self censorship”: ‘Fawlty Towers’ Episode to Be Reinstated After John Cleese Attacks its Removal

Leo Barraclough:

UPDATED: An episode of sitcom “Fawlty Towers” removed from a streaming site for containing “racial slurs” is to be reinstated. John Cleese had attacked the decision to remove the episode as “stupid,” as well as taking a swipe at those who take a revisionist view of history in the context of the Black Lives Matter debate.

Early on Friday, BBC-owned TV network UKTV announced on Twitter that it had temporarily removed the episode titled “The Germans” from its Gold download service as it contained “racial slurs.” The service said it wished to “review” the episode, and “consider our options.” It said some shows “carry warnings and others are edited.”

It is believed the “racial slurs” are contained in a scene in which the character known as the Major uses the N-word when referring to Caribbean sportsmen.

Later on Friday, UKTV said the episode would be reinstated “in the coming days” with the addition of “extra guidance.” “We already offer guidance to viewers across some of our classic comedy titles, but we recognize that more contextual information can be required on our archive comedy, so we will be adding extra guidance and warnings to the front of programs to highlight potentially offensive content and language. We will reinstate ‘Fawlty Towers’ once that extra guidance has been added, which we expect will be in the coming days.”

Home-schooled children are very well socialized, despite what some experts say

Karen Lenington:

Homeschooling- it’s all the rage right now! One year ago no one would have believed that every school-age child in America would be educated at home by the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Ironically, just weeks before this educational upheaval, Professor Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard called for a summit to examine the pro’s and con’s of homeschooling. Her now-postponed summit was “by invitation only”, and I hope her panel was more than just one-sided.

As a former homeschooler and current homeschooling mother of four, I offer my sympathy to those who were unwittingly thrown into homeschooling with a few paltry hours of notice. At six years in, I have found a nice stride, and have a unique perspective which I would love to share with Professor Bartholet over coffee, (from at least six feet away) if I could.

First, Professor Bartholet is concerned that homeschooled children are restrained from adequate social interaction and diversity.

My children, like most homeschoolers I know, are actually very well-socialized. Our family is part of a homeschool co-op with art, gym, sign language, drama, and academic classes. We participate in a local Christian school’s sports program. We helped with our church’s game booth at National Night Out 2019, and helped maintain Grandpop Bubbles’ booth at the Kipona Festival 2019. Our church family provides love and fellowship from members of all ages at worship services, family game nights, picnics and hymn-sings at church member’s homes. At our church’s kids Bible club my children learn and play with neighborhood children from a broad range of ethnic and economic backgrounds. National missionaries from India, Ghana, Uruguay, the Philippines, Lebanon and Mexico have stayed in our home and have entertained my children with stories of their native homelands. What a rich sampling of diversity my children have experienced!

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

Citing ‘racist and sexist material,’ WPR cancels ‘Old Time Radio Drama’ after 31 years

Rob Thomas:

Wisconsin Public Radio is canceling its long-running weekend program “Old Time Radio Drama,” with station officials citing the “racist and sexist material” present in many of the plays of the Golden Age of Radio.

“Many of these plays and productions were produced more than 60 years ago,” Wisconsin Public Radio director Mike Crane said in a statement on Friday. “Despite significant effort over the years, it has been nearly impossible to find historic programs without offensive and outdated content.”

“Old Time Radio Drama” will air its final episode this weekend. It is carried by most stations in WPR’s sister network, The Ideas Network, around Wisconsin on Saturday and Sunday nights. The show is hosted by Norman Gilliland, who will continue his roles on several other Wisconsin Public Radio shows such as “Chapter a Day.”

Beginning the weekend of June 20, the time slot will be filled with “PRX Remix,” described as a showcase of “some of the best stories, podcasts and documentaries from independent creators and the PRX podcast network Radiotopia.”

Crane added that such a program is more in line with the central mission of WPR and The Ideas Network than classic radio drama.

“Ultimately, these programs don’t represent the values of WPR and The Ideas Network’s focus on public service through news and information,” he said.

WPR’s decision comes in the midst of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, and as problematic works of art are being re-evaluated. HBO MAX announced this week that it was temporarily pulling the Civil War drama “Gone With the Wind” from its site and adding cultural context to its depiction of the antebellum South.

Facebook Pitched New Tool Allowing Employers to Suppress Words Like “Unionize” in Workplace Chat Product

Lee Fang:

During an internal presentation at Facebook on Wednesday, the company debuted features for Facebook Workplace, an intranet-style chat and office collaboration product similar to Slack.

On Facebook Workplace, employees see a stream of content similar to a news feed, with automatically generated trending topics based on what people are posting about. One of the new tools debuted by Facebook allows administrators to remove and block certain trending topics among employees.

The presentation discussed the “benefits” of “content control.” And it offered one example of a topic employers might find it useful to blacklist: the word “unionize.”

Facebook Workplace is currently used by major employers such as Walmart, which is notorious for its active efforts to suppress labor organizing. The application is also used by the Singapore government, Discovery Communications, Starbucks, and Campbell Soup Corporation.

The suggestion that Facebook is actively building tools designed to suppress labor organizing quickly caused a stir at the Menlo Park, California-based company. Facebook employees sparked a flurry of posts denouncing the feature, with several commenting in disbelief that the company would overtly pitch “unionize” as a topic to be blacklisted.

Madison High school freshman wants cops in schools

David Blaska:

In a previous post, we reproduced some of the chatter from NextDoor social media on Cops in Madison WI four public high schools — the issue that can never be settled, apparently. The thread is exploding with content running six to one or better in favor of keeping the police. Even more lopsided is the support for school resource officers from parents of students. Here is one of those, from Bonnie of Midvale Heights:

This is my daughter’s experience, in her words, at an MMSD High School (and why I care strongly about this):

I am a freshman at Memorial High School, and although I cannot speak for all experiences with SRO’s in our district, I thought I would share a few scenarios in which I have seen their involvement.

In October, graffiti was discovered in the bathroom at our high school. It included references to the Columbine shooting and other depicted images of gun violence. When later in the day pictures of this graffiti were shared on social media, people became afraid that what the school termed simply as “graffiti” may be more along the lines of a threat. The student was arrested on account of “a tentative disorderly conduct charge.” MMSD sent out an understated email. No added security in place. No increased police presence. No lockdown or additional precautions set in place. No news story. However, despite taking no further safety precautions, students were more at ease knowing there was an armed officer in the school, with extensive prior knowledge of the school and relationships with students and faculty should it have turned into more than “graffiti.”

That same day, one of my close friends was threatened with a picture of a gun. Teachers were informed, and the SRO was notified in the event that the situation escalated.

The following day, another one of my friends received texts from an unknown number that included gun violence threats. She went to the SRO at our school, and using the police they were able to trace the number. School counselors and psychologists were also used in order to mediate between the two students.

In November, two stolen cars were abandoned in the Jefferson parking lot. Although not all issues begin within the school, incidents often take place on school property. The SRO’s are needed to not only deal with problems within the school, but also to protect students from external threats.

In December there was a fight (not on school grounds) that resulted in additional police involvement at the school. Although the SRO and other faculty members are able to handle many situations, other police are very much needed. Removing the SRO’s from MMSD high schools would only increase the need for police presence, including those without prior experience with the school.

Neighbors support cops in schools

L.A. schools police will return grenade launchers but keep rifles, armored vehicle

Stephen Ceasar:

Los Angeles Unified school police officials said Tuesday that the department will relinquish some of the military weaponry it acquired through a federal program that furnishes local law enforcement with surplus equipment. The move comes as education and civil rights groups have called on the U.S. Department of Defense to halt the practice for schools.

The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation’s second-largest school system, will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle it received through the program.

L.A. Unified is one of at least 22 school systems in eight states that participate in the program, which provides law enforcement agencies with the extra military-grade gear at no charge.

30,000 Unsuspecting Rose Bowl Attendees Were Scooped Up in a Facial Recognition Test

Dave Gershgorn:

On New Year’s Day 2020, more than 90,000 college football fans piled into the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, to watch the Oregon Ducks play the Wisconsin Badgers.

It turns out some of those fans were being watched, too. Before they even entered the stadium, thousands of attendees were being captured by a facial recognition system in the Rose Bowl’s FanFest activity area by an ad tech company called VSBLTY.

Four cameras hidden underneath digital signs captured data on attendees, generating 30,000 points of data on how long they looked at advertisements, their gender and age, and an analysis to try and identify weapons or whether they were on a watch list of suspicious persons.

Three fans who attended the Rose Bowl game and spoke to OneZero said they didn’t remember seeing any notice that they were being surveilled.

What, in your opinion, are the greatest and most useful textbooks?


For self-education from books, textbooks are essential. They are literally designed to convey information on a subject to students. But there are a lot of textbooks. Which ones are the best?

Preliminary research has suggested Spivak is best for Calculus. SICP is another famous one I’ve heard of. What about Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, History?

Any contributions to this list are much appreciated.

A Neuroscientist’s Theory of Everything

Brian Gallagher:

Karl Friston wanted me to know he had plenty of time. That wasn’t quite true. He just didn’t want our conversation—about his passion, the physics of mental life—to end. Once it did, he would have to step outside, have a cigarette, and get straight back to modeling COVID-19. I caught the University College London neuroscientist at 6 p.m., his time, just after he had sat on a panel at a COVID-related press conference. He apologized for still having on a tie and seemed grateful to me for supplying some “light relief and a distraction.”

A decade ago, Friston published a paper called “The Free-Energy Principle: A Unified Brain Theory?” It spells out the idea that the brain works as an editor, constantly minimizing, “squashing” input from the outside world, and in the process balancing internal models of the world with sensations and perceptions. Life, in Friston’s view, is about minimizing free energy. But it’s not just a view of the brain. It’s more like a theory of everything. Friston’s free-energy theory practically sets your brain on fire when you read it, and it has become one of the most-cited papers in the world of neuroscience. This May, Friston published a new paper, “Sentience and the Origins of Consciousness,” that takes his ideas into new intellectual territory.

Teaching My MIT Classes with Only Free/Libre Software

Gerald Jay Sussman:

This spring (2020) MIT moved all its classes online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It made available licenses for various nonfree programs, but I objected to them on grounds of principle. For my class, an advanced class in computer programming, I made arrangements to avoid suggesting any nonfree software to my students.

Instead, I used an installation of BigBlueButton running on a server owned by the Free Software Foundation. Rubén Rodriguez of the FSF helped get this and other software working. (Thank you, FSF and Rubén!)

The class used a draft textbook that Chris Hanson and I have written. The book is entitled “Software Design for Flexibility (how to avoid programming yourself into a corner)”; it will be published by MIT Press soon, with a Creative Commons Share Alike license (and all the code in support of the book is under the GNU GPL).

I also did not ask my students to use nonfree software for one-on-one conversations about classwork, or thesis work, or projects. I used a Jitsi Meet server that I installed on an obsolete and otherwise useless computer that was sitting idle in my laboratory, on its way to the electronics junk heap.

“This idea of parental choice, that’s great if the parent is well-educated. There are some families that’s perfect for. But to make it available to everyone? No. I think you’re asking for a huge amount of trouble,” Dietsch said.

Michael Graham:

“Is it your belief that only well-educated parents can make proper decisions for what’s in the best interest of their children?” asked a dumbfounded Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro).

Rather than saying “no,” Dietsch instead repeated her view that parents without college degrees are less capable of overseeing their children’s education.

“In a democracy, and particularly in the United States, public education has been the means for people to move up to greater opportunities, for each generation to be able to succeed more than their parents have. My father didn’t graduate from high school, so it was really important that I went to college,” Dietsch said.

‘When it gets into the details, would my father have known what courses I should be taking? I don’t think so.”

When committee vice-chairman David Luneau tried to inject that Dietsch was not, in fact, saying parents without college were less fit to oversee their children’s education, Dietsch interrupted to reaffirm her position.

“If the dad’s a carpenter, and you want to become a carpenter, then yes — listen to your dad.”

Former Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: August 3, 2013

“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”

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

Google-backed drones will drop library books so kids in Virginia can do their summer reading

Rachel Lerman:

“I think kids are going to be just thrilled to learn that they are going to be the first in the world to receive a library book by drone,” said Passek, who works for Montgomery County Public Schools.

Drone delivery has been an anticipated promise from tech companies since Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos showed off a surprise prototype during a “60 Minutes” interview in 2013. Other companies jumped on the bandwagon shortly after, but nearly seven years later, the service is only available in limited tests in a few areas of the world, bogged down by regulatory hurdles. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Domino’s partnered with drone company Flirtey to deliver a pizza by drone in New Zealand in 2016, but the service hasn’t taken flight outside the country. And UPS received federal approval to test delivering some packages by drone in the United States last year.

Students likely to attend school only part time this fall, local officials warn

James Vaznis:

School officials across Massachusetts are increasingly warning families that students will attend classes in person only part time this fall, as the effort to protect students and staff from the coronavirus will continue into the foreseeable future while also wreaking havoc on family work schedules and the pace of learning.

Following Trump’s move last week to clear out a large group of peaceful protesters outside the White House, more Republicans began to say they are Never Trump in 2020.

Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states without a certification system for police officers.

A suspected drug dealer from Sandwich turned herself into police Tuesday afternoon, several days after officers allegedly found drugs, along with thousands of dollars, inside her home and issued a warrant for her arrest, Sandwich Police said.

Zoom closed account of U.S.-based Chinese activist “to comply with local law”

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian:

Update: A Zoom spokesperson confirmed to Axios that the account had been closed “to comply with local law” and said it had now been re-activated.

“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate. When a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws. We aim to limit the actions we take to those necessary to comply with local law and continuously review and improve our process on these matters. We have reactivated the US-based account.”

— Zoom statement

Between the lines: This suggests Zoom closed the account due to concerns in China, which forbids free discussion of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.

No Recent Automation Revolution

Robin Hanson:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that for many years the media has been almost screaming that we entering a big automation revolution, with huge associated job losses, due to new AI tech, especially deep learning. The media has cited many “experts” making such claims, most every management consulting firm has felt compelled to issue a related report, and the subject came up in the Democratic US presidential debates.

Last December, Keller Scholl and I posted a working paper suggesting that this whole narrative is bullshit, at least so far. An automation revolution driven by a new kind of automation tech should induce changes in the total amount and rate of automation, and in which kinds of jobs get more automated. But looking at all U.S. jobs 1999-2019, we find no change whatsoever in the kinds of jobs more likely to be automated. We don’t even see a net change in overall level of automation, though language habits may be masking such changes. And having a job get more automated is not correlated at all with changes in its pay or employment. (There may be effects in narrow categories, like jobs that use robots, but nothing visible at the overall level of all automation.)

The ‘Useless’ Perspective That Transformed Mathematics

Kevin Hartnett:

When representation theory emerged in the late 19th century, many mathematicians questioned its worth. In 1897, the English mathematician William Burnside wrote that he doubted that this unorthodox perspective would yield any new results at all.

“Basically what [Burnside was] saying is that representation theory is useless,” said Geordie Williamson of the University of Sydney in a 2015 lecture.

More than a century since its debut, representation theory has served as a key ingredient in many of the most important discoveries in mathematics. Yet its usefulness is still hard to perceive at first.

“It doesn’t seem immediately clear that this is a reasonable thing to study,” said Emily Norton of the Technical University of Kaiserslautern in Germany.

Representation theory is a way of taking complicated objects and “representing” them with simpler objects. The complicated objects are often collections of mathematical objects — like numbers or symmetries — that stand in a particular structured relationship with each other. These collections are called groups. The simpler objects are arrays of numbers called matrices, the core element of linear algebra. While groups are abstract and often difficult to get a handle on, matrices and linear algebra are elementary.

University to Investigate Lecturer for Reading MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

Christy Clark:

The University of California Los Angeles has launched an inquiry into a teacher for reading aloud Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” because the civil rights document includes the n-word.

In a department-wide email obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon, UCLA political science chair Michael Chwe and two other department leaders condemned lecturer W. Ajax Peris’s use of the racially incendiary word in a lecture he was delivering about the history of racism against African Americans. UCLA officials said the department referred Peris, an Air Force veteran, to the university’s Discrimination Prevention Office (DPO) and urged students to come forward with complaints. The email also faulted the postdoctoral lecturer for showing a documentary to the class in which a lynching is described and not stopping the presentation when students complained.

Wokeness & The Endarkenment

Rod Dreher:

A reader who is an academic and a scientist writes:

I wrote this message and debated whether to send it to you. Until I got the third message of the day from a university administrator calling for a general strike action.

I’m revolted at the murder of George Floyd and at police corruption. This does not distract from my alarm about the cult fire now burning hot through academia.

At my university, every administrator, program, sub-program from the chief executive to the department chair has sent one or more messages in the last week on the topic of racism. These explain that extensive anti-racism plans are forthcoming (always without detail but with an apology that the plans will be insufficient), and/or encourage us to protest, hold vigils etc.

All administrative meetings now begin with an acknowledgement of racism, a genuflection difficult to discern from an opening prayer.

Petitions are being circulated.

The rise in the West of the worldview that produced the Scientific Revolution is theologically and socially problematic in ways that I have discussed before on this blog, and in my past work. That’s not necessary to go into here. But we can say that for scientific knowledge to progress, scientists and philosophers need to be free to think, to experiment, and to write about what they are finding without fear of persecution. The religion of Social Justice is endarkening the West. It is going to kill science.

The Cities Taking Up Calls to Defund the Police

Sarah Holder:

On June 7, members of the Minneapolis city council announced something that just weeks ago might have seemed politically untenable: They would disband the Minneapolis Police Department entirely, and start over with a community-led public safety system. Though the mayor reaffirmed on Monday that he wouldn’t support the dissolution of the force, the council has secured a veto-proof majority.

“Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis Police are not doing that,” city councilmember Lisa Bender said at a rally. “Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it, and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”

Although it’s unclear how the council plans to disband the police department, the move nonetheless marks a foundational shift in how many U.S. politicians talk about policing in the city — one that reflects the growing understanding that there’s something systemic wrong with the institution.

No other city has gone as far as Minneapolis, where the killing of George Floyd sparked global protests. The Minneapolis Parks Department, the University of Minnesota, some local museums and the public school system have already severed ties with the police department.

But lawmakers in at least 16 other U.S. cities have proposed or made pledges that would divest some resources from the police. Several more have proposed taking police out of schools. Many of the ideas are more incremental in their rhetoric than Minneapolis’s, calling instead for budget cuts or reductions in officer counts. Some are waiting to conduct firmer research or get more public input before making concrete plans. Even in Minneapolis, councilmembers haven’t yet laid out details about how their proposal would work, instead promising that they’d listen to locals before determining a path. But already, in the weeks since Floyd’s death, communities have been heard — in the streets and online — sparking an acute focus on funding as a reform vehicle.

“These ideas are not new, but what we are seeing today is the emergence of a groundswell of support for them from elected officials and — most importantly — from their communities and constituents across the country,” says Sarah Johnson, the director of Local Progress, an alliance of local policymakers that advocate for progressive reforms.

Civics: Why everyone hates the mainstream media

Andrew Potter:

News is about providing readers with information. The opinion section is about providing readers with arguments. Readers use the information to become more informed, and better able to understand, respond to, disagree with, or otherwise digest the arguments. This process makes them better citizens. Journalism thus plays a very important civic function.

Unfortunately, only the last line in that paragraph is true.

When I became managing editor of the Ottawa Citizen in 2011, I started to have a lot of contact with readers — emails, phone calls, and a surprising number of handwritten letters. It was through this contact that I began to get a sense of what our readers really cared about, and what they valued in their subscription. Two things surprised me.

The first was how deeply readers cared about things like comics and puzzles, the daily weather map, horoscopes, and the TV listings. Somedays it seemed like we could have put a picture on A1 of the prime minister consorting with alien space prostitutes, but if we also printed the Sudoku upside down or got the “On this date in weather history” wrong, that is all I would hear about.

Over 40% Of Colleges Project A 10% Or More Decline In Fundraising Due To COVID-19 (20% Project A 20% Or More Decline)

Emma Whitford:

College fundraising revenue will likely drop over the next two years as donors close their wallets to wait out the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, according to a new survey released today.

The survey by EAB, a higher education technology and consulting firm, queried 110 university fundraising professionals about current revenue projections [Advancement Forum COVID-19 Survey Report]. It found that more than 40 percent of colleges are projecting a 10 percent or larger decline in fundraising revenue for fiscal year 2020, which concludes for most institutions at the end of this month. More than one in five institutions expect fundraising revenue to fall by at least 20 percent, the survey showed.

In fiscal 2021, the declines are projected to be even steeper. Nearly 45 percent of institutions project double-digit declines in fundraising revenue, and a growing number of colleges project a decline of 30 percent or more compared to 2019 totals. …

Fall Reopening Memo For Massachusetts Schools: Masks Required, Limit Class Size To 10


Massachusetts schools are getting word from the state about what they’ll need to do in order to safely reopen this fall. The memo from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is focused on “key safety supplies” and social distancing measures to keep students and staff protected against the coronavirus.

The state said it was issuing preliminary guidance now so schools can start preparing and ordering supplies. More guidance will be issued in the coming weeks.

“We are operating with the best information we have as of early June about how to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff in any in-person school programs and limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley writes in a document sent to superintendents Friday.

Five Ways the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Budget Reveals the District’s Backward Priorities

Libby Sobic:

1. The recent referendum will not be enough to prevent serious fiscal issues in the next five years.

Milwaukee voters approved an $87 million annual operational referendum in April. Despite an existing annual budget of over $1 billion and the recent referendum, MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools) is still projected to have a $139.4 million annual deficit and $304 million in accumulated debt by 2024 in school operations alone.

2. The board is expanding pension benefits amid financial uncertainty.

The board approved the extension of the district’s Early Retirement Window, which gives any employee of the district, both teachers and other district staff, hired before 2013 access to early retirement at age 55 if they have 20 years of service and at least 70% of sick time reserved. The program will require the district to pay board subsidies to retired employees while also paying new employees to fill the positions.

This program was part of the district’s pension benefits to employees prior to the implementation of Act 10, but the program was eliminated in 2013. The board reinitiated the program in 2017. Between 2017 and 2019, 889 employees were eligible to utilize the Early Retirement Window, but only 31% actually retired.

Related: Tax base and government income decline.

Analysis: Police Unions Stonewall All Attempts at Reform. So Do Teachers Unions. Is That Why They’ve Been So Silent?

Mike Antonucci:

The Center for Public Integrity reports that police contracts have “arbitration clauses that often force police departments to rehire fired misbehaving cops” and that cop unions “have successfully lobbied for state laws granting police officers far more job security than the average U.S. worker.”

A former attorney for the Service Employees International Union penned an editorial in USA Today explaining that police contracts often have provisions to expunge disciplinary records after a certain amount of time.

“Even in cases where an officer is fired for misconduct, the agreement requires an appeals process that frequently leads to reinstatement, especially if the investigating agency has committed procedural errors,” he wrote.

“The law enforcement community — and especially its unions’ — first response, when one of its officers is caught red-handed, is to circle the wagons, vilify the victim or survivor, and bat away any criticism or dissent as virtual sedition,” wrote Kim Kelly in The New Republic.

All these points should be familiar to union observers, and especially those writers expressing outrage these past few weeks. Not only have police unions been operating this way for a long time, but you could take any of the above quotes and apply them to teachers unions without hesitation.

This may help explain why other unions have been noticeably silent when the subject of police unions is broached. The Center for Public Integrity approached the leaders of 10 major unions and labor groups for comment on its story. None were willing to talk about police unions.

The backlash over police brutality is causing school districts to rethink their employment of sworn police, called school resource officers (SROs). These officers are usually contracted with the local police department, but in some cases they are school district employees, represented by the teachers union. Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers represent thousands of school security personnel, including SROs.

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

You can learn to read Middle English


It helps to understand why Middle English is the way it is.

English started out as German. Old English, also called Anglo-Saxon, really is a foreign language, and requires serious study. I don’t think an anglophone can learn to read it with mere tricks.

Over the centuries Old English diverged from German. In 1066 the Normans invaded England and the English language got a thick layer of French applied on top. Middle English is that mashup of English and French. It’s still German underneath, but a lot of the spelling and vocabulary is Frenchified. This is good, because a lot of that Frenchification is still in Modern English, so it will be familiar.

“How  much confidence do scientific theories deserve?”

Leon Brillouin:

 At this point we may raise a most important question: How  much confidence do scientific theories deserve? The answer must be  cautious enough: a good deal, but not too much! There are  limitations to all our theories; they are good up to a certain limit  and within certain boundaries. They do not represent ” The  truth, nothing but the truth….” Every theory is based on  experiments that have been checked very carefully, but the result can only be stated ” within possible errors ” between fixed  limits according to the best knowledge of the experimenter. There  is always a possibility that a new, unpredictable cause of errors  might be playing a role in a new experiment, or that the theory  has been extrapolated too far from its domain. 

– Relativity Re-examined

Do the Math…or Not

Shannon Watkins:

When it comes to math performance, the United States has a pitiful record. Each year, about 1 million students enroll in college algebra and about 50 percent of those students fail to earn a “C” or better.

And according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. considerably underperforms in high school math on an international level. In the OECD’s 2018 Program for International Student Assessment, the United States was outperformed by 36 countries, including China, Russia, Italy, France, Finland, Poland, and Canada.

In North Carolina, 26 percent of UNC system students earned a “D,” “F,” or “W” (a withdrawal) in mathematics and statistics courses between fall 2015 and spring 2018.

But instead of investigating ways to improve math education, North Carolina university leaders have decided to create alternate “pathways” for students who are less math-minded. According to UNC administrators, gateway and entry-level math courses—like college algebra—are “stumbling blocks” for too many students.

To get more students through entry-level math classes, in early 2018, the UNC system established the UNC System Math Pathways Task Force, a system-wide initiative to change general education math requirements to make them more “applicable and equitable.”

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math.

“The (taxpayer supported Madison School) district paid for $11,607.45 in legal fees as part of the settlement, but did not admit any wrongdoing.

Scott Girard:

An open records lawsuit filed anonymously against the Madison Metropolitan School District last fall was settled in May after the district released the records sought.

A “John Doe” filed the lawsuit against the district last November represented by attorney Tom Kamenick, the president and founder of the Wisconsin Transparency Project.

“My client and I are glad the District finally turned them over, but hope the District abides by its legal responsibilities promptly in the future,” Kamenick wrote in an email Friday.

The district paid for $11,607.45 in legal fees as part of the settlement, but did not admit any wrongdoing.

District spokesman Tim LeMonds wrote in an email last week the district would have no comment on the outcome.

The records sought mostly related to “weekly updates” from the superintendent to School Board members, with the anonymous requester seeking any and all records presented in such meetings. Doe had also filed requests for curriculum plans, school improvement plans and the annual seclusion and restraint report, among other topics.

It’s never too late to stretch your wings: Why I got a Ph.D. at age 66

Tracy Evans:

I needed a change. Just a few years earlier, I stood at the edge of the swamp under a massive hollow cypress tree reading Winnie-the-Pooh to a group of 5- and 6-year-olds. As a naturalist at a state park, my goal was to introduce these children to the nature found in their own backyard. I played a tape of owl calls to accompany the story. Just then, an owl swooped down over our heads, startling and delighting us. “I can’t believe I’m actually getting paid to have this much fun!” I thought to myself. But over time, my job changed. Sitting at my desk, staring at environmental impact reports and grant applications on my computer screen, I began to think, “They cannot pay me enough to do this job.” It was another turning point in the winding road that led me, at age 66, to earn a Ph.D.

The Unequal American City

Michael Petrilli:

Most rural communities, small towns and modest-sized metro areas have seen dramatically lower rates of Covid-19 infection than big urban areas, especially the super-dense New York City region. This has led to predictable upset and pushback when state officials treated less populated regions the same as more crowded ones. As one county commissioner in Oregon told NPR, “We have no vile threat that it’s going to be expanding around here, so why in God’s name are you still holding us to restrictions?”

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

“our schools first started by killing their minds”

Jasmine Lane:

Shallow successes allow us to pat ourselves on the back. But a high graduation rate is meaningless when our graduates enter the world without a fundamental grasp of the tools and knowledge necessary for full participation in life and citizenship. We can hope for a reimagining of schooling during this time, but nothing will change in our schools until we prioritize the education of our students.

Yes, there is trauma: from pandemic fear, from centuries of racism and violence. We will likely need a trauma-informed approach as school begins in some form again. Some say that means educators should let relationships be the focus. But that does not necessarily mean relationships outside of content-the “I teach kids, not content” approach. I would reframe that to say: I teach my students content. That’s my job and what my students trust me to do.

Doug Lemov of the Uncommon Schools charter network writes that “relationship building starts in the classroom with attentiveness to the craft of teaching and with attentiveness to the progress and experience of the learner.” I knew my students’ lives because they decided to tell me, not because I made them do an emotional check-in. I provided them with routine during distance learning by greeting them and giving them a brief overview of the day in a synchronous setting. I created an opportunity for hope by not overly dwelling on the woes and news of the present. And I continued to build relationships by capitalizing on the trust that I had earned from doing the best teaching I could.

And in all this, I was helped by the subject I teach: literature. One of the beautiful things about literature is its ability to center isolating and abstracted fear in previous human experience. Albert Camus wrote in The Plague: “There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet plagues and wars always take people equally by surprise.” Literature attests that people have been here before, and their experience can strengthen us -if we know how to access it.

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

MTI files complaint with state employment relations commission over budget cuts survey

Scott Girard:

Madison Teachers Inc. has filed a complaintagainst the Madison Metropolitan School District related to a survey sent out to staff last week.

The Prohibited Practice Complaint was filed Monday with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission and seeks an immediate cease and desist of the survey and asks that the district be made to destroy any records related to the responses before reviewing them.

The survey was only two questions long, but one of those questions asked staff how they would prefer the district deal with an anticipated $5 million to $9 million in additional budget cuts for the 2020-21 school year. The two options were to freeze most compensation increases currently in the budget, including base wage, or to eliminate 92 full-time equivalent positions while keeping wage increases intact.


Act 10

Four Senators for $1.57M

An emphasis on adult employment“.

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

Literacy: The Forgotten Social Justice Issue

Jasmine Lane:

My grandfather was in his late 30s when he first learned to read and later went on to complete his GED at the age of 42. With his formal education ending around age nine so he could start working, and during a time when if caught reading he would be attacked, threatened, or possibly murdered for daring to be a Black man reading in the Jim Crow south, he took the risk and taught himself to read using the bible. 

I tell this story not to celebrate the strength of my family, but to paint a picture of how woefully detached the debate over basic literacy is from the desires of families. Just two generations ago people risked their lives to be able to read and here we are today watching the educational establishment—through its degradation of standardised assessments, emphasis on the individual over the collective whole, and dismissal of science—risk the subjugation of an entire people to second class citizenship. It is frightening and marks the gravest miscarriage of justice we have seen this side of educational history. An entire generation of children is not being taught to read. 

No Expectations, No Problem

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

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

A High School Journalist Dug Into Suspensions of Black Students. What She Found Won an Award.

Johnny Diaz:

Nina Lavezzo-Stecopoulos and the co-editor of their high school newspaper, The Little Hawk, were talking to students in November about what they disliked about Iowa City High School when she sensed something was off.

“That day I had a lot of good conversations about wrongful suspensions and racism” by the staff members who monitor the halls, Ms. Lavezzo-Stecopoulos said.

She had also been learning about the justice system in her ethnic studies class, and, “seeing that this was an issue within my own school,” she said, “I decided to write about it.”

Ms. Lavezzo-Stecopoulos got to work.

She dug into state and school district statistics. She interviewed students about their rates of suspensions and experiences.

The result: an article in December titled “Black students nearly two times as likely to be suspended as white peers in the ICCSD,” a reference to the Iowa City Community School District, which is about 120 miles east of Des Moines.

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization honored Ms. Lavezzo-Stecopoulos, 18, with its High School Journalism award for her work at its book and journalism awards ceremony on Thursday.

“I was extremely surprised,” said Ms. Lavezzo-Stecopoulos, who was awarded a copper bust of Kennedy and a $500 check.

On the education front, one way to move from anger to action would be to make sure all youngsters are proficient in reading

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Millennials have faced the worst economic odds, and many will never recover

Andrew Van Dam:

After accounting for the present crisis, the average millennial has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history.

In April, the economy bottomed out with about as many jobs as in November of 1999. The economic regression to the Y2K era is a fitting symbol for a generation that — more than any other — has been shaped by recession.

Things improved in May, but the improvement just means we’re back to December 2000 levels of employment. For millennials who came of age then, it’s as if all the plodding expansions and job recoveries of their namesake epoch evaporated in weeks.

The losses aren’t merely symbolic. This recession steamrolled younger workers just as millennials were entering their prime working years — the oldest millennials are nearing 40 while the youngest are in their mid-20s. Millennial employment plunged by 16 percent in March and April this year, our calculations show. That’s faster than either Gen X (12 percent) or the baby boomers (13 percent).

U.S. schools lay off hundreds of thousands, setting up lasting harm to kids

Scot Paltrow:

Macias will join the staggering number of public school personnel across the United States who have lost their jobs in the wake of school closures amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In April alone, 469,000 public school district personnel nationally lost their jobs, including kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers and other school employees, a Labor Department economist told Reuters.

That is more than the nearly 300,000 total during the entire 2008 Great Recession, according to a 2014 paper by three university economists financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. The number of public school teachers hasn’t recovered from that shakeout, reaching near-2008 levels only in 2019.

Multiple school district administrators, public officials and teaching experts have warned that the current school personnel job loss will last for years, hurting the education of a generation of American students. It also could be a drag on economic recovery, for one thing because school districts are big employers.

Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one.

Maria Konnikova:

There’s a certain allure to the elegance of mathematics, the precision of the hard sciences. That much is undeniable. But does the appeal mean that quantitative approaches are always germane? Hardly—and I doubt anyone would argue the contrary. Yet, over and over, with alarming frequency, researchers and scholars have felt the need to take clear-cut, scientific-seeming approaches to disciplines that have, until recent memory, been far from any notions of precise quantifiability. And the trend is an alarming one.

Take, for instance, a recent paper that draws conclusions about the relative likelihood that certain stories are originally based in real-world events by looking at the (very complicated) mathematics of social networks. The researchers first model what the properties of real social networks look like. They then apply that model to certain texts (Beowulf, the Iliad, and Táin Bó Cuailnge, on the mythological end, and Les Misérables, Richard III, the Fellowship of the Ring, and Harry Potter on the fictional end) to see how much the internal social networks of the characters resemble those that exist in real life. And then, based on that resemblance, they conclude which narratives are more likely to have originated in actual history: to wit, Beowulf and the Iliad are more likely reality-based than Shakespeare or Tolkien or—gasp—even that most real-life-like of narratives, Harry Potter. (Táin, on the other hand, isn’t very lifelike at all—but if you remove the six central characters, which you can totally do since they are likely amalgams of real ones, it, too, starts looking historical.)

Madison teachers union backs removal of police from high schools

Logan Wroge:

Madison’s teachers union is shifting its stance on school-based police officers and is now advocating they be taken out of the city’s main high schools — but only if 33 additional support staff are hired.

In a statement Sunday, Madison Teachers Inc. said it backs the removal of school resource officers, or SROs, stationed inside each of the Madison School District’s four main high schools — a move local activists have demanded of the district for years.

“We see the systematic racism that exists in our current structures and join the voices of our students and our community in calling for dramatic change in how we educate and interact with all of our students, especially those most marginalized in our schools and society,” MTI president Andy Waity said in the statement.

The major caveat, though, is MTI will only support the removal if certain positions at the four main high schools are staffed at recommended levels by the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to MTI, achieving those levels at each high school based on the ACLU’s “metric of equitable staffing” would require additional hires of:

One counselor, one nurse, one psychologist and four social workers for East.

One counselor, one nurse, one psychologist and five social workers for La Follette.

Two counselors, one nurse, one psychologist and five social workers for Memorial.

One counselor, one nurse and seven social workers for West.

“If we remove police officers from our schools, but do not adequately staff those same schools with social workers, nurses, counselors, and psychologists, we are perpetuating harm upon our most vulnerable young people,” the statement said.

2005: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.


Act 10

Four Senators for $1.57M

An emphasis on adult employment“.

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

Governance: How Police Unions Became Such Powerful Opponents to Reform Efforts (Act 10)

Noam Scheiber, Farah Stockman and J. David Goodman:

Over the past five years, as demands for reform have mounted in the aftermath of police violence in cities like Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and now Minneapolis, police unions have emerged as one of the most significant roadblocks to change. The greater the political pressure for reform, the more defiant the unions often are in resisting it — with few city officials, including liberal leaders, able to overcome their opposition.

They aggressively protect the rights of members accused of misconduct, often in arbitration hearings that they have battled to keep behind closed doors. And they have also been remarkably effective at fending off broader change, using their political clout and influence to derail efforts to increase accountability.

While rates of union membership have dropped by half nationally since the early 1980s, to 10 percent, higher membership rates among police unions give them resources they can spend on campaigns and litigation to block reform. A single New York City police union has spent more than $1 million on state and local races since 2014.


Act 10

Four Senators for $1.57M

An emphasis on adult employment“.

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

Wisconsin private schools weigh whether to accept federal pandemic relief money

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The “real help” will come from other federal funding, she said. For example, Wisconsin is slated to receive $175 million from Congress for K-12 schools through what’s known as the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. The law allows governors to disperse the money as they see fit, so private schools could potentially be left out of distribution.

Melissa Baldauff, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, did not respond to two emails asking whether Evers would include private schools in the allocation of these funds.

“Everyone’s equally hit by this pandemic,” Schmeling said. “Every school is being affected by this with additional costs and problems to mitigate.”

Taxpayer supported public K-12 schools receive funds from several sources, including local property taxes, redistributed state and federal taxpayers and borrowed sources. Various grants also find their way to public systems.

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

I Must Object: A rebuttal to Brown University’s letter on racism in the United States

Glenn Loury:

They write sentences such as this: “We have been here before, and in fact have never left.” Really? This is nothing but propaganda. Is it supposed to be self-evident that every death of an “unarmed black man” at the hands of a white person tells the same story? They speak of “deep-rooted systems of oppression; legacies of hate.” No elaboration required here? No specification of where Brown might stand within such a system? No nuance or complexity? Is it obvious that “hate”—as opposed to incompetence, or fear, or cruelty, or poor training, or lack of accountability, or a brutal police culture, or panic, or malfeasance—is what we observed in Minneapolis? We are called upon to “effect change.” Change from what to what, exactly? Evidently, we’re now all charged to promote the policy agenda of the “progressive” wing of American politics. Is this what a university is supposed to be doing?

I must object. This is no reasoned ethical reflection. Rather, it is indoctrination, virtue-signaling, and the transparent currying of favor with our charges. The roster of Brown’s “leaders” who signed this manifesto in lockstep remind me of a Soviet Politburo making some party-line declaration. I can only assume that the point here is to forestall any student protests by declaring the university to be on the Right Side of History.

What I found most alarming, though, is that no voice was given to what one might have thought would be a university’s principal intellectual contribution to the national debate at this critical moment: namely, to affirm the primacy of reason over violence in calibrating our reactions to the supposed “oppression.” Equally troubling were our president’s promises to focus the university’s instructional and research resources on “fighting for social justice” around the world, without any mention of the problematic and ambiguous character of those movements which, over the past two centuries or more, have self-consciously defined themselves in just such terms—from the French and Russian Revolutions through the upheavals of the 1960s.

My bottom line: I’m offended by the letter. It frightens, saddens, and angers me.

Law review article highlights MMSD’s racial disparities in literacy

Scott Girard:

A recently published law review article has some strong words for the Madison Metropolitan School District’s literacy achievement gap and how that connects with Dane County’s disparate incarceration rates for black people.

“Where Dane County’s largest public school district has largely failed to produce literate Black fourth graders for more than a decade, it follows that the same racial disparity exists in the county’s correctional institutions,” University of Wisconsin Law School student Mckenna Kohlenberg wrote. “In 2011, a Black minor from Dane County was 25 times more likely than a White minor to be incarcerated.”

Statistics like that one aren’t news to those paying attention to racial disparities in recent years. But the “Booked but Can’t Read” article published in the NYU Review of Law & Social Change coins the term “illiteracy-to-incarceration,” a more nuanced version of the “school-to-prison pipeline” phrasing that has been discussed for decades.

Kohlenberg said in an interview she purposely wanted to create a direct connection to illiteracy, instead of the discipline focus that the “school-to-prison pipeline” often connotes.

“I wanted to call attention to how this process of funneling kids into the criminal system doesn’t always start with school discipline,” Kohlenberg said. “I wanted to make very clear that early on, as early as the fourth grade, lacking literacy plays a huge role in this pipeline.”

MMSD spokesman Tim LeMonds wrote in an email that the district had not had time to review the article thoroughly enough to comment.

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

How ‘Reading Instruction’ Oppresses Black And Brown Children

Natalie Wexler:

On national tests last year, only 18 percent of black 4th-graders scored proficient or above in reading; the figure for white 4th-graders was 45 percent. For 8th graders, the percentages were 15 and 42 percent. It’s sobering that over half of white students fail to meet the proficiency bar. But the figures for black students should outrage anyone who cares about social justice. These dry statistics translate into greater struggles in high school, lower college attendance and graduation rates, a higher likelihood of incarceration, and generally bleaker futures. And we’re going in the wrong direction: Those abysmal percentages for black students are lower than the figures from two years before.

Want to know something even more outrageous? There’s abundant scientific evidence that explains why our standard approach to reading instruction isn’t working for so many black kids—and others. But educators and policymakers are often unaware of that research; some reject it. Schools continue to double down on the same things that haven’t worked for decades, expecting a different result.

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 Weaponization of Diversity


This is an unusually lengthy essay, because the issue is so complex and nuanced that it deserves an appropriate level of patience and attention. It includes my deeply honest, personal, and some would say risky perspective on the topic of diversity in high-performance careers, including tech entrepreneurship; and my concern that the decision by some to “weaponize” diversity is backfiring and causing harm to under-represented minority groups. 

I grew up in a very “colorful” part of Northside Houston, with neighbors and schoolmates who were usually a mix of latino (immigrants and 2nd generation), black, asian and white; and a general socioeconomic range hovering between welfare, blue collar, and sort-of-middle class. My parents (Mexican immigrants) started a produce business selling avocados and tomatoes out of a pickup truck, that eventually grew but then unfortunately imploded. By the time I was sending off college applications, my two sisters and I were supported by our single mother who sold perfumes at an indoor flea market. I ended up attending the University of Texas and Harvard Law School. Today, with three healthy kids, happily married over a decade and a successful legal practice/leadership position at an elite boutique law firm, my cozy “1%” life definitely does not suck.

But this isn’t your classic “American Dream” “Rags to Riches” “look at how awesome I am for everything I’ve overcome on my own” story. There’s a key twist, and that twist has given me a unique perspective on issues of socioeconomic inequality, diversity, and also mental health. My mother, despite ending up in a struggling, unstable situation, was actually a top computer science graduate of the most elite technology university in Mexico; the Tecnologico de Monterrey. Basically the MIT of Mexico. And her family pedigree includes a nationally celebrated Mexican artist and a biological (but estranged) father considered one of the top Medical doctors and Medical School professors in his field.

How did my mom go from an MIT-equivalent grad with a strong family background to selling perfumes at a flea market as a single mom hovering preciously close to Medicaid-level poverty? This isn’t my autobiography, so I’ll cut that part of the story short and summarize: mental illness. Many people fail to appreciate how success is just as much about emotional intelligence/stability as it is about intellectual/analytical capacity, and the formula for producing the former is often far more complex/nuanced than what’s necessary for the latter.

I mentioned these details about my mother because they are historical elements that keep me, if I’m honest, from painting for you a perfect “picked myself up by nothing but my bootstraps” story. My mother’s emphasis on academics and her love of computers – which she made every effort to expose me to, within her limited means – were key strategic assets in my childhood that differentiated me from my peer group, and undoubtedly propelled me forward. The truth is the vast majority of people who give you these “rags to riches” stories can, if they’re sincere enough, come up with their own kinds of privilege that they depended on growing up. If anything, simply being born “gifted” (to use a very broad but frequently used term) is itself an unearned privilege reserved for a lucky few who often like to conveniently overlook their luck.

Yes, we were poor latinos living in a low-income area and a broken home, speaking a blend of spanish and english and having our fair share of tamales, frijoles, barbacoa, etc. etc… but as it related to school, my “home culture” was different. I studied. Hard. With a level of discipline that got me labeled as “acting white” (by other latinos) more than enough times. There was even a special term for it: “coconut.” Brown on the outside, white on the inside.

International Education at the Coronavirus Crossroads

Deborah N. Cohn & Hilary E. Kahn:

Who would have imagined, when in fall of 2018 we co-organized a bicentennial symposium on international education at Indiana University, that we would now be in the middle of a global pandemic that is creating one of the direst situations that international education has ever faced. 
Heartened by the response to the symposium, we co-edited an anthology on international education at the crossroads,1 that brought together symposium participants as well as other leaders in the field.  
Not long after we submitted the manuscript to the press, the COVID-19 pandemic began, shuttering schools and universities in the brick and mortar sense across the globe. In the ensuing weeks, travel restrictions imploded international mobility, research came to a screeching halt, and K-20 school closures affected over 90% of all enrolled learners—more than 1.5 billion students—across the globe.2  Some international students returned home, but not all had the means or desire to do so. Students studying abroad and faculty doing research were called home. Scholar exchange came to a standstill. Embassies and consulates around the world shuttered their doors and cancelled all basic operations. Mobility was and still is in suspended animation. 

Civics: Suddenly, Public Health Officials Say Social Justice Matters More Than Social Distance

Dan Diamond:

“Their rules appear ideologically driven as people can only gather for purposes deemed important by the elite central planners,” Brian Blase, who worked on health policy for the Trump administration, told me, an echo of complaints raised by prominent conservative commentators like J.D. Vance and Tim Carney.

Conservatives also have seized on a Twitter thread by Drew Holden, a commentary writer and former GOP Hill staffer, comparing how politicians and pundits criticized earlier protests but have been silent on the new ones or even championed them.

“I think what’s lost on people is that there have been real sacrifices made during lockdown,” Holden told me. “People who couldn’t bury loved ones. Small businesses destroyed. How can a health expert look those people in the eye and say it was worth it now?”

Some members of the medical community acknowledged they’re grappling with the U-turn in public health advice, too. “It makes it clear that all along there were trade-offs between details of lockdowns and social distancing and other factors that the experts previously discounted and have now decided to reconsider and rebalance,” said Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School. Flier pointed out that the protesters were also engaging in behaviors, like loud singing in close proximity, which CDC has repeatedly suggested could be linked to spreading the virus.

“At least for me, the sudden change in views of the danger of mass gatherings has been disorienting, and I suspect it has been for many Americans,” he told me.

The shift in experts’ tone is setting up a confrontation amid the backdrop of a still-raging pandemic. Tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases continue to be diagnosed every day—and public health experts acknowledge that more will likely come from the mass gatherings, sparked by the protests over George Floyd’s death while in custody of the Minneapolis police last week.

“It is a challenge,” Howard Koh, who served as assistant secretary for health during the Obama administration, told me. Koh said he supports the protests but acknowledges that Covid-19 can be rapidly, silently spread. “We know that a low-risk area today can become a high-risk area tomorrow,” he said.

A Study Out of Thin Air

James Todaro:

In brief, the Lancet study is a multinational registry analysis assessing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without macrolide therapy (e.g. azithromycin) in treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. The study was very large (perhaps impossibly so, but we will address that later) and included 96,032 patients, of which 14,888 were in treatment groups. The study found that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine with or without macrolide therapy resulted in significantly increased risk of both in-hospital mortality and de-novo ventricular arrhythmia during hospitalization. In summary, the authors concluded that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are actually harmful and increase risk of death when used for in-hospital treatment of COVID-19.

The Lancet study was released on Friday, May 22. After deliberating over a weekend, on Monday, May 25, the World Health Organization hastily announced the cessation of all COVID-19 clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine in 17 different countries. Instead of performing its own due diligence, the WHO immediately relied on an observational study cloaked in the reputation of the nearly 200-year old medical journal The Lancet.

On the education front, one way to move from anger to action would be to make sure all youngsters are proficient in reading

Alan Borsuk:

First, success in reaching proficiency in reading is shockingly low among students from low-income homes and those who are black or Hispanic. The Wisconsin gap between white kids and black kids has often been measured as the worst in the United States. 

Only 13% of black fourth through eighth graders in Wisconsin were rated as proficient or better in reading in 2019. For Milwaukee, it was 10%. Same for Madison.  

Second, this has not changed for at least two decades. I’ve gone over results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress going back to the 1990s. Same story, every time: Wisconsin at the bottom.    

Despite some (but too few) very good early childhood programs, many thousands of children each year walk into kindergarten already behind their better-off peers. Many thousands walk out of third grade not really ready for what’s ahead.   

Has anything been done to try to make reading outcomes better? Well, sort of.  

In 2011 and 2012, a Wisconsin “Read to Lead” task force was created to figure out how to get more kids to proficiency in reading by the end of third grade. The chair was then-Gov. Scott Walker and the vice-chair was then-State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers. It was a tepid effort and it certainly didn’t lead to improving things.  

Starting around then, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation launched Milwaukee Succeeds, an everyone-at-the-table effort of civic leaders. It made third grade reading a top priority. It moved slowly, backing a few modest, even if good, efforts. Overall, nothing changed.  

Even as nothing improved, the reading education establishment in Wisconsin stuck pretty much to doing the same things. Maybe the philosophy is: If it’s not working, don’t try to fix it. There’s been some increase in teaching kids how to sound out letters and words (phonics), but it has hardly been a full and energized effort. 

How important is reading? Very.  

Consider a fresh voice: I read this past week an article in the New York University Review of Law and Social Change by McKenna Kohlenberg, a Milwaukee area native who is in the home stretch of getting both her law degree and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.   

It uses Madison as a case study in what Kohlenberg calls the “illiteracy-to-incarceration pipeline.” She cites research that 70% of adults who are incarcerated and 85% of juveniles who have been involved with the juvenile justice system are functionally illiterate. 

“Literacy strongly correlates with myriad social and economic outcomes, and children who are not proficient by the fourth grade are much more likely than their proficient peers to face a series of accumulating negative consequences,” Kohlenberg writes. 

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

Survey sent to Madison teachers details potential for cuts

Scott Girard:

A survey from Madison Metropolitan School District administration outlines the potential for more budget cuts coming amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with wage freezes and staff cuts among the options administrators are considering.

The two-question survey, sent to staff Friday, states that the district expects an additional $5 million to $9 million budget cut from the state legislature in the form of a budget repair bill to deal with revenue shortfalls related to the pandemic. It also asks teachers about their plans for the fall whether they would return to school in-person or work only virtually.

Madison Teachers Inc. discouraged members from responding to the survey in a Facebook post.

“We are urging you NOT to complete the District’s survey on budget priorities until MTI leadership has an opportunity to speak with MMSD affirming MTI’s role in representing you in negotiations around wages and discussions around changes to the Employee Handbook,” the post stated. “We need a unified voice and holding the survey until we’ve discussed these issues will send a message that we are united.”

The two options being considered to deal with the budget cuts, according to photos of the survey sent to the Cap Times, would be cutting 92 FTE positions while maintaining compensation increases or freezing most wage increases for one year while avoiding any FTE position elimination. The first option would also require updated staffing plans for the fall, according to the survey.

A letter sent to staff Thursday to let them know about the survey, which was posted to Facebookby School Board member Nicki Vander Meulen, stated there was still uncertainty about the size of the cuts.

“Given that 82% of our budget is in staffing related costs, we will not be able to move forward without some impact to our personnel budgets,” the letter said. “Finally, we are advocating with our partners at the local, state and federal levels to protect public education during times like these.”

Madison’s 37% Property Tax Growth (2012 – 2021)

“The American collegiate system, Thiel, his staff, and his fellows unanimously affirm, has become a giant scam, transforming potential innovators into subservient drones”

Tara Isabella Burton:

Yet the Thiel Fellowship is, on closer inspection, radically subversive—as much an attempt at delegitimizing the contemporary American educational landscape as it is about rewarding young would-be founders. The American collegiate system, Thiel, his staff, and his fellows unanimously affirm, has become a giant scam, transforming potential innovators into subservient drones; indoctrinating the disrupters of tomorrow into Marxist myths of resentment; and using the social-justice buzzwords of class privilege and structural oppression to crush the spirit. Like American progressivism, they say, the university is rotten from the inside out, on this view—and it needs to be burned to the ground, figuratively speaking, so that something new and better can be built from the ashes.
“The American collegiate system, Thiel, his staff, and his fellows affirm, has become a giant scam.”
The college-to-workplace model is also expensive and time-consuming, and it doesn’t reflect the dramatic changes in educational technology that make information accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Strachman compares the current state of such technology to earlier advances in transportation. “If you were gonna walk across the states, that would take a long period of time,” she observes. “But then with the invention of high-speed rail, let’s say, you can move orders of magnitude faster. So now, likewise, if I’m a young person today and I have a laptop, I can move so much faster than I could even when I was going to school, you know, 20 years ago. The opportunity cost for young people is that much higher. If they have this burning desire to do something right now and they can get started on it, why would you wait four years of a long slow process when you can just start in your dorm room right now?”
The very skills and values that Gibson and Strachman see college as currently rewarding—diligently completing assignments, checking off requirements, and producing work to a narrow set of specifications—run counter to those that the Thiel Foundation emphasizes. One of the biggest early predictors of failure in selecting Thiel Fellows, notes Strachman, was whether a candidate had received an Intel Science Award—a prize for high schoolers often considered catnip to prestigious colleges. “Anyone we met who won that did not seem to fare well in the wild,” she says. “There’s a difference between striving to gain accomplishments within an existing institution where all the parameters are set and transparent and known, where people are giving you commands about what to study and testing you on it, and building companies from scratch, which requires a whole different type of character and set of skills.”

Civics: Why Is Voting By Mail (Suddenly) Controversial? Here’s What You Need To Know

Miles Parks:

Casting a ballot by mail isn’t a new way to vote, but it is getting fresh attention as the coronavirus pandemic upends daily life.

The voting method is quickly becoming the norm and quickly becoming politically charged, as some Republicans — and specifically President Trump — fight against the mail voting expansion that is happening nationwide.

Here are answers to key questions about mail ballots and the controversy around them.

U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout

Statement on recent incidents of racial injustice and SRO’s

Gloria Reyes, Madison School Board President:

Dear MMSD Family and Community:

I would like to acknowledge the hurt our community is feeling after recent events of racial injustice. I stand by the many voices who have so passionately rallied our community to speak out against racism, and reject it in all its forms. I honor and respect your voice, ard recognize this is not a time to remain silent, as silence only will perpetuate a long-lasting problem. We must instead take this opportunity to call out the obscene inequalities that exist in our society that have caused trauma to people of color for far too long.

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

Civics: Left-Libertarian Alliance Introduces House Bill to End Qualified Immunity for Police Officers

Colin Kalmbacher:

Former Republican Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) and progressive Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) have joined forces to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives that would eliminate the controversial doctrine of qualified immunity for police officers.

“As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Congress allowed individuals to sue state and local officials, including police officers, who violate their rights,” a joint letter released by both representatives late Wednesday notes. “Starting in 1967, the Supreme Court began gutting that law by inventing the doctrine of qualified immunity.”

The original Civil Rights Act provided such redress via the federal statute now codified at 42 U.S.C. §1983known as a “civil action for deprivation of rights.” Initially passed as a court-based enforcement mechanism for provisions of the 14th Amendment, the statute was rarely subject to judicial scrutiny until the 1950s and 1960s.

In the case of Pierson v. Ray, the Supreme Court used the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement to severely limit 1983’s applicability.

Fifteen black and white Episcopal clergy attempted to desegregate “White Only” bus terminals in Jackson, Mississippi. and were arrested for breach of the peace and for refusing “to move on when ordered to do so by a police officer.” The protestors ultimately beat those charges and later sued the cops and the trial judge under 1983, alleging they were falsely arrested and imprisoned.

In an 8-1 decision, the doctrine of qualified immunity was created by “activist” judges on the typically liberal “Earl Warren Court.” Since then, the doctrine has grown and been embellished by subsequent court decisions which make it exceedingly difficult for plaintiffs to even bring police officers to trial for alleged constitutional violations.

“Under qualified immunity, police are immune from liability unless the person whose rights they violated can show that there is a previous case in the same jurisdiction, involving the exact same facts, in which a court deemed the actions to be a constitutional violation,” Amash and Pressley said. “This rule has sharply narrowed the situations in which police can be held liable–even for truly heinous rights violations–and it creates a disincentive to bringing cases in the first place.”

Group places American flags scrawled with obscenities on Madison School Board leader’s lawn

Chris Rickert:

A group protesting the presence of police officers in Madison’s four main high schools placed what appear to be dozens of American flags scrawled with obscenities targeting police overnight Thursday on the lawn of the Madison School Board president, a former Madison police officer, according to a video taken by the woman and posted to Facebook.

In these challenging times, our local businesses need your support. Find out how to get food, goods, services and more from those remaining open.

Gloria Reyes is also the person tapped as part of a new initiative from the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County to train 75 “peacekeepers” in de-escalation techniques and have them monitor protests occurring this week against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

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 History of Black Rebellion and U.S. Policing


Donald Trump is threatening to escalate the violent crackdown on national protests against police killings of African Americans. This week on Intercepted: With the threat of a widespread military deployment in U.S. cities looming, the president is acting as an authoritarian dictator. Keisha Blain, author of “Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom,” discusses the history of black rebellion against police violence, the deadly “Red Summer” of 1919, and the life of journalist Ida B. Wells. Blain, a history professor at the University of Pittsburgh, also discusses the context of various protests tactics and the weaponization of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Police forces across the U.S. are functioning as violent militias equipped with military gear. Operating like a violent counterinsurgency force, the government has used drones and is using other military and intelligence-grade surveillance systems on protesters. Stuart Schrader, author of “Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing” and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, analyzes the long and intertwined history between policing in the U.S. and abroad. Schrader also discusses the context of U.S. military deployment on American soil and the long tradition of militarized police forces.

How French “Intellectuals” Ruined the West: Postmodernism and Its Impact, Explained

Helen Pluckrose:

Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself. That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society. The irrational and identitarian “symptoms” of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist. However, there are consistent ideas at the root of postmodernism and understanding them is essential if we intend to counter them. They underlie the problems we see today in Social Justice Activism, undermine the credibility of the Left and threaten to return us to an irrational and tribal “pre-modern” culture.

Postmodernism, most simply, is an artistic and philosophical movement which began in France in the 1960s and produced bewildering art and even more bewildering  “theory.” It drew on avant-garde and surrealist art and earlier philosophical ideas, particularly those of Nietzsche and Heidegger, for its anti-realism and rejection of the concept of the unified and coherent individual. It reacted against the liberal humanism of the modernist artistic and intellectual movements, which its proponents saw as naïvely universalizing a western, middle-class and male experience.

Studies of Brain Activity Aren’t as Useful as Scientists Thought

Karl Leif Bates:

Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it’s possible to predict an individual’s patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks.

But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any individual person’s brain.

Watching the brain through a functional MRI machine (fMRI) is still great for finding the general brain structures involved in a given task across a group of people, said Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University who led the reanalysis.

“Scanning 50 people is going to accurately reveal what parts of the brain, on average, are more active during a mental task, like counting or remembering names,” Hariri said

Functional MRI measures blood flow as a proxy for brain activity. It shows where blood is being sent in the brain, presumably because neurons in that area are more active during a mental task.

The problem is that the level of activity for any given person probably won’t be the same twice, and a measure that changes every time it is collected cannot be applied to predict anyone’s future mental health or behavior.

Civics: The Mount Vernon Police Tapes: In Secretly Recorded Phone Calls, Officers Say Innocent People Were Framed

George Joseph:

In hours of secretly recorded telephone conversations, police officers in Mount Vernon, New York, reveal widespread corruption, brutality and other misconduct in the troubled Westchester County city just north of the Bronx.

Caught on tape by a whistleblower cop, the officers said they witnessed or took part in alarming acts of police misconduct, from framing and beating residents to collaborating with drug dealers, all as part of a culture of impunity within the department’s narcotics unit.

The Mount Vernon police tapes, obtained exclusively by Gothamist/WNYC, were recorded from 2017 to this year by Murashea Bovell, a 12-year veteran of the department who has been blowing the whistle on misconduct for years.

In 2014 and 2015, Bovell reported his colleagues’ alleged corruption and brutality in confidential complaints to the city and a lawsuit against the city, which was dismissed on procedural grounds. But he saw little change, so he began quietly recording his colleagues to substantiate his own claims.

“I need to have something tangible,” he told Gothamist/WNYC. “Something to prove that what I was saying is true, and wouldn’t fall on deaf ears if the time came.”

Wisconsin Teachers, Parents, And Students Share Their ‘New Normal’

Emily Files:

“I go through periods of highs and lows,” says Brookfield middle school science teacher Laurie Horne. “One day I feel like I’m on top of it and I’ve got this and I’m doing well. And then the next day it’s overwhelming and the pace is too much and I just want to crawl in bed and sleep.”

Horne’s school pivoted to online learning in March, and she says it’s been hard to adapt her hands-on classes.

“Normally, I would have access to microscopes and skeletons and things that would make hands-on learning more vibrant in the classroom,” Horne says. “And those things are not accessible to my students right now and I’m finding that to be a challenge.”

Google faces $5 billion lawsuit in U.S. for tracking ‘private’ internet use

Jonathan Stempel:

The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.

According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.

This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online, the complaint said.

Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.

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

Science without Validation in a World without Meaning

Edward R. Dougherty:

hysicist Richard Feynman had the following advice for those interested in science: “So I hope you can accept Nature as She is—absurd.”1 Here Feynman captures in stark terms the most basic insight of modern science: nature is not understandable in terms of ordinary physical concepts and is, therefore, absurd.

The unintelligibility of nature has huge consequences when it comes to determining the validity of a scientific theory. On this question, Feynman also had a concise answer: “It is whether or not the theory gives predictions that agree with experiment. It is not a question of whether a theory is philosophically delightful, or easy to understand, or perfectly reasonable from the point of view of common sense.”2 So put reasonableness and common sense aside when judging a scientific theory. Put your conceptual models and visualizations away. They might help you formulate a theory, or they might not. They might help to explain a theory, or they might obfuscate it. But they cannot validate it, nor can they give it meaning.

Erwin Schrödinger made a similar critique of the simplified models widely used to explain scientific concepts in terms of everyday experience, such as those used to illustrate atomic theory:

Civics: Getting Real About the Job of Police: A Letter to Barack Obama

Chenjerai Kumanyika:

Your initial statement in response to Floyd’s killing revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of police in U.S. society. Because of that, I’m offering my thoughts as an educator who sees an urgent need for massive political education in the context of an explosive uprising and intersecting oppressions about what you should say next. 

In your May 29 statement on Floyd’s death, you amplified the words of 12-year-old Keedron Bryant, who sang a viral song about being a black man in America, and of your friend who identified with it. 

Thank you for that. These were not simply examples of the trauma of racism as they are frequently presented, but also an important analysis of the interlocking systems of oppression that we are facing. Bryant’s lyric that African Americans are being “hunted as prey,” for example, reminded me of NYPD Lt. Edwin Raymond’s complaint that he “got tired of hunting Black and Hispanic people.”

Bryant’s observance that this is happening “every day,” along with Raymond’s lawsuit against the NYPD for discrimination, counter the idea that racial, extrajudicial state violence is the exception to the rule.  

For this reason, I found myself anxious and disheartened when you said that the solution should include “the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job, the right way, every day.”

Your premise here, as I understand it, is that when police officers commit acts of racist violence, they are outliers, doing something other than the job they were hired to do — that racist violence is a departure from the work that police officers are paid for and expected to do.

By presenting things this way during this time, I assume you are trying to avoid alienating police officers who see themselves and their work as a force for good. Their job is indeed challenging, and I know many officers understand their own work that way.

Colleges Lower the Boom on Retirement Plans

Colleen Flaherty:

Facing devastating financial losses related to the coronavirus pandemic, colleges and universities are cutting costs just about everywhere they can. Increasingly, that includes faculty and staff retirement benefits.

Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern and Texas Christian Universities are some of the institutions to announce cuts to retirement contributions in recent days. Some of these decisions have been more severe and more controversial than others.

One-Year Contribution Suspensions

At Duke, President Vincent Price said in a campus memo that the university is cutting contributions to the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement 403(b) plan for a year, starting July 1. This follows a hiring freeze, suspension of salary increases, new construction holds and other measures. The goal, Price said in the announcement, is to reduce projected expenditures by between $150 and $200 million within the next fiscal year to “sustain the university’s academic programs for the near-term.”

While cutting retirement is “painful,” he said, it affects only deferred income for a year. Approximately 300 university employees who earn more than the federal 403(b) contribution threshold of $285,000 also will have their salaries reduced by 10 percent of the amount above the threshold.

Union’s Union About to Be… Deunionized?

Mike Antonucci:

That contract is due to expire on July 31, and it has led to a couple of startling developments.

The first is especially odd. Although the Pinellas Staff Organization is the exclusive bargaining representative of the seven staffers, only two of them are actually members of the union. The other five do not belong, as is their right under Florida law and the Janus ruling.

One of the five, Don Manly, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to decertify PSO as the exclusive representative. In order to file such a petition, one must have the support of at least 30 percent of the bargaining unit, which in this case is three people — Manly and two others.

If the NLRB approves the petition, an election would be held, and four votes to decertify would cast out PSO.

Decertifying a union’s staff union would be singular enough, but McCall added fuel to the fire by notifying staffers that PCTA would cease abiding by the current contract’s terms when it expires on July 31.

It’s a fundamental principle of collective bargaining that even after a contract expires, its provisions remain in effect — sometimes for years — until a new agreement is reached or until both parties agree to end the relationship.

This move by PCTA caused an uproar within the staff union community. PSO petitioned PCTA to extend the current contract for one year, or until a new agreement can be reached.

Penrose: from mathematical notation to beautiful diagrams

Katherine Ye, Wode Ni, Max Krieger, Dor Ma’ayan, Jenna Wise, Jonathan Aldrich, Joshua Sunshine, and Keenan Crane:

We introduce a system called Penrose for creating mathematical diagrams. Its basic functionality is to translate abstract statements written in familiar math-like notation into one or more possible visual representations. Rather than rely on a fixed library of visualization tools, the visual representation is user-defined in a constraint-based specification language; diagrams are then generated automatically via constrained numerical optimization. The system is user-extensible to many domains of mathematics, and is fast enough for iterative design exploration. In contrast to tools that specify diagrams via direct manipulation or low-level graphics programming, Penrose enables rapid creation and exploration of diagrams that faithfully preserve the underlying mathematical meaning. We demonstrate the effectiveness and generality of the system by showing how it can be used to illustrate a diverse set of concepts from mathematics and computer graphics.

Instead of asking “Is university good?”, ask “Do I have something more compelling to do?”


I’ve been somewhat successful as a researcher without an undergraduate degree or PhD. As a result, I often have people ask me about whether it’s possible to be successful without going to university, whether they personally should, or whether I can help them persuade their parents. At this point, I’ve probably received around a hundred emails on this topic. It’s still hard to know how to respond.

I’m reluctant to encourage people I don’t know well to take non-traditional paths, because I think they’re riskier and depend a lot on the person. In fact, I suspect that many of the people who write to me would be well served by going to university. At the same time, I think alternative paths can be a great choice for some people — in some cases, significantly better than going to university.

Unfortunately, society isn’t very well set up to support and validate young people for whom this is the better choice. So, if you’re considering doing such a thing, you not only need to reason about whether it’s a good decision, but may also need to navigate tricky emotional and social challenges.

Civics: Minnesota is now using contact tracing to track protestors, as demonstrations escalate

Andy Meek:

As the Minnesota protests have spilled across the country, fueled by protestors angered over the police killing of an unarmed Minneapolis man named George Floyd, the protests have morphed into marches and demonstrations that have turned violent everywhere from New York City to Los Angeles. Curfews are being imposed in major cities around the US at the time of this writing, and at least eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have requested the National Guard to assist local law enforcement.

In some cities like Minneapolis, though, officials are starting to turn to a familiar tool to investigate networks of protestors. The tool is contact-tracing, and it’s a familiar tool in that people have been hearing about it frequently in recent weeks as an important component of a comprehensive coronavirus pandemic response. According to Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harringon, officials there have been using what they describe, without going into much detail, as contact-tracing in order to build out a picture of protestor affiliations — a process that officials in the state say has led them to conclude that much of the protest activity there is being fueled by people from outside coming in.

Colleges Lower the Boom on Retirement Plans

Colleen Flaherty:

One-Year Contribution Suspensions

At Duke, President Vincent Price said in a campus memo that the university is cutting contributions to the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement 403(b) plan for a year, starting July 1. This follows a hiring freeze, suspension of salary increases, new construction holds and other measures. The goal, Price said in the announcement, is to reduce projected expenditures by between $150 and $200 million within the next fiscal year to “sustain the university’s academic programs for the near-term.”

While cutting retirement is “painful,” he said, it affects only deferred income for a year. Approximately 300 university employees who earn more than the federal 403(b) contribution threshold of $285,000 also will have their salaries reduced by 10 percent of the amount above the threshold.

Georgetown president John J. DeGioia also announced that the university will suspend all contributions to its employee retirement plan for the coming year, starting next month.

“These contributions would have required $47 million in the coming year,” he wrote in a campus message. “If we find ourselves in a stronger financial position during the coming year, we will revisit this decision.”

Same story at Northwestern. President Morton Schapiro, Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty and Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance, wrote in a financial update that they anticipate a shortfall of roughly $90 million for the 2020 fiscal year.

“qualifications and not seniority will decide who gets let go”

Scott Girard:

Among the changes is one that would allow the district to choose who is laid off and designated as surplus staff based on qualifications rather than seniority. That is among a slate of administrator-proposed “preliminary recommendations” the board discussed Monday night during an Instruction Work Group meeting, with a vote anticipated at the full June 29 meeting.

According to a memo from staff, a review committee of eight administrators and eight staff representatives reached consensus on three items but did not do so on a host of others, including the layoffs. MMSD chief of human resources Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff said they plan to continue discussing the recommendations with Madison Teachers Inc. throughout the month.

“We understand that we still have about a month to meet and continue to work through coming to some consensus,” Hargrove said. “Our team is committed to doing that.”

MTI President Andy Waity wrote in an email to interim superintendent Jane Belmore and School Board members that MTI leaders were “shocked” to see the recommendations on the agenda Monday and hadn’t received any notice that the board would be discussing the handbook changes at the meeting.

“In fact, due to the pandemic and the lack of a Superintendent, we were under the impression that all Employee Handbook review work was suspended for the time being,” Waity wrote. “Then, last week, (Director of Labor Relations) Heidi Tepp scheduled a meeting with us on May 26 to share these ideas.”

Logan Wroge:

An employee can be designated “surplus” when the staffing allocation for a school no longer includes enough positions for them to stay, resulting in the employee being transferred to another school.

According to a memo detailing the recommendations, “surplus” designations based on seniority could hamper the district’s push in recent years to hire more teachers of color, because newer teachers are more likely to be shuffled from school to school every year.

But the district and MTI meet annually to see if they can reach consensus on changes to the employee handbook, which replaced collective bargaining agreements.

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”

Civics: Using a flawed automated system, Michigan falsely charged thousands with unemployment fraud and took millions from them.

Stephanie Wykstra:

In 2014, Carmelita Colvin was living just north of Detroit and taking classes at a local college, when she received a letter from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. The letter stated that she’d committed unemployment fraud and that she owed over $13,000 in repayment of benefits and fines.

Colvin’s reaction, she recalled, was: “This has got to be impossible. I just don’t believe it.” She’d collected unemployment benefits in 2013 after the cleaning company she worked for let her go, but she’d been eligible. She couldn’t figure out why she was being charged with fraud.

What Colvin didn’t realize at the time was that thousands of others across the state were experiencing the same thing. The agency had introduced a new computer program — the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System, or MiDAS — to not only detect fraud, but to automatically charge people with misrepresentation and demand repayment. While the agency still hasn’t publicly released details about the algorithm, class actions lawsuits allege that the system searched unemployment datasets and used flawed assumptions to flag people for fraud, such as deferring to an employer who said an employee had quit — and was thus ineligible for benefits — when they were really laid off.

Facebook & Privacy

Jim do Free:

Data breaches on Facebook has reached it’s peak in 2020 and it’s not even half yet. So the question is, is it even safe anymore? 


Everyday I wake up and scroll through reddit while having my breakfast, and I go through the news of a data breach, hackers selling accounts, or something similar where the user is getting compromised.


The most common example is Facebook. We have given them so much data, but is it even worth it? I mean, yeah, it’s good to be able to use social media like Facebook and interact with all your friends and family, chat, play games and stay up to date with their lives. But we’re trusting them with so much data overlooking the fact that it isn’t after-all, secure.


Facebook Data Breaches


A month ago, a research team at Cyble reported that 267Million Facebook Accounts were sold on the dark web by hackers for just 540$. Fortunately, there were no passwords in the data but it had email addresses, names, Facebook IDs, dates of birth and phone numbers. This data set is perfect enough for a hacker or a scammer to generate a full-fledged phishing attack and if  even 5% of the users fall for it, a great amount of loss can be dealt to the users.

Taxation as a Site of Memory: Exemptions, Universities, and the Legacy of Slavery

Bridget Crawford:

Many universities around the United States are attempting to grapple with their direct and indirect involvement with the institution of slavery. Lolita Buckner Inniss’s book The Princeton Fugitive Slave: the Trials of James Collins Johnson (2019) enters directly into the conversation taking place on university campuses and nation-wide about what responsibilities institutions have to acknowledge their past and to create racially inclusive campuses in the twenty-first century. Because most universities are tax-exempt, it is important to understand that their activities are indirectly subsidized by local, state and federal governments. The lens of tax law facilitates better understanding of universities’ unique historic role in American economic activity as well as contemporary arguments about their obligations to workers and community constituents during the COVID-19 crisis.

Autism severity can change substantially during early childhood

UC Davis:

The MIND Institute’s study, published May 14 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, evaluated changes in symptom severity in early childhood and the potential factors associated with those changes. It included 125 children (89 boys and 36 girls) with ASD from the Autism Phenome Project(APP), a longitudinal project in its 14th year at the MIND Institute. The children received substantial community-based autism intervention throughout their childhood.

The researchers used a 10-point severity measure called the ADOS Calibrated Severity Score (CSS) derived from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), the gold standard assessment tool in autism research. They computed a severity change score for participants as the difference between their ADOS CSS scores at age 6 and at age 3. A change of two points or more was considered a significant change in symptom severity.

Civics: In Minneapolis, a Police Union Gone Rogue

Nancy LeTourneau:

To get some idea of the battle that goes on between the mayor and the police union, here is a story that was reported about a year ago.

In open defiance of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, the union that represents the city’s roughly 900 rank-and-file police officers announced that it is partnering with a national police organization to offer free “warrior-style” training for any officer who wants it…

The announcement comes in response to Frey’s ban of the popular training style, which he first revealed in his State of the City address last week. Frey said at the time that Minneapolis would become the first department in the country to eliminate “fear-based” training…

Many policing agencies, including Minneapolis’, are moving toward “guardian”-oriented tactics, which focus on de-escalating tense situations and use of deadly force as a last resort. But opponents of this approach argue that such techniques endanger officers’ lives by teaching them to let their guard down.

So the mayor banned the use of this “warrior-style” training, with concurrence from the city’s police chief. But the union defied the ban and subsidized the training for officers anyway. It is also the police union that has defended Officer Derek Chauvin, the one who kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for over seven minutes, when he was the target of 18 prior complaints.

I am sympathetic to those who claim that officers like Chauvin are the “bad apples” in departments where honorable men and women serve. I’ve personally known police officers who earned the title of being peace officers. But as they say, “the fish rots from the head,” and it is clear that the police union in Minneapolis went rogue a long time ago.

It is also worth noting that there is a political angle to all of this. Not only did Trump tweet that Mayor Frey is “very weak,” he went on to blast out the threat of “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” I suspect that the president remembers what happened when he came to Minneapolis last fall.

Is the Wisconsin DPI Leaving Private Schools Out in the Cold?

Libby Sobic:

Wisconsin schools are about to receive a massive influx of federal funding to the tune of $221 million. This funding is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and is allocated to benefit K-12 schools and institutions of higher education in both the public and private sectors. But a national battle is being waged in D.C. over how this funding should be allocated to K-12 private schools. In Wisconsin, K-12 private schools are uncertain which side the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will take. If DPI fails to follow the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance, it will prevent millions of dollars from reaching thousands of private school Wisconsin students.

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

Civics: No More Cop Unions

Kim Kelly:

“Legally, unions are responsible for representing their members,” Booker Hodges, a former Minnestota police officer who now works as an assistant commissioner for the state’s Department of Public Safety, wrote in a 2018 blog post on Police One. “The public seems to support this premise when it concerns other labor unions, but not those who represent police officers. Even members of other labor unions, particularly those who belong to educator unions, don’t seem to support this premise when it comes to police unions. Many of them have taken to the streets to protest against police officers, criticized police unions for defending their members and called for an end of binding arbitration for police officers.”

It’s also not as though the police unions’ leaders are taking any pains to show solidarity, or even sympathy, with their fellow workers. Rather, police unions have a long, wretched history of doing exactly the opposite: playing on public fears and misconceptions to push damaging “no angel” narratives about the victims of police violence, while also howling about the “bravery” and “sacrifice” their employees make to “protect” fellow citizens.

For example, on its official website, the IUPA linked to a May 27 Police magazine article that characterized George Floyd’s killing as “the death of a suspect during an arrest in which a Minneapolis officer put his knee on the back of the man’s neck to pin him to the ground.” This was a naked attempt to mislead readers and convince them that Chauvin has to be categorically innocent. It’s also in keeping with the “thin blue line” model of deference to the life-and-death authority granted by reflex to most municipal cops: The law enforcement community—and especially its unions’—first response, when one of its officers is caught red-handed, is to circle the wagons, vilify the victim or survivor, and bat away any criticism or dissent as virtual sedition. If and when reforms are introduced in the wake of an abuse of police powers, police and their unions remain in wagon-circling mode, determined to shoot them down. The bottom line here is all too plain: The police do not want reform; they want the freedom to operate with impunity.

Civics: Here Are The Minneapolis Police’s Tools To Identify Protesters

Caroline Haskins and Ryan Mac:

The Minneapolis Police Department has a wide breadth of surveillance technologies that could be used to monitor and target protesters — including controversial facial recognition software Clearview AI, license plate readers, body cameras, and video analysis tools. The department and law enforcement agencies in neighboring cities have a history of surveilling residents with tech that can speed up the process of identifying and possibly arresting people.

After investigations were opened this month into the deaths of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis and an unarmed black woman in Louisville, Kentucky following police action, protests have broken out across the United States — including in Minneapolis, Denver, Columbus, and New York — expressing grief and outrage and demanding an end to police brutality.

Minneapolis has been the center of these protests following the May 25 death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died after a white police officer detained him and placed him in a knee chokehold. The moments before Floyd’s death, which were captured on camera, showed him struggling to breathe, repeatedly telling police, “I can’t breathe” and “they’re going to kill me.”

Customs and Border Protection Is Flying a Predator Drone Over Minneapolis

Civics: Police act like laws don’t apply to them because of ‘qualified immunity.’ They’re right.

Patrick Jaicomo and Anya Bidwell:

The Supreme Court created qualified immunity in 1982. With that novel invention, the court granted all government officials immunity for violating constitutional and civil rights unless the victims of those violations can show that the rights were “clearly established.”

A virtually unlimited protection

Although innocuous sounding, the clearly established test is a legal obstacle nearly impossible to overcome. It requires a victim to identify an earlier decision by the Supreme Court, or a federal appeals court in the same jurisdiction holding that precisely the same conduct under the same circumstances is illegal or unconstitutional. If none exists, the official is immune. Whether the official’s actions are unconstitutional, intentional or malicious is irrelevant to the test.

Clark Neilly:

In determining the relationship between government and governed, one of the most important decisions a society can make is how accountable those who wield official power must be to those against whom that power is wielded. Congress made a clear choice in that regard when it passed the Enforcement Act of 1871, which we now call “Section 1983” after its location in the U.S. Code. Simply put, Section 1983 creates a standard of strict liability by providing that state actors “shall be liable to the party injured” for “the deprivation of any rights.” Thus, if a police officer walks up to your house and peeks inside one of your windows without a warrant—a clear violation of your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches—he is liable to you for the violation of that right.

But many conservatives do an odd thing: In their preference for a more forgiving policy that gives police and other government officials substantial leeway in the exercise of discretion, they abandon their stated commitment to textualism and embrace an “interpretation” of Section 1983 that is utterly divorced from its text. The vehicle for this conservative brand of what we might call “living statutory interpretivism” is the Supreme Court’s qualified immunity doctrine, which judicially amends Section 1983 to provide that the standard for liability will no longer be the deprivation of “any rights”—as Congress expressly provided—but rather the deprivation of any “clearly established” rights.

As documented in considerable detail on Cato’s Unlawful Shield website, those two words—“clearly established”—do an extraordinary amount of work in keeping meritorious cases out of court and ensuring that plaintiffs whose rights have been violated by police or other state actors will receive no recovery unless they can find a pre-existing case in the jurisdiction with nearly identical facts. But that is plainly not the statute that Congress wrote, nor is it the standard of accountability that Congress chose. Moreover, as Professor Will Baude demonstrates in his masterful article, “Is Qualified Immunity Unlawful?,” there is no credible textual or historical basis for the qualified immunity doctrine; it is a blatant act of pro-government judicial policymaking—activism, if you will—and nothing more.

Before Standardized Testing

Paul Rahe:

What, you might ask, did universities do before the SAT and ACT existed? Some had their own exams – which gave great advantage to those who could travel to the campus to take it. Others emphasized “character” – which, though in principle admirable, tended in practice to mean that to be successful an applicant had to belong to the appropriate social class. In much of the Ivy League, this meant that Catholics, Jews, and the like had no need to bother applying. As discovery in a recent court case against Harvard revealed, this is how that university excludes Asian-American applicants today.

Public universities sometimes opted for another – far more rational expedient – for separating the sheep from the goats, and the University of California was in their number. As one individual observed in a letter published in The Wall Street Journal,

University of Wisconsin uses Equifax Credit Bureau data to evaluate Graduate activity

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The System took a new approach for this study, contracting with Equifax, which identified employment records of UW graduates and sent the confidential, anonymized data to the System’s Office of Policy Analysis and Research for analysis.

Among the findings:

  • Graduates earned a median annual salary of nearly $50,000 a year out of college, almost $59,000 three years out of school and about $66,500 five years after graduation, though salaries varied depending on field.

  • Nearly 90% of in-state students remained in Wisconsin five years after finishing college.

  • About 15% of out-of-state students still lived in the Badger State five years after earning their degree.

Related: Equifax data breech.

Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness

Steven Levitt:

Little is known about whether people make good choices when facing important decisions. This article reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice. For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are more likely to make a change, more satisfied with their decisions, and happier six months later than those whose coin toss instructed maintaining the status quo. This finding suggests that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices.

Microsoft is cutting dozens of MSN news production workers and replacing them with artificial intelligence

Geoff Baker:

The roughly 50 employees — contracted through staffing agencies Aquent, IFG and MAQ Consulting — were notified Wednesday that their services would no longer be needed beyond June 30.

“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. “This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.”

Full-time news producers employed by Microsoft will be retained by the company; they perform functions similar to those being let go. But all contracted news producer jobs have been eliminated.

Some employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, said MSN will use AI to replace the production work they’d been doing. That work includes using algorithms to identify trending news stories from dozens of publishing partners and to help optimize the content by rewriting headlines or adding better accompanying photographs or slide shows.

“It’s been semi-automated for a few months but now it’s full speed ahead,’’ one of the terminated contractors said. “It’s demoralizing to think machines can replace us but there you go.’’

Colleges Face Student Lawsuits Seeking Refunds After Coronavirus Closures

Anya Kamenetz:

Columbia, Brown, Penn, Purdue — universities with hallowed traditions, proud alumni and another thing in common: Right now they’re being sued by disgruntled students.

The students claim that when campuses shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, they should have been entitled to more of their money back. And the list of institutions facing such challenges is growing, including private institutions and entire public systems in California, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona.

The cases — now dozens in all — are raising difficult questions about what truly makes a college education valuable.

Several law firms are handling these suits. One of the most prolific is Anastopoulo Law Firm in South Carolina, which specializes in personal injury. The firm has a colorful background: Its founder, Akim Anastopoulo, spent several years known as Judge Extreme Akim on a court television show called Eye for an Eye, where he meted out revenge, not just cash penalties, to losing parties.

His firm has set up a website,, to recruit plaintiffs for these suits and has filed more than 30 so far.

The genuine polymath is still one in a million

Philip Hensher:

We live at a time of universal polymathy. We don’t know everything, but there’s not much difficulty in being able to discover any given truth. But it’s worth remembering just how hard it used to be to find things out. Thirty years ago if you wanted to research off your own bat it meant a trip to the public library — and perhaps filling out a form for an inter-library loan. Or you could try your luck in a bookshop, new or secondhand. The whole process took a long time, and most people stayed within their professional competence or enthusiasm, frankly admitting to ignorance outside those limits. It was the age of the specialist, memorably captured by Michael Frayn in Donkeys’ Years and the character of Kenneth Snell:

US graduates in crisis: ‘Entry level jobs are not safe at all’

Courtney Weaver:

In Iowa, a law student who imagined a career in public advocacy is looking for jobs in the more lucrative private sector.

In upstate New York, a business student who dreamt of working in sports marketing is considering becoming a teacher. And in Pennsylvania, a new graduate who had planned to spend a year in Indonesia has dropped the idea to immediately start work at a Big Four accounting firm instead.

This is the time of year when America’s 3.9m graduates are finalising plans to enter the workforce and start repaying the $32,000 of debt they have on average accumulated over their four years of study.

We can ease the hardships of educating during COVID-19 with smart policy

Will Flanders:

The coronavirus, and the resulting responses from state government, have disrupted the lives of most Wisconsin families in some way. Of particular importance has been the disruption of K-12 education, as families, teachers and schools adjust to home-based learning. But how well is this unprecedented system functioning? To answer that question, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) conducted a statewide poll to paint a picture of the education environment in Wisconsin under the coronavirus. We found that, while overall satisfaction is high, a number of challenges remain, particularly for low-income families.

Homeschooling advocates say public schools block parents from withdrawing kids

Caleb Parke:

A RealClear Opinion Research survey shows that 40 percent of families are more likely to homeschool when lockdown restrictions lift, a significant increase from the 2.5 million children who were educating their kids at home before stay-at-home orders were put in place.

T.J. Schmidt, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which provides legal services to help parents meet requirements for transitioning children from public school to homeschool, said he’s noticed an uptick in the number of parents trying to pull their kids from public school.

And public schools, he said, are pushing back.

“We see this across the country,” Schmidt said. “I’ve had school officials attempt to prevent or dissuade parents from pulling their kids out.”

He said schools have been unable to process the paperwork to withdraw students from the public school system.

“There’s two main reasons … school officials are fearful of losing too many students to homeschooling, and the second reason is perhaps a staffing issue, just a lacking staffing issue to process these withdrawals. Not always an issue of trying to stop parents from homeschooling but there is a significant part of that involved.”

Nearly 200,000 Wisconsin voters did not have to show a photo ID in the April election

Patrick Marley:

Nearly 200,000 voters dubbed themselves indefinitely confined for the April election, allowing them to cast absentee ballots without providing a photo ID.

Those voters will automatically receive absentee ballots this fall.

The spring election for state Supreme Court saw an unprecedented level of absentee voting as people tried to keep away from others because of the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the globe.

Of the nearly 1 million people who voted by mail, about 195,000 labeled themselves indefinitely confined, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. That’s more than 2½ times the nearly 72,000 who called themselves indefinitely confined in 2019.

In praise of homeschooling

Rita Koganzon:

In mid-March, Kansas became the first state to close its schools for the remainder of the academic year. The following week, my own state of Virginia became the second. Since then, 46 other states and Washington, D.C. have followed suit, and the rest, whatever their hopes, remain closed as of early May. Even if the public health situation improves in the next few weeks, as some optimists hope, school is out. Graduation requirements are waived, final exams are cancelled and our state department of education has encouraged schools to drop grading altogether. Virtual instruction has commenced, but participation in it is largely voluntary and sporadic.

Predictably, many parents quailed at the sudden prospect of becoming homeschoolers. For those still working full-time, it seemed like an impossible demand, and even for those whose work has been moved online, reduced or eliminated entirely, the idea of becoming their children’s teachers (even in concert with their schoolteachers) is overwhelming. Being cooped up at home with their kids without reprieve is trying enough; taking over their education is a bridge too far.

This sudden forced experiment in home education comes at a moment when long-held liberal prejudices against the very idea of homeschooling are resurfacing. Harvard Magazine recently reported on research purporting to show that homeschooling was depriving children of their right to a “meaningful education.” In addition to putting them under the “authoritarian control” of their parents and exposing them to abuse and injury, the article indicated that homeschooling may keep children “from contributing positively to a democratic society.”

Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years

Natalie Wexler:

Every two years, education-policy wonks gear up for what has become a time-honored ritual: the release of the Nation’s Report Card. Officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the data reflect the results of reading and math tests administered to a sample of students across the country. Experts generally consider the tests rigorous and highly reliable—and the scores basically stagnant.

Math scores have been flat since 2009 and reading scores since 1998, with just a third or so of students performing at a level the NAEP defines as “proficient.” Performance gaps between lower-income students and their more affluent peers, among other demographic discrepancies, have remained stubbornly wide.

Among the likely culprits for the stalled progress in math scores: a misalignment between what the NAEP tests and what state standards require teachers to cover at specific grade levels. But what’s the reason for the utter lack of progress in reading scores?

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

Want to Reopen Schools? Better Be Ready to Bargain

Mike Antonucci:

Here in California, state officials have made it clear that they will issue guidelines for school reopenings, but the ultimate decision will be left to the individual districts. In the eyes of the California Teachers Association, that means collective bargaining.

Last week CTA issued its stance on school reopenings, listing those things the union wants to see in place before returning to work. These included precautions with consensus agreement, like face masks, deep cleaning, physical distancing and hand washing.

CTA went beyond those, however, stating, “Schools and colleges cannot reopen safely with the funding level proposed in the revised budget plan.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget revision foresees a $54 billion budget deficit and calls for substantial cuts in spending, including a 10 percent cut to the state’s aid to local school districts.

In the worst case labor scenario, California schools will see a virtual statewide strike, where teachers will refuse to return to work either for safety or budgetary reasons, or both. Recent practice suggests such disputes will be settled with imaginary money, so I suspect any work stoppage would be a relatively short one.

Civics: YouTube (Google) is deleting comments with two phrases that insult China’s Communist Party

James Vincent:

YouTube is automatically deleting comments that contain certain Chinese-language phrases related to criticism of the country’s ruling Communist Party (CCP). The company confirmed to The Verge this was happening in error and that it’s working to fix the issue.

“Upon review by our teams, we have confirmed this was an error in our enforcement systems and we are working to fix it as quickly as possible,” said a YouTube spokesperson. The company did not elaborate on how or why this error came to be, but said it was not the result of any change in its moderation policy.

But if the deletions are the result of a simple mistake, then it’s one that’s gone unnoticed for six months. The Verge found evidence that comments were being deleted as early as October 2019, when the issue was raised on YouTube’s official help pages and multiple users confirmed that they had experienced the same problem.

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

A Taxonomy of Privacy

Daniel Solove:

Privacy is a concept in disarray. Nobody can articulate what it means. As one commentator has observed, privacy suffers from an embarrassment of meanings. Privacy is far too vague a concept to guide adjudication and lawmaking, as abstract incantations of the importance of privacy do not fare well when pitted against more concretely-stated countervailing interests.

In 1960, the famous torts scholar William Prosser attempted to make sense of the landscape of privacy law by identifying four different interests. But Prosser focused only on tort law, and the law of information privacy is significantly more vast and complex, extending to Fourth Amendment law, the constitutional right to information privacy, evidentiary privileges, dozens of federal privacy statutes, and hundreds of state statutes. Moreover, Prosser wrote over 40 years ago, and new technologies have given rise to a panoply of new privacy harms.

Curated Education Information