Category Archives: Uncategorized

From Netflix to rented homes, why are we less interested in ownership?

Ian Leslie:

In 2008 the anthropologist Daniel Miller published a book based on an intimate study of 30 households on a single street in south London. The Comfort of Things ­explored the different kinds of relationships people have with what they own.
 
 Miller described a retired couple’s house, cluttered with furniture, framed photographs and knick-knacks accumulated over decades. Down the road, a self-employed man called Malcolm had rented a flat. Malcolm preferred a spartan existence: he kept his belongings in storage, the better to travel at short notice, and conducted as much as possible of his life online. His home was his email address. His central material possession was his laptop.

Top Chinese university criticised for lowering admission standards for foreign students

Zhuang Pinghui:

The prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing has for the first time allowed international students to apply without taking a written test, causing concerns that it would create a loophole for abuse, Caixin.com reports.

Chinese university students queue for hours for library study space

The University, named the 57th best worldwide and 4th best in Asia by the US News and World Report Best Global University Rankings in 2017, recently changed its admission rules to allow international students to apply as long as they obtained level 5 in the HSK Putonghua proficiency test.

How CS50 at Harvard uses GitHub to teach computer science

Mozzadrella:

How does Harvard’s largest course, an Introduction to Computer Science, use GitHub to achieve its learning goals?

Professor David J. Malan, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science at Harvard University, is dedicated to offering his students a robust learning experience. This post outlines how he uses GitHub and his own custom tools to build hands-on assignments for CS50 students.

Goodbye, maths and English. Hello, teamwork and communication?

Alex Gray:

It’s no longer enough to fill your CV with impressive grades. Employers are looking beyond qualifications to figure out what other skills their candidates have.

Cognitive skills in topics like maths and English have long been used as to measure the calibre of a job candidate. But a report by The Hamilton Project, an economic think-tank, says that non-cognitive skills are also integral to educational performance and success at work – and are becoming increasingly so.

Non-cognitive skills are your “soft skills”: things like how well you can communicate, how well you work with others, how well you lead a team and how self-motivated you are.

Why is Freedom of Speech Important?

The View from Hell

Why is free speech important? When free speech comes into conflict with other values, why should free speech win?

I think a lot of us have only a vague answer to these questions. Free speech is just a good thing. We don’t think much about why free speech is good, just that it’s a semi-sacred value.

And so when free speech is threatened, we don’t have many arguments for why it should prevail, especially in conflict with other legitimate, emotionally resonant values.

What It’s Like to Be a Teen Living in an Immigration Detention Center

Adrienne Gaffney:

Adriana had long looked forward to her 16th birthday — but when the date finally arrived, she celebrated not at home with her family and friends, but in a Texas center for immigrants that felt more like a prison.

“That day I didn’t do anything. I just sat there and I cried and cried all day,” Adriana recalls to Teen Vogue. Weeks earlier, she had fled El Salvador with her mother and sister, Allison, then 13, crossing the Rio Grande in order to escape violence. When they entered the United States, they didn’t have any authorization, and when they were picked up by border patrol officials, they said they were seeking asylum.

Recent US deportation statistics. 2016 ICE.

A School Librarian Caught In The Middle of Student Privacy Extremes

EFF:

As a school librarian at a small K-12 district in Illinois, Angela K. is at the center of a battle of extremes in educational technology and student privacy.

On one side, her district is careful and privacy-conscious when it comes to technology, with key administrators who take extreme caution with ID numbers, logins, and any other potentially identifying information required to use online services. On the other side, the district has enough technology “cheerleaders” driving adoption forward that now students as young as second grade are using Google’s G Suite for Education.

In search of a middle ground that serves students, Angela is asking hard, fundamental questions. “We can use technology to do this, but should we? Is it giving us the same results as something non-technological?” Angela asked. “We need to see the big picture. How do we take advantage of these tools while keeping information private and being aware of what we might be giving away?”

In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant (reading?)

George Monbiot:

In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?

Children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?

We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?

Governments claim to want to reduce the number of children being excluded from school. So why are their curriculums and tests so narrow that they alienate any child whose mind does not work in a particular way?

The best teachers use their character, creativity and inspiration to trigger children’s instinct to learn. So why are character, creativity and inspiration suppressed by a stifling regime of micromanagement?

Another version of Monbiot’s column. Frederick Taylor and the schools is worth contemplation.

But…. reading. Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Race Update

Molly Beck:

“I think our track record is pretty good,” Evers said, citing decreased suspensions and expulsions, increased number of students taking college-level courses while still in high school and modest increases in reading proficiency.

“Is it where we want? Absolutely not,” he said.

Reading a key issuefor Humphries
The state’s reading proficiency levels have been a key issue for Humphries, who has said the DPI must have new leadership in order to improve those levels and students’ skills in other subjects.

Since the early 2000s, Wisconsin’s ranking for reading skills has dropped, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

He said DPI is not aggressive enough in translating their priorities to school officials in an effort to combat some persistent academic problems.

“Unless DPI is held accountable in making sure schools understand the importance … we’re not likely to have an impact, Humphries said. “We’ve seen that with academic achievement gaps.”

Humphries and Holtz have proposed writing new state academic standards, and Humphries said he would introduce a process that would allow persistently low-performing schools to be converted into new ones under new administration, including private voucher schools and charter schools, as long school boards agree.

Notes and links on Tony Evers and John Humphries.

WisPolitics: Lowell Holtz John Humphries Tony Evers

German parents told to destroy Cayla dolls over hacking fears

BBC News

An official watchdog in Germany has told parents to destroy a talking doll called Cayla because its smart technology can reveal personal data.

The warning was issued by the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), which oversees telecommunications.

Researchers say hackers can use an insecure bluetooth device embedded in the toy to listen and talk to the child playing with it.

Manufacturer Genesis Toys has not yet commented on the German warning.

Pixar offers free online lessons in storytelling via Khan Academy

Darrell Etherington:

There are few organizations in the world that can claim more expertise when it comes to storytelling than Pixar. The Disney-owned animation studio is known for its ability to consistently create world-class movies with gripping narrative alongside stunning visuals. Now, Pixar is helping others learn the secrets of great storytelling – for free, in partnership with online education provider Khan Academy.

The two have teamed up to create “Pixar In A Box,” and in this third instalment of the series, lessons are sourced from Pixar directors and story artists including Inside Out and Up director Pete Docter, Brave director Mark Andrews, Inside Out story artist Domee Shi, and Ratatouille animator Sanjay Patel.

Do Chinese Students Threaten Free Speech at Universities Abroad?

Taiwan Sentinel:

Nationalistic PRC student groups abroad are becoming increasingly vocal when it comes to academic institutions inviting critics of the CCP. Whether they succeed in eroding the West’s traditions of freedom of expression will be contingent on how universities respond.

Imagine a group of foreign students at, say, Fudan University in Shanghai or Peking University in Beijing organizing a campaign to prevent a former Chinese official or academic known for his pro-regime views on Tibet or Xinjiang or Taiwan from giving a lecture at the university. Worse, a foreign embassy in Beijing or consulate in Shanghai were in contact with the group of students and compelled them to threaten the university because foreign officials had “serious concerns” about the event and the ideology of the invited speaker.

Scholars Behind Bars

Jonathan Zimmerman:

American higher education has to deal much with bad news, as any quick scan of the country’s front pages will confirm: skyrocketing costs, runaway debt, sexual violence, and sluggish students more interested in partying than learning. But consider the following description of Bard College students, by one of their professors:

Students report that classes are “totally absorbing,” which is clearly evident in the classrooms. The intensity of student engagement is seen in the consistently lively class discussions. The study rooms are always full. In one-on-one conversations with faculty, students often report having read several more books than the ones assigned in order to investigate the topics at hand more deeply. They regularly ask for comments on essays they have written not for class, but just to express their views about someone running for office or an event in the news. On occasion, they buttonhole professors to talk about some particularly challenging philosophical puzzle they have been contemplating, such as how one knows what is and is not fair. Others have wanted to discuss an idea they have for a book they want to write or an organization they hope to establish once they are home.

That’s not the kind of intellectual atmosphere you will find on most American campuses. But these students aren’t on Bard’s campus; they’re in jail. The tribute to them comes from Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, distinguished fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), which provides college education to inmates at several high-security penitentiaries in upstate New York. The project was founded in 1999 by Max Kenner, an undergraduate at the time, with the backing of Bard’s president, Leon Botstein. Lagemann’s evocative book makes a convincing “case for college in prison,” to quote its title, carefully documenting the great many benefits that its graduates receive from BPI.

So does a second account by Daniel Karpowitz, the academic director of BPI and cofounder of a national network to promote liberal arts education in prisons. At the same time, both books also remind us how far our higher-education system has strayed from the humanistic ideal at the heart of the Bard prison project. By any conceivable measure, the education that these inmates receive is vastly superior to the standard academic experience of the roughly 20 million undergraduates in the United States. So these books also serve as an indirect criticism of mass higher education, not just mass incarceration.

Scientists make huge dataset of nearby stars available to public

Jennifer Chu

lThe search for planets beyond our solar system is about to gain some new recruits.
Today, a team that includes MIT and is led by the Carnegie Institution for Science has released the largest collection of observations made with a technique called radial velocity, to be used for hunting exoplanets. The huge dataset, taken over two decades by the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, is now available to the public, along with an open-source software package to process the data and an online tutorial.
By making the data public and user-friendly, the scientists hope to draw fresh eyes to the observations, which encompass almost 61,000 measurements of more than 1,600 nearby stars.

Fakebook algorithms ‘will identify terrorists’

BBC:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has outlined a plan to let artificial intelligence (AI) software review content posted on the social network.
In a letter describing the plan, he said algorithms would eventually be able to spot terrorism, violence, bullying and even prevent suicide.

He admitted Facebook had previously made mistakes in the content it had removed from the website.

But he said it would take years for the necessary algorithms to be developed.
The announcement has been welcomed by an internet safety charity, which had previously been critical of the way the social network had handled posts depicting extreme violence.

Errors
In his 5,500-word letter discussing the future of Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg said it was impossible to review the billions of posts and messages that appeared on the platform every day.

Fakebook algorithms ‘will identify terrorists’

BBC:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has outlined a plan to let artificial intelligence (AI) software review content posted on the social network.
In a letter describing the plan, he said algorithms would eventually be able to spot terrorism, violence, bullying and even prevent suicide.

He admitted Facebook had previously made mistakes in the content it had removed from the website.

But he said it would take years for the necessary algorithms to be developed.
The announcement has been welcomed by an internet safety charity, which had previously been critical of the way the social network had handled posts depicting extreme violence.

Errors
In his 5,500-word letter discussing the future of Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg said it was impossible to review the billions of posts and messages that appeared on the platform every day.

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos being guarded by U.S. Marshals Service

By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Emma Brown

The U.S. Marshals Service says it is providing security for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos after a handful of protesters prevented her from entering a D.C. middle school.

[Protesters briefly block Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s visit to a D.C. school]

The move is unusual for the Education Department, which typically has a team of civil servants guarding the secretary, and for the marshals, law enforcement officers who are generally responsible for protecting federal judges, transporting prisoners, apprehending fugitives and protecting witnesses.

The last Cabinet member protected by marshals was a director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Lynzey Donahue, a spokeswoman for the Marshals Service. That office ceased to be a Cabinet-level position in 2009.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Industrial Revolution Comparisons Aren’t Comforting 

Tyler Cowen:

“Why should it be different this time?” That’s the most common response I hear when I raise concerns about automation and the future of jobs, and it’s a pretty simple rejoinder. The Western world managed the shift out of agricultural jobs into industry, and continued to see economic growth. So will not the jobs being displaced now by automation and artificial intelligence lead to new jobs elsewhere in a broadly similar and beneficial manner? Will not the former truck drivers, displaced by self-driving vehicles, find work caring for the elderly or maybe fixing or programming the new modes of transport?

As economics, that may well be correct, but as history it’s missing some central problems. The shift out of agricultural jobs, while eventually a boon for virtually all of humanity, brought significant problems along the way. This time probably won’t be different, and that’s exactly why we should be concerned.

Linguist’s ‘big data’ research supports waves of migration into the Americas

University of Virginia:

linguistic anthropologist Mark A. Sicoli and colleagues are applying the latest technology to an ancient mystery: how and when early humans inhabited the New World. Their new research analyzing more than 100 linguistic features suggest more complex patterns of contact and migration among the early peoples who first settled the Americas.

The diversity of languages in the Americas is like no other continent of the world, with eight times more “isolates” than any other continent. Isolates are “languages that have no demonstrable connection to any other language with which it can be classified into a family,” Sicoli said. There are 26 isolates in North America and 55 in South America, mostly strung across the western edge of the continents, compared to just one in Europe and nine in Asia.

“Scientists in the past decade have rethought the settlement of the Americas,” Sicoli said, “replacing the idea that the land which connected Asia and North America during the last ice age was merely a ‘bridge’ with the hypothesis that during the last ice age humans lived in this refuge known as ‘Beringia’ for up to 15,000 years and then seeded migrations not only into North America, but also back into Asia.”

In a Feb. 17 presentation to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Sicoli will join other scientists discussing “Beringia and the Dispersal of Modern Humans to the Americas.” Since much of Beringia, theorized to have been located generally between northwest North America and northeastern Asia, has been under water for more than 10,000 years, it has been challenging to find archaeological and ecological evidence for this “deep history,” as Sicoli calls it.

Recent ecological, genetic and archaeological data support the notion of human habitation in Beringia during the latest ice age. The new linguistic research methods, which use “big data” to compare similarities and differences between languages, suggest that such a population would have been linguistically diverse, Sicoli said.

In “Linguistic Perspectives on Early Population Migrations and Language Contact in the Americas,” Sicoli shows how big data analyses point to the existence of at least three now-extinct languages of earlier migrations that influenced existing Dene and Aleut languages as they moved to the Alaska coast. The data comparing dozens of indigenous languages support phases of migration for the Dene languages and multilingual language contact systems along the Alaska coast, which potentially involved languages related to current linguistic isolates. Traces of such language contacts support that the mixing populations also mixed their languages as part of human adaptation strategies for this region and its precarious environment.

“The computational methods give us traction on questions that have been unanswered,” said Sicoli, who has been working in collaboration with Anna Berge of the University of Alaska and Gary Holton of the University of Hawaii. “They help us understand how people migrated and languages diversified not simply through isolation, but through multilingual contact.”

Analyzing languages of the Dene-Yeniseian macro-family, Sicoli and Holton previously found support for Dene migrations from Beringia into North America and Yeniseian migration into Siberia. The linguists’ continuing research is following up on this earlier study that posited a back-migration for the Yeniseian language family.

Chinese Father of Four Forced to Undergo Vasectomy: Case sheds light on forced sterilization, abortion quotas, and other dubious family planning practices.

Wang Lianzhang:

After spending more than 10 years away from his hometown of Luokan, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, a 42-year-old man was forced by local authorities to undergo a vasectomy upon returning for the lunar new year holiday. He was taken away by family planning officials on Feb. 8, and the operation was concluded the next day.

The fecund fugitive, surnamed Hu, was reprimanded for having four children: Already the father of two sons and one daughter, he divorced his first wife, married another woman, and had a fourth child. Zhenxiong County authorities determined that Hu had violated the two-child policy and would undergo a vasectomy as punishment.

Lesson in survival? Some say training teachers and kids to confront a gunman is going too far

Steven Elbow::

There was nervous laughter as the teachers waited, but it evaporated when the commotion broke out in the hallway. People were yelling, and someone blasted a deafening air horn in staccato bursts, meant to represent gunfire.

Five teachers in the barricaded classroom rushed to find cover while one brave soul held a strap affixed to the door handle to keep a would-be attacker out.

It was all for naught. The handle turned, the flimsy tables piled in front of the door gave way and the doorway was breached.

“Don’t just stand there. If I’m in the door, slam that door,” yelled the assailant, in reality a Sauk County emergency management official. “Slam my arm in it. Don’t let me stand here. I’m in the fatal funnel. Attack me.”

Percent of UW-Madison graduates who take on student debt decreases

Logan Wroge::

Fewer UW-Madison graduates left the university with debt in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Of students who earned a bachelor’s degree in the 2015-16 academic year, 53.4 percent graduated with no debt, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday from the university’s Office of Student Financial Aid, though some graduate and professional students saw their average debt increase.

For undergraduates who took out student loans, the average amount of debt declined from $28,768 in 2015 to $28,255 in 2016, according to the report.

Achievement Discussion Gone Missing in Wisconsin Superintendent Election

Molly Beck:

Two state superintendent candidates publicly called each other liars on Friday — days before the two are set to face each other in a three-way primary with incumbent Tony Evers.

It was the latest twist — punctuated by a Democratic lawmaker crashing a news conference — in an increasingly turbulent race.

At the news conference, candidate John Humphries called opponent Lowell Holtz “a liar” who is falsely blaming unnamed business leaders for Holtz’s proposal for one of them to get out of the race in exchange for a six-figure, taxpayer-funded job should the other win.

Holtz later fired back, calling the Friday event a “three-ring circus” orchestrated by Humphries.

Notes and links on Tony Evers and John Humphries.

Cornell University Students Vote Against Intellectual Diversity, on Grounds It Would Harm Diversity

Robby Soave:

First, let me draw your attention to some recent news out of Cornell University, where the Student Assembly considered a resolution that would call for a committee to look into the matter of whether the campus lacks ideological diversity. The resolution cites the fact that 96 percent of Cornell faculty political donations are given to left-of-center candidates and causes as evidence of a problem.

Note that the resolution did not actually call for some kind of intellectual-diversity-affirmative-action, which would likely be ill-conceived and harm the university’s ability to make good hiring decisions. Nor would the resolution have created an actual committee. It merely calls on the faculty to consider creating a committee, in order to study the issue of ideological diversity at Cornell.

“Common sense and research indicate that it is students on the left who have the most to gain from [exposure to different ideas],” New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt told The College Fix, in support of the resolution, “and the most to lose from spending four formative years in a politically homogeneous institution.”

Evers, liberal group rip Humphries and Holtz over meeting about mutual support

Dave Umhoefer:

Humphries alleged Wednesday that another candidate, Lowell Holtz, offered to drop out in exchange for a promise of a $150,000-a-year job in a potential Humphries administration, plus a driver and vast power to break up or take over urban school districts.

“This is a massive power grab,” Evers’ campaign said.

Humphries also charged that Holtz offered some of the same things to him in hopes of persuading Humphries to get out.

Humphries said he declined. Holtz disputed some aspects of Humphries’ claims.

To try to back up his claim, Humphries made public a document he says Holtz gave him at a meeting convened in December at the behest of business people who wanted to see the pair cooperate as they vied to take on Evers.

Commentary on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

Molly Beck

State superintendent candidate John Humphries offered to consider negotiating a consulting contract with opponent Lowell Holtz at the Department of Public Instruction if Humphries defeated incumbent Tony Evers, according to a copy of an email from Humphries.

The Dec. 23 email, which Humphries provided to the Wisconsin State Journal, suggests it was a response to a suggestion from Holtz a day earlier that one of the two candidates drop out of the race on condition the other give him a taxpayer-funded $150,000 job upon winning the state superintendent race.

“My offer includes an opportunity for Lowell to participate in crafting my campaign message,” Humphries wrote. “Lowell would be working alongside me in the campaign, and then in Milwaukee and other urban areas after I am elected. I think the most effective way to do that would be to consider a consulting agreement that would be negotiated once I am elected. Negotiating a contract prior to election would at the very least have an appearance of impropriety. For that reason, I need to be careful with what I agree to but I am interested in continuing our discussions.”

Holtz said that offer amounted to a “bribe” to get out of the race. Humphries campaign spokesman Brian Schupper said that characterization was “ludicrous” since Holtz proposed a day before Humphries leave the race, and that Humphries was offering to discuss ways to possibly work together in the future.

The Humphries campaign released the email Thursday after state Superintendent Tony Evers called on his opponents to release more details about an alleged plan — crafted at the request of unnamed business leaders — to take over the state’s urban school districts.

Notes and links on Tony Evers and John Humphries.

Universities admit students who are ‘almost illiterate’, lecturers warn 

Camilla Turner:

Universities are admitting students who are “almost illiterate”, lecturers warn as they complain that dropping entry requirements has led to a generation of undergraduates who cannot read, write or speak proper English.

Almost half of academics (48 per cent) do not think that students are adequately prepared for university study, according to a Times Higher Education (THE) survey of over 1,000 academic staff.

Many academics believe that slipping standards are to blame, with one lecturer from a red brick university telling the survey: “Each year, the entry requirements for undergraduate programmes are reduced, meaning we get a high number of students who are almost illiterate.”

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results and attempts to weaken teacher standards.

Revealed: life inside China’s ‘Red Army’ schools

Agence France-Press:

In 2008, it was designated a “Red Army primary school” – funded by China’s “red nobility” of revolution-era Communist commanders and their families – one of many such institutions that have been established across the country.

Why are so many Chinese nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution?

The schools are an extreme example of the “patriotic education” which China’s ruling Communist party promotes to boost its legitimacy, but which critics condemn as little more than brainwashing.

“The Red Army spirit is a real asset for children. It teaches them to be hardworking and thrifty from a young age,” said school manager Mu Chunyong, who oversees the 136 pupils in first to fourth grades.

Guizhou province is one of China’s poorest, but even there, most families are now able to afford relatively comfortable lives, making it important to remind students of the hardships of the past, he said.

“If you don’t instil kids these days with a sense of the evolution of history, the kids won’t cherish their current living conditions.”

40% of foreign students in the US have no close friends on campus: The culture shock of loneliness

Andrea van Niekirk:

Foreign students are flocking to the higher education system in the US. A recent study found that in 2011-2012, the number of international students in the US increased by 6.5% over the last year to a record high of 764,495 students. Of these, 56% came from only five countries: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
The reasons for the shift and the consequences of this massive migration have been discussed at great length within universities, in papers with titles such as “The Chinese are Coming.” When the students arrive on American campuses, however, they have to wrestle with social and educational experiences that are fundamentally foreign to them. Most anticipate their American adventure as an exciting opportunity laced with some inevitable adjustments, caught off guard by the extent and nature of the obstacles they encounter, in the classroom and on campus.

How the Anti-Vaxxers Are Winning

Peter Hotez:

It’s looking as if 2017 could become the year when the anti-vaccination movement gains ascendancy in the United States and we begin to see a reversal of several decades in steady public health gains. The first blow will be measles outbreaks in America.

Measles is one of the most contagious and most lethal of all human diseases. A single person infected with the virus can infect more than a dozen unvaccinated people, typically infants too young to have received their first measles shot. Such high levels of transmissibility mean that when the percentage of children in a community who have received the measles vaccine falls below 90 percent to 95 percent, we can start to see major outbreaks, as in the 1950s when four million Americans a year were infected and 450 died. Worldwide, measles still kills around 100,000 children each year.

The myth that vaccines like the one that prevents measles are connected to autism has persisted despite rock-solid proof to the contrary. Donald Trump has given credence to such views in tweets and during a Republican debate, but as president he has said nothing to support vaccination opponents, so there is reason to hope that his views are changing.

America’s spies anonymously took down Michael Flynn. That is deeply worrying.

Damon Linker:

Those cheering the deep state torpedoing of Flynn are saying, in effect, that a police state is perfectly fine so long as it helps to bring down Trump.

It is the role of Congress to investigate the president and those who work for him. If Congress resists doing its duty, out of a mixture of self-interest and cowardice, the American people have no choice but to try and hold the government’s feet to the fire, demanding action with phone calls, protests, and, ultimately, votes. That is a democratic response to the failure of democracy.

Sitting back and letting shadowy, unaccountable agents of espionage do the job for us simply isn’t an acceptable alternative.

Examining College Endowments per Pell Recipient

Robert Kelchen:

One of the most-discussed higher education policy proposals from President Donald Trump has been a proposal to tax the endowments of wealthy colleges that are seen as not using enough money on financial aid. Key Trump supporter Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) has introduced legislation requiring colleges with endowments over $1 billion to spend at least 25% of all investment returns on financial aid, much to the chagrin of wealthy colleges.

This proposal does not take into account the size of a college—which means that colleges with similar endowment levels can have vastly different levels of resources. For example, Vassar College and North Carolina State University had endowments just under $1 billion as of June 2015, but the sizes of the institutions are far different. Vassar has about 2,500 undergraduate students, while NC State has nearly ten times as many.

Another important factor is the financial need of students. Colleges can have similar sizes and similar endowment levels, but differ substantially in their number of Pell recipients (a proxy for low-income status). Washington State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia both have endowments around $900 million, but Washington State enrolled 3,000 more Pell recipients than Mizzou in spite of enrolling 4,000 fewer undergraduates. This means that Mizzou has the ability to target more aid to their Pell recipients should they choose to do so.

The Fight to Fix Symplectic Geometry

Kevin Hartnett:

In the 1830s, the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton reformulated Newton’s laws of motion, finding deep mathematical symmetries between an object’s position and its momentum. Then in the mid-1980s the mathematician Mikhail Gromov developed a set of techniques that transformed Hamilton’s idea into a full-blown area of mathematical research. Within a decade, mathematicians from a broad range of backgrounds had converged to explore the possibilities in a field that came to be known as “symplectic geometry.”

The result was something like the opening of a gold-rush town. People from many different areas of mathematics hurried to establish the field and lay claim to its fruits. Research developed rapidly, but without the shared background knowledge typically found in mature areas of mathematics. This made it hard for mathematicians to tell when new results were completely correct. By the start of the 21st century it was evident to close observers that significant errors had been built into the foundations of symplectic geometry.

Drug resistant bacteria are rampant in China’s poultry products, study shows

Stephen Chen:

Drug resistant bacteria can be found easily in China’s poultry production chain – from hatcheries to supermarkets – according to recent research by scientists from China, the US and Europe, underscoring the need for Beijing to control the use of antibiotics.

Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic drugs. A British government report last year estimated that antibiotic resistance would kill 10 million people yearly around the globe by 2050, more than cancer.

But the new study suggests a grimmer picture.

College endowment returns sink to their lowest level since the financial crisis

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

University endowments posted the lowest investment returns since the 2008 financial crisis, yet schools upped their spending in fiscal 2016, according to a survey released Tuesday by CommonFund and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Endowments have been on shaky ground coming out of the recession. Average annual returns have volleyed since plummeting 18.7 percent in 2009. In the 12 months ending June 30, endowments at 805 colleges and universities recorded a negative 1.9 percent return, compared to 2.4 percent growth the prior fiscal year, according to the survey.

Trump should pity the poor PhD: Glenn Reynolds

Glenn Reynolds::

We’ve heard a lot about the problem of inequality in America over recent years. But most of that talk has ignored one of the very worst pockets of inequality in American society. I speak, of course, of the American university system and its treatment of adjunct professors and graduate students.

Academics seem to think that the business world is a feudal environment characterized by huge status differentials and abusive treatment of underlings. They think that because, to be honest, that’s a pretty good characterization of . . . the modern university, where serfs in the form of adjunct professors toil in the vineyards.

As a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports: “Tenured faculty represent only 17% of college instructors. Part-time adjuncts are now the majority of the professoriate and its fastest-growing segment. From 1975 to 2011, the number of part-time adjuncts quadrupled. And the so-called part-time designation is misleading because most of them are piecing together teaching jobs at multiple institutions simultaneously. A 2014 congressional report suggests that 89% of adjuncts work at more than one institution; 13% work at four or more. The need for several appointments becomes obvious when we realize how little any one of them pays. In 2013, The Chronicle began collecting data on salary and benefits from adjuncts across the country. An English- department adjunct at Berkeley, for example, received $6,500 to teach a full-semester course. It’s easy to lose sight of all the people struggling beneath the data points. $7,000 at Duke. $6,000 at Columbia. $5,950 at the University of Iowa.”

This is how American health care kills people

Ryan Cooper:

Matthew Stewart owes $62,668.78 for drugs, surgeries, and other treatment. With both bankruptcy and possibly fatal liver failure looming, he doesn’t even bother opening his bills anymore, he told The Week. “There was no point. They just upset everyone,” he says.

Stewart is 29 years old, and was pursuing his Ph.D in American history at Texas Christian University until ill health forced him to withdraw. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, with his wife of six years, who is a junior high school teacher in a low-income district. They own their home. Before he came down with complications from cirrhosis caused by autoimmune hepatitis, he says he led a scrupulously healthy lifestyle — he does not drink or do any other non-medical drugs, he says, and was a devoted hiker before disaster struck. And he was insured — indeed, he had a gold plan from the ObamaCare exchanges, the second-best level of plan that you can get.

Think Asia Will Dominate the 21st Century? Think Again.

Dev S. Zakheim:

MICHAEL R. Auslin opens his book with a preface entitled “The Asia that Nobody Sees.” He might better have entitled it “Hiding in Plain Sight.” For far too long, but especially during the Obama years, policymakers chose to focus on Asia’s remarkable economic growth, coupled with an era of relative peace. Too often they overlooked economic, demographic, social, political and military tensions that did not lurk all that far below Asia’s shiny surface.

Barack Obama, who spent part of his formative years in Indonesia, was a leading cheerleader for the concept of the Asian century. He seemed to care little about Europe and preferred to avoid the troubles of the Middle East as much as possible. He embraced the notion of a rising Asia that soon would constitute America’s most vital interests. It was in that spirit, too, that Hillary Clinton announced the “pivot to Asia,” which was meant to refocus American military power and political and economic priorities away from Europe and the Middle East and instead underscore Asia’s importance to the United States.

DeVos and the ‘Third Way’ Opportunity for Democratic Education Reformers

Matthew Frankel, via a kind email::

Democratic education reformers, like many parents throughout the country, passionately believe that our public education system is struggling and needs to get better. But the DeVos appointment has left some of us in a state of confusion.

Some in the Democratic Party, with strong ties to the teachers unions, have outwardly blamed reform-minded Democrats for “helping pave the road for the DeVos nomination.” In addition, those who have advocated against a potentially extreme DeVos agenda believe the only way to fight her is through a traditionalist education agenda, based on the policies of special interests.

While many of us in the Democratic reform space share concerns regarding the DeVos appointment, such extreme tactics do not represent the will of parents. Up until recent years, working across the aisle to find common ground and bring compromise and develop needed results was once considered a patriotic endeavor. And it is clear that blindly following decades-old policy advocated by the teachers unions will certainly not address the current needs of our public school system.

Lost in this debate is the new opportunity provided to the Democratic party—to build on the Obama legacy and create a united, modern, “third-way” when it comes to the Democrat’s values on education.

“check your privilege as a literate person”

Amelia Hamilton:

It seems impossible these days to discuss any issue without being asked to check your privilege. Heaven forbid you have an opinion about something that has nothing to do with race; the privilege police want to ensure that you are made to care. Of course, it is important to consider the positions of others and the privileges that may influence the way we think (be they race, gender, class, the kind of family you were raised in, etc.) but this impulse has devolved into the absurd. Evidently the only way for a white person to check one’s privilege to an acceptable degree in 2017, for example, is to feel ashamed.

Recently, DNC chair candidate Sally Boynton Brown called on this shame to pitch herself for the job—a job she described as removing other white people from the conversation. “My job is to listen and be a voice. And my job is to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt. My job is to shut other white people down when they want to say, “Oh no, I’m not prejudiced. I’m a Democrat. I’m accepting.’” Sorry, Ms. Boynton, but none of that sounds very “accepting.”

Indeed. Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is attempting to further weaken our thin teacher standards.

Campus Rhetoric Lessons:

Josh Horwitz:

Chinese students are joining their peers on American campuses in getting woke. Their cause? Defending the official line of the Communist Party.

On Feb. 2, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) formally announced that the Dalai Lama would make a keynote speech at the June commencement ceremony.

The announcement triggered outrage among Chinese students who view the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as an oppressive figure threatening to divide a unified China. A group of them now plans to meet with the university chancellor to discuss the content of the upcoming speech.

Vouchers kept Milwaukee Catholic parishes open, but at a cost to religious activity

Erin Richards:

Hungerman said he can’t fully explain the reasons behind the numbers.

Maybe, he surmised, parishes that begin to accept vouchers experience leadership change and new priorities. Maybe vouchers caused parishioners to change churches. Maybe parishioners, knowing that their parish has a public funding stream, are less likely to donate, or perhaps they don’t want to donate to help voucher students who may not already be a part of the parish community.

Topczewski, from the archbishop’s office, said declining church revenue caused by fewer Catholics per capita does not necessarily mean declining parish and religious activity.

“Instead, the parish mission shifts to an evangelical mission in a neighborhood that is no longer predominantly Catholic, but whose families still seek out the quality and reputation of a Catholic school,” he said. “The survey misses that schools are a ministry for us.”

CRISIS OF CAPITALISM? PERHAPS, BUT DON’T BLAME IT ON GLOBALISATION

Simon Tilford:

Globalisation did not force governments to adopt policies that divided their countries, exacerbated inequality and hit social mobility. Many of them did those things by choice.

Donald Trump, Brexit, serious populist pressures in other EU countries: are we entering a full-blown crisis of international liberal capitalism? There is no doubt that globalisation poses policy challenges for governments. But globalisation by itself did not force governments to adopt policies that have divided their countries, exacerbated inequality and hit social mobility. Many of them did those things by choice.

The problem is not that we have allowed an increased role for markets, as many on the left (and increasingly on the populist right) argue. Open markets remain the best way of generating wealth and opportunities, of challenging vested interests and of expanding people’s freedom. We are in this mess because we’ve forgotten the lessons of the post-war period. Basically, we have a crisis of distribution and opportunity.

Now sites can fingerprint you online even when you use multiple browsers

Dan Goodin:

Researchers have recently developed the first reliable technique for websites to track visitors even when they use two or more different browsers. This shatters a key defense against sites that identify visitors based on the digital fingerprint their browsers leave behind.

State-of-the-art fingerprinting techniques are highly effective at identifying users when they use browsers with default or commonly used settings. For instance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s privacy tool, known as Panopticlick, found that only one in about 77,691 browsers had the same characteristics as the one commonly used by this reporter. Such fingerprints are the result of specific settings and customizations found in a specific browser installation, including the list of plugins, the selected time zone, whether a “do not track” option is turned on, and whether an adblocker is being used.

Global Surveillance: The Public Must Fight for its Right to Privacy

Christian Stöcker:

The term, “information superhighway” has always been insufficient to describe the Internet. In reality, the Web is a global communication space containing the private information of a large part of the population of every developed country. If someone were able to train an all-seeing eye onto the Internet, the blackmail potential would be almost limitless.

It is precisely this all-seeing eye that the British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the American National Security Agency (NSA) have developed under the name Tempora. An appropriate real-world metaphor for the program might be something like this: In every room of every house and every apartment, cameras and microphones are installed, every letter is opened and copied, every telephone tapped. Everything that happens is recorded and can be accessed as needed.

San Diego Police Targets African San Diego Police Targets African American Children for Unlawful DNA Collection

Jamie Williams:

Specifically targeting black children for unlawful DNA collection is a gross abuse of technology by law enforcement. But it’s exactly what the San Diego Police Department is doing, according to a lawsuit just filed by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties on behalf of one of the families affected. SDPD’s actions, as alleged in the complaint, illustrate the severe and very real threats to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights presented by granting law enforcement access to our DNA. SDPD must stop its discriminatory abuse of DNA collection technology.

Background

According to the ACLU’s complaint, on March 30, 2016, police officers stopped five African American minors as they were walking through a park in southeast San Diego. There was no legal basis for the stop. As an officer admitted at a hearing in June 2016, they stopped the boys simply because they were black and wearing blue on what the officers believed to be a gang “holiday.”

Despite having no valid basis for the stop, and having determined that none of the boys had any gang affiliation or criminal record, the officers handcuffed at least some of the boys and searched all of their pockets. They found nothing but still proceeded to search the bag of one of the boys—P.D., a plaintiff in the ACLU’s case. (It’s standard to use minors’ initials, rather than their full names, in court documents.) The officers found an unloaded revolver, which was lawfully registered to the father of one of the boys, and arrested P.D.

Deep NLP Course

Oxford

This repository contains the lecture slides and course description for the Deep Natural Language Processing course offered in Hilary Term 2017 at the University of Oxford.

This is an advanced course on natural language processing. Automatically processing natural language inputs and producing language outputs is a key component of Artificial General Intelligence. The ambiguities and noise inherent in human communication render traditional symbolic AI techniques ineffective for representing and analysing language data. Recently statistical techniques based on neural networks have achieved a number of remarkable successes in natural language processing leading to a great deal of commercial and academic interest in the field

This is an applied course focussing on recent advances in analysing and generating speech and text using recurrent neural networks. We introduce the mathematical definitions of the relevant machine learning models and derive their associated optimisation algorithms. The course covers a range of applications of neural networks in NLP including analysing latent dimensions in text, transcribing speech to text, translating between languages, and answering questions. These topics are organised into three high level themes forming a progression from understanding the use of neural networks for sequential language modelling, to understanding their use as conditional language models for transduction tasks, and finally to approaches employing these techniques in combination with other mechanisms for advanced applications. Throughout the course the practical implementation of such models on CPU and GPU hardware is also discussed.

Grammar isn’t merely part of language

David Mumford

This post is inspired by reading the latest Tom Wolfe diatribe, “The Kingdom of Speech”. While the book sets off to discuss the issues of what were the origins and evolution of speech in early man, the largest part of this book is devoted to a juicy recounting of the feud between Noam Chomsky and Daniel Everett over whether recursion and other grammatical structures must be present in all languages. Chomsky famously holds that some mutation endowed early man with a “language organ” that forces all languages to share some form of its built-in “universal grammar”. Everett, on the other hand, was the first to thoroughly learn the vastly simplified language spoken by the Amazonian Piraha (pronounced peedahan) that possesses very little of Chomsky’s grammar and, in particular, appears to lack any recursive constructions (aka embedded clauses). What I want to claim in this blog is that both are wrong and that grammar in language is merely a recent extension of much older grammars that are built into the brains of all intelligent animals to analyze sensory input, to structure their actions and even formulate their thoughts. All of these abilities, beyond the simplest level, are structured in hierarchical patterns built up from interchangeable units but obeying constraints, just as speech is.

Autism detectable in brain long before symptoms appear

James Gallagher:

The earliest that children tend to be diagnosed at present is at the age of two, although it is often later.

The study, published in the journal Nature, showed the origins of autism are much earlier than that – in the first year of life.

The findings could lead to an early test and even therapies that work while the brain is more malleable.

One in every 100 people has autism, which affects behaviour and particularly social interaction.

The study looked at 148 children including those at high risk of autism because they had older siblings with the disorder.

All had brain scans at six, 12 and 24 months old.

The bureaucratic ‘skim’ of federal school funding

Dan Benson & Dave Daley:

It takes more than $50 million a year for hundreds of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction staff to manage the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds that flow to local school districts around the state, budget figures indicate.

The figures — which don’t include spending or staff devoted to grant administration in either Washington, D.C., or in local school districts — bolster arguments by those who say the state educational system is too burdened by paperwork and diverts resources that could be better used to help students and to assist their teachers.

For the 2015-’16 school year, $877.63 million in federal money flowed from Washington to the DPI, according to a September 2015 Legislative Fiscal Bureau memorandum to state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis). Of that, more than $823.8 million was passed through DPI to “subrecipients,” mostly the state’s school districts, in the form of federal grants such as Title I for disadvantaged students, school lunches, teacher training and other programs.

The rest of the money — nearly $53.7 million — went to “administration,” or, as DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said in an email, “the operations budget of administering federal programs.”

Ted Neitzke, the former superintendent of the West Bend School District with more than 22 years in the education field and now head of a regional education agency, said the paperwork to administer federal grants in Wisconsin is overwhelming.

“DPI — they got a jillion people working there that are just checking boxes,” Neitzke said. “The paperwork — it needs to be checked 52 ways to Sunday.

“I can’t even imagine how many personnel they (DPI) have whose sole job is just checking boxes,” Neitzke continued. “The unfortunate fact is that cash does not move to the classroom as fast as it should. We should be results-driven, not compliance-driven.”

Why would a tenure-track professor find himself selling his plasma to make rent? A story about debt in the academic world.

Josh Roiland:

“Who’s sticking today?” the man asked.

He wore tan work boots and rough jeans. He told a friend in the waiting room that he had a couple hours off work and thought he’d stop in for some extra cash. The receptionist told him the names of that day’s phlebotomists. He paused. Sliding a 16-gauge needle into someone’s arm is tricky, and the man reconsidered. Instead of signing in, he announced to the room that he’d come back tomorrow and try his luck.

I’d driven 107 miles from my home in Bangor, Maine to the BPL Plasma Center in Lewiston to collect $50 for having my arm punctured and a liter of my plasma sucked out. The actual donation takes about 35 minutes, but the drive and its attendant wait makes for an eight-hour day. I clocked in for that trip five times this summer.

I’m a professor at the University of Maine. My salary is $52,000, and I am a year away from tenure. But like everyone else in that room, I was desperate for money.

Biometrics, real-time data poised to change dating

Marissa Lang and Dominic Fracassa:

“I can see a day where people take a swab of their cheek to get a DNA-level analysis of what they would be attracted to,” he said. “There’s a biological component to all of this that is largely unexplored and it would make this business very different.”

Genetic matchmaking remains nascent, but a few companies have already launched products that claim to use DNA to aid romance.

Genepartner, a Swiss company, offers a $249 DNA compatibility test that it bills as a “complementary service for matchmakers and online dating sites.”

Canadian startup DNA Romance will release a more comprehensive matchmaking service on Valentine’s Day, based on biological compatibility by using the results of already-available DNA tests, such as that offered by Mountain View genetics startup 23andMe.

Offering services that go beyond the current swipe-left, swipe-right trend may be a boon to the industry, too, as investors seem reticent to bankroll dating startups in an already crowded space.

Civics: Coming technology will likely destroy millions of jobs

Ed Hess:

American manufacturing job losses to China and Mexico were a major theme of the presidential campaign, and President Trump has followed up on his promise to pressure manufacturers to keep jobs here rather than send them abroad. Already, he has jawboned automakers Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler and heating and cooling manufacturer Carrier into keeping and creating jobs in the United States.

What he hasn’t yet addressed — but should — is the looming technology tsunami that will hit the U.S. job market over the next five to 15 years and likely destroy tens of millions of jobs due to automation by artificial intelligence, 3-D manufacturing, advanced robotics and driverless vehicles — among other emerging technologies. The best research to date indicates that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are likely to be replaced by technology over the next 10 to 15 years, more than 80 million in all, according to the Bank of England.

UMass-Amherst’s Mandatory Social Justice Classes Denounce ‘White Privilege’, ‘Cultural Imperialism’

Ian Miles Cheong:

Colleges are institutions of learning, not centers for indoctrination. But some schools are making “social justice” classes mandatory for students who want to acquire their degrees and diplomas.

A student in one such program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has given a long interview detailing what actually happens in the classroom day to day—revealing some of the exercises that students are put through and the “facts” that are pushed on them.

The premise of “Education 115: Embracing Diversity” at UMass- Amherst is that the U.S. is a nation of racism and bigotry. In the class, students were told to act out examples of racism to prove America is racist “from A to Z,” recognize the existence of “white privilege,” the dominion of men over women, and come up with ways to fight these societal ills.

The class taught students terms like “privilege,” “internalized classism,” and “cultural imperialism,” and asked students what they could do to end classism on campus.

Civics: PRC Religious Policy: Serving the Gods of the CCP

Jesdica Batke:

Beijing’s update of national-level religious regulations is part and parcel of a larger governance effort. This effort is designed to construct a latticework of legislation for managing citizens’ activities and minimizing international influences. If these regulations are implemented uniformly—which is always a big if in the PRC—in some cases they will offer greater certainty about what is allowed under the law. In others, they will restrict activities that previously had not been clearly regulated. Beijing’s negotiations with the Vatican over bishop ordinations reflect the same desires: to cement the party’s role in defining the permissible in Chinese religious life, to check foreign influence, and to continue to regularize social-management efforts.

Civics: The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious — and Wholly Justified — Felonies

Glenn Greenwald:

Moreover, Gen. Flynn has many enemies throughout the intelligence and defense community. The same is true, of course, of Donald Trump; recall that just a few weeks ago, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer warned Trump that he was being “really dumb” to criticize the intelligence community because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

It’s very possible — I’d say likely — that the motive here was vindictive rather than noble. Whatever else is true, this is a case where the intelligence community, through strategic (and illegal) leaks, destroyed one of its primary adversaries in the Trump White House.

But no matter. What matters is not the motive of the leaker but the effects of the leak. Any leak that results in the exposure of high-level wrongdoing — as this one did — should be praised, not scorned and punished.

It is, of course, bizarre to watch this principle now so widely celebrated. Over the last eight years, President Obama implemented the most vindictive and aggressive war on whistleblowers in all of U.S. history. As Leonard Downie, one of the editors at the Washington Post during the Watergate investigation, put it in a special report: “The [Obama] administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.”

Advocating Governance Diversity

Joel Kotkin:

When the founders crafted the Constitution, they confronted a country with deep divisions — rural and urban, slave and free, immigrant and nativist, manufacturing and commodity producing. The solution they came up with had its shortcomings, notably the tolerance of the truly deplorable institution of slavery, but without these built-in restraints the republic likely would not have survived its first decades.

Even after the Civil War settled control of the central government, the country largely followed the founders’ vision of separating and restraining power. Education, zoning, laws and the governing of morality were handled largely at the local level. The federal government focused on things that were its natural purview — interstate transportation, immigration, foreign and defense policy.

Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances

Daniel M. Hungerman, Kevin J. Rinz, Jay Frymark

Governments have used vouchers to spend billions of dollars on private education; much of this spending has gone to religiously-affiliated schools. We explore the possibility that vouchers could create a financial windfall for religious organizations operating private schools and in doing so impact the spiritual, moral, and social fabric of communities. We use a dataset of Catholic-parish finances from Milwaukee that includes information on both Catholic schools and the parishes that run them. We show that vouchers are now a dominant source of funding for many churches; parishes in our sample running voucher-accepting schools get more revenue from vouchers than from worshipers. We also find that voucher expansion prevents church closures and mergers. Despite these results, we fail to find evidence that vouchers promote religious behavior: voucher expansion causes significant declines in church donations and church spending on non-educational religious purposes. The meteoric growth of vouchers appears to offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.

America Is Losing Its Grip

Tom Vanderbilt:

Unlike most findings in the sleepy field of occupational therapy, her findings, which were published last year in the Journal of Hand Therapy, touched off a media firestorm, as the revelation seemed to encapsulate any number of smoldering fears in one handy conflagration: The loss of human potential in the face of automation, of our increasing time spent on smartphones and other devices, the erosion of our masculine norms,2 of the fragility and general shiftlessness of millennials. Even taking into account the cautionary statistical notes—that the sample sizes of the 1980s studies were not huge, that Fain’s study was mostly college students—the idea of a loss in human strength, expressed through a statistical measure hardly anyone had previously heard of, seemed to hint at some latter-day version of degeneration.

‘The Great Shame of Our Profession’ How the humanities survive on exploitation

Kevin Birmingham:

If it’s worth coining a term for the sort of work that a few other scholars and I are doing, we might call it “Narrative Historicism.” Narrative Historicism is like any other historicism in that it assumes a text’s significance is not immanent but rather radiates outward from the author to the author’s family, influences, preoccupations, and further outward to friends and allies, editors and publishers, and still further outward to cultural habits and biases, to legal, political, and economic institutions. Historicists think all of these ghosts are hovering nearby whenever a reader picks up a book.

Historicism imposes order upon chaos. It finds patterns in the boggling immensity of the past. What fascinates the historicist is how a book ripples out across the wide surface of a culture, how literary intentions end up serving unforeseen interests, how meanings get warped, how people may grow rich or suffer, how what was an expression of freedom now becomes a trap, how what was virtuous now becomes immoral.

Could Frisco ISD soon use students as janitors? It’s just one cost-cutting idea under consideration

Valerie Wigglesworth:

Soon, Frisco ISD students may not be cleaning just their bedrooms. They could be sprucing up their classrooms, too.
That’s one of several suggestions from volunteers trying to help the nearly 60,000-student school district deal with a budget shortfall brought on by a loss of state funding combined with voters’ rejection last August of a tax rate hike. Frisco ISD leaders and community members recently got their first look at the bevy of possible cost-saving strategies.

In addition to having students empty trash cans to cut back on janitorial staff hours, recommendations included charging students — up to $200 in high school — to participate in athletics, establishing a minimum number of students per course and consolidating courses with small enrollments.

Microsoft Allowed to Sue U.S. Government Over E-mail Surveillance

Kartikay Mehrotra:

Microsoft Corp. persuaded a judge not to let the U.S. government out of a lawsuit alleging the company’s free-speech rights are violated by a law that blocks it from alerting users to the clandestine interception of their e-mails.

The judge said Microsoft has at least made a plausible argument that federal law muzzles its right to speak about government investigations, while not ruling on the merits of the case.

“The public debate has intensified as people increasingly store their information in the cloud and on devices with significant storage capacity,” U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in Thursday’s ruling. “Government surveillance aided by service providers creates unique considerations because of the vast amount of data service providers have about their customers.”

Freedom of Speech is Now Largely an Illusion

Scott Adams:

Here’s a fresh example (today) of how Twitter throttles back my free speech when it doesn’t fit their political views. This only happens for Trump-related content, as far as I can tell. I haven’t seen an exception yet. Notice the referenced tweet shows as “unavailable” but it actually is available when users click the link. Twitter does this trick so my followers will think the link is gone and they won’t bother to click. This Twitter censorship method is well-documented by others.

How being replaced by a machine turned this graphic artist into an activist

Christine Ro:

Philippe Chabot, a French Canadian from Montreal, is the force behind @HumanVSMachine, and he knows something about being replaced. He used to be a graphic artist, first in the video industry and then as a freelancer. At one point, he had plenty of contracts and plenty of work. But increasing competition for fewer assignments made this an unstable profession. Eventually, Chabot was bidding against people who would churn out a logo for $5, and he found that game studios were increasingly outsourcing their artwork. Software and chatbots were created that could automatically design avatars and websites. So Chabot left the field and now works in a kitchen.

He’s not the only one of his friends and family whose work has been outsourced, whether to people in other countries or to non-humans.

Chabot said to Ars, “There seems to be stigma about this happening to someone, as if it is shameful. I think if more people would speak about this reality, we’d already be having a nicer transition with all these changes happening.”

Civics: UK Government advisers accused of ‘full-frontal attack’ on whistleblowers

Rob Evans, Ian Cobain and Nicola Slawson:

The government’s legal advisers have been accused of launching a “full-frontal attack” on whistleblowers over proposals to radically increase prison sentences for revealing state secrets and prosecute journalists.

Downing Street believes a major overhaul of existing secrecy legislation is necessary because it has become outdated in a digital age when government employees can easily disclose vast amounts of sensitive information.

Draft recommendations from the legal advisers say the maximum prison sentence for leakers should be raised, potentially from two to 14 years, and the definition of espionage should be expanded to include obtaining sensitive information, as well as passing it on.

The Curse Of Smart People

apenwarr:

A bit over 3 years ago, after working for many years at a series of startups (most of which I co-founded), I disappeared through a Certain Vortex to start working at a Certain Large Company which I won’t mention here. But it’s not really a secret; you can probably figure it out if you bing around a bit for my name.

Anyway, this big company that now employs me is rumoured to hire the smartest people in the world.

Question number one: how true is that?

Answer: I think it’s really true. A suprisingly large fraction of the smartest programmers in the world *do* work here. In very large quantities. In fact, quantities so large that I wouldn’t have thought that so many really smart people existed or could be centralized in one place, but trust me, they do and they can. That’s pretty amazing.

Question number two: but I’m sure they hired some non-smart people too, right?

Which business schools are up or down, plus trends and profiles

Laurent Ortmans:

Insead is top of the 2017 Financial Times Global MBA Ranking of the best 100 programmes. It is the second year that the multi-campus international business school has taken the number one spot, after claiming it for the first time last year.

Stanford Graduate School of Business in California rises from fifth place in 2016 to second, a position it last held in 2014. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is in third place.

Harvard Business School, London Business School (LBS) and MIT Sloan School of Management, three of the MBA ranking’s longstanding heavyweights, all lost ground to their competitors. Harvard drops two places to fourth, the first time in nine years that the Boston school has been outside the top three. London Business School falls three places to sixth, its lowest position in 14 years. MIT Sloan School of Management falls to 13th place, the first time in 10 years that it has been outside the top 10.

Civics: How Online Competition Affects Offline Democracy

Ariel Ezrachi & Maurice Stucke:

We are witnessing the growth of online markets and a change in our purchasing patterns. People are opting for the convenience of online shopping. Advances in technology have seemingly increased our choices and opened markets to competition. We get more of what we desire at better prices and lower quality.

While the technological innovations have benefited us, we explore in Virtual Competition several emerging threats, namely algorithm-driven collusion, behavioural discrimination and abuses by dominant super-platforms.

One interesting characteristic of an online dystopia is its stealth. Granted in the brick-and-mortar world, we seldom knew when manufacturers colluded. But we did know of cruder forms of price discrimination (e.g. adults paying more than children and seniors), and we put up with monopolies’ inferior service and high prices. In the algorithm-driven world, we will often be unaware of camouflaged abuses. We will unlikely know when the digitised hand displaces the invisible hand of competition. What appears competitive may be nothing more than a controlled and manipulated personalised environment – much like in the movie The Truman Show where ignorance is bliss.

The purge turns Turkish academia into a slaughterhouse; Turkey into an ‘intellectual desert’

Yavuz Baydar:

When I heard the news on late Tuesday night, I did not know who to pity more than the other. I knew a few of the victims, but the first one I thought was a soft-spoken, elderly gentleman; Prof İbrahim Kaboğlu, from Marmara University, a top Turkish expert on constitution and law.

His civil courage has remained a contrast with his mild manners: he is one of the flag bearers of those who against all odds defend the value of the rule of law. Tuesday night, this senior scholar from Istanbul was ‘awarded’ by being fired, in a most arbitrary way.

With every new decree, tragedy of the dissident elite of Turkey widens, deepens, as it also exposes the underlying intention of those hold power: to maximize efforts for a ‘negative selection’ – as it happened once upon a time in Germany. Decree after decree, what we observe is the victory of intolerant mediocrity over hard-earned merit, and civil courage.

Reading Roadmap for Wisconsin

Wisconsin reading coalition, via email:

John Humphries, candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, will discuss his Reading Roadmap for Wisconsin on Wednesday, February 15, at 11:30 AM in Milwaukee. The free event will be held in the Juneau Room of the Knickerbocker Hotel, 1028 E. Juneau, with street parking available. The public is invited to listen and ask questions.

Related: Madison’s long-term disastrous reading results.

Where School Dollars Go to Waste

Terrance Ross:

America spends tons of money on education even though the final product isn’t very impressive. If children are indeed the future, then they’re certainly an expensive one: Of the $3.2 trillion in total expenditures for local and state governments in 2012, education accounted for nearly 28 percent, or $869.2 billion, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. That figure topped government spending in any other sector, almost doubling the second-largest recipient of taxpayer dollars—public welfare.

Madison spends about $18k/student annually, despite its long term, disastrous reading results.

I know they are going to die.’ This foster father takes in only terminally ill children – LA Times

Hailey Branson-Potts:

Of the 35,000 children monitored by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, there are about 600 children at any given time who fall under the care of the department’s Medical Case Management Services, which serves those with the most severe medical needs, said Rosella Yousef, an assistant regional administrator for the unit.

There is a dire need for foster parents to care for such children.

And there is only one person like Bzeek.

“If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of,” said Melissa Testerman, a DCFS intake coordinator who finds placements for sick children. “He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”

Typically, she said, children with complex conditions are placed in medical facilities or with nurses who have opted to become foster parents.

But Bzeek is the only foster parent in the county known to take in terminally ill children, Yousef said. Though she knows the single father is stretched thin caring for the girl, who requires around-the-clock care, Yousef still approached him at a department Christmas party in December and asked if he could possibly take in another sick child.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: $1,084,840,000,000: Taxes Set Record Through January; $7,133 Per Worker; Feds Still Run Deficit of $156,939,000,000

Terence P. Jeffrey:

The U.S. Treasury hauled in a record of approximately $1,084,840,000,000 in tax revenues in the first four months of fiscal 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2017), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

That is up about $5,616,000,000 in constant 2016 dollars from the approximately $1,079,224,000,000 in constant 2016 dollars that the Treasury collected in the first four months of fiscal 2016.

Tax revenues from previous years, as reported in the Monthly Treasury Statement for January of each year, were adjusted to 2016 dollars using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator.

Fakebook Has No First Amendment Right to Send Unauthorized Texts, Says Court

Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

“Today is Jim Stewart’s birthday. Reply to post a wish on his Timeline or reply with 1 to post ‘Happy Birthday!'” That’s the text, from Facebook to Colin Brickman, that launched a legal battle between Brickman and the social-media giant.

You see, Brickman had opted out of receiving texts from Facebook via the platform’s notification settings. In response to the unwanted birthday reminder, Brickman filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, representing “all individuals who received one or more Birthday Announcement Texts from [Facebook] to a cell phone through the use of an automated telephone dialing system at any time without their consent.”

SIDS: Many Deaths No Longer A Mystery

Andrea Hsu:

The thought of a baby dying suddenly and unexpectedly is one that keeps parents awake at night, fearing the worst. For years, little was known about sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Babies would die in their sleep, and it was presumed that little could be done to prevent those deaths.

Today in the U.S., more than 2,000 babies die of SIDS every year, according to government figures.

But the mystery surrounding SIDS is not what it once was. Many SIDS deaths are now believed to be accidents caused by unsafe sleep practices. And some are questioning whether the term SIDS remains relevant at all.

How technology is encouraging society to be stupid

Lauren Gilmore:

You can’t go a minute without checking your texts or see who’s favorited your most recent tweet. I, myself, have checked my social media accounts four times while writing this. Being always connected has become almost as habitual as breathing. And yet we can’t remember how we got to this point.
As Roman philosopher Seneca put it: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

It’s not the internet that’s to blame, however, but our own craving for distraction.

When we’re constantly distracted and interrupted, our brains can’t forge the neural connections that give distinctiveness and depth to our thinking.

Most Americans don’t pay extra to support worker-friendly businesses

Aaron Smith & Monica Anderson:

The relationship between businesses and their employees is back in the news, with low-wage laborers recently protesting and striking for a higher minimum wage and independent contractors in the sharing economy suing for expanded rights. But for consumers, how important is it to know about working conditions at the businesses they frequent, and what impact does this knowledge have on their shopping decisions?

UC Berkeley Student Paper Publishes Five Op-Eds Defending Violent Riots

Alex Griseold:

Cal BerkeleyThe major student-run paper of UC Berkeley ran five op-eds Tuesday defending the riots on campus, and arguing that violence was an acceptable response to a speech from Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

The Daily Californian editorial board published five op-eds from five students and former students, who uniformly believed the riot was justified. Nisa Dang demanded critics “check their privilege” before condemning the riots, blaming the violence on the appearance of the police. “I don’t care what Breitbart article or liberal bullshit listicle you’ve read, or what your experiences in white suburbia might have taught you — police are violent agents of the state.”

America’s youngest children most likely to live in poor economic conditions

phys.org

Out of all age groups, children are still most likely to live in poverty, according to new research from the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Using the latest available data from the American Community Survey, NCCP researchers found that in 2015, while 30 percent of adults have low incomes, more than 40 percent of all children live in low-income families—including 5.2 million infants and toddlers under 3. Despite significant gains in household income and reductions in the overall poverty rate in recent years, 43 percent (30.6 million) of America’s children are living in families barely able to afford their most basic needs, according to Basic Facts about Low-Income Children, the center’s annual series of profiles on child poverty in America.

“While food assistance, public health insurance, and other programs have certainly had a mitigating effect on poverty for many families, the fact remains that in the United States young children have close to a one in two chance of living on the brink of poverty,” said Renée Wilson-Simmons, DrPH, NCCP director. “But being a child in a low-income or poor family doesn’t happen by chance, and neither should our approach to alleviating child poverty. In the coming weeks, hundreds of new leaders will take the helm at agencies responsible for implementing policies that touch the lives of poor children and affect their odds of success in life. It’s imperative that they do so with a real understanding of the disadvantages millions of Americans face from very young ages and what growing up poor looks like in America.”

Seven Ways You Can Support Academics in Turkey

Chad Kautzer:

The situation for academics in Turkey has dramatically worsened since the failed coup on July 15, a matter of increasing importance given the investigations, firings, deportations, trials, and detentions of academics even prior to the coup. In January of this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had already stretched the term “terrorist” enough to apply it to over one thousand members of Academics for Peace for publishing a petition. This threat to academics was foreshadowed in previous attacks on journalists and opposition lawmakers.

Civics: House Passes Bill to End Warrantless Email Surveillance

Sam Adler-Bell:

In a rare win for privacy, the House of Representatives voted unanimously today to close a loophole in an existing law that allows the government to access emails stored in the cloud without a warrant. The vote sets up a fight in the Senate that may presage other battles over the proper limits on surveillance to come later in the year.

The new legislation reforms a thirty-year-old statute called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Under ECPA, if an email has been stored for at least 180 days, the government can access that message with no more than a subpoena or court order. That means, if for some reason the FBI wanted to read the email you sent your mother on her birthday in August, they could do so without probable cause.

The “180-day rule” is a relic. ECPA passed in 1986, three years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Email was done in terminals at big research universities. The first commercial email services, MCI Mail (’88) and Compuserve (’89), were still years away. Electronic storage was prohibitively expensive. Email providers rarely held on to messages for more than a few months. Emails over 180 days old, to the extent they existed, were considered “abandoned property.” Congress didn’t contemplate a future in which our email inboxes stretched back years. Today, people store hundreds of thousands of emails in the cloud, amounting to an intimately detailed portrait of a person’s life and thoughts. And under ECPA, the vast majority of them are fair game.

Edgewood College and One City Partner to Train Educators

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

Today, One City Early Learning Centers of Madison and Edgewood College’s School of Education announced a new partnership they have formed to provide preschool teachers-in-training with significant hands-on experience in early childhood education in a community setting.

Beginning this month, Edgewood College will teach its Pre-student Teaching Practicum Course, Ed 381: Pre-reading and Literature for the Young Child, at One City’s preschool located at 2012 Fisher Street in South Madison. The course engages pre-service teachers in the analysis and investigation of literature written for young children. It also addresses the relationships between language development, reading and early childhood experiences in school and home settings.

Edgewood’s students will work with One City teachers to identify quality reading materials for young children from diverse backgrounds, and engage One City’s children in the classroom in pre-reading and literacy development activities. Storytelling, bookmaking and writing children’s books will be explored in the course as well.

One City’s Founder and CEO, Kaleem Caire, hailed the partnership as “a huge win for One City, its children and the City of Madison”, and “a great opportunity for pre-service teachers to enhance their professional knowledge, cultural awareness and dexterity in a diverse school and community setting in South Madison”. Caire further shared that, “Having one of the state’s leading schools of education working in our preschool and neighborhood provides the bridge we need to attract more young people into the teaching profession. Emerging teachers want to do hands-on work throughout their training, and this partnership gives them the opportunity to do so.”

Tim Slekar, Dean of Edgewood’s School of Education said, “Our partnership with One City directly reflects our commitment to the short and long-term success of the thousands of children and adults that our graduates will impact in the future. It also supports our desire to provide the most relevant and high quality educational experience possible to our teachers-in-training. This is a win for everyone involved.”

Edgewood’s course will be taught by Dr. Cynthia Perry, professor of early childhood education. The practicum course will take place from 8:30am – 11:30am every Wednesday during the Spring 2017 semester. One City will also serve as a host site for Edgewood’s student teachers during the summer of 2017.

For more information, contact:

Tim Slekar, PhD
Dean, School of Education
Edgewood College
Email: TSlekar@edgewood.edu
Phone: 608.663.4861

Kaleem Caire
Founder, President & CEO
One City Early Learning Centers
Email: KCaire@onecityearlylearning.org
Phone: 608.268.8004

North Dakota Law School Eliminates Its Only Clinic In Face Of Possible 15% Budget Cut; Faculty, Staff Offer Voluntary Pay Cuts To Stem 11% Tuition Increase

Andrew Hazzard:

The UND School of Law will put its student law clinic on hiatus for at least two years and is beginning to discuss tuition increases because of higher education budget cuts proposed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

In a meeting with about 80 law students Thursday afternoon, UND School of Law Dean Kathryn Rand told students the program would need to begin making hard cuts. Those cuts will include no longer operating the law clinic, which provides pro bono legal service primarily in immigration and employment law fields. The clinic allows law students to get some of the hands-on credits they need to earn their juris doctorates.

Rand said the law school also has decided to eliminate the summer term, which she said was well-liked by students but was not cost-effective for the university.

Yale will rename Calhoun College to honor ‘trailblazing’ alum Grace Murray Hopper

Ed Stannard:

NEW HAVEN >> Yale University’s Calhoun College will be renamed to honor Grace Murray Hopper, a Yale alumna who was a “trailblazing computer scientist, brilliant mathematician and teacher, and dedicated public servant,” Yale President Peter Salovey announced Saturday.

The decision, made Friday by the 19-member Yale Corporation, reverses the trustees’ decision in April not to rename Calhoun, at the end of an academic year in which debates and discussions were held across campus.

Total recall: the people who never forget

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie::

If you ask Jill Price to remember any day of her life, she can come up with an answer in a heartbeat. What was she doing on 29 August 1980? “It was a Friday, I went to Palm Springs with my friends, twins, Nina and Michelle, and their family for Labour Day weekend,” she says. “And before we went to Palm Springs, we went to get them bikini waxes. They were screaming through the whole thing.” Price was 14 years and eight months old.

What about the third time she drove a car? “The third time I drove a car was January 10 1981. Saturday. Teen Auto. That’s where we used to get our driving lessons from.” She was 15 years and two weeks old.

The first time she heard the Rick Springfield song Jessie’s Girl? “March 7 1981.” She was driving in a car with her mother, who was yelling at her. She was 16 years and two months old.

Price was born on 30 December 1965 in New York City. Her first clear memories start from around the age of 18 months. Back then, she lived with her parents in an apartment across the street from Roosevelt Hospital in Midtown Manhattan. She remembers the screaming ambulances and traffic, how she used to love climbing on the living room couch and staring out of the window down 9th Avenue.

Civics: On Corrupt Journalism

Erik Wemple:

Former Atlantic contributing editor* Marc Ambinder is showing appropriate contrition for having participated in some dubious journalistic practices back in July 2009. As exposed by some Freedom Of Information Act documents secured by J.K. Trotter of Gawker, Ambinder was pursuing a copy of the speech that then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to make at the Council on Foreign Relations. So he emailed renowned Clinton advocate and spokesperson Philippe Reines.

The back-and-forth confirms anyone’s worst suspicions about access journalism. The transaction went like this:

Ambinder asks for a copy of the speech;
Reines says he’ll send it, with conditions;
Ambinder writes back, “ok”;
Reines lays out the conditions:

1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!

Ambinder writes, “got it.”

The story, it turns out, rated Clinton’s speech “muscular” and indeed made reference to the seating thing: “The staging gives a clue to its purpose: seated in front of Clinton, subordinate to Clinton, in the first row, will be three potentially rival power centers: envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, and National Security Council senior director Dennis Ross,” wrote Ambinder, completing his compliance with Reines’s conditions.

Wisconsin Superintendent candidates share goals, but differ on solutions

Jenny Peek:

When it comes to selecting a leader of the public school system, Wisconsin is the only state in the country that calls on “qualified electors” to make the choice.

The state superintendent of public instruction, a position established by the Wisconsin constitution, lasts four years and is housed within the executive branch of state government. In most states, superintendents are appointed by a state school board or governor.

John Witte, UW-Madison professor emeritus of public affairs and political science, says while the post is meant to be nonpartisan, it has always toed the political line.

“Everybody knows which party they’re in and who is supporting them,” Witte says.

The superintendent runs the administrative apparatus of the state’s schools — across 424 school districts — overseeing teacher licensing, curriculum standards and student aid, and implementing educational programs, some of which are mandated by state law. The superintendent also sits on the Wisconsin Technical College System Board and the UW Board of Regents.

“Around the 1980s things began to change throughout the U.S., and they changed dramatically here in Wisconsin. Superintendents became much more proactive for education, and as the roles of the states increased, so did the roles of state superintendents,” says Witte, referring to state oversight of curriculum and testing standards. “The state superintendent is like a governor for the state school system.”

This spring, Wisconsinites will vote for the next school “governor.” The Feb. 21 primary includes three candidates on the ballot: incumbent Tony Evers; John Humphries, a school administration consultant; and Lowell Holtz, a retired district superintendent. Rick Melcher, who teaches math at Park High School in Racine, is running a write-in campaign. The two candidates with the most votes in the primary will face off in the April 4 general election.

Commentary on Wisconsin Teacher Licensing

Jessie Opoien:

Under Walker’s budget, teachers and school administrators would no longer have to renew their licenses every five years, which the governor’s office said would save faculty more than $750 over a 30-year career. Teachers could still be fired for misconduct and school districts would still be required to perform background checks.

“I’m not sure why the governor did it, I guess,” Fitzgerald said. “If he thinks it’s going to bring all the teachers back into the fold for the Republicans he’s probably wrong.”

Much more on Wisconsin’s weak teacher licensing requirements (and a proposal to further water them down), here.

Parents of young children are more ‘vaccine hesitant’

Cary Funk:

A solid majority of Americans believe vaccinating their children against measles, mumps and rubella has high preventive health benefits. But several groups – particularly parents of young children – are less convinced of the benefits and more concerned about the safety of the MMR vaccine.

They stand apart from the 73% of Americans who see the MMR vaccine as a benefit, the 66% who say there is a low risk of side effects and the 88% who say the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Further, some 82% of Americans support requiring children attending public school to be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella because of the potential health risk to others. By contrast, 17% of Americans say parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate and 10% believe the risks outweigh the benefits.

Digital Divides

Lee Rainie

Lee Rainie, director of Internet, Science and Technology research at the Pew Research Center, discussed the Center’s latest findings on digital divides based a survey conducted from Sept. 29 to Nov. 6, 2016. The presentation was to the board of Feeding America. Rainie looked at differences tied to internet access, home broadband ownership, and smartphone ownership by several demographic measures, including household income, educational attainment, race and ethnicity, age, and community type. He also discussed the Center’s research related to “digital readiness gaps” among technology users.

On Education Cost Disease

Scott Alexander:

There was some argument about the style of this graph, but as per Politifact the basic claim is true. Per student spending has increased about 2.5x in the past forty years even after adjusting for inflation.

At the same time, test scores have stayed relatively stagnant. You can see the full numbers here, but in short, high school students’ reading scores went from 285 in 1971 to 287 today – a difference of 0.7%.

There is some heterogenity across races – white students’ test scores increased 1.4% and minority students’ scores by about 20%. But it is hard to credit school spending for the minority students’ improvement, which occurred almost entirely during the period from 1975-1985. School spending has been on exactly the same trajectory before and after that time, and in white and minority areas, suggesting that there was something specific about that decade which improved minority (but not white) scores. Most likely this was the general improvement in minorities’ conditions around that time, giving them better nutrition and a more stable family life. It’s hard to construct a narrative where it was school spending that did it – and even if it did, note that the majority of the increase in school spending happened from 1985 on, and demonstrably helped neither whites nor minorities.

I discuss this phenomenon more here and here, but the summary is: no, it’s not just because of special ed; no, it’s not just a factor of how you measure test scores; no, there’s not a “ceiling effect”. Costs really did more-or-less double without any concomitant increase in measurable quality.

So, imagine you’re a poor person. White, minority, whatever. Which would you prefer? Sending your child to a 2016 school? Or sending your child to a 1975 school, and getting a check for $5,000 every year?

I’m proposing that choice because as far as I can tell that is the stakes here. 2016 schools have whatever tiny test score advantage they have over 1975 schools, and cost $5000/year more, inflation adjusted. That $5000 comes out of the pocket of somebody – either taxpayers, or other people who could be helped by government programs.

Locally, Madison spends about $18k/student annually. This, despite its long term disastrous reading results.

Commentary On Education Policies

Thomas Edsall

While the polarized belief systems that exploded in the battle between Trump and Clinton are driving both policymaking and an invigorated opposition, researchers continue to provide empirical evidence on the difficult issues of race, poverty and intergenerational mobility.

Rucker C. Johnson, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, has followed two generations of black families and concluded that integration has been an effective tool for raising educational levels and living standards.

“Equal opportunity education policies generally are motivated to try to break the cycle of poverty, to break the vicious cycle of disadvantage from one generation to the next, and create a virtuous cycle where being born poor isn’t a life sentence,” Johnson told the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in 2016. “We have a very rare opportunity where a major intervention” — desegregation — “has been shown to be very effective on one generation’s lifetime outcomes, and then to be able to show that those beneficial effects extend into the next generation – particularly the black children whose parents went to desegregated schools.”

Twitter notes.

Pew Datasets

Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project is pleased to offer scholars access to raw data sets from our research. All uses of this data should reference the Pew Research Center as the source of the data and acknowledge that the Pew Research bears no responsibility for interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.

Our data sets are made available as single compressed archive files (.zip file). Pew Research is interested in learning about other ways that scholars use our data. If you publish something based on our data, please let us know by sending us an email. Individuals will need to fill out a brief registration before downloading data. Questions concerning the data sets may be directed to the Pew Research Center.

A secret of many urban 20-somethings: Their parents help with the rent

Quoctrung Bui

Almost half of people in their early 20s have a secret, one they don’t usually share even with friends: Their parents help them pay the rent.

Moving into adulthood has never been easy, but America’s rapidly changing labor market is making it harder to find economic security at a young age. Skilled work is increasingly concentrated in high-rent metropolitan areas, so more young people are tapping into their parents’ bank accounts.

According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, about 40 percent of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses. Among those who get help, the average amount is about $3,000 a year.

Detained Katy ISD student returns to Texas

Shelby Webb:

After a week and a half in immigration custody, 16-year-old Katy High School student and Jordanian national Mohammad Abu Khadra is back in Texas.

Mohammad flew from Chicago and landed in Houston late Wednesday morning, where his brother, Rami, picked him up. Mohammad’s arrival marked the end of a chapter in a case that has raised questions about President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive order on immigration and how it affects travelers from Muslim-majority countries, including those not explicitly listed in the order.

Ali Zakaria, an attorney representing Mohammad and his family, said he was relieved Mohammad was reunited with his brother.

“I have a 16-year-old myself at home, I couldn’t imagine if something like that happened to my son,” Zakaria said. “It’s a happy day, and we want to let it sink in so they can enjoy the moment now. Then we’ll come up with legal strategy and address legal issues at that time.”

Mohammad was flagged by Customs and Border Protection agents at a Houston airport on Jan. 28, the day after Trump signed an executive order barring all refugees for 120 days and banning all travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, including Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Iran. It included an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees entering the U.S.

Commentary On The Madison School District’s Benefit Spending (achievement Benefits?)

Chris Rickert, using facts:

For context, Wisconsin employees who get health insurance through their work pay about 22 percent of the annual premium, on average, or about $1,345 a year for single coverage, according to 2015 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average salary for a private- sector worker in Wisconsin was $45,230 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Madison teachers made, on average, $55,600 a year last school year and contribute 3 percent of premium costs, or about $205 a year for single coverage. Bringing that contribution up to 12 percent would mean the average teacher contributing about $600 more per year for single coverage.

While spending more than most ($18k/student), Madison’s benefit spending is substantial. This, despite its long term, disastrous reading results.

Related: an emphasis on adult enployment.