Category Archives: Uncategorized

Madison must address its crisis of illiteracy

Laurie Frost:

I am grieving the death of Toni Morrison.

I admired Morrison deeply because she had the courage to speak truth with unflinching clarity, and because she did so with a magnificent lyricism.

In the wake of Morrison’s passing, I have been feeling doubly sad because I know the vast majority of our black students in Madison will never read anything Morrison wrote. Why? Because they cannot read at the level required to enter the hallowed space of her work.

But the situation has improved for our black students, you say.

No, it hasn’t, I reply.

And because everyone claims to be data driven these days, let me offer up the cold, hard numbers.

According to the state Department of Public Instruction, only 10% to 15% of our black fourth-graders in Madison are reading proficiently. (Note: Fourth grade is a pivotal year, when “learning to read” becomes “reading to learn.”) That means 85% to 90% of them are not. The situation has not changed for a very long time.

Unbelievably, things do not improve as our black fourth-graders move from grade to grade. As a cohort of Madison students moves from elementary through high school, it continues to be the case that no more than 15% of the black students in the cohort are reading proficiently. That means no fewer than 85% of them still are not.

The illiteracy of Madison’s black students is a longstanding crisis. It is time to make it our highest priority.

Literacy is a fundamental responsibility of public education. It is the key that opens the door to the wider world of opportunity, possibility and change. Literacy is a prerequisite for active and informed participation in our increasingly fragile democracy. It is the single most personally and politically empowering tool on the planet.

Let me be clear: The problem is not that our black children cannot learn how to read. The problem is our failure to teach them how to read, exacerbated by our complacency around that failure.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to go to school every day not knowing how to read. I question the value of a high school diploma in the absence of basic academic skills, such as literacy. I do not understand how our black children can be expected to feel “excellent” when they cannot read. I am baffled and outraged by the absence of honest public conversation about the unconscionably low literacy rate of our black students.

There is a long, inglorious history of the powerful withholding literacy from the powerless, which is why some people argue that our ongoing failure to teach our black students how to read is the new Jim Crow.

Agree or disagree about how to explain it. Can we at least agree that whatever we’ve been doing for so many years hasn’t worked, and that it’s long past time for us to figure out what will?

In blessed memory of Toni Morrison, let us join our hands and hearts together and finally teach our black children how to read.


Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts.

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

Stretch Targets:

Open Records vs the taxpayer funded Madison school board

Chris Rickert:

Nicki Vander Meulen, who was elected to the board in 2017 and serves as the board’s clerk, said that in response to the union’s push, district administrators in a private “board briefing” Monday with her and another board member said acceding to the union’s demand would set a “bad precedent.”

“That’s virtually telling you how to vote,” she said.

Vander Meulen is not the first board member to question the legality of board briefings, which were instituted in 2013 by just-departed former superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and are held separately between one or two board members and administrators to go over items on upcoming agendas.

Former board member TJ Mertz stopped attending the meetings out of fear they could amount to the creation of “walking quorums,” which occur when members of a public body coordinate privately to take a certain action, thus rendering “the publicly held meeting a mere formality,” according to the state Department of Justice.

Madison has for decades spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts. Yet, we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Edgewood High School sues Madison over athletic field conflict, alleges religious discrimination

Emily Hamer:

After a heated months-long battle with the city of Madison over whether Edgewood High School’s athletic field can be used to host games, the Catholic school filed a federal lawsuit against the city Wednesday alleging religious discrimination.

The lawsuit claims Madison has imposed city ordinances in an “arbitrary, unequal and unlawful” way by restricting the use of Edgewood’s athletic field to only team practice and gym classes, and refusing to give the school an electrical permit to add lights to the field.

“All of the city’s public high schools and the University of Wisconsin-Madison share the same zoning classification as Edgewood, yet the City is imposing these restrictions on Edgewood alone,” the lawsuit states.

Abigail Becker:

For nearly a century, (Edgewood) has used its on-campus athletic field to host athletic contests and other activities in furtherance of its religious mission and values,” the lawsuit states. “However, the City and its officials have now imposed the City’s land use regulations in an arbitrary, unequal, and unlawful manner to prohibit Edgewood and its students from using the field for anything other than team practices and physical education classes.”

In a statement, the school said it needed to file the lawsuit Wednesday to meet a deadline regarding possible future appeals and that it is reviewing all of its options.

Edgewood names the city, the Zoning Board of Appeals, Zoning Administrator Matt Tucker and Building Inspection Division Director George Hank in the lawsuit.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a statement Wednesday that the city “does not discriminate against any religion.”

Last year, Edgewood proposed adding seats, lighting and a sound system to its athletic field that would allow it to host sporting events at night. Neighbors opposed the project, saying the added lights, noise and traffic would disrupt the neighborhood.

Hong Kong street art: how Wan Chai is being transformed as graffiti gains acceptance

Lauren James:

WWalls sprayed with slogans, stencils and scenes don’t just affect the aesthetic value of a city – they can also inspire cultural shifts.

Just as the original “Lennon Wall” sprang up in Prague in the 1980s, as citizens behind the iron curtain voiced their dissent through art, Hong Kong now has its own walls covered, in messages of support for the extra­dition bill protests. And similar to the Hong Kong streets and plazas taken over by neon Post-it notes, the Czech Lennon Wall is periodically destroyed and recreated, to symbolise uprisings – in both the creative and political spheres.

This year’s street art and mural festival organised by HKwalls did not delve into politics speci­fically, yet the works adorning walls in Wan Chai are redolent of a city that is becoming comfortable expressing its values through visual public media.

“[Street art] makes people more aware of the space they’re in. They stop and take notice,” says Jason Dembski, the American architect and designer who founded the non-profit HKwalls with Hongkongers Stan Wu and Maria Wong in 2014. “The Lennon Walls are about communicating thoughts and ideas and sharing them with the wider public, which is what a lot of street art is about.”

The Financialization of the American Elite

Sam Long:

On October 1, 2018, the newly christened Klarman Hall opened to much acclaim on the campus of Harvard Business School. The stunning $120 million building houses a conference center as well as a gleaming auditorium built around a 32-million-pixel, 1,250-square-foot video wall and a state-of-the-art, modular design that seats up to a thousand attendees.1 To mark the opening, the school held a daylong series of speeches and lectures, headlined by the building’s namesake and one of the school’s wealthiest living gradu­ates, billion­aire investor Seth Klarman.

Sixty-two-year-old Klarman leads Baupost Group, a hedge fund headquartered high above historic Boston Common. The New York Times has called Klarman “the most successful and influential in­vestor you have probably never heard of,” while the Economist nick­named him the “Oracle of Boston,” a comparison to Warren Buffet.2 Like Buffet, Klarman has a cultlike following within so-called value investing circles. An out-of-print book that he wrote early in his career, Margin of Safety, now commands over $1,500 for a paperback copy on Amazon.3

Although the building has certainly enhanced his reputation on campus, the school has long held up Klarman as a role model for its students. Klarman launched Baupost with several million dollars of his professors’ money immediately after receiving his MBA from Harvard in 1982, brashly bypassing the apprenticeship model that is common for aspiring investors.4 When faculty members introduce Klarman during classroom visits, they emphasize Baupost’s early days as a start-up, and Klarman is presented both as a bold entrepreneur and a stock-picking wizard with a near-superhuman ability to make money.

How Life Sciences Actually Work: Findings of a Year-Long Investigation

Alexey Guzey:

academia has a lot of problems and it could work much better. However, these problems are not as catastrophic as an outside perspective would suggest. My (contrarian, I guess) intuition is that scientific progress in biology is not slowing down. Specific parts of academia that seem to be problematic: rigid, punishing for deviation, career progression; peer review; need to constantly fundraise for professors. Parts that seem to be less of a problem than I initially thought: short-termism; lack of funding for young scientists.

Historic Rise of College-Educated Women in Labor Force Changes Workplace

Likhitha Butchireddygari:

The trend is likely to continue to rise. Since the 1980s, women have made up the majority of those seeking bachelor’s degrees. By 1999, women received 57% of bachelor’s degrees, and it has been that way more or less for almost two decades.

While 57% might appear to be a magic number for women with college degrees, it’s unclear whether the college-educated female workers will ever get to that point and how long it will take for it to do so. Ariane Hegewisch, program director of employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said several factors—including future demand for female-dominated professions, impact of automation on female-dominated professions and the child and elder care policy landscape—will shape the female share of the college-educated labor force.

The rise of these female workers is changing the way companies structure compensation and benefits packages to attract qualified women. According to human resources consulting firm Mercer ’s 2015 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, 6% of employers with 20,000 or more employees covered egg freezing. In 2018, that number nearly tripled to 17%. Smaller companies have seen smaller but steady growth in coverage of fertility services in recent years.


James Pontuso:

n the evening of February 12, 1974, a notorious criminal—considered to be one of the most dangerous men in the world—was taken from an infamous prison, flown out of his country, and unceremoniously dumped in Cologne, Germany. His jailers would have preferred to kill him, but, frightened of the consequences, they instead sentenced him to permanent exile. Incredibly, this man—who had terrified the rulers of a vast empire—was not the leader of a rival country, a terrorist group, or a political party. His only weapons were a strong-willed spouse, loyal friends, an exceptional memory, and a literary talent matched by few of his contemporaries.

The ex-convict was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He had spent eight years in the Soviet Gulag after writing an offhand jibe about Stalin in a letter to a friend. There, as one of millions of innocent people sent to the camps, he witnessed firsthand the ineptitude, brutality, and injustice of the Communist system. He vowed retribution. Solzhenitsyn had committed to memory the atrocities of the Soviets, and he set about chronicling them after his release.

He slipped through a crack in the Soviet monolith when Nikita Khrushchev allowed the novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, set in a Soviet labor camp, to be published in 1962 as a way of discrediting Stalin’s followers. The book became a worldwide sensation and so raised Solzhenitsyn’s international profile that he was able to publish The First Circle and Cancer Ward in the West in 1968 without serious reprisals. In 1970 he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

The Beleaguered Moderators Who Keep Hacker News Focused on Intellectual Curiosity

David Cassio:

When venture capitalist Paul Graham unveiled Hacker News in 2007, he’d formulated its goal of stoking “intellectual curiosity.”

“Paradoxical as it sounds, the thing that makes hackers such good startup founders is that they care about more than business. They have intellectual curiosity driving them as well as the desire to make money. So the way to make a news site for startup founders is to make it be about more than just startups,” he wrote at the time.

Last Thursday The New Yorker offered an assessment of this goal, in “The Lonely Work of Moderating Hacker News.” The article revealed that the tech news and discussion forum now has 5 million unique visitors each month, and wonders if “the site’s original tech-intellectual culture can be responsibly scaled up to make space for a more inclusive, wider-ranging vision of technology.”

People with unusually high IQs, why are you still unsuccessful?


Because no man is an island, but heckuva many are peninsulae. Success is much more than merely intelligence, tenacity and hard work. Success is the ability to cooperate, use the connections, teamwork, friends, social ties, organizations and hierarchies. To howl with the wolves.

There is the nasty thing of communication range which is the root cause of this issue, why people with unusually high IQ are more likely lonely than not.. Nobody gets successful alone and on one’s own merit only..

According to several intelligence researchists, all meaningful human interaction can occur only on certain bracket of IQ – the communication range. According to Leta Hollingworth, it is +/- two standard deviations (30 points), according to D.K. Simonton, it is +/- one standard deviation (15 points). Once the difference between two human beings’ intelligence becomes too great, all communication becomes impossible.

Top accounting firms urged to fire pro-riot staff

Global Times:

Industry insiders and Chinese netizens urged the top accounting firms to investigate people who claim to be their staff and fire employees found to have the wrong stance on the current Hong Kong situation, despite distancing themselves from a statement published in the city’s Apple Daily newspaper on Friday requesting the release of arrested rioters.

The firms – KPMG, Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are obligated to give an explanation as their business reputation has been hijacked by anonymous people who claim to be their employees, observers said. They said the firms should launch a formal investigation on the matter.

The statement, the result of a crowdfunding campaign by people claiming to be accountants working at the four firms in Hong Kong, denounced comments made by senior executives of their firms in which illegal protests were condemned and tried to whitewash arrested rioters as “righteous guys,” amid increasingly violent protests which bring huge damages to the city.

The statement said the public condemnation of protests by leaders of their respective firms only focus on their self-interests.

Civics: Former Google Chair’s Data Firm on Payroll of Top Dem Presidential Campaigns

Joe Schoffstall:

It was announced in April that Civis Analytics would be working on behalf of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to help the former vice president connect with younger voters and small donors. On June 14, Biden’s campaign paid $32,000 to Civis for technology services, filings show.

Civis, however, is not performing work solely for the Biden campaign. The Schmidt-backed group appears on the campaign payroll of nearly every top Democrat seeking to oust President Donald Trump from office.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D., Mass.) presidential campaign committee has paid $51,255.29 to Civis for research consulting. Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign disbursed $47,000 to the data firm for software between March and late April.

In addition to Biden, Warren, and Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign paid Civis $24,000 for an analytics platform. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I., Vt.) campaign spent $18,000 on research from the firm. Other Democratic candidates, such as Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), have also tapped Civis for its services this election cycle.

The firm has also collected payments this year from America Votes Action Fund, a nonprofit that bills itself as the “coordination hub” of the progressive movement; Fair Fight, a group started by failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams; NextGen Climate Action, founded by Democratic presidential candidate and billionaire Tom Steyer; the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; and the Democratic National Committee, among others.

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

Transcript of secret meeting between Julian Assange and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Google’s Software is Malware

Malware means software designed to function in ways that mistreat or harm the user. (This does not include accidental errors.) This page explains how Google’s software is malware.

Malware and nonfree software are two different issues. The difference between free software and nonfree software is in whether the users have control of the program or vice versa. It’s not directly a question of what the program does when it runs. However, in practice nonfree software is often malware, because the developer’s awareness that the users would be powerless to fix any malicious functionalities tempts the developer to impose some.

College Still Pays Off, but Not for Everyone

Josh Mitchell:

Investing in a college degree still pays off for most students with higher salaries and greater wealth, but in recent years it has become riskier, splitting graduates more widely into haves and have-nots.

“It just has not been the blanket guarantee of following the same path to prosperity that the earlier generations followed,” says economist William Emmons of the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

There are three related shifts causing economists to re-examine the returns of college. First, the wages of college graduates have remained mostly flat this century, after inflation. Second, the cost of attending college has soared. Third, even with higher salaries, significant numbers of college graduates in recent years are failing to build the kind of wealth that previous generations did.

New initiatives hint at how Africa’s universities can respond to its youth boom

The Economist:

In rwanda it’s not easy to get a job,” says Jean-Paul Bahati, a student at Kepler, a college founded in Kigali in 2013. But the 22-year-old believes his course will help him stand out. He studies health-care management, a growing industry in Rwanda. Kepler’s degrees are accredited by Southern New Hampshire University (snhu), which runs one of the largest online universities in America. The first six months are a crash course in skills such as critical thinking, English, communication and it. “I like that Kepler knows what employers want,” says Mr Bahati.

In recent decades millions of young people like Mr Bahati have swelled the number of students in sub-Saharan Africa. Today 8m are in tertiary education, a term that includes vocational colleges and universities. That is about 9% of young people—more than double the share in 2000 (4%), but far lower than in other regions (see chart). In South Asia the share is 25%, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 51%.

Civics: Taiwan leader lauds Cathay CEO for listing self instead of giving names to CCP Taiwan legislator praises Cathay CEO as ‘true warrior’ for refusing to give list of striking employees to CCP

Keon’s Everington:

Supporters of the Hong Kong protests, including Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), are praising former Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg for taking a principled stand and protecting his employees at the expense of his own position.

According to local Hong Kong media reports, Beijing authorities asked Hogg to hand over a list of Cathay Pacific employees who had taken part in the recent anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong. Instead of betraying his employees and endangering their safety, he only provided a list of one name — his own.

Indicating the intimate involvement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the investigation of the airline, Hogg’s resignation was first made public by Chinese state-run media outlet CCTV at 4:50 p.m. on Aug. 16. It was not until 5:14 p.m. that Cathay Pacific itself officially announced that Hogg was stepping down as CEO, leading to speculation that his resignation was the result of pressure from Beijing authorities.

SF Board of Supervisors sanitizes language of criminal justice system

Phil Matier:

The words “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” “addict” and “juvenile delinquent” would be part of the past in official San Francisco parlance under new “person first” language guidelines adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will be a “formerly incarcerated person,” or a “justice-involved” person or simply a “returning resident.”

Parolees and people on criminal probation will be referred to as a “person on parole,” or “person under supervision.”

A juvenile “delinquent” will become a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.”

And drug addicts or substance abusers will become “a person with a history of substance use.”

“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney said.

Haney was one of 10 supervisors (Gordon Mar was absent) who voted for the new guidelines, which Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer proposed.

Pop culture lionizes the dazzling brilliance of money managers on the autism spectrum. Reality rarely measures up.

Amanda Cantrell:

Three weeks after I enrolled my youngest child in a neighborhood nursery school in Brooklyn, I got the call. An administrator and my child’s lead teacher urgently wanted to meet with my husband and me.

Our daughter, it turned out, was wandering out of the classroom. She wasn’t making eye contact. She didn’t respond to her name. She couldn’t carry on a conversation with her teachers or classmates. She had poor fine motor skills. She didn’t play with toys like others did. Most alarmingly, she wasn’t socializing well — or at all — with other children. In short, it was impossible to teach her in a regular classroom setting.

We were baffled. Those observations didn’t square with the ebullient, extremely verbal child whose pediatrician had never raised any red flags about her social or emotional development. But at the school’s urging, we had her evaluated through New York City’s Department of Education. Looking for a diagnosis — something the DOE doesn’t give for preschoolers — we also sought the advice of a developmental pediatrician, who confirmed what no one else would tell us: Our daughter was on the autism spectrum.

Civics: NYT’s blockbuster Rhetoric about American politics!

Fabius Maximus:

There is always a Left-Right spectrum. That was so even in the Roman Republic. But the “teams” or their characteristics shift, as our political system evolves. For years, bien-pensant Leftists insisted that the Right-Conservatives-Republicans (different expressions on the spectrum) had moved to the right. They said this in 2012 (e.g., here and here, in 2015in 2016 (e.g., here and here), in 2017, and even in 2018 (here and here). Some even said that the Democratic Party had moved to the right.

But by 2018 it became increasingly difficult to ignore the Left-liberal-Democrats move to the Left. Especially after Trump has governed as a standard right-wing Republican for 3 years. Tax cuts for the rich and more military spending like Reagan and Bush Jr. Hatred for arms control treaties, like conservatives back to 1964. Harsh measures on immigrants from the South, like FDR and Obama.

David Graham, staff writer at The Atlantic insisted that the Party was being pulled to the Left by voters. By this year it became impossible to hide. Time to retcon US political history! For that, they call on the heavy hitters at the New York Times: “What Happened to America’s Political Center of Gravity?” by Sahil Chinoy, based on data from The Manifesto Project. They open with comforting words to the Left.

The case of the missing tattoos: Altered photo lineup by Portland police draws objection

Maxine Bernstein:

There’s no mistaking the elaborate tattoos that cover Tyrone Lamont Allen’s forehead and right cheek.

But when Portland police suspected Allen was involved in four bank and credit union heists, and none of the tellers reported seeing tattoos on the face of the man who robbed them, police digitally altered Allen’s mugshot.

They covered up every one of his tattoos using Photoshop.

“I basically painted over the tattoos,’’ police forensic criminalist Mark Weber testified. “Almost like applying electronic makeup.’’

Civics: Rasmussen: New Poll Shows Voters Trust Political News About As Much As They Trust Wikipedia

Tim Hains:

“The media has a huge credibility problem and it’s always had the problem,” he explained. “Oh, we talk about it differently today. Now we talk about it as a political bias. I think the issues have always been there. I mean, people were complaining about the bias of Walter Cronkite back in the 1960s.”

He continued: “78% of voters say that what reporters do with political news is promote their agenda. They think they use incidents as props for their agenda rather than seeking accurately record what happened. Only 14% think that a journalist is actually reporting what happened… If a reporter found out something that would hurt their favorite candidate, only 36% of voters think that they would report that.

“So voters are looking at them as a political activist, not as a source of information,” he concluded.

The world’s most-surveilled cities

Paul Bischoff:

Cities in China are under the heaviest CCTV surveillance in the world, according to a new analysis by our researchers at Comparitech. However, some residents living in cities across the US, UK, UAE, Australia, and India will also find themselves surrounded by a large number of watchful eyes, as our study of the number of public CCTV cameras in 120 cities worldwide found.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras serve many purposes, ranging from crime prevention to traffic monitoring to observing industrial operations in environments not suitable for humans. The digital age has boosted the prevalence of CCTV surveillance. Cameras are getting better and cheaper, while live video streams can be remotely accessed, stored on the internet, and passed around. The adoption of face recognition technology makes it possible for both public and private entities to instantly check the identity of anyone who passes by a CCTV camera.

Depending on whom you ask, the increased prevalence and capabilities of CCTV surveillance could make society safer and more efficient, could trample on our rights to privacy and freedom of movement, or both. No matter which side you argue, the fact is that live video surveillance is ramping up worldwide.

Résumés Are Starting to Look Like Instagram—and Sometimes Even Tinder

Chip Cutter:

When it came time late last year for 23-year-old Valentino Bogliacino Bueno to revamp his résumé, he added up top an oval photo of himself smiling. He didn’t stop there.

He designed a watermark of his initials and stretched it diagonally across the page. He included a “by the numbers” section in large blue type to highlight points about his budding career. Accounts under his supervision: 125+. Languages he can speak fluently: two.

“I wanted to do something that stood out,” says Mr. Bueno, who recently received a promotion to regional marketing and site coordinator at Balfour, which sells class rings to high schools and colleges. “I feel like this is what the future of résumés is going to be.”

What The 1619 Project Leaves Out

Jim Geraghty:

“The goal of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times that this issue of the magazine inaugurates, is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year,” The New York Times Magazine editors declare. “Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.”

The scale of the opening offering is massive by the standards of modern journalism: 100 pages (with a few ads), ten essays, a photo essay, and a collection of original poems and stories from 16 additional writers.

But the 1619 Project’s effort to “reframe American history” requires cropping out some significant figures in African-American history. Perhaps no near-100-page collection of essays, poems and photos could cover every significant figure in African-American history, but the number of prominent figures who never even get mentioned or who get only the most cursory treatment is pretty surprising.

Early in Nikole Hannah-Jones’s essay, she reiterates the important point, “in every war this nation has waged since that first one, black Americans have fought — today we are the most likely of all racial groups to serve in the United States military.” The name Crispus Attucks is mentioned three times, but he is, as far as I can tell, the lone black Revolutionary War combatant mentioned. James Armistead was a spy for Lafayette who had access to General Cornwallis’s headquarters. Back in 1996, the New York Times wrote about the First Rhode Island Regiment, who fought at Newport and Pine’s Bridge, and in a regrouped form, Yorktown. By one account, one-quarter of the American forces at the battle of Yorktown were black. The 1619 Project does not mention the Battle of Yorktown.

One might argue that the essay authors preferred to focus on lesser-known African-American historical figures . . . but you really have to strain to contend James Armistead is sufficiently widely known already. Could anyone seriously argue that African-American contributions to the Revolutionary War are too well-known?

Martin Delany was an abolitionist, the first African American accepted to Harvard Medical School (white students quickly forced him out), and the first African-American field grade officer in the U.S. Army in 1865. He’s quoted once in passing.

In the early 1860s, about 179,000 black men enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops, almost 10 percent of the entire Union army. The U.S. Colored Troops are not mentioned in the 1619 Project. The Buffalo Soldiers are not mentioned in the 1619 Project. There is a brief mention of African-American soldiers heading west after the Civil War: “Even while bearing slavery’s scars, black men found themselves carrying out orders to secure white residents of Western towns, track down ‘‘outlaws’’ (many of whom were people of color), police the federally imposed boundaries of Indian reservations and quell labor strikes.”

An African maths institute is encouraging home-grown boffins

The Economist:

Albert agisha ntwali was resigned to becoming a maths teacher at a secondary school. The 23-year-old from Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a stellar undergraduate at his local university. But his career options seemed limited until a professor told him about the African Institute of Mathematical Science (aims), a network of postgraduate academies that offers scholarships to budding African mathematicians. Last year Mr Ntwali enrolled at the aims campus in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. “Now I can join a company, become a data scientist, do a phd…” He goes giddy listing the options.

For decades there were few possibilities for African mathematicians to reach their potential on the continent. Many gave up studying; others went abroad. Wilfred Ndifon, a Cameroon-born biologist who oversees research at aims, recalls that after he completed his phd at Princeton in 2009, he was put off from returning home by the lack of computing power. “Universities mostly used Excel,” he says.

The institute is making scholars think twice about forsaking study or moving overseas. In 2003 the first campus was founded on the outskirts of Cape Town by Neil Turok, a South African physicist. Today there are five more, in Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania and Rwanda. Funding for each one comes partly from the host country’s government and partly from international donors. Nearly 2,000 students from 43 African countries have graduated.

That number is set to rise quickly. The institute will open nine new campuses. And it is adding new degrees. In July the first cohort of students graduated in Kigali with a masters in machine intelligence.

Where the short names of Chinese provinces, regions and cities came from

Wee Kek Koon:

On a highway in Shenzhen recently, I spied a mud-splattered car that had perhaps travelled more than 3,000km from Jilin province. In any case, I could tell from its licence plate that the vehicle was registered in China’s northeast.

China is divided into 33 “first-level administrative divisions”, consisting of 22 provinces; four municipalities (Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai and Tianjin); five autonomous regions (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Tibet and Xinjiang) and two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). In addition to these is Taiwan, governed by the nominal Republic of China, which Beijing considers a renegade territory that has yet to be reunified with the Chinese nation.
In the same way that American states are abbreviated to two letters in postcodes (TX for Texas, for example), each of China’s administrative divisions has a single-character name that is a short form of its longer name. It is this character that indicates on the licence plates of civilian vehicles the place of their registration.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: State Tax Collectors Want You

Wall Street Journal:

South Dakota’s law exempted out-of-state businesses with less than $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions in the state. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said these small business exemptions would prevent an undue burden on interstate commerce.

But states have since enacted disparate rules, which as we warned are straining small business. As a case in point, the Kansas Department of Revenue will now require all out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax no matter how much business they do in the state. This includes college students selling used textbooks on eBay and retirees hawking a few hand-made greeting cards on Etsy .

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly earlier this year vetoed an internet sales tax with a small-business exception that the GOP-controlled Legislature had included in a broader tax reform. The state agency then imposed the internet sales tax by fiat while claiming it lacked legal authority to exempt out-of-state small businesses, which are now hostages in a partisan brawl.

The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech

Natalia Dashan:

When I saw him, he was outside Payne Whitney. Nothing about the tall, gray façade suggests it is the university gym, unless there is a new trend of contractors housing athletics departments in Gothic cathedrals. You wouldn’t guess by looking at the frosted glass panes and arches that the third floor hosts the world’s largest suspended indoor swimming pool. It is a work of art, like the rest of Yale’s buildings.

Marcus was smoking by a bench, his face jaundiced from three packs that day. This is atypical for Yale students—most abstain from smoking. There was no reason for him to smoke so much, just as there was no reason for me to ride around campus on a blue Razor scooter. But Yale students tend to have such quirks. His suit-jacket was dusty and smelled of sweat—he didn’t mind lifting weights in a dress shirt and trousers if that meant more time to read Nietzsche alone at the bar.

When I hugged him, he felt skeletal. I asked if he had eaten today. He assured me that his earthly requirements were limited—no need for anything other than alcohol and cigarettes. “I can buy you a sandwich.” He refused. I insisted. A nice one. Bacon and egg. Or steak and cheese. I was testy now. “GHeav is right there. I’ll be back in six minutes.”

He turned his face towards me, warm with friendliness—and with one sentence, he changed our relationship forever.

You know I’m rich, right?”


“You know I have a trust fund, right? I can buy my own sandwich if I wanted it.”

This is the moment when after three years of friendship, Marcus sat down and told me his life story. His cottages in Norway. Sneaking into the family study. Learning about the cost of hardwoods and hearing his boorish, critical father sulk in 5-star hotel rooms.

Marcus did not act this way out of anxiety, grief, stress, or because he had nobody to tell him his habits will kill him. He lived as a starving writer not out of necessity, but for the aesthetic. Out of some desire to imitate the Bohemian 19th century writers. Out of artistry. Style. Intentional choice.

In terms of income at Yale, I was in the bottom 2%. And the people to whom I extended my generosity did not need it, whatsoever. This is mildly entertaining, but not the point. This is not a story about me, or about Marcus, or about our amusing adventures at Yale.

This is a story about an institution and an elite that have lost themselves.

Rod Dreher:

Here’s a really important essay by Natalia Dashan, a recent Yale graduate, who says that “the real problem at Yale is not free speech.” It’s an essay about her alma mater, but really it’s about the moral collapse of the American elite. Dashan came from a poor family (they were once on food stamps, she said), and was shocked to find so many truly rich kids at Yale pretending to be poor.

Hong Kong protests: student leaders say they were victims of death threats for supporting demonstrators

Karen Zhang:

Student leaders have revealed they received death threats and had their personal information exposed after helping their peers protest against the Hong Kong government.

Threats were directed at three student union representatives, it was disclosed at a press conference on Friday, with the culprits vowing to kill family members of one victim, and also publicly displaying posters detailing their private data.

Leung Siu-yuk, external vice-president of Baptist University’s student union, fought back tears when she talked about how she and her family had been targeted.

Why Did China Just Devalue the Yuan?

Joshua Konstantinos:

Recently China allowed their currency to fall below the key level of 7 yuan per dollar. But what does that mean for a currency’s value to change? And what benefit does China gain from this move?

Before we can really answer that question, we need to understand what it means for a currency’s value to change – and how a currency valuation impacts the global economy. In today’s world currencies are free-floating – which just means that the value of currencies relative to each other can change. It wasn’t always this way. Under the old gold standard currencies would all be convertible into gold. And after World War II, the Bretton Woods Agreement established fixed exchange-rates with currencies pegged to the dollar. But after that system broke down, nations abandoned the peg to the dollar and floated their currencies.

Purchasing Power Parity
With currencies now floating, the relative value of a currency suddenly mattered. Under the current free-floating monetary system, the prices of currencies themselves can be manipulated – which affects the calculation of comparative advantage for trade. Currencies can be undervalued or overvalued relative to each other. One might logically suppose that when six Turkish Lira can be exchanged for one American dollar, the actual purchasing power of one dollar would be roughly the same as six Turkish Lira. In other words, if a cheeseburger cost $5 in the United States, when you exchange currency you may get ¥500 yen, but a cheeseburger in Japan should then cost roughly ¥500 yen. But this is not the case. Many nations manipulate the currency exchanges to undervalue the purchasing power parity (PPP) of their own currencies. Making everything priced in their currency cheaper to buyers from foreign countries. This is the reason that China purchased so much U.S. government debt – China bids up the price of the dollar relative to the yuan by buying dollars with yuan, and then sits on these dollars by purchasing U.S. treasuries with them. This is why the idea that you sometimes hear that China could hurt the U.S. by selling off their treasury holdings is totally backward. If they sold their dollar denominated U.S. debt for yuan the value of the yuan would spike and deeply damage their export economy. Both Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren want the dollar to be weaker because, as we will see, a weaker currency will boost exports.

Why is there so much shooting and killing in Chicago?

Chicago Tribune:

A day after Chicago’s weekend from hell, when outbreaks of gunfire killed 12 people and injured at least 62, the carnage continued.
Derrick Hall, 22, was waiting for a bus in the 9100 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue on Monday morning when a man approached and shot him to death, the Tribune reported. In the afternoon, three men were shot on West Iowa Street in South Austin. Later, a man was shot in the wrist by someone in a passing car. A man was hit in the stomach. A man was struck while getting into a vehicle. At least 10 people were shot in eight incidents Monday on the South and West sides.

Overlooked Americans: Scenes from the country’s back row


Perhaps the most enduring image of the Great Depression is Dorothea Lange’s 1936 portrait of a migrant mother in Nipomo, California. The photographer found the woman sitting in a camp where field workers had assembled after their pea crops had failed.

The great recession of our era perhaps has no such single image. But photographer and writer Chris Arnade has a bookful of images with an equally compelling and intimate perspective of what he calls “back row” america.

For more than ten years he’s been travelling the country taking pictures and writing stories about Americans forced to the margins and trying to survive. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker has more.

Exploring DNA with Deep Learning

Floydhub vm:

Neural networks are changing the way that Lex Flagel studies DNA.

Lex’s recent paper – The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Convolutional Neural Networks in Population Genetic Inference – demonstrates how simple deep learning techniques can be used to tackle the ever-changing field of DNA research.

Lex is the Quantitative Genetics Team Lead at Bayer Crop Science. At Bayer, Lex focuses on genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, and data science on crops like corn and soybeans. Don’t worry — we’ll dig into what all those terms mean! Lex has a PhD in Genetics from Iowa State University. He’s also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota.

I’m excited to share my conversation with Lex for this Humans of Machine Learning (#humansofml) interview. In this post, we’re going to learn about how Lex uses deep learning to study population genetics, as well as Lex’s own journey with data science and AI.

We Have Ruined Childhood

Kim Brooks:

According to the psychologist Peter Gray, children today are more depressed than they were during the Great Depression and more anxious than they were at the height of the Cold War. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression rose by more than 60 percent among those ages 14 to 17, and 47 percent among those ages 12 to 13. This isn’t just a matter of increased diagnoses. The number of children and teenagers who were seen in emergency rooms with suicidal thoughts or having attempted suicide doubled between 2007 and 2015.

To put it simply, our kids are not O.K.

For a long time, as a mother and as a writer, I searched for a single culprit. Was it the screens? The food? The lack of fresh air and free time, the rise of the overscheduled, overprotected child, the overarching culture of anxiety and fear?

Those things might all contribute. But I’ve come to believe that the problems with children’s mental and emotional health are caused not by any single change in kids’ environment but by a fundamental shift in the way we view children and child-rearing, and the way this shift has transformed our schools, our neighborhoods and our relationships to one another and our communities.

Parents file complaints over “failure” of new school


Parents of children at the Pontus school in the city of Lappeenranta in eastern Finland have filed a number of complaints with the Regional State Administrative Agency about teaching methods and practices at the school. In some cases, parents have decided to move their children to other schools where more traditional pedagogical methods are still being used.

The Pontus school is one of the first in the country to fully implement the new core curriculum, introduced by Finland’s Ministry of Education in 2016, which is based on the concept of ‘phenomenon teaching’ – the replacing of traditional subject-based classes like maths and history with interdisciplinary courses focusing on broader topics.

Under the new curriculum, children are also encouraged to become autonomous learners, for example by creating their own study plans.

The Pontus school’s brand new building was completed and opened in the autumn of 2017, and the architecture was designed to support the objectives of the new core curriculum.

What happens when a radical sheriff comes to town

The Economist:

The sheriff’s response has been to try making his jail “the best mental-health hospital” possible. He has done away with solitary confinement, a practice which has long been known to cause and worsen mental woes. (Doing so has also cut staff assaults, he says). He appointed psychologists as jail directors and hired medically trained staff in place of some guards. Inmates can take courses in yoga, chess and other activities intended to rehabilitate.

Spend a day in his jail and much appears unusual for a place of detention. In a damp and gloomy basement, prison workers hand out questionnaires to men arrested the night before. They scramble to see inmates before they go before a bail judge (who will release most the same day), to get a chance to diagnose the mentally ill, see who gets treatment and offer care.

For those kept inside—the jail holds some 6,000 detainees at a time, many for three-to-six months—further diagnosis and treatment follows. Staff in a beige hospital building distinguish between 1,600 inmates, currently, who are “higher-functioning” for example with depression, 382 of “marginal stability”, perhaps with schizophrenia, and 80 who suffer the most acute psychosis. The last are the hardest to manage, let alone release safely.

We Have Ruined Childhood

Kim Brooks:

According to the psychologist Peter Gray, children today are more depressed than they were during the Great Depression and more anxious than they were at the height of the Cold War. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression rose by more than 60 percent among those ages 14 to 17, and 47 percent among those ages 12 to 13. This isn’t just a matter of increased diagnoses. The number of children and teenagers who were seen in emergency rooms with suicidal thoughts or having attempted suicide doubled between 2007 and 2015.

To put it simply, our kids are not O.K.

For a long time, as a mother and as a writer, I searched for a single culprit. Was it the screens? The food? The lack of fresh air and free time, the rise of the overscheduled, overprotected child, the overarching culture of anxiety and fear?

Those things might all contribute. But I’ve come to believe that the problems with children’s mental and emotional health are caused not by any single change in kids’ environment but by a fundamental shift in the way we view children and child-rearing, and the way this shift has transformed our schools, our neighborhoods and our relationships to one another and our communities.


Sam Biddle:

NEARLY 1,500 MILES from the Menlo Park headquarters of Facebook, at a company outpost in Austin, Texas, moderators toil around the clock to screen and scrub some the most gruesome, hateful, and heinous posts that make their way onto the social network and its photo-sharing subsidiary, Instagram. They are required to view as many as 800 pieces of disturbing content in a single shift, and routinely turn to on-site counselors to help cope with the procession of stomach-turning images, videos, and text. But some members of this invisible army have complained, in a statement widely circulated within Facebook, that the outsourcing giant that officially employs them, Accenture, has repeatedly attempted to violate the confidentiality of these therapy sessions.

The moderators work from within a special section for outsourced staffers at Facebook Austin. The Texas outpost is designed to mimic the look and feel of the company’s famously opulent Silicon Valley digs, but Accenture workers say they’re reminded daily of their secondary status and denied perks, prestige, and basic respect. This second-class tier at Facebook, a sort of international shadow workforce, has been well documented in the media, from Manila to Arizona, and it’s not clear whether the company has done anything to address it beyond issuing defensive PR statements. Moderators in Austin say their job is a brutalizing slog and that Facebook remains largely indifferent to their struggles. Access to on-site counseling is one of the few bright points for this workforce.

Commentary on Academic Rhetoric

Will Davis:

On a page dedicated to keeping up with classmates, I thought it was tacky to bring up politics, and I couldn’t keep my fingers shut. As comedian Ron White famously said, “I had the right to remain silent, but I did not have the ability.”

I pointed out to my fellow Dragons that former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard “The Scream” Dean is also an SG alum, and he offends ME greatly. Yet I don’t urge our school to banish him.

“If you want to send the message that SG is another liberal bastion that crushes dissent and anyone who thinks original thoughts,” I wrote, “this seems like a good way to do it.”

I went on to say that I’ve lived in Georgia for 27 years and had yet to meet anyone who advocates white supremacy.

My old chum Candace Gottschalk, who lives in New York City, would have none of it.

“I imagine it would be easy for you to agree that white supremacy isn’t a problem,” wrote Gottschalk. “You are a white male who included an image of the confederate flag on your senior page. Just last week, my husband, who is black, went to the farmer’s market and was asked by the vendor if he was looking for collard greens, because you know, black people only eat collard greens. Racism is everywhere. You do not see it because you are never the victim of it.”

Really? So now her husband is a victim of racism because they asked him if he wants collard greens? My gosh, I LOVE collard greens. Are we really sitting around waiting to be offended? Can you imagine growing up with people like this?

Hong Kong Protesters Are Worried About Facial Recognition Technology. But There Are Many Other Ways They’re Being Watched.

Rosalind Adams:

Beneath the neon lights of Causeway Bay’s shopping malls and restaurants, a man in a yellow hard hat and black shirt pressed his knee into the back of a protester who was pinned down by the police. With his cheek to the ground and his own blood pooling beneath his face, the protester pleaded for mercy.

“Even my front tooth is broken. I’m sorry,” he said, his body heaving as he cried.

The hard hat and black clothes have become the standard uniform of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, but the man who aided police in the arrest last Sunday was actually part of an undercover operation, the police department said in a press conference earlier this week. It was the first time that authorities had publicly confirmed using undercover officers. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said the operation was to target “core extreme protesters.”

Since the protests started in June over a controversial extradition bill, participants have routinely covered their faces, blocked or smashed closed-circuit television cameras, and communicated over encrypted apps to conceal their identities. But with the protests growing into a wider resistance movement, with police expanding their tactics and nearly 750 people arrested, protesters are increasingly paranoid about how the authorities are working to identify them — and who can be trusted.

One year ahead of funding deadline, Wisconsin schools continue finalizing safety, security plans

Briana Reilly:

As students in the Madison area prepare to head back to school this fall, they’ll find their buildings could include new state-of-the-art cameras, enhanced door locking technology and updated phone systems.

Those measures and others have been installed in schools throughout Wisconsin over the last year, as officials have sought and been awarded state funding to beef up security practices after lawmakers in 2018 created a new safety grant program.

Some of those changes were completed, or near completion, when students entered classrooms last fall, as schools worked tirelessly to begin implementing them ahead of the August 2020 deadline.

O Oberlin, My Oberlin I taught there for 18 years, but the details of its conduct as revealed in a recent lawsuit shocked even me

Abrahan Socher:



I went back to Oberlin on a Friday in June for the first time in a year or so. Even retired professors like me have to return books to the library (eventually). Driving off the Ohio-10 freeway, down East Lorain Street, past the organic George Jones Farm—named for a beloved botany professor, not the great country-and-western singer—I saw the first of several yard signs supporting Gibson’s Bakery in its lawsuit against Oberlin College and its dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, who is also vice president of the college. The previous day, a Lorain County jury had awarded Gibson’s an astounding $33 million in punitive damages in addition to the $11.2 million it had already assigned to the family business for compensatory damages.

The jury found that Oberlin College and its dean of students had maliciously libeled the Gibson family as racists and deliberately damaged their business by suspending and later cancelling its century-long business relationship with the bakery—all while unofficially encouraging a student boycott. And the jury found that the college had intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the Gibsons themselves.

At least neither Dean Raimondo nor anyone in the Oberlin administration was found to have harmed the Gibson family dog. But someone did slash the tires of their employees’ cars; there were anonymous threats; and someone harassed the 90-year-old paterfamilias, Allyn W. Gibson, in the middle of the night, causing him to slip and crack three vertebrae. All because on November 9, 2016, his grandson and namesake, Allyn Gibson, who is white, had caught an underage African-American student named Jonathan Aladin first trying to buy and then trying to steal wine from the store with two college friends. When Gibson tried first to call the police and then to take a picture of Aladin with two bottles of wine under his shirt, Aladin slapped the phone out of his hands and ran out of the store. Gibson chased him across the street, tried to stop him, and was beaten up by Aladin and his friends. “I’m going to kill you,” Gibson reported Aladin saying. Aladin and his friends, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, were arrested. The Gibsons pressed charges against the students despite the college’s repeated demands that they drop them.

In court, Raimondo and other key players in the Oberlin administration were shown to have actively supported two days of student protests against Gibson’s after the arrests, cursed and derided the Gibson family and its supporters in emails and texts—“idiots” was among the milder epithets—and ignored those within the college who urged deliberation, compromise, and restraint. Oberlin President Marvin Krislov and others rejected the Gibson family’s repeated pleas to renounce the charge that they were racists, even when presented with strong statistical and anecdotal evidence that this was not the case.

In August 2017, nine months after his arrest, Jonathan Aladin pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted theft, aggravated trespassing, and underage purchase of alcohol. His friends pled guilty to the first two charges. All three students read statements to the court acknowledging that Allyn Gibson had been within his rights to detain them and that his actions had not been racially motivated. On the sidelines of the court, the director of Oberlin’s Multicultural Resource Center and interim assistant dean of students, Antoinette Myers, texted her supervisor, Dean Raimondo. “After a year”—that is, after the students were eligible to have their criminal records expunged—“I hope we rain fire and brimstone on that store,” Myers wrote.

The fact that the students’ guilty plea was the result of a plea deal, as most criminal convictions are, and that the students’ allocution was compelled by the court (a feature of criminal justice with deep roots in common law) encouraged many students and faculty to believe that somehow this had still been a racist incident. How, exactly, was never made clear. What should Allyn Gibson have done with an underage customer who had just shown him a clearly fake I.D. and now had two bottles of wine under his shirt? Perhaps if Gibson had said something like “Come let us reason together: I can’t sell you wine, but I can share a nice cold Snapple with you while we discuss my family’s exceedingly thin profit margins and how we are both oppressed under neoliberalism,” things would have been different. They might even have found out that they had something in common, since Jonathan Aladin was the student treasurer at Oberlin, which also has thin margins.

McCready (D) Slams GOP Opponent for Not Believing in Public Schools, Sends Children to $18K Private School

Cameron Cawthorne:

Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready (N.C.) on Sunday accused his Republican opponent Dan Bishop of not believing in public schools, despite sending his children to a private school that costs $18,000 a year.

McCready, who will be facing state Sen. Bishop in a September 10th special election for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, participated in the Fayetteville NAACP candidate forum, where he claimed Bishop’s policies hurt public school teachers.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Cost to Families for Health Coverage and Care Has Risen More Than 2X Faster Than Wages and 3X Faster Than Inflation Over the Last Decade

Kaiser Family Foundation:

A new KFF analysis that looked at both premiums and other out-of-pocket costs shows that families with coverage through a large employer paid 67 percent more for their health benefits and care in 2018 than a decade earlier.

In 2018, a typical family of four with large employer coverage spent $4,706 on their share of health premiums and $3,020 on cost sharing (such as deductibles, copayments and coinsurance) for a combined cost to the family of $7,726, the analysis finds. That was up from $2,838 in premiums and $1,779 in cost sharing in 2008, for a combined cost to the family of $4,617 a decade ago.

The rise in health costs borne directly by families outstripped the growth in wages (31%) and inflation (21%) over the 10-year period, according to the analysis. Over the same ten-year period, employers’ contributions toward their workers’ health insurance premiums increased 51 percent (from $10,008 to $15,159).

These New Facebook Ads From Chinese State Media Want You To Believe Xinjiang’s Muslim Internment Camps Are Just Great

Ryan Mac:

Extending the reach of its propaganda beyond its borders, Chinese state-owned media is running ads on Facebook seemingly designed to cast doubt on human rights violations occurring under the government’s mass incarceration of Muslim minorities in the country’s northwest Xinjiang region.

BuzzFeed News found three ads — two active and one inactive — within Facebook’s ad library extolling the alleged success stories of detainees at the camps and claiming that the detention centers were not meant to interfere with religious beliefs and practices. The two active ads had been placed in the last four days and were targeted to an audience in the United States and other countries.

Controlling the NARRATIVE: Hong Kong protest: What is mainland China hearing?


But access to Google is blocked in China, and if you look on Baidu, the filtered search engine mostly used on the mainland, you get “Hong Kong flights back to normal” followed by “what has happened in Hong Kong recently”. The results led on what China’s ambassador to the UK said on the issue recently and the losses protesters have caused by paralysing the airport.

Screengrab of Baidu search window
When the demonstrations first erupted on 9 June, China’s heavily controlled state media kept silent, except for reports on pro-government rallies and the foreign ministry’s condemnation of “foreign interference”. One headline in the nationalist Global Times read: “HK parents march against US meddling.”.

In early July, media published their first stories about the demonstrations after protesters broke in to the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s parliament. Xinhua, the state-run news agency, criticised “lawless acts that caused mass destruction, which was shocking, distressing and infuriating”, citing the Hong Kong Liaison Office of the central government.

A second round of coverage on the protest rolled out when the Liaison Office was besieged in late July.

I’ve heard taxpayer supported K-12 administrators discuss the importance of “controlling the narrative”.

Grafton appeals decision forcing it to pay $78,000-a-year private school tuition for student with learning disabilities

Annysa Johnson:

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee this week, argues that Judge Sally Pederson erred in July in finding that Grafton failed to provide a now 17-year-old student with the free and appropriate public education required by state and federal law.

Grafton Superintendent Jeff Nelson and the district’s attorney, Andrew Phillips, declined to discuss the case. But the attorney for the student and his mother called the appeal “foolish.”

“The judge wrote a sound decision,” said Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, a longtime civil and disability rights attorney. “The law is very clear that courts must defer to special education administrative law judges. And this particular judge, to my knowledge, has never been overturned on appeal.”

The Federal Complaint.

-via Chan Stroman.

Sun Prairie School District soliciting suggestions for school names and mascots

Logan Wroge:

Community members have two weeks to offer suggestions on a new name for the district’s high school and the names and mascots for a planned second high school and the Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School.

A naming committee will then review the suggestions after the Aug. 30 submission deadline.

The district, though, is asking people to follow some guidelines.

Entries that will not be considered include naming schools after living people, duplicating school names or mascots that already exist in the district, Native American mascots, or suggesting another cardinal mascot since the brightly colored bird will remain the symbol of the current high school.

How Popular Discontent Is Reshaping Higher Education Law

Ben Trachtenberg:

Surveys taken since 2015 reveal that Americans exhibit stark partisan divisions in their opinions about colleges and universities, with recent shifts in attitudes driving changes to higher education law. In recent years, Democrats have become slightly more positive about higher education. Concurrently, Republicans have become extremely more negative, and a majority of Republicans now tells pollsters that colleges and universities have an overall negative effect on the country.

Particularly in legislative chambers controlled by Republicans, public and elite dissatisfaction with higher education has led to legal interventions into the governance of universities, with new laws related to faculty tenure, the treatment of undocumented immigrant students, the use of state funds for disfavored programs, the composition of university governing boards, and campus speech, among other topics. At the federal level, during the Obama Administration advocates persuaded the Department of Education to demand sweeping changes to how institutions adjudicate allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. At the behest of different advocates and critics, Trump Administration officials have rescinded the prior guidance and are in the process of enacting new regulations on the same campus processes.

What European Countries Sacrifice for Free College

Jason Delisle and PRESTON Cooper:

The higher-education system in Finland is supposedly every American progressive’s dream. The Finnish government pays 96 percent of the total cost of providing young Finns with a college education; almost all domestic students at Finnish universities pay nothing in tuition. Indeed, Finland subsidizes its universities more than any other country in the developed world. American advocates of free college say that if Finland can do it, so can we. But there’s a catch to the Finnish model, and it’s not just higher taxes.

Finland offers a nice deal for students only if they are lucky and talented enough to get in. In 2016, Finnish institutions of higher education accepted just 33 percent of applicants. That’s the degree of selectivity we’d expect from an elite college in America, yet that is the admissions rate for Finland’s entire university system. There is a price to pay for that kind of selectivity: Finland ranks in the bottom third of developed countries for college-degree attainment. Meanwhile, the tuition-charging United States ranks in the top third, thanks to open-enrollment policies at many of our colleges and universities, along with private financing and plenty of spots offered through a diverse range of institutions.

The Finnish example reveals a reality often glossed over by politicians and activists who advocate mimicking European-style free-college regimes in the United States: government budgets are finite, even when taxes are high. If a government elects to pay for a greater share of each student’s college education, something else has to give. Perhaps the university system will accept fewer applicants and produce fewer graduates, as is the case in Finland. Or maybe it will spend fewer resources per student, potentially lowering the quality of education. Finland is evidence that such tradeoffs are not mere theory or a false choice manufactured by miserly conservatives. Nor is Finland the only country where such stark tradeoffs are on display.

America Has a Digital Skills Gap. Libraries Can Help Fix It.

The Atlantic & Grow with Google:

When Calvester Sanders was promoted to head of housekeeping at the Redmont Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2016, she felt conflicted. On the one hand, she was excited about the greater responsibility and better pay. On the other, the thought of managing her staff’s schedules through the hotel’s computer system made her anxious. “I literally didn’t know how to turn it on,” she says.

It was Sanders’s manager who pointed her to the free introductory computer classes at Birmingham Public Library’s Central Branch. Despite her nerves, Sanders started attending about twice a week. Within a month, she’d learned enough to feel confident on the job. “I don’t know why I was afraid of coming into the computer world,” she says. “Now I love it.”

The tools of the digital age—computers, the internet, online training programs—are sometimes branded as a threat to the public library’s relevance. But that argument ignores people like Sanders, who value their local branches precisely because of the access they provide to those tools and to educators who know how to use them. Talk to Marijke Visser, associate director and senior policy advocate at the American Library Association, and you’ll hear story after story of patrons accessing libraries in ways that could only happen in the 21st century: ranchers in rural Nebraska bidding virtually at bull auctions; farmers in Iowa using a 3-D printer to create missing tractor pieces; veterans in Kentucky using teleconferencing to connect with their doctors. “If they aren’t library users, people may have a nostalgic view of libraries from when they were kids,” Visser says. “I think people have to experience [today’s libraries] to kind of shake that historical view.”

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Professors

James Freeman:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) likes to talk a lot about an affordability crisis in higher education. Fortunately for Ms. Warren and her husband, there’s no crisis at all for the people who work there.

This week Forbes magazine estimates the net worth of various 2020 presidential candidates. While it’s no surprise that a number of former business and finance executives come to the campaign with sizable fortunes, what’s remarkable is how much wealth is now attainable for those in the allegedly non-profit sector of the U.S economy.

Dan Alexander, Chase Peterson-Withorn and Michela Tindera of Forbes estimate that Sen. Warren and her husband enjoy a net worth of $12 million. According to Forbes:

Teachers aren’t paid so poorly after all—at least not Harvard professors. Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann, both longtime instructors at the university, have built up a small fortune through years of teaching, writing and consulting. Their largest holdings include TIAA and CREF accounts—available to educators and nonprofit employees—worth more than $4 million. One of their best investments has been their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, purchased in 1995 for $447,000. It’s now worth an estimated $3 million.
The couple purchased the home around the time that Ms. Warren stopped listing herself as a “minority” in the Association of American Law Schools directory. By that time she had won a contested tenure vote from the Harvard Law School faculty and as far as this column can tell she never again called herself “American Indian” in registering with a state bar association. In the years that followed Ms. Warren and her husband achieved healthy levels of wealth and income. According to Forbes, it’s possible that the Warren/Mann household is now worth even more than $12 million:

No one, not even the Democrats who spend the most time bashing Trump for his financial dealings, were willing to release full tax returns, file financial disclosures and answer all of Forbes’ questions about their personal finances. Elizabeth Warren, for example… wouldn’t give guidance on the true value of her husband’s investments, listed on her disclosures with a vague value of “over $1 million.”
Nobody is claiming that any of the current crop of presidential candidates is as good as the Clintons when it comes to monetizing political power. But some voters may be surprised at how well educators at non-profit, tax-advantaged institutions are compensated, particularly when university schedules allow them to supplement their incomes with outside projects. In April of this year, Matt Murphy reported for the State House News Service in Massachusetts:

The Lonely Burden of Today’s Teenage Girls

Mary Pipher and Sara Pipher Gilliam:

“I have friends with debilitating problems like cutting and OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder],” a girl named Jordan recently told us. “It’s frustrating because I can’t help them. I mean, I’m only 14 myself.”

Young Americans have become unwitting guinea pigs in today’s huge, unplanned experiment with social media, and teenage girls like Jordan are bearing much of the brunt. In conversation after conversation, adolescent girls describe themselves as particularly vulnerable to the banes of our increasingly digital culture, with many of them struggling to manage the constant connectedness of social media, their rising levels of anxiety and the intense emotions that have always been central to adolescence.

Girls in 2019 tend to be risk-averse, focused on their studies and fond of their families. They are also experiencing high levels of depression and loneliness. A 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 36% of girls report being extremely anxious every day. They are particularly worried about school shootings, melting polar ice and their ability to afford college.

Math in Data Science


Math is like an octopus: it has tentacles that can reach out and touch just about every subject. And while some subjects only get a light brush, others get wrapped up like a clam in the tentacles’ vice-like grip. Data science falls into the latter category. If you want to do data science, you’re going to have to deal with math. If you’ve completed a math degree or some other degree that provides an emphasis on quantitative skills, you’re probably wondering if everything you learned to get your degree was necessary. I know I did. And if you don’t have that background, you’re probably wondering: how much math is really needed to do data science? In this post, we’re going to explore what it means to do data science and talk about just how much math you need to know to get started. Let’s start with what “data science” actually means. You probably could ask a dozen people and get a dozen different answers! Here at Dataquest, we define data science as the discipline of using data and advanced statistics to make predictions. It’s a professional discipline that’s focused on creating understanding from sometimes-messy and disparate data (although precisely what a data scientist is tackling will vary by employer). Statistics is the only mathematical discipline we mentioned in that definition, but data science also regularly involves other fields within math. Learning statistics is a great start, but data science also uses algorithms to make predictions. These algorithms are called machine learning algorithms and there are literally hundreds of them. Covering how much math is needed for every type of algorithm in depth is not within the scope of this post, I will discuss how much math you need to know for each of the following commonly-used algorithms:

The Techlash Is Only Making Facebook Stronger

Sarah Frier:

When Facebook Inc. agreed to settle a privacy complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for $5 billion last month, both parties acted like the news was a big deal. The FTC noted it was a record federal penalty, while the company released a video of Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg solemnly telling employees a new era of regulatory compliance was at hand. Leaving aside that the fine was hardly a serious blow—last year alone, Facebook’s profit topped $22 billion—the settlement is great news for Zuckerberg in another way. The fine print will likely help Facebook cement its dominant position in social media advertising, just as the FTC begins an antitrust investigation of the company.

Facebook’s most valuable resource is its data. Every click, comment, and even scroll from its 2.5 billion users is incorporated into its ideas about what people like and want. The company combines that knowledge with information from outside sources, tracking people as they browse the open web and offline through their credit card purchases and phone GPS signals, then uses that data to precisely target ads for Facebook and its other apps: Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. This unimaginable mountain of information is the bedrock of Facebook’s $70-billion-a-year ad business.

Civics: Manhattan DA Made Google Give Up Information on Everyone in Area as They Hunted for Antifa

Albert Fox Cahn:

When Gavin McInnes—founder of the violent, far-right group The Proud Boys—spoke to a Manhattan Republican club last October, the neighborhood response was less than welcoming. Protesters took to the normally sedate Upper East Side block with chants and spray paint. The Proud Boys responded with fists and kicks. Nearly a year later, as the assault and riot charges against four Proud Boys go to trial, prosecutors revealed that they had turned to an alarming new surveillance tool in this case: a reverse search warrant.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office admitted it demanded Google hand over account information for all devices used in parts of the Upper East Side. They didn’t do this to find the Proud Boys; they did it to find Antifa members.

Reverse search warrants have been used in other parts of the country, but this is the first time one was disclosed in New York. Unlike a traditional warrant, where law enforcement officials request information on a specific phone or individual, reverse warrants allow law enforcement to target an entire neighborhood. Police and prosecutors create a “geofence”—a map area—and demand information on anyone standing in the zone. This flips the logic of search warrants on its head. Rather than telling service providers the name or phone number of a suspect, reverse search warrants start with the location and work backwards.

Teen Hacks his School Software and Exposes the Data of Millions of Students

Guilo Saggon:

A teenager has uncovered numerous flaws, including SQL injection and XML inclusion vulnerabilities, within software used in his school.

18-year-old Bill Demirkapi discovered flaws in, among others, Follett’s Student Information System and Blackboard’s Community Engagement software, when he was 16, and continued his research right up to his graduation this spring.

Hacking Blackboard’s Community Engagement gave Demirkapi access to the records – from phone numbers to discipline records, bus routes and class schedules – of more than 5,000 schools and around five million students, while Follett’s Student Information System included student passwords that were unencrypted and in fully readable form.

According to Demirkapi, who gave a presentation at the DEF CON 27 conference in Las Vegas, there was nothing high tech about his way of accessing the data: “My method of finding vulnerabilities was … really inadequate and non-professional. It was just looking at pages and trying to mess with the parameters. The state of cybersecurity in education software is really bad, and not enough people are paying attention to it.”

Among what Demirkapi discovered was a local file inclusion flaw that redirected users to a servlet called when they downloaded their report card or schedule.

Google’s “Originality Reports”

Brian Hendricks:

That’s why Google is introducing originality reports. This new feature—with several reports included free in every course—will be part of Classroom and Assignments, which was also announced today. We create originality reports by scanning student work for matched phrases across hundreds of billions of web pages and tens of millions of books.

When assigning work in Classroom and Assignments, instructors will have the option to enable originality reports. Students will then be able to run up to three originality reports on documents they attach to the assignment before submitting their work. This heads-up gives students an opportunity to proactively improve their work, and also saves time for instructors.

After submission, a fresh originality report will automatically be available to instructors when grading the assignment. These reports will flag text that has missed citations and has high similarity with text on the web or in books.

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

Notes and links on student privacy and Google’s data mining practices.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Milwaukee’s Pension Assumptions (!) and Expense

Alison Dirr:

A Mcouple of factors have contributed to the pending increase, Barrett said: Police and fire budgets and a drop in the anticipated earnings on the city’s pension fund from 8% to 7.5%.

Police and fire pensions

The city’s fire and police sworn personnel make up about 80% of the total pension costs.

Barrett said the city is looking at the structure of the pension system for all other police officers and firefighters throughout Wisconsin as a potential template for the city’s package for those departments.

Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are separate from the state’s retirement system.

The city is interested in having parity with the Wisconsin retirement system, Barrett said.

“We are faced with the notion of having a dramatic increase in the pension payment on the horizon, (and) a law that does not allow us to renegotiate this unless we do it through collective bargaining,” Barrett said.

Shawn Lauda, president of the Milwaukee Police Association, said he believes the parity is already there. He said the union has made concessions.

“I think we’re absolutely paying our fair share if not more so than some,” he said.

Mike Bongiorno, president of Local 215 of the Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters, said both sides do significant research before bargaining to ensure the city retains good employees and is comparable to the rest of the state and cities of the same size.

He said Local 215 understands the financial challenges facing the city and said it’s necessary to find ways to help fund not just the pension system but the entire city.

“We understand the financial challenges that the city faces, and we’re here to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said.

Drop in assumed rate of return

In addition, starting in 2023, the city will be contending with a 0.5% drop in its anticipated earnings on its pension fund, from 8% to 7.5%.

Milwaukee County Pension Scandal Primer.”>Pension Scandal Primer.

Moody’s Madison School District bond ratings. More.

Property taxes stunt Chicago’s house price growth.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts. Yet, we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Accountability? School’s continued failure likely to trigger sanctions for HOuston School District (!)

Jacob Carpenter:

Houston ISD moved a major step closer to temporarily losing local control over its school board Thursday, as long-awaited state academic accountability ratings showed one of the district’s longest-struggling campuses received its seventh consecutive failing grade, triggering a Texas law requiring harsh sanctions.

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

No, But Seriously, How Are the Children?

Chris Stewart:

Last week I made what I thought was a simple request: for all of us to prioritize the question “how are the children?” as if our nation depends on it. This week I want to offer an example of why that request isn’t so simple after all.

It started as it often does in my world, with a tweet from a teacher who sees education reform as the enemy, and its advocates as a direct threat to teachers. Fighting for better student achievement is comparable to attacking teachers.

In this case, it was Gary Rubinstein, a New York City teacher who had all his buttons pushed when Teach For America tweeted a story in The 74 about a new PDK poll that shows declining morale among America’s teachers.

His response was to claim that a “big part of low teacher morale is anti-teacher propaganda by [The 74] and spread by TFA,” he said. I challenged that claim as “silly” to which he said, “Sorry you feel left out. Education Post also contributed to teacher morale crisis, but not as much as The 74.”

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts – between $18.5k and 20k per student, depending on the district documents reviewed.

The Problem With Chinese Universities? Not Enough Dropouts

Zhang Duanhong:

China’s education system is well-known for its extreme workloads and merciless, test-centric approach to weeding out students. Beginning as early as elementary school, young Chinese find themselves caught up in a cutthroat competition for a precious spot at one of the country’s top universities. Those that succeed are rewarded with what amounts to a vacation: China’s undergraduate programs are notorious for low standards and easy classes — and once you’re in, you’re practically guaranteed a degree.

The fat years may finally be over, however. Last year, Chen Baosheng — China’s Minister of Education — proposed an end to the “exhausting high school, carefree university” paradigm, in which university life is treated as a reward for making it through the rigors of the country’s college entrance exam, or gaokao. In a speech, Chen called on the country’s universities to push students by raising workloads and standards.

It’s a long-overdue move. Although, generally speaking, China has made considerable progress in improving its undergraduate education programs, there is still a significant quality gap between its tertiary education system and those of countries like the United States or the United Kingdom. To close this gap, China must ask more of both its students and its universities. That means higher standards and stricter graduation requirements, as well as a better system for dealing with students who can’t make the grade.

Young Americans are less trusting of other people – and key institutions – than their elders

John Gramlach:

Americans believe trust has declined in their country, whether it involves their fellow citizens’ faith in each other or their confidence in the federal government, according to a wide-ranging new Pew Research Center survey. And adults ages 18 to 29 stand out for their comparatively low levels of trust in a number of these areas.

Around three-quarters (73%) of U.S. adults under 30 believe people “just look out for themselves” most of the time. A similar share (71%) say most people “would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance,” and six-in-ten say most people “can’t be trusted.” Across all three of these questions, adults under 30 are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to take a pessimistic view of their fellow Americans.

Commentary on Virginia Tech Freshman Orientation

Penny Nancy:

Are taxpayers funding academic institutions to indoctrinate our kids? That disturbing and irresistible question plagued me during the long drive home last week from college orientation. I doubt I am alone in this wake-up call.

Like many other women, I just sent my youngest child to college. I am so proud of him and his decision to join the Army ROTC and study engineering. He will be attending a revered Virginia institution known for its military Corps of Cadets program.

The Schoolteacher and the Genocide

Saraj Topol:

When he was in primary school, Futhu read a story about a girl who named her flowers. She wrote their names in a diary, logged when she planted and watered them and charted how they grew. The story was in a book Futhu’s uncle brought to their village in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State from across the border in Bangladesh — the words in English and in Bengali. Futhu was the first in his extended family to attend school — the first of 22 uncles, countless aunts and cousins — and though he excelled at Burmese and English class, he could not really understand the book on his own. His father was himself illiterate, as were most people in their community. So Futhu asked a village trader who often visited their home to read him the stories in the book, one by one.

Imagine Growing up Ashamed of Your Mind

Children of the Code:

According to the U.S. Department of Education more than 60% of all K-12 students are reading below the level of proficiency required for the brain-work of reading to be transparent to the mind-work of learning at the grade level they are in.

Obviously, reading is the skill that matters most to success in school and children who fall behind in reading are in great academic danger. But it is not just the lack of reading skills that most endangers these children. It’s the collateral damage to their faith in their ability to learn – it’s the MIND-SHAME.

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

Under qualified Germans

Roger Graves:

Another reason for the lack of skilled labour in Germany is the reluctance of school-leavers to take advantage of the admirable dual-education system, and instead enroll at a university (“Opening up a crack”, May 18th). The problem is that every pupil who has passed the school-leaving exam, the Abitur, has the constitutional right to a place at university, even if he or she has to wait some semesters and has no real academic inclinations or talents. The result is a proliferation of abstruse and socially irrelevant courses, a drop-out rate of about 30% (a shocking waste of human and financial resources) and the lack of skilled workers you mentioned.
Having spent 20 years as a lecturer, I can testify to the often poor quality of students at hopelessly overcrowded public universities and the high quality of those at private institutions, which have strict admission requirements. But in our modern, democratic society everybody is at least a manager and selection is frowned upon. That attitude is leading to big problems for the German economy.

Major breach found in biometrics system used by banks, UK police and defence firms

Josh Taylor:

The fingerprints of over 1 million people, as well as facial recognition information, unencrypted usernames and passwords, and personal information of employees, was discovered on a publicly accessible database for a company used by the likes of the UK Metropolitan police, defence contractors and banks.

Suprema is the security company responsible for the web-based Biostar 2 biometrics lock system that allows centralised control for access to secure facilities like warehouses or office buildings. Biostar 2 uses fingerprints and facial recognition as part of its means of identifying people attempting to gain access to buildings.

Last month, Suprema announced its Biostar 2 platform was integrated into another access control system – AEOS. AEOS is used by 5,700 organisations in 83 countries, including governments, banks and the UK Metropolitan police.

Student Frustration With the Flawed Textbook Market Is Justified

Peyton Lofton:

On Monday, dozens of student government executives wrote a letter urging the Department of Labor to block a merger between two giants of the textbook industry. In May, McGraw-Hill and Cengage announced they would be pursuing a merger. As two of the five major textbook publishers that currently have 80 percent of the market, this merger would form the second-largest textbook publisher in the US.

Students are reasonably frustrated with the textbook market. Students spend an average of $1,200 a year on books and access codes to online course materials. That number has risen by over 1,000 percent since 1977. Textbook prices are so high that students often sacrifice their grades to avoid paying them. A 2014 study from the US Public Interest Research Group found that nearly two-thirds of students decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive. Textbook prices are hindering the education of America’s students.

The Techlash Is Only Making Facebook Stronger

Sarah Frier:

When Facebook Inc. agreed to settle a privacy complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for $5 billion last month, both parties acted like the news was a big deal. The FTC noted it was a record federal penalty, while the company released a video of Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg solemnly telling employees a new era of regulatory compliance was at hand. Leaving aside that the fine was hardly a serious blow—last year alone, Facebook’s profit topped $22 billion—the settlement is great news for Zuckerberg in another way. The fine print will likely help Facebook cement its dominant position in social media advertising, just as the FTC begins an antitrust investigation of the company.

Facebook’s most valuable resource is its data. Every click, comment, and even scroll from its 2.5 billion users is incorporated into its ideas about what people like and want. The company combines that knowledge with information from outside sources, tracking people as they browse the open web and offline through their credit card purchases and phone GPS signals, then uses that data to precisely target ads for Facebook and its other apps: Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. This unimaginable mountain of information is the bedrock of Facebook’s $70-billion-a-year ad business.

“ School is a place where students are taught knowledge and skills so they can decide what their future looks like rather than have a decision thrust upon them because they can’t read” —- Madison…

Jasmine Lane:

School is a place of preparation, a place where you learn the codes of the mainstream not necessarily because the mainstream is better, as I believed, but because if you want to make significant changes to any systems, you have to be able to first get in by the gatekeepers’ standards. We can disrupt traditional notions of reading and math all we want, but this does not mean that out students are exempt from the dominant structures of society. To paraphrase Lisa Delpit, to pretend that the mainstream does not exist is to ensure students do not pass into it. The fact of the matter is some stuff is going to matter more than others.

This is not a personal attack.

This is not teacher bashing.

This is a recognition of what we’ve been taught to expect and accept from poor students and students of color in the name of “progressivism”. Knowledge won’t exempt my students from racism, knowledge won’t “save” anyone, but it’s the one thing that I directly have control of in my classroom in preparing my students for futures as citizens who can understand how reminiscent the speech of Donald Trump is to a fascist uprising. They will understand this not because I have told them what to believe, but because they have the knowledge base to be able to draw the comparisons themselves.

So we can continue to ask ourselves “who decides?” and “whose knowledge?” and all of the other rhetorical questions, but we already know the answer. Really the question we need to ask ourselves as a profession, as schools, as departments is what we want our students to be able to do and become when they leave our classrooms– Do we want them to bang upon the walls of Troy for 10,000 years or enter as the Trojan horse?

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

The Promise of classic Liberalism Is Alive in the Streets of Hong Kong

Noah Rathman:

Thirty years ago, defying Mao Zedong’s invasive gaze, pro-democracy demonstrators armed with foam and paper-mâché cobbled together an icon. Combining the aesthetics of Soviet statuary with Western classicism, the 33-foot Goddess of Democracy was not intended to evoke the Statue of Liberty. Indeed, the student protesters who designed it were self-conscious about the comparison between their idol and the colossus in New York’s harbor, but the ideals and emotions the two sculptures invoke are so universal that their distinguishing cosmetic features were inconsequential. It could not be allowed to stand, and it was destroyed after just five days, along with China’s student-led democracy movement, by the People’s Liberation Army.

The Goddess of Democracy was born again in Hong Kong by a new generation of democratic activists who are far less concerned with offending the sensibilities of Beijing’s elite. Replicas of the famous statue have become objects of renewed veneration and antipathy as anti-government protests enter their 10th week. But the citizens who have taken to the streets to protest Beijing’s encroachment into China’s bastion of political liberalism are far less shy about conveying pro-American sentiments. Demonstrators have been seen flying U.S. flags, singing the American national anthem, and demanding civil liberties akin to those enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Sadly, the affection the people of Hong Kong have shown Americans is not entirely reciprocal.

Why Parents Are Turning to a Controversial Treatment for Food Allergies

Esther Landhuis:

For families with food allergies, micro-managing daily life to avoid accidentally consuming the wrong food can be a huge burden. They scour labels. They avoid restaurants. They ban their kids from birthday parties, or refuse to enter sports stadiums, worrying that peanut shells littering the ground could trigger life-ending anaphylaxis.

Parents want “to do something rather than nothing,” Bales said — even when a treatment carries a risk of unpleasant side effects.

The resulting angst has driven some families and physicians to try a therapy that has done well in early studies but has unclear long-term effects and is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The controversial treatment is called oral immunotherapy (OIT). Conceptually, the method works like allergy shots, which for 100 years have reliably treated pollen and other environmental allergies by desensitizing the immune response to these triggers. Instead of injecting allergens through the skin, OIT involves consuming a bit of the forbidden food each day, at gradually increasing doses, so the immune system can learn to put up less of a fight.

Over the past decade, the number of OIT providers has grown from just a handful of doctors nationwide to a small, influential cohort of more than a hundred today. Thousands of food allergy patients who have tried oral immunotherapy in the United States and abroad swear by the treatment, often calling the results life-changing. And with an FDA decision expected by early 2020 for Aimmune Therapeutics’ “peanut capsules,” OIT could soon go mainstream.

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Samuel Stebbins:

Perhaps the most important environmental factor to a child’s development is the home — and conditions at home are largely up to the parents. There are, however, many other factors in a child’s surroundings that can be critical to healthy development that are largely outside of parental control.

A child’s physical and mental well-being and overall chances for success later in life can all be influenced by conditions in the broader community. Such factors include school quality, access to preschool, proximity to parks and places for recreation, and the presence of crime. In areas that lag in these measures, children can be at a considerable disadvantage.

Using data from a range of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of four measures — preschool enrollment, high school graduation, property crime, and access to places for physical activity — to identify the worst cities in which to raise children.

Though median income and other measures of financial security and well-being were not included in our index, the cities on this list tend to have larger than typical shares of poor residents. Of the 25 worst cities to raise children, 21 have a higher poverty rate than the national rate of 13.4%. Many of these cities also rank among the poorest cities in America. Here is a full list of the cities with the highest poverty rates.

Low incomes in the cities on this list may have a negative effect on school quality as nearly half of all public school funding in the United States comes from local sources like property taxes. While the relationship between school spending and student outcomes is complicated, a weaker tax base may partially explain the low graduation rates in many of these cities.

Commentary on Rhetoric: Departing Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham

David Blaska:

The news media loves to imagine itself as the afflicter of the comfortable, David with his slingshot v. Goliath. “J’accuse!” in 96-point bodoni bold type. Edward R. Murrow starring down Tailgunner Joe. Bogart starting the presses in Deadline USA. Woodward and Bernstein.

In Madison, too many news media “gatekeepers” just want to be invited to the cocktail party. The editor of The Capital Times was invited to the cocktail party. Paul Fanlund expresses his gratitude this way:

The setting was the ornate Roosevelt room at the Madison Club, where assorted community leaders were gathered for a reception to thank and send off Jennifer Cheatham six years after she arrived from Chicago to lead Madison’s public schools as its superintendent.

Neil Heinen of Madison Magazine and WISC TV-3 is also a member of the In Crowd. He penned “An appreciation for Jen Cheatham” much in the manner of Ode to a Grecian Urn.

Her Strategic Framework — that’s right “her” Strategic Framework — for the success of every child, was the most comprehensive. It was the most research-grounded blueprint for district-wide excellence I’ve encountered in more than 40 years of writing about Madison schools.

Neil is not alone in his hero worship. He name-drops an A-list of Madison movers and shakers with whom he rubs elbows in the same Group-thinking bubble:

Cheatham enjoyed the support and affection of a remarkable group of civic leaders. Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller, Urban League of Greater Madison President and CEO Ruben Anthony, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon, United Way of Dane County President and CEO Renee Moe, Madison College President Jack E. Daniels, 100 Black Men of Madison President Floyd Rose and Bishop Harold Rayford.

Oh, sure, “Cheatham is criticized for top-down management,” Neil huffs. But …

Related: 2013: What will be different, this time? 2019: Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison Experience.

Why U.S. Schools Don’t Produce Adults

Annie Holmquist:

One of the hallmarks of modern America is the tendency toward prolonged childhood. While it used to be the norm to enter the adult working world by one’s mid-to-late teens, students now extend their preparation for career well into their twenties (and sometimes beyond), enabled by parents who act as their caretakers, education experts who insist that they get as much classroom education as possible, and a government that encourages them to stay on the family health plan until age 26.

Many Americans seem tired of this prolonged childhood and are longing for the days when young people were ready and willing to provide for themselves by the time they finished high school. The question is, how can American young people break out of this mold?

One solution that seems to be simmering beneath the surface is the rising interest in allowing teens to work in various job settings for high school credit. As a recent article in The Hechinger Report explains, that option is one which is being expanded in Vermont high schools.

The interesting thing about Vermont’s work-based learning program is that the high school credit it offers isn’t just for fluff experiences like basket-weaving, nor are the job settings limited to those in traditional manufacturing trades. Instead, they provide math and science credits to students working with engineers, economics credits to those working in the financial sector, and English credits to those writing under the supervision of music critics:

Class dismissed: Surge in arrests of foreign teachers in China

Cate Cadell:

Four law firms told Reuters that requests for representation involving foreign teachers had surged in the past six months by between four and tenfold, while teachers and schools confirmed arrests and temporary detentions for minor crimes had become commonplace.

Switzerland-based Education First (EF), which runs 300 schools across 50 Chinese cities, has seen a “significant” increase in detentions in China for alleged offences including drugs, fighting and cybersecurity violations, according to a June 27 internal notice sent to employees and seen by Reuters.

It said EF staff had been “picked up by police at their home and work as well as in bars and nightclubs and have been questioned and brought in for drug testing”. The notice said the school had also received warnings from embassies about the rise in arrests.

A spokeswoman for EF declined to comment on the content of the notices but said the company “values our close collaboration with the Chinese authorities,” adding that it “regularly reminds staff of important regulatory and compliance policies.”

An international school in Beijing and a teaching agency in Shanghai separately confirmed arrests had risen sharply.

A Connecticut Girl Challenges Male Domination of Female Sports

Madeleine Kearns:

As a star high-school athlete, Selina Soule doesn’t shrink from the spotlight—but she never planned to gain it in the manner she has. This year the 16-year-old has appeared on Fox News more than once to express her opposition to the transgender policy of her state’s athletic conference. Since 2017, Connecticut schools have allowed young men to displace Ms. Soule and other girls in sports competitions. Across the country, controversies around women’s sports have become one of the sharpest fault lines in the national debate about transgender issues.

Last month Alliance Defending Freedom filed a civil-rights complaint with the Education Department on behalf of Ms. Soule and two other Connecticut girls. They argue that allowing boys to compete in the female category denies girls “opportunities for participation, recruitment, and scholarships,” contravening Title IX’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex.

Presumably, the legislators who passed Title IX in 1972 understood sex to be anatomical. But today its text poses an unforeseen challenge to administrators. They must decide whether the definition of sex includes “gender identity”—one’s sense of being male, female or neither. Connecticut’s is one of 19 state athletic conferences that allow athletes to compete based solely on their expressed gender identity. In contrast, both the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association require male-to-female transgender athletes to take testosterone-suppressing drugs to compete in the women’s category.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois Is the Canary in the Pension Coal Mine

Mike Riggs:

Illinois is running out of time to fix its public sector pension problem. A new report from Moody’s Investors Service identified the Prairie State as one of the two most likely to suffer during an economic downturn. Illinois towns and cities are already paring back government services to pay for generous benefits packages for retirees, and Chicago’s pension debt alone is larger than that of 41 states. That arrangement can’t last forever.

“The worst-case scenario is there’s another national recession, which would cause our pension funds to lose a bunch of their assets again,” says Adam Schuster of the Illinois Policy Institute. “As the assets shrink, the pension funds go into a financial death spiral. We might end up with some kind of Puerto Rico–style pseudo-bankruptcy or federal bailout. Everybody in the nation is now on the hook for Illinois politicians’ irresponsible decisions.”

The best-case scenario would involve repealing an automatic 3 percent raise that pensioners receive each year of their retirement and requiring workers to pay more into their own plans. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker would prefer to scrap Illinois’ flat income tax and replace it with a progressive tax scheme, which could cause even more people to flee the state. In May, Schuster spoke to Reason’s Mike Riggs about the pension conundrum.

Privacy Gadgets

Joel Stein:

As the spy gear piles up on my desk, my 10-year-old son asks me what my mission is. “I’m hiding,” I whisper, pointing in the direction I think is north, which is something I should probably know as a spy. “From Silicon Valley.”

It isn’t going to be easy. I use Google, Facebook, Amazon, Lyft, Uber, Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify. I have two Amazon Echos, a Google Home, an iPhone, a MacBook Air, a Nest thermostat, a Fitbit, and a Roku. I shared the secrets of my genetic makeup by spitting in one vial for 23andMe, another for an ancestry site affiliated with National Geographic, and a third to test my athletic potential. A few months ago, I was leaving my house in Los Angeles for a hike when I heard my Ring speaker say, “Where are you going, Joel?” in my wife’s voice. She was at a pottery class, but the smart doorbell sent her an alert when it detected me heading outside.

Hong Kong, mainland Chinese tensions flare again at New Zealand university

Linda Lew:

Tensions between different groups of New Zealand’s Chinese community flared again on Tuesday during a rally organised in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

About 100 people, including opposition MP David Seymour, attended the two-hour rally at the University of Auckland. The event was organised by students opposing the now-suspended extradition bill, legislation that would allow suspects of serious crimes to be sent from Hong Kong to other jurisdictions, including mainland China.

The largely peaceful rally was briefly interrupted by an unidentified pro-Beijing supporter, who held up a placard that read: “Hong Kong independence mob”. He left after a confrontation with one of the rally-goers, which was filmed by other attendees.

“I can feel there is increasing tension,” Serena Lee, from rally organiser the We Are Hong Konger group, said in a video of the event on the group’s Facebook page. “We’re actually opposing the extradition bill. But they [mainland students] see this as an action to oppose the Chinese government.”

Russia tells Google not to advertise “illegal” events after election protests


Russia’s state communications watchdog has asked Google to stop advertising “illegal mass events” on its YouTube video platform, it said on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of Russians staged what observers called the country’s biggest political protest for eight years on Saturday, defying a crackdown to demand free elections to Moscow’s city legislature. Multiple YouTube channels broadcast the event live.

The watchdog, Roscomnadzor, said some entities had been buying advertising tools from YouTube, such as push notifications, in order to spread information about illegal mass protests, including those aimed at disrupting elections.

It said Russia would consider a failure by Google to respond to the request as “interference in its sovereign affairs” and “hostile influence (over) and obstruction of democratic elections in Russia”.

If the company does not take measures to prevent events from being promoted on its platforms, Russia reserves the right to respond accordingly, Roscomnadzor said, without giving details.

Over the past five years, Russia has introduced tougher laws requiring search engines to delete some search results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services, and social networks to store Russian users’ personal data on servers within the country.

A Google spokesperson in Russia declined to comment on Sunday.

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

Radical Indoctrination: Coming to a Public School Near You

Gilbert Sewall:

Last week, the Hoover Institution’s Williamson Evers admirably aired in the Wall Street Journal a disturbing Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum proposed by the California Department of Education and its Instructional Quality Commission, now under view. “It is difficult to comprehend the depth and breadth of the ideological bias and misrepresentations without reading the whole curriculum—something few will want to do,” Evers concluded.

Americans should, even so, since curriculum projects such as these are sensitive zeitgeist barometers. Focused on the model curriculum’s blatant anti-capitalism, the Journal did not add that California is getting ready to mandate an unprecedented ethnic studies requirement for high school graduation based on this extraordinary syllabus. It reflects a revolutionary storm sweeping through educational leadership in the nation’s legislatures and metro school districts.

That means that to get a high school diploma, starting in 2024, California students by law will have to complete three courses in English and social studies, two in math and science, and one in arts or world languages. A bill adds to these core requirements “a one-semester course in ethnic studies based on the model curriculum.” Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, Stockton, and other minority-rich school districts in the state have already established Ethnic Studies graduation requirements or programs.

According to the model’s overview, Ethnic Studies is the “disciplinary, loving, and critical praxis of holistic humanity.” It is the study of “intersectional and ancestral roots, coloniality, hegemony and a dignified world where many worlds fit.” It “critically grapples with the various power structures and forms of oppression, including, but not limited to, white supremacy, race and racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia.” The overview promises that the course of study will:

The Techlash Has Come to Stanford

Aril Glaser:

The dream of starting a company in your dorm room to solve the world’s problems and make billions in the process is still thriving on campus. But a competing dream, perhaps just as old, appears to be growing in fervor now, too: to use technical skills as an insurance policy against dystopia. Students have not failed to notice the unflattering headlines that have dogged Silicon Valley over the past several years—the seemingly unending scandals in which the biggest technology companies in the world have mishandled user data, facilitated the spread of misinformation, and sold software to the agencies enforcing the Trump administration’s harsh immigration agenda. All of this has sparked new conversations inside and outside the classroom, and there are signs that the once-reliable pipeline between Stanford and Silicon Valley is narrowing—at least a tiny bit.

This can be seen across universities: Recruiters at Facebook have reportedly clocked a dramatic decrease in the acceptance of job offers among top-ranked schools for tech talent. In May, CNBC found that the acceptance rate for full-time positions at Facebook from recent graduates of top-tier schools had fallen between 35 and 55 percent as of last December, down from an 85 percent acceptance rate for the 2017–18 school year. “Students don’t feel that [working at Facebook] has the same cachet,” a San Francisco–based tech recruiter with 15 years of experience (who asked not to be named because Facebook is currently one of his clients) told me in an interview. “It doesn’t seem like the kind of name that students want to have on their résumé for their first go, and because they have optionality, there becomes very few reasons to go to Facebook, especially feeling like that brand is a little tarnished right now.” After all, he added, students are getting very attractive compensation packages elsewhere from other multibillion-dollar tech firms that aren’t courting such negative headlines.

I Immigrated to the US to Pursue the American Dream, Not to Pay for Your College Degree

Jen Sidorova:

Candidates were back at it last week, competing to see who could present the best student loan forgiveness plan. Sure, that might appeal to some of the party’s base and America’s cash-strapped millennials. But for roughly 46 million immigrants like me, the idea that the government should forgive student loans is totally unfair. After all, when we came here, our idea of the American Dream was to work hard for a brighter future—not for the government to pick our pockets.

I understand the motivation behind these proposals; alleviating student debt sounds ideal. I came from Russia to attend grad school in the US, so I know just how expensive tuition can be. But when I got my degree from Stony Brook University in New York, I did so without taking out a single loan. And it wasn’t because I was Hawkings-brilliant or Gates-wealthy. I planned meticulously, made sacrifices, and worked hard. This, I believed, was the way Americans did things and got what they wanted.

Legal Immigration

Affording US tuition wasn’t easy for my lower-middle-class family, even at America’s cheapest schools. So, to earn the scholarships I had to have, I went above and beyond. While others partied, I spent my weekends studying and engaging in extracurricular activities that would boost my resume. When I didn’t understand a subject, my parents hired tutors with the little savings they had. While most of my classmates enjoyed their summers off, I was working at a department store six days a week from seven in the morning to 11 at night, building up savings for graduate school.

As a result, I was offered a tuition waiver and a graduate assistantship, which included a stipend and health care benefits. I had to work as a teaching assistant and later a research assistant for next to minimum wage. Even with this financial package, there were times when I couldn’t even afford so much as a cup of coffee with my classmates, which made it more difficult to socialize and fit in.

How a State Plans to Turn Coal Country Into Coding Country

Dana Goldstein:

There is little evidence that public school computer science lessons can drive economic change. But those who see them as fundamental to understanding today’s world say the grand promises from politicians do not matter. Nationwide, most students never have the opportunity to take a coding course. Now Wyoming’s 48 school districts have until the 2022-23 school year to begin teaching computer science at every grade level.

“I’m comfortable with the economic argument happening because a side effect of that is tens of thousands of fifth graders learning programming who otherwise wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said David Weintrop, a professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on how computer science is taught.

Full of coal mines, vast cattle ranches and snow-capped peaks, Wyoming is perhaps an unlikely leader in a drive to bring coding into the classroom. Computer programming and software development account for fewer than two jobs per 1,000 here, compared with 19 per 1,000 in Washington State, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A student attended a protest at an Australian uni. Days later Chinese officials visited his family

Fergus Hunter:

Chinese authorities approached the family of an international student who participated in high-profile protests at an Australian university and warned his parents of the potential consequences of political dissent.

The apparent intimidation tactics suggest the Chinese government was monitoring the demonstration at the University of Queensland to record who attended, in a development one influential Liberal MP said was alarming.

22 percent of millennials say they have “no friends”

Brian Resnick:

Furthermore, 22 percent of millennials in the poll said they had zero friends. Twenty-seven percent said they had “no close friends,” 30 percent said they have “no best friends,” and 25 percent said they have no acquaintances. (I wonder if the poll respondents have differing thoughts on what “acquaintance” means; I take it to mean “people you interact with now and then.”)

In comparison, just 16 percent of Gen Xers and 9 percent of baby boomers say they have no friends.

What’s the difference between statistics and machine learning?

Jonathan Bartlett:

This post is certainly not going to tell you what the difference machine learning and statistics is. Rather I hope that it spurs readers of the post to help me understand their differences.

Historically I think it’s the case that machine learning algorithms were developed in computer science departments of universities, whereas statistics was developed within mathematics or statistics departments. But this is merely about the historical origins, rather than any fundamental distinction.

Machine learning (about which I know a lot less) tends I think to focus on algorithms, and a subset of these has as their objective to prediction some outcome based on a set of inputs (or predictors as we might call them in statistics). In contrast to parametric statistical models, these algorithms typically do not make rigid assumptions about the relationships between the inputs and the outcome, and therefore can perform well then the dependence of the outcome on the predictors is complex or non-linear. The potential to capture such complex relationships is however not unique to machine learning – within statistical models we have flexible parametric / semiparametric, and even non-parametric methods such as non-parametric regression.

Civics: Google Heavily Favors CNN and Left Media in Mass Shooting Coverage


To conduct the audit, AllSides searched 10 terms related to the weekend’s tragedies in an incognito Google Chrome browser. Each term was searched six times at 30 minute intervals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons (EST) for a total of 7.5 hours. AllSides only recorded news stories that appeared as the top three results in Google’s “Top Stories” section for each search query, and noted each source’s AllSides Media Bias Rating. Across each of the 174 queries, AllSides revealed significant Google bias toward prominent left-leaning media outlets. View the raw data here.

This analysis does not show any direct evidence that Google is intentionally suppressing voices from the right in relation to the shootings. It may be that a lack of right-leaning news media overall accounts for the huge difference between left and right-leaning appearances in Google News, or is perhaps an unintended consequence of Google’s algorithm.

This audit had a small sample size, yet tracks closely with prior data on Google bias. Last year, AllSides released a 39-page report on Google News bias that revealed Google News is 65% biased toward sources with a left-wing media bias. In addition, a lengthy audit conducted by researchers at Northwestern University also found Google’s “Top Stories” section favors Left media outlets.

AllSides reviewed 70 news sources on the right, and most of them did cover the weekend’s news along with left-wing media. Yet Fox News (16 times), National Review (2) and the Washington Examiner (1) were the only right-wing media sources that appeared in any of the 174 search queries performed by AllSides — and only for the very general query “Trump.”

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

Hamilton County Schools (TN) calls concerns about ‘white privilege’ slides a ‘misrepresentation’

Meghan Mangrum:

Some community members are calling a training session that included conversations about racism, white privilege and equity attended by Hamilton County teachers Friday inappropriate.

Dozens of teachers in Hamilton County’s Opportunity Zone, which consists of the district’s 12 highest-needs, lowest-performing schools, were gathered for the third annual Urban Education Institute on Friday as they prepared to welcome their students back to school next week.

Former NFL player Robert Jackson served as the guest speaker for the event.

Jackson also presented at the district’s second Urban Education Institute held in January, where teachers learned about how trauma at home could affect students’ performance in the classroom.

On Friday, Jackson led the teachers through what the district said was a presentation about “how adverse childhood experiences can impact behavior in the classroom and methods to have effective classroom management.”

Some of the slides included in Jackson’s presentation provided as examples of white privilege that white people are less likely to be followed, interrogated or searched by law enforcement; their skin tone will not affect their credit or financial responsibility; when accused of a crime, white people are portrayed as good people; and they don’t lose opportunities when mistakes are made.

Western Academia Helps Build China’s Automated Racism

Charles Rollet:

Last summer, a respected U.S. academic journal about data mining published a study titled “Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition”, authored by four professors in China and one in Australia. The study found that an effective way to automatically predict the ethnicity of minorities in China was for facial recognition systems to focus on specific, T-shaped regions of their faces. In order to reach this conclusion, over 7,000 photographs were taken of 300 Uyghur, Tibetan, and Korean students at Dalian Minzu University in northeastern China.

The study, which received funding from Chinese government foundations, attracted little attention when it was published, but went viral at the end of May when PhD student Os Keyes tweeted out its abstract, writing: “TIL [today I learned] there’s a shitton of computer vision literature in 2017-2018 that COINCIDENTALLY tries to build facial recognition for Uyghur people. How. Curious.” Keyes’ post was retweeted over 500 times.

One is Chinese. One is American. How a journalist discovered and reunited identical twins

Barbara Demick:

In 2009, as a Beijing-based correspondent, I traveled the backwaters of central China to learn more about the origins of the more than 80,000 girls who had been adopted in the United States…

One of the families I met in a village wedged between rice paddies in Hunan province had lost one of their twin daughters. Twins are normally permitted, but this family already had two older daughters…

I had envisioned tears, hugs, perhaps somebody fainting or even collapsing. That’s what happened when I covered a reunion of a birth family and adoptee years earlier. But histrionics were not in the style of the Zeng family…

Marsha gave the speech that she had in effect practiced for nearly 10 years, ever since she found out Esther had been stolen from her family. “Esther’s name means star. She has been a bright star in my life,” she began. “But I would never have adopted her if I knew she was stolen from you. It gives me pain knowing that my gain was your loss.”

Mental Health and Social Media

The Economist:

FACEBOOK users in America spend about 42 minutes a day on the social-media platform, according to eMarketer, a research firm. If Josh Hawley has his way, this figure will be capped at 30 minutes. On July 30th the junior senator from Missouri unveiled the “Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act”, or SMART Act. The bill would limit social-media usage to half an hour a day (users would be able to bypass the limit by adjusting their app settings). It would also ban addictive features, such as “infinite scroll” (when a user’s entire feed can be seen in one visit) and “autoplay” (when online videos load automatically one after another).

Mr Hawley’s proposal may not go down well with his constituents. A survey in January and February 2019 from the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank, found that 69% of American adults use Facebook; of these users, more than half visit the site “several times a day”. YouTube is even more popular, with 73% of adults saying they watch videos on the platform. For those aged 18 to 24, the figure is 90%. Instagram, a photo-sharing app, is used by 37% of adults. When Pew first conducted the survey in 2012, only a slim majority of Americans used Facebook. Fewer than one in ten had an Instagram account.

An Obama-era regulation is likely to establish unconstitutional racial quotas

Lucas VebberWilliam D. Flanders:

The Fordham Institute’s recent survey of teachers has brought the issue of discipline reform back to the forefront. But even as teachers say that discipline policies are leading to unsafe educational environments, a new federal rule threatens to further exacerbate the issue.

In the final month of the Obama Administration, the Department of Education (ED) created a new rule regarding minority students with disabilities in the United States that puts districts in a lose-lose situation. To address “significant disproportionality” in the rates of identification of disabilities and discipline policies for these students, ED required states to establish risk ratio thresholds (RRTs), a number above which a district would be found to have significant disproportionality. RRTs compare the rate of identification or discipline for minority students with disabilities with the rates for the rest of the disabled population. An RRT of 4 for suspensions, for example, would mean that disabled students in a particular racial group were four times as likely as students in all other groups of disabled students to be suspended. An RTT of 4 for identification would mean that students from a particular minority group are four times as likely to be identified as having a disability relative to other students. The consequence for a district deemed disproportionate is a loss of some federal education dollars. Under the Trump Administration, ED attempted to delay this rule to allow time to properly consider the concerns that the underlying regulation could set up an unconstitutional system of racial quotas.

The Education Department’s attempt to delay the regulation was borne out of concerns that the rule itself was unconstitutional. This is because racial quotas are unconstitutional. Thus, to the extent that the IDEA regulation creates a de facto racial quota system, it would be unconstitutional. Such quotas force exactly what the law requires them to prevent: either over-identification of one racial group or under-identification of another. Quotas rest on the assumption that differences in disciplinary outcomes for certain groups of students are based largely on racism on the part of school officials rather than recognizing the possibility that real differences in behavior may exist. The fear by many critics of the underlying “significant disproportionality” regulation is that by requiring states to establish RRTs to set specific numerical thresholds, they will incentivize those states to adopt de facto racial quota systems, as schools will need to stay under the RRT number or those states will risk losing federal education funding.

Prisons are packed because prosecutors are coercing plea deals. And, yes, it’s totally legal.

Clark Neily:

America is the most prosperous country in the history of the world. We excel at innovation and mass production — and nowhere is that more true today than our criminal justice system, which features a streamlined process for transforming millions of suspects into convicted criminals quickly, efficiently and without the hassle of a constitutionally prescribed jury trial.

It’s called coercive plea bargaining, and it’s the secret sauce that helps us maintain the world’s highest incarceration rate.

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, of the roughly 80,000 federal prosecutions initiated in 2018, just two percent went to trial. More than 97 percent of federal criminal convictions are obtained through plea bargains, and the states are not far behind at 94 percent. Why are people so eager to confess their guilt instead of challenging the government to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a unanimous jury?


Brian Barrett:

FOR SEVERAL DECADES, textbook publishers followed the same basic model: Pitch a hefty tome of knowledge to faculty for inclusion in lesson plans; charge students an equally hefty sum; revise and update its content as needed every few years. Repeat. But the last several years have seen a shift at colleges and universities—one that has more recently turned tectonic.

In a way, the evolution of the textbook has mirrored that in every other industry. Ownership has given way to rentals, and analog to digital. Within the broad strokes of that transition, though, lie divergent ideas about not just what learning should look like in the 21st century but how affordable to make it.